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To manage these self-willed children of the woods, required a degree of political skill, and philosophical moderation which the English ministry does not appear to have acquired. Power carries with it temptations which tend to corrupt the purest minds; and when nobility is added to power, the danger is increased more than twofold. They consider them. selves as the legitimate rulers of their country, and all the industrious orders of society as made to be subject to their controul; and it seems to them the very summit of arrogance for such persons to stand up as their equals, and much more to attempt to oppose their will. Had there been puissant princes, dukes of New York and Massachusets, or right reverend fathers in God, metropolitans of Philadelphia and Boston, to negociate in favour of their country with the English ministry, they would have been listened to with respect as equals in rank and in claims. But the Americans were a nameless multitude, unadorned with one individual of title, and were looked down upon as an inferior order of beings who ought to be coerced, and made to submit without. ceremony to the mandates of the British court. When the Americans remonstrated against their measures, and gent over Dr. Franklin to England for the purpose, the man was but a printer and postmaster; and though he possessed talents which all who were sitting on the highest thrones might have beheld with envy, he was treated with contemptuous harshness, and his remonstrances were disregarded and ridiculed. After a long course of negociations and disputes, agreements and quarrels, Britain still insisting on her rights to impose taxes on America, and determining to procure submission, though by force, which was
unhappily employed, America, at last, in 1775, drew the sword to assert her liberty ; declared her independence; fought for it during seven years with various success; and at last obtained it by the treaty
of peace with Great Britain in 1782. ; . It was one unhappy effect of the American war,
that, as it divided the people of Great Britain into two angry parties, which vented their rage against each other with excessive violence, it completely destroyed that national harmony which had subsisted before this mournful event. The dissenters, in general, adopted the cause of the Americans, and reprobated the measures of the ministry as impolitic and unjust. But these sentiments were by no means peculiar to them; they were the sentiments of the great body of the English whigs, who, both in parliament and by all other means, opposed every measure in succession against America, with an ardour and keenness almost unknown before, and who at last brought över the 'main body of the people to a conviction of the impolicy at least, of the proceedings of the government. ....! . " . . : .. • The principles of liberty appeared to the dissenters to be endangered in this unnatural contest. The haughty tone of the British ministry, and the unquaļified submission which, in the day of their success, they demanded from the Americans as the condition of reconciliation and favour, gave rise to the strongest suspicion that it was their design to forge chains for the vanguished colonists, and to hold in their own hands the despot's lash. It had been well if they had used milder language, and uttered sentiments more consonant to the feelings of that most respectable portion of the English public, which holds liberty dear as life itself, and hears with detestation every expression which savours of the tyrant or the slave. · The dissenters were also attached to the Americans by the peculiar ties of religious union, and the intimacy of friendship. Many of the colonists, in almost every state, maintained the same doctrines of faith, and the same systein of church government as themselves; and in the northern states they formed almost the mass of the people. A constant and extensive intercourse was kept up between them; mutual assistance was given in whatever related to the advancement of the cause of religion ; and they considered themselves as members of the same body. Who will wonder that with such feelings the dissenters were stedfastly opposed to the American war; and that the sufferings of their brethren and friends, which were in many instances exceedingly bitter, excited the most painful sensations in their breasts, and produced the most unfavourable ideas of the men by whose measures these sufferings were inflicted? . : In the mean time, a large portion of the English clergy, and that part especially which veered round from the house of Stewart, were fiercely inveighing against the rebellious spirit of the Americans, and uttering the bitterest anathemas against them and all their abettors at home and abroad. Their violence was increased by the reports of the episcopal ministers in America, who, being in general hostile to the cause of the people, were forced to flee to England, and brought with them the most doleful tales of the oppression and cruelty which they had endured for their loyalty to their king, and their attachment to their church. :)
When the independence of America was confirmed by peace, speculation on the consequences filled the breast of every man in England, who laid claim to the character of a thinker. As a friend of his country, each man lamented that so large a portion of popula. tion, industry, and capital as the colonies contained, should be cut off from the body of the empire. But the lovers of mankind were consoled by the appearance of a constitution embracing the principles of liberty in the fullest extent in which they had ever been established in any country under heaven, rising in the western continent remote from the vortex of European politics, furnishing within its extensive boundaries an asylum for the oppressed of every tyrant's land, and providing for future generations of the human race a catechism of principles favourable to the character of the individual, to social virtue and happiness, and to the interests of pure religion.
Nor was the American revolution less favourable to the cause of religious liberty. It presented, indeed, a system unique in the annals of Christendom. An established religion was destroyed in the states in which it formerly had existence. Religion, in all its forms, was equally protected ; and the members of each were eligible to all the offices of the state with. out distinction. Of the presidents, Washington was an episcopalian; and Adams, the second, an indem pendent. An alliance between church and state, that the temporal sword of the state, with its strong blade and its keen edge, might defend the feeble and unwarlike ecclesiastical body; and that the church with her spiritual sword dipt in anathemas and the flames of hell, might compel the people to yield obedience to the state, was a mysterious jargon which they did not understand, and would not adopt, Religion was left to her own energies, and to the zeal of her friends for her support. The government aiming at the people's good, felt no need of the cant or thunder of priests to secure obedience to political institutions; and the ministers of the Gospel, disdaining the idea of being the tools of the existing rulers, influenced by the spirit of their office, taught their hearers to love God and their neighbour, to be good parents and children, good masters and servants, and upright and virtuous in all their departments; and by inculcating these principles made them good members of civil society, and subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake. The effect of the experiment, after the lapse of near thirty years, has been a perfect harmony among the different sects : no contention about religious sentiments, has ever, in the smallest degree, disturbed the peace of society; and from unquestionable evidence, pure and spiritual religion has been in a progressive state from the establishment of the system to the present day.
Besides this mighty convulsion in the political world, several events took place within the British isles, by which the cause of religious liberty was affected; and various exertions were made to extend its dominion and its triumphs.
The first attempt was made from a quarter which excited the astonishment of the public, and presented a phenomenon which never had its prototype in England. In 1772, several hundreds of the established clergy, supported by laymen who were bound by some of the ecclesiastical laws, presented a petition to parliament praying for deliverance from subscription to the liturgy and articles of the church. In their