Committees For Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts Minutes 1786-90 and 1827-8. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1978.
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Minutes, 1827 (nos 143-211)
143. [p. 1] 20th April 1827. At the first meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern in the Poultry on Friday the 20th day of April 1827. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Mr Busk, Mr Favell, Mr Hale, Mr Hanbury, Mr Hankey, Mr Jackson, Mr Richard Taylor, Mr Waymouth—members of the Committee of Deputies; Reverend Dr Winter, Reverend Dr Humphrys, Reverend Dr Newman, Reverend Dr Rees, Reverend Mr Aspland, Reverend Mr Coates —delegates from the Body of Ministers; Mr Bowring, Mr Edgar Taylor, Mr Fisher—delegates from the Unitarian Association.
The secretary produced and read letters he had received from Mr Wilks (as secretary to the Protestant Society), the Reverend Mr Coates, as secretary to the Body of Ministers, Mr Edgar Taylor, on behalf of the Unitarian Association, Mr Eliot, on behalf of [p. 2] the Society of Friends, and the Reverend Mr Watson on behalf of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference, of which the following are copies:
I was favoured yesterday afternoon with your letter, and a special meeting of the committee of the Protestant Society for the Protection of Religious Liberty has been consequently summoned. In the meantime I enclose for the information of the Committee of the Deputies a copy of a letter of which several hundreds had been previously sent to the members and friends of that society, who include most of the members of the Independent, Baptist, and Calvinistic Methodist denominations in England and Wales, as well as three large bodies (including some hundred congregations) of Seceders from our Wesleyan friends. To the Presbyterians however no letters were sent, as very few of their congregation contribute to our fund, nor to the Unitarians, who will of course be addressed by their own Association, nor to the London congregations of the Three Denominations, as they appear to form the circle upon which the Deputies or the London ministers more properly would act.
I shall be prevented by two previous public engagements from attending as a member of the Committee of Deputies at the meeting tomorrow, but hope to be present at all future meetings, where I will gladly render all the assistance that enquiries or correspondence may enable me to afford.
The committee of the Protestant Society for the Protection of Religious Liberty have held the special meeting intimated in my last note. They unanimously reiterated a declaration of perfect devotedness to the cause of religious freedom and of their intense desire for relief from the Corporation and Test Acts. They expressed their readiness to render and receive any information that might assist an application for that relief and declared that acting on that disposition they had conferred with the Deputies, the London ministers and other bodies and had apprised them of the measures the committee pursued. And though after those measures they could not perceive that any benefits would now result from joint deliberation and action, they would persevere in the line of liberal conduct hitherto taken and resolved to appoint a subcommittee of six members who might attend the meetings of other bodies whenever invited to give any information requested and to receive any suggestions that might be kindly supplied. The committee also instructed the treasurer and secretaries to communicate with all other [p. 4] bodies supporting the same good cause and to cooperate in any measures that might obviate difficulties and contribute to success.
If on any occasions, therefore, an interview with that subcommittee shall seem desirable for any particular object to the Committee of the Deputies or to the more general committee proposed to be formed, my colleague or myself will take care that they shall be summoned and they will promptly attend, or they may at all times command our individual efforts to the utmost of our power.
I beg leave to hand you the names of the gentlemen appointed to meet the United Committee on the part of the Unitarian Association. I hope you will get a meeting towards the end of next week at latest (say Friday) for we must have proceedings in readiness for the magazines.
|John Christie Esq||Mark Lane|
|John Bowring Esq||Jeffry's Square|
|John Fisher Esq||83 Upper Thames Street|
|John Watson Esq||Holborn Hill|
|Thomas Hornby Esq and myself||Swithins Lane|
I hasten to inform you that the resolutions of the meeting held on the 9th of April on the subject of the intended application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts were read and approved by the General Body at the annual meeting, and that the undermentioned gentlemen were chosen from the ministers of the Three Denominations to form part of the United Committee: the Reverend Dr Rees, Mr Aspland, Dr Humphrys, Dr Winter, Dr Newman, Dr Cox, and their secretary.
148. J. Eliot, with his respects to R. Winter, acknowledges the receipt on the 12th instant of his letter of the 9th enclosing a copy of certain resolutions relative to an intended application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts.
J.E. has consulted several of his Friends on the subject, who unite with him in thinking that the proper course to take will be to lay the letter and resolutions before a meeting for the general concerns of the Society of Friends at its next sitting, which occurs on the 4th of the ensuing month. If that meeting should conclude to take any measure which [p. 6] may require a communication on the subject to be made to the Committee of Deputies, care will be had to forward it with promptness.
The Wesleyan Methodists form a connection under the government of an Annual Conference, which only has the power of appointing persons to represent or act for the Body on any occasion. There is no power lodged with the president for the year, except to carry into execution what has been directed by the preceding Conference or established by ordinary rules. I have therefore no power to appoint a representation for our Body to act with the Deputies of the other Dissenting bodies mentioned in your letter. It could only be therefore in their individual capacity that any individuals from us could unite in the proposed measure.
I feel that our system is in this respect imperfect, [p. 7] as many occasions might arise in which it might be important to unite with our fellow Christians dissenting or seceding from the Establishment, in the way of deputations, and I shall state this matter to our next Conference, which meets in July next. As the matter now stands, I can take no step whatever.
150. The secretary reported that he had received a communication from the Presbytery of the Scotch Church, through the Reverend Edward Irving, intimating that they declined sending delegates to this committee.
151. [pp. 7-10; TAR 33-4] William Smith was requested to act as chairman of the committee. Robert Aspland, for the General Body of Ministers, and Edgar Taylor, for the Unitarian Association, read resolutions in support of repeal from their respective organisations and discussed the possibility of presenting a petition to parliament. A subcommittee on publications was appointed with a membership consisting of two persons from each body represented on the committee, together with William Smith, Edward Busk, Henry Waymouth, the Reverend Dr Robert Winter, Robert Aspland, John Bowring and Edgar Taylor. Their first responsibility was to examine the Statement of the Case of Protestant Dissenters, written by Edgar Taylor, and prepare it for circulation. The committee also agreed to hold its next meeting on Monday 30 April, and on successive Mondays at 1 p.m. On 21 April 1827 the publications subcommittee approved Taylor's Statement of the Case and sent it to be printed in the following periodicals: Evangelical Magazine, Congregational Magazine, Eclectic Review, Monthly Repository, Christian Observer, Baptist Magazine, Monthly Review, New Monthly Review, London Magazine and Gentleman's Magazine.
152. [p. 10] 25th April 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Mr Busk, Mr Bowring, Mr Edgar Taylor, Mr Waymouth.
Resolved that copies of the Statement of the [p. 11] Case of Protestant Dissenters ordered to be printed at the last meeting of this subcommittee be sent to Dissenting ministers in central places, requesting them to circulate them in their neighbourhoods.
I am directed by the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts to inform you that the usual Committee of Deputies for protecting the civil rights of Dissenters have lately requested and received several times deputations from the General Body of Ministers of the Three Denominations residing in and about the Cities of London and Westminster, the Board of Congregational Ministers, the Unitarian Association and the Protestant Society and have conferred with them upon this important subject.
On Friday the 6th instant, a select deputation from the Committee of Deputies and the several other Bodies held a meeting at Westminster to which several members of both houses of parliament, who have long distinguished themselves as friends to religious and civil liberty, were invited and favoured it with their attendance. The result of the conference proved favourable, not only to the proposed measure itself but also to the expediency of bringing it forward at the present time. A resolution was therefore unanimously passed requesting Lord John Russell, who was present, to move for the repeal of the acts in question during the present session of parliament, upon which his lordship immediately acted by giving notice [p. 12] of such motion for Thursday the 7th of June next.
On the following Monday (the 9th instant) another meeting of the Committee of Deputies was held, when they were again attended by deputations from the other bodies before mentioned, and it was then resolved that a United Committee should be formed for conducting the proposed application to parliament, which has been accordingly done, and is composed of the Committee of Deputies for protecting the civil rights of Dissenters, and of deputations from the General Body of Ministers of the Three Denominations residing in and about the Cities of London and Westminster, the Unitarian Association and the United Associate Presbytery.
It having been thus determined to proceed in the prosecution of this great national question, it behoves Protestant Dissenters to give every assistance to the efforts of their committee by united and temperate petitions to parliament, in which it will of course be desirable to avoid every expression calculated to excite hostile feelings in their opponents.
Under the impression of these sentiments, and feeling that the only wish of Protestant Dissenters must be to give the greatest effect to the efforts of their parliamentary friends, the committee have directed me to forward to you the accompanying form of petition, as one which they consider suitable for the present occasion; and it is the hope of the committee that you will prepare a petition either in the form above recommended or in such other form as you may prefer and that having carefully filled up the blanks and obtained the signatures of as many competent and suitable male persons as possible, you will transmit it to me without delay, unless you have an opportunity of presenting it to the House of Commons through the members of your county or your own friends in that House, and in either case I hope to be favoured with an early communication from you on this subject.
The committee have printed a Statement of the Case of Dissenters, which will be stitched in with the various magazines of next month, and I shall send copies of that Statement immediately to some central town in your neighbourhood for distribution.
Sheweth that your petitioners are deeply aggrieved by certain acts passed in the reign of King Charles the 2nd and commonly called the Corporation and Test Acts, whereby all persons are excluded under heavy penalties from the government of corporations and from every office, trust, or command under his majesty, who shall not receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper according to the usages of the Church of England.
That in the exercise of the right of duty of private judgment, your petitioners see irresistible grounds for their Dissent from the Church now established by law, and they cannot therefore yield that conformity, which is as they submit, unnecessarily and unjustly required to enable them to exercise the rights and enjoy the honours of citizenship in a free country.
That in the assumption of authority, whether to punish or tolerate another in the performance of his religious duties, your petitioners cannot but see a pretension to infallibility, an injustice towards individuals, an encouragement to insincerity and a source of weakness in the state; and they moreover deem the connection of a solemn ordinance of Christianity with the qualification for secular office, not only a national reproach but a profanation of religion itself.
Your petitioners therefore humbly and earnestly pray your honourable House to take these laws into your early consideration and remove the grievances which result from them. And your petitioners will ever pray &c. This petition to be fairly written in words at length on a skin of parchment or an open sheet of large paper; and it will be convenient to rule columns for the signatures, and if more than one skin or sheet is used, care must be taken to have some of the signatures on the first skin or sheet.
155. [pp. 14-17; TAR 34] On 30 April 1827 the committee received a letter from the Reverend William Broadfoot, Moderator of the United Associate Presbytery of London, naming the following as delegates to the committee: Reverend Dr Alexander Waugh, Reverend James Gray, Robert Stephenson, James Head, David Reid and Reverend William Broadfoot. Stephenson and Broadfoot were added to the publications subcommittee, which was asked actively to seek the co-operation of supporters in Scotland. John Bowring asked that the committee seek another meeting with friends in parliament. On the same day the subcommittee met and instructed the secretary to address a letter (which William Broadfoot was to forward) to the Reverend William Kidston, Clerk to the United Associate Synod in Glasgow, requesting the Synod's co-operation and assistance. Printed documents prepared by the committee and the General Body of Ministers were to accompany the letter. The subcommittee also resolved to print the Statement of the Case in the next issue of the Edinburgh Theological Magazine and the Westminster Review.
156. [p. 17] 7th May 1827. At a meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Mr Busk, Mr Bompas, Reverend Mr Broadfoot, Reverend Dr Cox, Mr Christie, Mr Favell, Mr Fisher, Reverend Dr Humphrys, Mr Hanbury, Mr Hornby, Mr Hood, Mr Jackson, Reverend Dr Rees, Mr Reid, Mr Stephenson, Mr Edgar Taylor, Mr R. Taylor, Reverend Dr Winter, Mr Waymouth. The minutes of the meeting of the committee and subcommittee of the 30th April last were read and confirmed.
The Reverend Mr Broadfoot communicated [p. 18] to this committee that he had forwarded to the Reverend Mr Kidston, the Clerk of the Synod at Glasgow, the papers sent to him by the secretary pursuant to the resolution of the last subcommittee meeting.
157. The secretary read letters from Reverend J. N. Goulty of Brighton, Reverend William Marshall of Wigan, Reverend John Bulmer of Haverfordwest; Reverend Micah Thomas of Abergavenny, Reverend William Margerum of Spalding, Reverend John Jones of Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Reverend K. Hulland of St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, Reverend W. H. Stowell of North Shields, Reverend J. Gawthorn of Derby, Reverend John Hunt of Chelmsford, Reverend William Griffith of Holyhead, Reverend A. Wayland of Lyme Regis, Reverend Thomas James of Woolwich, Reverend William Pitt Scargill of Bury St. Edmunds, and Reverend Charles Atkinson of Ipswich on the subject of petitioning parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts.
158. Resolved that an interview be requested with members of parliament, and particularly with Lord John Russell and Mr John Smith, to consult as to future proceedings, such meeting to take place after the 20th of the present month, and that the chairman be requested to arrange such meeting at which any member of this committee is to be at liberty to solicit the attendance of any member of [p. 19] parliament who may be known to be friendly to the cause.
159. Resolved that the Reverend Charles Atkinson of Ipswich and any other persons making similar inquiries be informed that the expediency of proceeding to any particular measure will be well weighed and submitted to the consideration of friends in parliament. That this committee hope the Dissenters in Suffolk and elsewhere will trust this discretion to them, and that at all events petitions may not be deferred, as it will probably be thought expedient to proceed to that extent. Adjourned.
160. 7th May 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Reverend Mr Broadfoot, Mr Busk, Mr Stephenson, Mr Edgar Taylor, Mr Waymouth, Reverend Dr Winter.
[p. 20] There not being sufficient time for this subcommittee to proceed to the consideration of the matters requiring their attention, adjourned to Thursday next, the 10th instant, at twelve o'clock precisely at this place.
Resolved that the Statement of the Case of Dissenters with emendations and additions as now read be printed and a proof sheet sent to each member of this subcommittee. And that Mr Edgar Taylor be requested to instruct the printer.
That a sermon preached and published in the year 1790 by the Reverend Samuel Pearce, (fn. 1) and another sermon preached and published by the Reverend Robert Robinson (fn. 2) in the year [MS blank] on the subject of the Corporation and Test Acts be reprinted with such notes as may be hereafter approved, and that the Reverend Mr Aspland be requested to [p. 21] instruct the printer accordingly.
162. The Reverend Mr Aspland gives notice that he shall at the next meeting of this subcommittee propose the publication of a periodical work which is to contain a record of all proceedings upon the subject of the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts. Adjourned.
163. 16th May 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Mr Busk, Mr Stephenson, Mr Edgar Taylor, Reverend Dr Winter.
164. The secretary reported that he had since the last meeting received letters from the following persons, viz. Reverend W. H. Buckland of Southern Hill, Reading, Reverend H. R. Bowles of Great Yarmouth, Reverend Thomas Collins Hine of Ilminster, Reverend T. Jones of Broseley, Reverend Samuel Nicholson of Plymouth, Reverend Jenkin Lewis of Newport, Monmouthshire, Reverend Benjamin Longley of Southwold, Reverend William Evans of Tavistock, Reverend John Bulmer of Haverfordwest, Reverend J. Jerard of Coventry, Reverend George Foster of Oakham, Reverend W. H. Wiffin of Thame, Messrs. Crook and Watkins of Newton Abbot, J.C. 'a Dissenter', Reverend C. T. Keen of Eye, Reverend William Scott of Horncastle, and Reverend James Taylor of Short Hill, Nottingham on the subject of the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts.
The secretary reported that he had received petitions from the following places, viz. Cranfield, Bedfordshire; Thame; Lydd near New Romney; Dean Row near Wilmslow, Cheshire; Fowey, Cornwall; Smarden, Kent; Brampton, Cumberland; Enfield; and Chesterfield for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts.
165. The secretary also reported that by desire of one of the members of the subcommittee he had since the last meeting sent copies of the Statement of the Case of Protestant Dissenters [p. 23] to the editors of the following newspapers, viz. Times, New Times, Courier, Globe and Traveller, Star, Sun, Morning Herald, Morning Chronicle, Morning Post, Morning Advertiser, Public Ledger, Evening Mail.
166. [pp. 23-30; TAR 35-7] On 21 May 1827 the committee agreed to meet with members of parliament on 22 May at 11 a.m. at Henderson's Hotel, Westminster. Regarding the enlarged Statement of the Case, the committee resolved to supply various booksellers with 200 copies each at a selling price of six pence, and to send ten copies to each committee member, three to each Dissenting Deputy, one to every member of parliament, one to the editor of every provincial newspaper (together with a request for the editor's co-operation in the Repeal campaign), 200 to the Reverend John Coates for the use of the General Body of Ministers, 100 to the Associate Presbytery, 100 to the Unitarian Association, 100 to the president of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference, 100 to the Society of Friends and five to each of the literary institutions in London. The secretary reported that since the last meeting he had received letters from thirteen ministers in different parts of the country.
167. On 22 May the committee met at Brown's (formerly Henderson's) Hotel in the presence of the following noblemen and members of the House of Commons: Lord Holland, Lord King, Lord Milton, Lord Ebrington, Lord Althorp, Lord Clifton, Lord James Stuart, Lord Nugent, Lord John Russell, George Byng, Alexander Dawson, John Wood, John Berkeley Monck, John Easthope, John Smith, John Maberly, William Leader Maberly, John Baring, William Bingham Baring, George Philips, William Wolryche-Whitmore, Henry Warburton, William Allen, John Calcraft, Henry Brougham, Sir Robert Wilson, Sir George Robinson, Nicolson Calvert, Charles Fyshe Palmer, Maurice Fitzgerald and George Richard Philips. They first discussed the expediency of asking Lord John Russell to postpone his Repeal motion, which had been set for 7 June. After a lengthy discussion, the parliamentary friends left the meeting, and the committee resolved (1) to make every effort to submit numerous Repeal petitions to the current session of parliament; (2) to instruct the secretary to send a copy of the last resolution to London and country congregations; (3) to ask Dr James Brown to reply to a letter received that day from John Wilks of the Protestant Society; (4) to provide Alexander Dawson, M.P., with 100 copies of the Statement of the Case for the use of Irish members of parliament; and (5) to advertise the enlarged Statement in the leading morning papers. The chairman also read letters he had received from Lord Folkstone, General Sir Robert Ferguson, John Wilks, and the following members of parliament: John Cam Hobhouse, Dr Lushington, Edward Wynne Pendarves, Matthew Wood, Alderman, Robert Waithman, Alderman, Thomas Francis Kennedy and William Marshall.
168. On 28 May 1827 the committee agreed that Lord John Russell's motion should be postponed and passed the following resolutions: (1) that [p. 28] 'the present state of public affairs, the advanced period of the session of parliament, and other circumstances' make it advisable to delay the motion; (2) that Lord John Russell be asked to renew the motion at the earliest opportunity at the next session of parliament and in following sessions, if necessary, until it is carried; (3) that the chairman and Henry Waymouth convey these resolutions to Lord John Russell and John Smith and thank them for their steadfast support of the cause of religious liberty; (4) that all the members of parliament who have supported the committee be thanked and asked for their continued support; (5) that the resolutions be published in the newspapers and religious periodicals; (6) that the resolutions be sent to various Dissenting ministers in London and the country with a request that the petitions in support of Repeal be sent to parliament without delay; and
169. [p. 30] that the chairman be requested to explain to Lord John Russell, Mr John Smith and such other members of parliament as he shall think proper that the motives which have induced this committee to recommend the postponement of the measure have been the difference of opinion entertained by their parliamentary friends and amongst Dissenters themselves as to the propriety of proceeding with it during the present session, and an unwillingness to risk the embarrassment of a ministry from which they anxiously hope for a more liberal consideration of the claims of Protestant Dissenters.
170. [p. 31] 4th June 1827. At a meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: William Hale Esq in the chair; Reverend Dr Newman, Reverend Dr Humphrys, Mr Wood, Mr Favell, Mr Fisher, Mr Bowring, Reverend Mr Aspland, Dr Brown, Mr Busk, Reverend Dr Rees, Mr Reid, Reverend Dr Winter, Mr Hornby, Mr Jackson, Mr Bompas, Mr Hood, Mr Stephenson, Mr Richard Taylor, Mr Yockney.
Resolved that the chairman and Mr Waymouth be requested to communicate (through the secretary) to this committee at their meeting on the 11th instant the result of their interview with Lord John Russell and Mr John Smith, pursuant to the resolutions of the last committee meeting. Adjourned to Monday the 11th instant at one o'clock precisely at this place.
171. [pp. 32-8; TAR 65-8] On 11 June 1827 the committee resolved that the subcommittee investigate a better method of circulating the deliberations of parliament on the Repeal motion than that available through public newspapers; that the secretary write to the Reverend William Nichols of Collingham near Newark, thanking him for his donation of £5, and that 5,000 copies of the Statement of the Case be printed for general circulation.
172. A letter was read from William Kidston, Clerk of the United Associate Synod in Glasgow, dated 16 May 1827. Although expressing disapproval of the Test and Corporation Acts, the Synod agreed that it was inexpedient to submit a petition in favour of the Repeal motion at that time but agreed to appoint a committee to correspond with the London committee through William Broadfoot and the United Associate Presbytery of London.
The London committee resolved to acknowledge the Synod's letter and to refer any future correspondence from Glasgow to the Reverend Broadfoot. The committee also resolved to add Dr James Baldwin Brown, Serjeant Charles Bompas and the Reverend John Coates to the subcommittee on publications and to appoint another subcommittee, consisting of the committee's ministers and Benjamin Hanbury, John Fisher and Matthew Wood, to improve and verify the lists of Dissenting congregations in England, Wales and Scotland. The secretary read a letter from Robert Aspland dated 8 June 1827 renewing the Unitarian Association's deputation to the United Committee with one exception: Christopher Richmond of Middle Temple was to replace John Watson, who had retired.
173. At a meeting of the publications subcommittee on 14 June 1827, Robert Aspland agreed to revise for reprinting the sermons of Samuel Pearce and Robert Robinson. Aspland was requested to prepare the first number of a new periodical devoted to publicising the proceedings of the United Committee and to recording parliamentary debates, petitions and other documents relating to the Repeal campaign, with the secretary's assistance. The secretary reported that 12,000 copies of the Statement of the Case had been sent to the editor of the Quarterly Review and 10,000 to the editor of the Edinburgh Review [p. 37] 'to be stitched into the numbers of those works now publishing'. The subcommittee also resolved that parliamentary petitions on the subject of Repeal be printed in religious periodicals, but not in newspapers, and that the secretary preserve copies of petitions that varied from the ordinary form.
174. [p. 36] The chairman having procured 1,000 copies of the Deputies' petition to parliament ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, suggested the expediency of circulating them free of postage, as parliamentary proceedings, among a select number of the most respectable ministers and lay Dissenters in the country, and each member of [p. 37] this subcommittee was requested to bring to the next meeting a list of the names and addresses of such gentlemen as he may think suitable.
175. [p. 38] 5th July 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Mr Bowring, Mr Busk, Dr Brown, Mr Stephenson. The minutes of the last meeting of this subcommittee were read and confirmed.
The secretary produced and read a letter he had received from Mr Fitzgerald (a member of the British Catholic Association) relative to some copies of the Statement of the Dissenters' Case sent to the committee rooms of the Association, No. 1, Thorney Street, Bloomsbury.
Resolved that the secretary do write to Mr Fitzgerald in answer to his letter, informing him that the copies of the Statement alluded to by him were not sent to the Catholic Association by this [p. 39] committee on their order but probably by Mr Alexander Dawson, M.P., to whom a considerable number of copies was sent; and returning the cordial thanks of this committee to the Catholic Body for the kind and liberal expression of their wishes in favour of the great cause of civil and religious liberty.
176. Resolved that the resolution of the meeting of the subcommittee on the 14th ult. relative to not publishing a list of petitions in the newspapers be amended by inserting the words 'unless the editors of the newspapers will insert such list gratuitously'.
177. Resolved that the respectful acknowledgments of this meeting be offered to the right honourable Lord John Russell for his obliging compliance with the request of this committee to postpone his motion in the House of Commons for the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts and for his lordship's communication of a transcript of the speech he made on that occasion; and that the secretary do write to his lordship with a copy of this resolution.
178. Mr Bowring stated to this subcommittee that having printed a letter to Mr Canning, he would attach to it a declaration that such letter must be considered as containing only his own individual opinion.
Resolved that in the opinion of this subcommittee it is inexpedient for any member of the committee to publish, otherwise than anonymously and without any allusion to his connection with the committee, any [p. 40] pamphlet or other work connected with the objects of the general committee without first obtaining the sanction of this subcommittee. Adjourned.
179. 18th July 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Henry Waymouth Esq in the chair; Mr Serjeant Bompas, Mr Bowring, Mr Busk, Mr Stephenson. The minutes of the last meeting of this subcommittee were read and confirmed. This subcommittee held a general conversation on various points relating to the Corporation and Test Acts, but did not come to any resolution. Adjourned.
180. 30th July 1827. At a meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr Jackson in the chair; Mr Bowring, Mr Busk, Reverend Mr Broadfoot, Mr Fisher, Mr Hanbury, Mr Hornby, Reverend Dr Newman, Reverend Dr Rees, Mr Reid, Mr Stephenson, Reverend Dr Winter, Mr Waymouth. [p. 41] The minutes of the last meeting of the committee were read and confirmed.
The minutes of the subsequent meetings of the subcommittee were read and approved, with the exception of the resolution of the 5th instant restraining members of this committee from publishing anything on the subject of the Corporation and Test Acts without the sanction of the subcommittee.
Resolved that in the opinion of this committee it would not be right or expedient to impose restraints upon its members in publishing, if it should be their wish, anything on the subject of the Corporation and Test Acts with their own names and as their individual views and sentiments.
181. It having been intimated to this committee that it was probable the communication directed to be made to the Presbytery of the Scotch Church in London on the 9th of April last had not been submitted to the consideration of that Body,
182. The Reverend Mr Broadfoot introduced to this committee Mr George Meliss, who was desirous of suggesting the propriety of communicating with the Presbytery of the Scotch Church in Edinburgh on the subject of the Corporation and Test Acts, and of [p. 42] interesting them and the people of Scotland generally in the intended application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts. This committee, after conversing with Mr Meliss, requested him to reduce what he had to suggest into writing, which he promised to do. Adjourned to Monday the 27th day of August next at one o'clock precisely at this place.
183. 27th August 1827. At a meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: the Reverend Dr Rees in the chair; Reverend Mr Broadfoot, Mr Busk, Mr Fisher, Mr Hanbury, Mr Hornby, Mr Hammond, Reverend Dr Humphrys, Mr Stephenson, Mr Waymouth. The minutes of the last meeting of the committee were read and confirmed.
The secretary produced and read a letter he had received from Mr George Meliss, recommending that a communication should be made to the General Assembly of the Scotch Church at Edinburgh, inviting their co-operation with this committee in the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and [p. 43] Test Acts.
Resolved that the secretary do address a letter to the Reverend Dr Thomson of Edinburgh, requesting his opinion as to the expediency of applying to the General Assembly on this subject, and that the secretary do send Dr Thomson such documents as he may think necessary for his information.
184. The secretary reported that he had communicated to the Reverend Mr Crombie (the Clerk of the Scotch Presbytery in London) the resolutions of the meeting of 9th April last, as ordered by this committee at their last meeting, and that Mr Crombie had promised to lay the same before the Presbytery at their next meeting on the 18th of September next and immediately afterwards to return an answer to the secretary on the subject.
Resolved that the subcommittee of publications be summoned to meet at this place on Monday the 10th day of September next at one o'clock precisely. Adjourned to Monday the 24th day of September at one o'clock precisely at this place.
185. [p. 44] 10th September 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Mr Busk, Mr Stephenson, Reverend Dr Winter. The minutes of the meetings of this subcommittee of the 5th July and 18th July last were read and confirmed. No resolution was passed at this meeting. Adjourned.
186. 24th September 1827. At a meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr Favell in the chair; Mr Busk, Mr Hanbury, Reverend Dr Newman, Reverend Dr Rees, Mr Reid, Mr Stephenson, Reverend Dr Winter, Mr Yallowley. The minutes of the last meeting of this committee on the 27th August were read and confirmed. No resolution was passed at this meeting. Adjourned to Monday 29th October next at one o'clock precisely at this place.
187. [p. 45] 22nd October 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr Busk in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Mr Edgar Taylor. The minutes of the last meeting of this subcommittee on the 10th ult. were read and confirmed.
Yours of the 7th August, by direction of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, I laid last week before the London Presbytery in communion with the Church of Scotland. Your communication was received by that court and considered with the serious deliberation which is due to the importance of the subject, but the Presbytery resolved (for reasons [p. 46] which I need not here enumerate) that they could not join your committee in the matter. It is therefore scarcely necessary to add that the Scotch Presbytery declines sending any delegates to the committee.
189. 29th October 1827. At a meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr Hale in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Reverend Mr Broadfoot, Mr Serjeant Bompas, Mr Busk, Mr Hornby, Mr Hanbury, Mr Jackson, Reverend Dr Newman, Reverend Dr Rees, Mr Reid, Mr Stephenson, Mr R Taylor, Reverend Dr Winter, Mr Wood. The minutes of the last meeting of the committee were read and confirmed.
190. [p. 47; TAR 69] The committee also urged Protestant Dissenters to gather as many petitions as possible in support of the Repeal motion for presentation at the opening of the next session. The subcommittee on publications was given responsibility for circulating letters to Dissenting ministers and others who were to elicit such petitions.
191. [p. 47] 7th November 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Mr Busk, Mr Waymouth. The minutes of the last meeting of this subcommittee [p. 48] were read and confirmed.
It was suggested that two forms of petitions to parliament should be prepared, one to be signed by Protestant Dissenters and the other by members of the Establishment and others. But no resolution was passed at this meeting. Adjourned to the 14th instant.
192. 14th November 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Henry Waymouth Esq in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Mr Serjeant Bompas, Mr Busk. The minutes of the last meeting of this subcommittee were read and confirmed.
194. [p. 49] 21st November 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair; Dr Brown, Mr Busk, Mr Stephenson, Mr Edgar Taylor, Mr Waymouth, Reverend Dr Winter. The minutes of the last meeting were read and confirmed.
This subcommittee read over and considered the draft of the intended petition of Protestant Dissenters to parliament and compared the same with the form circulated by the committee on the 25th of April last.
Resolved that that form be adopted as the basis of the petition to be now determined upon; and this subcommittee accordingly proceeded to settle the draft petition but postponed the further consideration thereof till the next meeting. Adjourned to the 29th instant.
195. [p. 50] 26th November 1827. At a meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr Waymouth in the chair; Mr Busk, Reverend Mr Broadfoot, Dr Brown, Mr Fisher, Mr Hanbury, Mr Hood, Mr Jackson, Reverend Dr Humphrys, Mr Marten, Mr Reid, Reverend Dr Rees, Mr Stephenson, Reverend Dr Winter. The minutes of the last meeting of the committee were read and confirmed. The minutes of the subsequent meetings of the subcommittee were read.
The secretary reported that he had not yet received any answer from the Reverend Dr Thomson as to the propriety of addressing the General Assembly at Edinburgh, whereupon Mr Broadfoot undertook to write to Dr Thomson. Adjourned to 17th December next at one o'clock.
196. 29th November 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr Waymouth in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Mr Busk. [p. 51] The minutes of the last meeting of the subcommittee were read and confirmed.
|To ministers in the country||1,000|
|Ditto in and about London||150|
|Dr Williams's Library for the use of the ministers||50|
|Messrs Wightman and Cramp (the booksellers) for sale at 6d each||250|
|As a reserve stock||300|
Resolved that a few copies be printed and one be sent to each member of the subcommittee with a request that they will make such alterations and remarks as they may think proper and return them to the secretary on Monday next, and that the secretary do then immediately send them to Mr Busk to be finally revised and settled by him previous to the next meeting on the 6th December next.
198. 6th December 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee appointed to conduct publications relative to the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr Waymouth in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Mr Bowring, Dr Brown, Mr Busk, Mr Stephenson. The minutes of the last meeting of this subcommittee were read and confirmed.
199. 7th December 1827. At a meeting of the subcommittee of publications held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: Mr Waymouth in the chair; Reverend Mr Aspland, Dr Brown, Mr Busk, Mr Serjeant Bompas, Mr Bowring, Reverend Dr Winter. [p. 53] The minutes of the last meeting of this subcommittee were read and confirmed.
200. [pp. 53-5; TAR 436-7] On 10 December 1827 the publications subcommittee resolved that Edward Busk, Robert Aspland and James B. Brown determine the final form of the petitions to parliament and the circular letter to ministers; 1,750 copies were to be printed and one copy sent to every Dissenting minister in England and Wales. The same three persons were also asked to prepare the first issue of the Test Act Reporter.
On 12 December Busk, Aspland and Brown approved the final form of the petitions and the circular letter and [p. 54] 'read over and settled the preface to and arranged the matter for the first number of the Test Act Reporter to be published on the 1st day of next month'. An estimate of the expense of printing 2,000 copies each month was approved and it was resolved that Aspland proceed with the publication and advertise it in several newspapers and periodicals.
201. [p. 55] 17th December 1827. At a meeting of the committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts held at the King's Head Tavern. Present: William Smith Esq, M.P., in the chair. The minutes of the last meeting of this committee on the 26th ult. were read and confirmed. The minutes of the subsequent meetings of the subcommittee of publication were read and approved.
Your letter of the 29th of August last, with the accompanying papers, reached me in due course. But as the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland does not meet till the middle of May, of which I presumed you to be aware, it did not occur to me that an immediate answer was necessary. And since your last letter arrived, my frequent absence from town and my numerous engagements when at home have prevented me from replying till now.
After perusing all your communications, revolving the subject of them carefully in my mind and consulting with several intelligent friends, I feel constrained to discourage your committee from applying to our General Assembly for the purpose you mention. The question has been repeatedly discussed in that court, but it never experienced a successful issue, and indeed was always settled in such a way as to shew that a renewal of the discussion was only to ensure another defeat. Were the matter well debated, indeed it would do good by accelerating the progress and diffusion of enlightened views. Still, however, I am confident that the motion for petitioning parliament would be rejected by [p. 57] a large majority, and that, I fear, would furnish the high church party with an argument against you which would more than counterbalance the local advantages to be derived from the constitutional statements and sound reasonings of your friends, as contrasted with the slavish doctrines and plausible sophistry of your opponents in our great ecclesiastical meeting.
As our Assembly is a representative Body and as the election will not take place till March, it is impossible for me to say whether there will be many whose principles will accord with those of your committee, or who would be able to give them any efficient support in the course of the debate which would certainly take place. And indeed, from a canvass for one of our clerkships, which is now going on, I am rather apprehensive that the returns will be more unfavourable than usual so far as liberal sentiments are concerned.
I may say for my own part that were I to be in the Assembly and were the subject to be introduced, I would not fail to exert myself to the utmost against the oppressive and injurious acts which you specify, for I long and pray for the period when all laws of stigma and proscription on account of religious faith [p. 58] shall be swept from our legislative code, whether they respect Protestants or Catholics. And I am happy to state that there are not a few in our church, able and influential men, who entertain these ideas and would delight to see them speedily realized. The current of opinion, indeed, is now flowing decidedly in that direction, and I anticipate that at no very distant period we shall be able to do something more helpful to the cause of civil and religious liberty, as affected by the Corporation and Test Acts, than we have yet accomplished or than we think it expedient to attempt at present.
Allow me to add that one objection with many of us to your petitioning parliament at all in existing circumstances arises from our wish to do nothing which would in any degree embarrass or tend to divide the Administration. Of course, we have no desire to dictate to you on a point in the result of which you are far more deeply concerned than we are, and of which, from your access to information, you should be more competent to judge. But I have thought it proper to make you acquainted with the light in which it appears to us.
[p. 59] Resolved that the thanks of this committee be given to the Reverend Dr Thomson for his valuable letter just read, and that it be referred to the subcommittee of publication to write a letter to him in answer and to send him such documents as they may think proper.
202. [pp. 59-60; TAR 437] It was also resolved that printed copies of the Address from the Body of Ministers be sent to the principal towns and cities in England and Wales for distribution. It was further resolved that William Smith, Edward Busk, Robert Aspland and Dr Brown meet with Lord John Russell and John Smith to request that the application for Repeal be renewed in the current session of parliament. The same four committee members were asked to communicate with the Marquess of Lansdowne, Lord Holland and Lord Dacre and other members of the House of Lords who might assist the Repeal campaign. The committee expressed their deep regret at the recent death of the Reverend Dr Alexander Waugh, who had represented the United Associate Presbytery of London on the United Committee.
203. [p. 60] The following is a copy of the circular letter to ministers and forms of petitions to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, as settled by the subcommittee at their meeting on the 12th instant.
The committee appointed to conduct the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts have directed me to address you again on that important subject with a view to obtain your co-operation and [p. 61] assistance in the measures intended to be adopted during the next session of parliament
I am desired by the committee to express their thanks to the Dissenting ministers both in London and in the country for the great zeal displayed by them in procuring and transmitting petitions in the last session of parliament. It was extremely gratifying to the committee and their friends in London who feel warmly interested in the success of this measure to find that upwards of 1,200 petitions, most numerously and respectably signed for the repeal of the obnoxious laws, were presented to the House of Commons within the compass of a few days.
The committee, however, resolved (for the reasons stated in my circular letter dated the 28th of May) not to press for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts during the last session, and accordingly Lord John Russell was requested to withdraw his notice of motion given for the 7th of June, but at the same time to state the fixed purpose of the committee at all events to renew their application at the earliest opportunity in the next session.
During the recess the committee have held frequent meetings, have anxiously watched every circumstance in the political world [p. 62] which could affect the important trust confided to them, and have availed themselves of every opportunity to promote the common cause.
204. At a meeting of the committee held on the 29th of October, it was after the most mature deliberation resolved 'that it is desirable that petitions to be presented at the opening of the next session to both houses of parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts should be obtained as generally as possible from Protestant Dissenters, including those who petitioned the legislature in the last session of parliament'.
The principal reasons which induced the committee to pass this resolution were that a much greater impression would be produced by a large number of petitions being presented in the same session in which the motion is made than by occasionally referring to petitions presented in a former session; that in now preparing fresh petitions more at leisure than was practicable on the late occasion a great many additional signatures may be obtained; and that the former petitions were presented to the House of Commons only, whereas it is now intended to petition both houses of parliament.
The committee have prepared two forms of petition, the first suited to the case of Protestant Dissenters and the second to that of members of the Church of England and others, the committee having reason to believe that many such will from motives of pious regard to the sacred institution which is continually dishonoured by the operation of these acts gladly petition for the repeal of so much of them as relates to the sacramental test; with respect to [p. 63] this latter petition the committee would recommend the exercise of a proper degree of caution against the use of any undue means or influence in obtaining signatures.
While the committee deem the forms of petition which they now send suitable and recommend them to their friends, they by no means wish those forms to be rigidly followed where there is a disposition on the part of the petitioners to express their sentiments in other language, and ample materials for preparing petitions will be found in the Statement of the Case of Dissenters published by the committee. In cases where it may be found more desirable that one common petition should be presented from Dissenters, members of the Church of England and others, the form given for Dissenters may easily be modified for that purpose.
The committee will thank you to get petitions signed as numerously and respectably as possible and then to transmit them either to such members of the House of Lords and Commons as you may have an opportunity of personally interesting on our behalf (which will be the most eligible mode) or to Mr Smith, the chairman of the committee. In the latter case, you are particularly requested to send them by [p. 64] post directed as follows: William Smith Esq, M.P., London, Petitition to Parliament.
The petitions are not to be completely enclosed but merely wrapped round the middle with a cover open at each end in the same way as newspapers are usually transmitted; my name is not to be mentioned in the direction, nor are any other words to be introduced but those prescribed above, nor must any letter be enclosed with the petition. I am the more particular in giving this hint, as more than £60 was charged for postage of the late petitions on account of their not being addressed to a member of parliament in the form above mentioned.
Two petitions, one for the Lords and the other for the Commons, should be fairly written in words at length, each on a skin of parchment or an open sheet of large paper. It will be convenient to rule columns for the signatures, and if more than one skin or sheet is used, care must be taken to have some of the signatures on the first skin or sheet.
205. There is one other point to which I am directed to draw your attention.
The funds of the Deputies appointed to protect the civil rights of Dissenters
have been most readily devoted by that body to the object for the attainment of which the United Committee has been appointed, but as those
funds are not sufficient alone to bear the great [p. 65] expenses incurred and
to be incurred in consequence of the strenuous exertions begun and contemplated, the committee feel it incumbent upon them to submit to your
consideration the propriety of raising among your friends by congregational collections or otherwise as may be thought most advisable and
remitting to me on account of the treasurer to the Deputies some addition
to these funds, as it seems equitable that an object in the accomplishment
of which all Protestant Dissenters are equally and deeply interested should
be sought for at the expense of the whole body.
I am, Reverend Sir, your most obedient servant, Robert Winter
Secretary to the committee for conducting the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts
206. P.S. A sermon preached by the late Reverend Samuel Pearce of Birmingham many years ago, which contains some very strong reasoning on the subject of the Test Act, shewing its impious and dangerous tendency, has lately been published by the committee and may now be had of the booksellers at the price of 6d.
The committee will publish on the 1st of January 1828 the first number of a monthly periodical work entitled the Test Act Reporter, which is intended to contain a report of all proceedings relative to the Corporation and Test Acts, together with original and other papers [p. 66] which may seem to the committee subservient to the great object of their association. The conductors appointed by the committee will be thankful for any communications to this work. It cannot be doubted that the Protestant Dissenters generally will promote its circulation with a view to the advancement of the common design.
The [humble] (fn. 3) petition of the undersigned Protestant Dissenters [assembling for religious worship in the . . . . . . . . chapel in . . . . . . . . ] or [resident in or near . . . . . . . . . .]
[Humbly] (fn. 4) sheweth
That your petitioners in common with all the Protestant Dissenters of England feel themselves deeply aggrieved by certain statutes passed in the unquiet reign of King Charles the Second, usually called 'the Corporation and Test Acts', whereby all persons who shall not receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper as therein directed according to the rites and usage of the Church of England [p. 67] are excluded under heavy penalties from the government of corporations and from every office or place of honour, emolument, command or trust under his majesty.
That your petitioners in the conscientious exercise of the right and duty of private judgment (for which, while injuring none, they hold themselves responsible to no earthly power) see irresistible cause for their dissent from the Church as now by law established, and cannot therefore yield that conformity which by the operation of the above mentioned statutes, though contrary to the intent of parliament at the period of passing them, is (unnecessarily and unjustly as they submit) required for enabling them to possess and enjoy some of the ordinary rights and privileges of subjects in a free country.
That although your petitioners are indirectly shielded in some degree from the penalties of those statutes by annual acts of indemnity, framed professedly for other purposes, these acts do in fact grant to them but a doubtful, precarious and insufficient protection, that it is an anomaly most unworthy the wisdom and dignity of the legislature yearly to pass bills which seem to acknowledge that the penalties are unfit to be enforced but at the same time recognise and thus confirm the statutes by which they are imposed, and that such temporary acts amounting necessarily to such a confirmation, instead of removing sanction, tend to perpetuate that principle of exclusion which is the main ground of complaint.
That in the judgment of your petitioners, [p. 68] such an assumption of authority, whether to punish, control or tolerate in matters of conscience as is implied in the test laws, is in its principle a pretension to infallibility and in its consequences an encouragement to insincerity, an injustice to individuals, a sentence of degradation without any crime proved or imputed against large classes of the community, a loss to his majesty and the nation of the services of a great proportion of the population, a source of division and weakness in the state, and finally an injury and insult to religion itself.
That your petitioners in common not only with all Protestant Dissenters but with great numbers of the clergy and laity of the Church of England together with pious men of every communion consider the perversion of a most solemn religious ordinance into a test of qualification for secular office to be a profanation against which they are as Christians bound on all occasions most strongly to protest.
That those rights of conscience secure from the ensnaring interference of human authority which, founded as they are on the divine law natural and revealed and congenial as they are to the spirit of the British constitution, your petitioners deem it incumbent on them, as they value not only their civil but also their religious interests, to claim for themselves and their children as among their just and reasonable liberties, they presume to think it not less incumbent on their fellow countrymen and fellow Christians [and] on their rulers and legislators to assert and vindicate both for themselves and for your petitioners, who are subjects of the same government bearing at least their equal share of the public burdens and whose attachment and fidelity to the civil and political institutions of their country are as fully evinced as those of any class or denomination of persons in the realm.
Your petitioners therefore [humbly] (fn. 5) and earnestly pray that the Corporation and Test Acts may be taken into early consideration, that so much of them as makes the receiving of the sacrament [p. 69] of the Lord's supper a test for admission to or possession of secular office, employment, or emolument may be repealed, and that other relief may be granted in the premises as to your [right] (fn. 6) honourable House may seem meet.
The [humble] (fn. 7) petition of the undersigned members of Established Church [and others] residing in or near
[Humbly] (fn. 7) Sheweth
That your petitioners [being Christians of different denominations] cordially venerate the institutions of their holy religion and consider the sacrament of the Lord's supper one of its most solemn ordinances.
That your petitioners humbly represent that the solemn character and obligation of this sacrament are most especially and earnestly inculcated in the exhortations prescribed by the rubric to be addressed to all persons who present themselves to partake of the Holy Communion.
That nevertheless by the Corporation and Test Acts passed in the reign of King Charles II the receiving of this sacrament is made a necessary qualification for being admitted into offices or employments merely secular, although it is not pretended that in the appointment to such offices or employments the religious fitness of the persons to partake of the Holy Communion is enquired into or considered; and it cannot be denied that many persons so appointed are notoriously of such life and conversation as according to the declarations of the Church disqualify them utterly from a worthy partaking [p. 70] of that ordinance and therefore expose them in so doing to the fearful consequences denounced against such offenders.
That by these enactments the faithful ministers of the Established Church are involved in a painful and dangerous dilemma. In the rubric and by the canons, they are enjoined to call upon any notorious evil liver (they having full knowledge thereof) so presenting himself and to warn him against presuming to come to the Communion until he shall have openly declared himself to have truly repented of and amended his evil life; and are authorized, if not absolutely commanded, to repel him until he shall have so done; but it is at the imminent peril of any minister if in the conscientious performance of this his ecclesiastical function he shall thereby impede the entrance into office of any person appointed under the king's authority, and he becomes liable to an action for damages by which he may be long most distressingly harassed and even ultimately ruined. Hence it naturally arises that no one presenting himself to receive the sacrament as a qualification for office is ever rejected, and thus the Church and religion itself suffer injury and disgrace severer than any which the attacks of the most determined infidel could inflict.
That your petitioners being sincerely anxious that religion should be maintained in purity and in the respect and honour which are its acknowledged due see with sorrow and distress the desecration of one of its holy ordinances in its being made subservient to the attainment of secular office, and cannot but lament as a most serious grievance the continuance of those laws by which Christianity is subjected to undeserved obloquy and which they deem repugnant to its all-important principles and sacred institutions.
[p. 71] Your petitioners therefore [humbly] (fn. 7) pray that those enactments which make the sacrament of the Lord's supper a test or requisite for secular office, employment or emolument may be taken into consideration by your [right] (fn. 7) honourable House and repealed.
That the Corporation and Test Acts, while they are peculiarly oppressive on Protestant Dissenters who in general cannot conscientiously unite in communion with the Church of England as these statutes require, operate also to the prejudice of members of that Church who by omissions through ignorance, inadvertence or unavoidable accident become not infrequently liable to heavy penalties.
That if the severity of those acts be moderated by annual Acts of Indemnity, yet your petitioners submit that there are many cases for which the latter do not effectually provide, but that persons who have omitted to comply with the requisitions of the test laws, whether intentionally or only accidentally, are left for a shorter or longer period exposed to prosecution; and even if the Indemnity Acts could be rendered a perfect protection in these respects (which may be doubtful), yet that continuing laws which require religious tests and annually passing acts to indemnify persons who have disregarded those laws is a strange anomaly in legislation and tends instead of removing to confirm and continue the evil.
That your petitioners crave leave to express their conviction that the repeal of the enactments complained [p. 72] of is a measure which, while it will be an act of justice to a body of men whose loyalty and patriotism are unimpeachable, will largely contribute to the harmony, union and internal strength and consequently to the external power and general prosperity of the country.
Deeply impressed with these sentiments, your petitioners [humbly] (fn. 8) and earnestly pray that the Corporation and Test Acts may be taken into early consideration by your right honourable House, that so much of them as make the receiving of the sacrament of the Lord's supper a test for admission to or possession of secular office, employment or emolument may be repealed, and that such other relief may be granted in the premises as to your [right] (fn. 8) honourable House may seem meet.
210. A second set of clauses which might be introduced with or without the two first paragraphs above but to be followed by the third and either by the above prayer or that in the second draft petition for members of the Established Church:
That your petitioners have long observed sentiments of increasing candour and liberality diffusing themselves throughout all classes of his majesty's subjects, softening the asperities of party feeling and gradually extending goodwill, concord and amity throughout the community.
That as your petitioners cannot but rejoice in the advancement thus making towards what they conceive to be a very superior state of civil society, so they are solicitous to assist, as far as in them lies, the progress of so desirable an improvement in the condition of the country and of mankind.
That for the furtherance of this great object, your petitioners consider the removal of all disabilities arising merely from conscientious scruples in religion and the breaking down of those distinctions, which were formed in the spirit of party and are as your petitioners humbly conceive grounded on injustice and intolerance, to be essentially necessary.
211. [pp. 73-9; TAR 437-8] On 7 January 1828 the committee heard letters read by the secretary received from Lord John Russell, Lord Holland, Lord Dacre, John Smith and the Marquess of Lansdowne's private secretary regarding a meeting with a deputation from the United Committee appointed at the previous meeting on 17 December 1827. Edward Busk reported that the deputation had met with John Smith, who agreed to second Lord John Russell's Repeal motion at the next session of parliament. Busk also reported on a meeting with Lord Holland, who agreed to support the Repeal motion in the Lords once it had passed the Commons.
The following resolutions were also passed by the committee on 7 January: that the subcommittee on publications publicize the date on which Lord John Russell intended to make his Repeal motion so that an effective use could be made of petitions; that a special subcommittee consisting of six members be appointed to encourage members of parliament to attend the House when Russell would introduce the Repeal motion; that the secretary arrange an early meeting of the special subcommittee appointed on 11 June to revise the list of Dissenting congregations in England, Wales and Scotland; and that the committee meet every Monday at 1 p.m.