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universally applied :-" Our forefathers went through the dirt, and why should not we?" A new experience always brings along with it a degree of hazard and uncertainty with respect to the event, which indisposes the generality of mankind from too readily adopting it. Hobbes said, by way of accnsation, that men follow one another like sheep, in the trodden path, and, added he, "if I had bestowed as much time in reading, as men of letters, I should have been as ignorant as they are." Indeed the art of printing, under one point of view, may be said to have repressed what is called originality, by pre-occupying the mind with a train of borrowed ideas, and it requires very considerable energy, and innate vigour, to spring out of the beaten track, and by doing so, it is ten to one that you fall into the ditch. Were every farmer to follow implicitly the schemes of agricultural theorists, mankind would long ago have starved for want of bread. The first adventurers in any real improvement generally fall a sacrifice before their schemes have ripened into any maturity, and operate as a warning against the imitation of their example. All change should have the be
nefit of experience, and therefore ought to be very gradually progressive.
Two great parties divide, and distract Europe. One party wish to maintain the established order, momentous in power, and property, willing to shackle accident, and bolt up change, the great mass of landed and mercantile wealth, the vast majority of all professions, the numer ous adherents to government, the advanced in years, the timid in spirit, the contented in disposition, and in fine, all those who wish not to risque the present for eventual good. It is not then matter of surprise, that such a ponderous, and patient part of every community, should preponderate against the young, the sanguine, the enthusiastic, against the few, comparatively few, who unwilling to wait for the gradual melioration of their species, devote their time, and their talents, their properties, and often their lives, to accelerate the progress of human improvement. Ah the blockheads, let them wait-let them keep their minds to themselves, their hands in their pockets, and their heads up. on their shoulders. A. P
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF DISTINGUISHED PERSONS.
MEMOIR OF THE REV. GEORGE WALKER.
Continued from p. 437, No. XXIX. We have to apologize to our readers for the length of this article of biography. Mr. Walker himself had an interesting character, in which there was much to admire and imitate. His politics, the sample of better days, require republicaton in this day of apathy; and the present number affords a good account of the appli
cation of dissenters to parliament to be relieved from the disabilities under which they labour, on account of their religious opinions; a subject intimately connected with the cause of religious liberty, but which lies too much neglected at present : yet it is of far more importance, than the receiving of a demi-establishment for the dissenting clergy, and the principles of dissent are much more intimately connected with it.
N consequence of the adoption of this plan, and of the favourable issue of Mr. Beaufoy's motion in May 1789, when success appeared to have been nearly within their reach, the majority against them being only twenty-four, the dissenters were encouraged to more vigorous exertions. In the spirit of elation which these augmented hopes produced, general meetings were held, committees formed, and resolutions entered into, expressing in firm but moderate language a sense of hardships to which they were subjected, the grounds on which they claimed the restoration of their rights, and their determination to persevere, until they had obtained that redress, which both justice and policy dictated. The fol lowing resolutions, drawn up by Mr. Walker, and unanimously approved at a meeting of deputies from the counties of Derby, Nottingham, Lincoln, Warwick, Salop, Stafford, Leicester, Rutland and Yorkshire, are declaratory of the principles avowed at their most respectable meetings, and of the grounds on which they defended their claims.
"1. That it is not the province of the civil magistrate to direct, or to interfere with the religious opinions or practices of any members of the state, provided their conduct be not injurious to others.
"2. That all the subjects of the state, conducting themselves in an equally peaceable manner, are equally entitled, not only to protection in the possession of their civil rights, but also to any civil honours or emoluments, which are accessible to other subjects, without any regard to their religious opinions or practices.
"3. Desiring nothing for ourselves but the same equal and liberal treatment, to which we think
all other persons in a similar situation are equally entitled, it is our earnest wish, that an equal participation in all civil priviliges may be obtained for dissenters of every description, to whom nothing can be objected, beside their religious opinions or practices, and who can give that security for their civil allegiance, which the state ought to require.
4. That the protestant dissen. ters of this country have always had reason to complain of unjust treatment, in being disqualified to hold offices of civil trust or power, though their behaviour has ever been peaceable and loyal, and though they can even boast peculiar merit, as friends to the present government.
5. That it becomes dissenters, as men feeling their own disgraceful situation, and the opprobrium which this reflects upon their country, to adopt every constitutional method of procuring the redress of their grievances, and thus retrieve the honour of the nation.
"6 As one principle ground of our abhorrence of the test laws is the prostitution of religion to interested and secular views, and as these laws therefore ought to be equally abhorred by every friend of pure religion, we invite every conscientious fellow subject of the established church to concur with us, assuring them, that in this proceeding we sympathize with them, as we wish them to sympathize with us, and each contribute to do away this reproach and profanation of
common religion. But if it should be deemed more honourable to themselves to act apart from us, we invite them as a separate body to come forward, and in some decided manner bear their testimony to a cause, which does equal honour to both.
7. That with the same decided
tone, with which we assert our rights as men and christians, and protest against all interference of the magistrate in the proper cause of religion, we repel with scorn the imputation of all meaner and taser views. We have no latent ambition under the mask of religion. We are as superior to hypocrisy, as we are to fear. We aspire not to one emolument or honour to the church. In our civil capacity we vow as pure a loyalty, as generous and ardent an affection, as liberal exertions, and as well informel and as well principled an attatchment to the constitution of our country, as its most favoured and honoured subjects can pretend to.Our reverence of Britain, her government and laws, is only in subordination to our reverence of God and of human nature.
"8. That though the particular grievance of the corporation and test acts has been the means of convening us, as part of the body of dissenters, we think it our duty to use our utmost endeavours to procure the repeal of all penal statutes in matters of religion, as this is clearly comprehended within our just rights; and are persuaded, that in this we meditate nothing new, as religious liberty ever will and must be defective, while one such penal law is suffered to exist.
9. That in contending for our civil rights, we mean nothing hostile to the religious principles of the church of England, or to any religious principles whatever, hold ing it as a maxim, that nothing of this nature is within the province of the civil magistrate: we therefore will not be considered as responsible "for whatever any individual, belonging to any part of the body of dissenters, may publish for or against any religious tenets; we consider it as every man's right to do whatever
under the influence of a love of truth he may think proper in that respect; but publications, not expressly authorized by any body of men, should not be imputed to that body.
10. That a permanent mode of collecting the sense and uniting the efforts of the whole body of dissenters of every denomination, so that they may have their representatives to meet in London or elsewhere, and make proper application to the legislature as circumstances may require, appears to be a measure well calculated to promote the desirable end above mentioned.
SAMUEL SHORE, JUN. Chairman.” At the request of the committee of the midland district formed at the above meeting of deputies, Mr. Walker undertook, in an appeal to the nation, published under the title of the Dissenter's Plea, to defend more at large the claims of the dissenters, and to repel the arguments, that had been opposed to them. Of the manner in which he executed the task assigned to him, it would be superfluous here to speak, after the commendations which have been passed upon it by two individuals so capable of appreciating its merit as the late Mr. Fox, and Mr. Gilbert Wakefield, who have both declared their opinion of its superior excellence, in pronouncing it to be the best pamphlet published ou a subject, which had exercised the pens of the ablest writers of the day. As the advocate on this occasion of the dissenters, he did not merely confine himself to those arguments, which had a reference to the circumstances of the times, or that applied peculiarly to the nature of the subject immediately in view; but in deducing them from the original principles of human nature, and the constitution of civil society, he has established them on a broader and
It might have been expected, that this and other treatises of a similar kind, which brought forward into such full view the merits of their cause, would have so far removed the prejudices of the public, that the issue of another trial would have crowned their exertions with success, but the hope was vain.
When some in the minority, on the division in May 1789, express ed their satisfaction and their hopes, they were authoritatively told, that never again would so near an approach be permitted a prediction which, fatally for the dissenters, was fulfilled on the division that followed Mr. Fox's motion on the second of March 1791, when it was found, that this spirit had so far operated upon the temper of the house, as to increase the majority against them from 20 to 189, the numbers being 294 to
As the chairman of the associated dissenters, Mr. Walker was requested by several ministers to prepare an address to Dr. Priestley, expressive of their common concern at the horrid outrages, which he had lately experienced from an ignorant and misguided multitude, whom the malice of bigotry and the rancour of party had stimulated to those violent proceedings, that have aflixed an indelible disgrace upon the national character. In compliance with this he composed the follow. ing address, which was afterwards signed by a very respectable number of ministers of the different deno minations.
"To the Rev. Dr. PRIESTLY. SIR,
"We the dissenting ministers of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, of the prysbeterian, independent, and baptist persuations, associated as brethren and interested in the common cause of religious liberty, present our very respectful and affectionate condolence for the outrages to which you have been subject. Though many of us differ from you in matters of religious faith, we trust that we have better learnt the spirit of our excellent religion, than not to esteem in you that character of piety and virtue, which is the best fruit of every faith and that ardour for truth and manly inquiry, which christianity invites, and which no form of christianity ought to shrink from; as well as to admire those eminent abilities, and that unwearied perseverance, which give activity to the virtues of your heart, and to which in almost every walk of science your country and the world have been so much indebted.
"That such virtues and such abilities should invite persecution, is a melancholy proof, that neither philosophy nor christianity have yet taught their most dignified and amiable lessons to our country.But though man will feel, and your enemies have attacked you in that way wherein you feel perhaps most sensibly, yet we rejoice to find in you that decent magnanimity, that christian bearing, which raises you superior to suffering; and that a regard to God, to truth, and to another world, have even from the bosom of affliction enabled you to extract a generous consolation.— Whether in your religious inquiries you have erred or no, we firmly believe, that truth and the best interests of mankind have been the ob ject of your constant regard; and
we trust, that that God, who loves an bonest and well-meaning heart, will dispense to you such protecttion, as to his wisdom may seem most fit. To his benevolent and fatherly protection we devoutly recommend you through the remainder of your life; praying, that you may be long preserved, that you may survive the hatred of your ungrateful country, and that you may repay her cruel injuries by adding, as you have hitherto done, to her treasure of science, of virtue and of piety.
"This tribute of our esteem and sympathy for you, sir, we entreat you to receive with that regard, which we know the purity of it deserves; and though not recommended by the rank of life we hold, we trust that you, a philosopher and a christian, will think it not undeserving of a place among the very respectable testimonies of esteem and condolence, which both at home and abroad your merits and your sufferings have invited.
"From you, sir, we turn, respectable as you are, and embrace the present occasion of appealing in a short address to our country, which has discovered so hostile a spirit to our whole dissenting body. We cannot affect to be ignorant of it, and we mean to complain of it with that plainness and freedom, which becomes us as men, as Britons, and as christians. Instead of concealed or open malignity, we do assert our claim to public goodwill, as faithful and virtuous citizens. In times of danger, with our lives and fortunes we have vindicat ed the rights of our country, we have ministered to her most valuable interests, we have been the foremost in her ranks, nor has our fidelity or affection been marked with one public stain; and in times of security, by an obedience to the laws
and by an active industry, we have largely contributed to her prosperity. Such has ever been our character as citizens, nor can one public crime be proved upon us; unless it be a crime to differ in religion, to choose our religion from the best judgment of our own minds. Strange that in this enlightened day, and in this protestant land, that should be deemed a crime, which even popery has learnt to excuse; which is of the very essence of a protestant's character; which the nature of religion requires; which the spirit of the gospel enjoins; which in every view is one of those unalienable rights, that man never can abandon; which cannot be the object of political controul or regulation, as it respects not man but God, and challenges all, the governors and the governed, as equal subjects. But though we assert this right as not amenable to human legislation, we plead that it is perfectly innocent; we molest not the freedom of any one, we resist not even the things, which we can never approve; we submit where conscience is not wounded, where proper religion is not profaned; and though assuredly wishing the progress of truth and piety and virtue, we meditate not the reformation of errour, nor the correction of evil, nor the very interests of christianity, but by appealing to the understanding of men, and by a dependance on the concurring agency of God.
Having therefore this claim on the protection of all wise and good government, we do, in this public appeal, solicit the return of that good will from our fellow subjects, which we are entitled to, and which we are honestly disposed to return. In nothing but this general good-will can we be safe, as has been awfully witnessed in the horrid outrages at Birmingham, which were immediate,