« FöregåendeFortsätt »
a compulsory attendance on the established means of instruction might receive some plausible defence, from a regard to the spiritual welfare of the party immediately interested. But by compelling the open avowal of a falshood, to make a direct and violent attack upon a man's conscience, and thus to put him under the most dangerous temptation, that of sacrificing his integrity to his ease, his interest, or his safety, is a proceeding which admits of no pretext or apology, and deserves to be treated with marked and universal detestation. These are horrors which it may be useful to recal to remembrance, in order to make us more grateful for our present blessings; for that liberty and security which were purchased by the blood of our forefathers, and are handed down to us as our fairest inheritance; and which, I trust, it will be our zealous and faithful endeavour to transmit sacred and unimpaired to our latest posterity.
Having thus stated the probable influence of religious intolerance on religion itself; we now proceed to view it in some other respects.
1. It tends to produce wars and commotions within the bosom of a state, whenever the part untolerated bears any considerable proportion to the whole. Men naturally resist oppression, and especially when it is exercised in religious matters. They will, in general, more easily suffer an encroach. ment upon their civil rights and liberties, than to be prescribed to in their faith and worship. When their consciences are thus touched, they are immediately roused to opposition, and are ready to repel the violence by every means in their power. To this spirit of intolerance, we are chiefly to ascribe the wars in Germany at the time of the reformation; the civil war in France, which commenced under Charles the Ninth, and continued, with some intermissions, for thirty years; the insurrection of the Low Countries, which happily terminated in the deliverance of seven provinces from the inquisition, and from the tyranny of Spain; and, to name one instance more, the last civil war in our land, which destroyed the monarchy, and brought the king himself to the scaffold. :
2. It tends to depopulate and impoverish a state. Men who cannot enjoy, in their own country, the liberty to worship God in the manner which they judge most acceptable to him, will generally be disposed to seek this liberty elsewhere. · They may not withdraw with clamour, or in large bodies; but the state will find itself insensibly drained of its citizens, without any accession of foreigners to supply their place; for few will be inclined to submit themselves to a power which would impose shackles on their minds as well as their bodies. And if to this silent emigration is added the more sensible and sudden diminution, occasioned by those coercive methods which some infatuated governments have employed to rid themselves of their subjects, the country must quickly be reduced to a want of sufficient bands to carry on its necessary business. Thus by the expulsion of seven hundred thousand Jews from Spain, by Ferdinand and Isabella, and of as many Moriscoes about a hundred years afterwards, by Philip the Third, and for no other reason, which appears, than because they would not turn catholics, the
agriculture and commerce of that unhappy country received a blow, from which they never recovered *. And at a later period, France, on the same account, bereaved herself of half a million of her best subjects, who carried into this and other countries those arts and manufactures, by which they were not permitted to enrich their own t. Such are the dire effects of intolerance when it stalks through a land! Its inhabitants are thinned, its trade languishes, its fields and vineyards lie waste; before it is as the garden of Eden, and behind it a desolate wilderness.
3. The miseries of intolerance will further appear, if we look more closely into its effects in the interior of a country. It degrades the national character, which (according to a former remark) is not more ennobled and elevated by a just liberty, than it is sunk and debased by tyranny;
* See l'Histoire des Juifs, par Basnage, liv. vii. chap. 21. L'Histoire Generale, par Voltaire, ch. 146. and Michael Geddes' account of the expulsion of the Moriscoes from Spain.
of Hume's History of England, vol. viii. p. 255-6.
and by religious tyranny more than by any other. It fills a land, as we have seen, with hypocrisy; for since, under the reign of intolerance, there is no medium between a confessor and a hypocrite for such as dissent from the national church, it is more than probable that, in the present state of human nature, those of the latter character will form the larger body.-It obstructs all that ingenuous and friendly intercourse which constitutes the principal charm of social life; the most important topic of rational and interesting converse is nearly cut off; and every other that bears the remotest relation to it must be treated with a caution, which will suffer no word or sentiment to escape that might be construed into heretical pravity. In a word, the foundations are out of course, mutual confidence is shaken, and every man is tempted to look with suspicion on his neighbour, from a secret apprehension lest, instead of a fellow-citizen, he should find in him a familiar of the inquisition.
4. Lastly: Religious despotism casts an unfavourable aspect on many branches even