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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14


"The property of the Church belongs to the State, and the Legislature has the power and the right to deal with that property according to the circumstances of the times."

Lord Palmerston.

"The Church of England has continued for more than 150 years to be the steady enemy of public liberty."

Lord Macaulay.

The connection of the State with the English Established Church is evidenced in three leading points:—
1.The Royal Supremacy. It is required by the Act of Settlement, "that whosoever shall hereafter come to the possession of the Crown, shall join in communion with the Church of England as by law established;" and in the Coronation Service, the Sovereign promises to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law, and to preserve to the Bishops, Clergy, and Churches of that body, all such rights and privileges as by law do appertain unto them.
2.The Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords—two Archbishops and 24 Bishops, altogether 26 Spiritual Peers—constitute an Estate of the Realm, "whose assent is in theory required to give validity to Acts of Parliament."
3.National Endowments, and the consequent subordination of the Church to Parliamentary control.

To trace the history of State Establishments of Religion in this country is not the function of the "Financial Reform Almanack," but so far as it is intermixed with the history of the National Endowments, we may briefly allude thereto.

According to Cobbett—"The Aristocracy having got rid of Henry VIII. resolved to make a new church by law and a Protestant one, in order that the Pope might never come and instigate the people to restore those landed estates and titles which they had got into their possession by grants from Henry. It would be wise in parsons never to direct our eyes back to the origin of this church by law established. The Catholics assert that their church originated with Christ and His Apostles; yours originated with the Aristocracy of England."

The Church of England, as now known, dates back to Queen Elizabeth, in whose reign the Prayer Book and Articles, aided by Acts of Supremacy, Uniformity, and Assurance, first defined in clear lines the limits of a Protestant State Establishment. But it was an Establishment from which nobody might dare to differ without loss of Civil Liberty, and every inch of ground towards the Religious Liberty now enjoyed in these kingdoms, has been won by hard fighting against Pre-lates, Clergy, and the powerful Landed Aristocracy, whose pliant agents they have ever been. Not until the Revolution of 1688 (and then only as a sop to induce their alliance) was the public worship of Dissenters at all tolerated. Even thus they were required first to take certain oaths and subscribe the 39 Articles, to publicly register their places of meeting, and to keep every door unlocked during Service time. At the end of Queen Anne's reign, it was made a crime for any public official (from Prime Minister to Bell-man) to enter the Meeting Houses. In 1714, the prohibition was extended to all tutors and school teachers, and Nonconformists were made indictable if they dared to educate their own children : all the latter were compulsorily to attend some Church school, or be under some Schoolmaster of the privileged sect. In 1772, and 1787, the Lords threw out a Bill for relieving Dissenters from the hardship of subscribing the 39 Articles; while so late as 1810, at the instigation of the Bishops and Clergy, Lord Sidmouth (Home Secretary) brought in a Bill to further oppress them and restrict the Toleration Act, by placing all Nonconformist Ministers under the direction of Quarter Sessions (whereon were over 1,300 Clerical Magistrates at the time). A parliamentary return (1812) shows that in 1,881 parishes containing upwards of 1,000 population, there were 3,438 Dissenting Chapels, to 2,533 Churches of the Establishment, making plain the object of the Sidmouth Bill. Another return (1810) shows that 5,840 Beneficed Clergy were absentees from their Benefices in the matter of residence.

Since 1810 the political influence of the Establishment may be traced in the following table :—