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Cato's Letter No. 127

The same Address continued.

Thomas Gordon (Saturday, May 4, 1723)

SIR, I proceed in my address to the disaffected part of the clergy.

Are not you the men who professed such blind, such unconditional submission to princes, the most oppressive and tyrannical princes; and damned all who would not go your mad, your impious, and your impracticable lengths? And are not you the first to bring home your own damnation to your own doors, by shewing that no obligation, human or divine, can with-hold you from rebelling against the most legal government, and mildest prince? To assert that the government is not a lawful government, is to assert your own perjury; and by disowning the government, you disown all honesty and conscience. The government is founded upon reason, upon laws, and consent, the only foundation of any government; and it is administered with equity, and without the blemish of violence, or of dispensing arbitrarily with laws: And yet this government is to be resisted, betrayed, and overturned; while a government founded upon the chance of blood, upon the hereditary sufficiency of men, and successive chastity of women, and which acts by discretion, cruelty, or folly, is of divine appointment, and irresistible. What can be more monstrous! And what capricious and hard-hearted folly would you fix upon the good and all-wise God! By which you only shew, that your hallowed nonsense, if you be in earnest, is as signal as your wickedness.

As to the Pretenderís right, I know not what it is; unless it be, that because his supposed father violated his Coronation Oath and the laws, usurped a tyrannical power, and oppressed and enslaved these nations five and thirty years ago, therefore his supposed son has a lawful right to enslave them now. And I defy you, with all your distinctions, and men of distinctions, to produce a better argument upon this head of right. Besides, how can the Pretender think that you have any the least regard to his right, when you have so often and so solemnly sworn that he had none? Dispossess yourselves, if you can, of the spirit of faction, and of groundless displeasure and revenge; and then try if you can find any divine, any unalterable right in the Pretender. He has in truth no right, but what your own unruly and restless passions give him. We all know what would cure you of your opinion of his title, of your fondness for his person. The constitution will not stoop to you; the government will not be governed by you; you have not the power; you have not the revenues of the ancient ecclesiastics before Henry VIIIís days; nor would you, if the Pretender were here: And if you had not, in three months you would be fierce for sending him abroad again, as you did his supposed father; or using him worse. Of this I am certain, that if he ruled as his present Majesty does, you would treat him, and obey him, and honour him, just as you do his present Majesty. Plead no longer your consciences, which you have so long, and so often, and so vilely prostituted, and still prostitute! No body will receive the plea.

Before you can pretend to make your notions and authority pass with others, you must shew that you yourselves are guided by any notions of right or wrong. If you would clear yourselves from the guilt, the horrid guilt of constant and repeated perjury; shew how faithfully, how religiously you have kept your oaths. If you would not be thought disaffected, shew by some particular instances your faith and attachment to the government, from the Revolution to this day. What have you done to prevent or repress plots, assassinations, and rebellions; to render them odious in the hearts of your people, or to satisfy the world that they were odious in your own? And is not this the duty of Christians and preachers, and your sworn duty? In a stupid dispute about grimace and forms, or about paltry distinctions and empty words, you are all in flame and uproar, and fill your pulpits, and your people, and the nation, with your important nonsense, and the danger of sense: But when church and state were just going to be swallowed up by popery and tyranny, what alarms have you rung? What resentment, what attachment to the establishment and your oaths, have you shewn? What honest testimony have you borne?

And what have you done, Gentlemen, since the discovery of this horrid conspiracy? You that from your lofty rostrums have scattered poison and epidemical distempers over the land, as if out of Pandoraís box; what antidotes have you applied to the venom which you have dispersed? What satisfaction have you made for all the mischiefs which you have done, and which stare you in the face? What sermons have you preached? What discourses have you printed? What detestation have you shewn against this monstrous design; levelled at the life of the prince who protects you; against the religion which you ought to support, and which supports you; and against the liberties and estates of your countrymen, from whose mistaken confidence you derive all your power and wealth?

What has been done by the governors of the universities to promote loyalty either in tutors or pupils, and to support the principles upon which the Revolution stands? What charges have been given by archdeacons (to say nothing of their betters), to enforce obedience to this government upon the foot of liberty? How many seditious priests have met with punishment or discountenance from their superiors? though we all know what resentment they would have found, if any one had dared to have opened his mouth against the power and pride of his order?

What care has been taken in the licensing or approving of school-masters, who are almost all Jacobites! What a bitter and disaffected spirit is there in the charity-schools, and all schools! Is there a contest any where between two candidates, but the most disaffected has the vote and interest of the country clergy? And is not the same partiality practised in most of the colleges of the universities?

Reconcile, if you can, your wild conduct to any semblance of religion, or of common sense and common honesty. If a Protestant dissenter [is] to be let into a place by the good pleasure and indulgence of the law; what books, scolding, and fury! But when the Pretender and popery are to be let into England, to the utter subversion of religion and property, and against law and oaths; what resignation! what silence! Though you are sworn to oppose them, strongly and solemnly sworn, and have no provocation not to oppose them, but that the happiness and estates of the laity, and the tenderness shewn to dissenters (by which our people and our riches are increased, and our Christian spirit is shewn) disturb the pride of the narrow persecuting ecclesiasticks, always insatiable and discontented, always plotting and railing while the wealth and dominion of mankind are not entirely theirs.

It would be endless to enter into all the late and publick instances of your perjury, your disaffection, and furious spirit. I shall mention but one, but one that is a disgrace to our nation; an instance of a mean priest, destitute of name and parts tried and comdemned for sedition, yet almost deified for his insolence and crimes. Ignorant of the laws, and despising his own oaths, he publickly attacked the constitution, and libelled it. He asserted the irresistibleness of all governments good or bad, though our own was founded upon resistance. For this daring offence he was impeached and tried; tried by one part of the legislature before the other, and condemned by all three: So that the business of the nation, and of Europe, stood still for many weeks, till this groveling offender had a hearing, and his sentence; a sentence, which would have come more properly for him from the chairman of a petty-sessions, than from the mouth of a Lord High Chancellor of England!

What reverence might not have been expected to such a trial as this, what acquiescence in the issue of it, especially from those who contended, daily and vehemently contended, from the pulpit and the press, for submission, unlimited submission, to governors, though tyrants and oppressors! But instead of this, as if they intended to publish to the world, that the meanest of the order, how vile and insolent soever, is not to be touched for the most enormous crimes, even in the most legal, open, and honourable manner, even by the whole legislature, the most solemn and august judicature upon earth; there was such a hideous stir made; such a horrible outcry and spirit were raised; such insolences, tumults and insurrections ensued; such contempt was shewn of power and magistracy; such lies and libels published against those who possessed them; such lying encomiums were bestowed upon the sentenced criminal; such profane compliments were made him; such profound and insolent respect was paid him; as if there had been neither religion nor order in the land, but both had been banished out of it by many of the avowed and hired advocates for religion and order; who, all the while they were thus reviling and resisting authority, had still the front to press and preach absolute non-resistance to authority, and to reward what they themselves were doing with damnation: unless it were safe and laudable to resist the most lawful power, but sinful and damnable to resist that which is lawless. For, after so many oaths to the government, and so many abjurations of the Pretender, they durst not say that the government was unlawful. But the rage and uproar which they were in, even before the sentence, were as great as if the priesthood it self, nay, all nature was to have been overturned by the apprehended whipping of a profligate priest.

A sufficient lesson is this to all governments, how this sort of men are to be trusted with power, who dare thus act in spite of all power! and a strong proof to all men how little regard is due to the opinions and doctrines of these men, who do not regard their own doctrines! who teach what no man ought to practise, and themselves will not! who are perpetually contradicting themselves, and one another, and yet are never in the wrong! and who would not suffer the meanest, or worst of their order, to be subject to the united and original power of one of the greatest states in the world!

Sure this cannot be forgot whilst there is a king, or liberty, in Israel!

G I am, &c.

 Cato's Letters

 Classical Liberals