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Dissenting Agitation Continued

Baptist Magazine, xxvi. 255 (June 1834)

Taken from Norman Gash, The Age of Peel (London, Edward Arnold, 1973), with the kind permission of Professor Gash. Copyright of this document, of course, remains with him.

With growing Dissenting agitation the government made unsuccessful attempts in the 1834 session to meet some of their demands. Two bills - one to transfer the burden of church rates to the land-tax, the other to allow marriages in dissenting chapels subject to banns being called in the parish church - were abandoned in the face of dissenting criticism. A private bill actively supported by several ministers to admit dissenters to degrees at Oxford and Cambridge was defeated in the House of Lords. The parliamentary and Anglican opposition encountered had the effect of hardening Dissenting temper. Public meetings were held in many large towns and there was criticism of the United Committee for its cautious tactics. In May a joint meeting of the Committee and country delegates took the extreme step of accepting in principle the separation of Church and State, i.e. disestablishment as a basis of policy; though this had not been one of the six points put forward by the United Committee a year earlier. Edward Baines sen., liberal M.P. for Leeds (1834-41) was a leading Dissenter and proprietor of the Leeds Mercury.

At a meeting for Conference between the United Committee appointed to obtain the redress of the grievances of dissenters, and deputies from various parts of the country, summoned specially for the purpose, held at the City of London Tavern, on Thursday, May 8, 1834; Edward Baines, Esq., M.P., in the chair;

It was resolved,
  1. That this meeting recognizes the great and leading principle of full and complete separation of church and state as the true basis on which equal rights and justice can be secured to all classes of His Majesty's subjects.
  2. That this meeting cannot but express their deep regret that the reasonable expectations of dissenters, founded on the admission, by His Majesty's ministers, of the justice of their claims, and on the repeated assurance of a desire on their part to grant relief, have been frustrated by Lord John Russell's Dissenters' Marriage Bill, and by Lord Althorp's propositions respecting church-rates, - the only measures which the government have hitherto introduced into parliament for the relief of dissenters.
  3. That this meeting concurs in the objections which have been made by the united committee to the marriage bill, and especially to the propositions respecting church-rates, which they consider fallacious and altogether unsatisfactory, in as much as, while they change the name, they prolong the duration of a burden, from which dissenters have already, in many parishes, procured either partial or entire relief, and also gives new energy to a principle against which they have strongly protested as impolitic and unjust.
  4. That this meeting entertains a full conviction that the English episcopal church possesses in the property now at her disposal, and in the wealth of her individual members, resources abundantly adequate to defray all the expenses of upholding the edifices in which her members worship; and feels entitled to claim the entire abolition of all imposts for that purpose, upon the same principles of expediency and justice which induced parliament to abolish Church-cess in Ireland.
  5. That the individuals now present, acquiescing in the declaration made by one of His Majesty's ministers, that it is a grievance for any class of religious professors to be taxed for the support of a church to which they do not belong, engage to take all constitutional measures to oppose the adoption of the proposed plan respecting church-rates, and to secure the perfect enjoyment of their religious rights.
  6. That a deputation from this meeting wait on Lord Althorp, to communicate their sentiments relative to the measure which his Lordship has introduced concerning church-rates.…
  7. That the deputation report the result of their interview with Lord Althorp to the United Committee.
  8. That this meeting recommends the formation of Voluntary Church Societies in London, and throughout the country, for the purpose of diffusing the great principles maintained by such associations among the inhabitants of the United Kingdom.
  9. That the deputies now present will take immediate measures for personally communicating with the members of parliament for their respective counties, cities and boroughs, upon the respective resolutions passed this day, and that they report the result to the United Committee.
  10. That the most cordial thanks of this meeting be given to the United Committee for their valuable and efficient public services, and that they be requested to continue the same.
  11. That the deputies from thc country, now present, undertake to interest themselves in their respective districts to procure contributions to meet the expenses incurred by the United Committee in prosecuting the important objects of their formation; and that the monies so collected be remitted to the secretary, on account of the treasurer of that committee.

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