The large room in the City of London Tavern was completely filled on Wednesday, by an assembly of the inhabitants of London, who met to form a Society for the Abolition of Church-rates. Mr. Charles Lushington, M.P., was in the chair; and near him on the platform, was Messrs. Hume, Ewart, Harvey, Humphrey, Hawes, Duneombe, Crawford, and Easthope. The Chairman explained the object of the meeting ; and spoke with much emphasis on the injustice of compelling Dissenters to contribute to the repairs of churches, and to other matters for which Church-rates are levied. As a Churchman, knowing that the revenue of the Church of England amounted to the enormous sum of 3,500,0001. per annum, and that Churchmen could afford to pay 150,0001. per annum to twenty-four Bishops, to maintain them in unscriptural pomp, he felt perfectly ashamed that any demand should be made upon Dissenters for payment of Church-rates. He was happy to say, many Churchmen, among whom he mentioned the late Dr. Burton of Oxford and Dr. Fancourt of Leicester, agreed with him on this point. He urged the meeting not to rest satisfied without a total and uncon- ditional abolition of the impost ; and, after mentioning many instances of the oppressive operation of the existing law, especially upon the Essex Quakers, concluded by assuring the meeting, that the Cabinet having made declarations against them, they must expect strong oppo- sition in the Commons, and rancorous hostility from the Peers ; and that therefore they must do their own work thoroughly out of doors. Mr. Hume proposed the first resolution ; which was to the effect, that although Ministers deserved the thanks of the meeting for their Marriage and Registration Acts, they had been backward in proposing the extinction of Church-rates, and it was to be feared, were not now prepared with any satisfactory measure on the subject. Ile told the meeting, that the only chance of the many obtaining justice, was by following the advice of Bentham,--namely, by making the ruling few uneasy. He did not wish to meddle with the property of the Church ; but, as a Dissenter, he wished to keep the fingers of Chill chmen out of his pockets. Ministers might learn froni this meeting the feeling. not onl of the Dissenters. of London, but of all England on this sub- ject. The revenues of the Church of England, which were really worth nearly 5,000,000/. per annum, were surely sufficient for the sup- port of its own edifices. Ile trusted that in the settlement of this question, every attempt at a commutation would be resisted. The Reverend John Burnett, a delegate from the Central Board of Dissenters in Edinburgh, in seconding Mr. Hume's resolution, pro- tested against the right assumed by Churchmen to tolerate the religion of Dissenters. He asked, " What is toleration? Toleration is simply permission to the Dissenter to do what ? Not to plunder his neighbour- that would be a crime, and the State will not tolerate a crime. Is it permission to malign his neighbour? No; that also would be a crime, which the State dare not tolerate. What then is toleration? It is a permission to the Dissenter to worship his God ac- cording to the dictates of his own heart ! If he has not a right to worship God, if he has not a right to worship Him according to his conscience, put t Dissenter down for his crime-give him no toleration. But if he,.has indefeasible right-which must go with him through all the circumstances of his history-to worship God according,to his conscience, do not interfere with that right ; for by doing so you interfere with the Divine prerogative itself."
How was this question to be considered in a political point of view?- " Are not his Majesty's Ministers and the Legislative Bodies of the land ever and anon employing their high powers and prerogatives in being Churchwar- dens for the Church ? Quitting the high elevation which they occupy in the sanctuary of the Constitution, they come out as collectors of rates and taxes for the Church. It may be said they are not called on to collect this impost ; but what I express my regret at is, that the House of Commons should be disturbed with what very often constitutes it but a Council of Churchwardens-nothing but a Convention on Ecclesiastical Affairs, with which that house has nothing to do. What is that House so often from evening to morning but one conti- nued arena of combatants struggling for the Church ? Is this the nature of a legislative assembly, exercising its proper functions for the benefit of the Peo- ple ? I have often been ashamed of the way in which that House, appointed for the purpose of managing the affairs of a great nation, has been engaged; and equally ashamed have 1 been at seeing the Executive Government exer- cising its prerogative with reference to such concerns as those to which I have adverted. Therefore, I say, whether you take this as a question ofjustice, reli. gion, or sound and enlightened policy, it is a question from the further discussion of which the country and the Imperial Parliament ought to be relieved ; and therefore, I say, that in order to bring about such a consummation, it is the duty of this meeting, and all such meetings, and of all his Majesty's subjects who wish well to the cause of religion, justice, and sound policy, as well as of all the constituencies of the House of Conn:noes who are unwilling to kill their Members by the labours of Churchwardenship within its doors, to continue to advocate the extinction of Church-rates, until it is brought to the point to which it ought to come, and that is, when it will be carried away by the Church people themselves, and when they will come to the determination of supporting their own Church, just as the Dissenters support theirs."
Mr. Harvey proposed the next resolution ; declaring the injustice of Church-rates, the disgrace which their imposition fixed upon Church- men, and the impolitic conduct of Government in maintaining them. Mr. Harvey ridiculed the idea of obtaining a satisfactory arrangement of this question from the present Ministers or the present House of Commons : it was a delusion to suppose that the House of Lords would oppose the universal expression of the People's will ; and there- fore he called upon the meeting not to be alarmed by the hideous phantom of Toryism, but to depend upon themselves, and elect an in- dependent House of Commons. The Reverend Mr. Atkins spoke strongly against the support of religion by the State. He thought that the regium donum should be- rejected by those Dissenters who on principle opposed Church-rates.
Mr. Ewart moved the third resolution ; demanding the utter extinc- tion of Church-rates, and protesting against their being levied in any less palpable way ; the question at issue not being one of mode or value, but of principle. The Reverend Mr. Hinton, of Reading, seconded the resolution.
Mr. Thomas Duncombe moved the fourth resolution for the forma- tion of a Church-rate Abolition Society. He said that Ministers were even now only prepared to administer palliatives, not an effectual re- medy, to the disease. The Dissenters must call upon their repre- sentatives to do their duty. There should be no Downing Street compromises or Afinisterial supplications such as were brought into play to enable the Government to carry their Church of England Bill last session. He advised universal resistance to Church-rates-
"I regret gentlemen (he said in conclusion) that it is necessary to have re- course to such strong measures ; but until we have a House of Commons ready to grapple with this question, and to do justice to the feelings of the People, no other course can be resorted to. If I should be asked what measure of Church Reform I would approve as essential to satisfying the just claims of the People, I should answer, such a measure as would insure a more just and equal distri- bution of the large revenues of the Church among the working clergy, who dis- charged its duties : I wish next to see the total abolition of all sinecures .as well as the total suppression of those drones of the Church, the Deans and Chapters, and a portion of the revenues engrossed by them applied to those purposespZ which Church-rates are now levied : I should also be disposed to declare, pro- vided that due care were observed in dealing with private interests and vested rights, that every congregation should have a voice in the election and nomina- tion of its own spiritual ministers; and last, though not least, that a calm, con- siderate, and dispassionate revision should be made of the ritual and discipline of the Church, in order to make it more harmonize with the pure apostolic doctrines of Christianity. (Loud and long-continued cheering.) Even if this temperate and moderate measure of reform were carried, I believe we should not hear so much of sectarian jealousies as at present. My only hope is, that an English House of Commons and Government will meet this evil fairly and boldly; and (though I confess I am not very sanguine on this point) that the Government will not relax into its former Church blunders, and again allow the Hierarchy to be every thing and the People nothing. If they do the sooner they throw themselves into the arms of the Bishops, the better ; where I tell them, they will speedily wither unpitied and despised. (Loud cheers.) Mr. John Crawford, Mr. Easthope, and Mr. John Childs delivered short speeches. The last.named gentleman, so well known for his de- termined resistance to Church-rates, and his imprisonment by the Church party in Bungay, was received with enthusiastic cheers. Thanks were voted to the Chairman, on the motion of Mr. Hawes; and the meeting then broke up.