Statesmen. No. 89.

[Vanity Fair, July 29, 1871]


THE Church of England and the people of England have never been very cordial allies, and the distance that separates them, instead of being diminished, has only been increased by time. The masses have indeed adopted Protestantism, but it is a Protestantism of a more gloomy and a more ideal kind, which has taken many strange directions and been developed in many strange ways, having only this in common, that they are all forms of dissent from the official religion of the country. Dissenters are as a rule less generous and more narrow-minded in matters of religion than Churchmen; but the position of comparative inferiority which they hold has made them, for the present, thorough Liberals, and they are to be found supporting any and every change which is proposed in the institutions of the country, in the expectation that some day the crowning change of all will be made that will render them equal in rank and position to the followers of the Established Church. There is but one way in which to compass this, which is to abolish the Established Church itself, and that which has been done in Ireland has encouraged the expectation that England also may be made a free arena for religious sects to bid for and fight over the souls of the community.

Mr. Miall is the most distinguished and able representative of the Dissenters who hold these views and adopt these means. Thirty years ago he founded, and has ever since edited the Nonconformist newspaper, and, both in its columns and in every other possible way, he has worked with the most unflagging zeal to forward the doctrines of which he is the exponent. He has written many books, and spoken on innumerable platforms, and there is no doubt that his efforts had a sensible effect upon the creation of a public opinion against the Irish Church. The towns of the North have been his great strongholds. He sat for Rochdale in 1852, and after being twice subsequently defeated was returned for Bradford in March, 1869, just in time to make an indifferently good speech in support of disestablishment in Ireland. The efforts at disestablishment in England have hitherto failed; but when in the course of time that is, as it must be, summarily attempted, Mr. Miall may be expected to apply the lever more strongly; and till then he may be counted upon as an uncompromising advocate of change of any and every description.

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