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The Catholic Magazine.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND CRIMES OF
1. Duty of the Church of England in respect to Unlawful Wars. A Letter to a
Right Reverend Prelate. By David Urquhart. Second Edition. Maynard,
Panton Street, 1842. 2. Report of the East India Committee of the Colonial Society on the Causes and
Consequences of the Affghan War. Maynard, Panton Street, 1842.. .. Both of the publications at the head of our article are curiosities in their way. The first, as its title-page imports, is from the pen of an eminent diplomatist of this country, whose valuable contributions to
our store of knowledge upon the policy of Russia, more especially as · regards our possessions in the East, give him a standing title to the public attention, whenever he may choose to claim it. 'It is the work of a Protestant, and perhaps of one of the Church of England, but certainly of no Tractarian. Knowing, as we do, the narrowness of the school in which British diplomatists are formed (if, indeed, school it can be termed) we might have been astounded at the sterling feelings and principles that pervade his pamphlet, but that we had known, enough of Mr. Urquhart's private character to have expected such at his hands. The inferiority of British diplomatists is indeed the laughing-stock of the whole diplomatic world. In almost every other country, diplomacy is accounted as a science. It is taught in col. leges as such. No one can become a public servant in many countries, without he has qualified himself for the station by a sufficient course of diplomatic study. In England, which has the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London, and Durham-(not to speak of their Silent Sister in the Sister Isle)- not a solitary chair of diplomacy is to be found. Even if one were established, we imagine it would be very difficult to get it adequately filled at present. In this and in every other department of foreign and colonial,—that is, of national affairs,—we are at the opposite pole to the Muscovites. They are not ignorant and supine, as we are. We act like men who believe that clerkly routine
NO. VII.-JULY 1843.
contains within its circle all things necessary to the salvation of men and kingdoms ;-the Russians know better than to follow our example. If they have overreached and ridiculed us in every negociation from the Treaty of Vienna downwards, we have ourselves to thank for it. So too our good friends think, nor do they hesitate to avow as much. A Scandinavian traveller has recently favoured with a very warm yet well-supported eulogy of Russia's success in anti-Indian diplomacy, from the lips of one of her secretaries of legation abroad. The voluble young Muscovite was especially happy in the exposition he gave of the crime and scrape into which St. Petersburgh had led us, first in seizing, and then in evacuating Karrak; and of our blundering ignorance of the position which Russia has so long occupied in Bokhara.
Mr. Urquhart being of too high a mind to engage in diplomacy upon the customary terms of knowing nothing about it, began public life by making himself master of his subject. This acquirement, superadded to a stock of principle and patriotic ardour altogether irregular and unofficial, very soon ensured him the open hostility of his already jealous associates. Downing Street and he parted company,—and returned, the former to its wallowing in the mire, the latter to the prosecution of his generous and far-reaching plans for the salvation of an empire, jeopardised by the apathy of the nation, and its blind confidence in weak or traitorous servants. The fruit of his labours is as yet hidden deep in the bosom of the future. Meanwhile, those labours have not for one instant been relaxed; neither must they, till that fruit begins to show itself.
The first of the treatises at the head of our article is by no means the most recent of his appeals to the good sense and justice of the British public, in reprobation of the stupid and unprincipled policy which its government attempted across the Indus. But at all events, it is by far the most remarkable and curious of those appeals. It endeavours to set in motion an old Catholic principle, which, from the Reformation downwards, had gradually subsided into inert and death-like repose. It seeks to revive among Protestants a doctrine that has almost been forgotten in the practice among ourselves. In unfavourable days, and to an unbelieving and evil generation, he presents again the true old principle, which was paramount in the days when Christendom was, and when the Unity of Faith remained as yet untroubled. In a land, which resounds with the parrot-like repetitions of the same trite phrase, importing a heresy in one of its acceptations, and a silly truism in the other,
that “the Church has nothing to do with politics,"—this Protestant and diplomatist has not hesitated to avow, that it is at all times the duty of the Church of God to make clear what is doubtful, in public as well as in private affairs; and that unless it does so,-unless it denounces the crime of which the public, of which the state is guilty, or about to become so,-its sanction is tacitly given to the wickedness, which it has not exerted itself to resist. It cheers the heart to read so fearless an avowal coming from such a man. The meagreness of what is called British diplomacy, has been equalled by its egotism. However high the influences may be which move the nether world, and whatever their value, it is beneath the dignity of Downing Street to take account of any that are not of the sort supposed to be sufficiently described by the word “ British.” In this country, Civil Polity and Faith have for centuries ceased to shake hands; –Faith, therefore, is not British, according to the political dictionary of Downing Street. It may be true that millions of British subjects,—that millions and millions of human beings with whom British polity has to do, in peace or in war,--are marvellously operated on by their religious likes and dislikes. The pompous Sir Oracle of the ministry is bound by his official station to know nothing, or to think nothing, of this. It is not the British custom to take religion into account, further than to sanction the levying of tithe and Church-rates on behalf of one particular sect of Protestants. As to our subjects and our neighbours, no consideration for them, no regard for our own standing in relation to them, ought to prevail upon Downing Street to lay aside for an instant its dignified ignorance of the power of religion over the opinions and actions of nations no less than of individuals. “Fiat justitia, ruat coelum !” is now an exploded maxim, smelling rankly of superstitious and antiquated notions. “Ruat cælum, pereat orbis !” may more fitly serve as motto to our modern British policy, and the more especially, whenever the national interests and honour are more than ordinarily at stake. In this respect, then, as in so many others, Mr. Urquhart, by following an opposite course, becomes justly liable to the charge of being a most irregular diplomatist, and a thorough despiser of official etiquette and Downing Street precedent.
His treatise on the duty of a National Church, with respect to national crimes, is addressed to a Protestant bishop, as some suppose, the Protestant bishop of Exeter. The immediate occasion which led him to make this appeal to Dr. Philpotts, on the question thus generally stated, was the avowed determination of Sir Robert Peel to prosecute against the Affghans, for the sake of vengeance or chastisement, a war which that minister had been among the first to condemn, as in politic and unrighteous. Mr. Urquhart, naturally fearing the worst from this avowal, and despairing of being able to move the temporal power, appealed in that extremity to the authority he had been taught to revere, under the name of the Church of England. He reminded Dr. Philpotts of some conversation which had recently passed between themselves upon this subject, wherein our author had expressed his conviction, that the Church of England was alone responsible for all public errors importing discord and danger to our free and powerful community, and that it was the duty of that Church to denounce state-crimes, whenever and, wherever they made themselves manifest. The wily prelate of our Established Church endeavoured to evade the inconvenient proposition, by a qualified admission, that it was a true one, but only when the case was clear, and the necessity evident. Mr. Urquhart, seeing through the sophistry of the answer, and feeling, as he tells us, “ the real danger for any man's conscience” of being misled by it, laboured to show that it was the duty of the Church, as that of the judge, to make clear what was doubtful, and thereby to bring truth into evidence before the eyes of men. What further reply he was able to extort from Dr. Philpotts, he does not tell us. Probably his silence on this head is meant to be significant of the episcopal silence towards himself. However, he has here made public all that conversation, hingeing upon the various points of it the able and elaborate treatise in which it stands recorded. He makes his propositions more forcible and startling, in proportion to their greater perspicuity. “ The Church,” he says, “ has not performed its duty, and taught men to be just." Had it done so, Sir R. Peel, instead of declaring, “We must punish on the Affghans the violation of the laws of war,"—words which to every English conscience justified crime,—would have more nobly said with Lord Chatham, “ Do away these iniquities from amongst us,-purify the house and the country from this sin;" and every man in England would have caught up and ratified his words.” Had the Church of England been duteous, England would have been just. “The nation would have been saved from dangers without, as well as from guilt within ; and by one just sentence, would the fortunes of the world have been reversed.”—p. 25.
This position assumes of course an adequate acquaintance with the details of the policy thus powerfully denounced. Before we proceed any further with our comments upon Mr. Urquhart's pamphlet, we shall pass on to the second treatise whose title graces our article, for what appears to us a very accurate summary of that policy and its re