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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. XVI. 1776-1790

Ch. I. 1747-1752
Ch. II. 1752-1761
Ch. III. 1761-1765
Ch. IV. 1765-1766
Ch. V. 1767-1771
Ch. VI. 1771
Ch. VII. 1771-1776
Ch. VIII. 1771-1776
Ch. IX. 1776-1777
Ch. X. 1779-1786
Ch. XI. 1779-1786
Ch. XII. 1779-1786
Ch. XIII. 1780-1782
Ch. XIV. 1786-1789
Ch. XV. 1786-1790
‣ Ch. XVI. 1776-1790
Ch. XVII. 1787
Ch. XVIII. 1789
Ch. XIX. 1790-1792
Ch. XX. 1791-1792
Ch. XXI. 1791-1796
Ch. XXII. 1794-1795
Ch. XXIII. 1794
Ch. XXIV. 1794-1800
Ch. XXV. 1794-1800
Ch. XXVI. 1800-1803
Ch. XXVII. 1801-1803
Ch. XXVIII. 1800-1807
Vol. II Contents
Ch I. 1800-1807
Ch II. 1807-1810
Ch III. 1809
Ch IV. 1809-1812
Ch V. 1810-1813
Ch VI. 1811-1815
Ch VII. 1812-1815
Ch VIII. 1816-1820
Ch IX. 1816-1820
Ch X. 1816-1820
Ch XI. 1816-1820
Ch XII. 1816-1820
Ch XIII. 1816-1820
Ch XIV. 1819
Ch XV. 1820-1821
Ch XVI. 1816-1820
Ch XVII. 1820-1824
Ch XVIII. 1820-1824
Ch XIX. 1820-1824
Ch XX. 1820-1825
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A.D. 1786—1790.
Dr. Parr’s Preface to “The Three Treatises of Bellendenus”—His Preface to “Tracts of Warburton and a Warburtonian,” &c.—He is committed by the former publication to the Whig party, and patronised by them—His near prospect of a bishopric—His opinions on parliamentary reform—on the fortification plan—on the late Indian government—and on the test laws.

Hitherto the literary fame of Dr. Parr had been comparatively limited; but, in 1787, the public attention was greatly excited and drawn towards its author, by the appearance of the celebrated Latin preface to “The Three Treatises of Bellendenus.” The work was without a name, and curiosity busily turned in every direction to ascertain the writer; who was not discovered till after some time had elapsed, and much conjecture had been fruitlessly employed.

As a composition, this preface has been generally regarded as one of the finest specimens of modern Latinity extant; though some persons call in question its claims to the high praise, which others have conferred upon it. It has, however, been almost universally admired, as an able and animated exposition of the author’s opinions on the great events and actors in the political scenes of those times; comprehending many just and sagacious remarks on the principal measures of the two contending
parties; and exhibiting many striking portraitures of character, drawn with nice discrimination of judgment, and touched with the powerful hand of a master. It is certainly, upon the whole, an extraordinary production; and it contributed, in no small degree, to advance the name of
Dr. Parr to the height of celebrity, which it has since attained.

The first strong sensation created in the literary and political world by the Preface to Bellendenus had scarcely subsided, when public attention was again awakened, in an equal or greater degree, by another singular publication, entitled “Tracts of Warburton, and a Warburtonian, not admitted into their Works; to which are prefixed a Preface and a Dedication by the Editor;” who was soon discovered to be Dr. Parr. Of this, as well as the former publication, some account will be given in a subsequent page. Here, it will be sufficient to say, that the principal object was, to chastise the intolerance and the insolence by which the Warburtonian School was distinguished and disgraced; and particularly to throw a shield of protection over the fair fame of two eminent scholars and excellent men, who had been unjustly and rudely assailed, perhaps under the orders of the great master himself, by one of the most devoted of his disciples. This was a good service to the literary and the Christian community; and, in performing it, the writer has exhibited, in brilliant display, the great powers and endowments of his mind, and the extraordinary force and splendour of his composition.

If, in the latter of these publications, Dr. Parr
appeared as the indignant reprover of arrogant domination, and as the generous advocate of freedom of thinking among literary men; in the former he stood confessed the bold and the ardent Whig, zealously attached to
Mr. Fox, and to the wise and liberal principles of his policy, and firmly opposed to Mr. Pitt, and to the great principles of his long administration; of which, it has been said, that it added more to the burdens, and took more from the liberties of the people, than any administration since the unhappy days of the Stuarts. The remarks so vehemently pointed against the minister and his associates, though severe, are frequently just; yet, upon the whole, it must be owned that, in this far-famed preface, the spirit of the partisan prevails over the impartiality of the fair and dispassionate judge of public men and public measures; and that friends and foes are praised and blamed in a degree, beyond all due proportion to the qualities by which their respective characters were distinguished.

Thus openly assuming his station among the leading Whigs of his time, Dr. Parr was fully aware that he had shut the door against all hope of preferment from a court, which had ever regarded political subserviency as a recommendation, at least, equally powerful with literary excellence or moral worth. It was not long, however, before a prospect was unexpectedly disclosed to his view of obtaining the great object of his ambition, by means of the party, to which, from honest conviction, and by public profession, he was now united.


The autumn of 1788 was remarkable in the annals of England for the distressing malady of the king, and for the long and vehement debates in both houses of parliament, which followed in consequence: and which ended in the passing of a bill, vesting the powers of government with the name of regent, in the Prince of Wales. As the royal incapacity, according to the report of the physicians, was likely to be of long duration, there was every probability that Mr. Fox would be placed at the head of public affairs, by the decided choice of the prince; who had always acknowledged him as a personal friend, and who had uniformly professed to adopt his principles of legislation and government. In that case, it was natural to expect that Dr. Parr would be speedily advanced to some high station in the church, by those, with whom his merits as a divine and a scholar would be powerfully strengthened, by the claims of a political adherent.

It so happened that there was, at this time, a vacant seat on the episcopal bench; and it is well known to Dr. Parr’s friends that, early in 1789, he left Hatton for London, in consequence of a summons received, with the full expectation of being raised to that dignity, to which honourable ambition and conscious desert had long directed his wishes, if not his hopes. Had his political associates assumed the reins of government, and held them only for a fortnight, as he often used to relate, arrangements, already proposed and in part approved, would have been carried into effect: Dr. Huntingford would have been advanced to the
see of Hereford, and himself nominated Bishop of Gloucester. With so much confidence did he look towards this flattering prospect, that his domestic plans were settled, as he said, with his family; and the great principles firmly fixed in his own mind, which should guide his conduct, both as the head of a diocese, and as a spiritual lord of parliament.1

But by the unexpected recovery of the king, announced to the two houses, March 2, 1789, the aspect of public affairs was suddenly changed; the existing administration retained its power; and thus was lost to Dr. Parr his first and almost his only chance of attaining the high honours to which, with so much just pretension, he aspired. Yet he has been often heard to declare that never, till then, did he fully understand the firmness of his own mind; nor could he have previously supposed that a disappointment, so apparently great, would have excited a pang so slight and so transient. He soon afterwards dined in company with the Right Reverend Prelate, who gained the preferment which he had missed; feeling nearly as much satisfaction, he said, as if he had himself obtained it. Within a short time, turning, without much regret, from the view of a court, to which he had been so closely brought, he left London, and hastened back to resume contentedly the calm pursuits of literature, and the active duties of the tutor and the pastor, in his beloved retirement at Hatton.

1 Gent. Mag. April, 1825, p. 370.


But even if his late disappointment had been more severely felt, not trivial would have been the consolation, which he soon received from a generous proposition brought forward about this time, and well supported by some of the leading and opulent Whigs. This was a subscription for his benefit, of which the amount was afterwards paid into the hands of the Dukes of Norfolk and Bedford; who agreed, in consideration of it, to grant him an annuity of 300l. for his life. It was a seasonable supply, which, from the scantiness of his pecuniary resources, had become, indeed, almost necessary; and, as a public mark of their respect and gratitude, it was deservedly due from the party, in whose defence he had stood forward, armed with the united powers of learning, argument and eloquence, at a period, when that party was at once furiously assailed by the government, and distrusted and nearly deserted by the people.

Among the occurrences, which, about this time, deeply interested the public mind, was the important plan of parliamentary reform, brought forward under the auspices of the minister himself; of which the principal object was, to transfer the right of representation from the decayed boroughs to the shires; and to extend the elective franchise from free-holders to copy-holders, in the case of counties, and, in that of populous towns, from the privileged few to the inhabitants at large. This was a most wise and well digested plan; and it received the fair and the liberal praise of Mr. Fox; yet it did not obtain the approbation of Dr. Parr, who thus unreasonably and unjustly decried it—“In
forming and pursuing his great plan of popular representation, the minister exerted all the powers of his genius, and strained all the faculties of his mind. Not satisfied with the idea of introducing reform, his object seemed to be totally to alter the constitution of the senate. The views of which he thought so highly were, however, defeated by a majority of the house.”1

But in the subsequent conduct of Mr. Pitt, who, though solemnly pledged to this great object, never exerted one effort more to accomplish it, but ever after strenuously opposed it, there was certainly reason enough for language of even more bitter reproach than the following: “From the moment when his plan was rejected, all his ardour cooled, all his diligence relaxed. The very hope of healing what seemed to be corrupt in the state, was not only checked in his mind, but discarded from it. In this instance, some whom the name and the form of liberty transport almost beyond the bounds of reason, complain of his insincerity; and assert, that he who professed himself the great patron and support of their cause, uses a language foreign to his real sentiments.”1

But if Mr. Pitt has exposed himself to the reproach of having basely abjured the cause in which he had once so zealously embarked, he is entitled, however, for the next great measure proposed by him to high and unqualified praise. This was the commercial treaty with France; a measure founded on the wisest principles of sound and liberal policy.

1 Præf. ad Bellen. p. 20. Trans. p. 44.

It is mortifying to think that, to such a measure, the enlightened mind of
Mr. Fox was opposed; and that he rested one of his great objections to it, on the strange principle of natural and invincible enmity between the two neighbouring nations. With no less surprise than concern, we observe the same objection urged, and the same odious principle admitted, by Dr. Parr, in the following passage:—“It may be remarked that nature seems to have placed an insuperable bar to union, in divided shores, opposite fortunes, and varying laws, customs and genius. They who applaud this treaty, loudly and boisterously contend that the ambitious spirit of the French will now be lulled to repose; and that we shall have nothing hereafter to fear, from their open attempts or secret arts. But the character of the French is, in my opinion, marked by a lust of power and by perfidiousness. When, therefore, they make spontaneous and liberal offers, my distrust is only the more awakened. I fear lest war be enveloped in the mantle of peace.”1

Little disposed, however, as he was to approve of his measures in general, Dr. Parr awarded to the minister his due share of praise for the part taken by him in the great affair, which, in 1787 began, and for so many years afterwards continued to engage, though with decreasing interest, the attention both of Europe and of Asia. This was the trial of Mr. Hastings, who was impeached by the commons, it is well known, for high crimes and misdemeanours, committed during his administration as Governor

1 Præf. ad Bellen. p. 21. Trans, p. 46.

general of British India. “In what relates to the Asiatic governor,” says Dr. Parr, “the minister seems to have recovered his energy of mind; and he lent his strenuous exertions, in bringing to the light of day that truth, which had been so long buried under a most enormous pressure.”1

But though conducted with all the zeal and the talents of the opposition, and sanctioned by the authority of the minister, this celebrated trial, after being shamefully protracted to the end of its seventh year, terminated in the acquittal of the accused, by the votes of twenty-one against eight peers; being all who thought themselves qualified to deliver an opinion, on so complex and so long depending a cause. “It was, indeed, a most lame and impotent conclusion,” as was well observed at the time, to which so much display of talent and so much parade of justice were thus brought at last!

Of those, who appeared as actors in this imposing scene of a mighty state-delinquent, summoned before the grand inquest of the nation, none was more distinguished than Mr. Sheridan; to whom, as his tutor, and the tutor of his son, Dr. Parr was united by the ties of friendship, as well as those of political party. It may easily be supposed, therefore, that he would participate largely in the universal admiration, excited on that occasion by the wonderful efforts of genius and eloquence, which have immortalised the name of that great and almost unrivalled orator. The following

1 Præf. ad Bellen. p. 62. Trans, p. 134.

is part of the splendid eulogy, traced by the pen of his learned preceptor and friend:

“In a late public cause, instituted against a certain governor, how extensive were his claims to favour and to fame! In how wonderful a manner did he communicate delight, and incline the most reluctant to his purpose!” “To the discussion of this cause, he came admirably prepared. All was anxious expectation. From the very beginning, he appeared to justify impatience. That subject, so various, complicated, and abstruse, he comprehended with precision, and explained with acuteness. He placed every argument in that particular point, in which it had the greatest energy and effect. Throughout a very long speech, he was careful to use no imprudent expression, but was uniformly consistent with himself. His style was dexterously adapted to the occasion. In one part, he was copious and splendid; in another part, he was more concise and pointed, and gave additional polish to truth. As he found it necessary, he instructed, delighted, or agitated his hearers. He appeared to have no other object in view, than to give the fairest termination to the business; to prove the guilt of the accused, by the most indisputable evidence, and to confirm the object of the investigation, by strong and decisive reasoning.” “With how much applause he was heard by an attentive senate, is universally known. His most determined adversaries were compelled to render tribute to his excellence. A large portion was added, not merely to his fair and honourable popularity, but to his solid and un-
fading glory. Posterity will again and again, with renewed wonder and delight, peruse that composition, and with heartfelt animation will often exclaim, in the words of
Aeschines, ‘Oh that we had heard him!’”1

Another question of deep interest, to all the friends of religious liberty, agitated during this period, was the question of the “Test Laws;” by which dissidents from the national church are excluded from all offices of trust and honour, whether civil or military. A first time, in 1787, and a second time, in 1789, the repeal of these laws was moved in the House of Commons, by Mr. Beaufoy, a senator of considerable talents, information and influence, in a speech at once temperate, judicious and impressive. He was powerfully supported by Mr. Fox and others; but opposed, with much vehement declamation, by Lord North, and, with much show of candour and speciousness of reasoning, by Mr. Pitt. The question was, upon the whole, favourably received by the House; and, on the latter occasion, it was lost by a majority, in a full assembly, of no more than twenty.

The defeat, which they had thus sustained, was, in fact, considered by the friends of the repeal, as equivalent to a victory; and most unhappily, their triumph in the present, and their confident anticipation of final and complete success, betrayed them into some gross errors and indiscretions, which proved fatal to their cause. Zeal excited opposing zeal: the old and appalling cry of “the church is

1 Praef. ad Bellen. p. 31. Trans, p. 65.

in danger,” was raised with astonishing success: the timid were alarmed; the artful were emboldened; and the result was, that on a third application, in 1790, the claims of reason and justice, ably maintained as they were, by
Mr. Fox, Mr. Beaufoy, Mr. W. Smith, and others, were rejected by the overwhelming majority of 295 to 105.

On these important occasions, the writer feels much regret in recording, that Dr. Parr was found, not among the friends, as, from his attachment to the cause of religious freedom, might have been expected, but among the opposers of the repeal. It ought, however, to be remembered, that the true principles of toleration were not then so well understood as at present; nor were they carried to the same wide and just extent. It was, therefore, we may fairly presume, from some honest doubts, that Dr. Parr declared against the wise and equitable policy of Mr. Fox, devoted as he was to him; and adopted, in preference, the less enlarged and less generous views of Mr. Pitt, though to his general measures so decidedly opposed. Thus he sounds the praises of the great statesman, whom he so severely censures in the same volume: “The minister, with a manly spirit, defended the rights of the church, and made his eloquence a kind of sedulous hand-maid to the political sagacity of Lord North; and he claims, therefore, and deserves our highest commendation.”1

It will hardly be disputed, by any reasonable and well-informed politician of the present day,

1 Præf. ad Bellen. p. 62. Trans. p. 134.

that the claims of the dissenters are founded on the clearest principles of equity and policy; yet it must be acknowledged, at the same time, that their manner of advancing those claims was, in some instances, not wise or becoming. The severity of remonstrance, and the bitterness of reproach, with which they assailed their adversaries, too often served only to rouse indignation, and to provoke more determined opposition. The numerous meetings of their delegates in London, and in various parts of the country—in which warmth of feeling animated, while prudence did not always guide, their deliberations—produced, as the natural effect, counter-meetings. These meetings were convened in almost every county, and every considerable town, throughout the kingdom; to which all the friends of the establishment, led on by their clergy, flocked, in eager and anxious crowds, as if the very foundations of their church were shaken. Of all these, one of the most noted for its numbers and its zeal, was the meeting of the noblemen, the gentlemen and the clergy of the county of Warwick, held in the Shire-hall at Warwick, Feb. 2, 1790, at which the
Earl of Aylesford presided, and at which Dr. Parr attended, without, however, taking any active part in the proceedings. Thus he explains the views which then actuated, and the hopes which then cheered, his mind.

“In the earlier part of my life, I thought the Test Act oppressive; but in the year 1782, I very carefully and very seriously re-examined the subject, and changed my opinion. In 1790, I strenuously opposed the attempt to procure a repeal; and yet
I cannot help indulging the comfortable hope that, in the progress of intellectual and moral improvement, religious animosities will at last subside; and that the restraints for which I have contended, and do still contend, will be no longer thought necessary for the public safety, by the heads of that church, which I have never deserted, and by the members of that legislature, which I have never disobeyed.”1

One would, indeed, hope that the day cannot be very far distant when, even in the opinion of the great authorities here appealed to, the public safety will not require the exclusion of loyal subjects from their civil rights, merely on account of their religious opinions. It is pleasing, however, to state, that, from this time, Dr. Parr began to open his mind to the conviction, that all such rules of exclusion are equally repugnant to the strictest justice, and to the soundest policy; and that during all the later years of his life, he was the firm and zealous opposer of all religious tests whatever. The uninterrupted exercise of their religion, granted to all non-conformists, whether Protestant or Catholic, secured by law, with an exclusion from all offices of trust and emolument, he considered, according to the just distinction of Dr. Paley,2 as partial toleration; and their full admission to all civil privileges and capacities, as complete toleration. The latter, and not the former, appeared to him, at once, the most just and generous, and the wisest and safest system, which a nation can adopt.

1 Sequel, p. 52. 2 Paley’s Moral Philos. vol. ii. p. 334.


Attached to a volume in Dr. Parr’s library, entitled “The Right of Protestant Dissenters to a complete Toleration, 1789,” is the following note: “This very able book was published on the application of the dissenters for the repeal of the Test Act. It has been ascribed to Sergeant Heywood, who, probably, was assisted by lawyers and dissenting clergymen. It is the only powerful book produced by the application; and it wrought a total change in Dr. Parr’s mind, on the general principle of tests. He always disapproved of the sacramental test; and he now sees the injustice and inefficacy of all religious tests whatever.”1

It was, probably, during the earlier periods of Mr. Pitt’s public life, that Dr. Parr sought and obtained an interview with the prime-minister, of which he often spoke to his friends, with mingled pride and pleasure. Opposed to the general course of his administration, and severely as he reprobated many of its most distinguished acts; yet it was impossible that he should not think highly of Mr. Pitt’s talents, both as a statesman and as an orator; and he always rendered full justice to the enlightened views which dictated some of his measures, and the upright intentions which guided all. “If a friend of Mr. Pitt,” said he in one of his publications, “were to ask me for a dedication, I should disdain, from political motives, to refuse compliance. Without offering the smallest violence to my own settled principles, I should endeavour to gratify the warm, and, it may be, honourable prejudices of Mr. Pitt’s adherent. In

1 Bibl. Parr. p. 615.

the wide range of that minister’s attainments, talents, and even measures, I should not very long be at a loss for topics of commendation, at once appropriate and just. I should select those topics with impartiality; I should seize them with eagerness; I should exhibit them with all the advantages of exemplification and arrangement, with all the embellishments of diction, and all the ardour of panegyric, which my understanding and my erudition, such as they are, would enable me to employ.”1

Thus capable of fairly estimating the merits, as well as demerits, of a great political adversary, it need surprise no one that Dr. Parr should conceive a wish for the honour of being admitted to a conference with a minister, who was for so many years the favourite of the king and the people, and who so long held in his hands the destinies of England, and, in some degree, of Europe. Accordingly, by means of a common friend, Dr. Parr caused a message to be communicated, importing, that as he supposed an interview would not be disagreeable to Mr. Pitt, and as he was sure it would be highly gratifying to himself, if Mr. Pitt should be disposed to grant him that favour, Dr. Parr requested that he would appoint a time and a place, such as might best suit his own convenience. The communication was favourably received; a time and a place were fixed; and the great statesman and the great scholar met. Their conversation was long and animated; embracing a variety of topics, chiefly, it may be supposed,

1 Reply to Combe, p. 9.

of literature; as politics were, by express agreement, excluded; and, after having passed several hours together, they separated with many expressions of mutual regard. Dr. Parr was highly delighted with the interview; and was confirmed by it in his favourable opinion, long entertained, of the pure and good intentions, which actuated the mind of Mr. Pitt, as a man and a statesman—even amidst the deplorable political errors, under the ruinous effects of which the country is at this moment suffering, and will, probably, continue to suffer for years to come.