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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. XXV. 1794-1800

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
A.D. 1794-1800.
Dr. Parr’s opinions—on the execution of Louis XVI on the political changes in France which followed—on the measures of the Pitt-administration—on the trials of Hardy, Tooke, and others—on the new laws hostile to freedom—County meeting at Warwick for the dismission of ministers—Affairs of Ireland—Trial of O’Coighley—Dr. Parr’s thanksgiving-sermon for the naval victories.

Adverting to the state of public affairs, it may seem needless to say that Dr. Parr, like all other reflecting persons, continued to watch, with intense and often painful anxiety, the course of events, both at home and abroad, during the whole momentous period of the French Revolution. Whilst he approved, after close and serious examination, many parts of that Revolution, and especially the limitation set to the French monarchy in 1789; he deplored the rapid and turbulent changes which followed afterwards; marked, as they were, with extravagances which scared the common reason, and attended with crimes and cruelties which shocked the common feelings of mankind. The spirit of humanity sighed to see her very name and nature forgotten, or remembered only to be outraged; and the genius of liberty wept to behold her sacred cause at once dishonoured and betrayed.

On the death of the amiable, and, in many respects, virtuous, though, it must be added, feeble and faithless monarch of France, Dr. Parr, in de-
scribing the sentiments of
Mr. Fox, expressed his own. “That most deplorable event may have surprised other men more than it did such observers as Mr. Fox; but no Christian, however pious—no loyalist, however ardent—no human being, however compassionate, viewed it with more horror and indignation.”1

Of many of the Brissotine party, one of the first which bore sway in revolutionary France, Dr. Parr had conceived a favourable opinion.2 He called them that determined phalanx of moderate men, whose wisdom and whose vigour were destined to uphold the state; whose virtues were set in motion, and in appearance brought into being by the shock of empires; and who will, in the midst of havoc and disorder, by their authority, strike down bad citizens; and, by their counsels, hush the warring elements of passion and interest into peace.3 The encomium on their merits and intentions might be no more than just; but the augury of their success proved too favourable. In the political hurricane

1 Fox’s Characters, vol. i. p. 293.

2 Of one of these Dr. Parr thus speaks: “Viewed on the fairer side of his character, M. Condorcet seems to have been worthy of happier times than those in which he lived, of better colleagues than many of those with whom he acted, and of enemies far nobler than those by whom he was destroyed. His knowledge was various and recondite; his genius was vigorous and comprehensive; and upon one atrocious deed, to which he was impelled by the frenzy of political resentment, and the waywardness of philosophical fanaticism, who does not wish that the accusing angel may drop a tear?”—Spital Sermon, Notes, p. 143.

3 Sequel, p. 67.

which followed the death of the king, they were found unequal to the task of steering the vessel of the state. It was wrecked, and they perished in the storm.

The reign of tyranny and terror followed under Robespierre and the Jacobins; but fortunately it was of short duration. Within a few months after he had gained the perilous ascendancy, the tyrant fell; and those who had been the instruments of his oppressions and his cruelties perished with him, to the number of twenty-one, on the scaffold. “I congratulate France, Europe, and the whole civilised world,” said Dr. Parr, speaking of this event, “on the extinction of such restless and remorseless enemies to the human race.”1

But whilst he looked with dismay and with horror on the poisonous maxims broached, and on the dreadful outrages committed, in a neighbouring country, “I felt no obligation,” as he said, “to speak smooth things upon all that is passing at home.” Indeed, he not only condemned the anti-gallican war, in its principle and in its object; but all the great and leading measures of the Pitt-administration, he utterly disapproved and vehemently reprobated. The arbitrary maxims of government, too openly avowed—the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, on the slightest pretences, five or six times, in the course of a few years—the long and rigorous confinement of vast numbers of persons, not one of whom was afterwards brought to trial—the extreme severity, with which prose-

1 Reply to Combe, Pref. p. 4.

cutions for libel were conducted—the lavish expenditure of the public money, especially in loans to foreign states—all these and some other measures, breathing the same spirit, following each other in quick succession, were indeed sufficient to excite, in every true friend of his country, feelings of the deepest distress and dismay, if not of despair.

But of all the proceedings of the Pitt-administration, there was none which struck the minds of men of all parties with amazement and fearful apprehension, more than the attempt to fasten the charge of high-treason upon those, who might, perhaps, have been justly regarded as wild or visionary reformers; but whose utmost offence could not, by the law of England, have been pushed one step beyond the crime of sedition. Dark, indeed, and disgraceful is the page of British history, which records that such persons as the respectable Thomas Hardy, the celebrated Horne Tooke, the upright and ingenious Jeremiah Joyce, and nine or ten others, most or all of them men of irreproachable characters, were brought to the bar [of justice] accused as traitors, for engaging in a plan, openly and peaceably, of which the only object was, to introduce a purer system of representation, in the very spirit, once professed by the prime minister himself, and on the very principles once avowed and recommended by another distinguished member of His Majesty’s government.1—Proh patria, inversique mores!

It was, on this occasion, that the late Lord

1 Duke of Richmond, in his famous letter to Col. Sharman.

Erskine, then
Mr. Erskine, attained the height of his fame as an orator, and of his glory as a patriot, by his astonishing exertions, in conducting the defence of the accused, and in maintaining the rights of men and Englishmen. Nothing could exceed the general joy diffused through the country, when, after a long investigation, the verdict of acquittal, in defiance of all the powers of government, was pronounced. Even those who were most opposed to the principles of the reformers, strongly felt that their own, and every man’s security, was involved in the issue of the trial; and they might have adopted the language of Dr. Johnson, on a similar occasion, “I am glad these people were not convicted of this constructive treason; for though I hate them, I love my country, and I love myself.”

In the universal admiration, which followed the glorious defender of English law and liberty, none participated more largely than Dr. Parr. It was for a long time afterwards his delight to talk of him to every one, as an advocate, raised up, it might almost be thought, by a special Providence, exactly suited to the magnitude and importance of the occasion—coming intrepidly forward at an awful crisis in the fate not only of many individuals, but of the whole nation—exerting efforts, which for courage, perseverance, ardour, and ability, seemed almost supernatural; completely baffling, and, at length, triumphantly defeating, one of the boldest and the basest machinations, which had ever yet been formed against the dearest rights and liberties
of Britons, and which involved every principle to be detested, and threatened every consequence to be dreaded. Something like what has been stated, was the fervid and the energetic language, in which Dr. Parr was accustomed to speak of the talents, the eloquence, and the patriotism, so brilliantly displayed by
Mr. Erskine, on this momentous occasion; and which proved happily successful in beating down a most daring and flagitious attempt to destroy political opponents by the bloody hand of the executioner, and to change the principles of a free, into those of a despotic government.

The high opinion which Dr. Parr entertained of Lord Erskine’s public services, and his grateful sense of some private obligations conferred upon himself, he has thus expressed in his “last will.” “I give to the Right Honourable Lord Erskine a mourning ring, as a mark of my unfeigned respect for his noble exertions, in defending the constitutional rights of juries, and the freedom of the press; and for his vigorous and effectual resistance to the odious principle of constructive and accumulative treason: and I thankfully add, for his disinterested acts of kindness to my sister and to myself.”

On the publication of “Lord Erskine’s Speeches at the Bar,” in five octavo volumes, a splendid copy was sent to Dr. Parr; accompanied with a letter, which conveyed, in the most gratifying manner, assurances from the noble donor, of his veneration and his affection for the scholar and the friend, to whose acceptance they were presented, and to whose favourable attention they were submitted.
From this letter, the following extracts are here given:—“Dear Dr. Parr—If I had published these volumes myself, you should have had the very first copy of them. If they contain nothing that may advance the cause of the world, they ought to be presented to nobody; but if they do—in whose library can they be so fitly put as in yours?—though, on my own account, I fear the severe judgment of one, who must have ever present to his mind the superior compositions of antiquity.”—“My hope, however, is, that you may be deceived into an approbation of them, when you recollect that it is the cause of our own renowned and beloved country, which is pleaded in them—and by an old and sincere friend,” &c.—“

Disappointed in their attempt, by the perversion of law, to crush the spirit of reform and of freedom, the Pitt-administration next endeavoured to effect their purpose, by introducing great and ominous changes into the laws themselves. With this view, they brought forward two tremendous bills; one in the Upper House, by Lord Grenville, called “The Treason Bill;” which went the length of throwing down some of the best securities, provided, by the wise and venerable law of Edward III., for the safety of the subject; and which, also, defined the crime of sedition, in words so vague, as to include every action which ministers might please to term seditious. The punishment, too, for this last offence, before severe enough, was now extended, on a second conviction, from fine and imprisonment, to the barbarous punishment of transportation for seven years. Not less objection-
able was the second bill, introduced by
Mr. Pitt, in the Lower House. It was called “A Bill to prevent Seditious Meetings;” but it might properly have been entitled—a Bill to fetter the free exercise of the right of discussing public measures, and of petitioning for the redress of grievances. “When that Bill passed,” said Mr. Fox, “the most valuable part of the British constitution was gone; its foundation and its corner-stone were subverted and destroyed.” Of these new and arbitrary laws, Dr. Parr never spoke but with perfect horror; and as a strong expression of his feelings, the standing toast, for some time, regularly given by himself, at his table, was “A bill1 for the framers of the two Bills.”

It cannot be denied, that the Pitt-administration was long supported by a large majority, not only of the two Houses, but of the nation; whose fears were powerfully acted upon, by many terrifying events in the progress of the French Revolution—by the astonishing success of the French arms—by the dread of a threatened hostile invasion, and by the perpetual alarm of domestic plots and conspiracies, which it was the aim of a detestable policy to excite and propagate.

But at length the ruinous effects of a protracted and unsuccessful war produced in the public mind strong feelings of dissatisfaction with the conduct of government; and early in the year 1797, meetings for the purpose of obtaining a change of men and measures were held in many parts of the kingdom; the metropolis spiritedly leading the way.

1 A kind of hatchet with a hooked point.


Amongst others, a meeting of the county of Warwick was convened, under the authority of the high-sheriff, Robert Knight of Barrels, Esquire, which was so numerously attended, that it was necessary to adjourn from the Shire-hall in Warwick to the race-ground. Here, a petition to the king, stating the causes of complaint, and praying for the dismission of ministers, was moved by Sir John Throckmorton, seconded by Bertie Greatheed, Esq., and supported by some other gentlemen, and particularly by Sir Francis Burdett—who, on that occasion, almost for the first time, assumed the public character, which he has since sustained, with so much honour to himself, and so much benefit to his country. In the great object of this meeting Dr. Parr entirely concurred; and he exerted all his efforts to promote it. He was not only present; but it was also his intention, though he afterwards relinquished it, to deliver a speech, previously written, which he read to the writer; who has still a clear recollection of it, as a vehement and powerful remonstrance against the maxims and the measures of an administration, so long possessing, and so ill-requiting the public confidence. The proposed petition to the throne was approved and adopted, by a large majority, amidst the loudest acclamations.

The whole history of Ireland, since its first connexion with England, in the reign of Henry II., consists of little but accounts of public disturbances, arising from the most deplorable misrule; and proceeding, in the usual course, from discontent to disaffection—and from secret disaffection to open
revolt. In 1797, a conspiracy of a deep and dangerous nature was formed, into which many of the most honourable men in the country, from pure and patriotic, however mistaken, motives, had entered. Of these, two persons, one the celebrated
Arthur O’Conner, the nephew and the reputed heir of Lord Longueville—and the other, James O’Coighley, a Catholic priest of high spirit and great address, were seized in Margate, at the moment of their intended embarkation for France, on a secret mission, it was said, to the French Directory. They were tried at Maidstone, on a charge of high-treason. O’Conner was acquitted; but O’Coighley was found guilty, received sentence of death, and was executed. He died with the calm and heroic fortitude of a martyr, suffering in what he conceived to be the cause of his country.1

Dr. Parr, who respected the patriotism, and pitied the fate of the unfortunate O’Coighley, was soon afterwards in company with a young barrister, a native of Scotland, who had greatly distinguished himself by his powerful writings in favour of civil and religious liberty. At that time, however, he was suspected of the intention of immolating his principles on the shrine of his ambition; though whatever may have been his temporary errors and inconsistencies, an admiring and grateful nation will acknowledge, that, by a splendid course of

1Observations on the Trials of O’Coighley, Admiral Byng, Fenning, Perreau. I think that O’Coighley was harshly treated. I hold that Byng was murdered. I hold with the utmost confidence that Elizabeth Fenning was innocent. I doubt the innocence of Robert Perreau, but I always pitied him.”

public services, he has since nobly redeemed them. In the course of conversation, this gentleman had observed, that O’Coighley richly deserved his fate, since it was impossible to conceive of a greater scoundrel. “By no means, sir,” said Dr. Parr; “for it is very possible to conceive a greater scoundrel. He was an Irishman—he might have been a Scotchman; he was a priest—he might have been a lawyer; he was a traitor—he might have been an apostate!”

After the commencement of the revolutionary war, a royal proclamation was issued every year for the observance of a fast; and a service for the occasion, composed by the bishop, was ordered to be read in churches. Many of these services were such as Dr. Parr could not approve, because, in his opinion, they were calculated to flatter national pride, and to offer unmanly insult to the feelings, or unjust reproach to the character, of the nation with which we were at war. But, whilst he was careful, as he himself has stated, “from motives of decorum, not incompatible, he trusted, with integrity, and in conformity to the obligations imposed upon him, not so much by his personal conviction, as by his clerical office, without any addition, any diminution, or any alteration whatever, to read every sentence, every word, every syllable, and every letter, which his civil and ecclesiastical superiors had been pleased to prescribe for common use on these days;”1 he was careful, at the same time,

1 In the passages here quoted from a Ms. sermon by Dr. Parr, some nice distinctions are drawn, which the writer con-

to state fully and clearly his own opinions on all the great questions of public interest, and especially on the war itself—which he always reprobated in its principle, condemned in its object, and deplored in its continuance. “I must confidently assert my right,” said he, on one of these occasions, “to distinguish between compliance and assent; and to contend, that they who may be authorised to demand the homage of external submission, are not therefore authorised to explore, and much less to controul, the operations of private judgment.”

On the 19th December, 1797, in consequence of the late naval victories, a day of national thanksgiving was appointed, when his majesty, the members of the two houses of parliament, and the great officers of state, went in grand triumphal procession to St. Paul’s; and when the flags taken from the Spanish, the French, and the Dutch, were borne in solemn pomp, and deposited with holy exultation on the altar of that cathedral. A remarkable sermon, of which a Ms. copy now lies before the writer, was delivered by Dr. Parr, on this occasion, at Hatton, from which the following extracts are subjoined:—

That he did not sympathise in the spirit of self-gratulation, and of exultation over the defeated enemy, in which the nation at that time too much indulged, appears from the following passage:

“I cannot think that a man fulfils the most im-

fesses he cannot admit; and the whole, considered as an apology for reading with the lips, in the solemn services of religion, what the heart disapproves, he must own, is to him unsatisfactory.

portant purposes of this solemnity, by gazing at the pageantries of splendid spectacles, or by haranguing on the glories of successful conflicts. I cannot shut my eyes to the frightful devastation of war, be it just or unjust, be it necessary or unnecessary. I cannot deafen my ears to the loud and piercing lamentations of my fellow-creatures, be they sufferers in this or any civilised country. In truth, to those intelligent, dispassionate, and benevolent friends of mankind, who turn away from senseless clamour to solid fact; who ascend from prejudices to principles; who consecrate that which is sound in philosophy by that which is pure in religion; who measure the properties of things by their effects, and the merit of agents, not by their professions, however plausible, not by their rank, however elevated, but by their actions alone: to all such persons, it may now and then be difficult to reconcile appearances with realities, the commands of legitimate authority with the scruples of sober reason, the prudential regulations of human governments with the righteous and awful dispensations of Divine Providence.”

The self-flattery of nations is thus exposed:

“In reality, the current and favourite language of states is a very precarious rule for distinguishing either their comparative or their absolute deserts. All refuse to others, what each arrogates to itself. All disavow ambition, and none resist it. All are ready to deplore the evils of sanguinary contention, and none are reluctant to inflict them, where pride is to be flattered, or revenge is to be inflicted. All impute the miscarriages of their enemy to the in-
justice of his pretensions; and none have the sagacity or the fortitude to assign the cause for the disasters that befal themselves. At the moment in which they chant their hymns of praise, all declare that it is the Right Hand of the Lord which alone giveth the victory; and, at the next, they burst out into vehement and vaunting encomiums upon their own matchless wisdom and their own mighty power. All acknowledge their numberless and crying iniquities, while they bend the knee in any sacred place of worship; and all boast of their peculiar and superior virtues as soon as they are out of it. All affect to deprecate the displeasure of the Deity, when they profess to humble themselves before him ‘in sackcloth and ashes;’ and all challenge his favour, when they array their hosts and raise aloft their standards, and blow aloud the trumpet as a signal for attack and carnage. Common sense, no doubt, recoils from such glaring inconsistencies, philosophy startles at them, and philanthropy shrinks from them.”

The following is an awfully striking picture of the calamities of war, accompanied with a powerful appeal to the moral responsibility of all who encourage or promote it:

“When fields are desolated—when ancient and towering cities are torn from their deep foundations—when the tempest pours its undistinguishing and unrelenting rage alike against the throne of the monarch and the cottage of the peasant—when all the harmless enjoyments which solace, and all the useful arts, which adorn social life, are at a stand—when industry droops, without the
means of employment—when misery sighs, without the prospect of succour—when indigence pines without a pittance of daily bread—when the blood of man formed in God’s own image is deliberately and systematically shed by the hand of man—when the orphan weeps in solitude and silence, and the grey hairs of a father are brought down with sorrow to the grave; surely, amidst such scenes there is something upon which a man of reflection may be permitted to pause; when he recollects, that for all these, they who counsel, they who execute; aye, my brethren, and they too who rashly approve, must one day render a strict account before that Being ‘unto whom all hearts are open, and all desires, however secret, are known.’”

That Dr. Parr seriously disapproved the custom of depositing the trophies of war on the altars, or of suspending them within the temples of a holy and benevolent religion, appears from the following passage:1

“In all probability there was more good sense, more good nature, more tenderness towards man, more humility before God, in a compact between certain heathen nations, by which it was stipulated, that, in order to prevent any arrogant, lasting, and insulting memorial of the contests, which might arise between neighbouring countries, no armour should be hung up, no pillars should be erected, but an inverted spear only should be

1 “The placing military banners in cathedrals was highly censured by my preceptor, who said, ‘It is a pagan custom. The temple of the God of peace ought not to be polluted with the blood-stained trophies of war.’”—New Monthly Mag. Aug. 1826.

placed on the spot of victory. So strange, however, and arbitrary are the changes of language, that the word trophy, which, in its original signification, specifically and emphatically implied the inoffensive, unassuming, temporary mark of military superiority, should be transfixed to those prominent and permanent signs by which the haughtiness of conquerors would perpetuate the fame of their achievements, and expose the weakness of their vanquished foes to the scorn of distant ages.”