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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch VII. 1812-1815

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. 1812—1815.
Public affairs—Death of Mr. Perceval—Liberal overtures to the Whigs—Liverpool administration—Fall of Buonaparte—Dr. Parr’s opinion of the Vienna manifesto—and the Holy Alliance—His notice of parliamentary proceedings—Catholic question—Property tax—Unitarian toleration act.

Early in the year 1812, Dr. Parr went to London, and passed there several months, watching, with much anxiety, the progress of those political events, which took place about this period, and which so seriously disappointed the hopes, he, in common with many of the best friends of the country, had ventured to form and to cherish.

In consequence of the King’s lamented incapacity, the Prince of Wales had been appointed regent, under certain restrictions, which were to expire February 1, 1812. But, even after that time, to the regret of many persons, and to the surprise of more, though his own political principles were avowedly different; yet the Prince thought proper to permit the ministry, of which Mr. Perceval was the ostensible leader, to continue in office. Certain proposals were, indeed, communicated, by order of the Regent, “to some of those friends, with whom the early habits of his public life were formed,” inviting them “to strengthen his hands, and to constitute a part of
his government.” But these proposals were deemed such, as could not be consistently or honourably accepted. “There is a confused rumour,” says
Dr. Parr, writing at this time to a friend, “of a change of ministry. I cannot go into particulars. But I can assure you there will be infinite difficulty in any new arrangement; and this may compel the Prince to stumble on with the present ministry, whom he hates, and by whom he is hated.”

But in the month of May, an extraordinary and tragical event deprived the administration of its principal support. This was the death of Mr. Perceval, who fell by a pistol-shot in the lobby of the Commons’ House, from the hand of an assassin, named Bellingham. Though, on inquiring into the case of this wretched man, there seemed to be strong reasons for believing that he was insane, yet the application for time to procure legal evidence of the fact was refused; and within six days he was tried, condemned, and executed. The precipitancy of these proceedings, and the general belief that Bellingham had been an injured man, and that he was disordered in mind, excited much commiseration in his favour, even in spite of the enormity of his crime. To these circumstances Dr. Parr alludes, in the following note, written from London to a friend in the country:—

“The execution of Bellingham went off quietly. The spectators, with one natural feeling, said to him, ‘God bless you!’ I cannot write more just now. Beware of rashness in judging others. Remember, at the same time, the danger and the guilt of
directly or indirectly encouraging assassination. It is God alone can decide whether Bellingham was morally guilty or not. I do not approve of all that passed at his trial. I fully believe him to have been a maniac; and three sagacious physicians, who have read his trial, agree with me in that opinion. Farewell.—S. P.”

After the death of the premier, a new administration was to be formed; and the hopes of Dr. Parr and his political friends were again excited. It must be owned that a fair and liberal overture was now made to Lord Grey and the Whigs, through the medium of Lord Moira, which was however ultimately defeated in its object, in no small degree it seems, by the duplicity of one of their own party.1 Thus terminated in disappointment the expectation of seeing such an administration formed, as the exigencies of the time appeared to demand; and the Tories, with Lord Liverpool at their head, were left in full possession of the powers of government, which they have ever since, with one short interval, retained. Expressing his deep regret on this occasion, Dr. Parr thus writes to his friend:—“The new ministry is not yet quite formed. Some great lords will be in town tonight or to-morrow. I expect arrangements to be finished on Monday or Tuesday. There are many knotty points, yet to be settled. My friend! these are strange times; and there is in high places great wickedness. Direct your letters to me under cover to R. Adair, Esq. I dine with Lord Carrington on Wednesday. I shall leave town on the

1 See Moore’s Life of Sheridan, vol. ii. p. 425, &c.

following Tuesday, and reach Hatton on Friday. God bless you all! S. P.—May 23, 1812.”

Turning from the state of domestic, let the reader glance his eye over that of foreign affairs, at this momentous period; when events followed each other in rapid succession, calculated to rouse and fix the surprise, and awe the attention, of persons far less deeply interested than Dr. Parr, in the progress of human affairs, and the fate of men and nations.

The great and amazing changes which took place about this time, in the state of the European world, will easily recur to the reader’s mind. Buonaparte, the wonder and the terror of his age, was now, by his restless ambition and boundless usurpation, working his own destruction; and preparing for himself a fall as signally disgraceful, as his rise had been rapid and splendid. The universal abhorrence, excited by his many acts of perfidy and tyranny, seemed at last to call into action the physical energies of all Europe, as if in one united mass; which, even with the vast resources of his country, and his own genius, he found himself unable long to resist. His misfortunes beginning with the discomfiture of his army in Spain on the one side, and the dreadful horrors of his disastrous retreat from Moscow on the other, were followed by his defeat in the battle of Leipzic, the capture of Paris, and his forced abdication, April 11, 1814. His return from Elba, the next succeeding spring, and his resumption of the imperial dignity, were but a momentary gleam of light amidst the deepening shades which gathered round him; and his
falling fortunes were quickly laid for ever prostrate in the memorable field of Waterloo: from which he escaped, only to find a miserable exile on the rock of St. Helena; where, gradually sinking under the weight of bodily disorder and mental suffering, he expired in May, 1821.

Though the ex-emperor of France possessed many noble qualities, which deserve, and will obtain, the admiration of the present and future generations; and though he conferred upon his country many important benefits, which will never cease to be remembered and acknowledged; yet who can forget the faults of his character? or forgive the errors and crimes of his conduct? or who can deny that his government was a military despotism? The downfall of such a despotism, therefore, could be no subject of regret to the friends of human liberty and happiness; and it would have been the source of unmingled and exulting joy, if it had not been followed, on the part of the great triumvirate, who now ruled the destinies of Europe, by measures as tyrannical and oppressive as those, from which they had proclaimed and promised deliverance.

In a letter dated April 12, 1815, the very day on which Napoleon, after his return from Elba, published, apparently with the general concurrence of France, his new “Constitutional Act,” highly favourable to popular rights; and very soon after the famous manifesto had been issued from Vienna, Dr. Parr thus writes to his friend, Mr. Parkes:—

“Dear Sir,—I have just read the Vienna decla-
ration. It is quite novel to put enemies at war on the footing of traitors; and yet this sceptred gang menace every partizan of Napoleon, who may fall into their hands, with a sentence of death. They have shut up all avenues to pacific negotiation. In their frenzy, they throw away the scabbard, at the very moment, when they draw the sword.
Mr. Parkes! they make out no case, in the way of statement, or in the way of argument. Theirs is the very worst possible cause; and whether victory or defeat be reserved for the royal and imperial conspirators, the civilised world is doomed to experience the worst possible consequences. I am truly your wellwisher,—S. P.”

When the contest was decided, and the tremendous confederacy called the Holy Alliance, was completely formed, and its views divulged, Dr. Parr thus writes to the same friend:—

“Dear Sir,—When the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia said concisely and emphatically ‘the confederation of the Rhine must be dissolved,’ my assent was instantaneous and unfeigned. But after the atrocious system of usurpation, rapine, and oppression, which has lately been formed—after the violation of every principle, which secures the independence of nations—after an interchange of secret articles, which unite the parties in a bond of alliance against England, and every other country in Europe, daring to assert their social rights, or to resist internal despotism—I say, without disguise and without qualification, the conspiracy of Vienna must be resisted. Should the just indignation of Norway, Italy, Belgium,
Switzerland, Saxony, and the minor states of Germany, be roused, and two or three of the conspirators be destroyed, I shall not for one moment feel one pang. Disappointed hope, violated justice, menaced freedom, and insulted humanity, compel me to lift my voice against the whole confederated band of royal traitors, plunderers, and tyrants. I respect and pity
Louis XVIII. I distrust and I dread Napoleon. I despise and I abhor C——. But I love old England, and think her governors the most dangerous enemies of her ancient and sacred constitution. I remain, dear Sir, your wellwisher, and respectful servant,

“S. Parr.”

The following letter, written soon after the battle of Waterloo, explains the grounds of those fearful apprehensions for the consequences of that event, to all the great interests of the civilised world, which then possessed the minds of many of the most enlightened men in the country:

“Dear Mr. Roscoe,—My peace of mind has been for some months quite destroyed. There lay before me a choice of evils; and, after the partition-conspiracy at Vienna, followed up by proclamations worthy of Sylla, I decided for Napoleon. My friend, in these troublous times we look about for consolation; and I have found a small portion of it in the possible suspension of carnage, in the diminution of taxes, and the delay of national bankruptcy. Yet, the strong question upon which kings and the people are now at issue, and the determination of oppressors to crush all social rights, and all social improvements, by mili-
tary violence, their vigorous sympathies in their common cause, and their combined strength, perpetually recur to my mind. There will be an end, dear sir, of national independence. What violations of promises!—what bloodshed are we to look for in France! The monsters are now giddy with victory; but they will soon form a system for securing themselves by perpetuated and extended cruelty. I dreaded Napoleon; but I dread and I detest his enemies far more. There is no chance of cure for the inveterate and legitimate crimes of the old governments. As to the Bourbons, I despise, and am compelled to detest them. There is no sincerity among them; and you and I, who are old-fashioned moralists, look upon sincerity as the foundation of all virtue. But I will write no more. We must talk together, and before we meet, there will be a rank and abundant harvest of evils. You and I are pure from the blood of our fellow-creatures; and we can turn from the savage clamours of the world, to commune with our own hearts. God bless you!

“S. Parr.
“Hatton, July 6, 1815.”

Among the great subjects of parliamentary inquiry during this period, it was with high satisfaction that Dr. Parr observed the progress of the Catholic question, which seemed to be advancing under favourable auspices, to a happy issue. Referring to an important resolution adopted by the House of Commons in 1812, “to take into consideration the state of the laws respecting the Catholics, at an early period of the ensuing ses-
sion,” Dr. Parr writes thus to one of his friends:—“Tell Mr. E. that, by all parties, the Catholic question is considered as settled, in consequence of
Mr. Canning’s motion, which was carried by a decided majority.” But these flattering appearances proved delusive: for when the bill of promised relief was brought forward in 1813, it was found unsatisfactory alike to Catholics and to Protestants; and, after vehement debates, it was finally rejected. It is lamentable to think that, from that time to the present, including a period of no less than fifteen years, the loud and reiterated complaints of so large a class of British subjects, enforced upon the legislature, by the most convincing reasoning, and the most commanding eloquence, have failed to procure for the cause of reason and justice the triumph, which it must ultimately obtain.

July 11th, 1813, is a day, which deserves to be marked, with honourable distinction, in the history of religious toleration: as on that day one of the most cruelly persecuting statutes, which had too long disgraced the British code, received its death-blow; and the royal assent was given to an act repealing all laws, passed in ages of ignorant bigotry, against those Christians, who impugn the doctrine of the Trinity. As the writer is one of the number, benefited by that great act of public justice, he had very soon afterwards the pleasure to receive from Dr. Parr the most sincere and heartfelt congratulations, on the happy occasion. “Even the very manner of passing the act,” said Dr. Parr, “increases my satisfaction: because it seems to declare the state of public feeling
no less remarkably than the act itself.” For, with the unanimous concurrence, so far as then appeared, both of the church and the state, both of the executive and legislative authority, the bill was brought in; and, without the slightest whisper of objection, was suffered to proceed through all its stages, till it passed into a law.

It was with no small degree of proud exultation, such as was always excited in his mind, by every circumstance honourable to his church, that Dr. Parr spoke of the wise moderation of the bishops, who concurred in the measure; and especially of the metropolitan, who not only approved it in private, but supported it in public, by a manly speech, replete with good sense and good feeling; in the course of which he asserted, as with truth he might, that the bill was not called for, by any attempt to put the laws complained of in force. In proportion, however, to the satisfaction which Dr. Parr thus felt and expressed, was his concern, on discovering that a measure, so right and so reasonable, was resisted, when it was first proposed, and lamented after its adoption, by a prelate—for whom he entertained the highest veneration, as a man of learning and great moral worth. Under this painful disappointment, he consoled himself, he said, by the assurance that Bishop Burgess, the bold advocate for persecuting laws in the 19th century, would find himself almost, if not quite alone; and that not even the imposing influence of courageous singularity, nor the acknowledged excellence of a pure and elevated character, would draw after him many followers, in an age
in which the claims and benefits of religious, as well as civil liberty, are so well and so generally understood.

It was always a subject of regret to Dr. Parr, as it is to the present writer, that the act of repeal just referred to was not extended, so as to include the disbelievers of revelation. Dr. Parr thought that the soundest policy, as well as the strictest justice, calls for such extension; and that the precepts and the spirit of Christianity demand it. He was, indeed, tremblingly alive to the evil of diffusing error, and was much too fearfully apprehensive of the mischiefs of exciting controversy. But he dreaded far more the greater evils of intolerance; and was, therefore, an advocate for leaving the press open to the free discussion of all religious, as well as political questions. Aware of the extreme difficulty of drawing the line between an exceptionable and an unexceptionable mode of conducting disputations, he conceived, upon the whole, that it would be best to grant unrestrained freedom of writing and publishing, even as to the manner: consigning what are thought impious or blasphemous publications to no other punishment, but the general contempt and abhorrence which they will be sure to excite; and which, in the end, will most effectually counteract all their pernicious influences. With these views, on which Dr. Parr often expatiated with great eloquence, especially in the later years of his life, it is perhaps unnecessary to add, that he utterly condemned the prosecution of sceptical or infidel writers; of which prosecutions, he was accustomed to say, the only
effect is, to draw towards the prosecuted, credit for their sincerity, respect for their courage, and pity for their sufferings; and to secure for their writings a far more general notice, than they could otherwise obtain. Speaking of such attempts to support or suppress opinions by force—“Ah! Well!” said he, “governors will know better by-and-bye: but they might as well attempt to scare the thunder by the attorney-general’s parchment, as to stop the progress of either truth or error, by pains and penalties.”1

1 “The proper punishment of a low, mean, indecent scurrilous way of writing against religion, seems to be neglect, contempt, scorn, and general indignation. And if we leave all further punishment to Him, to whom vengeance belongs, I have thought it might be much for the honour of ourselves and our religion.”—Dr. Lardner’s Friendly Correspondence with Bishop Waddington. Works, vol. i. p. 115.