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REGIUM DONUM.* We have transcribed below the titles of some publications which have recently appeared on the subject of the Parliamentary Grant to Protestant Dissenting Ministers in England and Wales. The first is an address of the Executive Committee of “ the British Anti-State-Church Association," authenticated by the signatures of its three Secretaries, calling upon the Distributors of the Grant to relinquish their trust, and urging the Recipients to forego for the future all participation of the Bounty:
The publication of this Address drew from Dr. Pye Smith, one of the Distributors, the letter forming the second article, which has appeared, we believe, only in the columns of the Patriot. Dr. Smith enters briefly on a general defence of the grant, and vindicates himself and his associates in the trust against the reproaches of the Committee. The chief purpose, however, of the Letter is to controvert the position of the Address, that the grant is an endowment, and to maintain the correctness of the representation of the Trustees, that it is, in the strictest sense, a Charity, “honourable to the giver, to the distributors, and to the receivers." “An endowment,” Dr. Smith justly remarks,“ is a conferring, by a donor, of lands, money, or the equivalent, upon a grantee, defined by personal and local description. But the grant in question has no setting forth of persons or places.” He adds in conclusion: “ The Parliament itself has not a moral right to withhold it. The nation, by its representatives, has taken the purchase-money, and if it were to refuse to pay the annuity purchased, it would be guilty of a criminal act. Again I say it is not an endowment, but a payment for value received."
The third pamphlet professes to be a Reply of the Committee to this Letter of Dr. Smith. But, beyond the title-page, it bears no mark of its official emanation and authority. It wants, especially, the signatures of the triumvirate of Secretaries, by which the first Address was ushered into the world and recommended to public attention. Were we to hazard a conjecture as to the cause of this singular omis
• 1. Address of the Executive Committee of the British Anti-State-Church Association to the Distributors and Recipients of the Parliamentary Grant to Protestant Dissenting Ministers in England and Wales. 12mo. 1845.
2. To the Executive Committee of the British Anti-State-Church Association, and to all others who object to the Regium Donum and Parliamentary Grant to Poor Dissenting Ministers. A Letter by Dr. J. P. Smith, inserted in the Patriot Newspaper, July 28, 1845.
3. Reply of the Committee of the British Anti-State-Church Association to Dr. Pye Smith. 12mo. 1845.
sion, we should be inclined to ascribe it to the repugnance of one of those functionaries, late a respected Trustee of the grant, whose retirement, according to his own public avowal, arose from no disapproval of its principle, to give the sanction of his name to a document so little courteous to his former associates.
On first glancing at the earlier pages of this tract, we felt disposed to augur favourably of the temper with which the writer was entering upon his controversial labour. We thought we could discern the opening of a vein of good-humour, which, if permitted to flow freely, might at once sweeten his own toils, and render less bitter the castigation he might administer to the objects of his censures. anticipations ended in disappointment. It soon became apparent that what we had mistaken for the harmless playfulness of wit, was but the affectation of pleasantry, assumed, probably, to secure the freer currency and impart the greater efficacy to the sarcasms of the hypercritic, to whose diseased vision every object appeared distorted, and who charged upon his adversaries inconsistencies and contradictions which had existence only in his own imagination. In the writer's estimation, the defenders of the grant have very confused notions of its nature, and whilst they maintain a tolerable agreement with one another, none of them are in agreement with themselves; and he illustrates his meaning by the enumeration of particular terms and phrases, employed by its advocates as descriptive of its character, which are, in his opinion, at variance and incompatible with one another. Now we scruple not to affirm that, to any considerate and candid reader, all those terms and phrases so captiously objected to, are, as they are applied, perfectly compatible and accurately descriptive; and that the terrific “dilemma,” on the torturing horns of which he has so complacently fixed his adversaries, has no existence beyond his own excited and fertile fancy.
The aim of this writer, in the Reply, is to controvert the account of the grant published by the Trustees in their “ Brief Statement,” and repeated by Dr. Smith; and having succeeded, to his own satisfaction, in the accomplishment of his purpose, he calls in a tone of triumph upon both the Trustees and their beneficiaries to relinquish the boon, as no longer capable of justification or defence.
The Trustees represent their case to be—That the grant is one of pure charity, bestowed from no political feeling, and contemplating no political object; and hat it is
no respect a fund created by the compulsory taxation of the people for the maintenance of any system of Christian worship.
The former point they deem to be sufficiently proved by what is known of the origin of the grant; and the latter they hold to be fully established by historical evidence relating to the fund out of which it has usually been bestowed; because, during the reigns of George I. and George II., the money was paid out of the Privy Purse, from the hereditary revenues of the Crown,-a fund, in a great measure, at the disposal of the Sovereign; that on the accession of George III., the King having relinquished the hereditary revenues for a fixed civil list, this grant, in common with the other permanent Royal Charities, was made payable out of that fund from which the Privy Purse was then provided; that in 1804, the civil list was relieved of the payment of these charities, which thenceforth were provided for by an annual vote
of Parliament; that in making this exchange of the hereditary revenues for a fixed civil list, the nation, instead of being burdened, was benefited, the annual produce of those revenues greatly exceeding the amount of the civil list granted in their stead.
In opposition to these representations, the author of the Reply lays down the following position: “That, from first to last, the Regium Donum has been what it now is, a State contribution to ministers of religion, and therefore involves the principle of all endowments, and must stand or fall with them.”
The arguments by which he endeavours to establish this position we purpose to examine a little in detail.
He contends, first, that even admitting, for argument sake, that the Royal Bounty was originally bestowed out of the hereditary revenues of the Crown, those revenues were not the private personal fund of the Sovereign, but official property, which could not be alienated, and over which the people always claimed and exercised the right
The author attaches considerable importance to the distinction between a personal private income and a public official revenue. The hereditary revenues of the Crown were, he states, the official, not the personal, income of the Sovereign. But, in effect, this is asserting a simple truism. It is tantamount to saying, the King's revenues are the revenues of the King. They are held by the Sovereign, most certainly, in virtue of his high station, for the maintenance of his regal state and dignity. His occupation of the throne creates the right, and is the indispensable condition, of his possession and disposal of them. But this, we apprehend, is no part of the controversy between the advocates and the opponents of the grant. The question is not, whether the revenues be official or personal, or, as the author quaintly puts the case, be those of a man or of a king ; but what power the Sovereign has over the appropriation of those revenues, or the surplus of them, after discharging the official pecuniary obligations of his regal station, and whether he can apply any portion of that surplus to private or personal objects, and especially to charitable purposes, unconnected with the service of the State ?
The official revenue of the King must be deemed to be similar to the official income of any other high public functionary whose position implies the obligation to maintain an expensive establishment. In the application of his income, the first duty of such a functionary is to pay his officers and attendants, and defray the other charges incident to his official station. This being done, the rest of his income is obviously as completely at his optional disposal as if it arose out of his personal estate. And this is precisely the case with the Sovereign. The hereditary revenues were first applicable to the charges of the Royal establishment and the civil government; all that remained after the payment of such charges must be considered as, in effect, a private and personal fund, disposable at the pleasure of the King. Looking at the array of historical facts relating to this subject, so industriously set forth in the Reply, we confidently state that there is nothing in them that is not in accordance with this view of the regal revenues, and with this right and power of the Sovereign in the appropriation of them.
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The Trustees represent their case to be That the grant is one of pure charity, bestowed from no political feeling, and contemplating.no political object; and that it is in no respect a fund created by the compulsory taxation of the people for the maintenance of any system
The former point they deem to be sufficiently proved by what is known of the origin of the grant;
and the latter they hold to be fully established by historical evidence' relating to the fund out of which it has usually been bestowed; because, during the reigns of George I. and George II., the money was paid out of the Privy Purse, from the hereditary revenues of the Crown,-a fund, in a great measure, at the disposal of the Sovereign; that on the accession of George III., the King having relinquished the hereditary revenues for a fixed civil list, this grant, in common with the other permanent Royal Charities, was made payable out of that fund from which the Privy Purse was then provided; that in 1804, the civil list was relieved these charities, which thenceforth were provided
of Christian worship.