I.—’LETTER TO A DISSENTER’
BY GEORGE SAVILE, MARQUESS OF HALIFAX
(There is no doubt that Halifax’s work deserves to rank first in a collection of political pamphlets. He signed none; it was indeed almost impossible for a prominent person in the State then safely or decently to do so, and different attributions were made at the time of some of them, as of the Character of a Trimmer_ to Coventry, and of this Letter (this ‘masterly little tract,’ as Macaulay justly calls it) to Temple. But shortly after his death all were published as his unchallenged, and there never has been any doubt of their authorship in the minds of good judges. Four of them are so good that extrinsic reasons have to be brought in for preferring one to the other. The Character of a Trimmer is rather too long for my scheme; the Anatomy of an Equivalent is too technical, and requires too much illustration and exegesis; the Cautions for Choice of Members of Parliament, though practically valuable to the present day, is a little too general. The Letter to a Dissenter escapes all these objections. It is brief, it is thoroughly to the point, it is comprehensible almost without note or comment to any one who remembers the broad fact that by his Declaration of Indulgence James the Second attempted to detach, and almost succeeded in detaching, the Dissenters from their common cause with the Church in opposing his enfranchisement of the Roman Catholics, and his preferment of them to great offices. As for its author, his most eminent acts are written in the pages of the universally read historian above quoted. But he was in reality more of a Tory than it suited Macaulay to represent him, though he gloried in the name of Trimmer, and certainly showed what is called in modern political slang a ‘crossbench mind’ not only during the madness of the Popish plot, during the greater madness of James’s assaults on the Church, the Constitution, and private rights, but also (after the Revolution) towards William of Orange. Born about 1630 he died in April 1695, leaving the fame, unjustified by any samples in those unreported days, of the greatest orator of his time, a reputation as a wit which was partly inherited by his grandson, Chesterfield, and the small volume of Miscellanies, on which we here draw. The pamphlet itself appeared in April 1687._)
Sir—Since addresses are in fashion, give me leave to make one to you. This is neither the effect of fear, interest, or resentment; therefore you may be sure it is sincere: and for that reason it may expect to be kindly received. Whether it will have power enough to convince, dependeth upon the reasons of which you are to judge; and upon your preparation of mind, to be persuaded by truth, whenever it appeareth to you. It ought not to be the less welcome for coming from a friendly hand, one whose kindness to you is not lessened by difference of opinion, and who will not let his thoughts for the public be so tied or confined to this or that sub-division of Protestants as to stifle the charity, which besides all other arguments, is at this time become necessary to preserve us.