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Cromwell's Toleration

Frederick Harrison

<plain_text><page sequence="1">CROMWELL'S TOLERATION. By FREDEEICK HARRISON. My absence from England will prevent me from being present on the interesting occasion of the commemoration of the re-settlement of the Jews in England under the Protectorate. As I hope to be invited on a future occasion to join in this tribute to our great Statesman, I will reserve what I might have to say for a time when I can be present in person. I will now only add this, that the principle of the Protector's policy?his desire to give all law-abiding men ample guarantees for their peaceful following of their consciences?was one of the dearest purposes of his heart, as it was one of the very rarest ideas in his age and country. He stood almost alone in his battle for absolute toleration and equal justice to all men without regard to the faith they professed. He defended it in a dozen different forms, and extended it to all creeds. An apparent exception is, no doubt, that of the Catholics. But this was on political grounds, not on theological. He held that the Catholics in the middle of the seventeenth century were in permanent and authorised conspiracy to restore the monarchic and papal tyranny. For the Jews, on the other hand, his far-sighted economic genius foresaw the great advantages to our country of their return to citizenship. He stood almost alone. And, finding that the preachers and politicians adhered to their blind prejudices, he practi? cally settled the question by what was certainly an autocratic and hardly a constitutional act of statesmanship. Firm and convinced ideas of toleration were the exclusive privilege of the very greatest statesmen of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?of William the Silent, Henri IV., Elizabeth, and Cromwell. Of them all perhaps Cromwell was the boldest and most outspoken. And in an age when on the continent of Europe there is a certain recrudescence of in? tolerant prejudice?and an unholy alliance of such bigotry between autocrats, churchmen, and Socialists, there is every reason to- return to the memory of the wise act of the greatest of English statesmen, in our country, which, almost alone in Europe, maintains the political, social, and intellectual equality of Jew and Christian. 101</page></plain_text>

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