DIRECTOR   Blandinus Achthoven


In the first part of the ensuing observations, we shall consider ourselves as addressing the public friends of Dissenters, rather than the body to which we avow ourselves to belong; and we shall afterwards submit some free thoughts to those more especially who ' seem to be somewhat,' or who bear social or official sway among us, as directing Dissenting institutions and social movements. We begin with the question, whether the Dissenters, who seemed a short time ago so powerful from numbers or from social influence, but whom the last election is supposed to have shown to be a much less formidable minority than had been calculated on,—have actually been over-rated, and, as the effect of that miscalculation, have lost ground to their opponents. Our answer is, that, if there has been any miscalculation, it has not been such as they are answerable for. The relative strength of the Dissenters may have been over-rated, but not by themselves. Up to this moment, the Protestant Dissenters of England are, we are firmly convinced, unconscious of the full amount of the social influence which, if properly organised, they might exert; and they have been apt to under-rate their numbers and resources, rather than to exaggerate them.* If it has suited the policy of the Tories to represent the Reform Ministry as mainly indebted to the Dissenters for their accession to power and their maintenance of office; to ascribe the carrying of the great measures of Reform to Dissenting influence; to identify liberal principles with Dissent; in order to excite alarm and exasperate prejudice among the high-church party, and to pique the Whigs so as to lead them to draw off from those with whom they were alleged to be in so close alliance; why are the Dissenters to be blamed for exaggerations which have not originated with them ? If they have gloried, it has been in the general recognition and triumph of those broad principles of justice and liberal policy for which they have always contended, but which, so long as asserted only by themselves, were but powerless opinions, or truths struggling for the mastery over error and interested prejudice.