ADVANTAGES

The progress of Western nations from the system of unity which prevailed in the fifteenth, to the system of liberty which was the rule in the nineteenth century, was slow and painful, illogical and wavering, generally dictated by political necessities, seldom inspired by deliberate conviction. We have seen how religious liberty has been realized, so far as the law is concerned, under two distinct systems, “Jurisdiction” and “Separation.” But legal toleration may coexist with much practical intolerance, and liberty before the law is compatible with serious disabilities of which the law cannot take account. For instance, the expression of unorthodox opinions may exclude a man from obtaining a secular post or hinder his advancement. The question has been asked, which of the two systems is more favourable to the creation of a tolerant social atmosphere? Ruffini (of whose excellent work on I have made much use in this chapter) decides in favour of Jurisdiction. He points out that while Socinus, a true friend of liberty of thought, contemplated this system, the Anabaptists, whose spirit was intolerant, sought Separation. More important is the observation that in Germany, England, and Italy, where the most powerful Church or Churches are under the control of the State, there is more freedom, more tolerance of opinion, than in many of the American States where Separation prevails. A hundred years ago the Americans showed appalling ingratitude to Thomas Paine, who had done them eminent service in the War of Independence, simply because he published a very unorthodox book. It is notorious that free thought is still a serious hindrance and handicap to an American, even in most of the Universities. This proves that Separation is not an infallible receipt for producing tolerance. But I see no reason to suppose that public opinion in America would be different, if either the Federal Republic or the particular States had adopted Jurisdiction. Given legal liberty under either system, I should say that the tolerance of public opinion depends on social conditions and especially on the degree of culture among the educated classes.

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