Speech On The Petition Of The Unitarians "Old Religious Factions Are Volcanoes Burnt Out"

Edmund Burke

"Old Religious Factions Are Volcanoes Burnt Out"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Although Burke spoke with some frequency in Parliament in defense of the Catholics in Ireland, his views generally on religious toleration were not in advance of his age. When Fox, a leader of Parliament, attempted to have repealed several statutes directed against the Unitarians, Burke opposed such action. He argued that government, as representing society, had control over all the "publicly propagated doctrines of men." The Anglican Establishment he considered the agency of that control, and the Unitarians had promoted doctrines hostile to the Church of England. Burke regarded the extension of rights to the Unitarians as a move which would encourage all the evils of religious faction:

Old religious factions are volcanoes burnt out; on the lava and ashes and squalid scoriæ of old eruptions grow the peaceful olive, the cheering vine, and the sustaining corn. Such was the first, such the second condition of Vesuvius. But when a new fire bursts out, a face of desolations comes on, not to be rectified in ages. Therefore, when men come before us, and rise up like an exhalation from the ground, they come in a questionable shape, and we must exorcise them, and try whether their intests be wicked or charitable, whether they bring airs from heaven or blasts from hell. This is the first time that our records of Parliament have heard, or our experience or history given us an account of any religious congregation or association known by the name which these petitioners have assumed. . . .