popular antagonism to the church, because when in October 1831 the House of Lords rejected the measure the negative votes of twenty-one bishops had determined the outcome. When it was eventually passed, the 'Great' Reform Act of 1832 had important implications for religion, because the expansion of the parliamentary franchise and the reshaping of constituencies to provide greater representation for the growing industrial towns also gave increased electoral and political influence to Dissenters. Church reform followed quickly. The liberal aristocrats who dominated the government, notably Lord John Russell, differed from some of their own Dissenting and radical supporters in that they were not hostile to the principle of a state church as such. Indeed they saw it as a vital source of non-dogmatic Christian instruction, morality and social harmony. They were, however, at odds with the traditional high church Tory vision of an organic equal partnership between church and state. The Whigs were Erastians who saw the state as fully justified in changing the nature of the church establishment if it could thereby be made better to serve its essential purposes as they perceived them. In particular they wanted to make it more comprehensive in its appeal and more acceptable to those who conscientiously differed from it.18 Such views were also shared by some leading liberal Anglican clergymen, notably Richard Whately, whom Grey appointed archbishop of Dublin in 1831, and by Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School. In his pamphlet Principles of church reform, published in January 1833, Arnold argued for a radically expanded national church. Given that it was 'both wicked and impossible' 'to extinguish Dissent by persecution', the effort should be made to 'extinguish it by comprehension'.19 He believed that, with good will, all groups except Quakers, Roman Catholics and Unitarians could reach sufficient agreement on the essentials of Christianity to join such a body, and that even these exceptions might gradually become reconciled to it.20 Underlying Arnold's vision was a strong English nationalism founded in a close identification between church, state and people.21 He believed that 'of all human ties, that to our country is the highest and most sacred' and that 'unnatural' divisions among Christians risked the destruction of the church establishment and consequent national moral degradation.22
Ireland, however, was the initial focus of Whig reforms. Here the inherent vulnerability of the minority Anglican state church was further exposed from
18 Brent, Liberal Anglican politics, p. 63.
19 T. Arnold, Principles of church reform (London, 1833), pp. iii-iv.
21 Forbes, The Liberal Anglican idea of history, pp. 94-5.
22 Arnold, Principles, pp. 83-4.
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