Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/258

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

such laws and regulations for the distribution and appropriation of the funds applicable to the general purposes off religion and education, as they consider best adapted to the exigencies of the colony. In the general principles upon which your plan is founded as applicable to New South Wales, His Majesty's Government entirely concur. In these communities of the Australian colonies, formed and rapidly multiplying under most peculiar circumstances, and comprising great numbers of Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, as well as members of the Church of England, it is evident that the attempt to select any one church as the exclusive object of public endowment, even if it were advisable in. every other respect, would not long be tolerated. To none of the numerous Christians of those persuasions should, opportunities be refused for worship and education on principles which they approve."

This unmistakable official sanction cleared the path for local legislation. The Church Act, establishing religious equality on the lines laid down by Sir Richard Bourke in his despatch, was speedily introduced and passed by the Legislative Council. It came into operation on July 29 1836, a red-letter day in the annals of Australia, for it witnessed the close of the long, dark, and sanguinary era of ecclesiastical supremacy and intolerance, and the beginning of the benign reign of religious liberty throughout the Australian dominions. It is true that a few years later when the first Roman Catholic prelate, Dr. Folding, arrived in Sydney and assumed his legitimate title, the local head of the Church of England, Dr. Broughton, made one last desperate attempt to reanimate the ashes of sectarian strife and to regain his vanished position of pre-eminence in the religious world. Standing on the north side of his altar and