The politics of the Congregationalists, 1830-1856
Seeking the redress of their "practical grievances", a militant minority demanding an immediate assault on the alliance of Church and State, Dissenters anticipated widespread changes after the Reform Act's passage In 1834 the moderate United Committee took the lead, but as initial optimism turned sour the extremists became increasingly vocal and concessions; were made to preserve unity. This provincial revolt was silenced until 1838, for the Whigs seemed willing to satisfy basic dissenting demand so Ministerial incapacity, and increasing ecclesiastical aggressiveness, revived provincial militancy, this phase- culminating in the appearance of the Nonconformist, edited by Edward Miall, in 1841. Denouncing the old policies, he advocated an immediate attack on the Established Church and the repudiation of the Whig alliance. Disappointed by the response, he turned to radical politics and the complete suffrage movement. In 1843 Dissenters were united in opposition to Sir James Graham's education proposals. Miall seized this opportunity to launch the Anti-State-Church Association in 1844. Maynooth and education kept dissenting agitation alive during 1843 and 1847, the election of that year being fought on a distinctive programme. The next few years were confused, but electoral successes in 1852 saved the Anti-State-Church Association from collapse, and gave Dissent a parliamentary foothold. Organised by the Liberation Society, Nonconformity became an influential and successful pressure group, a chapter which was ended by serious election losses in 1857. Dissent was politically isolated, and therefore, weak. Its peculiar dogmas, educational voluntaryism and disestablishment, made it distrustful of radical and liberal politicians, whilst the Whigs, after much heart-searching, had been discarded in 1847. Thus, Dissent contributed to the political confusion of the mid-nineteenth century. Within Dissent the traditional Unitarian leadership was rejected, new and more militant leaders, like Miall, emerging from the confusion.