Imágenes de página

jaid to this question through its pro. kept them within his own breast: but ress, he could not but regret that to publish these opinions in a mode here should be any necessity for him calculated to undermine all religious o take up more of their time in the belief, and thus introduce the chaos vay of reply. Certainly, as far as of infidelity, was an offence incom- he defence referred to the charge patible with all civil government. upon the record, such reply might The defendant had said there was well be spared ; for if any doubt had no such thing as common law in this existed in their minds when the case country; that the written law alone for the prosecution was closed, as to could be depended on ; and that un. the intention with which this work less he (the Attorney-General) could

had been published, it had been al- prove this to be an offence by some

ready removed by the open declara- statute, there was an end of the quesz tion of the defendant, who upon such tion and of the prosecution. Was

a question must be deemed the best the defendant, then, or were his ad-witness. Were it not, therefore, for visers so ignorant as not to know,

some observations that had been that many of the highest crimes made upon the law in this case, he which could be committed were pushould have felt that he would best nishable by the common law alone?

discharge his duty by remaining si. This was the case with theft and Slent. If he had not been previously murder: so it was with all the rights - acquainted with the defendant's ob. of property. But the object was to

ject, it was impossible to be ignorantof get rid of all law, and to throw all Lt it any longer. A correspondence had things into confusion. He trusted,

been read between Mr W. Smith and however, that none of them would * Mr Bentham, which he had not be live to see those times, or lose the

fore had an opportunity of seeing, benefits of that constitution as it was

but which of itself proved what the established, and under which this naes intention of the Legislature was in tion had enjoyed happiness and free

passing the statute of the 53d of the dom. But then it was urged, that a King, as well as of those who intro- statute had recently passed, which luced it. Its authors, and those authorised, or at least no longer for

for whose benefit it was enacted, bade, publications of this nature, .. were grateful, and never entertained Certainly the 53d of the King had

the most distant idea that it would extended toleration; but the defen

be converted into a shelter for blas- dant was wrong in thinking that it sphemy and impiety. They never had thereby opened a floodgate to

imagined that it would lead to an every species of infidelity, which, er endeavour to strike out of our con. under the influence of some insane sistitution every Christian doctrine, delusion, many persons were desirous

and introduce atheism, polytheism, of letting in upon mankind. The act or any other notions which it might had extended toleration, but how? please any individual to circulate. A brief retrospect of the law would The time had fortunately not yet are make the subject plain to demonstrarived, when the defendant, or any of tion. The act of the 9th and 10th those who fed him with the materials of William created no new offence: of his defence, would see religion it was in striet affirmance of the utterly swept from the law, Not common law, but it imposed new pethat the law interfered with any man's nalties on offences particularly speopinions, not even the.Deist's, if he cified. It enacted, that if any should


[ocr errors]

deny the doctrine of the Trinity, or

every man was entitled to worship that the Old and New Testaments God in his own way, he was not it were of divine authority, they should liberty to assert openly that the Bible be liable to certain penalties ; but, was a fable, the Christian revelation long before that, as the defendant an imposture, and the whole religion must know, many persons had been' of the country a system of lies and prosecuted at common law for at- deceit. This was a question, indeed, tacking the established religion. in which all denominations of Chris. Even Williams and Eaton, who had tians were equally interested ; and if been convicted for publishing the his view of the law were incorrect, same work with the present defen- he would be set right by the learndant, had been prosecuted at com. ed Judge. He had stated it to the mon law; and no lawyer, or any o. same effect when he first addressed ther man, had ever dreamt that their them, and had not, as the defendast convictions were illegal. In 1813, a asserted, called upon the Court to bill was introduced into Parliament, state it for him. Dismissing, therewhich afterwards passed into a law, fore, this branch of the subject, and to which so much allusion had would refer to some other observabeen made. It was then properly tions of the defendant, who, after ex: observed in the House of Lords, periencing the greatest forbearance that there had been no trial for a that ever was exhibited in a court long time for mere differences of opi- of justice, who, after calling on the nion,-a truth which was admitted by Judge repeatedly for his opinion, no the Dissenters, who nevertheless wish. sooner heard it than he controverted ed for this farther security. On the it, and thought proper to make some other side it was remarked, that if personal allusions to himself (the they repealed that part of the statute Attorney-General.) of William which applied to the Tri. unbecoming in him to notice; but the nity, it behoved them to preserve public ought to be satisfied with rethe other parts of it, or otherwise gard to the motives of this prosecu

: there was an end to the religion of tion. The defendant, indeed, was the country, and not only to the es- not very consistent in his imputatablished religion of the country,

but tions; at one time representing him to that of the Dissenters also. The as a Deist, acting merely as the in: law inquired, not into the religious strument of others; and at another, sentiments of any man whilst hie kept as inflamed by a spirit of persecu

. them secret; but it could not per- tion, and as desirous even of brings mit individuals contumeliously to re- ing him to the stake. That the devile, either the Church, or Christiani- fendant was in some degree an inty in general. He would add, under strument in other hands, there was his Lordship’s correction, that any

great reason to believe : but he could contumelious attack on the Trinity assure him that he knew little of his would even now be liable to prose

(the Attorney:General's ) character

, cution. Mr Justice Blackstone, the if he imagined him capable of this liberality of whose sentiments on the subservience. So long, however, as subject of religious toleration were he had the honour to bold his pres admitted on either side, had observ. sent situation, he would employ his ed, in his celebrated work, that con- best exertions in support of the laws lumely and contempt were what no and constitution of his country: establishmenų could tolerate : whilst long he should deem it his duty to

These it was

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

- bring to justice those who, like the not so enter. The law of the land present defendant, assailed them. forbade it. To do so would be to do Then as to the insinuation that he a thing to which it was in every way was an unwilling agent in this pro- incompetent. Was Christianity resecution, and that it emanated from duced to such a state, that it was to the Clergy, it was wholly unfound. be submitted to twelve gentlemen in ed. This publication had attracted that box to confirm or reject its authe notice of his esteemed and wor. thority? When an individual was

thy predecessor, who consulted him charged with insulting religion, and * - respecting it. Neither of them en- with endeavouring to bring it into

tertained the slightest doubt, nor contempt, could it be expected that 3 could any reasonable man, that it a court of justice would inquire

was a fit subject for prosecution ; for whether religion deserved to be so so long as Government itself was es- treated ? As well might a man

timable, it ought to be guarded a- charged with theft or murder at the against such dangerous attacks as the Old Bailey tell the gentlemen of the

present. How was it possible, that jury, that he considered the Bible in 1818, they could suffer the same fabulous, and that as his offence was thing to be done with impunity which forbidden only by the common law, had been prosecuted and punished the authority of which he equally deas a blasphemous and impious libel nied, they were incompetent to try in 1797 and in 1813? It was his du- him. He was indeed wasting his ty to prevent the dissemination of breath and their time in maintaining such poison at all times, because at a proposition obvious to common all times it might produce irrepara, sense itself. What was the question ble mischief; not indeed to the learn. which they had to try? The charge ed, nor to those who had leisure to against the defendant was, that he inquire fully into so grave a subject, had published a scandalous, blasphebut to the unwary, the ignorant, and mous, and impious libel on the old the easily deluded. Let no man, how- and New Testament. Had he done ever, be arrogant enough to suppose, 60, or had he not? The work spoke that Christianity was to be overturn- for itself, and the intention of pubed by such a publication as the pre- lishing it was avowed. He had read sent, after the weapons of Tindal, the whole book, and there were some Bolingbroke and Gibbon had fallen passages in it much worse than harmless to the ground. But though those selected in the information : Christianity could not be injured, in- with some of these he felt it his paindividuals might. The defendant had ful duty once more to disgust them. triumphantly told them that he had (The Learned Gentleman here read already sold thousands of copies of some offensive passages, which we this work. Who could deny that need not repeat.) Could these passuch an extensive sale might pro. sages, he would ask, be defended as duce injurious consequences in many free and candid disquisition upon quarters, even although Christiani- controverted points, such as that of ty were placed upon a rock not to be the Trinity ? No: the object was to shaken even by Thomas Paine ? The strike away the Bible altogether. defendant complained that here was Discussion was easily to be disa prosecution, and yet the Court de- tinguished from reviling and defaclined to enter the field of contro- mation. If this were tolerated, it were versy with him. The Court could better that religion should have no

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

influence at all; and if religion were till the Gospel promised, not oely
discarded, they might be assured that a future state, but a future stated
the Constitution would soon fall like- rewards and punishments. Deiss
wise. The defendant had been al- was in fact as bad, as dangerous a
lowed to read the whole work, in or. Atheism ; and as to what had been
der to show, if he could, that the said with regard to Paine remaining
passages quoted differed from the firm in his conviction, he had reason
sense imputed to them ; but it turn- to doubt its accuracy. He believed
ed out that the publication was full that doubts would one day enter te
of the most disgusting and offensive mind of the defendant also; and ti
abuse that ever was produced. Could they should occur when about to
this, then, be called a persecution of quit this sublunary scene, and be
opinions, and not a prosecution of a should reflect that he had but po
gross and infamous libel? With re. soned one mind, or deprived but one
gard to the alleged hardship of so individual of the glorious hope held
many, prosecutions, the defendant out by the Gospel, he would feel tha:
must know, that one only had been he had done what ages of penitence
instituted at the instance of Govern. would not atone for ; that he had
ment. But every day on which the made himself answerable, not only
defendant had sold the work he had for his own, but for the crimes of al.
repeated his offence; and if he con other. The jury had a momentou
tinued to sell it after notice of the in- question to try. Those who had bi
formation, he sinned with his eyes therto lived in the confident hope of
open, and had little ground of com- a future state, trusted that, on this
plaint. He had accused him (the occasion, that hope would not be
Attorney-General) of exciting pre- pronounced delusive.
judices against him, and complained jury) had, he doubted not, inculca

. that the jury had been called upon ted on the minds of their children to convict. With regard to preju- the precepts of our sacred religion, dices, if any had been excited, it and taught them, as morning and must have been by the defendant's evening alternated, to repeat the beauown conduct. The jury had been tiful prayer composed by our Saviour called upon to convict only if they be. himself. Were they prepared com lieved the charge to be true; though, to address these children, and say, undoubtedly, he had reminded them, that although they had, up to this that they were pledged to the truth moment, led them to reverence the of Christianity by the oaths which faith which they themselves enterthey had taken. The defendant as- tained, the Age of Reason had por serted his belief in God and a future dawned? If such was the view taken, state; but how was it that our know,' 'their oaths as jurors were a mere ledge of a future state had been ac. nullity; the obligation under whick quired ? Not by the light of nature, they acted had no sanction; and the but from a divine revelation alone. justice which they aimed at adminis

, Look at the sages of antiquity who tering was at an end. With regard speculated on this subject; at So. to what had been said of his having crates, at Cicero; and see what were a stake in the issue of this question, the wild and visionary notions which he had none, except what they all they formed of an after existence. had in common, in the maintenance Mankind were lost in uncertainty, of religion, and the Constitution. and found no footing, no assurance, The jury would not swerve from the

They (the

ear path which their consciences then determined, and he did not revinted out, in bringing to a conclu- gret the determination, that it was on a trial which had no other origin not competent in a Christian court, : object than what had been dis- in a court of law, to rise up and say nctly stated. The duty which they that the Christian religion was not a ad now to perform was solemn and religion of truth. It would be strange, oportant; but it was at the same indeed, if such a question were to be me easy ; one from which they put in issue in order to be tried becould not be misled by the taunts, fore this tribunal. He had therefore r scoffings of infidels. If the facts resisted every attempt to introduce istified the conclusion to which he such a discussion, and should have simself had arrived, they would a. felt that he was disgracing his situalopt it, and in guarding society from tion had he acted otherwise. Anopollution, satisfy the anxious hopes ther topic of defence strenuously, ind expectations of the public. and in some degree properly urged,

The Attorney-General having con- was the danger of restraining free luded, the Lord Chief Justice imme- discussion and free inquiry. God liately addressed the jury, and having forbid that any such restraint should štated, with precision, the substance take place. But they had to disof each count of the information, re- tinguish, whether the present publiferred to the several points on which cation was an instance of that free the defence had been rested. Much inquiry and discussion, or a work of had been urged in the course of the mere calumny and ridicule. There defence, of which all who heard it was no individual, and no subject, to must disapprove; but the jury were whose character or to whose merits not on that account to suffer any pre revilings and calumnies could be lawjudice to withdraw their considera- fully applied. The exercise of reation from the simple question on son was allowed in the fullest man. which they were to decide. It had ner by the law of England, because been insisted, in the progress of this it was a law of public liberty and freeinquiry, that all that had been writ- dom. That law had adopted into itten of the Scriptures, and published self, and was in a great degree foundby the defendant, was just and true, ed on, the Christian religion; and fit and proper to be published. The from this source it was that its prindefendant had wished to read other ciples of liberality and humanity were writers who maintained similar opi- derived. But though as a law of linions, though not expressed in so berty it allowed perfect freedom of strong, or perhaps so coarse a man- opinion, and interfered with no man's

He had also desired to call private belief, it did not allow to ewitnesses to speak to the differences very man to do what seemed good in prevailing among different religious his own eyes, if it were injurious to sects. His Lordship had felt it his society. "They had then to consider duty, on mature consideration, and it the character and tendency of this would hardly be supposed that he work; for with regard to intention came to a trial like this without pre- they had no means of judging, and viously turning his thoughts to the could not decide on the motive of subject, to inform his mind as to any act, unless by some extraneous what course he ought to pursue in proof it could be shown that the the different circumstances which agent had a different intention. The might be expected to arise. He had Christian religion forming part of the


« AnteriorContinuar »