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are witches and wizards; and the persons who made those acts (it was in the time of James the First), made also some acts which call the Bible the Holy Scriptures, or Word of God. But acts of parliament decide nothing with respect to God; and as these acts of parliament makers were wrong with respect to witches and wizards, they may also be wrong with respect to the book in question. It is therefore necessary that the book be examined ; it is our duty to examine it; and to suppress the right of examination is sinful in any government, or in any Judge or Jury. The Bible makes God to say to Moses, Deut. chap. vii. ver. 2, " And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them, thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them.” Not all the priests, nor scribes, nor tribunals in the world, nor all the authority of man, shall make me believe that God ever gave such a Robespierrian precept as that of shewing no mercy; and consequently it is impossible that I, or any person who believes as reverentially of the Creator as I do, can believe such a book to be the word of God.
There have been, and still are, those who, whilst they profess to believe the Bible to be the word of God, affect to turn it into ridicule. Taking their profession and conduct together, they act blasphemously; because they act as if God himself was not to be believed. The case is exceedingly different with respect to the Age of Reason. That book is written to shew from the Bible itself, that there is abundant matter to suspect it is not the word of God, and that we have been iinposed upon, first by the Jews, and afterwards by priests and commentators.
Not one of those who have attempted to write answers to the Age of Reason, have taken the ground upon which only an answer could be written. The case in question is not upon any point of doctrine, but altogether upon a matter of fact. Is the book called the Bible the word of God, or is it not? If it can be proved to be so, it ought to be believed as such; if not, it ought not to be believed as such. This is the true state of the case. The Age of Reason produces evidence to shew, and I have in this letter produced additional evidence, that it is not the word of God. Those who take the contrary side, should prove that it is. But this they have not done, nor attempted to do, and consequently they have done nothing to the purpose.
The prosecutors of Williains have shrunk from the point, as the answerers have done. They have availed themselves of prejudice instead of proof. If a writing was produced in a court of judicature, said to be the writing of a certain person, and upon the reality or non-reality of which, some' matter at issue depended, the point to be proved would be, that such writing was the writing of such person. Or if the issue depended upon certain words, which some certain person was said to have spoken, the point to be proved would be, that such words were spoken by such person; and Mr. Erskine would contend the case upon this ground. A certain book is said to be the word of God. What is the proof that it is so? For upon this the whole depends; and if it cannot be proved to be so, the prosecution fails for want of evidence.
The prosecution against Williains charges him with publishing a book, entitled The Age of Reason, which, it says, is' an impious, blasphemous pamphlet, tending to ridicule and bring into contempt the Holy Scriptures. Nothing is more easy than to find abusive words, and English prosecutions are famous for this species of vulgarity. The charge, however, is sophistical; for the charge, as growing out of the pamphlet, should have stated, not as it now states, to ridicule and bring into contempt the Holy Scriptures, but to shew, that the books called the Holy Scriptures are not the Holy Scriptures. It is one thing if I ridicule a work as being written by a certain person; but it is quite a different thing if I write to prove that such a work was not written by such person. In the first case, I attack the person through the work; in the other case, I defend the honour of the person against the work. This is what the Age of Reason does, and consequently the charge in the indictment is sophistically stated.
very one will admit, that if the Bible be not the word of God, we err in believing it to be his word, and ought not to believe it. Certainly, then, the ground the prosecution should take, would be to prove that the Bible is in fact what it is called. But this the prosecution has not done, and cannot do.
In all cases the prior fact must be proved, before the subsequent facts can be admitted in evidence. In a prosecution for adultery, the fact of marriage, which is the prior fact, must be proved before the facts to prove adul. tery can be received. If the fact of marriage cannot be proved, adultery cannot be proved; and if the prosecution cannot prove the Bible to be the word of God, the charge of blasphemy is visionary and groundless.
In Turkey they might prove, if the case happened, that a certain book was bought of a certain bookseller, and that the said book was written against the Koran. and Portugal they might prove, that a certain book was bought of a certain bookseller, and that the same book was written against the infallibility of the Pope. Under the ancient mythology they might have proved, that a certain writing was bought of a certain person, and that the said
writing was written against the belief of a plurality of gods, and in the support of the belief of one God.
SOcrates was condemned for a work of this kind.
All these are but subsequent facts, and amount to no. thing, unless the prior facts be proved. The prior fact, with respect to the first case, is, Is the Koran the word of God? With respect to the second, Is the infallibility of the Pope a truth: With respect to the third, Is the belief of a plurality of gods a true beliet? and in like manner with respect to the present prosecution, Is the book called the Bible the word of God? If the present prosecution prove no more than could be proved in any or all of these cases, it proves only as they do, or as an inquisition would prove; and, in this view of the case, the prosecutors ought at least to leave otf reviling that internal institution, the Inquisi. tion. The prosecution, however, though it may injure the individual, may promote the cause of truth; because the manner in which it has been conducted, appears a contes. sion to the world, that there is no evidence to prove that the Bible is the word of God. On wliat authority then do we believe the many strange stoi ies that the Bible tells of God.
This prosecution has been carried on through the medium of what is called a special jury, and the whole of a special jury is nominated by the Master of the Crown Otlice. Mr Erskine vaunts himself upon the Bill he brought into parliament with respect to trials, for what the government party call libels.
But if in Crown prosecutions, the Master of the Crown Otrice is to continue to appoint the whole special jury, which he does by nomi. nating the forty-eight persons from which the solicitor of each party is to strike out twelve, Mr. Erskine's bill is only vapour and smoke. The root of the grievance lies in the manner of forining the jury, and to this Mr. Ers. kine's bill applies no re iedy.
When the trial of Williains came on, only eleven of the special jurymen appeared, and the trial was adjourned. In cases where the whole number do not appear, it is customary to make up the deticiency by taking jurymen fron persons present in court. This, in the law terın, is called a Tales. Why was not this done in this case? Reason will suggest, that they did not choose to depend on a man accidentally taken. When the trial recommenced, the whole of the special jurymen appeared, a: d Williams was convicted; it is a folly to contend a cause where the whole jury is nominated by one of the parties. I will relate a recent case that explains a great deal with respect to spe. cial juries in crown prosecutions.
On the trial of Lambert and others, printers and proprie. tors of the Morning Chronicle, for a libel, a special jury was struck, on the prayer of the Attorney-General, who used to be called Diabolus Regis, or King's Devil.
Only seren or eight of the special jury appeared, and the Attorney-General not praying a Tales, the trial stood over to a tuture day; when it was to be brought on a second time, the Attorney-General prayed for a new special jury, but as this was not admissible, the original speciab jury was summoved. Only eighit of them appeared, on which the Attorney-General said, “ As I cannot, on a second trial, have a special jury, I will pray a Tales.”
Four persons were then taken from the persons present in cour, and added to the eight special jurymen. The jury went out at two o'clock to consult on their verdict, and the Judge (Kenyon) understanding they were divided, and likely to be some time in making up their ininds, retired from the bench, and went home. “At seven the jury went, attended by an officer of the court, to the Judge's house, and delivered a verdict,“ Guilty of priblishing, but with no malicious intention.” The Judge said, “ I cannot record this verdict; it is no rerdict at all." The jury withdrew, and after sitting in consultation till tive in the inorning, brought in a verdict of Nor GUILTY. Would this have been the case, had they been all special jurymen nominated by the Master of the Crown-Office ? This is one of the cases that ought to open the eyes of people with respect to the manner of forming special juries.
On the trial of Williams, the Judge prevented the counsel for the defendant proceeding in the detence. The prosecution had selected a number of passages from the Age or Reason, and inserted thein in the indictment. The defending counsel was selecting other passages to shew, that the passages in the indictinent were conclusions drawn froni premises, and unfairly separated therefrom in the indictinent. The Judge said, he did not know how to act; meaning thereby whether to let the counsel proceed in the defence or not, and asked the jury if they wished to hear the passages read which the defending counsel had selected. The jury said no, and the defending counsel was in consequence silent. Mr. Erskine then, Falstaff like, having all the field to himself, and no enemy at hand, laid about him most heroically, and the jury found the defendant guilty. I know not if Mr. Erskine ran out of court and hallooed, huzza for the Bible and the trial by jury.
Robespierre caused a decree to be passed during the trial of Brissot and others, that after à trial had lasted three days, (the whole of which time in the case of Brissot, was taken up by the prosecuting party) the judge should ask the jury (who were then a packed jury) if they were satisfied? If the jury said yes, the trial ended, and the jury procceded to give their verdict, without hearing the defence of the accused party. It needs' no depth of wisdom to make an application of this case.
I will now state a case to shew that the trial of Williams is not a trial, according to Kenyon's own explanation of law.
On a late trial in London (Selthens versus Hoossman) on a policy of insurance, one of the jurymen, Mr. Dunnage, after hearing one side of the case, and without hearing the other side, got up and said, it was as legal a policy of insurance as ever was written. The Judge, who was the same as presided on the trial of Williams, replied, that it was a great misfortune when any gentleman of the jury makes up his mind on a cause before it was finished. Mr. Erskine, who in that case was counsel for the defen. dant (in this he was against the defendant) cried out, it is worse than a misfortune, it is a fault. The Judge, in his address to the jury in summing up the evidence, expati. ated upon, and explained the parts which the law assigned to the counsel on each side, to the witnesses, and to the Judge, and said, " When all this was done, AND NOT UNTIL THEN, it was the business of the jury to declare what the justice of the case was; and that it was extremely rask and imprudent in any man to draw a conclusion before all the premises were laid before them, upon which that conclusion was to be grounded.”. According then to Kenyon's own doctrine, the trial of Williams is an irregular trial, the verdict an irregular verdict, and as such it is not record. able.
As to special juries, they are but modern; and were instituted for the purpose of determining cases at law between merchants; because, as the inethod of keeping merchants' accounts differs from that of common trades. men, and their business, by lying much in foreign bills of exchange, insurance, &c., is of a different description to that of common tradesmen, it might happen that a common jury might not be competent to form a judgment. The law that instituted special juries, makes it necessary that the jurors be merchants, or of the degree of squires. A special jury in London is generally composed of mer. chants; and in the country of men called country squires, that is, fox-hunters, or men qualified to hunt foxes. The one may decide very well upon a case of pounds, shillings, and pence, or of the counting-house; and the other of the jockey-club or the chase. But who would not laugh, that because such men can decide such cases, they can also be jurors upon theology. Talk with some London merchants about scripture, and they will understand you mean scrip, and tell you how much it is worth at the