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THE DISMISSAL OF MINISTERS.
VINDICATION OF THE PEOPLE
CHARGE OF BLASPHEMY,
DEFENCE OF THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.
IN SIX LETTERS, ADDRESSED TO
AND THE RELIGIOUS PUBLIC.
Blasphemy and Sedition.
of the Press ; what means have been As to the truth of the Charge of Irreligion, used by these Ministers for its discovery
brought by the Ministers of the State and suppression ; and a brief contrast and Gospel, against the People.
of its amount with the amazing mass On the Religion of those who have made of religious publications in the same the Charge of “ Blasphemy and Sedi
period. tion” against the People; and how far As to the Conduct of the Clergy-the their political system accords with the only real danger of the Church. precepts of Christianity.
As to the Liberty of the Press in matters As to the real Quantity and Quality of the of Religion—the causes and remedies of
Blasphemy,” which actually has gone its abuse-especially considered with forth to the People through the medium respect to Unbelievers.
[Continued from No. XXXVII. p. 199.] “ Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: methinks I see in her an eagle inuing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam; purging and unskaling ter long abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of timorous and focking birds, with those also that love the twilight, fluiter about amazed at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms.”
Milton's Speech for the Liberty of the Press.
PEOPLE AND THE PRESS,
IS INSCRIBED TO THE
LORDS AND “COMMONS”
ONE OF THE PEOPLE.
AS TO THE REAL QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF THE
BLASPHEMY” WHICH ACTUALLY HAS GONE FORTH TO THE PEOPLE THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE PRESS; WHAT MEANS HAVE BEEN USED BY THESE MINISTERS FOR ITS DISCOVERY AND SUPPRESSION; AND A BRIEF CONTRAST OF ITS AMOUNT WITH THE AMAZING MASS OF RELIGIOUS PUBLICATION IN THE SAME PERIOD.
“Some generals of old have endeavoured to take towns by treachery, by corrupting some of the garrison; and they have done it several ways. Some have sent of their own men as fugitives into the town, thereby to put them into credit and authorily with the enemy, and give them opportunity to betray them. Some by this means have discovered the strength of the garrison, and by that discovery have taken the town."—Nicholas Machiavel's Art of War, chap. vii. To corrupt a garrison, and take it by treachery.
Sir, I have before admitted the existence of irreligious publications to a certain extent; and I had almost said that I did not regret
their existence, for the sake of the striking contrast they afford to the cotemporaneous zeal for the support of Christianity. The comparative insignificancy also of the numbers and effect of these publications, proves the distaste of the public mind for infidelity more incontestably than could have been effected in any other way. There are, however, very peculiar circumstances attending what I should term their forced circulation; for certain I am, that no appearances warranted even a suspicion that they were welcome in any corner of the kingdoin.
You cannot, Sir, be ignorant, that insinuating infidelity through the medium of the political press is one of the deepest arts of political craft. The minister of the day has not a more true or useful friend, than the fiend who takes advantage of popular irritation to propagate irreligion. It not only blights the spirit and effect of all opposition to his schemes, but it causes that defection from the ranks of his opponents, which must be produced whenever means are afforded of creating alarm; and originates the most effective class of ministerial supporters, well known in the political vocabulary under the designation of Alarmists. The Religious Public will naturally sink their political differences in the common support of Christianity. And a large portion of them, unused to the freedom of speculative and philosophical research, are inclined to accede to restrictions on the press, which, though apparently tending to stay the plague, do but in reality increase it. It is not, however, here my intention to discuss the remedies of irreligion. I shall briefly, therefore, call your attention to the circumstances which have made political knowledge an object of greater interest than in the last century. First of all, instructing the people in reading and writing would naturally beget a more extensive curiosity and interest in the public conduct of their affairs. To this may be added the awful and alternate changes of warfare, in which scarcely a single cottage in the kingdom has escaped the loss of some inmate. The financial difficulties attending those wars, and the consequent variation in the demand for labor, have necessarily subjected the poor to great deprivations and sufferings; and it is well known, that ever since the American and French revolutions, there has existed an increasing avidity for political information. An extraordinary manufacturing system has collected together large masses of artisans, whose knowledge and ingenuity are scarcely credible to those who, never merging beyond the purlieus of Downing Street, are totally ignorant of the real state of the country, except from the information gathered from such pure sources as a Castles, an Oliver, or an Edwards. The growing sense and influence of religion among these large classes of the community was, until the last four universally acknowledged. In a preceding Letter I have sufficiently exposed the imputation of “ blasphemy," with which they are now visited.
I need not, however, go further back for a vindication of the People, than to the middle of the year 1817, when the speech from the throne, as before quoted, which was delivered by the Regent in person, declared: “I have the satisfaction of receiving the most decisive proofs of the loyalty and public spirit of the great body of the people; and the patience with which they have sustained the most severe temporary distress, cannot be too highly commended." I
need not enter into the details of the green bag, the A. B. C.protocols, or the enactment of the six acts; but certain it is, that
up to the close of 1817, blasphemy was scarcely heard of. Whatever political sins Mr. Cobbett or Mr. Wooler might have to answer for, to change the religion of the people seemed no part of their object : indeed, every politician who writes for popular effect well knows the impossibility of meddling, to any purpose, with religion in a country where it is of various growth, and where the people are divided into such deep-rooted sects and opinions. The disinterred bones of " Tom" Paine were never exhibited as relics of blasphemy, but only as the remains of a political saint.
The parodies of Mr.Hone were the first warwhoop of the Minis• try. His trial and acquittal are fresh in your recollection; and though Mr. Hone defended his right of using religious forms of worship as the vehicle of political parody—all other parties, high and low, having done the same yet, by discontinuing the sale of these parodies before any information had been filed against him, he obviated in a great measure the necessity of any prosecution-made the only reparation in his power, by suppressing them, in deference to public opinion—and was finally acquitted by three different juries of his countrymen, on the ground that his intent had no more to do with blasphemy than Mahometanism. I mention these facts, Sir, as due to the character of Mr. Hone; because, through his whole life connected with the press, he neither before nor since, ever in any way connected himselt with that department of publication.
Now then, Sir, came forward the real author of the “ blasphemy,” who appeared and disappeared from the political atmosphere under such extraordinary circumstances as call for the most marked attention.
At the close of 1817, W. T. SHERWIN, utterly unknown to the political press of the metropolis, first advertised and placarded a weekly publication, The Republican ; but soon discovering this was not after the “ taste of the present age,” it was quickly metamorphosed into “Sherwin's Political Register.” Now, mark, Sir; in a year of unprecedented political prosecution no notice was taken of this herald of sedition! The walls were placarded with the pith of his lucubrations; he weekly and openly advocated a change of government, from the monarchy to a republic; he printed, published, and personally sold, in a little hole in Fleet Street, (No.
183,) these publications, and ultimately promoted and established Carlile as his publisher. Carlile, this mere jackall of the tiger, was originally a journeyman tinker, ignorant and illiterate even in the commonest details of vulgar knowledge, who had been a distributor of The Register, but who now became the convenient scape-goat of his employer. Their first joint production was a reprint of the parodies
Mr. Hone had suppressed. An ex-officio information was filed against Carlile, but never tried. The Register proceeded; the same flagrant attempts to push radicalism into republicanism; open and undisguised attacks on all the forms and principles of Christianity; exhortations to the devilish crime of assassination; engravings and descriptions given of those very pikes for the possession and use of which so many houses of the poor were searched, and for the use of which one misguided Scotchman forfeited his life to the offended laws of his country; the reprint of Colonel Titus's “ Killing no Murder," with the name of Sherwin as the printer, and sold in his scape-goat's shop. Then followed the reprint of Paine's « Rights of Man,” a work which the most extravagant opinion for the liberty of the Press could not justify, in a country where the monarchial form has so long and so gloriously existed, and in the preservation of which all orders of society are alike interested. Emboldened with the impunity of a six months' circulation, the “ Age of Reason” was then printed and publicly offered for sale. And by the ill-gotten gains arising from this scandalous neglect of the exercise of the law, the scene of publication was removed to “The Temple of Reason,” No. 55; in Fleet Street, where the public were for a year insulted by exhibitions in the windows, such as had never before escaped immediate prosecution. On the dispersion of the Manchester meeting, a direct and unequivocal exhortation to treason and revolt was written with the signature of Mr. Sherwin, and printed by him : the People were then supposed to be ripened to a requisite excitement. W. T. Sherwin retired from the editorship of The Register, to enjoy the well-earned fruits of his patriotism-resigning the continuation of his labors into the hands of his wretched dupe ! Then, Sir, was Carlile brought to trial, and delivered over to the vengeance of the law, after a two years' impunity of blasphemy, during which no single week had elapsed when he would not have merited and received a verdict of “ guilty of blasphemy and sedition” from any jury in any part of the country.
It has been said that this arch-blasphemer, Mr. Sherwin, could not be made amenable to the law, from his cunning avoidance of all vending and publishing. But, Sir, it is notorious that he lived near Islington-possessed printing presses-employed several journeymen-weekly accounted with Carlile for profit and loss- daily sent trucks and cart-loads of his printing from his private residence to Fleet Street-made no secret of his avocations to many persons in London ; and is there a human being who will deny that one quarter per cent. of the money lavished on Oliver, Castles, and Edwards, would not have purchased one spy to convict this midnight owl, as the author, and printer, and proprietor, of these base at