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No. 6, Vol. 10.) LONDON, Friday, Aug. 12, 1824. [Price 6d.
TO GEORGE GARLAND, ESQUIRE, HIGH SHE
RIFF FOR THE COUNTY OF DORSET.
Dorchester Gaol, August 1, 1824. At your visit to the Gaol in March last, you did me something like good service; but, whether spontaneously or, under direction, I am doubtful. The question decided was, whether I shonld walk in the open air at my own discretion as to the hour. In the course of some observations upon that subject, you paid me the compliment of expressiog your opinion that you felt it to be your duty to prevent, on my part, all communication with every other prisoner.
For my own feeling upon the matter, I could have laughed at your face; but I resolved, as soon as you were gone, to pay you the compliment to print a few observations upon the subject. If you were weak enough to think, that I could have been kept near five years in this Gaol, and unwillingly debarred from all interconrse with the prisoners, you have yet to learn the qualities of those passions which constitute human nature. Rather than to seek communication with the prisoners, I have had to sbun it; and I have never yet seen that man in the Gaol, either in the character of a prisoner, or an officer, with whom I bave felt a desire to excbange a second sentence, after I have had an opportunity of observing bis manpers, conduct, and disposition. Mr. Wood, the Chaplain, is the best man, and the only pleasant man, that I have seen about the Gaol; but, unfortunately, he is a priest, wbich, to me, is so far a hateful character. To finish this point, I can inform you that there is a complete intercourse, as to all such intercourse as you fear from me, between all the prisoners in all the yards of this Gaol; nor is it possible, upon any construction of a Gaol, to prevent this intercourse as to the majority of the priso
Printed and Published by R. Carlile, 84, Fleet Street.
ners. The exchange of speech, or of knowledge, is a power to bid defiance to all the dirty schemes of tyranny. A word, a whisper, is enough to communicate sentiment. There is nothing transacted of any note in any one yard of this Gaol, but is known in every other yard before a day be
There is no kind of intercourse that I could desire with the prisoners, but has been open to my choice every day that I have been in the Gaol. I told you this, and shewed you the way. I have shewn the same to almost every officer in the Gaol. But, my good Sir, cannot you see, in such a place as this, among a constant succession of ignorant and inquisitive men, that I can best promulgate my principles by silence and good example? If you cannot see this, I can; and further, I can inform you, that this plan of promulgating my principles, even my opinions, has been most successful. I could make you all stare again, were I to disclose some things that are within my knowledge; but I forbear, not from any thing that I fear for myself, but, because, I fear to injure others who are subject to the bad dispositions which rule this Gaol. There is an eloquence in silence; and it is by that species of eloquence that I have brought round more persons to my opinions in this Gaol, than I should have done, if I had had an equal power with the Gaoler to go to any part of it and to converse with any prisoner. You cannot binder the prisoners from thinking, nor even from talking, nor a man of one class from talking to a man of another class: all your classifications are a joke with the prisoners; there is as perfect an intercourse among them as if they were all in one yard. From the treatment that I have received in this Gaol, from the mystery and watchings as to my person exhibited to the other prisoners, an intense interest has been excited as to the cause of it; and to my knowledge, a standing solution to all such enquiries has been 266 because he knows too much for us: he writes against the Bible: he is deeper than we are.” A mysterious proceeding of this kind is enough to put the most torpid mind upon the rack, and to stimulate it to enquiry; and.wbatever person about the Gaol has had enough of education, to read and to understand what he reads, that person has gone out of this Gaol, if he has been confined six mouths, or even three months, with suspicions, that the Bible is an imposition upon his senses in the character in which it has been represented to bim by his different priests. The preachings, readings, and prayings of the Chaplain are nothing, a mere ceremonial, a mere mechanic process: the prisoners know
that there is a rule which requires every one to be at chapel, and wonder why I am never there. In the chapel, they see the door locked which separates me from them; and I once heard one of the most intelligent that I bave seen in the place say to another, on going down from a sermon: “They keep that door locked in the chapel, because there is some one inside deeper than we are ; it would not do to preach sucb stuff to him.". "Oi, I believe it is so:” said the other. You must know, Sir, that there is a sort of mechanical religion ainong Christians. In a church or chapel, they will smooth down their hair, and put on the most grave of faces, whilst their thoughts are pregnant with matters wbolly foreign. This proves, as I am by and by otherwise about to prove to you,
tbat ALL RELIGION IS VIČE! Though I have nothing in the way of favour, nothing but wbat I had a fair and reasonable right to demand, I am quite satisfied as to my present treatment in the Gaol; and being so satisfied is a reason why I should not have been sakisfied before you were instrumental in making the change. I never asked any thing unreasonable. I never desired any thing that would interrupt the regulations of the Gaol as to other prisoners. I never shewed a disposition to be troublesome; but have many times denied myself many little comforts, on which I had a fair claim, because I would not shew even an indifference about being troublesome; excepting when the authorities of the Gaol were such fools, such villains, as to deprive me of knives and cooking utensils. Then J. felt, certainly, the desire to exhibit them in the most ridiculous light possible; and which I did so effectually, as to shame those, who, in all reasonable matters, have shewn themselves shameless. Now that I can walk into the garden wben I please in the day time (all that I ever desired) may be seen the bad disposition of those who withstood me in denying it for four years.--Now that my water closet door is never locked at night, may be seeu the base-mindedness of those men, who ordered it to be locked at night, nearly throughout the time that Mrs Carlile and my sister were prisoners in the same room, and who insolently refused the most civil and most delicate request to let it remain unlocked on the ground of the pain and indelicacy the locking of it occasioned! This had been my chief criterion of judging of the characters and dispositions of these men. This Parsop Donne is a characteristic of these most humane of men. Parson Donne, is I believe, a neighbour of yours, Mr. Garland; he wanted to pursuade me, the other day, in
the most civil manner, that the Visiting Magistrates for Dorchester Gaol were complete samples of humane and feeling men! So well, so theatrically, did he act bis part in the matter, that I did not discover the irony of his words aud actions until he had left me to solitary reflection. Now, that I have free adipission for all friends who wish to see me, as I always ought to have had, may be seen the villainy of excluding almost every application for three years. I credit the Gaoler for this last injury; thongh, it is just possible, that he had some scroundrel's sanction for it. The men who have been in authority in this Gaol have done me these injuries from pure malice, from reflection, deliberation, and design: and would it not be an act of baseness in me, so far to forgive them, as to show them outward respect, or ordinary civility! I think so-and so thinking, abstain. The very fact, that I have had every complaint redressed, “after a long struggle" as I told the magistrates ou last seeing them, is so far a justification of my former conduct and complaints, that I feel more batred and contempt towards them than before I see their former conduct to be more vile than I before saw it. This batred and contempt will be coeval with my life--it is an inseparable part of my nature. A cruel tyrant is a hateful and abominable character; but he who adds meapness and bypocrisy to cruelty, is loathsome in other senses than for his tyranny, and, in my judgment, constitutes the acme of human villainy. I cannot find the ordinary excuse of religious prejudices in these men; for I think they have been actuated by baser motives, mere political motives. So much by way of reminiscence:
Having stated the cause of addressing you, I proceed to the purport of the letter---to shew you that ALL RELIGION IS VICE, and that you ought to have encouraged, rather than have discouraged, an intercourse between me and other prisoners in your custody, as the best means of correcting their characters. Correctly taken, your observation to me was an insult; but I did not take it as such. I shall resent it in the same spirit in which it was given, by saying and shewing, that I think
in error. All religion has its foundation upon the word God. But what foundation has that word? if I may answer, I
say none-positively none : consequently, religion has no good foundation ; for it is erroneously founded, aud erroneous in all its fabrications; it is all vice.
Letting that paragraph pass as a mere proposition for discussion, we will inquire if the word God has a meaning. I
know of no meaning. Do you know of any? If God be a thing, what is it? If a place, where is it? If an animal, or if what is called a spirit, (a word which I do not understand more than the word God) describe it-say what it is, and where it is. What farther enquiry than this can
we make about it? If you use the word, if you be religious, what do you consider it to mean? If your religion be any thing more than idolatry, you have a meaning for the word God. If you have a meaning, you can explain, you can communicate that meaning to me." If you cannot do this, your word God is a phantom-your religion idolatry.
I said as much as this before the Reverend Mr. Richman of Dorchester last year, and he could not give me a word by way of reply to that or to any other oppugning argument offered to bim upon his religion; yet he had the audacity, 1 am informed, to preach before you aud the Judges at the last March assizes on the folly and absurdity of modern Atheism. Such a man must be a hypocrite-he adheres to religion because to him it is profitable; for no man can believe in the truth or utility of that for which he cannot raise one solid argument in defence; or after he has heard all bis arguments refuted. His was a failure at every point. I call the Gaoler and Surgeon of the Gaol to witness.
It is enough to overthrow all religion; it is enough to sbew that all is vice, to ask an idolator, a religionist, what meaning or application he has for the word God. Supposing that he was to say, as is said, that God dwells in Heaven. That explains nothing. Then comes the question, what or where is heaven? Ab! Sir! 'tis true! Every man is as much of an Atheist as every other man, as far as the word is made to convey odium and abhorrence. In relation to religion, Atheism is alope rational. Atheism is a beginning to search for truth at the right end. When a man becomes ·an Atheist, he may be truly said to have waded through the quagmire of superstition and idolatry, and to begin to live as a reasonable being. Atheism has already been fashionable among the aristocracy of Europe, and during the brightest periods of the brightest nations. To make mankind moral and happy, they must be all brought to atheism, religion must be renouncedas a vice; and in thisgraud work, I will fill up the sum of my life. If religion were in any sense a good, I should be the last to desire to remove it. If it were useful to mankind, though it were false, I should be one to support it. If it did but make peace without instructing mankind in useful knowledge,' I should advocate its preservation. But it does