Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

court the opposition of all Bishops who come in my neighbourhood. Your own Diocesan shrunk from me last year, after much deliberation, consultation, and hesitation about coming on my invitation. The Lecturer of St. Sepulchre's, Dr. Rudge, in your immediate neighbourhood, feared to dispute this question with me in conjunction with his Diocesan. I have lately called the attention of two other Bishops (of Rochester and of Sodor and Man) to this point, in letters, of which the following is the substance, though there was a variation in the wording.

TO THE RIGHT REVEREND FATHER IN GOD, THE LORD BISHOP OF

NOW RESID. ING AT WEYMOUTH.

[ocr errors]

MY LORD BISHOP, Dorchester Gaol, June 19, 1824. I HAVE been nearly, five years a prisoner, and otherwise dreadfully persecuted in family and property, for publishing that Christianity is founded upon fables. So that I cannot allow a Bishop to reside so near me as Weymouth, without paying my respects, and entreating him to come and to shew me the truths of the Christian religion. If it can only be shewn to me, that such a person as the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, so liyed and so died, or ever was known in Jerusalem, I will instantly preach“ Jesus Christ and him crucified.

I am, My Lord Bishop, your Lordship's obedient Servant, open to every kind of instruction,

RICHARD CARLILE.

I declare to you, fellow citizens, that this is no trifling; that I am serious; that I have challenged the whole body of the clergy in this county to meet me upon this question; that I have addressed myself in letters to individual clergymen; that I have pressed more than one to the point in private conversation; and all, by their manners and silence, confess, that they have no proofs, that such a person as Jesus Christ existed, as is fabled in the book called the New Testament. We have a Chaplain in this Gaol, as good a man as a priest can be, with whom I have kept on uniformly good terms, never exchanging an unpleasant, but many pleasant, words, and he must confess, if asked, that he cannot maintain the Christian religion as founded in truth before me; for, if he could, I am sure his very good nature, to say nothing of his duty, would urge him to do it. The Chaplain

accompanied another Clergyman, the Reverend Mr. Richman of Dorchester, in two visits to me; the second of which was a meeting, on a fair challenge, to produce évidence of the existence of Jesus Christ, at which, both Gaoler and Surgeon of the Gaol, thus associating all the superior officers of the Gaol, save the Sheriffs, begged leave to be present. It was then so far seen, that after a promise upou challenge, after

many weeks of time taken for the purpose, after consultations with various clergymen, that no evidence could be adduced to shake my positions, that such a person as Jesus Christ never did exist, and that he is wholly a fabled character. I have examined every piece of history I could get at upon the subject: I am now going through Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, as the last I have heard of, by me unread; and from this, my conviction is indelibly strengthened, that no such person as Jesus Christ existed, and that Christianity grew out of the mad miscalled philosophical sectarianism which infested so strongly the borders of Asia, Africa, and Europe, contiguous to the Mediterranean Sea, after the Romans had conquered them. This sectarianism bad alike infected Jews, Africans, and Gtecians; and unless we attribute it to the dogmas of the Grecian philosophers, of wbich Plato produced no small share of the more mischievous, we cannot further trace its origin; though we may safe. ly place it to the account of priestcraft and idolatry.

Since, then I can shew that Christianity is founded upon fables, it is not too much for me to expect, if prosecutions be carried on, that some future jury will be found to give a verdict of Not Guilty when a charge is made of a wicked and malicious publication of that which is notoriously true, and morally and philosophically important to the interests of nankind in its publication. And such a verdict will be tantamount, in a moral point of view, to a reversal of all the contrary verdicts that bave been given; just as, if a prosecution for witchcraft were now to take place, a verdict that prononnced the impossibility of the existence of such a crime would be tantamount to an impeachment of all the judgments upon that question given by Juries, by Judge Hale, or by any other pions Christian Judge, that had preceded or succeeded him. From you, I ask such a verdict, such a reversal of all the former judgments, and that verdict I ask upon the law of the land; upon your love of truth, if you do love truth; upon your hatred of persecution, if you do hate persecution; upon your oath to well and truly try, if you do respect that oath. If you well and truly try, and a

true verdict give according to the evidence, you will find no evidence of illegality or offence against the law, committed by Thomas Riley Perry. You will find, that blaspheming, which is speaking evil of the law, is no offence against the law. You will find, that Christianity is not any thing definable to be blasphemed as an offence against law. And you will further find, that blasphemy of a living person, wbich is false and injures that person, is alone that sort of blasphemy which constitutes an offence against the law.

The only evidence to be adduced before you is, that an individual went to a shop in Fleet Street, expressing himself an admirer of the books there sold, and after much apparently friendly conversation with Thomas Riley Perry, bought of him, a copy of Palmer's Principles of Nature, with an assurance that it was to be sent to a country friend.

If your verdict corresponds with the evidence, you wil find, that Thomas Riley Perry is Guilty of selling that book; but without a malicious intention; withont which there can be no crime. Guilty of publishing the book or libel, is not a sufficient verdict, and ihe verdict in the case of William Campion was no verdict to warrant the Recorder to pass any sentence upon him. That Jury said: “Guilty of publishing the libel in question :” the Recorder auswered: “ That is the charge against him." But that was not the charge; but the charge was, that he wickedly and maliciously did publish that book. Mere publication of a book or libel, for the word libel means nothing more than book, is no offence against law; and whenever a Jury says, guilty of publishing, but we find no malicious intention, the verdict is tantamount to Not Guilty, and, according to form, should be given as Not Guilty; for that which you find Not Guilty of, is, the wicked. and malicious intention charged, and not the publication of the book, which, of itself, is a matter of business, a matter of trade, a matter of course, not disputed by the defendant, nor an offence at law.

What malicious intention can there be, when the person wbo buys the book, solicits to be served as a friend, solicits ao abatement of price as to a friend, which you will find to be the case of the evidence to come before you? It is notorious that there are millions of intelligent men who admire such books as Palmer's Principles of Nature, moral men, the very flower of mankind; how then can it be wicked and malicious to sell such books, even to a person who does not admire them? If he did not come to solicit the sale, it could not be made to him; therefore, the wicked and malicious in

tent is wholly on the part of the prosecution in such cases. There is on the part of the prosecution intent to injure, intent to check free and fair enquiry after truth, intent or desire to cherish ignorance and support fraud and tyranny; the whole of which is abominably wicked, malicious, and mischievous.

But the word blasphemy is the word that operates most powerfully on the generality of minds; it fills them with horror, excludes reason and consideration, and blinds the senses to all rational remark. There is not a more harmless word in the English language, taking it upon its modern construction. All that can be made of it is, a speaking evil of a system of words, or of a few dead characters, of whom no evil can be said, unless it be found recorded of them by those who first delineated tbeir characters on paper. We, in the present day, know nothing about Moses, Jesus, or Mahomet; we know nothing more than early historians have written; and surely it can be po offence against English Law to comment upon the writings and characters drawn by these historians or fabulists. We may blaspbeme without discrimination one of our owu countrymen, king, priest, or layman, who died a bundred years ago, and strange to say, we must not express our judgments of such characters as foreign and ancient historians have drawn of ancient foreigners! Was ever any prohibition so outrageously inconsistent as this? I can never reflect upon this matter without feeling astounded at the blindness, ignorance, superstition, and worse than brute like character of my countrymen of tbe present day. I do not say that they bave grown worse than their ancestors; but I do say, that, as yet, they deserve no better epithet than that of human cattle, human beasts, slaves so irresolute in mind, as to warrant their more cunning fellows in making slaves of them.

I would rouse and raise you, fellow citizens, above this degraded state: and if you give your verdict according to the evidence, you will do more good in that act than will ever be in your power again to do. You may not see the importance of the thing as I see it; but unmixed good can alone flow from it. Let each of you put the question to himself and say-does he fear free discussion? If he does fear it, upon wbat ground? Does he fear the propagation of truth? Or does he fear that by free discussion falsehood will triumph over truth? He must be a corrupt mind that fears the former, and a very ignorant one that fears the latter circumstance,

Elaborate argument with data to shew you that Christianity is no part of law, no part of truth, nothing good and useful, I cannot here enter into; for my object is chiefly to impress you with a few sentiments on paper, more earnestly than you are likely to feel them if orally addressed to you whilst in the Jury box. But I can refer you to a speech of Mrs. Wright's, to the Trials of William Tunbridge and William Campion, to a paper read to the Court of King's Bench by Joseph William Trust, printed in No. 17, Vol. 8, to No. 1, Vol. 9, of the Republican, and to this last publication generally, to shew the most triumphant argument and data for every position I have here advanced. I feel so confident, that I beat all my opponents at argument; and they feel so confident of it as to be entirely silent; tbat assertion and reference for proof are all that is vow fairly to be required of me.

Do your duty, fellow Citizens, and give a verdict according to the evidence. Recollect, that the Lawyer's speech is not evidence, nor is the speech of the Judge, law. You are to judge both of the evidence and of the law. It is twelve to one against the Judge, that you may have more knowledge than he upon the subject, and about a hundred to one that each of you has more honesty, more desire to do that which is right. Recollect also, that no one can dispute your verdict, if you find Thomas Riley Perry to have sold the book without a malicious intention; but as sure as you

find him guilty of a malicious intention in selling that book, which he, and I, and thousands, aye millions, admire, and proclaim to be one of the best and most useful of books, so sure will your names go down to posterity with execration, if your bodies escape a just punishment while living.

RICHARD CARLILE.

TRIAL OF JOHN CLARK.

(Concluded from page 32.)

How are we to discover the truth, or holiness of this book, if we are not permitted to examine and comment upon it, when it is assailed? If the arguments be unsound by which it is assailed, they may be easily repelled by sounder arguments. Of what use are the twenty thousand bishops and priests in this kingdom, if they cannot refute the arguments

« AnteriorContinuar »