« ZurückWeiter »
to Christianity, is to be justified and applauded. Observe, that this principle goes to persuade you that all religions are right, and that they all equally come from heaven! The absurdity of this plea is too evident to need any further comment.
But if the plea is, that government must be supported by reciprocally supporting the Christian Religion, be that religion true, or be it false, 1 blush for that religion, which indeed would in this case require the aid of the government; I blush for the government which builds itself on so sandy and weak a foundation, but I blush, most of all, for the man who can use so base an argument.
í had intended to speak at large of the inconsistencies of the Society which has brought me before you. But I have already trespassed so much on your time, and this subject has been treated on so often before, that I shall only observe, that if that Society would be undistinguishing in its attacks, if it would attack the high and the powerful, as well as the low and the weak, if it would strip the writings of Sterne and of Swift, two Christian divines; of our old Comedians; and of numerous other writers,-if it would strip these of matter, which is incontestibly prejudicial to the mind; I should more willingly bear my present situation, because, I should have at least, the satisfaction of believing that its exertions were founded on pure, on honourable, and on conscientious principles. It were more to be endured, if this Society would imitate the conduct of their God, who is no respecter of persons if they would remember that the wealthy and the powerful are really more in danger of contamination, and require to be placed more out of the reach of temptation, on the principles of him who assured them that “ it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven." I am here unconsciously led into an observation on a particular class of the community. Booksellers, who effect to be scrupulous as to the publications of Mr. Gibbon, and Mr. Hume, affect none as to those I have now alluded to, and if they are too modest to attach their names to some works, they are in no way too modest to exhibit them to the public, and enrich themselves by the sale of them. The principle of all is so plain that none can mistake it; which is, that men may glut themselves with books of acknowledged vice, if they will but let alone books of enquiry into the grounds and reasons of Christian belief.
Gentlemen of the Jury, I must now address myself to you in a very particular manner. You are the Judges of this case; and, I trust, you have given a faithful attention to the arguments which have been adduced. I trust you have paid attention not only to some, but to all of them: I trust you will farther bestow on them some se rious reflection, nor judge of this matter either passionately or precipitately.
Give me leave to warn you on one point against giving too much weight to the positive air, and to the “5 absolute musts” of the bench. I desire to respect the Judges of the realm : but I confess I have been too often struck by their dictatorial language to Juries ; you must bring in this person guilty;" you must find a true bill against this person." Judge for yourselves. Judge, whether a family is to be ruined for opinions which it believes to be right, whether an obscure family is to be ruined, for doing that which persons at the head of his Mujesty's government have been allowed to do with impunity. Judge, whether Christ ever gave the least sanction to a violent support of his religion, whether these persecutions do not really assimilate the conduct of Christians to that of the ferocious Mahomet ; and whether the present use of power in this case does not lead to the conclusion that the first Christians would have been as ferocious as Mahomet, had they the power to have been so. Judge, whether it is not a maxim of determined truth in all other subjects of investigation that both sides âle to be heard, whether Juries do not act day after day upon this masim; and whether therefore it is right that believers should have all the speaking and the writing to themselves, all the power to calumniate in the most contemptuous manner the unbelievers, while, if a strong and energetic sentence is published by a sceptic on religion, he is imprisoned and ruined. Judge, whether truth can possibly be arrived at in this way. Judge, whether it is not forcing on the public mind the idea that Christianity cannot stand alone without force. Lastly, judge, I seriously call on you to reflect and judge, whether you can suppose yourselves wiser than the great Bacon, who tells you that even Atheism is not prejudicial to states, whether you can claim to be more correct in your conclusion, and better capable of coming to a conclusion in this matter than Bentley, Paley, Lardner, and Chandler, the avowed and acknowledged champions of the Christian Faith. Did the honourable Judge do away
argument, which was insisted on by Mr. Cooper; he never even attempted it. But I must assert that it needed a distinct refutation. Let me ask you ; do you think these persons, all of them believers in the Christian Religion, four of them ministers of that religion, and of the highest eminence for respectability and innocence of character, would agree in objecting to prosecutions for acknowledged vice, as they did object to prosecutions for sceptical works? Do you not see that they had the discernment to discriminate between what is universally allowed to be vice, and what is thought to be so by this or by that individuul ? They knew that they had been driven to and fro too much themselves by doubts and distractions not to feel for the situation of others. They felt that the most pious Christians had their hours and days of distrust, and they could not bring themselves to believe that during these intervals they had changed their nature, and from angels had become demons, because they sometimes doubted. They knew that no angel had been commisioned to them from the bright abodes to tell them they were right, and therefore they had the candour and integrity to assert that the determination of this question should be takeu from the petty tribunals of fallible and sometimes interested men,
and left to the future judicature of that bar, where is
of their power.
no error, even from innocent mistake, to the judicature of that eternal God, in whom is no dark ness nor error, nor shadow of turning, nor possibility of being misled by feelings of selfishness and interest.
Are you afraid that you will be acting against your oath, if you acquit the accused on this occasion ? Remember that very numerous are the cases, where a delinquent is fully acknowledged by juries to be guilty ; but where mercy has conquered the laws, and gained a victory over power ; where a verdict has been given not indeed agreeably to the strict truth of the cases, but, which is of fár more importance in laws framed in times of comparative ignorance and barbarity, where a verdict has been given, not according to the bare fact of innocence or guilt in regard to the imputed act, but aecording to the right and the equity of the matter.Remember that it can never be expected that any Legislator shall so far take on him. self the odium of public opinion as to propose in Parliament the abrogation of the laws against unbelievers; or that the government will ever give up what has been held by all governments, Christian, Jewish, Brahminical, Pagan, and Mahometan, to be the Palladium
And therefore it is your office, the office of ALL juries, to take this into your own hands.
Mrs. Wright requested permission to retire and suckle her infant child that was crying. This was granted, and she was absent from Court twenty minutes, in passing to and from which, to the Castle Coffee House she was applauded and loudly cheered, by assem bled thousands, all encouraging her to be of good cheer and to persevere.
I am come, lastly, Gentlemen, to speak of the law of the case, and the first question is, by what statute am I to be tried ? You will find there is none that can answer the vindictive purposes of my persecutors; they appeal to no statute whatever, but have most corruptly founded this indictment upon what is called common law, which I will explain and prove to you to be nothing inore than common abuse. It is no law at all, as far as the word law denotes sigbt and justice. It is the law of whim, caprice, and tyranny. It is the law of discretion, and discretion in a Judge, or one who administers law, is a horrible abuse and tyranny.
If there had been any such thing as the common law religion, or if the religion of the country had been considered part and parcel of the law in the time of Popish power in this country, there would have been no need of getting a statute to authorize the burning of heretics, as they were called, but who in fact were persons of the same dispositions as those who are now suffering for their opinions; they wished not to play the hypocrite, but to act conscientiously, and to dissent from those matters and opinions which their
consciences warned them were not right and founded in truth.
There is no just foundation whatever for saying, that the religion of this country is part and parcel of the law. If it be of any thing more than human origin, human laws are unequal to protect or restrain it in any shape, and consequently such laws would be null and void to all intents and purposes, to say nothing of their blasphemy and profaneness, but if the religion of the country be of huinan origin, then it is an imposition and a cheat upon the people, and cannot be justly protected by law. Either way it is a corrupt and an abominable practice to connect it with the law of the land. So, Gentlemen, look at it which way you please, you have no authority whatever on just ground but to give me a verdict of Not Guilty. If you pronounce me Guilty, you either blaspheme and insult the God of nature by assuming that he needs your aid for punishment, or on the other hand, you make yourselves parties in supporting a cheat upon your fellow countrymen. So reflect seriously, Gentlemen, upon the particulars of the case before you, and beware both of clamour and sophistry. Do not lend yourselves to the wicked measures of a corrupt faction, whose first and last object is to preserve their ill-gotten gains, of which they know a free discussion would soon deprive them.
If, in any way, I had offended public morals, I would not have made a word of defence, but would have pleaded Guilty, asked forgiveness and mercy, and promised better behaviour: but, I feel the conscious pride that I have not offered an offence to public morals, but rather I bave endeavoured to improve them by warring with the corruptions and delusions of the day.
Gentlemen of the Jury, I do not stand before you for having committed a crime by taking that which was not my own, or by seducing others from the paths of virtue to the commission of crime, but the whole substance of the charge against me is, that, I have assisted in attacking the prejudices of power and the power of prejudices. No person could have obtained the pamphlets before you, or copies of them, without first purchasing them with a given value, and it is certain that, with the exception of the copies purchased for the purpose of this prosecution, no person would purchase them who did not feel the desire to examine and to reflect upon their contents. The idle and the dissolute would not purchase such pamphlets. There is nothing in them calculated
to captivate the youthful or unreflecting portion of the conimunity. It is not they who resort to Mr. Carlile's Shop, but the curious, the thinking, and the serious part of the public. His publications are alone adapted to the dispositions of the sober and the grave, and I really think, and I know that Mr. Carlile thinks the same, that these frequent prosecutions constitute the greatest possible compliment that can be paid to him; as they seem to say on the part of the prosecutors," this man will overturn all our money tables and all our ill-gotten gains if we do not find some means to destroy or to silence him.”
I call upon you, Gentlemen, to discountenance this systematic persecution, and stay the disgrace which it leaves on our Courts of Law and on the country at large. These per
secutions are approved by none but the bigoted, the tyran- nical, and the dishonest. I have no fear about me for any thing that concerns myself. I should enjoy even a dungeon in advocating such a cause as that in which I am now engaged. But I am bold to tell these persecutors, they never can, they never will, put down these publications; prosecutions give life to them, and those wbich have occurred within these last four or five years, have indeed been the seed of free discussion. Our enemies act as madmen, they hasten their own downfall; for if there were any thing really objeetionable in those publications, public opinion would have put them down long since, but so powerful do we feel public opinion on our side, that, we feel assured we can combat every obstacle our enemies can throw in our way.
If Juries were fairly and indiscriminately brought together in these cases, as they are in common cases, we should never lose a verdict; but now it is notorious that every possible scheme is tried by certain corrupt powers to bring together twelve men the most obstinate and the most opposite in opinions to those on which they are called upon to decide, and such men as are under the influence of the Prosecutors! There is nothing like fair play in these cases: it is all scheme, system, and stratagem. But in spite of influence, in spite of prejudice, in spite of all Corruption's host, we will persevere and triumph.
In my last words, I say to you, without the least improper imputation, or the least improper reflection, to any one of you twelve Gentlemen, for you are each and all perfect strangers to me, that if there be one truly honest and conscientious man amongst you, who values his character, his oath, and his office, of which there were eight found on the