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from difficulties. It is evident, from their method of propagation, that a couple of cats in fifty years would stock a whole kingdom, and if that religious veneration were still paid them, it would in twenty more, not only be easier in EGYPT to find a God than a man, which PORTRONIUS says was the case in some parts of ITALY; but the Gods must at last entirely starve the men, and leave themselves neither priest, nor votaries remaining. It is probable, therefore, that this wise nation, the most celebrated in antiquity for prudence and sound policy, foreseeing such dangerous consequences reserved all, their worship for the full-grown divinities, and used the freedom to drown the holy spawn, or little sucking gods without any scruple or remorse. And thus the practice of warping the tenets of religion, in order to serve temporal purposes, is not, by any means, to be regarded as an invention of later ages.
David Hume's Essay—The Natural History of Religion.
INSINCERITY OF THE CHRISTIANS, &c.
We may observe, that notwithstanding the dogmatical, impious stile of all superstitions, the condition of the religionists in all ages, is more affected than real, and scarcely ever approaches, in any degree, to that solid belief and persuasion, which governs us in the common affairs of life. Men dure not avow, even to their own hearts, the doubts which they entertain on such subjects: they make a merit of implicit faith; and disguise to themselves their real infidelity, by the strangest asservations and most positive bigotry. But nature is too hard for all their endeavours, and suffers not the obscure glimmering light, in those shadowy regions, to equal the strong impression made by common sense and experience. The usual course of men's conduct belies their word, and shows, that their assent in these matters is some unaccountable operation of the mind between disbelief and conviction, but approaching much nearer to the former than the latter.
June 4, 1824. As an advocate for “free discussion,” I feel myself indebted to you, and your shopmen, for making so noble a stand against a priesthood, whose intolerable pride, unfathomable hypocrisy, and insatiable avarice, are too grievous to be borne. I therefore wish you
to pay each and every one of your shopmen, who has been arrested since Christmas last, the sum of Five Shillings, and also to each of your shopmen, who may hereafter be arrested for selling your publications; and charge the saine to my account. I have already deposited a sum, at your shop, in Fleet Street, for this purpose; which shall be added to as occasion requires.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.,
Copy of a Petition from Sheffield for Free Discussion, presented to
the House of Commons, by Lord Milton, May 12.
That your Petitioners consider the human mind capable of the most extensive improvement; and believe, that an unrestrained interchange of sentiment and opinion, has ever proved beneficial to the welfare of society; they feal convinced, that legislative restrictions upon any branch of literature, or science, have generally obstructed, and seldom, if ever, advanced, the cause of truth.
That your Petitioners are fully satisfied that all opinions, and doctrines, really beneficial to the community, will withstand the attacks of the ignorant, independently of legal protection; and regard, with the strongest feelings of disapprobation, the oppressive treatment to which many persons have been subjected, on account of a difference in religious opinion, from that established by law. They read in scripture, “ That which is the work of man, shall come to nought; but if it be of God it cannot be overthrown. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant, to his own master he standeth, or falleth.” Many quotations might be adduced against that system of persecution which has produced such havoc and bloodshed, in the world; but it is unnecessary to take up the time of your Honourable Ilouse, with a repetition of those passages with which you are undoubtedly acquainted.
That your Petitioners protest against the charge of immoral tendency, as belonging to any theological opinions; for, there has never been a sect that has escaped this charge in its infancy; and, as the great founder of Christianity lost his life, in opposing the errors of his own time, your Petitioners ardently hope, that they shall not call upon you in vain, to interpose your authority between the persecutors of modern times, and those who stand opposed to them on conscientious principles.
That your Petitioners are the more solicitous in this important matter, from observing an inconsistency in the proceedings of the courts of Judicature; where, without the least proof of the demoralizing effects of their opinions upon any individual in exist
ence, the persecuted are denied the means of refuting the allegation by demonstrative facts, the evidence to their irreproachable demeanour through life, being totally rejected, or accounted no answer, to the vague charge of demoralizing tendency.
That it may happen, as in the case of Jesus Christ, that the most orderly and virtuous members of society, may fall the victims of irreligious fanaticism; the liability of honest and conscientious persons, to this shameful treatment, under the sanction and forms of the law, your petitioners consider a foul stain upon the name of Justice; an open violation of the divine precept, “do unto others, as you would they should do unto you,” and they most seriously, and earnestly, entreat your Honourable House, to adopt speedily, such measures for the security and protection of all parties, and opinions, that the spirit, and temper of this more liberal age, imperiously require and demand. Signed by 3 ESQUIRES.
3 PRIVATE GENTLEMEN.
The following letter was written at its date with a hope of an in
sertion in the paper to whose Editor it is addressed, a day or two before the trials of Campion and others came on at the Old Bailey. The Editor had scruples; but has kindly returned the letter: and as the observations on the thing called Common Law are presumed to be good, they are for that purpose here printed.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE MORNING HERALD. Sir,
Dorchester Gaol, June 4, 1824. I Can speak to my friends through the medium of my own (weekly) publication; but, by your permission, I desire to convey a word to my enemies, through the columns of the Herald. My subject is, the renewal of prosecutions against the persons who serve in my shop, afler more than a year's silence and cessation.
That I was prosecuted five years ago, and am still a prisoner, is notorious; that I have been so fined, and so robbed .
• Of this number twenty three were Quakers.
of property, as to be unable to pay those fines, is as notorious; that my wife and sister bave each suffered two years' imprisonment, and that Mrs. Wright and ten shopmen have also been prosecuted and subjected to various terms of imprisonment, is also notorious. Every species of severity, and in some instances of cruelty, has been practised upon us, aud yet, for a moment, nothing has been gained on the part of the enemy by all this prosecutiou; but they have hugely increased the circulation of those very books which they alfect to deplore. Last year, prosecutions seemed to have ceased. The Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench announced, that they would cease, as it was seen, that the publications bad ceased to agitate the working classes. His assertion was followed by the liberation of Joseph William Trust, without sentence. The sale of Anti-Christian public catious was assuming the ordinary and slow motion of other long published standard books, and whatever existed of discussion upon the matter was making as little noise as any matter of discussion could make. When lo! as if the minis
ters were resolved to make me a great and singular man in · spite of iny imperfections, they have come forward to pro
secute with more impetuosity than ever;, as if they seemed desirous to make resistance to such prosecutions a matter of national importance. Ten persons have already thrown themselves into my shop, without any solicitation on my part, and I daily expect to hear, that, in answer to my invitation, whole companies will be marching out of Lancashire and Yorkshire. I, and my friends, are fully sensible, that, like all former religious persecutions, this must be conquered by the number of willing victims being exhaustless and undaunted. Ten new prosecutions have been instituted in the last three weeks of May, and if persevered in upon the same principle, a perpetual Sessions at the Old Bailey will be found necessary; for, the major part of the men will be found equal to their own defence, with no small degree of force and ability. Men who bave already suffered two years' imprisonment, and who are under none but their own recognizances, are willing to submit to similar sentènces, and their wives to follow them ; which are instances of devotion to principles, never excelled by any sect of Christians, from the first to the last that triunipbed over persecution; and every sect bas shared it, and has triumphed iu its turu. Each growing sect has been denounced as a daring and penal vivlation of law, never to be countenanced; and each
has proclaimed the fallacy of applying legal restrictions to matters of opinion.
We, the present persecuted, argue for ourselves, that there is no law existing against us: we feel, that we do not violate any law, and act under that feeling. There existed no statute upon the subject of what is termed blasphemy, before the revolution of 1688; and, bad it not been for the statutes made in the reign of William and Mary, religious persecution would have ceased, as it ought to have ceased, with that revolution. Those statutes were made against the then reriving sect of Arians, Socinians, Unitarians, or Freethinking Cbristians, or whatever they be now called, and continued in operation above one hundred years. They were repealed as to all their intents and purposes, by the Unitarian act of the 53rd of George the Third. But none of the modern persecutions have been carried on upon any statute; but upon wbat the lawyers call common law, of which, the only definition they can give, is, that it is lex non scripta, as if it were the better for not being written and defined; that it is a thing of immemorial usage, as if it were proper, that we should be now confined to unwritten law, because our ancestors could not write, and knew nothing of the use of letters; that its interpretations are to be found in the bosoms of our Judges, as if there were a Holy Ghost in law, as well as in Divinity, as if our Judges were inspired and called to their seats by some supernatural power, as is said of our bishops and clergy generally; that it is ever consonant with conimon sense, as if common sense were a fixed and definable thing, and above all things, the hereditary property of lawyers! Every man lays claim to the possession of common sense, and every man's differs from every other man's; for myself, I confess, tbat I can find it no where. The common law, then, is notbiug, or every thing that every Judge may be pleased to make it. To say, that it exists, is saying, that every man, wbo sits in the capacity of Judge, has a power absolute over all the statutes of the kingdom; that we have so many absolute monarchs, or judges with power absolute in all cases that are brought before them. If this be common law, the sooner we write it down the better; because, every politician will admit, that one absolute individual monarch is preferable to an oligarchy of one hundred.
But to shew more clearly, that this common law cannot be a fixed thing, applicable to the protection of religion from criticism, it is sufficient to point the fact, that religion, the Cbristian religion in particular, is the most variable of all ya