« הקודםהמשך »
the measure of sending a letter addressed to Mr. Peel, that he, as the Secretary of State, as well as the member for the University of Oxford, might see what I had to say for myself, in a case you did not feel it pleasant to present the petition. Even now, I desire that it reach Mr. Peel, if it does not reach the House of Commons; as I can then fairly print it as a public document, the type of which has been many days waiting its final disposal. My whole conduct, pursuit, and situation is a novelty. I have no precedent to judge from, and, therefore, I pursue a straight forward course, in that, which, I conceive, for the moment, to be the most useful way.
The petition presented for me by Mr. Hume last week has no connection with, or similarity to this in question. It was a brief one, to give him an opportunity to comment upon a statement ! drew up at his request as to my treatment in the Gaol; and the painfulmis-statements as to my conduct and treatment, the very reverse of truth, which have grown out of the report of that matter, urge me to agitate and explain my case in every possible way at this moment.
Should the forwarding of the petition to Mr. Peel be an unpleasant task, every purpose will be answered by returning it to my house, 84, Fleet Street, or by authorizing me to send for it. Your obedient Servant,
RICHARD CARLILE Letter to Mr. Peel, referred to in No. 1, to Sir Francis Burdett. SIR,
Dorchester Gaol, May 30, 1824. I take the liberty to trouble you with the accompanying petition, because you are one of the representatives of the University of Oxford, rather than because you are the Secretary of State for the Home Department. My purpose is to request that you will be pleased to refer it to one or more of the most learned of your constituents, and if they can refute any of its allegations, I will not ask its presentation to the House of Commons; if not, I hope you will not deny me the justice of presenting it, wi:hin the present session, and further, that you will no longer hesitate to do me the justice of immediate liberation. I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,
RICHARD CARLILE. . To the Right Honourable Robert Peel, Secretary of State for the Home Department.
TO THE HONOURABLE, THE COMMONS OF
The Petition of Richard Carlile, a prisoner in
for asserting the utility, of free discussion. SHEWETH, That your Petitioner having been taught to read when a boy, felt an aptitude to read and reflect when he became a map: and from a desire to augment the amount of useful knowledge, he conuected himself with the Printing Press, as a writer, printer, publisher, and bookseller. From a love of fair play, as well as a matter advantageous to his trade, he desired to make several matters of discussion free and public, which have been beretofore private, because ministerially menaced. Though he has now been near five years imprisoned for publishing books, which he verily believed to be publicly useful, be has not conceived to this day that he has done wrong; because, books being nothing more than one kind of human speech, he can do more arraigo that faculty in one than in anotber sbape; and as it does not follow, that what is uttered orally must be believed and acted upon, so it is not a consequence, that what is uttered scripturally must be so received: we may approve and adopt, or disapprove and pass to some other thing, as the sounds, or the signs of the sounds, impress our sensations. Imbued with such aplitudes and such notions, your Petitioner bas ranged freely in the Orchard of Letlers, and has plucked boldly from the “ Tree of Knowledge,” de sirous to know good from evil, and his own nakedness; for which, he conceives, that he has been unjustly cursed and expelled from the social paradise, to cultivate bis inind in a deadly prison, to eat his bread and bring forth bis thoughts in sorrow.
That your Petitioner had reached bis twenty-seventh year, without having heard or seen it asserted or jusinuated, that any religion was ill-founded, so as to understand, or to bare bis reflections drawn to the matter; but having first met with a book called THE AGE OF Reason, iu that year, and reading it as a matter of course, be found the question of the validity of the Christian Religion fairly jovestigated, and felt himself bonestly and couscientiously impelled to support the negative side of that question.
That, after having been thoronghly schooled in the youtblul part of a Christian education, after au attendance at Sunday schools and schools of every kind, after learning all that could be tangbt bim in the town of his birth, after haviny passed among his town folks as an accomplished scholar, aiter having read the Bible through near a bundred times, your Petitioner's recent experience has convinced him, that the practice of ailempting to impress tbe minds of youth will speculative opinions, which are impossible to be rigblly comprebended, is not only futile but mischievous, as it wastes much time, clogs and corrupts the budding and expanding mind of the child, whilst their iinpressions may be wholly
superseded by one hour's reflection in manbood: and that the only proper education of youth is, the science of language, the science of letters and figures, the science of morals as requisite to constitute a good social being, and the greatest possible knowledge of the qualities of all useful things, as applicable to the purposes and comforts of human life.
That your Petitioner's experience has further shewn him, that mind is a principle of the human body wbich exists no further than it has been generated by such sensations as constitute reflections; that mind is the result, reflections the medium or process of mental creation, aud sensation the originating principle of botb: or, that mind is a compound of moral and pbysical sensations; that reflection is the moral, aud impression, received by a human body, from a foreign body, the physical seusation: the former sensation acting upon itself; the latter, sensation derived from otber identities. Hence, as mankind bave evidently no mind, until called into being and action by observations aud reflections upon pbysical things, and such historical facts, as coincide with phy. sical probabilities, it follows, that, it is both iphuman and impious to offer impediment to ratiocination, and its correction by free discussion on all subjects; that it is obstructive of the increase of social and moral good, and a warring against that superiority and those advantages wbich are bestowed on human beings as distinguished from all other animals; and that such obstruction is the real source of all the wars, miseries, misrules, and degradations, that afflict mankind; the only obstacle to illimitable improvement, and universal happiness as illimitable. Your Petitioner has no utopian notions of human improvement, he is sensible, tbat, if unimpeded, it will be slow; but get progressively sure; and that its amount will increase in geometrical ratio, every step gained reudering others more facile to be gained, therefore the greater is the necessity of free discussion.
Tbat this progressive state of your Petitioner's mind, bas brought to his knowledge, that all religious opinions are erroneous, the error of which is proved in the disagreement of all; tbat all have grown out of human ignorance of the laws of the physical world. The outcry about Atheism, Deism, and Infidelity, is wholly the result of ignorance or malice; one man can be no more of an Atheist, a Deist, or an Infidel, than anotber man: upbelief and ignorance are strictly synonymous lerms: to remove whicb, we have but to enquire freely as to what we know of the arrangements of the physical universe, as to wbat we know of the properties of Huid and fixed matter, as to what will most conduce to make us moral, sensible, and happy beings.
That, as Chistianity is the prevailing religion of this country, and its priesthood constituting a part of the legislature, even of the administration of the laws, your petitioner has made historical enquiry into the origin of this system : under a conviction that what is not physically probable in relation to present existences is not historically true as to the past: he traces it most clearly through a period of full seventeeu hundred years; but within the first of the eighteen centuries now attributed to its existeuce, he can no where trace it: he finds, that the history of Jerusalem before its destruction by the army of tbe Roman Emperor, Titus, makes no mention of such a person as Jesus Christ, or of such a sect as Christians, or of such a system of religion as Christianity; and from this defect of history, as relating to the alleged origin of Christianity, your Petitioner concludes, that no such person as Jesus Christ ever lived or died in the city of Jerusalem, or in the country of Judea; that the sect of Christians did not originate in that country'; and that the true origin of Christianity is so obscure as to be unknowa and undiscoverable. This conclusion is further warranted by the fact, that vothing written within the first of these eighteen centuries, by any writer, in any part of the earth, inakes the least mention of such a person as Jesus Christ, of such a sect as Christians, or of such a system as Christianity.
. That, as Christianity has avowedly grown out of, or is now combined with Judaism, your petitioner has most calidly traced the history of the Jews, as far as it is traceable, and he finds that no such people, as described in the first foorteen books of the Bible, lived in Asia Minor, before the Babylonian Colonization at Jerusalem. He finds, that none of the well known nations of that peighbourhood, the Grecians in ge- . peral, and Pheniciaus in particular, wbose histories and wbose writings have reached us, and now consist of some of the most accurate of ancient records, have left us any al!usion to such a people as the Jewish Books describe their aucestors to have been on the coast of Syria. Pythagoras and Herodotus, who travelled from Greece into Egypt for the purpose of gaining knowledge, and who must have beard something of the nation of Israelites, bad they existed on the coast of Syria, have left us particular mention of all the surrounding nations, but uone of such a nation as Jews or Israelites.
Your Petitioner therefore concludes, that the same disposition, wbich compiled the evident fables about the cosmogony in the book of Genesis, and about the supernatural events as narrated both in the books of the Old aud the New Testa.
ment, whether invented or recorded trauitionally by such compilers, has compiled the evident fables as relating to the alleged history of the books: and he feels it bard, that he should bave suffered near five years' imprisonment, and much cruel treatment, with repeated sweepings of his property, because facts hare forced themselves upon bis mind, in consequence of bis fair and free enquiries, contrary to those notions in wbich he was educated, and because be had been taught to read.
That the property which is expended upon religion in this island, in the shape of forced and voluntary tax, is sufficient to support a powerful and splendid Government, in all its miscellaneous expences: and that, if such religion be error, it will be wise, both on the part of the existing Go. vernment, as well as on the part of the people, to apply such property to the removal of existing burthens.
That if one twentieth part of the Church Revenues was applied, for seven years, to the promotion of useful knowledge among the people at large, scientific knowledge on every matter that can conceru tbem, the circumstance would igpite the present torpid powers of the human mind, and make Britajo, a brilliant mental sun, illumining and forming a vortex for every other nation on the earth, instead of an orb moving in its own orbit, and fearing the clash of others, as the Right Honourable Secretary of State for Foreigin Affairs is reported to wish it to be.
Your Petitioner therefore prays, that your Honourable House will initiate a law to stay all further persecution for the promulgation and conflict of opinions: and that since, as your Petitioner has alledged in this petition, he is prepared to discuss with the most learned men in this country, that all religion, and particularly that of Judaism and Christianity, is physically and historically erroneous, if no sucb persons can be found to overthrow the conclusions here set forth, he feels it to be his duty to pray, ibat a law be passed, to prevent all persons from further entering upon Holy Orders, so tbat the existing iucunibents may die off, and leave their several clerical benefices unoccupied and free for the use of the state, or that, they may be fairly salaried as teachers of useful knowledge to the rising generation, and not as preachers of that wbich is proved to be erroneous.
Dorchester Gaol, May 30, 1824.