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PRESENTATION OF ANOTHER PETITION FROM MR. CARLILE TO THE
HOUSE OF COMMONS BY MR. BROUGHAM, ON THURSDAY, THE 30TH OF JUNE.
THE report of the presentation is copied from the Morning Chronicle, and the subjoined very applicable comment is from the same paper. The Petition is copied from the Morning Herald, a paper that has shewn us more of true liberality, of late, than any other paper in London. The Petition was meant to shew that we mortal blasphemers of Christianity have not been dealt with according to the laws of this Christian Country, and not as a mere repetition of the case of the undersigned, the former presentation by Mr. BROUGHAM having rendered that unnecessary. The subjoined is the best report of Mr. BROUGHAM's observations, but the reporters did not catch the spirit of the Petition, and some of them seem to have reported it as an application on my part for mercy: a notion that has never for a moment entered my head.
MR. CARLILE. MR. BROUGHAM said, that he had now to presentlo lhe Ilvuse a Pitition from a person who would be considered as wortly ul commiseration by every man in whom prejudice had not entirely obliteraled the feelings of humanily. The unfortunate individual for whom he now presented the Petition, hart heen assailed for the vellenialce of his sentiments, but, fur his part, he viewed that vehemence, considering all its leatures, as it pro if of the sincerity of the sidiin hits by which the Pititioner had beeg aellialed. Ile would acknowledge that ihe petition.it's vehemence load exceed. ed his prudence; this fact was, that the Petitioner had not acquired the orthodos prudruce of making all sentiment and opinion bear upun certain worldly points. The Petitioner hall been sufiering an imprisonment of three Frars, will a line of £1,54'1. The thrce years would expire upon the 161h of Norpplier next; he did hope that when that day arrived, his Majesty's Ministers would be induced to liberate this unhappy victim from his lo:ig arid dreadful incaiceratinho de (Mr. Brougham) would take upon hinsell to say, that our laws, with all the opprobrium that had been cast upon them for nierciless rigour, had never witnessed a case of such harshi and protricted confinement for any libel, however alrocious. If the (io. vernmeul would continue lo insist upon this uuhappy man's remaining in jai unui loc paiid this enormous line of £1,500, he had not the sliglitest lie. silation in saling that the infortunate prisoner would remain in his dunyeon tollier end of his life, were that life to extend to thrice the usual period of human existence, for a time so utterly disproporlioned to lbe micaus aud circumstances of the offeneler no man existing bad ever heard of. The very nature of a fiic implicd a ratio lo the culprit's means of paying it, otherwise the word fine would be only a guilly means of accomplishing The most abominable ubjects of Tyranny. In the present case, it was quite preposlerous to consider lior an instrpt the amount or fine in any possible re. iation to the prisoner's means of paying it. He did not at all concern him. self with the opinions of the Polilioner. Whatever those opinions were, The unhappy man had a right to the observances of humanity and justice, and before being under the pretence of a tine, sentencen lo perpetual im. prisonment, he had at least the right up being heard before the House. Mr. Carlile's Petition stated, that he had been entrapped into an offence wbich, liom the obscure and equivocal nature of the laus, it was iinpossible for him to know was an ollence. The Act of the 1813 protected that nu. merous class of pers0115 thal inpngned the doctrines of the Trinity. Now Mr. Carlile, with thousands of others, invazineil that the very essence of Christianity was the Trinity, and if the law allowed a man to impugn the one, he was oiconsequence permiiled to deny lhe other. This construc.. liin bad been part upon the Act of the filty-third of the late King by thone sands of the most zealou, Christians, and by many persons of the profession of the law. Mr. Carlile load acted apon this generally received votion; yot his mistake of a law so equivocal, or at leasi su generally misunderstood, had exposed bim to an imz.risonment which was unexampled in this, and perhaps in any country of civilizel Europe. Mr. Carlile bail urged these arguments to ihe Court of Law from which he bad received his extraordiDary sentence. lle begged ihellouse not to confouni Mr.Carlile's opinions wilh the question now at issue. If Mi, Carlile's offence were onorinous, in prop rtion to its enorinily ought to be the precision of the law by which he was condemned, and in the same proportion ought to be the direct nalure of the senlence. To impose a fine so enormous, that it was utterly impossible for the culpril to pay it, and lo etlect by such means the endless im. prisonment of an individual, was lo ourage the very came or justice. The Pelilioner went on to state, that the King's Benchi had told him the offence of blasphemy was punishable at common law; he found the authorily of Sir M. Hale to be in sopport of that opinion, whereas, on looking back to my Lord Coke, a more ancient, as well as a bigher, law authority, he found bis Lordship to lay it down that blasphenis, heresy, and schisın, were pu. nishable by the ccclesiastical law, because such offences could not be taken cognizance of by the conimon law. The Petitioner said be bad been mis. led by variance of opinion with respect to the law, and also by the 530 or the King; he added, that supposing himself to have been wrong, he had aircady been severely punished, both by a long imprisonni nt and hy having the slivle of his property taken from him; in addition to which he was likely to be imprisoned for threo years iunger unless be paid the que imposed upon him-a thing he was totally able to do. He prayed the inlerference of the House. The Honourable and Learned Member wished to guard himself against the impression, that from what has fallen from bim he had in the slightest degree expressed his approval of the principles of Mr. Carlile, or the manner in which those opinions had been promulgated. He ibought it was the duty of every Member to present any Petition respeolfully worded, without being deterred by a fear of being mixed up with the case or conduct of the Petitioner (hear!). It was no offence against the Law to entertain any set of' opinions, either upon religious or political subjects; neither was it any lo discuss them, provided they were discussed wilb decency and propriety. If a man was an Atheist or an Intidel, it was his misfortone, not his fault; but if he indecently and improperly published those opinions, then he was amepable to the laws of his country. He should look u von an Albeist or an Intidel, if there were any such, with pity, not with blame; and be should consider him to be a rasb man who would underlake tu puoish the free discussion of such subjects, provided that dis..
cussion was conducted with decency, as ho considered that such discus. sions, instead of being injurious, would be beneticial to religion.- The Pe. çilion was read, and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Brougham did himself great honour, by the eloquent and manly manner in which, on presenting a Petition from Richard Carlile, he reprobaled the sentence under which that individual had so long suffered. His arguments were a very apposite commentary on the beautiful passage in his inaugural discourse, at Glasgow, printed at the request of the Principal, Professors, and Students, of that Unirersity, and therefore adopted by that learned and highly respectable body :-" The great truth has finally gone forth to all the ends of the earth, THAT MAN SHALL NO MORE RENDER ACCOUNT TO MAN FOR HIS BELIEF, OVER WHICH HE HAS NIMSELF NO CONTROU.. llenceforward, nothing shall prevail upon us to praise or to blamo any ono for that which he can no more cliange than he can tho hue of his skin, or the height of his slature." It is the more meritorious in Mr. Brongham, and the University of Glasgow, to adopt so liberal a principle, that the nation in general, is, we believe, far from being ripe for it. Wo are reproached even by the QUARTERLY Review, in the last number, with being one of the most intolerant nations in Europe; a singular circumstanco, when it is considered that the philosophy of Europe received its strongest impulse from the philosophers of England. The punishment awarded to Carlile is, no doubt, worso than death, and therefore we do not give the Judges who sentenced him credit for mercy, in not sen. tencing him to the stako. They might bave done so with safety, for we lirmly believe, that if Carlile had been sentenced to the flaines they would have pleased a very great part of the population of England. Let us hope that kinder views will at length prevail,- that whatever men may think of any opinions, they will not wish to sentence those who enter. tain then to punishinents as sovere as any wbich can be inflicted by the Inquisition.
To shiew the difference between punishment when awardeil by dispas. sionato Legislation, and punishment awarded as in the case in question, we shall quote the enactments on the subject in the Prussian Code, drawn up during the reign of the present religious Monarch.
“ $ 214. Whoever insults the religious bodies adopted by the State, by abuse in publio discourses or writings, or by offensivo acis and gestures, shall be subject to an imprisonment of from four weeks to six months in a Prison or House of Correction.
"§ 217. Whoever by coarse invectives against Goll (blasphemy), pronounced publicly, gives occasion to general offence, shall be imprisoned for from two to six months, and then be instructed respecting his duties and the magnitude of his offence.”
That the sentence was contrary to law, we do not for a moment doubt. Mr. BROUGHAM quotes Sir EDWARD Coke to shew that blasphemy was not an ofteoco at Common Law. In the Ecclesiastical Code of every country of Europe, it ranks below heresy, and the law of England has loft heresy, the heavior offence, entirely to the Ecclesiastical Courts. Our forefathers, rude as they were, punished lcresy ovly with fire when the offender would not recant his errors.
In every age there is some offence against the punishment of which rew men will dare to raise their voice. Woe to the unhappy viction if he falls into certain hands, for where public opinion affords no check mercy will seldom be known. But still, though the Judges who pronounced this awful punishment have nothing to dread from public opinion, while those who challenge them have, it is lamentable to think tbal men should be such
wild beasts to each other-that while the ass, whose will comes in contact with that of its owner, should be protected by a MARTIN and thousands of followers, there are none to raise their voice against the horrid punishment ulap imprisonment for life for an unfortunate human being.
RICHARD CARLILE. The following is a copy of the Petition presented last night by
Mr. Brougham to the House of Commons : TO TIIE HONOURABLE TIE COMMONS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND
IRELAND IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED. The Pelition of Richard Carlile, a prisoner in Dorchester Gaol, sheweth,
That, since the year 1818, your petitioner wpd about twenty other persons have been prosccu!cil, at what has been called common law, for blas. phemy towards the Christian Religion.
That, on the 16th day of November, 1819, your petitioner was sentenced by the Court of King's Bench to ibree years imprisonment in Dorchester Gaol, and to fines of filteen hundred pounds, as the consequence of this prosecution.
That, your petitioner has never been able to see, that he has been dealt with according to law, and is possessed of very strong arguments to show, that such has not been the case; but that having been deprived of all his property, by seizures for bis fines, in addition to bis continued imprisoniept for near six years, he has never since possessed the means to proceed for justice by writ of error.
That there exists a Statute made in the year 1913, entitled “An act to relieve (bose persons who impugn the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.”
That, ibis Statale plaiuly and expressly relieves those, wlio impugo the Trinity, from all pains and penalties.
That, the doctrine of the Trinity being the foundation of the Christian Religion, as it has ever previously been recogoised by the law of England, to impugn that doctrine, is, according 1o your petitioncr's judgment, to blaspbemne the Cbristian Religion as previously established by law, and. that this statute was, as plain as words could make it, a repeal of all for. mer power of the law to iolerfere with the religion of the country.
That your petitioner pleaded this law in the Court of King's Bench, as his justification, but was answered that the common law was paramount to it.
Tbat your petitioner oannot understand, how two laws can justly exist, in the same country, the one hostile to the otber, and finds himself unwa. rily entrapped into an alleged law, of the existence of which he bad no knowledge, under the conclusion, that the latest made law repealed all priot opposition.
Tual it appears, by reports of public proceedings, that the highest law officer in the country bas alarmed a large body of the people, who thought ibemselves secure in the statute law, by the assertion that they are crimi. pals in the cye of this alleged Common Law.
That Ibe-allegation, that Christianity was or is a part or parcel of the law of the land, and that to impugn it was or is an offence at Common Law, was first asseried by Sir Malthew Hulc, witlioul reference to any precedent or prior authority.
That but a few years before this unfair addition to the Common Law, Lord Chief Justice Coke, always considered as good an authority as Sir Matthew Hale, distinctly laid it down as law, in mentioning the case of Caubrey, “ that so in causes ccclesiastical and spiritual, as blasphemy, apostacy from Christianily, heresies, schisms, &c., THE CONUSANCE WHEREOF DELONGETA NOT TO THE Common Law of ENGLAND, Ibo same are to bo determined and decided by ecclesiastical judges, according to the King's Ecolesiastical Laws of this Realm ;” and he gives, as a reason, that, “ fur as before it appearoth, the deciding of matters so many and of so great importance, are not within the conusance of the Common Laws.”
That before the abolition of the Star Chamber, and the decay of the Ec. clesiastical Courts, no cases of blasphemy towards the Christian Religion were known to the Common Law Couris.
Tbat no Statute can be found, which has conferred authority on the Common Law Courts, to lake conusance of a charge of blasphemy towards the Christian Religion, as assumed by Sir Matthew Hale.
That it therefore clearly appears, that that and the subsequent conusance of such cases by tho Common Law Couris, has been an unjust usurpation of power, and an unlawful creativn of law, contrary to the Common and Statute Laws of this Realm.
That later than the middle of the eigliteenth century, Lord Hansfield decided, that the Common Law did not take conusance of matters of' opinion. Whence it appears, by this and by the autbority of Lord Coke, the immedi. ate predecessor of Sir Matthew Ilale, that the Judges are not unanimous. upon this subject, and thal Sir Matthew Hale evidently warped the Common Law to punish an individual, who bad not committed a rcal infringement of that or of any other law, and that such bas been the conduct of ibe Judges in the case of your petitioner and others.
That as the Roman Catholic Sect of the Christian Religion was alone koown to the Common Law, tbat, as no addition can have been justly mado to tbe Common Law since the reformation from tbat Religion, that since the existing Statulo Laws pronounce the religion of the Common Law to have been, and to bo “idolatrous and damoable," and since the passing of the act of 1813, which allows Ibe doctrine of the Trinity to be impagned, to impugn, meaning the assertion of its falsehood, to speak evil or or to blaspheme, or to try to overthrow; it is clear, that the existing Religion of the Statuto Law is not recognized nor recognizable by the Common Law of the country.
That opon these grounds and arguments, your petitioner feels, that ho has not been dealt with according to law, and that he has been grie· vously fined and imprisoned contrary to law, and be therefore prayelb that your Honourable Blouse will give him relief by the investigation of his case, or by rostoring to him the property of wbich he bas been deprived on Ibe pretence of seizing for his fines, to onablo him to proceed by writ of error. Dorchester Gaol, June 24.
Note.--It appears, that the Crowy Lawyers were silent on the receipt of this petition by the House: neither of them said any thing because neither of them could find an argument to advance against it. Had I not been so scandalously robbed by the ministers, I should have certainly carried the question to thc House of Lords.