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Ist. Because Christianity is in England - part and parcel of the law of the land,” and therefore every attack upon Religion is an attack upon the State, It deserves punishment, without any regard to its moral pravity, for its defiance of established laws, if there were no other reason.
2nd. Because Christianity, true or false, has this tendency, and no other, (no other, at least, with which our question is concerned)-namely, to promote virtue and restrain vice. This is acknowledged by every candid infidel. Indeed he must be blind and deaf who can deny it. Now, to quote the admirable Dr. PALEY, “ it is easier to govern good men than bad;" so then, it :' is the interest, not to say the duty, of the Legislature, to promote Christianity ; but since the laws are then only likely to be fairly made and fairly administered, when in the hands of virtuous men, it is the interest of the governed also, that their rules should promote and practise Christianity.
“ But,” it will be objected, “ persecution is inconsistent with Christianity.” And what then? Is it persecution to punish a crime in order to prevent its recurrence? If it be, then all Penal Laws are persecutions; then all courts of law are courts of tyranny; and every Judge a grand inquisitor. Moreover, we do not punish the blasphemer, as such ; that is the province of the Derry alone; but we do, and rightly too, inflict civil punishment on a civil crime: the crime of subverting public morals by blas phemous publications. And let it be remembered, that the re straints of religion and morality are the only bond of social order and public welfare.
“ But truth is great, and will prevail without the support of the law.” So it will; and so it did ultimately in France. During its eclipse, bowever, order, virtue, and religion had nearly perished. The murder of a king, the cold blooded massacre of thousands, five and twenty years of war and devastation, afforded a memorable lesson to mankind, that truth, though it may ultimately prevail, is often overwhelmed at the first onset. And who would again venture the experiment, merely because, after years of misery, truth will reassume her sway? It is only when men are weary of their folly, that they open their eyes and discover the value of truth; and they are generally indulged with a full cup of misery before they can recover what they idly parted with.
These arguments are just as good if religion be a fable, as on the contrary supposition. God forbid, however, that I should appear either sceptical as to its truth, or indifferent to its success! I have proceeded on neutral ground, in order to shew that justice-no less than virtue and religion--is concerned in the punishment of a crime that strikes at the very root of civil security, no less than of individual happiness. I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW TIMES,
Dorchester Gaol, Nov. 16, 1825, serenth
year of an imprisonment for an attempt Sir,
to improve the public morals. I THANK you for the insertion of my letter in your paper of the 14th and acknowledge the correctness of the copy; but, as you have pronounced me illiterate, I feel a little ambition to shew you and your readers, that my literature is not thoroughly despicable, when placed by the side of yours.
In your paper of the 5th, you say, that I persuade myself, that I have made a great discovery in metaphysics. In that of the 14th you speak of my letter, as a very curious illustration of the effect of bad metaphysics on an illiterate mind! Now, what will you reply, when I say, that I am not a metaphysician; but that I am wholly opposed to metaphysical doctrines ? Dr. Johnson's definition of metaphysics, if I may trust to the Abridgment by the Rev. Joseph Hamilton, is, that it is the science which considers beings as abstracted from all matter, particularly beings purely spiritual, as God, Angels, and the human soul! Towards these phantoms, I hold no principle but that of opposite doctrine; sol cannot be fairly held to be either a good or a bad metaphysician. : But the word metaphysics, in a more simple sense, defines something beside or beyond physics. I deal in nothing but physics, see and know nothing but matter, am only an Atheist from an ignorance of theism, considering it to be the very height of wisdom to know the proper points and lines at which we ought to confess ignorance, holding atheism, or an avowed ignorance of theism, to be one of those points and lines, and respecting no man as an authority, who cannot remove that ignorance towards some other point or line.
In answer to your attempt at argument, in commenting on my letter, I would observe, that common sense teaches me, that mind and body is one and the same thing, admitting no other distinctions, than that mind is the compounded sensations of the body, or one kind of bodily action or quality. Where do we perceive mind without body?' It would be as correct to say, that the body is angry, or joyful, or tranquil, or melancholy, as that it is hot or cold, or thirsty or tired. Other animals beside man, dogs for instance have the passions of anger, joy and melancholy, and the passive quality of tranquility. Have they minds or souls as a separate principle from the body? Can you shew any quality of the mind in man which I cannot shew in the dog?
I wished to have avoided this letter, if my scribbling ambition
would have permitted, to address you in answer to that of Christianus. Your correspondent has started a subject that I have long desired to discuss in a paper that can be considered an organ of the administration of the government, and that either gives a tone to, or follows the tone of, the legislature. Free and fair discussion shall be my guide, and, as in this letter, I will not use a word that can justly offend any one. The subject on which Christianus has made reflections and conclusions, the reverse of mine, is one that I have deeply studied in the solitude of my six years of imprisonment; and the insertion of my letter of the 10th bas given me hopes, that you will do me the justice to allow me, in your paper, to come fairly before the public, as to the matter and manner of mine and similar prosecutions, in answer to Christianus. I presume, that I can shew to every reasoning being, the propriety of opening my prison doors, upon the principle of the prosecution, and without reference to the question, whether I have suffered the penalty which the Judges of the Court of King's Bench inflicted upon me six years ago this day for the sale of Thomas Paine's Age of Reason and Elihu Palmer's Principles of Nature. In another letter, I purpose to examine that by Christianus.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW TIMES.
Dorchester Gaol, November 17, 1825. In answer to Christianus, on the propriety of prosecuting blasphemous publications, I will give you a specimen of infidel or atheistical reasoning. The question is two fold :
First, whether the legislature ought to prevent the publication of irreligious and blasphemous books or prints ?
Second, on what grounds the justice of its interference must be proved ?
Now mark the shallowness of his conclusions. He says, I. think the laws of the land ought to punish those who sell, or otherwise contribute to disperse blasphemous publications; because Christianity is in England part and parcel of the law of the land. Is this reasoning? or is it the lowest of dogmatism?
First, why should blasphemous publications be prosecuted more than any other publications, since blasphemy may be true, just and praiseworthy? So long as evil is admitted to exist among mankind, so long will blasphemous publications be the most useful of publications. Blasphemy towards a system, is to speak evil of that system. The question as to the propriety of that blasphemy is, whether there be an evil in the system blasphemed. If there be, the blasphemy is laudable; if there be not, it cannot
corrupt it. The word blasphemous is an idle and mischievous word, and is the wolf or the beggarman wherewith to frighten religious childhood. As a word it expresses nothing intrinsically bad. Almost every publication is a blasphemous publication, The Bible is a blasphemous publication. The New Times blasphemes the Old Times, The Morning Chronicle and The RepubIican, and these the New Times. The question of blasphemy is a question for free and fair discussion; but not for prosecution. It can only be criminal where it falsely asperses private character.
Before an irreligious book can be proved to be illfounded and mischievous, the religion which it attacks must be proved to be well founded and not mischievous. Here again is a question for free and fair discussion; but not for prosecution, for, whatever the former decides, it will be sufficient without the latter.
Again, what is the Christianity that is part and parcel of the law of England? The Judges of the Court of King's Bench said, when pressed, that it was a part of the Common Law. The Common Law is elsewhere defined, as that to which the memory of man runneth not contrary; and a line has been drawn that it is a principle of law which existed before Richard the First, Now, the Christianity before that time was the Christianity of the Roman Catholic church and that Christianity, the present English Church, as by law established, pronounces ' idolatrous and damnable.' The legislature, or the statute law of 1713, pronounced it blasphemous and punishable to impugn the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the doctrine of a Christian Deity. The legislature, or statute law of 1813, pronounced it lawful to impugn the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the doctrine of a Christian Deity. What then is the Christianity which is a part and parcel of the Law of England ? What is Christianity, in this country of sects and schisms? We know what it is in Rome, in Spain, and in Portugal; but what is it in England, since that of Rome is asserted to be idolatrous and damnable'?
Here, then, Christianus is in error; for no one can understand what he means by blasphemous publications, or by Christianity; and what no one can understand, no law can justly take cognizance of or support.
* Every attack upon religion is an attack upon the state.” It might be so. But what is a state that it is not to be attaeked? What is a state but a state of law? And what is law that it is not to be canvassed and attacked ? All the reflections and conclusions of Christianus are from bad premises. Indeed, to press him hard, I will say, that he has neither reflected, nor concluded. He has made assertions to suit a system, without looking to see whether that system might not be injurious to the state, or to the people as a whole, or to a majority, who are subject to that state.
The legislature attacks the state every year; and it is every man's duty to attack the state, if he thinks that he can thereby
mend it. It is a principle of English Law, that any man may lawfully propose an amendment of the law; therefore, if I were to allow religion to be a part and parcel of the law of the land, I am still right in impugning or attacking it. It is not a property of which any man can be unlawfully deprived ; and the want of a conformity of sentiment necessarily makes religion a subject of mutual attack in this country.
“Because Christianity, true or false, has this tendency, namely, to promote virtue and to restrain vice." Where and what is the proof of this dogma? What is the Christianity from which the proof is to be drawn ?
“ This is acknowledged by the candid infidel.” Indeed it is not. Who more candid than myself? I do not acknowledge it, and have never met an infidel, candid or not candid, who did acknowledge it. I prove the contrary, both as to every theory and every practice of that which is called Christianity.
Morality is a matter wholly distinct from religion. Morality is the matter of right or equity between man and man. Religion has no relation among men, or from man to man; but from man to what he calls God. If he be in error, as to what he calls God, and some must err where so many differ, all must err but one sect, and, perhaps, all without that exception, which is my opinion, his religion, is clearly a matter of error, and, as such, a vice, or immorality. In all my reflections, I find religion to have no connection with, and to be the antithesis of, morality.
Here all the premises adopted by Christianus are removed, or shewn to be bad, and hence all his assertions upon them are erroneous. Let him reflect upon the question- What is religion, that it can be made tangible by law ? or, what is the law that can define the religion which it professes to establish ?
He very inconsistently says, that truth prevailed over error in France, with respect to the restoration of the Roman Catholic religion. If the Roman Catholic religion be truth, why does the English religion pronounce it to be idolatrous and damna·ble'? If truth prevailed in France, the English Government per
secutes truth in England and Ireland. And, again, Christianus should remember, that the restoration of the Catholic religion was the act of a tyrant, and that it did not rise by the prosecution of blasphemous publications. When Bonaparte aspired to the despotism of France, he saw the necessity of the Roman Catholic religion as a state trick to further his immoral views.
It is thus, that I deal with such reflecting and concluding men as Christianus. It is thus, that free discussion removes error and can produce nothing but good to the state. I have by no means exhausted my subject, and I shall be glad to see Christianus pursue his upon better premises, if he can find them. And I hope that I have shewn you, Mr. Editor, that ridicule is not my only or favourite weapon.
- RICHARD CARLILE.