« הקודםהמשך »
any thing contrary to what I here state. My future career shall be as open as the past has been, and I will do nothing, in a political point of view, that cannot be openly done.
The science of political economy is working great changes and doing much to unite all classes of politicians. It is a fair search after truth, about which, when found and exhibited, men canoot differ. I will, in future, strenuously aid in this search after truth and a better state of politics, and seek to wear down the asperities of political animosity, by giving and taking mild instruction.
The distinctions of Tory, Wbig, Reformer, Radical, and even that of Republican, are empty words without a practical applica tion; and if that application be good and useful, the one name is as good as the other, and each and all had better be dispensed with as bars to a right understanding of each other. There can 'be no real evils in a country but taxation and impediments to free trade, free enquiry, and free discussion. Remove as much as is wisely possible of that taxation and the whole of these impediments, and all is done in the way of reform that can be done. Now, who is he of any party, who will stand forward and say, that the one proposition or the other is improper?
The religion established by law, like the politics of this country, is a question of revenue. The “ strong holus of this religion" are the benefices which its taxation affords to a few families. The reduction of this religion is also a reduction of taxation, and altogether a political question. With me, the only question is, is it useful? I find it à vice, an injury to the community as a whole; and, therefore, to the political motive of reducing it as a taxation, I add the moral motive of overthrowing it as a vice. That it is wholly founded in error, I would gladly maintain before all the Clergy of London in St. Paul's Church.” That it has no association with morality, I have proved; and am ready to prove, in any place, or at any time. Historically speaking, as to the Christian Religion, the very existence of Jesus Christ, his virgin mother, and twelve disciples, is a circumstance yet to be proved. We have not a document written in the century in which they are said to have lived that mentions or makes the most indirect allu. sion to any persons of this description. This did not arise from the absence of competent historians, in that century, to record such events; for it furnished the flower of our early historians. That this religion bas its foundation wholly in fable or allegory is a matter now all but demonstrated; and that the received Gospels and Epistles are not to be authenticated as pure and original documents, free from transcriptions and interpolations, is demonstrated. On what, then, Christians, is your religion founded, but on its revenue ?
Situated as I have been and as I now am, it is politically impossible that I can be passive on the subject of religion. I desire to overthrow it, 'for reasons before stated; but I desire also to
overthrow it by the power of free discussion. This discussion, I shall challenge at all times, and in all places, in which I can conveniently be ; but wherever or to whomsoever I do present myself with this challenge, it shall be made in the spirit of “ peace on earth, and good will toward men.” I desire to convert by mild instruction, all those, whose prejudices induce them to reject all discussion, unless it take place upon their own terms.
It is a great point gained, to hold the tacit acknowledgment from the legislature and magistracy of the country, that religion is a matter that may be properly subjected to the test of discussion. It has been most reluctantly yielded and not until it was fairly conquered by we who have endured tines and imprisonments to this end. But that point is gained, and it becomes our duty to shew our superiority over our late persecutors by shewing them, that we will meet them or their agents upon any fair terms of discussion. I cannot suppose the return of the prosecutions and persécutions of the last seven years upon this subject; but should our enemies yet seek revenge, 1, on my part, shall meet them with more force than that with which I have before met them, and again stake my life upon the issue.
While I stand prepared for the alternative, I have begun to model my business as if nothing of the kind were again to happen. I stand pledged to conduct a business in the most respect. able way, as a political, moral, and philosophical bookseller, and I am now about to redeem that pledge. I have made a large number of most valuable friends by my past firmness, I have their confidence to a singular degree, and I shall now seek to repay their attachment and generosity by mildly seeking to associate with thero whoever is respectable in the country. The ground which I have taken, I shall maintain as well chosen by a moderate firmness ; and seek to convince all of the rectitude of my past, and of the propriety of my present conduct.
To the ladies, I must particularly address myself, as a general lover, and as one who most sincerely courts their universal countenance. Acknowledging that they are the better halves of men, I can see that if I gain their esteem, that of the men must follow. An anecdote will illustrate the assertion. A Cornish gentleman, who bad lately come to town with his wife, bought, from my shop, a copy of Thomas Paine's Theological Works. He kept the book snugly in his pocket; but the good wife, whose penetration reached every hole and corner where her spouse could keep his Jiule private matters, under the pretence of taking his handkerchief for the washerwoman, drew forth the • forbidden fruit!” A storm was the consequence, she saw the good van going head. long to hell, so she resolved, that if he determined to go, he should go in a storm. She asserted her mastery, made the bending husband promise that he would return the book to my shop and never again make any kind of purchase from me. He pet
formed his promise in leaving the book with me: but as he had been commissioned by a physician of more knowledge and more nerve than himself, to purchase a collection of my publications, he so far cheated the wife, as to get the parcel sent to Cornwall unknown to her, with an assurance, that he could there find sure and secret opportunities to read the contents. In this and in many other instances, I have seen the importance of getting the ladies on my side; and where prejudices are to be removed, or female influence gained, that of no woman is to be despised.
To the ladies, I offer novelty, which always charms them; but mine is a novelty that requires mental labour to see and to understand it, and to do this, but few ladies feel the disposition. I offer them the charms of mental liberty, and what will add to their personal charms, mental power. However fine the figure or the face, if the lady be ignorant, she carries a stupidity and an awkwardness of manner into good company that detracts full ope half from her personal charms. Grace is a carriage that can only be acquired by the knowledge and sensibility of the mind; and bodily grace, without the accompaniment of sensible, agreeable, and commanding conversation, is a mere pretence. It is the stiffness of conceit and not the ease of a well-formed mind. Pbilosophical scepticism is now a matter of common conversation and no lady should be ignorant of the arguments on which it is grounded. I have published Freret's Letters to Eugenia, and am now printing his letter from Thrasybulus to Leucippe. Each of these pamphlets I commend to the ladies of this country : assured, that, from reading them, they will derive the desire to read the whole of my catalogue. In a short time, I purpose to write and publish a little book, which, I see, is much wanted among ladies, to instruct them in the natural as well as in the artificial art of beauty; and I also think of reprinting that very useful book of Mary Wolstoncroft's, entitled, "The Rights of Woman Vindicated.” This I hope will be a doing of something towards a gaining of the solid support of the ladies of this country,
The female mind, more susceptible of imagery than the male, suffers more from the bad effects of religion; and the greater the acuteness or sagacity of the mind, if it be not placed in a right train of investigation, the greater is the mischief which the error infuses. Religion is one species of insanity. Every religious person is more or less insane, and there is no proof of a sound, strong, and well-informed mind, but in the absence of all religion. This has become the sentiment of nine-tenths of our medical and surgical practitioners; for, with them, it has been clearly ascertained, that a religious state of mind is a state of disease, and a dose of salts may occasionally be salutarily used to purge off the effervescence of religious melancholy.
Yomen, who should be the choicest temples of reason, are brutified and diseased in the reception of the dogmas of religion.
• It makes them change their very natures, and from the character of being the bearers of human solace, they form that of warlike vixens. Religion brings another evil to women: it renders them susceptible of the seductions of priests and other religious men, and it is often the case, that the greater the devotee the greater the prostitute. In Catholic countries, this is peculiarly the case.
What I ask from the ladies is not so much a passive acquiescence in what I am doing, but an active assistance; that their feet, their fingers, and their tongues shall move briskly in this endeavour to improve the condition of mankind, and more particularly that of womankind. Thousands of women in this country, particularly of the younger class, waste their time for one of the most ridiculous of purposes, to collect pence for the evangelizing of foreign animals, while the majority of those of this Island are equally ignorant. How much better would it be to see them employed in the distribution and explanation of printed tracts that convey to the mind useful knowledge and indisputable argument? If the mere stirring up of ideas in the ignorant mind be good, it becomes the duty of the individual who directs, to implant the best ideas, those that are least disputable. But these evaugelizing ladies want the same thing which they wish to convey to the savage, they want a knowledge of the highest state of knowledge. The begging or collecting of pence for the use of Bible, Religious Tract, and Missionary Societies, is a proof, that the beggar or collector is as ignorant as the savage for whose instruction it is asked. Let these ladies examine the attacks made upon Christianity, and then let them say, whether they can so debase themselves as to beg pence for Priests; for this, after all, is the final purpose of all religious subscriptions, the support of a Priesthood is the end of all religion, and human misery is the food on which they feed.
I call upon every woman in the country to examine well what I have done, what I am doing, and what I am about to do. The Priests and their friends exhort you not to examine. They say, believe, without examination, the false dogmas which we present to you. I say, do not believe without examination any kind of dogmas, religious or irreligious. There are certain objects about us that challenge our examination, and a knowledge of those objects is the sum of all knowledge. The Priests lead you away from the examination of these real objects, and present to your imagination nothing but fictious phantoms: their whole religion consists of two purposes-to deceive and plunder-to live by deceit without labour on the produce of the labour of others. This is the state of things to which I wish to draw your attention, and be assured, whatever be the conflict of implanting new ideas on all the associations of your first lessons, however unsettled it
may make your minds, your children have much to gain by the changes proposed.
The people of this country were never in a better state to receive instruction than at this moment. There is much distress, at all tiines the best stimulant to cxcite enquiry, and with it a sort of political calmness. The country seems to wait for the power of the press and of the better informed part of the people to work the necessary changes. As far as this be practicable, I will not fail to perform my part, and I am of opinion, that another year or two will work great changes. Political affairs have ape proached a crisis that must produce some change, and a great cbange, and that within a short period of time. Mo Cobbeto talks largely about convulsion; but if by convulsion he means ins surrectionary movements on the part of the people, I am of opinion, that for a century past, there has not been less disposition ou the part of the people for any thing of the kind. Political convulsion or insurrectionary movements never arise but from great sufferings; therefore, they are at all times justifiable. It is a plotting to produce the stir that should be avoided. Sponta, neous feeling of this kind is to be applauded, and shall always find my countenance and encouragement. Indeed, I will go farther, and say, that I will join it, as soon as I see that I can do good by so doing:
Governmeut will be good in proportion with its cheapness, if We combine this axiom with the first principle, that government to a certain degree is necessary, and that a certain degree of taxation is as necessary to support it. The great aim, therefore, of all parties and all persons should be to render it as cheap as possible; and so long as the religious taxation stands it will be difficult to get rid of any large portion of the other. The taxation of religion may be reduced by a mere proclamation on the part of the majority of the people that they do not think it necessary. Here all the dissenters from the Church as by law established may consistently join the dissenters from all religion, and work out this great benefit. This would be better than the cry of sect against sect about religions tenets, every one of which is wrongly founded.
Opposing all sects, it is not to be expected that I give peculiar support to any one. I join the no popery people; because I think that popery ought to be abolished. I join the advocates of Catholic emancipation ; because I think there should be no kind of religious exclusions from public offices. I join each of the various sects of dissenters, in whatever they see wrong in the tenets of any other sect; and if they were wise, they would see that they could unite all only by joining with me in the cry against all. It is. I who have made straight the path for religious union. It is I who have blocked up the broad path to destruction. Come to me all