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Mr. W. SMITH could not see the per- wished to ask, whether it was not protinency of the Honourable Member's per that they should be allowed to state question. The petition was, however, those doubts, for the purpose of having signed, he could assure him, by persons them refuted if they were erroneous ? whose religious opinions were as perfectly In Christian charity such an indulgence opposed to each other as possible. ought not to be refused to any individual.
The petition was ordered to be printed. When he observed thirty or forty sects in Mr. HUME then rose for the purpose this country differing from the Church of of making the motion of which he had England, and differing equally from each given notice. His object was to obtain other, he thought it was not at all surthe admission of that principle which he prising that amongst those who engaged had always thought to be part of the in what might be termed periodical dislaw of this country_namely, that every cussion on the subject of religion, many individual was entiiled to freedom of dis- were found who dissented entirely from cussion on all subjects, whether contro- the great body of sectarians of erery deversial or religious. At Edinburgh, where scription. There was nothing wonderful he was brought up, it was held that any in such a circumstance ; but it was indeed man might entertain and express his wonderful that they should be prosecuted opinions, unless they became a nuisance and punished for promulgating their opi. to society, when, perhaps, they might be nions in the way of controversy. What brought uuder the operation of the com- right had any set of individuals to set mon law. Since the year 1817 a dispo- themselves up as following exclusively the sition had been manifested to prosecute true religion? Religion, very different persons for the publication of old as well from ours, was preached and adopted in as new works, the object of which was other countries; and those who pursuer! to impugn the autheniicity of the Chris- such religion proclaimed it to be the true tian faith. He was aware that since the one. Where there was such a diversity period to which he had referred, the num. of opinion, they taking the Scriptures as ber of such publications had increased; the rule of their conduct and actions, but he thought, also, that the progress ought to extend to all persons that mer. which had been made in knowledge, and ciful toleration which The New Testament the extent of education to all classes of so forcibly inculcated in every page. They persons, had brought with it a remedy ought not to proceed, in the manner for this evil. Looking at the advantages which was now too common, against which resulted from the freedom of dis. individuals who differed conscientiously cussion, and the part which able men from them on points of religious belief. were always ready to take in behalf of The perpetration of acts of a physical true religion, he thought it would be nature might be prerented by force ; doing equal injustice to that religion and but no power, however harshly applied, to the community to adopt any other could controul opinions, or make a man means of arriving at the truth than by receive doctrines which he did not befair discussion. He had always been led lieve to be correct. The Gorernment of to believe that the greatest blessing which this conntry had been tolerant to the Englishmen enjoyed was the complete Jews. To that race of people who denied freedom with which they were permitted altogether the Christian religion, who to express their religious opinions, and disbelieved in the divinity of its great to follow whatever sector persuasion Founder, the most complete toleration their own opinions coincided with. Re- was extended. No one attempted to incollectiog, too, that we enjoyed the bless. terfere with their opinions. The Quakers, iugs of a religion which had been esta- who differed on many esseutial points blished by means of discussion, and by from the Established Church, were tolediffering from those which had preceded rated; and the whole body of Dissenters, it, he thought the House would act un- various as were their doctrines, were sufjustly, and with bad policy, if it should fered to preach them without molestation. uow turn round upon those who differed This was highly to the honour of this from us, as we differed from those who country; and he wished, very sincerely, had preceded us, and exercise a rigour that every species of disability, whether which in our own case we had been the in the valure of a test or otherwise, first to deprecate. Such a course he was which applied to the Dissenters, should convinced was more likely to generate be wholly removed. He should he happy doubts and ignorance than to give any to see every human being placed in that stability to the religion. It was quite evi. situation in which he would be enabled, dent that persons who wished to inves. without any fear of the civil magistrate, tigate religious subjects must meet with to entertain whatsoever religious opinions a great rariety of opiuions; some of these he pleased ; and to endeavour to obtain, might confirm their belief, while others by fair and candid discussion, informanight give rise to doubts. Now, he ion on thosc points which might uot appear · sufficiently clear and satisfactory to now be carried into effect, even if it were him. That was the only way by which attempted by the most rigid sectarian? any man could arrive at a fair conviction. Again, by the 9th and 10th of William, Religion must be implanted in the mind; it was provided, that “ any person de and nothing but plain argument,-10. nying the doctriue of the Trinity, or conthing but the free discussion of points tending that there are more gods than which an individual conceived to be one, or impugning the truth of the Chrisdoubtful,—could either alter his mind, tian religion, shall be adjudged guilty of with respect to any new doctrine, or con- blasphemy." But they had themselves firm him in the truth of that which he done this provision away by an act of the had been accustomed to uphold. Physi- legislature. When this was the case, cal force could have no effect whatever, when such an alteration was effected in either in eradicating new, or establishing public opinion, he was prevented from old opinions. If there were any thing seeing clearly what was to be considered unreasonable in his proposition, he should blasphemous ribaldry, indecent discussion, not have brought it forward; but, looking or calm and dispassionate reasoning. He over the pages of the Holy Scriptures, he knew not what line of discussion was to could not find a single sentence that au- be tolerated, and what ought to be althorized punishment on account of dif- lowed, unless the legislature would define ference of opinion, or that called on the what blasphemy really was. Where there civil magistrate to interfere. The con. was no definition of that kind, how could duct of the Divine Founder of the Chris- any man who reasoned on a religious tian religion was entirely at variance with subject be satisfied that in his argument this prosecuting spirit. When he was pur. he avoided blasphemy? How could he sued with bitter hate, because he preached tell, let his iutentions be ever so pure, new opinions, his prayer was, « Father! that he did not expose himself to the forgive them; for they know not what visitation of the civil magistrate ? He, they do." It was in consequence of that therefore, submitted that the uncertainty mild spirit of forbearance, that the Chris- which prevailed, with respect to what tian religion spread and flourished. It was and what was not blasphemy, ought was not propagated by the great and the to put an end to accusations of that na. powerful; no, the meek, the lowly, and ture, and 10 the punishment arising from the humble, were its advocates ; and its them. Doubtless it would be said, that mild tenets made their way where force individuals had no right to express opiand violence must have failed. That re- nions which were different from those ligion had advanced in spite of the efforts held by the great mass of the community: of power, in defiance of every species of but if this principle had been always acted persecution ; and, with that great exam. on, Christianity never could have made ple before their eyes, he demanded, ought the progress which fortunately it had done. they now to renew those scenes of perse. All the missionaries they employed in cution and oppression, which the earlier foreign parts, all the preachers they sent Christians had suffered with so much out to Hindostan, contradicted the corfortitude ? Were they to immure indivi- rectness of this position. Those persons duals in dungeons for doing that which were sent abroad to expose the follies their own ancestors had done for adopt- and absurdities of religious creeds which ing new opinious? He might be told, were reverenced by millions. They de“ Those persons may express their opi- clared their dissent from those supernions, but it must be done in a proper stitious doctrines; and were, therefore, way." Now, for his own part, he knew doing the same thing as certain india not where the line of distinction was to viduals did in this country who could be drawn, at which ribaldry began and not believe all the tenets of Christianity. sound discretion ceased. With respect to He thought in this the legislature were blasphemy, he would ask any one who holding out two very different measures referred to the Act of James I., whether of justice. On the one hand, they were on that subject a great change had not sending out persons to various quarters taken place in the public mind? That of the globe, for the express purpose of act sets forth-" That any stage-player, calling on the natives to inquire, to inperformer at May-games, or at any pa- vestigate, and to ascertain the truth of geant, who shall use the name of God, the doctrines they professed ; while, on of Jesus Christ, or of the Trinity, shall the other, a similar inquiry was treated be adjudged guilty of blasphemy, and here as an offence of very great magni. shall be subjected to all the penalties by tude. It was only by such inquiry that this statute made and provided.” Would they could hope to benefit either the any man say, after reading this, that a Hindoo or Mahometau subjects in India. great difference of opinion had not taken If they invited the Hindoos to enter into place on this point ? Was it possible every kind of discussion the most extenthat the provisions of that statute could sive that could be imagined, why should they in England, because a few persons one of his publications until he had prediffered from the general feeling and opi- sented his petition, and he had then pe nion, withhold from those individuals the rused a few numbers of the Republican, benefit of that principle which was so in order to judge. He there found some liberally adopted elsewhere? He thought calm argumentative writing ; and some that Christianity had stood too long and articles so exceedingly offensive, that if too scrupulous an inquiry to be shaken in Carlile had the smallest idea of the feelthe present day. When men of the very ings of mankind, he would not have pub first abilities had attempted to impugn it lished any thing so revolting. He had, and had failed, he entertained no appre. however, been most severely dealt with, hension of the attacks of men who pos- and the consequence was, that the stream sessed neither talent nor education. of feeling had been changed ; resentment Christianity had marched on with rapid had been kindled against the prosecutor, strides, notwithstanding the efforts of and compassion had been excited in famen of powerful minds. When this was vour of the prisoner ; but for those proso, why should they dread the assaults of secutions few people would have known a few ignorant persons, who, of late the thousandth part of his writings. The years, had excited public attention? It Attorney and Solicitor General saw the was impossible that they could state any thing in its proper colours. They had arguments, or adduce any facts, which not proceeded against Carlile, because could endanger the tenets of the Christian they felt that such a course would be to religion, when assailants infinitely more spread abroad the very poison which they powerful had formerly attempted the wished to eradicate. But the Society same thing without effect. The end of for the suppression of Vice and the Bridge discussion was the attainment of truth; Street Association took the matter up, and he agreed with those who believed and became parties to the charge of dis. that the more the Christian religion was seminating those publications. They examined, the more firmly it would be brought forward prosecution after prosefixed, and the more seriously it would be cution, until the individuals who were followed. Those who prosecuted persons the objects of punishment left the court for promulgating opinions hostile to that of justice, after being sentenced to fine religion, did not check, but aggravated and imprisoument, with the characters the evil. He would quote the opinions of of martyrs to the cause which they had some of the most learned and pious men espoused. So much was this the fact, that this country ever produced, in sup- that if fifty persons more were in dunport of freedom of discussion. Tillotson, geons on account of these opinions, twice
Taylor, Louth, Warburton, Lardner, that number would be ready to come Campbell, Chillingworth, and many oth- forward for the same purpose. Carlile, ers, had placed their opinions on record with all his efforts, never could have sold with respect to the propriety of allowing Paine's works to the extent he had been the freest investigation of the Christian enabled to do in consequence of these religion. Tillotson said that the prosecutions. When Hone was proseChristian religion did not decline trial or cuted for his Parodies, 20,000 copies examination. If a church opposed itself were sold, which never would have been to investigation, that circumstance would the case if they had not been brought be no light ground of suspicion, since it into notoriety by legal proceedings. In would seem like a distrust of the truth." the same way the poem of “Wat Tyler,". The Honourable Gentleman then went which was written by Mr. Southey, the on to quote the opinions of the several Poet Laureat, in early life, and which he divines whom he had mentioned in supó (Mr. Southey) wishing to suppress, had port of the principle, that the utmost applied for an injunction to restrain its latitude should be given to discussion. publication, became, in consequence of He alluded more particularly to the wri- that step, most widely disseminated, no tings of Dr. Lardner, who, in speaking less than 30,000 copies of it having been of the work of Mr. Woolston, said, that sold immediately after the application. the proper punishment for a low, mean The Honourable Gentleman then proand scurrilous way of writing, was neg- ceeded to quote Bishop Watson, who held lect, scorn and detestation. That learn- that the freedom of inquiry, which had ed divine added, that the stream of re- subsisted in this country during the presentment would always turn against the sent century, had been of great benefit to prosecutor, where opinions were made the cause of Christianity; and he also the subject of complaint, especially if the referred to Dr. Campbell, who heldpunishment happened to be severe. In “ that that man could not be a friend to this way, continued Mr. Hume, the wri- Christianity who would punish another tings of Carlile ought to have been treated. for expressing his doubts. Every man He believed that they were scurrilous in who doubts should be invited to discusa very high degree. 'He had never read sion, that the objections might be answered: so far from objecting to discus. munity, and it is unjust and mexpedient sion, I believe that the most violent 10 expose any person to legal penalties attacks on the religion of Jesus have been on account of the expression of opinions of service to it. Let them argue, aud on matters of religion." when argument fails, let them even cavil On the question being put, against the Christian religion as much as Mr. WILBERForce addressed the they please, I have no apprehension of House ; but in so low a tove, that very the result." He (Mr. Hume) could not little of what he said could be distinctly conceive why the Bridge Street Associa. heard in the gallery. We understood tion should interfere in the uncoustitu- the Honourable Member to observe, that tional manner they had done. They had it was the duty of individuals to prosefound a stock-purse to prosecute indivi. cute publications of the nature of those duals, and took upon them that duty alluded to, as they werc evidently contra which really belonged to the magistraté. bonos mores. The Honourable Mover They had a great deal to answer for in had observed that he believed there was taking such a course. He regretted to no such a thing as Atheism ; but in one see such respectable persons amongst of those very publications there was a them. He was sorry that they had al. passage, in which it was stated that lowed themselves to be misled by inte. Atheism was the only ground on which rested individuals, secretaries and others, a man could find a sound and secure who liad only their own profits in view, footing. It was exceedingly unpleasant and cared very little about the objects to quote from any of those works; but which had been contemplated by the per- in another number it was declared that sons who subscribed the funds. The Christianity could be proved to demouHonourable Gentleman then quoted the stration to be a gross imposture, and as charge of the Bishop of London to his it was supported for ihe purpose of clergy last year, in which that Right Re- upholding a bad system of government, verend Prelate stated that he was a friend the author wondered why it had not to discussion, because he thought that it long siace been removed ; and he went called forth the mental energies of those on to ask whether the inquiring miod of whose duty it was to meet any arguments
man could find any sound footing except urged against the Christian religion. With in Atheism. (Hear.) The Honourabie so recent an opinion before them, why, Member (Mr. Hume) had quoted from he asked, should they act in a spirit so Bishop Warburton, the Bishop of Lonentirely different ? The Honourable don, and several other eminent divines, Member then alluded to the opinion of with whose sentiments he (Mr. WilberMr. Justice Blackstone, who held that it force) entirely concurred: for no man was contrary to sound policy and civil held more strongly the opinion that it freedom to prosecute on account of reli- was proper to investigate the established gious opinions. If such were the sen- religion of the country fairly. But none timents of the many pious, wise and of those pious and learned men had learned men whom he had quoted, how argued that gross and vulgar abuse of would gentlemen reconcile them with the the religion of the state ought to be prosecutions now going on? Of what tolerated. (Hear.) Dr. Paley's opinion use were those prosecutions when indivi. was clear and decisive on this point. duals gloried in their punishment as an
He said “ that persecution could proact of martyrdom ? Discussion ought to duce vo sincere conviction; and under be allowed in the most full and unre- the head of religious toleration, he instraiued degree, and the power of the cluded toleration of all serious argument, magistrate ought only to be resorted to but he did not think it would be right to when the safety of the state demanded suffer ridicule, invective, and mockery it. He had not touched upon the ques.' to be resorted to with impunity. They tion of Atheism for this simple reason- applied solely to the passions, weakened because he had never seen any such man
the understanding, and misled the judgas an Atheist, and he doubled whether ment. They did not assist the search any person existed who denied the being for truth, and instead of supporting any of a great Creator of the universe. He particular religion, destroyed the influ. did not mean to defend any attacks on ence of all.” (Hear, hear.) With rethe Christian religion, or any of the pub- spect to Carlile, he had not been harshly lications which had been complained of. treated. No prosecution was instituted They ought to be put down; but put against him until he had placed over down in the way they deserved-by com- his door “ The Temple of Reason;" and plete neglect and uiter contempt. The the dissemination of irreligious works Honourable Member concluded by moving became too notorious to be overlooked. “ That it is the opinion of this House He thought the country owed very great that free discussion has been attended thanks to private individuals (seconded with more benefit than injury to the com- by the state) who had endeavoured to VOL. XVIII.
disseminate such works and to support introduced the motion-namely, that no such a moral education as would enable man had a right to dictate his own the people to combat those principles. opinions upon abstract opinions to anHe entirely denied the truth of the argu, other, upon peril of punishment for a ment which the Honourable Member had refusal to adopt them (hear, from Mr. drawn from the employment of mission- Wilberforce); and his honourable friend aries abroad. Those individuals vever had further admitted, that so long as proceeded to insult the prejudices of the the controversy upon such topics were natives of other countries by any gross conducted with decency, it ought not to and indecent reflections. They adduced be prevented by force of law. Now, he nothing but fair and sober argument to lamented that when his honourable friend effect their purpose. The Honourable had thought proper to quote the senti. Member said that there was no drawing ments of Dr. Paley, he had not giren a precise line in arguments on this sub- them more at length, for he would, in ject. His auswer was, that it was not the writings of that eminent individual, intended to draw a precise line. Let find a more large and liberal spirit of truth go to its fullest and fairest extent, toleration, than he was disposed to adbut let ribaldry and indecency be avoided, mit practically in other parts of his Did Christianity ever insult the country speech. where it was attempted to be planted ? Mr. WilBERFORCE." Dr. Paley disNo: it was distinguished by decorum, tinctly excepts to the treatment of such respect, and obedience to the powers subjects with levity and ribaldry.” that be. Even the government of the Mr. RICARDO resumed—that, certainly, Emperor Nero, one of the most cruel was Dr. Paley's only exception; and he, tyrants that ever lived, was not abused as well as the other chief ornaments of by the Christians. With respect to those the church, for instance, Dr. Tillotson who had voluntarily taken upon them and Dr. Porteus, had asserted in the to prosecute publications of this nature, largest sense, the right of unfettered he must observe that there were many opinion. If the validity of such opinions wrongs by which society in general suf- were admitted, who could adrocate the fered, but which were likewise so offen- operation of the law of this country in sive to individuals, that they hesitated such matters ? Who could sustain those not to visit them with the penalties of impolitic and unjust prosecutions ? What the law. There were also, it should be was the prosecution of Carlile for reobserved, certain other crimes, more publishing the Age of Reason? That injurious to society than even robbery was not a work written in a style of or murder, but which, as they did not levity and ribaldry, but a serious arguaffect the particular interests of private ment upon the truths of the Christian individuals, they did not stand forward religion. Look again at the impending to punish. Therefore the formation of prosecution for eighteen weeks of the societies for the purpose of visiting such same man for Mr. Hone's Parodies, which crimes with severity, was a praiseworthy was not abandoned until Hone had himact. It had been stated over and over self secured an acquittal on the charge. again by the judges, that persons who But, said his honourable friend (Mr. associated together to carry the law into Wilberforce), iu justification of these execution, where offences of this kind, public prosecutions, there were some which were mischievous to society, were offences which did not directly affect perpetrated, were acting in a perfectly private interest although they injured legal manner. The introduction of ob- the community, and which might go scene pictures and improper books into unpunished, were it not for general schools had been effectually checked by associations which took cognizance of that means. When individuals combined such matters ; and he talked of obscene together for this purpose, and were only writings in illustration of his opinion. actuated by public principles, and where Was there really any comparison between the over-zealous disposition of some was such writings and those upon speculative tempered by the moderation and pru- points of religiou, which were the only dence of others, it could not be donbted topics to which this motion applied ? that great good was likely to be the re- (Hear, hear.) They were all agreed that sult.
obscene writings ought to be punished; Mr. RICARDO said that he had heard and why? because they were obviously with pleasure a great part of the speech pernicious to the moral interests of soof his honourable friend who had just ciety, and constituted a general and sat down, and the remainder certainly disgusting species of offence. (Hear, with some concern. The greater part of hear.) But not so abstract religious that specch was in support of the opinion subjects, upon which it was quite impossiwhich he (Mr. Ricardo) held in common ble to obtain universal assent. No man with his honourable friend who had had a right to say to another, “ My