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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 never 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 retlections. 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 given 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 bis 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 resunied-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 opinious wrongs by which society in general suf- were admitted, who could advocate the fered, but which were likewise so offen- operatiou 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 prosecutious ? What the law. There were also, it should be was the prosecution of Carlile for_re. observed, 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 prosecations, there were 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 cognizavce 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 religion, which were the only dence of others, it could not be doubted , 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 speech 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
Intelligence.-Christians' Petition against the Prosecution of Unbelievers. 49) opinion upon religion is right, and yours both for our private and public advanis not only wrong when you differ from tage, that, setting aside all considera. me, but I am entitled to punish you for tions of religion, and of the rewards and that difference.” Such an arrogant as- punishments of another life, they are sumption of will was intolerable, and was really good for us; and if God had not an outrage upon the benignant influence laid them upon us, we ought in reason, of religion. (Hear, hcar.) They might in order to our temporal benefit and talk of rihaldry and levity, but there advantage, to have laid them upon ourwas nothing more intolerable than the selves. If there were no religion, I proposition which he had just stated, know men would not have such strong and which was nothing less than the and forcible obligations to these duties; power contended for by the advocates of but yet, I say, though there were no these prosecutions for mere opinions upon religion, it were good for men, in order points of faith. (Hear, hear.) Then, to temporal ends, to their health, and as he had said on a former occasion, quiet, and reputation, and safety, and, what an absurd and immoral mode did in a word, to the private and public the law provide for estimating the credit prosperity of mankind, that men should of a man's faith before his testimony be temperate, and chaste, and just, and was legally admissible! When the ques. peaceable and charitable, and kind and tion was put to a witness, “ Do you obliging to one another, rather than the believe in a future state ?" If he were a contrary. So that religion does not conscientious man, entertaining seriously create those restraints arbitrarily, but such an opinion, his answer must be in requires those things of us, which our the vegative, and the law said he should reason, and a regard to our advantage, not be heard ; but if he were an immoral which the necessity and conveniency of man, and disregarded truth, and said, the things themselves, without any con“ I do believe in a future state," al- sideration of religion, would in most though in his conscience he disbelieved cases urge us to.” He read this passage in it, then his evidence was admissible, for the purpose of shewing, and from and his hypocrisy and falsehood secured great authorities in the church, that the him credibility. Now there would be obligation of religion was not aloue con. some sense in the law if it declined sidered as the influential test of moral tempting the hypocrisy of the individual, truth, and that a man might be very or his fear of the world's hostility or sceptical upon doctrical points, and yet prejudice, and let in other evidence to very positive in the controul of moral establish, from previous knowledge of impressions distinct from religious faith : the individual, whether or not he ought for instance, there was Mr. Owen, a not to be admitted as a witness; but as great benefactor to society, and yet a it stood, it was absurd and ridiculous ; man not believing (judging from some and when he (Mr. Ricardo) was charged opinions of his) in a future state. Would upon this ground with a desire to do any man, with the demonstrating exaway with the sanctity of an oath, his perience of the contrary before his eyes, reply was, “I do not desire to diminish say that Mr. Owen was less susceptible the sacredness of the obligation; but I of moral feeling because he was incredudo desire to get rid of the hypocrisy by lous upon matters of religion? Would which that oath might be eraded.” (Hear, any man, pretending to honour or canhear.) But then, again, was it possible dour, say that Mr. Owen, after a life for a man not to believe in a future state, spent in improving the condition of and yet be strictly moral, and impressed others, had a mind less pure, a heart with thc necessity of upholding credibi- less sincere, or a less conviction of the lity in the common obligations of society? restraint and controul of moral rectitude, For his part he firmly believed in the than if he were more imbued with the possibility of a man's being very honest precepts of religious obligatiou? (Hear.) for all the social purposes and essential · Why, then, was such a man (for so by obligations of the community in which the law he was) to be excluded from he lived, and still not assenting to the the pale of legal credibility? Why was belief of a future state. He fully ad- he, if he promulgated his opinions, to mitted that religion was a powerful obli- be liable to spend his days immured in gation, but he denied it to be the only a prison ? With respect to the excepobligation—it was, in fact, one which tion provided according to his honourable was superadded to the general force of friend (Mr. Wilberforce), for treating moral impressions—it were a libel upon such subjects with levity and ribaldry, human nature to say otherwise. (Hear:) he (Mr. Ricardo) must confess, that he Tillotson was of that opinion in the fol- thought it a very singular reservation : lowing quotation from his works :-“ As for what was it, but to say—“ You may for most of those restraints which Chris- discuss, if you please, in the most sotianity lays upou us, they are so much lemn, most serious, and therefore most
influential manner, any topic of religion the true religion, the same reason, and you please; but the moment you discuss the same duty, would authorize the exit with levity or ribaldry, that is, in such teurion of the principle to ludia ; and a manner as to be sure to offend the why not supplant Mahometanism to escommon sense of mankind, and there. tablish the doctrines of the Reformation ? fore deprive you of really acquiring any Into this wide field did the gentlemen serious proselytes, then the law takes enter who embarked in such fanciful cognizance of your conduct, and makes notions. He begged to be understood your imbecility peval.”. (Hear.) Was not as having argued this question from bethis a glaring inconsistency?' The law gioning to end as the friend of free disallowed the greater evil, the serious and cussion; he knew the delicacy of the substantial principle of discussion; and subject, and was anxious to guard himit denounced the lesser, which, after ad. self against being supposed to entertain mitting the first, it ought to have tole- opinions obnoxious to the bulk of manrated; and yet his honourable friend kind: he repeated that he only con(Mr. Wilberforce) had by his argument tended for ihe general right of selfjustified and supported' so singular a opinion, and for the unfettered liberty of
There was one passage of this discussion, and hoped that while doing petition which was very forcible, and to so, he should not have, as his honourwhich he called the attention of his ho- able friend (Mr. Hame) had last night, nourable friend, it was this :-" The certain opinions fixed upon him which reviler of Christianity appears to your he did not entertain, and which it was petitioners to be the least formidable of quite unnecessary for him to countenance, its enemies ; because his scoffs can rarely in supporting the line of argument which fail of arousing against him public opi- the subject suggested to him, and which nioa, than which nothing more is wanted his reason approved. (Hear.) to defeat his end. Between freedom of Mr. HorAce Twiss contended that discussion and absolute persecution there the Honourable Members wbo supported is no assignable mediun." When this this petition were erroneous, wben they subject was last before the House, unless supposed that that law was severe and his memory deceived him, he had licard arbitrary against which they protested; singular opinions propounded by gentle- on the contrary, he was prepared to men who took a different view of this shew that the law originated in the best subject from himself: he thought that time of the constitution, and was that he had heard it avowed, that the reli- which the great Lord Somers had suggion which ought to be established in a gested to that constitutional Sorereign, state, was not that which the majority King William. The honourable and said they believed, but that whose doc- learned gentlemau then quoted the ad. trines were true. He had heard an dress of the House of Commous to that observation like that fall from a very Monarch, in the year 1697, and his respectable quarter. It was very diffi- Majesty's apswer, which, in obedience cult to argue with any body entertaining to the desire of the House, recommended such an opinion, for where was the test the adoption of additional measures for by which such au argument could be the suppression of profane and immoral tried ? (Hear.) There was not in po- writings, and for putting down publicalemics, as in astronomy, one unerring tions which had a tendency to subvert or criterion to which the common credence disparage the Christian religion. He of mankind bowed—it was pot like the then proceeded to argue, that it was a rising sun, or any of the other phenomena mistake to say that the law was levelled of nature, which were bound by indis- at mere opinions, while on the contrary soluble and indisputable laws; but, on it was directed against overt acts, which the contrary, a subject open to cont ict- attacked the public peace and security ing opinions. Who, then, was to decide by striking at the roots of the existence upon the truth-who was authorized to of civil society. (Hear, hear.) There say,
“My opinion is right, yours is was a wide distinction between matters wrong?" If this were impossible, how of belief in politics and in religion : in the was the test to be decided ? (Hear.) latter the belief was the substance, and How, for instance, in such a country as could not safely be dispensed with. He Ireland (and to that he alluded in his begged to be understood as agreeing with observation try the question of the truth those who thought that hasty prosecuof what ought to be the religion of the tions on such topics were impolitic, and state, against the opinions of the ma- tended to aggravate the evil ; but did it jority of the people? (Hear.) How follow that he was prepared to abolisk would, upon that test, the stability of the exercise of a prudent discretion in the Protertant religion in Ireland be se- selecting objects for such prosecutions, cured? Or if it was secured there, and that he was at once to exonerate merely because the minority thought it from all legal responsibility, every sort
Intelligence.-Christians' Petition against the Prosecution of Unbelievers. 493
of assailant upon the Christian religion ? imbibe the 'poison, but would not seek for to that intent did the Honourable the antidote. Member's motion apply. (Hear.) It Mr. MONEY opposed the motion. Since was singular that the Honourable Gen. Parliament and other societies had done tlemen who supported the present mo. all in its power to disseminate the bless. tion for affordiug such a latitude of ings of education, care ought to be taken opinion and action to the disbelievers of that it was not abused. His principal all religion, should be the very men who, object in rising was to do justice to an on a late occasion, when the rights and individual who had been alluded to opinions of six millions of fellow-chris- during the debate—he meant Mr. Owen, tians, not unbelievers, were under con- 'The Honourable Member for Portarlingsideration, felt themselves justified in ton had said that Mr. Owen disbelieved withdrawing from the House, and there. in a future state. Since that assertion by exposing to a defeat, which their had been made, he (Mr. Money) lad presence might have averted, that prin- communicated with Mr. Owen, and he ciple of the exercise of conscientious had great reason to believe that the opinion without controul, for which they Hovourable Member for Portarlington had this night evinced so uncompromis- had mistaken the opinions of Mr. Owen. ing an attachment. (Hear.) He was He begged the Honourable Member to not surprised to hear from the Honour- state in what part of Mr. Owen's works able Member (Mr. Ricardo) who was the he found that opinion promulgated which advocate of free trade, such free opinions he had attributed to Mr.Owen. upon topics of religion (a laugh)-he was Mr. RICARDO said the last act he would properly enough an advocate for free commit would be to misrepresent the trade, because it was a bounty on pro. opinions of any individuals. He had duction, and for the same reason he (Mr. gathered Mr. Owen's opinions from the Twiss) was not an advocate for such works which he had published. After sentiments as this petition asserted. reading the speeches which Mr. Owen (Hear.)
had delivered in Ireland, and other places, Mr. W. Smith was afraid that this he had come to the conclusion, that he was not a topic well calculated to secure (Mr. Owen) did not beliere in a future that grave attention in a debate which state of rewards and punishments. It it so essentially required. He could as- was one of the doctrines of Mr. Owen, sure the House, that no man felt more that a man could not form his own chadisgust than he did at the publications racter, but that it was formed by the for which Carlile had been prosecuted; circumstances which surrounded him but at the same time he thought that that when a man committed an act which liberty of conscience without the liberty the world called vice, it ought to be conof divulging one's opinions, was a poor sidered his misfortune merely, and should and imperfect privilege. The only ques- not be visited with punishment. He tion raised this night, was simply this- (Mr. Ricardo ) certainly had imagined whether all manner of treating religious that Mr. Owen would extend the same subjects should be allowed in controversy. principle to a future state. It would, He had long thought upon this subject, however, give him great concern to find, and the result of his reflections was the that he had inadvertently misrepresented painful conviction, that it were better to Mr. Owen's opinions. leave such matters to the general opinion Mr. PEEL complained, that an Honourof society. He then argued the impossis able Member ou the other side had bility of establishing a safe test of opinion assumed that the House was prepared to for the penal guidance of society. What go a very considerable way in accordance in Englaud they thought moral and just, with the views of the Honourable Memmight not be equally so considered in ber for Aberdeen. He, for one, was India. The Brahmin who, from mo- not prepared to advance one step along tives of religion, sanctioned the burning with the Honourable Member. (Hear, of Hindoo widows, might, if left to his hear.) He objected to his motion altodecision, consign to the same flames the gether. He disliked the form in which Englishman who complained against so the Honourable Member had brought the cruel and irreligious a practice.
question before the House. The pracMr. THOMAS Wilson trusted that the tice of proposing resolutions declaratory House would shew by its vote of that of the opinion of the House had, he was night that its opinion was not in unison sorry to sec, become very prevalent of with those which had been expressed by Jate. If the Honourable Member conthe Honourable Member who spoke last. sidered the law which subjected indiHe thought that the minds of the lower viduals to punishment, improper or un. orders were poisoned by the blasphemous necessary, why did he not move for its publications which had been spread repeal ? (Hear, hear.) In the resoluabroad. The lower orders would eagerly tion which the Honourable Member had proposed, he first declared that free dis- endeavoured to undermine the religion cussion had been attended with more of the country, to go unpunished. benefit than injury, and then said that it Mr. Hume said he would uot press was inexpedient to subject individuals the House to a division on the resoluto punishment on account of the expres- tions, because if they should be affirmed, sion of their opinions on religious mat- there would not be time to pass a Bil) ters. If the first part of the resolution founded upon them during the present was true, the second was quite unneces- session. sary. If there had been, as the Honour. The SPEAKER then put the question able Member assumed in his resolution, on the resolutions, which were negatived free discussion, what more did he de- without a division. sire? To be consistent with himself, the Honourable Member should have framed
HOUSE OF LORDS. the resolution in a prospective sense, and
JULY 4. said, that more benefit would arise, &c. With respect to the petition, he must The Marquis of LANSDOWN presented say that he had never read any thing a petition, signed by upwards of 2,000 more absurd or sophisticated. It com- persons, amongst whom were 200 mimenced by stating, that the petitioners nisters of various religious persuasions, had a strong sense of the benefits which against prosecuting persons for writings resulted from a belief in the Christian supposed to be hostile to the Christian religion, and afterwards expressed a religion. His Lordship, on presenting wish that the laws might be repealed the petition, said, that although he could which prevented individuals from attack- not go the length to which the petitioners ing and endeavouring to destroy that went, that there ought to be no statute religion. He (Mr. Peel) was satisfied against such publications, and no panishwith the law as it stood, and would not meut under that statute, yet be was free consent to change it. He could conceive to declare that there was no subject on that cases might occur in which it would which legislation could be exercised, in be impolitic to put the law in force. which it was more likely for harm to be That was a matter of discretion. But if done by misdirected zeal, whose efforts it could be shewn that in a dozen cases frequently tended to produce the very the discretion had been abused, it would effects which it was the object of the law not determine him to put aside the law to check. altogether. He would not consent to The petition was then read, and orallow men, who, from sordid motives, dered to lie on the table.
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