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I have now, Gentlemen, gone through the principal part of the work for which I am prosecuted, and I now appeal to your own impartial judgment, to say whether the author has written one immoral sentence beyond the extract taken from the Bible. On the contrary, you must observe, that throughout the whole of his work, the author has endeavoured to incolcate a pure and simple system of morality. “ But he has ridiculed the Christian religion,” say our opponents: it is true: and what doth this prove but that ihe Bible is of itself ridiculous ? Wit is used in vain if there be not something ridiculous to work upon; and if people choose to believe in a ridiculous book, how can they expect but that it will be held up in its true colours? “ He has called the Bible a book of lies!” He has, and rightly too. Who can read two sentences diametrically opposed to each other, and say there is not a lie in the case? And who will say after reading the “ Age of Reason," and tracing the references to the Bible, that it does not contain many and glaring instances of this ? “ Contradictions,” as numerous as the chapters, and “absurdities" an ample store are here likewise to be found in confirmation of what my author has written.-If then the Bible be that sort of book which the " Age of Reason” describes it to be, should we not rather be commended than punished for exposing it? If the Bible be true, will our writing make it false? If false, can any power make it true? Doth truth require the aid of man, or falsehood deserve it? See, then, Gentlemen, the dilemma in which this Court is now placed? It is either occupied in the needless work of stretching the arm of power to aid truth, or unjustly attempting to suppress truth and support falsehood. But my opponents say, that we are not bere to try the truth or falsehood of religion, but whether I have, or have not committed an offence against law-be it so. If the charge is for libel, how is it substantiated ? Have my prosecutors proved an injury done by my publication? Is it possible that one book can injure another? If my book lessens the public esteem for the Bible, is it not a proof that that esteem was ill founded? If the “ Age of Reason” was an attack on an individual, who could stand
that attack to be false and malicious; then, and not till then, can you with
the Court, he would not prevent him. It would certainly not be doing himself any good, but that was for himself to consider.
Defendant—I think it right to read to the Jury more of this book than the mere partial passages which are given in the indictment. I wish to do so, in order to show the Jury the true tenour of the work.
justice convict me of libel. If the charge be for blasphemy, allowing that such an offence could be coinmitted (wbich I have clearly proved cannot), this Court hatbro power to try it. I found my objection in the following clause, in the reports of law, Coke's filth volume, in the celebrated case of Caubrey:
_“ So in causes ecclesiastical and spiritual, as namely, blasphemy, apostacy from Christianity, heresies, schisms, &c. and others (the conservance whereof belong not to the Common Laws of England), the same are to be determined and decided by ecclesiastical judges, according to the King's ecclesiastical laws of this realm: for that as before it appearetb the deciding of matters so many, and of so great importance, are not within the cognisance of the common laws. Yet in spite of this plain case, numerous indictments have been brought against us, numerous convictions have taken place at Common Law. You will naturally ask, on what authority ? Ou what law? I answer, on no law, and on very weak, very questionable authority. You will first observe, that the Common Law, as banded down to us from the Saxons, bas no mention of any such cases. The other part of what is called Common Law is composed of the decisions of different Judges and Courts of Law. Now as we cannot allow a man to be infallible, so neither can allow human laws to be infallible, as these are only the emavations of the human mind, and are good or bad according to the maker or maker's knowledge of right or wrong as regards the case to which the law, or laws are made to apply. Yesterday, from the Learned Judge, I for the first time heard on what authority, on what precedent those prosecutions were carried on at Common Law. The first and foundation of all this is the ipse dixit of Judge Hale, “the able, the good, the lenient, the pious, tbe eminent, the enlightened Judge Hale!" this Judge, so profoundly skilled in the Common Law of the land, so enlightened as to believe in witchcraft! so good, so lenient, so pious, as to condemn two old women to be burned at the stake, under the idea of their being witcbes! And yet, Gentlemen, on the ipse dixit of this same enlightened believer in withcraft, this same pious burner of old women, is founded the present prosecution. But how weak then is the authority of such a man? If he was in error as to the offence of witchcraft, which he undoubtedly was, may be not be in error also as to the offence of blasphemy?-Blasphemy, as well as witchcraft, according to their general acceptation are but words, they relate to no person or thing; and consequently are not such as to be
within the cognizance of this or any other Court of Law. The learned Judge will no doubt quote to you many other what he calls authorities; but let me again beg you to remember that they are all founded on the precedent banded down from the unenlightened and bigoted Judge Hale. I do not mean to say that he was unenlightened in comparison of the age in which be lived, but unenlightened as regards the present advanced state of knowledge.. The most illiterate of the present day are aware that he was in error as regards witchcraft; and the enlightened are equally well aware of bis, and all others who believe like him, being in error as regards blasphemy. Seeing, then, Gentlemen, the entire want of proof, either of evil intention, or injury done by the sale of this publication; but or the contrary, tbat the motive was good, and the publication in every respect calculated to do good; and that neither law nor justice requires that I should be punished; by a verdict of ". Not Guilty” put a stop to this system of persecution : a system emanating from ignorance, and supported by bigotry; which, with unlawful stretch of power, and perversion of law, bas long, and still attempts, to tyrannize over the mind.
Gentlemen, before I conclude, I must once more request you to consider the uselessness, injustice, and impolicy of these prosecutions, whose authors, while they are with hypocritical cant pretending to support morality, are, at the same time, sapping its very foundations. Consider, likewise, that it is not only I, as an individual, who am interested in your decision; neither is it confined merely to the question as to the right of debating on theological subjects, but that, through your verdict, our enemies are aiming a blow at the principal bulwarks of the liberty and happiness of mankind—the LIBERTY OF THE PRESS, and FREE DISCUSSION.
To you, then, Gentlemen, I now leave my case. consider me to have been acting from pure motives, and conscientiously doing that which to me appeared right, against which not the shadow of a proof has been adduced, as you are in duty bound, acquit me. You will then return to your homes with the consciousness of having done unto others as ye would they should do unto you, and accompanied with the thanks and good wishes of thousands of your fellow men ; wbile, on the other hand, by giving an lawful verdict against the liberty of your fellow-manby becoming the tools of a corrupt, bigoted, and persecut
ing faction, your own minds would condemn and torment you; mankind would despise you; and you would sink into oblivion, covered with the curses of millions, of whom it is now in your power to command respect, gratitude, and esteem.
Mr. French called several witnesses to speak to the moral and religious character of O'Connor.
Mr. Wontner, the Governor of Newgate, said he was particularly attentive at Divine Service on Sunday, in the Chapel of the Gaol.
The Recorder summed up, and said the only question the Jury had to decide was this--did the defendants publish the work? they would take the law from him, and he pronounced the work to be a blasphemous, wicked, and most dangerous work. If the Jury bad a doubt of O'Connor's guilt, they would give him the benefit of it.
The Jury retired for about a quarter of an hour, and on their return, Acquitted O'Connor, and found Hassell Guilty. The Court sentenced him to two years' imprisonment in Newgate, and to enter into his own recognizance of £100. to keep the peace for life.
Hassell said, “ My Lord, I congratulate myself that I have fortitude to bear the infliction of so severe a sentence."
THE TRIAL OF JOHN CLARKE,
For publishing No. 17, Vol. IX. of “ The Republican," before Newman Knowlys, the Recorder, and a common
jury, at the Old Bailey Sessions, June 10, 1824.
On Monday Afternoon, May 17, 1824, John Clarke was taken from the shop of Richard Carlile, 84, Fleet Street, and brought before the sitting Magistrate, Alderman Hunter, at Guildhall; and there charged with having sold a certain scandalous, blasphemous, wicked, and prophane libel, contained in No. 17, Vol. IX of “ The Republican.” Defend. ant pleaded ignorance of its contents; therefore wished those very wicked and blasphemous passages might be read to him. The Alderman then read: “ Almost all the characters spoken of in the Bible were very immoral men, as Noah, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Jesus, and Paul; a band of robbers, murderers, adulterers, drunkards, liars, impostors, and tyrants:" this, he said, in his opinion, was a most wicked, prophane, and blasphemous libel.
Defendant- This, Sir, is only your opinion.
Alderman-It is, and must be, the opinion of every man who has accepted the religion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Defendant—It is not an accepted religion, it is forced upon the people; and I am no more bound to accept that, than the Mohommedan religion.
Alderman-Was sorry to see him in that condition, and advised him to consider not only his present, but his future state; for surely he was not so impious as to ascribe such epithets to those sacred characters.
Defendant said, that although he was iguorant of the contents of the book before, yet, since he had read the passage, he would maintain that it was nothing but truth, and truth could not be a libel.
The Alderman affected to be shocked at the Defendants bebaviour, and ordered him to find bail, himself in £100. and two sureties in £50, each.
Defendant then said, if he bad sold the Bible, they would have been more justified in those means, for a more blasphemous book was never published than the Bible. then taken to Giltspur Street Compter.