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´╗┐Title: Letter To Sir Samuel Shepherd - Upon the Subject of his Prosecutions of Richard Carlile - for Publishing Paine's "Age of Reason"
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letter To Sir Samuel Shepherd - Upon the Subject of his Prosecutions of Richard Carlile - for Publishing Paine's "Age of Reason"" ***

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As you have commenced the prosecution of Carlile, a printer, for
publishing an edition of Paine's Age of Reason, in conjunction with the
self-styled Society for the Suppression of Vice, I take the liberty to
submit to your consideration a few remarks, upon the nature and tendency
of this purposed suit. Since prosecutions of this kind are not novel,
and as it may be fairly conjectured that you will follow the ordinary
routine of men in your office in these causes, and moreover as the
accused will be subjected to the usual disadvantage of meeting three
pleadings to the one which will be allowed him, besides the probable
interruptions from the Judge on the bench, I think it needful and
reasonable to anticipate and meet beforehand those hacknied arguments,
which it seems to me most probable that you will advance in the court on
the days of trial.

That the accuser should be permitted to plead three times to the once
with which the accused is but imperfectly indulged, though it may be
law, is most flagrant injustice. But, perhaps, you may not be quite
satisfied with my arithmetic, and may ask me, how I make out my three
pleadings to one. It were much to the honour of this country, and its
laws, if I should be mistaken in my calculation, but I fear to be put
to the blush as an Englishman, (if you serjeants at law are not,) by my
computation, being found to be but too true.

In the first place, you open the case. This you do not reckon pleading:
but as you are allowed to say whatever you think proper, it becomes as
truly a pleading in reality as your latter speech, which alone you call
by that name. The second is what is styled so on both sides. And this
would be injustice, if I stopped here; but having engaged to reckon up
three pleadings, I fix upon the most unfit person that could be named;
that is, my Lord Judge, to plead on the third occasion.

This speech of the Judge, you crown-lawyers term summing up the
evidence; but I believe you can never adduce one solitary instance in a
crown prosecution, in which the Judge has not acted completely the part
of a retained counsel for the crown.

That my Lord Judge should be unable to divest himself of the habit of
pleading as an advocate, since he has formerly followed that employment,
though far from equitable or decorous, is still very natural, like as
the mail-coach horse which has aforetime been a hunter,

     "When hounds and horns the forest rend,"

pricks up his ears, and longs to join in the pursuit. But the Judge also
discharges a still more exceptionable office, that of interrupter on the
part of the crown.

He is apt to lug in his observation, that what the accused is saying
in his own defence is _irrelevant_ to the question; though a man's
penetration must be astonishing who can determine beforehand that any
particular sentence uttered shall not, by a concatenation of argument,
be brought to bear forcibly upon the point in question.

If the accused adduces instances of opposite decisions in similar
proceeding suits, with a view to point out an inconsistency, the Judge
will exclaim, "That is not the cause before us;" though how in the
world can inconsistency be shewn without bringing forward more than one

These ill-timed interruptions, by breaking the thread of connection of
the defence of the accused, must so maul it, and put it out of shape,
that the jury become unable to make either head or tail of it, even
though it should have been previously drawn up with good judgement, and
contain the soundest reasonings.

In trials for alledged blasphemy, if the accused complains that a
garbled extract made from his book does not convey its true sense, and
wishes to read it at large, the court object, and cry out, that the book
is too bad to be read in that place, and that it will poison the ears of
the audience.

If the accused desires that the Bible may be referred to, in proof of
its contradictions or blameable passages, the court bawls aloud that it
is too good a book to be produced before the profane. If reference be
thus objected to, by what means, then, shall the truth be brought to

And now, Mr. Attorney-General, let us proceed to your own probable
allegations and arguments in court in this particular cause; and I will
suppose you to say to the gentlemen of the jury, that you have been
urged by the representations of a respectable body of men, the Society
for the Suppression of Vice, to prosecute R. Carlile, whom you have
discovered and proved before the court to have gone _vi et armis_, by
violence and with weapons of war, and not having the fear of God before
his eyes, to have published a blasphemous libel, the Age of Reason, by
Thomas Paine, which libel had been previously condemned by a Jury, and
burnt by the common hangman. That the wicked tendency of this libel was
to induce a general disbelief of your and their most holy religion, that
pure, pacific, and benevolent system, which, having emanated from the
Deity, is, to its adherents, the basis of their comforts in this life,
their solace in the hours of affliction, sickness, and death, their
moral instruction in this world, and their providitor of everlasting
happiness in a world to come; that libels of this impious description
were with a malignant zeal thrown in the way of the young and
inexperienced, too undiscerning to detect their sophistry, or suspect
the poison contained in them, and too ignorant yet of the world to be
on their guard against the practices of bad men: that irreligion and;
immorality are necessarily connected; and that the propagators of
infidelity are actuated by a malice too virulent to be attributed to
mere human passion, and for which a motive and stimulus would be in vain
sought for, unless it be assigned to the instigators of the great enemy
of mankind, the Devil. The jury will be conjured, as they value the
preservation of good morals, the peace and good order of society, both
individual and public welfare, the happiness of their fellow-subjects
both in this world and in a future life, to arrest the fatal poison in
its progress, and give a verdict of conviction and condemnation against
the accused.

But, Mr. Attorney General, you would not take shining pinchbeck counters
instead of sovereigns for a fee, with as little close examination as you
will wish the jury to admit the weight and validity of your arguments,
and the accuracy of your assertions.

The imposing name assumed by the Society who are the ostensible movers
of the prosecution, might, at the first glance, seem sufficient to carry
all before it, and to dispatch the business at one blow. For what could
such a Society direct their efforts, against but vice? However, men are
not to be judged of by the titles they choose to give to themselves,
without some scrutiny being made into their conduct. This self styled
Society for the Suppression of Vice, exhibit themselves to us as the
foes to free inquiry, and stifling the arguments on one side of
a question. In vain will they excuse themselves as preventing the
poisonous effects of reasonings on the wrong side; for to decide in
that way which side is wrong is a _petitio propositi_, a begging of the
question. Real truth is best established by the free production of
the arguments on both sides; for thereby suspicion of unfairness is re
moved. So many absurdities attend upon error and falsehood, that truth
has a very preponderating advantage against them, where enquiry is left
free. The arguments then adduced on the wrong side of a question, are
not so noxious and poisonous as disingenuous men wish to insinuate. The
truth abhors to be indebted to suppression of argument, from that it
never can derive advantage; therefore it is only resorted to by the
party who are in the wrong. This endeavour to suppress argument implies
disingenuousness, and this last named quality is always at variance with
real truth. Error may be designed, but disingenuousness never can be;
and, therefore, when accompanied with violence, it is always criminal.
Disinenuousness, as far as it extends, cannot consist with the love of
truth, but error may. Now as the love of truth is the basis of all real
morality, this disingenuous self-styled Society for the Suppression of
Vice, are, therefore, detected to be a Society for the Suppression of

I will still suppose you to proceed in the beaten, track of your
predecessors in office, and omitting to reply to the technicality _vi
et armis_, on which, I imagine, you lay no stress, I take the liberty to
question the propriety of the accustomed phrase, "not having the fear
of God before his eyes." You will admit, Mr. Attorney-General, that to
forge the Great Seal of England would be a criminal deception, and also,
that to examine whether it was forged or not, or to state reasons
for believing it to have been forged, would be allowable. Now, as the
authority of the Creator is a higher one than the British Government, so
to forge a revelation from him would be a more criminal imposture than
the former one; and a rigid examination and scrutiny into its truth or
falsehood, and all doubts and rational exceptions against a supposed
revelation, would always be innocent, and might sometimes be laudable.
Therefore, as Paine's Age of Reason is an objection against the truth of
the supposed revelations of Moses and Jesus, the conduct of R. Carlile
in publishing it must be innocent, at least, if not meritorious, and
therefore would consist well with a pious veneration towards the Supreme
Being; and this invalidates your assertion.

"Which libel had been condemned by the legislature." But as the
legislature is composed of fallible men, their sanction does not prove
the truth and validity of Jesus's pretensions; and as the conduct of
the legislature in sanctioning this revelation might be directed and
influenced by political motives, their sanction is an argument rather
against than in favour of its truth.

"And burnt by the common hangman." Jean Jaques Rousseau says, and so
must every reasonable man, _Bruler un livre n'est pas y repondre_,
"Burning a book is not answering it."

"The wicked tendency of this libel was to induce a general disbelief of
your and their most holy religion." The truth can only be ascertained by
leaving inquiry free, that arguments on both, sides of a question may
be brought forward, in order that it may be seen on which side the
preponderance lies. Therefore, the same objection would hold good
against producing the arguments on the wrong side of any other question,
as well as this before us now; this would militate against truth in
general, and is, of course, absurd. Besides, as the Deists have made
the offer to argue with Jesus's followers upon the truth or falsehood
of Jesus's pretensions upon fair and equal terms, which offer Jesus's
followers have thought proper to divine, therefore, to use a figure
borrowed from pugilistic combats, the Deists throw up the hat and claim
the victory.

"That pure, pacific, and benevolent system, which having emanated from
the Deity." But the Deists offer to bring arguments to disprove the
purity, peaceableness, and benevolence of Jesus's system, and likewise
its origin from the Supreme Being; and your laws hinder those arguments
from appearing. Now, this endeavour of yours to suppress is concealment.
And if there is nothing criminal in this system of Jesus, what could you
have to conceal? The Deists do not endeavour to conceal any thing, it
is the hiding, hushing, concealing party which are the guilty; where
morality is concerned concealment implies guilt. If the Deists venture
to bring forward demonstrations from the four Gospels against the
personal moral character of Jesus, you call that blasphemy. But
recollect, that when the Deists make you the offer to discuss the moral
character and the pretensions of Jesus to a mission from the Almighty
upon honourable and fair terms, and you choose to decline this equitable
proposal, the charge of blasphemy falls upon yourselves; your sneaking
evasion and concealment cause the charge of blasphemy to be brought home
against you, and you stand convicted yourselves as the blasphemers.

"Is to its adherents the basis of their comforts in this life." Observe,
that those very men who lay heavy taxation upon this country, and, what
was unknown to Pagan times, entail those taxes upon unborn children,
those men are among the most zealous asserters of Jesus's pretensions,
and employ Jesus's priests as diligent advocates for the imposition of
public burdens on the land, and sundry abuses. So that the bulk of
the people of this country are not much indebted to Jesus's system for
temporal comforts. Nay, it rather deprives them of many comforts, and
even necessaries in this life. We have such men at present in office,
of greatest power and trust, who are of such principles that they would
countenance and patronize no religion but what suited their purpose, and
promoted their tyranny and oppressive objects and designs. Therefore, we
may see what Jesus's religion is by its suiting them so well.

"Their solace in the hours of affliction, sickness, and death." Jesus's
religion has caused the affliction and death of far more people than it
has solaced on such occasions.

"Their moral instructor in this world." The real moral tendency of
Jesus's system is one of the points at issue between his followers and
the Deists; therefore that position is not to be assumed as it has not
been fairly proved. The effect of Jesus's religion may have been to
repress some vices in the world, but it has greatly increased others.
When the Pagan Romans possessed Britain, there was not as much gin,
brandy, and whiskey drank here as there is now. Nay, the Pagan Romans
used to mix water with their wine most usually. Unpaid Bank notes were
unknown to them; and thus millions of inhabitants were not employed in
circulating among themselves falsehood and fraud, which horrid practice
among us renders those two last crimes familiar to the view, and abates
the abhorrence of them. Indeed, perjury was evidently not near so
frequent among the Pagan Romans as it is now that Jesus's system has
prevailed; this fact we can clearly infer from what remains to us
of Greek and Roman writers. The unnatural tax on unborn children was
totally unknown to those ancients: so that Jesus's morality has not done
us much good.

"And their providitor of everlasting happiness in a world to come."
There are some drawbacks in this world, at any rate, if we reckon the
Sunday's weekly gloom, and the tythes on all landed property. Whether
this future happiness be attained to at last or not by Jesus's
followers, it is a long, a very melancholy road, however, that they go
to it. And as a tenth levied on all landed produce and other church dues
are pretty large, payment in advance for an inheritance in an unseen
country, which no man living has visited, it seems unreasonable for
the law to hinder a scrutiny and examination into the validity of the
title-deeds. Besides, as the land is rated heavier than other property,
the payment falls very unequally on the holders of shares in this _Terra

"Libels of this impious description are zealously thrown in the way
of the young and inexperienced." This practising upon the minds of the
young and inexperienced, if it be culpable, is not so chargeable
upon the Deists as upon Jesus's priests. The deistical writings are
argumentative, and therefore cannot be read by the young till they are
almost grown up, and the judgement is always appealed to by the Deists;
neither do they discourage the examination of the other side of the
question, as Jesus's followers usually do. On the other hand, Jesus's
priests burden the memory of children, not seven years old, with creeds
and catechisms; besides, they labour to prejudice the young in favour
of Jesus's system, and to discourage all fair inquiry into what concerns
its truth; a conduct which the Deists would abhor to pursue in favour
of deism. Moreover, the catechisms and other machinations of Jesus's
priests are calculated to impair the discerning faculty of the young,
and to blunt its acumen.

Let us examine the beginning of the church of England catechism as an
example. "Q. Who gave you that name?"--"A. My godfathers and godmothers
in my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ," &c. How should
a child at seven years comprehend the meaning of a membership with an
unseen metaphysical being? This beginning with children on subjects
beyond their comprehension is playing tricks with their understanding.

"Q. What did your godfathers, &c. then for you?"

"A. They did promise and vow three things in my name: first, that I
should renounce the devil and all his works." It is a monstrous
proposition to instil into a child's mind that one person could swear to
the certainty of another's conduct. Surely these priestly tricks must be
meant to incapacitate these young children throughout life from thinking
ever acutely on religious subjects. And what idea could a child have of
the devil's works? Of the devil himself they might form some notion from
the picture of him, and might

     "Dream of the devil, and wake in a fright."

The processions [i. e. pomps] and empty things of this wicked
world. Would any pious man swear that a child should not be fond
of processions, pomps, and splendid shows? Neither could a child
distinguish empty things or vanities of the world. It is unavailing for
Jesus's priests to say that at any age of maturity these distinctions
will be comprehended, for they have taken care before hand, as far as
they could, to injure and debilitate the discerning faculty: and if they
should afterwards distinguish vanities, they would still be less able
to examine religious truths; and to place impediments in the way of this
last, is the priest's object. "Secondly, that I should believe all the
articles of the Christian faith." How can one person swear, to what
another shall believe? and what a notion this swearing must give
to young minds of the reverence due to an oath! Descant, Mr.
Attorney-General, as you think proper upon the good moral tendency of
the religion as by law established, but you will find it very difficult
to prove your assertions in its favour, whenever you may please to
advance them. The oath extends so far as that the child shall believe
not one article only but all the articles of Jesus's religion, and that
without even comprehending them all, for some, as that of the Trinity,
are quite unintelligible; and some of these articles contain other
articles so as to embrace the whole volume of the Bible, all and
singular every passage of it.

"And thirdly, that I should keep God's holy will and commandments." Then
they must swear that the boy shall never be a godfather.

All this is done to impair the intellect, and accounts, in part, for the
extreme obstinacy and prejudice of Jesus's followers. Somebody must
have sworn, Mr. Attorney General, that you should never be an
Attorney-General; for this exercise of your office herein described, is
not compatible with much scrupulosity. As for its being said that
the child afterwards takes the oath upon itself, oaths cannot be so
transferred; therefore that plea is futile. No description of people,
besides Jesus's followers, ever admitted the execrable principle of the
transfer of an oath. In fact, if the godfathers had sworn that the boy
should turn out a pickle, after all the rest of priestly management,
they would have stood a pretty good chance of having nothing fall upon
their conscience from that quarter.

Jesus's priests are apt to injure the intellect of young people by
telling them, that if they do not believe Jesus's religion they will be
damned to eternal punishments. Now as in all natural belief, when the
intellect is sound and healthy, the mind is always passive in the act
of giving its assent to any proposition, this trick of Jesus's priests
disturbs, impairs, and disorders the understanding; and by this means
also people are rendered incapable, throughout life, to reason and
inquire with penetration, discernment, and impartiality on religious
subjects. The natural belief of a sound mind is not determined by the
will. If men could, in all cases, believe whatever they pleased, their
minds would be a complete chaos; yet have Jesus's priests, in all ages
since the days of the founder of their religion, offered this violence
to the human intellect. Thus, I think, that I have shewn you, Mr.
Attorney-General, that the young and inexperienced are not more in
danger of imbibing absurd notions and depraved principles from the
Deists than from Jesus's priests.

I now proceed to examine a supposed assertion, rife enough among
those of your side of the question that "infidelity and immorality are
necessarily connected." That the Deists and other unbelievers are more
immoral than Jesus's followers, is more than can be proved. And when we
consider that Jesus's religion is always taken up as a prejudice, and is
maintained in the world by violence, and by a pertinacious determination
of Jesus's adherents to hear the reasons only on one side of the
question, that side which is favourable to his pretensions, a procedure
which is utterly repugnant to the love of truth, the most probable
conjecture is, that the unbelievers should be, upon the whole, the
more moral party. But it must be allowed to be a difficult matter to
determine such a question as that to any thing like certainty. Until it
be determined, however, you have no right to make the assertion alluded

When you declaim upon the too great prevalence of infidelity, you speak
a language which implies the insane and monstrous notion that natural
belief is dependent upon the will; whereas it is the known and suggested
reasons which always naturally determine the assent. A man is no more
culpable merely for what he believes, than he is for discovering by the
taste that sugar is sweet and aloes bitter. Your slang when you speak of
infidelity and belief, as virtues or vices, reprehensible or laudable,
would be quite unintelligible to us, if we were not already acquainted
with the tricks and machinations of priests to create prejudice, or
frighten people into an assent to points, which they dare not trust and
submit to the test of fair inquiry.

If the Creator were to require an assent without a sufficient reason to
determine it, he would demand what is contrary to the structure of the
human mind, which was formed by himself: thus he would disorder his own
work, which is a thing incredible. If he has suggested reasons which
would not have been otherwise thought of, let Jesus's priests produce
them, and let them be examined. Then the prosecutions of Deists would be
superfluous, for they would be forced to: believe when the reasons were
found cogent enough. But no such reasons have been hitherto produced:
reason or no reason, the assent is still required. And how shall such
an assent without reasons sufficient be distinguished from what is
universally allowed, by physicians and all others, to be insanity and
mental derangement?

"That the propagators of infidelity are instigated by the Devil." This
assertion, very usual from men in your office, Mr. Attorney-General, you
are unable to prove. And hereby you remind us, that Jesus's followers
universally admit the very absurd notion of two principles in the
universe, a good and a bad one.

I know that the moderns being ashamed of it, wish to abrogate it, and to
throw it off from themselves upon the early heretics. But we shall not
allow you to escape that way. If you advance any principle, you must
admit all the consequences which necessarily flow from it; and we will
not suffer your evasions in this particular. When pressed hard, you
followers of Jesus want to pass off the Devil upon us for a mere angel,
and tell us of his war in Heaven, and that he was cast out upon the
earth. This will not do, we shall not allow you this subterfuge, for in
other places your received canon of Scripture maintains the ubiquity of
the Devil; this extravagant notion with which we charge you, we shall
bring home to you. In 2 Cor. chap. iv. ver. 4, you have, "In whom
the God of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not."
implying, that the Devil, i. e. the God of this world, is present in all
unbelievers. This is still further confirmed by 1 John chap. v. ver. 19,
"The whole world lieth in the wicked one," i.e. the Devil. I know that
it is translated, "lieth in wickedness." But this is a sneaking
evasion of Jesus's followers, who are ashamed of the notion of the two
principles. That is an extraordinary vicious translation of the passage.
A man who knows the least of Greek at all must be sensible that the
passage will only admit of the rendering which I have here, and others
have before me, given to it. The Devil is said by Jesus's followers
to pervade the whole unbelieving world. If you complain, Mr.
Attorney-General, that this is pressing a lawyer too far on a
theological question, I shall lay the blame on you, and those who have
held your office, for starting this particular subject; and whenever an
Attorney-General advances a position he takes the risks attending it.
The story of the Devil's fall from Heaven in Revelations, chap. xii. may
establish and show an inconsistency in Jesus's religion, but it does
not get you nor his followers clear of the silly notion of the two
principles, when your canon of Scripture has once advanced what clearly
implies that groundless notion.

"The jury are conjured." Since the detection and exposition of that
infamous list of jurors, out of which a jury used to be packed for the
Crown whenever it was prosecutor, some sort of reformation has taken
place in the manner of appointing a jury, so as to leave a better chance
of having disinterested men on the jury. Before Hone's trial the scene
which used to take place in prosecutions for alledged blasphemy was
scandalous and detestable. The legislature take upon themselves
to assign a revelation to the Almighty, but as a revelation is a
delineation of his character, they assign to him a character of their
own choosing; and as they labour to suppress and hide the objections
started against it, that character which they have given to the Supreme
Being must of course be a bad one, because concealment in this case
implies guilt in the concealing party: so that the charge of blasphemy
is justly retorted upon the legislature and upon the prosecuting party
in this case of R. Carlile, and also in the preceding cases of Houston,
the reputed author of Ecce Homo, of Williams, who was

Paine's printer of the Age of Reason, of Daniel Isaac Eaton, too, and
others. The legislative bodies, I repeat, and their accomplices, are
the real blaspheming party, who have given, as they testify by their
concealing practices, a bad and slanderous character to the Almighty,
and whose guilt is aggravated by their endeavours to hinder other men
from vindicating him from their foul aspersions.

The jury on all those above-mentioned occasions invariably gave up the
character of the Maker of the universe to be traduced and calumniated
by the legislative bodies and their accomplices; and this abandonment of
all rectitude and decency was by bad men termed a verdict, i. e. _a vere
dictum_, whereby infallibility was attributed to twelve mortal men
at the same time that it was denied to the Ancient of Days, the real
proprietor of all worlds. If persons, sitting judiciously upon the
character of this exalted Being, gave it up thus to be reviled, they
ought, at least, to have been Gods whose judgement was to have been thus
appealed to; in fact, this sort of appeal of the prosecuting party
to twelve mortals was erecting them to something far above the human
nature; and these twelve mortals were induced by a gratuity of one or
more guineas a piece, a good dinner, with plenty of jovial nectar,
at the expence of the country, to consign over the character of
the Almighty to reviling and insult, thereby opening a door for a
supposititious system of morality,

     "And raised to gods confess even virtue vain."

"As they value the preservation of good morals." This, as I have
shewn, must be merely ironical, these prosecutions having the opposite

"The peace and good order of society." This is to obtain a submission
to tyranny; which submission Jesus in his religion inculcates by his
Apostle Peter, 1 Cph. chap. ii. ver. 13: "Submit yourselves to every
ordinance of man." And this will account for zeal of the ruling
authorities to support Jesus's pretensions:

"Individual and public welfare." This, after what has been shewn, must
be all rant.

"The happiness of their fellow-subjects here and hereafter." This can
never be promoted by suppressing argument and stifling inquiry.

"Arrest the fatal poison." Here the fair and free investigation and
examination of propositions is called poison. Yet, who but the wicked
can have any thing to dread from inquiry?

I apprehend, Mr. Shepherd, that you and the self' styled Society for the
Suppression of Vice carry on separate prosecutions, but I have classed
you both together, because you are both of you aiding, abetting, and
assisting in the same design. Of what individuals that Society is
composed is not known to me, but as the Bishops of Durham and Rochester
are the presidents, I conclude, that many priests of Jesus are among the
number, and that, at any rate, the parsons are the chief instructors in
this business. That free inquiry should not generally take place is much
their interest, for thereby their "gains would be gone." They would much
wish that the ignorance of ancient days, so profitable to parsons, could
be brought back; and I send you a verse or two upon a desire expressed
in the Gentleman's, or as it ought to be called, from its treating so
much of ecclesiastical matters, and expressing the wish of the parsons,
the Parson's Magazine, that the level near St. Andrew's church should be
filled up.

     "Priests, who through fiats their trade sustain
     Wish level Holborn Hill;
     And wish the world were flat again
     As erst when it stood still." 1

The self-styled Society for the Suppression of Vice, are zealous to
substitute useless or absurd observances as parts of religion, instead
of real true morality; and have taken great pains to prevent amusements,
and produce a gloom throughout Sunday, the only holiday for many people.
There are not less spirits drank on amount of a sabbatical gloom; for
harmless chearfulness is rather a preservative of innocence. I have
therefore sent you, Mr. Attorney-General, a song, which I beg you to
deliver to the parsons of that Society, and to any other parsons, to
help them to keep up their spirits.

     1 Joshua, chap. x.


To the tune of "Come, bustle, hustle, drink about, and let us merry be,"
of George Alexander Stevens.

     Since Paul affirms that Heaven has chose
     The thoughtless foolish things, 1
     And bless'd with Paradise all those
     For paying priests and kings: 2
     Then a preaching we will go, will go, will go,
     Then a preaching we will go.

     Fanatic herds, as if with strings
     At their nose, by priests are led;
     And know not that the knavish things
     Made that choice in God's stead.
     Then a preaching, &c.

     As crowds believe the heavens reject
     The prying, shrewd, and wise,
     No fear lest he our fraud detect,
     Whose faith has closed his eyes.
     Then a preaching, &c.

     Now Sion is rubied, gilt, and pearl'd,
     As the seat of blockheads' bliss;
     Our flocks may take that future world,
     Give us the joys of this.
     Then a preaching, &c.

          1 Cor. chap. i. ver. 27.

          2 Rom. chap. xiii. ver. 4.

     Our muttons, gulled and ignorant,
     Dare never close inquire,
     Lest if they disbelieve our cant,
     They fall to Hell's hot fire.
     Then a preaching, &c.

     Thus dolts suck in through panic dread
     The Gospel's milk 1 and crumbs,
     And with all nonsense fill their heads,
     Lest Hell should scorch their bums.
     Then a preaching, &c.

     March 2,1810. PHILALETHES.

          1 1 Cor. chap. iii. ver. 2.
            and Heb. chap. i. ver. 13.


London, 28th February, 1819.


You are about to be placed in a situation, and to perform a part, which
will interweave your name in the page of history:--not, however, in
that species of history which records the wars, bloodshed, or misery
of nations, as opposed to one another; but in that which exhibits the
cruelties of governments towards individuals among their own subjects,
who seeing, or thinking they see, their fellow men suffering afflictions
through the ignorance, prejudice, and misrule of their governments,
endeavour to remove the causes of such oppressions and misery, by
disclosing them, and setting their fellow-men to think for themselves.
You have had the virtue and intrepidity to engage in this honourable
career, and are, consequently, a prominent object in the public eye.
Every friend to the progress of knowledge, reason, and truth, as well
as of sincere humanity, is warmly interested in the nature and result of
those severe proceedings instituted against you. They devoutly hope
that your character as a man and a neighbour will afford no handle for
disparagement of you and your conduct; that your moral principles are
good, and your integrity unquestioned; that your deportment in the
relations of private and domestic life is amiable: and that conscious
of the purity of your motives, you will not shrink before the threats of
your adversaries; but, on the contrary, display that manly firmness of
courage which will enable you to encounter and defeat the numerical,
though not formidable, superiority of force to be arrayed against you.
If, however, contrary to our hopes and expectations, the abettors of
persecution in church and state should, by their arts and machinations,
succeed in obtaining a verdict for the persecutor, be you assured that
the respect, sympathy, and support of every enlightened, liberal, and
benevolent mind, will follow you, wherever your oppressors may convey
your person. Yet, I cannot but cherish anticipations of a very different
termination of these proceedings, engendered as they are between
religious bigotry and political folly, when submitted by both sides to a
jury of our countrymen. I trust that impartial justice will guide their

As a friend to the universal freedom of mankind, civil and religious,
I take leave to address you, for the purpose of contributing my sincere
congratulations on the honours that await you, and the fine opportunity
presented to you of benefiting mankind. I regret that the nature of my
situation constrains me to conceal my name. To disclose it would, in all
probability, prove my ruin in worldly circumstances, and thus both my
present and future usefulness in this very cause be destroyed. I know
many individuals, eminent for public and private virtue, who entertain
the same sentiments as myself, who, by the prejudices so assiduously
kept up, are equally obliged to be silent.

I have felt desirous, too, of sending you a few unconnected thoughts
which have occurred to me on your case. It is very likely that they are
quite common, and may have been much better expressed by others; yet,
nevertheless, I shall state them.

I can easily suppose, that, even if you had an intention to employ
counsel in your defence, you would find some difficulty, in the present
servility of the bar to the powers that be, to obtain any assistance.
But you require none, and you will be your own best advocate. I am not
a lawyer, and therefore am I neither deeply read in musty statutes, nor
skilled in legal subtleties. I apprehend, however, that there is not a
law in the statute book forbidding theological controversy. The crime
with which you are charged is called a _libel_. Now, what a libel is I
do not know, nor can any body tell me; yet you are doubtless pretty well
aware, that your prosecutors will, in a strain of inflated declamation
and bombast, describe this libel as a thing of the most atrocious and
diabolical nature and tendency. Your mode of defence against this attack
is obvious. Since the question at issue between you and your accusers
is not one of law, but of fact, your object is to get behind
their ambuscade of words, and beat down their phillippics by that
irresistible weapon, common sense, wielded by an honest man.

It has always appeared to my understanding that the most powerful
argument that can be used with well-meaning people who assisted in, or
approve of, prosecutions to support the ascendancy of their religion,
is, that which shews such prosecutions to have a _directly opposite
tendency_. Persecution is the very scandal of religion: it confesses
weakness at once, and is a complete admission that the origin,
doctrines, and progress of that religion cannot bear investigation.

It proves that the professors of and believers in it, are not themselves
convinced of its truth and divine nature. But a system of things being
established, of which these persons form apart, in which they live,
move, and have their being, _they wish it to be true_. They themselves
take it for granted, and live very comfortably under that system of
machinery of which it is a wheel, and so their interest and indolence
combine in prompting them to wish every one else to have the same
belief. There are people, however, who cannot, and will not, believe
what appears to their judgements to be false; but, should they go
farther than this, and consciously wishing their fellow-creatures to
perceive the truth, endeavour to shew by writings on what grounds they
cannot, and others ought not, to believe in falsehood and impositions,
then, in default of counter argument, or refutation by the same
instrument of reason, courts of law and armed authority are called on,
_to compel_ those unbelievers either to believe, and of course such
belief would be against their consciences, or to hold their tongues. In
former ages, shooting, stabbing, burning, and flaying alive, were the
means used for propagating religion for the good of men's souls; now
they are imprisonment, fine, pillory: but these remnants of barbarity
are also fast sinking into disgrace and disuse, and I cannot help
thinking that you are destined to give the finishing blow, in this
country at least, to the cruelties of bigotry.

Now, as inspiration or direct revelation from Heaven is not believed
even by Christians (at least the more rational) of this day, though in
the early and middle ages of Christianity priests and monks would have
sworn that God communicated with them every day, let me suggest that,
in the course of your defence, you ask the Jury trying your guilt or
innocence as a _libeller_ of that religion, whether _they_ believe it
to be founded on _truth?_ And since it would be to insult them, you
can add, to suppose they should profess belief of a subject doubtless
considered by them of the highest importance to their present and future
welfare, without having thoroughly examined it, again ask--whether in
their hearts and consciences they think that any sophistical reasoning,
which every thing contrary to it they must deem so, could shake their
principles thus established on the basis of demonstration? If so
established, what can hurt it--what can be a libel on it? Unless their
religion be capable of _demonstration_, it is at best but _doubtful_,
and may, therefore, be at least _susceptible_ of confutation. If, in
spite of the objections and attacks to which it has been exposed, it can
be shewn to be the true religion after all, such discussion, instead of
doing harm, must do good, inasmuch as it fixes the religion on a firmer
basis. On a subject where so many men of the most acute intellect and
most respectable character differ in opinion, you, as a humble inquirer
after truth, may be allowed to have yours. Speculative opinions on
religion, you can tell the jury, are nothing: whether you are a Roman
Catholic, a Protestant, a Mohammedan, a worshipper of Vishnu, or a Free
Thinker, or none of all these, is of no consequence to mankind, either
governing or governed--It is a matter between you and your Maker only.
All that governments can have to do with individuals, is their conduct
as members of the state towards their neighbours. Had you been charged
with any acts of disturbance, with the violation of any of the laws
for the protection of persons and property, then it would have been
intelligible; you might have been a fit object for trial, and, if found
guilty, of punishment. Not one of the books which you have published
have the slightest tendency to promote disorder, but, on the contrary
do they profess and are calculated by a diffusion of their principes
to extend and consolidate universal peace, virtue, happiness, and

If, then, the gentlemen of the Jury's religion be founded on what they
have satisfied their understanding to be _truth_, nothing can injure it;
since, if it really come from God, to imagine that any writings, whether
argumentative or satirical, could maintain a doubtful contest with books
said to contain a revelation of the divine will, is actually to raise
the author of such writings, and you their publisher, to a level with
God himself! or, rather, to degrade that Almighty, wise, and good Being,
your Creator, to a level with you, the creature. Hence it follows, that
persecution may destroy, but never can support any religion.

You cannot have a better ground-work for your defence than the
theological works of Paine, which, indeed, settle the question about the
inspiration of the scriptures and the divinity of Christ. On the subject
of religion generally there is a book which every lover of truth must
regret is not so well known as it will infallibly be in no long time--I
allude to a work entitled "Principles of Morality," by George Ensor,
Esq. It displays the most extensive research and erudition, combined
with good sense and an amiable disposition; the subject is pursued with
much perspicuity of order, and expressed in an easy, neat, appropriate
style. The book forms a very useful companion to Hume's ingenious and
philosophical Essays on the Natural History of Religion.

I have now to advert to what you will doubtless consider the most
valuable part of this communication. At the period of the late Mr.
Eaton's cruel and abominable treatment under the chief persecutorship
of Lord Ellenborough and his high priest, Sir Vicary Gibbs, a letter
appeared in the Morning Chronicle on the subject of that unfortunate
gentleman's unmerited punishment. It purported to be written by one
who believed in the Christian religion; but it evinced sentiments
so liberal, reasoning so just and forcible; it placed the right of
conscience, even as good policy, in so striking a point of view; arguing
the subject in such good temper, and with such conciseness, as to appear
to me a masterpiece of its kind, and a standard to which every member of
the Christian church ought to be referred. I preserved a copy of it at
the time, and now send you one transcribed, believing that it may be
useful to you, or that it may at least be interesting to you in the

The public mind has, of late years, been making rapid progress towards
a true knowledge of its rights. Priestcraft and bigotry must and will be
destroyed. Once trampled upon by man in the energy of his wrath, these
monsters can never again rear their Gorgon heads. Like the Apollo
represented by the Grecian sculptor, in the act of destroying the
Pythian serpent, man will then stand as God created him, the impress of
his own image, erect, free, noble, and grand. We have seen the glorious
result of the attempt to crush, not Hone, but in him the spirit of a
free press, and it is not permitted us to doubt that a similar triumph
and reward awaits you.

I am,

Your sincere (though anonymous) friend,



To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.


I was one of those who saw Mr. Eaton stand in the pillory for what has
been called an attempt to overturn the religion of his country. The
manner in which the spectators behaved during the execution of this
severe punishment, was, in my opinion, highly creditable to the
liberality of the age. I think I may venture to say, there was hardly an
individual present who did not sympathise with the unfortunate man; he
was cheered by numbers during the whole time of the punishment; and many
efforts were made to convey various kinds of refreshments to him.

As one of those who wish well to the interests of the Christian
religion, I own I was shocked upon this occasion. I have always
conceived this religion to be perfectly independent of the arm of
authority for its support, and to require only to be heard and examined
to bear down every species of opposition. I cannot but consider that
it has made its way against power, learning, and philosophy, united to
destroy it; nor can I refuse to draw from this the deduction, that it
will equally withstand all the efforts of abuse, sophistry, and calumny.
When I see any set of men resort to punishment, instead of argument,
in its defence, I can with difficulty conceive they are serious in the
belief of its doctrines, for the smallest reflection might convince
them, that such a course is the most effectual method they could take
to lower its estimation, and to cover it with discredit. It betrays that
diffidence and fear for the result which a man thoroughly impressed with
the truth of the Christian doctrines would surely not be the most likely
to entertain. I cannot bring myself, therefore, to believe, that those
who manifest a zeal to crush the enemies of Christianity by the arm of
the law, are themselves acquainted with that religion. I imagine them,
on the contrary, to be men whose time and attention have been completely
ingrossed by secular affairs, and who believe the Christian religion as
they would believe the Mohammedan, merely because their fathers believed
it before them.

Let those cruel persecutors reflect for a moment on the injury they are
thus doing to the very cause they are pretending to support. Let them
consider that religion can be defended only by argument, or by force;
and that it cannot be defended by the union of both; for it is in vain
to say, it may be defended by argument, when the reasonings on one side
only can be heard aloud, while those on the other draw down on the head
of the user of them pillory and imprisonment. It is certainly a very
unequal conflict when one of the combatants may make use of an argument
or a halter at his discretion. It is like a battle between a pugilist
and one armed with a stiletto, which, though he may not use at first, he
knows he can use if hard pushed. Such defenders of Christianity would do
well to remember, that the means they are resorting to are those which
so successfully promoted the cause of infidelity in France. Had the same
pains been bestowed in refuting the productions of Rousseau, Diderot,
and Voltaire, which were employed in burning their books and punishing
the authors, France and the whole of Europe might, at this day, have
exhibited very different spectacle.

The progress of liberal opinion has been very rapid, indeed, of late
years; and though Judges and Attorney-Generals, whose daily pursuits,
certainly so unfavourable to liberal and comprehensive reasonings, are
generally among the last persons to shake off antiquated prejudices, yet
they too, however slowly, will, unquestionably, at last, be borne down
by the tide of public opinion.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letter To Sir Samuel Shepherd - Upon the Subject of his Prosecutions of Richard Carlile - for Publishing Paine's "Age of Reason"" ***

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