THE TRIAL OF
Tuesday last, the long expected trial of Mr. CARLILE, for the
re-publication of PAINE's Age of Reason, came on in the court of King's Bench, before
the Lord Chief Justice and a Special Jury. An immense crowd of people filled
every avenue leading to the Court, long before the doors were opened.
As this trial, in all probability, will occupy a great length of time,
it will be utterly impossible for us to give the whole accounts; the
following are part of the proceedings of the first day, - we shall resume the subject
in our next.
The Attorney-General now rose to address the Court and Jury.- The
Learned Gentleman began with expressing his conviction that it would be not
necessary for him to encounter any prejudice on the solemn question on which they
were now sitting in judgment. He felt fully satisfied, that if the Gentlemen of
the Jury were not already apprised of the character of the publication which
was the subject of the prosecution, that when it's contents were shortly and
painfully stated to them, not only they, but all who professed themselves
friends to the real Liberty of the Press and liberty of discussion, would allow
that the present prosecution was far from having for it's object anything like a
restriction of that Liberty, and that the Officers of the Crown would have
been guilty of one of the grossest dereliction's of duty that they refrained from
instituting and preserving in it.
Without repeating every word of the atrocious libel with which the
defendant was charged, he would endeavour briefly to give such a general, yet
satisfactory view of the offence imputed to him, as might enable the Gentlemen
of the Jury to come to a fair unbiassed, and impartial decision upon it.
It was our boast to live under a Religion the most benignant ever
propagated - a religion that had it's origin from the Deity himself. We had long
lived and prospered under it; it was part of the Constitution and Law of the
Land itself. The Defendant had been pleased to say that the present prosecution
was founded on no law. Fortunate would it be for him could he prove this to
be the case; on that, indeed, must all his hopes of acquittal depend.
The present prosecution was, fortunately however, no novelty in the
legal proceedings of the country; on repeated occasions, similar actions had
been instituted: and, as the learned Judge would confirm to the Jury, no action
could be better founded in law than one which complained of a foul and infamous
attack on the Religion of the Land. It would be idle, (continued the learned
gentleman) It would be idle, when addressing twelve gentlemen, who have just
taken their solemn oaths on the very book which has been defamed, to declaim to
them on the excellence or benignity of that Religion which that Sacred Book
has revealed unto men. It would be most idle to descant to them on the divinity
of a Religion, under the sanction of which they were now sitting in judgment,
and had sworn to determine well and truly on the matters submitted to them.
Unless the defendant could wipe away the authority of ages - unless he
could wipe away the best part of the law of the land - unless he could
persuade the Jury to perjure themselves, he could never succeed in obtaining from
them a verdict of aquittal. - Christianity was part of the law of the land, and
there was no person, whatever his political or religious sentiments might be,
but must admit that the defendant had violated the law, by the publication in
The Learned Gentleman then proceeded to establish the law of the case
by a variety of precedents - by that of TAYLOR, in the time of Charles II. -
of WHISTON in the reign of GEORGE II. - of WILLIAMS (for publishing The Age of
Reason in 1797) - and lastly of EATON, in 1812. Thus had three successive
Courts and Juries found Defendants guilty of that very crime with which the
present defendant was now charged.
The Learned Gentleman then proceeded to make a variety of quotations
from the work itself, to satisfy the Jury of its pernicious and libellous
tendency, accompanying each with a most impassioned appeal to the feelings of the
Jury. In concluding, he explained the circumstances which had prevented the
cause being sooner brought to trial, and shewed that it did not arise from any
hesitation on the part of the officers of the Crown by principally from the
transversing courses of the defendant himself.
(To be continued)
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