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NOTE TO MR. HARDMAN'S LETTER BY R. CARLILE.
MR. HARDMAN's first position is, that religion is not vice; because, “ to act justly to all our neighbours cannot be construed to mean any thing vicious.” What has acting justly toward our neighbours to do with religion ? Nothing whatever ; nor has it any relation to religion. It is a matter of morality, to which all alike assent as good. It is not because a system of error and vice, such as religion is, has surrounded its hideous form with a few moral sentences, that such sentences are to be identified with religion. It is an error in the association of words and ideas on the part of Mr. Hardman to say that acting justly toward our neighbours is an act of religion. I could find him Scripture authority to shew that to act unjustly toward our neighbours is an act of religion, an act enjoined by those Scriptures. If we are to rest on assertions of this kind, we shall conclude nothing. I assert that religion is a vice from the premises of its being founded in error and in many instances founded on wilful falsehood, a circumstance which Mr. Hardman, toward the conclusion of his letter, seems to approve, for the rule of the multitude, an approbation which, in my view, goes directly to countenance every piece of tyranny and villany practised over that multitude. Deception can only be justified by deception, tyranny by tyranny, villainy by villainy. The doctrine of doing evil that good may come is an immoral doctrine that paves the way to an excuse for every
kind of evil. A theoretical line between morality and immorality cannot be drawn ; but morality justifies nothing that begins with evil to any individual. Nor does the good of the many require the evil of the few as a common principle, nor in any other shape than as the exception to the general rule. If the few are to rule the many as a matter of deception, there will be many among
that many, as shrewd as the few, and here at once we have a source of bad feeling, a source of immorality, a proof in Mr. Hardman's words that religion is vice.
I find other inferences that religion is vicious. It is expensive, It consumes without adding any thing to property. It taxes both the time and the produce of the labouring man. If he be a thinking man, it makes him miserable until he has thought himself out of it. If he be not a thinking man, he is not a subject for consideration or comparison higher than any other irrational animal. If he thinks, he must doubt; if he neither thinks nor doubts, he deserves not even the distinction of being a religious man. He can be, religiously, nothing more than the instrument of some priest. If Mr. Hardman desires a state of things of this kind, it but ill consorts with human improvement.
Mr. Hardman says, that vice is not the companion of religionnever was, never will be. He could not have made this assertion
with a clear definition of religion. Has there been no vice in the Spanish, Inquisition--no vice in the religion of Ireland-no vice in Christendom, which has professed to make religion its primary law ? Still Mr. Hardman says, the vice of religion is not religion itself. If produced by religion, a fact on which I insist, the religion is the vice. Religion is, altogether, in its most refined state, a creature of the imagination : that imagination has no realities on which it can rest; and resting on no realities, it has all the vice of falsehood, deceit, and delusion, superadded to its property of superseding more virtuous actions, of being of great expence, a great waste of time, and a great disturber of individuals, and of communities. It is a vice in its property of excluding useful knowledge--of depraving the human mind-of injuring the health, and shutting out the happiness of mankind. A truly religious man has scarcely a capacity to think of any thing but religion.
Religion has brought us to what we are," says Mr. Hardman. And what are we? In what is the mass of the people of this country superior to the cattle of the field ? Nay, how much are they inferior, in every relation to happiness? But here comes the point-he asks how we would civilize a black African being called man without religion. We would teach him the use of letters and figures-we would teach him the mechanic arts, and all arts and sciences --we would teach him morality, or the right of person and property, and this would be civilization--this would be the true civilization—this alone would improve his condition. Teach him religion and you make a mad or melancholy fool of a simple and cheerful minded man.
Throughout his piece, Mr. Hardman has mis-named morality by calling it religion. Let him call his goodness morality and we agree. Let him see that religion has no relation from man toward man, and we agree.
He has not examined the subject on which he has written: he has mixed up the qualities of one principle under the name of another, and thus is in error throughout.
The Machiavelian doctrine, that religion, though false as to fact, may be true in politics, has my avowed contempt. surprised at such a doctrine from Mr. Hardman, who, at least, has been so much of a Reformer as to support Reformers. Such an excuse for error would lead to a justification of all the errors that are thrusted upon mankind. The good government and good order of the people require no such tricks as Mr. Hardman has here represented to be necessary. They are to be made happy only by being fairly dealt with by those who have power over them.
From the late charge of the present Bishop of Bath and Wells, to the clergy of his diocese, I lately extracted a similar sentiment to this of Mr. Hardman's. The Bishop says:-“A wise government will not desert the church, whilst the church remains true to
itself. A free government cannot subsist without religion, nor religion without a clergy.” Here the matter at issue is laid down as dogmatically, as if it were a settled question as to what constitutes a church and what constitutes religion. The inference of the statement is, that a wise and free government will always have a church, a religion and a clergy. Mr. Hard man has attempted to shew some reasons for his conclusions ; but the Bishop has shewn none. I make the contrary assertion, that a government can neither be wise nor free which is associated with a church, a religion, and a clergy, and I find sound premises for my inference, in the proof, that no kind of religion is founded on facts, that it teaches nothing useful to be known, that it is a source of dissension, and that it is a great tax upon all who are subject to it. If the people be ignorant, what has kept them ignorant? They have never wanted religious instruction. If they be ignorant, give them useful knowledge. If credulous, teach them to be sceptical by resting on nothing but that which is supported by analogical or demonstrative proofs. And to who can a people be ungrateful? How can sublime mysteries past finding out guide them to the paths of virtue? Mr. Hardman has not examined his subject deeply enough. He draws inserences from the most shallow premises.
Had not this piece of Mr. Hardman's come to me in the shape of a challenge, I should not have thought it worth an insertion. It is awkward to shrink from any kind of challenge by persons who evidently have not examined fairly the subject on which they write. What do we find in Mr. Hardman's piece, to shew that religion is true or useful in politics? He closes his scene by bringing forth a terrific phantom, as a necessary principle to alarm the various tempers of mankind into a state of quiescence. But what will he say now that he sees the majority of the people of this island too well instructed to be alarmed by such a phantom, such a creature of the imagination? And why should one man be terrified into a passive state of being more than another? Let Mr. Hardman say who have a just right to be governors and priests, if such a government be necessary, and whether a people left to delegate their own authorities would delegate such authorities?
If this be the only defence of religion, I pity those who support it. And I detest the hypocrisy that imposes on another for à fact, that which the proposer knows to be a fable. This is tyranny and vice in its worst sense. If Mr. Hardman cannot publicly express his true sentiments, he had better be silent: he is not in a situation to be a challenger about opinions, nor to be an instructor of the public. Because a man can write, it is no reason that he must write. Wishing to be careful as to the matter with which I fill the Republican in future, I shall set my face against all pieces, even challenges, that are not well and respectably written.
TO MR. R. CARLILE, FLEET-STREET, LONDON.
Toutes les fois vous donnerez un sauf conuluit à la Veritè, elle vous Arruera.-MERILION.
Paris, December, 1825. The Society here, for the regnizance of the General State of Civil and Religious Liberty, desire to offer you their congratulations on regaining your freedom,
To you, praise is due, for your patient endurance of unjust and impolitic persecution: while your enemies may confess, with hope, that, to you, England owes more for future peace and surety, than to any other man alive.
By your efforts, the Throne is more solid beneath the Kingestates more confirmed to the Nobility, while the Commonalty have better hope to increased enjoyment from the abolition of Tythes.
In this regard, the Society beseech you to be temperate, not puffed up, but to continue by moral and reasonable, yet choice publications, to inform the rising generation : and in that respect they farther beseech you to make as much as possible subservient to the Lancasterian system of instruction.
When the travelling Secretary of the Society arrives in London, he will be furnished with such works as may be useful to you. In the neantime, they request you to search for a pamphlet published about one hundred years ago, entitled the “ Quaker's Pleas against Tythes.” It is probable, if you have it not, that Mr. Hone or Dr. John Walker, may point out to you where a copy may be found.
The enclosed paper on that subject, published by them, has, by various means, been forwarded to you ; but fearing their non-arrival a copy is now sent.*
Wishing you health and prosperity, I subscribe myself (by order) Your obedient Servant,
LE CLERC (Afè). P. S. From myself, I have to observe, that I rejoice to know London has the prospect of an University. Here, at Paris, instruction is general, and generally gratuitous. In this respect the Government is liberal.
I hope, to this University, London will have near it, as here, a Garden of Plants, and a Museum. That garden, with its museum, is the true authentic Holy Bible. It has God for its Author; instruction for its intention ; and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. The works of Creation there displayed inspire piety, fill the mind with admiration, and, at the same time, afford an endless subject of contemplation and useful study.
* No copy of this kind has reached me.-R. C.
MR. RICHARD CARLILE, 135, FLEET STREET.
Dec. 9, 1825, I HEAR, with pleasure, that you are no longer within the walls of the English Bastille, but returned tor shortly expected in town; and, although as yet an entiri. stranger to your person, I cannot let pass this opportunity of tendering you my warmest thanks, not only for your good intentions, which even your opponents must admit, but also for your very eminent public services in the cause of liberty and truth.
In my opinion, as I believe you are in that of most people who think at all, you appear to be one of the most injured of mankind, and, as such, I beg leave to congratulate you, most sincerely, on your return in health, to your family, your friends, and your home, after your long, and, in the end, successful struggle against tyranny of the basest and most detestable kind.
During your unjust and infamous imprisonment, thousands admired, but no one, I assure you, more than myself, the undaunted firmness with which you sustained your sufferings and supported your opinion. The constancy of your endeavours to establish, and, as yet, with success, the liberty of the press, and freedom of discussion-the courage, and address you have evinced, on all occasions, in opposing despotism, even till the monster became exhausted by her own exertions, looked wildly around for a moment in despair, deserted her prey, and shrunk from the contest. She is now taking breath, but whether she means, like a cowardly assassin, when a little restored, to attack you again, is not so easy to determine ; yet it is not unlikely, as despair, brought on by disappointment, is apt to degenerate into madness, and lest that should be the case, in the present instance, you will do well not to be entirely off your guard, but rather assume a posture of defence.
The eclat of the example which you have set the world for courage and perseverance in a good cause, has already, I am convinced, infused a germ in the minds of our young countrymen , that will, ere long, cause hundreds of Carliles to spring up, who,by opposition, will become an Hydra, if I may be allowed such á metaphor on such an occasion, that no Priestcraft, nor any other craft, will be able hereafter to destroy : but will flourish, as you have done, by opposition. The more they are opposed, in such a cause, the more will their numbers and resolution increase. Witness the young men in Newgate, Messrs. Campion and friends, Editors of the Magazine, and elsewhere, already; all, sprung, in so short a time, from one single root; and that the like feeling, that has pervaded them, may speedily become ge