Page images

say, convinced us that this attorney does not or will not understand the mischief to which he has been party. He assures us that Pooley is “ perfectly rational on all points but religion,” and

adds, as a sequitur we presume, “the attempt to shew he is insane is absurd” This is either absolute stupidity on Mr.

Grylls’ part, or, having conducted the prosecution, and being, with

the aid of the reverend gentlemen, the moving cause of the un

fortunate trial and its consequences, he obdurately sticks to what

would appear to any candid mind utterly untenable. Mr. Grylls

knows, it would seem, Pooley’s earlier history—he knows, moreover,

that the poor man was transferred from prison to the lunatic asylum. He might (and possibly does) know what Pooley’s mental condition was in both places ; and he knows that Pooley was proved to be insane to the satisfaction of the Home Oflice ; yet this ingenuous attorney for the prosecution cannot persuade himself that it was not a very just and proper prosecution, and that it has not done Pooley a great deal of good. Mr. Coleridge has been frank enough to publish (though it would have been better omitted, if he had wished to defend at all hazards the whole proceedings) what Mr. Grylls has said on the subject ; but there is something about this person’s communication which, we confess, seems to arise from a desire to justify conduct, of which we assure him he need not be, either on his or on his client’s account, at all proud.

“The case of Thomas Pooley,” by G. J. Holyoake, although vulgar in tone, and in his comments evincing prejudice and bitter~ ness in the writer, still relates certain circumstances in the history of Pooley and his case which are interesting, and indeed very touching, and the general accuracy of which we see no reason to suspect. Mr. Buckle has obviously either drawn his information from the pamphlet and Mr. Holyoake, or they have had common sources of intelligence. Mr. Holyoake, however, went down to the spot, and has given certain details of what he saw and heard, which throw some light on the transactions we have been referring to, and which must have been notorious in the neighbour.


hood, and should have prevented criminal proceedings being initiated.

Whether or no Pooley’s malady ought to have been discovered in the exercise of ordinary discrimination by those concerned in his trial-—and whether the sentence pronounced against him was too severe—are questions which, it is admitted on all hands, might have been reasonably raised and temperately discussed. What we have to complain of in Mr. Buckle is, that, instead of taking this course, he indulges in the distortion of facts, intemperance, and personality in his commentary, and impropriety in his unsupported aggression on the reputation of an honourable man.

Mr. Buckle thought he had found out a case where certain persons, from religions bigotry and Christian fanaticism, had been persecuting the unbelievers, and he has used language towards them, and suggested motives in consequence which would be only justifiable if they were proved to be altogether bad and wicked people; but we have read, in a certain recent thick octavo volume, certain passages which we submit to Mr. Buckle’s consideration and that of our readers. The author we refer to has said :--“ It is an undoubted fact that an overwhelming majority of religious persecutors have been men of the purest intentions, of the most admirable and unsullied morals. It is impossible that this should be otherwise; for they are not bad-intentioned men, who seek to. enforce opinions which they believe to be good.

. . Such men as these are not bad, they are only ignorant ; ignorant of the nature of truth, ignorant of the consequences of their own acts. But, in a moral point of view, their motives are unimpeachable. Indeed, it is the very ardour of their sincerity which warms them into persecution. It is the holy zeal by which they are fired that quickens their fanaticism into a deadly activity.” The writer then proceeds to illustrate the above remarks by referring, inter alia, to the inquisitors, the cruelty of whose conduct all must execrate, whilst the purity of their inten-tion is shewn. Of the inquisition, indeed, in Barcelona, he records that it has been admitted that all its members “ were men of worth, and that most of them were of distinguished humanity.” The above remarks are to be found in the “ History of Civilization,” (vol. i. pp. 167-171.) The writer is Mr. Buckle I

The inquisitors and Roman emperors who tortured Christians are well-meaning and virtuous persons, though zealots ; but Mr. Justice Coleridge is all that we have been compelled to repeat from Mr. Buckle’s pen ! ,

One consequence of the controversy has been, that Mr. Coleridge, in his reply, has been provoked to use language to the man who has improperly aspersed the character of Sir J. Coleridge, which of course it Would, in some instances, have been better to have avoided. For example, the discussion is not advanced by the retort made on Mr. Buckle, that he is no gentleman. Such an allegation loses much of its force from its being so commonly used as a retort without reference to the fact. Thus, a disappointed cabman, or angry street-sweeper, employs this observation, and with the same nugatory result. However, we must admit the difliculty of keeping, under the circumstances of aggravation to which Mr. T. D. Coleridge was exposed, to only the most appropriate phrases. Mr. Buckle indeed admits that he has not so restrained himself. He says, and without any compunction, in his letter, in which he makes a rejoinder to Mr. Coleridge :—-“ When I held up to public opprobrium that, for our time, almost incredible transaction in which the name of Coleridge was painfully conspicuous, the indignation which I felt prevented me from measuring my language, and I did not care to search for soft and dainty words in relating how, under shelter of the law, an outrage had been perpetrated upon a poor, an honest, a defenceless, and a half-witted man. I wrote as I thought it behoved me to write, and I rejoice that I did so. Since, however, I did not spare the principal actors of that deed, I could not expect that Mr. Coleridge should wish to spare me ; and I must, in common justice, acquit him of any such intent.” Upon which we have to remark, that neither “indignation” nor any other emotion should prevent a writer, who undertakes such a piece of criticism, from carefully “ measuring his language.” We do not care “for soft or dainty words ;” but educated and conscientious men do demand of an author, who speaks so dogmatically and positively as Mr. Buckle, an accurate distinction between very different charges, and a proper selection of terms. If Mr. Buckle thinks it of any use to “call names,” he should call the right names. If he has discovered, e. g., that a learned judge has, in error of judgment, inflicted a penalty which, in Mr. Buckle’s opinion, is excessive; instead of abusing him as stonyhearted, unrighteous, etc. etc., and holding him up to opprobrium in unmeasured terms, he would find it much more effectual to exercise true discrimination, and select appropriate terms to express his meaning.


If Mr. Buckle has only himself to thank for the bitter tone and personality‘ which find place in the controversy; and if sentiments “ have been ascribed ” to him which he “never entertained,” he owes this also to his use of “unmeasured ” language, and his intemperate, and rash, and indiscriminating abuse, and inability to see the distinction between what may have been an error ofudgment and what was bad motive, between a miscarriage of justice and the iniquity of the Judge. In his ardour to fight the battle of freedom, he has run amuck, and, uncontrolled by reason, has overstepped the boundaries of fair observation and genuine criticism. We indeed give him credit, whatever others may do, for feeling a genuine indignation, and intending to do good service to a good cause—to make a telling and vigorous onslaught on what he may have deemed bigotry and cruelty.

Unlike Mr. Coleridge, we have sincere admiration for Mr. Buckle’s talent, learning, and high literary attainments ; but we

' 1 He says, “ I have displeased a large class of persons, who consider that an English judge occupies so elevated a. position that he ought not to be made the object of personal attack.” Nay, but he has displeased a large class who dislike to see ajudge or any other person unjustly assailed ; and he has mystified others who had been led to believe, from Mr. Buckle’s brilliant commencement of a literary career, that he was not a. man to commit himself so grievously by rashness of judgment and intemperance of language.

think, like the amiable persecuting Roman emperors and Spanish Inquisitors, without meaning to do any thing wrong or wicked, he has allowed himself to transgress very important laws, which ought to be observed equally among men of letters and gentlemenHe has moreover entirely missed his object ; his personal attacks are mt'stalces—-obviously, and beyond all question. Every educated man in a rational state of mind sees this. The insults he has passed upon Sir John Coleridge being gratuitous, produce in us natural reaction-an indignation against Mr. Buckle himself, and the cause of liberty has not been aided by his effort. .

If it had been essential for the cause of justice to comment on the principles involved in Pooley’s case, the mode in which Mr. Buckle has addressed himself to the subject is the very way to distract the attention from them, and raise issues foreign thereto. But was it essential to raise the discussion again in any way other than that in which Mr. Mill has used it—-as an illustration? The trial had been discussed at the time, the wrong had been rectified two years before Mr. Buckle heard of it, and the Judge, who had thought it his duty to inflict the excessive penalty—for we think, on all grounds, it was excessive--was no longer on the Bench.

Mr. Buckle, moreover, has not used the occasion to point out, after all, the valuable point which the case mainly involves. It is here that society has, as Mr. Mill has shown, no moral right to suppress the maintenance of an argument, nor to restrain the expression of opinion because it is unpleasant to have antagonistic arguments published ; and further, it has no moral right even to feel aggrieved because of differences of opinion existing. Whenever it is alleged, as the reason for persecution, that those persecuted are wrong, and hold and profess marked opinions, it is clear that they who attempt to suppress heresies by force and persecu~ tion, are as yet unenlightened as to the mutual rights of members of society, and the principles of toleration and of pure liberty.

But it is, on the other hand, an infringement upon the rights of society when a man, or a body of men, insists upon intruding

« PreviousContinue »