« PreviousContinue »
blindness or obliquity of vision which distinguishes it. Protectionists do not see that, practically, they only direct their attacks against one portion only of the offenders they denounce, viz., the vulgar controversialist. If satire, irony, and ridicule, can be found any where, it is in Gibbon ; but he would be protected. The Lord Chancellor Campbell was quite clear on this point. He was dismayed at the idea of gentlemen like Hume and Gibbon being indicted I It is the rough, coarse, and ungenteel laughter and scotfing which our protectionists cannot abide. So it becomes a mere matter of taste. You may perhaps make your sceptical reader smile at a simile ; but, if you are so broad as to make him laugh at a joke, you are liable to the criminal law.
Since the earlier part of the above remarks were written we have seen the reply of Mr. Lewis,‘ and at the risk of repetition we revert to it here only, lest it should be thought we had not considered all he had to say. “ He stood aghast,” he said, “at seeing ascribed to him views which he abhorred as much as any of his censors—views of which he was not conscious of having even enunciated." And here we would observe, that many men do “stand aghast” when their opinions are stated in plain language which they do not themselves employ, and when they see carried out to their legitimate consequences the sentiments they loudly profess. Mr. Lewis would like to say, “ I will put you in prison if you shock my religious views, which are Christian (every lad knows what that means), or if you are not reverent to my tenets before children and poor people ; ” but he “stands aghast” when he is told that in principle this is identical with saying, “ I will burn you- with fagots and torture you, infidel! if you put my creed in such a light that people will not respect it. If you, sir, are scurrilous, and laugh at my authority, I will persecute you to the death; you shall not oppose, in any way displeasing to me my genuine Christianity !” We are almost ashamed of reiterating this ; but Mr. Lewis is, like many other zealous and well-meaning men, so utterly incapable of perceiving the value of a principle, or the consequence of a doctrine,
_l Solicitor’: Journal, Dec. 31, 1859, p. 144.
that he really thinks himself a very ill-used man ; for he bitterly‘
complains of the “ phenomenon,” that “gentlemen of education, scholars, men of refined tastes and acute intellect may be so absorbingly possessed with their own views, so strongly prejudiced in their favour, as absolutely to be unable to admit or receive into their minds the mere outline of an opposing view, the mere form and fashion of an opinion which they did not themselves hold.” Of course the speaker is not referring to himself, but to those who, like ourselves, cannot help “ receiving into our minds ” the notion, that Mr. Lewis does not himself comprehend the question which he meant to lecture on and to discuss. He goes over, in his reply, the old story, in hopeless inability to see its bearing on the real points in issue. Of course, even he, when driven up into a corner, sees how necessary it is to define ; and we will favour our readers with two examples of the success at which Mr. Lewis has arrived in this department of controversy. Christianity has again to be defined, and here is the definition—“ Christianity consists of belief in certain characters, and a. certain history which all Christians hold sacred, even including the peculiar forms of Christian belief, Unitarianism, and Popery.” Now this last amplification of the definition sets all further debate with its author at an end. “ Even Popery and Unitarianism ! ” Eliminate “ Papists and Unitarians” from Christendom,‘ and what does Mr. Lewis suppose would be the number of “ Christians ” in the world? We will not go into statistics, but to all, save the decent orthodox Englishman (whose idea of Christendom does not extend beyond his own parish church, and perhaps the next one), the narrow-mindedness and futile struggle of the lecturer to be candid and liberal must be painfully obvious. His condescension, too, in conceding, “ not without some doubt in his own mind, some hesitation ” (p. 145), the right to the sceptic who doubtsabout the being of God to discuss it, is, after all his profession of liberality, comical to the last degree. We shall always be happy to hear Mr. Lewis debate points of practice or strictly legal matters; but such subjects as the one which he brought before the J uridical Society are not, we submit, suited to his habit of mind. We should not have commented upon the sentiments which Mr. Lewis has expressed if we had found them in a sermon or in a periodical circulating among those large classes of sectaries who denounce, with fervent liberalism, any persecution of those with whom they sympathize, but who approve of repressing the dangerous heterodoxy of those they dislike or fear. We naturally expect to find the bigot and tyrant lurking under the mantle of sectarian zeal, and ultra-democratical profession; but we are startled to see him clothed in the robes of a philosophical and juridical essayist.
' Of course the Greek church ought also to be taken in under the “even.” But this part of Christendom may possibly be too unimportant to be noticed ‘by Mr. Lewis.
What, then, will it be said, is the public in no case to be pro-. tected from having its feelings outraged? The answer seems to us clear. If a man, maliciously intending to injure his neighbour’s feelings, force upon him an annoyance, as by placarding the walls with offensive words or pictures, he should undoubtedly be punished; for then no option is given to the passer-by to avoid the nuisance, and his freedom and liberty are thereby interfered with. If Pooley, for example, had not been decidedly lunatic, his conduct in chalking up “ blasphemy ” was an outrage for which he was liable to punishment. So, if an ill-bred fellow will insist upon crying out aloud, in the involuntary presence of others, what he knows must violate their feelings, he should be repressed by the strong arm of the law; but if he print of my religion what I need neither buy nor read, as a general rule he should be left alone. We say as a general rule ; for if he maliciously traps and allures me, under false pretexts, to read or listen to his assault on my opinions and feelings, he may then render himself amenable to the criminal law. So also, if he craftily and maliciously attempt to influence the sentiments of the young, he is really committing an attack on the rights and liberty of those to whom their care and education belong, and this constitutes an
offence. Whether it be an Archbishop, who tries to convert the
children of Socinian parents; or a Pope, who catches a Jew child and baptizes him on the sly, and teaches him the apostles’ creed; or the Deist, who shakes the faith of an orthodox girls’ school in the plenary inspiration of the scriptures, it makes no difference. There is, in each ease, an infraction of the rights of the appointed guardians of youth.
We do not press the duty of preventing language likely to produce a breach of the peace; for the one side ought to learn to keep his temper under provocation, quite as much as the other to hold his tongue on certain occasions. The particular circumstances of each case, and the malice, legal or actual, which exists, must be the test here to be applied. We know of no other class of cases besides those above mentioned, where, in a civilized community, the authority of the law should be invoked to protect, private opinion, by inflicting punishment for the publication of attacks on speculative questions.
ART. IV.—JUSTIOE AND J USTICES.
Summary of the Duties of a Justice of the Peace out of Sessions. By Tnomas J muss ARNOLD, of L1ncoln’s Inn, Esq., one of
the Metropolitan Magistrates. London: Sweet; Stevens & Nestor; and Maxwell. 1860.
HE present age is highly distinguished by an intellectual progress of a practical nature. Railways, steam navigation, electric telegraphs, &c., &c , may be adduced as proofs. But there is one peculiar rule in the general application of mental acquisition, which has recently been carried into operation in this country, and which, if rigidly and impartially applied, will unquestionably effect vast improvements throughout our social system. The rule adverted to is, “that public functionaries must give proof, by an initiatory examination, that they are intellectually qualified to discharge the duties of the ofi‘ice they seek to fill, before they are permitted to take it." For instance, candi
dates for the ministry of the Church of England, besides their degree at one of the universities, have to pass an examination, alleged to be severe, to test their knowledge of divinity, classics, "&c., before they can be ordained.
It is said that the pastors of other religious denominations are also required to give proofs of their acquirements and mental fitness, before they are allowed to enter upon the discharge of their duties. Solicitors, it is well known, are severely tested as to their intellectual acquisition, prior to their admission.‘ Surgeons have to pass many examinations on various subjects ere they are permitted to practise. Young men, who endeavour
‘to enter the army or navy as oflicers, in most instances have to give ample proof that they are intellectually qualified for the duties which they seek to discharge, before they are intrusted with the performance of them. .
The same rule is applied to many civil posts. In fact, there seems to be an irresistible demand for its strict enforcement in all cases ; so that no public functionary shall enter upon the discharge of such duties, unless he has previously given proof of his mental capabilities and qualifications by init-iatory examination. King George the Third is alleged to be the author of a political maxim, that up to a. very recent period was never known to fail, namely—“ That any man is fit for any post that he can get.” This royal apophthegm no longer maintains its universality. At present it only applies to the chiefs of the principal public offices, which only the members of a. very few families can fill; and, consequently, the Georgian maxim continues to hold good with respect to them alone. In all other cases, common sense and previous examinations have supplanted it, much to the credit of the country, and greatly to the benefit of the common weal.
Notwithstanding this marked improvement, there are some anomalies of a like nature which not only remain untouched, but continue to increase: one of them we propose here to consider,
1 The application of the rule here stated to Barristers, has been thwarted by the opposition of the Benchers of Linco1n’s Inn. We have elsewhere in this Number commented on this circumstance. . :