« ElőzőTovább »
left the church, and the common law would have protected him in the assertion of his conscientious convictions. But, so long as he remained a member of the Church of Rome, he had no right whatever to break through the laws by which that Church was governed, to violate its regulations, and to claim exemption from the penalty which those laws pronounced upon such as transgress. The plaintiff in this case had rendered himself liable to excommunication ; but although this was the case, evidence had been produced, showing that the priest bad with reluctance passed that sentence upon him, and that he was for a considerable period in possession of the directions of his Bishop to do so, before he actually pronounced it. The evidence given by Butler, one of the witnesses, shows clearly with what unwillingness the priest had adopted the extreme course complained of by the plaintiff. When he did, at length, resort to it, it was only in the performance of his duty as a clergyman, in obedience to the laws of his Church, and to the authority of his superior. He (Mr. Nelson) would, therefore, submit that if such motives had actuated his conduct, if no malice could be imputed to him, then there must be a verdict for his client.
With regard, also, to the result which this sentence of excommunication had upon the plaintiff, there was in the declaration a great degree of vagueness. No doubt, the sentence would deprive a person of the benefits of ecclesiastical communion; and that a person so situated would be deprived of some of the advantages of intercourse with his fellow-men of that particular communion. No doubt, such might be the case ; but he held the case of excommunication to mean that the greater excommunication, at one period so much and frequently used, the effect of which often was, to place a whole kingdom out of the privileges of the Church, and under curse.
The jury must bear in mind that damages were not to be laid on for abusive language in itself; they were to divest their minds of such a consideration, but to look only to the special loss the plaintiff may have sustained by means of this excommunication. There had been no such thing as positive evidence on the point of the diminution of business at the plaintiff's mill-no positive evidence on the subject had been adduced. The jury should mark that there had been no loss to any particular amount proved, but merely the cessation at most of some portion of friendly intercourse, and be careful to guard against the inuendo which had been made, that it had such an ffect, and which had not been sustained in evidence. The Learned Counsel then referred to the second count in the declaration, setting forth that a curse had been pronounced on all the teachers of the Irish Bible, which had not been borne out in evidence. He regretted to hear his Learned Friend (Mr. Tomb) use such an insinuation as he had used in regard to the witnesses giving their evidence under spiritual dread, inasmuch as they seemed rather inclined to tell the truth as far as the poor blockheads were able to recollect it. Taking all these things into consideration, the jury could not do less than find a verdict for the defendant. They would not countenance, by finding for the plaintiff, a charge which was perfectly unsupported, that excommunication pronounced was for reading the Bible, instead of teaching Irish scholars to read a version Vol. VIII. May, 1846.
New Series, No. 5.
of the Bible of which their Church disapproved—a version, whether right or wrong, was not the question they were there to decide.
No witnesses were called for the defendant.
Judge Burton, in charging the jury, said the case was involved in considerable difficulty, but he would so direct the jury as to free them if possible from fresh difficulties, leaving them to fall upon himself, and he might be corrected by a superior tribunal. This was an action of slander or defamation, by which the plaintiff says he is injured, and if the jury thought he was injured at all, they would say what damages they would give him. It is admitted that plaintiff and defendant both belong to the Roman Catholic religion. The plaintiff complains of excommunication, and says that it works a considerable injury to himthat it was unjust, and the defendant was actuated by malicious motives. Now, supposing the defendant could have been warranted at all in excommunicating him, the plaintiff says that if such a right exists in any body, or at all events in the Roman Catholic religion, in this instance, at least, it does not appear to have been warranted ; and that is an essential feature in the case. That an excommunication was pronounced is apparent. The next question was, supposing the Roman Catholic Church to have the power of awarding an excommunication of this nature, had the defendant in this particular case the power to exercise that right? It ought to be done by authority of the Bishop of the diocese. If there be evidence of such an authority it is only by inference; but he (the Learned Judge) doubted much whether the evidence was sufficient. If the jury found for the defendant, they must be satisfied that he had such authority. He could not call on them so to find. Such an authority was capable of proof, and therefore he thought they would probably find for the plaintiff. The next thing they must be satisfied of, before finding for the defendant, is, that the sentence of excommunication was proper ; that it did not exceed what such a sentence would warrant (supposing such a sentence to be justi. fiable at all); such an act would amount to this, that no act of charity was to be extended to the excommunicated. The Church could not be justified in cutting a man off from all society, making him a cipher, and depriving him of its aid. As to the amount of damages, he (the Learned Judge) would recommend the jury to be very moderate, because very injurious consequences had not been substantiated. The defendant's mind seemed to have been operated on by the effect of anger on account of the circulation of the Irish Bible. He may have been very sincere in that, and may have had no sentiment of personal ill-will to the plaintiff. If, on the whole of the case, they were satisfied there was a want of authority, or that the defendant exceeded the authority, they would find for plaintiff; but before they found damages to a considerable amount, they ought to be satisfied that considerable injury had been suffered by him. If they thought the injury considerable, they would find temperately proportionate damages.
The jury then retired, and in half an hour returned with a verdict for the plaintiff. Damages 701., and 6d. costs.
It is some degree satisfactory to find that the law can thus be put into effect as far as it goes. But we have met with those
who would designate as religious persecution, the preventive power which the law should exercise to protect the people from unjust excommunication.
With regard to the plaintiff in this case, we may observe that the verdict of a jury cannot remove the curse of the priest, The sentence of excommunication remains. To those who believe the doctrines of the Romish Church, no civil interference can remove the spiritual consequences of an excommunication. That sentence is one, which derives its weight and power, not from civil, but from ecclesiastical authority.
The excommunicated, it is true, may say, I stand free by a verdict of my countrymen, who declare under the direction of a most Learned Judge, that the priest has no power thus to curse me. But those by whom he may be surrounded, bigoted members of the Roman Catholic Church, and quailing beneath its power, point out the fact that he is excommunicated, and that they dare not hold friendly converse with him, nor deal with him.
THE IRISH COERCION BILL.
SIR, It is stated in the public Journals that there have been seventeen failures of Coercion Bills in Ireland within the last forty years. And the present is as little likely to be successful as any that have preceded it.
The “Morning Herald” justly observes, that “the Bill now proposed is worse than error. It assails the miserable peasant who is but the dupe, and spares the incendiary who dupes him. It is pandering to the evil it proposes to correct, and it furnishes the agitator with a fresh topic, whilst, at the same time, it exasperates the peasant by a fresh oppression. The brawler of Burgh Quay hail each Coercion Bill as a boon from the Government. We would not punish the duped criminal in the country, while we suffered a Crime Education Committee to sit unscathed weekly in the metropolis. The murderer is to be transported unless he goes to bed at night. But there is not one enactment against the doctrine that deludes him, not one clause against the trumpeters of sedition."
The “ Standard,” in the same strain, maintains, “ that the existence of the Riband conspiracy alone, is quite sufficient to account for all that distracts and degrades Ireland. The means to do ill deeds are supplied by the Riband conspiracy; the motives to use these means are furnished in ample measure by monster meetings, Burgh Quay speeches, and by histories of
Ireland and the Irish. It is modern Romanism—that factious Romanism of which Mr. O'Connell is himself the type-that must bear the blame of all the murders and outrages by which his country is impoverished and disgraced.”
But can any one be surprised at all these murders and outrages, when this very O'Connell, who had been convicted by a jury of his countrymen, of an offence against the State, in holding these monster Meetings, has had his punishment remitted, and been released from his recognisances? What are we to think of a Government that can treat so indulgently the principal agitator, and adopt such harsh and severe measures against a wretched peasantry, who are demonized to such a degree by the agents and emissaries of Popery, that even murder is naturalized among them? Is this even-handed justice? Can rulers who act thus be said not to bear the sword in vain? And where is the use of a standing army in Ireland, of three-and-twenty thousand men, and an expensive body of police, if there is no longer any security for life and property. Will nothing open the eyes of Englishmen to the real cause of such a frightful state of society? Our legislators are quite blind to it. Lord John Russell attributes the cause to political grievances, whilst O'Connell and Her Majesty's Ministers, agree in opinion that there is nothing sectarian or political in the organized system of murder and outrage, by which it is admitted that Ireland is now disgraced. And nothing can exceed the complaisance which is manifested towards each other, in Parliament by the convicted conspirator O'Connell, and the members of Her Majesty's Government.
But there is a work which points to the real source of all the assassinations which are perpetrated in Ireland. That work is the LawS OF THE PAPACY, by the Rev. R. J. MʻGhee. It is because Romanism reigns supreme in Ireland, and has virtually superseded the Government of Queen Victoria, that fertile portion of the United Kingdom, is reduced to its present deplorable condition. April 17, 1846.
O'CONNELL AND FATHER MATHEW AT A DISCOUNT. A Meeting of the Temperance Society was announced to be held in Exeter Hall, on Wednesday, 22d ult., at which O'Connell was to preside, and his son John O'Connell, Father Mathew, the Earl of Surrey, Member Cobden, Bright, and several others were to attend as speakers.
The Meeting presented the most miserable failure that was ever witnessed. The Chairman was there, but scarcely one of those whose names were announced, surrounded him. Neither Father Mathew, nor the Earl of Surrey, &c. The greater part of the benches were empty. We are unable to explain the cause of the failure. We would hope that the Teetotale rs begin to see that it is neither wise nor profitable to permit themselves any longer to be marshalled under the Popish banner.
(To the Editor of the Protestant Magazine.) In a former number of the Magazine, I ventured to suggest the establishment of a Protestant Newspaper, if possible, in every county. In order to carry such a proposition into effect, I added, that the combined assistance of the Protestant Association and the Reformation Society might be of eminent service. I send you herewith the Prospectus of a Protestant Newspaper, proposed to be published in Exeter, under the title of “The Western Protestant."*
* That the interests of the Protestant Faith, in the present day, loudly call for the zealous efforts of its friends and adherents, among all classes, to combine for the protection of those interests, unhappily needs no proof. The revival of Romanism—the exertions of members of the Papal communion to introduce their Antichristian system in every place—the recent alarming measure of the Endowment of Maynooth-and, above all, the success which has attended the earnest labours of the Anti-Protestant party in the Established Church, sufficiently attest the peril by which our holy religion is threatened.
Among other means of meeting the exigencies of the case, the establishment of a newspaper has been suggested, uniting Conservative principles in politics, with Evangelical views of Divine truth, in the hope that its circulation might be instrumental in awakening many in the Western counties, where (especially in Devon and Cornwall) such a paper is needed, to the evils by which the Protestant cause is threatened ; and in stimulating them to the adoption of measures calculated to avert the impending danger.
The proposal therefore is now made to establish a Protestant Journal, to be published weekly, in the city of Exeter, under the designation of " THE WESTERN PROTESTANT.”
country has gained unprecedented naREPORT OF THE NORWICH PRO.
tional prosperity, and the knowledge TESTANT OPERATIVE ASSOCIA
of God's Truth has been perpetuated TION.
amongst her people. The year 1845 adds one more link to In the conscientious persuasion of the chain of troublous, if not disas- this duty, your Committee have first trous, events in the history of British to notice, that they have deemed it Protestantism. The godless and indis- advisable to make some alterations in creet desire for change which reigns the style and rules of the Association, in the minds of great masses of our and they have, after due consideration, countrymen, and directs to an unhal- adopted the style of “The Norwich lowed subversion of the fundamental Operative Protestant Association, for element of our constitution-Protest- making known the principles and pracant ascendancy, has, during the past tices of Popery, and maintaining and year, received a manifest token of dis- promoting the sound Protestant princouragement from the parliamentary ciples of the Church of England." The counsels of our country; the Papacy alterations of the rules are in accordhas gained a step in advancement- ance with this style, but effect no very endowment in perpetuity; Protestant- material change in our practical deism has sustained a heavy discourage- tails. ment and fore-warning of future be- Your Committee have the pleasure trayal. In such case, the Truth-loving to state, that the operations of the Asand loyal Protestant (in the confidence sociation have been conducted in their that he is discharging a needful Chris- usual course of Tract distribution, octian duty, and committing the result casional Lectures, and Meetings, and to the will of his Heavenly Master,) they cordially bring to remembrance should arouse himself with increased the proceedings of the Meeting held energy in contending for and uphold- on the 5th of March last, when James ing the great principles of Church and Lord, Esq., attended, and addressed an State policy under which our beloved attentive auditory on the prevailing