HC Deb 14 February 1833 vol 15 cc634-6
Major Beauclerk

presented a petition, signed by several individuals, praying for the release of all persons incarcerated for blasphemy. The petition particularly alluded to Mr. Robert Taylor. He regretted that any person should be found to oppose, much less argue against, the Christian religion; but, however much he disliked such doctrines, he conceived that it was most unjustifiable to punish persons for enter-taining different opinions; or for doing what they perhaps considered a duty, endeavouring to propagate them.

Mr. Cobbett

said, he neither knew the petitioners nor the person alluded to in it, though he knew that Mr. Taylor was accused and convicted of blasphemy. He abhorred the crime for which that person was confined, although he thought it singular that his imprisonment should proceed from those who cheered when petitions were presented for the emancipation of the Jews. Why, if they emancipated the Jews, that people would be on a footing with Christians. They would make them Judges and Justices of the Peace. He would oppose every attempt to unchris-tianize the country.

Mr. Hume

was sorry to hear such a remark nora the hon. member for Oldham. That an act of injustice had been perpetrated towards one person, was no reason why it should be continued towards another. He hoped, when the Bill was brought before the House, that the hon. Gentleman would act on a more liberal principle. He had himself received a petition on the same subject from Mr. Taylor; and as he had been two years in prison in a most miserable condition, he hoped his Majesty's Ministers would take his case into consideration.

Mr. O'Connell

detested as much as any man the blasphemy of which the person in question had been guilty; but he did not like the principle of punishing for variations of creeds. What was still worse, too, it tended to increase the blasphemy. The family of this man, when he was sent to prison, opened a blasphemy shop in Fleet Street [NoCarlile.] The instance was as good to prove the truth of his assertion. When prosecution ceased, the blasphemy ceased also. The case of the individual whom the petition most concerned, was a very hard one, for that individual was, he believed, quite insane.

Mr. Pryme

knew of nothing in the New Testament which justified the persecution of those who differed from us in our opinions. Probably, many of the Members of that House, like himself, were members of Missionary Societies, who sought to propagate their creed in countries where a different belief prevailed, and the inhabitants of which would, perhaps, view them in the light of blasphemers. He thought it, therefore, highly inconsistent for such Gentlemen to seek the punishment of any man who aimed at the propagation of opinions different from theirs. It was not only inconsistent with their own conduct, but also with the spirit of the Christian religion.

Lord Althorp

said, it was not a Government prosecution. He agreed with the hon. member for Cambridge, that nothing could be more improper or disadvantageous than instituting prosecutions for the sake of preventing argument. But when, instead of attacking religion by fair argument, it was attacked by ribaldry and exhibitions of gross indecency, the case was altogether different, and no person of a serious mind could refrain from expressing his disgust. Though he feared that even then no great advantage arose from prosecutions.

Petition to lie on the Table.

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