Trial of C.B. Reynolds for Blasphemy
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for
by Madalyn O'Hair
Charles B. Reynolds was born in New York City on August 5, 1832, of parents who had just arrived from Somershire, England. His mother died at his birth. His father died before the boy was five. Since there were no relatives, nothing is known of the orphan's childhood. The first record given of him in his biographical materials is that at age 36 in 1868, he began to preach for the First Day Adventists, and the following year, in 1869, he joined the Seventh Day Adventists.
The next date is September 1883, when he made his first appearance at the New York Freethinkers' Convention held at Corinthian Academy of Music, in Rochester. His conversion had come, it is held, from reading the Boston Investigator and the New York Truth Seeker. His speech was an eloquent eulogy on D.M. Bennett, the founder of the Truth Seeker magazine. The next year he was elected chairman of the executive committee of the American Secular Union at the annual convention held at Cassadaga, New York, in 1884.
During 1886, Reynolds began to give speeches, with a stereopticon exhibition, and was assisted therein by his son Clinton, age 17. The exhibition consisted of paintings of exotic places, illuminated with gas light, and accompanied by an educational lecture. One of his most acclaimed lectures proved to be "Why I Left The Pulpit." Other lectures focused on the need for "secularism." At the same time his wife was also lecturing.
In 1885 he (or someone) had proposed that -- since halls were not obtainable for meetings of persons such as the freethinkers of the nation -- a tent should be purchased as a substitute meeting place for a traveling lecturer. Through the Truth Seeker, the necessary funds were raised, three hundred dollars of which came from William Smith of Geneva, New York. After some successful work in the West, Reynolds pitched the tent at Boonton, New Jersey, on July 26, 1886. There, after two or three nights of disturbances, including the cutting of his tent, he was arrested for blasphemy after a howling mob attacked him and his friends during the delivery of the lecture. His tent was substantially destroyed by the mob action. At this time Reynolds was placed under a three hundred dollar bond, which was given by James Maxfield. In the interest of peace, Reynolds dismissed the audience in attendance, but this availed him naught. He was finally forced to make his escape and leave the tent in the possession of the mob. On October 13, Reynolds appeared in Morristown. He was arrested there and held under a bond of four hundred dollars to await the action of the Morris County Grand Jury. Edwin Warman was the one to offer the bail. An indictment was had on October 19, 1886, with Reynolds charged with one blasphemy at Boonton and a second at Morristown. On October 20, Reynolds, in reading the newspaper, found that the blasphemy was not for his words at either the Boonton or the Morristown tent lectures, but rested on a document he has passed out after the incidents. He had, in fact, distributed two. The first was an analysis of the blasphemy laws. The second was titled "Blasphemy and The Bible." The latter showed that Christians and their Bible were the real blasphemers inasmuch as they ascribed to god sentiments, passions, and attributes which degraded him to an inhumane, bloodthirsty monster. This inflamed the Grand Jury more than did the speeches given. The original bond was then renewed again, and a trial came off May 19 and 20, 1887. The editor of the Truth Seeker, then E.M. Macdonald, wrote to Robert Ingersoll asking if he would take the defense of Reynolds. Ingersoll replied on August 13, agreeing to do so -- the only time on record that he came to the aid of a freethinker. This was one case that Ingersoll lost. The jury returned a verdict of "guilty." The judge gave a judgement of twenty-five dollars and costs, amounting to a total of seventy-five dollars, which were paid by Robert Ingersoll. The speech to the jury was considered to be so sublime by those who attended that it was published by C.P. Farrell. A copy of the speech follows this introduction. In June of the same year an attempt was made through the Truth Seeker to pay Ingersoll for his services. When informed of this, Ingersoll wrote a letter dated June 2, 1887, in which such payment was declined.
Following the trial, Reynolds continued his proselytizing, making further appearances in New Jersey, Michigan, Canada, New York, Connecticut, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. Later, on May 1, 1889, Mr. Reynolds accepted an engagement to lecture Small's Opera House to members of the Liberal Club of Walla Walla, Washington, each Sunday evening for six months. In May 1892, he accepted an engagement as lecturer for the Tacoma Secular Union, lecturing weekly. He soon became president of the club, and in December 1889, he began to organize a first state convention which came to fruition in Seattle in 1890. A state Union was formed and was successful in abolishing paid chaplains in the Senate and House in Olympia. It also worked against reading of the Bible and religious services in public schools. It also proposed that Sunday closing laws be abolished. On August 6, 1893, Reynolds wrote inaugurated the Tacoma Secular Sunday School For the next three years he was the regular speaker for the Secular Church of Portland, Oregon.
During all of this activity, Reynolds wrote regularly for the Boston Investigator, the New York Truth Seeker, and the Indiana Ironclad Age.
He died, at age 64, of concussion of the brain sustained when he fell from a swing in which he was sitting. The death occurred at his home in Seattle, Washington, on July 3, 1896.
Reproduced here are (1) the New York Times May 20, 1887 news account of Reynolds' blasphemy trial and (2) Robert Ingersoll's address to the jury.
Trial of C.B. Reynolds
Blasphemy in New Jersey
The New York Times, May 20, 1887
Within thirty miles of New York, in the city of Morristown, New Jersey, a man was put on trial yesterday for distributing a pamphlet argument against the infallibility of the Bible. The crime which the indictment alleges is blasphemy, for which the statutes of New Jersey provide a penalty of two hundred dollars fine, or twelve months imprisonment, or both. It is the first case of the kind ever tried in New Jersey, although the law dates back to colonial days. Charles B. Reynolds is the man on trial, and the State of New Jersey, through the Prosecuting Attorney of Morris County, is the prosecutor. The Circuit Court, Judge Francis Child, assisted by County Judges Munson and Quimby, sit upon the case. Prosecutor Wilder W. Cutler represents the State, and Robert G. Ingersoll appears for the defendant.
Mr. Reynolds went to Boonton last summer to hold "free-thought" meetings. Announcing his purpose without any flourish, he secured a piece of ground, pitched a tent upon it, and invited the towns-people to come and hear him. It was understood that he had been a Methodist minister; that, finding it impossible to reconcile his mind to some of the historical parts of the Bible, and unable to accept it in his entirety as a moral guide, he left the church and set out to proclaim his conclusions. The churches in Boonton arrayed themselves against him. The Catholics and Methodists were especially active. Taking this opposition as an excuse, one element of the town invaded his tent. They pelted Reynolds with ancient eggs and vegetables. they chopped away the guy ropes of the tent and slashed the canvas with their knives. When the tent collapsed, the crowd rushed for the speaker to inflict further punishment by plunging him in the duck pond. They rummaged the wrecked tent, but in vain. He had made his way out in the confusion and was no more seen in Boonton.
But what he had said did not leave Boonton with him, and the pamphlets he had distributed were read by many who probably would not have looked between their covers had his visit been attended by no unusual circumstances. Boonton was still agitated upon the subject when Mr. Reynolds appeared in Morristown. This time he did not try to hold meetings, but had his pamphlets with him.
Mr. Reynolds appeared in Morristown with the pamphlets on October thirteenth. A Boonton delegation was there, clamoring for his indictment for blasphemy. The Grand Jury heard of his visit and found two indictments against him: one for blasphemy at Boonton and the second for blasphemy at Morristown. He furnished a five hundred dollar bond to appear for trial. On account of Colonel Ingersoll's throat troubles the case was adjourned several times through the winter and until Monday last, when it was set peremptorily for trial yesterday.
The public feeling excited at Boonton was overshadowed by that of Morristown and the neighboring region. For six months no topic was so interesting to the public as this. It monopolized attention at the stores, and became a fruitful subject of gossip in social and church circles. Under such circumstances it was to be expected that everybody who could spare time would go to court yesterday. Lines of people began to climb the court house hill early in the morning. At the hour of opening court the room set apart for the trial was packed, and distaffs had to be stationed at the foot of the stairs to keep back those who were not early enough. From nine thirty to eleven o'clock the crowd inside talked of blasphemy in all the phases suggested by this case, and the outsiders waited patiently on the lawn and steps and along the dusty approaches to the gray building.
Eleven O'clock brought the train from New York and on it Colonel Ingersoll. His arrival at the court house with his clerk opened a new chapter in the day's gossip. The event was so absorbing indeed, that the crowd failed entirely to notice an elderly man wearing a black frock suit, a silk hat, with an army badge pinned to his coat, and looking like a merchant of means, who entered the court house a few minutes behind the famous lawyer. That last comer was the defendant.
All was ready for the case. Within five minutes five jurors were in the box. Then Colonel Ingersoll asked what were his rights about challenges. He was informed that he might make six peremptory challenges and must challenge before the jurors took their seats. The only disqualification the Court would recognize would be the inability of a juror to change his opinion in spite of evidence. Colonel Ingersoll induced the Court to let him examine the five in the box and promptly ejected two Presbyterians.
Thereafter Colonel Ingersoll examined every juror as soon as presented. He asked particularly about the nature of each man's prejudice, if he had one. To a juror who did not know that he understood the word, the Colonel replied: "I may not define the word legally, but my own idea is that a man is prejudiced when he has made up his mind on a case without knowing anything about it" This juror thought he came under that category.
Presbyterians had a rather hard time with the examiner. After twenty men had been examined and the defense had exercised five of its peremptory challenges, the following were sworn as jurymen....
The jury having been sworn, Prosecutor Cutler announced that he would try only the indictment for the offense in Morristown. He said that Reynolds was charged with distributing pamphlets containing matter claimed to be blasphemous under the law. If the charge could be proved he asked a verdict of guilty. Then he called sixteen towns-people, to most of whom Reynolds had given a pamphlet.
Colonel Ingersoll tried to get the Presbyterian witnesses to say that they had read the pamphlet. None of them admitted it. Further than this he attempted no cross-examination.
"I do not know that I shall have any witnesses one way or the other," Colonel Ingersoll said, rising to suggest a recess. "Perhaps after dinner I may feel like making a few remarks."
"There will be great disappointment if you do not" Judge Child responded, in a tone that meant a word for himself as well as the other listeners. The spectators nodded approval to this sentiment. At 4:20 o'clock Colonel Ingersoll having spoken since 2 o'clock, Judge Child adjourned until this morning.
As Colonel Ingersoll left the room a throng pressed after him to offer congratulations. One old man said: "Colonel Ingersoll I am a presbyterian pastor, but I must say that was the noblest speech in defense of liberty I ever heard! Your hand, sir; your hand."
-- The Times, New York, May 20, 1887
Trial of C.B. Reynolds
Closing Argument by Robert G. Ingersoll
From The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll
Vol XI., p. 55-117
Address to the Jury.
Gentlemen of the Jury: I regard this as one of the most important cases that can be submitted to a jury. It is not a case that involves a little property, neither is it one that involves simply the liberty of one man. It involves the freedom of speech, the intellectual liberty of every citizen of New Jersey.
The question to be tried by you is whether a man has the right to express his honest thought; and for that reason there can be no case of greater importance submitted to a jury. And it may be well enough for me, at the outset, to admit that there could be no case in which I could take a greater -- a deeper interest. For my part, I would not wish to live in a world where I could not express my honest opinions. Men who deny to others the right of speech are not fit to live with honest men.
I deny the right of any man, of any number of men, of any church, of any State, to put a padlock on the lips -- to make the tongue a convict. I passionately deny the right of the Herod of authority to kill the children of the brain.
A man has a right to work with his hands, to plow the earth, to sow the seed, and that man has a right to reap the harvest. If we have not that right, then all are slaves except those who take these rights from their fellow-men. If you have the right to work with your hands and to gather the harvest for yourself and your children, have you not a right to cultivate your brain? Have you not the right to read, to observe, to investigate -- and when you have so read and so investigated, have you not the right to reap that field? And what is it to reap that field? It is simply to express what you have ascertained -- simply to give your thoughts to your fellow-men.
If there is one subject in this world worthy of being discussed, worthy of being understood, it is the question of intellectual liberty. Without that, we are simply painted clay; without that, we are poor, miserable serfs and slaves. If you have not the right to express your opinions, if the defendant has not this right, then no man ever walked beneath the blue of heaven that had the right to express his thought. If others claim the right, where did they get it? How did they happen to have it, and how did you happen to be deprived of it? Where did a church or a nation get that right?
Are we not all children of the same Mother? Are we not all compelled to think, whether we wish to or not? Can you help thinking as you do? When you look out upon the woods, the fields -- when you look at the solemn splendors of the night -- these things produce certain thoughts in your mind, and they produce them necessarily. No man can think as he desires. No man controls the action of his brain, any more than he controls the action of his heart. The blood pursues its old accustomed ways in spite of you. The eyes see, if you open them, in spite of you. The ears hear, if they are unstopped, without asking your permission. And the brain thinks in spite of you. Should you express that thought? Certainly you should, if others express theirs. You have exactly the same right. He who takes it from you is a robber.
For thousands of years people have been trying to force other people to think their way. Did they succeed? No. Will they succeed? No. Why? Because brute force is not an argument. You can stand with the lash over a man, or you can stand by the prison door, or beneath the gallows, or by the stake, and say to this man: "Recant, or the lash descends, the prison door is locked upon you, the rope is put about your neck, or the torch is given to the fagot." And so the man recants. Is he convinced? Not at all. Have you produced a new argument? Not the slightest. And yet the ignorant bigots of this world have been trying for thousands of years to rule the minds of men by brute force. They have endeavored to improve the mind by torturing the flesh -- to spread religion with the sword and torch. They have tried to convince their brothers by putting their feet in iron boots, by putting fathers, mothers, patriots, philosophers and philanthropists in dungeons. And what has been the result? Are we any nearer thinking alike today than we were then?
No orthodox church ever had power that it did not endeavor to make people think its way by force and flame. And yet every church that ever was established commenced in the minority, and while it was in the minority advocated free speech -- every one. John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, while he lived in France, wrote a book on religious toleration in order to show that all men had an equal right to think; and yet that man afterward, clothed in a little authority, forgot all his sentiments about religious liberty, and had poor Serviettes burned at the stake, for differing with him on a question that neither of them knew anything about. In the minority, Calvin advocated toleration -- in the majority, he practiced murder.
I want you to understand what has been done in the world to force men to think alike. It seems to me that if there is some infinite being who wants us to think alike he would have made us alike. Why did he not do so? Why did he make your brain so that you could not by any possibility be a Methodist? Why did he make yours so that you could not be a Catholic? And why did he make the brain of another so that he is an unbeliever -- why the brain of another so that he became a Mohammedan -- if he wanted us all to believe alike?
After all, maybe Nature is good enough and grand enough and broad enough to give us the diversity born of liberty. Maybe, after all, it would not be best for us all to be just the same. What a stupid world, if everybody said yes to everything that everybody else might say.
The most important thing in this world is liberty. More important than food or clothes -- more important than gold or houses or lands -- more important than art or science -- more important than all religions, is the liberty of man.
If civilization tends to do away with liberty, then I agree with Mr. Buckle that civilization is a curse. Gladly would I give up the splendors of the nineteenth century -- gladly would I forget every invention that has leaped from the brain of man -- gladly would I see all books ashes, all works of art destroyed, all statues broken, and all the triumphs of the world lost -- gladly, joyously would I go back to the abodes and dens of savagery, if that were necessary to preserve the inestimable gem of human liberty. So would every man who has a heart and brain.
How has the church in every age, when in authority, defended itself? Always by a statute against blasphemy, against argument, against free speech. And there never was such a statute that did not stain the book that it was in and that did not certify to the savagery of the men who passed it. Never. By making a statute and by defining blasphemy, the church sought to prevent discussion -- sought to prevent argument -- sought to prevent a man giving his honest opinion. Certainly a tenet, a dogma, a doctrine, is safe when hedged about by a statute that prevents your speaking against it. In the silence of slavery it exists. It lives because lips are locked. It lives because men are slaves.
If I understand myself, I advocate only the doctrines that in my judgment will make this world happier and better. If I know myself, I advocate only those things that will make a man a better citizen, a better father, a kinder husband -- that will make a woman a better wife, a better mother -- doctrines that will fill every home with sunshine and with joy. And if I believed that anything I should say today would have any other possible tendency, I would stop. I am a believer in liberty. That is my religion -- to give to every other human being every right that I claim for myself, and I grant to every other human being, not the right -- because it is his right -- but instead of granting I declare that it is his right, to attack every doctrine that I maintain, to answer every argument that I may urge -- in other words, he must have absolute freedom of speech.
I am a believer in what I call "intellectual hospitality." A man comes to your door. If you are a gentleman and he appears to be a good man, you receive him with a smile. You ask after his health. You say: "Take a chair; are you thirsty, are you hungry, will you not break bread with me?" That is what a hospitable, good man does -- he does not set the dog on him. Now, how should we treat a new thought? I say that the brain should be hospitable and say to the new thought: "Come in; sit down; I want to cross-examine you; I want to find whether you are good or bad; if good, stay; if bad, I don't want to hurt you -- probably you think you are all right -- but your room is better than your company, and I will take another idea in your place." Why not? Can any man have the egotism to say that he has found it all out? No. Every man who has thought, knows not only how little he knows, but how little every other human being knows, and how ignorant, after all, the world must be.
There was a time in Europe when the Catholic Church had power. And I want it distinctly understood with this jury, that while I am opposed to Catholicism I am not opposed to Catholics -- while I am opposed to Presbyterianism I am not opposed to Presbyterians. I do not fight people -- I fight ideas, I fight principles, and I never go into personalities. As I said, I do not hate Presbyterians, but Presbyterianism -- that is, I am opposed to their doctrine. I do not hate a man that has the rheumatism -- I hate the rheumatism when it has a man. So I attack certain principles because I think they are wrong, but I always want it understood that I have nothing against persons -- nothing against victims.
There was a time when the Catholic Church was in power in the Old World. All at once there arose a man called Martin Luther, and what did the dear old Catholics think? "Oh," they said, "that man and his followers are going to hell." But they did not go. They were very good people. They may have been mistaken -- I do not know. I think they were right in their opposition to Catholicism -- but I have just as much objection to the religion they founded as I have to the church they left. But they thought they were right, and they made very good citizens, and it turned out that their differing from the Mother Church did not hurt them, And then after a while they began to divide, and there arose Baptists; and the other gentlemen, who believed in this law that is now in New Jersey, began cutting off their ears so that they could hear better; they began putting them in prison so that they would have a chance to think. But the Baptists turned out to be good folks -- first rate -- good husbands, good fathers, good citizens. And in a little while, in England, the people turned to be Episcopalians, on account of a little war that Henry VIII., had with the Pope -- and I always sided with the Pope in that war -- but it made no difference; and in a little while the Episcopalians turned out to be just about like other folks -- no worse -- and, as I know of, no better.
After awhile arose the Puritan, and the Episcopalian said, "We don't want anything of him -- he is a bad man"; and they finally drove some of them away and they settled in New England, and there were among them Quakers, than whom there never were better people on the earth -- industrious, frugal, gentle, kind and loving -- and yet these Puritans began hanging them. They said: "They are corrupting our children; if this thing goes on, everybody will believe in being kind and gentle and good, and what will become of us?" They were honest about it. So they went to cutting off ears. But the Quakers were good people and none of the prophecies were fulfilled.
In a little while there came some Unitarians and they said, "The world is going to ruin, sure"; -- but the world went on as usual, and the Unitarians produced men like Channing -- one of the tenderest spirits that ever lived -- they produced men like Theodore Parker -- one of the greatest brained and greatest hearted men produced upon this continent -- a good man -- and yet they thought he was a blasphemer -- they even prayed for his death -- on their bended knees they asked their God to take time to kill him. Well, they were mistaken. Honest, probably.
After awhile came the Universalists, who said: "God is good. He will not damn anybody always, just for a little mistake he made here. This is a very short life; the path we travel is very dim, and a great many shadows fall in the way, and if a man happens to stub his toe, God will not burn him forever." And then all the rest of the sects cried out, "Why, if you do away with hell, everybody will murder just for pastime -- everybody will go to stealing just to enjoy themselves." But they did not. The Universalists were good people -- just as good as any others. Most of them much better. None of the prophecies were fulfilled, and yet the differences existed.
And so we go on until we find people who do not believe the Bible at all, and when they say they do not, they come within this statute.
Now, gentlemen, I am going to try to show you, first, that this statute under which Mr. Reynolds is being tried is unconstitutional -- that it is not in harmony with the constitution of New Jersey; and I am going to try to show you in addition to that, that it was passed hundreds of years ago, by men who believed it was right to burn heretics and tie Quakers to the end of a cart; men and even modest women -- stripped naked -- and lash them from town to town. They were the men who originally passed that statute, and I want to show you that it has slept all this time, and I am informed -- I do not know how it is -- that there never has been a prosecution in this State for blasphemy.
Now, gentlemen, what is blasphemy? Of course nobody knows what it is, unless he takes into consideration where he is. What is blasphemy in one country would be a religious exhortation in another. It is owing to where you are and who is in authority. And let me call your attention to the impudence and bigotry of the American Christians, We send missionaries to other countries. What for? To tell them that their religion is false, that their gods are myths and monsters, that their saviors and apostles were impostors, and that our religion is true. You send a man from Morristown -- a Presbyterian, over to Turkey. He goes there, and he tells the Mohammedans -- and he has it in a pamphlet and he distributes it -- that the Koran is a lie, that Mohammed was not a prophet of God, that the angel Gabriel is not so large that it is four hundred leagues between his eyes -- that it is all a mistake -- there never was an angel so large as that. Then what would the Turks do? Suppose the Turks had a law like this statute in New Jersey. They would put the Morristown missionary in jail, and he would send home word, and then what would the people of Morristown say? Honestly -- what do you think they would say? They would say, "Why, look at those poor, heathen wretches. We sent a man over there armed with the truth, and yet they were so blinded by their idolatrous religion, so steeped in superstition, that they actually put that man in prison." Gentlemen, does not that show the need of more missionaries? I would say, yes.
Now, let us turn the tables. A gentleman comes from Turkey to Morristown. He has got a pamphlet. He says, "The Koran is the inspired book, Mohammed is the real prophet, your Bible is false and your Savior simply a myth." Thereupon the Morristown people put him in jail. Then what would the Turks say? They would say, "Morristown needs more missionaries," and I would agree with them.
In other words, what we want is intellectual hospitality. Let the world talk. And see how foolish this trial is. I have no doubt that the prosecuting attorney agrees with me today, that whether this law is good or bad, this trial should not have taken place. And let me tell you why. Here comes a man into your town and circulates a pamphlet. Now, if they had just kept still, very few would ever have heard of it. That would have been the end. The diameter of the echo would have been a few thousand feet. But in order to stop the discussion of that question, they indicted this man, and that question has been more discussed in this country since this indictment than all the discussions put together since New Jersey was first granted to Charles II's dearest brother James, the Duke of York. And what else? A trial here that is to be reported and published all over the United States, a trial that will give Mr. Reynolds a congregation of fifty millions of people. And yet this was done for the purpose of stopping a discussion of this subject. I want to show you that the thing is in itself almost idiotic -- that it defeats itself, and that you cannot crush out these things by force. Not only so, but Mr. Reynolds has the right to be defended, and his counsel has the right to give his opinions on this subject.
Suppose that we put Mr. Reynolds in jail. The argument has not been sent to jail. That is still going the rounds, free as the winds. Suppose you keep him at hard labor a year -- all the time he is there, hundreds and thousands of people will be reading some account, or some fragment, of this trial. There is the trouble. If you could only imprison a thought, then intellectual tyranny might succeed. If you could only take an argument and put a striped suit of clothes on it -- if you could only take a good, splendid shining fact and lock it up in some dungeon of ignorance, so that its light would never again enter the mind of man, then you might succeed in stopping human progress. Otherwise, no. Let us see about this particular statute. In the first place, the State has a constitution. That constitution is a rule, a limitation to the power of the Legislature, and a certain breastwork for the protection of private rights, and the constitution says to this sea of passions and prejudices: "Thus far and no farther." The constitution says to each individual: "This shall panoply you; this is your complete coat of mail; this shall defend your rights." And it is usual in this country to make as a part of each constitution several general declarations -- called the Bill of Rights. So I find that in the old constitution of New Jersey, which was adopted in the year of grace 1776, although the people at that time were not educated as they are now -- the spirit of the Revolution at that time not having permeated all classes of society -- a declaration in favor of religious freedom. The people were on the eve of a revolution. This constitution was adopted on the third day of July, 1776, one day before the immortal Declaration of Independence. Now, what do we find in this -- and we have got to go by this light, by this torch, when we examine the statute.
I find in that constitution, in its Eighteenth Section, this: "No person shall ever in this State be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor under any pretense whatever be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his own faith and judgment; nor shall he be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or any other rates for the purpose of building or repairing any church or churches, contrary to what he believes to be true." That was a very great and splendid step. It was the divorce of church and state. It no longer allowed the State to levy taxes for the support of a particular religion, and it said to every citizen of New Jersey: All that you give for that purpose must be voluntarily given, and the State will not compel you to pay for the maintenance of a church in which you do not believe. So far so good.
The next paragraph was not so good. "There shall be no establishment of any one religious sect in this State in preference to another, and no Protestant inhabitants of this State shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right merely on account of his religious principles; but all persons professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect, who shall demean themselves peaceably, shall be capable of being elected to any office of profit or trust, and shall fully and freely enjoy every privilege and immunity enjoyed by other citizens."
What became of the Catholics under that clause, I do not know -- whether they had any right to be elected to office or not under this Act. But in 1844, the State having grown civilized in the meantime, another constitution was adopted. The word Protestant was then left out. There was to be no establishment of one religion over another. But Protestantism did not render a man capable of being elected to office any more than Catholicism, and nothing is said about any religious belief whatever. So far, so good.
"No religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office of public trust. No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right on account of his religious principles."
That is a very broad and splendid provision, "No person shall be denied any civil right on account of his religious principles." That was copied from the Virginia constitution, and that clause in the Virginia constitution was written by Thomas Jefferson, and under that clause men were entitled to give their testimony in the courts of Virginia whether they believed in any religion or not, in any bible or not, or in any god or not.
That same clause was afterward adopted by the State of Illinois, also by many other States, and wherever that clause is, no citizen can be denied any civil right on account of his religions principles. It is a broad and generous clause. This statute, under which this indictment is drawn, is not in accordance with the spirit of that splendid sentiment. Under that clause, no man can be deprived of any civil right on account of his religions principles, or on account of his belief. And yet, on account of this miserable, this antiquated, this barbarous and savage statute, the same man who cannot be denied any political or civil right, can be sent to the penitentiary as a common felon for simply expressing his honest thought. And before I get through I hope to convince you that this statute is unconstitutional.
But we will go another step: "Every person may freely speak, write, or publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right"
That is in the constitution of nearly every State in the Union, and the intention of that is to cover slanderous words -- to cover a case where a man under pretense of enjoying the freedom of speech falsely assails or accuses his neighbor. Of course he should be held responsible for that abuse.
Then follows the great clause in the constitution of 1844 -- more important than any other clause in that instrument -- a clause that shines in that constitution like a star at night:
"No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press."
Can anything be plainer -- anything be more forcibly stated?
"No law shall be passed to abridge the liberty of speech."
Now, while you are considering this statute, I want you to keep in mind this other statement:
"No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press."
And right here there is another thing I want to call your attention to. There is a constitution higher than any statute. There is a law higher than any constitution. It is the law of the human conscience, and no man who is a man will defile and pollute his conscience at the bidding of any legislature. Above all things, one should maintain his self-respect, and there is but one way to do that, and that is to live in accordance with your highest ideal.
There is a law higher than men can make. The facts as they exist in this poor world -- the absolute consequences of certain acts -- they are above all. And this higher law is the breath of progress, the very outstretched wings of civilization, under which we enjoy the freedom we have. Keep that in your minds. There never was a legislature great enough -- there never was a constitution sacred enough, to compel a civilized man to stand between a black man and his liberty. There never was a constitution great enough to make me stand between any human being and his right to express his honest thoughts. Such a constitution is an insult to the human soul, and I would care no more for it than I would for the growl of a wild beast. But we are not driven to that necessity here. This constitution is in accord with the highest and noblest aspirations of the heart -- "No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech."
Now let us come to this old law -- this law that was asleep for a hundred years before this constitution was adopted -- this law coiled like a snake beneath the foundations of the Government -- this law, cowardly, dastardly -- this law passed by wretches who were afraid to discuss -- this law passed by men who could not, and who knew they could not, defend their creed -- and so they said: "Give us the sword of the State and we will cleave the heretic down." And this law was made to control the minority. When the Catholics were in power they visited that law upon their opponents. When the Episcopalians were in power, they tortured and burned the poor Catholic who had scoffed and who had denied the truth of their religion. Whoever was in power used that, and whoever was out of power cursed that -- and yet, the moment he got in power he used it. The people became civilized -- but that law was on the statute book. It simply remained. There it was, sound asleep -- its lips drawn over its long and cruel teeth. Nobody savage enough to waken it. And it slept on, and New Jersey has flourished. Men have done well. You have had average health in this country. Nobody roused the statute until the defendant in this case went to Boonton, and there made a speech in which he gave his honest thought, and the people not having an argument handy threw stones. Thereupon Mr. Reynolds, the defendant. published a pamphlet on blasphemy and in it gave a photograph of the Boonton Christians. That is his offence. Now let us read this infamous statute:
"If any person shall willfully blaspheme the holy name of God by denying, cursing, or contemptuously reproaching his being ..."
I want to say right here -- many a man has cursed the God of another man. The Catholics have cursed the God of the Protestant. The Presbyterians have cursed the God of the Catholics -- charged them with idolatry -- cursed their images, laughed at their ceremonies. And these compliments have been interchanged between all the religions of the world. But I say here today that no man, unless a raving maniac, ever cursed the God in whom he believed. No man, no human being, has ever lived who cursed his own idea of God. He always curses the idea that somebody else entertains. No human being ever yet cursed what he believed to be infinite wisdom and infinite goodness -- and you know it. Every man on this jury knows that. He feels that that must be an absolute certainty. Then what have they cursed? Some God they did not believe in -- that is all. And has a man that right? I say, yes. He has a right to give his opinion of Jupiter, and there is nobody in Morristown who will deny him that right. But several thousand years ago it would have been very dangerous for him to have cursed Jupiter, and yet Jupiter is just as powerful now as be was then, but the Roman people are not powerful, and that is all there was to Jupiter -- the Roman people.
So there was a time when you could have cursed Zeus, the god of the Greeks, and like Socrates, they would have compelled you to drink hemlock. Yet now everybody can curse this god. Why? Is the god dead? No. He is just as alive as he ever was. Then what has happened? The Greeks have passed away. That is all. So in all of our churches here. Whenever a church is in the minority it clamors for free speech. When it gets in the majority, no. I do not believe the history of the world will show that any orthodox church when in the majority ever had the courage to face the free lips of the world. It sends for a constable. And is it not wonderful that they should do this when they preach the gospel of universal forgiveness -- when they say, "If a man strike you on one cheek turn to him the other also -- but if he laughs at your religion, put him in the penitentiary"? Is that the doctrine? Is that the law?
Now, read this law. Do you know as I read it I can almost hear John Calvin laugh in his grave. That would have been a delight to him. It is written exactly as he would have written it. There never was an inquisitor who would not have read that law with a malicious smile. The Christians who brought the fagots and ran with all their might to be at the burning, would have enjoyed that law. You know that when they used to burn people for having said something against religion, they used to cut their tongues out before they burned them. Why? For fear that if they did not. the poor, burning victims might say something that would scandalize the Christian gentlemen who were building the fire. All these persons would have been delighted with this law.
Let us read a little further:
"Or by cursing or contemptuously reproaching Jesus Christ."
Why, whoever did, since the poor man, or the poor God, was crucified? How did they come to crucify him? Because they did not believe in free speech in Jerusalem. How else? Because there was a law against blasphemy in Jerusalem -- a law exactly like this. Just think of it. Oh, I tell you we have passed too many milestones on the shining road of human progress to turn back and wallow in that blood, in that mire.
No: Some men have said that he was simply a man. Some believed that he was actually a God. Others believed that he was not only a man, but that he stood as the representative of infinite love and wisdom. No man ever said one word against that Being for saying, "Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you." No man ever raised his voice against him because he said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." And are they the "merciful" who, when some man endeavors to answer their argument, put him in the penitentiary? No. The trouble is, the priests -- the trouble is, the ministers -- the trouble is, the people whose business it was to tell the meaning of these things, quarreled with each other, and they put meanings upon human expressions by malice, meanings that the words will not bear. And let me be just to them. I believe that nearly all that has been done in this world has been honestly done. I believe that the poor savage who kneels down and prays to a stuffed snake -- prays that his little children may recover from the fever -- is honest, and it seems to me that a good God would answer his prayer if he could, if it was in accordance with wisdom, because the poor savage was doing the best he could, and no one can do any better than that.
So I believe that the Presbyterians who used to think that nearly everybody was going to hell, said exactly what they believed. The were honest about it, and I would not send one of them to jail -- would never think of such a thing -- even if he called the unbelievers of the world "wretches," "dogs," and "devils." What would I do? I would simply answer him -- that is all; answer him kindly. I might laugh at him a little, but I would answer him in kindness.
So these divisions of the human mind are natural. They are a necessity. Do you know that all the mechanics that ever lived -- take the best ones -- cannot make two clocks that will run exactly alike one hour, one minute? They cannot make two pendulums that will beat in exactly the same time, one beat. If you cannot do that, how are you going to make hundreds, thousands, billions of people, each with a different quality and quantity of brain, each clad in a robe of living, quivering flesh, and each driven by passion's storm over the wild sea of life -- how are you going to make them all think alike? This is the impossible thing that Christian ignorance and bigotry and malice have been trying to do. This was the object of the Inquisition and of the foolish Legislature that passed this statute.
Let me read you another line from this ignorant statute:
"Or the Christian religion."
Well, what is the Christian religion? "If you scoff at the Christian religion -- if you curse the Christian religion." Well what is it? Gentlemen, you hear Presbyterians every day attack the Catholic Church. Is that the Christian religion? The Catholic believes it is the Christian religion, and you have to admit that it is the oldest one, and then the Catholics turn round and scoff at the Protestants. Is that the Christian religion? If so, every Christian religion has been cursed by every other Christian religion. Is not that an absurd and foolish statute?
I say that the Catholic has the right to attack the Presbyterian and tell him, "Your doctrine is all wrong." I think he has the right to say to him, "You are leading thousands to hell," If he believes it, he not only has the right to say it, but it is his duty to say it; and if the Presbyterian really believes the Catholics are all going to the devil, it is his duty to say so. Why not? I will never have any religion that I cannot defend -- that is, that I do not believe I can defend. I may be mistaken, because no man is absolutely certain that he knows. We all understand that. Every one is liable to be mistaken. The horizon of each individual is very narrow, and in his poor sky the stars are few and very small.
"Or the Word of God ..."
What is that?
"The canonical Scriptures contained in the books of the Old and New Testaments."
Now, what has a man the right to say about that? Has he the right to show that the book of Revelation got into the canon by one vote, and one only? Has he the right to show that they passed in convention upon what books they would put in and what they would not? Has he the right to show that there were twenty-eight books called "The Books of the Hebrews"? Has he the right to show that? Has he the right to show that Martin Luther said he did not believe there was one solitary word of gospel in the Epistle to the Romans? Has he the right to show that some of these books were not written till nearly two hundred years afterward? Has he the right to say it, if he believes it? I do not say whether this is true or not, but has a man the right to say it if he believes it?
Suppose I should read the Bible all through right here in Morristown, and after I got through I should make up my mind that it is not a true book -- what ought I to say? Ought I to clap my hand over my mouth and start for another State, and the minute I got over the line say, "It is not true, It is not true"? Or, ought I to have the right and privilege of saying right here in New Jersey, "My fellow citizens, I have read the book -- I do not believe that it is the word of God"? Suppose I read it and think it is true, then I am bound to say so. If I should go to Turkey and read the Koran and make up my mind that it is fake, you would all say that I was a miserable poltroon if I did not say so.
By force you can make hypocrites -- men who will agree with you from the teeth out, and in their hearts hate you. We want no more hypocrites. We have enough in every community. And how are you going to keep from having more? By having the air free, -- by wiping from your statute books such miserable and infamous laws as this.
"... The Holy Scriptures."
Are they Holy? Must a man be honest? Has he the right to be sincere? There are thousands of things in the Scriptures that everybody believes. Everybody believes the Scriptures are right when they say, "Thou shalt not steal" -- everybody. And when they say "Give good measure, heaped up and running over," everybody says, "Good!" So when they say "Love your neighbor," everybody applauds that. Suppose a man believes that, and practices it, does it make any difference whether he believes in the flood or not? Is that of any importance? Weather a man built an ark or not -- does that make the slightest difference? A man might deny it and yet be a very good man. Another might believe it and be a very mean man. Could it now, by any possibility, make a man a good father, a good husband, a good citizen? Does it make any difference whether you believe it or not? Does it make any difference whether or not you believe that a man was going through town, and his hair was a little short, like mine, and some little children laughed at him, and thereupon two bears from the woods came down and tore to pieces about forty little children? Is it necessary to believe that? Suppose a man should say, "I guess that is a mistake; they did not copy that right; I guess the man that reported that was a little dull of hearing and did not get the story exactly right." Any harm in saying that? Is a man to be sent to the penitentiary for that? Can you imagine an infinitely good God sending a man to hell because he did not believe the bear story?
So I say if you believe the Bible, say so; if you do not believe it, say so. And here is the vital mistake, I might almost say, in Protestantism itself. The Protestants when they fought the Catholics said: "Read the Bible for yourselves -- stop taking it from your priests -- read the sacred volume with your own eyes; it is a revelation from God to his children, and you are the children." And then they said: "If after you read it you do not believe it, and you say anything against it, we will put you in jail, and God will put you in hell." That is a fine position to get a man in. It is like a man who invited his neighbor to come and look at his pictures, saying: "They are the finest in the place, and I want your candid opinion. A man who looked at them the other day said they were daubs, and I kicked him down stairs -- now I want your candid judgment." So the Protestant Church says to a man, "This Bible is a message from your Father, -- your Father in heaven. Read it. Judge for yourself. But if after you have read it you say it is not true, I will put you in the penitentiary for one year."
The Catholic Church has a little more sense about that -- at least more logic. It says: "This Bible is not given to everybody. It is given to the world, to be sure, but it must be interpreted by the church. God would not give a Bible to the world unless he also appointed some one, some organization, to tell the world what it means." They said: "We do not want the world filled with interpretations, and all the interpreters fighting each other." And the Protestant has gone to the infinite absurdity of saying: "Judge for yourself, but if you judge wrong you will go to the penitentiary here and to hell hereafter."
Now, let us see further:
"Or by profane scoffing expose them to ridicule."
Think of such a law as that, passed under a constitution that says, "No law shall abridge the liberty of speech." But you must not ridicule the Scriptures. Did anybody, ever dream of passing a law to protect Shakespeare from being laughed at? Did anybody ever think of such a thing? Did anybody ever want any legislative enactment to keep people from holding Robert Burns in contempt? The songs of Burns will be sung as long as there is love in the human heart. Do we need to protect him from ridicule by a statute? Does he need assistance from New Jersey? Is any statute needed to keep Euclid from being laughed at in this neighborhood? And is it possible that a work written by an infinite Being has to be protected by a legislature? Is it possible that a book cannot be written by a God so that it will not excite the laughter of the human race?
Why, gentlemen, humor is one of the most valuable things in the human brain. It is the torch of the mind -- it sheds light. Humor is the readiest test of truth -- of the natural, of the sensible -- and when you take from a man all sense of humor, there will only be enough left to make a bigot. Teach this man who has no humor -- no sense of the absurd -- the Presbyterian creed, fill his darkened brain with superstition and his heart with hatred -- then frighten him with the threat of hell, and he will be ready to vote for that statute. Such men made that law.
Let us read another clause:
"And every person so offending shall, on conviction, be fined not exceeding two hundred dollars, or imprisoned at hard labor not exceeding twelve months, or both."
I want you to remember that this statute was passed in England hundreds of years ago -- just in that language. The punishment, however, has been somewhat changed. In the good old days when the king sat on the throne -- in the good old days when the altar was the right-bower of the throne -- then, instead of saying: "Fined two hundred dollars and imprisoned one year," it was: "All his goods shall be confiscated; his tongue shall be bored with a hot iron, and upon his forehead he shall be branded with the letter B; and for the second offence he shall suffer death by burning." Those were the good old days when people maintained the orthodox religion in all its purity and in all its ferocity.
The first question for you, gentlemen, to decide in this case is: Is this statute constitutional? Is this statute in harmony with the part of the constitution of 1844 which says: "The liberty of speech shall not be abridged"? That is for you to say. Is this law constitutional, or is it simply an old statute that fell asleep, that was forgotten, that people simply failed to repeal? I believe I can convince you, if you will think a moment, that our fathers never intended to establish a government like that. When they fought for what they believed to be religious liberty -- when they fought for what they believed to be liberty of speech, they believed that all such statutes would be wiped from the statute books of all the States.
Let me tell you another reason why I believe this. We have in this country naturalization laws. People may come here irrespective of their religion. They must simply swear allegiance to this country -- they must forswear allegiance to every other potentate, prince and power -- but they do not have to change their religion. A Hindoo may become a citizen of the United States, and the Constitution of the United States, like the constitution of New Jersey, guarantees religious liberty. That Hindoo believes in a God -- in a God that no Christian believes in. He believes in a sacred book that every Christian looks upon as a collection of falsehoods. He believes, too, in a Savior -- in Buddha. Now, I ask you, -- when that man comes here and becomes a citizen -- when the Constitution is about him, above him -- has he the right to give his ideas about his religion? Has he the right to say in New Jersey: "There is no God except the Supreme Brahm -- there is no Savior except Buddha, the Illuminated, Buddha the Blest"? I say that he has that right -- and you have no right, because in addition to that he says, "You are mistaken; your God is not God; your Bible is not true, and your religion is a mistake," to abridge his liberty of speech. He has the right to say it, and if he has the right to say it, I insist before this Court and before this jury, that he has the right to give his reasons for saying it; and in giving the reasons, in maintaining his side, he has the right, not simply to appeal to history, not simply to the masonry of logic, but he has the right to shoot the arrows of wit, and to use the smile of ridicule. Anything that can be laughed out of this world ought not to stay in it.
So the Persian -- the believer in Zoroaster, in the spirits of Good and Evil, and that the spirit of Evil will finally triumph forever -- if that is his religion -- he has the right to state it, and the right to give his reasons for his belief. How infinitely preposterous for you, one of the States of this Union, to invite a Persian or a Hindoo to come to your shores. You do not ask him to renounce his God. You ask him to renounce the Shah. Then when he becomes a citizen, having the rights of every other citizen, he has the right to defend his religion and to denounce yours.
There is another thing. What was the spirit of our Government at that time? You must look at the leading men. Who were they? What were their opinions? Were most of them as guilty of blasphemy as is the defendant in this case? Thomas Jefferson -- and there is, in my judgment, only one name on the page of American history greater than his -- only one name for which I have a greater and tenderer reverence -- and that is Abraham Lincoln, because of all men who ever lived and had power, he was the most merciful. And that is the way to test a man. How does he use power? Does he want to crush his fellow citizens? Does he like to lock somebody up in the penitentiary because he has the power of the moment? Does he wish to use it as a despot, or as a philanthropist -- like a devil, or like a man? Thomas Jefferson entertained about the same views entertained by the defendant in this case, and he was made President of the United States. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, writer of that clause in the constitution of that State, that made all the citizens equal before the law. And when I come to the very sentences here charged as blasphemy, I will show you that these were the common sentiments of thousands of very great, of very intellectual and admirable men.
I have no time, and it may be this is not the place and the occasion, to call your attention to the infinite harm that has been done in almost every religious nation by statutes such as this. Where that statute is, liberty can not be; and if this statute is enforced by this jury and by this Court, and if it is afterwards carried out, and if it could be carried out in the States of this Union, there would be an end of all intellectual progress. We would go back to the Dark Ages. Every man's mind, upon these subjects at least, would become a stagnant pool, covered with the scum of prejudice and meanness.
And wherever such laws have been enforced, have the people been friends? Here we are today in this blessed air -- here amid these happy fields. Can we imagine, with these surroundings, that a man for having been found with a crucifix in his poor little home, had been taken from his wife and children and burned -- burned by Protestants? You cannot conceive of such a thing now. Neither can you conceive that there was a time when Catholics found some poor Protestant contradicting one of the dogmas of the church, and took that poor honest wretch -- while his wife wept; while his children clung to his hands -- to the public square, drove a stake in the ground, put a chain or two about him, lighted the fagots, and let the wife whom he loved and his little children see the flames climb around his limbs -- you cannot imagine that any such infamy was ever practiced. And yet I tell you that the same spirit made this detestable, infamous, devilish statute.
You can hardly imagine that there was a time when the same kind of men that made this law said to another man:
You say this world is round? "Yes, sir; I think it is, because I have seen its shadow on the moon." "You have?" -- Now, can you imagine a society, outside of hyenas and boa constrictors, that would take that man, put him in the penitentiary, in a dungeon, turn the key upon him, and let his name be blotted from the book of human life? Years afterward some explorer amid ruins finds a few bones. The same spirit that did that, made this statute -- the same spirit that did that, went before the grand jury in this case -- exactly. Give the men that had this man indicted the power, and I would not want to live in that particular part of the country. I would not willingly live with such men. I would go somewhere else, where the air is free, where I could speak my sentiments to my wife, to my children, and to my neighbors.
Now, this persecution differs only in degree from the infamies of the olden times. What does it mean? It means that the State of New Jersey has all the light it wants. And what does that mean? It means that the State of New Jersey is absolutely infallible -- that it has got its growth and does not propose to grow any more. New Jersey knows enough, and it will send teachers to the penitentiary.
It is hardly possible that this State has accomplished all that it is ever going to accomplish. Religions are for a day. They are the clouds. Humanity is the eternal blue. Religions are the waves of the sea. These waves depend upon the force and direction of the wind -- that is to say, of passion; but Humanity is the great sea. And so our religions change from day to day, and it is a blessed thing that they do. Why? Because we grow, and we are getting a little more civilized every day -- and any man that is not willing to let another man express his opinion is not a civilized man, and you know it. Any man that does not give to everybody else the rights he claims for himself, is not an honest man.
Here is a man who says, "I am going to join the Methodist Church." What right has he? Just the same right to join it that I have not to join it -- no more, no less. But if you are a Methodist and I am not, it simply proves that you do not agree with me, and that I do not agree with you -- that is all. Another man is a Catholic. He was born a Catholic, or is convinced that Catholicism is right. That is his business, and any man that would persecute him on that account, is a poor barbarian -- a savage; any man that would abuse him on that account, is a barbarian -- a savage.
Then I take the next step. A man does not wish to belong to any church. How are you going to judge him? Judge him by the way he treats his wife, his children, his neighbors. Does he pay his debts? Does he tell the truth? Does he help the poor? Has he got a heart that melts when he hears grief's story? That is the way to judge him. I do not care what he thinks about the bears, or the flood, about bibles or gods. When some poor mother is found wandering in the street with a babe at her breast, does he quote Scripture or hunt for his pocket-book? That is the way to judge. And suppose he does not believe in any bible whatever? If Christianity is true, that is his misfortune, and everybody should pity the poor wretch that is going down the hill. Why kick him? You will get your revenge on him through all eternity -- is not that enough?
So I say, let us judge each other by our actions, not by theories, not by what we happen to believe -- because that depends very much on where we were born.
If you had been born in Turkey, you probably would have been a Mohammedan. If I had been born among the Hindoos, I might have been a Buddhist -- I can't tell. If I had been raised in Scotland, on oatmeal, I might have been a Covenantor -- nobody knows. If I had lived in Ireland, and seen my poor wife and children driven into the street, I think I might have been a Home-ruler -- no doubt of it. You see it depends on where you were born -- much depends on our surroundings.
Of course, there are men born in Turkey who are not Mohammedans, and there are men born in this country who are not Christians -- Methodists, Unitarians, or Catholics, plenty of them, who are unbelievers -- plenty of them who deny the truth of the Scriptures -- plenty of them who say -- "I know not whether there be a God or not." Well, it is a thousand times better to say that honestly than to say dishonestly that you believe in God.
If you want to know the opinion of your neighbor, you want his honest opinion. You do not want to be deceived. You do not want to talk with a hypocrite. You want to get straight at his honest mind -- and then you are going to judge him, not by what he says but by what he does. It is very easy to sail along with the majority -- easy to sail the way the boats are going -- easy to float with the stream; but when you come to swim against the tide, with the men on the shore throwing rocks at you, you will get a good deal of exercise in this world.
And do you know that we ought to feel under the greatest obligation to men who have fought the prevailing notions of their day? There is not a Presbyterian in Morristown that does not hold up for admiration the man that carried the flag of the Presbyterians when they were in the minority -- not one. There is not a Methodist in this State who does not admire John and Charles Wesley and Whitefield, who carried the banner of that new and despised sect when it was in the minority. They glory in them because they braved public opinion, because they dared to oppose idiotic, barbarous and savage statutes like this. And there is not a Universalist that does not worship dear old Hosea Ballou -- I love him myself -- because he said to the Presbyterian minister: "You are going around trying to keep people out of hell, and I am going around trying to keep hell out of the people." Every Universalist admires him and loves him because when despised and railed at and spit upon, he stood firm, a patient witness for the eternal mercy of God. And there is not a solitary Protestant who does not honor Martin Luther -- who does not honor the Covenantors in poor Scotland, and that poor girl who was tied out on the sand of the sea by Episcopalians, and kept there till the rising tide drowned her, and all she had to do to save her life was to say, "God save the king"; but she would not say it without the addition of the words, "If it be God's will." No one, who is not a miserable, contemptible wretch, can fail to stand in admiration before such courage, such self-denial -- such heroism. No matter what the attitude of your body may be, your soul falls on its knees before such men and such women.
Let us take another step, Where would we have been if authority had always triumphed? Where would we have been if such statutes had always been carried out? We have now a science called astronomy. That science has done more to enlarge the horizon of human thought than all things else. We now live in an infinite universe. We know that the sun is a million times larger than our earth, and we know that there are other great luminaries millions of times larger than our sun. We know that there are planets so far away that light, traveling at the rate of one hundred and eighty-five thousand miles a second, requires fifteen thousand years to reach this grain of sand, this tear, we call the earth -- and we now know that all the fields of space are sown thick with constellations. If that statute had been enforced, that science would not now be the property of the human mind. That science is contrary to the Bible, and for asserting the truth you become a criminal. For what sum of money, for what amount of wealth, would the world have the science of astronomy expunged from the brain of man? We learned the story of the stars in spite of that statute.
The first men who said the world was round were scourged for scoffing at the Scriptures. And even Martin Luther, speaking of one of the greatest men that ever lived, said: "Does he think with his little lever to overturn the Universe of God?" Martin Luther insisted that such men ought to be trampled under foot. If that statute had been carried into effect, Galileo would have been impossible. Kepler, the discoverer of the three laws, would have died with the great secret locked in his brain, and mankind would have been left ignorant, superstitious, and besotted. And what else? If that statute had been carried out, the world would have been deprived of the philosophy of Spinoza; of the philosophy, of the literature, of the wit and wisdom, the justice and mercy of Voltaire, the greatest Frenchman that ever drew the breath of life -- the man who by his mighty pen abolished torture in a nation, and helped to civilize a world.
If that statute had been enforced, nearly all the books that enrich the libraries of the world could not have been written. If that statute had been enforced, Humboldt could not have delivered the lectures now known as "The Cosmos." If that statute had been enforced, Charles Darwin would not have been allowed to give to the world his discoveries that have been of more benefit to mankind than all the sermons ever uttered. In England they have placed his sacred dust in the great Abbey. If he had lived in New Jersey, and this statute could have been enforced, he would have lived one year at least in your penitentiary. Why? That man went so far as not simply to deny the truth of your Bible, but absolutely to deny the existence of your God. Was he a good man? Yes, one of the noblest and greatest of men. Humboldt, the greatest German who ever lived, was of the same opinion.