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The progress of the nation page 2


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In Wales, such was the neglect of religion by the establishment, that, previous to 1804, there was scarcely a clergyman of the Church of England in the principality who was a native, or could preach in Welsh. The capability of a minister to make himself understood by his parishioners had been totally disregarded by those who had the presentation to livings; the exercise of patronage had alone been cared for; the souls of people went for nothing. About that time the Rev. Mr. Charles was engaged as curate in a Welsh parish. He found not a single Bible in the parish, and on extending his inquiries, he scarcely found a Bible in Wales. He made this fact known to the public, in an appeal for Welsh Bibles, and for this appeal and the attendant exposure of the clerical neglect, he was dismissed from his cure, and could find no bishop who would license him to preach in any other parish. But his truly Christian act had excited the attention of the religious public, and had the immediate effect of establishing the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804 - an association which grew to such vast dimensions, and has produced such admirable results.

In Ireland, the bulk of the population had been left to the catholic pastors, who were maintained by their flocks, the property of the catholic church having been long transferred by act of Parliament to the church of England, or, as it was called, the sister church of Ireland. The number of parishes in Ireland had been originally only two thousand four hundred and thirty-six, though the population at that time was half that of England; but in 1807 Mr. Wickham stated that, in 1803, these had been consolidated, and reduced to one thousand one hundred and eighty-three. In some of these parishes in the south of Ireland, Mr. Fitzgerald stated that the incomes amounted to one thousand pounds, to one thousand five hundred pounds, and even to three thousand pounds a-year; yet that in a considerable number of these highly-endowed parishes there was no church whatever. In others there were churches but no protestant pastors, because there were no protestants. The provision for religious instruction went wholly, in these cases, to support nonresident, and often very irreligious, clergymen. In fact, no truly religious clergyman ever could hold such a living. The livings were, in fact, looked upon as sinecures to be conferred by ministers on their relatives or parliamentary supporters. It was stated that out of one thousand one hundred and eighty-three benefices in Ireland, two hundred and thirty-three were wholly without churches; and Mr. Fitzgerald said, " that where parishes had been consolidated, the services rendered to the people by their clergyman had been diminished in proportion as his income had been augmented; for no place of religious worship was provided within the reach of the inhabitants; nor could such parishioners obtain baptism for their children, or the other rites of the church; and the consequence was, that the protestant inhabitants, in such places, had disappeared."

Measures to alter this disgraceful state of things were repeatedly introduced, but as steadily rejected. The collection of tithes seemed to occupy the chief attention of the established clergy of Ireland, even where they rendered no spiritual services, and eventually led to a state of irritation and of dire conflict betwixt the protestant incumbent and the catholic population, which did not cease till after the death of George III. The clergyman called in the soldiery to assist him in the forcible levying of tithes, and the bloodshed and frightful plunder of the poor huts of the Irish in this helium ecclesiasticum became the scandal of all Christendom ere it was ended by the act of a subsequent reign, which transferred the collection of tithes to the landlord in the shape of rent.

In 1818, little more than a year before the decease of George III., a million of money was granted by parliament for the building of new churches in England, and this circumstance led the attention of architects to the subject of ecclesiastical architecture. From this period, therefore, we may date the revival of a knowledge of the true principle of that style of building. Thomas Rickman, singularly enough, a member of the Society of Friends, published inquiries into this subject, and clearly demonstrated those principles, and those ideas of beauty and consistence, which guided the church builders of the catholic ages in England and in all other Christian countries. It was now seen what monsters of mongrel and conflicting styles had been the so-called Gothic erections which had risen of late years as parish churches, and pretended revivals of the Anglo-Gothic as mansions, such as Horace Walpole's villa at Strawberry Hill, Eaton Hall, in Lancashire, &c.

The great progress of the period had been made in science and literature. Science, as applied to mechanics and manufactures, had exceeded that of any former term of the same amount of years. In literature, no former age in England had produced such a multitude of men of unquestionable genius. There had been no individual of equal measure with Shakespeare, Milton, or Bacon, but the aggregate of genius far exceeded that of the age of any of these great men. Indeed, there had occurred a new spring of intellect and a new era of taste nearly all over Europe, especially in this country, in Germany, and Scandinavia. French and other artificial models were discarded, and there was a great return to nature and to truth.

constitution and laws.

Notwithstanding the generally despotic tendencies of George III., the regent, and their ministers, some important advances were made during this reign in a more liberal legislature, and also in a more liberal rendering of the already-established laws. In trials for libel juries were found to resist the instructions of the judges, and to give independent verdicts. There were two points on this question, and especially as regarded political charges of libel, on which juries claimed to exercise their own judgments. The one was, whether the charge made was true; and the other, that they should by their verdict determine both the fact and the law. Previous to the revolution, it was permitted to give evidence of the truth of an alleged libel; but since then it has become the practice of the courts of law to disallow of this in cases of political libel - affirming virtually that the greater the truth the greater the libel. And that practice yet nominally remains, except in civil cases, in which the accused may justify his charge by producing evidence in support of the fact. In cases of political libel, however, juries have assumed the right of judging both of fact and law, thus taking the direction entirely out of the hands of the judges. This victory was not won without repeated struggles. In the trials of Woodfall, for the publication of " Junius's Letters," and of Wilkes, for No. 45 of the " North Briton," lord Mansfield presided, and informed the juries that they had nothing to do but to decide the fact of the printing and publishing, and the judges, as the only properly qualified persons, would determine the law of the cases. Both these trials occurred in the early years of the reign of George III. The counsel in both these cases instructed the juries that they had the right to decide both law and fact, and that anything short of that was a surrender of the rights of juries, and of the subject. On the other hand, the law officers of the crown endeavoured to impress upon them the danger of allowing men unlearned in the law to decide upon the law; that it was next to impossible for any but profound lawyers to state the law. But to this it was properly replied by counsel, that it was undoubtedly the province and the duty of the judge to explain the law, but it then remained for the jury to determine whether the accused had violated the law, or that the institution of juries would be henceforth a farce and a snare. The jury, in the case of Woodfall, took the simple plan of pronouncing a verdict of " Guilty of printing and publishing only." This was no more a crime than it was for William Penn and Joseph Meade, eminent preachers amongst the Friends, in 1670, being found " Guilty of speaking in Gracechurch-street," which gave such dire offence to the recorder of London of that day, and caused him to lock up the jury without fire, food, or candle. Lord Mansfield now told the jury that the printing and sense of " the paper were all they had to consider of;" but the jury persisted in their verdict, and lord Mansfield declared that a new trial ought to be moved for.

The same judge, in the trial of Millar, who had been indicted for republishing the libel of Junius, endeavoured again to induce the jury to leave the determination of the law to the bench; in which case, all political offenders would have been at the mercy of time-serving judges, and so of courts. He assured them that such had been for a very long time the settled opinion and practice of the courts of law. But in this case he did not absolutely assert that the jury had no right to determine the law of the case, but that, if they did choose to determine the point of law, they must be very sure, for their conscience sake, that their determination was law; and he added that " If the law was in every case to be determined by juries, we should be in a miserable condition, as nothing could be more uncertain, from the different opinions of mankind." Junius, in commenting, in his famous letters to that judge, on this case, declared that lord Mansfield had contradicted his former positive laying down of the law, and conceded the question. And this, no doubt, was the fact. He no longer told the jury that they could not legally touch the question of law, but that, if they did, uncertain results might flow from the practice.

The conduct of lord Mansfield in these cases, and that of Wilkes, excited expressions of strong condemnation both from the press and in parliament. In the house of lords some of the judges spoke out against his arbitrary doctrines. The motion was made by lord Chatham, and he said that he never understood that these notions of the learned lord were \he law of England, bat, on the contrary, that the jury were competent judges of the law as well as of the fact; and then lord Camden condemned this doctrine and the practice founded on it most severely. On this, lord Mansfield left with the clerk of the house a copy of the judgment of the King's Bench in the case of the king against Wood- fall, that their lordships might read it. Lord Camden considered this a challenge to him to debate the subject, and he declared himself ready to prove that his lordship's doctrine was not the law of England. Lord Mansfield took care not to enter into the discussion.

But a case which occurred subsequently had the direct consequence of procuring a new expression of the law by a bill. In 1784 the dean of St. Asaph was indicted for publishing the "Dialogue between a Gentleman and a Farmer," written by Sir William Jones. Erskine was counsel for the dean, and, under his clear explanation of the law, the jury returned a verdict of " Guilty of publishing only." The judge in this case, Mr. justice Buller, told the jury their verdict was not correct, and he endeavoured to persuade them that they meant to convict the defendant of libel. The jury replied, " No; we find him only guilty of publishing; -we do not find anything else." Erskine desired that this verdict should be recorded, but justice Buller insisted that there must be some mistake; that, if they found the defendant guilty of publishing, they meant that he was guilty of all the innuendoes of the libel. Mr. Erskine endeavoured to save the jury from any mystification, and said, " When the jury came into court, they gave, in the hearing of every man present, the very verdict that was given in the case of the king against Woodfall; they said ' Guilty of publishing only." Gentlemen, I desire to know whether you mean the word 'only' to stand in your verdict? " One of the jury. " Certainly."

But Buller still continued to argue that they were wrong - and insisted that, if they said "only," they negatived the meaning of the innuendoes, and that the counsel was endeavouring to mislead them, and induce them to give a verdict in words different from what they meant. He requested them to leave out the word "only," and then, if the defendant was dissatisfied with the verdict, he could move for a new trial. A long altercation ensued, and at length the judge became very irate with Erskine's resolute keeping of the jury to their original form of words, and said, " I will not be interrupted."

Mr. Erskine: I stand here as an advocate for a brother- citizen, and I desire that the word only may be recorded.

Mr. justice Buller: Sit down, sir. Remember your duty, or I shall be obliged to proceed in another manner.

Mr. Erskine; Your lordship may proceed in what manner you think fit. I know my duty as well as your lordship knows yours. I shall not alter my conduct.

The judge was compelled to give way, observing, however The first verdict was as clear as could be; they only wanted it to be confounded.

The first verdict was, in truth, clear enough; it was the judge who wanted it to be confounded. The end of the matter was that the jury had decided that the dean was guilty of publishing the article, but whether it were a libel or not they did not find. This was not fully satisfactory, as the judges declared that it was a libel in law; and therefore, in the following term, Mr. Erskine moved for a new trial, on the ground of a misdirection by the judge. This point had now to be decided by the judges, with lord Mansfield at their head; and he argued again that the practice of the courts from the Revolution to that day had been to leave the law to the judges, and the rule was refused.

Again, in the trial of Mr. Almon, in 1771, for the republication of " Junius," the same ground was gone over; and, to settle the point, Burke brought in a bill, but could not carry it. In 1792, however, Mr. Fox brought in a bill of the same kind, and, after much opposition, carried it in the following session. By this bill juries were left at liberty to find either a general or a special verdict; and the judges were required to explain the law, and leave the decision to the jury. This bill, the real author of which was Mr., afterwards lord, Erskine, settled the right of juries to decide both on the fact and the law, but not without some loose- ness, which occasioned William Hone to complain of it on his trial. Mr. justice Coleridge, in his edition of " Blackstone's Commentaries," says: - " The advocates, both in and out of parliament, uniformly contended that it was to prevent and not to produce an anomaly in the criminal law; and that their sole object was to give the jury the same power, and no other, in a trial for libel as in a trial for murder." Of course, in ail cases, a jury is bound to listen to the exposition of the law by the judge and then to determine whether the defendant has or has not violated the law.

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