Page images

point is, that the laws be equal, and open to the minority as well as to the majority. If it be made a penal offence to attack in a gross and wanton manner the sentiments of the majority, we insist that it shall

a penal offence to attack in a gross and wanton manner the sentiments of the minority, — that it shall be as unlawful to outrage the feelings of an infidel as of a Christian. Respect to the feelings of every man, whatever the opinions he holds, is a moral duty, the fuliilment of which every man has a right to exact, if need be, even by law.

Nevertheless the expediency of laws against gross and wanton attacks on the sentiments of others we much doubt. They could not be enforced in case of the minority, and the majority do not need them. Ile who attacks in a gross and wanton manner the dearest sentiments and most cherished convictions of the community, by so doing renders himself odious and powerless. The whole weight of the community is against him; the dearest sentiments and the most cherished convictions of the community are against him, bear down upon him, and crush him. He is marked and avoided, treated with neglect or contempt. What harm can he do? To be the object of general horror, of general loathing and disgust, to be treated with neglect or contempt, to feel that he is regarded no longer as a man, but as a public nuisance, is punishment enough one would think to satisfy the feelings of the most vindictive. Why seek to punish more?

If the writers on the subject of religious liberty will take care to distinguish what is our moral duty in the formation and propagation of religious opinions, from the right of civil society to interfere in the matter, and to make a complete disruption between the question of religious liberty, and the question of one's right to outrage the sentiments of the community, and leave each question to rest on its own merits, the community will very soon come to right conclusions on the whole matter, and there will be nowhere any disposition to impose any civil restraints upon the formation and the utterance of opinions. Men will seek to suppress errors of opinion by addresses to the reason and the conscience, not by fine and imprisonment, and government will restrain itself from all interference in the matter, so long as no one infringes the equal rights of another.

This number completes the first volume of our journal. We return our thanks to the public for the favor with which they have received it. Our success has not been great, but more than we looked for. We regard the Boston Quarterly Review no longer as an experiment. We shall with the year commence a new volume with new courage. Our next number may be expected to contain a somewhat elaborate exposition of the New French School of Philosophy, an article on Animal Magnetism by an Adept, besides several other articles either prepared or in a state of preparation.

« PreviousContinue »