The Blasphemy Trial of C. B. Reynolds - Part II
During the 1880s, the American Secular Union, one of the leading freethought organizations of its day, sponsored several traveling freethought speakers and raised funds to purchase tents in which they could speak, since most halls would not rent to "blasphemers." One of these traveling educators, or "missionaries" as they called themselves, was C. B. Reynolds.
It was on such a tour that C. B. Reynolds pitched his "Liberal Tent" in Boonton, New Jersey, on July 26,1886, intending to lecture there for several nights. Two days later, on July 28, he was arrested for the crime of blasphemy.
The Truth Seeker acted at that time as the organ of the American Secular Union and followed the Reynolds trial with particular interest and sympathy. In a three-part series, the American Atheist is reproducing the news of the trial as it appeared in The Truth Seeker.
In Part I of this series, published in the October 1986 issue of the American Atheist, we saw that on Monday, July 26, 1886, C. B. Reynolds erected his tent in Boonton, New Jersey, and prepared to give his freethought message to the residents of that town.
The Liberal program proceeded calmly enough that evening, as the Booth family gave a musical introduction and Reynolds gave his lecture to a "fair-sized" audience. Copies of The Truth Seeker were distributed. Late in the evening there was some very minor vandalism done to the tent.
But the next evening, Tuesday, the tent was filled - and surrounded by "a howling mob of some two hundred and fifty roughs, led and urged on by a pillar of the church." The leaders encouraged both shouting and stone-throwing. Reynolds and the Booth family completed the planned lecture - but did so hurriedly. After the crowd was cleared, it was discovered that two guy ropes of the tent had been cut.
The leaders of the mob had taken no pains to disguise their identities, and Mr. Reynolds was able to identify them the next morning, Wednesday, July 28, for the purpose of a legal complaint. The justice who received the complaint was extremely reluctant to issue warrants for the arrests of the rabble-rousers and did so only after Reynolds deposited $5 with him. Reynolds asked the mayor for protection during his lectures; the mayor ordered the city marshall's presence at that evening's presentation. That evening at the tent, before the planned lecture began, Mr. Reynolds was arrested by that same marshal for blasphemy. Bail was arranged that night, and Reynolds returned to the tent to give his lecture. But the crowd was so disruptive that he was not able to complete it. Further, the mayor and common council sent word that "they could no longer guarantee protection or be responsible for the consequences if the lecture was not brought to a close at once." Reynolds and his comrades abandoned the tent in order to save their own skins from a literally howling mob. The next morning, Thursday, the tent was found to have been nearly destroyed. The main and auxiliary guys had been cut, causing the entire structure to fall. The top ruined, the tent would not be reusable before considerable repair. On Friday Reynolds was served with an order forbidding him "to hold any more of his so-called Liberal but unlawful meetings within the corporate limits of the town of Boonton."
On Saturday, July 31, 1886, Reynolds's indictment for blasphemy was recorded by a nearly illiterate judge - in the crowded ballroom of the United States Hotel. Mr. Reynolds was accompanied during the proceedings by the editor of The Truth Seeker, E. M. MacDonald. While garbled testimony from individuals unable to recount what Reynolds had said was admitted against Reynolds, the only defense witness was barred from testifying because he did not positively believe that there was a future, supernatural system of rewards and punishments. Bail was set to await the action of a Morris County grand jury.
On August 14,1886, The Truth Seeker published an examination of New Jersey's religious laws. It found that there the Constitution adopted in 1844 guaranteed both freedom of speech and the press and that "No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right merely on account of his religious principles." Blasphemy was, however, a crime punishable by twelve months hard labor or a fine not exceeding two hundred dollars. Further, while the Revised Statutes of New Jersey did not exclude a nonbeliever from testifying, the common law excluded any person who did not believe "there is a God who will punish him if he swears falsely."
So read on to learn what new disasters became Atheists (not that these first "freethinkers" were Atheists) in the "land of the free."
August 21, 1886
Boonton Again Awakened.
When C. B. Reynolds had procured the affidavits necessary to a criminal prosecution of the good Christians of Boonton who had wrecked his tent and to a civil suit against the town for the damages caused, he came up to this city to engage in the hard preliminary work of arranging for the state Convention. The Christians of Boonton breathed freer when they knew the Infidel had left the place, and they prayerfully hoped he would never return. The taxpayers do not like the prospect of paying for the tent, and the indicted rioters see the county court in the near distance and the state prison not far behind. But those who thought that they had seen the last of the Infidel were mistaken. On Wednesday, the 11th inst[ant]., Mr. Reynolds invaded the place again, armed with hundreds of copies of a small pamphlet on blasphemy, being the Truth Seeker editorial of August 14th, with some additional paragraphs addressed specifically to the inhabitants of Morris county, New Jersey. These he distributed in all the stores, and in most of the houses. It is needless to say that the pamphlet was thoroughly read.
The gossip and excitement resulting from the arrest had in a good measure subsided, but this second advent aroused the sleepy little town, and for the balance of the week blasphemy was again discussed. No violence was offered Mr. Reynolds, most of the rougher element being at work in the silk factory when the distribution was going on. The justice of the peace who held Mr. Reynolds to bail was encountered upon the street, and he extended his hand for a fraternal greeting. He got it, along with a pamphlet which had the needless effect of lengthening his Methodistical countenance about two inches. In common with the rest of the Christian population of Boonton, the justice finds that blasphemy is a ghost of puritanical times that will not down at his bidding. He can arrest Mr. Reynolds, but he cannot keep him out of Boonton.
Mr. Reynolds lectured for the Hempstead, L.I., Freethought Association on the afternoon and evening of August 15th, and will address the Liberals of Norwalk, Conn., tomorrow, the 22d. Until after the state Convention is held, he may be addressed in care of this office. No further legal steps in his Boonton case can be taken till after the Morris county grand jury have met, but in the interim it is proposed to enlighten the population of the county upon theological matters and the relation Christianity sustains to law and liberty.
Mr. Ingersoll Will Defend Mr. Reynolds.
E. M. Macdonald, Esq., Editor of The Truth Seeker:
My Dear Mr. Macdonald: Mr. Baker has handed me your letter asking whether I would have anything to do with the Reynolds case. Of course I shall help Mr. Reynolds. If I cannot be there in person, I am perfectly willing to pay somebody who can be. I believe in doing what little I can in defense of the liberty of speech, and I think it the duty of all Freethinkers to do what they can to teach the world better than to decide metaphysical questions by brute force.
Yours very truly,
R. G. Ingersoll.
The Boonton, N.J., Bulletin says:
E. M. Macdonald, the editor of The Truth Seeker, says that Reynolds's tent was "wrecked by Catholic and Methodist roughs." A man who gets so far from the truth as this when "seeking the truth," is not a good "seeker."
We judge by the comment appended that the Bulletin questions the accuracy of our statement. The facts are these. James Neafie, one of the men arrested for rioting, was formerly a steady attendant upon Methodist services. At present he divides his piety between the Methodist and the Reformed church. He is a little more Methodist than Reformed. When H. G. Randall, another arrested rioter, moved to Boonton, he brought to the pastor of the Methodist church of Boonton a letter from the Methodist church of the town which he had left. These facts we obtained from the editor of the Boonton Bulletin. George Hyler, the coachman who was arrested, is also a Methodist. All these men are charged with inciting to riot, and Mr. Reynolds knows that they did take part in the partial destruction of the tent by urging the rough element, who are mostly members of the Catholic church, to run Mr. Reynolds out of town. If it were not Catholic and Methodist roughs who wrecked the tent, we do not know who is guilty. Certainly the tent was not wrecked by Catholic and Methodist gentlemen.
More New Jersey Christianity.
From the Beverly Banner.
Last week an Infidel was mobbed at the town of Boonton, Morris county, his tent destroyed, and he narrowly escaped with his life. The speaker began his remarks by denouncing the Bible, and holding up the Christian religion to ridicule. The ministers of the gospel were sneered at as "lazy cranks," and church people generally denounced. While this is a free country, and everyone is his own master, and allowed to believe and follow such religion as his conscience dictates, still, when a man - if he can be called such - takes a platform and denounces that which is held most sacred by all classes of people, it is time Judge Lynch were allowed to take an upper hand in the conquest. For, where is the class of people who haven't their God? From the lower classes of Central Africa to the highly civilized and cultured inhabitants of Europe and America, each have their own idea as to religion and to a God, and when a man who has fallen so low as to take a public stand and announce it as his belief that there is no God, and no hereafter, and try to persuade, and in some instances succeed, in inducing men and women to follow him in his infamous career, a tar-and-feather overcoat would be too good for him.
John P. Guild, in writing of Mr. Reynolds' arrest, asks in the Investigator: "Was it not Christians crazed by whisky that tried to drown the voice of reason in Boonton?"
No, it was not. The Christians were crazed by Christianity.
So far as we have observed, no religious journal has said a word about the arrest of Mr. Reynolds in Boonton for blasphemy. We have only a faint hope, however, that their silence springs from shame. More than likely, it proceeds from fear that some of their readers would expect them to condemn the arrest, and that they are unwilling to do.
Reynolds Indicted For The Crime
Of Libeling A Ghost.
When the wisdom assembled as a grand jury of Morris county, N.J., "arose" on Tuesday, October 19, 1886, it left in the hands of the young district attorney, Willard W. Cutler, an indictment against Charles B. Reynolds for blasphemy. This instrument of torture, however, was not based upon Mr. Reynolds's lecture at Boonton, but upon a treatise which he has since written, printed as a pamphlet and distributed at Boonton, and which also appeared in The Truth Seeker of October 9th and 16th. The indictment reads as follows:
Morris Co. Oyer and Terminer
Jail Delivery, Oct. Term, A.D. 1886.
Morris Co., to Wit: The grand inquest for the state of New Jersey in and for the body of the county of Morris upon their oath present that Charles B. Reynolds, late of the township of Boonton, in the county of Morris aforesaid, on the eighth day of October, 1886, at the township of Boonton aforesaid, in the county of Morris aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this court, unlawfully and wickedly did willfully blaspheme the holy name of God by contumeliously reproaching his being and providence, and by contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ and the holy word of God, that is, the canonical scriptures contained in the books of the Old and New Testaments, and by profane scoffing at and exposing them to contempt and ridicule in that he, the said Charles B. Reynolds, did then and there publish, circulate, and distribute a certain scandalous, impious, and blasphemous printed document entitled, "Blasphemy and the Bible," by Charles B. Reynolds, in which there were and are contained amongst other things certain scandalous, impious, and blasphemous matter, and things to the tenor and effect following:
"This Bible describes God as so loving that he drowned the whole world in his mad fury, because it was so much worse than he (knowing all things?) ever supposed it could be. An all-wise, unchangeable God, who got out of patience with a world which was just what his own stupid blundering had made it, and knew no better way out of the muddle than to destroy it by drowning!"
And in another part of the aforesaid printed document there are and was contained, among other things, certain other scandalous, impious, and blasphemous matter and things of the purport and effect following, to wit:
"The Bible God says his people made him jealous, provoked him to anger, and now he will raise the mischief with them, for he declares his anger burns like hell. He will destroy them all 'were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy.'
"The almighty God afraid of his enemies! Can the human mind conceive of more horrid blasphemy? Can even a New Jersey Christian believe such stuff was ever inspired by a God?
WHAT THE BIBLE REALLY TEACHES.
"The Old Testament records for our instruction in morals the most foul and bestial instances of fornication, incest, and polygamy, perpetrated by God's own pet saints, and the New Testament indorses these lecherous old wretches as examples for all good Christians to follow."
And in another part of the aforesaid document there were and are contained, among other things, certain other scandalous, impious, and blasphemous matter and things of the purport and effect following, that is to say:
"Now, reader, take time and calmly think it over. A Jewish girl becomes the mother of God almighty - the mother of your God. The child of this young Jewess was God. Christ is God. God cried and screamed, squealed and kicked; God flung about his little arms; God made aimless dashes into space with his little fists; God stared foolishly at his own little toes; God smiled when he was comfortable and howled when pricked by a nasty pin; God was nursed at Mary's breast; God was wrapped in little diapers; God lay in a cradle and was rocked to sleep; God was quite sick when cutting his little teeth; God caught the measles, mumps, whooping cough, and scarlet fever; God learned to walk and often tumbled down, bumped his forehead, and made his little nose bleed; God was spanked when he was naughty, etc., etc."
Contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace of this state, the government and dignity of the same.
And the grand inquest aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do further present the said Charles B. Reynolds, late of the town of Boonton aforesaid, in the county of Morris aforesaid, on the 8th day of October, 1886, at township of Boonton aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this court, with force and arms disregarding the laws of the state, and profanely deriding and intending to bring the holy scriptures and the Christian religion into disbelief and contempt among the people of the state, unlawfully and wickedly did compose, print, and publish, and did cause and procure to be composed, printed, and published, a certain scandalous, impious, and blasphemous libel of and concerning God, and of and concerning the holy scriptures, and of and concerning the Christian religion, which libel is published and contained in a certain printed document, entitled "Blasphemy and the Bible," by Charles B. Reynolds, in which said libel so printed, published, and composed, and so caused and procured to be composed and printed and published as aforesaid by the said Charles B. Reynolds, the said Charles B. Reynolds did unlawfully blaspheme the holy name of God by denying and contumeliously reproaching his being and providence, and by contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ and the Christian religion and the holy name of God....
To the great scandal and contumelious reproach of God, his being and providence, and of Jesus Christ and the Christian religion and the holy word of God, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, and against the peace of the state, the government and dignity of the same.
Willard W. Cutler,
This change of base on the part of the Christians of New Jersey is a complete surprise to Mr. Reynolds. When the fanatics of Boonton arrested him on July 28th, he was indignant, and the most natural thing for him to do, it seemed, was to enlighten the people of that place as to what blasphemy laws are, and as to who are the real blasphemers. The first was done by circulating a pamphlet upon blasphemy, in which was pointed out the unconstitutionality, the barbarism, and the foolishness of such laws; the second by another pamphlet showing that Christians and their Bible were the real blasphemers, inasmuch as they ascribe to God sentiments, passions, and attributes which degrade him to the level of a Nero - an inhuman and bloodthirsty monster. This pamphlet, called "Blasphemy and the Bible," shows that the Bible is God's worst enemy, and that, in circulating the book, Christians are destroying his good character. And this it is that makes the Christians of Morris county angry. Owing to the stupidity of the complainant and the justice who drew up the first complaint against Mr. Reynolds, the grand jury could find no ground for an indictment. The witnesses they summoned could not recollect enough of Mr. Reynolds' lecture to work upon. To be revenged, therefore, they pounced upon this pamphlet, and, selecting the passages quoted in the indictment, and without specifying the object of the pamphlet, they find a "true bill" against Mr. Reynolds. The malicious wreckers of his tent are allowed to go free - the district attorney refusing to call even one of the long list of witnesses Mr. Reynolds left with him for that purpose - while he is prosecuted upon a totally different charge, the obliging district attorney summoning some fifty witnesses against him. This, we suppose, is a Christian conception of justice.
The first notice Mr. Reynolds had that he was indicted he read in the daily papers of this city on Wednesday, the 20th. He at once telegraphed to the district attorney to know if this was so, if he was wanted to renew his bail, and the amount of bail required. To this the district attorney returned no answer. A personal call upon Mr. Cutler succeeded better, and Friday, the 22d, Mr. Reynolds gave bail to appear on Monday, the 25th, to plead to the indictment. Saturday Mr. Ingersoll telegraphed to the district attorney, but to this message no answer was returned. Mr. Ingersoll has but just undergone a surgical operation to remove an obstruction from his throat, and under direction of his physicians must not speak above a whisper. The mere statement of these facts ought to have been sufficient to secure an adjournment, but when Mr. Reynolds appeared in the court on Monday morning, and gave bail to appear for trial, Mr. Cutler moved that Wednesday, the 27th, be the day fixed. Mr. Reynolds told Judge Childs that it was impossible for his counsel to appear at that time. "That makes no difference," said the judge; "get other counsel!" And he persisted in setting the day for trial as Wednesday, the 27th, at half-past twelve.
Morristown is as orthodox a place as Boonton, and the ire of its inhabitants runs high against the Infidel. When Mr. Reynolds was distributing his pamphlets upon its streets he was threatened with arrest and ordered to stop by the marshal of the place. Whatever jurymen are drawn from Morristown are likely to be intensely prejudiced against the defendant. One of the grand jury men who indicted Mr. Reynolds said to a Liberal of Boonton that Mr. Reynolds should if possible secure a change of venue and remove the trial to another county. "He stands no chance in Morristown," said the grand jury man. This seems to be the opinion of all the Christians of both Boonton and Morristown - that Mr. Reynolds is as good as convicted. In their imaginations they have already heard the ruling of the judge that will force the jury to convict; have seen the jury rise and say, "He is guilty"; have seen the officer remove the prisoner to the jail just back of the court house; have heard the jailer's harsh commands and the slam of the iron doors as the victim vanished from the sight of his friends - in their imaginations they have heard this, and then gone home and thanked God for his great mercy.
Morristown is essentially a Christian town, and a sleepy one except when its people are mad. It is some thirty miles from New York, but a New Yorker going there imagines it to be a good deal farther away than that. It is a pretty place, up among the hills, and for this reason a good many New York business men live there, coming in to business every day. Morristown makes a good bedchamber. The atmosphere is conducive to sleep. A visitor feels as though he were in a church or graveyard with a funeral under way. Outside of their religion the inhabitants worship nothing so heartily as a lot of Revolutionary relics shelved and labeled in an old house where George Washington once made his headquarters. A contemplation of ancient times just suits the Morristown folks, and if they could whip a few witches through the street or hang them to the liberty pole on the common their happiness would no doubt be greatly enhanced. It is a first-rate place for an Infidel who values his liberty to keep away from.
The physical condition of Colonel Ingersoll precluding the possibility of his undertaking to conduct the case, in which he would have to talk perhaps for hours, other counsel were sought. Tuesday was spent by Mr. Reynolds in visiting the best lawyers of New Jersey, but not one was found who could attend to the matter. Charles Winfield, district attorney of Jersey City, Judge Garrison, of the same place, and other distinguished legal lights, were offered retainers, but to no avail. Tired, discouraged, wet from the constantly falling rain, and about half sick, Mr. Reynolds made up his mind that he would be pushed into jail before he was forty-eight hours older, and telegraphed to New York that the opinion of all the lawyers was that only Mr. Ingersoll himself could save him.
Wednesday morning was rainy, and it was at great risk to himself that Colonel Ingersoll took an early train for Morristown, accompanied by Dwight Townsend, one of the prominent men of this city. An assault and battery case occupied the attention of the court till nearly eleven, when Colonel Ingersoll rose and said he wanted to make a motion before the court in the case of the State against C. B. Reynolds. The motion was that in view of the fact that only just then had he seen the indictment against Mr. Reynolds, and as last week he had had a surgical operation performed upon his throat, so that until last Sunday he was able to speak only in a whisper, as his physician positively forbade him to try any case lest he should permanently lose his voice, as Mr. Reynolds was only notified on Monday of the time set for trial, and as he himself was not notified till Tuesday, when he at once used all possible endeavor to obtain other counsel, in which he failed, he desired that the case might stand over to the next term of court.
The court asked what action the prosecutor proposed to take in the matter. Mr. Cutler, after some hesitancy, opposed. The court, with marked fairness, said that though the court had always held that the employment of distinguished counsel whose time was generally occupied was no ground for adjournment, this case seemed different. Counsel had evidently made every endeavor to procure other distinguished counsel, and under the circumstances he would rule that the defendant could not be deprived of his constitutional right to counsel of his own selection, and he would, therefore, order the case adjourned to the next term, the third Tuesday in January.
Bail having been renewed by Edwin Worman, Mr. Reynolds was at liberty to shake the mud of New Jersey from his feet once more, and he returned to New York.
And so the battle is still to be fought. It is very evident that the desire of the people of Boonton and Morristown is that Mr. Reynolds shall be placed behind prison bars as speedily as possible, and, had the court not taken the sensible and humane ground it did, he would undoubtedly at the present time be a convicted prisoner, doing hard labor in a penitentiary. Mr. Reynold's reliance must be upon the ability of his counsel and the fairness of the court, and not upon any merciful public sentiment of the people of Morris county. The rabble cry, "Crucify him! crucify him!"
Mr. Reynolds And The New York "Sun." The New York Sun of November 1st contained the following editorial article:
We are surprised to see that people of Morris county, in New Jersey, have taken the pains to procure the indictment of a strolling lecturer, named Reynolds, for denouncing the Bible. There may be an old blasphemy law of the state which makes such a proceeding possible, but what is the use of giving the fellow notoriety at the expense of the inhabitants of the county?
Of course, nothing could have gratified Reynolds more than his arrest, with the prospect of a long trial, in which he could figure as a martyr to free speech, and so get an advertisement that would make of him a curiosity that other fools might pay money to see and hear. With that view, apparently, he has engaged Bob Ingersoll for his defense, and next January, when his trial is to come off, he will be able to play the part of an important public character.
In reality he is a creature of no consequence whatever, and is not even singular in his hatred of the Bible and of the Christian religion. There are thousands of such blatherskites about, and the publication of his indictment is likely to set their tongues wagging faster than ever. We may see them hiring halls all over the Union, and more especially in the states with blasphemy laws, in the hope of courting prosecution, after the manner of Reynolds, by denouncing the Bible, as if it had done them actual physical injury. Some men of this sort are to be found even in the smallest community, where their vanity is tickled by the attention they receive, because they run counter to cherished objects of veneration, and in New York there are hordes of them. They flatter themselves that it is a sign of intellectual superiority to oppose commonly received opinions, and to treat the beliefs of other people with contempt, and they are pretty sure to find fools enough to gratify their delusion, either by listening to them with open mouths or by taking the trouble to dispute with them, as if they were worthy of serious consideration.
Orators like Reynolds can do the Bible no harm, so far as the cause of religion is concerned. Accordingly, when Bob Ingersoll and his disciple go out of their way to speak disrespectfully of the Bible and get angry against it, there is no occasion for good people to be disturbed. Let them alone; suffer them to talk as they please, for it is not such as they who are the enemies of whom the household of faith has reason to be afraid.
Evidently the writer of this is not acquainted with the temper of some of the Christians of Morris county, New Jersey. If he were he would know that their blasphemy law is one of the most precious of their heirlooms from ancient times. All the notoriety they would give Mr. Reynolds, if they had their way, would be a star chamber trial and the quietest possible journey to Trenton; and the gratification of Mr. Reynolds over his arrest consists so far in the fact that he is still out of prison. For his liberty he is very thankful, but for that he is indebted to Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, and not to a feeling of mercy implanted in the hearts of the Morristown Christians by anything the Sun has said or is likely to say.
Heretofore the Sun has been a stickler for "the rights of the poorest, hu mblest individual in the land as well as those of the richest and most powerful. " Much space in its columns has been well used in reverting to the doctrines of Jefferson, and maintaining their sufficiency for a governmental basis. More than once has the Sun upheld the "sacred right" of free speech in politics, and this abuse of Mr. Reynolds seems to be a sudden as well as great departure from the policy heretofore supreme in its editorial rooms. The departure is as dishonest as it is great. There are, it is true, thousands of outspoken Infidels in the country, but they are not quite so loud-mouthed "blatherskites" as this writer for the Sun; and many halls are hired for lectures, but the purpose of the lecturers is, not to get arrested for blasphemy, but to enlighten the people upon the wickedness of just such religion as inspires the author of this diatribe against Mr. Reynolds. We are not going to advertise the "consequence" of Mr. Reynolds. He is a gentleman widely known in respectable circles, and if the editor of the Sun does not enjoy his acquaintance, the loss is not Mr. Reynolds's. What difference does it make, however, whether the injured and oppressed in this case be a small or a great man? The infernal principle of religious persecution is at the bottom of the matter, and if the victim had been so illustrious a man as Colonel Ingersoll himself, the outrage could not be deepened. The Sun has shouted loud for the "sacred rights" of free speech - we now know with how much sincerity - but when a practical test is made, it is found on the side of oppression, and governed by the pitiful policy of expediency! How different from the conduct of the man it slurs as "Bob" Ingersoll, who defends a man he has never seen but once or twice, because he believes in doing what little he can in defense of the liberty of speech, and because he thinks it the duty of all Freethinkers to do what they can to teach the world better than to decide metaphysical questions by brute force! The editor of the Sun is not a Christian - unless recently converted - but who now will ever attribute such sentiments to him?
What a miserable spectacle it is-a great organ of democracy and freedom advising against a blasphemy prosecution because the victim is "a creature of no consequence!" Would the prosecution be right if Mr. Reynolds were a creature of such great consequence as the editor of the Sun? By the logic of our Jeffersonian organ, it would not only be right but commendable. Does the editor of the Sun believe in blasphemy laws for creatures of great consequence, but none for creatures of no consequence? Why this discrimination in favor of the unknown and lowly? In this country there should be no classes, says the Sun: and it goes further and says there are no classes. Yet here we find it making by implication two distinct classes, and a distinction with the difference that one class is to be imprisoned for blasphemy and the other class to go free because of the personal insignificance of its members. When the Sun shines for all (at two cents per shine) it will pay to be a creature of no consequence.
The spirit of this editorial writer is the meanest that ever moved a pen. Compared with him, the fanatics of Boonton are honorable men, and John Calvin was a moral hero. The Boonton Christians went about their work in as manly a way as their pusillanimous natures permitted, and Calvin never snuffled over his victims. This fellow has not a word in condemnation of the injustice of religious persecutions, and if expediency allowed he would probably cheer on the prosecution, and enjoy the agony of the victim. As it is, the prosecution is inexpedient, and should be discontinued, because the victim is of no consequence whatever!
If the Morristown courts only would agree with this fellow, Mr. Reynolds might rejoice over his insignificance.
Mr. Reynolds's Program.
To the Editor of The Truth Seeker, Sir:
The sickness of my wife rendered it necessary that I should accompany her home from New York, instead of devoting myself to the agitation of the repeal of Sunday laws, as I had purposed. Since our arrival home, she has needed all my care and attention. Having myself contracted a severe cold, I have lacked my usual energy and been unable to reply to correspondents, or to carry on the work of the New York Freethinkers' Association.
But Mrs. Reynolds is gaining now, and I propose to buckle on the armor anew. Under any circumstances, friends may rely on my being fully prepared for trial for the terrible crime of "blasphemy," at Morristown, N.J., the third Tuesday in January.
Of course I look forward to the trial with some anxiety. The orthodox are resolved to convict, if within the scope of possibility. They realize the growing power of Infidelity, and are marshaling all their forces, determined to make vigorous effort to check its progress. If they can imprison the exponent of Freethought; if they can establish a precedent, that the utterance of any words derogatory to or in opposition to Christian faith is unlawful, it will be a great victory for orthodoxy, because they believe it would deter any from giving utterance to Infidel opinions.
As the law stands, I think it quite likely the court will convict. But I can very much better endure the penalty than to make the slightest of our principles or rights; for I am confident the enforcement of the blasphemy laws would insure their speedy repeal in every state in the Union in which they exist.
I would take this opportunity to return my grateful thanks to the friends who have sent my wife and self letters of cheer and sympathy, and so generously contributed to my defense fund.
Between now and time of trial I shall be glad to fill lecture engagements. My new lecture, "Religious Persecutions of the Nineteenth Century," gives facts that cannot fail to arouse from apathy all who love justice and liberty. Address me, Box 104, North Parma, N.Y.
C. B. Reynolds
Mr. Reynolds's Case.
The trial of Mr. Reynolds has been postponed till the May term of the Morris county court. This decision was arrived at after profound consideration by the court and district attorney. Mr. Reynolds renewed his bail - Mr. Edwin Worman, of Boonton, affirming that he would risk five hundred dollars that Mr. Reynolds would be in Morristown on the first Tuesday in May - and is now prepared to go about his master's business (Liberal lecturing) for the next three months.
It is our opinion that the legal authorities of Morristown are ashamed of themselves, and will never press the case to trial. They have, perhaps, considered that God is able to take care of himself without the interposition of the Morris county legal luminaries. Or it may be that they have read the statutes forbidding a non-resident of New Jersey to sue for libel, and doubt their ability to prove that the Jewish Jehovah is a naturalized citizen of this country. At any rate, it is the opinion of several of the Morris county officials, as well as our own, that District Attorney Cutler will never try the case.
The Enlightenment wounded the beast, but the killing blow has yet to land...