KING AND BRADLAUGH DEBATE - PART 20

CHRISTIANITY

VERSUS

SECULARISM 20

SIX NIGHTS' DISCUSSION

BETWEEN

DAVID KING AND CHARLES BRADLAUGH

[The following section copied by permission of The British Library, No. 4018a2(1).]


WHAT IS SECULARISM? - WHAT CAN IT DO FOR MAN THAT CHRISTIANITY CANNOT?

Tuesday Evening, 25th October, 1870

MR. BRADLAUGH'S THIRD REPLY

MR. BRADLAUGH: - So far from objecting to the National Reformer being read, I fancy, according to the report of the previous four nights' debate which appeared in the Bury Times, that I then thanked Mr. King for the goodly advertisement he had given to it. The quotations he then made were the most sensible portions of his speeches. [Laughter]. I was delighted to find that some portion of the literature which occupied his time had been so useful, and I should have been the last to have raised any sort of difficulty in the way of continuing that very good course for himself. Mr. King's memory misleads him. Now, what does he mean about the Elements of Social Science, because he has not the excuse of going into this for the first time, and I have never in his absence used any hard words about him, either here, or in any other place. I never did so, except in the case of one man. Barker I have.* Except him I have never insulted any living man behind his back. It is fair and honourable to say what one has got to say about any other person before his face. I applied the phrase to Mr. King in reference to his assailing a living woman in her absence; and I think he deserved it. Now let us come to the Elements. But he has not ventured to show that the views he put forth were the views Mr. Bradlaugh held about them; nor has he ventured to show how they were associated with Secularism. I have views on mesmerism, but those views are not to be changed on Secularism. I have views on geology, I have views on physiology; but are these special views of mine to be charged on the movement? Unquestionably not! Are these my views on these Elements? They are not pretended to be mine; and why has he not read you my views? It is the act of a mean, contemptible libeller, who has had nine years to think over the libel, and who does not bring forward the words of the man he is debating with. Do you see the trick? It is a trick to try and make me say something unpleasant on the Malthusian question against Mr. Holyoake. Now Mr. Holyoake and I have never disagreed on any point except on this; we hold our individuality respecting the question, and I believe his views are utterly incorrect, but I won't answer for anything that Mr. George Jacob Holyoake has said. He is perfectly qualified to defend himself. I am no priest and have no right to sit in judgment on him in this debate, and if Mr. King means that I have ever taught that seduction is a physiological virtue he lies in his teeth; or that any word that I have ever written in relation to any book ever printed is capable, by any dexterity, of being twisted into it, he lies in his teeth. I have daughters. I have a wife, and I speak for the women of our movement, and I say if Mr. King had told the truth he would have told you that I have not adopted the Malthusian question, nor advocated the question of Social Science in its details, but that I have pointed out errors in it, and that I have never in any fashion taught any doctrine so abominable as he put before you tonight. [Disapprobation]. Excuse strong words, but only strong words will meet it. But is it wrong to teach seduction? Listen, sir, to this, and do not tell me that I have provoked it. Deut. 21:10-14 - "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; then thou shalt take her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her." Mr. King, who is a great scholar, will be able to tell you that the word "humbled" means "deflowered." And that is not the worst I could read to you out of that Book. And that is the Christianity which tries to improve woman's condition. Why did not Mr. King quote from the rules of the Secular Society in support of the arguments he presented. Rule G reads, "The investigation of the causes of poverty in all old countries, in order to see how far an equal distribution of wealth or more radical causes may operate. The discussion, in connection with this, of the various schemes for social amelioration, and the ascertainment, if possible, of the laws governing the increase of population and produce, and affecting the rise and fall of wages." Why you know that the only instances in which references have been made to the Elements of Social Science has been when this population question has been dealt with; and if my words are read to the audience - not half a sentence cut out (as Joseph Barker did) - you would have an opportunity of reading the various pamphlets written on the subject. If he has read them he is a worse libeller than Barker, who only quoted half a sentence. And he should not shelter himself under a man who dare not meet me in debate, because in 1861 I printed in the National Reformer my desire to debate this question of population. Dare my opponent tell me that because I have expressed views on this question that I am to be open to such calumnies? Will you do with me as men - bigoted Christians - did with Lord Amberley when he dared to go into a discussion on this subject in a learned society, when he was placarded in that lying way Christians will do when they dare not go into the truth, as wanting to murder little babies? Why, Mr. King knew, in his heart of hearts, how wickedly and utterly vile is the whole of the insinuation he has dared to throw on me in connection with the Elements of Social Science. He knew that the Secular party had no more to do with it than with Lyell's Geology, or Spinosa's Epics. About two-thirds of it is a medical book. If you want to know who had circulated it, David King has caused to be sold, in Lancashire and Yorkshire, more copies than any other man. The booksellers state that they receive more orders for the book since Mr. King has spoken so much about it in his lectures than they ever received since the publication of the work. I believe it is a book penned with a pure intention. As to the medical portion of it, my physiological knowledge is not sufficient to enable me to express an opinion, but the questions on population propounded in it I am sure are right. It is the same view as Thomas Robert North and John Stuart Mill supported; it is a work that most of the best men who study the question are advocating today; and it it simply mean and contemptible, and utterly vile, for a man to hold it up as a vile book, and deal with it as my opponent has dealt with it. I am told by Mr. King that he will sign a petition for the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws. I know he said so; but how many petitions has he or his party sent in for the repeal of the Oaths Laws, the Press Laws, and the Game Laws? All the petitions remain in the House of Commons, and if Mr. King will state how many of the 500,000 Christians he is associated with appended their names to petitions for the repeal of any of these laws, I will take the trouble of going over them to ascertain the fact. How was it left to the Infidels to break the last of the shackles on the Press? And how was it that I was robbed of £1,500 in endeavouring to repeal the Oaths Laws? I tell you that your Christianity does not and cannot work these reforms. And then Mr. King says this is not a Christian country. Well, if so, it is not for want of preachers and churches; it is not for want of colleges and means for screwing the brains out of the people. Oh, there are 500,000 Christians scattered all over the world with whom Mr. King is particularly associated. Is this 500,000 a round number, or has a census been taken, or where shall we find them? Don't let us mock one another. You know, sir, that Christians did not do the work until the Infidels had started it, and then you come forward and claim it. When was the co-operative system worked until Infidelism did it? And then you, when you see the system flourishing, you call it a Christian institution. First you hindered the planting of the system and then when you found it prospering under the care of Infidels you patted it on the back and claimed it as one of your own planting. I ask if that is a manly and fair way to argue the subject? It is perfect moonshine. I opened this question of "What is Secularism?" calmly, deliberately and fairly; but my opponent has shuffled about and has not replied to the points I raised. The Rev. Canon Hornby (Bury) said that Mr. King was so weak an advocate of Christianity that it was deemed necessary to bring down the Rev. C.J. Whitmore from London - but if the one is black the other is dark-brown - [Laughter] - to remedy the deficiency in the debate. [Disapprobation]. What! is it not as fair to quote Canon Hornby against Mr. King as to quote Mr. Holyoake against Mr. Bradlaugh? [Applause, and disapprobation]. Why, this sort of thing is monstrously absurd. If Mr. King is not able to deal with the question at issue, let him dispense with his stale libels; if he cannot defend Christianity except by throwing out innuendo, better bring the discussion to a close at once. I don't deny that I might differ with Mr. Francis Newman on the population question; but Mr. Newman in his study could not conceive the horrors of vice, the baby-farming, and the terrible murders perpetrated all around. If you Christians won't deal with the suppression of these stupendous evils, we Infidels will still go on and try and redeem the world from the degradation and misery Christians leave it in. [Cheers].


MR. KING'S FOURTH REPLY

MR. KING: - Mr. Bradlaugh asks me why I did not (or the people connected with me) sign petitions for the repeal of the Oaths law. He volunteered to examine the petitions, and when he undertakes that work he will find my name there. [Applause]. Sheets were brought to the chapels in which I minister, and announced from the desk, and signed there. Mr.Bradlaugh should have been a little more diffident, and have asked if I had signed them. This is my answer to his question why we did not do it. He says that David King has been the cause of selling more copies of the "Elements" than any other man. I regret that (if it be so) in one sense, but not in another. The book was in circulation, and that largely, but secretly, and I would rather have its circulation fair and open than by the underground process that has been going on in connection with it. When the thing comes fairly out and people handle it, when they know what it is, then will they be prepared to do something in order to stem the demoralizing influences that arise from it. But in this wretched underground circulation, that is going on, the thing cannot be grappled with. I did not enter into the matter without first asking myself what would be the result of exposing the book. I saw clearly, of course, that it would lead to some increase of circulation. I had simply two evils before me, and I deemed that the smaller one. It will be the same with the book as it was with the Socialistic Societies - a knowledge of that they were doing destroyed them. The thing only requires to be understood in order to rouse the moral sense of the country. Mr. Bradlaugh talks about things insinuated against him. I have insinuated nothing against Mr. Bradlaugh. The words I used are Mr. Holyoake's, not mine. [Cheers]. Can Mr. Holyoake insinuate so much against the man who sits there? I merely read his words and gave you his description of the book. A man may demoralize society by recommending an immoral book, but he himself may not be guilty of any of the infamy which that book contains. Mr. Bradlaugh says I have charged him with immorality. I have never intimated that he is guilty of immorality, unless we count it immorality to recommend demoralizing books. I never ventured to charge him, for I know nothing against his morality. He may be for anything I know, a most moral man, or he may be the very opposite. I know nothing about him in that respect. I deal with the fact that he recommends highly demoralizing literature and mainly causes its circulation. I deem it a mere subterfuge to tell us that he is objected to simply on the ground that he advocates the views of Malthus. Nothing of the sort. Malthus would have scorned to handle that filthy book. Malthus's name must not be associated with it. Let Mr. Bradlaugh write his own views, if they are merely those of Malthus, and he will not have a word from me. I could agree with Malthus (I am not saying that I do) and at the same time say all that Mr. Holyoake has said about this abominable book. Therefore, it is a subterfuge - a cheat, to put the case as does my opponent. I very much object to the association of names of John Stuart Mill and Malthus with this book, and I do not believe that Lord Amberley looks with the slightest favour upon it; and if not, then I say it is a fraud to endeavour to attach to it the weight of their names. Then you are told by Mr. Bradlaugh that somewhere I have made a very bad allusion to the wife of some secularist. Well, many of you know that I made that attack in this place. It seems to have made our friend terribly ill. He says he talked about it in my presence only, but I was not present at the Annual Meeting of the Secularists, recently held in London, where he attacked and abused me in my absence, as reported in the National Reformer. He alleged that I made a cowardly attack on the wife of Christopher Charles. But there is no such person as Christopher Charles. The person who sometimes goes by that name is Charles Cattle, of Birmingham. I showed you in my lecture here that the name Christopher Charles, Esq., was put upon a Secularist placard to cheat the public by giving a false position to the chairman, but I made no attack on the woman. I merely made mention of one fact which was honourable to her rather than the reverse. I told you that the wife of Mr. Cattle, who was advertized as Christopher Charles, Esq., kept a not over-large bonnet shop. This I did not to discredit her, for honest labour in shopkeeping is no disgrace to anyone, but solely for the purpose of showing the status of the man and thus illustrating Secularist squire-making deception. [Laughter and cheers]. Is that, then, a scandalous attack on a woman's character? I said, that if her husband's salary needed supplementing it was a virtuous and praiseworthy act on her part thus to supplement it. I would take such a woman by the hand anywhere, for labour is no disgrace to man or woman. Therefore the alleged cowardly attack which he talks of in this way, and also in the National Reformer, without giving particulars, is simply the statement of a fact as to an honourable position occupied by the woman, and implying nothing discreditable, but on the contrary, that which is highly creditable to her. [Cheers]. Mr. Bradlaugh asked whether his views on Social Science, or on any other topic, are to be charged on the party, or upon the Secularist Society. Possibly not, unless that society may please to conduct its operations in such a way as to become to some extent, really responsible for his views. If they please to take the man who recommends most infamous books, and to make that man their President - if they please to retain in the position of Editor of their representative paper the man who first drives out Mr. Barker and then disgusts Mr. Holyoake by his recommendations of demoralizing literature - if they please to have advertized in the pages of their paper, week after week, a number of small priced pamphlets, which directly urge their readers to obtain the disgusting book referred to - if they please to put the thing in that form, then they do become, to a very considerable extent, responsible for the views of the man whom they make their President and their Editor, and they cannot clear themselves from the consequent responsibility and infamy. I said before that I desire this matter to be understood. I desire to understand it if I do not. I have expressed my conviction in the matter. Mr. Bradlaugh asks why I did not read what he said said about it. I cannot read two or three things at once. What he has said is part of what he calls my written speech, but you shall know what he has said, I assure you. You will have it tomorrow night. I intend then to show you what the book contains. We shall go a little into that matter, quite as far as my opponent will be prepared for. If, then, what I have already said on the subject be a libel, it is in what Mr. Holyoake has said, because, at present, I have said nothing about it except in the words of Mr. Holyoake himself. [Applause].


DAVID KING INDEX