Page:Charles Bradlaugh Humanity's Gain from Unbelief.djvu/16

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14

HUMANITY'S GAIN FROM UNBELIEF.

making known, any other opinion was a criminal act deserving punishment. Under the one word "infidel", even as late as Lord Coke, were classed together all who were not Christians, even though they were Mahommedans, Brahmins, or Jews. All who did not accept the Christian faith were sweepingly denounced as infidels and therefore hors de la loi. One hundred and forty-five years since, the Attorney-General, pleading in our highest court, said[1]: "What is the definition of an infidel? Why, one who does not believe in the Christian religion. Then a Jew is an infidel." And English history for several centuries prior to the Commonwealth shows how habitually and most atrociously Christian kings, Christian courts, and Christian churches, persecuted and harassed these infidel Jews. There was a time in England when Jews were such infidels that they were not even allowed to be sworn as witnesses. In 1740 a legacy left for establishing an assembly for the reading of the Jewish scriptures was held to be void[2] because it was "for the propagation of the Jewish law in contradiction to the Christian religion". It is only in very modern times that municipal rights have been accorded in England to Jews. It is barely thirty years since they have been allowed to sit in Parliament. In 1851, the late Mr. Newdegate in debate[3] objected "that they should have sitting in that House an individual who regarded our Redeemer as an impostor". Lord Chief Justice Raymond has shown[4] how it was that Christian intolerance was gradually broken down. "A Jew may sue at this day, but heretofore he could not; for then they were looked upon as enemies, but now commerce has taught the world more humanity."

Lord Coke treated the infidel as one who in law had no right of any kind, with whom no contract need be kept, to whom no debt was payable. The plea of alien infidel as answer to a claim was actually pleaded in court as late as 1737.[5] In a solemn judgment, Lord Coke says[6]: "All infidels are in law perpetui inimici; for between them, as

  1. Omychund v. Barker, 1 Atkyns 29.
  2. D'Costa v. D'Pays, Amb. 228.
  3. 3 Hansard cxvi. 381.
  4. 1 Lord Raymond's reports 282, Wells v. Williams.
  5. Ramkissenseat v. Barker, 1 Atkyns 61.
  6. 7 Coke's reports, Calvin's case.