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is admitted, it extends equally to extreme as to ordinary cases, still, it is not lawful to decide upon its noxious or innoxious tendency, from its consequences in an insulated case, or in a case of an extreme description.
2. Garnett, however, had received other communications. We have seen how great his apprehensions were, that some, among the catholics,
, would, in opposition both to their religion and their true interest, have recourse to violent measures, and how anxiously and earnestly he strove to prevent them. Here the question arises—whether it was his duty to communicate to government these apprehensions, and their causes ? Upon this, Garnett would naturally pause : it is repugnant to the feelings of every honourable man to turn informer ; perhaps Garnett did not know any thing specific, or any thing that he could demonstrate by regular proof; but he knew the hostile spirit of the minister to the catholics: this, he must fear, would lead them to proceedings of extravagant and undistinguishing cruelty, --and he believed also, or at least strongly hoped, that his paternal and salutary councils had withdrawn these turbulent spirits from the precipice, to which they were rushing.-Add to this, that the communications, of which we are now speaking, had informed Garnett, rather of the existence of a general angry mind among some of the catholics, in consequence of the very unexpected treatment which they received from James, immediately after his accession to the throne, than of a settled or organized plan
of aggression. Now this spirit of general and indistinct turbulence commonly evaporates in its own blusterings, and produces nothing serious. Viewing the situation of Garnett in this light, every candid person will make great allowances for the line of conduct which he pursued, and hesitate before he condemns him : he might be justly found guilty by a court of law, while a court of honour would think gently of his case. He appears, to the writer, to have pronounced a just sentence on himself, when, after intimating his own doubt, whether his conduct had been quite blameless, in not revealing the communications of which we are now speaking, he asked pardon of his sovereign, for concealing whatever it had been his duty to reveal.
3. An attentive, and he believes an impartial and candid examination of the very trying scenes, in which it was the misfortune of Garnett to be placed, has led the writer to think, not unfavourably, of his sincerity either on his examinations, or during his trial. He avowed explicitly, two opinions, each of which was particularly calculated to prejudice his judges against him :- the power of the
pope to dethrone sovereigns for heresy, and the lawfulness, in certain circumstances, of equivocation and mental reservation.
In this and his other writings, the writer has expressed his opinion, that the first of these doctrines rests on no solid foundation; and that the attempts of the popes to enforce it, have been a source of much temporal and much spiritual evil:
but, while he reprobates the doctrine itself, he cannot withhold a tribute of respect to those, who, from motives of conscience, either openly avowed it, or refused to disclaim it in circumstances, in which the rejection of it would have saved them from a sanguinary death, or at least recommended them to mercy. Such, to a certain extent, was the case of Garnett. Most probably, his disavowal of the pope's deposing power would not have prevented his condemnation:-still there was a chance of it, or at least of its serving him essentially in some manner. Of this, every man, not thoroughly principled in virtue's book, would have eagerly availed himself: Garnett more honourably and more sincerely avowed the offensive doctrine, and submitted to the consequence.
The doctrine of equivocation and mental reservation, in the manner in which this doctrine is generally represented, is still more odious and pernicious than the deposing doctrine, as it saps the foundations of honourable intercourse in society, and fair dealing between man and man. -A person is said to equivocate, when he expresses himself in terms, which are true in the sense in which they are understood by the speaker, but false in the sense in which they are understood, and the speaker knows them to be understood, by the hearer: he is said to be guilty of mental reservation, when he expresses himself in terms, which, as they are spoken, are absolutely false both in respect to the speaker and the hearer, but which, in a manner perfectly unknown to the hearer and unsuspected
by him, the speaker accommodates to truth, by adding, mentally, some words to the sentence which he utters, and with which addition it becomes a truth. Some persons have contended that either practice is lawful, when it does essential good, and produces no detriment to any one; or when the declaration is made to a person who has no right to interrogate the party or claim to his confidence.
Let us suppose, they say, that a person possesses the secret of the state, and is questioned upon it by one, whom he knows to be a spy; if he tells the truth, the secret is revealed, and the nation will be undone ; if he hesitates, the secret is discovered, and the same consequence must follow. What should he do? An equivocation, or a mental reservation, will save the state: is it not lawful? In circumstances of this extreme nature, would not the most honourable man have recourse to such a subterfuge? Have not the most honourable men often had recourse to such an expedient? Garnett too might argue on this principle :- it is a received maxim of the law of every civilized state, but acknowledged and respected nowhere more than in England, that no person is compellable to accuse himself. Garnett underwent several examinations. In the just and equitable administration of justice, which now prevails in England, Garnett would not have been compelled to answer even one of the questions, which were put to him, on his examination : but, in those times, the rack * was always in
* The reader will find the question respecting the lawfulnees of equivocation and mental reservation discussed with
view. Thus, an extreme case arrived. The magistrate asked a question, to which he had no right learning, candour, and ingenuity, by father Griffèt in his Réponse au livre intitulé “ Extraits des Assertions,” &c. 4to. 1765, vol. iii. p. 203. Father Griffêt seems aware of the difficulty, which attends all discussions, where an extreme case is to be justified upon a principle, the application of which, to mean or ordinary cases, leads to the most frightful consequences, and thus shows it to be erroneous.
The use of equivocation on someoccasions was also defended by father Persons, in his “ Treatise on Mitigation towards “Catholic Subjects against the seditious Writings of Thomas “ Morton, minister, 1607, 4to."and in his defence of that work, by “ A quiet and sober Reckoning with Mr. Thomas Morton, “ by P. R. 1609, 4to.” Mr. Alban Butler, in his “ Life of “ sir Toby Matthews,” (p. 17), observes, that in the former of these works, “ the attempts of Persons to vindicate the use “ of equivocations, alarm a judicious reader, and deserve a
severe animadversion.” At the assembly of the Gallican clergy, in 1700, “ Bossuet announced, that to use equivoca. “ tions or mental reservations, was to give to the words and “phrases of language, an arbitrary meaning, framed at will, “ only understood by the speaker, and contrary to the mean“ing, which the rest of the world give them. He remarked, “ that, one is not called upon to justify all those words of
holy men, in which some untruth may be found ; that it is « better to describe them, as human weaknesses, their proper name, than to excuse them by the artificial terms of equivo
ations and mental reservations, in which concealment and " bad faith would be manifest.” Bausset's Hist. de Bossuet, 1. xi.
It is observable, that some of those, who advocate the law. fulness of equivocation and mental reservation, refer to the plea of “not guilty” in the English court of law, which, they contend, cannot be used by a guilty person conscientiously, unless he reconciles himself to it by the doctrines of equivocation or mental reservation. But this is a mistake ;--the plea is a conventionary form of words, by which the party on trial,