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Mr. Wakefield's "Reply to some Parts of the Bishop of Landaff's Address to the People of Great Britain"-Proceedings against the Publishers-The Author's Trial and Defence.
MR. WAKEFIELD's next publication, which excited peculiar interest from its unfortunate consequences to himself and his family, was occasioned by the following circumstances.
In January, 1798, appeared a political pamphlet from the pen of Dr. Watson, bishop of Landaff, entitled "An Address to the People of Great Britain." The avowed object of the writer was to defend and support the measures pursued, at that time, by Mr. Pitt and his colleagues in administration, and he was particularly decided in professing his warm, and, indeed, unqualified approbation of the "Tax upon income," which had been lately brought forward; a mode of taxation than which none appears to have excited more general aversion.
The extraordinary doctrines recommended in the "Address," so little to have been expected from the usual tenor of the author's former writings, called forth opposition from various quarters. Among the rest, Mr. Wakefield employed a few hours in drawing up “A Reply to some Parts of the Bishop of Landaff's Address to the People of Great Britain."
The unpremeditated and rapid manner in which this pamphlet was composed, if it is not
So little intention had Mr. Wakefield of writing any observations, or comments on the "Address" of the Bishop, at its first appearance, that, but for the following circumstances, he had not prevailed upon himself to interrupt the course of study, in which he was at that time much occupied, even to peruse the pamphlet.
Soon after the publication of the "Address," accidentally finding it on the table of a friend, he was desired to carry it home and read it at his leisure. This however he declined. He then made another visit, and, again meeting with this tract, read a few pages. Some positions, which accidentally caught his attention, made a strong impression upon his mind. It occurred to him, as he walked home, that it would be no useless, nor unimportant, employment to spend a few hours in attempting to refute doctrines which appeared to him, not merely erroneous, but of pernicious tendency, He was the more inclined to impose this task upon himself, from the merited celebrity and high station of the author. He therefore immediately wrote to the friend at whose house he had first seen the pamphlet, desiring him to send a copy to Hackney. It did not reach him till late that night, and when his
thought sufficient to justify either the sentiments it contains, or the language in which they are conveyed, will, at least, with men of candour and liberality, vindicate the writer from the imputation which his prosecutor endeavoured to fix upon him, of a design to withdraw the affections of the people from the real interests and prosperity of the country.
friend visited him early on the following afternoon, he was surprised to find that Mr. Wakefield had been engaged during the interval in drawing up a "Reply to the Bishop." It was then finished for the printer, to whom it was transmitted, either that evening, or early on the next morning.
Mr. Justice Grose having hazarded an opinion, in pronouncing judgment on Mr. Cuthell, that the "Reply" was " a very artful composition," Mr. W. referring to that assertion, confirms the above statement, which we have given from a personal knowledge of the facts.
Certainly I was not aware, before that charge, of this crafty ingredient in the constitution of my character; nor has my conduct in this court contributed, I should think, to encourage an opinion of much artifice and contrivance in me. That pamphlet was never written over twice, and was finished for the press in the compass of a single day. For this unpremeditated and quick production, my family and myself have been kept in a perpetual state of alarm and trepidation for sixteen months, without any particular furtherance of law and justice by this long delay."
Intended" Address to the Judges," &c. p. 7.
His admiration of Bishop Watson's talents, together with his inducements to publish this reply, he states in the following terms:
"The author of this Address is a prelate of high and deserved reputation; a prelate eminently distinguished among his contemporary academics, for acquired endowments and native vigour of understanding: nor less conspicuous as a theologian and philosopher among his countrymen at large. It is neither my practice, nor my propensity, to think or to speak of such men, but with the language of deference, and the sentiments of veneration. I must be excused, however, from the para-" mount and antecedent reverence which I owe to TRUTH and PATRIOTISM, if I feel myself compelled to declare an absolute dissatisfaction with the political opinions of this writer, and if I venture to suggest, at the same time, a presumption of juster conceptions on these points from a mediocrity of talents in my situation, than from the most pre-eminent abilities in his."
"Our minds are inevitably and imperceptibly influenced by the contact of surrounding circumstances; and our convictions and our reasonings can no more escape the associations consequent on external station, than our bo
dily constitutions can refuse to sympathise with the climate, and the atmosphere under which we live."
Mr. Wakefield, afterwards considering more at large the Bishop of Landaff's qualifications for taking an impartial view of the subjects he discussed, has these remarks:
"DOCTOR WATSON is a man of very powerful abilities, and of learning, various, accurate, valuable, and profound. He was trained in the same university and under the same discipline with myself. His hereditary condition and original expectations were less eligible than my own; and he commenced his academical career with no gay visions of lucre and ambition beyond the horizon, which bounds the prospects of literary men. He is Bishop and Archdeacon of Landaff, a city on the extremity of South Wales; and he resides, sometimes in London, but principally in Westmoreland, at the distances, my books inform me, of 167 and 300 miles from his diocese: so that he is beneficed in Dan; and he sojourns at Beersheba. Besides this Bishoprick and Archdeaconry, he holds a living in Leicestershire from the late Duke of Rutland, my contemporary at Cambridge, and his pupil: none of the worst preferments in the gift of that noble family. This Leicestershire living is situated at an uncomfortable distance from Wales, and Westmoreland, and London. The Bishop possesses, in addition, the King's professorship of Divinity at Cambridge; perhaps the best endowment of it's kind in Christendom. To Cambridge he never goes, nor has gone, for his professorial functions, these many years: the duties of this very important office are accordingly executed by a deputy, who excites in the gown some regret of his illustrious principal and predecessor.
"Now I solemnly appeal to any man of honour and understanding, whether an ecclesiastic with such emoluments, under an establishment, that admits a total neglect of duty,