Page images
PDF
EPUB

The following passage in the Observations is plausible, but, when ftri&tly examined, seems not to be perfectly juft.

The doctrines which are propagated concerning libels, and the extent of the power of juries in trials for the publication of them, involve in them various absurdities. Thus though it is affirmed, that juries are incapable of determining what is, or what is not, a libel, yet in every prosecution of a bookfeller or printer for a libel, it is always taken for granted, that they are capable of determining this intricate and knotty point. For they are never, in any case, allowed to plead ignorance on this subject, as an exculpation of themselves for having fold or printed what is called a libel. No bookseller or printer is permitted to arge, in his own justification, that he did not know that any book or pamphlet, with the publication of which he is charged, was a libel. Now, to take it for granted, that every common bookseller or printer, is a judge of what is, or of what is not, a libel; and yet to aflert, that twelve jury: den, persons of the fame rank, are incapable of determining it, is to the last degree preposterous and abfurd. But many booksellers have been pilloried, and otherwise feverely punim cd, for selling seditious libels; and fome printers have been hanged for printing treasonable libelse' · The gailt annexed to the printing or publishing of a libel is no more than what is imputed to the person who commits any other trespass; and to allow ignorance to be pleaded as an excufe for a crimné, would be opening a door by which almost any law, contidering the mode of promulgation, might be violated with impunity.

In prosecuting the argument above recited, the author thus proceeils :

• We are told, that neither common, nor special juries, are competent to the decision of what is, or what is not, a libel. But grand juries, it seems, poffefs more fagacity. They must certainly poiless fome knowlege upon this subject : for it is allowed, that they have a right to find bills of indiament againit libellers.

In this pafrage Dr. Towers, for the purpose of confirming a supposed absurdity, has exhibited a contrast, which, in our opinion, is neither candid nor juft. It is not required of grand juries that they should enter minutely into the evidence of such causes as are brought before them. Their investigim tion is only preparatory to a subsequent trial; and it is fufficient for the purpose intended, if, upon a general enquiry, the evidence produced before the grand jury be such as may seeem to render a farther inveftigation expedient. But the contrast which the author has drawn, afforded a very conve. pient opportunity for introducing the case of the dean of St.

Asaph,

[ocr errors]

Afaph, with a view to which the Observations in general seemi to be calculated.

We readily agree with this author, that with regard to libels, the law is in general less definite and precise than on other subjects. Libels are not of lo remote origin as to fall within the prefeription of common law; and the authority by which the earlier instances of the kind were determined, as being long fince abolished (we mean the court of star-chan:ber) is not the most fatisfa&tory. But the attempt towards introducing of innovations, without any apparent necessity, appears to us a political empiricism, which, however well intended, may prove more injarious than beneficial to tlie public tranquillity: Dr. Tówers, we are aware, will not admit that the attempt to which we allude is really an innovation. He will maintain that the right of juries to judge of the law, as well as the fact, is fully established by ancient usage. But in fup. port of this opinion, we must confess, we do not find any proof. Many declarations to this effect indeed are cited by the author before us ; but they seem too vague to be considered as of sufficient authority in a contested point. Had Dr. Towers endeavoured to maintain his hypothesis upon the principle of analogy, the foundation would, in our opinion, have been far less liable to objection; though, even in this case, the peculiar nature of libels might perhaps exempt them from the general mode of determination in all other cases. Dr. Towers, howa ever, not content with urging the expediency of a general verdiet, in cases of libel, would excite the public to intilt that juries have the sole and absolute right of determination, both in point of fact and of law. We cannot avoid observing, that in prosecuting the subject, he discovers much warmth, uses many unnecessary repetitions, and has frequently recourse to anonymous authorities, which, in difquifitions of this natare, cannot be entitled to much regard.

Selezt Works of the Emperor Julian, and some Pieces of the Scphift Libanius. By John Duncombe, M. A.

2 Vols.

8vo. 10s. in Boards, Cadell. THI "HE abbé de la Eleterie published, in 1735, the Life of

the Emperor Julian. To this he added, in 1748, the History of the Emperor Jovian, with translations of foine of ihe pieces of Julian, in two volumes octavo. Both these works are written with great elegance, candour, and imparţiality. The former was translated into Englith, in 1746, hy Mrs. Williams*, a blind lady, asisted by two fifters of the

Author of a volume of miscellan.cs, in which are seve. al pieces by her friend Dr. Johnson. Vol. LIX. Jan. 1785,

E

[ocr errors]

name of Wilkinson, under the inspection of Mr. Markland, Mr. Clarke, and Mr. Bowyer, who improved it with many uleful notes.

Julian was born at Constantinople in 331. His father Ju: lius Conftantius, and most of his relations, were massacred by the order of the emperor Conítantius., His half-brother Gallus was banished into Ionia, and Julian sent to Nicomedja, where he was educated a Christian by the bishop Eufebius t, and officiated as a lecturer in the church. About the age of twenty, he was perverted to paganism, by Maxinus, a Platonic philosopher at Ephesus ; being excited perhaps to this apostacy by his hatred for the emperor Constantius, who was a zealous Christian. It is certain, says abbé Bleterie, that Maxinus predi&ted the empire to him ; that he clearly laid before his view the extraordinary project of destroying the then reigning religion, to establish that of his ancestors; and that by the force of exhortations, fiatteries, and delusions, he made him the most convinced and enthusiastic pagan that ever lived.

In 335, he was created Cæfar by Conftantius. The emperors, it may be observed, gave this title to those whom they destined to the empire ; that of imperator or Auguftus, to those whom they actually allociated with themselves in fovereign power.

The title of Cæsar was properly nothing more than an adoption into the imperial family. Constantius defigned Julian only for a phantom, clothed in purple, who might appear with more splendour at the head of an army, and bear the image of a sovereign from city to city. The emperor had no male children ; and he now felt a remorse for the manner in which he had treated the princes of the imperial house. He believed that Julian had no reason to love himn; but he hoped that the purple would make him forget what was palied, and prevent a dangerous opposition.

Soon after this appointment, Julian let out for Gaul, where he made several successful campaigns. Upon the death of Contantius, in 361, he returned to Constantinople, and refered the pagan worship. In the following year he composed his books againīt the Chriftian religion. In 363, he is said 19 have given orders for re-building the Temple of Jerusalem. The same year he marched againit the Persians, and in a skirinih received a mortal wound, of which he died the succeeding night, aged 32.

The conduct of this emperor, with respect to the Christian religion, was artful and malignant. He abitained indeed trom † Eufebius died about the year 342, when Ju..jau was not above u years murder and the ledding of blood; but he took a course which was perhaps equally pernicious. He fomented divisions among the Christians, 'deprived their youth of a learned edu. cation, and stripped them of their fortunes. And whenever the Chriftians complained of this injurious treatment, he mocked them, sarcastically answering in these words of Christ : • Blessed are the poor.' His orders for building the Temple of Jerusalem (if he really gave those orders) were not owing to any respect for the Jewish religion, which he treated with contempt, but a scheme to expose and subvert Christianity.

murder

of age.

This attempt is mentioned by three contemporary writers, Gregory Nazianzen, Chryfoftom, and Ambrofe, bishop of Milan ; by Ammianus Marcellinus *; and afterwards by Ruffinus, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, Philoilorgius, and others. Accordingly the truth of this piece of history is maintained by Fabricius, Witsus, bishop Warburton, &c. Yet Basnage, Lardner, and some other learned writers, have doubted the fact.

The following circumstances render it improbable. 1. Julian's writings give no intimation of his actually engaging in such a scheme. In his address to the community of the Jews, he only intimates his intention to rebuild Jerusalem after his return from the Persian war; but this never happened. 2. That he should give orders for such an expenfive work, and allot money for it out of the public treasury, when he was undertaking an important expedition again the Perfians, is very unlikely. 3. The history of this event, as related by Chriftian writers, is loaded with miracles, or pretended miracles, which are incredible. 4. There was no oce cafion for such a providential interposition as that which Mar. cellinus mentions : for Julian died soon after the fuppofcd 'edict. 5. Contemporary writers, who speak of the Temple, as Jerom, Prudentius, and Orofius, take not the least notice of this transaction. 6. Those who have related the story were enemies to Julian. Gregory Nazianzen wrote an outrageous invective against him ; and in his narrative frequenıly appeals to popular fories. Chrysostom reports many things of Julian, for which he had no better authority. Ambrose lived at Milan, and relates this occurrence many years afterwards. Ammianus Marcellinus wrote his history at Rome, far from the scene of action, and has invalidated his authority, by record ing several things in his history, which discover his credulity. Succeeding writers, who probably took their account from

Metuendi globi flammarum, prope fundamenta crebris afTuitibus erunpentcs, fecêre locum, exustis aliquotics operantibus, inaccessum; hocquc tudo, elementa deftinatus repellente, cellavic incaptu.n. Lib. xxiii. s.

their

E 2

their predecessors, are not much to be regarded. The following idle story is so much like the miracle we are now considering, that it almost induces us to look upon both of them in the same light.

The two princes, Gallus.and Julian, had undertaken to erect a church upon the place where St. Mamas, a martyr of Cæfarea in Cappadocia, was buried. This work was divided between them ; and each carried on the part, that had fallen 'to his fhare, in emulation of the other. Whilft the labours of Gallus advanced, an invisible hand, it is said, opposed those of Julian. Sometimes the foundations could not be laid; fometimes the earth threw them up again. And at length the structure, carried to some height, with much time and labour, was suddenly thrown down, so that it could not possibly be completed. Gregory Nazianzen tells us, that he had this fact from those who were eye-witneffes of it; and Sozomen pretends to have heard it from those who had seen these wit. nesses !

Upon these, and other accounts, learned men have hesitated about this point. And indeed, though a wife man will not hastily rejeět the well-authenticated testimonies of grave and refpectable historians, he will be very cautious in receiving accounts of miraculous interpofitions; as it is certain, that many stories of this kind have been invented and propagated, in every age, from the latter part of the first century to the prefent, by knaves and fools, bigots and enthusiasts, to the disgrace of reason and philosophy; and (among those who cannot make a proper distinction) to the disparagement of Chriftianity.

As much as Julian is blacked by the Christians, he is commended by the pagan writers, for his firmness, his moderation, his fuperiority of understanding, and other great qualities, in which they reckon him second only to Julius Cæfar. But his credulity, his supertitious dread of omens, and his preferring the absurd rites of paganism to the Christian religion, are no proofs of his superior understanding, as a philofopher. And it all religions were alike to him, it was abfurd in him, as an emperor, to attempt the abolition of the public and established religion ; and, if poisible, yet more absurd in him, as a gt. neral, to think of altering the religion of his army, when the braveit a&tions performed by it, was owing to that religion, to which they had been long attached *.

The select works of Julian, translated by Mr. Duncombe, confiit of, I. An Epiftle to the Philosopher Themiftius on the Dangers of Sovereign Power,

Holberg's Univ. Hift. p. 149.

« PreviousContinue »