The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53
Introduction. — Part II
Since writing the previous portion of this introduction, the case of Dowie v. myself came on for hearing before Judge Cope and a special jury of four, and the result is now well known, at least, to the Melbourne public. We have obtained a victory and shown mercy to our opponent. The plaintiff's case was so weak that when it was opened in the court on Monday, the 19th of this month, it had to be adjourned till Thursday, to enable him and his legal assistants to strengthen it as far as they were able. The truth of this will be seen by reading the following report from the Age of Tuesday the 20th inst, headed:—
A Curious Action for Libel.At the County Court yesterday, before Judge Cope and a special jury of four, the case of Dowie v. Walker was heard. This was an action brought by the Rev. John Alexander Dowie, at present minister of Mr. Cherbury's Tabernacle, against Mr. Thomas Walker, the well-known freethought lecturer, to recover £250 damages for alleged libel. Mr. Hood appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr. Purves lor the defendant. In opening the case to the jury Mr. Hood said the libel complained of had appeared in The Age newspaper of the 22nd April last, and was as follows:—
"Spiritualism Unmasked.—Published Without My Reply.—I publicly denounce the correspondence published by the Rev. J. A. Dowie, under the above heading, as a malicious and one-sided production. It is published without my reply to his last letter, and in defiance of my most decided objections. The introduction abounds in malevolent falsehoods and misrepresentations, and is consequently a disgrace to any one who would pass for a gentleman.—Thos. Walker, Melbourne, April 21st."
He (Mr. Hood) said that he would content himself with proving only the publication of the libel, and would afterwards, if he found it necessary, call his witnesses for a rebutting case. He was bound to conduct the case in that way because the defendant had not pleaded justification or anything else, and he was at a loss to know how they were going on with their action. The print, as his Honor would see, was a direct libel.
His Honor; What is the language complained of?page x
Mr. Purves: That is what I want to know.
Mr. Hood: It is in the advertisement.
Mr. Purves: But I am going to raise the point that there is no libel.
Mr. Hood: How can you do that?
Mr. Purves: Chief Justice Hale held that if a man called another a fool it is no libel because he is as his Maker made him.
Mr. Hood: But his Maker did not make him a liar.
Mr. Purves: Perhaps Satan did.
Mr. Hood: We've nothing here to prove that; I will now call Mr. Robert Walker.
Mr. Purves: He is a member of Parliament.
Mr. Hood: Hut he has a right to come here whether he is a member of Parliament or not.
Mr. Purves: But you can't expect a member of Parliament to tell the truth, can you?
Mr. Hood: You have been one and ought to know; I have not been one.
Mr. Purves: But you've tried mighty hard.
Mr. Robert Walker, editor of the Daily Telegraph, was called hut did appear.
Mr. Hood: I'll then call Mr. Davis of The Age.
Mr. Purves; He does not appear.
His Honor: Try someone else.
Mr. Purves: Try Smith, or Jones or Brown.
Mr. Hood: I'll ask your Honor to adjourn the case to enable us to have the attendance of these witnesses.
Mr. Purves: Why don't you act like a man, and call your client.
Mr. Hood: Because I prefer to conduct my own case. Does Mr. Purves admit the publication? I would ask your Honor to make Mr. Purves state his case.
Mr. Purves: I am sure your Honor won't attempt to play a practical joke of this kind on me. My learned friend has not opened his case, but has split it up, and having done that he can't ask me to open my hand.
Mr. Hood: We don't know what your defence is.
Mr. Purves: We don't Admit the publication, and replead not guilty and fair comment.
His Honor: Is it mere accident that the witnesses are away?
Mr. Hood: Yes. Both have been subpoenaed, but each evidently thought the case would not be called on to-day.
Mr. Purves: If my learned friend would put his reverend client into the witness-box I'll admit the publication.
His Honor: That is fair.
Mr. Hood: I know my learned friend well. He will get my witnesses into the box, and then call none himself.
Mr. Purves: Perhaps I might; but I want to have a quiet conversation with the rev. gentleman—the parson; and we might just as well have it first as last.
Mr. Hood: I'll ask your Honor to adjourn.
James Davis then came into court. He stated that he was formerly in the employment of the Age, and had received the advertisement complained of from an agent.
Mr. Purves: What has that to do with the case? It is putting the cart before the horse, and is no evidence against the defendant.
The witness was then withdrawn, and at the suggestion of his Honor the jury was also withdrawn, and the case postponed until Thursday next.
Mr. Purves: Of course we'll get our costs.page xi
Mr. Hood: They'll be all right.
Mr. Purves: I would ask your Honor to let us have them. We don t know Dowie. He is merely a waif and stray, and has given his address as at the Coffee Palace. We can seize nothing there. He is a wanderer and a waif, and I daresay when he went to the Coffee Palace he took all his effects with him in a little bag.
His Honor: I can hardly do that.
Mr. Purves: But these rev. gentlemen are supposed to have no scrip or purse. (Laughter.) The costs are £4 4s 6d., and X understand they are allowed us.
His Honor: Yes.
The case was then adjourned until Thursday next.
When the case was re-entered upon on Thursday, although they had subpoenaed several new witnesses who appeared in court, their evidence was still so weak that the only way in which they could connect me with the publication of the advertisement complained of was by an incorrect assertion of the plaintiff's solicitor's clerk. His Honor, however, whilst granting my counsel leave to move for a non-suit, considered this sufficient to allow the case to go to the jury.
Mr. Hood, who ably conducted the weak case for his reverend client, manifested from the very commencement, as will have been seen from the above report, an invincible determination not to put his client into the box. The reason for this need not be looked for far. Had the Rev. John Alexander Dowie borne a good character, and possessed an unsullied reputation, his evidence would have been not only of exceeding great value to enable the jury to decide upon the merits of the case, bub in the natural course of fair-play it would have been voluntarily offered. But since "a guilty conscience needs no accuser," the plaintiff wisely selected to remain at the right arm of his orthodox solicitor, peeping out upon the scene, as a timid chicken looks out upon danger through the wings of the parent hen. Every now and again when Mr. Purves manifested a too close knowledge of his private life, he allowed startled ejaculations to escape him, and could not forbear offering insults to my counsel.
"D. T. [Observe it is to a correspondent), this has been reported [Mark the word 'reported'] to us:—On September 16th, 1874, [Notice the year], a young Englishman, by the name of Walker, who claimed to be a trance speaker, while attempting to simulate spirit-materialisations by the use of phosphorous, at a hotel in Toronto, Canada, severely burned himself. Another man, John Saunders, who went to his rescue, was so badly injured that he died on October 6th. At the inquest, the jury held Walker responsible for this man's death, but Walker had left the city immediately after the occurrence, and was out of the reach of justice. The whole affair was detailed in the newspapers at the time, and to them we must refer you. We have not a file of these papers beside us, and can only lay before you what has been reported to us."
This was read out in court against me, and until I had an opportunity to explain the facts connected with the paragraph and its origin, the affair looked very serious indeed. What are the facts then? I will give them here as I gave them in court, with the exception that I shall here detail them more fully.
First, then, let me take the accident itself. Its history is briefly this: In 1874, being 16 years of age, I was a farm labourer in Canada, working on the farm of John Bennet, of Markham, and afterwards of Michael Fisher, of Vaughan (whose son, my sister married), near Toronto. In October, the harvest season being over, I left the farm, and remained a week or two at Toronto before going to England. I was a Spiritualist at this time, and believed myself to be what, in Spiritualist phraseology, is termed a medium. In consequence of this I met with several Toronto Spiritualists, and attended several seances. On one of these occasions I met with Mr. Saunders, and I afterwards stayed at the same hotel with him in Front-street, Toronto. During the time we were together, we more than once speculated as to how the so-called physical phenomena of Spiritualism were produced. We both of us firmly believed in them, but from hearing so much talk about phosphorus being the source of spirit lights, or at all events a very close imitation of them, and being a lad at the time, 1 purchased a small portion of phosphorus in the stick for the purpose of seeing what effect it would have in this respect in the dark.
When the accident occurred I was thus experimenting in the bed-room occupied by Saunders and myself. I was totally ignorant of the chemical nature of the dangerous substance I had purchased. I took the stick out of the water, and holding it in my left hand, made some marks with it on a piece of paper. As may be supposed in a very short space of time indeed the phosphorus, by exposure to the atmosphere, ignited, and ran in the form of a burning liquid into my left hand. Mr. Saunders struck at the page xiii flame with his hand, and in this way burned himself.
Very early next morning I had to leave Toronto for Quebec en route for England, as I had purchased my ticket during the week, and had made all preparations for starting, in the shape of providing provisions and the other necessities for my trip on the day previous. This I had done before the accident occurred. These are facts for which proof can be provided independently altogether of my testimony. The local agency in Toronto for the "Allen" line of steamers, will be able to show from its books that I had purchased my ticket for England, per the S.S. Peruvian, before the unfortunate accident, and that consequently I was obliged to leave at the time I did, or otherwise I should have to forfeit my passage home, which at that time I could not afford to do. I am careful in the statement of these facts because the most malicious portion of the passage from the Medium and Daybreak is where it states "But Walker left the city immediately after the occurrence, and was out of the reach of justice,"by which it is implied, if not expressly stated that I fled from justice. At that time there was no justice to flee from. From what 1 saw of Mr. Saunders after the accident, his burn did not appear to be dangerous at all, and T remember that I consoled myself at the time with the belief that I was by far the greater sufferer. It must be borne in mind that Mr. Saunders did not die until after I was in England, and then not from the severity of the burns, but from tetanus, which of course the severity of the burns may have occasioned. But, furthermore, it must not be forgotten that tetanus can be produced from a multiplicity of causes, and that in some systems a very slight flesh wound is sufficient to induce it.
When in England I learned of Mr. Saunders' death through a letter from my sister (Mrs. Fisher) I was grieved exceedingly, and shortly afterwards T resolved to go back to Canada that I might learn the real facts of the case. This resolution was strengthened by an offer of employment from my brother-in-law on his farm. I therefore borrowed the passage money from my benevolent friend, Mr. E. Foster, chemist of Friargate, Preston, in Lancashire, and sailed for New York, from whence 1 departed for Toronto. T arrived in Toronto on a Sunday morning and walked to Vaughan, some 15 or 16 miles to the farm of my sister's father-in-law. It was here I read for the first time the verdict of the jury, which put a load upon my heart that seemed for the time to crush out every hope. The next morning I walked back to Toronto, on my way to my brother-in-law's farm some little distance out of Toronto near a small village called Ethel. Being out of money I sold a tin trunk with its contents, principally books, for a dollar and a half, and with one dollar of this I pur- page xiv chased a ticket as far as Harrisburg, resolving to walk the rest of the way, which was some considerable distance. It was nearly night when I arrived at Harrisburg, and I at once set off down the branch line in the direction of Ethel. I was very hungry, and after walking some distance I found a number of raspberry bushes growing wild. As the fruit was ripe I partook of it freely. Shortly afterwards I found a stream of clear water from which I took a copious draught. The result of this indiscretion was that I was attacked with so severe a tit of indigestion that I thought I should die. In this state I arrived just as darkness had covered the earth, at a very small village called Branchton. I stayed all night at the tavern, and paid my last fifty cents for bed and breakfast. In the morning I again started on my journey. When between Galt and Hespelar T was overtaken by a buggy, the driver of which, with the usual Canadian hospitality, requested me to get in and ride. We became speedily acquainted, and in the course of our conversation I told him where I was going, and my means of reaching my destination. He thereupon turned round his horse and drove me to the railway station, paid my ticket-fare to Ethel, and insisted upon my accepting sufficient for food for the journey. This benevolent gentleman was Dr. Cowen, of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. I arrived safely at Ethel the same night, and on the following morning commenced my work upon the farm. I worked here for three months. In the meantime I wrote a letter to the Chief of Police at Toronto, stating that I had read the verdict of the jury on the death of Mr. Saunders, and that if there was any case against me, I was perfectly willing to submit to a trial. I posted this letter with my own hands in the Ethel Post-office, so up to that point the destination of the letter is certain. Suffice it to say that, however it may be accounted for, I received no answer to my letter from that day to this. I have, therefore, naturally concluded ever since, that the Chief of the Police saw the absurdity of the verdict of the jury, and therefore declined to take any action in the matter.
I have carefully entered into the details of this somewhat unfortunate period of my life, all of which can be verified at any time at the expenditure of very little trouble, because I wish to show that all that my enemies were able to urge against me in the recent trial, was a maliciously written account of an accident that occurred in my boyhood. To this I may add that I was anxious to correct the erroneous judgment passed upon me in consequence of this report of the accident even by some of my friends.
It is quite simple to explain how the jury arrived at this verdict. It was only sufficient for them to know that I was a page xv Spiritualist, that Mr. Saunders was also one, that I was experimenting with phosphorous and had left Toronto, for, they knew not where, and that Mr. Saunders had died from tetanus, evidently in consequence of my accident; and so having appearances against me, they very naturally supposed that I was afraid of remaining in Toronto, because I knew I was a guilty man. They therefore allowed their feelings to decide their judgments. They had no means of knowing my youth and my ignorance, so far as I am aware, and for anything they knew to the contrary I might be a hardened sinner. With so much room for the play of imagination and feeling, guided by their natural prejudices, it might be expected that any ordinary jury would be likely to be severe in its conclusions upon an occurrence of this kind. Nevertheless, even after considering these facts, I trust I may be pardoned for saying that the verdict they gave was a disgrace to them.
Even supposing that the facts were as stated, how would the case stand? Whilst simulating Spirit-Materialisations I burn myself. Another person comes to ray assistance and burns himself. He dies from the effect. In what respect am I responsible for his death? I am responsible it is true for the accident, and only in this, so far as I was the involuntary occasion of it. Let me put a case to show my meaning. A man goes upon the river in a boat, the dangers connected with which he knows of Scarcely has he left the bank when the boat upsets, and he is in danger of being drowned. A noble-hearted man upon the bank observes him struggling, and not waiting for a moment leaps in to save him. Unfortunately the would-be saviour leaps in where the current is too strong, and is carried over the rapids, where he loses his life. The other man escapes to the bank and is saved. Is he therefore legally and morally responsible for the death of the person who would have saved him? Let justice speak from every heart, and all must say that, whilst regretting the accident, the painful burden of responsibility must he uplifted from the heart of the living. This, I say, even if the facts were as reported; but as I have shown such is far from being the case.
"Lest it might be thought that this letter is alone the result of his treatment to me, it might he well to state a few things that I know about him. First then, as I have intimated, his Spiritual Institution, to which Spiritualists are so repeatedly and contemptuously entreated to subscriber is neither more nor less than his place of residence and business; his bookshop, cellar, sitting rooms and bed-rooms, at 15, Southampton Row, London. Is this honest? The Spiritualists of Britain are actually asked,—the poor hard-working men and women, believing in Spiritualism,—-are urgently besought to send a portion of their earnings, gained by the sweat of their brow and perpetual toil, to pay the rent, taxes, and boarding expenses, not to mention the other incidental expenses, of his place of business, where he alone is benefitted. If the Institution belonged to the Spiritualists, and for their financial outlay in supporting it, they, some day or other, were to receive a dividend, one would understand his unparalleled 'cheek' displayed in his weekly bugging articles. But when he receives all the money he can for the purpose alone of making the Spiritualists pay for his family's board, clothing and house-rent, and when in reality the Spiritual Institution is his family's board, clothing and house-rent, the support, therefore, of which ought to be taken out of his business receipts, then one begins to suspect there is something rotten in the state of the Spiritual Institution or rather in the man who so christened it! If everything be as he represents it, and all the money he receives from subscriptions is spent for the benefit of Spiritualism, why dare he not publish a balance-sheet? Have not the Spiritualists a right to know how the money they give to him is spent? Does he ever show how a half-penny of the money he receives from year to year goes? Where is the printing press that was to belong to the Spiritualists on his receipt of £500 to purchase it with, some little time ago now, and which was to print his paper on his own premises? We ask again, where is the printing press, and the evidence that the Spiritualists of Britain own it or ever have owned it? Thirty pounds of this money he received from one town alone—Preston, in Lancashire. Is the Medium now printed at the so-called Spiritual Institution? He may, and no doubt will say something about this, but will he answer the questions I have asked?
Again, does he acknowledge the receipt of all the money his subscribers send him? Will he tell us in what way he acknowledged the receipt of £50 from Mr. Layley, of Victoria, Australia? Did he do it otherwise than by sending a cabinet portrait of himself, with yours truly, J. Burns, written upon it? Did he ever inform the English Spiritualists of the receipt of that sum? Is it not a fact that he received money from Dunedin, N.Z., for books, and that he neither returned money nor books? And have there not been similar cases to this from Australia? Have there not been similar cases in England? In Washington for instance? Has he returned them either the money, or the books they ordered, though they have written to him several times about the matter? Dare he tell how he stands with the Banner of Light Publishing Company, Boston, U.S.? Is it not true that they will not supply him with any more of their goods on credit, though they once did."
To these questions he never furnished answers, but when two of his best friends, Judge Peterson and William Oxley, of Manchester, who were both liberal in their monetary subscriptions and literary contributions to his paper, asked him for an explana- page xvii tion, he so insulted them that they straightway withdrew their support.
As may be naturally supposed, having occasion and feeling it necessary in the interests of justice, to expose him, he afterwards took every occasion to injure me. He attempted to do it when I left for Africa by a ridiculously peurile attack upon me, in the course of which he manufactured a phrenological delineation of my head for the benefit of the "Zulus" to whom he said "Little Tommy" was going. But he thought his hour of triumph had come when two gentlemen by name, Messrs. Smart and Spriggs had concluded at the invitation of the Victorian Association of Spiritualists to visit Melbourne. Mr. Spriggs, as is well known, is the medium of the Russell-street seances, and Mr. Smart is apparently his protector. When these two gentlemen started, Mr. Burns of the Institution, knowing that his columns were closed to me for reply, and that I was away in Africa, published an Australian number of his paper, and sent a quantity of extra copies out here in their charge. This Australian number of the Medium was the introduction of these two worthies to the colony, and it was this number that contained the maliciously false paragraph intended to injure me. Mr. Burns knew that I had many friends here, and this was his attempt to turn them into enemies.
As to how it got into Mr. Dowie's hands I can only surmise. It is sufficient, however, that 1 know whence, when, and why it came to these colonies. Burns sent it here, and over the world for the express purpose of injuring me. My scepticism as to the genuiness of the phenomena at Russell-street,-may be sufficient to account for the rest, especially when it is remembered with what bitterness Mr. A. J. Smart tries to repay me for throwing doubt upon his circle.
I have now traced the history and object of the paragraph with which Mr. Dowie sought to ruin me in the Court during my trial.
After finding that this stab did not take effect, Mr. Dowie was completely discomfited. The Judge evidently leaned—if taking a just view of the case can be called "leaning,"—to our side and this was observed by the clerical litigant with great concern throughout. It was at this stage that he had offered to withdraw the case, after as he thought, and his counsel admitted thrown, this mud at me. "It is simply a question of throwing mud your Honor," said Mr. Hood, and having thrown it, he begged to withdraw. The ever in my life my feelings were tried it was then. Everything possible had been done to injure me, and here was the man who had done it, crying for mercy. We had in the court, and Mr. Dowie knew it at the time, a clergyman who informed a member of my page xviii defence committee that he felt as though the Lord had sent him there to expose the wickedness of my reverend opponent On the brief of my counsel were several references to facts, which would have thrown a light on Mr. Dowie's character very unwelcome to him. Was I to forbear ruining the man, when he had done all in his power to ruin me? "Yes," said my friends, whom I consulted, "Yes," suggested my legal advisers, and "Yes," I answered. The Infidel hand uplifted in self defence dropped calmly at the cry for mercy, and the Christian calumniator was spared exposure.
That we are taking no unfair view of the facts, we quote the report of the trial from the Carlton Advertiser to show:—
The Libel Action.
"The celebrated case of the Rev. J. A. Dowie v. Thomas Walker, in which the former sued for £250 damages, for alleged libel, came on for hearing at the Court on Thursday, and contrary to expectations ended in a fiasco, as the Rev. J. A. Dowie throw up the sponge. The facts of the case are as follows:—The rev. gentleman, aforesaid, came ever from Sydney some six months ago, and involved himself in a religious controversy with Mr. Thomas Walker, the well-known free-thought lecturer. The controversy was carried on by correspondence which the clerical gentleman decided on publishing with a preface of his own, but without Mr. Walker's final reply. Mr. Walker having learned the intentions of his clerical friend, cautioned him against the impropriety of such a course, and threatened to denounce the pamphlet on its publication. Mr. Dowie took no notice of the protest, and the work appeared in due course, whereupon advertisements were inserted in the Age and Daily Telegraph signed by Mr. Walker denouncing the pamphlet as misleading, malicious, and untruthful. The Rev. Mr. Dowie then requested a public apology from Mr. Walker, couched in the most abject terms, to be inserted in the daily papers, or in the event of a refusal he would set the law in motion, and institute a criminal action which would in case of conviction, entail both fine and imprisonment. Mr. Walker positively refused to apologise, when the rev. gentleman placed the matter in the hands of his solicitors, who at once commenced legal proceedings. Not for fine and imprisonment, however, but substantial damages, amounting to £250. The case came on for hearing before Judge Cope and a jury of four, on Monday last, but the absence of witnesses to prove the publication of the so-called libel caused a postponement of the ease until Thursday. Several witnesses were examined with a view of proving the authorship of the libel but Mr. Purves, who conducted the defence, offered to admit the publication, if the Rev. Mr. Dowie were put into the witness-box. Mr. Hood who appeared for the plaintiff, did not appear to relish the idea of his client being submitted to an overhaul by Mr. Purves, and the rev. gentleman was not called upon. Mr. Walker was examined, but nothing material was elicited from him. After lunch, whilst the case was proceeding, Mr. Dowie spoke to his counsel and the result was that an offer was made to Mr. Purves to with draw the case, each side to pay their own costs. After some consultation, Mr. Walker agreed to the proposal on condition that he should be allowed to make a public statement in court, in order to explain some circumstances, which were insinuated by Mr. Hood in cross-examination. After some hesitation on the part of Mr. Dowie, it was agreed that the privilege should be accorded, and the case was withdrawn.
The result cannot be looked upon as a great victory by the Rev. Mr. page xix Dowie and his friends, for instead of his lacerated feelings being healed by a verdict of £250 and costs, he has to part with cash to the amount of £60 or £70 to pay his counsel's expenses. A few such victories would be a very doubtful benefit to the rev. gentleman, who is reported to have a hankering for similar actions.
Not content, however, that we have shown him mercy, that his case fell through, and that by withdrawing it he virtually admitted the truth of the advertisement which occasioned his action, on the following Sunday he relapsed back into his old malignity, forgot his recent defeat and exposure, and gave a sermon which is thus reported in the Age:—
Sensational Preaching at Collingwood.
The Rev. J. A. Dowie preached on Sunday evening at the Tabernacle, in Sackville-street. Collingwood (a large wooden building seating 1500 people). The building is well lighted, there is a small and effective organ and a good choir. The seats are all free. The Tabernacle is situated in the midst of a dense mass of working class residents in the neighbourhood. The Gospel is here preached on Sundays, and occasional religious meetings are held during each week. It must be apparent that if well conducted, such a place will do much good to the people for whose benefit it is specially built. The place was, as usual, crowded on Sunday evening. The Rev. J. A. Dowie, who has recently figured in a law court in Melbourne, officiated. He is well known in Sydney and Adelaide, not only in leading Salvation Armies, but in haranguing crowds on various subjects, and also in contributing controversial letters on many topics in various "religious" journals. On Sunday evening his advertised subject was The Modern Prophets of Baal, but in reality his subject was Spiritualism and its Modern Defenders. Mr. Dowie stated that he had been in the Ministry fourteen years in all, and alleged that God had taken him from business and made him a minister; also, that he had personally made enormous sacrifices in giving up business and becoming a preacher. He had once, with six other persons, been in a minority of seven on a great public question in Sydney. By perseverance, his minority carried the day by compelling the Sydney Government to save the lives of the two young lads whose case had caused so much sensation in Sydney. He proceeded to say that Spiritualism was an immoral religion, and that it supported prostitution. Who were the main supporters of Spiritualism? Tom Walker and Dr. Moor house. A wild and incoherent narrative followed, descriptive of a publican's reception of penniless and of rich customers at a public house bar, Mr. Dowie designating publicans indiscriminately as Jezebels. Mr. Dowie accompanied this description with extravagant and ludicrous dramatic actions which caused quite a simmer of merriment] and slightly suppressed laughter. Thereupon Mr. Dowie said, "Oh, you may laugh. You can laugh yourself into hell; but I reckon you cannot laugh yourself out of hell." "Walker," continued Mr. Dowie, "calls himself an Atheist, Deist, Materialist and Rationalist; but 1 will tell you what he is—he is the child of the devil." The latter word is a favorite with Mr. Dowie. So is the word hell, which figured at least fifty times throughout the preacher's "discourse." Referring to the recent trial of Dowie v. Walker, Mr. Dowie said, "I have sometimes at the midnight hour reeled with the intellectual fumes proceeding from that miasma of hell—Spiritualism;" his meaning being that he had become stupefied by reading so much Spiritualistic literature. Spiritualism had many defenders. Walker was one of them. A man in Canada once died from the effects of one of Walker's spiritualistic experi- page xx ments. Mr. Dowie prophesied that "Walker's career would end in darkness, perhaps in blood." Referring to the recent trial, Mr. Dowie, who at this point become intensely excited, said: "If the judge who tried the late case is an atheist, then he is a defender of Spiritualism; if the barrister who defended it is a legal larrikin, then he is a defender of Spiritualism; and if the solicitor in it is a disgrace to politics, then he is a defender of Spiritualism." Mr. Dowie then spoke fiercely concerning Mr. Purves, the barrister, by name. He accused him of lying at the trial and defended himself (Dowie) against the alleged repeated charges of falsehood brought against him in the course of Mr. Purve's remarks in the County Court. He (Dowie) had, through his counsel, at the outset offered to go into the witness-box, and throughout the trial was most anxious to do so. He would ultimately have gone into the witness-box at the close of Walker's evidence, but the case was, in effect, stopped by the judge saying there was no case to go to the jury. Mr. Dowie concluded by excitedly saying that he knew that there were re; porters present, and occasionally said, "Put that down Mr. Spiritualist," "Put that down, press." Taken as a whole, the proceedings, which lasted two hours, were simply disgraceful, and calculated to bring religion into contempt. Although prayer was offered and hymns sung, yet the extravagant and burlesque actions and violent gestures of Mr. Dowie not only in his "sermon," but even in his prayers, to say nothing of the coarse and abusive language used by him in reference to absent gentlemen of respectability and good social standing, were alike calculated to hurt the cause of religion. Large numbers of persons continued to leave the Tabernacle from the moment Mr. Dowie became excitable and abusive until the end of the service.
I would ask before closing this introduction, a little of the reader's attention, whilst I say a few words about the pamphlet itself. When it was resolved to print it as an appendix to the pamphlet published by Mr. Dowie, and as a reply to his last letter, the idea naturally suggested itself to procure for it the same printer and publisher who gave the Rev. J. A. Dowie's concoctions to the public. The chief reason for this was that the antidote would thereby be more likely to follow in the track of the poison, and so, circulating through the same channel, correct the harm that it might have done. In company with a friend therefore I called at the business house of George Robertson and Co., and obtained the manager's consent to placing the name of the farm upon the corner of my pamphlet. The same day I called at the office of Walker, May and Co., and obtained their services as the printers. If I remember aright, the following day, or at all events very shortly afterwards, I sent them the first instalment of M.S. and £15 on account for the work. Before the work had proceeded very far, however, I received a note from the manager of George Robertson and Co., stating that they declined to have their name appear according to promise. Walker, May and Co. still went on with the printing until the entire work was completed and the first part of this introduction was in type; to my astonishment then, they refused to go any further on the grounds that some of the contents of my letter were blasphemous. All my attempts to page xxi demonstrate that they were not responsible for my conclusions or opinions, and that our relationship to each other was purely one of business, and finally that it was unfair to print Mr. Dowie's letter and not my answer, but more than all to take the work, to complete it and give me all the trouble of correcting proofs, not to speak of my loss of time, and then to refuse to issue—I say all attempts to demonstrate this were in vain. They took legal advice—learned that in the eyes of the law I had blasphemed in telling the truth—-and they therefore positively refused to prosecute the work any further. It is only fair to state, of them, however, that when an offer was made to purchase the stereotype plates they were not above asking £18 for them, and finally taking £14
I afterwards went to another printer, taking him the marked copy which Walker, May and Co. had submitted for legal criticism, and with the same result. He refused to print it on the grounds that he would not endanger his business by giving his imprint to what had been shown to be blasphemy in the eyes of the law.
Some of my friends advised me to soften some of the passages and to omit others, as otherwise I should not be able to procure a printer for the work in Melbourne. I knew not how to answer these except by informing them that I was fully determined to have the letter printed as it had been written if J had to purchase a printer's shop for the purpose. I even went so far as to enquire at what cost I could hire or purchase a sufficient quantity of the requisite materials, so as to ascertain the possibility of employing this resource after all others had failed. Whilst in this dilemma, upon recommendation we tried the firm of White law and Son, and this time with success. Being liberal-minded they readily undertook the work, and it is from their press that this is given to the world.
The most blasphemous portions of the pamphlet—the portions T was advised to soften or withdraw, which were chiefly objected to by the printers and lawyers, and which were quoted against me during my trial—are those paragraphs arranged under their respective headings from page 37 to page 49. And what are they? Simply proofs taken from the Bible itself, that the Bible is not a fit and proper book to teach us ethics! I have not manufactured the passages; I have not misquoted them. I have simply taken the passages as they stand in the book for the purpose of making clearly manifest that the writers of the Bible, were little above a state of barbarism, when moved by their impulsive genius to transmit their thoughts and feelings to posterity. If the Book was admitted to be nothing more than a product of the genius, intellect, feelings and experience of a people struggling through slavery and misfortune page xxii towards a higher perfection, weighted with superstition, led by delusive hopes, and animated from time to time by the doleful songs of the Hebrew poets, which ever and anon throw light and shade on the Jewish character, I should scorn, dear reader, I assure you to draw your special attention to these evidences of great imperfection. "To err is human," I should say with you, and we should both agree that it would be folly to look for perfection in a people ignorant, superstitious, and poor. We might as well expect to learn the highest truths of morality or science from the barbarous hordes of the deserts of to-day, as expect to learn such, from those who wandered in the deserts of Sinai, or wailed their lamentations on the banks of the rivers that flowed 'neath the shades of the willows of Babylon. But when the Bible is put forth as the infallible "Word of God," the case is different We stand face to face with what ought to be the very paragon of perfection. In its pages, the trembling maiden, with modesty beaming like a sacred halo over her presence, ought to find a crystal stream so pure, that as she kneels to drink from its perennial flow she may see her image reflected there even more sublimely pure than the spotless original. When the mother has entered the silent portals of its many temples, her ears should hear no sound withering up her womanhood, blighting her maternal instincts, and robbing her of the divine flowers of a mother's love. The eager-minded boy, as he intently follows the steps of his favourite heroes by the light of the evening torch, should have no cause to dwell on bloody battle fields, and scenes of woful carnage. The Bible, as the Word of God, should fire his imagination with deeds of the noblest virtue, with undying acts of benevolence, justice and love, and with words of unmistakeable wisdom, purity and truth.
In short, the Bible, if it be "God's Word," should be our final appeal, and master on all matters—government, law, truth and conduct—connected with life. As to law and government, Christians themselves have outgrown it, and there is not a civilized government in the world which would think for a moment of shaping its laws according to the standard either of the Old or New Testament. Legislative measures are now passed, not because they are shewn to be in harmony with the sacred books, not because they are in accordance with the teaching of Moses and Jesus, but because they are deemed necessary for the welfare of the people. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at that the laws of the time of Moses have been discarded, and that our modern law-makers have dared to improve on the laws which they believe to have been given by the wisdom of God Himself.
In matters affecting the truths of science and history, also, the Christians have given up the Bible as an authority. Dr. page xxiii Colenso and Professor Robertson Smith, not to mention Renouf, and a long list of others, have thrown wide open the gates to the army of criticism, and now on the Fort deserted by Deity, there floats the Infidel flag.
In this letter, in answer to Mr. Dowie, and for the information of Christian readers, I have done my little share in demonstrating that the Bible is not loss defective from a moral point of view. It is not a tit book to be put in the hands of the young, and I trust I may be excused for saying, I have proved that fact in my pamphlet.
"But," said an objector to me, "You have only stirred up dirt, which it were better to leave at rest." "And," I asked in reply, "who is the benefactor of the village repeatedly a prey to disease and death, he who stirs up the water with its dirt and poison, in order that he may keep the villagers from drinking it without filtering, or he who leaves the dirt and poison to quietly do its work of destruction and woe?
"But you should remember what tender recollections, what dear associations cluster round the book, and how through ages its history and teachings have woven themselves into the thoughts and lives of the children of men."
"Les prejugés, ami, sont les rois du vulgaire," replied I in the words of Voltaire. "But surely truth is higher than prejudice, and facts are of more value than bad habits. It is time, now, when we have Truth within our reach, to habit her, as we have done our errors, in the sacred drapery of loving memory and to view her in the gentle light of hallowed association and endearment."
What I have done in my pamphlet is only a very small fraction indeed of what needs doing. I deem it important that I should inform my readers that I have not said one tithe of what ought to be said on the Bible's imperfection, viewed as the "Word of God." I feel that the sooner we realise the true position the Bible occupies, the sooner we shall be able to appreciate the many excellent literary passages, as well as excellencies in other respects of which the book is by no means devoid. What I have said, I have said aiming at that end, for that the good may be rightly valued it is essentially necessary that we do not over estimate the bad.
As the subject of Spiritualism is frequently introduced throughout the letter, perhaps it would be as well to clearly inform the readers what my exact position upon this subject is. I will do so briefly. At the age of 13 I accepted Spiritualism as others accept Christianity. I believed myself to be a medium, accounting for my natural precocity, good memory and fluency of speech, especially when laboring under excitement, anagolous, I take it page xxiv to that experienced at religious revivals and at quaker meetings by the supposition that I was influenced by Spiritual beings. In this I am now free to confess that I was as much deluded as anyone who encouraged and accepted my faith. My faith and that of others was intensified by the wonderful phenomena occurring in the presence of other so-called mediums, and by the reading of such works as the Dialectic Society's reports, Professor Crooke on physical phenomena, Alfred Russell Wallace, on Miracles and the life of D. D. Home. I was also charmed at the time, and "strengthened in the faith," by the orations of Mrs. Tappan and the writings of A. J. Davis. The publications of Prof. Denton, Robert Dale Owen, Dr. Peebles, and perhaps more than all, Hudson Tuttle, increased my respect for the intellectual position of its leaders, and influenced by my feelings from within, and these causes and others from without, I publicly advocated the subject for some considerable period of my short life. During that period I cannot over-estimate either the kindnesses I have received from believers in it; or the stimulus it gave to my intellectual faculties. But what it started and did so much to quicken, now takes me out of its fold. Closer examination of facts shows me, at least, that there is a fatal gap between the phenomena and their reputed cause. Unless we are justified in postulating a spirit, in the same manner as our ancestors did their gods, wherever our ignorance steps in, we have no evidence that positively brings home to "the spirits" any of the facts alleged as spiritualistic. This I feel myself qualified to say, since I have studied the subject quite as much—if not more, than any other I have yet entered upon.
I must correct a misunderstanding that may arise from what I have just said. I do not wish it to be understood that all the phenomena described as Spiritualistic are fraudulent, or the result of any deception or trickery whatsoever. I am as much convinced as that I am writing, because I have observed them with what critical powers I possess, that there are facts impossible to be accounted for on these grounds. There are facts to the origin of which, in our present state of knowledge, so far as I am aware, no explanation can be offered, and that deserve explanation as much as the fall of the apple did to the enquiring mind of Newton. What I simply wish to insist upon is that the wonderfulness of a fact is no proof that a spirit produced it
If I were to venture upon a definition of Spiritualism with my present experience, it would be something like the following.—A system where the true and false, the good and harmful, the wise and foolish, the honest and the designing are Strangely mingled. It is for the most part a conscientious desire to render page xxv Supernaturalism more reasonable and evident, and to give coherency, personalities and reality to the realm of the Invisible and Unknown. Its roots lie deep down in human credulity and weakness. Out of hopes generated in the school of Faith the Spiritualist builds his invisible temple.
Men being born imperfect in a world of ignorance, have a natural tendency towards some species of superstition, which they can only correct by exchanging it for positive knowledge. Given a natural bias towards believing anything, and the proof required to convince us of it will decrease in proportion as that bias is strong. "The wish is father to the thought," was a statement full of wisdom, and it would not be far from the truth if we thus altered it—" The wish is often father to the facts."
It is impossible to express the pain I feel whilst I am writing this, for I know it will wound many of those who have been the very best friends I have had in this life. Some of those who have offered me counsel and help in the hour of need, and whom I respect and love as noble-minded kind-hearted men and women—my generous benefactors—will doubtless blame me for the step 1 have taken. But T cannot help it. I feel it my highest duty to be true to myself and to them, and for that reason I refuse to act the hypocrite. At some future time I intend entering upon this subject in a work devoted to the purpose, and therein answering the question as far as 1 can, why good intentioned people should deceive and be deceived in matters of this kind?
This being my present position upon the subject, it may be asked why I have, so far as I have, defended it in my letters to Mr. Dowie? Because I believe in justice. Spiritualism is far ahead of his Orthodoxy, and I determined to defend it from his despicable attacks. 1 wished to show the world, as I state on the concluding page that "Whether the phenomena of Spiritualism arc; to be explained by an appeal to another world or to this, and this alone" Mr. Dowie "had libelled its supporters, perverted its philosophy and misrepresented its literature." If this be borne in mind as the pamphlet is read, my object will be less likely to be misunderstood.
As to the Orthodoxy of the Rev. John Alexander Dowie, it must be despicable even to the Christians themselves. As this is made sufficiently evident during the course of the pamphlet I will waste no words to prove it here. I would only like to conclude by asking him in the language of Zopire, from the tragedy of Mahomet.
Tu veux. . . . . . .
Commander aux humains de penser comme toi:
Tu ravages le monde, et tu prétends I'instruire.
Ah! si par erreurs il s'est laissé séduire,
page xxvi Si la nuit de mensonge a pour nous égarer,
Par quels flambeaux appreux veux-tu nous eclairer?
. . . Je connais ton peuple, il a besoin d'orrcur;
Ou véritable on faux, mon culte est nécessaire.
However, that may be we will leave him to dance his jigs and prate his folly at the Tabernacle as leader of the Salvation Army, His atmosphere is too foul for us to remain in it, and we now depart from it with a sense of relief.
June 28th, 1882.