« PreviousContinue »
and launch on the stream which they had created. They hailed the idea of interdicting city sepulture by legislative enactment, above all things ; but they were utterly confounded by the proposal of creating Parochial Cemeteries. We shall postpone the further discussion of the matter till we come to address Mr. Mackinnon, when we shall make some curious disclosures.
Having proved that Mr. Mackinnon's Clerical Evidence does not support, but rather overthrows his theory, and shown that the testimony of his lay, witnesses powerfully corroborates that of the clergy; having demonstrated that the mass of his medical evidence is strongly adverse to him, and that what is not so, is altogether nugatory ; and having also shown that Mr. Walker, his crack witness, is entitled to no serious consideration; we now proceed to deal with that class of witnesses who have mainly supplied Mr. Mackinnon with his treasury of horrors and abominations. Before attempting this, we need scarcely remind you, that evidence must be viewed in connexion with character; but it may not be unimportant to apprise you, that, in conformity with Parliamentary practice, the witnesses who appeared before the Committee were all unsworn. They were allowed to talk away at pleasure, with no restraints except those of conscience, or of prudence, or of shame; and there is reason to suspect that some of them were not much impeded by any such incumbrances. Mr. Mackinnon's first witness declares, from personal knowledge (Q. 23), that grave-diggers are “a low, depraved, drunken class of men.” Mr. Walker also declares (802), that, “ with scarcely an exception, they are drinking men." The witness Eyles says (357), “ You can hardly find a man of that sort who is not fond of it (gin);" and Valentine Haycock, himself a grave-digger, declares (1000), “it is very seldom they are sober men.” We will now exhibit a few specimens of horror.
1. GEORGE WHITTAKER deserves the foremost place among the class of witnesses now to be reviewed. This person is a great favourite of Mr. Walker's, with whom, in point of character, he seems to possess much in common. They are an illustrious pair. Mr. Whittaker has “ seen coffins broken in the graves, and shovelled away to make room for fresh comers." Mr. Mackinnon, horror struck at this, cried out:
“ Q. 401. And the bodies cut in pieces ?—Decidedly so. “ 402. How do you mean?_Cut with the spade.
“ 403. Were those very old coffins, or had they been placed in the grave only a short time?— I have seen both old and nearly new coffins destroyed.
“ 405. Has this often occurred ?-Yes; it is a case of almost every-day occurrence.”
These declarations want nothing but truth to render them a recital of deeds the most inhuman, revolting, and abominable, that were ever perpetrated by the most depraved, brutal, and monstrous class of the human species ! But, happily for the honour of our country and of our race, they are only the random utterances of a weak, vain, foolish man ; the mere fictions of a brain which spurns equally the claims of truth and the control of reason. The evidence of such a creature is utterly unworthy of notice, were it not for its mischievous tendencies. It may, however, suffice simply to remind you, that this is the individual already mentioned, who affirmed that “ the Dissenting Ministers get more by the dead than by the living.” When pressed on that point, you will recollect he was compelled to retract his words, and to limit his remark to Enon Chapel. So, likewise, on the point before us, when urged to specify the graveyards where these enormities occurred, he was forced (Q. 406) to limit this “case of almost every-day," and, as he sought to represent it, of general occurrence, to “ Enon Chapel.” But the chief atrocity of this romancer remains to be stated. At Enon Chapel, in the grave-yard of which he asserts these abominations to have been practised, there is actually no grave-yard at all! The whole of the interments took place in the chapel vaults. We have, therefore, done for the present with this witness, whose evidence teems with untruth and exaggeration.
2. BARTHOLOMEW LYONS amused the Committee with a series of tales which had no bearing whatever on the main subject. One of these may be cited as a specimen. “ I was trying,” says he, “the length of the grave, to see if it was long enough and wide enough, so that I should not have to go down again ; and, while I was in there, the ground gave way, and a body turned right over, and the two arms came and clasped me
round the neck; she had gloves on and stockings, and white flannel inside, and what we call a shift, but no head.”
Is this a true relation? Does Mr. Mackinnon himself believe it? Is this one of a class of evils which his Bill is intended to remedy?
3. EDWARD CHARLES COPELAND threw a little variety into the work of examination. In reply to the question (1376), “ Do you think the occupation of grave-digging is very unhealthy ?” He proves the affirmative by two kinds of argument: first, he says, “I am sure it is ;" and, secondly, he adds, “I have seen them play at what is called skittles; put up bones, and take skulls and knock them down; stick up bones in the ground and throw a skull at them, as you would a skittle ball."
If this representation be untrue, there is an end of the witness; if correct, it further serves to illustrate the general character of the spade-and-mattock fraternity, and to show with what caution we should receive the testimony of persons so brutalized. It further shows how negligent the clergy and the churchwardens have been of their duty.
4. SAMUEL Pitts was an attendant at Enon Chapel, and has given utterance to some of the choicest pieces of folly and misrepresentation delivered before the Sepulchral Committee. The witness states, that the length of the chapel was fifty or sixty feet, and the breadth of it thirty or forty, and that the depth of the vault from the ground to the ceiling under the chapel floor is about six feet. In this very limited space, he “supposes" (135) there might be “ twelve thousand bodies !” This monstrous assumption utterly staggered the Committee, who were not able to comprehend how there could be room for the half of twelve hundred, and they continued to pose him with questions as to its possibility. Shut up to retraction or to explanation, he supposes they might have destroyed the coffins, to make room for others; but then, said the Chairman :
" Q. 150. What became of the remains ?—I do not know what became of them, unless they were shovelled altogether, which I believe to be the case in this place."-Had this base assumption been true, still the corpses were there, and it did not lessen the difficulty.
5. WILLIAM BURN rendered no mean service to Mr. Walker in the work of mystification. He readily solved the perplexing problem respecting the deposit of twelve thousand bodies in Enon Chapel, by charitably asserting (280), he had no doubt whatever that bodies were slipped down the sewer.” This conduct he ascribes to one of the most amiable, pious, and upright Christian ministers, who is now sleeping in the dust, and no longer able to defend himself against the attacks of foul calumny. Several of these witnesses will appear again in our next, when their credibility will be further tested.
So much for the grave-diggers! It now only remains that we dispose of the reported atrocities of Enon Chapel. We have visited the place, and intend, in our next Letter, to set before you
Mr. Mackinnon's tale of horrors, and the results of our own careful inspection and extensive inquiries on the spot, in order that you may see how vile an attempt has been made to impose upon the public and the Legislature !
September 29, 1842.
THE HORRORS OF ENON CHAPEL EXAMINED,
We commence our tenth Letter under circumstances somewhat more encouraging than those in which we began the series. Up to that time, Mr. Mackinnon and his witnesses had things all their own way. Their evidence was uncontradicted, and his Bill was unexamined. It was then generally assumed that the former had proved the nuisànce, and the latter provided the remedy. Not one journal, either in town or country, uttered a breath against either him or them. Now, however, men of all parties begin to look seriously at the matter. Few, indeed, yet appear to have examined the evidence, but many unite in the reprobation of the Bill. Assuming the partial existence of the nuisance, the universality of which is by no means proved, all agree that Mr. Mackinnon has not provided the remedy. The first to aid us in our arduous enterprise was our able and liberal contemporary, the Tyne Mercury, which, although it has not yet fathomed the subject, has done excellent service. The Morning Chronicle next came boldly forth on Monday last, in an introductory article, which on Wednesday it followed up with a second, marked by great vigour, discernment, and liberality; and a third has since appeared. On the same day the Times broke silence, and emphatically condemned some of the main provisions of the measure. The Chronicle opens its second article by specifying certain points of the Bill “which ought to insure its rejection;" and closes by declaring “that, without essential alteration, it certainly ought not to pass.”
These facts will prove gratifying to the friends of general justice and of religious liberty. We hope inquirers will multiply, and that the press at large will do its duty. The subject is far from being so simple as indolent minds may imagine, and can be fully mastered only by diligent, prolonged, and diversified investigation. No such investigation has yet taken place. Seldom, indeed, have Select Committees laboured with less wisdom or to less purpose than this of Mr. Mackinnon. Never did an act of legislation call for a more severe appliance of the inductive logic; and never, assuredly, were its simple but salutary laws more entirely disregarded. Never were we more forcibly reminded of the weighty words of its immortal author, when he says, “ The inquisition by induction is wonderful hard; for the things reported are full of fables, and new experiments can hardly be made but with extreme caution." Such are the words of the illustrious Bacon, the father of the inductive philosophy. We recommend them to the serious meditation of Mr. Mackinnon, and of all juvenile legislators. A body of gentlemen duly appreciating them, would never have received such evidence as that before us, and still less would they have made such a Report upon it. The Report which Mr. Mackinnon presented to the House of Commons, and which recommends a measure that is to affect a nation, is founded on some three or four insignificant and much-exaggerated cases. If we remove from the evidence the Poor-ground in Clement's-lane, Portugalstreet ground, and above all, Enon Chapel, what remains ? Of the evidence of Walker, of Burn, of Pitts, and of WhittakerMr, Mackinnon's main props—the great and only telling subject