The Clerical Magistrate
by William Hone
An Annotated Text
Created and Edited by Kyle Grimes
Note: The Clerical Magistrate is a separate poem, attached as a kind of coda to The Political House that Jack Built. Judging by internal evidence, it seems likely that the poem was originally intended as an accumulation in The Political House but, perhaps in the process of composition, it took on a life of its own. The central themes of the poem--religious hypocrisy and the incompatibility of religious and civil authority--were issues that frequently drew Hone's satirical attention. The figure depicted in Cruikshank's image and attacked in Hone's verse is the Reverend Charles Ethelston of Manchester. As both a clergyman in the English church and a local magistrate who recommended hanging as an appropriate punishment for the more prominent radicals of the Peterloo meeting, he became an obvious symbol of the incompatibility of "quietness, peace, and love" supposedly associated with the church and the vindictive punishments more typical of an embattled civil authority.
The text reproduced here comes from the forty-fourth edition of Hone's Political House. I have regularized the lineation for ease of reading. The images are clickable links to facsimile pages. The first epigraph comes from The Form of Ordination for a priest in the English church; the second comes from William Cowper's The Task, Book II, lines 332-36, and line 408. The postscript lines following the closing image of the Cap of Liberty are from Book V, 446-48.
"The Bishop. Will you be diligent in Prayers--laying aside the study of the world and the flesh? -- The Priest. I will.
The Bishop. Will you maintain and set forwards, as much as lieth in you, quietness, peace, and love, among all Christian People? -- Priest. I will.
The Bishop laying his hand upon the head of him that receiveth the order of Priesthood, shall say, RECEIVE THE HOLY GHOST."
The Form of Ordination for a Priest .
----The pulpit (in the sober use
Of its legitimate peculiar pow'rs)
Must stand acknowledg'd, while the world shall stand,
The most important and effectual guard,
Support, and ornament of virtue's cause.
* * * *
Behold the picture! Is it like?
THIS IS A PRIEST, made 'according to Law',
Who, on being ordain'd, vow'd, by rote, like a daw,
That, he felt himself call'd, by the Holy Spirit,
To teach men the Kingdom of Heaven to merit;
That, to think of the World and the flesh he'd cease,
And keep men in quietness, love and peace;
And, making thus his profession and boast,
Receiv'd, from the Bishop, the Holy Ghost:
Then--not having the fear of God before him--
Is sworn in a Justice, and one of the Quorum;
'Gainst his spiritual Oath, puts his Oath of the Bench,
And, instead of his Bible, examines a wench;
Gets Chairman of Sessions--leaves his flock, sick, or dying,
To license Ale-houses--and assist in the trying
Of prostitutes, poachers, pickpockets and thieves;--
Having charged the Grand Jury, dines with them, and gives
"CHURCH AND KING without day-light;" gets fresh, and puts in-
To the stocks vulgar people who fuddle with gin:
Stage coachmen, and toll-men, convicts as he pleases;
And beggars and paupers incessantly teazes:
Commits starving vagrants, and orders Distress
On the Poor, for their Rates--signs warrants to press,
And beats up for names to a Loyal Address:
Would indict, for Rebellion, those who Petition;
And, all who look peaceable, try for Sedition;
If the People were legally Meeting, in quiet,
Would pronounce it, decidedly--sec. Stat.--a Riot,
And order the Soldiers 'to aid and assist',
That is--kill the helpless, Who cannot resist[.]
He, though vowing 'from all worldly studies to cease',
Breaks the Peace of the Church, to be Justice of Peace;
Breaks his vows made to Heaven--a pander for Power;
A Perjurer--a guide to the People no more;
On God turns his back, when he turns the State's Agent;
And damns his own Soul, to be friends with the ------.
" 'Tis Liberty alone, that gives the flow'r
Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume;
And we are weeds without it."