We, the most religious fraternity of Thugs, having heard it reported throughout the whole extent of India, that toleration is granted by the wisdom of the British Parliament to every diversity of creed, do most humbly submit our grievances to the patient consideration of your Honorable House. We claim a much higher antiquity than the earliest of devotional institutions known in Britain. We are the first-born of Cain. We profit by the holy book he left behind him, covering with fig-leaf what we consider to be unessential or liable to misinterpretation. Our humanity teaches us to confine no dissidents in unhealthy prisons, or to separate no husband from his wife, no father from his children, but merely to offer up man's life-blood to Him who gave man life. Our forefather, Cain, did not cast his brother Abel into a dark cavern infested by bats and serpents, but slew him as manfully, and dexterously, and instantaneously, as could have been done by the best swordsman in the service of Hyder Ali.
It is reported to us, that there are religions by which it is declared lawful and right to disobey the prince they have sworn to obey, and even to select out of the rabble a leader of singing boys in flowing stoles, sable and white, purple and scarlet; and to place him in opposition to the rightful ruler of the land.
Fables are told in all countries, and this statement hath much the appearance of one. But if there is any truth in it, we would contrast it with the unquestionable history of our exploits and demeanor. Millions, in the vast country round about us, hold it a religious duty for wives to perish by fire at the side of their defunct husbands. We ask no such favor, nor do our wives. Moreover, it is reported that in some island or peninsula on our western coast, not, as here, the willing and wary, but they whose tender age exposes them to be warped at every breath, are sacrificed yearly, thousand after thousand. Inadvertently and involuntarily do they suffer. The unmarried, the adolescent, are debarred from the duties of marriage, the delights of adolescence. The boys are placed under a knife which would be more innocent were it murderous, that their voices may be acceptable to the chief-priest in his orgies. The girls, if their mothers are unable to sell them advantageously, are delivered up to the discretion of the inferior priesthood, and diligently taught by their spiritual guides, as they call themselves, to answer all psychological queries, and to undergo the most abstruse physiological examinations. We dispute not the propriety or the sanctity of this discipline, leaving it entirely to the arbitration of your Honorable House. We entreat the much smaller favor of liberty to take away life when life hath had its enjoyments, which we have always done gently, considerately, without pain, and without passion. Never do we violate, under the cloak of religion, the prime ordinance of nature, the first command given by the Almighty to the father of our progenitor, Cain.
We lay our cause with confidence at the bar of your Honorable House, claiming and deserving no more than has already been granted by it, to the three or four last religions which have consecutively been dominant in Great Britain. We hear that these religions are rolling over one another at this instant, and exercising a prodigious volubility of limb and tongue; the elderly and decrepit thrown on its back, cursing and swearing, but holding down the younger by the throat. We take no delight, no interest, in these prolusions; and we demand only simple protection, in meet reward for undivided allegiance.
No prayers do we offer up to God that it may please his Divine Majesty to assist us in sweeping our enemies from his earth; no thanksgivings for having bestrewn it with limbs and carcasses to satiate the hyena and the vulture. We invite our fellow-men to die as becomes them in His service. We lead Death by the hand in quiet and silence to his own door, and we depart in peace. Therefore we, conscious of our innocence and purity, venture to remind our generous protectors that the few we sacrifice are sacrificed to our God alone, and neither to gratify pride nor vengeance; that if we slay a few hundreds in the space of a year, our gracious protectors slay occasionally as many thousands between the rising and setting sun. We do not, indeed, with the same fervor and magnificence as our gracious protectors sing hymns, beat drums, blow trumpets, and swing bells from lofty towers in jubilee; but we wash our hands, lay aside our daggers, bend our knees, and pray.
Confidently, then, do we approach our gracious protectors, and entreat the same favor, the same liberty of worship, as our fellow-subjects.
My object is to show that the ancients, that even the Greeks, could not support the idea of immortality.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.