LIFE is sacred. Life, not mere existence: life
as manifested in development and in action—the active principle of man;
not existence, which is not manifested, only maintained—the enduring
principle of man.
For a nation to be great and holy, it is necessary for a
nation to live, fulfilling in life the special mission God has
given it. But a true and perfect life needs freedom of action; else
there can be neither virtue, nor vice, nor responsibility. In the
slave there can be neither virtue when he does well from necessity, nor
vice when he does ill from compulsion. When Cromwell commanded the
Duke of Savoy to cease from the persecution of the Vaudois, and he did so
cease, the tolerant virtue was not the Savoyard's, but Cromwell's; and
when Radetzki compelled, under the compulsion of the fear of death, the
Austrian soldier to shoot the Italian patriot, and he did so shoot, the
crime hereof was less the soldier's than Radetzki's. Neither is an
enslaved nation responsible for its omissions of duty, its forgetfulness
of the purpose and end of all national life; it is responsible only if it
does riot seek to avert calamity by invoking against it the aid of the
sword. To take a present example: Italy is not responsible; France
is; because the former has striven against the tyrant, and because the
latter, at first enduring from compulsion, now permits him from choice.
But the free nation, accountable for all it does, for all it omits to do,
is alone capable of that beauty of action—that wise progress in peace, in
refinement, in duteous virtue—which imparts to life its sacredness.
Freedom, then, the first right of every nation, the primal
want of all, without which is neither peace nor godliness, is to be
maintained at all hazard, regardless of ever defended by the best weapons
when attacked, sought by the best means when subdued. Right is the
supreme law of nations, every violation of which it is the first duty of
the nation to resist—to resist by protest, by assertion, and when these
avail not, by war. Between the nation and whatsoever or whomsoever
stands in the way of its free action and consequent development, there is
perpetual war. It is that, and not the nation, that is the
aggressor, solely answerable for all the nation does to restore its
heritage; for life and its eternal laws are older than the will of the
first conqueror or the caprice of the last tyrant. Force is the last
resort of the righteous: but against a tyrant it is an inevitable resort;
only on this ground are the combatants equal. If an armed man,
strong in his crowbar strength, attack your house and maltreat your
person, of what avail would be your assertion of right, or your protest
against wrong? He would not listen to the grounds of your assertion,
and a blow would probably reply to the reason of your protest. Or
the maltreated may be a nation; the maltreator a middle-age captain of
Free Companies, or a modern general of Filibuster Freebooters: Do you
think this burglar on a grand scale, this thief among nations, would
attend to arguments by admitting which he would convict himself of crime?
He relies on the number of his battle-axes or the animal strength of his
adventurers, and will offer no terms but absolute submission. The
nation must accept the contest, or resign its rights. Then, having
faith in the justice of its cause, it appeals to the puissance of its
heroes. Force is thus an element to the employment of which
oppression reduces the people. "The people," says Rousseau, "may
certainly use for the recovery of their liberty the same means that were
used to deprive them of it; it was either intended to be recovered, or not
to be torn from them." Resistance by the sword is the right of the
nations—their necessity and duty; and for all that arises from this
employment of force, we have said, the usurper is alone accountable.
If a nation be attacked by invasion, it organises; if it he
subdued, it conspires. While the enemy is yet distant, organisation
is an advantage of which the people can avail, and does avail, itself.
War on the strictest principle of diplomatic honour is then maintained.
The invader plunders the inhabitants to supply his army, devastates the
country to support his position, and murders the opposing people to secure
his triumph. Pillage, assassination, the worst excesses of a savage
soldiery, are the undenied rights of the invader. The Croat may
dance children on the point of his spear, and tear the unborn child from
the Hungarian mother's womb; an army of French savages may suffocate in a
cavern a whole tribe of Arabs whom it cannot subdue; the brutal Highlander
may shoot down so many Russians per day, and, laying them side by side,
rejoice in his day's work, and be commended by his countrymen; the
bloodiest hand is held in highest reverence, the most callous executioner
decorated with richest honours; an impetuous slaughter is called an act of
gallantry, a cool murder a deed of valour. These are the horrors the
laws of civilized war fare permit—all these and many more. The
people upon whom these atrocities are exercised has a diplomatic right to
resist. If the resistance be successful, it has still the same enemy
to regard, and the same rapine to fear; but if it fail, the conqueror is
lord, sets his throne upon the ruin he has caused, and the world of kings
acknowledges his right. On the "tomb of the nation's hope" diplomacy
inscribes the word "Peace."
This same "peaceful" result may come also in another way.
With fair pretensions and a seeming justice, a secret pretender obtains
the suffrages of his countrymen; he swears to preserve their right; in the
dead of a December night his soldiers fill the gaols with the elect of the
people; amid the light of a December day his assassins—made drunk that no
remorse may penetrate their souls—seek their victims in the public streets
among unarmed men and harmless women and children. He terrifies the
unconscious people by the audacity of his crimes; and in the midst of the
blood he has spilt, and the carnage he has occasioned, he erects an
empire. Kings recognise his rule as righteous, and call him brother;
queens become his guests, and are polluted by his kiss; Diplomacy sees
"order" in the stability of his throne, and he himself writes thereon, "L'Empire
c'est la paix." Diplomacy says "Peace," when the soul of the
people sleeps and the conscience of the people is dead; it says "Order,"
when the right of the nation is drowned in her blood, and the truest of
her sons are wandering in exile.
The sole hope of the nation is now in conspiracy, in the
sudden execution of a secret plan. The nation accepts this means
because it alone is left it, and because the supreme law of national right
is superior to all rules of diplomacy, all circumstances of oppression,
all conditions of the oppressed. If conspiracy be not the proper
instrument to employ, or secrecy the proper method to pursue, the
wrong-doer is not the people who conspire, but he who deprives it of every
other instrument or method wherewith to act. The nation has no
choice but to conspire or to die. The responsibility of means here,
again, rests with the aggressor. If the falseness of Charles I. left
England no other safety but in his death, was he not himself responsible
for all his falseness occasioned? If the perfidy, the atrocities,
the mad despotism of an adventurer leave France no other hope but in his
destruction, does he not himself invoke the avenging dagger? The
robber punishes, the murderer executes, himself. The enormity of the
crime, or the position of the criminal, exempts no man from ultimate
justice; the purple robe is no safeguard, nor the gory crown a protection;
amulets there are none. The divine law is fulfilled when the human
is executed. Conspiracy, as a means to revolution, and the first
step in reconquering freedom, executes justice in restoring right.
Then the oppressor falls with the oppression he has imposed, and Freedom
comes with Retribution.
If the weapons the people use are irregular, unknown in legal
warfare; if in default of swords they use knives, in default of muskets
daggers, in default of bayonets scythes, it is because they have no
choice, and because every other means of defence (for, observe, the people
are are always defensive) has been torn from them. If, likewise,
they attack without warning, it is because warning would betray them.
In the revolt of a nation against its tyrant, wherein victory depends upon
a surprisal, the first blow cannot but be sometimes the blow of an
"assassin." In France the revolution was begun by the
"assassination" of a few unknown soldiers. At Milan the conspirators
suddenly fell upon the sentries guarding the arsenal; the sentries were
killed, the arsenal taken, and the people supplied with legal arms:
between the people and the soldiery the war then became regular, for
Diplomacy sanctions when the people are armed and their enemies aware.
It is often only thus that revolution can be commenced; but because it can
be commenced in no way with more method, should it not be commenced at
all? Is justice to be abandoned because its administration is no
longer regular? Are the nations for ever to suffer the tortures of
tyranny because no power is left them to issue proclamations of war
against it? Is the fair progress of the earth to be stayed, misery
to be substituted for happiness, and eternal law subjected to brutal
caprice, because the people are not able openly to combat their enemies?
When the mouth of the river is embanked, and no outlet to its
waters provided, it sooner or later bursts its shores; herein it asserts
its law, and the devastation it spreads is its providential vengeance.
The law of the river is to flow—the law of the nation is manifest no less
distinctly in growth; that growth denied it, the nation also bursts its
bonds, asserts its law, and has vengeance in its wrath—a vengeance, be it
observed, which it does not seek, but which restraint occasions. Law
everywhere in nature punishes its infringement: the flood is the river's
revenge, revolution is the chastisement the nation inflicts for the
violation of its law; revolution and flood are the judicial instruments of
God and Nature. And revolution, as we have seen, may have to begin
with an assault, in which secrecy and suddenness—constituents of
"assassination"—are necessary conditions of success.
And forthwith, that necessary first act of revolution, the
sole opportunity of righteous assertion, is called cowardice,
because it strikes at the only time when striking is not useless, because
it conquers in the dark when to assail in the light would be appealing to
the forces which have the power to suppress it. According to the
laws of chivalry, your enemy should be equally armed, equally prepared
with you; honour is not satisfied without a challenge, an open encounter,
an equal chance of danger. Do you think Bonaparte or Bomba, would
meet you on these terms? Challenge either, and Cayenne or Nisida
will be your answer. Is the satisfaction of the nation's honour, the
reparation of the world's injury, through the means of tyrannicide, more
cowardly than the consignment of the tyrant's victims to a lingering death
amid pestilential swamps or in dank dungeons? Assassination is
cowardice when open combat is possible—not else.
And these codes of honour you would make obtain in the
rebellions of nations. But let us examine the position. Every
moment of oppression is a state of war; every forcible denial of right is
a casus belli. Has the oppressor made peace with the
oppressed? Has the people ceded its liberty to the conqueror and
acknowledged the rectitude of his rule? There can be no peace, no
righteous peace, no possible peace of duration, till the law of God shall
be incarnate in the people's freedom. War, then, prevails wherever a
despot reigns or a people is enslaved; hostilities can be commenced at any
moment, whenever the people has the strength of fortitude and the hope of
success; neither truce nor treaty is broken. Revolution is the
ambuscade of the people.
Even lawyers like Grotius, or diplomatists like Metternich,
or politicians like Palmerston, would probably not deny that a prisoner of
war, not on parole, has a perfect right to escape whenever chance favours
him or any means whatsoever avails him. When Gustavus Vasa fled from
his gaolers, his defence was, "I had a perfect right to escape from
thraldom when opportunity offered;" and the Council of Lubeck protected
him on these sufficient grounds. The prisoner of war seeking the
liberty of which the fortune of war has deprived him, strives without
challenging, acts without warning: how else would escape be possible?
The nation made prisoner by a victorious invader, seeking that freedom of
which the chances of battle have deprived it, does not declare war or hint
at rebellion till the ripened blow has fallen: how else would its escape
be possible? In the escape of a prisoner, in the revolution of a
nation, secrecy till the moment, surprisal in the moment, of action are
essential conditions of success. As a consequence of this only
possible mode of action, gaolers are overcome and soldiers are beaten
down. This "assassination" is the first exercise of power.
Italy is the prisoner of Austria, bound as other prisoners, by chains as
odious; all the land is a vast prison-house, from which there is no escape
but by overpowering the guards; the workmen of an Italian city rise
unexpectedly, assail the military gaolers, and liberate their imprisoned
country. Do you reproach them with a crime? They only enforce
a conceded right—the prisoner's right of escape.
But in all these instances the torturer is not attacked, only
the instruments of torture. Here is a monster of cruelty, loathsome
from the odour of human blood and the excess of inhuman crime—a Tiberius,
a Caligula, a Nero—who represents oppression, is himself the cause and
occasion thereof, the arch-enemy of the people. The thrust of a
dagger will accomplish freedom by enacting justice. Is it upon the
Legions or upon Cæsar that the vengeance
of the law should fall for Cæsar's
crimes? Force must restore the nation's right: Do you hesitate
against whom to direct it—against the unconscious soldier or against the
conscious tyrant? Whom does the judge condemn, the slave who
executes or the master who plans? Whom should the patriot strike,
the soldier who conquers or the tyrant who organizes, orders, and directs?
Those who accept Ehud, have honoured Corday, and continue to pension
Cantillon, from however different motives, cannot evade Brutus. Let
us be just even under the imputation of being vile. The doom of
Roman liberty was sealed in Paris; it is in Paris, then, that Pianori,
with strictest justice, and Orsini, with inexorable logic, strike for the
liberation of Rome. Harmodius smote Hipparchus—not his Athenian
guard. Insurrection inevitably causes the shedding of guiltless
blood, the flowing of rivers of blood. Tyrannicide, affixing the
dagger where crime has affixed the guilt, executes a surer justice.
The Tyrannicide supplies the place of law when there is none,
anticipates it when there is. He represents the verdict of his
country, and his weapon embodies its retributive virtue. The trials
of Charles by the English Parliament, and of Louis by the French Assembly,
made, it is true, the ceremonies more imposing, but in no way the
judgments more just. Tyrannicide is execution without judgment,
justice without ceremony, when the formal judgment and the ceremony are
Punishment is the inheritance of crime; "the wages of sin is
death." Who shall be exempt from the application of the
universal law? who escape impartial justice? Let the eyes of the
Blind Goddess—that sublime conception of antique virtue—remain bandaged
while the trial of Nero goes on. Has the tyrant not violated the
most sacred laws, imposed upon the innocent misery, upon the brave
cruelty? Applied to him, mercy is false, pity unhallowed. Then
shall justice fail because there are no judges in the land, when every
man's conscience gives judgment against the tyrant? Why, again, this
remorse beforehand—this hesitation in the hour when conscious justice
strikes?" Ah!" says some superficial thinker, who plasters but who
dares not probe, terrified at this spectre which is justice and mercy in
one—justice to the oppressor, mercy to the oppressed—"we should not do
evil that good may come." Evil! is it evil to assert right and award
the dues of iniquity? While every day the brave and the good are
falling beneath the power of the tyrant, dying in the pestilential atmosphere
of his tyranny, pausest thou, O timorous well-doer! to draw down the
cleansing thunder, because forsooth in its hurtling power may lurk some
tinge of evil. Hercules, cleansing the Augean stable, is not
perplexed with evil doubts in diverting the river's course.
It is the duty of the people to take whatever means of
enfranchisement is presented to it; eternal right takes precedence even of
sweetest mercy. Clemency—not always wise—may at times be the very
type of folly. Let us execute all the severity of justice when mercy
to the tyrant is injury to the people. And though Justice come as
Vengeance, it never can come too soon? What matter the form, the
instrument, the hour?
Little need is there to define the quality of tyranny or the
extent of crime for which an outlawed usurper merits the malefactor's
fate. When public justice is enchained by him and law becomes his
slave, individual conscience reasserts its right; then the "assassin" is
the patriot. And Posterity, looking fairly through the sophistries
that warp the judgment, and the subterfuges that disgrace the intellect,
of to-day, will follow the men of old to immortalise a later Roman.
HISTORY repeats itself. The situation of 1858
is revived. An imperial army is again encamped on Roman soil.
A new expedition has been undertaken; a new invasion has proved
successful. The world owes to a despotic adventurer the shameful
spectacle of a priesthood protected from its own subjects by the bayonets
of a foreign power. France has consented to allow the man who
outraged her to commit in her name the blunder and crime of '49. In
defiance of all law, all right, all justice—in the name of a treaty he
had himself systematically violated—Louis Bonaparte has levied war upon
Italy, upon liberty, upon progress. Insolent threats have been
succeeded by still more insolent deeds. Before Europe, before the
world, an enormous outrage has been perpetrated. In reckless
disregard of the sanctity of nations, of the inviolability of national
frontiers, of the will of a people that demands to be united and free, an
arrogant pretender has dared to despatch his drilled legions to support a
throne which is even more rotten than his own. If Italy endures the
insult, it is to Europe that it is offered. England, Russia,
Germany—all have a right to complain of this gross affront.
Bonaparte has spat in their faces. Will they resent the indignity
which Bonaparte has not merely put, but flourished upon them? If
not, is the wrong to go unavenged?
For eighteen years Bonaparte has contrived to keep Italy divided,
disordered, disturbed. He who in the generous heat of youth had
fought to overthrow the Papacy, has since 1849 constituted himself its
sole protector. The office of the Hapsburg devolved upon the
Bonaparte. And Bonaparte would persuade the world that he is acting
in the, interests of religion! This Eldest Son of the Church,
steeped to the lips in hypocrisy and crime, had other objects in
protecting the Papacy than those of serving even what is called religion.
It was to maintain two things that he prolonged the occupation of
Rome—his own power in France, and French influence over Italy. Both
these objects he thought he accomplished by retaining his legions in
possession of the Vatican. But over Italy he lost more influence
than he gained. Even the lacquer of Solferino and Magenta failed to
conceal the treacherous character of Bonaparte's friendship. What he
wanted in Italy was not a rival, but a subordinate—not a neighbour, but a
satrap—not a nation of free men, but a federation of dependent provinces.
All the world knows what has been the consequence of the
infamous policy of Bonaparte. Rome has been for Italy, instead of a
glory and a pride, an open and gangrened wound. Absorbed in her
sorrowful longing for the only city that is worthy to become her capital,
Italy has neglected the arts of improvement. Internal progress was
impossible while all attention was given to Rome. Burdened at once
with a licentious king, an extravagant executive, an enormous armament,
Italy was reduced to the very verge of bankruptcy and ruin. The
lapse of years failed to assuage the great grief of the nation.
While Rome was in the possession of the foreigner, while Rome was not a
part of the nation, Italy could think only of warlike preparations for the
ejectment of the mercenaries, the redemption of her capital, the
establishment of her independence. To add to her misfortunes, she
was reduced to endure the jibes of a maundering priest—of that priest
who, learning nothing from history, had declared implacable war against
The time came when the desire for national unity could no
longer be resisted. When the French troops were withdrawn, Europe
was scoured in search of hirelings to defend the Papacy. Bonaparte
himself, in violation of the compact he had concluded with the Italian
Government, sent a French general to organize the Papal mercenaries.
Rome was still garrisoned by foreigners; the Pope was still protected by
France. The September Convention had effected no change in the
situation beyond that of replacing the troops of France by the vagabonds
of Antibes. The ignominy of the position became unbearable. At
the invitation of Garibaldi, volunteers prepared to assist the Romans, as
soldiers in the pay of France were already assisting the Pope.
Garibaldi, at the bidding of Bonaparte, was arrested by the servants of
Victor Emmanuel. But the movement the hero was preparing to lead was
not arrested. Whereupon, with an insolence unparalleled in modern
history, Bonaparte ordered a new expedition to assemble at Toulon.
Undeterred by these menaces, in spite too of her wretched king, Italy
continued her preparations. When Garibaldi effected his marvellous
escape from Caprera, patriots in vast numbers, seizing such weapons as
were at hand, hastened to join his standard. Then the order was
given to despatch the Toulon expedition. But the patriots by that
time were before the gates of Rome. Overpowering the mercenaries,
Garibaldi had nearly succeeded in restoring Rome to Italy. But a
French army, making common cause with the Papal cutthroats, defeated for a
second time the hopes of the nation. The massacre of Mentana,
committed to try the effect of a new weapon, gave Bonaparte once more the
mastery of Rome.
Thus Bonaparte has again assumed the sole responsibility of
maintaining a state of perpetual war.
By what other right than the right of the stronger—the right
of the robber and the brigand—does Bonaparte dare to invade Italy?
Do you produce the September Convention? Why, that
agreement was itself based on a prior outrage—the outrage of '49!
Neither time nor submission had consecrated the crime of which Oudinot was
the instrument. France herself had protested in the streets of Paris
against the fratricidal expedition to Rome. Was it under the
sanction of any treaty whatever that the troops of France laid siege to
Rome, made war upon the Republic, forcibly restored the Pope? And
yet it was upon the occupation which followed that successful outrage that
the Convention of September was grounded. If a thief disposes of a
stolen article, can he base upon the theft a right to an advantage from
the bargain? If France first seizes Rome, and afterwards agrees to
conditions for leaving it, can she base upon the seizure a right to
enforce the agreement? France never had, nor has she now, the
smallest right in Rome. The September Convention was a vitiated
compact, because the chief contracting party had no authority to conclude
it. But even if the September Convention was not vitiated by the
crime upon which it was founded, it was so immoral and unfair that Italy
was absolved from the duty of respecting it. All that it assured was
that the French protectorate should assume another form. Bonaparte
withdrew his troops; but the Pope was empowered to enlist a band of
hireling foreigners to hold the Romans in subjection. French
soldiers in the pay of the Pope succeeded French soldiers in the pay of
France—that was the only change effected. But the September
Convention, grossly unequal as it was, was itself first violated by
Bonaparte. The Pope was permitted to recruit his army from the army
of France. Those French soldiers who entered the employment of the
Papal Government were allowed to deduct from the term of service in the
French army the period of their service in the army of the Pope. The
Legion of Antibes was actually equipped by the wife of Bonaparte.
Moreover, a French general was appointed to inspect and organize the hired
defenders of the temporal power. Long before a single volunteer had
prepared to assist the Roman people, almost every article of the September
Convention had been systematically infringed by the orders of Bonaparte.
And yet it is in virtue of a compact which he had no right to conclude,
which he had drawn in his own interest only, which he had himself
persistently violated—it is in virtue of this immoral Convention of
September that Bonaparte claims the right to re-garrison Rome!
But it is said that intervention was necessary to save the
Empire, because the priests, ill-affected towards its founder, would have
otherwise plotted to overthrow it. Must we admit, then, that all
rights, all interests, the welfare of Italy, the peace of Europe, the
integrity of nations, everything that men or peoples hold dear—must we
admit that all objects of any value whatever to the progress and the
happiness of the human race must be subordinated to the necessity of
maintaining a brutal Bonaparte despotism? Is mankind so lost to
dignity and honour that it is prepared to submit to the infraction of its
rights, the sacrifice of its hopes, the defeat of its aspirations, in
order that the Cutthroat of December may preserve his unhallowed power?
What is Europe but the slave of Bonaparte, if intervention on this ground
of necessity be held to be justified? But we have not arrived at
that disgraceful pass yet. Let Bonaparte manage as he may the
turbulent priests who have sworn war against ideas, the nations do not
relinquish their rights, the patriots do not abandon their duty, because
the Empire is exposed to danger.
Well, then, Bonaparte had no right which mankind can at all
recognize to intervene in Italy. The only right he had to intervene—the
only right he has to hold Rome—is that which he possesses in common with
the burglar. It is the right of the spider over the fly, of the wolf over
the lamb, of the robber over his victim, of Maximilian over Mexico—the
right of chicanery, of assumption, of violence.
If a bandit disturbs a community, it is the duty of the community to use
all effectual means for the purpose of arresting his depredations. Are
absolved from this duty when the bandit happens to call himself an
emperor? But who is to pat down the imperial marauder to whom nothing is
his own evil power?
The Roman populace is powerless in the presence of the legions of
Bonaparte. Resistance is useless—worse than useless. Rome to Bonaparte is
as a lamb to a wolf—a slave to his captor. There is nothing for her but
to hold out her hands while the gaoler welds the gyves. Even Garibaldi,
all his wondrous enthusiasm, cannot struggle against the battalions which
the criminal indifference of France
enables Bonaparte to pour into Italy. Valour itself is ineffectual when
multitudes of disciplined warriors are arrayed against ill-armed bands of
patriots. But Italy is at least a nation—a nation, however,
which the influence of Bonaparte has debased and demoralized. Yet even
Italy is powerless to do more than show how her sons can die for
the honour of their country. Had her resources not been dissipated, had
her king not been debauched, had her army not been condemned to
she could have accomplished but little in the field against
the enormous forces of France. But that little the cowardice of the king—that monster of vileness and depravity—did not enable her to accomplish. If Italy had stood alone in the conflict, the end could hardly
have been other than it is now. But if Italy was weak, Europe was not. The
Powers had no excuse for not interfering—for not preventing a gross
infraction of international law—for not saving Rome from a new
period of shame and misery. Moreover, three out of the four great Powers
who remained neutral had no sympathy with the object of the expedition.
Austria alone is Catholic, and even she is at this moment
at war with the priests. Russia, Prussia, and England are not Catholic
at all. Yet not one of these Powers even protested against the outrage. Thus it happened that those who had the power had not the will, while
those who had the will had not the power, to resist the
invader. The consequence we all know: France is re-established in Rome.
But is the outrage to go unavenged merely because it is impossible to
resent it in the ordinary way? Since Italy is powerless, and Europe is
indifferent, is nothing to be done? If the enemy cannot be assailed
in front, is he not to be assailed in the rear? There remains only the
private avenger. The logic of the situation is inexorable.
The invasion of Rome is a challenge to the Italians. It is an
to extra-legal action. Bonaparte has himself re-opened the old question
of tyrannicide. If he has not justified beforehand a secret attach,
has at all events rendered a secret attack probable.
When a despot exasperates a people by wrong or oppression, he has no right
to complain of the consequences. If by exciting men to madness, if by
violating the most sacred rights, if by invading a nation over which he
ought to have no control, if by acts which nothing can justify or
extenuate, the despot
exasperates the world against him, who but himself has he to blame? Divided, outraged, struck to the earth,
Italy is at this moment a prey to the gravest disorders. And the author of
all this misfortune and mischief, who is it but the last and worst of his
that leprous Bonaparte whom the very priests despise?
By the mere use of a power he fraudulently and violently obtained,
Bonaparte has forcibly prevented the Italians from celebrating in Rome the
independence of Italy. For a period of eighteen years he has stood in the
way of the country. Over Rome he has maintained
a brutal despotism of the priests; over Italy he has exercised an immoral
authority. It is to Bonaparte, and to Bonaparte alone, that
Italy owes her divided condition. Had he not sustained the Papal
dominion, Rome would long since have annexed herself to Italy. Every
promising attempt to liberate Rome has been frustrated by him. It was in
obedience to his orders that Garibaldi was shot down at Aspromonte; it
to please him that Garibaldi was arrested at Sinalunga; it was by his
troops that Garibaldi was defeated at Mentana; it is at
his instance that Garibaldi is once more a prisoner at Spezzia. Bonaparte
has kept Rome in bondage, Italy in disorder, the people in a state of
everlasting despondency. What wonder that the popular mind should be
envenomed against him?
But what avails the exasperation of a people which is destitute of the
power to give vent to it? Yet it is this very consciousness of
impotency that drives men to desperation. Unable otherwise to assert their
rights, the rights of the country, they resort to the use of the
dagger. Is this surprising? Is it not natural? It is the result of the
hopeless condition to which they have been reduced? The real authors of
the theory of the dagger are those whose crimes and oppressions
drive men mad. As long as slavery is not an endurable condition, the
man who imposes it must expect to be assailed. To resist always, to employ
whatever weapons he can command, to oppose force to force—this is the
everlasting right of the slave.
Of course we all deprecate violence on the part of the oppressed. Had we
not better deprecate the cause of it? What is the use of howling ourselves
hoarse at the enormity of a slave's revenge when we
complacently hold our peace in the presence of the tyrant's wrong. Let
us go back to the cause of things. If we have the least justice in our
hearts, let us denounce that. Violence begets violence; but it is the
original violence that alone deserves to be condemned. But whether
we deprecate it or not, revenge is almost certain to be sought. It is not
in the nature of things that men can meekly endure oppression.
They never have, and they never will, weekly endure it. We way preach and
maunder till doomsday ; but our stale moralities can have no influence on
minds which despotism has distracted. Precepts and advices are well enough
for men who are in a frame to receive them; but those who deliberately
determine to encounter all peril in a work they know to be necessary are
the last people in the world to be deterred from their purpose by the
men who do not understand them. Do you think they have not beforehand
cost of the adventure? Do you conceive that they are in want of
compassion? Does it occur to you that they are likely to be scared by
the certainty of death? They do not complain—these assassins,
murderers, madmen. Did a single querulous word escape from any one of
those who, failing, offered to surrender their lives as the price of
failure? Is it for us, then, to complain either before or after? Let us
reserve our sympathies for the criminals who can appreciate them.
But there is an appearance of impertinence in our expostulations and our
counsels. By what right do we, whom the tyrant has not scourged, pretend
judge of the acts of men whose very souls he has lacerated? We have not
suffered as they have suffered; we cannot
feel as they feel. How, then, can we understand their motives or their
acts—the burning shame that consumes or the fiercer hatred that
inspires them? To judge fairly of their conduct it is necessary that we
look at things from their point of view, that we place ourselves in their
position. How many Englishmen are capable of that? We here, in the
undisturbed enjoyment of our liberties, can afford to prate of the folly
of the only
resistance that remains to the patriot. When we have experienced what the
men we commiserate or condemn have endured, when we have seen our
dearest hopes destroyed by a ruthless tyrant, when we have seen our
brothers fall beneath the blades of the tyrant's hirelings, when we have
unavailing struggles for the right—when we, too, have been subjected to
the trials and troubles of the oppressed, then, and then only, can we
fitly constitute ourselves
the judges of their conduct. Had England been rent in pieces, prevented by
the foreigner from asserting her rights, exposed to invasions whenever she
aroused herself, expelled from her capital at the instance of a horde of
lazy priests, it may be that Englishmen would feel and act then as
Italians are not
unlikely to feel and act now.
The objection to the act of the private avenger is familiar to us all. The
nation has not commissioned him to execute justice, forsooth! Did the
commission the tyrant to commit outrage? But is the form of more value
than the virtue it clothes? The irregularity of an execution has not
the world from accepting the advantages
which the irregular administrators of justice have given it. Did the
nation commission Ehud when he slew Eglon? Did the nation commission
Tell when he destroyed Gessler? But these are questions for traders
in ethics. Do you think that men whom the spectacle of successful crime
has reft of reason—do you think that they are in a mood to split straws
casuist, or listen to the platitudes of the
apologist of iniquity? It is enough for them that there is justice in the
act, that there is no prospect of terminating the miseries which invaders
impose till the wrongs they inflict recoil upon those who inflict them.
Are those who ordain crimes alone to escape the consequences? It is to
the immunity which great criminals have enjoyed that we owe the
exposure of the world to the depredations of chartered
brigands. If justice has no respect for persons, it is upon royal and
imperial culprits, rather than upon their wretched agents, that punishment
When a new avenger shall follow the example of Orsini, we may expect to
hear the usual cry of horror. What avails it? Do you think that the
public hypocrites and professional moralists will deter the next in order
from sacrificing his life, on the chance of relieving the world of a
what is the cause of this affected horror of justice without legal
arraignment? It is not the irregularity of the punishment inflicted, of
executed, that astounds society—it is the application of any punishment, any vengeance at all. While the
howls of affright that arose when an Austrian adventurer met with his
doom in Mexico are still ringing in our ears, who can listen with
patience to the cant of modern moralists? The quality of the criminal on
whom judgment has fallen still appears to make all the difference in
the world. That worship of royalty in which we have so long been
hypocritical enough to take part, has corrupted the morals and distracted
the judgment of society. Men who have been subjected to the pestilent
influence of conventional ideas cannot be trusted to think or act
when the credit of dynasties is involved. Princes to them
occupy a region apart. They can do no wrong; they can be exposed
to no injury; they are as sacred as the idols of Hindostan. Men, nations,
truth, justice, religion, laws, are the mere puppets of kings and
adventurers. If they persecute men, if they trample nations under foot, if
they revile truth, if they banish justice, if they travestie religion, if
themselves above the laws, they are held excused and justified. Punishment
is not for princes; for them, what crimes soever they may commit, there
is nothing but flattery and praise! The conventional notion of justice as
applied to princes may be summed up in this—regal and imperial immunity.
surprising, then, that the execution of a prince—the attempted execution
of an emperor—should shock society? But all minds are not degraded to
the conventional type. There are men in the world to whom traitors are
traitors, and criminals are criminals, whatever their position or
Unaffected by the cant of courtly panders, undeluded by the claims of
imperial culprits, uncorrupted by the ethics of fashionable society, these
men dare to
arraign the sacred families of the earth—dare even, when occasion
warrants the adventure, to attempt to bring them to justice. It is because
against the loathsome doctrines current that they thus deliberately defy the odium of opinion. And society
expects by heaping scornful epithets upon men of this heroic character to
their names with infamy. Yes, they are assassins, murderers, fanatics,
brigands. Assassins—the insurgents of Milan were called assassins!
Murderers—Mazzini was condemned as a murderer!
Fanatics—Garrison was esteemed a fanatic! Brigands—Garibaldi
himself was denounced as a brigand! Names are nothing to men of exalted
purpose. There is no name society can apply to them which has not
already been applied to the greatest the earth has produced.
But the fact remains—Bonaparte is at war with liberty! Is the conflict
to be renounced because the patriots are no longer able to fight in the
The war is simply transferred to another field. Whether we like it or not,
the combat at Mentana will be resumed in Paris.
Let it not be said that in this argument there is the least incitement to
assassination. Incitement is not needed. It already exists. The spectacle
of triumphant wrong is incitement enough. Let Bonaparte
look to it. He dare not say to-day that fair warning has not been
offered. It is not in the nature of a surprise that he can hereafter
regard the approach of a Pianori. The Toulon expedition, the Moustier
occupation of Rome, the Chassepot experiment upon living bodies, the
bloody massacre at Mentana—what are these but insults to he repelled,
be avenged, cruelties to be punished? Bonaparte
has thrown down the challenge. It is not our fault—it is his—if that
challenge should presently be accepted.
Just published, price Twopence, by post Threepence.
TWO VISIONS: The Pope and Old Nick; The Pan-Anglican Synod and Bishop
Colenso. By MYLES MCSWEENY.
Price One Penny, by post Twopence.
FELIX PYAT'S LETTER TO THE QUEEN; to which is added the Declaration of
Victor Hugo and others. Translated by ERNEST JONES, Esq.,
Both Pamphlets sent free by post for four stamps.
E. TRUELOVE, 256, High Holborn, opposite the New Amphitheatre.
"BONAPARTE'S CHALLENGE TO TYRANNICIDES."
A PAMPHLET bearing the above title was lately announced for publication by
Mr. E. Truelove, of 256, High Holborn, London. That pamphlet—I am
ashamed to say it—is suppressed. The cause of this suppression it is
necessary to explain.
The English people are perhaps not aware that the Conspiracy Bill is in
force, that the liberty of the press in regard to the censure and warning
tyrants no longer exists. It is a fact, nevertheless. Cæsarism has
infected the legislation of England. English ministers have
condescended to become the obsequious servants of the cutthroat of
December. That which in a period of public activity Palmerston had not
the power to accomplish, was subsequently accomplished in a period of
public indifference. At the instance and instigation of a monster whom the
whole universe will one day abhor a new law for his peace and s security
cunningly inserted in an Act which merely professed to consolidate and
amend the Statute Law of Britain. The attempt, which when made openly in
1858 was defeated, was attended with success when made secretly in 1861. The triumph which was denied to Bonaparte at the one period was secured
at the other. It is to this triumph that we owe the suppression of an
honest avowal of opinion.
Unable to defy the law, unwilling to invite prosecution, unprepared to
accept the thankless office of suffering for a public that would not,
appreciate the sacrifice, no writer dare write, no publisher dare
publish, a just and deserved condemnation of the invader of Italy. It is mortifying to think that at a moment when a gross wrong has been committed,
when violence is victorious, when an imperial brigand has robbed a
nation of its right—it is mortifying to think that at such a moment the
liberty to utter forewarning of the consequences is prohibited by law. That, however, is
the condition to which even we in England are reduced. Englishmen also, then, have some right to quarrel with
the adventurer who sits like a ghoul in Paris.
But if the announcement of a fact is suppressed, the fact itself is not. That remains to torment and terrify the victor of Mentana. Words are
nothing: only the
truths they express and the ideas they expound possess power. One may not
be permitted to felt the world what effects have been produced; but the
danger that invests Bonaparte is in no way diminished in consequence. Who
is responsible for
that? Who but the creature to whom an army of African savages acts as a
There is same consolation in the thought that Bonaparte is fast losing the
power to commit further mischief. He has added crime to crime, and blunder
blunder, till even
his own flunkeys have begun to despise him. If his crimes do not one day
find him out, his blunders will. The Mexican adventure, the cheek in
Germany, the financial failure at home—to these be has added the
villainous mistake of Mentana. It is this last that is likely to result in
the termination of his infamous career. So be it!
Meanwhile those who love the liberty of honest utterance have the right,
to protest against the scandalous influence of Bonapartism over over
England. That right it is a duty to exercise.
THE AUTHOR OF THE SUPPRESSED
W. E. ADAMS.
You can elevate men only by elevating
MAN, by raising the idea of life,
which the spectacle of inequality tends to lower.—MAZZINI.
Let us have Complete Suffrage in preference to any
EDWARD TRUELOVE, 240, STRAND, TEMPLE BAR.
MANCHESTER: A. HEYWOOD, OLDHAM STREET.
HULME: B. R. PEAKE, RENSHAW STREET.
NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE: J. BARLOW, GRAINGER STREET.
[PRICE ONE PENNY.]
AN ARGUMENT FOR COMPLETE SUFFRAGE.
WHEN the Reform Bill of 1832 was in agitation, a
tacit understanding was come to between the advocates of that measure and
those whose ideas of justice were not met by it, that the Whig proposal
should be considered only as an "instalment." Nearly thirty years
have now elapsed, and no further instalment of popular rights has been
conceded, though an almost incessant agitation of the question has been
kept up ever since. And so little thought is there now of the whole
debt being paid, that popular Reformers accept with complacency a
six-pound qualification, and reputed Friends of the People invent
ingenious schemes of educational enfranchisement. We propose to
discuss the principle involved in these schemes and in Manhood
Suffrage—not indeed with much new light of our own—but a nevertheless
with such old light as has not lost brilliancy by keeping. And since
the testimony of statesmen and the facts of history assure us that a never
so incomplete settlement of the question will last for years, would it not
be wiser, as it would be certainly more economical, to seek such a basis
now as would set the matter at rest for ever?
I.—THE PROPERTY QUALIFICATION.
THE political party which demands property as the
title of the voter advocates a sort of joint-stock system of government;
it acknowledges no higher fitness for civil freedom than the possession of
a certain fixed and arbitrary amount of property or a certain fixed and
arbitrary rate of rental. In its eyes, property, like charity, covers a
multitude of sins: it is its highest good, of the first consideration in
the state and of the first power in politics. But it may well become men
to question its right to this place ' and these functions—to inquire
whether property does not here usurp u position that belongs rather to
feeling and intelligence.
When men combine for certain specific commercial objects they
enter into commercial relations, and their rules have regard to them only.
The rules of joint-stock companies are made with single reference to the
wealth they jointly hold: there we do not look for the moral law,
for there it has no place. Very differently constituted is society,
however, and very different the object proposed by its laws. Here
the Law, sitting as umpire over men, protects equally and judges
impartially the lord and the labourer—at least such is the theory of
social order. Property, whatever its private influence, has plainly
no just power here; nor any, till its possessors secure for it a
factitious one. The spirit of law is evidently at variance with the
political power of property.
Now, what is the theory and obvious object of the vote?
Is it not an instrument—however clumsily arranged—to test the wishes of
the voter; that is, of him whose interest, and welfare, and happiness are
involved in its exercise—and by means of which he may give his sanction
to the adoption or record his desire for the repeal of laws which are to
govern him? The governed then has a new and nobler function; he is
governor also. Government is the maintenance of order by consent and
according to the will of the governed. The vote is the instrument
through which that consent is given and that will made known. And
the ultimate result of this vote is the law according to which in society
the law-maker is—and, when need be, forced—to conduct his life.
Laws are made, then, according to this theory of the vote, to regulate the
social actions of the men who make them, to limit their licence and secure
their safety. They have their origin in the will of men; and nothing
beyond that has need to be consulted. Laws relate to property
because property relates to men; but laws do not relate to men because men
relate to property. If there was no property, the variable action of
men would still require laws; but if there were no men, the invariable
action of nature's laws alone would secure the well-ordering of all
material things. Property  is a condition of
civilized life—an outgrowth of that. Out of civilization there is
no property, as out of civilization social order is not. Society has
fixed its place, and given it its value. And as the natural
concourse of men has given to material objects their accidental
accessories a value, these material things in turn re-impart to men
certain accidental accessories of position and power. Thus the owner
of property acquires consideration from his possessions; but he acquired
consideration from his manhood first.
Then mark how variable in a commercial country this property
is. The merchant who yesterday was the owner of argosies on every
ocean may to day be ruined by a speculative mistake or an adverse wind.
His civil manhood is wrecked with his ships; and he who was yesterday
considered safe is to-day considered dangerous, though he has meanwhile
committed no crime nor done aught to forfeit the esteem of men. To
such unjust consequences does the property franchise sometimes conduct us.
Observe also its action in a way yet more odious:—"What system is that,"
it has been asked, "whereby the honest man, despoiled by an unjust
oppressor, sinks back into the class of helots, while the criminal rises
by his very crime into thee rank of citizen?"
How absurd and immoral, then, is it to place the wealth of
chance v before the wealth of certain origin—the result of the human will
before the result of the divine will! Property has acquired its worth from
a casual concurrence of varying social needs: but the worth of man is is
not acquired—it is intrinsic; not fortuitous—it is certain; not
oscillating—it is fixed; not passing it is continued, old as the hills
and everlasting as the clouds that crown them.
But even now the principle of property legislating is not
fully recognised, since neither the millions of a Baring nor the acres of
a Russell entitle either to more legal power in the state than that
enjoyed by the owner of a forty-shilling freehold. If wealth can
justly claim political power, the owners of it can justly claim a
proportionate plurality of votes. Carry out this principle, and mark
how odious it becomes. The "richest commoner in England," with his
income of a hundred a-day, becomes the possessor of eighteen thousand
forty-shilling freehold votes. "Why, nothing so monstrous was ever
contemplated." Of course not. Nevertheless, it is but the fair
pushing of your principle to its distant consequence.
Again, the theory of property as lawgiver is wide of present
practice. Why else allow the voteless the political privilege of
petition and public meeting?—not to mention demonstrations in Hyde Park
and elsewhere, which in one notable instance reversed the decision of the
Commons, though property threatened the corrective rattle of a six-pounder,
afterwards, however, humiliatingly retracted. These unacknowledged
prerogatives of the populace are at direct variance with the theory of
ruling ' property, and indicate its utter unsoundness.
To prove that property ought from political reasons to occupy
its present position, it is necessary to show that it invests its
possessor with special aptitudes or attributes—with greater ability, or
honesty, or goodness of heart. Honesty—is property a criterion of
that? Look at its occasional origin. One man—a
"capitalist"—lends money at cent. per cent. interest, and at every cost
exacts the whole bond to the final farthing. Another—a
manufacturer—"grinds the face of the poor," in the beautiful figurative
language of the old translators. A third—a landowner—claims
rack-rent, has recourse to evictions, and seizes the last crop of a tenant
whose improvements have doubled the value of his holding. "Merchant
tailors" coin the very lives of breadless needlewomen into princely
fortunes, and "pave their palace floors with children's faces." Are
the reports of the Lancet's Analytical Commissioners forgotten? or
Tennyson's despairing cry in Maud?—
"Peace sitting under her olive and slurring the days
When the poor are hovel'd and hustled together, each sex like swine,
When only the ledger lives, and when only not all men lie:
Peace in her vineyard—yes!—but a Company forges the wine.
And the vitriol madness flushes up in the ruffian's head,
Till the filthy by-lane rings to the yell of the trampled wife;
While chalk, and alum, and plaster are sold to the poor for bread,
And the Spirit of Murder works in the very means of life."
The grocer mixes fine sand with coarse sugar, and sells to the poor; the
baker adds alum to his flour, which induces in the consumer a complication
of diseases; the publican sells vitriol for gin, and embitters his beer
with cocculus indicus; even the chemist adulterates with poisonous
ingredients the medicine he dispenses to restore health: and the reward of
each commercial criminal is that abundant hard cash which is set up in
high places, honoured as a social virtue, and worshipped as was the Golden
Calf of the Israelites. Such sometimes is
property—fraudulent fruit of trade—the result of crime all the more foul
because so difficult to detect, and none the less criminal because so easy
to commit without punishment. And it is such property we are called
upon to surround with protective laws and invest with high privileges!
Our English greatness is adulterated with trade, and our trade is
prostituted to the vilest purposes. The American Emerson's judgement
upon us is undeniable—"In true England all is false and forged."
Then, in elevating property above manhood, and calling that
property which is obtained by no matter what iniquity and at no matter
what cost of human suffering, injustice is legalised and a premium is
offered to fraud. So property legislates, and is legislated for.
As long as the lawmaker is chosen, not because he has aptitude for the
work and integrity beyond other men, but merely because fortune has
favoured his birth, his speculations, or his trade, so long will the
forgeries of commerce either pass unpunished or be punished only with
civil penalties, however criminal the results thereof; so long will
statutes as infamous as the Game Laws encircle the estates of the rich,
and cover with sanctity the vermin they conserve; so long will property,
obtained in ways however dishonest, false, and unjust, be considered
before poor human life, and its rights protected by penalties more
There are anomalies, too, in our present jurisprudence which
the enlightened policy of a Legislature based on a higher and nobler idea
alone can remedy. Ruling our English life as the test of fitness and
the qualification for freedom, property, naturally enough, legislates for
itself. See what it does in civil and criminal law. A man of
property, a stranger want, is hardly likely to steal; but a man of
property, proud and insolent, is not unlikely to have feelings of revenge
: hence an offence against the parson is punished with civil, and an
offence against property with criminal penalties. A hungry, starving
man—anxious to obey the divine law which ordains that he should live,
before the human law which ordains that he should not steal—he, in no
wanton or malicious spirit, satisfies his unfortunate appetite in a field
of turnips. The owner prosecutes; and the starveling is sent to the
house of correction as "a rogue and a vagabond," the rural justices,
clerical or lay, piously admonishing him upon the iniquity of his sin.
Observe now the different action of the law in another case. A
country squire—mayhap a justice—bloated with port and pride, happening
to have a paltry dispute with a poorer neighbour, out of mere cowardly
revenge, brutally assaults him, cautiously stopping short, however, of
actual murder. The law of this case is satisfied when the
magistrates inflict a fine of five pounds. "But the law is equal in
its action for rich and poor." What satisfaction is it to me, who
have no purse, to know that, if I had one, it would be guarded by the law
with more jealousy than my person is? Well, then, the law is made
for all. Now all men have not purses; but all men have life; and
clearly it is the lives of all rather than the purses of the few which
should be protected with greatest care.
It is not the unequal action of property-made law against
which we protest so much as the inequality in the law, which is the result
of its unequal origin. The laws of Sparta, made by the Ephors, not
only afforded no protection, but gave no quarter, to the helot; the laws
of America, made by the slave-holder, afford none to the slave.
Palmerston in power proposes those measures which will specially improve
the position of his party. Does Disraeli do otherwise? And so
also, without questioning the honesty of the man, would John Bright act.
The springs of individual action are visible enough to account for this.
The prejudices of class affect the conduct of us all; and a slave-made law
would be as odious as any other with a lower origin than the common
humanity of all. The black Soulouque, the weak original of December
II., for all his barbarity, was idolized, we have seen, by his coloured
race. While we acknowledge all the grand results of the French
Revolution, it is not to be disputed that the laws made then were devised
to favour the party in power. For our own part, we should
contemplate with as much terror, and protest against with as much fervour,
the sole rule of even the working class. The truth, then, is, that
class rule provides guarantees for nothing else than class laws.
It is surely hardly required of us to discuss the question
whether or not the lordly Vane Tempest is in any way a safer or better man
than the "Rural Postman of Bideford"—whether George Hudson is a honester
man as the "Railway King" than as the small shopkeeper of Sunderland.
Yet property is gravely maintained to be a man's "stake" in the country,
because his wealth forsooth will act as an extra inducement to his
patriotism in peril and his caution in counsel: albeit English
capitalists—as a mere matter of speculation of course—lend money to
Russia to carry on a war against England; English shipbuilders—of course
only as a matter of trade—construct vessels of war to be employed against
England; and English contractors supply to an English army, in the midst
of a disastrous campaign, the bodies of dead animals as corn.
The power of property is great enough in its legitimate
way—privately: here its influence—presuming it to be the sign and fruit
of industry—is neither to be denied nor obstructed. But in
legislation it has no place upon principle; nor—since it provides no
guarantee as security, and offers no new attribute as special talent—any
place upon policy either.
II.―THE EDUCATIONAL FRANCHISE.
WHEN classes make laws, to the ignoring of the
nation, the unacknowledged assumption is, that the legislating classes
only are affected by them; and here, in the newly-proposed aristocracy of
culture, we meet with the same fallacy which a involved in the claiming of
power by property. As laws are not made for the government exclusively of
property, so no more are laws made for tire direction exclusively of
education. The business of life is no mere school matter ; it has far
wider signification than that. Laws are not instituted to direct learned
discussions on the false quantities of a Latin line, the solution of a
mathematical problem, or the method of a logical proof. No state edict now
seeks to limit the liberty of English thought, whatever state edicts may
once have done. Thought supplies its own regulation, is its own censor,
and maintains in the conflicts of opinion its own authority. But laws
regulate actions: and hereunder the learned and the ignorant are at one.
You may travel across the wide desert of doctrine from atheism to the most
orthodox superstition, and no law intercepts your progress now ; but the
first step you take into the street is encompassed by statutes and
regulated by civil needs, The least pupil at a hedge-school is as much
under the aegis of the law as the first prizeman at a college.
When only the scholar legislates, government proceeds upon
the false supposition—false even in England at present—that the scholar
only is the citizen and the citizen only the scholar. Education in
our day has never been conceded as a right; it has been bestowed as a
charity, or bought as an article of merchandise. The
responsibilities of the nation have never been realised by it; and its
youth has not been educated because its manhood has not been enfranchised.
Education for all is an inevitable consequence of the
enfranchisement of all. But we have to deal with a palpable
injustice as it may stand to-morrow. When bad laws are made, who
suffers? Is it the scholar solely? When scholarship sows the
wind, it is just that scholarship only should reap the whirlwind: yet no
legislative error of judgement stops in its ill consequences at the class
which originates it; and I, an unlettered workman, am compelled to bear
the pains and penalties the folly of educated imbecility gives rise to.
Another position assumed is, that educated men are wiser in
the suggestion of laws, and safer in the adoption of a national policy,
than their fellows; that scholarship will help us out of any great
difficulty—lead us, as Cromwell lead our fathers, out of the corruption
of centuries. Here this error is involved: formal knowledge is
reckoned as native wisdom, which, were it true, would reduce the human
race to a condition more abject than that absurdly and perversely
prefigured by old ladies as the object of the doctrine of Equality.
Such a system makes genius impossible, and annihilates all difference in
the capacities of men. The dunce only is the helot; but the fool's
cap may adorn the head of Honesty and Worth. Pisistratus who
compiles is greater than Homer who sings and is inspired by the gods.
The mere writer of despatches has a nobler office than the victor in a
hundred fights: the Cromwell's glory pales before the glory of his
secretary; even when not a Milton, in this new Paradise of Pedants.
Do Educationists foresee and complacently contemplate this condition?
Laws for human government, then, are wonderfully simplified: you may find
a model for them in the rules of the Society of Antiquaries. But how
is this theory—to submit it to the test to which supremely "practical"
men insist upon submitting all questions of principle and evident
justice—how is this theory likely to "work"? The College of
Preceptors is composed of men who have solid knowledge of the processes
and properties of education: would our educational theorists be satisfied
with its guidance of the nation? The Universities are the great
seats of learning: yet what sane man would transfer the prerogatives of
government to either Oxford or Cambridge? The seats of learning for
years were also the seats of intolerance; of superstition, and of tyranny;
and not long since an educational institute in Staffordshire burnt for its
"immorality" Harriet Martineau's book of Eastern Life! "The
educated," says Theodore Parker of his American countrymen, "is also a
selfish class, morally not in advance of the mass of men. No
thoughtful, innocent man, arraigned for treason, would like to be tried by
a jury of twelve scholars; it were to trust in the prejudice and technic
sophistry of a class, not 'to put himself on the country,' and be judged
by the moral instincts of the people."
Scholarship and high active qualities are of course not
incompatible. It is possible to be at once a brave general and an
accomplished scholar. Gibbon tells us so of Julian. Sir Philip
Sydney uttered beautiful thoughts and performed the most beautifully brave
act on record. The learning of Raleigh did not disqualify him as the
foremost of the daring adventurers of the Elizabethan age.
Collingwood could at once command ably and recount his doings gracefully.
Yet Sydney would have been as brave, Raleigh as daring, and Collingwood as
bold, had neither known what Greek, or Latin, or graceful English was.
Did not the Times the other day publish the letter of a great sea
captain, full of clerkly blunders? The rebel gladiator, Spartacus,
was valiant and capable, though he lacked the learning of his Roman
masters. There were brave and good men before the culture of Greece
and Rome refined the ages; and there were brave and good men after much of
that culture had been worn away by the assaults of more vigorous races.
The aptitudes of men, in truth, are inherent, by no means acquired as
gentlemen-commoners are "crammed" for University examinations. These
aptitudes are developed indeed—not, however, by the schoolmaster, but by
the special circumstances of life. The urgent needs of a nation
seldom fail of men to satisfy them. Had there been no Charles, we
had not heard of Cromwell. Paine and Washington answered with
valiant speech and deed the necessities of their time. Circumstances
are the instructors of the great, and historic crises their opportunities.
The future Cincinnatus may yet be labouring at the plough; and the
redeeming Tell yet herding his cattle on the mountain. The greatness
of the great is not learned by rote; it is developed by danger and made
manifest in adversity.
But practically, in the disposal of the franchise, what kind
of educational test is it proposed to institute? Is it a classical,
a mathematical, or a theological test? Is it a scientific or a
literary test? Or is it a test of political knowledge? The
profound classical scholar, at home with Homer and Virgil, is not unlikely
to be very much abroad with modern politics; the marvellous "calculating
boy" is often a marvellous dunce in all things else; and bishops, well
versed in the mysteries of future life, are assuredly not always the best
of present guides. But the test of political knowledge—the only one
it is even plausible to propose—will certainly not be ventured on by the
present governing classes, because it is just the political thinker of the
working class who most clearly discerns the preposterous pretensions of
those who persuade themselves, and us, that they are born to govern.
And an educational test of some sort fairly adopted, what
guarantee is there that good, and just, and noble laws will be enacted?
Does education make men courageous in the midst of danger, immaculate in
the midst of corruption, virtuous in the midst of depravity?
"If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shined,
The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind."
Look at those most humiliating of all periods in English history—the days
of the second Charles and the second James. The most polished
courtiers were the most licentious in the reign of the first—the most
venal in the reign of the second; and the literature of those days bore
the part of pander to their vices, whereof the Comic Dramatists of the
Restoration have only to be cited in proof. Look, too, at what is
called the "Augustan Age of English Literature"—the age of Anne—the age
of the "Spectator" and the "Tatler." If we are to look anywhere for
the moral and rational results of a liberal training, it is surely in the
Republic of Letters. Yet Steele was a drunkard—Pope a glutton—and
Swift a scoundrel whom no man dares honour. Later, Johnson—in whom
great learning was not incompatible with incorrigible bigotry—could
deride Ossian, but believe in the Cock Lane ghost. "The misdeeds and
misfortunes of Savage," said Macaulay, "form one of the darkest portions
of literary history." Sheridan, the great orator and dramatist, was
found drunk in a gutter: and the accomplished and reverend William Dodd
was hanged for forgery at Tyburn. In our own days, great criminals
have been recruited from the higher ranks of education. Palmer, and
Paul, and Sadleir are household names of infamy. And among the minor
marks of degradation, who support the abominations of the prize-ring, the
race-course, and the hunting-field? Who but men of fashion and
refinement, who have cultivated classics at Harrow or at Eton, and
graduated in divinity at Oxford or in mathematics at Cambridge?
Education has not saved great scholars from ruin, and infamy,
and ignominious death. Now observe how little it affects the conduct
of a cultured nation. It is common to boast of English greatness:
perhaps we can do so with pride and without vanity. Even great
statesmen, who deny the manhood of the majority, tell us our country is
mistress of the main—first among the nations—"great, glorious, and
free." England is a paragon of principalities let us admit so much.
Well, then, the greatness and the parts of the nation lead us to look for
proportionate fruits in its policy. Yet what are the iniquities of
English international action? Ask the perfidious Palmerston.
Ask how dismembered Poland was betrayed by him—how Rome was permitted to
fall without a word from him—how the envoys of the de- facto
Government of Hungary were treated by him. Listen to the charges of
infamy brought a few months since against English diplomacy by John Bright
at Birmingham:—"We have blockaded Athens for a claim which was known to
be false. We have, within a very short time—not three years
ago—seized upon a considerable kingdom of India, with whose Government we
had but recently entered into most solemn treaties, which I believe every
lawyer in England and Europe would hold binding treaties before God and in
the sight of the world. We seized that country, deposed its monarch,
grasped its revenues, committed great immorality and great crime."
Education has not saved England from vice and crime and national disgrace.
So, then, education is, neither in individuals nor in
nations, a test of moral character, or political wisdom, or righteous
action. It is not genius, or virtue, or goodness; nay, capacity in
one educational direction is not even a proof of capacity in another
educational direction—much less a proof of higher qualities. A very
learned Professor in the University of Edinburgh—much honoured in his own
country and in ours for his classical attainments—is, notwithstanding,
quite unable to work out a single proposition of Euclid. Education
polishes, but does not create, the wisdom and understandings of men.
No great man ever learned his greatness. Do you think Newton learned
to discover the law of gravitation, or Milton was taught to write his
"Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing"? Why, in the circle
of every man's acquaintance, we doubt not, there are men who cannot put
together a decent English sentence or spell properly a lengthy English
word, who yet, on political questions, are deep-thinking, far-seeing men.
Talents are not to be forced, like tropical plants in a cold climate.
They are native wherever they grow, and they grow only where they are
native. Of course it is possible to manufacture in some sort a
resemblance to the natural product, as Horace Smith copied Byron.
But the talent here is imitation; and no one will mistake the mimicry of
the parrot for the voice of its teacher.
Well, then, Education—by which all through our argument we
trust it has been seen that we mean only book-learning—guarantees nothing
but educated electors; does not guarantee ability, or worth, or justice.
Such a qualification, affirming no right, answering no need, and providing
no security, is manifestly as unjust and as unwise as the qualification or
III.-MANHOOD SUFFRAGE: THE RIGHT.
ON principle there can be only one claim of
citizenship—Manhood. And there is nothing exclusive in this—no sexual
limitation; for indeed every argument for a complete or a partial suffrage
recognises no mean distinction of sex. There is no distinction in seasons
of suffering, or in days of delight; nor is there any in the required duty
of men and women at all times in the growth and development of the nation.
And if none in duty, why in the means of its performance? It is not for us
to answer this logic, because it is not we who dispute it.
Manhood Suffrage—we use these words in no sexual sense—is
the only principle of political enfranchisement. And can a nobler claim of
right be urged than this one of simple manhood? How contemptible is all
learning—how beggarly all property—beside the divine humanity of even
the meanest of our race! Eighteen centuries ago, the Founder of
Christianity proclaimed the immortal dogma of the equality of men; and
from that moment right and wrong were terms no longer synonymous with
power and weakness. In naked nature, none are rich and none poor; before
God, there is neither a mean man nor a mean woman. No one of sense talks
now, as many talked once, of the divine rights of any given family to rule
according to its absolute will. Our great ancestors settled that question
for ever in the "first year of liberty by God's blessing restored, 1648."
But the logic of that settlement we have not yet followed to its final
issue. Christ's doctrine of equality, for all our centuries of Christian
profession, remains a mere tradition while equal human rights have no
special force in law; and some offensively-apparent vestiges of divine
despotism yet linger while the supremacy of classes holds good in
government. The brotherhood of man no Act of Parliament has yet been
framed to acknowledge or enforce. But for all that, there the fact stands,
palpable and undeniable. Dives and Lazarus are alike susceptible of pain
and pleasure—alike amenable to the laws of God—alike equal in the race
of Immortality. So stands the whole human race naturally equal.
But the human race is now organized. The disorderly
freedom of the savage has given place to the regulated freedom of the
citizen. In the world's infancy, when men were beset with greater
dangers than they now are, they made the ablest—that is, the
strongest—among them their chief, who took the post of peril in all
encounters; this chieftainship was a good and honourable office in the
days when valour was the highest virtue, and whatever was was right.
But what was a sure sign of goodness then is by no means a sure sign of
goodness now. The idea of Justice has since then found expression in
language, and seeks now personification in fact. When men combine
together, they seek mutual protection and equal advantages: their society
is an association of equals. Every instance of injustice, of social
inequality, then, is a violation of the implied social compact; for it
could never have been laid down as a basis of union that one part of
society should enjoy all the benefits while another should only incur all
the dangers of the social state. Civilization is an organization of
justice, more or less perfect. Men appeal in society to a higher law
than force; their conflicts are submitted to the arbitration of reason,
their conduct is regulated by regard for conscience, and their
institutions are based upon the balanced rights of every citizen.
Men have abandoned their natural right to do each as he pleases, and now
rest peaceably under the shadow of law. In return for the natural
rights they have abandoned, there are social rights they assume and social
duties they prepare themselves to perform. Their business now is to
assist in perfecting the laws which govern them, that greater security may
be enjoyed under them, and greater happiness derived from them.
Such a system of society is the only permanent one.
That system which does not secure the safety of its citizens, which does
not maintain a just balance between them, and which does not give to each
his fair proportion of civil power, must sooner or later fall before
another and a better organization of human forces. Greece and
Rome—for all their splendid arts and culture—yet bore in their servile
institutions the seeds of ultimate decay. And anarchical America
exhibits to-day evident signs of a coming disruption: such of her free
citizens as have contact with slavery fast descending to the level of
their coloured bondmen. Where slavery forms part of the domestic
polity, the object men seek in combination is utterly ignored.
Social advantages for the slave there are none. Better for him to
revert to the old lawless liberty of the savage than to have his strength
sapped, his body mutilated, and his whole nature brutalized, for another's
profit. There, at any rate, his growth would be unchecked, his
responsibility certain, and his chances equal. In the social order
he manifestly has no place, other than a horse has. He is an outlaw,
and society is his enemy; and as an enemy it is always his
right—sometimes even his duty—to attack it. This condition is not
his from choice—cannot be his from choice, for no man has the right to
barter the faculties which God has given him to exercise for the world's
weal: it has been forced upon him by society, and society is answerable
for all its wickedness or carelessness produces. The revolt of the
slave is, then, at all tines a justifiable and a commendable act; not unfrequently a necessary one. Nor does the slave in revolting
violate the law; for he can recognise no law which does not acknowledge
him. He has as much right to war upon society as society has to
The slave is out of the pale of society: Who is within it?
Is the labourer who produces its wealth, pays its taxes, and obeys its
mandates? It is true, society concedes certain negative rights to
the poor workman: he is permitted to choose his own master, to utter his
own thought (until it becomes "dangerous" or "libellous"), and
occasionally to share in a nomination farce. In other regards, he
also is an outlaw. Laws are made for him without his sanction, and
taxes imposed upon him without his advice: his whole social right and duty
are passive obedience. Plainly, then, society has no claim upon the
allegiance of the voteless workman, any more than it has a claim upon the
slave—can have no claim while his equal social rights are withheld.
So then he retires into a state of opposition; and it is his right, when
it is his pleasure, to retaliate on society. This of course is an
abstract right, and is never likely, we hope, in England, to be assumed.
Yet such is the position English society forces the majority of its
members, the most useful of its members, to occupy by its violation of the
Of course political economists and "practical" politicians
assure us that the social compact is simply an illusion, and that
questions of abstract fight are waived always when practical policy
demands it. First, let us ask, What is that which is called the
"British Constitution"?—is that any more manifest to sense than
the compact of which we speak? The second objection is a confession
of this weakness—Society is not strong enough, or wise enough, or
righteous enough to do right for the right's sake.
Tyranny, as defined in Chatham's famous phrase, spite of its
constant iteration in political polemics, is as prevalent now as on the
day that phrase was uttered. Who is untaxed? Who does not
contribute daily to the costly pomp and pageantry of power? Not an
adult man or woman but pays an ample share; yet over the funds they help
to accumulate millions of either sex exercise no control. And
specially note here that the great working class not only contributes at
least a fair share in taxation to the expenses of government, but produces
by its skill and its industry the wealth of every other class. What
is taxation to the landed aristocracy? Like the benevolences of
kings, it is but a restitution to the nation of a portion of the spoils it
is permitted,  to inherit. Yet it is this
class, which produces nothing, which arrogates to itself almost all power
and all profit; and it is the great producing class, which is at once the
strength and the safeguard of the nation, which is permitted to enjoy
nothing but a second-hand sort of liberty, and such share in the
productions of its toil which it would not be safe to withhold from it.
Taxation without representation, then, is tyranny yet. And it does
not avail to argue that the unequal amount of taxation paid by men of the
lower as compared with that paid by men of the higher class is the reason
of their unequal privileges, since it is obviously those whom society most
favours that society has strongest claims upon. Even if men acquired
their positions in every instance by personal merit only, their abilities
would produce them nothing without the means of exercise afforded by
society. The engineer, the author, the merchant would not construct
railways, or write books, or organize trade in a wilderness. The
railway needs passengers, the book readers, and the trade customers, to
give them value. Society provides these; and in return therefore no
just man will refuse fair payment.
So then the rightfulness of Manhood Suffrage is clear on
these three sufficient grounds—naturally, because of the equality of men
under God; socially, because of the equality of men under the social law;
and politically, because of the equality of men as tax-payers to the
IV.—MANHOOD SUFFRAGE: THE POLICY.
WHAT is just should be done at every hazard; and
justice, we ought to understand, is not so foreign to human action as ever
long to imperil human welfare. Yet, while maintaining our own on the
higher ground of Principle, we are not less sure of sound argument on the
lower ground of Policy—that, as it would be to the honour, so it would be
to the interest, of the nation to make of every sane and stainless
Englishman a citizen to counsel and a soldier to defend her.
Nevertheless, this preliminary protest ought to be entered—that it is
less our business to prove that Englishmen are fit and capable, than the
Exclusionists' to show that Englishmen are unfit and incapable, of
performing the functions of citizen ship wisely and well. Here,
then, our duty will mainly be to reply to some prominent objections, many
of which have doubtless been often enough confuted, though, like Antæus,
they seem to rise from the earth after every blow, not with doubled
strength it is true, but with invigorated insolence. Yet not a
single objection has been urged against Manhood Suffrage which is not of
equal force against every other form of suffrage: so true is it that there
are but two principles concerned, liberty and despotism—every question of
policy being but a huckstering compromise between them.
No one will dispute the position that bad laws injure more
than they benefit—that good laws benefit more than they injure—that,
therefore, the great mass of the nation, of all conditions in life, of all
degrees of education, has a direct and immediate interest in wise and
sound and righteous legislation. And if one class more than another
has a deep and abiding stake in the enactment of good laws, it is the
poorest of the people, because they suffer most from vicious legislation;
for while the wealthy are injured in estate, the poor in purse are
lacerated in body and humiliated in spirit. As their interest is, so
would be their aims always; and here the common interest would indicate
the common duty. The masses, who profit by just laws, as hitherto
they have used what influence politicians have vouchsafed to them, would
use their power now, on the side of beneficial legislation. But here
this objection is started: that while the masses of the people have the
will to act well, they have not the judgement to act wisely. Is any
provision made for lack of discretion in the present political
organization? Further, has any provision been once made for it since
the electoral system was first instituted? Nay, in any of the
theories of limitation now propounded by popular statesmen and pseudo
friends of the people, is any account taken of this lamentable lack?
Put what test you please, there are thousands inside the garrison who
cannot, thousands outside the garrison who can, creditably undergo it.
How many non-electors do, how many electors do not, understand the
casuistry of Gladstone or see the drift of Disraeli's irony, presuming
(gratuitously enough) that to be necessary to a wise exercise of the
voting function? Arguments of this kind, therefore, have a double
edge; they cut those above no less than those below the line of civil
freedom. But we might well leave an old proverb to answer all
objections of this character—"Where there's a will there's a way."
Given the wish to do well, it is not in the nature of Englishmen to fail
in finding the way to do it.
Those classes of the nation who needs must plead guilty to
the crime of being poor, are moreover insulted by being told that they
have "no stake in the country." One scarcely cares to designate the
insolents who use language at once so ungenerous and untrue: it is enough
to reply to the accusation in the indignant words of the workman:—"Mean
and beggarly as my home is, it is yet a holy spot to me—none holier.
Call it hovel or garret, I am as proud of it as the owner of the lordliest
mansion in the land can be of that. It is here I rest in peace,
sleep in security, and live in love; it is here my chafed spirit finds
comfort in the cheerful countenance of the Beloved, and the clouds of my
anger are dispelled by the sunny smiles of my little ones. And are
these no stake in the country? What nobleman, what shopkeeper, can
point to dearer ties of home or kindred than happily fall to me?
Neither the broad acres of the one nor the stock-in-trade of the other can
furnish nobler incentives to anxious care for my country." For no
class solely in the nation has country an exclusive charm: what soul is
not inspired with English daring when danger threatens that?
Patriotism assuredly is not a virtue confined to the affluent; for when
calamity comes upon us, it is not the affluent alone who suffer nor the
affluent alone who fall—often the suffering and the loss are heaviest
among the poor. Who, then, so likely, who always so ready, to defend
the liberties of England as those who yet are not accounted fit to share
Working men have been further told they are excluded from
political power, not only because they have no "stake," but because they
now and then attempt to conserve what stands to them in the place of it.
Their labour is their property; and they properly enough use the best
means to preserve and enhance its value. Occasionally they "strike,"
for higher wages or shorter hours of work. London workmen so struck
not long since; and forthwith we were assured by eminent journalists that
the great working class showed at once its unfitness for the franchise and
its ignorance of political economy. Here politico economical
theories are laid down as incontrovertible axioms. Be it so.
But will the most thorough knowledge of political economy enable the
possessor of it to act with more justice than his fellows or with more
honesty towards them? Political economy is at best but a species of
education; and it may be a false species, for all our civilization is
based upon its rules, which, however, is not the question we are now
discussing. We have seen eminent political economists oppose the Ten
Hours Bill, and heard them declare from their places in Parliament that
the condition of women and children in dye-houses and bleach cries needs
no amelioration. If political economy leads otherwise good men to
take such positions as these, may Englishmen never be further instructed
in it! Besides, the nation is not always legislating with one eye.
Political economy would be sorely puzzled to decide with prudence and
wisdom a question of international honour. Common sense here, as
elsewhere, would be the safer guide, venturing nothing in favour of a
sense which is not common. Yet we dare say there are those who would
order Milton to stand by till he had mastered Adam Smith.
Nor are false prophets wanting to predict the calamitous
effects of Complete Suffrage on the Legislature, though the Times
some time since conceded that a House of Commons elected under Manhood
Suffrage would be neither better nor worse than that now chosen.
Education and wealth, it is true, will always have their influence in
public affairs—legitimately enough, perhaps, if parliamentary privilege
be not engrafted on them; and if the constituencies under Manhood Suffrage
would be open to coercive influences, a House of Commons in nowise
differing from the present would be the result, because coercion could
come only from the quarters it comes now. And it is no argument to
object that some bad men would come by their own under Complete Suffrage,
because bad men are included under the present, and would of necessity be
included under any form of suffrage. Goodness, indeed, is the
attribute of no class exclusively. The moral delinquencies of the
"upper" will be found some day to at least bear a proportion to those of
the "lower" classes--only with the aristocracy they are now called
"vices," with the poor "crimes." Bad men, however, have rights till
they forfeit them, and complete and incomplete schemes of suffrage alike
must meanwhile include them. No just law can be, or ever has been,
enacted without some risk in it. Steam ruined the old coaching
trade, and broke up the old road-side hostelries; but steam on that
account has not been less a national benefit. But the House of
Commons itself, not long ago, furnished us an argument. It abolished
the property qualification for its own members; but the character of the
House--such as it is--has not, we presume, been much affected since.
Let the House, then, follow the logic of its own constitution, and make
itself what it is yet but in name, the Commons' Parliament; and we may as
safely trust to the right issue of this as of any other act of justice.
And for the matter of risk in it, the dictum of Sallust is sufficiently
pertinent--"Liberty with danger is to be preferred to slavery with
An ill-defined but sufficiently evil classification, ordained
by Custom, which is stronger than law, divides and weakens the nation.
The three orders of society commonly judge of principles and policy rather
as they affect themselves than as they affect the nation. Yet the
real interest of each class is that of every other. Suffering is
never borne by any class alone; it never fails to spread by slow but sure
degrees from the dregs to the scum of society. Neither the upper ten
thousand nor the lower ten million can say--"Let who will sink, I swim."
A doctrine such as this is false as it is atheistic. Do you imagine
that the cholera, if it once begin in Bermondsey, will not soon spread to
Belgravia? And the slow poison of poverty also, once degrading the
workman, will it not one day degrade the idler likewise? The narrow
boundaries of class are swept away by national calamities, by national
hopes and rejoicings. Whether we recognise it or no, all partake at
the same table, where none are above and none below the salt, of the
country's joys, her sorrows and her aspirations. And inasmuch as we
are more classified, so are we less a nation. When is it that
England is most powerful? In that great day assuredly when class
predilections are forgotten in the presence of impending danger--when
peasant and peer acknowledge by common valour their common brotherhood.
Danger unites and unity strengthens them. The French wars of the
fourteenth century first welded the Norman nobles and Saxon serfs into one
great people; the dread of the Spanish Armada silenced the din of
Protestant and Papist factions; and on the landing of a few French troops
at Teignmouth, Jacobites and Orangemen forgot their personal preferences,
and remembered only that they were Englishmen. But that strength
which comes by peaceful union, spontaneous from a principle within, is at
least as sound, and far more enduring, than that which comes amid the
clamour of war, impelled by a peril without. That ever-necessary
union can become a permanent fact and be acknowledged as an abiding
principle only when Manhood Suffrage, equalizing the right and duty of
every Briton, is alone the qualification of citizenship. And what
have our centuries of growth and culture done for us if we are not yet fit
for self-government--the ultimate triumph of civilization, if England yet
needs the expensive tutelage of a few great families, most of whom,
moreover, have outlived the fame of their ancestry? Is the great
English people to be for ever treated as a minor, deprived of rights on
the assumption that it has not inherited reason? That the great mass
of our countrymen are incompetent to exercise befittingly their electoral
rights is a gratuitous and insulting assumption; it is a judgement without
evidence, without even the form of a trial. Eight hundred years
after "good Sir Simon" summoned the first Commons' Parliament, flippant
and pretentious critics pronounce that less than a million men in all
England can be found able enough to share in the Commons' power. The
inevitable day of freedom has not yet broken for the great Anglo Saxon
race. The long minority of a thousand years, with ample means of
culture and refinement, is not sufficient training for it. "Vested
rights which are but vested wrongs," must still forsooth stand between it
and the goal which God has destined every race of man to reach! The
pitiable folly of requiring schoolboys to swim before they begin to bathe,
has its counterpart in the demand for proofs of parts before granting
means for their exercise. If Englishmen--taking no note here of
social grades--had not centuries ago shown their aptitude for
self-government, our England would long since have drifted a splendid
wreck upon the strand of Time. And schoolmen and men of wealth show
their gratitude to the past by misdoubting the present generation.
The Grecian youth, on assuming his citizenship, swore in the
temples of his fatherland to make his country greater and yet more
glorious; and in blessing him with freedom, his country blessed herself
with a new shield of defence. Endowed with the rights of
citizenship, the young man became accountable thenceforth for the
performance of its duties; for without liberty there can be no
responsibility. Sacrifice and service for the nation's sake can be
claimed on no lower terms. So now the franchise is not claimed
merely because it is a right, but because it is a means to a nobler duty,
because it is thereby service may best be rendered to the common country.
The citizen aids by his abilities the common progress and the common weal,
averts by his counsels the common peril, and retrieves by his strength the
common disaster. This he owes to his country in return for the
safety he enjoys, and this he performs for his country by means of the
freedom he possesses. And the consciousness of country, or the eager
striving for it, is the source of the noblest sacrifices of history.
Could any but a patriot fighting to defend his country, or fighting to
conquer one, equal the splendid devotion of Arnold of Winkelreid gathering
the spears of the enemy in his arms to make a passage for his brethren?
And the thought which inspires to such heroism on the battle-field would
surely inspire to courage and anxious toil in more peaceful contests.
But more palpable and immediate consequences may be certainly
expected from the abandonment of such remains of serfdom as yet linger
among us, when the energy and thought now dissipated on agitations for
Reform shall be directed to details of government--the improvement of laws
and the remedy of abuses; for assuredly the governing classes have not so
well governed England as to enamour the English people of their rule.
For the recent cry of "Red Tape" there were substantial grounds--dead yet
speaking witnesses to which rot in far-off Russian graves. Nor has the
English Government blundered only in carrying on war; it has done worse
before now, in impiously invoking it. Not to be forgotten either, by
political economists especially, is the way state patronage is
dispensed--forming a "gigantic system of out-door relief for the
aristocracy." But the vigorous intellect of the great Anglo-Saxon
race has found a cure for as great ills as these ere this; and the will of
English nation has not grown weaker in these latter days, thanks rather to
the wealth of its nature than to the honesty of its rulers. So much
corruption has just been discovered in the electoral body that men cry
aloud now for penal enactments against it. A far simpler remedy
would be to make it impossible. Crœsus
himself could not bribe a whole city even were the best part of the
manhood in it not pure enough to be honest, or brave enough to be
independent. Exceptional exposures like those of Gloucester and
Wakefield show only that the briber is there checkmated by the
law—not that the law meets him everywhere; and indeed constituencies as
corrupt as either are to be met with on all side of us; but the briber
would checkmate himself with constituencies broad and as virtuous as
Manhood Suffrage would make them.
No one in our day will expect, in an argument for Complete
Suffrage, a pretty word-picture of the Arcadia such a suffrage will result
in, with all the usual accessories of happy valleys and pleasures in
plenty. Men have grown out of that mode of agitation which induced
the ironical cry of "Universal suffrage to-day, and roast goose
to-morrow." The first requirement is to do justice, and that
assuredly will have advantages; but the point now is to cultivate
right-doing for its own sake. The laws, however, will be obeyed more
intelligently and joyfully by men who share in the making of them than by
men who are ignorant of their purport and have no power to remedy their
abuse. So the race of habitual law-breakers will become extinct,
haply more speedily, and certainly more satisfactorily, by this means than
by all the reformatory machineries of well-intentioned Philanthropy.
Let us assure ourselves, however, that a never so complete
suffrage is neither Paradise nor one of the gates to it; nay, that
Paradise, as the Easterns imagined it, all sloth and content, is not even
worth hoping for. The kitchen is a dull place, and England is yet
happily far other than nation of scullions. "Happiness is a poor
word"; let us "find a better." We would move never a finger for the
suffrage if it led us only to Icaria; let us be thankful it leads
otherwhere—to the halls of Industry, where labour sweetens rest, and is
its own salvation. There are other triumphs to achieve than mere
Liberty and Individualism, which Liberty an Individualism are only the
all-sufficient instruments to accomplish. Eternal growth goes on;
and Nature and Humanity are ever equal to the normal task. God, who
never started aught in a race that was to fail in reaching the goal, has
not blessed man with aspirations he cannot realise, nor placed before him
a destiny he has not strength to fulfil. With his free will, man arrives
at the highest point of individual completeness; with free and equal
action in the city and the state, he will arrive at that of social
perfectibility, with such happiness as may come by labour and such content
as may come by well-earned rest. For this end—if indeed that may be
called end which is ever progressing—we claim Liberty of Thought,
as exhibited in doctrine; Liberty of Speech, as exhibited in unlicensed
printing; and Liberty of Action, as exhibited in the equalization of
1. We will not burden our argument with a
digressive definition of "property" beyond saying that that alone is
entitled to the name and sanctity of property which is the "result of
work"—not the product of fraud, whether violent on the highway or cunning
behind the counter.
2. "Permitted," because it is the right of the nation to
withdraw at any moment the salary of kings and restore to itself the land
of the aristocracy.
BERESFORD AND SOUTHERN, PRINTERS, CORPORATION STREET,