Passages in the Life of a Radical (5)
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Samuel Bamford (ca. 1860)

IT is matter of history that whilst the laurels were yet cool on the brows of our victorious soldiers on their second occupation of Paris, the elements of convulsion were at work amongst the masses of our labouring population; and that a series of disturbances commenced with the introduction of the Corn Bill in 1815, and continued, with short intervals, until the close of the year 1816. In London and Westminster riots ensued, and were continued for several days whilst the bill was discussed; at Bridport, there were riots on account of the high price of bread; at Bideford there were similar disturbances to prevent the exportation of grain; at Bury, by the unemployed, to destroy machinery; at Ely, not suppressed without bloodshed; at Newcastle-on-Tyne, by colliers and others; at Glasgow, where blood was shed; at Preston, by unemployed weavers; at Nottingham, by Luddites, who destroyed thirty frames; at Merthyr Tydvil, on a reduction of wages; at Birmingham, by the unemployed; and at Dundee, where, owing to the high price of meal, upwards of one hundred shops were plundered. At this time the writings of William Cobbett suddenly became of great authority; they were read on nearly every cottage hearth in the manufacturing districts of South Lancashire, in those of Leicester, Derby, and Nottingham; also in many of the Scottish manufacturing towns.  Their influence was speedily visible.  He directed his readers to the true cause of their sufferings—misgovernment; and to its proper corrective—parliamentary reform.  Riots soon become scarce, and from that time they have never obtained their ancient vogue with the labourers of this country.

    Let us not descend to be unjust.  Let us not withhold the homage which, with all the faults of William Cobbett, is still due to his great name.  Instead of riots and destruction of property, Hampden clubs were now established in many of our large towns, and the villages and districts around them.  Cobbett's books were printed in a cheap form; the labourers read them, and thenceforward became deliberate and systematic in their proceedings.  Nor were there wanting men of their own class, to encourage and direct the new converts.  The Sunday Schools of the preceding thirty years had produced many working men of sufficient talent to become readers, writers, and speakers in the village meetings for parliamentary reform.  Some also were found to possess a rude poetic talent, which rendered their effusions popular, and bestowed an additional charm on their assemblages; and by such various means, anxious listeners at first, and then zealous proselytes, were drawn from the cottages of quiet nooks and dingles, to the weekly readings and discussions of the Hampden clubs.  One of these clubs was established in 1816, at the small town of Middleton, near Manchester; and I, having been instrumental in its formation, a tolerable reader also, and a rather expert writer, was chosen secretary.  The club prospered, the number of men increased, the funds raised by contributions of a penny a week became more than sufficient for all out-goings, and, taking a bold step, we soon rented a chapel which had been given up by a society of Kilhamite Methodists.  This place we threw open for the religious worship of all sects and parties, and there we held our meetings on the evenings of Monday and Saturday in each week.  The proceedings of our society; its place of meeting—singular as being the first place of worship occupied by reformers (for so in those days we were termed), together with the services of religion connected with us—drew a considerable share of public attention to our transactions, and obtained for the leaders some notoriety.  They, like the young aspirants of the present, and all the other days, whose heads are as warm as their hearts, could sing with old John Bunyan—

"Then fancies fly away,
 We fear not what men say."

    Several meetings of delegates from the surrounding districts were held at our chapel, on which occasions the leading reformers of Lancashire were generally seen together.  One of our delegate meetings deserves particular notice.  It was held on Sunday, the 16th December, 1816, when it was determined to send out missionaries to other towns and villages, particularly to Yorkshire.  The experiment was considered somewhat hazardous, for at that time the great towns of Yorkshire, Halifax, Bradford, and Leeds, to which they were bound, had shown but small sympathy with the cause of reform.  They went, however, and, I believe, made an impression which awakened the cause in that county.  At this meeting a man of the name of William Wilson appeared as the delegate from Moston; he was known to several present, and, being considered a good reformer, was chosen secretary for the occasion.  He thus took copies of all the resolutions and proceedings.  Soon afterwards it was discovered that he was in communication with the police of Manchester.  He then left the district, abandoning his wife and a young family of children, and was next heard of as a police officer in London, to which place his wife and children followed him.  Can this have been our first traitor?

    On the 1st of January, 1817, a meeting of delegates from twenty-one petitioning bodies was held in our chapel, when resolutions were passed declaratory of the right of every male to vote, who paid taxes; that males of eighteen should be eligible to vote; that parliaments should be elected annually; that no placeman or pensioner should sit in parliament; that every twenty thousand inhabitants should send a member to the House of Commons; and that talent and virtue were the only qualifications necessary.  Such were the moderate views and wishes of the reformers in those days, as compared with the present.  The ballot was not insisted upon as a part of reform. [1]  Concentrating our whole energy for the obtainment of annual parliaments and universal suffrage, we neither interfered with the House of Lords, nor the bench of bishops, nor the working of factories, nor the corn laws, nor the payment of members, nor tithes, nor church rates, nor a score of other matters which in these days have been pressed forward with the effect of distracting the attention and weakening the exertions of reformers; any one or all of which matters would be far more likely to succeed with a House of Commons elected on the suffrage we claimed than with one returned as at present. [2]  Quoting scripture, we did, in fact say, first obtain annual parliaments, and universal suffrage, and, "all these things shall be added unto you."

    Some of the nostrum-mongers of the present day would have been made short work of by the reformers of that time; they would not have been tolerated for more than one speech, but handed over to the civil power.  It was not until we became infested by spies, incendiaries, and their dupes—distracting, misleading, and betraying—that physical force was mentioned amongst us.  After that our moral power waned, and what we gained by the accession of demagogues, we lost by their criminal violence, and the estrangement of real friends.



IT may not be amiss to state that the opinions contained in this work, whether of persons or transactions, are those of the writer at the period they refer to.  Time, the ameliorator of all things, has not passed him without leaving some experience; and the lessons of that severe handmaid, making him better acquainted with mankind and himself, have somewhat matured his judgment and increased his charity; changing also, he hopes for the better, some of his views both of men and things.  Hence, though elsewhere he will speak of the conduct of Henry, now Lord Brougham, strongly, as he felt at the time; he would, in his present frame of mind, make large allowances.  Our educators are, after all, the best reformers, and are doing the best for their country, whether they intend so or not.  In this respect, Lord Brougham is the greatest man we have.  He led popular education from the dark and narrow crib where he found it, like a young colt, saddled and cruelly bitted by ignorance, for superstition to ride.  He cut the straps from its sides and the bridle from its jaws, and sent it forth strong, beautiful, and free. [3]

    Still, we want something more than mere intellectuality; that is already vigorous in produce, whilst souls lie comparatively waste.  The Persians of old first taught their children to speak the truth, and that was a wise beginning; but, like the embalming of the Egyptians, lost to the present day.  The young mothers of England, and the anxious fathers, should do more—they should give life to the souls of their offspring, and encourage and strengthen as well as comfort their young hearts.  Their constant lesson should be, "With thy whole soul, love and support whatsoever is right.  With thy whole soul, hate and oppose whatsoever is wrong.  Fear not anything, save the contamination of sin."  The schoolmaster might then finish the intellect; and the spirit of Him who said, "Father, forgive them," should be invoked to shed its dove-like mercy over all.  Education so grounded and built upon, would bring us hearts, and brave ones too, brimful of nobleness and truth, and heads to work anything requisite for their country.  Intellect neglected may be repaired; but a soul once in ruin, nothing human can restore.

    Nor would the writer at the present day be found praying for annual parliaments, though he would endeavour to attain the same end by better means.  Annual general elections would, he is convinced, be a great political evil to the country; and reviewing all that he has seen of elections, he does say, they are generally conducted in a manner which is disgraceful to civilised society.  The infamy they generate is equalled by the bungling knavery of their management.  He needs not go into their history, but he would ask a rational man to note the proceedings of one of these "good old English" events; and then say whether it were not more like "hell broke loose" than anything human.  Who could wish for annual recurrence of these things throughout the nation?  Frequent enough their visitation when they can no longer be avoided.  General elections annually would be annual curses; and single borough or county elections are best let alone until there be good cause.  As, in his petition to the House of Commons, in 1837, the writer would pray that we might have the benefit without the disturbing force.  He would say, let the House of Commons be, like that of the Lords, indissoluble; members to render an account of their conduct annually; individual members liable to be displaced by their constituents at any time, and elected, displaced, or retained, as private servants are, viz., as they do well their duty, or otherwise.  The sense of the electors to be taken annually—by ballot in districts; all elections to be by ballot.  No hustings, no nomination farce, no mob gatherings, no ruffianism, no demagogueism, no canting and deception of the multitudes, nor opportunity for the display of insolence and ignorance to win a passing clap or huzza.  Many evils would be done away with, excitement would be moderated, sober-mindedness would take the place of extravagance, Court intrigue or ascendency of faction would not have the power of dispersing the people's servants, nor of throwing the country into a ferment of brute passion, to take advantage of it.  Such a plan would the writer substitute for that of annual parliaments, and so far his opinions have changed on that point.



THE Hampden Club of London, of which Sir Francis Burdett was the chairman, having issued circulars for a meeting of delegates at the "Crown and Anchor," for the purpose of discussing a Bill to be presented to the House of Commons, embracing the reform we sought, I was chosen to represent the Middleton Club on that occasion.  I shall not notice the abuse which this small honour brought upon my shoulders, further than to say, that it gave me an unexpected insight into the weakness of some whom I had considered as the best of friends to myself and the cause.  I thus early got a dose of disgust which would have banished me from amongst them, had I not considered that by retiring I should abandon my duty and gratify my new enemies.  I therefore took up my cross, forgave them, and attended my appointment in London.

    I had scarcely alighted from the coach at the "Elephant and Castle," ere I was accosted by Benbow, [4] who took me to his own lodgings near Buckingham Gate, where I became comfortably settled for the present.  He had been in London some time, agitating the labouring classes at their trades meetings and club-houses.  That night he conducted me to the Crown and Anchor Tavern; and whilst I stood gazing around a large hall, which seemed wonderfully grand and silent for a tavern, a gentleman came out of a room and accosted my companion, who increased my curiosity and awe by pronouncing the name of Mr. Hunt. [5]  He invited us within; and we there found a small party of delegates, recently arrived, in friendly conversation with Mr. Cleary, the secretary of the London Club.  This was an event in my life.  Of Mr. Hunt I had imbibed a high opinion, and his first appearance did not diminish my expectations.  He was gentlemanly in his manner and attire, six feet and better in height, and extremely well formed.  He was dressed in a blue lapelled coat, light waistcoat and kerseys, and topped boots; his leg and foot were about the firmest and neatest I ever saw.  He wore his own hair; it was in moderate quantity and a little grey.  His features were regular, and there was a kind of youthful blandness about them which, in amicable discussion, gave his face a most agreeable expression.  His lips were delicately thin and receding; but there was a dumb utterance about them which in all the portraits I have seen of him was never truly copied.  His eyes were blue or light grey—not very clear nor quick, but rather heavy; except as I afterwards had opportunities for observing, when he was excited in speaking; at which times they seemed to distend and protrude; and if he worked himself furious, as he sometimes would, they became blood-streaked, and almost started from their sockets.  Then it was that the expression of his lip was to be observed—the kind smile was exchanged for the curl of scorn, or the curse of indignation.  His voice was bellowing; his face swollen and flushed; his griped hand beat as if it were to pulverise; and his whole manner gave token of a painful energy, struggling for utterance.

    Such was the appearance of Mr. Hunt as I saw him that night, and on subsequent occasions.  His every-day manners, exhibiting the quality and operations of his mind, will, of necessity, occupy some portion of the future pages of this work.  He was constantly, perhaps through good but misapplied intentions, placing himself in most arduous situations.  No repose, no tranquillity for him.  He was always beating against a tempest of his own or of others' creating.  He had thus more to sustain than any other man of this day and station, and should be judged accordingly.

    Thomas Cleary, the secretary of the Hampden Club, was also in the room; he was perhaps twenty-five or twenty-six years of age, about middle stature, slightly formed, and had a warmth and alacrity in his manner which created at once respect and confidence.  He was, and I have no doubt is yet, if he be living, worthy of and enjoying the esteem of all who know him.  Hunt ferociously traduced his character at a subsequent election for Westminster, but the shame recoiled on the calumniator.  Afterwards he attempted to fix upon Cleary the stigma of being a Government spy, and intimated that he tried about this time to involve some of the delegates in illegal transactions—a charge as absurd as it was false.

    The day of meeting arrived; Sir Francis Burdett was in the country, and the worthy old Major Cartwright [6] took the chair.  With a picture of that venerable patriot in my recollection, let me pause, and render the tribute due to integrity and benevolence.  He was far in years—I should suppose about seventy; rather above the common stature, straight for his age; thin, pale, and with an expression of countenance in which firmness and benignity were most predominant.  I see him, as it were, in his long brown surtout and plain brown wig, walking up the room, and seating himself placidly in the head seat.  A mild smile played on his features, as a simultaneous cheer burst from the meeting.  Cobbett stood near his right hand.  I had not seen him before.  Had I met him anywhere save in that room and on that occasion, I should have taken him for a gentleman farming his own broad estate.  He seemed to have that kind of self-possession and ease about him, together with a certain bantering jollity, which are so natural to fast-handed and well-housed lords of the soil.  He was, I should suppose, not less than six feet in height; portly, with a fresh, clear, and round cheek, and a small grey eye, twinkling with good-humoured archness.  He was dressed in a blue coat, yellow swansdown waistcoat, drab kersey small clothes, and top boots.  His hair was grey, and his cravat and linen were fine, and very white.  In short, he was the perfect representation of what he always wished to be—an English gentleman-farmer.

    The proceedings of the meeting it is not requisite that I should go into; they have long been matters of record.  The absence of the baronet was the subject of much observation by the delegates; and yet, in deference to his wishes, as was understood, a resolution was introduced and supported by Cobbett, limiting the suffrage to householders.  This was opposed by many, and especially by the delegates from the manufacturing district; some of whom were surprised that so important a concession should be made to the opinion of any individual.  Hunt treated the idea with little respect, and I thought he felt no discomfort at obtaining a sarcastic fling or two at the baronet.  Cobbett advocated the restricted measure, scarcely in earnest, and weakly, and alleging the impracticability of universal suffrage.  The discussion proceeded for some time and no one grappled the objection; until, fearing the resolution would be adopted, I in a few words explained how universal suffrage might be carried into effect, by taking the voters from the Militia list, or others made on the same plan.  Hunt took up the idea, in a way which I thought rather annoyed Cobbett, who at length arose, and expressed his conviction of its practicability, giving me all the merit of his conversion.  Resolutions in favour of universal suffrage and annual parliaments were thereupon carried, and soon afterwards the meeting was adjourned to the day following.  Several of our country delegates were now presented to Cobbett by Benbow, who appeared to act almost as master of the ceremonies.  I was not however introduced to the great man, and soon after he left the room.

    On the day when Parliament was opened, a number of the delegates met Hunt at the Golden Cross, Charing Cross, and from thence went with him in procession to the residence of Lord Cochrane, [7] in Palace Yard, where a large petition from Bristol, and most of those from the north of England, were placed in his lordship's hands.  There had been some tumult in the morning; the Prince Regent had been insulted on his way to the house, and this part of the town was still in a degree of excitement.  We were crowded around, and accompanied by a great multitude, which at intervals rent the air with shouts.  Now it was that I beheld Hunt in his element.  He unrolled the petition, which was many yards in length, and it was carried on the heads of the crowd perfectly unharmed.  He seemed to know almost every man of them, and his confidence in, and entire mastery over them, made him quite at ease.  A louder huzza than common was music to him; and when the questions were asked eagerly, "Who is he?" "What are they about?" and the reply was, "Hunt! Hunt! huzza!" his gratification was expressed by a stern smile.  He might be likened to the genius of commotion, calling forth its elements, and controlling them at will.  On arriving at Palace Yard, we were shown into a room below stairs, and whilst Lord Cochrane and Hunt conversed above, a slight and elegant young lady, dressed in white, and very interesting, served us with wine.  She is, if I am not misinformed, now Lady Dundonald.  At length his lordship came to us.  He was a tall young man; cordial and unaffected in his manner.  He stooped a little, and had somewhat of a sailor's gait in walking; his face was rather oval; fair naturally, but now tanned and sun-freckled.  His hair was sandy, his whiskers rather small, and of a deeper colour; and the expression of his countenance was calm and self-possessed.  He took charge of our petitions, and being seated in an armchair, we lifted him up and bore him on our shoulders across Palace Yard, to the door of Westminster Hall, the old rafters of which rung with the shouts of the vast multitude outside.



ABOUT this time I was formally introduced to Mr. Cobbett, by Benbow.  He received me in a manner which was highly gratifying to my feelings.  This was at his office, or rooms, in Newcastle Street, Strand.  A number of other delegates were present, but I thought Cobbett gave the preference above all, to our friend Fitton of Royton; whose sarcastic vein had particularly pleased him.  Fitton had, in a speech at a public meeting, designated a certain class in Manchester, "The Pigtail Gentry;" a ludicrous idea certainly, and one which made Cobbett laugh till his sides shook.  No man could enjoy a bit of sarcasm better than he.

    A number of us went one morning to visit Sir Francis Burdett at his house in Park Place.  The outside was but of ordinary appearance; and the inside was not much better, so far as we were admitted.  To me it seemed like a cold, gloomy, barely furnished house; which I accounted for by supposing that it was perhaps the style of all great mansions.  We were shown into a large room, the only remarkable thing in which was a bust of John Horne Tooke.  Sir Francis came to us in a loose grey vest coat, which reached far towards his ankles.  He had not a cravat on his neck; his feet were in slippers; and a pair of white cotton stockings hung in wrinkles on his long spare legs, which he kept alternately throwing across his knees, and rubbing down with his hands, as if he suffered, or recently had, some pain in those limbs.  He was a fine-looking man on the whole, of lofty stature, with a proud but not forbidding carriage of the head.  His manner was dignified and civilly familiar; submitting to rather than seeking conversation with men of our class.  He, however, discussed with us some points of the intended Bill for Reform candidly and freely, and concluded with promising to support universal suffrage, though he was not sanguine of much cooperation in the house.  Under these circumstances we left Sir Francis; approving much that we found in and about him, and excusing much of what we could not approve.  He was one of our idols, and we were loath to give him up.

    Still I could not help my thoughts from reverting to the simple and homely welcome we received at Lord Cochrane's and contrasting it with the kind of dreary stateliness of this great mansion and its rich owner.  At the former place we had a brief refection, bestowed with a grace which captivated our respect, and no health was ever drunk with more sincere goodwill than was Lord Cochrane's; the little dark-haired and bright-eyed lady seemed to know it, and to be delighted that it was so.  But here scarcely a servant appeared, and nothing in the shape of refreshment was seen.

    On the afternoon of a Sunday, Mitchell went with me to endeavour to find a former playfellow of mine, who was now a soldier in the Foot Guards.  He had fought the campaigns of Portugal, Spain, and France; and we now found him a colour-serjeant at Knightsbridge barracks.  The brave fellow received us with every demonstration of friendship.  I told him what business had brought us to London, and that my fellow visitor was here on the same errand.  Our business made no difference with him; he brought forth his ration, and we took a hearty lunch, after which we went with him to the non-commissioned officers' room at the canteen.  About half-a-dozen serjeants were there, to whom my friend introduced us, making known, without the least reserve, or show of it, the business we were come upon to the metropolis.  That seemed not to weigh with them, and we were soon in a free conversation on the subject of parliamentary reform.  When objections were stated, they listened candidly to our replies, and a good-humoured discussion, half serious, half joking, was promoted on both sides.  I and Mitchell had with us, and it was entirely accidental, a few of Cobbett's Registers, and Hone's political pamphlets, to which we sometimes appealed, and read extracts from.  The soldiers were delighted; they burst into fits of laughter; and on the copies we had being given them, one of them read the Political Litany through, to the further great amusement of himself and the company.  Thus we passed a most agreeable evening, and parted only at the last hour.  Mitchell and I returned to the city; neither of us, I firmly believe, having any further thought of the circumstance than to regret that evenings so rationally and so peaceably spent came so seldom.

    Very soon after this a law was passed, making it death to attempt to seduce a soldier from his duty.  Could it possibly be that the occurrences of this evening led to the enactment of that law?

    Several times I attended meetings of trades' clubs, and other public assemblages of the working men.  They would generally be found in a large room, an elevated seat being placed for the chairman.  On first opening the door, the place seemed dimmed by a suffocating vapour of tobacco, curling from the cups of long pipes, and issuing from the mouths of the smokers, in clouds of abominable odour, like nothing in the world more than one of the unclean fogs of their streets, though the latter were certainly less offensive and probably less hurtful.  Every man would have his half-pint of porter before him; many would be speaking at once, and the hum and confusion would be such as gave an idea of there being more talkers than thinkers, more speakers than listeners.  Presently, "order" would be called, and comparative silence would ensue; a speaker, stranger or citizen, would be announced with much courtesy and compliment.  "Hear, hear, hear," would follow, with clapping of hands and knocking of knuckles on the tables till the half-pints danced; then a speech, with compliments to some brother orator or popular statesman; next a resolution in favour of parliamentary reform, and a speech to second it; an amendment on some minor point would follow; a seconding of that; a breach of order by some individual of warm temperament; half a dozen would rise to set him right, a dozen to put them down, and the vociferation and gesticulation would become loud and confounding.  The door opens, and two persons of middle stature enter; the uproar is changed to applause, and a round of huzzas welcome the new-comers.  A stranger like myself inquiring—Who is he, the foremost and better dressed one?—would be answered, "That gentleman is Mr. Watson the elder, who was lately charged with high treason, and is now under bail to answer an indictment for a misdemeanour in consequence of his connection with the late meeting at Spa Fields."  The person spoken of would be supposed to be about fifty years of age, with somewhat of a polish in his gait and manner, and a degree of respectability and neatness in his dress.  He was educated for a genteel profession, that of a surgeon; had practised it, and had in consequence moved in a sphere higher than his present one.  He had probably a better heart than head; the latter had failed to bear him up in his station, and the ardour of the former had just before hurried him into transactions, from the consequences of which he had not yet escaped.  His son at this time was concealed in London, a large reward having been offered for his apprehension.  The other man was Preston, a co-operator with Watson, Hooper, and others, in late riots.  He was about middle age, of ordinary appearance, dressed as an operative, and walked with the help of a stick.  I could not but entertain a slightful opinion of the intellect and trustworthiness of these two men, when, on a morning or two afterwards, at breakfast with me and Mitchell, they narrated with seeming pride and satisfaction their several parts during the riots.  Preston had mounted a wall of the Tower, and summoned the guard to surrender.  The men gazed at him—laughed; no one fired a shot—and soon after he fell down, or was pulled off by his companions, who thought (no doubt) he had acted fool long enough.

    Such were two of the most influential leaders of the London operative reformers.  I repeat that I thought meanly of their qualifications for such a post.  But how blind is human perception, how slow should we be to condemn!  I myself was at the same moment going hand and heart with some who were as little to be depended upon as the above, and yet I could not perceive my situation.  The blind were then leading the blind.

    During the debate on the report of the Green Bag [8] Committee, I obtained an order for admission to the gallery of the House of Commons.  I well recollect, though I cannot describe, all the conflicting emotions which arose within me as I approached that assembly, with the certainty of now seeing and hearing those whom I considered to be the authors of my country's wrongs.  Curiosity certainly held its share of my feelings; but a strong dislike to the "boroughmonger crew" and their measures held a far larger share.  After a tough struggle at elbowing and pushing along a passage, up a narrow staircase, and across a room, I found myself in a small gallery, from whence I looked on a dimly lighted place below.  At the head of the room, or rather den, for such it appeared to me, sat a person in a full loose robe of, I think, scarlet and white.  Above his head were the royal arms, richly gilded; at his feet several men in robes and wigs were writing at a large table, on which lamps were burning, which cast a softened light on a rich ornament like a ponderous sceptre of silver and gold, or what appeared to be so.  Those persons I knew must be the Speaker and the clerks of the House; and that rich ornament could be nothing else than the "mace"—the same thing, or one in its place, to which Cromwell pointed and said, "Take away that bauble; for shame—give way to honester men."  On each side of this pit-looking place, leaving an open space in the centre of the floor, were some three or four hundreds of the most ordinary-looking men I had ever beheld at one view.  Some were striking exceptions; several young fellows in military dresses gave relief to the sombre drapery of the others.  Canning, with his smooth, bare, and capacious forehead, sat there, a spirit beaming in his looks like that of the leopard waiting to spring upon its prey.  Castlereagh, with his handsome but immovable features; Burdett, with his head carried back, and held high as in defiance; and Brougham, with his Arab soul ready to rush forth and challenge war to all comers.  The question was to me solemnly interesting, whilst the spectacle wrought strangely on my feelings.  Our accusers were many and powerful, with words at will, and applauding listeners.  Our friends were few and far between, with no applauders save their good conscience, and the blessings of the poor.  What a scene was this to be enacted by the "collective wisdom of the nation."  Some of the members stood leaning against pillars, with their hats cocked awry; some were whispering by half-dozens; others were lolling upon their seats; some, with arms a-kimbo, were eye-glassing across the house; some were stiffened immovably by starch, or pride, or both; one was speaking, or appeared to be so, by the motion of his arms, which he shook in token of defiance, when his voice was drowned by a howl as wild and remorseless as that from a kennel of hounds at feeding time.  Now he points, menacing, to the ministerial benches—now he appeals to some members on this side—then to the Speaker; all in vain.  At times he is heard in the pauses of that wild hubbub, but again he is borne down by the yell which awakes on all sides around him.  Some talked aloud; some whinnied in mock laughter, coming, like that of the damned, from bitter hearts.  Some called "order, order," some "question, question;" some beat time with the heel of their boots; some snorted into their napkins; and one old gentleman in the side gallery actually coughed himself from a mock cough into a real one, and could not stop until he was almost black in the face.

    And are these, thought I, the beings whose laws we must obey?  This the "most illustrious assembly of freemen in the world?"  Perish freedom then, and her children too.  O! for the stamp of stern old Oliver on this floor; and the clank of his scabbard, and the rush of his iron-armed band, and his voice to arise above this babel howl—"Take away that bauble"—"Begone; give place to honester men."

    Such was my first view of the House of Commons; and such the impressions strongly forced on my feelings at the time.  The speaker alluded to was Henry Brougham.  I heard at first very little of what he said, but I understood from occasional words, and the remarks of some whom I took for reporters, that he was violently attacking the ministers and their whole home policy.  That he was so doing might have been inferred from the great exertions of the ministerial party to render him inaudible, and to subdue his spirit by a bewildering and contemptuous disapprobation.  But they had before them a wrong one for being silenced, either by confusion or menace.  Like a brave stag, he held them at bay, and even hurled back their defiance with "retorted scorn."  In some time his words became more audible; presently there was comparative silence, and I soon understood that he had let go the ministry, and now, unaccountable as it seemed to me, had made a dead set at the reformers.  Oh! how he did scowl towards us—contemn and disparage our best actions and wound our dearest feelings!  Now stealing near our hearts with words of wonderful power, flashing with bright wit and happy thought; anon like a reckless wizard changing pleasant sunbeams into clouds, "rough with black winds and storms," and vivid with the cruellest shafts.  Then was he listened to as if not a pulse moved; then was he applauded to the very welkin.  And he stood in the pride of his power, his foes before him subdued, but spared; his friends derided and disclaimed, and his former principles sacrificed to "low ambition," and the vanity of such a display as this.

    I would have here essayed somewhat with respect to Canning, and the character and effects of his eloquence; but little appertaining to him remained on my mind.  Every feeling was absorbed by the contemplation of that man whom I now considered to be the most perfidious of his race.  I turned from the spectacle with disgust, and sought my lodgings in a kind of stupor, almost believing that I had escaped from a monstrous dream.

    Such was my first view of Henry Brougham; and such the impressions I imbibed and long entertained of that extraordinary man.  He sinned then, and has often done so since, against the best interests of his country; bowing to his own image, and sacrificing reason and principle to caprice or offended self-love.  But has he not done much for mercy, and for the enlightenment of his kind?  See the African dancing above his chains!  Behold the mild but irresistible light which education is diffusing over the land!  These are indeed blessings beyond all price—rays of unfading glory.  They are Lord Brougham's; and will illumine his tomb when his errors and imperfections are forgotten.



SOON afterwards I left the great Babylon, heartily tired of it, and returned to Middleton, where events rapidly pressed on my attention.

    On the morning of Sunday, the 8th of March, Benbow called on me at Middleton.  I had lost sight of him since my return from London; the Habeas Corpus Act was already suspended, and I supposed from some remarks of his that he had thought it best not to be so much in public at Manchester as he previously had been.  He had, however, taken a great share in getting up and arranging the Blanket Meeting; and now, after commending the intended proceeding, and dwelling on the good effects it would produce, he asked me to join in the meeting and expedition, and to bring as many of my neighbours as I could.  I flatly refused; and stated my reasons, which will shortly appear.  He enlarged his commendations, calculating with certainty that the Blanketeers would march to London, thousands in number; and that their petitions would be graciously, if not with some awe, received by the Prince Regent in person.  I maintained my opinions—he answered with reproaches; I treated the plan as a chimera, and held lightly the judgment of its proposers and concoctors.  Benbow went away in a huff, and I remained with a lowered opinion of my former comrade.

    On the night of Sunday, the 9th of March, I was requested to attend a meeting in the house of one of my neighbours, where a number of friends wished to hear my opinion with reference to the Blanket Meeting.  I went to them and spoke freely in condemnation of the measure.  I endeavoured to show them that the authorities of Manchester were not likely to permit their leaving the town in a body, with blankets and petitions, as they proposed; that they could not subsist on the road; that the cold and wet would kill numbers of them, who were already enfeebled by hunger and other deprivations; that soldiers always marched in divisions for the easier procurement of food and lodgings; and that an irregular multitude like themselves, could not, on an emergency, be provisioned, and quartered.  That they need not expect to be welcome wherever they went, especially in such of the rotten boroughs as fell in their way, against the franchise of which they were petitioning; that the inhabitants would bolt their doors against them; and that if they took possession by force; there was the law to punish them.  That many persons might join their ranks who were not reformers but enemies to reform, hired perhaps to bring them and their cause into disgrace; that, if these persons began to plunder on the road, the punishment and disgrace would be visited on the whole body; that they would be denounced as robbers and rebels, and the military would be brought to cut them down or take them prisoners.  In conclusion, I earnestly cautioned them against having anything to do with the proposed meeting, and intimated that the parties who had got it up were not to be depended upon; that their blind zeal overran every reasonable consideration; and that if they, my neighbours, took part in the meeting, they would probably repent when it was too late.  Whether it was in consequence of what I said I cannot tell; but I was afterwards gratified on hearing that no person from Middleton went as a Blanketeer.

    But of this meeting, which was our first great absurdity, I must write more particularly.

    It was one of the bad schemes which accompanied us from London, and was the result of the intercourse of some of the deputies with the leaders of the London operatives—the Watsons, Prestons, and Hoopers.  Mitchell and Benbow had cultivated, rather close acquaintance, with these men, little suspecting, I have no doubt, that their new friends had already fallen under the influence of instigators who betrayed all their transactions to the Government.  But the London leaders, or at least such of them as I conversed with, were, as I have shown, men of frank character and bearing, and apparently of sincere intention; and their manner, flattering by the confidence it bestowed, naturally led to a reciprocal feeling, and to the formation of connections, the effects of which now began to appear.

    Our maxim had hitherto in all our proceedings been "Hold fast by the laws."  It was the maxim of Major Cartwright, our venerable political father, and had been adhered to with a religious observance.  But doctrines varying from this now began to be broached, and measures hinted, which, if not in direct contravention of the law, were but ill-disguised subterfuges for evading its intentions.

    The meeting took place according to appointment; but I not being there, my brief description must be taken as the account of others.  The assemblage consisted almost entirely of operatives, four or five thousand in number; and was held on that piece of ground (St. Peter's Field) which afterwards obtained so melancholy a celebrity.  Many of the individuals were observed to have blankets, rugs, or large coats, rolled up and tied, knapsack like, on their backs; some carried bundles under their arms; some had papers, supposed to be petitions rolled up; and some had stout walking sticks.  The magistrates came upon the field and read the Riot Act; the meeting was afterwards dispersed by the military and special constables, and twenty-nine persons were apprehended, amongst whom were two young men, named Bagguley and Drummond, who had recently come into notice as speakers, and who being in favour of extreme measures, were much listened to and applauded.  But my warm friend, Benbow, took care not to make his appearance on that occasion.

    On the Riot Act being read, about three hundred persons left the meeting to commence their march to London.  Some of them formed a straggling line in Mosley Street, and marched along Piccadilly, being continually joined by others, until the whole body was collected, near Ardwick Green.  The appearance of these misdirected people was calculated to excite in considerate minds pity rather than resentment.  Some appeared to have strength in their limbs and pleasure in their features, others already with doubt in their looks and hesitation in their steps.  A few were decently clothed and well appointed for the journey; many were covered only by rags which admitted the cold wind, and were already damped by a gentle but chilling rain.  Some appeared young, with health on their cheeks, every care behind and hope alone before; the thoughts of others were probably reverting to their homes on the hill-sides, or in the sombre alleys of the town, where wives and children had resigned them for a time, in hopes of their return with plenty, and never more to part.  Here a youth was waving his hand to a damsel pale and tremulous with alarm; yonder an attenuated being, giving back, after kissing it, a poorly child to the arms of its mother—he hastens towards his comrades with willing but feeble steps, looking back on those, so poor, but oh! how dear—the child is hushed with a caress, the mother turning it gently to her cold and nurtureless bosom, nurtureless of everything save deep and tender love.  Her looks are still directed the way he goes; he has disappeared: and whilst her tears flow the poor but cleanly mantle is drawn over the little one, and in a conflict of grief, hope, and fear, she thoughtfully wends to her obscure and cheerless abode.  A body of yeomanry soon afterwards followed those simple-minded men, and took possession of the bridge at Stockport.  Many then turned back to their homes; a body of them crossed the river below, and entered Cheshire; several received sabre wounds, and one man was shot dead on Lancashire hill.  Of those who persisted in their march it is only necessary to say that they arrived at nine o'clock at night in the market place at Macclesfield, being about one hundred and eighty in number.  Some of them lay out all night, and took the earliest dawn to find their way home.  Some were well lodged and hospitably entertained by friends; some paid for quarters, and some were quartered in prison.  Few were those who marched the following morning.  About a score arrived at Leek, and six only were known to pass Ashborne bridge.  And so ended the Blanket Expedition!  "What would you really have done," I said to one of them, "supposing you had got to London?"  "Done?" he replied, in surprise at the question; "why iv wee'd nobbo gett'n to Lunnun, we shud ha' tan th' nation, an' sattl't o'th dett."  Such, and about as rational, were some of the incoherent dreams which at this time began to find favour in the eyes of the gross multitude.

    But another cause was assigned for the dispersion of the Blanketeers.  It was said that a purse containing from thirty to fifty pounds having been made up, was given to one of the principal leaders, with instructions to proceed on the London road a day or two in advance, to procure food and lodgings for money, where they could not be had for friendship or a more urgent motive.  That "the good man," by some mistake, got out of the right way, and wandering far into Yorkshire, he never found himself till the money was all spent; and the Blanketeers, thus losing their commissary and paymaster, were broken by the same means which had dispersed more numerous armies, viz., want of necessaries; and thus "the nation" was saved for that time.  However true or otherwise this account may be, it is certain that the man suddenly disappeared (but others did the same) and was out of the way a month or two, after which he paid a visit to Middleton on his return, as he said, from Yorkshire to Manchester.  He was always somewhat doubted afterwards; and his last appearance in this quarter was in the character of an adroit crimp to a fortune-promising attorney.

    It was about this time, though I have not the exact date, that the first out-of-door meeting was held at Rochdale.  Fitton, Knight, myself, and several other public characters were invited to attend, and I did so.  The day was cold and very wet; the hustings were fixed on the bare moor of Cronkeyshaw.  None of the speakers save myself kept their appointment; nothing in the form of resolution or petition had been prepared, and I had to select and arrange these from an old "Statesman" newspaper which I found at the rendezvous, the "Rose," in Yorkshire Street.  The town wore an appearance of alarm, and a company or two of soldiers were under arms in the main street.  The meeting was, however, well attended, and the hearts of the people seemed to warm in proportion to the merciless cold of the wind and rain, which latter teemed upon us during the whole of the proceedings.  On our return, the poor redcoats were still carrying arms, though, as one of the woollen weavers remarked, it would be to little purpose should they be wanted, "as the water was already running over at the muzzles of their guns; they might squirt us," he said, "but could not shoot us."  On this occasion I received pay for my attendance.  On our return to the "Rose," besides refreshments, the Committee presented me with four shillings, and I accepted the money because I thought I was entitled to it, having lost work to that value at home.  But I never, except on this occasion, took money or any other remuneration for attending reform meetings.  I considered it a mean thing, though the practice was coming much into use, and several of my friends, without any scruple, continued to do so until "their occupation" was gone.  It was a bad practice, however, and gave rise to a set of orators who made a trade of speechifying, and the race has not become extinct.  These persons began to seek engagements of the kind; some would even thrust themselves upon the committee for remuneration, and generally received it.  He who produced the greatest excitement, the loudest cheering, and the most violent clappings, was the best orator, and was sure to be engaged and well paid, and in order to produce those manifestations, the wildest and most extravagant rhodomontade would too often suffice.  Such speakers quickly got a name; the calls on them were frequent; and they left their work or their business for a more profitable and flattering employment; tramping from place to place hawking their new fangles, and guzzling, fattening, and replenishing themselves at the expense of the simple and credulous multitude.  Steadiness of conduct and consistency of principle were soon placed as it were at a distance from us.  Our unity of action was relaxed; new speakers sprung like mushrooms about our feet; plans were broached, quite different from any that had been recognised by the Hampden Clubs; and the people, at a loss to distinguish friends from enemies, were soon prepared for the operations of informers, who, in the natural career of their business, became also promoters of secret plots and criminal measures of various descriptions.  The good and fatherly maxim of the worthy old major, "Hold fast by the laws," was by many lost sight of.

    How far the moral of these facts is applicable to the present day will be judged by an observant public, and may perhaps not be deemed ill-timed by some of the more intelligent of those who have been found amongst the persons styled Chartists.  If from the records of past errors good can be extracted for present emergencies, it will be well, and let us endeavour to do so.  History is a faithful monitor, requiring only to be consulted in a truth-seeking spirit, when she will vouchsafe to become a friendly counsellor, saying to her inquirer, "Come blind one and see; come lost one, and behold thy way."  Nations may read their fate in the histories of nations; and individuals may be advised by a memoir so humble as mine.

    At dusk on the evening of Tuesday, the 11th of March, the day after the Blanket meeting, a man dressed much like a dyer was brought to my residence by Joseph Healey, who had found him inquiring for me in the lower part of the town.  The stranger said he had something of a private and important nature to communicate, in consequence of which I and the stranger and Healey went to the sign of the "Trumpeter," where we were accommodated with a private room.  The man now told us that he was deputed by some persons at Manchester to propose that in consequence of the treatment which the Blanketeers had received at the meeting and afterwards, "a Moscow of Manchester" should take place that very night.  The man paused and looked at us severally.  I intimated that I knew what he meant, and desired him to go on.  He said it would entirely depend on the co-operation or otherwise of the country people; that other messengers had been sent to every reform society within twenty miles of the town; that if the answers were favourable to the project, the light of the conflagration was to be the signal for the country people to come in—and, in such case, the Middleton people were requested to take their station on St. George's Field.  He said the plan had been arranged by a meeting held at Manchester; that the whole force would be divided into parties, one of which was to engage the attention of the military and draw them from their barracks; another was to take possession of the barracks and secure the arms and magazine; another was to plunder and then set fire to the houses of individuals who were marked out; and a fourth was to storm the New Bailey and liberate the prisoners, particularly the Blanketeers confined there.  I said it was a serious thing to undertake, and that an answer could not be returned from Middleton until some friends had been consulted.  On my rising to go out, the man appeared alarmed, and begged I would not betray him.  I assured him he had nothing to fear, and desired him to stay with Healey until my return, which would be very soon, on which he seemed reconciled to my going.  I speedily went to five of my acquaintance, chiefly members of the committee, and desired them to repair immediately to Healey's house, where business of importance would be laid before them.  I then brought up the stranger and the doctor, and telling the man he might confide in us, he repeated nearly word for word what he had said at the "Trumpeter."  I then said I would have nothing to do with the scheme; that it was unlawful, inhuman, and cowardly.  I told him he appeared to be a simple young fellow, and was probably the dupe of some designing villain.  My friends agreed with my opinion, both as to the proposal and the instrument who broached it: we bade him, however, not to mistrust us; gave him refreshment, and sent him away, more in sorrow for his peril (being persuaded he was in the hands of villains) than of resentment for the decoy he had attempted.  We bade him good night, and he went his way.

    The young man said his name was Samuel Priestley; I observed that he had lost a finger from his left hand; he said he lived at Bank Top, Manchester.  I afterwards made inquiries respecting him on the spot, but never could hear of such a person in the place or neighbourhood.  This statement, however, cannot now injure him.

    After he was gone we consulted about this strange message and unknown messenger.  We had not heard of the plot before, and though we doubted not that it had been sanctioned, as the man stated, by the Manchester committee, that circumstance did not increase our confidence.  We had no reliance on their sagacity or their integrity as a body; men who could get up and countenance the Blanket Expedition had no weight with us.  They were moreover reported to be under the influence of spies from the police; a suspicion which many circumstances tended to strengthen.  The plot itself did the same; the unknown messenger, the precipitation, "to be done that very night," the population for twenty miles around an immense town to be brought upon it by midnight, and then to be divided, apportioned, and set to work by men of whom they knew nothing!  The proposal was too absurd, as well as iniquitous, to excite anything save wonder and disgust, even with simple and inexperienced ones like ourselves.  Besides, would Major Cartwright have sanctioned such a measure?  Certainly not.  And then we almost regretted that we had suffered the emissary to depart.

    It was deemed prudent that Healey and I should on that night sleep from home, and at some place where our stay could be proved, should anything arise to render such a step necessary; and none could tell what might be necessary, as in those days of alarm and uncertainty no one knew what was impending.  An old female reformer accordingly gave us her house and bed, and turning the key, locked us in, whilst we, in our simplicity, were quite satisfied with having taken so wise a precaution against any false evidence which might by possibility be brought to connect us with the plot of which we had been apprised.  We retired to rest and lay talking this strange matter over until sleep overtook us.  I was first to awake, and seeing a brightness behind the curtain, I stepped to the window, and sure enough beheld in the southern sky a stream of light which I thought must be that of a distant lire.  It was a fine crisped morning, and as I looked, a piece of a moon came wandering to the west from behind some masses of cloud.  Now she would be entirely obscured; then streaks of her pale beams would be seen breaking on the edges of the vapours; then a broader gleam would come; then again it would be pale and receding; but the clouds were so connected that the fair traveller had seldom a space for showing her unveiled horn. I saw how it was; my conflagration had dwindled to a moonbeam, and as I stood with the frost tingling at my toes "an unlucky thought" (as we say, when excusing our own sins we impute them to a much abused sable personage) came into my head to have a small joke at the doctor's expense; and as it was a mode of amusement to which I must confess I was rather prone, I immediately began to carry it into effect.  I gave a loud cough or two; the doctor thereupon grunted and turned over in bed; when, in the very break of his sleep, I said aloud, as I crept beneath the bedclothes, "there's a fine leet i'th' welkin, as th' witch o' Brandwood sed when the devil wur ridin' o'er Rossenda."  "Leet," said the doctor; "a fine leet, weer? weer?"  "Why go to th' windo' an' look."  That instant my sanguine friend was out of bed and at the window, his head stuck behind the curtain.  "There's a great leet," he said, "to'rd Manchester."  "There is indeed," I replied, "it's mitch but weary wark is gooin' on omung yon foke."  "It's awful," said the doctor; " thei'r agate as sure as we're heer."  "I think there's summut up," I said.  I was now snugly rolled in the clothes, and perceived at the same time that the doctor was getting into a kind of dancing shiver, and my object being to keep him in his shirt till he was cooled and undeceived, and consequently a little sprung in temper, I asked, "Dun yo really think then ot th' teawn's o' foyer?"  "Foyer," he replied; "there's no deawt on't."  "Con yo see th' flames, doctor?"  "Nowe, I conno' see th' flames, but Icon see th' leet ut coms fro' em."  "That's awful," I ejaculated.  "Aye, it's awful," he said; "come an' see for yo'rsel'."  "Nowe, I'd reyther not," I answered; "I dunno' like sich sects; it's lucky ut we're heer—they conno' say ut we'n had owt to do wi' it, at ony rate, con they, doctor?"  "Nowe," he said, "they conno'.  It keeps changin'," he said.  "Con yo' yer owt?" I asked.  "Nowe, I conno' yer nowt," he said.  I, however, heard his teeth hacking in his head, and stuffed the sheet into my mouth to prevent my laughter from being noticed.  "Ar' yo' sure, doctor?" I asked.  No reply.  "Is it blazin' up?" I said.  "Blazin' be hanged!" was the answer.  "Wet dun yo' myen, doctor—is it gwon eawt then?"  "Gullook!" he said, "it's nobbut th' moon, an' yo' knewn it oth' while."  A loud burst of laughter followed, which I enjoyed till the bed shook; my companion muttering imprecations and sundry devil's prayers against all "moon doggs an' welkin lookers," by which terms I knew he meant myself for one.



PERSONAL liberty not being now secure from one hour to another, many of the leading reformers were induced to quit their homes, and seek concealment where they could obtain it.  Those who could muster a few pounds, or who had friends to give them a frugal welcome, or who had trades with which they could travel, disappeared like swallows at the close of summer, no one knew whither.  The single men stayed away altogether; the married ones would occasionally steal back at night to their wan-cheeked families, perhaps to divide with them some trifle they had saved during their absence, perhaps to obtain a change of linen or other garment for future concealment, but most of all, as would naturally be the case, to console, and be consoled by their wives and little ones.  Perhaps one had found an asylum amongst kind friends, and had brought home a little hoard, the fruits of his own industry and carefulness, or of their generosity.  Perhaps he had been wandering in want, not daring to make himself known, until his beard disguised him, his shoes and stockings were trampled from his feet, and his linen was in rags; when at length, worn out and reckless, he would venture home, like the wearied bird which found no place to rest.  Perhaps he had been discovered to be a reform leader, and had been threatened, mayhap pursued, and, like a hunted hare, now returned to the place of former repose.  Then he would come home stealthily under cover of darkness; his wife would rush into his arms, his little ones would be about his knees, looking silent pleasure —for they, poor things, like nestling birds, had learned to be mute in danger.

    But with all precautions, it did sometimes happen that in such moments of mournful joy the father would be seized, chained, and torn from his family before he had time to bless them or to receive their blessings and tears.  Such scenes were of frequent occurrence, and have thrown a melancholy retrospection over those days.  Private revenge or political differences were gratified by secret and often false information handed to the police.  The country was distracted by rumours of treasonable discoveries, and apprehensions of the traitors, whose fate was generally predicted to be death or perpetual imprisonment.  Bagguley, Johnson, Drummond, and Benbow were already in prison at London; and it was frequently intimated to me, through some very kind relations-in-law, that I and some of my acquaintances would soon be arrested.  This sort of information was always brought to Middleton by parties who, being in the manufacturing line, visited Manchester twice or thrice a week for the purpose of disposing of their goods.  They appeared to be well acquainted with the movements of the police; they could tell when king's messengers arrived or departed; how many State warrants had been issued; who would be next apprehended; and such like useful and pleasant things, which they always took care to make known in such quarters as made it sure to reach those they wished to render unhappy by anticipation of troubles they could not now avoid.  And, strange to say, many of their predictions were verified.  King's messengers did arrive: Government warrants were issued; and the persons they mentioned were taken to prison.  A cloud of gloom and mistrust hung over the whole country.  The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was a measure the result of which we young reformers could not judge, save by report, and that was of a nature to cause anxiety in the most indifferent of us.  The proscriptions, imprisonments, trials, and banishments of 1792 were brought to our recollections by the similarity of our situation to those of the sufferers of that period.  It seemed as if the sun of freedom were gone down, and a rayless expanse of oppression had finally closed over us.  Cobbett, in terror of imprisonment, had fled to America; Sir Francis Burdett had enough to do in keeping his own arms free; Lord Cochrane was threatened, but quailed not; Hunt was still somewhat turbulent, but he was powerless, for he had lost the genius of his influence when he lost Cobbett, [9] and was now almost like Sampson, shorn and blind.  The worthy old Major remained at his post, brave as a lion, serene as an unconscious child; and also, in the rush and tumult of that time, almost as little noticed.  Then, of our country reformers, John Knight had disappeared; Pilkington was out of the way somewhere; Bradbury had not yet been heard of; Mitchell moved in a sphere of his own, the extent of which no man knew save himself; and Kay and Fitton were seldom visible beyond the circle of their own village; whilst, to complete our misfortunes, our chapel-keeper, in the very tremor of fear, turned the key upon us, and declared we should no longer meet in the place.

    Our society, thus hopeless, became divided and dismayed; hundreds slunk home to their looms, nor dared to come out, save like owls at nightfall, when they would perhaps steal through by-paths or behind hedges, or down some clough, to hear the news at the next cottage.  Some might be seen chatting with and making themselves agreeable to our declared enemies; but these were few, and always of the worst character.  Open meetings thus being suspended, secret ones ensued; they were originated at Manchester, and assembled under various pretexts.  Sometimes they were termed "benefit societies," sometimes "botanical meetings," "meetings for the relief of the families of imprisoned reformers," or "of those who had fled the country"; but their real purpose, divulged only to the initiated, was to carry into effect the night attack on Manchester, the attempt at which had before failed for want of arrangement and co-operation.



WEARIED at length with the continued alarms of my intended arrest and committal to prison, I consented to leave home for a day or two to find some place where, unknown, I might earn a subsistence until the cloud was blown over, and I could return in safety.  Healey, who also had expectations of being wanted shortly, determined to accompany me with a like view; and so, in the thick, grey morning, with light purses and somewhat heavy hearts, we left our humble but dear homes, and struck into the open country

"Down a quiet green lane where two rindles flow;
 Unto lands where the night-hunters stealthily go;
 Cross'd Roche's dark stream; o'er a barren heath hied;
 And up to the moorlands wild and wide."

    Healey wished to see his uncle Richard, who was a farmer and publican on the moors to the north-west of Middleton; and soon, as the sun broke out and the mist cleared, we found ourselves traversing Hopwood Ley in that direction.  How delicious was the air, wafting breezy and free over the budding woods!  Now sweeping up the hollows, now coming through the dew pearls and shaking the hazel bloom, now bearing towards us the bold note of the throstle, anon receding to nestle softly in the dingles with the melody of the blackbird!  How happy were those simple children of nature—happy in their loves, in their rude nests; in their offspring, and in their unconsciousness of danger.  The lapwing's plaintive cry as it wheeled above was in unison with our feelings; the bird also seemed, like ourselves, to have no resting-place; whilst the cony, frisking before us, and disappearing, showed us he had a home.  But the bracing air, the warm, life-giving sun, the glorious beings of nature around and above us, whilst they excited our attention, gradually dispelled the gloom of our feelings, and we also began to be cheerful if not happy, remembering that there is no hill without its vale, no storm without its calm, no shadow without its sun.  So we went on—now climbing a hedge, now leaping a rindle, now starting a hare, or springing a woodcock, now treading a bit of swamp, now up a knoll through the gorses, then by the skirt of a meadow, and round to the hill-foot, by the music of a stream, where—

"Spring moves on as glad we gaze,
 Calling the flowers wherever she strays.
 Come from the earth, ye dwellers there,
 To the blessed light, and the living air:
 For the snowdrop hath warned the drift away;
 And the crocus awaiteth your company;
 And the bud of the thorn is beginning to swell;
 And the waters have broken their bonds in the dell.
 And are not the hazel and slender bine
 Blending their boughs where the sun doth shine?
 And the willow is bringing its downy palm,
 Garland for days that are bright and calm;
 And the lady-flower waves on its slender stem;
 And the primrose peeps like a starry gem."

    Thus tramping o'er Spinthreeds and the Wilderness, we approached Captain Fold, the sight of which led Healey into some remarks on his father, his family, and his own early days.

    He said he was born at Captain Fold, where his father lived and was a famous cow-leech, being fetched by the farmers to all parts of the country when their cattle were sick; that he also dabbled a little in medicines for the human frame, and was successful in most of the cases which he undertook; and they were such as had baffled common applications.  That his father was a devout man of the Methodist persuasion, and a firm believer in witches and witchcraft, which persuasion he also inherited.  That in those days there were many sudden and uncommon disorders, which few persons understood, and fewer still could cope with.  Such were often treated by his father on the "supernatural plan," and he was generally successful.  He was almost sure to be sent for when cattle were supposed to be amiss from the influence of infernal spells, which he counteracted sometimes by other spells, drugs and herbs prepared at particular seasons, and under certain forms and ceremonials.  He had also great faith in the power of faith, and the efficacy of private prayer.  He died, however, leaving my companion unprovided for, and he was put apprentice to a cotton weaver at Bolton, where he learned the business, but under such oppressions and cruelties from his master and dame, as instilled into him a thorough abhorrence of tyranny.  At the expiration of the term of his bondage he came to Chadderton, where he had a married sister living; and after introducing a new method of twisting-in-warps, by which he saved a little money, and clothed himself respectably, he paid his addresses to his present wife and was accepted, and came to Middleton to reside with his wife and her parents.  He accounted for his getting into the surgical profession by supposing that he derived a taste for it from his father.  He first began by selling simple drugs; after which he got some books, and ventured to compound and prescribe medicines.  Next he succeeded in "breathing a vein"; and lastly became a tooth-drawer, and general practitioner of the surgical art; and now "he was thankful, he needed not turn his back on any of his neighbours in the same line."  There was only one point he said, and that was the art obstetric, in which he was deficient; and he hoped to attain that yet.  Such were my companion's past trials and present attainments.  In sketching his father, however, he omitted one remarkable circumstance, and if he knew it, honour be to his filial regard for the omission; it accords, however, very closely with the son's outline of the remarkable old man.  It was said that so firm was his belief in the human application of divine faith, and such his assurance of being perfected in it, that he ascended the ridge of his barn, in the presence of his assembled neighbours, and after praying for, and exhorting them, he, in the full expectation of being buoyed tip, flung himself off, and fell souse on a dung-heap below.  Such a misdirection was, of course, a great handle to the ungodly; but in the old man's opinion it was no disproof of the power of faith, but an intimation only of his own weakness and imperfections in that divine attainment.

    Doctor Healey, or, "the doctor," as we must now call him, was about five feet six in height; thirty-two or three years of age, with rather good features, small light grey eyes, darker whiskers and hair, with a curl on his forehead, of which he was remarkably proud.  He was well-set in body, but light of limb; his knees had an uncommonly supple motion, which gave them an appearance of weakness.  He had an assured look, and in walking, especially when with a little "too much wind in the sheet," he turned his toes inward, and carried an air of bravado which was richly grotesque.  In disposition he was, until afterwards corrupted, generous and confiding; credulous, proud of his person and acquirements.  A book-buyer, but little of a reader, less of a thinker, and no recollector of literary matters.  Hence, with an imperturbable self-complacency, he was supremely oblivious of the world, its history, manners, and concerns; except such as directly interfered with the good or evil of his own existence.  At this time his attire was scarcely more decent than my own; both were somewhat too seedy, but that was a circumstance on which a learned doctor and a self-devoting patriot could look with indifference.

    His hat was somewhat napless, with sundry dinges on the crown, and up-settings and down-flappings of the brim, which showed it to have tupped against harder substances than itself, as well as to have seen much "winter and rough weather."  He wore a long drab top-coat, which, from its present appearance, might never have gone through the process of perching.  His under-coat was of dark uncut fustian, which, by his almost incessant occupation in the "laboratory," preparing ointments, salves, and lotions, had become smooth and shining as a duck's wing, and almost as impervious to wet; his hamsters were similar in material and condition to his coat, whilst his legs were encased in top-boots, no worse for wear, except perhaps a leaky seam or two, and a cracked upper leather.  Such was one who will have frequently to make his appearance in this work.  He had within him at this time, no doubt, the germs of many faults which might not have appeared at all, had he not been thrown into connections which perverted his naturally simple, inoffensive, and even amiable nature.

    But, the reader may say, we have only one of the travellers here; why does not the author furnish a portrait of the other?  Behold him then.  A young man, twenty-nine years of age; five feet ten inches in height; with long, well-formed limbs, short body, very upright carriage, free motion, and active and lithe, rather than strong.  His hair is of a deep dun colour, coarse, straight, and flaky; his complexion a swarthy pale; his eyes, grey, lively, and observant; his features strongly defined and irregular, like a mass of rough and smooth matters which, having been thrown into a heap, had found their own subsidence, and presented, as it were by accident, a profile of rude good nature, with some intelligence.  His mouth is small; his lips a little prominent; his teeth white and well set; his nose rather snubby; his cheeks somewhat high; and his forehead deep and rather heavy about the eyes.  His hat is not quite so broken, but quite as well worn as the doctor's; his coat of brown cloth, as yet unpatched, but wanting soon to be; his waistcoat of lighter colour, bare and decent; his hamsters of dark kerseymere, grey at the knees; and his stockings of lamb's-wool, with some neat darning above the quarters of his strong nailed shoes.  Such, reader, was the personal appearance of him who now endeavours to amuse thee; of the qualities of his mind and disposition an opinion may be formed from this work.

    Having crossed the River Roach, we came to the foot of Crimble, where I told Healey the story of Christian and Faithful, at the hill Difficulty, and said I would be his Faithful, and would help him up this Difficulty.  I remarked that he must have many sins to answer for, through his selling of drugs at extortionate prices, quacking a little in his practice, and sometimes drawing sound teeth when he could not find faded ones.  He turned on me when we got to the level, and he breathed more freely.  He bade me look towards those fields and that venerable hall which one of my ancestors lost by rebellion against a king; and he narrated a story which I had heard before, how, in the Civil Wars, the eldest of two brothers held this estate of Bamford, and fought against the king, who was dethroned, and at the restoration the elder brother fled into exile and died there, leaving his children heirs only to poverty and obscurity; meantime his younger brother, who had fought on the royal side, was put into possession of the hall and estates, and thus they descended from him to the last of the name who held the property.  Healey remarked that I indeed had not an estate to lose, but was taking a fair course for losing my head, and was already an outcast wanderer on lands belonging to my ancestors.

    On coming to Bakslate Moor, Healey said the neighbourhood was formerly infested by witches.  His father had often been called upon to counteract their infernal schemes.  He firmly believed all this, and I did not combat his opinion: on the contrary, I said I was sure it had been a place of witches.  He asked why I believed so.  I bid him notice it; did it not look like a barren and withered land, full of slate pits, rushy knobs, and dry wiry grass, from which even asses turned away?  Besides, I had been witched myself by one of them.  Healey looked serious, and inquiringly.  I assured him I had.  I was so bewitched that on a midsummer morning one of them withdrew me to a place where I gave myself to her for life; and the charm remained so strong that I had never yet attempted to break it, nor even wished to do so.  He smiled on perceiving my meaning, and said he was not alluding to the witchcraft of love.

    We now began to ascend the road leading to the moors, and a climb of about two miles brought us upon the level of the hill at Ashworth Moor; soon after which we came in sight of Learock Hoyle, in modern English, "Lark's Hole," a substantial hostel and farmhouse, which Healey informed me was his uncle Richard's, or Dick's, as he sometimes called him.  The old man was at work in a stone quarry near the roadside; he was about sixty years of age, strong and active for his time of life, and hearty too, for he came out of the quarry, and gave us a blunt and frank welcome, and took us into the house.  His wife was a remarkably clever and good-looking woman, much younger than her husband, and the very personification of a managing, self-confident, and civil landlady.  Two fine thriving lasses, taking after their mother, and a son more like his father, were their stock of children.  And here this family had lived many years, contented with a sufficiency of plain comforts, at a lone house on the borders of a moor.  I could not but reflect on the advantages they must derive from thus enjoying life freely in a world of their own, and with a moderation which gave promise of a long continuance.  They seemed but little affected by what was going on, politically, in the districts below and around them; they were clear of the anxieties and tumults of business, which were heart-rending, and distracting the inhabitants of the great towns situated within their view, and, in fact, within their hearing (for we could distinguish the noise of the lumbering roll of the carriages, like the eternal moan of a distant sea); and contrasting the quietness of this nest, this "Hole of the Lark," with the errors and terrors of scenes I had quitted, I could not but detect my yearnings for a shelter with those I loved in some quiet nook little known and seldom visited.

    Having rested and taken refreshment, we went strolling upon the moor, and ascended Knowe, or Knowl Hill, from whence we had an extensive prospect.  In the distance on our left were the moors towards Todmorden and Walsden; following the horizon, we next saw the ridge of Blackstone Edge, streaked with sun gleams and dark shadows; then the moors of Saddleworth, particularly Oaphin with his white drifts still lingering, and Odermon with his venerable relics of Druidism, his "Pots an' Pans."  The mountains of Derbyshire and Cheshire rose like a region of congealed waves, whilst Vale Royal, to the south, lay reposing in a glorious sun, and the country towards Liverpool was bounded by a bright streak, probably the Irish Sea.  A dim white vapour indicated the site of Preston or Blackburn; Bolton seemed near at hand, and Bury close on our right below.  Manchester, Stockport, Ashton, Oldham, and Rochdale were distinctly visible, and neither last nor least regarded, was one small speck—it was the white end of a house at Heabers, which directed our looks to the misty vapour of Middleton, rising beside dark woods from the vale in which the town is situated.  That was the smoke of our own hearths, heaped by those who were thinking of us.  We could almost see them: whisht! could we not hear the voices of our children? of their mothers calling them home?  And in the fond imagination we shouted their names, but there was no reply; and then, feeling we were cut off and outcast, we more sadly understood the human desolateness of Him who said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head."

    But even in this wild region were objects to call us back to reality, and teach us that in every situation there is something to be thankful for; that—

"There is mercy in every place,"

and that a bounteous Creator is nowhere unmindful of those He has called into life.  A beautiful spring of water, pure as a cup from heaven's banquet, was gently brimming over a basin of white sand and pebbles, into which it arose.  A sward of sweet green grass lined the margin of a silvery band that lay glimmering and trickling on the sunny side of the hill, whilst here and there were tufts of rushes glistering with liquid pearls.  We took the water in our hands and drank "to our families and friends"; "to our suffering brethren everywhere"; "to the downfall of tyranny and soon"; and "to liberty," with three huzzas.  An old black-faced tup lifted his horns from the heather, looked gravely at us, and giving a significant bleat, scampered off, followed by such of his acquaintance as were browsing near.

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1. 1842. It is interesting to compare with these demands the "six points" of the "Charter"—universal suffrage, vote by ballot, equal electoral districts, annual parliaments, abolition of property qualification of members, and the payment of members.
2. Under the Reform Act of 1832.
3. Mr. Spencer Walpole observes that Brougham was "the first politician who made the subject [of popular education] his own."  The earliest education returns (1818) were due to him.  His Bill for the Establishment of an Education Board in London (1837) led to the formation of the Committee of the Privy Council two years later.  He was the chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge, the offspring of an enthusiasm now perhaps somewhat disparaged, but at that time a very quickening force.
4. William Benbow, shoemaker, of Birch, near Middleton.
5. Henry Hunt, known as "Orator Hunt."  He died in 1835.
6. Thomas Cartwright, a major in the militia, a Reformer from 1780—hence styled the "Father of Reform."
7. Afterwards Lord Dundonald.
8. The "Green Bag" contained papers on the state of the country intended to justify the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act.
9. In March, 1817, on the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, Cobbett went to America, where he remained two years.


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