Bygones Worth Remembering (6)
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CHAPTER XL.

BYWAYS OF LIBERTY


IT is worth while recording the curious, not to say ignominious, ways from which justice to new thought has emerged.  In the 5 and 6 Victoriæ, cap, 38, 1842, the trial of eighteen offences were removed from the jurisdiction of justices of the Peace in Quarter Sessions and transferred to the Assize Court.  Persons accused were often subject to magisterial intolerance, ignorance and offensiveness.  Among the transferred offences were forgery, bigamy, abductions of women.  "Blasphemy and offences against religion," often of doubtful and delicate interpretation, were two of the subjects taken out of magisterial hands and placed under the decision of better-informed and more responsible judges.  "Blasphemy" was the general title under which atheism, heresy, and other troubles of the questioning intellect were designated.  "Composing, printing or publishing blasphemous libels," were included in the list of subjects to be dealt with in higher courts.  Thus better chances of justice were secured to thinkers and disseminators of forbidden ideas.  This new charter of thought, which conceded legal fairness to propagandism, was not the subject of a special statute, but was interpolated in a list, which read like an auctioneer's catalogue, eluded Parliamentary prejudice, which might have been fatal, had it been formally submitted to its notice.

    In the same manner the Affirmation Act, which changed the status of the disbeliever in theology from that of an outlaw to that of a citizen, crept into the Statute Book through a criminal avenue.  A Bill to admit atheists, agnostics, or other conscientious objectors to the ecclesiastic oath, to make a responsible affirmation instead, was twice or thrice thrown out of the windows of Parliament.  Sir John Trelawny used to say Mr. Gathorne Hardy (afterwards Lord Cranbrook) would rise up, as I have seen him, with a face as furiously red as one of his own blast furnaces at Lowmoor, and move its rejection.  It was passed at last by the friendly device of G. W. Hastings, M.P., the founder of the Social Science Association, in a Bill innocently purporting to better "promote the discovery of truth" by enabling persons charged with adultery to give evidence on their own behalf.  Then and there a clause was introduced which had no relation to the extension of the right to give evidence, but upon the exemption of an entirely different class of persons from the obligation of making oath.  Adulterers appear always to be Christians, since no case is recorded in which any party in an adultery action professed any scruple at taking the oath.  Yet the Bill set forth that "any person in a civil or criminal proceeding who shall object to make an oath," shall make a declaration instead.  When the Bill became an Act secular affirmation became legalised.  Thus by a clause treading upon the heels of adultery, the witness having heretical and unecclesiastical convictions was enabled to be honest without peril.

    In 1842 as I witnessed at the Gloucester Assizes, no barrister would defend any one accused of dissent from Christianity, but apologised for him and proclaimed his contrition for his sin of thinking for himself.  Slave thought of the mind, chained to custom, could be defended, but not Free Thought, which is independent of everything save the truth.  By the Act of 1869 [54] atheists ceased to be outlaws, and were henceforth enabled to give evidence in their own defence.  Wide-awake and vigilant as a rule, bigotry was asleep that day.  Thus by circuitous and furtive paths the right of free thought has made its way to the front of the State.


 
CHAPTER XLI.

LAWYERS' LICENCE


THE extraordinary legal licence of disordered and offensive imputation has been limited since 1842.  In those days, officers of the law, who always professed high regard for morality and truth, had no sense of either, when they were drawing up theological indictments.  In the affair at Cheltenham I delivered a lecture on Home Colonies (a proposal similar to the Garden Cities of to-day), to which nobody objects now.  As I always held that discussion was the right of the audience, as self-defensive against the errors of lecturer or preacher, an auditor, availing himself of this concession, arose in the meeting and asked: "Since I had spoken of duty to man, why I had said nothing of duty to God"?  My proper answer was, that having announced one subject, the audience would have a right to complain that I had trepanned them into hearing another, which they would not hear willingly.  Such a reply would have been received with outcries, and the Christian auditor would have said, "I dare not answer the question—that I held opinions I was afraid to disclose."  All the while the questioner knew that an honest answer might have penal consequences, which he intended to invoke.  Christians in those days lacked winning ways.  I gave a defiant answer, which caused my imprisonment.  There was no imputation in my reply, which merely produced merriment.

    Yet my indictment said I "was a wicked, malicious, evil-disposed person," and that I "wickedly did compose, speak and utter, pronounce and publish with a loud voice, of and concerning the Holy Scriptures, to the high displeasure of Almighty God, and against the peace of our Lady the Queen."  Every sentence was an outrage, and nearly every word untrue.  I was not wicked, nor malicious, nor evil-disposed.  I did not compose the speech—it was purely spontaneous.  I never had a loud voice.  I never referred to the Holy Scriptures, and I only disturbed the peace of our Lady the Queen by a ripple of laughter.

    I carried no arms.  I was known as belonging to the "Moral Force Party" in politics, and was entirely unprepared to attack any person, let alone one Omnipotent with "force of arms."  The imputations in the indictment were not only untrue, but contained more blasphemy than was in the mind of any one to utter.  I called the Judge's attention to the atrocity of the language of the indictment.  He did not say there was anything objectionable in it, which showed that the morality of the Bench was not higher at that time than the morality of the magistrates.  In the Cheltenham Chronicle, known in the town as the Rev. Francis Close's (afterwards Dean of Chichester) paper, I was described as a "miscreant" for the answer I had given to my auditor.  Mr. Justice Erskine had no word of reproof for the infamous term applied to me.

    As I have elsewhere said, I spoke in my defence upwards of nine hours.  The length was owing to the declaration of one of the magistrates (Mr. Bransby Cooper) that the Court would not hear me defend myself.  Why I defended myself at all, was from a very different reason.

    No barrister in those days would defend any one charged with dissenting from the Christian religion.  The counsel always apologised to the jury for the opinions of his client, which admitted his guilt.  This was done at that very assizes at which I was tried.  A Mr. Thompson, a barrister in Court, who we mistook for a son of General Perronet Thompson, also at the Bar, was engaged to defend George Adams, charged with an act of heresy.  The false Thompson expressed contrition for Adams, without knowing or inquiring whether it was true that he felt it.  Neither counsel nor magistrate nor judge seemed to think it necessary that what they said should be true.

    Thus my justification of the seeming presumption of defending myself was the fact that no counsel would defend us without compromising us.  I had no taste for martyrdom.  I did not want martyrdom.  I did not like martyrdom.  Martyrdom is not a thing to be sought, but a thing to be submitted to when it comes.

    This narrative shows that, in one respect, legal taste and truth have improved in my time.


 
CHAPTER XLII.

CHRISTIAN DAYS


MANY religious thinkers, ecclesiastical and Nonconformist, whose friendship I value, will expect from me in these autobiographic papers some account of the origin of opinions in which they have been interested.  Sermons, speeches, pamphlets, even books have been devoted to criticism of my heresies.  It is due to those who have taken so much trouble about me that I should explain, not what the opinions were—that would be irrelevant here—but how I came by them.  That may be worth recounting, and to some serious people perhaps worth remembering.

    Confessions are not in my way.  They imply that something it was prudent to conceal has to be "owned up."  Of that kind I have no story to tell.  An apologia is still less to my taste.  I make no apology for my opinions.  I do not find that persons who dissent from me, ever so strenuously, think of apologising to me for doing so.  They do right in standing by their convictions without asking my leave.  I hope they will take it in good part if I stand by mine without asking theirs.

    My mother did not go to the Established Church, to which her father belonged.  She had natural piety of heart, and thought she found more personal religion among the Nonconformists than in the Church.  She attended Carr's Lane Chapel, where the Rev. John Angell James preached—who had a great reputation in Birmingham for eloquence and for his evangelical writings.  He was notorious in his day for denouncing players and ambitious preachers seeking to excel in the arts of this world; which caused the town people to say that he was dramatic against the drama and eloquent against eloquence.  His name, "Angell" James, begat a belief that it was descriptive of himself, and that his doctrines were necessarily angelic.  It seems absurd, but I shared this belief, and should not have been surprised to hear that he had some elementary development of wings out of sight.  At the same time, Mr. James gave me the impression of severity in piety, and my feeling towards him was one of awe, dreading a near approach.

    Some years after, I held a discussion of several nights with the Rev. W. J. Winks, of Leicester, who wrote to Mr. James to make inquiries concerning me.  In 1881, some thirty-five years after the discussion, Mr. Winks' son showed me a letter which Mr. James wrote in reply saying: "Holyoake was a boy in my Sunday School five years.  He then went, through the persuasion of a companion, to Mr. Cheadle's for a short time, then to the Unitarian school (I believe entered a debating society), and became an unbeliever.  He is a good son and kind to his mother, who is a member of one of our Baptist churches."

    The Rev. Mr. Cheadle, of whom Mr. James speaks, was a Baptist minister.  It is true I went to his church—my sister Matilda became a member of it—but I never joined it.  The ceremony of baptism there was by immersion.  It seemed poetical to me when I read the account of baptism in the Jordan; but I could not make up my mind to be baptised in a tank.  The reason, however, that I gave at the time was the stronger and the true one—that I did not feel good enough to make a solemn public profession of faith.  Mr. James was misinformed; I never belonged to a debating society.

    It was very good of him to write of me so, when he must have been very much pained at the opinions he believed me then to hold.  A man may speak generously privately, but he means it when he says the same thing publicly; and Mr. James did this.  He wrote to a similar effect in the British Banner at the time when the Rev. Brewin Grant was painting portraits of me in pandemonium colours.

    A small Sunday School Magazine came into my hands when I was quite a youth.  It was edited by the Rev. W. J. Winks.  As communications were invited from readers, I sent some evangelical verses to him.  The first time of my seeing my initials in print was in Mr. Winks's magazine.

    After a time, partly because the place of worship was nearer home, my mother joined a little church in Thorpe Street, and later one in Inge Street.  They were melancholy little meeting-houses, and, as I always accompanied my mother, I had time to acquire that impression of them.  A love of art was in some measure natural to me, and I thought that the Temple of God should be bright, beautiful and costly.  As I was taught to believe that He was always present there, it seemed to me that He should not be invited (and all our prayers did invite Him) into a mean-looking place.  It was seeing how earnestly my mother prayed at home for the welfare of her family, how beautiful and patient was her trust in heaven, and how trouble and misery increased in the household notwithstanding, that unconsciously turned my heart to methods of secular deliverance.  She had lost children.  I remember the consternation with which she told us one Sunday night that her pastor, the Rev. Mr. James, had stated in his sermon his fearsome belief that there were "children in hell not a span long."  That Mr. James believed it seemed to us the same as its being in the Bible.  Another time he preached about the "sin against the Holy Ghost, which could never be forgiven, either in this world or the world to come."  My mother's distress at the thought made a great impression upon me.  A silent terror of Christianity crept into my mind.  That one so pure and devout as my mother, who was incapable of committing sin knowingly, should be liable to commit this, and none of us know what it was, nor how or when consequences so awful were incurred, seemed to me very dreadful.

    The first death at home of which I was conscious, occurred at a time when Church rates and Easter dues were enforced and augmented by a summons.  None of us were old enough to take the money to the public office, and a little sister being ill, my mother, with reluctance, had to go.  A small crowd of householders being there on the same errand, she was away some hours.  When she returned, my sister was dead; and the thought that the money extorted by the Church might have succoured, if not saved the poor child, made the distress greater.  My mother, always resigned, made no religious complaint, but I remember that, in our blind, helpless way, the Church became to us a thing of ill-omen.  It was not disbelief, it was dislike, that was taking possession of our minds.

    A man in my father's employ, who was superintendent of a Congregational Chapel School at Harborne, a village some three or four miles from Birmingham, asked me to assist as monitor in one of his classes.  I was so young that John Collins, who preached at times in the chapel, took me by the hand, and I walked by his side.  The distance was too far for my little feet, and in winter the snow found its way through my shoes.  Collins afterwards became known as a Chartist advocate, and was imprisoned in Warwick Gaol with William Lovett, on the ground of political speeches.  They jointly wrote the most intelligent scheme of Chartist advocacy made in their day.  Elsewhere I have recounted incarcerations which befel many of my friends, proving that, within the memory of living men, the path of political and other pilgrims lay by the castles of giants who seized them by the way.

    In the Carr's Lane Sunday School I was considered an attentive, devout-minded boy.  All the hymns we sang I knew by heart, as well as most parts of the Bible.  The only classic of a semi-secular nature my mother had in her house was Milton's "Paradise Lost"; we had besides a few works of ponderous Nonconformist divines, of which Boston's "Fourfold State" was one, to which I added Baxter's "Saints' Everlasting Rest."  I devoured whatever came in my way that was religious.  Being thought by this time capable of teaching the little that was deemed necessary in an Evangelical Sunday school, I came to act as a small teacher at the Inge Street Chapel.  These people were known as Pædo-Baptists—what that meant not a single worshipper knew.  The point of doctrine which they did understand was that children should not be baptised when their small souls were in the jelly-fish state and knew nothing.  When their little minds had grown and had some backbone of sense in them, and some understanding of religious things, the congregation thought that sprinkling them into spiritual fellowship might do them good.

    Though my mother admitted that adult baptism was more reasonable, she never listened to the doctrine of baptism by immersion.  She disliked innovation in piety.  She had great tenacity in quiet belief, and thought public immersion a demonstration—very bad bathing of its kind—and might give you a cold.

    Few young believers showed more religious zeal than I did in those days.  On Sunday morning there was a prayer on rising, and one before leaving home.  At half-past seven the teachers were invited to meet at chapel to pray for a blessing on the work of the day.  When school commenced at nine o'clock the superintendent opened it with prayer, and closed it at eleven with another prayer.  Then came the morning service of the chapel, at which I was present with my class.  That included three prayers.  At two o'clock school began again, opening and ending with prayers by the superintendent, or by some teacher who was asked "to engage" in it, in his stead.  At the close of the school, another prayer-meeting of teachers was held, for a blessing on the work done that day.  At half-past six evening service took place, which included three more prayers.  Afterwards, devout members of the congregation held a prayer-meeting on behalf of the work of the church.  At all these meetings I was present, so that, together with graces before and after meals three times a day, and evening prayers at time of rest, heaven heard from me pretty frequently on Sundays.  Many times since I have wondered at the great patience of God towards my unconscious presumption in calling attention so often to my insignificant proceedings.  Atonement ought to include the sin of prayers.

    Nor was this all.  At chapels in Birmingham (1834), when anniversary sermons had been preached on Sunday by some ministers of mark, there would commonly be a public meeting on Monday at which they would speak, and to which I would go.  On Tuesday evening I went to the Cherry Street Chapel, where the best Wesleyan preachers in the town were to be heard.  On Wednesday I often attended the Carr's Lane sermon.  Thursday would find me at the Bradford Street chapel, where there usually sat before me a beautiful youth, whose sensuous grace of motion gave me as much pleasure as the sermon.  I remember it because it was there I first became conscious of the charm of human strength and proportion.  I had the Greek love of beauty in boys—not in the Greek sense, of which I knew nothing.

    On Friday I generally went to the public prayer-meeting in Cherry Street, because Wesleyans were bolder and more original in their prayers than other Christians.  In frequenting Wesleyan chapels I could not help noticing that their great preachers were also men of great build, of good width in the lower part of the face.  Afterwards I found that their societies elsewhere were mostly composed of persons of sensuous make.  Their preachers having strong voices, and drawing inspiration mainly from feeling, they had boldness of speech; and those who had imagination had a picturesque expression.  Independents and Baptists often tried to solve doubts, which showed that their convictions were tempered by thought to some extent; but the Wesleyan knew nothing of thought—he put doubt away.  He did not recognise that the Questioning Spirit came from the Angel of Truth.  To the Wesleyans, inquiry is but the fair-seeming disguise of the devil, and to entertain it is of the nature of sin.  These preachers, therefore, knowing nothing of the other side, were under none of the restrictions imposed by intelligence, and they denounced the sceptics with a force which seemed holy from its fervour, and with a ferocity which only ignorance could inspire.  So long as I knew less than they, their influence over me continued.  Yet it was not vigorous denunciation which first allured me to them, though it long detained me among them—it was the information I had received, that they believed in universal salvation, which had fascination for me.  There was something generous in that idea beyond anything taught me, and my heart cleaved to the people who thought it true.  This doctrine came to me with the force of a new idea, always enchanting to the young.  Had I been reared among Roman Catholics, I should have worshipped at the church of All Souls instead of the church of One Soul.  Any Church whose name seemed least to exclude my neighbours would have most attracted me.

    All the fertility of attendance at chapels recounted did not, as the reader will suppose, produce any weariness in me, or make me tired of Christianity.  The incessant Bible reading, hymns, prayer, and evangelical sermons of Carr's Lane, Thorpe Street, and Inge Street did tire me.  There was no human instruction in their spiritual monotony.  My mind aches now when I think of those days.  When I took courage to visit various chapels, the variety of thought gave me ideas.  The deacons of the Inge Street Chapel bade me beware that "the rolling stone gathered no moss." [55]  Yet I did gather moss.

    Though I was then hardly fifteen, the other teachers would gently ask me if I would engage in prayer in their meetings, which meant praying aloud among them.  The idea made me tremble.  I was very shy, and the sound of my own voice was as a thing apart from me, for which I was responsible, and which I could not control.  Then, what should I say?  To say what others said, to utter a few familiar scriptural phrases, diluted by ignorant earnestness, seemed to me, even at that time, an insipid offering of praise.  Then it occurred to me to notice any newness of thought and expression I heard in week-day discourses, and with them I composed small prayers, which brought me some credit when I spoke them, as they were unlike any one else's.  But only once—at a Friday night's church meeting—did I pray with natural freedom.  Afterwards I avoided requests to pray, as I thought it unreal to be thinking more of the terms of the prayer than the simple spirit of it, and I hoped that one day fitting language would become natural to me.

    It is proof that my mind was as free from scientific inspiration as any saint's, since I had no misgiving as to the effect of prayer.  If Christianity were preached for the first time now to well-to-do people, able to help themselves, it would be treated like Mormonism in America; but to the poor who have neither money nor reflection Christianity, as a praying power, is a very real thing.  People who have no idea that help will, or can, come in any other way, are glad to think that it may come from heaven.  It had never been explained to me that low wages were caused by there being too many labourers in the market, or that ill-health is caused by poor food and hard condition.  It was my daily habit to pray for things most necessary and always deficient, not for myself alone, but for others to whom in their need I would give, at any cost to myself—to whom, if disinterested prayers were answered, any God of sympathy would give.  Yet, though no prayer was answered, it did not strike me that that method of help failed.  Prayer was no remedy, yet I did not see its futility.  Had I spent a single hour only in "dropping a bucket into an empty well, never drawing any water up," I should not have continued the operation without further inquiry.  It never struck me that, if preachers could obtain material aid by prayer, or knew any form of supplication by which it could be obtained, they might grow rich in a day by selling copies of that priceless formula.  No Church would be needy, no believer would be poor.

    In those days Christianity was a very real thing to me.  What was part of my conviction was also of my life.  So far as I had knowledge, I was like the parson of Chaucer, who—


"Christ's love and his Apostles twelve
 Taught, and first he followed it himselve."


This I did with a zeal of spirit which neither knew nor sought any evasion of the letter.

    At this time there came to Birmingham one Rev. Tully Cribbace, a middle-aged man with copious dark hair, pale, thin face, and earnest, unceasing speech.  The zealous members of many congregations went to hear him.  He interested me greatly.  He rebuked our Churches, as is the way with new, wandering preachers—without appointments—for their want of faith in the promise of Christ, who had said that "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do."  I had the belief, I had asked in His name; but nothing came of it.  With insufficient clothing I had gone out in inclement weather to worship, or to teach, trusting in that promise that I should be protected if no gifts of clothing came from heaven.  No gifts did come, but illness from exposure often did.  In a very anxious spirit I went to Mr. Cribbace's lodgings in Newhall Street, where he had said inquirers might call upon him.  When he asked me "What I wished to say," I at once, not without emotion, replied, "Do you really believe, sir, what you said?  Is it true that what we ask in faith we shall receive?  I have great need to know that."

    My seemingly abrupt and distrustful question was not a reflection upon his veracity of speech.  Mr. Cribbace quite understood that from my tone of inquiry.  It never struck me that his threadbare dress, his half-famished look, and necessity of "taking up a collection" the previous night "to pay expenses," showed that faith was not a source of income to him.  Yet he had told us that faith would be all that to us, and with a sincerity which never seemed to me more real on any human lips.  He did not mistake the earnestness or purport of my question.  He parried with his answer with many words, and at length said that "the promise was to be taken with the provision that what we asked for would be given, if God thought it for our good."  Christ did not think this; He did not say it; He did not suggest it.  Knowing how many generations of men to the end of the world would imperil their lives on the truth of His words, He could not suffer treacherous ambiguity to creep into His meaning by omission.  His words were: "If it were not so, I would have told you."  There was no double meaning in Christ, no reticence, no half-statement, leaving the hearer to find out the half-concealed words which contradicted the half-revealed.  All this I believed of him, and therefore I trusted Christ's sayings.

    St. Chrysostom, in the prayer of the Church Litany, does not stop, but keeps open the gap through which this evasion crawls.  "Almighty God," he says, "who dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in Thy name, Thou wilt grant their requests.  Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of Thy servants, as may be most expedient for them."  Christ was no juggler like St. Chrysostom.  A prayer is a deposit—the money of despair paid into a bank; but no one would pay money into a bank if they were told they would get back only as much as was good or expedient for them.

    My heart sank within me as Mr. Cribbace spoke the words of evasion.  There was nothing to be depended upon in prayer.  The doctrine was a juggle of preachers.  They might not mean it or think it straight out, but this is what it came to.  Christ a second time repeated the words: "If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it."  However it might be true in apostolic days, it was not true in ours, and the preachers knew it, and did not say so.  Christ might as well be dead if the promise had passed away.  Christianity had no material advantage to offer to the believer, whatever else it may have had.

    Mr. Cribbace spoke the truth now; I could see that.  Never did that morning pass from my mind.  That answer did not make me disbelieve, but I was never again the same Christian I had been before.  The foundation on which every forlorn, helpless, uninformed, trusting believer rests had slipped—slipped away from under my feet.  Whatever Christianity might be, it was no dependence in human need.  The hard, material world was not touched by prayer. How else it could be moved I then knew not.

    For myself, I did not think about the the terms of the Bible, but believed them.  If there was an exception, it related to the saying of Christ that every "Idle word" men should speak should be recorded against them.  If "idle words" were to go down, then angry or wicked words would also be recorded.  At night, as I made my last prayer, I tried to think over what I had said or done which might have been added to that serious catalogue, and thus I suffered more than my fair share of alarm.  I did not know then that the rich have a much smaller account against them above than the poor, and that they fare better than the indigent in heaven, as they do on earth.  A gentleman has his house and grounds, no one he dislikes can enter his home.  His neighbour cannot much annoy him; he is at a distance from him.  If he has a feud with his annoyer, he does not meet him above once a year, perhaps at a county ball, and there he can "cut" him; while a poor man lives in a house where he has several fellow-lodgers, who have done him a shabby turn, and whom he meets four or five times a day on the stairs.  Evil thoughts come into his heart, evil words escape his lips, and he himself employs a recording angel all his time in taking down his offences, while the rich man has, peradventure, only a single note made against his name once a week.

    It was after I had been some time at the Mechanics' Institution—which was quite a new world of thought to me—that I was asked if I would conduct a class at the New Meeting Unitarian Sunday school.  The rooms in which the Mechanics' Institution was held were those of the Sunday school of the Old Meeting-house, no other being obtainable.  Since anything I knew had been taught me by these generous believers, it seemed to me natural that they should invite me to assist in one of their schools, and that I should comply.  My consenting was not because I shared their tenets.  The Rev. Mr. Crompton, whose sister subsequently became Mrs: George Dawson, asked me after a time what my view was as to the unity of Deity.  My answer was that I believed in three Deities.  I had never thought of the possibility of all this great world being managed by one Being.  My preference for the acquaintance of Unitarians was that there was so much more to be learned among them than among any other religious body I had known.  My invitation to their school was to teach Euclid to one class, and the simpler elements of logic to another.  These were subjects never thought of in the Evangelical Sunday schools to which I had belonged.  The need of human knowledge had become very clear to me.  I could see that young men of my age trained in Unitarian schools were very superior to Evangelical youths, who had merely spiritual information.  Devoutness I knew to be goodness; but I could see it was not power.  My personal piety did not conceal from me my inferiority to those better informed.  This made me grateful to the Unitarians, who cared on Sundays for human as well as spiritual things; and I thought it a duty to help them, as far as my humble attainments might enable me.

    As soon as this was known in the Inge Street church, to which I was considered to belong, the elders spake unto me thereupon.  I was invited to a prayer-meeting, which I readily consented to attend, when I found that all the prayers were directed against me—were mere solicitations to heaven to divert my heart from continuing to attend the Unitarian schools.  It would be wronging my sincere and well-meaning friends of that time, to recount the deterrents they used and the fears they expressed.  Religion refined by human intelligence was regarded then as a form of sin.  At the end I did not dissent from their view, but I made no promise to do what they wished.  It seemed to me a sin that any youths should be as ignorant as I had been, and I refuse to give them such knowledge as I had acquired.  In this matter of teaching I said it was right to do as the Unitarians did, but wrong to believe as they believed.  This opinion I held all the while I was teacher in their Sunday school.

    Had these prayerful friends of mine succeeded in their object of persuading me from association with these larger believers, they would have shut the door of freedom, effort and improvement for me.  My lot would have been to spend my days inviting others, with much earnestness, to cherish like incapacity.  Yet I have no word of disrespect for their honest-hearted endeavour to advise me, as they thought, for the best.  It was the desire of knowledge which saved me from their dangerous temptation.

    The Meeting-house to whose Sunday school I went, was the one where Dr. Priestley formerly preached.  It was my duty on a Sunday to accompany my class into chapel during the morning service.  The scholars' seats were near the gallery stairs.  The other teachers sat at the end of the forms, farthest from the stairs.  I always chose the end nearest the stairs.  When invited to sit elsewhere I never explained the reason why I did not.  My reason was my belief that the wickedness of the preacher, in addressing only one Deity, would one day be resented by heaven, and that the roof would fall in upon the congregation.  As I did not share their faith, I thought I ought not to partake of their fate; and I thought that by being near the stairs I could escape—if I saw anything uncomfortable in the behaviour of the ceiling, which I frequently watched.  Being the person who would first understand what was about to happen, I concluded that my descent would be unimpeded by the flying and unsuspecting congregation.  It seems to me only yesterday that I sat calculating my chance of escape as Mr. Kentish's sonorous and instructive sermon was proceeding.


 
CHAPTER XLIII.

NEW CONVICTIONS WHICH CAME UNSOUGHT


THESE singular instances of bygone experience of a religious student, of which few similar have ever been given, must be suggestive—perhaps instructive—to religious teachers in church and chapel, engaged in inculcating their views.  How much happier had been my life had there then existed that tolerance of social effort, that regard of social needs, that consideration of individual aspiration, which happily now prevail.  This chapter will conclude what Herbert Spencer would call the "natural history" of a mind, or, as Lord Westbury would say, "what I am pleased to call my mind."

    One evening, at the Mechanics' Institution, Birmingham, I was told that Robert Owen, who had unexpectedly arrived in town, was likely to speak in Well Lane, Allison Street, and was asked "would I go?"  Mistaking the name for Robert Hall, I said I would.  Of Robert Owen I had scarcely heard; of the Rev: Robert Hall ( who had denounced all deflectors from the Baptist standard with brilliant bitterness) I had heard, admired (and do still), and much desired to see.  Great was my disappointment when I discovered the mistake.  As Mr. Owen passed me on entering the room, I—a mere youth—looked at the aged philosopher (who had been working for human welfare long before I was born) with an impertinent pity.  I felt also some real terror for his future, as I thought what a "wicked old man" he must be.  I had been assured by Robert Hall that morality without faith was of no avail in the eye of God.

    Eventually it became known at the works where I was employed that I had been to hear Robert Owen, and remarks were made.  In those days (1837-8) advocates of social reform were called "Socialists."  Some of the remarks made against them were unjust.  Some "Socialists " were fellow-students at the Mechanics' Institution.  These commentators made the usual mistake of concluding that the social thinkers in question must hold the opinions it was inferred that they held.  At that time I did not understand this way of reasoning, though no doubt I used it myself, as those among whom I was reared knew no better.  Everybody was sure that an opponent must mean what you inferred he meant, and charged against him the inference as a fact—never thinking of inquiring whether it was so.  If I was not misled by those confident arguments, it was because I knew that the persons accused were leal and kind in daily life.  Out of mere love of fairness I defended them to my working associates, as far as my knowledge went.  Being told that "I did not know what their principles were" caused me to read their pamphlets and to hear some lectures.  For a year or more I used the knowledge thus gained against the uninformed impressions of their aspersers around me.

    Well do I remember that one day, as I passed two workmen in the mill-yard, one said to the other, "That is young Holyoake the sceptic."  They did not know that "sceptic" merely meant a doubter in search of evidence.  They used the word in the brutal sense of one who disbelieved the truth, knowing it to be the truth.  The term startled me, as I neither believed nor assumed to believe what I had reported as the opinions of my friends.  For myself, I had no thought of holding their opinions.  The heresy supposed to be included in them was, indeed, my aversion.  Then I made the resolution to examine their principles, with a view to show what arguments I could myself bring against them.  Great was my dismay when, after months of thought, I found that the questioned tenets seemed, on the whole, to be true.  These tenets were that wise material circumstances were likely to have a better influence on men than bad ones; and that, men having general qualities which they have inherited, the treatment of the worst should be tempered by compassion for their ill-fortune.  Then it concerned me no more what any one said of me.  It was as though I had passed into a new country, leaving behind me the barren land of supplication for a land of self-effort and improvement; and entered into the fruitful kingdom of material endeavour, where help and hope dwelt.  Heretofore doubt and perturbation as to whether I was of the "elect" had oft agitated me.  Now, I had no bonds in the death of my disproved opinions—no struggle, no misgivings.  Without wish or effort of mine, I was delivered by reason alone from the prison-house in which I had dwelt with its many terrors.  Not all at once did the terrors go. They long hovered about the mind like evil spirits tempting me to distrust the truth written in the Book of Nature, of which I believed God to be the author.

    Some time before this change in my opinion occurred I had taken in, out of my slender savings, the beautiful Diamond edition of the Rev. Mr. Stebbing's Bible in parts.  The type was very fine, the outline illustrations seemed to me very beautiful; they affect me with admiration still.  It was the first book with marks of art about it that I had possessed.  I had it bound in morocco, with silver clasps.  It was quite a wonder in the workshop when I took it there.  To possess many things I never cared, but if I had only one, and it had some beauty and finish in it, it was to me as though I had a light in my room at night, and the thought of it made me glad in the dark.  A fellow-workman of sincere piety, whom I respected very much, coveted this Bible, and induced me to sell it to him, which I did, as I had it in my mind to get another bound in a yet daintier way.

    Simple and natural as was this transaction, it was misconstrued.  It was said I had "sold" my Bible, as though it was my act instead of being the act of another.  Next it was reported that I had "burnt" it.  Thus I became a founder of myths without knowing it.  Nevertheless, it gave me pain—for nothing was more alien to my mind, my taste and reverence, than the act imputed to me.  But what made a greater impression upon me, it being inconceivable, and unforeseen, was that he who induced me to part with my valued volume never came forward to say so.  The inspiration of Christianism I had taken to be personal truth which could be trusted.  In the noblest minds it is so still.  But for the first time I found a Christian could be mean.

    It was about this period that a poor woman I knew drew near to death from consumption.  At times I visited and read the Scriptures to her.  One night I asked her if she would like some one to pray with her.  As she wished it, I induced one with whom I had been a Sunday school teacher to come with me one evening and pray by her side.  The consolation was very precious to her, and that is why I sought it for her.  At no time did it seem to me that everybody should be of one opinion since honesty of life consists in living and dying in that opinion of the truth of which you are convinced.  This man whom I took with me was a workman, poor, mean, and utterly uninformed.  In religious sympathy he inclined to the Ranters, who are not at all melodious Christians.  Yet heaven might respect his prayer as much as a bishop's, for he had given up his night, after a hard day's labour, to afford what humble consolation he could to this poor woman.

    One sentiment that had always possessed me was a pleasure in vengeance.  I had quite a distinct passion of hatred where I was wronged, and had no means of resistance or redress.  A man in my father's employ did something very unfair to me when I was quite a youth, and during nine years that I worked by his side I did not forget it or forgive it.  The Lord's prayer taught me that I should "forgive those who trespassed against me," and at times I thought I had forgiven him, but I never had.  Christian as I was, the revengeful lines of Byron long influenced me:—


"If we do but watch the hour,
 There never yet was human power,
 That could evade, if unforgiven,
 The patient search and vigil long
 Of him who treasures up a wrong."


    No sermon, no prayer, no belief, no Divine command, rendered me neutral towards those I disliked.  Neither authority nor precept had force which gave no reason for amity.  But when I came to understand Coleridge's saying that "human affairs are a process," I could see that patience and wise adaptation of condition was the true method of improvement, since the tendency to nobleness or baseness was alike an inheritance nurtured by environment.  If tempest of the human kind came, precaution and not anger—which means ignorance taken by surprise—was the remedy.  Pity takes the place of resentment.  Clearly, vengeance did but add to the misfortune of destiny.

    I oft pondered Hooker's saying, that "anger is the sinew of the soul, and he that lacketh it hath a maimed mind."  Nevertheless, I am content to be without that "sinew."  Anger is rather the epilepsy of the understanding than the dictate of reason.  I had come to see that there are no bad weeds in Nature—but much bad gardening.  The reasons of amity had become clear to me, and that Helvetius was right.  We should "go on loving men, but not expecting too much from them."  Even Hooker could not win me back to the profitless pursuits of anger an and retaliation.

    These bygone days left their instruction with me evermore.  In them I learned consideration for others.  Whatever my convictions, I was always the same to my mother.  The wish to change her views never entered my mind.  She had chosen her own.  I respected her choice, and she respected mine.  In after years, when I visited Birmingham, I would read the Bible to her.  She liked to hear my voice again as she had heard it in earlier days.  When her eyes became dim by time I would send her large type editions of the New Testament, and of religious works which dwelt upon the human tenderness of Christ.  The piety of parents should be sacred in the eyes of children.  Convictions are the food of the soul, which perisheth on any other diet than that which can be assimilated by the conscience.

    One of the bygones which had popularity in my day was silence, where explicitness was needed.  Nothing is more grateful to the young understanding than clear, definite outlines.  The Spectator (July 23, 1891) said that "Dean Stanley could not at any time have exactly defined what his own theology really was."  George Dawson, who charmed so many audiences and was under no official restraint, never attempted it.  Emerson, who criticised everybody who had an opinion, never disclosed his.  Carlyle, who filled the air with adjurations to sincerity of conviction, carefully concealed his own.  They who take credit for advising the public what to believe should avow their own belief.  Otway, crossing the street to Dryden's house, wrote upon his door: "Here lives Dryden, a poet and a wit."  Seeing these words as he came out, Dryden wrote under them: "Written by Otway opposite," which might mean: "This is but a partial and friendly estimate written by my neighbour who lives over the way, opposite to me"; or, it might mean that "It is written by Otway—the very 'opposite' of 'a poet and a wit.'"  Janus sentences are the very grace of satire, because they offer a mitigating or a complimentary construction; but in questions of conscience, ethics, or politics, uncertainty is an evil—an evil worth remembering where it can be avoided.

    "Socialists" were liable to indictment who officiated in a place not licensed as a place of worship.  Such a license could be obtained on making a declaration on oath that their discourses were founded on belief in the cardinal tenets of the Church.  Two social speakers were summoned to swear this.  One was the father of the late Robert Buchanan.  He and his colleague did so swear to avoid penalties, though they swore the contrary of the truth.  I joined with other colleagues in protesting against this humiliation and ignominy.  And in another way imprisonment came to all of us.  Silence or the oath was the alternative from which there was no escape.  The question then arose, "Was the existence of Deity so certainly known to men that inability to affirm it justified exclusion from citizenship?"  Thus it was of the first moment to inquire whether it was so or not, and what was regarded as an atheistical investigation became a political necessity in self-defence.  Was there such conclusive knowledge of the Unknowable as to warrant the law in making the possession of it a condition of justice and civil equality?  Thus the refutation of Theism became a form of self-defence, and without foreseeing it, or intending it, or wishing it, I was, without any act of my own, engaged in it.

    This narrative concerns those who deplore the rise and popularity of independent thinkers, alien to received doctrine.  Few persons are aware how or why agnostic advocacy was welcomed and extended.  Surely this is worth remembering.  The tenet bore statute fruit, for the Affirmation Act came out of it.

    It will be a satisfaction to students of spiritual progress to know that the extension and legalisation of the rights of conscience, brought no irreverence with it.  The sense that the nature of Deity was beyond the capacity of dogmatism to define, created a feeling of profound humility in the mind; the incapacity which disabled me from asserting the infinite premises of Theism rendered denial an equal temerity.  What tongue can speak, what eye can see, what imagination can conceive the marvels of the Inscrutable?  I think of Deity as I think of Time, which is with us daily.  Who can explain to us that mystery?  Time—noiseless, impalpable, yet absolute—marshals the everlasting procession of nature.  It touches us in the present with the hand of Eternity, and we know it only by finding that we were changed as it passed by us.


 
CHAPTER XLIV.

DIFFICULTY OF KNOWING MEN


EVENTS of the mind as well as of travel may be worth remembering.  Columbus, high on a peak of Darien, saw an unexpected sight—never to be forgotten.  Of another kind, as far as surprise was concerned, though infinitely less important in other respects, was my first reading of a passage of Pascal, which more than any other revealed to me a new world of human life.  The passage was the well-known exclamation:-


    "What an enigma is man?  What a strange, chaotic and contradictory being?  Judge of all things, feeble earth-worm, depository of the Truth, mass of uncertainty, glory and butt of the universe, incomprehensible monster!  In truth, what is man in the midst of Nature?  A cypher in respect to the infinite; all, in comparison with nonentity: a mean betwixt nothing and all."


    Everybody knows that not only in different nations, but in the same nation, mankind present a strange variety of qualities and passions.  The English are outspoken, the Scotch reticent, the Irish uncertain, the American alert, the French ceremonial.  Even our English counties have their special ways of action.  London is confident, Birmingham dogged, Manchester resolute, Newcastle-on-Tyne has greater modesty and greater pride than any other place.  Yes; every one agrees with Pascal that man is a bewildering creature.  He is proud and abject, generous and mean, defiant and craven, standing up for inflexible truth, and lying in his daily life.  As Byron says, "Man is half dust, half deity."  If we go far enough in our search we find people of all qualities.  Everybody sees these characteristics of countries and classes.  Everybody recognises these conflicting elements of character in a race; but what amazed me was to perceive that they are to be found in each person in varying proportion and force—they are all there.  The varieties of the race are to be found in the same individual.  No man who understands this ever looks upon society as he did before.  Not knowing this fact, not calculating upon it, error, distrust, disappointment, estrangement, grow up needlessly.

    Twice within the public recollection, two political parties in England have been formed, and made furious by a common ignorance.  During the great Slave War in America, the Southern planter was held up as a gentleman of polished manners, of cultivated tastes, a paternal master and courteous host.  By others he was described as selfish, sensual, tyrannical, with whom any guest who betrayed sympathy with slaves had an unpleasant time.  Both accounts were true.  The same model gentleman who showered upon you courtly attentions would tar and feather you if he found you display emotion when you heard the shriek of the slave under the whip.  Later, Parliament, the press, and the Church were divided upon the character of the Turk.  One party said he was tolerant, picturesque, abounding in concessions and hospitality.  The other party described him as subtle, evasive, treacherous, vicious, and cruel.  No one seemed to recognise that all the while he was both these things.  He was an adept in personal deference, generous in professions, evasive and treacherous—in short, "Abdul the Damned."  To those from whom the Sultan had anything to hope, his graciousness was superb—to those at his mercy he was rapacious and murderous.

    The Circassians will offer their daughters to the Turk—they send their virgin beauty into the market of lust, and then fight for the purchasers.  The Hindoos seem a gentle, unresisting, rice-minded people; yet have such capacity of heroic and vigilant reticence, that though we have been masters of India for one hundred and fifty years, it is said by experienced officials, we do not know the real mind of a single man.  The Zulus have savage instincts and habits; but they are honest, speak the truth, and despise a man who is angry or excited.

    Thiers, the great French statesman, had trust in individuals, but despised the masses.  Yet the masses pulled down the Bastile, where only gentlemen were imprisoned and not themselves.  The masses were moved by a generous dislike of oppression as strongly as Thiers himself.

    President Washington, looking only at the corruption of classes he came in contact with, predicted evil to the future of American society.  Yet, one hundred years after, a latent nobleness of sentiment appeared, which gave a million of lives in order that black men with large feet, as was scornfully said, should be free.

    Because oppression had made, for years, assassination frequent in Italy, many thought every man carried a stiletto, and did not know that Italians are more patient and cooler-headed on great occasions than Englishmen or Frenchmen.

    The Irish do not conceal that they are our enemies, and ruin every English movement in which they mingle, yet who have such brightness, drollery of imagination as they?  Or who will stand by a friend of their country at the peril of their lives without hesitation as they do?

    The Scotch display in contest a sort of divine ferocity, such as we read of in the Old Testament.  Their battle song at Flodden ran thus:—


"Burn their women, lean and ugly,
     Burn their children, great and small,
 In the hut and in the palace,
     Prince and peasant—burn them all.
 Plunge them in the swelling torrents
     With their gear and with their goods;
 Spare—while breath remains—no Saxon,
     Drown them in the roaring floods,"


    The Irish could not excel this rage of hell.  Yet the same race gave us Burns and Sir Walter Scott, which no seer would have predicted or any would believe.  The Scotch have deliberate generosity.  Though narrow in piety they are broad in politics and have veracity in their bones.

    It concerns us to notice that in every individual there is the same variety of qualities which exist in the race.  Not to understand this is to misunderstand everybody with whom we come in contact.  Take the case of a man in whom personal ambition predominates.  That implies the existence of other qualities which may be even estimable, though subordinated to ends of power.  William, the Norman Conqueror, had a gracious manner to any who lent themselves to further his ends; but, as Tennyson tells us, he was "stark as Death to those who crossed him."  The first Napoleon gave thrones to generals who would occupy them in his interest, or as his instruments.  The third Napoleon was very courteous even to workmen, so long as he believed they would be on his side in the streets; but their throats were not safe in the corridor outside his audience chamber, if he distrusted them.  This unexpected blandishment confused the strong brain of John Arthur Roebuck, who, under the influence of Bonapartean courtesy, forgot that he had become Emperor by perjury and murder.  A man caring above all things for power will give anything to acquire it or hold it.  If any one will help him even to plunder others, he will share the plunder with a liberal hand among his confederates, who proclaim him as a most amiable, generous, and disinterested gentleman.  To them he is so.  The political world and private life also abounds in men who, like Byron's captain, was the "best-mannered gentleman who ever scuttled a ship or cut a throat."  There are very few who say as Byron elsewhere wrote:—


                            "I wish men to be free,
 From Kings or mobs—from you or me."


    The point of importance is that in judging a man we should accustom ourselves to see all about him, and, while we hate the evil, not shut our eyes to what there may be of good in the same person.

    For objects of popularity men will encounter peril in promoting measures of public utility, and though they care more for themselves than for the public, the public profit by their ambition.  Provided it is understood that these advocates are not to be depended upon any longer than it answers their purpose, nobody is discouraged when they take up with something else, which better serve, their ends.

    Men like Mr. Gladstone have a passion for conscience in politics; or, like Mr. Bright, have a passion for justice in public affairs; or, like, Mr. Mill, have a passion for truth; or, like Mr. Cobden, who had a passion for national prosperity founded on freedom and peace—will encounter labour and obloquy with courage, and regard applause only as a happy accident, caring mainly for the consciousness of duty done.  However, this class of men are not numerous, but command honour when known.

    Men of the average sort very much resemble fishes, except that they are less quiet and not so graceful in their movements.  There is the Pholas Dactylus, which resembles a small, animated sausage with a pudding head.  His plan of life is to bore a perfectly tubular passage in the soft sand rock on the sea-side, and lie there with his cunning head at the mouth of his dwelling and snap up the smaller creatures who wander heedlessly by.  Sometimes a near relative has made a dwelling-place at right angles to the direction in which he has elected to make his residence.  He does not consult the rights or convenience of any one, but bores straight through his father or his mother-in-law.  There are many persons who do the same thing.  There is the subtle and picturesque devil fish, who hides himself in the sedge and opens his mouth like a railway tunnel.  With the fishing-rod which Nature attaches to his nose, the end of which is contrived like a bait, he switches the bright water until fish run forward, when he draws it cleverly up, and the foolish, impetuous, and unobservant creatures rush down his cavernous and treacherous throat.  He offers a bait, not to feed them, but to feed himself.  If people had only eyes to see, there are devil fish about in the sedges of daily life—political, clerical, and social.  There is the octopus, with its long, aimless arms, as silent and lifeless as seaweed.  It lies about as idle, as soft, as flexible, and as easy as error, or intemperance, or dishonesty.  But let any edible thing approach it, and every limb starts into energy, every fibre is alive, every muscle contracts, and the thing seized dies in its inextricable and iron arms.  People abound of the octopus species, and it is prudent to avoid them.  However, the bad are not so many as are supposed.  Yet, when we consider that, upon a moderate calculation, a fool a day is born—and doubtless a knave a day to keep him company,— there must be some dubious people about.

    A common mistake is that of taking offence at some unpleasant quality, and never looking to see whether there be not others for which we may tolerate and even respect a man.  A person is often judged by a single quality, and sometimes by a single word.  Persons who have lived long years in amity take offence at one expression.  It may be uttered in passion; it may be spoken mere lightness of heart, with no intention and idea of offending—yet it enters into the foolish blood of those who hear it, and poisons the mind evermore.  Nevertheless every man who reflects knows that those are fortunate and even miraculously skilful people, who can always say exactly what they intend to say, and no more.  What resource of language—what insight of the minds of others—what mastery of phrases—what subtlety of discrimination—what perspicuity of statement must he possess who can express his every idea with such unerring accuracy that no word shall be redundant, or deficient, or ambiguous; and that another shall understand the speaker precisely as he understands himself!  Yet by a chance phrase what friendships have been severed—what enmity has arisen—what estrangements, even in households, have occurred from these small and incidental causes?  All memory of the tenderness, the kindness, the patient and generous service of years is often obliterated by a single word!  The error people make is—that everything said is intended.  Yet out of the many qualities every man has, and by which any man may be moved, a single passion may go mad in a mind unwatchful.  Not only hatred or anger, but love will go mad and commit murder, which is often but the insanity of a minute.  Yet nobody remembers that all are liable to insanity of speech.

George Peabody
(1795-69)

    What a wonderful thing is perfection!  It must be very rare.  Yet some people are always looking for it in others who never offer any example of it in themselves.  It is not, however, to be had anywhere.  All we are entitled to look for is that the good in any individual shall in some general way predominate over the bad.  We have need to be thankful if we find this.  The late George Peabody was not a mean man, though he would stand in the rain at Charing Cross, waiting for a cheap omnibus to the City.  There was a threepenny one waiting, but one with a twopenny fare would come up soon—Mr. Peabody would wait for it.  Making money was the habit of his mind, and he made it in the street as well as the office, and having made it, gave it away with a more than royal hand.

    One Sunday I rode in a Miles Platting tram car, amid decorous, well-dressed chapel-going people—several of them young and active.  A child fell out of the tram, whose mother was too feeble to follow it.  No one moved, save a woman of repulsive expression, with whom any one might suppose her neighbours had a bad time.  She seemed the least desirable person to know of all the passengers; yet this woman, on seeing the child lying in the road, at once leapt out of the tram, brought the child back and put it tenderly into its mother's arms.  Intrepid humanity may dwell in a very rough exterior.

    There goes a man with a hard, forbidding face, and a headachy Evangelical complexion.  Like the man mentioned in the last paper, he is not an alluring person to know—those at his fireside have a dreary time of it.  His children have joyless Sundays.  He is a street preacher.  His voice is harsh and painful.  He howls "glad tidings" at the street corner.  He is wanting in the first elements of reverence—those of modesty and taste.  Yet this same man has kindness and generosity in his heart.  After his hard day's work is done he will give the evening, which others spend in pleasure, to try and save some casual soul in the street.

    Though we continually forget it, we know that men are full of mixed qualities and unequal passions.  Ignorance of this renders one of the noblest passages of Shakespeare dangerous if misapplied:


             "To thine own self be true,
 And it must follow as the night the day,
 Thou canst not then be false to any man."


    But what is a man's "own self"?  It all lies there.  Tell the liar, the thief, the forger, or the ruffian to be true to himself, and any one knows what will follow.  Polonius knew the heart of Laertes, and to him he could say, "to thine own self be true."  We must be sure of the nature of him whom we advise to follow himself. [56]

    What is or what can be the object of education but to strengthen by precept, habit and environment the better qualities of human nature; and to divert, repress, or subordinate where we cannot extinguish hereditary, unethical tendencies?  Though we deny—or do not steadily see—that nations as well as individuals have capacities for good as well as evil, we admit it when we attempt to create international influences, which shall promote civilisation.

    If any would avoid the disappointment of ignorance and the alarms of the foolish, let him learn to look with unamazed expectancy at what will appear on the ocean of Society.  Do not look in men for the qualities you want to find, or for qualities you imagine they ought to have, but look with unexpectant eyes for what you can find.  Do not expect perfection, but a few good points only, and be glad if you find them, and be tolerant of what is absent.  Of him of this way of thinking it may be said, as was said of Charles Lamb: "He did not merely love his friends in spite of their errors, he loved them errors and all."  Whoever remains under the delusion that nations and men possess only special qualities, and not all qualities

in different stages of development, will hate them foolishly, praise them without reason, and will never know men.  But whoever understands the trend of things in this ever-changing, uncontrollable world, where


"Our fate comes to us from afar,
 Where others made us what we are,"


will utter the prayer of Sadi, the Persian poet: "O God! have pity on the wicked, for Thou hast done everything for the good in having made them good."  A prayer worth remembering.


 
CHAPTER XLV.

IDEAS FOR THE YOUNG


THERE are people who live many years and never grow old.  We call them "young patriarchs."  Limit not the golden dreams of youth, which, however, would be none the worse for a touch of the patriarch in them.  There is sense in youth, and it will assimilate the experience of age if displayed before rather than thrust upon it.  Youth should be incited to think for itself, and to select from the wisdom it finds in the world.  Then the question comes—what is safe to take?  That is the time for words of suggestion.  Every one has read of the fox, who seeing a crow with a piece of cheese in her bill, told her "she had a splendid voice, and did herself an injustice by not singing."  The credulous crow began a note, dropped the piece of cheese, with which the fox ran away.  This trick is always being played.  Among young persons there are a great number of crows.  A youth is given a situation where advancement goes with assiduity.  A fox-headed comrade or clerk below him tells him his "work is beneath his talents, and he ought to get something better."  Discontent breeds negligence.  He loses his place, when the treacherous prompter, whom he took to be his friend, slips into his situation, and finds it quite satisfactory.

    In public affairs, in which youth seldom takes part, many are confused by pretences which they understand when too late.  A person puts forward an excellent project, and finds it assailed and disparaged by some one he thought would support it.  Discouraged by opposition, he comes to doubt the validity of the enterprise he had in hand.  When he has abandoned it he finds it taken up by the very person who denounced it, and who claims credit for what he has opposed.  All the while he has thought highly of the scheme, but wanted to have the credit of it himself, and therefore defamed it until he could get it into his own hands.  This sort of thing is done in Parliament as well as in business.  It is only by listening to the experience of others that youth can acquire wariness and guard against serious mistakes.

    The young on entering life are often dismayed by dolorous speeches by persons who have never comprehended the nature of the world in which they find themselves.  People are told "a great crisis in public affairs is at hand."  There never was a time in the history of the world when a "crisis" was not at hand.  Nature works by crises.  Progress is made up of crises through which mankind has passed.  Again there breaks forth upon the ears of inexperienced youth the alarming information that Society is "in a transition state."  Every critic, every preacher, every politician, is always saying this.  Yet there never was a time when society was not in a "transition state."  According to the Genesian legend, Adam discovered this in his day, when, a few weeks after his advent, he found himself outside the gates of Paradise, and all the world and all the creatures in it thrown into a state of unending perturbation and discomfort which has not ceased to this day.  The eternal condition of human life is change, and he who is wise learns early to adapt himself to it.  As Dr. Arnold said, there is nothing so dangerous as standing still when all the world is moving.

    The young are bewildered by being left under the impression that they should learn everything.  Whereas all they need is to know thoroughly what their line of duty in life requires them to know.  No man can read all the books in the British Museum, were arrangements made for his sleeping there.  No one is expected to eat all he finds in the market, but only so much as makes a reasonable meal.  Lord Sherbrooke translated from the Greek guiding lines of Homer who said of a learner of his day:—
 


"He could not reap, he could not sow,
     Nor was he wise at all:
 For very many arts he knew,
     But badly knew them all."


    The conditions of personal advancement can only be learned by observing the steps of those who have succeeded.  Disraeli, whose success was the wonder of his time, owed it to following the shrewd maxim that he who wants to advance must make himself necessary to those whom he has the opportunity of serving.  This can be done in any station in life by skill, assiduity and trustworthiness.

    Practical thoroughness is an essential quality which gives great advantage in life.  Spurgeon had a great appreciation of it.  A servant girl applied to him for a situation on the ground that she "had got religion."  "Yes," said the great pulpit orator, "that is a very good thing if it takes a useful turn; but do you sweep under the mats?" he asked, cleanliness being a sign of godliness in the eyes of the sensible preacher.

    Cleanliness is possible to the very poorest—walls which have no paper might have whitewash.  Children should never see dirt anywhere.  They should never come upon it lying out of sight.  Fever and death lurk in neglected corners.  Children may be in rags, but if they are clean rags and the children are clean, they are, however poor, respectable.  When I first went to speak in Glasgow, it was in a solemn old hall, up a wynd.  The place was in the Candleriggs.  Everybody knows what a dark, clammy, pasty, muddy, depressing thoroughfare is the Candleriggs in wintry weather.

    The passage leading to the lecture hall and the steps which had to be ascended were all murky and dirty; as in those days the passage leading to the publishing house of the Chambers Brothers was, as I have seen it, an incentive to sickness.  My payment for lecturing was not much, but out of it I gave half a crown to an active woman I found in the wynd to wash down the stairs and the passage leading to the Candleriggs, and the space as wide as the passage along the causeway to the curb-stone.  People passing along might see signs of cleanliness leading to the hall.

    I never forget what the woman said to some of the assembly as they passed by her: "I don't know what this man (or "mon") is, who you have to lecture to you to-day, but at least he has clean principles."  That was precisely the impression I wanted to create.  My tenets might be poor, my arguments badly clothed, but to present them in a clean state was in my power.

    Do not readily be deterred from a good cause because you will be told it is unprofitable, but take sides with it if need be.  You will find persons born with a passion of putting the world to rights.  A very good passion for the world, but now and then a very bad thing for him who is moved by it.  They have no engagement to undertake that work, no salary is allotted for it, nor even any income coming in to pay expenses "out of pocket," as the prudent, open-eyed lawyer puts it.  Nevertheless, it may be well to follow the Jewish rule of giving a tithe of your time to the public service.  There are a large amount of tithes contributed in other ways which are not half so beneficial to mankind.  Many whose names now are luminous in history, whose fame is on every tongue, have been personally known to the old.  The magical notes of great singers the living can never know, the triumphs of the great masters of speech in Parliament and on the platform, whom it was an education to hear—only the old can recount.  What they looked like, and how they played their memorable parts, are the enchanting secrets of the old, who tell to the young what passed in a world unknown to them, and which has made them what they are.

    The purport of this chapter is to stimulate individuality and self-reliance.  Disraeli's maxim of self-advancement was to make himself necessary by service in the sphere in which he found himself.  In public affairs committees are not, as a rule, suggestive; they can amend what is submitted to them; they originate nothing, and generally take the soul out of any proposal brought before them.  If they advance business it is when some individual provides a plan to which their consent may be of importance.  Individual ideas have been the immemorial source of progress.  A committee of one will often effect more than a committee of ten; but the committee of ten will multiply the force of the one, and lend to it influence and authority.  Seeing that ideas come from individuals, a young person cannot do better in life than by considering himself a committee of one, and ponder himself on every matter of importance.  This gives a habit of resourceful thought—renders him cautious in action, and educates him in responsibility.  In daily life a man has continually to decide things for himself without the aid of a committee.  It is thus that self-trust becomes his strength.

    If youth could see but a little with the eyes of their seniors, some pleasures would seem less alluring, and they would avoid doing some things which they will regret all their lives.  Now and then some young eye will glance at a page of bygone lore and see a gleam of inspiration, like a torch in a forest, which reveals a bear in a bush which he had chosen for a picnic, or discovers a bog which he had taken to be solid ground.  Proverbs come around the young observer, so fair seeming he trusts them on sight, and does not know they are only in part guiding and in part elusive, and have limitations which may betray him into confident and futile extremes.  Even professors will beguile him with statements which he doubts not are true, and finds, all too late, that they are false.

    He will hear forebodings which fill him with alarm at some new undertaking, not knowing that they are but the sounds of the footfalls of Progress, which every generation has heard, the ignorant with terror, and the wise with gladness.  Only the relation of bygone experiences can save the young from perilous illusions.  Of course, youth is always asked to look at things with the eyes of age, but they never do.  They never can do it because the eyes of the old look at things with the light of experience which, in the nature of things youth is without.  Nevertheless, the experience of others may be good reading for them.

    If in the generous eagerness of youth the heart inclines to a forlorn hope, take it up notwithstanding its difficulties, for if youth does not, older people are not likely to attempt it.  The older are mostly too prudent to do any good in the way of new enter prise.  This is where youth has its uses and its priceless advantage.  However, it is well not to let enthusiasm, noble as it may be, blind the devotee.  Take care that the cause espoused is sound.  Take heed of the Japanese maxim, "It is no use mending the lid, if the pot be broken."


 
CHAPTER XLVI.

EXPERIENCES ON THE WARPATH


THE late Archbishop of Canterbury spoke derisively of agitators.  The Rev. Stewart Headlam asked whether "Paul, and even our Lord Himself, were not agitators."  Mr. Headlam might have asked, where would the Archbishop be but for that superb, irrepressible agitator Luther?  The agitator is a public advocate who speaks when others are silent.  Mr. C. D. Collet, of whom I here write, was an agitator who understood his business.

C. D. Collet
1812-98

    Agitation for the public welfare is a feature of civilisation. In a despotic land it works by what means it can.  In a free country it seeks its ends by agencies within the limits of law.  The mastery of the means left open for procuring needful change, the right use, and the full use of these facilities, constitute the business of an agitator.

    For more than fifty years I was associated with Mr. Collet in public affairs, and I never knew any one more discerning than he in choosing a public cause, or on promoting it with greater plenitude of resource.  Many a time he has come to my house at midnight to discuss some new point he thought important.  A good secretary is the inspirer of the movement he represents.  Mr. ColIet habitually sought the opinion of those for whom he acted.  Every letter and every document was laid before them.  On points of policy or terms of expression he deferred to the views of others, not only with acquiescence, but willingness.  During the more than twenty-four years in which I was chairman of the Travelling Tax Abolition Committee and he was secretary, I remember no instance to the contrary of his ready deference.  His fertility of suggestion was a constant advantage.  Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden (who had an instinct of fitness) would select the most suitable for the purpose in hand.  In early life Mr. Collet had studied for the law, and retained a passion for it which proved very useful where Acts of Parliament were the barricades which had to be stormed.

    Mr. Collet was educated at Bruce Castle School, conducted by the father of Sir Rowland Hill.  Collet's political convictions were shown by his becoming secretary for the People's Charter Union, intended to restore the Chartist movement (then mainly under Irish influence) to English hands.  In 1848, he and W. J. Linton were sent as deputies to Paris, as bearers of English congratulations on the establishment of the Republic.  Afterwards he fell himself under the fascination of an Oriental-minded diplomat, David Urquhart, and became a romantic privy Council loyalist.  Mr. Urquhart was Irish, eloquent, dogmatic, and infallible—at least, he put down with ostentatious insolence any one who ventured to demur to anything he said.  If the astounded questioner pleaded that he was ignorant of the facts adduced, he was told his ignorance was a crime.  Mr. Urquhart believed that all wisdom lay in treaties and Blue Books, and that the first duty of every politician was to insist on beheading Lord Palmerston, who had betrayed England to Russia.  How Mr. Collet—a lover of freedom and inquiry—could be subjugated by doctrines which, if not conceived in madness, were commanded by arts akin to madness, is the greatest mystery of conversion I have known.  I have seen Mr. Bright come out of the House of Commons, and observing Mr. Collet, would advance and offer his hand, when Mr. Collet would put his hands behind him, saying "he could not take the hand of a man who knew Lord Palmerston was an impostor and ought to know he was a traitor, and still maintained political relations with him."  Yet Mr. Collet had great and well-founded regard for Mr. Bright.

    It was an intrepid undertaking to attempt a repeal of taxes which for 143 years had fettered, as they were designed to do, knowledge from reaching the people.  The history of this achievement was given in the Weekly Times and Echo.  While these taxes were in force, neither cheap newspapers nor cheap books could exist.  Since their repeal great newspapers and great publishing houses have arisen.  While these Acts were in force every newspaper proprietor was treated as a blasphemer and a writer of sedition, and compelled to give securities of £300 against the exercise of his infamous tendencies; every paper-maker was regarded as a thief, and the officers of the Excise dogged every step of his business with hampering, exacting, and humiliating suspicion.  Every reader found with an unstamped paper in his possession was liable to a fine of £20.  The policy of our agitation was to observe scrupulous fairness to every Government with which we came in contact, and to heads of departments with whom unceasing war was waged.  Their personal honour was never confused with the mischievous Acts they were compelled to enforce.  Our rule was steadfastness in fairness and courtesy.

    The cardinal principle of agitation Collet maintained was that the most effectual way to obtain the repeal of a bad law was to insist upon it being carried out, when its effect would soon be resented by those who maintain its application to others.  Charles Dickens' "Household Narrative of Current Events," published weekly, was a violation of the Act which required news to be a month old when published on unstamped paper.  Dickens was not selected from malice, for he was friendly to the freedom of the press, but from policy, as an Act carried out which would ruin a popular favourite like Dickens, would excite indignation against it.  A clamour was raised by friends in Parliament against the supineness of the Inland Revenue Board, for tolerating a wealthy metropolitan offender, while it prosecuted and relentlessly ruined small men in the provinces for doing the same thing.  Bright called attention in the House to the Electric Telegraph Company, who were advertising every night in the lobbies news, not an hour old, on unstamped paper, in violation of the law.

    It took thirty years of supplication to get art galleries open on Sunday, when the application of the law to the privilege of the rich would have opened them in ten years.  The rich are allowed to violate the law against working on Sundays, for which the poor man is fined and imprisoned.  An intelligent committee on the Balfour-Chamberlain principle of Retaliation would soon put an end to the laws which hamper the progress.

______________________


    Professor Alexander Bain, remarkable for his fruitfulness in philosophic device, asked my opinion on a project of constructing a barometer of personal character, which varies by time and event.  Everybody is aware of somebody who has changed, but few notice that every one is changing daily, for better or for worse.  What Bain wanted was to contrive some instrument by which these variations could be denoted.

    No doubt men must be judged on the balance of their ascertained merits.  Bishop Butler's maxim that "Probability is the guide of life," implies proportion, and is the rule whereby character is to be judged.  For years I conceived a strong dislike of Sir Robert Peel, because, as Secretary of State, he refused the petition of Mrs. Carlile to be allowed to leave the prison (where she ought never to have been sent) before the time of her accouchement.  Peel's refusal was unfeeling and brutal.  Yet in after life it was seen that Sir Robert possessed great qualities, and made great sacrifices in promoting the public good; and I learned to hold in honour one whom I had hated for half a century.

    For many years I entertained an indifferent estimate of Sir William Harcourt.  It began when my friend Mr. E. J. H. Craufurd, M.P., challenged him to a duel, which he declined justifiably it might be, as he was a larger man than his antagonist, and offered a wider surface for bullets.  Declining was meritorious in my eyes, as duels had then a political prestige, and there was courage in refusing.  The cause of the challenge I thought well founded.  In the earlier years of Sir William's Parliamentary life I had many opportunities of observing him, and thought he appeared as more contented with himself than any man is entitled to be on this side of the Millennium.  When member for Oxford as a Liberal, he declared against payment of members of Parliament on the ground of expense.  The expense would have been one half penny a year to each elector.  This seemed to me so insincere that I ceased to count him as a Liberal who could be trusted.  Yet all the while he had great qualities as a combatant of the highest order, in the battles of Liberalism, who sacrificed himself, lost all prospect of higher distinction, and incurred the undying rage of the rich (who have Canning's "ignorant impatience" of taxation) by instituting death duties, services which entitled him to honour and regard.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury.
Three times Prime Minister.
(1830-1903)

    I heard Lord Salisbury's acrid, sneering, insulting, contemptuous speeches in the House of Commons against working men seeking the franchise.  What gave this man the right to speak with bitterness and scorn of the people whose industry kept him in the opulence he so little deserved?  Some friends of mine, who had personal intercourse with him, described him as a fair-spoken gentleman.  All the while, and to the end of his days, he had the cantankerous tongue in diplomacy which brought contempt and distrust upon Englishmen abroad, while his jests at Irish members of Parliament, whom his Government had subjected to humiliation in prison, denoted, thought many, the innate savagery of his order, when secure from public retribution—which people should remember who continue its impunity.  Difference of opinion is to be respected, but it is difficult even for philosophy to condone scorn.  If recklessness in language be the mark of inferiority in workmen, what is it in those of high position who compromise a nation by their ungoverned tongues?

    Among things bygone are certain ideas of popular influence which have had their day—some too long a day, judging from their effects.  The general misconceptions in them still linger in some minds, and it may be useful to recall a prominent one.

    The madness of thoroughness are two words I have never seen brought together, yet they are allied oftener than most persons suppose.  Thoroughness, in things which concern others, has limits.  Justness is greater than thoroughness.  There is great fascination in being thorough.  A man should be thorough as far as he can.  This implies that he must have regard to the rights and reasonable convenience of others, which is the natural limit of all the virtues.  Sometimes a politician will adopt the word "thorough" as his motto, forgetful that it was the motto of Strafford, who was a despot on principle, and who perished through the terror which his success inspired.  Cromwell was thorough in merciless massacres, which have made his name hateful in Irish memory for three centuries, perpetuating the distrust of English rule.  Vigour is a notable attribute, but unless it stops short of rigour, it jeopardises itself.

    Thorough means the entire carrying out of a principle to its end.  This can rarely be done in human affairs.  When a person finds he cannot do all he would, he commonly does nothing, whereas his duty is to do what he can—to continue to assert and maintain the principle he thinks right, and persist in its application to the extent of his power.  To suspend endeavour at the point where persistence would imperil the just right of others, is the true compromise in which there is no shame, as Mr. John Morley, in his wise book on "Compromise," has shown.  Temperance—a word of infinite wholesomeness in every department of life, because it means use and restraint—has been retarded and rendered repellent to thousands by the "thorough" partisans who have put prohibition into it.  Can absolute prohibition be enforced universally where conviction is opposed, without omnipresent tyranny, which makes it hateful instead of welcome?  Even truth itself, the golden element of trust and progress, has to be limited by relevance, timeliness and utility.  He who would speak everything he knows or believes to be true, to all persons, at all times, in every place, would soon become the most intolerable person in every society, and make lying itself a relief.  A man should stand by the truth and act upon it, wherever he can, and he should be known by his fidelity to it.  But that is a very different thing from obtruding it in unseemly ways, in season and out of season, which has ruined many a noble cause.  The law limits its exaction of truth to evidence necessary for justice.  There are cases such as occurred during the Civil War of emancipation in America, where slave-hunters would demand of the man, who had seen a fugitive slave, pass by, "which way he had run."  The humane bystander questioned, would point in the opposite direction.  Had he pointed truly, it would have cost the slave his life.  This was lying for humanity, and it would be lying to call it by any other name, for it was lying.  Thoroughness would have murdered the fugitive.

    The thoroughness of the Puritans brought upon the English nation the calamities of the Restoration.  Richelieu, in France, was thorough in his policy of centralisation.  He was a butcher on principle, and his name became a symbol of murder.  He circumvented everything, and pursued every one with implacable ferocity, who was likely to withstand him.  He put to death persons high and low, he destroyed municipalism in France, and changed the character of political society for the worse.  The French Revolutionists did but tread in the footsteps of the political priest.  They were all thorough, and as a consequence they died by each other's hands, and ruined liberty in France and in Europe.  The gospel of thoroughness was preached by Carlyle and demoralised Continental Liberals.  In the revolution of 1848 they spared lives all round.  They even abolished the punishment of death.  But when Louis Napoleon applied the doctrine of "thorough" to the greatest citizens of Paris, and shot, imprisoned, or exiled statesmen, philosophers and poets, Madame Pulzsky said to me, the "Republicans thought their leniency a mistake, and if they had power again they would cut everybody's throat who stood in the way of liberty."  As usual, thoroughness had begotten ferocity.

    Carlyle's eminent disciples of thoroughness justified the massacre and torture of the blacks in Jamaica, for which Tennyson, Kingsley, and others defended Governor Eyre.  Lord Cardwell, in the House of Commons, admitted in my hearing that there had been "unnecessary executions."  "Unnecessary executions" are murders—but in thoroughness unnecessary executions are not counted.  Wherever we have heard of pitilessness in military policy, or in speeches in our Parliament, we see exemplifications of the gospel of Thoroughness, which is madness if not limited by justice and forbearance.

    Conventional thoroughness dwells in extremes.  If political economy was thoroughly carried out, there might be great wealth, but no happiness.  Enjoyment is waste, since it involves expenditure.  The Inquisition, which made religion a name of terror, was but thoroughness in piety.  Pope, himself a Catholic, warned us that—


"For virtue's self may too much zeal be had.
 The worst of madness is a saint run mad."


    Fanatics forget (they would not be fanatics if they remembered) that in public affairs, true thoroughness is limited by the rights of others.  There is no permanent progress without this consideration.  The best of eggs will harden if boiled too much.  The mariner who takes no account of the rocks, wrecks his ship—which it is not profitable to forget.

    It is natural that those who crave practical knowledge of the unseen world should look about the universe for some chink, through which they can see what goes on there, and believe they have met with truants who have made disclosures to them.  I have no commerce of that kind to relate.  It is hard to think that when Jupiter is silent—when the Head of the Gods speaketh not—that He allows angels with traitor tongues to betray to men the mysteries of the world He has Himself concealed.  Can it be that He permits wayward ghosts to creep over the boundary of another world and babble His secrets at will?  This would imply great lack of discipline at the outposts of paradise.  There is great fascination in clandestine communication with the kingdom of the dead.  I own that noises of the night, not heard in the day, seem supernatural.  The wind sounds like the rush of the disembodied—hinges creak with human emotion—winds moan against window panes like persons in pain.  Creatures of the air and earth flit or leap in pursuit of prey, like the shadows of ghosts or the furtive steps of murdered souls.  Are they more than


"The sounds sent down at night
 By birds of passage in their flight"?


    For believing less where others believe more, for expressing decision of opinion which the reader may resent, I do but follow in the footsteps of Confucius, who, as stated by Allen Upward, "declared that a principle of belief or even a rule of morality binding on himself need not bind a disciple whose own conscience did not enjoin it on him."  Confucius, says his expositor, thus "reached a height to which mankind have hardly yet lifted their eyes, and announced a freedom compared with which ours is an empty name."



resource. Many a time he has come to my house at midnight to discuss some new point he thought
important. A good secretary is the inspirer o f the movement he represents. Mr. ColIet habitually sought the opinion of those for whom he acted. Every letter and every document was laid before
them. On points of policy or terms of expression he deferred to the views of others, not only with acquiescence, but willingness. During the more than twenty-four years in which I was chairman of the Travelling Tax Abolition Committee and he was secretary, I remember no instance to the contrary of his ready deference. His fertility of
suggestion was a constant advantage. Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden (who had an instinct of fitness) would select the most suitable for the purpose in hand. In early life Mr. Collet had studied for the law, and retained a passion for it which proved very useful where Acts of Parliament were the barricades which had to be stormed.

Mr. Collet was educated at Bruce Castle School, conducted by the father of Sir Rowland Hill. Collet's political convictions were shown by his becoming secretary for the People's Charter Union, intended to restore the Chartist movement (then mainly under Irish influence) to English hands. In 1848, he and W. J. Linton were sent as deputies to Paris, as bearers of English congratulations on the establishment of the Republic. Afterwards he fell himself under the fascination of an Oriental-minded
diplomat, David Urquhart, and became a romantic privy Council loyalist. Mr. Urquhart was Irish, eloquent, dogmatic, and infallible—at least, he put down with ostentatious insolence any one who ventured to demur to anything he said. If the astounded questioner pleaded that he was ignorant of the facts adduced, he was told his ignorance was a crime. Mr. Urquhart believed that all wisdom lay in treaties and Blue Books, and that the first duty of every politician was to insist on beheading Lord Palmerston, who had betrayed England to Russia. How Mr. Collet—a lover of freedom and inquiry-could be subjugated by doctrines which, if not conceived in madness, were commanded by arts akin to madness, is the greatest mystery of conversion I have known. I have seen Mr. Bright come out of the House of Commons, and observing Mr. Collet, would advance and offer his hand, when Mr. Collet would put his hands behind him, saying " he could not take the hand of a man who knew Lord Palmerston was an impostor and ought to know he was a traitor, and still maintained political relations with him." Yet Mr. Collet had great and well-founded regard for Mr. Bright.

It was an intrepid undertaking to attempt a repeal of taxes which for 143 years had fettered, as they were designed to do, knowledge from reaching the people. The history of this achievement was given in the Weekly Times and Echo. While these taxes were in force, neither cheap newspapers nor cheap
books could exist. Since their repeal great newspapers and great publishing houses have arisen. While these Acts were in force every newspaper proprietor was treated as a blasphemer and a writer of sedition, and compelled to give securities of £300 against the exercise of his infamous tendencies ; every paper-maker was regarded as a thief, and the officers of the Excise dogged every step of his business with hampering, exacting, and humiliating suspicion. Every reader found with an unstamped paper in his possession was liable to a fine of £20. The policy of our agitation was to observe scrupulous fairness to every Government with which we came in contact, and to heads of departments with whom unceasing war was waged. Their personal honour was never confused with the mischievous Acts they were compelled to enforce. Our rule was steadfastness in fairness and courtesy.

The cardinal principle of agitation Collet maintained was that the most effectual way to obtain the repeal of a bad law was to insist upon it being carried out, when its effect would soon be resented by those who maintain its application to others. Charles Dickens' " Household Narrative of Current Events," published weekly, was a violation of the Act which required news to be a month old when published on unstamped paper. Dickens was not selected from malice, for he was friendly to the freedom of the press, but from policy, as an Act carried out which would ruin a popular favourite
like Dickens, would excite indignation against it. A clamour was raised by friends in Parliament against the supineness of the Inland Revenue Board, for tolerating a wealthy metropolitan offender, while it prosecuted and relentlessly ruined small men in the provinces for doing the same thing. Bright called attention in the House to the Electric Telegraph Company, who were advertising every night in the lobbies news, not an hour old, on unstamped paper, in violation of the law.

It took thirty years of supplication to get art galleries open on Sunday, when the application of the law to the privilege of the rich would have opened them in ten years. The rich are allowed to violate the law against working on Sundays, for which the poor man is fined and imprisoned. An intelligent committee on the Balfour- Chamberlain principle of Retaliation would soon put an end to the laws which hamper the progress.

Professor Alexander Bain, remarkable for his fruitfulness in philosophic device, asked my opinion on a project of constructing a barometer of personal character, which varies by time and event. Everybody is aware of somebody who has changed, but few notice that every one is changing daily, for better or for worse. What Bain wanted was to contrive some instrument by which these variations could be denoted.

No doubt men must be judged on the balance of their ascertained merits. Bishop Butler's maxim that " Probability is the guide of life," implies pro- portion, and is the rule whereby character is to be judged. For years I conceived a strong dislike of Sir Robert Peel, because, as Secretary of State, he refused the petition of Mrs. Carlile to be allowed to leave the prison (where she ought never to have been sent) before the time of her accouchement. Peel's refusal was unfeeling and brutal. Yet in after life it was seen that Sir Robert possessed great qualities, and made great sacrifices in promoting the public good ; and I learned to hold in honour one whom I had hated for half a century.

For many years I entertained an indifferent estimate of Sir William Harcourt. It began when my friend Mr. E. J. H. Craufurd, M.P., challenged him to a duel, which he declined justifiably it might be, as he was a larger man than his antagonist, and offered a wider surface for bullets. Declining was meritorious in my eyes, as duels had then a political prestige, and there was courage in refusing: The cause of the challenge I thought well founded. In the earlier years of Sir William's Parliamentary life I had many opportunities of observing him, and thought he appeared as more contented with himself than any man is entitled to be on this side of the Millennium. When member for Oxford as a Liberal, he declared against payment of members of Parliament on the ground of
expense. The expense would have been one half
penny a year to each elector. This seemed to me So insincere that I ceased to count him as a Liberal Who could be trusted. Yet all the while he had great qualities as a combatant of the highest order, ;n the battles of Liberalism, who sacrificed himself, lost all prospect of higher distinction, and incurred the undying rage of the rich (who have Canning's " ignorant impatience " of taxation) by instituting death duties, services which entitled him to honour and regard.

I heard Lord Salisbury's acrid, sneering, insulting, contemptuous speeches in the House of Commons against working men seeking the franchise. What gave this man the right to speak with bitterness and scorn of the people whose industry kept him in the opulence he so little deserved ? Some friends of mine, who had personal intercourse with him, described him as a fair-spoken gentleman. All the while, and to the end of his days, he had the cantankerous tongue in diplomacy which brought contempt and distrust upon Englishmen abroad, while his jests at Irish members of Parliament, whom his Government had subjected to humiliation in prison, denoted, thought many, the innate savagery of his order, when secure from public retribution—which people should remember who continue its impunity. Difference of opinion is to be respected, but it is difficult even for philosophy to condone scorn. If recklessness in language be the
mark of inferiority in workmen, what is it in those of high position who compromise a nation by their ungoverned tongues ?

Among things bygone are certain ideas of popular influence which have had their day—some too long a day, judging from their effects. The general misconceptions in them still linger in some minds, and it may be useful to recall a prominent one.

The madness of thoroughness are two words I have never seen brought together, yet they are allied oftener than most persons suppose. Thoroughness, in things which concern others, has limits. Justness is greater than thoroughness. There is great fascination in being thorough. A man should be thorough as far as he can. This implies that he must have regard to the rights and reasonable convenience of others, which is the natural limit of all the virtues. Sometimes a politician will adopt the word "thorough" as his motto, forgetful that it was the motto of Strafford, who was a despot on principle, and who perished through the terror which his success inspired. Cromwell was thorough in merciless massacres, which have made his name hateful in Irish memory for three centuries, perpetuating the distrust of English rule. Vigour is a notable attribute, but unless it stops short of rigour, it jeopardises itself.

Thorough means the entire carrying out of a principle to its end. This can rarely be done in human affairs. When a person finds he cannot do all he would, he commonly does nothing, whereas his duty is to do what he can—to continue to assert and rnaintain the principle he thinks right, and persist in its application to the extent of his power. To suspend endeavour at the point where persistence would imperil the just right of others, is the true compromise in which there is no shame, as Mr. John Morley, in his wise book on " Compro mise," has shown. Temperance—a word of infinite wholesomeness in every department of life, because it means use and restraint—has been retarded and rendered repellent to thousands by the " thorough " partisans who have put prohibition into it. Can absolute prohibition be enforced universally where conviction is opposed, without omnipresent tyranny, which makes it hateful instead of welcome? Even truth itself, the golden element of trust and progress, has to be limited by relevance, timeliness and utility. He who would speak everything he knows or believes to be true, to all persons, at all times, in every place, would soon become the most intolerable person in every society, and make lying itself a relief. A man should stand by the truth and act upon it, wherever he can, and he should be known by his fidelity to it. But that is a very different thing from obtruding it in unseemly ways, in season and out of season, which has ruined many a noble
cause. The law limits its exaction of truth to evidence necessary for justice. There are cases such as occurred during the Civil War of emanci- pation in America, where slave - hunters would demand of the man, who had seen a fugitive slave,
pass by, " which way he had run:" The humane bystander questioned, would point in the opposite direction. Had he pointed truly, it would have cost the slave his life. This was lying for humanity, and it would be lying to call it by any other name, for it was lying. Thoroughness would have murdered the fugitive.

The thoroughness of the Puritans brought upon the English nation the calamities of the Restoration. Richelieu, in France, was thorough in his policy of centralisation. He was a butcher on principle, and his name became a symbol of murder. He circumvented everything, and pursued every one with implacable ferocity, who was likely to withstand him. He put to death persons high and low, he destroyed municipalism in France, and changed the character of political society for the worse. The French Revolutionists did but tread in the footsteps of the political priest. They were all thorough, and as a consequence they died by each other's hands, and ruined liberty in France and in Europe. The gospel of thoroughness was preached by Carlyle and demoralised Continental Liberals. In the revolution of 1848 they spared lives all round. They even abolished the punishment of death.
But when Louis Napoleon applied the doctrine of " thorough " to the greatest citizens of Paris, and Shot, imprisoned, or exiled statesmen, philosophers and poets, Madame Pulzsky said to me, the ,,Republicans thought their leniency a mistake, and if they had power again they would cut everybody's throat who stood in the way of liberty." As usual, thoroughness had begotten ferocity.

Carlyle's eminent disciples of thoroughness justified the massacre and torture of the blacks in Jamaica, for which Tennyson, Kingsley, and others defended Governor Eyre. Lord Cardwell, in the House of Commons, admitted in my hearing that there had been "unnecessary executions." "Unnecessary executions" are murders—but in thoroughness unnecessary executions are not counted. Wherever we have heard of pitilessness in military policy, or in speeches in our Parliament, we see exemplifications of the gospel of Thoroughness, which is madness if not limited by justice and forbearance.

Conventional thoroughness dwells in extremes. If political economy was thoroughly carried out, there might be great wealth, but no happiness. Enjoyment is waste, since it involves expenditure. The Inquisition, which made religion a name of terror, was but thoroughness in piety. Pope, himself a Catholic, warned us that

"For virtue's self may too much zeal be had.
The worst of madness is a saint run mad."

Fanatics forget (they would not be fanatics if they remembered) that in public affairs, true thoroughness is limited by the rights of others. There is no permanent progress without this consideration. The best of eggs will harden if boiled too much. The mariner who takes no account of the rocks, wrecks his ship-which it is not profitable to forget.

It is natural that those who crave practical knowledge of the unseen world should look about the universe for some chink, through which they can see what goes on there, and believe they have met with truants who have made disclosures to them. I have no commerce of that kind to relate. It is hard to think that when Jupiter is silent—when the Head of the Gods speaketh not—that He allows angels with traitor tongues to betray to men the mysteries of the world He has Himself concealed. Can it be that He permits wayward ghosts to creep over the boundary of another world and babble His secrets at will ? This would imply great lack of discipline at the outposts of paradise. There is great fascination in clandestine communication with the kingdom of the dead. I own that noises of the night, not heard in the day, seem supernatural. The wind sounds like the rush of the disembodied—hinges creak with human emotion—winds moan against window panes like persons in pain. Creatures of the air and earth flit or leap in pursuit of prey, like the shadows of ghosts or the furtive steps of murdered souls. Are they more than

"The sounds sent down at night
By birds of passage in their flight"?

For believing less where others believe more, for expressing decision of opinion which the reader may resent, I do but follow in the footsteps of Confucius, who, as stated by Allen Upward, " declared that a principle of belief or even a rule of morality binding on himself need not bind a disciple whose own conscience did not enjoin it on him." Confucius, says his expositor, thus " reached a height to which mankind have hardly yet lifted their eyes, and announced a freedom compared with which ours is an empty name."


 
CHAPTER XLVII.

LOOKING BACKWARDS


IT seems to me that I cannot more appropriately conclude these chapters of bygone events within my own experience, than by a summary of those of the past condition of industry which suggest a tone of manly cheerfulness and confidence in the future, not yet common among the people.  Changes of condition are not estimated as they pass, and when they have passed, many never look back to calculate their magnificence or insignificance.  This chapter is an attempt to show the change of the environment of a great class of a character to decrease apprehension and augment hope.  The question answered herein is: "Did things go better before our time?"

    When this question is put is put to me I answer "No."  Things did not go better before my time—nor that of the working class who were contemporaries of my earlier years.  My answer is given from the working class point of view, founded on a personal experience extending as far back as 1824, when I first became familiar with workshops.  Many are still under the impression that things are as bad as they well can be, whereas they have been much worse than they are now.  When I first took an interest in public affairs, agitators among the people were as despondent as frogs who were supposed to croak because they were neglected.

    They spoke in weeping tones.  There were tears even in the songs of Ebenezer Elliot, the Corn-Law Rhymer, [57] and not without cause, for the angels would have been pessimists, had they been in the condition of the people in those days.  I myself worked among men who had Unitarian masters—who were above the average of employers—even they were as sheep-dogs who kept the wolf away, but bit the sheep if they turned aside.  But Trades Unions have changed this now, and sometimes bite their masters (employers they are called now), which is not more commendable.  Still, multitudes of working people, who ought to be in the front ranks as claimants for redress still needed, yet hang back with handkerchief to their eyes, oppressed with a feeling of hopelessness, because they are unaware of what has been won for them, of what has been conceded to them, and what the trend of progress is bringing nearer to them.

    Of course if there has been no betterment in the condition of the people, despair is excusable—but if there has, despair is as unseemly as unnecessary.  Every age has its needs and its improvements to make, but a knowledge of what has been accomplished should take despair out of workmen's minds.  To this end I write of changes which have taken place in my time.

    I was born in tinder-box days.  I remember having to strike a light in my grandfather's garden for his early pipe, when we arrived there at five o'clock in the morning.  At times my fingers bled as I missed the steel with the jagged flint.  Then the timber proved damp where the futile spark fell, and when ignition came a brimstone match filled the air with satanic fumes.  He would have been thought as much a visionary as Joanna Southcott, who said the time would come when small, quick-lighting lucifers would be as plentiful and as cheap as blades of grass.  How tardy was change in olden time!  Flint and steel had been in use four hundred years.  Philip the Good put it into the collar of the Golden Fleece (1429).  It was not till 1833 that phosphorus matches were introduced.  The safety match of the present day did not appear until 1845.  The consumption of matches is now about eight per day for each person.  To produce eight lights, by a tinder-box, would take a quarter of an hour.  With the lucifer match eight lights can he had in two minutes, occupying only twelve hours a year, while the tinder box process consumes ninety hours.  Thus the lucifer saves nearly eighty hours annually, which, to the workman, would mean an addition of nearly eight working days to the year.

    In tinder-box days the nimble night burglar heard the flint and steel going, and had time to pack up his booty and reach the next parish, before the owner descended the stairs with his flickering candle.  Does any one now fully appreciate the morality of light?  Extinguish the gas in the streets of London and a thousand extra policemen would do less to prevent outrage and robbery than the ever-burning, order-keeping street light.  Light is a police force—neither ghosts nor burglars like it.  Thieves flee before it as errors flee the mind when the light of truth bursts on the understanding of the ignorant.

    Seventy years ago the evenings were wasted in a million houses of the poor.  After sundown the household lived in gloom.  Children who could read, read, as I did, by the flickering light of the fire, which often limited for life the power of seeing.  Now the pauper reads by a better light than the squire did in days when squires were county gods.  Now old men see years after the period when their forefathers were blind.

    Then a social tyranny prevailed, unpleasant to the rich and costly to the poor, which regarded the beard as an outrage.  I remember when only four men in Birmingham had courage to wear beards.  They were followers of Joanna Southcott.  They did it in imitation of the apostles, and were jeered at in the streets by ignorant Christians.  George Frederick Muntz, one of the two first members elected in Birmingham, was the first member who ventured to wear a beard in the House of Commons; and he would have been insulted had not he been a powerful man and carried a heavy Malacca cane, which he was known to apply to any one who offered him a personal affront.  Only military officers were allowed to wear a moustache; among them—no one, not even Wellington, was hero enough to wear a beard.  The Rev. Edmund R. Larken, of Burton Rectory, near Lincoln, was the first clergyman (that was as late as 1852) who appeared in the pulpit with a beard, but he shaved the upper lip as an apology for the audacity of his chin; George Dawson was the first Nonconformist preacher who delivered a sermon in a full-blown moustache and beard, which was taken in both cases as an unmistakable sign of latitudinarianism in doctrine.  In the bank clerk or the workman it was worse.  It was flat insubordination not to shave.  The penalty was prompt dismissal.  As though there were not fetters about hard to bear, people made fetters for themselves.  Such was the daintiness of ignorance that a man could not eat, dress, nor even think as he pleased.  He was even compelled to shave by public opinion.

    When Mr. Joseph Cowen was first a candidate for Parliament, he wore, as was his custom, a felt hat (then called a "wide-awake").  He was believed to be an Italian conspirator, and suspected of holding opinions lacking in orthodox requirements.  Yet all his reputed heresies of acts and tenets put together did not cost him so many votes as the form and texture of his hat.  He was elected—but his headgear would have ruined utterly a less brilliant candidate than he.  This social intolerance now shows its silly and shameless head no more.  A wise Tolerance is the Angel, which stands at the portal of Progress, and opens the door of the Temple.

    Dr. Church, of Birmingham, was the first person who, in my youth, contrived a bicycle, and rode upon it in the town, which excited more consternation than a Southcottean with his beard.  He was an able physician, but his harmless innovation cost him his practice.  Patients refused to be cured by a doctor who rode a horse which had no head, and ate no oats.  Now a parson may ride to church on a bicycle and people think none the worse of his sermon; and, scandal of scandals, women are permitted to cycle, although it involves a new convenience of dress formerly sharply resented.

     In these days of public wash-houses, public laundries, and water supply, few know the discomfort of a washing day in a workman's home; or of the feuds of a party pump.  One pump in a yard had to serve several families.  Quarrels arose as to who should first have the use of it.  Sir Edwin Chadwick told me that more dissensions arose over party pumps in a day than a dozen preachers could reconcile in a week.  Now the poorest house has a water tap, which might be called moral, seeing the ill-feeling it prevents.  So long as washing had to be done at home, it took place in the kitchen, which was also the dining-room of a poor family.  When the husband came home to his meals, damp clothes were hanging on lines over his head, and dripping on to his plate.  The children were in the way, and sometimes the wrong child had its ears boxed because, in the steam, the mother could not see which was which.  This would give rise to further expressions which kept the Recording Angel, of whom Sterne tells us, very busy, whom the public wash-houses set free for other, though scarcely less repugnant duty.

    In that day sleeping rooms led to deplorable additions to the register of "idle words."  The introduction of iron bedsteads began a new era of midnight morality.  As a wandering speaker I dreaded the wooden bedstead of cottage, lodging-house or inn.  Fleas I did not much care for, and had no ill-will towards them.  They were too little to be responsible for what they did; while the malodorous bug is big enough to know better.  Once in Windsor I selected an inn with a white portico, having an air of pastoral cleanliness.  The four-poster in my room, with its white curtains, was a further assurance of repose.  The Boers were not more skilful in attack and retreat than the enemies I found in the field.  Lighted candles did not drive them from the kopje pillow where they fought.  In Sheffield, in 1840, I asked the landlady for an uninhabited room.  A cleaner looking, white-washed chamber never greeted my eyes.  But I soon found that a whole battalion of red-coated cannibals were stationed there, on active service.  Wooden bedsteads in the houses of the poor were the fortresses of the enemy, which then possessed the land.  Iron bedsteads have ended this, and given to the workman two hours more sleep at night than was possible before that merciful invention.  A gain of two hours for seven nights amounted to a day's holiday a week.  Besides, these nocturnal irritations were a fruitful source of tenemental sin, from which iron bedsteads have saved residents and wayfarers.

    Of all the benefits that have come to the working class in my time, those of travel are among the greatest.  Transit by steam has changed the character of man, and the facilities of the world.  Nothing brings toleration into the mind like seeing new lands, new people, new usages.  They who travel soon discover that other people have genius, manners, and taste.  The traveller loses on his way prejudices of which none could divest him at home, and he brings back in his luggage new ideas never contained in it before.  Think what the sea-terror of the emigrant used to be, as he thought of the dreadful voyage over the tempestuous billows.  The first emigrants to America were six months in the Mayflower.  Now a workman can go from Manchester into the heart of America or Canada in a fortnight.  The deadly depression which weighed on the heart of home-sick emigrants occurs no more, since he can return almost at will.  A mechanic can now travel farther than a king could a century ago.  When I first went to Brighton, third-class passengers travelled in an open cattle truck, exposed to wind and rain.  For years the London and North-Western Railway shunted the third-class passengers at Blisworth for two hours, while the gentlemen's trains went by.  Now workmen travel in better carriages than gentlemen did half a century ago.  In Newcastle-on-Tyne I have entered a third-class carriage at a quarter to five in the morning.  It was like Noah's Ark.  The windows were openings which in storm were closed by wooden shutters to keep out wind and rain, when all was darkness.  It did not arrive in London till nine o'clock in the evening, being sixteen hours on the journey.  Now the workman can leave Newcastle at ten o'clock in the morning, and be in London in the afternoon.

    Does any one think what advantage has come to the poor by the extension of dentistry?  Teeth are life-givers.  They increase comeliness, comfort, health and length of years—advantages now shared more or less by the poorer classes—once confined to the wealthy alone.  Formerly the sight of dental instruments struck terror in the heart of the patient.  Now, fear arises when few instruments are seen, as the more numerous they are and the more skilfully they are made, the assurance of less pain is given.  The simple instruments which formerly alarmed give confidence now, which means that the patient is wiser than of yore.  Within the days of this generation what shrieks were heard in the hospital, which have been silenced for ever by a discovery of pain-arresting chloroform!  No prayer could still the agony of the knife.  The wise surgeon is greater than the priest.  If any one would know what pain was in our time, let him read Dr. John Brown's "Rab and his Friends," which sent a pang of dangerous horror into the heart of every woman who read it.  Now the meanest hospital gives the poorest patient who enters it a better chance of life than the wealthy could once command.  It was said formerly:—


"The world is a market full of streets,
 And Death is a merchant whom every one meets,
 If life were a thing which money could buy—
 The poor could not live, and the rich would not die."


    Now the poor man can deal with death, and buy life on very reasonable terms, if he has commonsense enough to observe half the precepts given him by generous physicians on temperance and prudence.

    Not long since no man was tolerated who sought to cure an ailment, or prolong human life in any new way.  Even persons so eminent as Harriet Martineau, Dr. Elliotson, and Sir Bulwer Lytton were subjected to public ridicule and resentment because they suffered themselves to be restored to health by mesmerism or hydropathy.  But in these libertine and happier days any one who pleases may follow Mesmer, Pressnitz, or even Hahnemann, and attain health by any means open to him, and is no longer expected to die according to the direction of antediluvian doctors.

    Until late years the poor man's stomach was regarded as the waste-paper basket of the State, into which anything might be thrown that did not agree with well-to-do digestion.  Now, the Indian proverb is taken to be worth heeding—that "Disease enters by the mouth," and the health of the people is counted as part of the wealth of the nation.  Pestilence is subjected to conditions.  Diseases are checked at will, which formerly had an inscrutable power of defiance.  The sanitation of towns is now a public care.  True, officers of health have mostly only official noses, but they can be made sensible of nuisances by intelligent occupiers.  Economists, less regarded than they ought to be, have proved that it is cheaper to prevent pestilence than bury the dead.  Besides, disease, which has no manners, is apt to attack respectable people.

    What are workshops now to what they once were?  Any hole or stifling room was thought good enough for a man to work in.  They, indeed, abound still, but are now regarded as discreditable.  Many mills and factories are palaces now compared with what they were.  Considering how many millions of men and women are compelled to pass half their lives in some den of industry or other, it is of no mean importance that improvement has set in in workshops.

    Co-operative factories have arisen, light, spacious and clean, supplied with cool air in summer and warm air in winter.  In my youth men were paid late on Saturday night; poor nailers trudged miles into Birmingham, with their week's work in bags on their backs, who were to be seen hanging about merchants' doors up to ten and eleven o'clock to get payment for their goods.  The markets were closing or closed when the poor workers reached them.  It was midnight, or Sunday morning, before they arrived at home.  Twelve or more hours a day was the ordinary working period.  Wages, piece-work and day-work, were cut down at will.  I did not know then that these were "the good old times" of which, in after years, I should hear so much.

    The great toil of other days in many trades is but exercise now, as exhaustion is limited by mechanical contrivances.  A pressman in my employ has worked at a hand-press twenty-four hours continuously, before publishing day.  Now a gas engine does all the labour.  Machinery is the deliverer which never tires and never grows pale.

    The humiliation of the farm labourer is over.  He used to sing:


"Mr Smith is a very good man,
 He lets us ride in his harvest van,
 He gives us food and he gives us ale,
 We pray his heart may never fail."


    There is nothing to be said against Mr. Smith, who was evidently a kindly farmer of his time.  Yet to what incredible humiliation his "pastors and masters" had brought poor Hodge, who could sing these lines, as though he had reached the Diamond jubilee of his life when he rode in somebody else's cart, and had cheese and beer.  Now the farm workers of a co-operative way of thinking have learned how to ride in their own vans, to possess the crop with which they are loaded, and to provide themselves with a harvest supper.

    In my time the mechanic had no personal credit for his work, whatever might be his skill.  Now in industrial exhibitions the name of the artificer is attached to his work, and he is part of the character of the firm which employs him.  He has, also, now—if co-operation prevails—a prospect of participating in the profits of his own industry.  Half a century ago employers were proud of showing their machinery to a visitor—never their men.  Now they show their work-people as well—whose condition and contentment is the first pride of great firms.

    Above all knowledge is a supreme improvement, which has come to workmen.  They never asked for it, the ignorant never do ask for knowledge, and do not like those who propose it to them.  Brougham first turned aside their repugnance by telling them what Bacon knew, that "knowledge is power."  Now they realise the other half of the great saying, Dr. Creighton, the late Bishop of London, supplied, that "ignorance is impotence."  They can see that the instructed son of the gentleman has power, brightness, confidence, and alertness; while the poor man's child, untrained, incapable, dull in comparison, often abject, is unconscious of his own powers which lie latent within him.  If an educated and an ignorant child were sold by weight, the intelligent child would fetch more per pound avoirdupois than the ignorant one.  Now education can be largely had for working men's children for nothing.  Even scholarships and degrees are open to the clever sort.  Moreover, how smooth science has made the early days of instruction, formerly made jagged with the rod.

    Sir Edwin Chadwick showed that the child mind could not profitably be kept learning more than an hour at a time, and recreation must intervene before a second hour can be usefully spent.  What a mercy and advantage to thousands of poor children this has been!  Even the dreary schoolroom of the last generation is disappearing.  A schoolroom should be spacious and bright, and board schools are beginning to be made so now.  I have seen a board school in a dismal court in Whitechapel which looked like an alley of hell.  All thoughts for pleasant impressions in the child mind, which make learning alluring, were formerly uncared for.  Happier now is the lot of poor children than any former generation knew.

    Within my time no knowledge of public affairs was possible to the people, save in a second-hand way from sixpenny newspapers a month old.  Now a workman can read in the morning telegrams from all parts of the world in a halfpenny paper, hours before his employer is out of bed.  If a pestilence broke out in the next street to the man's dwelling, the law compelled him to wait a month for the penny paper, the only one he could afford to buy, before he became aware of his danger, and it often happened that some of his family never lived to read of their risk.

    The sons of working people are now welcomed in the army, and their record there has commanded the admiration of the onlooking world.  But they are not flogged as they once were, at the will of any arrogant dandy who had bought his mastership over them.  Intelligence has awakened manliness and self-respect in common men, and the recruiting sergeant has to go about without the lash under his coat.  The working man further knows now that there is a better future for his sons in the public service, in army or navy, than ever existed before our time.  Even the emigrant ship has regulations for the comfort of steerage passengers, unknown until recent years.  People always professed great regard for "Poor Jack," but until Mr. Plimsoll arose, they left him to drown.

    Until a few years ago millions of home-born Englishmen were kept without votes, like the Uitlanders of South Africa, and no one sent an army into the country to put down the "corrupt oligarchy," as Mr. Chamberlain called those who withheld redress.  But it has come, though in a limping, limited way.  Carlylean depreciators of Parliament decried the value of workmen possessing "a hundred thousandth part in the national palavers."  But we no longer hear workmen at election times referred to as the "swinish multitude" who can now send representatives of their own order into the House of Commons.  If the claims of labour are not much considered, they are no longer contemned.  It is always easier for the rider than the horse.  The people are always being ridden, but it is much easier for the horse now than it ever was before.

    Sir Michael Foster, in a recent Presidential Address to the British Association, said that, "the appliances of science have, as it were, covered with a soft cushion the rough places of life, and that not for the rich only but also for the poor."  It is not, however, every kind of progress, everywhere, in every department of human knowledge, in which the reader is here concerned, but merely with such things as Esdras says, which have "passed by us in daily life," and which every ordinary Englishman has observed or knows.

    If the question be asked whether the condition of the working class has improved in proportion to that of the middle and upper class of our time, the answer must be it has not.  But that is not the question considered here.  The question is, "Are the working class to-day better off than their fathers were?"  The answer already given is Yes.  Let the reader think what, in a general way, the new advantages are.  The press is free, and articulate with a million voices—formerly dumb.  Now a poor man can buy a better library for a few shillings than Solomon with all his gold and glory could in his day; or than the middle class man possessed fifty years ago.  Toleration—not only of ideas but of action, is enlarged, and that means much—social freedom is greater, and that means more.  The days of children are happier, schoolrooms are more cheerful, and one day they will be educated so as to fit them for self-dependence and the duties of daily life.  Another change is that the pride in ignorance, which makes for impotence, is decreasing, is no longer much thought of among those whose ignorance was their only attainment.

    Not less have the material conditions of life improved.  Food is purer—health is surer—life itself is safer and lasts longer.  Comfort has crept into a million houses where it never found its way before.  Security can be better depended upon.  The emigrant terror has gone.  Instead of sailing out on hearsay to an unknown land and finding himself in the wrong one, or in the wrong part of the right country, as has happened to thousands, the emigrant can now obtain official information, which may guide him rightly.  Towns are brighter, there are more public buildings which do the human eye good to look upon.  Means of recreation are continually being multiplied.  Opportunity of change from town to country, or coast, fall now to the poorest.  Not in cattle trucks any more.  Life is better worth living.  Pain none could escape is evadable now.  Parks are multiplied and given as possessions to the people.  Paintings and sculpture are now to be seen on the Sunday by workmen, which their forefathers never saw, being barred from them on the only day when they could see them.

    By a device within the memory of most, house owning has become possible to those whose fathers never thought it possible.  Temperance, once a melancholy word, is now a popular resource of health and economy.  The fortune of industry is higher in many ways.  Into how many firesides does it bring gladness to know that in barrack, or camp, or ship, the son is better treated than heretofore.

    Can any of the middle-aged doubt that some things are better now than before their time?  Now two hundred workshops exist on the labour co-partnership principle.  Forty years ago those commenced, failed—failed through lack of intelligence on the part of workers.  The quality of workmen to be found everywhere in our day did not exist then.  Sixteen years ago there were little more than a dozen workshops owned and conducted by working men.  There are more than a hundred now; and hundreds in which the workers receive an addition to their wages, undreamt of in the last generation.  In this, and in other respects, things go better than they did.  Though there is still need of enlargement, the means of self-defence are not altogether wanting.  Co-operation has arisen—a new force for the self-extrication of the lowest.  Without charity, or patronage, or asking anything from the State, it puts into each man's hand the "means to cancel his captivity."

    The rich man may vote twenty times where the poor man can vote only once.  Still, the one voter counts for something where the unfranchised counted for nothing.

    Political as well as civil freedom has come in a measure to those who dwell in cottages and lodgings.  For one minute every seven years the workman is free.  He can choose his political masters at the poll, and neither his neighbour, his employer, nor his priest, has the knowledge to harm him on that account.  One minute of liberty in seven years is not much, but there is no free country in the world where that minute is so well secured as in England.  If any one would measure the present by the past, let him recall the lines:—


"Allah! Allah!" cried the stranger,
"Wondrous sights the traveller sees,
But the latest is the greatest,
Where the drones control the bees."


    They do it still, but not to the extent they did.  The control of wisdom, when the drones have it, is all very well, but it is the other sort of control which is now happily to some extent controllable by the bees.  The manners of the rich are better.  Their sympathy with the people has increased.  Their power of doing ill is no longer absolute.  Employers think more of the condition of those who labour for them.  The better sort still throw crumbs to Lazarus.  But now Dives is expected to explain why it is that Lazarus cannot get crumbs himself.

    In ways still untold the labour class is gradually attaining to social equality with the idle class and to that independence hitherto the privilege of those who do nothing.  The workman's power of self-defence grows—his influence extends—his rights enlarge.  Injury suffered in industry is beginning to be compensated; even old-age pensions are in the air, though not as yet anywhere else.  Notwithstanding, "John Brown's soul goes marching on."  But it must be owned its shoes are a little down at the heels.  Nevertheless, though there is yet much to be done—more liberty to win, more improvements to attain, and more than all, if it be possible, permanences of prosperity to secure—I agree with Sydney Smith—


"For olden times let others prate,
 I deem it lucky I was born so late."


    There is a foolish praise of the past and a foolish depreciation of the present.  The past had its evils, the present has fewer.  The past had its promise, the present great realisations.  It is not assumed in what has been said that all the advantages recounted were originated and acquired by working men alone.  Many came by the concessions of those who had the power of withholding them.  More concessions will not lack acknowledgment.  "Just gifts" to men who have honour in their hearts, "bind the recipients to the giver for ever."

    The Chinese put the feet of children in a boot and the foot never grows larger.  There are boots of the mind as well as of the feet, that are worn by the young of all nations, which have no expansion in them, and which cramp the understanding of those grown up.  This prevents many from comprehending the changes by which :hey benefit or realising the facts of their daily life.  Considering what the men of labour have done for themselves and what has been won for them by their advocates, and conceded to them from time to time by others, despair and the counsels of outrage which spring from it, are unseemly, unnecessary, and ungrateful.  This is the moral of this story.

    A doleful publicist should be superannuated.  He is already obsolete.  Whoever despairs of a cause in whose success he once exulted, should fall out of the ranks, where some ambulance waits to carry away the sick or dispirited.  He has no business to utter his discouraging wail in the ears of the constant and confident, marching to the front, where the battle of progress is being fought.

    Since so much has been accomplished in half a century, when there were few advantages to begin with—what may not be gained in the next fifty years with the larger means now at command and the confidence great successes of the past should inspire!  If working people adhere to the policy of advancing their own honest interests without destroying others as rightfully engaged in seeking theirs, the workers may make their own future what they will.  They may then acquire power sufficient, as the Times once said: "To turn a reform mill which would grind down an abuse a day."

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FOOTNOTE.


The last chapter is reprinted from the Fortnightly Review by courtesy of the Editor, and a similar acknowledgment is due to the Editor of the Weekly Times and Echo, in whose pages several of the preceding chapters appeared.


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NOTES.

 
54.   32 & 33 chap. 68, Evidence Amendment Act.
 
55.   Thomas Tusser, of the sixteenth century; to whom the phrase is ascribed, said: "The stone that is rolling can gather no moss."
 
56.   Cicero appears to have thought of this when he said: "Every man ought carefully to follow out his peculiar character, provided it is only peculiar, and not vicious."
 
57.   Thomas Cooper—himself a Chartist poet—published (1841) in Elliot's days a hymn by William Jones—a Leicester poet—of which the first verse began thus:


"Come my fellow-slaves of Britain.
 Rest, awhile, the weary limb;
 Pour your plaints, ye bosom-smitten,
 In a sad and solemn hymn."

 


 

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