AMONG THE FISHERMEN OF CROMER.
IT is at once incredible and amusing to contemplate
the primeval spiritual subjugation which parts of this little island are
still under. I was wandering in 1867 on the stormy coast of Cromer.
The boisterous sea visible there was once covered by cliff and forest.
Druidical temples, Aryan altars, villages and churches had all been beaten
down by the fierce waters which now roll over their sites. The noble
church of lofty arches and majestic towers which now stands in Cromer
would have been swept away ere now had not a stout sea wall protected it.
The great ocean, being free, had no doubt suggested to the inhabitants
round about that thought ought to be free also. I had never been in
the place, but on the morning of my arrival it was noised abroad that I
was the guest of a Quaker of repute thereabout. On Sunday I attended
church. In a new town I take the first opportunity of hearing the
most distinguished preacher in it. Preachers of different
denominations often utter noble sentiments in a noble way, and hearing
them enables one better to appreciate the eclecticism of piety. The
preacher at the church was a grey-headed, dignified ecclesiastic in the
maturity of his powers. He was a dean who preached. He said
that there was a class of persons of high character, of perfect
intellectual probity, who had that living morality which bound society
together. Yet they professed not the Christian name.
Nevertheless, it must be observed that, while morality bound man to the
world, it was spiritual life which bound man to God. The sentences
were clearly cut, as though chiselled by the hand of Woolner. Nor
were the sentiments taken back again in any part of the discourse, as is
often the case with some preachers. One often hears a fine
concession at the beginning of a sermon which is explained away at the
The next day it was represented to me that many inhabitants
of the town, and especially the fishermen, would like to hear from me a
lecture on the "Orators of the English Parliament." A messenger was
sent miles away to the nearest printing press, and early next morning, as
I went down to the beach, I found neat little placards in every shop
window announcing my lecture for the evening. In some windows which
faced the town two ways, placards were exhibited on each, announcing that
I would speak in the evening. Outside the Bible Society's Depot one
of the bills appeared. So amicable was everything, I thought I had
alighted in an unfrequented corner of the Millennium! The fishermen's room
was readily granted by two of them who had authority over it. It was
in that room that an eminent member of Parliament, Charles Buxton, used to
deliver annual summaries of Parliamentary proceedings, which ranked among
the classics of political criticism. He was dead then; and a
memorial window of great beauty of colour and design, which I was told
cost a thousand guineas, had been put up in Cromer Church to his memory.
The clouded and chastened light which passed through the window recalled
those fine sentiments he used to express, in which philosophy had softened
and variegated the fierce light of the controversies of his day.
Before noon a great change had come over Cromer; there was
consternation in the place. Muffled whisperings were heard behind
every counter. The vicar had been in the town. The bill on the
Bible Society's door had attracted his attention. He did not know
me, but he knew I was not one of the apostles. Though my name is
partly Biblical, the vicar had the announcement bearing it removed.
He went to the shopkeepers and requested them to take the bills from their
windows, and not to go to the lecture. He admitted my subject was
not in itself objectionable, but then I might say something else in
speaking upon it. He was told that I regarded it as a breach of
faith to announce one subject, and, after inciting people to come to hear
that, to speak upon another. Whether the vicar was convinced, I know
not; but, as he did not call again at the places he visited to reverse his
request, the bills were not replaced, and by the afternoon not a single
copy was to be seen anywhere in the town. Had Mr. Buxton, whose
guest I had been, been living at hand, things would have been different.
In the meantime I composed, in case the fishermen had a
choir, a variation of one of Byron's Hebrew Melodies—beginning, as they
say in chapel, at the second verse:
"Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
Placards in the windows at sunrise were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn has blown,
The placards at sunset lay withered and strown.
The vicar of Cromer came in with the blast,
And spoke at the door of each shop as he past;
And the hearts of the keepers waxed deadly and chill;
Their souls but once heaved and thenceforward grew still."
When I returned from a tour of inspection, I sent word to the fishermen
who had let their rooms to me, that if they thought anything would happen
to their families through their act, they were quite at liberty to recall
it. I thought it likely that the vicar might be the almoner of many
kind-hearted and wealthy families in the neighbourhood, and the people
might fear being passed over when they wanted help in the hard seasons
that befell them. "Tell the men," I said, "that I am no pedlar of
opinions; I do not hawk my principles about the country; and if Cromer
would rather I should not speak in the town, I had no wish to speak to
The stout fishermen probably reflected that they earned their bread in the
tempest, by day and by night, holding their lives in their own hands,
while the vicar passed his days secure from harm, and that they would get
through my lecture as they had through other storms. Hence they
answered "they should light their best candles for Mr. Holyoake, and make
their room as bright and cheerful as they could, if he chooses to come."
When nightfall arrived, I marched through the village with my host (whose
Quaker blood was a little stirred) to lecture. Not a soul was moving
in Cromer. Nearing the rooms, we observed a solitary man emerging
from a cottage in the direction of the Lecture Room. His back was
made visible by a penny candle in the window. "There does not
appear," I said to my friend, "any great stampede to the lecture, but I
shall deliver it to you, and our friend, whose back we have seen, should
he arrive there." On entering the room I was astounded by an immense
shout of welcome. The fishermen were there in force. A
respectable inhabitant of the place was voted to the chair, and a gracious
little speech of introduction was made by the gentleman, Mr. Kemp, whose
guest I was.
I delivered my lecture. As I explained the difference
between oratory and mere public speaking, and the characteristics of
Bright, Gladstone, Disraeli, Lowe, Bernal Osborne, Buxton, Sir Wilfred
Lawson, Stansfeld, and others, and pointed out the gradations of that art
by which men climb on phrases to power, signs of discernment arose
sufficient to satisfy any speaker. A reverend visitor, Mr. Valpy,
whose father was a great classic authority, made a neat little speech at
We said not a word about the vicar. I made no allusion
to him, direct or indirect. It is a long time since those little
peculiarities of the ecclesiastical mind, which he had displayed, affected
or concerned me; and the audience imagined I did not notice what he had
done. I doubt not he was a kind-hearted gentleman to whom many have
been indebted for words of counsel and acts of humanity. He was,
perhaps, a little apt to forget that the people of Cromer were citizens as
well as Christians, and had a right to know what affected them as
Englishmen—that they needed to understand the secular merits of those
great men who influence their destinies and make the English name
distinguished on the earth. The Cromer men had no doubt reasons for
respecting the vicar in removing the placards which were distasteful to
him, and respected themselves by giving a courteous hearing to what a
stranger had to say to them.
In any other town in England it is necessary to advertise a
lecture two or three days; but in Cromer it is sufficient to advertise a
lecture for three hours, and this may have been the reason why they took
the placards out of the windows at midday. However, to the
inexperienced visitor, it seemed that Church courtesy in Cromer had
contracted the qualities of the East wind, and dictation of the Romish
type, which many thought obsolete in England, was still in force in that
remote corner of East Anglia.
STORY OF THE LIMELIGHT ON THE CLOCK TOWER.
DURING several pleasant years I was secretary to a
member of Parliament. His residence being at a considerable distance
from the House of Commons, he had no means of knowing when "the House was
up." Some days there would be an early "count out." Most
members daily leave the House during what is termed "dinner hours" to
dine, but it sometimes happened that the House would be counted out in the
dinner time. Then the return journey to the House was needless.
A member in constant attendance at committees and Parliament would be glad
to absent himself until later in the evening, when a division in which he
was interested might be taken. But though the House might adjourn
before the usual time; there was no means of discovering this until he
drove into sight of Palace Yard. At that time the limelight was
coming into use, and I thought it might be made available to prevent this
inconvenience to members. The present Duke of Rutland was then at
the Board of Works, and I addressed to him a letter on the subject which
remained some years in the archives of the Board of Works, and is probably
there now. I have no copy of the letter, but I well remember its
purport. It was to this effect:—
of a member of Parliament, I have observed that considerable inconvenience
arises by members having no means of knowing when the House is up, at
times when they are unable to foresee it. There are no means by
which a member can know it, unless he provides some one to send him a
telegram to an address which he would have to renew every night, according
to the place where he expected to be after leaving the House sitting.
If he dined at one of the great clubs, he would learn when the House was
up there, by members coming in who had recently left the House, or from
the arrival of the hourly report of the proceedings in Parliament.
But he might be dining four or five miles away, and must drive to one of
the clubs to get the information. It is true that in Palace Yard gas
lights, which have three arms, have only the centre one left burning—to
indicate to persons arriving there that the House is up. But any one
must drive to the bottom of Parliament Street before the single light can
be discerned. It is a probable calculation that many members in the
course of a session drive five hundred miles before they can reach Palace
Yard to learn that the House is up. Reporters and others who have
business with members at the House at night are subject to similar
inconvenience. All this might be prevented if a limelight were
placed at the summit of the Clock Tower. It could be seen six or
seven miles in most directions, and members could learn at will whether
the House was sitting or not."
This letter was longer than would seem necessary; but it was needful to
explain in detail the inconvenience to which members were subjected which
might be so simply obviated. It was necessary to show that all the
existing means of information were taken into account by the writer, for
if any one had been omitted the suggestion might be thought based upon
insufficient information—the official mind being always quick to show that
there is no necessity for doing what it does not want to do. Lord
John Manners, the name by which the Duke of Rutland was then known,
acknowledged the receipt of the communication, but without indicating
whether it would be considered. Nothing came of it until Mr. Ayrton
became Commissioner of the Board of Works. Though he excelled all
Ministers in making himself unpleasant in debate, he also excelled in
being the most vigilant of servants of the public in Parliament, being
tireless in his attendance and reading more Parliamentary Papers than any
four members. He found my letter in the pigeon-holes of the Board of
Works, and put up the limelight on the Clock Tower, which has made the
House of Parliament as it were a beacon light visible all over London
during the night sittings. An article upon it in The Times,
after Mr. Ayrton had ceased to be Commissioner, giving a description of
this Tower light, began by the remark that "a former Commissioner of Works
found the suggestion in the office." The article was evidently
written by a well-informed but reticent writer. It implied that the
Commissioner who put up the light did not originate it, but it was not
said how the suggestion came into the office, or who sent it there.
PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATURE IN BIRMINGHAM.
MY second candidature was in Birmingham. It
was constantly said that the working class had no reasonable measures to
propose which the middle class would not pass. This was not, and is
not, true; for the master class no more feels as the workmen feel than the
old aristocratical class before 1830 felt, or as the middle class proved
they did, when afterwards they came into power. And if it were true
that the middle class would now do all the working men want, it is better
that the working men should do it for themselves. For these reasons
I sought the opportunity of addressing my own townsmen, to whom I could
naturally speak with most freedom, upon the conditions and consequences of
In my address delivered in the Town Hall I said—
"More than thirty years ago I was a
member of your Political Union, and since
that time there has been no combination (sometimes called "conspiracy") in
this country to bring general enfranchisement about, which I have not, by
speech and pen, advocated without intermission. Now we have a
considerable extension of the suffrage, there are things of evil to
cancel, and conditions of progress to create.
"We have, though limited, a 'political commonwealth' at last,
and one result is that working men will, sooner or later, find their way
into Parliament. Venturous of it myself, it is my townsmen whom I
address. My ancestors lie here; I know most of, and naturally care
much for, Birmingham. In all my writings I have looked on public
affairs in the light of the workshop. A Democracy is a great
trouble. Everybody has to be consulted. The Conservative is
enraged to have this necessity put upon him; the Whigs never meant it to
come to this; and I am not sure that many of the Radicals like it.
"Several things will happen now.
"The Irish Church will go. Well I remember the
horror with which the news was received in the workshops of this town of
the massacre of Rathcormac, when a clergyman of the Irish Protestant
Church had the sons of the poor Widow Ryan shot before her eyes for the
non-payment of tithes. The middle class mother cannot feel
resentment as a poor woman can; she can afford to pay tithes, and no
dragoon shoots her children down. But Widow Ryan's sons were
labourers—they belonged to us. The shriek of the mother reached
us. We in England could do nothing to avert or avenge their
murder. But let us not have the baseness to forget it. Now
that slow, tardy, long-lingering retribution has put the Irish Church in
the noose, let its hope it will be allowed a good drop.
"We shall have compulsory education. There is no ascendency for
the people without sense. We live in a world where the battle of
life can no longer be fought by fools; and the child who is turned out
into it ignorant is bound, hand and foot, in the conflict. We
shall put away with contempt that pitiful, fitful, partial, mendicant
instruction with which voluntaryism has cheated and degraded us so long.
"Pauperism will be put down as the infamy of industry. A million
paupers—a vast standing army of mendicants—in the midst of the working
class, depending for support upon the middle class, is a reproach to
every workman now. Every law which deprives Industry of a fair
chance must be attacked; whatever facilitates the accumulation of
immense fortunes and tends to check the natural distribution of property
must be stopped.
"We shall have the ballot. Open voting is merely an insolent
device for getting at those electors who do their duty. The
poll-book is a penal list, first made publishable by those who intended
to act upon it—and it is acted upon by all who are enraged at defeat."
It does good to create a popular belief that the day of progress has
arrived; that men need no longer despair of improvement, or seek to obtain
it by conflict of arms, as they were formerly justified in doing under the
hopelessness of obtaining it by reason. In my address I ventured to
say that the Irish Church would go; that we should have compulsory
education; that pauperism would be regarded as the infamy of industry;
that elections would be decided by ballot. I had heard the four
things I had spoken of, hoped for, agitated for, and they seemed no
nearer, and were believed to be no nearer, than the right of women to sit
in Parliament is now. Yet each of these things, then regarded as
words of Utopian enthusiasm, have come to pass.
The object of my being a candidate at Birmingham was to test
and advocate the question of working-class representation. At that
time there was no strong feeling on the part of the working class in
favour of the representation of their order. Had I sought I could
have obtained a sufficient support from Conservatives to have embarrassed
the prospects of Mr. Bright or his colleague, and the Conservatives would
have obtained the credit of supporting a principle for which they did not
care and would disown when their own end was served. I might have
obtained some publicity useful to a candidate by such an alliance, but it
never seemed to me to be any more right in politics than in morals to do
evil that good may come. For thirty-six years the representation of
Birmingham had been in the hands of the middle class, and though the
working class were twenty times more numerous than they, it had never
occurred to the middle class that the industrious majority were entitled
to any personal representation. Certainly they never offered or
A DANGEROUS VISITOR.
A FEW years ago, London was startled by the
discovery of a murder in Whitechapel which recalled the Red Barn murder of
Maria Martin, by William Corder, half a century before. A woman was
shot in the rear of some business premises in Whitechapel and buried
there, and her murderer, one Wainwright, was caught in the streets twelve
months later, conveying the body to another hiding-place.
Some time previously a public writer, for whom I had much
regard, became unwell. One day a lady came to me at Cockspur Street
saying that he was very ill, that she was his wife and needed aid for his
succour. She met my offer to visit him by assuring me that he had a
malignant fever, and I had better not call. This was to deter me
from calling, but I did not suspect it. Soon after she came again in
deep mourning, in the character of his widow. She was a handsome,
voluptuous woman, with great dramatic talent. Her speech, tears, and
gestures were very eloquent, and I promised to ask for subscriptions for
her. This entertaining applicant gave me to understand that she had
been upon the stage in earlier years, and certainly she showed
qualifications for acting which warranted what she said. I knew that
my lost friend, who was really dead, had at one time £30,000 in a public
company, which yielded 10 to 12 per cent., when he lived opulently in a
house in Piccadilly. Afterwards his income fell to zero. In
his prosperous days he had given eighty guineas for a jewelled watch, and
presented it to Samuel Bailey, of Sheffield, in testimony of appreciation
of his philosophical writings.
In the end I fulfilled my promise to the distressed lady in
black, and published the substance of the story told to me by her.
The eventual result was some £40 or £50. The first and second £5 I
remitted to her. The lady paid me a further visit of thanks, and
asked me to call upon her and take breakfast at a suburban cottage, at
which she resided with a female friend, as it would save my time in
writing, and I could bring any further subscription which might be to
hand. Not wishing any personal acquaintance, which might raise
expectations of aid beyond my means of procuring, I asked my brother
Austin to make a call at his convenience, and leave further remittances
for her; and sometimes a clerk in my employ was sent. I never went
It was fortunate I did not. On the apprehension of
Wainwright, I saw in the papers accounts that his brother—who was
afterwards transported for his complicity in the murder—was supporting a
mistress, and was frequently at the very house to which I had been
invited. Had I accepted the invitation to breakfast, I might have
been found there by the police officers who went to the place in search of
the brother. As the murderer was a lecturer at institutes of the
kind I had promoted and been present at myself, my intimacy with him would
have been inferred. Had my name been mentioned as that of a visitor
at Rosamond Cottage when the address with other interesting particulars
were published, I should have found it difficult to persuade everybody of
the disinterested nature of my visits, especially as I could only have
explained that my business there was to take money to a lady who had
invited me there. My brother had simply called and left the sums I
gave him, and neither of us suspected that she was not the wife of my
Before the Whitechapel affair transpired, the enterprising
pretender had written to several public persons on her own account.
As it was my practice always to print in the paper I edited all sums for
whatever purpose sent, the "widow" could see who were the friends who had
answered my appeal, and she wrote to them and others whom she thought had
knowledge of her alleged husband, enclosing what I had written upon him on
her behalf. She was what the Scots would call an "ingenious body."
All her letters to me bore a deep mourning border. Several members
of Parliament wrote to me to ask whether they were warranted in giving
money. In my replies I said I had no knowledge
of the new applications made to them, nor was there any public claim on
them, though I understood there was need of help. Several cheques
were sent to me for her. When I found that I had been misled, I gave
notice to all who afterwards wrote to me, and publicly cancelled my appeal
and informed the applicant to that effect.
Sir Alexander Cockburn
The judge at the trial of Wainwright was Lord Chief Justice Cockburn.
The summing-up of some judges is often so learnedly elaborate, involved,
dreary, and inartistic, that it is a species of penal infliction on the
jury and only merciful to the doomed, upon whom it acts as the drugs given
to the Suttee, which stupefies and makes insensible to the fatal fire.
Sir John Holker, as Attorney-General, conducted the prosecution. Sir
John was a Conservative. It was frequently said there was a good
deal in him, but it did not come out on this occasion. Mr. Moody
made the speech for the defence, in which he said nothing wrong and
nothing strong. There was no glamour of light, or pathos, or
ingenuity in any one.
But when Lord Cockburn rose, the hand of the master appeared.
The ornateness which he sometimes showed in speeches out of court was
chastened down. His sentences were expressed with pure nervous
force. Nothing was repeated, no phrase nor even idea recurred.
The story of the evidence was clear, direct, vivid, brief, complete, and
conclusive. The first sentences of the summing-up against Wainwright
had death in them. The jury could see, as in a panorama, the
perpetration of a foul murder; the source of the blow, and the ghastly
procedure of successive concealments, as plainly as Hamlet displayed the
process of the death of his father to his mother and the king. In
sleuth-hound sentences the stealthy steps of the brutal, calculating
murderer were tracked. Wainwright must have seen the noose in every
passage. Lord Cockburn's address to the jury was an unequalled piece
of forensic reasoning, so far as any charge of the kind has come within my
knowledge. Its coherence was not only evident to the jury—it was
never out of sight. It had picturesque terms which had colour in
them. The crisp, penetrating voice of Cockburn suited the finished
structure of his address. Juries charged by him were instructed; the
prisoner at the bar, who had taste, was afterwards proud to have been
condemned with such classic art, and the sentiment of the Court was raised
above the level of crime by the genius of the judge.
REPORTING SPEECHES WHICH NEVER WERE MADE.
A GOOD deal of reporting has fallen to me in my
time, chiefly of the descriptive kind. During several years that I
had opportunity of hearing nightly the speeches made in Parliament, I
found that all the new ideas expressed there could easily be taken down in
long hand, since they occurred seldom and were far between. A
newspaper, not having space to report everything said, might entertain and
much instruct its readers by giving merely the new ideas of the debates,
or remarkable ways of presenting a familiar case. Once a Cabinet
Minister, who was going into the provinces to make a speech he wished to
see reproduced in London papers, asked me what he should do to secure that
what he said should not be open to misinterpretation. I answered
that, if he was sure of saying exactly what he intended, he might ask the
editor of the leading local paper to send a reporter to take down his
speech exactly as he made it. Good stenographers so abound that he
would get what he wanted. But were he doubtful of being quoted at
full length in the London press, he had better take a summary reporter
with him, since a verbatim reporter, by his habit of literalness, would
lack the faculty of bringing into focus the genius of a speech. To
produce a telling summary the reporter need not be able to make the
speech, but he must be able to measure the mind and discern the purpose of
When in America in 1879, I found in some parts a class of
Reversible Reporters. After an interview I found next day in the
paper sentiments put down to me the very reverse of what I had expressed.
Once I tried the experiment of saying the opposite of what I meant, and
next day it came out all right. It was not perversity nor incapacity
which misrepresented me, it was owing to professional confidence in young
reporters that they knew better than any speaker did what he ought to say.
Once a friend of mine, a Jew, who knew this world as well as
the Talmud, was the proprietor of a newspaper in a country town, within an
hour's ride from London, asked me to come down and give an account of
laying the foundation stone of a new town building and report the speeches
at the banquet which was to follow at night. Some members of
Parliament came down with whose ways of thought I was familiar, and I made
summaries of their speeches which I knew they would be willing to
circulate among their constituents. If the object is to promote the
circulation of the paper, the effective portion of what a speaker says
must be brought out, or there will be no orders for copies sent to the
office. A reporter may make a clever report of a speech and prefix
it with the remark that "the meeting was small." There are no copies
of that paper bought by the speaker or his friends for circulation.
If the hall is crowded it is well to say so. But no public persons
care to circulate information that few care to listen to them. If
the object is to discredit a speaker the question is one of policy not
Now, there was a rival paper in the town to which I went.
The proprietor of the paper I represented wished his paper to excel that,
which was not difficult, as it was sleepy and unenterprising. So I
wrote a leader upon the speeches at the stone-laying. A speaker who
has ability is pleased to see it discerned and handsomely acknowledged.
A man who acquits himself well may without vanity be pleased with the
credit he has fairly earned; and he who does not excel in expression may
have merit of character and purpose to which it is the interest of the
public to accord recognition.
The banquet in the evening was prolonged and boisterous.
No reporter was present from the rival paper and I was instructed to
report the speeches. On seeing the composition of the guests, I
consulted with my Jewish friend, who, like all his race, was shrewd and
foreseeing. We examined the toast list and then I inquired the
characteristics of the speakers, their manner of mind, peculiarity of
expression and antecedents of family, public service, and other
particulars. One old farmer was reputed to represent a generation of
predecessors who had held the same land from the Norman Conquest. By
the time the toasts began the whole company was more hilarious than
coherent. Some never could speak in public, and little was expected
from them. A few when they began to speak were unable to stop.
Some had forgotten what they intended to say, and others had nothing to
forget. Some could speak better before the banquet began than after,
and some acquired boldness in consequence of it, and made up by audacity
what they lacked in relevance. By eleven o'clock I had sent out
speeches for them all, and by midnight their orations were all in type,
and the paper was out in the early morning. The town was astonished
at the enterprise to which it was unaccustomed. The principal orator
had a speech of some brightness to read at his breakfast, of which he was
unconscious when he retired to rest. My friend the proprietor of the
paper had misgivings when he read the report. He said the town would
be surprised that such speeches were made. I answered, "the town
was not present. The guests who did not speak were not in a
condition to know what was said, and, take my word for it, no speaker will
disown what he is reported to have said." And no one did. As a
leader upon the proceedings of the day confirmed and illustrated the
report by descriptive characteristics of the speakers, which the town knew
to be true, my friend received many congratulations on the variety and
vivacity of that issue of his Gazette. The office was not
rich, and for all the writing? from midday till midnight my remuneration
was but thirty shillings, but I served my friend and increased for that
week the reputation of his paper and its commercial value when he
transferred it, as it was his intention shortly after to do.
"Reporting speeches which never were made" is a title open to
the objection of being incomplete. The speeches were made, but not
in the manner which met the public eye. Two or three of the festive
orators had sagacity and brightness, though, on that occasion, not of the
consecutive kind. Every provincial assembly of speakers furnishes
instances of native wit or idiomatic humour. If these points are
preserved in the report of the proceedings, an interesting monograph of
the meeting is the result. Every night in Parliament occur notable
relevant passages, occasional flashes of common sense, sometimes overlaid
with words, and sometimes insufficiently expressed, of which an epitome
would be good reading. Every day the Parliamentary reports of
speeches presents them in a more effective form than the hearer was
sensible of during the delivery. When The Times sought to
destroy the popularity of Orator Hunt of a former day, it reported his
speeches verbatim. There are many speakers in Parliament who would
suffer in public estimation if their repetitions and eccentricities of
expression were recorded. On one memorable occasion the Morning
Star reported a passage from a speech of Mr. Disraeli's, with ail its
bibulous aspirates set forth, which few forgot who read it. It was
on the night of his famous financial speech when Lord John Manners carried
into the House five glasses of brandy and water to refresh him—which got
at last into his articulation. The late Sir John Trelawny told me
that he had preserved notes of speeches made after midnight in the House
of Commons over a period of twelve years. At late sittings scarcely
a reporter remains, and the necessity of going to the press with some
account of the proceedings obliges the editor to give but a brief summary
in which the speeches are not only divested of flesh and blood, but are
almost boneless. Yet things are said at those times which the public
would read with amazement both for their instruction and their boldness.
Sir John said he did not intend his notes to be published until after his
death. It will be a remarkable volume when it appears.
A London daily paper of age and pretension, often describes
speeches of note which are never found in the report in its columns.
Sometimes it quotes sentences of distinction which nowhere appear in the
speech in its pages. Only one paper gives a full Parliamentary
report. Once five papers did it. On the great debate when the
Taxes on Knowledge was the question before the House, five daily papers
gave full reports. So marvellously accurate were they, that there
was scarcely a variation of a word in them. I heard all the speeches
and compared the reports the next day. Competition in reporting
produced a perfection which exists in London no longer.
AN UNTOLD STORY OF THE FLEET STREET HOUSE.
THIS chapter illustrates the wisdom of the proverb
that zeal without experience is as fire without light.
It was an early ambition of mine to have a publishing house
in Fleet Street. There Richard Carlile had established the right of
heretical opinion to publicity. I was for continuing it there.
The Duke of Wellington headed a society to drive Carlile from the street.
He did not intimidate him, nor was the society able to remove him except
by procuring his further imprisonment. Resentment at this incited me
to succeed him. Fleet Street was one of the highways of the world.
A million curious people pass through it every year, of every travelling
nationality under the sun.
We had won the right to say what we pleased, and the question
arose, 'What did we please to say, and how were we going to say it?' In the
combat for the right to speak, very picturesque invective had been used.
In the use of that weapon our adversaries much excelled us; but, we being
the party of the minority, the blame of employing it fell upon us.
When we had won the field we could hold it only by fairness of speech, the
"outward and visible sign" of just intention and just principles.
William and Robert Chambers had established a secular
publishing house in the High Street of Edinburgh. I proposed to my
brother Austin that we should do the same thing for Freethought, in Fleet
Street, London. The printing business was to be his—the publishing
and its risks mine. The responsibility of capital, trade salaries,
rent, and taxes remained with me. My name alone was on every bond.
Mr. James Watson had been, since the days of Julian Hibbert,
the publisher of Carlile's works, taking like peril. As the new
house in Fleet Street would necessarily affect his business, which was his
only means of subsistence, I asked him what would compensate him for loss
of trade thus caused. He said £350, which, with what he had, would
provide for him in the future. According to the accepted morality of
trade, I was under no obligation to consider his interests. A man
sets up in business next door to one in the same line, doing what he can
to lure away his neighbour's custom, and it is not counted dishonourable.
It seemed baseness to me, and I promised Mr. Watson the money. This
proved an unfortunate thing for me. When he came to know the
indispensable business expenses of the new house were £300 a year, he did
not see how I was to meet them, apart from fulfilling my promise to him,
and, being of an apprehensive nature, he could not conceal his misgivings;
and as he knew the chief country agents upon whom I depended, his fears
transpired in personal communications with them and to my chief friends
whom he knew, they having as much regard for him as for me. The
effect of this was disastrous on a young business. My solicitor, who
had advanced me purchase money of the lease, asked me what I was to have
for the money to be paid to Mr. Watson. He thought me imprudent.
I had nothing to produce, save the right of selling his books, which never
yielded £50. Nevertheless I kept my promise. My brother Austin
was as solicitous as I was to do it. Seeing Mr. Watson on the
opposite side of the street, looking in his wistful way at the house, I
sent my brother with the only £60 in hand to go over and pay him the final
instalment, which he did. The transaction was in every way
unfortunate to me, but I never regretted it. Nor do I now. The
curious thing was that no one respected me for it, or believed it, and no
one ever made any acknowledgment of it, not even Mr. Watson. Mr. W.
J. Linton in his "Life of Watson" omits it, although it made the end of
Watson's days pleasant. It was treated as incredible, and for the
first time I came to understand the sagacious maxim of the Italians,
"Beware of being too good." I had known few persons in danger of
transgressing the rule, and did not suspect I was one.
A valued colleague, Charles Southwell, took a very different
view from Mr. Watson as to the profits obtainable in Fleet Street, and
thought I was making riches there, as many others thought, so what was
loss tome was envy to others. Southwell published pamphlets on my
prosperity. One day I sent for him, showed him the bonds I had
signed, and that I owed all the money he thought had been given me.
His exclamation was a full acquittal—"Jacob, you are a damned fool!" I
asked him to publish it. "No, I won't own I was wrong; but I will no
more say what I have said," was all I could get. The financial part
of the story may end here. The £250 given me after the Cowper Street
debate, £650 given me subsequently, a gift of £250 and all I could earn by
lectures and writing—over the needs of my household—were all lost.
Propagandism is not, as some suppose, a "trade," because
nobody will follow a "trade" at which you may work with the industry of a
slave and die with the reputation of a mendicant. The motives of any
persons to pursue such a profession must be different from those of trade,
deeper than pride, and stronger than interest.
Afterwards there came mischief of another kind, which I had
bespoken without knowing it. As a co-operator I was an advocate for
profit-sharing, and I made this arrangement with those I employed.
As the law then stood, this made them my partners, and gave them an equal
claim with me to the property. One who had some knowledge of law,
and was hostile to me, incited two servants to act on their "rights."
They might have carted the stock away, and could only be prevented by
force, which I had reason to avoid. An assault case would then have
come on at the Mansion House which would have had an effect bad for the
secular cause. The addresses of my friends were copied from my
books, and letters sent to them, which cost me for many years many valued
friendships, for reasons I could not answer—not knowing them. The
manager of the newsagents' department was instructed that he might take
away the business books, and did it. It was two years before I could
recover them by process of law. Then I had to keep outside the court
because, were I called upon to give evidence, I could not take the oath,
and that fact would have set the court against me. The judge said
that had I come into court he would have given the man twelve months'
imprisonment.  This affair put me to £200
expense—besides losses through having no proof to adduce of the balances
of newsagents due to me. Had the law which, later, Mr. Wm. Scholefield, M.P. for Birmingham, caused to be passed, been in force then,
I should not have been at the mercy of enemies. Now-a-days, an
employer giving profits to servants does not constitute them partners.
Just then, when my fortunes were least to my mind, Mr. Ross,
at that time an optician of repute, learning that I was being unfairly
used, came down and gave me a cheque for £250. That was a bright,
unparalleled morning which I shall never forget until remembrance of all
Despite all difficulties, "147, Fleet Street" was kept in
force from 1853 to 1861. Its objects were—
the solution of public questions, on secular grounds, apart from theology.
2. Obtaining equal civil rights for all excluded from them by
conscientious opinion not recognised by the State.
3. Maintaining a publishing organisation which should influence
4. Maintaining a centre of personal communication open to publicists
at home and from abroad.
5. Stimulating the free search for truth, without which it is
unattainable—the free utterance of the result, without which search is
useless—the free criticism of it, without which truth must remain
uncertain—the fair action of conviction, without which public improvement
6. Maintaining an organ which should be open to all writers, without
regard to coincidence of opinion, provided there was general relevance and
freedom from odious personalities.
The shop was made bright, and, by removal of partitions, spacious.
All new books of progress were on sale, and advertised in papers of the
house without cost to the authors. A large room was fitted up for
meetings and for the use of visitors. In each panel hung a portrait
of some eminent writer. Visitors from every part of the world
interested in New Thought came and found information respecting all
lecture halls and places they wished to see. We published a
catalogue of all the chief works of advanced thinkers (giving the prices
and the names of the publishers to promote their sales), by whomsoever
issued. No other house ever printed a catalogue like it. The
house was an Institute. There have been other houses in Fleet Street
since with similar objects, but none like it—none having the same
features. The main object was the advancement of new opinion:
business was an appendage to be well attended to; but it stood in the
When the peace of 1856 was proclaimed—though the great
nations of the Continent were left still enslaved—we illuminated in front
of the house those nobly reproachful words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
"It is no peace.
Annihilated Poland, stifled Rome,
Dazed Naples, Hungary fainting 'neath the throng,
And Austria wearing a smooth olive leaf
On her brute forehead, while her troops outpress
The life from Italy."
were read by a quarter of a million of people. Every newspaper in
London agreed that this was the sole illumination which expressed the
political truth of the hour. These things could never have been done
save in a house standing in one of the highways of the world, where those
must pass whose eyes it was worth while engaging, and where nothing can
well be ignored which was done. On other public occasions
Garibaldian and Italian flags greeted memorable processions.
In 1857 there was the Day of Humiliation proclaimed on
account of the Indian Mutiny. Instead of joining in it, a placard
appeared in our windows which attracted crowds of readers. It was
entitled, "Objections to the Humiliation."
"1. It is an
ineffective proceeding, seeing that temporal deliverance is not to be
obtained by intercession of Heaven.
2. It is offensive, as imputing to the judicial act of God the
blunders of the East India Company.
3. It is impolitic, if we have enemies in India, to give them the
satisfaction of thinking that they have brought Great Britain to confess
Without a publishing house we could not have rendered the
service in the Repeal of the Taxes upon Knowledge mentioned in a previous
chapter. In the affair of the opposition to the Conspiracy Bill, the
committee met in the Fleet Street house, as did the Garibaldi Committee at
the time when the British Legion were sent out to Italy. Then, for
several days, a committee of soldiers sat in the visitors' room, and the
shop was constantly crowded with Garibaldians who volunteered to join the
Legion. My brother was as much occupied as I was. This was
international service, but it was not business.
We published works for Mazzini, Robert Owen, Kossuth, Louis
Blanc, Professor Newman, Dr. Arnold Rouge, January Searle, Major Evans
Bell, William Maccall, W. J. Birch, and many others.
I had a bust of Kossuth made by a Hungarian sculptor, and one
of Mazzini by Bizzi. The original of Mazzini was purchased by Mr.
Ashurst. The mould, which cost me £7, was never returned to me by
the bust maker. It was said it had been broken. A few years
later I saw several busts in a window cast in my mould, which I judge
We printed and published also the "Manifesto of the
Republican Party," by Kossuth, Ledru Rollin, and Mazzini. Though
written by Mazzini, he modestly, as was his wont, put his name last.
All the publications I issued bore my imprint as printer as well as
publisher, for the law makes the printer responsible. Were there no
printing of books, there could be no publishing of books. The
publisher may be a nominal person, of residential address unknown; but the
printer is real, and commonly has a plant of type which may be
confiscated, while he himself can readily be found and incarcerated.
The law aims mostly to intimidate the printer. I, therefore, took
the responsibility of the printer as well as publisher.
Julian Hibbert gave Carlile £1,000 with which to furnish his
shop when he opened it, and he had like sums from him on other occasions
for publishing purposes. Notwithstanding the vicissitudes which
befell us, we should have succeeded in a "business point of view" had we
had money sufficient to continue when hostilities were surmounted.
As it was, we did enough to justify the expectation of usefulness which
induced so many to support the undertaking.
When we opened this house the voice of the Socialist was
silent in the land and the watch-fires of the Chartist were extinct.
As far as we were able, we intended to maintain the claim of Socialists
and Chartists and some other causes for which they cared not. We
cared for political freedom at home and abroad, for unless it prevails
abroad it can never be secure at home. There is an aristocracy of
sex quite as offensive as an aristocracy of peers. Manhood suffrage
was popular with the Chartists, but they cared nothing for women's
enfranchisement. In a passage which I quote from a manifesto of
Kossuth, Rollin, and Mazzini, which did but express our ambition:—
"A great movement
must have an arm to raise the flag, a voice to cry aloud—The hour has
come! We are that arm and that voice. . . .
Advanced Guard of the Revolution, we shall disappear amid the ranks on the
day of the awakening of the peoples. . . . We are
not the future; we are its precursors. We are not the democracy; we
are an army bound to clear the way for democracy."
It was my intention to "disappear in the ranks." As soon as I had
extinguished all the liabilities I had incurred, I volunteered to hand
over the place to the promoters. I thought if others had the profit
which might accrue they would continue the work without direction.
This was my mistake. To me it was of no consequence who had the
advantage if the house was maintained. But nobody believed this.
Freethought is of the nature of intellectual Republicanism.
All are equal who think, and the only distinction is in the capacity of
thinking. I never set up as a chief. I never talked of loyalty
to me, but of loyalty to principle alone. In freethought there is no
leadership save the leadership of ideas. I went into this
undertaking with this conviction, and as I went in I came out.
LORD CLARENDON'S CONCESSION.
THIS chapter describes another instance of work
which, my being of the Secularistic persuasion, I was incited to attempt. In my Christian days I had been taught that the safety of my own soul was
the supreme object I should keep before me; but experience showed me that
the human welfare of others was a more honourable solicitude, and more
profitable to them.
It has been the custom of the Government, since 1858, to instruct her
Majesty's Secretaries of Embassy and Legation to prepare "Reports on the
State of Manufactures and Commerce Abroad." It seemed to me that the same
persons might collect information of not less importance to working men. At times, during several years, I made attempts to get this done.
Through Mr. Milner Gibson, I obtained a copy of the original circular of
instruction for the preparation of the manufacturers' reports on commerce,
as I intended to base on them a plea for reports on labour.
At length, in April, 1869, Lord Clarendon being Foreign Minister, whose
generous sympathy with those who live by industry was known, I concluded
he might, on due representation, make this concession. It was then I
wrote to Mr. Bright, whose attention was always given to proposals which could
be shown to be reasonable, useful, and practical; for that which is
reasonable may not be useful, and that which is useful may not be
practical, while a project which is at once relevant, beneficial, and
possible, is self-commended. Seeing me next midnight at the House of
Commons, he called me to him, saying, "Tell me now what you want." On
hearing it, he answered, "Write me a letter with your reasons in it, and I
will give it to Lord Clarendon." By the courtesy of Mr. William White,
chief doorkeeper of the House, I wrote in his room the letter' the same
night, and posted it in the Lobby before two o'clock. The next day
(April 19, 1869), Mr. H. G. Calcraft (Mr. Bright's secretary, he being then a
Minister) wrote to say, "Mr, Bright would ask Lord Clarendon to take into
consideration my suggestions." On April 21st following, Mr. Calcraft
again wrote, "by Mr. Bright's request, to say that Lord Clarendon thought my
proposal an admirable one, and that he had given instructions that the
information may be obtained from the several Legations." My letter upon
which Lord Clarendon acted set forth that workmen needed information of
the condition of labour markets abroad as much as their employers. Strikes
against reduction of wages take place, which reduction is often owing to
competition abroad, but is not believed, owing to the knowledge upon which
the employer acts being unknown to the men. Authentic information
accessible to trade unionists would be instructive and useful. Emigration
is promoted by Government. Some who go out suffer great disappointment
from want of knowledge of the right places to which to go. This becoming
known, many are deterred from emigrating, and thus miss good opportunities
of advantage through ignorance of where the right labour markets in other
countries lie. In Turkey 6,000 stone-masons were suddenly wanted for one
of the Sultan's new palaces, while masons were emigrating to countries
where stones were not used in buildings. I enumerated certain kinds of
information secretaries of Embassy and Legation could furnish from the
countries in which they were stationed.
Questions to which I asked answers were:—
What was the state of the labour market? What openings
were there, if any? And what kind of workmen were wanted?
How would English workmen be hired and housed? What kind
of dwellings would they find? What wages would they be offered? What
rent would they have to pay? In what quarters would they have to dwell,
in healthy or unhealthy places? Would they find tenements
available—ventilated, drained, and free from air poisoning?
What was the purchasing power of money in other countries? All prices should be reduced to English values. A workman at home
earning £2 a week, on hearing he could earn £6 a week abroad, would
resolve to go out; whereas the cost of food, clothing, and rent might
be thrice as high as in England, and his £6 in a new country might go no
farther than £2 at home.
What is the dietary and habits to which an Englishman
must conform in another country, as respects health-preserving power. Should a workman live in some places abroad as he lived in England, he
would be dead in twelve months. Workmen who have overcome every
industrial disadvantage and have raised themselves to competence abroad,
yet rush down the inclined plane of excess, the bottom of which is
social perdition. A report which afterwards came from Egypt said
"Spirits must be avoided. Temperate workmen keep their health well. The
intemperate die." The report from Reunion said, "Rum is rank poison to
the European. None who contract the habit of drinking it can remain in
this country and live." These are torpedo sentences which arrest the
attention of the unthinking transgressor. In the mining districts of
Alabama night air is deadly.
School questions need also to be asked. If an
emigrant took out a family, what education could he get for his
What is the standard of skill among native artizans with
whom the Englishman would have to compete? Do they put their character
into their work, or are they without artizan pride? Would they make a
stand against doing bad work as they would against bad wages? In what
degree would good quality in work have effect in raising wages? A
workman might deteriorate among new comrades if they were shabby,
bungling, careless workmen.
questions were not contained in my first letter. They were increased by
permission of Lord Clarendon, as mentioned hereafter. The additions
incorporated were three—(a) those relating to health-preserving power
abroad, (b) to means of education of children, (c) to the quality of
A few days after these suggestions were made (April 26), Sir Arthur (then
Mr.) Otway informed me that "he was to state that Lord Clarendon, who
fully shared my views as to the interest and importance of such
information, had received my suggestions with much pleasure, and that it
was his lordship's intention to instruct her Majesty's Secretaries of
Legation to furnish reports on this subject, which Lord Clarendon proposed
eventually to present to Parliament in a collective form, which he hoped
might meet the objects indicated in my letter." When the first
volume of these "Reports upon the Condition of the Working Classes Abroad"
appeared, they received from the New York Tribune the name of the
"People's Blue Book," given, I believe, by Mr. G. W. Smalley. The volume
was found to be of unexpected interest, and abounding in curious
information. Some Secretaries of Embassy excelled in brightness, variety,
and relevance. As each volume appeared, I wrote a letter in The Times
describing it. On April 13, 1870, and on September 26, 1871, leaders in
The Times were written, illustrating the value of the reports,
concurring also in my representations of their usefulness. Lord Clarendon
was pleased to express the satisfaction with which he read my first letter
to The Times. His death unfortunately occurred soon after.
In Lord Clarendon's instruction to the Secretaries of
Legation, I observed that he had changed my phrase "purchasing power of
money" into "the Purchase power of money." "Purchasing power" was a
phrase new to the Foreign Office, nor was I aware that it had been used in
this financial sense before I employed it. It seemed a fair form of the
participle. The term afterwards came into general use, and is quite common
Occasionally a consul of an inquiring mind, who happened to be in England
when the instructions were first issued, had doubts as to their purport. Lord Clarendon sent him to me, at Cockspur Street, where I then had
chambers, and I had the honour of explaining the nature of the information
In due course, Mr. Robert Coningsby, a young working engineer, known at
that period as the author of letters on social questions having a Tory
tinge, wrote to The Times, saying, "It was all very well for Mr. Holyoake to connect his, name with these Blue Books. The Society of Arts
is entitled to the credit of bringing the subject before the Government,
and the credit of bringing the subject to the notice of that society
belonged to him." The Society of Arts did not corroborate Mr. Coningsby,
nor did he know how early had been my efforts in this matter. Nor did he
pretend that he conceived or defined the scope of the questions, or method
of obtaining the information required. The Foreign Office frankly accorded
me permission to cite the communication received from them. I
therefore explained in The Times that Lord Clarendon sent me the
minute he had forwarded to the Embassies beginning with the words—"Mr. Holyoake has
made a valuable suggestion as to the steps to be taken to ascertain the
facts as regards the position of the artizan and industrial classes in
foreign States." This minute was also sent to me for my consideration with
the intimation "that Lord Clarendon would be happy to consider any
suggestions I might have to offer, as to any other matters connected with
foreign countries in which the industrial classes in this country take an
interest, on which the Secretaries of her Majesty's Legations might be
instructed to report." This I did, as the reader has seen, in the
enumeration already given of questions to be answered. Sir Arthur Otway,
with the spontaneous courtesy usual with him, wrote to me, saying that
"these reports which were found so useful and interesting were mainly due
to my suggestions, and that the late Lord Clarendon, as also the late Mr. Spring Rice, spoke to him more than once of my services in this matter in
terms which would be very gratifying to me." After these facts
appeared in The Times, Mr. Coningsby made no more claim of being the originator of
these People's Blue Books. Three volumes of reports, of nearly 1,000
pages, were issued. Had the trades unions subscribed £20,000 and sent out
commissioners, they could not in five years have collected and published
the same amount of accurate, verified, and trustworthy information
contained in these volumes thus supplied without cost to them by the
Foreign Office. It was believed that these reports would be furnished at
intervals of five or ten years. Twenty have elapsed since the last was
issued. Changes in artizans' condition, interests, and aims have occurred
since then, and new reports would now have new uses and new influence. Before the People's Blue Books appeared, the information necessary for
industrial advancement abroad depended mainly on chance and charity, and
as Madame de Staël said of M. de Calonne, whether he meant mischief or
service, "he did not do it with ability"—for want of knowledge.
Men learn patience if not contentment by a comparison of their condition
with that of others, which may be no better or worse than their own. They
may be encouraged by examples of success attained under discouraging
circumstances. A workman can appreciate industrial causes in operation
apart from himself, which he fails to discern or estimate through
familiarity and prejudice, while he is in contact with his own condition.
Principles true in our own streets are discerned more vividly when their
operations are traced in the destiny of strange and distant communities. Artizans gain expansion of knowledge, like that which travel gives, when
they are brought into the presence of international facts, and are
inclined to respect a Government which, instead of lecturing them or
coercing them, gathers the experience of nations into a page, and bids
them read it for themselves.
ASSASSINATION BY A JOURNALIST.
ABOUT the time of the sixth volume of the Reasoner
(that is not an accepted calender of events, though it enables me to fix
the date of many) two young Irishmen came to London seeking their fortune
in literature, and to them I was able to be of some service. Both made
acknowledgments of it in after years, which I did not often experience in
other instances. One of them, Mr. Gerald Supple, came from Dublin; for him
I had regard because, out of his slender earnings, he always sent a
portion for the support of his mother and two sisters. He had seen
patriotic service in 1848, having been concerned in an insurrection
planned in Meath. He wrote for me in the Reasoner on secular subjects. Afterwards he wrote in the Empire and Morning Star, to which
I introduced him. At length he went to Australia, studied law, and became
a barrister. As is the case with the best Irishmen, his sympathies were
with liberty and freedom everywhere, and he never forgot the claims of his
country. He had many friends at the bar, and no one who knew him could
fail to be impressed by the generous qualities in his character. In 1848,
he had been a contributor to the Nation, then at its best, and several
national ballads written by him are to be found in Hayes's collection, to
which good judges assigned great merit. Mr. Ebenezer Syme said in the
Argus that Mr. Supple "always wrote with extreme moderation and good
taste, never permitting his private predilections or animosities to
influence his public writings. On several subjects outside the newspaper
sphere, he had a fulness of knowledge, and wrote upon them with a judgment
that was admirable. He wrote on Irish genealogies and antiquities in
a manner no other Australian journalist could approach."
In 1870 news came that he was under sentence of death in Melbourne. Newspaper controversialists, as is common in new colonies, are addicted to
primitive forms of invective. Melbourne resembled then the amenities
of journalism which prevailed in Canada, a much older settlement, until
Mr. Goldwin Smith infused refinement in it; and my friend in Melbourne
believed that no reformation in certain quarters there was possible except
by the pistol. He therefore resolved to shoot an imputative adversary, one
George Paton Smith, at sight—and did it, the shot taking effect in his
arm. Mr. John Walshe, a retired police officer, hearing shooting about,
with the instinct of his profession, rushed forward to defend the man
assailed. Mr. Supple, being near-sighted, mistook the ex-officer for his
enemy, shot and killed him. It was his near-sightedness which caused him
to entertain unfounded resentment against many persons whom he thought
showed him public disrespect by passing him without notice, who had no
unfriendly intentions towards him; he was simply unable to observe their
recognition. His brother barristers considered that he had suffered in his
professional career by loss of briefs through his infirmity of sight, and
he had become moody and unhinged in mind. They therefore set up a plea of
insanity to save him. This Mr. Supple repudiated in court, stating
that he knew perfectly well what he was doing, and that he intended to
kill Mr. Smith, but did not intend to kill Mr. Walshe.
Many persons who commit brutal outrages, or even commit murder in a brutal
manner, when it comes to their turn to suffer, squeal and whine to be
saved from that which they have inflicted upon others. It was not so
with Mr. Supple. In his speech to the Court, before sentence was pronounced, he
declared "his purpose was to teach certain persons in Melbourne a lesson
in manners. He well knew the consequences of what he had undertaken, and
did not object to be hanged." Mr. Supple continued:—"Some years ago
I quarrelled with G. P. Smith because of his scurrilous abuse of the
people of my country, written by his pen and published in the newspaper he
edited. I was the only Irishman on that paper, and I resented it.
He who will not stand up for his country is a paltry person. From
that time Mr. Smith slandered me. In this colony there is no check
on slander. An action for libel does not arrest it. The duel
does not exist here. If any man sent a challenge he would be handed
over to the police, and his challenge treated as a farce, as a piece of
swagger or bravado. In England public opinion acts as a check on
slander. There is nothing of the sort here. I have done this
colony good service in reviving something of old-fashioned honour, in the
middle of this coarse and wholly material civilization—this mean and
sordid thing, in which little seems to be valued higher than the dinner or
the bank account. The time will come, and my act will hasten it,
when the community will cease to tolerate the assassin of character.
As for me, I hope to give my life very cheerfully in this cause.
Hanging cannot disgrace me. The gallows cannot disgrace me—I shall
confer honour upon it. I shall be glad to get away from this colony,
and I can leave it no other way than by the gate of death."
This manly speech could not but inspire respect for the prisoner, however
much one must feel that society would be impossible if everybody should
resent slander in the deadly way he had adopted. Mr. Supple was sentenced
to death. But his counsel appealed against it, on the ground that it was
not justifiable to hang a man for an act he never intended to commit. A
plea good in morals, but not in law. Mr. E. J. Williams, who was in
the Gallery of the House of Commons, and who knew of my early friendship
for Mr. Supple, having intimation of the appeal, asked me to aid in saving him
from execution. To this end I made the following affidavit, which Sir Wilfrid Lawson did me the favour of attesting for me:—
"I, George Jacob Holyoake, of 20, Cockspur Street, London,
County of Middlesex, do truly and solemnly make declaration that I knew
well Mr. Gerald H. Supple, now imprisoned, as I am informed, in Melbourne,
Australia, on charge of murder. When he was in England he was employed by
me in journalistic work: I assisted in procuring him engagements. I had
and still have great respect for him as an honourable man; but I observed
a moodiness in his manner, varying from impulsive generosity of speech to
inexplicable reticence. His shortness of sight was greatly against him. He
seemed a despairing man at times, and I used to consider him a person whom
some great calamity would one day overtake. From the difficulty his manner
put in the way of his friends serving, or indeed being sure when they were
serving him, I feared great suffering would befall him. Though very
intimate with me, and as I believed having personal regard for me, he went
away without saying such was his intention, and never communicated with me
at the time, nor mentioned me in writing to friends of mine who had
served him at my instigation. I doubt not he had acquired some distrust of
me, utterly without reason. No doubt he was liable to dangerous delusions.
"GEORGE JACOB HOLYOAKE.
"Signed in the presence of WILFRID
LAWSON, Justice of the Peace
for the County of Cumberland."
Having rendered political service to Lord Enfield in his Middlesex
candidature, I asked him if he could do me the favour of enclosing my
affidavit in the Foreign Office bag, he being then in that department. The
transmission would then be surer and probably swifter. Lord Kimberley, who
became aware of my request, directed (Aug. 4, 1870) me to be informed
(which I was by Mr. J. Rogers) that my "affidavit would be forwarded by
the next mail to the Governor of Victoria." But Lord Kimberley did much
more than this, as I afterwards learned. Seeing that a man's life was at
stake, his lordship, from motives of humanity and kindness, directed that
the substance of my affidavit be telegraphed to the Governor of Ceylon
with instructions to transmit it to Lord Canterbury at Victoria. By
good fortune, which ought always to attend on so generous an act, the
telegram was received in Melbourne on the very day before the appeal, and,
being delivered by the Foreign Office messenger, it was a welcome surprise
to Mr. Supple's counsel, and gave the Court the impression that the
Government at home were desirous that the prisoner should have the
advantage of whatever evidence existed on his behalf. The result was
that, instead of the sentence of death being confirmed, Mr. Supple was granted a
new trial on the ground of his mental condition.
Four months later a letter arrived from Lord Canterbury upon the subject.
Lord Kimberley, still remembering my interest in the fate of my friend,
desired Mr. H. T. Holland to transmit to me a copy of the following
despatch from the Governor of Victoria:—
"LORD CANTERBURY TO THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY.
"GOVERNMENT OFFICES, MELBOURNE,
Sept. 7, 1870.
"MY LORD,—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your lordship's
telegram forwarded to me through the Governor of Ceylon, relative to the
mental state of health of G. H. Supple (now under sentence of death), and
stating that a despatch and affidavit would be forwarded by the next
mail." I lost no time in forwarding this telegram to the Law Officers of
the Crown. I may mention that a point of law was reserved at Supple's
trial which comes on for argument before the full court to-morrow.—I have
the honour to be, &c.,
It is clear from this despatch that but for Lord Kimberley's calculating
promptitude my affidavit had been all too late.
The next communication I received was dated Melbourne
Gaol, October 4, 1870, from the prisoner, saying:—
"MY DEAR MR.
HOLYOAKE,—How can I thank you for your friendship and
kindness in stepping in so promptly to my help! That telegram must have
been an expensive one—I understand from £15 to £18. My friends only
ascertained from the Government the day before the last English mail left
that it is you who thus came forward for me.
"I have been thirteen years in this country now. Ebenezer Syme was my very
good friend, thanks to the favourable things you said of me in your letter
of introduction to him.
"I calculated upon getting into trouble for what I did, but I cheerfully
accept the consequence as a smaller evil than endurance. The medical
commission found I was no lunatic. I was to be hanged last month, when,
two days before the morning fixed, leading members of the bar picked flaws
in the legal proceedings, the public was stirred with interest, and the
Government granted a reprieve and an appeal to the Privy Council. I was
notified of a new trial—the same case under another aspect. My legal
friends insisted on the plea of insanity. I would have no more of it, and
defended myself. The jury were half for acquittal and half for conviction. I may not be hanged for some time yet.
"I often think of those days in London in '50 and '51, and again in '56,
when you and Mrs. Holyoake made me feel as if I were at home.—Ever yours
sincerely and gratefully,
"GERALD H. SUPPLE."
In the end he was sentenced to imprisonment during her Majesty's pleasure. A year later (Aug.
11, 1871), he wrote again from his gaol, saying:—
"I am unable to express what I feel, and how grateful I am, for what you
have done for me, so kindly and ably in such various ways, at a time 'when
a friend is twice a friend.' Your articles in the press, your telegram,
and Lord Kimberley's kind interference, thanks to you, have each and all
had a great effect in my favour on public opinion here. Your article in
the Reasoner, which I saw (as well as that in the Birmingham Post, which
you enclosed to me), was put into one of the papers here, the Herald, and
has done me much service. The public in Australia are much influenced in
all social matters by opinion at home, and your word goes a long way here
as well as in England, even among people who may differ from you in
politics and theology. After the appearance of that article I had an
unusual number of visiting strangers, including three or four members of
the Legislature, cordially promising me their good offices at
How difficult Mr. Supple was to serve was shown by Sir Charles Gavan
Duffy. When he was in office at Melbourne, Supple, at that time a law
student and journalist, asked him for permanent Government employment. Several months afterwards, he offered him a post with a salary of £400,
which had been previously held by another journalist, one of Supple's
friends. Supple had a short time previously been called to the bar. He
indignantly resented the offer, which made Sir Gavan think his mind was
affected. He was a singular being, but his courage, disinterestedness, and
noble scruples, were honourable singularities. He had done that for which,
as a lawyer, he knew he deserved hanging, and felt bound in honour as a
gentleman not to shrink from nor evade the penalty. Eight years'
imprisonment in Melbourne Gaol elicited from him no murmur. He wrote
articles with his dim eyes, and continued his support of sisters who
needed aid. Mr. Eaton, of the Treasury Department in Melbourne, was a
valued friend of Supple's. On his visit to England we consulted how Supple's imprisonment might one day be changed into banishment, and
ultimately the Government considerately permitted him to reside in New
Zealand, where he followed pursuits of literature to the advantage of
himself and his connections, and he had ever a grateful word for whoever
had served him.
THE STORY OF THE BALLOT.
HAVING been foremost, or at least publicly
persistent, in maintaining that the secular duties of this life had
precedence in time and importance over ecclesiastical considerations, it
became incumbent on me to follow my own precepts, and, as far as in my
power lay, to improve the opportunities of daily life. Being a
member of the Council of the London Reform League in 1868, I undertook to
vindicate the claim for the Ballot by a "New Defence" of it, of which
10,000 were circulated. Mr. Henry F. Berkeley, M.P., who succeeded
Mr. George Grote as the advocate of the Ballot in Parliament, wrote a
letter to the press asking attention to my "Defence." He had
previously written to me, saying "a greater than I has arisen"—not meaning
that I was great and he less than before, but merely that the argument for
the Ballot was not exhausted, as the House of Commons supposed, and that
I, a young man, might continue an advocacy which the nearness of death to
him would soon compel him to abandon. Mr. Bright also was of opinion
that the reasons for the Ballot had all been gathered in, and he wrote to
me, saying "yours is the only original argument I have seen," which
implied no more than that all advocacy of it had proceeded from the points
of view of the party politician and the electioneering agent. No one
had treated it from the point of view of the working-class voter, which
constituted the distinction, whatever it amounted to, of my argument.
Mr. John Stuart Mill, notwithstanding the long championship
of the Ballot by his friend Mr. Grote, declared that "it ought to form no
part of a measure for reforming the representation of the people. He
thought it unmanly that men should not resent intimidation and defy it.
It did not occur to him that it was unmanly on the part of Liberal
politicians to allow the means of intimidation to exist. Like Mr.
Herbert Spencer, Mill was for individuality and self-help—not thinking
that self-help has its limits. To help yourself as much as you can,
and as far as you can, is a condition every man must fulfil before he has
a claim for the aid of others where his own strength is insufficient.
There is no sense in telling a man whose legs are broken he ought to walk
unassisted. Under open voting none who depend upon others for
employment can be independent without ruin, and it is not practical
politics to expect from the people impracticable virtue. Liberals in
my time were overwhelmed with the prestige of mad manliness, and used to
apologise for the Ballot by saying they "wished the people were strong
enough to do without it." Whereas the Ballot was no crutch, it was
protection. It was a device which destroyed intimidation by
rendering it impossible. Mr. Mill, who, like Jeremy Bentham, was a
master of what an American would call "ironclad" phrases, said that the
Ballot meant "secret suffrage"—that was the merit of it. Secret
suffrage is free suffrage—it means an
impenetrable, an impassable, a defiant suffrage; since intimidation could
not touch it in the case of those who could trust to the secrecy of the
ballot box. There is a base secrecy which men employ in mean,
furtive, or criminal acts, but there is a manly secrecy when a man locks
his door against impertinent and intrusive people meddling with his
affairs without consent. Privacy in what concerns a man
vitally—concerns him alone—is manly and justifiable. My argument was
that of the following paragraph:—
The old doctrine was that voting was a duty the elector owed
to his country. Then it was the duty of the country to take care
that he did discharge it. Voting, therefore, should be made
compulsory, and intimidation impossible in the discharge of a public duty.
The voter is a known person: he is selected by the State—his
qualifications are approved: he has recognised interests at stake.
He has assigned to him a duty to his country and to his conscience.
It is only by a secret suffrage that he can without "let or hindrance"
discharge it. I am said to be an "independent" elector, I am told it
is my duty to be independent. Then why should any one want to know
the facts of my vote? It is no affair of my neighbour how I vote, or
for whom I vote, or why I vote, since I exercise no power nor use
any freedom which he does not equally possess. I am not called upon
to consult my neighbour as to what I shall do. If I am obliged to
consult him, he is my master. But he has no business with a
knowledge of my affairs; and if he wants it, he is impertinent—if he
insists upon it, he is offensive, and means me mischief if I decline to do
his bidding. The theory of Representative Government calls upon me
to delegate my power to another for a given time. Once in seven
years I am master of the situation; afterwards I am at the mercy of the
member of Parliament I elect. He may tax me, he may compel the
country into unjust and costly wars; he may be a party to base treaties;
he may limit my liberty; he may degrade me as an Englishman, but I am
bound by his acts. From election to election, he is my master.
I must obey the laws he helps to make, or he will suspend the Habeas
Corpus Act, and put a sword to my throat, or fire upon me with the latest
improved rifle he has made me pay for in the estimates. I may howl,
but I cannot alter anything. My only security is that a time will
come when I shall be master again without fear from my neighbour, or
customer, or employer, or creditor, or banker, or landlord, or priest.
I shall taste of power for one supreme minute when I shall stand by the
ballot box. Then I can vote to displace the member who has betrayed
me, and choose another representative in his stead. Representative
Government confers upon the English citizen one minute of liberty every
seven years. It is not much to ask. It is little to be content
with. It is a wondrous proof of the people's docility that they
yield obedience on such terms. The State ought to keep faith with
the elector one minute in every three millions of minutes which elapse on
the average between one General Election and another.
The enemies of the Ballot thought fit to oppose this slender
concession. Sydney Smith derided it. Lord Palmerston held that
it was un-English. According to this reasoning, the use of
armour-plates is cowardly, and it is un-English for a gunner to fire from
a casemate. It is madness, not manliness, in a man who opposes his
single head to twenty swords. His foolhardiness will merely deter
others, and the reputation for courage he will acquire will not outlive
the coroner's inquest upon him. There might be more individuality of
character than there is if every man rejected the enervating equality of
the law, which protects the weak against the strong. Then even the
coward must fight and the weak must struggle or perish. But it is
insanity of individuality which wantonly enters upon unequal conflicts;
and open voting is of that nature. Secret suffrage is the needle-gun
which places the proletariat and the proprietor upon an equality in the
Whittier understood this when he wrote:
"We have a weapon firmer set,
And better than the bayonet;
A weapon that comes down as still
As snowflakes fall upon the sod,
Yet executes a freeman's will,
As lightning does the will of God,
And from its force no bolts or locks
Can shield you—'tis the ballot-box."
Much more to the same end was in "The New Defence of the Ballot," which it
was said at the time did something in determining the minds of many
members of Parliament when they came to vote for the bill who had never
looked upon the Ballot from the working class point of view.
After being before the House of Commons for forty years, the
Ballot Bill went up to the Lords—a body of gentlemen endowed with legal
power to maim or stifle any live measure of progress which they may deem
premature. To allay the fear of change which constitutionally
agitates them, I said, wherever I had the opportunity of being heard, that
the first effect of the Ballot would be to give us a Tory Government for
ten years. I wrote to The Times, Daily News, and
"The two great
fears of the Ballot are these. One is that electors will vote so
differently under it as to disturb the balance of parties in many
boroughs. The other and greater fear is that such numbers will vote
under the Ballot who never voted before, that nobody will know what will
happen any. where. For three centuries the political vote in
England has been a trust, under the condition that the elector used it
under the cognizance and in accordance with the views of somebody else.
Tory and Whig, employer and squire, Radical and Quaker, have all done
their best to enforce this doctrine of trust. Relieve the electors
of this hereditary pressure, and after allowing for much that habit will
do, and less for the action of intelligence, we come down to what the late
Lord Derby needlessly dreaded—the dark, unknown land of ignorance,
prejudice, passion, of honest but blind hope. The Liberals do not
quite like that risk, the Conservatives shudder at any change, and the
Radicals think of the cost of providing for the neglected political
education of the people, which must then be attended to if they are
to hold their own. [The rise of Liberal Clubs, never before heard
of, soon proved this.] The Conservatives who collect the suffrage of
stolidity will be the first to profit by the Ballot. In an
uneducated nation the 'stupid' are always the majority, and the Tories
have so often profited by the fact, that they will be the 'stupid party'
themselves if they throw away the mighty chance now before them.
"The working class accept the Ballot, not because it will very early
benefit their order, but because it is an indispensable condition to their
being able to benefit themselves. Therefore, let no one be
apprehensive of the change which will approach with the Ballot. In
politics nothing approaches; everything has to be fetched.
"The fear of the Ballot is as old as England. It is the fear lest
another should take his own way, and not take yours. It is in
religion as well as in politics, and not easily eradicated. Error
(it was an early maxim of mine) is like a serpent alive at both ends; if
severed, it may still sting; while it wriggles, it lives, and those who
mean to end it must chop at it."
It would be futile to recite now this prediction concerning the Ballot, if
the reader could not turn to the Echo, August 5, 1871, and read it
there. The first election after the Ballot gave us a Tory
Government, and old London Reformers bewailed to me that, after having
laboured for fifty years to give the working class the power to be their
own friends, they used it to vote for those who always opposed their
having a vote. The nature of a nation does not change all at once
with power. All history gives examples which seem to be unobserved.
The French Revolutionists did but do as they had been done by. It
may be regretted that they did not do better. To pour on the
Revolutionists the censure of Europe, and conceal that the censure belongs
to those who made them what they were—is ignorant criticism. Liberty
does not take care of people. It is intended to enable them to take
care of themselves, and it generally takes them a long time to learn how
to do it.
The story of the Ballot illustrates the characteristics of
the English political mind in the last generation.
ADVENTURES AT THE HOME OFFICE.
IT is good advice that a man should guard himself
from misconception. But, do what he will, misconceptions will come
to him. Then all he can do is to explain—stand to the truth and
At the time of the Reform League agitation in 1866, being a
member of the executive, I was one of a deputation to the Home Office, to
confer with Mr. Walpole concerning a meeting the League intended to hold
in Hyde Park. The Government was then Tory, and the Tories are
always against public meetings, as being unnecessary and inconvenient.
Then (1866) they said: "We had Trafalgar Square to go to, and what better
place could we have? Hyde Park was impossible." In 1888,
twenty-two years later, they said "we could not have a better place than
Hyde Park, and that Trafalgar Square was impossible."
Mr. Walpole showed an honourable anxiety to prevent collision
between the police and the people, for fear of " bloodshed," which Mr. J.
S. Mill said in Parliament, the next night, "the League firmly believed
would result." Mr. Walpole stood in the recess of a window at the
Home Office, and our small deputation stood near him.
Mr. Beales stated that our object was "not to censure the
Government, but to declare the public sentiment on the franchise," and
therefore we demanded permission to hold a public meeting in the park on
Monday. Mr. Walpole (deprecatingly): "Don't ask me that."
After consulting with Lord J. Manners, Mr. Walpole said, "Well, put your
request in writing to me. I will consult my colleagues, and, that
there may be no mistake, I will send an answer in writing." It was,
however, agreed that we might occupy a platform that night in Hyde Park to
dissuade people from assembling further.
Afterwards, being at the House of Commons, I told all this to
many members who inquired what had occurred at the Home Office.
Later, I went to Hyde Park to attend the dispersion meeting, and, being on
the platform, I heard Mr. Beales announce that we had permission to hold a
meeting on Monday night. Whereupon I asked him whether Mr. Walpole
had since given him permission to do so, as I did not so understand him at
our interview. The next morning a letter appeared from Mr. Walpole
in The Times, stating that Mr. Beales's letter had been received,
but no answer had been given. The same morning placards appeared,
issued by the League, stating that a public meeting would be held in the
park by Mr. Walpole's permission.
That morning, Mr. George Howell, secretary of the League,
sent me by hand to Waterloo Chambers, Cockspur Street, a summons to attend
another deputation to Mr. Walpole at 2 o'clock. At that hour I went
there, but, seeing none of my colleagues, I supposed they had already
arrived, and were in some room awaiting the interview. I asked to be
shown to the deputation to Mr. Walpole, and I was told "there was no
deputation; and Mr. Walpole himself was not at the Home Office." I
said that was incredible, as I had been summoned to attend a deputation to
him at 2 o'clock. Seeing that I was unconvinced, an officer said, I
"had better see Mr. Walpole's secretary and satisfy myself."
Accordingly I did so, and was told that "Mr. Walpole really had declined
to receive any deputation." I answered that, "as the League had sent
me notice to attend the interview, they should have sent me word it was
not to be. I understood we were to see Mr. Walpole respecting his
letter to The Times, and that I intended to say I for one thought
Mr. Walpole right in his letter. The placard assumed that the
meeting was agreed to, which was not my impression."
The secretary asked whether he might state that to Mr.
Walpole. I answered "certainly." I went at once to the Reform
League, and explained to Mr. T. Bayley Potter, M.P., and other
friends of the League present, what I had said at the Home Office, and
learned then, for the first time, that Mr. Beales was decidedly under a
different impression. Mr. P. A. Taylor asked me at the House of
Commons the same day to put in writing what took place with Mr. Walpole,
which I did, and placed it in the hands of Mr. John Stuart Mill, who, I
knew, was always for the truth.
In the meantime Lord Derby in the House of Lords, speaking in
defence of the Home Secretary, accused by his party of indecision, said:
"Mr. Holyoake, one of the members of the deputation to Mr. Walpole, having
seen the placard, came this morning to repudiate in the strongest terms
Mr. Beales's proclamation. He spoke to many Liberal members last
night at the House of Commons, informing them that Mr. Walpole had not
given his consent to the meeting announced."
Mr. Walpole, on his part, stated in the House of Commons
that, "in justice to a member of the Reform League, who is known to many
members in this House, and who was present with the deputation—I mean Mr.
Holyoake—he, in a manner which reflects infinite credit on him,
volunteered to come to my office to-day. I was so busily engaged I
could not see him, but he saw my private secretary, who came into my room
immediately afterwards, and told me what had passed between them. I
(Mr. Walpole) said, 'The words which you say were used by Mr. Holyoake are
so important, let me, while they are fresh in your recollection, take them
down.' The words taken down are these: 'He came to repudiate in the
strongest terms Mr. Beales's proclamation. He perfectly understood
Mr. Walpole to decline to sanction any meeting in the park, and to ask
that an application for that should be made in writing. He spoke to
many Liberal members last night, and also to Mr. Beales, when the
proclamation was being posted."'
Reciting these incidents serves to show by authentic
instances how difficult it is to get at the truth of history, and how the
simplest facts become transformed into what Carlyle would have called
"curiously the reverse of truth." Even when the facts are fresh—not
even an hour old—variations of them occur even while passing through the
minds of educated official persons. Neither Lord Derby, Mr. Walpole,
nor his secretary, could have any intention of perverting the truth, and
yet the perversion transpired on the part of each of them. Mr.
Walpole said that I "volunteered to come to his office." I did not
"volunteer " to go to the Home Office. It never entered into my mind
to go—I certainly never should have gone on any notion of my own. My
going was solely through the instruction sent me by the secretary of the
Reform League. It was quite unforeseen by me that I should enter the
secretary's room. It was purely incidental that I was asked by an
official to do so. It was to account for my acquiescence in seeing
the secretary that I mentioned the subject of the placard. The
officer in the corridor of the Home Office told me "Mr. Walpole was not in
the building." Yet Mr. Walpole said "he was busily engaged there."
My words as related by the private secretary, and as taken down by Mr.
Walpole, were that "I came to repudiate in the strongest terms Mr.
Beales's proclamation." I did not go for any such purpose. The
words taken down represent me as saying "I spoke to Mr. Beales when the
proclamation was being posted." I never saw Mr. Beales at that time.
I was not present when the proclamation was posted. My words were:
"I spoke to him the same night at Hyde Park." That was before the
placards were printed.
The Express, the evening issue of the
Daily News, remarked that the Tory papers commended me, the
Standard describing me as "a man of high honour and probity, whose
opinions, however offensive to the general feeling of society, had not
prevented him from commanding the respect of all who knew his reverence
for truth, and his thorough loyalty in all dealings with friend or foe."
It is not a matter of suspicion when any one is commended by
his adversaries, unless it appears that he has abandoned his professed
principles to win their praise.
Notwithstanding my explanations, the Reform League regarded
me as a traitor who had gone down to the Home Office privately, and made a
communication against them. A great meeting was held, within a few
days of these events, at the Agricultural Hall. Mr. Mill asked me to
accompany him from the House of Commons to the hall, and afterwards I
returned with him to the House. It was well I was in his Company, as
my colleagues of the Reform League were wrathful with me. Had I done
what they supposed, their indignation would have been justified.
Certainly the version of the affair given by Ministers was calculated to
confirm their impressions.
Mr. Walpole for a time fared no better at the hands of his
colleagues than I did with mine. They accused him of weakness in
giving way to the League Radicals. They even said he wept before the
deputation. Lord John Manners could have contradicted that, as he
was present, but he made no sign. Had it not been for my accidental
testimony, which, being that of a political opponent, satisfied both
Houses, it was said that Mr. Walpole must have resigned. On the
following Sunday he sent me a handsome letter of acknowledgment. At
no time did I ever speak to Mr. Walpole, nor did he ever speak to me.
My action with regard to him was public and not personal.
Afterwards some Radicals enclosed bread pills in small
bottles, labelled them "Walpole's tears," and sold them at Reform League
meetings, which was ill treatment of a Minister who had shown honourable
scruples against firing upon them.
Mr. Walpole was the first Home Secretary who, so far as we
knew, ever showed consideration for the people at his own peril.
On the day when the Hyde Park railings fell, the Reform
League went in procession to the gates. As I was one of the
executive, I accompanied my colleagues. Mr. Beales was to attempt to
enter the gates, when, the police opposing him, a question of assault was
to be raised, and legal opinion taken as to the legality of closing the
gates against the people. The throng was dense about the entrance.
A man in a rough cap and round jacket—in appearance like an ostler—thrust
a watch in my vest pocket, saying, "Take care of that the next time."
I thought he might be a thief who, being followed, was planting a watch he
had stolen on me to get rid of it. But on taking out the watch I saw
it was my own. I had no time to thank the man, who darted through
the crowd to keep the real thief in sight. The man was a detective,
who had seen the theft of my watch, had taken it from the man, and
restored it to me.
Thus ended my adventures on the Hyde Park question.
STORY OF A LOST LETTER.
IN 1870 I had expressed, in some journal or speech,
the opinion that Lord Palmerston's wilful and hasty recognition (1851) of
the Government of the usurper, Louis Napoleon, was discreditable to the
Crown and injurious to the English nation, as openly sanctioning the
massacre of thousands of French citizens, of the imprisonment of its
Parliament and expatriation of many eminent men, who withstood the
illegality of the false President. It was a great affront to the
majority of Frenchmen, who would be incensed at England giving official
countenance to Bonapartist treachery and assassination. In what way
this opinion came under the notice of Mr. Gladstone I now forget, but he
was kind enough and considerate enough to write me a letter, in which he
explained the facts of that affair.
On February 3, 1852, Lord John Russell explained that Lord
Palmerston had sent an approval to Lord Normanby, our ambassador at Paris,
of the usurpation of Louis Napoleon. Lord Palmerston said "it was a
misrepresentation of the fact to say that he had given instructions to
Lord Normanby inconsistent with the relations of general intercourse
between England and France."
What Lord Palmerston did was this. He wrote to the
British ambassador at Paris (Lord Normanby), December 5, 1851, saying that
he had been commanded by her Majesty to instruct him not to make any
change in his relations with the French Government. "It is her
Majesty's desire that nothing should be done which would even wear the
appearance of an interference of any kind in the internal affairs of
France." At the same time M. Turgot said he had heard from M.
Walewski (the French ambassador in London) that Lord Palmerston had
expressed to him his entire approbation of the act of the President, and
his conviction that he (Louis Napoleon) could not have acted otherwise
than he had done. Lord Normanby complained that this "placed him in
an awkward position for misrepresentation and suspicion." Lord
Palmerston replied next day that if "Lord Normanby wishes to know my own
opinion on the change which has taken place in France, it is that such a
state of antagonism had arisen between the President and the Assembly that
it was becoming every day more clear that their co-existence would not be
of long duration; and it seemed to me better for the interests of France,
and through them for the interest of the rest of Europe, that the power of
the President should prevail."
The representative of the French nation naturally regarded
this as the opinion of the Government, being given by a Minister of the
Crown at the Foreign Office, and it was cited by the confederates of the
usurper as proof that Liberal Parliamentary England was in favour of a
murderous despotism being imposed by arms on the French people.
On February 17, 1852, Lord John Russell advised the dismissal
of Lord Palmerston from the office of Foreign Secretary on the ground that
"he had, first, in a conversation with the French ambassador, and next, in
a despatch to Lord Normanby, expressed officially his approval of the
recent proceedings of Louis Napoleon," contrary to the following
instructions, laid down by her Majesty in 1850, for the guidance of her
requires, first, that Lord Palmerston will distinctly state what he
proposes, in a given case, in order that the Queen may know as distinctly
to what she is giving her royal sanction. Secondly, having once
given her Royal sanction to a measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered
or modified by the Minister. Such an act she must consider as
failing in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to be visited by the
exercise of her constitutional right of dismissing that Minister.
She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and the foreign
Ministers before important decisions are taken based upon that
intercourse; to receive the foreign despatches in good time, and to have
the drafts for her approval sent to her in sufficient time to make herself
acquainted with their contents before they must be sent off."
Lord Palmerston was dismissed, and was succeeded at the Foreign Office by
From this instruction it appears that Lord Palmerston two
years previously had sent instructions to foreign Courts without the
knowledge of her Majesty, and had in other cases changed the purport of
what had been submitted to her. The Queen's note is also instructive
to those foolish, misleading, or uninformed politicians who continually
assure the people that the English monarchy is practically a democracy,
and that the interfering power of the Crown is ideal. The Crown has
the power of vetoing any international instruction the Democracy may wish
to give through its representatives. The Foreign Minister is simply
the mouthpiece of the Crown. The Crown has a voice—and the people
Mr. Gladstone, with a brevity beyond my power, explained to
me that the Crown did in the case of Lord Palmerston's conduct what the
people would have done. The Queen deserves very high credit for her
action in dismissing him, reassuring the French people that England was
neutral, intended no interference in their affairs, and lent no
encouragement or sanction to the usurpation imposed upon them.
After receiving (1870) the letter of Mr. Gladstone, in which
he explained all this, I placed it in the Edinburgh Review of that
date and left it in a cab. After fruitless efforts to recover the
lost articles, they were advertised for in The Times, in one of the
numbers of that journal which was photographed for circulation in Paris
during the siege. The photographed copies of The Times were
dropped over Paris from balloons, and the contents were magnified and well
scanned, but as my lost letter was never heard of, I concluded that it had
probably got into the hands of some intelligent and covetous reader, and I
have sometimes attended sales of autograph letters expecting to find it.
THE SCOTT-RUSSELL PLOT.
A FEW years ago, the Liberal world in London and at
large—so far as the outer world took notice of metropolitan affairs—were
surprised by an announcement that eminent peers, not before known for
Radical partisanship, were about to place themselves at the head of a new
movement, which was to do great things. The working classes were to
be taken from pestiferous dwellings in crowded towns and put, as Lord
Hampton said, out "in the open," and other advantages, never dreamt of by
the unenterprising Liberals who had hitherto been looked up to by the
people, were to be bestowed upon them. Mr. Scott-Russell, a naval
enthusiast, who had built the Great Eastern ship, was the constructor of
this new political vessel for carrying Tory Democratic passengers into the
Left to right
John Scott Russell, Henry Wakefield, I. K. Brunel.
Certain working class leaders  were invited to form
a committee or syndicate of popular sponsors of the new project. All
were known to be on the Liberal side, but some, like the teetotal cabmen,
were not bigoted; they preferred fishing in Liberal waters provided fish
were to be caught, but, if not, they had no invincible repugnance to
trying another stream. They called this "being above the narrowness
of party"; sometimes they represented it as "taking an independent view"
of things—phrases honestly used by men of conscientious conception of
principle, but whose scruples these patriots, with principles turning on a
universal pivot, burlesqued. There were others among them, men of
consistency, who were curious to find out what these unexpected friends of
the people (whom Mr. Scott-Russell assumed to represent) really intended.
They asked time to consider the project to which they were to be
committed. Their meetings were held at a pleasant restaurant near
King Lud's in Ludgate Hill, and, as good dinners were provided to assist
their deliberations, they were not impatient to come to a decision.
Like men having responsible business on hand, they felt precipitation
unbecoming; they took time and dinners, too. They made suggestions,
and adjourned until Mr. Scott-Russell had considered them. Then it
became necessary to dine again to receive his opinion. When
adjournments were played out, they, with show of reason, intimated that it
was desirable that they should know who the noblemen were who were at the
head of the project which they were to commend to the working class, whom
these leaders were supposed to influence. A further dinner was
necessary for receiving and weighing this information. It was
conceded by the constructor of the Great Eastern that this committee
should see a list of the names, which, however, were not to be divulged.
If there really were persons of eminence desirous of
rendering some new service to the people, the intention was to be
respected. There was one member of the committee, Mr. Robert
Applegarth, who never thought there was anything in the scheme, and there
were others who did not feel any sure ground under their feet. Thus
the inspection of the list of peers who had popular ideas ready to put in
force, was interesting. That the names were to be held secret did
not inspire confidence. How could honest leaders of the people
command a project of which they could not disclose the authority which
alone could inspire trust. Mr. Applegarth prudently suggested to his
colleagues that, since they were not to possess or copy the list, and
might not remember all the names upon it, it would be well that one of
them should fix in his memory the first two names, another should notice
the second two, and so on through the list. Afterwards, when they
met, they could verify the whole list of names appended to a document
which was to be published without the names. It was observed that
the names were all in the same handwriting as the text of the address
prepared for their issue.
In a way never explained to the public, the list of the
names—which, in the way described, came into the hands of the
committee—met the sharp journalistic eyes of Mr. Stephen Girard, of the
New York Herald, and were by him made known, much to the chagrin of
Mr. Scott-Russell and to the astonishment of the peers, who instantly
became subjects of comment. Each of them immediately wrote to the
papers disavowing any knowledge of the affair or complicity in it.
Thus it happened that the political Leviathan ship for carrying Democratic
passengers into the sea of Conservatism never set sail.
Knowing all the members of the Scott-Russell Committee, their
proceedings interested me, and I wrote in the public press reasons for
regarding the project as suspicious in origin and tendency.
Mr. Scott-Russell had genius in his own walk. His
conception of a great ship, so ponderous that the waves should not vibrate
beneath it, so powerful that the storm should not retard it, showed naval
daring; but the sea of politics was unknown to him, and the craft he put
upon it was of antiquated build.
Every aspirant for power, who has ambition for personal
ascendancy, every despot who understands his business, holds out promises
of what excellent things he will do if he be only secured a position
whereby he may be able to act. When the power is once put into his
hands, he is able to defy those who dare to claim the fulfilment of their
expectations, as did Louis Napoleon, who promised great things to the
working classes, and shot them when they asked for them. In the
meantime the policy of holding out great hopes of this kind has its
success. Like the "confidence trick," it finds a succession of
credulous persons ready made. There are always a number of people
ready to have something done for them, and very unwilling to be put to the
trouble of doing it for themselves.
My reason for opposing the Scott-Russell plot was that
Liberal working men could not join in it without foregoing their
principles. A man is free to change his principles with out reproach
when his honest view of duty dictates it. But he should know what he
is doing, and not go on pretending to be on one side when he has gone over
to another. If working men calling themselves Liberals accept Tory
leadership, they have left their party. If they accepted this
Tory-peer scheme, in the belief that the Tory party would carry it out,
they must at elections canvass for and vote for Tory candidates. It
were vain to adopt a programme and not provide a majority in Parliament to
give effect to it. He who chooses new leaders proclaims his distrust
of his old ones, and has changed sides whether he knows it or not.
Not thinking it to the credit of the working classes to be under
illusions, I publicly explained the nature of the Tory democratical
If Conservatives come to profess, as they sometimes do,
to be in favour of a Liberal measure, respect such concession, and give
them, so far as such measure extends, aid and credit for it. But
that is a different thing from changing sides and undertaking to sustain a
party opposed to the main principles you profess to hold.
The names of the peers who were alleged to be the "high
contracting parties" in this plot were Lord Salisbury, Lord Derby, Mr.
Disraeli, the Earls of Carnarvon and Lichfield, Lord Henry Lennox, Lord
John Manners, Sir John Pakington, Sir Stafford Northcote, Mr. Gathorne
Hardy, and the Duke of Richmond. Mr. P. Barry wrote to The Times
saying that "Mr. Scott-Russell had the signatures of the lords," which
they naturally repudiated in successive letters to the newspapers.
The Seven-Leagued programme to which these noble Socialistic Democrats
were alleged to have given their assent, is not without historic interest
to-day. Its planks were as follows:—
Something like the United States Homestead Law, with
modern improvements, is to be enacted, by which " the families of our
workmen " may be removed from the crowded quarters of the towns, and
given detached homesteads in the suburbs.
The Commune is to be established so far as to confer upon
all counties, towns, and villages, a perfect organisation for
self-government, with powers for the acquisition and disposal of lands
for the common good.
Eight hours of honest and skilled work shall constitute a
Schools for technical instruction shall be established at
the expense of the State, in the midst of the homesteads of the
Public markets shall be erected in every town, at the
public expense, for the sale of goods of the best quality, in small
quantities at wholesale prices.
There shall be established, as parts of the public
service, places of public recreation, knowledge, and refinement.
The railways shall be purchased and conducted at the
public expense and for the common good, as the post-office service is
RETICENCE OF THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH.
THE Bishop of Peterborough was a prelate remarkable
alike for timidity and boldness. The public were often amazed at his
ecclesiastical candour. But he had apprehensive intervals, as this
chapter will show. In 1871 he and the Dean of Norwich announced
their intention to deliver controversial discourses in that city.
Dr. William Magee, Bishop of Peterborough
Wet, half-melted snow covered the ground, the sky above was dark and
disturbed, a cold haze made chill and damp the crowd which stood in the
silent cathedral yard on Tuesday night (December 12, 1871) waiting for the
cathedral doors to open. No city in England has been so fortunate as
Norwich in its bishops. It has had no bad bishop in our time.
The memory of man runneth not back to the contrary. The preacher,
however, whom we waited to hear was not the Bishop of Norwich, but the
Bishop of Peterborough. In the pulpit this bishop appeared somewhat
short, stoutly built, and had the look of a man who ate more than his
spiritual profession required. Nevertheless the bishop's discourse
was admirable. It had the chief qualities of an oration. It
was delivered with elasticity: the action, though not always graceful, was
pleasantly vehement, and there was a manly energy in the preacher's tones.
Dr. Goulburn, the Dean, was a very pleasant gentleman to see.
He was one of those radiant divines who diffuse a sense of satisfaction
around them, looking on life with a dignity that appears never to have
been distressed. You saw at once that his "lines had fallen unto him
in pleasant places, and that he had a goodly heritage." Yet,
notwithstanding Dr. Meyrick Goulburn's sunbeam aspect, he threw out some
venomous little epithets at his supposed adversaries which need not be
The Bishop's alluring subject was the "Demonstration of the
Spirit." Who could expect the future Archbishop of York, whose
revenue would be princely, whose palace looked down on the lotus waters of
the Ouse, whose earthly home an angel might envy, to be appreciative of
the humble ethical philosophy which knew none of these things? To
the Bishop of Peterborough whose worldly welfare was provided for by a
happy destiny and a powerful patron, Christianity must seem "demonstrably"
true. Mean, poor, and even wicked must seem the scruples of those
who find themselves condemned to perplexity and patience; while to others,
who mean no better and strive less to realise human good, opulence and
honour fall. To the prelates of that day, the efforts of obscure
moralists, who, with penurious means, unaided and contemned, struggled to
multiply secular comfort, to cheer the unfortunate with the consolations
of duty, and kindle the fire of reason in cold and abandoned minds, must
seem pitiful, and to be sufficiently recognised by being scolded into
In the cathedral city of Norwich, where prelatical doctrine
had the advantage of State splendour and official advocacy, it might be
expected that civil equity would prevail under its supreme influence.
Yet the ratepayers there had no right to the use of the public halls for
which they paid. To obtain one in which to reply to the Bishop of
Peterborough was impossible.
A Dissenter in Norwich, who was proprietor of a hall eligible
for the proposed review of the "Cathedral Discourses," said he would let
it for the purpose if he knew that it would not be displeasing to the Lord
Bishop of Peterborough. I thereupon wrote to the bishop upon the
subject. My chambers were then at 20 Cockspur Street, Trafalgar
Square, London. The Bishop was at the Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, and
our correspondence was conducted hardly a hundred yards apart.
Several letters passed between us. I did not ask that
the Bishop should advise the cathedral authorities to use their influence
in favour of controversial equity, or that he should interfere in the
affairs of a diocese in which he had no authority, but simply to say on
his own part whether it was distasteful to him that a hall should be
conceded in which his Discourses should be reviewed on the part of those
whose attention and concurrence he had challenged.
In his first discourse, the Bishop urged that it was "the
duty of the Christian to manifest the truth in love"; but he declined to
manifest it at all. He told us how the first apostles went to
Christ, saying, "Master, tell us." But the Bishop was not of his
Master's mind, and would tell us nothing.
In the end I did deliver a review of the Bishop's polemical
orations; but it was owing to the independence of Mr. R. A. Cooper, who
lent a large room in his Albion Mills for the purpose.
Why should the Bishop show such timidity in giving an opinion
asked of him? He had nothing to fear. No one in Norwich could harm
him. A bishop is set high above clergy and deans that he may be
independent and discharge even Christian duty fearlessly.
Had he spoken the one word which would cost him nothing, he
had taught a lesson of toleration to a city which wanted it much, and have
won for Christianity a respect on the part of adversaries which the most
brilliant clerical argument would fail to create.
A curious circumstance occurred while Dr. Magee was in
Norwich. Mr. R. A. Cooper, before mentioned, the largest sugar baker
in East Anglia, had a place of business opposite the cathedral.
During a successful career in Cincinnatti he had acquired American ways of
vivid speech, and as Dean Goulburn was an adversary of ponderous
orthodoxy, Mr. Cooper offered to take the cathedral as a sugar bakery, it
being little used and he in want of larger premises. The Bishop
being the Dean's guest at the time was told this bit of American
irreverent humour, when the clever Bishop went elsewhere and declared that
the Liberation Society of the Nonconformists had "shown itself willing to
turn churches into drinking saloons or shoe factories"—though the
Nonconformists had no knowledge of Mr. Cooper's isolated saying, had no
more to do with it, or sympathy with it, than Dr. Goulburn himself.
The Nonconformists resented the wanton imputation upon them,
without knowing how it originated.
GENEROSITY OF THE BISHOP OF OXFORD.
IN two instances I had personal opportunity of
forming an opinion of Dr. Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and in
both he displayed more fairness and candour than I expected from a bishop.
Perhaps my limited acquaintance with prelates obliged me to judge them
from a narrow standpoint. The Bishop of Exeter had not given me a
favourable impression of the clerical bench. I knew of no case among
my friends in which a reference to them in the case of injustice or
intolerance had been favourably entertained, and we all knew that in the
House of Lords the votes of the prelates were mostly given against the
Dr Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford
Oddfellows as well as the co-operators were liable before
1852 to be robbed by their officers without redress in law. A
secretary had appropriated £4,000 of the money belonging to widows and
orphans of the Manchester Unity. When placed in the dock in that
city, he was dismissed, as the law then gave no protection to such
societies. When the Friendly Societies Bill in 1852 came before the
House of Lords, the Bishop of Oxford raised objections to the legalisation
of the Manchester Unity, on the ground that I had written their Prize
Lectures, which he therefore concluded must be atheistic.
The Grand Master of that day, Mr. W. B. Smith, hearing this
objection, asked, "Has your lordship ever read them?" The Bishop said very
frankly he had not. "Does not your lordship think," rejoined the
Grand Master, "that you ought to do so before pronouncing a deterrent
judgment on them?" "Well," said the Bishop, "perhaps I ought. Send
me a copy and I will do so." At the next interview, the Bishop said
candidly that, "after reading them, he must admit that they were not
irreligious—neither were they religious."
The Grand Master replied: "We have a quarter of a million of
members in our Order, and among them are included some of every religious
persuasion in the land. How could the Lectures be 'religious' in
your lordship's sense without leading to dissent and theological
controversy in all our lodges—which would be an evil, and inconsistent
with that concord and brotherhood our Order is designed to promote?"
The Bishop admitted the force of this representation, and
withdrew his opposition to the Friendly Societies Act, which was
Some years later when, acting as Commissioner of the
Morning Star, I was writing upon "Rural Life in Bucks," I became
acquainted with the condition of the labourers of Gawcott, who had, as
they believed, a grievance. A commodious schoolhouse in which their
little children were educated had been taken from them, and the school was
held in a cottage quite inadequate for the purpose. The parents
believed that the schoolhouse was given to them by the kindness of the
wife of a former vicar. For years the poor people had been lamenting
their deprivation of the schoolroom. No one was able to help them.
I said to a friend who sympathised with them, "Why do they not put their
case before the Duke of Buckingham, who lives within four miles of them?
If there be an injustice, what is the advantage of ducal influence, of
which we hear so much, if it be not exercised for redress in such a case
as this?" The answer was, "No one had trust or hope in the Duke, and the
poor people are rather afraid of him." "Then why not apply to the
bishop of their diocese?" I answered. "These poor people, who mostly
attend the church, have claims upon him, and surely he is not afraid of
the Duke?" That remedy was thought to be more hopeless still.
Upon hearing this, though I was not exactly the person to put
their case before the Bishop with advantage, I offered to do so, and
accordingly I wrote to the Bishop of Oxford. Since they were
hopeless, no harm could come of it. Things could not be worse if no
redress resulted. My letter was as follows:—
without the pale of your lordship's communion, I have no personal claim
upon your attention, but I unhesitatingly assume that this circumstance
will not disincline you to give ear to a demand if commended by fitness
"It is this. At Gawcott, in Bucks, is a commodious village school
erected by the active charity of the wife of the then incumbent—to be held
and used in trust for the benefit of the Gawcott poor. This school,
the villagers say, has been appropriated to the purposes of a Middle Class
School by the Rev. Mr. Whitehead. For twelve years the infant poor
of Gawcott have been displaced, ill-trained, and personally ill-treated
suffering in health and morals. Their situation is a public scandal.
Herewith I beg to enclose your lordship certain public letters written by
myself after personal inspection of the place. In fairness I add
others defensive of the incumbent. The Rev. Mr. Whitehead, the
reputed appropriator, is now leaving Gawcott, if I am correctly informed,
and is about to sell the schoolhouse, which, if suffered, will complicate
or compromise the claim of the poor to its use. There may be a
remedy for this wrong in equity, but these poor villagers can never invoke
it. The Rev. Mr. Whitehead is undoubtedly a kind-hearted gentleman,
who has done much in his way for the Gawcott poor. The villagers
speak affectionately of him in many respects, but nevertheless say 'he has
defrauded us of our school.'
"My lord, whether these poor people are acting under a painful delusion,
or suffering, as I believe, a great wrong, they are equally entitled to
your all-powerful consideration, which I am told is never refused to the
humblest person in your diocese who really deserves it. If these
villagers are under a wrong impression, let an inquiry dispel it; let the
Trust Deed be published. They will be instructed, they will be
satisfied: and, if they are in error, the Rev. Mr. Whitehead will be
vindicated. If, however, the reverend gentleman has acted
wrongfully, none but your lordship can do these poor villagers justice.
You can prohibit the sale of the school, and restore to these poor
children that education which a merciful lady of your Church once provided
for them. The people of Gawcott are poor, are timid, are despairing.
They pray for a powerful friend. They hoped and ought to have found
one in the Mayor of Buckingham. He, however, is silent, fearing the
ducal influence he would confront. The Duke does not—as it would be
graceful and noble to do—volunteer them protection. These poor
villagers should be able to obtain redress from their own clergyman, but
he is the alleged offender. You, their bishop, high in holy and
independent authority, may not hesitate to act where mayors fear and dukes
neglect, and for the sake of these friendless villagers I entreat your
lordship's interference.—I am, your lordship's obedient servant,
The Bishop sent a courteous reply, and said that he would request the
Rural Dean to inquire into the case, and when he received the report he
would send it to me.
The cottage room in Gawcott, in which the poor children
received their humble instruction, was as unsatisfactory as any school I
ever entered. From fifty to sixty children occupied raised seats, as
in a theatre. The young woman who acted as teacher stood in their
midst, without room to move among them. Indeed, they were so crowded
that any of them could be reached with the cane. Without other
ventilation in the room than the fireplace, the air was unbreathable, and
the pallid, consumptive look of the teacher showed that she found it so.
The parents complained that if one child caught the measles all the
children had it, and then the school was closed for a time. The
description of the state of things as I found them, which I published in
the Morning Star, I enclosed in my letter.
The Bishop was as good as his word, and in due time sent me
the report of the Rural Dean and a copy of the Trust Deed, asking my
opinion upon them, whereupon I wrote to the Bishop as follows, from which
the reader will gather what the Rural Dean's report was:—
am under obligation for the courtesy and consideration with which you have
made inquiries respecting the allegations of my letter of February 1st,
and sent for my perusal the replies you have received. These enable
me to present to the villagers a clearer and more definite view of the
case than I was able to put before. There is clearly an end of the
alarm that the Rev. Mr. Whitehead is about to sell the school. That
gentleman's denial is conclusive. I dismiss this point. The
grievance of the villagers is substantially this:—
"They say the schoolhouse was built for the benefit of the infant poor of
Gawcott; that the instruction given was to be under the direction of the
incumbent is not in question.
"They say that the object of the
benevolent foundress of the school, the wife of the incumbent of that day,
was to provide a place where the infant children of the poor wives of the
village could be sent during the day.
"They say that this was the
meaning of the words in the Trust Deed 'to permit and suffer the said
schoolhouse to be used and enjoyed in such manner for the religious
instruction of the poor children of the said hamlet.' They say that the
schoolhouse was used in this way for the eight years previous to the Rev.
Mr. Whitehead's coming to the hamlet, when he turned the poor children out
of the school.
"They say that the poor children, 70 in number, were crowded for years
into a small room unfit and unhealthy, where it was a sin to put them and
a scandal to keep them.
"It is never difficult anywhere to find middle-class subscribers who,
lured by the offer of a superior education for their sons, will not be of
opinion that their own interests include the rights of others usurped by
"The Trust Deed shows that Mr. Whitehead had a right to use the place as
he saw fit, but for 'the instruction of the poor children.' But the use to
which he put it was not that, but was for the benefit of the middle-class
children. The benefits he offers do not meet the want of an infant
school and were not so intended, as he has kept up a cruel sort of
child-pen, under the name of an infant school, in the village. Is
the rural dean aware that Mr. Whitehead's offer of instruction is at an
age when the children begin to go to work and cannot use it? It is a
good, but comes too late. Mr. Whitehead's Middle School is entirely
praiseworthy and needed in Gawcott, and, had these middle-class parents
built a school for themselves, there would have been but one unmixed
feeling of gratitude towards the reverend founder.
"Mr. Whitehead's evidence shows that he found the school house occupied as
an infant school. Only three children under eight are now in the
school. There were eighty under that age before Mr. Whitehead's
"Mr. Whitehead admits that he found the room in the occupation of an
infant school. He does not deny that it had been so occupied for the
eight years during which it had been built. He states that he called
together the subscribers of the school. But he does not say whether
these were the parties to the Trust Deed, and who subscribed to build the
school. Should he not have called together the parents of the poor
children who were to be turned out to make way for the children of these
subscribers? Had these parents consented, Mr. Whitehead's case would
be made out.
"Apart from any truth or relevance there may be in these
representations—which do not affect the right to dispose of the school for
other uses than those which the villagers desire-power to redress the evil
which exists is, I believe, nevertheless, in your lordship's hands.
Were you to express an opinion that you think, under the circumstances,
the farmers, whose children are now educated in the schoolhouse, should
build a new school for their own use, they would, under the encouragement
of your lordship's opinion, do it. They are well able to do it, and
I have ascertained from personal inquiries that many would be disposed to
take that course, if commended to them by your lordship. I have the
honour to be, your lordship's faithful servant,
Before making these representations I visited Gawcott again, called upon
the officers of the church and several of the farmers, and suggested the
erection of a schoolhouse for themselves, which would be honourable to
them and insure the gratitude and good feeling of the villagers. The
Bishop very generously did express his opinion and advised them to build
for themselves. A new schoolhouse was built, and the old one
restored to the villagers, which they enjoy to this day.
Considering how unlikely, and I fear how unacceptable, a
person I was to interfere in the matter, the willing and courteous
attention given to my representations impressed me, as it did all the
people in the district who knew or heard of the correspondence, with
grateful admiration of the impartial generosity of the Bishop of Oxford.
The Bishop was not my adversary. He had not, as the
Bishop of Peterborough had done, delivered lectures against views I held,
and in a manner challenged my answer. I was not a resident in Bishop
Wilberforce's diocese, and had no right, except on purely public grounds,
to interfere in its affairs. It showed an intrinsic love of justice
on his part that he should give heed to what he might rightfully regard as
When the Bishop died some years after, from a fall from his
horse, one night in the House of Lords I listened to various encomiums on
his character. Speaker after speaker pronounced eulogiums on his
zeal, his eloquence, and his various attainments—no one gave any instance
which impressed the public mind as to the qualities of his heart and mind;
and, though I was not the person qualified to lay a chaplet on the
Bishop's grave, I wrote to The Times citing his conduct at Gawcott
in illustration of his character.
FLIGHT OF THE EMPEROR NAPOLEON FROM BRIGHTON.
THOSE who otherwise followed Landor's advice and
"waited," next saw Napoleon III. a fugitive and an exile. In
1872, he was at Brighton at the time of the meeting of the British
Association. There arrived also a Frenchman of repute both as a
politician (who had fought at the barricades) and as a man of science—Wilfrid
de Fonvielle. He and his brother Elric were my oldest friends in
Paris. I had been their guest. Elric, a man of accomplishments
and courage, had had trouble with the Bonapartes. It was he who
accompanied Victor Noir on his visit to Prince Pierre Napoleon. But
he was not an amiable person to call upon, for he shot Victor Noir dead
without provocation, and fired three times at his friend Elric de
Fonvielle, but without killing him. The Emperor had saved the Prince
from being hanged as he ought to have been. If the reader bears this
in mind, he will understand the perturbation of the Emperor on having to
confront Wilfrid de Fonvielle, who was not indisposed to avenge the
attempt to shoot his brother Elric, as I have to relate.
It was with Wilfrid that I was most intimate. On
arriving in Brighton he came to consult with me about lodgings, as the
list at the Reception Room was exhausted. His intention was to join
his friend and co-balloonist, Mr. Glaisher, who had taken rooms at Cannon
Place, in the rear of the Grand Hotel. As Mr. Glaisher had not
arrived, I induced the landlady to allow M. de Fonvielle, his friend, to
occupy his chambers until he came. Thus he resided within a few
yards of the apartments of the Empress, and from her window she could see
his house. But he neither intended, nor sought, nor wished that
The Napoleonic fete day immediately preceded the meeting of
the British Association, and many Frenchmen, who were then in Brighton,
had congregated a good deal about the hotel. Thinking the sound of
the "Marseillaise" might remind the Emperor that liberty was still living
in France, some Frenchmen paid a band to play it under the Emperor's
window; but M. de Fonvielle very properly stepped into the hotel to
inquire if there were any objection to it on the part of the proprietors,
who were responsible for the convenience of their guests. Not
obtaining the information, he descended the steps. The bandmaster,
seeing him come from the hotel, thought he was one of the Emperor's suite,
and one of them asked whether it was right to play. On being told by
Fonvielle that "he did not know," the bandsman said, "Do you not belong to
the hotel? Seeing you come out, I thought you belonged to the
Emperor's party." It would have been easy to mislead the band and
get the terrible "Marseillaise" played, but the answer was that of a
gentleman—"No, I do not belong to the hotel; I am not of the Emperor's
party." It ended in no music being played. The band offered to
go to Cannon Place, and play the "Marseillaise" to de Fonvielle.
On the night of the address of the President (Dr. W. B.
Carpenter) in the Dome, I was standing near him, and de Fonvielle next to
me. All at once the audience on the platform and floor of the Dome
rose, we knew not why. Looking round, I said to de Fonvielle, "Here
is the Emperor," who was walking, with the aid of a stick, towards us.
M. de Fonvielle, not remembering where he was, was disgusted to see such
deference paid to the expelled adventurer who had brought such misery on
the people of France. De Fonvielle and other Frenchmen cried out,
"Shame!" "Shame!" "Don't do that!" I said; "remember you
are on English ground, and that the Emperor is an exile here. As
such, he is the guest of the nation. We receive him as we would a
Republican or a Communistic exile. Tyrant and patriot stand here on
neutral ground." My friend at once desisted, but his excitement was
The quick eye of the Emperor knew de Fonvielle, and they
steadily looked at each other. The brilliant audience in the Dome
settled down, and Dr. Carpenter was proceeding with his address, when a
local agitation was observed opposite the ex-Emperor, between the small,
compact, quick de Fonvielle and a large, diffusive, rather phlegmatic
clergyman of the Church of England (Dr. Griffiths), one of the secretaries
of the local committee. Rapid and subdued words, a sharp flash of
the eyes on the part of the French aeronaut, a sort of aquarium look on
the part of the divine, and a hasty seizing of a small parcel by the Gaul,
were all that could be made out. Immediately de Fonvielle arose with
a shrug of excitement. Doubling his marine cap under his arm, and
raising himself erect, he marched in front of the Emperor straight out of
the Dome, merely stopping as he passed me to say, "I shall see you again."
Not all the practised sagacity of the Emperor could make out
that series of movements, of ambiguous meaning. Doubt soon reached
the point of perturbation, for the dark-headed, square-shouldered,
gleaming-eyed Frenchman returned, and striding in front of the Emperor,
who might well feel relieved when he had passed him, de Fonvielle was next
seen in fierce altercation with Dr. Griffiths, to whom he presented some
oval packet not much unlike a small Orsini shell (as the Emperor might
think who had remembrances of those missives), and then withdraw it,
thrusting it into his own pocket. Immediately the clerical gentleman
began an excited speech, whereupon the Frenchman threw the packet to him.
The Doctor opened it, and said something to de Fonvielle which appeared to
appease him. Meanwhile Dr. Carpenter, knowing nothing of the
bye-play under his reading desk, went on quoting Pope until the end.
The imperial visitor must have given the Empress that evening
a curious account of the mysterious proceedings in which, to his
astonishment, a respectable clergyman of the Church of England appeared to
take a conscious part. The mystery was never explained to his
Majesty; but it was all comedy, not tragedy. Dr. Griffiths, amid his
many labours as local secretary, had acquired a sore throat, and it
occurred to him that while the President was speaking he might find time
to try a lozenge as a remedy. Seeing de Fonvielle in aeronaut marine
dress, he took him for one of the assistants provided by the forethought
of Mr. Alderman Hallett, and said to him, "I should be glad if you would
take a parcel for me to Mr. Glaisher." "Mr. Glaisher, do you say?"
"Yes, Mr. Glaisher,"' replied Dr. Griffiths. "Then I will go with
pleasure. I have been all over Brighton looking for my friend Mr.
Glaisher. Please put his address on the parcel, and I will go and
inquire for him." And accordingly he left the Dome as I have
related. Mr. Glaisher and de Fonvielle were joint editors of a work
on ballooning. De Fonvielle was the first man who took a balloon out
of Paris during the siege, over the German lines, and he was most anxious
to meet Mr. Glaisher. It was one of his objects in coming to
Brighton, and for the hope of meeting him early he was willing to forego
the pleasure of hearing the presidential address. In his eagerness
to meet his friend, de Fonvielle had forgotten all about the Emperor, and
passed before him without even seeing him.
When, however, he reached Mr. Glaisher's, he was discomfited
and astounded. It was a chemist's shop. "Mon Dieu," exclaimed
the curious Frenchman, "is my friend Glaisher a chemist and in business in
Brighton, and he never to say a word about it? How reticent these
English are! You must live among them to understand them." And
he plunged into the shop.
"I want to see Mr. Glaisher, I have a message for him from a
gentleman—a priest, I think—now at the Dome meeting. Tell him M. de
Fonvielle wishes to see him." "I am Mr. Glaisher," said the chemist.
"I have not the pleasure of knowing you. But what can I serve you
with?" "Then what is this?" exclaimed the indignant balloonist, presenting
his packet." Why, it is a note from Dr. Griffiths, inclosing a
shilling, saying he has a bad cold, and asking for a box of throat
lozenges." "Mon Dieu! And has he sent me on this infernal
errand? And I have lost the President's address, to buy lozenges for
a person I don't know; and you are not my friend Glaisher, but a chemist?"
And he darted from the shop, leaving the paper and the shilling. But
soon reflecting that as a gentleman he was bound to account for the money
he had received, he stepped back and consented to take the box.
Returning to the Dome he again marched up the reporters'
gangway, passing again before the Emperor, but no more regarding him in
his new indignation at Dr. Griffiths, of whom he demanded whom he had
taken him for, and why he had sent him to buy his lozenges. "You
shall not have them," exclaimed the irate Gaul, after displaying them, and
he thrust them back into his pocket. "You sent me to a chemist, sir,
and not to my friend Glaisher." Dr. Griffiths, understanding at last
what a mistake he had made, apologised; his indignant messenger relented,
and, handing the Rev. Doctor the box, peace was made. But the
mystery of it was unintelligible to the Emperor and to the audience, who
observed these Gallic movements. They certainly seemed ominous to me
until de Fonvielle came and explained them.
It was known that the Empress did not regard the matter with
the equanimity of her Imperial husband. The lady actually had fears
of some attempt at assassination, which were not allayed by learning that
De Fonvielle was actually living in Cannon Place, within a few yards of
her own apartments in the Grand Hotel. He did not intend being
there; it was too far from the sections. This, however, was not
known, or the Mayor, Mr. Cordy Burrows, who was rightly and assiduously
solicitous for the comfort of the Empress, would have explained the matter
to her. Mr. J. E. Mayall, the famous photographer, and chairman of
the hotel company, gave orders that no French gentleman not of the
Emperor's suite should be permitted to have apartments or to enter the
hotel, and, at inconvenience to himself, acted as a guard of etiquette and
peace while the Imperial visitors remained at the Grand Hotel.
But for the Empress, the Emperor would have remained in
Brighton. He liked the gaiety of the New Pier, and the brightness of
the scene from the Grand Hotel windows. The perilous journey the
poor lady made to this country, after the affair of Sedan, and the affairs
in Paris subsequently, had not been of a nature to reassure her. The
Empress went over Hove Place House (the property of Mr. Mayall), which the
Emperor contemplated taking. It seemed admirably suited to
him—enclosed grounds, a handsome house, near the pier, yet out of the way
of the town, and overlooking the open country Dykewards, where he could
drive for days unobserved. But nothing could reconcile the
illustrious lady to stay in the town.
There were other French gentlemen in Brighton besides M. de
Fonvielle, but they were all engaged in scientific inquiry, and had no
intention of diverting their attention from those pursuits. They
were desirous, nevertheless, of showing the Emperor that they still
maintained their political hostility towards him. When an Englishman
has triumphed over his political adversary, he will be civil to him, and
even pay him honour. The Emperor might have remained in Brighton
with perfect security. The Scriptures say that certain people flee
when no man pursueth. In a few days the novelty of the Imperial
visit would have subsided. The Association would be gone; the
Frenchmen, too, would have departed to their homes. They were all
philosophers engaged on ideas, and that never means other than limited
resources to them. They remain poor that society, which disregards
them while they live, may grow rich when they are dead.
Most lovers of the good fame of England have noticed how
Court journalists and Court officials continually gave to the ex-Emperor
and family their full reigning titles, ignoring the French people and the
Republican Government who had expelled them in the public interest.
This was international offensiveness. It was done at Brighton.
M. de Fonvielle, being deputed by the French Government to report upon the
laws of storms, resented the description of the late Emperor as "His
Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the French," and wrote to Mr. Griffith
(not Dr. the Griffiths whose name has occurred in this narrative, but the
Assistant-General Secretary) saying:—
find that M. Louis Bonaparte and family are styled in a manner which
is disregardful of the whole present state of things in France. I
have no objection to meet the ex-Emperor in a scientific forum, but I
should not be willingly a party in an Association which could be
considered as giving some assistance to any demonstration against the
French Government; and I should protest energetically, humble as may be my
individual position, against such a perversion of science for promoting
the ends of hostile factions. Consequently I think I am justified in
asking on what authority the Association has done this?
W. DE FONVIELLE."
It is to be regretted that you have felt it necessary to give a political
significance to a matter which has in no way a political bearing.
[This was not true.] It is as a foreigner who has always taken a prominent
interest in science that the ticket has been given to the late Emperor of
the French. By this course the Association has not intended to
express any opinion on the position of the late Emperor of the French as
either de facto or de jure ruler of France. [But it did it.]"
(Signed) G. GRIFFITH."
The action of Mr. Griffith was better than his explanation. The next
day a new list of foreigners attending the meeting was issued, in which
"His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the French" was changed into "His
Imperial Majesty Napoleon III." Whether the ex-Emperor inquired why
his title was changed I never heard.
The next time I saw the Emperor he was dead. I saw him
twice at Chislehurst after his decease. Death had lent dignity to
his face which it lacked when living. When he resided here as a
libertine, when he returned as an Emperor, and again as an exile, the
expression of his face was always that of an adventurer. Seeing his
end in exile without honour, it was impossible not to feel that this world
is not so bad as it is painted. Napoleon I. might have
continued to sit on the throne of the Cæsars could his word have been
depended upon, and the dead Usurper renewed and confirmed the impression
of the world that no Bonaparte could be believed on his word nor trusted
on his oath. When Napoleon III. made a triumphal entry into
Bordeaux soon after the Coup d'Etat, it was arranged that from an arch of
flowers, under which he was to pass, an imperial crown should hang,
surmounted by the words, "He well deserves it." But the wind blew
away the crown, and when the Emperor passed under the arch only a rope
with a noose at the end of it dangled there, with "He well deserves it"
standing out in bold relief above it. The noose still hangs
over him in history, and the legend also.
ORIGIN OF THE JINGOES.
ONE Sunday afternoon, in March, 1878, a meeting was
held in Hyde Park in support of Mr. Gladstone's policy on the Eastern
Question. The two principal persons taking part in it were the
Honourable Auberon Herbert and Mr. Bradlaugh. The chief supporters
of the Conservative Government of the day were the music-hall politicians,
a class of persons little distinguished for sober discernment in public
affairs or for patriotic service. A wild and vain glorious ditty,
calculated to excite the contempt of foreigners, was sung with
ostentatious applause in their convivial halls. Its best known lines
"We don't want to fight,
But by jingo if we do,
We have the ships, we have the men,
And have the money too."
A certain Lieutenant Armitt, not much heard of previously in war or
politics, assembled these jocund politicians in the park, and a conflict
ensued. It was reported in the papers that Mr. Herbert was chased
and had his clothes torn, and that Mr. Bradlaugh drew a new truncheon from
his pocket, which he fortunately did not use—probably because those who
knew him thought it undesirable to incite him to do it, as he was not a
man to be intimidated in maintaining the right of public meeting.
Afterwards a portion of the assembly set out to Harley Street, and broke
Mr. Gladstone's windows. The poet of the music-hall patriots
received a Royal letter of approval of his production, and those vinous
politicians thought themselves called upon to give some public proof of
their quality. It was not advisable that truncheons should be
produced at a Sunday meeting by any party. As I was an advocate of
the freer use of Sunday than was customary, I thought fighting on that day
would compromise the claim, and that a belligerent meeting was better held
on the Saturday, since the Sunday succeeding would give the humbler
combatants time to recover before their workshop duties on Monday
commenced. I, therefore, said the leaders of the Jingoes were better
left to their own devices on church day. I entitled my letter to the
Daily News "The Jingoes in the Park." This was the origin of
the term "Jingoes," and was the first time it was used. The public
reading it in the Daily News on the morning of March 13, 1878, the
term was taken up generally, and it was added to the nomenclature of
political literature. We had then a Music Hall majority in the House
of Commons, and the patriotism of the singing saloons and the spread-eagleism
of Lord Cranbrook, would produce a bad impression of England on the public
opinion of Europe if no one openly expressed dissent.
Mr. Justin McCarthy, in the first edition (and probably in
others) of his "History of Our Own Times," said "The origin of the term
was ascribed to Mr. Holyoake." The editor of the World
subsequently remarked, "It is a common belief that the term jingo was
first applied to a certain political party by Mr. G. J. Holyoake," to whom
I answered (November 27, 1878) that it was so, as I had certainly intended
to mark, by a convenient name, a new species of patriots who, often found
in the germ state in their native haunts, had propagated in the bibulous
atmosphere of a Tory Government, had begun to infest public meetings, and
were unrecognised and unclassified. Their characteristic was a
war-urging pretentiousness which discredited the silent, resolute,
self-defensiveness of the British people. Sir Hardinge Giffard, the
Solicitor-General of the day, in a speech at Salford, reported in the
Standard, deprecated the application of the term to the Conservative
Government, saying the "phrase was presented to the Liberal party" by Mr.
George Jacob Holyoake, who, he (the speaker) thought, "might claim better
than the accredited leader in the House to be the leader of the Liberal
party in the country, as he found brains for them." Of course he did
not mean this. His object was to disparage his political antagonists
in Parliament. A term to obtain currency must be brief, relevant to
the time, and easily spoken. The qualities I did not invent. I
had no merit save that of discerning them in the new political pretensions
of the Music Hall party and their Jingo song.
The Irish World (March 30, 1878), of New York, gave a
cartoon, in which the British Lion, with a knife and pistol in his belt, a
revolver in one hand, and a waving Union Jack in the other, is calling
upon the Jingoes in the park to follow him to demolish Mr. Gladstone's
house. The scene had a special application in the New York paper, as
a Jingo riot had broken out in Toronto. The central figure in the
cartoon is the first of the Jingoes, upon whom volumes have since been
In controversy which arose on this subject, Mr. G. J. Harney
cited St. Gingoulph as the origin of the term Jingo who may be taken
as a patron saint. The World newspaper is in favour of an
origin more German—that of the Salisburia or gingko-tree (mentioned by Mr.
A. R. Wallace in the Fortnightly Review, 1878)—"a pine with a foliage like
that of a gigantic maidenhair fern." The World says the Jingo
tree received the name of Salisburia from Smith so long ago as 1796.
If this be true, it had not outgrown its name in 1878. The Ranger
might plant a Salisburia in the Park. Then we should have a Jingo
tree as well as a "Reformers' tree." There is an abuse of the term
when applied to politicians of intelligence and sober thought who are for
the consolidation of the empire or for imperial policy. The Jingoes
are mainly the habitués of the turf, the tap-room, and the low music
halls, whose inspiration is beer, whose politics are swagger, and whose
policy is insult to foreign nations.
STORY OF THE ANTI-CORN LAW LEAGUE.
IN 1874, the projectors of "Johnson's American
Cyclopædia" desired to include in it an article on the Anti-Corn Law
League. It came to pass that, on the advice of Mr. Smalley, I was
asked to write it. I remember well that when I delivered it to the
European agent of the "Cyclopaedia," a poet known as "Hans Breitman, "he
asked me what he should pay me. I had not thought of that, thinking
there was a tariff already fixed which I should be paid per column, as is
usual in these cases. Three pounds seemed to me a probable sum.
I answered: "As I had to go to Basingstoke to see Mr. Paulton, I would add
£1 on that account," and named £4. Producing a handful of
sovereigns, Mr. Leland said, "You had better take seven." As I had
expended time in research and correspondence upon the paper, and as there
was nothing in my circumstances that made £7 inconvenient to me, I took
it. The incident is still in my memory, as that form of payment was
new to me. It was freedom of payment consistently applied to an
article on freedom of trade.
Before writing it I asked Mr. Leland if he had any
suggestions to make as to the character of the article. His reply
was sensible and characteristic. He answered: "It would be
useless. I would say, however, that I find a great disposition (and
it is very creditable) among English writers for American publications to
write so as to please Americans. It is a very hazardous experiment,
and frequently fails." I was not likely to run this risk. My
wilfulness in writing would preserve me from it. My policy is simply
to tell the reader the truth relevant to the subject, so far as I know it,
without implying that the reader is a fool if he takes a different view,
for I never forget that the readers who differ from me may be better
informed than myself. No reader is displeased who is treated with
candour and respect.
In the days of the Morning Star there appeared a short letter from Mr.
Bright to a correspondent in which the case of Free Trade was stated with
a completeness I had never seen equalled. I wrote to Mr. Bright to
ask if it remained in his mind, and if there were any special sources of
information I ought to consult—provided "his leisure, or health, or
opportunity, or wishfulness permitted him to answer." He kindly
replied as follows:—
"ROCHDALE, Sept. 23, 1874.
HOLYOAKE,—I am glad you are to
write the article on the League, but I do not know how I can help you.
The doings of the League are written in detail in the 'Anti-Bread-Tax
Circular' and in the League newspaper, and some copies of these exist.
From them, by research and study, everything connected with the movement
may be learned.
"To write much is to me burdensome, and my correspondence, diminished as
it is, is still burdensome; so I cannot sit down to tell you anything, and
indeed I do not feel as if I had anything special to tell you. If I
were in London, and could spend an evening with you, perhaps something
might be said that would assist you. My friend Mr. Paulton is a
great authority on League matters. He was its private and
confidential secretary, and a great personal friend of Mr. Cobden and
myself. He is living at Boughton Hall, near Woking; but he is in
poor health, and I doubt if he would be able to enter into the matter at
all or not.
"I do not remember anything about the letter in the Star to which you
"A good article on the League might do great good in America, and I hope
you will be able to write it so as to please yourself. I feel sure
you will do justice to your subject.
"If there is any special point on which you think I can give you an
opinion, I shall be glad to hear from you again.—
Yours very truly,
"Geo. J. Holyoake, Esq., 22, Essex Street,
Mr. Thomas Thomasson, of Bolton, who better understood the political
economy of trade than any other manufacturer of those days, and whom both
Cobden and Bright consulted when they were young men, sent me, with his
usual friendliness, information respecting all the works accessible of
Prentice, Dunckley, and others, as did Mr. W. E. A. Axon also.
Afterwards I had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Paulton, of Boughton Hall.
He reminded me of Charles Reece Pemberton. Still retaining the
contagious enthusiasm of his youth, he might be described as having an
electric animation of manner. One thing he said I remember, because
it was similar in sentiment to one Francis Place once expressed to me:—" I
do not do what I can for men because I have hope of men as they are, but
because of what they may be." It surprised me that two men so
dissimilar as Place, the solid-minded, and Paulton, the mercurial, should
have the same despair of the present and confidence in the future.
Another remark Mr. Paulton made has been made elsewhere, and must occur to
many observers and actors in agitations—namely, "There would be no rogues
were there no fools."
I was a member of the League, and my impressions of its
career, principles, and orators may, therefore, have interest for readers
of this generation. The notes Mr. Bright made on my narrative when
shown to him I indicate in brackets in this and the next chapter.
Anti-Corn Law League was a name taken by a famous association of
Manchester manufacturers [and others], founded in 1839, for abolishing all
fiscal imposts on corn. The first Manchester election of members of
Parliament, which took place in 1832, carried Free Trade candidates, that
electoral issue being then raised for the first time in England. In
1834, the first meeting of the Manchester merchants was called to consider
the question of Corn Law repeal. In 1836, a miscellaneous Anti-Corn
Law Society was formed in London which included twenty-two members of
Parliament. Among the names of the adherents were those of George Grote, the historian; Joseph Hume, the economist; Sir William Molesworth,
editor of the works of Hobbes; John Arthur Roebuck, historian of the
Whigs; Ebenezer Elliot, the Corn Law rhymer; W. H. Ashurst, a leading
promoter of the Penny Postage System; Francis Place, the chief of
working-class agitators [Place was not a working man in the common use of
the term. He was a tailor at Charing Cross in good circumstances and
of gentlemanly education.—J. B.]; and William Weir, subsequently editor of
the Daily News; Gen. Perronet Thompson, the great exponent of Free Trade.
But no intellect, however eminent and various in its force, could avail
against monopoly without money and popular opinion; and of these forces
the precursor was W. A. Paulton, a young surgeon of bright, incessant
enthusiasm, with a genius for agitation.
In 1838, a Dr. Birnie had announced at the theatre, Bolton,
Lancashire, a "Lecture on the Corn Laws." The doctor was laden with
notes, in which he got so entangled that he could not tell what he had to
say. Mr. Thomas Thomasson, afterwards the executor of Cobden, a man
of striking energy of character and commercial sagacity, being among the
auditors, said to Paulton, who was near him, "You can speak; go down on
the stage and deliver the doctor." The spontaneity and capacity
which Paulton showed on that occasion led to his being invited to lecture
himself, and ultimately he delivered three hundred lectures against the
Corn Laws throughout Great Britain. He became the private and
confidential secretary of the future League, which his eloquence and
thoroughness mainly instigated. At a dinner given to him at Bolton,
Mr. Bright made the first public speech delivered out of his native town,
Rochdale. Later in the same year Dr. Bowring, then of Free Trade
repute, being entertained to dinner in Manchester, Mr. James Howie cried
out, on Mr. Paulton's health being drunk, "Why could not we have a Free
Trade Association?" A week later one was formed, consisting of seven
persons, of which the chief was Mr, Archibald Prentice, founder of the
Manchester Examiner, who had himself, as early as 1828, advised the
foundation of such a society. A subscription of five shillings each
was adopted; £5,000 each was wanted before Corn Law repeal was carried.
Some members paid that amount, and Mr. Thomasson much more.
In 1838, Mr. Cobden first became prominent in the Manchester
Chamber of Commerce for resistance to the restrictive commercial policy of
the manufacturing trade of the country. In 1839, delegates from the
manufacturing districts were appointed to proceed to London to press their
opinions upon the Legislature. Mr. Charles Pelham Villiers, who ten
years later became President of the Poor Law Board, undertook to represent
the Free Trade question in the House of Commons. On February 19th,
1839, Mr. Villiers moved that certain manufacturers be heard by counsel,
before the bar of the House of Commons, against the Corn Laws, as
injurious to their private interests. The motion was rejected by an
overwhelming majority. On March 12th following, the day on which the
Anti-Corn Law League originated, Mr. Villiers again moved that the House
resolve itself into a committee of inquiry on the Corn Laws," when only
195 members could be found to vote for inquiry [I doubt whether so many
voted so.—J. B.], while 342 voted against it.
Discouraged and dismayed, the partisans of inquiry, who had
come up from Manchester to await the result of the motion, rushed over to
Herbert's Hotel, then standing in Palace Yard, opposite the House of
Parliament, to consider what could be done. It was in that crowded
room that Cobden, leaping on a chair, reminded the delegates of the
victorious effects of the Hanseatic League, which, three centuries
previously, had freed the trade of Hans Towns from the imposts of German
princes. "Let us," cried Cobden, "have an Anti-Corn Law League,
which shall free corn and trade also." It was then and there that
the League originated. Cobden proposed that a fund of £50,000 be
raised, and a considerable portion of that sum was subscribed in the room.
The chief Manchester commercial houses followed with subscriptions of £50
and £100 each.
The English Corn Laws, which had for their object the
restriction of the trade in grain, date as far back as 1360. At that
time the prohibition was against exportation. It was not until 1462
that an Act was passed prohibiting its free importation. The object
of the Anti-Corn Law League of 1839 was stated by the chairman (Mr. J. B. Smith) on the occasion of Paulton's first lecture, in the
Manchester Corn Exchange, "to be the same righteous object as that of the
Anti-Slavery Society, which sought to obtain for the negro the right to
dispose of himself; and the object of the League was to obtain for the
people the right to dispose of their labour for as much food as could be
got for it, in whatever market the exchange could be made." The
Leaguers little foresaw at the time the formidable work they had
undertaken, and only gradually learned themselves, as the great agitation
proceeded, the principles they had to establish. What they
discovered was that monopoly always had advocates ready made, who, sharing
in its exclusive advantages, had reasons for being enthusiastic in its
defence. Any tradesman would profit could he exclude from the market
rival articles of those in which he dealt. His profits would
increase at the expense of the purchaser. The monopolist dealer
considers this protection, but the public, who are customers of the
market, find it to be but protection on one side—the protection of the
seller, while he has his hands in the pocket of the buyer. What the
public want is free purchase in a free market, the power to procure what
they want from whomsoever has it to offer. Free buying—that is
protection to the customer. The doctrine of the purchaser is as much food
as a man can buy, for as much wages as a man can earn, for as much work as
a man can do; and is the natural and ought to be inalienable birthright of
every man who has the strength to labour and the will to work.
In other things besides corn, protection was always on the
side of the seller, until the Anti-Corn Law League freed all English
industry from restrictive imposts. These "Free Traders," as the
Leaguers were styled, were opposed by an organised party, who took the
title "Protectionist," and maintained—
(1) That Protection was necessary to keep certain lands in cultivation;
(2) that it was desirable to cultivate as much land as possible, in order
to improve the country; (3) that if improvement by that means were to
cease, there must be dependence on the foreigner for a large portion of
the food of the people: (4) that such dependence would be fraught with
immense danger. In the event of war, supplies might be stopped, for
the ports might be blockaded, the result being famine, disease, and civil
war. (5) That the advantage gained by Protection enabled landed
proprietors and their tenants to encourage manufactures and trade; so much
so that, were the Corn Laws abolished, half the country shopkeepers would
be ruined. That would be followed by the stoppage of many mills and
factories; large numbers of the working classes would be thrown idle,
disturbances would ensue, capital would be withdrawn, and no one would
venture to say what would be the final consequences.
By this formidable enumeration, it was made to appear that
the end of England was certainly at hand if the corn monopoly was
disturbed. No country in the world can hope to put on record a more
appalling set of consequences if protection is menaced. In England
they exercised a commanding influence, even over the working people, who
were induced to believe that it was for their interest that bread was made
dear. The learned as well as the ignorant, the aristocracy as well
as the small shopkeeper, were under the same uninstructed terror.
Even Sir James Graham declared in Parliament, when a fixed duty on corn
instead of a fluctuating one was proposed by Lord John Russell, that "it
would not be the destruction of one particular class in the State alone,
but of the State itself."' Sir Robert Peel at first met the effort of the
League by a sliding scale, varying with the price of wheat. This was
a thoroughly English device, worthy of the genius of a people who never
precipitate themselves even into the truth. Had Moses been an
English premier, instead of making the Commandments absolute he would have
proclaimed a sliding scale of violation.