A RELIGIOUS POEM BY
THE CHARTISTS OF HALIFAX.
My dear friends! If the dedication of a work conveys a tribute of attachment and respect, surely never was such an expression more due than from myself to you.
I do not, and I never shall, forget your conduct during my imprisonment: while professing democrats, false friends, and the nearest kindred shrunk from the excommunicated of monopoly, while the nearest and wealthiest relatives, those who had once been most eager in their friendship, expressed no sympathy and extended no assistance to me or mine, you nobly stood in their place, and showed the world that the persecuted of the rich was the well-regarded of the poor.
I do not, and I never shall, forget that glorious day, when, in your thousands you shook out the folds of the red flag over the hills of Yorkshire, to welcome me back once
more—a tribute, not to myself; but to the cause for which I had battled.
In every note of those pealing bands I heard a prophecy of our future, a prophecy, to the realisation of which we are drawing nearer every day.
In all popular movements there is much of enthusiasm, and much of despondency at times.
At one moment the expectation of immediate success is heightened almost to
conviction,—at another the reaction of a perhaps natural disappointment is deepened into despair.
According as the feelings and aspects of a movement vary, so will also the tone in which it speaks, the pace at which it travels.
That which may be sound advice and suitable language one day, may be folly and incapacity the next.
At one time a movement is to be carried by a sudden stroke, at another by a calm and almost imperceptible development.
There are too many who cannot draw the distinction—who wish always to hurry, or always to creep.
The one class ever denounces the men who comprehended when the time for action had arrived, as enthusiasts, visionaries, or demagogues.
The other vituperates those who evolve cold argument, to suit the colder hour, as half-hearted liberals, or reactionary traitors.
Thus the one section undermines the influence of the other, and incapacitates its respective advocates from doing the good work at the appropriate hour.
When the first wish to lead the people on to action, they fail;—and why? because the second class innoculate their hearers at the critical moment with the policy of a bygone hour, inapplicable to the
present—at a crisis when unity of action is above all indispensable, a half support creates want of confidence, disunion, and treachery, the people are divided between two opinions, and the
"men of action" are taunted with the failure caused only by the opposition of the "men of order!"
Reverse the case, you have the same results: perhaps at the moment when calm perseverance is about to triumph, the more ardent rush into the field, fail, create a retrogressive feeling, and the cause is lost once more. Between these two evils the popular interest has been wrecked so often!
But it should always be remembered that a democratic movement is a mixture of thought and passion: sometimes it rushes on with the shout of
battle—sometimes it stands reasoning with thoughtful mien, and folded
arms—and, according to the circumstances of the time, the one course is as dignified and wise as is the other, for that only is truly wise and truly dignified which, based on principle, is best suited to the times in which we live.
Thence the great distinction between the 10th of April, 1848, and the
10th of April, 1851—the day of action and the day of thought, and thence the failure of the former day.
The misfortune is, that the process was inverted—had the hour of thought occurred in '48, the time of action might have been in '51.
But a marshalling of mind is going on in Europe in this year of '51, far mightier than the gathering of force in '48.
Another difficulty in the way of a popular movement is, when it emancipates itself from one set of ideas to climb up to the next.
This is hardly ever done without a certain amount of disruption, disorganisation, and strife.
Each political school either emanates from or is produced by, its own set of professors.
As the intellect of the human race progresses, the scholar must necessarily outstrip his master.
But it is a hard thing for the mister to go to school again—he won't do it, he can't do it.
He has created, or come into, the movement with a fixed set of ideas—he raises the movement up to the standard of his own
intellect—he runs out the length of his mental tether, and there he stands:—not so the movement.
Truth is the mother of truths—and when the master leaves off teaching, the scholar will teach himself, and go on from where the instructor stopped.
The latter cannot believe the fact, —his old limbs cannot keep pace with the young
traveller—his dim sight cannot distinguish the new goal to which he
tends—and, fearful of the future, he drags his companion backward by the
a reactionary democrat. Then what bickerings, what strife ensues!
A portion of the school have become personally attached to their old teachers, and stand still with them, despite their better judgment.
Then what invective is poured on those who won't go further than they can see, and can't see further than the dimness of their sight allows!
The public question becomes a private quarrel—many lag behind, as the
sturdy pioneers of truth press forward in diminished numbers. Thus
in every transition state, from one set of thoughts to another, a
certain loss, a certain retardation is experienced—the night must
intervene, as we pass from the one daylight to the other!
But the onward march is soon gladdened by fresh allies, for those who are in sympathy with the idea of the age, will soon find themselves begirt by
numbers—Aye! and they will be gratified by hearing the faint cheer of a late recognition sent after them from those left far behind.
It is one of these stages of transition, through which we have just passed, and again the symptoms of new life, the advent of fresh numbers gives courage to our progress.
The elements of a great movement are extant. It needs but a calculation of powers to ascertain their capability of achieving fixed results.
The process is as simple as testing the efficiency of a machine. The operation of certain existing causes must inevitably produce a mercantile reaction; the distress of the farmer and labourer must inevitably increase from the non-removal of the originating
influence; so much poverty makes so much discontent; so much insolvency wins so many recruits among the middleclass; the raw material in the rural districts, in Ireland and elsewhere, needs but
enlightenment—needs but a systematic course of tracts and lectures to work up into the woof of democracy; there is no power in the laws to prevent this; a mighty leverage is there, it needs but application to the dead weight of monopoly.
Hitherto, one part of the people has been played off against the other, for manufacturing distress was generally concomitant with agricultural "prosperity," (that means, when the labourer was
murdered less rapidly than usual, and agricultural distress with manufacturing "prosperity," (that means, when the operative, instead of being
starved to death, was worked to death:)—now we shall soon witness the simultaneous misery of
both—a conjunction of planets that must cause the eclipse of class supremacy.
The result may be accelerated or retarded by external or internal
causes—but that result is certain—and it needs but the practised eye to see the working of the vast, invisible machinery; and to you, men of the West Riding! who have never given ear to personal contention, who have never been led away by party feeling, to you I look, above all others, to stand by the barque of freedom in the storms of faction.
Charles James Fox once said: "Yorkshire and Middlesex make all England!"
Since then many a good power has sprung up—Lancashire and the Midland are in the van, as
well—but during our recent trials, it was you, men of Yorkshire! who kept the democratic principle erect and
pure—who, by your powerful voice, by your united action, saved the Chartist body from
disruption,—and impregnated its political energies with the long-neglected germs of social knowledge.
To you, my dear friends! I now dedicate this poem, not as a tribute in any way worthy of your kindness, but merely as giving me the opportunity of once more proclaiming my appreciation of that kindness to the world.
- Beldagon Church
THE PAINTER OF FLORENCE,
A DOMESTIC POEM.
THIS is the first time I have dedicated a work to an
individual—it will probably be the last—because I hold that the pen should be devoted to the many, and because the personality of praise is too often as reprehensible as the personality of censure.
But to you, my dear friend, I feel it a duty to give the passing cheer of
fellowship—as to one of a small band in the vanguard of the people, sturdy battlers with yet almighty wrong, looking to the future in the faith of the devotee, and warring against the present the strong fatalism of a conscious right.
Alas! friend! you will give more to the future, than the future will give to
you—and the present is an antagonist that strikes hard blows at our existence.
But the men who prepare the popular mind for the coming time are, truly, practical reformers
— by revile those as enthusiasts who cannot look beyond the narrow circle of the day in which they live.
Two pioneers are requisite—he who takes the level of the distant line, and he who removes the obstructions of the immediate path.
Of what use are your labours, if your level is wrong? If the
mind is misdirected, of what use is the organisation of a people's
Proceed, then, on the path you have chosen—and therefore it is I honour you, because you have not let yourself be drawn aside from what conviction told you was your duty; because you have not feared to speak as boldly to the people, as to the people's foes
—because you have not made them the God of your idolatry, but, irrespective of popularity, have ventured to perform the part of their true
friend—have had the courage to tell them of their faults—and because you have denounced, not only the aristocracies of gold and land, but have dared to battle the
aristocracy of democracy as well. It requires but little bravery to vituperate a class, or to inveigh against a system, as long as the opinion of the many is enshrining
you:—the true bravery is to offend against that opinion when conscience so commands.
The prejudices of the poor are as great as the prejudices of the rich—and all honour to the man who dares defy them.
It requires but little honesty to resist the golden bribe of the
monopolist—the far greater honesty is shewn in resisting the bribe of the shout and
cheer—and calling down the thunder of popular indignation, too often awarded to that which should have won the approbation of an audience.
Peoples have their flatterers as well as kings.
Accept, then, my dear Julian, the dedication of the following pages, as a tribute of respect, and as a mark of friendship, from
Poem - The Painter of
THE NEW WORLD
A DEMOCRATIC POEM,
TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED QUEENDOM,
THE UNITED STATES.
I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth.
Rev, 21, i.
no one accuse me of presumption in I seeking so large an audience; the
poorest tribute may be offered to the richest treasury. The poet is
a citizen of the world, and he is glad where the barrier of different
languages no longer intercepts the travelling thought. Between the
men of America and England should be eternal union; therefore I address
them both. I write for the rising republic, as well as for the
decaying monarchy; but, alas! there is much of the dead sea apple on
either shore of the atlantic.
Men of America! thank heaven! (thank your own strong arms)
for having escaped from the corrupt legislation of this island, that
floats upon the waters like the plague-stricken hull of a stately wreck.
Within its death fraught ribs houses a people of paupers, groaning beneath
the immeasurable wealth they have created, but enjoy not. At its
doors die a million of human beings, in a land, lashed like a conquered
prey to the British Crown, that drags it down to famine and pestilence,
whence all, who can escape, fly to harden the nerve of hatred in your new
Atlantis. On its colonies the sun never sets, but the blood never
dries. In mechanical power it has outstripped the world, but that
power it employs to displace labour and starve unwilling idlers.
Every factory is more corrupt than a barrack, more painful than a prison,
and more fatal than a battle-field. Its commerce touches every
shore, but their ports have been opened by artillery, and are held by
murder. Abroad, its traders play the pirate; at home, the journeyman
is cheated by the apprentice, the apprentice by the master, the small
dealer by the wholesale dealer, the customer by both, and government
cheats all. Its landlords ruin their tenants, and then decimate and
exile them, lest they should have to support the wreck they have made;
complain of redundant population, and yet throw corn land into grass; say
their workhouses are insufficient to contain the poor, and yet cast down
the cottages in which they live.
It has been increasing its wealth, but corrupting its
manhood; trebling its churches, but losing its christianity; sending forth
missionaries, but rendering their faith hated by the acts of its
professors; building charities, but making more poor than it
relieved—stealing a pound, and asking gratitude for giving back a
farthing!—and, withal, it dazzles the world by its attitude of quiescent
But that grandeur is decaying: its colonies will fall off
like ripe fruit from a withering tree, to start up young forests of
freedom! Its commerce will die because it is unsound at the core:
foreign competition has been met by home competition, and both have been
founded on the fall of wages, and the land's desertion for the loom.
Thus home trade has been destroyed, for with the working-class it
flourishes or fades. Food is the staple wealth —and thus England has
been made a pensioner on other lands for daily bread. We can command
it still, but the hour of weakness may come: then, when we ask the nations
for a loaf, they may remember that we gave them cannon balls, and pay us
back in kind. Competition still grows—the wholesale dealer devours
the small shopkeeper; the large estate annexes the little; the great
capitalists ruin the lesser; thus the evil preys on its originators: the
middle class forced workingman to compete with workingman; now
circumstances compel them to compete among themselves—they have no
working-class reserve to fall back upon—wages are so low, they cannot
indemnify themselves any longer by their reduction, and the middle class
are fast sinking back into the level from which they rose, to leave a few
pillars of monopoly rearing their golden capitals above the prostrate
mass. Yes! wealth keeps centralising more rapidly than it
increases—that is the clue to their distress. The centralisation
of wealth makes paupers—and a system that makes paupers can never cure
pauperism; therefore the efforts to arrest the downward course have proved
vain. The poor create the poor—one pauper makes another—for, under
the present system at least, he takes for his support from those who have,
without bestowing in return; thus he drags the man next above him down to
his own platform, by an inevitable social law. Crime will increase,
for it is not the child of ignorance, but of POVERTY.
For awhile the diseased state may purge its noxious humours, but
emigration will tarry, though not till it has proven a curse—it takes away
the hands as well as the mouths—two hands will feed more than one mouth—
insufficiency of labour power as applied to the soil, not insufficiency of
the soil for the demand of the inhabitants, is the want from which we
suffer; therefore emigration takes more from production than from
consumption—an evil to a land, whose productive powers are but half
Thus, while we have been extending ourselves abroad, we have
been undermining ourselves at home; thus the poor have been sinking lower
every year—diminutive cariatides, supporting the vast fabric of monopoly,
till at last, pauperism, like a blind Sampson, shall pull down the pillar
in the temple of the Philistines. Yet, withal, they tell us that
trade is brisk—as tho' trade meant happiness! The wheels run and the
hearts break. They tell us that England is prosperous and Ireland
tranquil. Yes! the pulses of England are beating fast with fever,
and Ireland is tranquil with the lull of mortification.
Such is the aspect of my own land.
But, men of America! the seed of ruin is germinating in yours
as well. You are following in the wake of Tyre, Carthage and Rome—of
Venice, Spain, and England.
You are a republic, so was Venice—the mere republican form
secures neither prosperity nor freedom, though essential for their
existence. Political right may be enjoyed by a social slave.
Political power is but defensive armour, to ward off class aggression.
How are you using it? You are standing still while piece by piece is
being loosened on your limbs. The golden curse is in your midst—the
land is annually being gathered into larger masses—colossal fortunes are
being formed—an aristocracy is germinating—the worst aristocracy of
all—that of money and of office; the pomp and pride of equipage and
furniture is spreading—already gay liveries are dotting your thoro'fares;
already the tramp of the mercenary is heard in your streets—military glory
is beginning to poison your common sense—you are aping the vices of the
old monarchies—and your men of letters, who ought to be the high-priests
of freedom, are contaminating your intellect. With the exception of
some goodly veterans, stern old republican penmen, your literature
flutters in silks, velvets, and ostrich feathers. Your authors come
over here, and go into ecstacies about a royal procession and a courtball—they
are inoculating your mind with the old venom of Europe: look to it, young
talents of the west—better write in rough numbers and on homely themes,
than emulate the lines of Pope or Tennyson, if tuned to the servility of
And what is the cause of all this? Wealth is beginning
to centralise. It is its nature—all other evils follow in its wake.
It should be the duty of government to counteract that centralisation by
laws having a distributive tendency. Whatever political rights you
may enjoy, they will be nullified if you sink beneath the curse of
Let me draw your attention to the internal causes of a
The centralisation of wealth in the hands of a few, engenders
luxury; thus a class is created for the mere purpose of pandering to the
luxuries of the rich. This class becomes dependent on the rich, and
therefore, identified with their interests. This class again employs
another section of the people as its dependants—takes them away from
productive labour to artificial callings; unfits them for hardy
toil—demoralises them—thus forms an aristocracy of labour out of the
higher paid trades—the "better-class" mechanics; and thus the interests of
one portion of the people are severed from those of the remainder.
The "better-paid" looks down on the less fortunate—class is thus
established within class, each having its separate interests, jealousies
and objects; and an oligarchy is empowered to divide and rule. The
wealth of the latter, again enables them to hire and arm the
evil-minded—the ignorant, or the selfish in any numbers requisite to keep
the rest in awe, under the names of soldiers and police. Beyond the
pale of all these, lies the great bulk of the population. The
condition of the latter must steadily deteriorate—the more wealth
centralises, the less can individual industry contend with accumulated
capital, till at last they are obliged to compete with each other for
employment. Taxation is entirely shifted on their shoulders by
means of a reduction in wages, more than commensurate with every tax.
Pauperism requires additional taxation—taxation creates additional
pauperism. Should mechanical science and power be developed, that
which ought to be a blessing, only accelerates the evil because it is sure
to fall into the hands of the rich few who use it to cheapen labour: true,
at last the middle-class must suffer, as they are beginning to do in
England—true, at last taxation and its effects react upon themselves—true,
at last they will discover their mistake—but a people perishes in teaching
wisdom to its oppressors.
Revolution sometimes cuts the gordian knot, but this is
scarcely ever practicable, except in the earlier stages of a nation's
decay—and sometimes in the latest; it may succeed in the infancy and old
age of states, but rarely in their manhood—for in the latter period,
though the middle class may begin to look on aristocracy with a hostile
eye, they dare not subvert it—they are obliged to go forth in defence of
their own enemies, because they, too, are slaves—the only difference
between them and the poor being, that their chain is golden: anything that
unsettles credit, paralyses trade, or creates panic is their
ruin—therefore they are "men of order;" they have still too much to lose,
therefore they are reactionary. Governments, know this: they bridle
the middle class with a curb of gold, they control the poor with a rod of
All, then, in that stage of society, depends upon the working
class—but when over toil, disease, and famine have destroyed their bodily
strength, and when centralisation has enabled government to wield its
force with the rapidity and precision of a machine; revolution as
dependent on the working class, is an almost vain endeavour. The
people have lost heart—and those who still retain the courage—lack the
bone and muscle. The best fed, and the best grown men of the country
are in the hue of government, and, by the touch of a telegraphic wire, by
the whirl of a few engines, can be thrown in any numbers, at any time, on
any given point. In such a state of society—(the manhood, or fullest
development of our social system) isolated riot may be frequent,
revolution is impossible. Witness Ireland! Flight, wholesale
flight! emigration (the coward's refuge!) is all left the inhabitants of
that unhappy land, and tranquility reigns there so profound, that the
troops are withdrawn from the graves of the murdered millions, to coerce
what little effervescence may be supposed to linger in the British heart.
Witness England! every year the revolutionary element has become more
languid—every year it has sought some more quiescent means of elevation.
Some tell us, this betokens the march of mind—the progress of
intelligence: mind has progressed, but force and mind are not antagonistic
agents—it is the progress of exhaustion, the march of bodily decay.
The animal spirits of the people are destroyed by toil, their physical
strength is worn down by hunger-they are wrecks of men, and thence die
In the old age of states, (the decay of the existing social
system) revolution again becomes possible, from the fact that a new
element of discontent becomes active—the hitherto prosperous middle class
begin to suffer, they are still strong in mind and body, and, having less
to lose, they, too, grow revolutionary.
Working men of America! You have not arrived at either
stage of weakness yet. Fortunes as colossal, monopolies as threatening as
ours are forming among you. You do not yet feel their effects very
keenly, because of the productive powers of your soil, and the varied
resources of your country. Let the present system progress much
longer, let oligarchy be firmly seated, the resources of the land will be
but so much additional strength to the monopolist—and the rich interior
prove a tantalizing vision to the crowded seaboard.
Republicans of America! look to your remedy:
ASSOCIATION, association, not local, but national—applied to both
machinery and land. You still possess political power: use it to
develope co-operative labour, and to restrict the centralisation of
capital in the hands of a few—not by tyrannical laws, but by indirect and
gradual legislation. The poor of England, reft of political power,
are, I fear, sunk too low to raise themselves by associative means alone.
They have waited too long, capital is too far in advance—and they possess
not that which you still enjoy, the franchise. Our hope lies in the
fact, that the present system is sinking from its own corruption—reversing
the case of Saturn, the offspring of class government, taxation, crime,
and pauperism are devouring their own parent; our hope lies in the
knowledge, that the falling middle class will be forced, by the pressure
of circumstance, to join the proletarian ranks. Our danger is, that
we should unite BEFORE THE TIME—unite upon terms
based on middle class advantage only.—If we unite now, such must be
the result, for we are not strong enough at present to dictate equal
terms, and what strengthens the middle class without strengthening us in
the same proportion, throws us further from the goal of freedom.
Such is the living aspect of society, on either side of the
Atlantic. In the following pages, I have endeavoured to shadow forth
the successive phases through which the nations of the earth have passed,
to show how the working classes have been made the leverage by which one
privileged order has subverted another—the ruling power constantly
expanding, from the royal unit to the feudal nobility, and thence down to
the more numerous middle class, always including larger numbers in the
elements of government,—till progression reached that turning point, where
it vibrated between reaction and democracy. At that point, hitherto
in the world's history, reaction has always won the day, but never once
from an inevitable law: it has ever been owing to an external force, or to
the ignorance and folly of the people. Recently, owing to a
combination of both causes: the semi-barbaric power of Russia—the
semi-barbaric ignorance of the agriculturalists of France.
England and America now hold the balance of the future—the
great neutral powers of the East and West—and France is the fulcrum on
which they turn. These are the only three countries in the world,
where the present realisation of democracy is possible. In America,
a young nation, because it has not gone too far to recall its errors,—in
France and England, because they have, step by step, moved up every form
of the social school. In the rest of continental Europe, democracy
is far distant—it has yet to pass through the grades of
"constitutionalism"—the rule of the middle class. Royalty subverted
hierocracy; feudalism subverted royalty; plutocracy subverted
feudalism,—and at that point we stand—the next Stage is
DEMOCRACY OR REACTION. A revolution may seat democracy in
power, in both Germany and Italy: but that power will not last, for its
victory will be premature: A hot-house plant placed under a March-sky must
perish. A stage on the road to freedom was never yet overleaped with
impunity. The secret of victory is—
NOTHING BEFORE ITS TIME.
The test of the statesman is to know when that time has come—the duty of
the people is, never to let it pass.
Free citizens of the republic! my country has been called the
"Ark of Freedom"—but in yours I see its Ararat, and to you, at whose hands
Shelley looked for vindication and immortality, a humbler bard now
dedicates his work.
Unenfranchised subjects of the monarchy! To you also, I
address these pages, written chiefly with my blood while a prisoner in
solitude and silence. You and I have suffered together in the same
cause—we are suffering now—and we will battle on.
Poem - The New World