Memoirs of a Social Atom (09)

Home Up American Cousins Miscellanea Main Index Site Search
 


 

[Previous Page]

 
CHAPTER XL

"THE NATIONAL REFORMER"


ONE Sunday, in the winter of 1859-60, Charles Bradlaugh, who still called himself "Iconoclast," was announced to lecture in Manchester.  I had not seen him since the ignominious collapse of the "Tyrannicide" trial.  But we were good friends then, and always afterwards.  I had pleasant recollections, too, of an afternoon and evening which my wife and I, fresh from our honeymoon, had spent at his home in Hackney.  Of course I went to hear him in Manchester.  The expedition had a comical consequence.  A baby had come to us by that time, and our little household in Hulme was further augmented by a visit from my wife's sister.  Nothing had been said when I left home about company to dinner.  After his morning's lecture, however, I asked the lecturer to come and take "pot luck" with me.  The invitation was readily accepted—all the more readily because, he said, he had something to say to me.  There was consternation in Cuba Street when I landed with a visitor—not because the visitor was not welcome, but because nothing had been provided for his entertainment.  The feast (suitable to our means and circumstances) consisted of a small steak, a few potatoes, and an apple pudding—the first article on the menu barely enough for three, certainly not for four.  But the ladies were equal to the occasion.  Bradlaugh and his host dined on steak and potatoes in a parlour not much bigger than a cupboard, while the hostess and her sister did the best they could with potatoes and pudding in the kitchen!  It was rather a memorable event, that Sunday dinner, for it resulted in the end in a complete diversion of the current of my career.

    Down to that moment I had had no notion of ever rising to any higher position than that of printer's reader.  I had absolutely no ambition beyond that.  Work of any honest sort I was willing to do for a living; but literature, so far as I had any capacity for pursuing it, was, I thought, a thing too sacred to be associated with pelf.  The hands were for wages; but the brain was for nobler uses.  It was a degradation of intellect to accept payment for its products.  The idea was romantic.  Nevertheless, I have never been able to get thoroughly rid of it.  When I heard that men like Thornton Hunt or George Augustus Sala wrote, not what they approved or believed, but what they thought would please their patrons or the public, I could feel nothing but contempt for them.  Such doings were dishonest, and worse—they were a prostitution of the intellect.  Nor have I to this day been able to get over a feeling of utter disgust when I hear of political journalists transferring their services as readily as they change their garments from one party paper to another.  It has luckily been my good fortune to fall in with directors of the press who have respected at all times the conscientious convictions of their subordinates.  And these subordinates of the press, I am satisfied, would have done better work and earned a wider respect if, having convictions, they had always insisted on keeping them in mind.  But I am digressing again.

    Mr. Bradlaugh, after that comical little dinner in Manchester, unfolded a scheme which some of his friends in Sheffield were promoting for the establishment of a weekly paper.  It was to be Radical in politics, and Freethought in theology.  Would I become one of the political contributors?  The proposition took me aback.  It had never entered my head that I could be a contributor to anything.  The Buxton Visitor had not at that time cast its effulgent light over the world.  Even if it had, it would have counted for nothing.  It was true that I had written a few letters to the papers; but these also counted for nothing.  Mr. Bradlaugh reminded me that I had written an essay on Sir John Eliot for one of his earlier periodicals.  Still I hesitated.  The more I hesitated the more my friend pressed his point.  Well, I would try.  The result was that the contributions of Caractacus appeared every week in the National Reformer for many years—until, in fact, other duties prevented the writer from continuing them.  Mr. Bradlaugh was an indulgent editor, for never was a single article rejected or a single sentence altered.  Caractacus's effusion was generally the chief political item in the National Reformer.  But Mr. Bradlaugh accompanied his proposition with a promise—the promise to pay a modest price for each contribution.  Though the promise had no weight with me, and I did not hold it binding, it was not altogether vetoed, for my small family would likely become larger and my small income more inadequate.  As everybody knows, Bradlaugh's financial circumstances were never very prosperous; but I owed infinitely more to him for comfort and help in adversity than the insignificant score I wiped off the slate when I obtained permanent employment in Newcastle-on-Tyne.

    About the time the National Reformer was projected, a notable Yorkshireman was returning to England after a few years' residence in America.  This was Joseph Barker.  Mr. Barker was a man of great natural ability.  Whether in writing or in speaking, he had an incisive power which few other men of his time had.  But he was plausible rather than convincing.  Nor was he much abashed, as we shall see, when his own arguments were brought in evidence against him.  If Mr. Barker had been less given to change, less saturated with egotism and pomposity, he would have been a considerable power in the State.  But he never seemed to know his mind for longer than a month or two together.  Thus it happened that he boxed both the political and the theological compass.  He began as a Methodist in Hanley; then he was a Unitarian in Lancashire; then a Barkerite in Newcastle; then a Freethinker in America; and then—well, he was still a Freethinker when he returned to the old country.  Later he went back to some form of orthodoxy, and died in it.  Barker's speeches and writings were spotted and dotted with epigrams and dogmas.  Indeed, as I knew the man, he was nothing if not dogmatic.  And he was as cocksure after every turnabout as if he had always crowed from the same dunghill.  Emerson's doctrine suited him exactly: "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  No such hobgoblin troubled Joseph Barker.  Whatever the particular housetop on which he happened to be strutting or swaggering, he spoke his mind "as hard as cannon balls," utterly regardless of the fact that he had not long before been hurling cannon balls from altogether different elevations.  It is true, too, that he had audacity against the world.  There occurred an instance that would have been sublime if it had not been so supremely ludicrous.  When Barker was in America, he had written a letter against slavery which was perhaps the finest piece of vituperation he had ever penned.  But when the Civil War broke out, he took to delivering lectures in favour of the Southern slave-owners.  One night somebody produced and read the letter he had written a few years before.  Was he the Joseph Barker who had written it?  "No," was the astounding reply.  "It is, as everybody knows, a physiological fact that the particles of the human frame are all changed in the course of every seven years.  More than seven years have elapsed since that letter was written; therefore I am not the Joseph Barker who wrote it!"

    But Joseph Barker at the end of 1859 was coming back to England with a great reputation as a Radical and a Freethinker.  He had owned and edited periodicals before he had crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic.  His admirers also, I think, had presented him with a printing-press.  Such of his old friends as still remained faithful to the wanderer proposed to repeat the gift, and set him up again with the means of reaching and preaching to the multitude.  And then another idea was suggested.  Instead of starting two papers to cover the same ground—one for Bradlaugh and the other for Barker—why not join forces, and make Barker and Bradlaugh joint editors of a single venture?  The proposal was accepted.  It was seen from the outset, however, that a joint editorship, which would work very well with two ordinary propagandists, would not work at all with two such masterful men as Bradlaugh and Barker.  So a peculiar arrangement was adopted.  When the National Reformer appeared on April 14th, 1860, it was found that the first half of it was under the exclusive direction of Joseph Barker, while the rest was under the exclusive direction of Charles Bradlaugh.  Very soon Mr. Barker began to criticise, and then to denounce, the articles that appeared in Mr. Bradlaugh's half of the paper.  These criticisms and denunciations took the insidious form of answers to imaginary correspondents.  It was the contributions of Caractacus that seemed to inspire the greatest dislike, especially when the subject under discussion was Garibaldi, or Louis Napoleon, or the American War; for Mr. Barker, in respect to the rights of revolutionists and of negroes, was already beginning to turn his back upon himself once more.  Of course there were rejoinders now and then, and once Caractacus threw down a challenge for a set discussion on some doctrine that had been asserted and disputed.  But the whole thing became so ludicrous at length that the dual arrangement had to be abandoned.  There was a sharp struggle for supremacy; Mr. Bradlaugh became sole editor and eventually sole proprietor of the paper; and the National Reformer, with the exception of a short interval during a serious illness, continued to be issued under his control and direction till the day he died.

    Mr. Bradlaugh had other colleagues who proved in the end hardly more satisfactory than Joseph Barker.  One of these was Edward Aveling; another was Annie Besant.

    Aveling was a young man of immense promise when he first connected himself with the National Reformer.  The variety of his gifts, as then and later shown, was astonishing.  A doctor of science of the University of London, he was also an actor, a dramatist, and a general compiler of scientific works.  He translated Ibsen, and he dramatised "Judith Shakspeare."  For a year or two Aveling was a devoted adherent of Bradlaugh's and a regular contributor to the National Reformer.  And then he went off into Socialism, played at man and wife with the daughter of Karl Marx, led what appears to have been a dissolute and abandoned life, and perished miserably in 1898.  Eleanor Marx died by her own hand—driven to that act of desperation, as certain piteous letters of hers published afterwards indicate, by Aveling's unpardonable misbehaviour.  The author of the mischief did not long survive the distracted Eleanor.  When he in turn was carried to the grave, it was remarked that "not one of his brethren of the cause was present at Woking to bid farewell to his ashes."  The reason of the neglect is to be found in an article in Justice for July 30th, 1898, explaining "what drove Eleanor Marx to suicide."  It was not likely that "brethren of the cause" would have much respect for a man who had behaved so ill as Aveling had to the daughter of a high priest of Socialism.

    Mrs. Besant became a recruit of Mr. Bradlaugh's about the same time as Dr. Aveling.  But she remained longer in the ranks.  And while she remained it must be admitted that she fought as valiantly as any.  Mr. Bradlaugh was not so much her friend as her idol.  Able as she was, and strong-minded as she appeared to be, she was yet the very creature of circumstances.  Mrs. Besant made the acquaintance of Thomas Scott, and became a Rationalist; made the acquaintance of Charles Bradlaugh, and became a Freethinker; made the acquaintance of Madame Blavatzky, and became a Theosophist.  While she was associated with Bradlaugh, she was so influenced by the vigorous intellect of her idol that she imitated his manners in private, his gestures and methods of argument on the platform.  And not very long afterwards she was worshipping a stout old lady who smoked cigarettes.  It was simply amazing that she who could not accept the miracles of the Bible should find comfort in the miracles of the Mahatmas.  Mrs. Besant had strained at a gnat, but had somehow managed to swallow a camel!  The whirligig of her strange career, however, did not stop even at Theosophy.  It was announced in 1894 that she had become a Buddhist.  Seven years elapsed, and then we heard that she was touring the North of India in a Buddhist dress, proclaiming her belief that she was a Hindoo in a former birth!  My acquaintance with the lady was but slight.  Once she came to dinner with us.  It was a modest little repast enough; but she need not have distressed the poor hostess by speaking of it, as she did more than once, as a luncheon.  Worse was to come.  The hostess was also a mother.  And the great lady—for she had lost none of her fine-lady airs by associating with the common people—completed her own discomfiture by the manner in which she pretended to kiss the children.  "She need not have kissed them at all," said the mother; "but if she did, she might have put some heart and feeling into the process, instead of touching them as though they were toffy, and would soil her gloves."  From all which it may be concluded that Mrs. Besant, her remarkable abilities notwithstanding, did not make a very favourable impression in our household.


 
CHAPTER XLI

CHARLES BRADLAUGH UGH


MR. BRADLAUGH filled so large a space in the public life of England at the close of the nineteenth century that it may not be uninteresting if I here tell a little of what I knew about him.  It has already been mentioned that he came to be known to me, or I came to be known to him, in 1858.  Thenceforward no opportunity of renewing the acquaintance was ever lost.  From time to time he was in the habit of stopping at my house when he came round on his lecturing tours.  Also at another period I accepted an invitation to breakfast with him every morning till he could tell me of something to my advantage.  So in one way and another I knew him perhaps as intimately as most of his friends.

Charles Bradlaugh
(1833-61)

    That Mr. Bradlaugh had his weaknesses goes without saying.  Who is without these little disorders?  There was, indeed, much egotism in the man, but it was a splendid egotism—at all events an egotism that may have surprised, but did not offend other people.  Nor was it concealed from his associates.  I have heard him myself jocularly proclaim and confess the impeachment.  And it had its origin in the knowledge he possessed of his own power.  Mr. Bradlaugh—it was amusing at times to hear him talk of The Bradlaugh—would never have won the position he held in the country if he had not, like Lord Beaconsfield, thoroughly believed in himself.  It was this belief in himself that lay at the root of the vanity which was the one conspicuous defect of his character.  There are some, I dare say, who would hold that he was on occasion a trifle arrogant too.  This trait, however, was so much more seeming than real that only persons who may have smarted from an angry lash of his tongue on a platform would magnify a small infirmity of temper.

    People who saw nothing but the public side of Bradlaugh, which was probably, after all, his worst side, had little or no idea of his personal or social attractions.  When enjoying the company of his friends, he was the most courteous and entertaining of men.  It was delightful, for instance, to listen to his account of his adventures in the army.  An officious clergyman, when as a mere youth he had begun to take part in public discussions, got him discharged from his employment.  Rendered desperate by this scandalous intervention, he entered Her Majesty's service.  The regiment in which he had enlisted was a regiment of foot; but the sergeant of the foot regiment, owing a shilling to the sergeant of a dragoon regiment, paid him with a recruit!  The young soldier was thus, without being consulted, transferred to the cavalry service.  It was all one to Bradlaugh, however.  Being sent to a barracks in Ireland, he speedily became popular with his comrades, who called him "Leaves," first because he used to talk to them about teetotalism, and next because he was fond of books.  The tales he told of the tricks and escapades that marked his career in the Irish barracks "kept the table in a roar."  But it was probably not often that he had leisure for these pleasant indulgences.  That he had few amusements may be inferred from the intense and busy life that he led; yet the few he favoured were not clumsily pursued.  Thus he was an accomplished hand at chess and billiards, while his feats as an angler, I understood, have seldom been surpassed.

    Not the least striking nor the least admired of Bradlaugh's characteristics were his industry and his energy.  Whatever his hand found to do he did it with all his might.  His motto was "Thorough."  And he lived up to it.  I am satisfied that his days would have been longer in the land if, heeding the frequent warnings he received, he had presumed less on the magnificent strength he had once enjoyed.  But he could no more restrain himself than sparks can refrain from flying upwards.  It was his custom at one period, while immersed all the week in commercial transactions (I think they had to do with a scheme for converting Italian sand into steel), to travel through the Saturday night away into the distant provinces, to deliver three lectures on the Sunday, and then on Sunday night to travel back again, so as to be ready for business on Monday morning.  If he happened to stay all night at a friend's house (as he did often in mine), the fire-grate of his room would be found when he quitted it filled with fragments of the letters he had answered or of the documents he no longer needed.

    Never a moment idle, he lived the lives of half a dozen ordinary men.  No wonder that he collapsed at a comparatively early age.  Bear in mind also that his lectures involved no slight amount of physical as well as intellectual strain.  It is true that the preparations he made were not of an elaborate character when he had once mastered his theme.  And, besides, he sometimes lectured on one subject many times over.  But, however often he may have treated the theme, he always made it a point, he told me, of drawing up a fresh outline—usually on a single sheet of note-paper—before going down to the lecture hall.  Now and then he would seem to allow himself to be carried away in his discourse by his own passions and emotions.  A very cataract of words, uttered with all the power and vehemence of a Stentor, would, on these occasions, sweep his audiences before him as in a torrent or a whirlwind.  And then at the end of the final outburst he would sink to his seat on the platform—panting, perspiring, exhausted.  The result of these efforts, as I often sorrowfully witnessed on the ride home, was such a waste of tissue as no living man, though he were as strong as a Samson, could long withstand.

    Here I am tempted to tell a tale out of school.  It would not have been told (or rather retold) if I did not know that the humour of the incident was as highly enjoyed by the gentleman chiefly concerned in it as by those who witnessed it.  A party of friends from Newcastle were on their way to spend a brief holiday in Ireland.  Among them was Thomas Burt, then newly-elected member of Parliament for Morpeth.  They were seated in a train at Carlisle ready to start for Dumfries en route to Stranraer.  Suddenly there was a commotion on the platform.  A working man had been deprived of his seat, and was swearing and gesticulating at large.  The Newcastle travellers invited him to take a vacant seat among them.  The man was still in a rage.  "Joe Cowen shall hear of this," he muttered.  The travellers pricked up their ears.  "Joe Cowen?" said one of them: "who is he?"  "Wat! nivvor hard of Joe Cowen?  He's wor member, and winnot see a warking man wranged."  "Oh, then, you come from Newcastle?"  "No, aa divvent; aa belang Dor'm, and wark at Medomsley."  "You will know Mr. Crawford, then?" (William Crawford was then the agent of the Durham miners.)  "Aa shud think se—hard him at aall wor demonstrations."  "Do you know Mr. Burt too? "  "Wat!  Tommy Bort? Aa ken him as weel as aa ken ma ain brither."  Further leading questions and much silent chuckling.  "Hard him at wor last demonstration.  Tommy's varry good—varry good for a skuyl-room.  But Charlie Bradlaugh's the man for the oppen air."  Then followed great praise of Bradlaugh's oratory.  And then the train stopped at a wayside station, and the man from Medomsley, bidding his acquaintances good-bye, staggered across the platform to the exit.  "Good for a school-room," while it added to the mirth of the party, was accepted as a testimony that the intellectual predominated over the physical powers of the member for Morpeth.

    The incident showed the estimation in which Mr. Bradlaugh was held by admirers all over the country.  But some who listened to his stormy outbursts were at times inclined to say that the orator was a windbag.  A different estimate would have been formed if they had heard him lecturing on what he called the "God Idea."  No heat, no passion, never a superfluous word throughout that masterpiece of exposition and reasoning, as I once heard it in Newcastle.  Equally effective, and for the same reason, was his speech at the Bar of the House of Commons, as well as other speeches of his in defence of the rights of his constituents.  The sustained power and the dignified restraint of these deliverances must have struck everybody who read the reports of them.  No statesman in Lords or Commons could have done better—perhaps so well.

    When I knew Mr. Bradlaugh first, he was regarded by all the so-called respectable classes of the community as a dangerous, desperate, not to say disreputable character.  Iconoclast, as he then called himself, found few friends save among pitmen, factory hands, and other sections of the working classes.  If Mr. Bradlaugh had taken to breaking windows, or even breaking heads, instead of breaking images, he could not have been held in greater disfavour.  Why, I remember on one occasion, when he lectured at Wigan, the popular resentment against him was so strong that the hotel in which he took refuge was surrounded and invaded by a raging mob.  Nor did public opinion change towards him during the whole period of his many years' struggle to obtain a seat in Parliament.  Even after he had been duly elected, the House of Commons itself adopted the unconstitutional procedure of refusing to acknowledge his return.  Nay, the officials of the House, acting on orders from above, expelled him from the precincts of St. Stephen's by physical force.  And yet not many years after these unwarranted and outrageous transactions, prayers and supplications were offered up in churches and chapels for his recovery from a serious illness!

    The conduct of the House of Commons in the matter of the election for Northampton was as foolish as it was mean.  The House allowed itself to be led into a quagmire by Lord Randolph Churchill and Sir Stafford Northcote, though the way to it seems to have been prepared by Mr. Speaker Brand.  Blinded by prejudice and malice, the House committed the extraordinary folly of resolving that Mr. Bradlaugh, holding an unimpeached return for the borough of Northampton, should not be permitted to take the oath prescribed by law.  I remember writing of this piece of stupidity at the time:—"The resolution adopted on March 6th, 1882, has prolonged the Bradlaugh trouble.  As a plaster may conceal a wound without healing it, so a resolution may obscure a difficulty without getting rid of it.  John Wilkes was expelled from the House because he was detested by the Tories of his day.  Subsequently, however, the House had to submit to the humiliation of expunging from its records the resolutions it had passed in reference to him.  The opponents of the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh are preparing the way for a similar humiliation."

    Here was a safe prophecy. Before nine years were passed the prophecy was fulfilled.  The wrongful orders of 1882 were erased in 1891.  But Mr. Bradlaugh was then lying on his death-bed.  Nor did he live long enough to learn that the House of Commons had at last done him justice.  Public feeling in respect to him, however, had by that time undergone a complete revulsion.  He had won by his wise and urbane conduct in Parliament the good will of all classes and parties in the country.  The Leader of the House, Mr. W. H. Smith, the successor of Sir Stafford Northcote, paid a respectful visit to the dying man's residence; and, when he was no more, speeches in lamentation of the loss the country had sustained were made from both sides of the House—that very House from which only nine years before he had been forcibly, ignominiously, and in violation of law, expelled.

    No public man within my recollection was the mark and object of more calumnies and falsehoods than Charles Bradlaugh.  Repeated from mouth to mouth, from platform to platform, from pulpit to pulpit, these stories and inventions were often of the most puerile and paltry complexion.  Almost every week the National Reformer denied this or that lie.  But sometimes, when the offender was particularly offensive, he was compelled to apologise and send a handsome subscription to a charity fund in order to avoid a prosecution for libel.  The most cruel falsehood of all, however, was circulated when Mr. Bradlaugh had been six years in his grave.  It was contained in a book of reminiscences which Mr. C. A. Cooper, the editor of the Scotsman, published in 1897.  Mr. Cooper therein asserted, on the alleged authority of a member of the House of Commons, that the Reform League at the period of the great Reform agitation had organized a riot in London, to be followed or accompanied by a series of fires, and that Mr. Bradlaugh, false and treacherous to his own colleagues, disclosed the plot to the Home Secretary, with the result that there was no outbreak and no incendiarism.  Mr. Bradlaugh may have been many things which people like Mr. Cooper's informant reprobate; but he was certainly neither a fool nor a scoundrel.  I took the trouble to refer the matter to Mr. George Howell, who, as secretary of the Reform League from its commencement to its dissolution, was privy to all its proceedings.  "The whole story," he wrote to me, "is a pure invention, a fabrication from beginning to end."  And I suggested to Mrs. Bradlaugh-Bonner that she should, in vindication of her father's memory, so wantonly aspersed, demand from Mr. Cooper an explanation or an apology.  The demand was made; but Mrs. Bonner was not favoured with an answer to her letters.

    Meeting Mr. Cooper in Madeira in the spring of 1901, I called his attention to the injustice he had done to Mr. Bradlaugh.  The statement he had published, he said, was made to him by an Irish member of Parliament, whose name he privately mentioned.  If a new edition of his book should be issued, he would, he added, after what I had told him, certainly modify or withdraw the statement.  As to not answering Mrs. Bonner's letters, he said that he abstained because he did not want to be drawn into a controversy.


 
CHAPTER XLII

THE SLAVEOWNERS' WAR


IT was while I was residing at Manchester, the seat and centre of the suffering which followed, that the civil war between North and South broke out in the United States.  So I saw the beginning of that appalling period known as the Cotton Famine.  The exigencies of the conflict compelled the Northern or Federal Government to blockade the Southern ports.  Hence no produce from the Cotton States could reach the mills in Lancashire.  Though the manufacturers made almost frantic efforts to obtain supplies elsewhere, the factories had gradually to close from one end of the county to the other.  The state of the people was terrible; but the privations they endured, mitigated rather than removed by the organization of relief works, were borne with heroic fortitude—all the more heroic because, knowing the cause of the trouble in America, they refused to be misled into supporting a policy which, while it would have terminated their own miseries, would have riveted afresh, and perhaps for centuries, the shackles of the slave.

    The public mind of England was in a condition of strange ignorance respecting American affairs at the time the great struggle commenced.  Some of us—friends of freedom everywhere—were familiar with the great Anti-Slavery Movement.  William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Theodore Parker were names that ranked in our calendar of braves alongside those of Joseph Mazzini, Louis Kossuth, and Victor Hugo.  But the great bulk of the English people knew nothing of the struggle across the Atlantic—of the "irrepressible conflict" impending there, of the Underground Railway, of the Fugitive Slave Law, of the fight for Kansas and Missouri, of John Brown's heroic descent on Harper's Ferry.  Even the party names—Re-publicans, Democrats, Free-Soilers—had little or no meaning for people here.  Indeed, speaking generally, we were about as ignorant of American politics as we were of politics in Morocco or Bokhara.  When, therefore, the war began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and the torch was set to a conflagration which veritable seas of blood failed for nearly four years to extinguish, the world at large was in a state of wonderment as to the cause and merits of the quarrel.  It was while the public mind was in a state of vacuity that an astute gentleman of Southern proclivities obtained possession of the public ear.  This was Mr. James Spence, of Liverpool.  Mr. Spence, writing long letters to the Times, set up the theory that the tariff, and not the negro, was the cause of the war.  And as the Southern States were for Free Trade and the Northern States were for Protection, it was the Southern States, he contended, that were entitled to British sympathies.  So was public opinion warped and misled at the outset.

    The first clear note on the right side was sounded by John Stuart Mill in the Westminster Review.  But before this note was struck, large numbers of our people and nearly all our newspapers had already taken sides.  Mr. Mill's article, however, helped to arrest the spread of the heresy.  We were paying the penalty, he said, of our neglect of contemporary events abroad.  If we had kept ourselves informed of American affairs, we should never have fallen into the error of misunderstanding them.  Then followed an exposition which made the whole quarrel as transparent as a point in our own polity.  The Northern States, it was true, were not for uprooting slavery in the way that Garrison was.  But they had adopted a policy which would inevitably extinguish that hateful institution in the end.  That policy was that slavery should not be permitted to extend beyond its present borders.  But to limit slavery, as the slaveowners knew, was to throttle it.  Slave labour could be profitably applied only to the simplest form of cultivation—the cultivation of cotton, for instance.  Cotton, however, exhausted the soil in a moderate number of years.  Maryland and Virginia, exhausted already, had become mere slave-breeding States.  Other States were following in the same downward groove.  If, therefore, the "peculiar institution" was to be preserved, fresh slave territories must be opened.  But the Northern States had set their faces against any such procedure.  Moreover, the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency of the Republic had emphasised the determination of all the free parts of the country.  What, then, was to be done?  Slavery was threatened with ruin.  There was only one way to save it.  The Slave States must secede from the Union, get rid of the hampering restrictions of Abolitionists, and proclaim a great Slave Empire.  The war which followed this attitude and action was thus to all intents and purposes a war for slavery.  The working people of England soon saw to the root of the issue, though other classes did not.

    The question that was going to be fought out in America, that was going to cost hundreds of thousands of lives, that was going to lay waste tracts of territory almost as large as Europe itself, was the greatest question of the centuries.  It was greater than the Great Rebellion, greater than the French Revolution, greater than the War of Independence; for it involved the slavery or freedom of the worker all over the world.  The leaders of the Southern Confederacy were the evangelists and apostles of a new dispensation.  Slavery in their eyes was a divine institution.  It was not only to be the corner-stone of a new edifice; it was to be spread as a blessing from heaven to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Nor were the black races alone to be blessed with the beneficent rule of subordination.  All who laboured were to be subjected to the same wise restraints and restrictions.  Slavery, said Howell Cobb, was the only method of reconciling the conflicting interests of labour and capital.  "By making the labourer himself capital the conflict ceased and the rival interests became harmonized."  Such were the brazen arguments of the slaveowners.  And the triumph of their arms would have meant the re-establishment for years to come of a base and brutal barbarism—nay, the extension of that barbarism to corners of the globe yet unaffected by its blighting and degrading influence.  So I say the question involved in the struggle between North and South was as vital as any that has been fought out since history began.

    Doubts on the subject never entered some of our minds—mine among the number.  Having written much in defence of the North and against the South in the National Reformer, I was invited by a Huddersfield printer to compile a rather elaborate pamphlet on what was then the burning question of the hour.  This pamphlet—"The Slaveholders' War: an Argument for the North and the Negro"—proved one thing clearly, that the right to maintain and extend slavery lay at the root of the great conflict.  The declarations of Southern leaders and the resolutions of Southern conventions were cited in great numbers to sustain a thesis that nobody disputes now.  Two honours befell the production.  One was that the author was appointed a vice-president of the Union and Emancipation Society—a society that did more, under the guidance of Thomas Bailey Potter (long the moving spirit of the Cobden Club), than any other organization in the United Kingdom to keep the country from falling into a terrible blunder.  The other honour was a translation of the pamphlet into Gujratee, one of the languages of India.  So translated by Jaboolie Roostum at the instance of a Parsee gentleman, the work comprised about fifty pages of curious-looking matter, bearing the imprint of the Duftur Ashkara Press, Bombay.  "The publication," the translator wrote to me, "will convince you that India, though distanced from Europe by thousands of miles, is not backward in showing humanity towards a certain race of beings who suffer under the bonds of slavery."  And a generous commentator, apropos of the compliment, cited the stanza which a friendly poet had written to the author of "Lalla Rookh":—


I'm told, dear Moore, your lays are sung
    (Can it be true, you lucky man?)
By moonlight in the Persian tongue
    Along the streets of Ispahan.


    No crisis in which we ourselves were not directly concerned ever excited, I think, the interest in England that the American War did.  It entered into all our thoughts, seasoned all our conversation, formed the one topic of discussion at thousands of public meetings.  It even invaded our social and scientific congresses.  The British Association met in Newcastle in 1863, when the fate of a race, the fate also of the working classes themselves, was still hanging in the balance.  Partisans of the South were for the most part partisans of slavery, for the cause of the South could not be dissociated from the cause of slavery; and partisans of slavery were invariably embittered against the negro.  The fact was demonstrated in the course of some exciting discussions that took place among the members of the Association in the rooms devoted to Ethnology.  The leading advocates against the negro were Dr. Hunt and Mr. Carter Blake, both gentlemen of some scientific attainments.  It was their contention that the negro was hardly entitled to be called a man at all.  Dr. Hunt, I recollect, laid down this astounding proposition—"If you teach the negro to read, he will open his master's letters; if you teach him to write, he will forge his master's signature."  But there was present at the meeting a black gentleman who defended his unfortunate race with singular ability and vigour.  This was William Craft, whose escape from bondage with his wife some years before was one of the most romantic adventures in the history of American slavery.  Mr. Craft was tall, upright, handsome, full of intelligence, an able speaker, without a trace of those lingual peculiarities which are associated with the Christy Minstrel type of negro.  A squabble occurred when Mr. Craft, who delivered a highly interesting address on a visit to the King of Dahomey, was described in the programme as "an African gentleman."  Dr. Hunt and Mr. Carter Blake maintained that he was not a genuine negro, for the reason that one of his ancestors was supposed to have been a white man.  The difficulty was surmounted, I believe, by describing Mr. Craft as "an American gentleman," though he himself contended in one of the discussions that he was black enough for anything—black enough for slavery at all events!  Those who were present are not likely to have forgotten the impression he produced when, replying to the hostile descriptions that had been given of the negro, he recited the fable of the lion and the traveller: how a traveller and a lion had fallen into a dispute as to which was the stronger of the two—how they came to an inn on the sign of which was a picture of a man slaying a lion—how the traveller pointed to the sign as a proof that he was right—how, finally, the lion exclaimed, "Ah, yes, but who painted the picture?"  Mr. Craft's manly eloquence produced so excellent an effect that the defenders of slavery were thoroughly worsted in the encounter.

    It was my good fortune to see something of Mr. Craft in private life.  A finer gentleman in every respect I think I never met.  There was then living in Newcastle a venerable Quaker lady, the wife of Henry Richardson.  Mrs. Richardson, who died in 1892 at the advanced age of eighty-six, was one of two Newcastle Quakeresses who years before had raised the money to purchase the freedom of Frederick Douglass.  It was at her house that I became acquainted with William Craft.  Among the other guests on the occasion was Elihu Burritt, "the learned blacksmith," then engaged in another walking tour from Land's End to John o' Groat's—a tour, however, which he did not live long enough to put on record in a new volume.  Mr. Craft's mission to Dahomey had been, so far as he was himself concerned, a financial failure.  To recoup the losses he had sustained in the expedition a committee was formed in Newcastle to assist in raising funds.  Of the members of that committee (which included Joseph Cowen, John Mawson, Joseph Clephan, Henry Brady, Joseph Watson, and Thomas Sharp), Dr. Thomas Hodgkin and the writer are the only survivors.  Soon after this, I understood, Mr. Craft had undertaken a mission to the Republic of Liberia.  And then I lost sight of him.  When, in 1900, I made inquiries of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, Mr. Travers Buxton, the secretary, informed me that the latest fact he could find about my African friend was that he was present at a public breakfast which was given to William Lloyd Garrison at St. James's Hall, London, in June, 1867.


 
CHAPTER XLIII

ENGLAND AND AMERICA


THE attitude of the British nation during the Civil War is persistently (and I sometimes think purposely) misunderstood in the United States.  For reasons of their own—often to gain some paltry advantage for their party—politicians endeavour to make out that our people desired and designed the rending of the Republic in twain.  Such an interpretation of the state of public feeling in the United Kingdom from 1861 to 1865 is an absolutely false interpretation.  Nevertheless, it is probably at the bottom of much of that pernicious folly which is known as "twisting the lion's tail."  Some useful purpose may perhaps be served, therefore, if the real condition of affairs be explained here.

    This misunderstanding is not altogether unnatural, since the English newspapers, with very few honourable exceptions, preached and pleaded for the Southern rebels.  The Daily News and the Morning Star were, I think, the only journals in London that had a good word for the Federal cause till the assassination of President Lincoln showed the venom of the beaten slaveowners.  It was much the same in the provinces.  Half a dozen of the most prominent among the provincial journals alone took the Northern side.  Indeed, I can recall no more than three—the Newcastle Chronicle, the Leeds Mercury, and the Manchester Examiner.  All the others appeared to have taken their cue from the limes, which in its turn appeared to have taken its cue from Mr. Spence.  Seeing that the English newspapers generally were not friendly to the Federal cause, the Northern people not unnaturally thought that the masses of our population entertained the same views.  But they were wrong in so thinking.

    Nor were the newspapers alone in upbraiding the North and applauding the South.  The governing classes, the influential classes, the aristocratic and fashionable classes—in the eyes of all these the Southern chivalry (fancy the chivalry of a race that begot its own slaves!) found favour.  There wasn't much to choose between Liberals and Tories at that time and on that question.  Save Mr. Disraeli, who spoke kindly of the "territorial democracy" of America, there was hardly a Tory statesman who did not sneer at the efforts the Northern States were making to subdue their neighbours.  Their feelings were perhaps best voiced in the triumphant exclamation of Bulwer Lytton—"The republican bubble has burst!"  On the other hand, Mr. Gladstone showed too clearly his mistaken views when he declared in Newcastle that Jefferson Davis had made a nation of the South.  The Marquis of Hartington (now the Duke of Devonshire) was young and foolish then, and so brought upon himself one of the most delicate and yet most cutting rebukes on record.  When he was introduced to President Lincoln at Washington, he was said to be wearing some kind of Southern favour.  The great rail-splitter, taking no notice of the affront, quietly revenged his country: he persistently addressed his visitor as "Mr. Partington."

    It is fair to say that Mr. Gladstone, Lord John Russell, and many other Liberals made graceful apologies afterwards for the false positions they had assumed while the conflict was still undecided.  Even the Times broke its own spears when it came to write of Lincoln's exquisite address at Antietam.  Nor did Punch at any time acquit itself with better grace or more touching pathos than when it recanted over "murdered Lincoln's bier" all that it once had foully said.  To Tom Taylor, playwright and humorist, was ascribed the credit of the verses which made historic amends:—


You lay a wreath on murdered Lincoln's bier,
    You who with mocking pencil wont to trace,
Broad for the self-complacent British sneer,
    His length of shambling limb, his furrowed face,

His gaunt gnarled hands, his unkempt, bristling hair,
    His garb uncouth, his bearing ill at ease,
His lack of all we prize as debonnair,
    Of power or will to shine, of art to please!

You, whose smart pen backed up the pencil's laugh,
    Judging each step as though the way were plain;
Reckless, so it could point its paragraph,
    Of chiefs perplexity or people's pain!

Beside this corpse, that bears for winding sheet
    The Stars and Stripes he lived to rear anew,
Between the mourners at his head and feet,
    Say, scurril-jester, is there room for you?

Yes, he had lived to shame me from my sneer,
    To lame my pencil and confute my pen—
To make me own this hind of princes peer,
    This rail-splitter a true-born king of men.


    But there were those who did not need to apologise—who never doubted as to the cause of the war and never wavered as to its ultimate result.  Foremost among our leading public men to sustain the faith of the one side and enlighten the ignorance of the other were John Bright and William Edward Forster.  Mr. Bright never in all his great career better served his country or his kind than he did then.  The speech he made at St. James's Hall, London, where a magnificent meeting was held to express sympathy with the Northern people, remains in my memory as one of the most powerful I had ever heard.  Had Mr. Bright been able to visit America at the close of the war, he would have received such a welcome as no native of another country had ever received there.

    The churches as well as political parties were found wanting in the crisis—some of the churches.  Moses D. Hoge, a doctor of divinity in the Southern States, was sent over to England to preach the new gospel.  And this apostle of slavery was actually permitted to expound his diabolical doctrines in English pulpits.  Perhaps worse than this happened.  Good Words was supposed to be a magazine with a conscience.  Yet one month it amazed and outraged its readers by sending out, bound up with some of the best literature of the day, the address of the Southern Churches in praise and exaltation of negro bondage.  From defending slaveowners, men in politics and men in the Church, driven from point to point, came to defend slavery.  Thus were the minds of shallow partisans—shallow in spite of their learning and their prominence—degraded and demoralised by association with an evil cause.

    How, then, can it be said, when statesmen and divines, politicians and journalists, friends of privilege and enemies of social and political progress, were aiding and abetting the Southern Confederacy—how can it be said that England stood for freedom and the slave?  Yet so it was.  The common people, the people who live in cottages, the people who toil in factories and mines, the real people of this great England, were never for a moment beguiled.  If others were blinded by passion or prejudice, they at least saw clearly the meaning of the conflict.  The national sentiment was declared in the hundreds of public meetings that were held in all parts of the country.  Of all these meetings, only one, I think, passed resolutions of sympathy with the South.  And this solitary meeting, held in Sheffield, was perverted by the influence which was there and then wielded by a Radical who had recanted his old faith—John Arthur Roebuck.  But the exception proved the rule.  The genuine mind of England was declared, not in the newspapers or the pulpits, but in the popular gatherings that assembled in every populous district of Britain.

    When Henry Ward Beecher came over to enlighten us, he spoke to great audiences in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh.  And it was only in Liverpool that he met with a mixed reception.  I heard him in Edinburgh.  It was at the time of the Social Science Congress in 1863.  Lord Brougham, like other bewildered politicians, had espoused the cause of the South, and had even insulted the Northern people at the Congress.  The meeting which Mr. Beecher addressed was the effective reply.  So enormous was the crowd that the orator of the evening had some difficulty in gaining admission.  The peculiarities of his pronunciation would on other occasions have made the unthinking laugh; but the audience was too earnest for hilarity and too united for opposition.  So was public opinion manifested in Edinburgh, as it was nearly everywhere else, for the North.

    More impressive even than the evidence of great meetings was the spirit of the starving people of Lancashire.  Subtle and crafty appeals were made to their feelings.  "Break the blockade," they were told, "and cotton will be abundant again.  Then will the mills reopen, and your terrible privations cease."  The insidious advice fell on deaf ears.  The factory workers, to their everlasting honour, declined to terminate their own sufferings at the cost of the slavery of another race.  Rather than help the slaveowners to rivet anew the gyves of the negro, they would perish of starvation.  It was this heroic attitude, better than the diatribes of journalists or the plausible pronunciations of statesmen, that indicated the real sentiment of the nation.  When somebody at Sheffield ventured to advise that the Government should break the blockade, a voice came from the crowd, "There will be civil war in England first."  That voice spoke for the masses.  I say again, then, that the heart of the country, the heart of the common people of the country, was as sound for right and freedom as that of New England itself.  Emerson's "Boston Hymn" found a response in every workman's breast—


Pay ransom to the owner,
    And fill the bag to the brim!
But who is owner?  The slave is owner,
    And ever was. 
Pay him!


    Ireland, however, stood on neutral ground.  There were patriot sons of hers on both sides, as there generally are when a fight is to the fore.  An amusing instance of Irish impartiality occurred in the very middle of the conflict.  Terence Bellew McManus, a rebel of '48, having died in America, his body was brought home for interment.  One of the orators over the grave told how Irishmen were comporting themselves across the Atlantic.  They were, he said, gallantly upholding the reputation of the "ould counthrie." (Cheers.)  Thomas Francis Meagher, "Meagher of the Sword," was bravely fighting for the North. (More cheers.)  And the sons of John Mitchel were, with equal valour, fighting for the South. (Renewed cheers.)  So did the Irish people, both at home and in America, manifest their neutrality.  The help they gave to the Federals was counterbalanced by the help they gave to the Confederates.  Meagher, however, rose to the rank of Brigadier-General in the service of the Republic.

    Wrong as to the cause of the war, partisans of the South got wrong also as to the progress of the war.  It was not, indeed, till Richmond fell that many of them could be persuaded that the end was approaching.  No maps were published in the newspapers then; nor did we get news from the seat of war till the Atlantic liners brought it.  The consequence was that the public mind in this country was often mystified, especially as a battle was rarely announced without a claim being set up for a Confederate victory.  Not being able to trace the positions of the rival armies in the different engagements, people here failed to see that the Northern commanders were steadily driving the Southerners backward—closing in upon them in every direction.  And so it happened that the final catastrophe came as a great surprise to our countrymen.  If others had followed the plan I adopted, they would have understood better the progress of military operations.  My plan, commonly pursued since, was simplicity itself.  I pasted a good map of the United States on a drawing board; I provided myself with two packets of pins—black pins for the Confederates, and white pins for the Federals; and after the arrival of every fresh mail I altered the positions of the armies (or rather the pins representing the armies) according to the news received.  Thus it could be seen that the unhappy South was being gradually strangled by the stronger North.  And hereby hangs another tale.  One morning, after reading the despatches in the newspapers, I went to my map to make the necessary alterations.  Jupiter! what had happened?  I was amazed to find both armies scattered in all directions—Federals in Canada and Mexico, Confederates floundering in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans!  It was the industrious maid-servant of the establishment who had swept with her duster all the belligerents off the field, replacing them later in the locations she thought they ought to occupy.  The incident, vexatious at first, was intensely amusing afterwards; but it took me a long time, with much consultation of back despatches, to put Grant and Sherman, Lee and Bragg, in their proper encampments again.

    The war was bloody and frightful.  At no less cost and in no other way, however, could the curse of slavery have been wiped out.  The American people never rose higher than they did during those terrible four years.  And their armies, like the armies of Cromwell, dispersed without danger to the country.  It is no small honour to England that her working people, faithful to the cause of freedom, helped by their efforts and their sufferings to emancipate four million of slaves.


 
CHAPTER XLIV

THE LAST INSURRECTION IN POLAND


NOBODY knows what real misery is who has not been out of work in London—out of work and out of resources too.  The most depressing and forlorn period of my life was passed under these circumstances.  It extended from the spring of 1862 to the spring of 1863.  The transfer of the Alliance News to another office threw me out of employment.  Other work not being obtainable in Manchester, we broke up our home, sold or gave away most of our belongings, and returned to unfurnished apartments in Kennington.  Our family was small at the time; still it was large enough to cause great anxiety.  Work was almost as scarce in London as it was in Manchester.  At any rate I could get nothing regular—only a day or two here and there.  A god-send was the commission (never wholly paid, though) for compiling the American pamphlet.  Soon our little savings began to dwindle, and bread had to be bought and rent had to be paid. I can tell you that the honest man without work and without means in London must be light of heart indeed if he can resist thoughts that need not be named. It was when I was thus suffering that I learnt how good and genuine a friend I had in Charles Bradlaugh.

    As it seemed to me to be increasingly difficult to obtain steady employment in the printing trade, I came to consider that I was, perhaps, not destitute of some of the qualifications of a journalist.  Indeed, people who had to do with newspapers had made inquiries of Mr. Bradlaugh about the writer of the articles signed Caractacus.  Also Mr. Bradlaugh himself had made inquiries of newspaper people on behalf of the said writer.  So that I might take instant advantage of anything that should turn up, I accepted, as before stated, an invitation to breakfast with him every morning.  This I did for many weeks.  One of the gentlemen who had made inquiries about Caractacus was Mr. Joseph Cowen of Newcastle—then Mr. Joseph Cowen, Jun.—well known to all Radicals in England and all Revolutionists on the Continent.  Mr. Cowen had lately acquired the Newcastle Chronicle, and was contemplating certain developments of the property.  Would Caractacus be disposed to accept an engagement in Newcastle when the time came?  Of course he would.  Meantime, would Caractacus write a political article once a week for the Newcastle Chronicle similar to that which he had contributed for a few years past to the National Reformer?  Again of course he would.  The articles appeared over the signature of Ironside—the beginning of a series which at a later date ran into hundreds in the Weekly Chronicle.  Henry Dunckley's "Letters of Verax" had a great vogue in the Manchester Examiner at the time, and a Lancashire member of Parliament had the goodness to say that the "Letters of Ironside " were at least equally valuable.  For the pride and vanity involved in the mention of so uninteresting a statement I hope (though I may not deserve) to be forgiven.

    But before the earlier of these transactions had come to pass a much more interesting event had occurred.  The last insurrection—the insurrection of Maryon Langiewicz—broke out in Poland.  That unhappy nation, whose history is the saddest in the world, had been crushed, trodden under foot, and divided as spoils among three of the leading vultures of Europe—Russia, Prussia, and Austria.  Posen had been harshly treated by Prussia; Galicia, after a time of brutal treatment by Metternich, Szela, and Radetzki, had been utterly subdued by Austria; but Lithuania, which had fallen to the share of Russia, was now and again goaded into desperation by the odious policy and despotism of the Muscovites.  Poor Poland!  It may be that she owed her downfall to her own internal dissensions—mainly, perhaps, to that fatal "liberum veto" which made an absolutely unanimous vote of the nobles necessary to the authorisation of any change in the law.  But, these dissensions notwithstanding, she had once, under the walls of Vienna, saved Europe from a flood of Saracen barbarism.  But no service in the past, and no prospects of service in the future, availed against the avarice of her neighbours.  Poland was divided and conquered.  The patriotic life, however, was not even yet extinct.  There were periodical risings in Warsaw, in Wilna, in the provinces—risings in which the peasants, armed with scythes and reaping hooks, fought with desperate valour against disciplined hordes of Tartars and Cossacks.  The last of these risings occurred in 1862.  Hope was renewed by the daring exploits of Langiewicz and his heroic followers.

    Friends of Poland, who were friends also of freedom everywhere else in the world, organized a movement to aid the insurgents.  A committee was formed in London, with smaller committees in provincial towns, to raise funds for the Poles, and afford such other aid as could be rendered them.  The committee consisted for the most part of men who were always foremost to help any enterprise that promised liberation for the oppressed.  Thus Peter Alfred Taylor was treasurer, while other members included Joseph Cowen, William Shaen, Arthur Trevelyan, R. B. Litchfield, J. Sale Barker, Dr. Epps, Serjeant Parry, and Professor F. W. Newman.  Among the rest were Lord Teynham, Sir John Bowring, John Stuart Mill, George Moore, J. J. Colman, the Rev. Goodwyn Barmby, and William Charles Macready, the famous tragedian.  The Central Committee of the Friends of Poland, which acted "with the authority of the Delegate from the Polish National Government," was in want of a secretary to keep its records and conduct its correspondence.  I was appointed to the office.  It did not seem to me that I was an ideal or even an efficient secretary, though I suppose I did all that was necessary.  But there was at least one qualification that I did not lack—zeal for the cause.  The duties of the office were discharged with what ability I could command till in the early part of 1863 I received an urgent summons to Newcastle.

    The offices of the committee were situated in Southampton Street, Strand.  There I attended every day to answer letters, issue appeals, receive subscriptions, give information to visitors, and arrange such other matters of business as required attention.  The work was not arduous, but it was eminently congenial.  Our visitors, though not numerous, were many of them interesting.  One was a gentleman, Mr. Bullock Hall, who wanted an introduction to the Polish leaders to serve as war correspondent for an English newspaper.  Another was commissioned by Mr. James Anthony Froude, the editor of Fraser's Magazine, to seek information for an article on Poland.  Mr. Grant Duff, not then honoured with a title, but of much repute as a politician on account of the elaborate addresses he used to deliver to his constituents at Elgin, had been invited to join the committee.  There was much that was fastidious about the hon. gentleman.  And so he came to give a good many excellent reasons why he could not comply with the request.  But one morning there arrived a visitor who struck me as being more earnest than any of the rest.  I knew him by sight and name, for I had seen and heard him in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, pleading eloquently for the slaves in America.  Did we want a speech for Poland?  If so, he was ready to comply.  Slightly deformed—almost like a hunchback, in fact—he was a striking figure as he planted himself before the fire and carelessly put the question and made the offer.  It was Washington Wilks, author of a "History of the Last Half-Century," who had not long before been summoned to the Bar of the House of Commons for some breach of privilege committed in a Carlisle journal.  Opportunity for the speech was soon afterwards afforded by a great meeting in St. James's Hall, which Mr. George Potter, the editor of the Beehive, acting on behalf of the committee, organized for the purpose of expressing and eliciting sympathy with Poland.

    The funds raised by the committee were handed over to Mr. Joseph Cwierczakiewicz, the Delegate of the National Government.  One evening I went with the Delegate to his lodgings near the Haymarket.  The room was full of Polish ladies, wives and daughters of exiles, who were busily making flags for the insurgents.  How many of these flags reached Poland I know not; but such as did became the spoils of the barbarian hordes of Russia.  The unequal struggle continued all through 1863.  The insurrection, which had broken out in January, was not finally crushed till February of the following year, and not then till it was computed that 40,000 of the flower of the Polish population had perished on the battlefield.  The threat of Gortschakoff had been accomplished—Poland had been converted into "a wilderness of ashes and corpses," and Mouravieff held a feast of horrors at Wilna, slaying men, scourging women, sparing neither age nor sex in his ruthless wrath.  Langiewicz escaped into Galicia, was there imprisoned by the Austrians, and two years later joined the great army of refugees in London, dying in Turkey in 1887.  As for Poland, "every handful of her soil a relic of martyrs," she remains (and, alas! seems likely to remain) the very Niobe of Nations.

    The fatal struggle over, the English people were asked to assist in binding up the wounds.  Dr. Barraniecki, who had organized the National Government, succeeded subsequently in collecting and bringing to England a great quantity of jewellery and objects of art—here to be sold for the benefit of sick and wounded Poles.  The rich lady sent her necklet of brilliants, the poor widow her wedding ring, the young girl her love token, and the nun her coral beads.  These pathetic contributions in relief of national suffering, disposed of at bazaars in London and Newcastle, realised a handsome sum.  The sale was principally managed in Newcastle by two ladies—Mrs. Biggar, wife of the Mayor of Gateshead, and Mrs. George William Hodge, wife of the Sheriff of Newcastle.  It was the last service English people were asked to render to Poland.

    An echo of the insurrection of 1863 came to Newcastle fifteen years later.  General Langiewicz, as was said at the time of the struggle, was "accompanied and assisted by a Polish heroine of equal beauty and courage."  This lady was the subject of a lying paragraph that appeared in a German newspaper in 1878.  "Mademoiselle Pustawaitow, who had served as aide-de-camp to the Polish general, and was by his side on the retreat from his latest field, has," the German scribe declared, "fallen considerably in the world since that time, and has been an inmate of various prisons in Silesia.  Truly a melancholy ending to a career that began with so much romance about it."  This paragraph somehow found its way into the columns of the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle.  Then came an indignant protest from France.  Writing from Dijon on Dec. 10th, 1878, R. J. Jaworowski, evidently a compatriot of the lady's, informed the editor that Mademoiselle Pustawaitow had ever since the revolution of 1863 been residing in Paris, happily married to a medical gentleman, Dr. Loewenhard, of the Rue Mont Parnasse.  The heroine of the last insurrection in Poland was thereafter left in peace to perform her duties as wife and mother.



[Next Page]

 


 

[Home] [Up] [American Cousins] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk