Autobiography (3)
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CHAPTER XV.
ELECTIONS: CHARTIST LIFE:
1841.


THEY are about to abolish our old-fashioned Nomination Days—and not before due time. But I must confess I enjoyed the old days.  I used to enjoy them in the old Guildhall at Lincoln, when Bulwer was proposed by a leading Liberal, and old Dean Gordon used to propose Colonel Sibthorpe.  Poor dear old Sibby!  I can see his odd grimaces, and hear him swear so funnily in his speeches, as if it were but yesterday!  And the joke when old Ben Bromhead had got his written speech in his hat, and young Charley Fardell stole it out!  To see how old Ben twisted his hat round to find the stolen speech, while the people were laughing.  Ah, some of those Lincoln days were naughty days,—and one must not tell the history of them, to the full.

    I must confess I enjoyed the nomination day in Leicester market-place.  Our Chartists kept their stand well, in the centre, before the hustings.  As I faced them, the Tories with their blue flags were on my right, and the Whigs with their orange and green flags were on my left.  I, as the universal suffrage candidate for the representation of Leicester, had the largest show of hands, for only a part of our Chartist crowd held up their hands for "Colonel Forester" who was not to be found—while all the working-men who were on the Tory side held up their hands for me, to spite the Whigs.  But the Mayor said Sir John Easthope and Wynn Ellis had the show of hands—at which there was much shouting on the Whig side—much shouting for joy—but the scene was soon changed.

    One of our Chartist flag-bearers happened, intentionally, to droop his flag on one side, till it touched the heads of some of the Whigs who were shouting.  The gudgeons caught the bait!  They seized the poor little calico flag and tore it in pieces!

    "Now, lads, go it! " shouted some strong voices in the Chartist ranks, and the rush was instant upon the Whig flags.  A few escaped; but his own supporters declared that the orange and green flags which were "limbed," or torn up in the course of perhaps ten minutes, had cost Sir John Easthope seventy pounds—for they were all of silk.

    A more gentle joke was played something earlier.  Samuel Deacon, a well-known native of Leicester, had made a large tin extinguisher, and fastened it to a pole.  With this he approached the hustings, and before I could be aware of what he meant to do—placed it on my head, while the Whigs cried out, "There! he has extinguished the Rushlight!"

    The election for the borough was over; but then came the elections for the north and south of the county.  I and Bairstow were proposed at Loughborough, for the Northern Division of the county; but we had no great number of hands held up for us.  On the nomination day for the Southern Division of the county, which was held in Leicester Castle yard, I thought I had the show of hands again; but the Sheriff decided for the Tories.

    I was also present at the Nottingham election—where the Chartists suddenly reversed their policy, and voted against Walter, and in favour of the noble philanthropist, Joseph Sturge.  Feargus O'Connor, while in York Castle, had advocated the policy of voting for the Tories in preference to the Whigs but he now came down to Nottingham, and by his speeches encouraged the Chartists to support Joseph-Sturge.  With the thought of rendering help in some form or other, McDouall, Clark, and other Chartist  leaders, also came to Nottingham.  The Tories, on the other side, secured the presence of the redoubtable Joseph Raynor Stephens.

    The night before the day of nomination the Tories drew a waggon into the market-place, and Stephens mounted it to address the crowd.  The Liberals had already scented the intent of their opponents, and drew up a waggon facing the other, and at about twenty yards from it.  Joseph Sturge, Henry Vincent, Arthur O'Neill, and other friends of Mr. Sturge, were in the waggon when O'Connor and the other leaders of our Chartist party reached it.  We climbed up into the waggon; but soon found there could be no speaking.  The crowd were assailing Stephens with the vilest epithets, and tearing up his portrait which had formerly been issued with the Northern Star, arid throwing the torn fragments at his face.

    Stephens, meanwhile, with his spectacles on, and with folded arms, stood silently and majestically defying the crowd.

    The Tory lambs—the reader has heard of the "lambs of Nottingham!"—the roughs who do all the work of blackguards, either on the Whig or the Tory side—the Tory lambs began to lose patience because the crowd would not hear Stephens; and the leaders of them—chiefly butchers in blue linen coats—were seen to form themselves into a body and soon charged upon the Chartist crowd with their fists.  The battle was fierce, and the Tory lambs were forcing their way towards our waggon.

    Mr. Sturge, with Vincent, and the rest of Mr. S.'s friends, quitted the waggon; and it was wise of them to do so.  It was not our part, however, to retreat.  Feargus waited until the Tory lambs got nearer, and then, throwing his hat into the waggon, he cried out "Now, my side charge!" and down he went among the crowd; and along with him went McDouall and Tom Clark—and gallantly they fought and faced the Tory butchers.  It was no trifle to receive a blow from O'Connor's fists; and he "floored them like nine-pins," as he said himself.  Once, the Tory lambs fought off all who surrounded him, and got him down, and my heart quaked,—for I thought they would kill him.  But, in a very few moments, his red head emerged, again from the rough human billows, and he was fighting his way as before.

    I did not quit the waggon.  Neither did another of the so-called Chartist leaders of the time, who, it was said, had been in the Navy several years, and was usually called "The old Commodore," or "Commodore Mead."

    "Cooper," said he, "I think we had better not quit the waggon."

    "No," said I; "you stick by me, Commodore, and I'll play the Admiral; and we'll keep the ship."

    So we remained, and looked upon the battle.  Suddenly, I saw Stephens unfold his arms, and pull off his spectacles to see who was drawing near to him.  It was McDouall, who had long had a sore private grudge against him.  Stephens did not stay another moment; but turned his back, jumped off the other side of the waggon, and made his way out of the crowd into a friendly shop in the Long Row forthwith.

    O'Connor and his party finally put the Tories to flight, and sprang upon the Tory waggon, when three lusty cheers were given; and after Feargus and McDouall had addressed the crowd it dispersed.

    The nomination day was a very signal day in Nottingham.  O'Connor and Vincent were proposed and seconded as candidates, as well as Mr. Sturge; but it was merely to give them the right of addressing the people.  And their speeches were noble.  O'Connor displayed greater knowledge of the science of politics, if I may so speak, than I ever heard him display at any time; and Vincent's oratory was charmingly ornamental, and drew forth bursts of cheering.  But when Joseph Sturge spoke, and, in the course of his speech, turned to look upon the aged Tory, Walter, who was sitting near his feet, you might have heard a pin fall in that vast audience.  Joseph solemnly entreated his opponent to remember that death was at hand, and the great account must be given for our life-course, before the throne of the Eternal Judge.  I saw Walter's lower jaw fall, and a conscience-stricken look pass over his face as he listened to Sturge's words; and I did not wonder at the silence of the crowd, and the awe I saw depicted on all their faces.

    Mr. Sturge's committee were very confident that he would win the election.  McDouall and Clark and I accompanied O'Connor to the committee-room that evening.  Thomas Beggs and others said they were sure of Mr. Sturge's return, for they had received so many pledges in his favour.  It was agreed that it would be well to watch during the night whether any of the Tory agents were slily creeping about to try to bribe voters.  O'Connor said he would not sleep.

    "We will parade the town, Cooper," said he; "and you shall lead the singing.  We shall be ready then to secure the polling-booths in the morning, so that the first votes may be for Mr. Sturge: that is always the surest step towards winning an election."

    And parade the town we did, singing "The lion of freedom is come from his den" (a song attributed to me, but I never wrote a line of it: it was the composition of a Welsh Chartist woman) and

"We won't go home till morning—till Walter runs away!
 We won't go home till morning—till Sturge has won the day!"

So foolish are the ways of men at election times!  I have seen the gravest and soberest men do the wildest and silliest things, at such times; and therefore cannot wonder that I have done them myself.

    We called Joseph Sturge out of bed, about two o'clock in the morning; and he stood, in his shirt, at the chamber window, while we gave three cheers for his success, and three groans for Walter, and then bade him "Good morning."  About three o'clock, O'Connor said "How d'ye feel, Cooper—pretty well?"  I told him I was well enough.  "Then," said he, "I'll go and have a sleep, for I'm drowsy; but take care that you keep the people together, Cooper, and I'll be with you before the polling-booths are open."

    But he did not return; and the men began to drop off, till I had but a paltry few to lead, and they were chiefly half-starved, lean stockingers, several of them from Sutton-in-Ashfield.  We took care to be in the neighbourhood of the polling-booths by five o'clock; but by six the Tory voters began to crowd into the booths under the fierce protection of the "Lambs the butchers, armed with stout sticks.

    "Shall we have a fight, and drive 'em out?" said one of the poor stockingers to me; "we'll do it—if you'll speak the word."

    "No," said I, "they would soon break some of your poor heads or limbs.  You have not the strength to cope with these men.  You had better go home and go to bed; and I'll go to the Sturge committee."

    I went and told Thomas Beggs, and others, that the Tories would have all the first votes.

    "Never mind that," said one of the committee; "we are sure of the election."

    "But if Walter keeps at the head of the poll till noon, the waverers will then go in and vote for him, instead of Mr. Sturge," said I.

    I found it was in vain to talk to them, so I left them to seek O'Connor; but found he had gone back to London.  Nor could I find any other of our men.  It turned out as I said it would.  Walter kept at the head of the poll till noon, and then the waverers hastened to vote for him.  Joseph Sturge failed.  That he might have won that election had the polling booths been filled with his friends in the morning, I feel the greatest certainty.  Mr. Walter lost his seat for bribery; but Joseph Sturge was not returned in his stead.

    To return to Leicester.  I was put out of the little shop in High Street; but Mr. Oldfield let me a house in Church Street.  So I had now a good shop and several rooms of considerable size.  Two large rooms were set apart as coffee-rooms, and they were the resort of workingmen, daily; but on Saturday evenings they were crowded.  All meetings of committees were also held in these rooms.  In the shop below, I also commenced the sale of bread.  During the remaining part of the year 1841, I had a really good business,—there being a little prosperity in the staple trade of the town until some weeks after Christmas.

    Instead of the halfpenny Rushlight, I started the penny Extinguisher—taking the name from the playful fact that occurred at the election.  I continued to address the people on Sundays, in the evenings, and began now to take my stand in the market-place for that purpose.  We always commenced with worship, and I always took a text from the Scriptures, and mingled religious teaching with politics.  When autumn came, we felt uncertain as to where our Sunday meetings were to be held during the dark evenings.  There was a very large building in the town, which had originally been built for Ducrow, called "the Amphitheatre."  It held 3,000 people.  I had hired it for O'Connor to speak in, and for other extraordinary meetings; but could not think of paying three pounds for the use of it every Sunday night.  In front of it was a large first-floor room, which had been used also by Ducrow's "horse-riders," as a dressing-room, and which was called the "Shaksperean Room."  I got the use of it, for all or any kind of meetings, at so much per week; and so now I held my Sunday night meetings invariably in the " Shaksperean Room."

    I shall not dwell on one recital.  John Markham, a shoemaker, who had been a Methodist local preacher, was considered their "leader" by the Chartists, when I entered Leicester.  We continued friendly for some time.  But himself and a few others began to show signs of coldness in the course of the autumn, and went back to the little old room at All Saints' Open, and constituted themselves a separate Chartist Association.  So I proposed that we should take a new name; and, as we now held our meetings in the "Shaksperean Room," we styled ourselves "The Shaksperean Association of Leicester Chartists."

    I shall conclude this chapter with the solemn record that my dear mother died on the 1st of August (her birthday) in this year, being seventy-one years of age.  I went over to Gainsborough to bury her, in the churchyard so well known to me from the days of childhood.

                    "I laid her near the dust
 Of her oppressor; but no gilded verse
 Tells how she toiled to win her child a crust,
 And, fasting, still toiled on: no rhymes rehearse
 How tenderly she strove to be the nurse
 Of truth and nobleness in her loved boy,
 Spite of his rags."

 
CHAPTER XVI.
CHARTIST POETS: CHARTIST LIFE, CONTINUED:
1842.


I HAD not joined the ranks of the poor and the oppressed with the expectation of having those rough election scenes to pass through.  And now I had passed through them, I began to turn my thoughts to something far more worthy of a man's earnestness.  As soon as the Shaksperean Room was secured, I formed an adult Sunday-school, for men and boys who were at work on the week days.  All the more intelligent in our ranks gladly assisted as teachers; and we soon had the room filled on Sunday mornings and afternoons.  The Old and New Testaments, Channing's "Self-culture," and other tracts, of which I do not remember the names, formed our class-books.  And we, fancifully, named our classes, not first, second, third, etc., but the 'Algernon Sydney Class,' 'Andrew Marvel Class,' 'John Hampden Class,' 'John Milton Class,' 'William Tell Class,' 'George Washington Class,' 'Major Cartwright Class,' 'William Cobbett Class,' and so on.

    I began also to teach Temperance more strongly than before.  I became a teetotaler when I entered Leicester, and I kept my pledge, rigidly, for four years.  We devised a new form of pledge,—"I hereby promise to abstain, etc., until the People's Charter becomes the law of the land;" and I administered this pledge to several hundreds.  I fear the majority of them kept their pledge but for a brief period, yet some persevered.

    Next, I drew up a body of rules for our Chartist Association; and, as we so often indulged in singing, I proposed to two of our members who had occasionally shown me their rhymes, that they should compose hymns for our Sunday meetings. John Bramwich, the elder of these persons, was a stocking-weaver, and was now about fifty years old. He had been a soldier, and had seen service in the West Indies and America. He was a grave, serious man, the very heart of truth and sincerity. He died of sheer exhaustion, from hard labour and want, in the year 1846. William Jones, the other composer of rhymes I referred to, was a much younger man, of very pleasing manners and appearance. He was what is called a "glove-hand," and therefore earned better wages than a stockinger. He had been a hard worker, but had acquired some knowledge of music. He published a small volume of very excellent poetry, at Leicester, in 1853, and died in 1855, being held in very high respect by a large circle of friends.

    The contributions of Bramwich and Jones to our hymnology, were published in my weekly Extinguisher, until we collected them in our "Shaksperean Chartist Hymn Book."  The following is the most favourite hymn composed by Bramwich.—We sang it to the hymn tune "New Crucifixion."

Britannia's sons, though slaves ye be,
God, your Creator, made you free;
He life and thought and being gave,
But never, never made a slave!

His works are wonderful to see,
All, all proclaim the Deity;
He made the earth, and formed the wave,
But never, never made a slave!

He made the sky with spangles bright,
The moon to shine by silent night;
The sun—and spread the vast concave,
But never, never made a slave!

The verdant earth, on which we tread,
Was by His hand all carpeted;
Enough for all He freely gave,
But never, never made a slave!

All men are equal in His sight,
The bond, the free, the black, the white:
He made them all,—them freedom gave;
God made the man—Man made the slave!

    Fourteen hymns were contributed by Bramwich to our "Shaksperean Chartist Hymn Book," and sixteen by William Jones.  The following was our favourite hymn of those composed by Jones, and we usually sang it to the hymn tune called "Calcutta."

Sons of poverty assemble,
    Ye whose hearts with woe are riven,
Let the guilty tyrants tremble,
    Who your hearts such pain have given.
                We will never
    From the shrine of truth be driven.

Must ye faint—ah! how much longer?
    Better by the sword to die
Than to die of want and hunger:
    They heed not your feeble cry:
                Lift your voices—
    Lift your voices to the sky!

Rouse them from their silken slumbers,
    Trouble them amidst their pride:
Swell your ranks, augment your numbers,
    Spread the Charter, far and wide!
                Truth is with us:
    God Himself is on our side.

See the brave, ye spirit broken,
    That uphold your righteous cause;
Who against them hath not spoken?
    They are, just as Jesus was,
                Persecuted
    By bad men and wicked laws.

Dire oppression, Heaven decrees it,
    From our land shall soon be hurled;
Mark the coming time and seize it—
    Every banner be unfurled!
                Spread the Charter!
    Spread the Charter through the world.

    I venture to add one of the only two hymns that I contributed to our Hymn Book: we sang it in the noble air of the "Old Hundredth."

God of the earth, and sea, and sky,
To Thee Thy mournful children cry:
Didst Thou the blue that bends o'er all
Spread for a general funeral pall?

Sadness and gloom pervade the land;
Death—famine—glare on either hand;
Didst Thou plant earth upon the wave
Only to form one general grave?

Father, why didst Thou form the flowers?
They blossom not for us, or ours:
Why didst Thou clothe the fields with corn?
Robbers from us our share have torn.

The ancients of our wretched race
Told of Thy sovereign power and grace,
That in the sea their foes o'erthrew—
Great Father!—is the record true?

Art Thou the same who, from all time,
O'er every sea, through every clime,
The stained oppressor's guilty head
Hast visited with vengeance dread?

To us,—the wretched and the poor,
Whom rich men drive from door to door,—
To us, then, make Thy goodness known,
And we Thy lofty name will own.

Father, our frames are sinking fast:
Hast Thou our names behind Thee cast?
Our sinless babes with hunger die:
Our hearts are hardening!—Hear our cry!

Appear, as in the ancient days!
Deliver us from our foes, and praise
Shall from our hearts to Thee ascend—
To God our Father, and our Friend!

    We now usually held one or two meetings in the Shaksperean Room on week nights, as well as on the Sunday night.  Unless there were some stirring local or political topic, I lectured on Milton, and repeated portions of the "Paradise Lost," or on Shakspeare, and repeated portions of "Hamlet," or on Burns, and repeated "Tam o' Shanter;" or I recited the history of England, and set the portraits of great Englishmen before young Chartists, who listened with intense interest; or I took up Geology, or even Phrenology, and made the young men acquainted, elementally, with the knowledge of the time.
 
    Often, since the days of which I am speaking, some seeming stranger has stepped up to me, in one part of England or another—usually at the close of a lecture—and has said, "You will not remember me. I was very young when I used to hear you in Leicester; but I consider that I owe a good deal to you.  You gave me a direction of mind that I have followed,"—and so on.  If events had not broken up the system I was forming, how much real good I might have effected in Leicester!

    These thoughts have just brought to mind a pleasing incident which I ought to have mentioned earlier.  I had been appealing strongly, one evening, to the patriotic feelings of young Englishmen, mentioning the names of Hampden and Sydney and Marvel; and eulogizing the grand spirit of disinterestedness and self-sacrifice which characterised so many of our brave forerunners, when a handsome young man sprung upon our little platform and declared himself on the people's side, and desired to be enrolled as a Chartist.  He did not belong to the poorest ranks; and it was the consciousness that he was acting in the spirit of self-sacrifice, as well as his fervid eloquence, that caused a thrilling cheer from the ranks of working men.  He could not be more than fifteen at that time; he passed away from us too soon, with his father, who left Leicester, and I have never seen him but once, all these years.  But the men of Sheffield have signalized their confidence in his patriotism by returning him to the House of Commons; and all England knows if there be a man of energy as well as uprightness in that house, it is Anthony John Mundella.

    Our meetings were well attended, the number of our members increased greatly, and all went well until January, 1842, when the great hosiery houses announced that orders had ceased, and the greater number of the stocking and glove frames must stand still.  The sale, not only of the Northern Star, but of my own Extinguisher, declined fearfully.  Some of the working men began to ask me to let them have bread on credit; and I ventured to do it, trusting that all would be better in time.  Our coffee-room was still filled, but not half the coffee was sold.

    One afternoon, without counselling me, some five hundred of the men who were out of work formed a procession and marched through the town at a slow step, singing, and begging all the way they went.  It wrung my heart to see a sight like that in England.  They got but little, and I advised them never to repeat it.

    While difficulties increased, I gave up both the sale of bread and the publication of my Extinguisher for a few weeks.  But several of the most necessitous men declared they must perish if I did not let them have bread.  So I returned to the sale of bread—but had to give it to some to prevent them from starving.  Of course I contracted debt by so doing; and I did it very foolishly.  I would not do it again; at least, I hope I should not do it.  I found also that our cause could not be held together without a paper.  We had no organ for the exposure of wrongs—such as the attempts of some of the grinding 'masters' to establish the Truck System, extraordinary acts of 'docking' men's wages, and so on.

    So I now issued another paper, and called it the Commonwealthsman, and inserted in it the lives of the illustrious Hampden, Pym, Sir John Eliot, Selden, Algernon Sydney, and others of their fellow-strugglers for freedom.  I had a good sale for the earlier numbers—for they were sold for me by agents at Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Wednesbury, Bilston, Stafford, and the Potteries.  But trade grew bad in other towns; and the sale soon fell off.

    In Leicester everything looked more hopeless.  We closed the adult school—partly because the fine weather drew the men into the fields, and partly because they were too despairing to care about learning to read.  Let some who read this mark what I am recording.  We had not many profane men in our ranks, but we had a few; and when I urged them not to forsake school their reply was, "What the hell do we care about reading, if we can get nought to eat?"

    A poor framework-knitter, whom I knew to be as true as steel, concealed the fact of his deep suffering from me for several weeks, though I saw the change in his dress, and knew that he must have pawned all but the mere rags he was wearing.  He was frequently with me in the shop, rendering kindly help.  I spoke to him, one night, about his case; but some one came into the shop and interrupted me, and he suddenly retired.  At eleven o'clock, just before we were about to close the shop, he came in hastily, laid a bit of paper on my desk, and ran out.

    On the bit of paper he revealed his utter destitution, and the starvation and suffering of his young wife and child.  On the previous morning, the note informed me, his wife awoke, saying, "Sunday come again, and nothing to eat!"—and as the babe sought the breast there was no milk!

    About the same time—I think it was in the same week-another poor stockinger rushed into my house, and, throwing himself wildly on a chair, exclaimed, with an execration,—"I wish they would hang me!  I have lived on cold potatoes that were given me these two days; and this morning I've eaten a raw potato for sheer hunger!  Give me a bit of bread, and a cup of coffee, or I shall drop!"  I should not like again to see a human face with the look of half insane despair which that poor man's countenance wore.
 
    How fierce my discourses became now, in the market-place, on Sunday evenings!  I wonder that I restrained myself at all.  My heart often burned with indignation I knew not how to express.  Nay—there was something worse.  I began—from sheer sympathy—to feel a tendency to glide into the depraved thinkings of some of the stronger, but coarser spirits among the men.  It is horrible to me to tell such a truth.  But I must tell it.  For if I be untruthful now, I had better not have begun my Life-story.

    The real feeling of this class of men was fully expressed one day in the market-place when we were holding a meeting in the week.  A poor religious stockinger said,—"Let us be patient a little longer, lads.  Surely, God Almighty will help us soon."

    "Talk no more about thy Goddle Mighty!" was the sneering rejoinder.  "There isn't one.  If there was one, He wouldn't let us suffer as we do."

    Such was the feeling and language of the stronger and coarser spirits; and it was shared by such of the Socialists as we had among us.  Not that there was ever any union of the Socialists with us, as a body.  They had a room of their own in Leicester, and their leading men kept at a distance from us, and even protested against the reasonableness of our hopes.  Indeed, to show us that we were wrong, they brought Alexander Campbell and Robert Buchanan (the father of Robert Buchanan the poet) to Leicester, to lecture on their scheme of "Home Colonisation" and challenged us to answer them.  I sustained the challenge myself, as the champion for the People's Charter.

    During the summer of 1842, I often led the poor stockingers out into the villages,—sometimes on Sunday mornings, and sometimes on week day evenings,—and thus we collected the villagers of Anstey, and Wigston, and Glenn, and Countesthorpe, and Earl Shilton, and Hinckley, and Syston, and Mount Sorrel, and inducted them into some knowledge of Chartist principles.  One Sunday we devoted entirely to Mount Sorrel, and I and Beedham stood on a pulpit of syenite, and addressed the hundreds that sat around and above us on the stones of a large quarry.  It was a Gwennap—Wesley's grand Cornish preaching-place—on a small scale.

    Our singing was enthusiastic; and the exhilaration of that Chartist "camp-meeting" was often spoken of afterwards.  Now and then, I preached Chartist sermons on Nottingham Forest,—where at that time there was another natural pulpit of rock; but it was seldom I had meetings there, though I liked the place, the open air, and the people, who were proud of their unenclosed "Forest,"—unenclosed, now, no longer—but thickly built upon.

    As the poor Leicester stockingers had so little work, they used to crowd the street, around my shop door, early in the evenings; and I had to devise some way of occupying them.  Sometimes I would deliver them a speech; but more generally, on the fine evenings, we used to form a procession of four or five in a rank, and troop through the streets, singing the following triplet to the air of the chorus "Rule Britannia."

         "Spread—spread the Charter—
           Spread the Charter through the Land!
 Let Britons bold and brave join heart and hand!"

    Or chanting the "Lion of Freedom," which I have already alluded to,—the words of which were as follows:

The Lion of Freedom is come from his den;
We'll rally around him, again and again:
We'll crown him with laurel, our champion to be:
O'Connor the patriot: for sweet Liberty!

The pride of the people—He's noble and brave—
A terror to tyrants—a friend to the slave :
The bright star of Freedom—the noblest of men:
We'll rally around him, again and again.

Who strove for the patriots—was up night and day—
To save them from falling to tyrants a prey?
'Twas fearless O'Connor was diligent then:
We'll rally around him, again and again.

Though proud daring tyrants his body confined,
They never could conquer his generous mind:
We'll hail our caged lion, now freed from his den:
We'll rally around him, again and again.

    The popularity of this song may serve to show how firmly O'Connor was fixed in the regard of a portion of the manufacturing operatives, as the incorruptible advocate of freedom.  As a consequence, they immediately suspected the honesty of any local leader who did not rank himself under the banner of Feargus, the leader-in-chief.

 
CHAPTER XVII.
CHARTIST LIFE, CONTINUED: CORN-LAW REPEALERS:
1842.


OUR singing through the streets, in the fine evenings, often accompanied with shouts for the Charter, had no harm in it, although many of the shop-keepers would shut up their shops in real, or affected, terror.  This only caused our men to laugh, since all knew there was no thought of injuring anybody.

    "But why did you sing 'Spread the Charter,' and and why did you keep up your Chartist Association?" the thinking reader will say.  Had you any hope of success?  You yourself, and the men you led, must have had some real or imaginary expectation of a change."

    If the reader be little acquainted with the political, industrial, and social history of this country, I recommend him to turn to an article entitled "Anti-CornLaw Agitation," which he will find in No. 141 of the Quarterly Review, published Dec. 1842.  The article is, of course, filled with the strongest spirit of antagonism to the celebrated "Anti-Corn-Law League;" but it will present the inquirer with a truthful and most thrilling epitome of the state of things in the manufacturing districts at that period.

    It was not simply a few poor ragged Chartists in Leicester who were expecting a change.  It was expected in all our industrial regions.  Agitation, under the influence of the powerful League, was rife all over the Midlands and the Northern Counties.  Manufacturers declared things could not go on much longer as they were.  They began to threaten that they would close their mills, or, as the Tories interpreted the threats, to try to precipitate a revolution!  The speeches of Richard Cobden, John Bright, Joseph Sturge, George Thompson, James Acland, and a host of less powerful agitators—had not only stirred up a strong feeling of discontent, but had excited a confident expectation of relief.

    Now thirty years have passed away, I see how much poor Chartists resembled the fly on the wheel during that period of political agitation.  But men far more experienced than my poor self thought that Chartism would succeed before Corn Law Repeal; that a great change was at hand, and that the change would not be Free Trade, but a great enlargement of the franchise, and the accompanying political demands embodied in the People's Charter.

    We petitioned Parliament twice during the time that I was in Leicester, and two petty Conventions were held in London; to the first of which one of the members of the old Convention, Thomas Rayner Smart, was sent as our delegate from Leicester; and young Bairstow to the second. Duncombe and Wakley supported the prayer of these Chartist petitions very boldly and bravely.  But there was nothing in the behaviour of the vast majority of the House of Commons that indicated any enlargement of the franchise to be at hand.  Yet we still held by the People's Charter, and fondly believed we should succeed.
 
    Feargus O'Connor, by his speeches in various parts of the country, and by his letters in the Northern Star, chiefly helped to keep up these expectations.  The immense majority of Chartists in Leicester, as well as in many other towns, regarded him as the only really disinterested and incorruptible leader.  I adopted this belief, because it was the belief of the people; and I opposed James Bronterre O'Brien, and Henry Vincent, and all who opposed O'Connor, or refused to act with him.

    Common sense taught me that no cause can be gained by disunion.  And as I knew no reason for doubting the political honesty and disinterestedness which O'Connor ever asserted for himself, and in which the people believed, I stuck by O'Connor, and would have gone through fire and water for him.  There was much that was attractive in him when I first knew him.  His fine manly form and his powerful baritone voice gave him great advantages as a popular leader.  His conversation was rich in Irish humour, and often evinced a shrewd knowledge of character.  The fact of his having been in the House of Commons, and among the upper classes, also lent him influence.  I do not think half a dozen Chartists cared a fig about his boasted descent from "Roderick O'Connor, the king of Connaught, and last king of all Ireland;"  but the connection of his family with the "United Irishmen" and patriotic sufferers of the last century, rendered him a natural representive of the cause of political liberty.

    I saw no honest reason for deserting him, and getting up a "Complete Suffrage Association," if the people who got it up veritably meant politically what we meant as Chartists.  The working men said there was deceit behind their cry of "Complete Suffrage;" and I maintained their saying.  For the demagogue, or popular "leader," is rather the people's instrument than their director.  He keeps the lead, and is the people's mouthpiece, hand and arm, either for good or evil, because his quick sympathies are with the people; while his temperament, nature, and energetic will fit him for the very post which the people's voice assigns him.

    Besides, we could not think of giving up our demand for the People's Charter, to adopt the new cry for "Complete Suffrage," when we remembered what had occurred in Leicester before that cry was heard.  I can never forget the stirring shout that went up from the voices of working men in one of our Chartist meetings in the New Hall, when the eloquent successor of the great Robert Hall, the Rev. J. P. Mursell, uttered the words,

    "Men of Leicester, stick to your Charter!  When the time comes, my arm is bared for Universal Suffrage!

    It is true that Mr. Mursell never attended another Chartist meeting, although he was eagerly enough looked for, and his presence hoped for by our poor fellows.

    "Where's Parson Barearm?" shouted one of the merriest of them, on one of our meeting nights, while the room rang with laughter.

    Nor was it the Rev. Mr. Mursell alone, of the middle-classes, who was known to sympathise with us in our political creed.  The Messrs. Biggs, Baines, Viccars, Hull, Slade, and others, were understood to regard the People's Charter as a fair embodiment of popular rights, although they acted and voted with the League.

    I maintained union—but no mere factiousness.  I never suffered any meeting to be held by Chartists, while I was leader in Leicester, to oppose the repeal of the Corn Laws.  It was a part of Chartist policy, in many towns, to disturb Corn Law Repeal meetings.  I never disturbed one; and never suffered my party to do it.  The Leicester Whigs said we did.  But it was a falsehood.  We were called disturbers as soon as we entered a meeting, and before we had spoken!  Of course, there was a policy in that; but it was a dirty policy.

    When we were fairly permitted to take our part, they saw what we meant.  There was one large meeting of the Corn Law Repealers, in the market-place, that I remember well,  where I and a few of my Chartist friends were allowed to be on the platform.  I interrupted no speaker, nor did a single Chartist utter a word of disapproval.  They finished their speeches, and put their proposition to the vote.  I held up my hand, and cried to my own party who composed a large part of the crowd, "Now, Chartists!" and every man of them held up his hand for Corn Law Repeal.  I then told the chairman that I should beg leave to make another proposition, and I would not take up much time in doing it.  I then proposed a resolution in favour of the People's Charter; and the chairman put it formally to the vote.  Mr. Wm. Baines, Mr. Slade, Mr. Hull, Mr. Joseph Biggs, and three or four others on the platform, held up their hands with the great body of working men.  "On the contrary!" said the chairman; and there was a solitary hand held up.  It was that of Mr. Tertius Paget.  I have no doubt he remembers it well—but never mind!  He was a young man then.

    To resume the broken thread of my narrative.  The decrease of work, and the absolute destitution of an immense number of the working classes in Leicester, led to alarming symptoms, in the summer of 1842.  The Union Poor House, or 'Bastile,' as it was always called by the working men, was crowded to excess; and the throngs who asked for outdoor relief for a time seemed to paralyse the authorities.  A mill was at length set up at the workhouse, and it had to be turned by the applicants for relief.  The working of the wheel they declared to be beyond their strength; and no doubt some of the poor feeble stockingers among them spoke the truth.  They complained of it also as degrading, and it kindled a spirit of strong indignation among the great body of working men in Leicester.

    Meetings were held in the market-place to protest against the measures of the Poor Law Guardians, and against the support afforded to them in their harsh measures by the magistrates.  And at these meetings I and my Chartist friends were often speakers.  The labourers at the mill were only allowed a few pence per day; and about forty of them used to go round the town in a body, and beg for additional pence at the shops.  At length they resisted one of the officials set to watch them at the wheel, and this led to a riot, in which the windows of the Union Poor House were broken.  Police, however, were soon on the spot: the disorder was quelled, and the ringleaders taken into custody.

    The whole affair was utterly unconnected with our Chartist Association.  None of the men who were in custody were on our books as members and: they might have been tried and dismissed, or imprisoned, as the case might be, had it not been for the proposal made to me by a man who had generally passed for a Tory, but who suddenly came and offered his name and his subscription, as a member of the Shaksperean Chartist Association.

    This was Joseph Wood, an attorney of low practice, but well known in the town.  He offered to conduct the cases of the men who had been placed in custody for the "Bastile Riot," as it was called, and who had to be brought before the magistrates.  Their relatives and friends had no sooner accepted his offer, than he sought a private interview with me, and proposed a scheme which too well accorded with my excited imagination and feelings.  It was, that I should, in a formal way, by the drawing up of an agreement and signing it, become his clerk, that he might empower me to conduct the poor rioters' cases before the magistrates, myself.  And I did this, bullying and confounding the witnesses, and angering the magistrates, by my bold defence of the offenders, for two whole days.  The market-place was thronged with crowds who could not get into the over-filled magistrate's room to hear the trials.  And at last the magistrates did—what, if they had been possessed of the brains and courage of men, they would have done, at first—put an end to my pleading, by declaring that I was not a properly qualified representative of any attorney.  By their foolish cowardice and incompetence, the town of Leicester was in more danger of a real "riot," than it had ever been, by our harmless singing of the " Lion of Freedom" through its streets.  A troop of horse was sent for from Nottingham to overawe the working men; and the convicted "rioters" were sentenced and sent to gaol.

    For myself, the "destiny" was in progress.  I was elected as delegate from Leicester to the Chartist Conference, or Convention, which it had been resolved should be held in Manchester, on the 16th of August.  As I had some small accounts owing to me for my Commonwealthsman, in Birmingham, Bilston, Wolverhampton, Stafford, and the Staffordshire Potteries, I thought I would take that route to Manchester.  We had learned in Leicester that some of the colliers were on strike in the Potteries, and that the whole body of them had struck, in South Staffordshire, or the "Black Country," and were holding meetings in the open air, almost daily; but I had no foresight of danger in going among them.

 
CHAPTER XVIII.
CHARTIST LIFE, CONTINUED: THE RIOT IN THE STAFFORDSHIRE POTTERIES:
1842.


I LEFT Leicester on Tuesday, the 9th of August, 1842, and lectured that night, in the Odd Fellows Hall, Birmingham.  The next morning I was taken on to Wednesbury, to assist in holding a meeting of the colliers on strike, at which, it was thought, 30,000 men were present.  Arthur G. O'Neill, Linney, Pearson, and others addressed the colliers, counselling them to persevere with their strike; and, above all things, to avoid breaking the law or acting disorderly.  I addressed them on the necessity of uniting to win the People's Charter.  On Thursday night, I spoke on the same subject to another meeting of colliers at Bilston.  On Friday morning, I addressed another meeting, in the open air, at Wolverhampton; and the same evening, addressed two meetings at Stafford, one in the market-place, and the other on the Freemen's Common.

    The people, everywhere, seemed perfectly orderly.  A policeman, stimulated by the Tory party at Stafford, tried to create disorder; but I drew the people away from the market-place to the common, and defeated their purpose.  And all seemed perfectly quiet when I reached Hanley, the principal town of the Potteries, on the Saturday.  I saw nothing of the colliers who were on strike; and companied with the Teetotal Chartists, whom I had known when I paid a few days' visit to Hanley, in April preceding.

    On Sunday morning, in company with these Chartist friends, I went and spoke in the open air at Fenton, and in the afternoon at Longton.  In the evening I addressed an immense crowd at Hanley, standing on a chair in front of the Crown Inn: such ground being called "the Crown Bank," by the natives.  I took for a text the sixth commandment: "Thou shalt do no murder"—after we had sung Bramwich's hymn "Britannia's sons, though slaves ye be," and I had offered a short prayer.

    I showed how kings, in all ages, had enslaved the people, and spilt their blood in wars of conquest, thus violating the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I named conquerors, from Sesostris to Alexander, from Caesar to Napoleon, who had become famous in history by shedding the blood of millions: thus violating the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I described how the conquerors of America had nearly exterminated the native races, and thus violated the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I recounted how English and French and Spanish and German wars, in modern history, had swollen the list of the slaughtered, and had violated the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I rehearsed the plunder of the Church by Henry the Eighth, and the burning of men and women for religion, by himself and his daughter, Mary—who thus fearfully violated the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I described our own guilty Colonial rule, and still guiltier rule of Ireland; and asserted that British rulers had most awfully violated the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I showed how the immense taxation we were forced to endure, to enable our rulers to maintain the long and ruinous war with France and Napoleon, had entailed indescribable suffering on millions; and that thus had been violated the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I asserted that the imposition of the Bread Tax was a violation of the same precept; and that such was the enactment of the Game Laws; that such was the custom of primogeniture and keeping of the land in the possession of the privileged classes; and that such was the enactment of the infamous new Poor Law.

    The general murmur of applause now began to swell into loud cries; and these were mingled with execrations of the authors of the Poor Law.—I went on.

    I showed that low wages for wretched agricultural labourers, and the brutal ignorance in which generation after generation they were left by the landlords, was a violation of the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I asserted that the attempt to lessen the wages of toilers under ground, who were in hourly and momentary danger of their lives, and to disable them from getting the necessary food for themselves and families, were violations of the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    I declared that all who were instrumental in maintaining the system of labour which reduced poor stockingers to the starvation I had witnessed in Leicester,—and which was witnessed among the poor handloom weavers of Lancashire, and poor nail-makers of the Black Country—were violating the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder."

    And now the multitude shouted; and their looks told of vengeance—but I went on, for I felt as if I could die on the spot in fulfilling a great duty—the exposure of human wrong and consequent human suffering.  My strength was great at that time, and my voice could be heard, like the peal of a trumpet, even to the verge of a crowd composed of thousands.  How sincere I was, God knows! and it seemed impossible for me, with my belief of wrong, to act otherwise.

    I fear I spent so much time in describing the wrong, and raising the spirit of vengeance in those who heard me, that the little time I spent in conclusion, and in showing that those who heard me were not to violate the precept, "Thou shalt do no murder," either literally, or in its spirit, but that they were to practise the Saviour's commandment, and to forgive their enemies, produced little effect in the way of lowering the flame of desire for vengeance, or raising the spirit of gentleness and forgiveness.

    Before the conclusion of the meeting, which was prolonged till dusk, I was desired to address the colliers on strike, on the same spot,—"the Crown Bank"—the next morning at nine o'clock.  I agreed, and instantly announced the meeting.

    I was lodging at honest and devoted Jeremiah Yates'; but often went across the road to the George and Dragon, an inn to which a large room was attached, in which Chartist meetings were usually held.  When I reached the inn that night, the Chartist Committee told me they had received instruction from the Chartist Committee in Manchester to bring out the people from labour, and to persuade them to work no more till the Charter became law—for that that resolution had been passed in public meetings in Manchester and Stockport, and Staleybridge, and Ashton-under-Lyne, and Oldham, and Rochdale, and Bacup, and Burnley, and Blackburn, and Preston, and other Lancashire towns, and they meant to spread the resolution all over England.
 
    "The Plug Plot," of 1842, as it is still called in Lancashire, began in reductions of wages by the Anti Corn-Law manufacturers, who did not conceal their purpose of driving the people to desperation, in order to paralyse the Government.  The people advanced at last, to a wild general strike, and drew the plugs so as to stop the works at the mills, and thus render labour impossible.  Some wanted the men who spoke at the meetings held at the beginning of the strike to propose resolutions in favour of Corn Law Repeal; but they refused.  The first meeting where the resolution was passed, "that all labour should cease until the People's Charter became the law of the land," was held on the 7th of August, on Mottram Moor.  In the course of a week, the resolution had been passed in nearly all the great towns of Lancashire, and tens of thousands had held up their hands in favour of it.

    I constituted myself chairman of the meeting on the Crown Bank, at Hanley, on Monday morning, the 15th of August, 1842, a day to be remembered to my life's end.  I resolved to take the chief responsibility on myself, for what was about to be done.  I told the people so.  I suppose there would be eight or ten thousand present.  I showed them that if they carried out the resolution which was about to be proposed, no government on earth could resist their demand.  But I told them that "Peace, Law, and Order" must be their motto; and that, while they took peaceable means to secure a general turn-out, and kept from violence, no law could touch them.

    John Richards, who was seventy years of age and had been a member of the First Convention,—the oldest Chartist leader in the Potteries,—proposed the Resolution, "That all labour cease until the People's Charter becomes the law of the land."

    A Hanley Chartist, whose name I forget, seconded it, and when I put the resolution to the crowd all hands seemed to be held up for it; and not one hand was held up when I said "On the contrary."  Three cheers were given for success, and the meeting broke up.

    I went to my lodging at the George and Dragon, to remain till the evening, when I should lecture in the room, according to printed announcement.  But I had not been many minutes in the inn, before a man came in with a wild air of joy, and said they had got the hands out at such and such an employer's; others followed; and then one said the crowd had gone to Squire Allen's, to seize a stand of arms that had be longed to the Militia.  And then another came, and said the arms were at Bailey Rose's; and they had gone thither for them; and then another said they had done neither.

    I strolled out and saw the shopkeepers shutting all their shops up, and some putting day-books and ledgers into their gigs, and driving off!  I stepped into the Royal Oak, a small public-house kept by Preston Barker, whom I had known in Lincoln.  A man came in there whom I stared to see.  It was my old Italian instructor, Signor D'Albrione!  He had been settled in the Potteries for a short time, as a teacher,—a fact I had no knowledge of.  Men soon came in with more reports of what the crowd were doing—but the reports were contradictory.

    I went out into the street, and had not gone many yards before I saw a company of infantry, marching, with fixed bayonets, and two magistrates on horseback accompanying their officers, apparently in the direction of Longton.  Women and children came out and gazed, but there was scarcely a male person to be seen looking at the soldiers.  I met a man soon, however, who told me that the crowd, after visiting Bailey Rose's, had gone to Longton, and no doubt the soldiers were going thither also.

    I passed to and fro, and from and to my inn, and into the streets, viewing the town of Hanley as having become a human desert.  Scarcely a person could be seen in the streets; all the works were closed, and the shops shut.  I went again to my inn and wrote a letter to Leicester, telling our committee that they must get the people into the market-place and propose the Resolution to work no more till the Charter became the law of the land.  Then there was the sudden thought that I must not send such a letter through the post-office.  A Chartist came into the inn whom the landlord said I might trust; and he offered to start and walk to Leicester with the letter at once.  I wrote another letter for my dear wife, gave the man five shillings, and committed the two letters to his care.  He delivered them safely, the next morning, in Leicester.

    The day wore on, wearily, and very anxiously, till about five in the afternoon, when parties of men began to pass along the streets.  Some came into my inn, and began to relate the history of the doings at Longton, which had been violent indeed.  Yet the accounts they gave were confused, and I had still no clear understanding of what had been done.

    By six o'clock, thousands crowded into the large open space about the Crown Inn, and instead of lecturing at eight o'clock in the room, the committee thought I had better go out at once, and lecture on the Crown Bank.  So I went at seven o'clock to the place where I had stood in the morning.  Before I began, some of the men who were drunk, and who, it seems, had been in the riot at Longton, came round me and wanted to shake hands with me.  But I shook them off, and told them I was ashamed to see them.  I began by telling the immense crowd—for its numbers were soon countless—that I had heard there had been destruction of property that day, and I warned all who had participated in that act, that they were not the friends, but the enemies of freedom—that ruin to themselves and others must attend this strike for the Charter, if they who pretended to be its advocates broke the law.

    "I proclaim Peace, Law, and Order!"  I cried at the highest pitch of my voice.  "You all hear me; and I warn you of the folly and wrong you are committing, if you do not preserve Peace, Law, and Order!"

    At dusk, I closed the meeting; but I saw the people did not disperse; and two pistols were fired off in the crowd.  No policeman had I seen the whole lay!  And what had become of the soldiers I could not learn.  I went back to my inn; but I began to apprehend that mischief had begun which it would not be easy to quell.

    Samuel Bevington was the strongest-minded man among the Chartists of the Potteries; and he said to me, "You had better get off to Manchester.  You can do no more good here."  I agreed that he was right; and two Chartist friends went out to hire a gig to enable me to get to the Whitmore station, that I might get to Manchester: there was no railway through the Potteries, at that time.  But they tried in several places, and all in vain.  No one would lend a gig, for it was reported that soldiers and policemen and special constables had formed a kind of cordon round the Potteries, and were stopping up every outlet.

    Midnight came, and then it was proposed that I should walk to Macclesfield, and take the coach there at seven the next morning, for Manchester.  Two young men, Green and Moore, kindly agreed to accompany me; and I promised them half-a-crown each.

    "But first," said I, "lend me a hat and a greatcoat.  You say violence is going on now.  Do not let me be mixed up with it.  I shall be known, as I pass through the streets, by my cap and cloak; and some who see me may be vile enough to say I have shared in the outbreak."

    So Miss Hall, the daughter of Mr. Hall, the landlord of the George and Dragon, lent me a hat and great-coat.  I put them on, and putting my travelling cap into my bag, gave the bag to one of the young men, and my cloak to the other; and, accompanied by Bevington and other friends, we started.  They took me through dark streets to Upper Hanley; and then Bevington and the rest bade us farewell, and the two young men and I went on.

 
CHAPTER XIX.
CHARTIST LIFE CONTINUED: REMARKABLE NIGHT JOURNEY:
1842.


MY friends had purposely conducted me through dark streets, and led me out of Hanley in such a way that I saw neither spark, smoke, or flame.  Yet the rioters were burning the houses of the Rev. Mr. Aitken and Mr. Parker, local magistrates, and the house of Mr. Forrester, agent of Lord Granville (principal owner of the collieries in the Potteries) during that night.  Scenes were being enacted in Hanley, the possibility of which had never entered my mind, when I so earnestly urged those excited thousands to work no more till the People's Charter became the law of the land.  Now thirty years have gone over my head, I see how rash and uncalculating my conduct was.  But, as I have already said, the demagogue is ever the instrument rather than the leader of the mob.  I had caught the spirit of the oppressed and discontented thousands, and, by virtue of my nature and constitution, struck the spark which kindled all into combustion.

    Nor did the outbreak end with that night.  Next morning thousands were again in the streets of Hanley and began to pour into the other Pottery towns from the surrounding districts.  A troop of cavalry, under Major Beresford, entered the district, and the daring colliers strove to unhorse the soldiers.  Their commander reluctantly gave the order to fire; one man was killed at Burslem.  The mob dispersed; but quiet was not restored until the day after this had been done, and scores had been apprehended and taken to prison.

    Many days passed before I learned all this.  I must now call the reader's close attention to a few facts which very closely concern myself, and show that, amidst the fulfilment of the "destiny," an Everpresent and All-beneficent Hand was guiding events, and preventing a fatal conclusion to my error.  My friend Bevington, and those who were with him, charged the two young men, Green and Moore, who accompanied me, not to go through Burslem, because the special constables were reported to be in the streets, keeping watch during the night; but to go through the village of Chell, and avoid Burslem altogether.

    I think we must have proceeded about a mile in our night journey when we came to a point where there were two roads; and Moore took the road to the right while Green took that to the left.

    "Holloa!" I cried out, being a short distance behind them, "what are you about? what is the meaning of this?"

    "Jem, thou fool, where art thou going to?" cried Moore to the other.

    "Why, to Chell, to be sure!" answered Green.

    "Chell! thou fool, that's not the way to Chell: it's the way to Burslem," cried Moore.

    "Dost thou think I'm such a fool that I don't know the way to Chell, where I've been scores o' times?" said Green.

    "So have I been scores o' times," said Moore ; "but I tell thee that isn't the way to Chell."

    "I tell thee that I'm right," said the one.

    "I tell thee thou art wrong," said the other.

    And so the altercation went on, and they grew so angry with each other that I thought they would fight about it.

    "This is an awkward fix for me," said I, at length.  You both say you have been scores of times to Chell, and yet you cannot agree about the way.  You know we have no time to lose.  I cannot stand here listening to your quarrel.  I must be moving some way.  You cannot decide for me.  So I shall decide for myself.  I go this way,"—and off I dashed along the road to the left, Moore still protesting it led to Burslem, and Green contending as stoutly that it led to Chell.

    They both followed me, however, and both soon recognised the entrance of the town of Burslem, and wished to go back.

    "Nay," said I, "we will not go back.  You seem to know the other way so imperfectly, that, if we attempt to find it, we shall very likely get lost altogether.  I suppose this is the highroad to Macclesfield, and perhaps it is only a tale about the specials."

    In the course of a few minutes we proved that it was no tale.  We entered the market-place of Burslem, and there, in full array, with the lamp-lights shining upon them, were the Special Constables!  The two young men were struck with alarm; and, without speaking a word, began to stride on, at a great pace.  I called to them, in a strong whisper, not to walk fast—for I knew that would draw observation upon us.  But neither of them heeded.  Two persons, who seemed to be officers over the specials, now came to us.  Their names, I afterwards learned, were Wood and Alcock, and they were leading manufacturers in Burslem.

    "Where are you going to, sir?" said Mr. Wood to me.  "Why are you travelling at this time of the night, or morning rather?  And why are those two men gone on so fast?"

    "I am on the way to Macclesfield, to take the early coach for Manchester," said I; "and those two young men have agreed to walk with me."

    "And where have you come from?" asked Mr. Wood; and I answered, "From Hanley."

    "But why could you not remain there till the morning?"

    "I wanted to get away because there are fires and disorder in the town—at least, I was told so, for I have seen nothing of it."

    Meanwhile, Mr. Alcock had stopped the two young men.

    "Who is this man?" he demanded; "and how happen you to be with him, and where is he going to?"

    "We don't know who he is," answered the young men, being unwilling to bring me into danger; "he has given us half-a-crown a piece, to go with him to Macclesfield.  He's going to take the coach there for Manchester, to-morrow morning."

    "Come, come," said Mr. Alcock, "you must tell us who he is.  I am sure you know."

    The young men doggedly protested that they did not know.

    "I think," said Mr. Wood, "the gentleman had better come with us into the Legs of Man" (the principal inn, which has the arms of the Isle of Man for its sign), "and let us have some talk with him."

    So we went into the inn, and we were soon joined by a tart-looking consequential man.

    "What are you, sir?" asked this ill-tempered-looking person.

    "A commercial traveller," said I, resolving not to tell a lie, but feeling that I was not bound to tell the whole truth.  And then the same person put other silly questions to me, until he alighted on the right one, "What is your name?"

    I had no sooner told it, than I saw Mr. Alcock write something on a bit of paper, and hand it to Mr. Wood.  As it passed the candle I saw what he had written,—"He is a Chartist lecturer."

    "Yes, gentlemen," I said, instantly, "I am a Chartist lecturer; and now I will answer any question you may put to me."

    "That is very candid on your part, Mr. Cooper," said Mr. Alcock.

    "But why did you tell a lie, and say you were a commercial traveller?" asked the tart-looking man.

    "I have not told a lie," said I; "for I am a commercial traveller, and I have been collecting accounts and taking orders for stationery that I sell, and a periodical that I publish, in Leicester."

    "Well, sir," said Mr. Wood, "now we know who you are, we must take you before a magistrate.  We shall have to rouse him from bed; but it must be done."

    Mr. Parker was a Hanley magistrate, but had taken alarm when the mob began to surround his house, before they set it on fire, and had escaped to Burslem.  He had not been more than an hour in bed, when they roused him with the not very agreeable information that he must immediately examine a suspicious-seeming Chartist, who had been stopped in the street.  I was led into his bedroom, as he sat in bed, with his night-cap on.  He looked so terrified at the sight of me—and bade me stand farther off, and nearer the door!  In spite of my dangerous circumstances, I was near bursting into laughter.  He put the most stupid questions to me; and at his request I turned out the contents of my carpet-bag, which I had taken from the young men, with the thought that I might be separated from them.  But he could make nothing of the contents,—either of my night-cap and stockings, or the letters and papers it held.  Mr. Wood at last said,—

    "Well, Mr. Parker, you seem to make nothing out in your examination of Mr. Cooper.  You have no witnesses, and no charges against him.  He has told us frankly that he has been speaking in Hanley; but we have no proof that he has broken the peace.  I think you had better discharge him, and let him go on his journey."

    Mr. Parker thought the same, and discharged me.  His house was being burnt at Hanley while I was in his bedroom at Burslem.  I was afterwards charged with sharing the vile act.  But I could have put Mr. Parker himself into the witness-box to prove that I was three miles from the scene of riot, if the witnesses against me had not proved it themselves.  The young men, by the wondrous Providence which watched over me, were prevented going by way of Chell.  If we had not gone to Burslem, false witnesses might have procured me transportation for life!

    Were these young men true to me?  Had they deserted me, and gone back to Hanley?  No: they were true to me, and were waiting in the street; and now cheerily took the bag and cloak, and we sped on again, faster.  We had been detained so long, however, that by the time we reached the "Red Bull," a well-known inn on the highroad between Burslem and the more northern towns of Macclesfield, Leek, and Congleton, one of the young men, observed by his watch that it was now too late for us to be able to reach Macclesfield in time for the early coach.  The other young man agreed; and they both advised that we should strike down the road, at the next turning off to the left, and get to Crewe—where I could take the railway for Manchester.  We did so; and had time for breakfast at Crewe, before the Manchester train came up, when the young men returned.

    A second special Providence was thus displayed in my behalf.  If we had proceeded in the direction of Macclesfield, in the course of some quarter of an hour we should have met a crowd of working men, armed with sticks, coming from Leek and Congleton to join the riot in the Potteries.  That I should have gone back with them, I feel certain; and then I might have been shot in the street, as the leader of the outbreak; or, if taken prisoner, I might have forfeited my life.

    Do not feel surprised, reader, when I say I feel certain I should have gone back with that crowd.  How rapid are our changes of mind and the succession of our impulses and resolves, when we are under high excitement, none can know, except by dread experience.  As we journeyed along that night, I was compelled to keep behind the young men, in order to do battle with my own thoughts.  If truth did not demand it, I would hardly tell what tumultuous thoughts passed through me.

    "Was it not sneaking cowardice to quit the scene of danger?  Ought I not to have remained, and again, on the following morning, have summoned the people to hear me, and proclaimed 'Peace, Law, and Order'?

    "Or, what if like scenes should be transacting in Lancashire and elsewhere, and this be really an incipient Revolution—ought I not to have remained, and displayed the spirit of a leader, instead of shunning the danger?

    "Could I expect the people to take the advice I had given them in the morning, and expect all to be as quiet as lambs, when labour was given up?  Had I not better turn back, and direct the struggle for freedom?

    "No: it was better to go on to the Manchester convention, and learn the truth about Lancashire, and know the spirit of the leaders with whom I had to act.  O'Connor would be there; and surely he would not be deficient in courage, if he saw any real opportunity of leading the people to win a victory for the People's Charter.

    "But, whatever others might do, if the report given in respecting the spirit of the people, by members of the Convention, showed that there was a strong resolve to work no more till Right was done—I would fight if the people had to fight.  Why not end the Wrong, at once, if it could be ended?"
 
    When I entered the railway carriage at Crewe, some who were going to the Convention recognised me,—and, among the rest, Campbell, secretary of the "National Charter Association."  He had left London on purpose to join the Conference; and, like myself, was anxious to know the real state of Manchester.  So soon as the City of Long Chimneys came in sight, and every chimney was beheld smokeless, Campbell's face changed, and with an oath he said, "Not a single mill at work! something must come out of this, and something serious too!"

 
CHAPTER XX.
CHARTIST LIFE CONTINUED: MY FIRST TRIAL AND ACQUITTAL:
1842.


IN Manchester, I soon found McDouall, Leach, and Bairstow, who, together with Campbell, formed what was called "The Executive Council of the National Charter Association."  They said O'Connor was in Manchester, and they hoped he would be at a meeting to be held that afternoon, at a public-house.  He came to the place, but said it was not advisable to hold the Conference there: some better place must be had for the evening; and we had better separate.  We all thought he seemed frightened.

    In the streets, there were unmistakable signs of alarm on the part of the authorities.  Troops of cavalry were going up and down the principal thoroughfares, accompanied by pieces of artillery, drawn by horses.  In the evening, we held a meeting in the Reverend Mr. Schofield's chapel, where O'Connor, the Executive, and a considerable number of delegates were present; and it was agreed to open the Conference, or Convention, in form, the next morning, at nine o'clock.  We met at that hour, the next morning, Wednesday, the 17th of August, when James Arthur of Carlisle was elected President.  There were nearly sixty delegates present; and as they rose, in quick succession, to describe the state of their districts, it was evident they were, each and all, filled with the desire of keeping the people from returning to their labour.  They believed the time had come for trying, successfully, to paralyse the Government.  I caught their spirit—for the working of my mind had prepared me for it.

    McDouall rose, after a while, and in the name of the Executive proposed, in form, that the Conference recommends the universal adoption of the resolution already passed at numerous meetings in Lancashire,—that all labour shall cease till the People's Charter becomes the law of the land.  When the Executive, and a few others, had spoken, all in favour of the universal strike, I told the Conference I should vote for the resolution because it meant fighting, and I saw it must come to that.  The spread of the strike would and must be followed by a general outbreak.  The authorities of the land would try to quell it; but we must resist them.  There was nothing now but a physical force struggle to be looked for.  We must get the people out to fight; and they must be irresistible, if they were united.

    There were shouts of applause from a few, and loud murmurs from others,—and up rose O'Connor.

    "I do not believe," said he, "that there is a braver man in this Conference than Mr. Cooper; and I have no doubt that he would do what he proposes others should do.  But we are not met here to talk about fighting.  We must have no mention of anything of the kind here.  We are met to consider what can be done to make the Charter the law of the land; and the general extension of the strike which has been begun is proposed as the means to be used.  Let us keep to the resolution before the meeting."

    In spite of O'Connor's protest, Mooney of Colne, Christopher Doyle, and one or two other delegates, stood up, and in a fiery style told the Convention they were for the strike because they were for fighting; and they were glad I had spoken out—for the strike really meant fighting.

    But now uprose William Hill, who had been a Swedenborgian minister, and so was often termed "Reverend"—but who had for some years been O'Connor's servant, as editor of the Northern Star.  He admired, he said, the clear intelligence which had led me to proclaim in so decided a manner that the strike meant fighting; but he wondered that so clear an intellect should dream of fighting.  Fighting!—the people had nothing to fight with, and would be mown down by artillery if they attempted to fight.  The strike had originated with the Anti Corn-Law League, and we should simply be their tools if we helped to extend or prolong the strike.  It could only spread disaster and suffering.  He denounced the strike as a great folly and a mistake; and he moved a resolution that the Conference entirely disapproved of it.

    Richard Otley of Sheffield followed on the same side.  He was astonished, he said, to hear his friend Cooper talk of fighting.  How could I expect poor starving weavers to fight? and what had they to fight with?  Had I calculated that if we endeavoured to form battalions for fighting, the people would need food and clothing—they would need arms and powder and shot; they would, very likely, have to bivouac in the fields-anyhow, could I expect poor weavers to do that?  It would kill them in a few days.

    Nothing caused so much amazement in the Conference as the speech of George Julian Harney.  He supported Editor Hill—even he, Julian, the renowned invoker of the spirits of Marat, Danton, and Robespierre, in the old Convention times!—Julian, the notorious advocate of physical force, at all times!

    "What!  Julian turned 'moral-force humbug!' what will happen next?" was said by the advocates of the strike.  And yet, Julian had supported Editor Hill in a very sensible manner; and a more sincere or honest man than Julian, perhaps, never existed.

    There were only six votes in favour of Editor Hill's amendment.  O'Connor spoke late—evidently waiting to gather the spirit of the meeting before he voted with the majority, which he meant to do from the first.  Yet he meant to do nothing in support of the strike, although he voted for it!

    McDouall was a different kind of spirit.  He hastily drew up an exciting and fiercely worded address to the working men of England, appealing to the God of Battles for the issue, and urging a universal strike.  He got Leach to print this before the Convention broke up in the evening.  The address was brought into the Convention, and McDouall read the placard; but Editor Hill defiantly protested against it; and O'Connor moved that instead of its being sent out in the name of the Convention, the Executive should send it out in their own name.  McDouall said the Executive would do so—and the Conference broke up.

    The publication of the address, with the names of the Executive appended to it, caused the police to look after them very sharply.  Campbell got off to London, McDouall got away into Yorkshire, and only Leach was left at his own home in Manchester, where the police soon found him.  Bairstow, I took back with me to Leicester.  We walked through Derbyshire, as far as Belper, and then took the railway.

    I found Leicester in a state of terror and discouragement.  Before my letter from Hanley reached them, the working men had taken their own resolution, and held a meeting in the market-place, declaring their adherence to the strike which had commenced in Lancashire.  They then withdrew to an elevation in the neighbourhood of Leicester, which bears the singular name of "Momecker Hill."  Here they were charged by the county police, and dispersed.  It often causes a laugh in Leicester, to the present time, when old Chartist days are mentioned, and some one says, "Were you at the Battle of Momecker Hill?"

    Laughter was not perceptible in Leicester, when I re-entered it.  The police, I was told, had charged the people in the streets, as well as upon Momecker Hill, and smitten and injured several with their staves.  I called Chartist friends together, with great difficulty; and endeavoured to reassure them.  And then I issued a printed address to the magistrates of Leicester, boldly reprehending them for dispersing the people; and assuring them that I should still contend for the People's Charter.

    I had not been one week at home, before the Leicester police came and handcuffed me, and took me to the Town Hall, where—in presence of Stokes, the Mayor, who looked as white as a sheet, and never spoke a word!—I was handed over to the constable of Hanley, who had come to apprehend me.  We reached Hanley at night, and I was taken to a "lockup," where a large, coarse fellow, who was set to watch over me, put huge iron bolts on my ancles, so that I could not sleep as I lay in my clothes on a board.  The next day I was taken to Newcastle-under-Lyme, and brought before Mr. Mainwaring and Mr. Ayshford Wyse, magistrates.  Several witnesses appeared against me; and I saw what I must expect when the real trial came.  I had to complain of the "leading questions" put to the witnesses, eliciting replies which were damaging to myself.

    "He proclaimed 'Peace, Law, and Order,' and shouted it aloud," said one of the meanest of the witnesses, with a laugh.

    "But how did he say it?" asked Mr. Mainwaring; " did he say it as if he meant it?"

    "Oh, no!" cried Dirty Neck, as the fellow was called in the Potteries; "it was only innuendo."

    "Is there any particular statute against inuendo?" I asked the magistrate; "would it not be strange, if I were convicted of the crime of inuendo?  Do you think it right, sir, to put answers into men's mouths in this way?"

    They committed me to Stafford Gaol, on the charge of aiding in a riot at Hanley, etc.  But I was kept at Newcastle-under-Lyme until next day, Sunday—when, to my amazement, I was borne away in an open carriage drawn by four horses, with a troop of cavalry, having drawn swords, escorting me, to the Whitmore station, on what was then called the "Grand Junction Line," there being no railway through the Potteries at that time, as I said before.  At the Whitmore station, the constable of Newcastle-under-Lyme handcuffed me to his wrist, and took me in the train to Stafford; and so on Sunday evening, the 28th of August, 1842, I first became a prisoner in Stafford Gaol.

    From that time till the commencement of the Special Assizes, in October, eight hundred persons were brought to Stafford Gaol, as participators in the riot of the 15th August.  I was surrounded with a score, and sometimes more, of these men, in the prison ward, in the daytime; but I slept alone.  During these six weeks, before I was brought up for my first trial, and while surrounded with the colliers and potters who were charged with sharing in the riots, I composed several of the simple tales which will be found in "Wise Saws and Modern Instances," published in 1845.  I also commenced my intended "Purgatory of Suicides," in blank verse, and struck off one hundred lines.  But these were afterwards abandoned.

    The day of trial came, the 11th of October, before Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas: Sir William Follett, the Solicitor-General, and Mr. Waddington, being the two prosecuting barristers.  I had engaged Mr. Williams, an honest Radical of the Potteries, as my attorney; and he engaged Mr. Lee, as the barrister to assist me on law points only—as I had determined to conduct my own case.  William Prowting Roberts, the "Chartist Attorney-General," as he was often called, also kindly promised to assist me with advice.

    I felt stunned, as if a person had given me a blow on the head, when Roberts came to have a private interview with me in the prison, but a week before the trial, and he told me I was to be tried for the alleged crime of "arson," or aiding and abetting the burning of justice Parker's house.

    "They are about to arraign you," he also said, on the morning before the trial, "in company with seventeen other prisoners.  Now, if you permit that, you are a lost man.  Mind what I say: you have a chance of a fair trial, if you do two things—first, you must demand 'to sever,' that is, to be tried alone.  If you persist in your demand, you will gain it.  Secondly, you must 'challenge the jury,' that is, you must ask every Juryman, before he is sworn, whether he has served on any trial during this Special Assize—and then object to him, if he has so served,—for all who have hitherto served are prejudiced men.  Refuse to plead either 'guilty' or 'not guilty,' before the court grants you leave to sever and to challenge the jury."

    I refused to plead until both demands were granted me, although I was resisted, very sternly, by Sir William Follett.  Two or three witnesses swore that they saw me arm-in-arm with William Ellis (whom I had never known or seen in my life) walking to the fire at justice Parker's house.  One witness, Mr Macbean, surgeon of Hanley, gave his evidence in a clear, honest, and intelligent manner; but no one else did.  The Solicitor-General, both in addressing the jury and in cross-examining my witnesses, used great unfairness, as I thought.  Once he made me spring up and contradict him.

    "My lord, and gentlemen of the jury," he said, in his very deep voice, "the prisoner at the bar is declared by several witnesses to have said, while addressing the crowd that had just returned to Hanley, after burning the house of the Reverend Mr. Vale, at Longton, 'My lads, you have done your work well, to-day!'  What work, gentlemen?  Why the destruction of property, to be sure—"

    "Sir William!" I cried out, " you are slaughtering me!  You know it is false to say I meant they had done their work well in destroying property.  You know that your most intelligent witness, Mr. Macbean, declared the words were, 'You have done your work well in turning out the hands!'  And those were the words: wrong or right, I shall not deny them."

    Moore, Green, Worthington, Sylvester, and others of my own witnesses, not only proved my alibi, but the later witnesses against me showed that I was at Burslem, in Justice Parker's bedroom, at the time that the earlier witnesses swore they saw me, arm in arm, with William Ellis, in the streets of Hanley!  I occupied some two hours of the time of the Court in delivering my own address.  I dealt, first, with the evidence of the witnesses and their contradictions; secondly, I told the truth about my alibi on the night of the riots; and thirdly, I sketched my own life, and asked the jury if they could believe any intent of urging men to the destruction of property could dwell in the mind of one who had spent so much of his life in mental and moral cultivation?

    The judge, it was observed by Roberts, who was his kinsman, and knew him well, was much affected with my address; and some of the ladies who sat near him shed tears.  In summing up, the judge told the jury, most positively, that they could not convict me of the crime of arson; that I certainly was at Burslem, and not at Hanley, during the time that Mr. Parker's house was on fire.  The jury retired; and, after twenty minutes of agonizing suspense for myself, gave in their verdict of "Not Guilty."

    I was taken down into the " glory-hole," as the felons call the filthy place under the Courts of Assize in Stafford; and there I first saw William Ellis, who had just been sentenced to twenty-one years' transportation, although, he assured me, most solemnly, he was not at the fires.  I was taken back to the prison, and two days afterwards I was again taken, in the prison-van to the Court, and arraigned again before Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal—first for the crime of conspiracy with William Ellis, Joseph Capper, and John Richards; and secondly, for the crime of sedition.

    Again, kindly instructed by Roberts, I asked "to traverse:" that is, to have my trial adjourned to the next Assizes.  Sir William Follett smiled with gladness when he heard my request.  The ambitious, hard-working, highly intelligent man was dying; and the fortnight's terrible work at Stafford, though he was paid several thousands for it, hastened his end.  He readily consented, and Daddy Richards, as he was always called in the Potteries, was also allowed to traverse.  But Capper would not traverse.

    "I want to go whooam," said the obstinate old man ; "try me and get done wi' me I've done nowt amiss."

    So they arraigned him, separately, on the charge of sedition, and soon brought him in guilty, and sentenced him to two years' imprisonment.  I knew when they had done that, that I should receive a sentence of imprisonment also for two years, at some future day.  Daddy Richards and I were taken back to prison till we could find bail.  Daddy found good bail in the Potteries.  Mr. Robert Haimes, of Oundle, in Northamptonshire, a beneficent gentleman of eighty years of age, went, first, by mistake, to Lancaster, and then to London, that—with my friend and benefactor, Mr. Samuel Mullen—he might give bail for myself, although I was utterly unknown to him, except by mere report, as a poor Chartist in trouble.  Although we thus readily found friends—substantial friends—who offered bail for us, the Staffordshire magistrates threw all kinds of impediment in our way—evidently desiring to keep us in prison.  After five more weeks had passed we were liberated.  My first imprisonment had thus lasted eleven weeks.

 
CHAPTER XXI.
CHARTIST LIFE, CONTINUED: STURGE CONFERENCE:
SECOND TRIAL:
1842—1843.


I HAD a public entry into Leicester—a procession round the town, with flags,—and all that sort of thing; but I saw, before the day was over, that all had been going wrong in my absence.  Duffy, an excitable Irishman, who had suffered a long imprisonment for Chartism, and had so suffered that he had become sad and soured, had formed a party with a few turbulent men; and two or three other petty parties were opposed to these: in brief, all was discord and jealousy.  My poor wife, too, who had sustained her burden of trouble most heroically, had gradually declined, till she was obliged to tenant her bedroom only.

    The election of Mr. Thomas Gisborne for Nottingham drew me away from home for a few days.  It was determined to give Thomas Slingsby Duncombe, M.P., a public entry into Nottingham,—as the political patron or advocate under whose persuasion Mr. Gisborne was to be accepted by the Nottingham electors.  O'Connor wished me to meet him at Nottingham, to do honour to Duncombe ; and so I went over. Our Chartists joined the procession with their flags, mingling friendlily with the other shades of Liberals ; and O'Connor and I, adorned with rosettes, led the horses of the open carriage in which Mr. Duncombe entered Nottingham. He was in the very prime of life, and I never saw a handsomer man in form and figure; nor could aught surpass, in attractiveness, the winning smile he wore, and the graceful way in which he acknowledged the hearty and almost tumultuous welcome he received.

    During Christmastide, at Leicester, Chartist divisions were hushed, that we might make provision for taking our part in what was afterwards called the 'Great Birmingham Conference,' and by some the 'Great Sturge Conference.'  Since it was composed of more than 400 persons, it might well bear a designation of importance.  The leaders of the Complete Suffrage party had met Lovett, Collins, O'Brien, and other old Chartists who were not of O'Connor's party, at Birmingham, in an earlier part of the year; and it had then been determined to hold a Conference on a large scale of representation.

    Leicester was privileged to return four delegates.  The Complete Suffrage party wished two of the delegates to be chosen in a meeting composed of parliamentary electors only; and to leave the unrepresented to elect the two other delegates.  But this did not meet the views either of Chartists or of working men generally.  They forced their way into the meetings called by the respectables; and the respectables disappeared.  It was of their own respectable good pleasure that they withdrew.  If they had remained, working-men would have voted for the Rev. J. P. Mursell and Mr. William Baines, to be delegates with Duffy and myself.  But respectables held our characters to be defective, and they would not act with us.  So we acted by ourselves.  I and Duffy and two other Chartists were voted delegates for Leicester, and we went to Birmingham: no respectables went.

    Our Chartist delegates were the most numerous party in the Birmingham Conference; but my expectation rose when I saw so many persons present belonging to the middle class.  I thought that if such persons would assemble with us to confer about presenting a petition to Parliament for making a law whereby all mature men should have the franchise, it showed we were really advancing.  If the strike for the Charter had ended almost as soon as it begun, and had ended disastrously,—if neither we nor the Anti Corn-Law League had succeeded in paralysing the government, it looked as if there were a party in the country who were determined yet to let the Government understand that there was real cause for discontent, and it was time the wrong should be righted.

    The truly illustrious Joseph Sturge was elected chairman of the Conference, by acclamation—for not a single working-man delegate in the meeting wished for any other chairman.  And now, if Mr. Sturge himself, or Edward Miall, or the Rev. Thomas Spencer, or the Rev. Patrick Brewster of Paisley, or Mr. Lawrence Heyworth of Liverpool, or any other leading member of the Complete Suffrage party present, had risen in that assembly, and spoken words of real kindness and hearty conciliation, I am persuaded that not even O'Connor himself, if he had desired it, could have prevented the great body of working-men delegates from uttering shouts of joy.

    But there was no attempt to bring about a union—no effort for conciliation—no generous offer of the right hand of friendship.  We soon found that it was determined to keep poor Chartists "at arm's length."  We were not to come between the wind and their nobility.  Thomas Beggs of Nottingham, a mere secondary member of the Complete Suffrage party, was put up to propose their first resolution, to the effect,—That the "People's Bill of Rights" form the basis from which the petition should be drawn that this Conference would present to Parliament.

    But what was the "People's Bill of Rights"?  A document which had been drawn up by a barrister, it was said, at the request of the Complete Suffrage party, in which the six points of our Charter were embodied, and some definite propositions were made for distributing the country into equal electoral districts.  But Chartists knew nothing of all this.  And it was preposterous to ask us to vote for what we knew nothing of.  Copies of the new bill were laid on the tables.  But who could be expected to read and digest a mass of print amounting to many pages, in the lapse of a few hours, or while listening to exciting speeches, and then give a judgment on it?  Murmurs of discontent, and soon of indignation, began to arise—when up rose William Lovett, throwing up his tall form to its full height, and, with a glance of haughty defiance towards the Complete Suffrage leaders, to our utter amazement he led the attack upon them!

    If they had made up their minds, he said, to force their Bill of Rights upon the Conference, he would move that the People's Charter be the basis from whence the petition should be drawn for presentation to Parliament.  He also openly charged the Complete Suffrage party with unmanly secrecy, "You have not kept faith with me," he said; when I and my friends met you, in this town, some months ago, we were given to understand that no measures contrary to our views would be taken without our being informed of it; and now this resolution is proposed—so contrary to fairness.  If you will withdraw your motion, I will withdraw mine; and then we will endeavour to come to a fair agreement.  If you refuse to withdraw your resolution, I stand by mine as an amendment."

    Lovett's conduct won the hearts of all who were O'Connor Chartists, and, apparently, of O'Connor himself—for he followed with a highly-spiced eulogium on Lovett.  But Lovett evidently did not accept his flattery.  He was irreconcilably opposed to O'Connor, as a mere trader on political agitation; and he was, constitutionally, too proud to bear the thought of being under another's leadership.  But so far as parties could be distinguished in that Conference, there were now but two.  We had looked on Lovett and his friends as a doubtful party when the Conference was opened.  All thought of that was now gone; and the debate soon began to be very stormy—for the Complete Suffrage party stuck by their "People's Bill of Rights," and we stuck by our "People's Charter."

    The best orator in the Conference was a friend of Lovett's, utterly unknown to the great majority of delegates.  He was then a subordinate in the British Museum, but has now, for many years, been known to all England as the highly successful barrister, Serjeant Parry.  The Reverend Patrick Brewster of Paisley distinguished himself by the length of his speech; and Mr. Lawrence Heyworth by his offensiveness.

    "We will espouse your principles, but we will not have your leaders," he cried; and when the outcry against him grew strong, he grew still more offensive—"I say again," he shouted, "we'll not have you—you tyrants!"

    The good chairman now interposed, and begged of him not to proceed in that style; or I think George White, and Beesley, and a few others, who were heard swearing roughly, would have been disposed to try another and more conclusive way of arguing than mere speech.

    The Rev. Mr. Spencer, a clergyman of the Complete Suffrage party, was heard with kindly patience, for he addressed us respectfully, though he did not convince us.  We had a clergyman on our side also—a very great contrast, every way, to Mr. Spencer—but well known for many years, among London Radicals, as a very determined politician: the famous, fat "Parson Wade," as he was always called.

    "What is this 'Bill of Rights'?" he asked; "this mysterious something which we are expected to swallow—this thing begotten in darkness, and brought forth in a coal-hole—this


'Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum.'


This pig in a poke?—What is it? I say.  We know nothing about it.  And I wonder at the effrontery—nay, sir, I tell you plainly I wonder at the impudence of any party who can call together a Conference like this, and mock us with such a proposition."

    "I am a Chartist," he cried, in conclusion; "I am a whole hog! and I don't care who knows it."

    During the time that some prosy speaker was occupying the Conference, or rather consuming their time, I fell into conversation with James Williams of Sunderland.  He expressed to me his regret that something had not been done—even if the attempt were unsuccessful—to bring back the Conference to fairness.  I told him it was too late—for it was now far on, on the second day;—but it would be well to propose a resolution even if none voted with us.  It would be a protest for fairness, if it were no more.  So he moved, and I seconded, a proposition that both People's Charter and People's Bill of Rights be laid on the table, that they might form the basis of the petition to be sent to Parliament by the Conference.  I do not think we had half a dozen supporters.  It was, as I said, too late.  Chartists were not likely to give way under such circumstances.  To abandon their Charter, for which so many of them had suffered imprisonment, and for which all had endured scorn and persecution—in order to accept a proposition so offensively advocated by some, and so irrational in its suddenness—could not be expected of them.

    When the decisive vote was taken, we were apparently as three to one; and Joseph Sturge, after a little hesitation, rose and told us that he and his friends had come to the determination to leave us: they would withdraw, and hold a Conference by themselves.  All was tumult for a time.  An independent Quaker, from the Isle of Wight, protested, and said he would not withdraw.  The Rev. H. Solly, of Yeovil, also refused to withdraw.  And Arthur O'Neill, though no O'Connorite, stuck by us, like a true-hearted partisan of the side of the poor, as he has always been.  Henry Vincent withdrew with the Complete Suffrage party.  We blamed him; but, during the last thirty years, he has done more to liberalize the middle classes, in politics, than any other man.

    What a wretched look did the face of good Joseph Sturge weal as he uttered his last words to us, and stepped down from the chair!

    "Cooper," said O'Connor to me, "that man is not happy.  He does not want to leave us."  And I thought so too.

    Mr. Patrick O'Higgins of Dublin, an old associate of Feargus—(there was a rumour, once, that he was to marry O'Connor's sister)—was proposed by O'Connor as our chairman, and Lovett as our secretary; and we prepared to continue the Conference; but we felt wearied, although there was a deal of talk.

    I asked Lovett, openly, if we might expect him to join us heartily in our effort to get the Charter; but he told us, unhesitatingly, that he meant to abide by his own plans; and unless we accepted them he could not join us.  Not a man of the O'Connorite party felt disposed to do this; so my attempt to conciliate Lovett failed.  He and Parry, and his other friends, left us before the Conference was formally concluded; and we retired to a smaller room, where I proposed a plan of organisation, with a view of strengthening our members; but the Executive opened a quarrel with O'Connor; and soon it was all quarrel and confusion, and we came to a conclusion without any form at all.

    When my plan of organisation was published, Editor Hill proposed his.  Letters followed in the Northern Star; and a fuss was made about "Organisation " for a time; but no real and effective organisation ever took place.  That Birmingham Conference ruined the prospects of Chartists; and the Complete Suffrage party never made any headway in the country.  The middle and working classes could form no union for winning the broad franchise; and so the expectation of winning it grew faint and fainter.

    The months of January and February, 1843, passed away very drearily.  I was in debt to John Cleave for copies of the Northern Star and other periodicals; I was in debt to Warwick, my printer; I was in debt to my baker, for bread given away to the poor; I was in debt to the lawyer who had prepared my case for defence and perfected my bail.  And the divisions which had sprung up rendered it difficult for me to keep the Chartist party together—although Markham, the old leader, now, in the time of my trouble, showed himself friendly.

    It was proposed to raise money for the law expenses by the performance of a play.  So we hired the Amphitheatre, and I took the part of Hamlet—as I knew the whole play by heart.  We performed the play twice; but I found it useless to proceed further in that direction: the amphitheatre, which, as I have already said, held 3,000 people, was crowded to excess, each night; but the people who went on the stage as actors and actresses, all demanded payment, both for the cost of their dresses and their time, and so the income hardly covered expenses.

    I was glad when we reached the month of March, 1843, and the Spring Assizes at Stafford drew near.  The judge, this time, was the Hon. Sir Thomas Erskine; and the Counsel arrayed against myself, and Daddy Richards, and Capper (for Ellis was already across the sea), were, Serjeant Talfourd, M.P., Mr. Godson, M.P. for Kidderminster, Mr. Richards, an elderly barrister, and young Mr. Alexander.

    My second trial commenced on my birthday, March 20th, 1843.  I was angered greatly when I found that the Hanley lawyers and magistrates had resolved, in this my second trial, to revive the old, vilely false charge of "arson,"—although I had been acquitted of the charge after a full trial, where I had the most powerful pleader at the bar against me, and the best lawyer on the Bench for my judge!

    I would have no counsel; nor had I the slightest legal assistance this time.  I was sole lawyer and sole counsel for myself and also for my companions in trouble.  The trial began on Monday morning, and I exerted all my strength up to Saturday at noon in cross-examining the witnesses brought against us, and making them contradict themselves—for some of them were the very scum of the Potteries for bad character, and would have sworn away any man's life for a few shillings.  Major Beresford was the last witness brought up against us; and I was surprised when they told me there were no more witnesses to appear, as the list they gave me before the trial contained several other names.

    The Court broke up for an hour, and then I had to begin my defence.  I had only half finished when the usual time came for closing the Court; and so I had to resume on Monday morning—making about ten hours altogether for my defence.  I do not think that I ever spoke so powerfully in my life as during the last hour of that defence.  The peroration, the Stafford papers said, would never be forgotten; and I remember, as I sat down, panting for breath and utterly exhausted, how Talfourd and Erskine and the jury sat transfixed, gazing at me in silence; and the whole crowded place was breathless, as it seemed, or a minute.

    The witnesses on our side were not subjected to much cross-examination, except my friend Bevington; but his intelligence and perfect self-possession brought him easily through.  The Judge and Counsel and jury were all wearied, and hastened to come to an end.  Judge Erskine took nearly the whole of Tuesday to sum up; and first told the jury that he should not read to them that part of his notes which recorded the evidence that I was present at the fires—unless they wished it to be read—but should write Mistake on all the pages, instead.  The jury conferred together a few moments, and desired him to write Mistake.  I felt this to be a great triumph—for God had delivered me from the snare of those who still hoped they should get me sent over the sea; and I was declared innocent of the charge of felony!

    We were, of course, declared Guilty of the crimes of Sedition and Conspiracy; but the good, kind-hearted Erskine said, that, since our case had been removed by "Writ of Certiorari " to the Court of Queen's Bench when we traversed, he should not pronounce sentence, but leave that to the Chief justice and judges of that Court.  So again John Richards and I went back to our homes, by virtue of our bail.



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