CONVERSATIONS WITH MR. GLADSTONE
WERE I to edit a new journal again I should call it
Open Thought. I know no characteristic of man so wise, so
useful, so full of promise of progress as this. The great volume of
Nature, of Man and of Society opens a new page every day, and Mr.
Gladstone read it. It was this which gave him that richness of
information in which he excited the admiration of all who conversed with
Holyoake, aged 87.
Were Plutarch at hand to write Historical Parallels of famous
men of our time, he might compare Voltaire and Gladstone. Dissimilar
as they were in nature, their points of resemblance were notable.
Voltaire was the most conspicuous man in Europe in the eighteenth century,
as Mr. Gladstone became in the nineteenth. Both were men of wide
knowledge beyond all their contemporaries. Each wrote more letters
than any other man was ever known to write. Every Court in Europe
was concerned about the movements of each, in his day. Both were
deliverers of the oppressed, where no one else moved on their behalf.
Both attained great age, and were ceaselessly active to the last. In
decision of conviction they were also alike. Voltaire was as
determinedly Theistic as Mr. Gladstone was Christian. They
were alike also in the risks they undertook in defence of the right.
Voltaire risked his life and Gladstone his reputation to save others.
Mr. Morley relates of the Philosopher of Ferney, that when he made his
triumphal journey through Paris, some one asked a woman in the street "why
do so many people follow this man?" "Don't you know?" was the reply.
"He was the deliverer of the Calas." No applause went to Voltaire's
heart like that. Mr. Gladstone had also golden memories of
deliverance no one else moved hand or foot to effect, and multitudes, even
nations, followed him because of that.
On the first occasion of my going to breakfast with him he
was living in Harley Street, in the house in which Sir Charles Lyell died.
As Mr. Gladstone entered the room, he apologised for not greeting me
earlier, as his servant had indistinctly given him my name. He asked
me to sit next to him at breakfast. There were seven or eight
guests. The only one I knew was Mr. Walter. H. James, M.P., since
Lord Northbourne—probably present from consideration for me. One
was the editor of the Jewish World, a journal opposed to Mr.
Gladstone's anti-Turkish policy. Others were military officers and
travellers of contemporary renown. It was a breakfast to
remember—Mr. Gladstone displayed such a bright, unembarrassed vivacity.
He told amusing anecdotes of the experiences of the wife of the
Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, whose charm he said he could only describe by
the use of the English rural term "buxom." On making a time-bargain
with a cabman, he observed to her ladyship that "he wished the engagement
was for life." Mr. Gladstone thought no English cabman would have
said that. Another pleasantry was of one of Lord Lyttelton's sons,
who was very tall and lank. He being in Birmingham and wishful to
know the distance to a place he sought, asked a boy in the street who was
passing, "how far it was." "Oh, not far," was the assuring but
indefinite answer. "But can you not give me some better idea of the
distance?" Mr. Lyttelton inquired. "Well, sir," said the lad,
looking up at the obelisk-like interrogator before him, "if you was to
fall down, you would be half way there."
These incidents were not new to me, but I was glad to hear
what was probably the origin of them. From Mr. Gladstone's lips they
had a sort of historic reality which was interesting to me.
Afterwards he spoke of the singular beauty of the "Dream of
Gerontius" by Cardinal Newman, and turning to me asked if I knew of it, as
though he thought it unlikely my reading lay in that direction. He
was very much surprised when I said I had read it with great admiration.
He said it was strange, as he had mentioned the poem at three or four
breakfast tables, without finding any one who knew it.
As I left, Mr. Gladstone accompanied me downstairs. On
the way I took occasion to thank him for a paper that had appeared in the
Contemporary, containing definitions of heretical forms of thought,
so fair and accurate and actual, that Shakespeare or Bunyan, who had the
power of possessing himself of the minds of those whose thoughts he
expressed, might have produced. There had been nothing to compare
with it in my time. Theological writers described heterodox tenets
from their inferences of what they must be—never inquiring what they
actually stood for in the minds of those who held them—whereas he had
written with unimputative knowledge. Stopping on the first platform
of the stairway we reached, he paused, and (holding the lapel of his coat
with his hand, as I had seen him do in the House of Commons) he said he
was glad I was able to think so, "for that is the quality in which you
yourself excel." This amazed me, as I never imagined that he had
ever taken notice of speeches or writings of mine, or formed any opinion
upon them. Nor was he the man to say what I cite from mere courtesy.
The second time I breakfasted in Harley Street was in the
days of the Eastern question. Mr. John Morley was one of the party.
Mr. Gladstone had again the same disengaged manner. Before his
guests broke up he entered the room, bearing on his arm a pile of letters
and telegrams, and apologised for leaving us as he had to attend to them.
That morning Mr. Bright came in, and seeing me, said, "Poor Acland is
dead. Of course there was nothing in the house, and a few of us had
to subscribe to bury him." James Acland was the rider on a white
horse who preceded Cobden and Bright the day before their arrival to
address the farmers on the anti-Corn Law tour in the counties. Mr.
Gladstone's grand-daughter was to have arrived at Harley Street that
morning, but her nurse missed the train. When she appeared, Bright,
who had suggested dolorous adventures to account for her non-appearance,
proposed, when the child was announced to be upstairs, that a charge of
sixpence should be made for each person going to see her.
That morning one of the guests, who was an actor, maintained
that it was not necessary that an actor should feel his part. Mr.
Gladstone, to whom conviction was his inspiration—who never spoke without
believing what he said—dissented from the actor's theory, as I had done.
Towards the end of his life, I saw Mr. Gladstone twice at the
Lion Mansion in Brighton. On one occasion he said, after speaking of
Cardinal Newman and his brother Francis, "I remember Dr. Martineau telling
me that there was a third brother, a man also of remarkable power, but he
was touched somewhere here," putting his finger to his forehead. "Do
you know whether it was so? It is so long since Dr. Martineau named
it to me, and my impression may be wrong." I answered, "It was true.
At one time I had correspondence with Charles Newman. He would say
at times, 'My mind is going from me for a time. Do not expect to
hear from me until my mind returns.' In power of reasoning, he was,
when he did reason, distinguished for boldness and vigour." Mr.
Gladstone said, "When you write again to his brother Francis, convey to
him for me the assurance of my esteem. I am glad you believe that
the cessation in his correspondence was not occasioned by anything on my
part or any change of feeling on his. I must have been mistaken if I
ever described Mr. Francis Newman as 'a man of considerable talent.'
He was much more than that. His powers of mind may be said to amount
Mr. Gladstone asked what I would advise as a rule of policy
as to the Anarchists who threw the bombs in the French Chambers. I
answered, "There were serious men who came to have Anarchical views from
despair of the improvement of society. There were also foolish
Anarchists who think they can put the world to rights, had they a clear
field before them. There are also a class who are quite persuaded
that by killing people who have nothing to do with the evils they complain
of, they will intimidate those who have. They take destruction to be
a mode of progress. These persons are as mad as they are made, and
you cannot legislate against insanity."
I mentioned the case of a Nonconformist minister, who was so incensed by
the injustice done to Mr. Bradlaugh that he took a revolver, loaded, to
Palace Yard, intending to
shoot the policemen who maltreated him. But the member for Northampton was
altogether against such proceedings. The determined rectifier of wrong in
question had a
project of throwing a bomb from the gallery on to the floor of the House. I had great difficulty in dissuading him from this frightful act. He was
no coward, and was quite
prepared to sacrifice his own life. To those ebullitions of vengeance
society in every age has been subject, and its best protection lies in
intrepid disdain and cool precaution. The affair of Phoenix Park showed
that the English nation did not go mad in the face of desperate outrage. However, Mr. Gladstone
himself gave the best
answer to his inquiry. He said, "The Spanish Government had solicited him
to join in a federation against Anarchists. But how could we do
that? We cannot tell what other Governments may do, and we should be held
responsible for their acts which we might deplore."
He added, "It fills me with surprise, not to say disgust, to see it said
at times in Liberal papers that the Tories of to-day are superior to their
class formerly. Sir Robert Peel
was a man of high honour, patriotism, and self-respect. He would never
have joined in nor countenanced the treatment to which Mr. Bradlaugh was
subjected. I never knew
the Tories do a meaner thing. Nothing could have induced Sir Robert Peel
to consent to that."
On one occasion, after reference to out-of-the-way persons of whom I
happened to have some knowledge, Mr. Gladstone said, "I have known many
remarkable men. My
position has brought me in contact with numbers of persons." Indeed, it
seemed when talking to him that you were talking to mankind, so
diversified and plentiful were the
persons living in his memory, and who, as it were, stepped out in his
conversation before you. The individuality, the environment of persons,
all came into light. His
conversation was like an oration in miniature. Its exactness, its
modulation, its force of expression, its foreseeingness of all the issues
of ideas, came at will. I never
listened to conversation so easy, so natural, so precise, so full of
colour and truth, spoken with such spontaneity and force.
William Ewart Gladstone
Mr. Morley, in his "Life of Gladstone," cites a letter he sent to me in
1875: "Differing from you, I do not believe that secular motives are
adequate either to propel or restrain
the children of our race, but I earnestly desire to hear the other side,
and I appreciate the advantage of having it stated by sincere and
high-minded men." This shows his
A few years later it came into my mind that my expressions of respect for
persons whose Christian belief arose from honest conviction, and was
associated with efforts for
the improvement of the material condition of the people, might lead him to
suppose that I myself inclined to belief in Christian tenets of faith. I
therefore sent him my new book
on "The Origin and Nature of Secularism: Showing that where Free Thought
commonly ends Secularism begins"—saying that as I had the honour of his
ought not to leave him unaware of the nature of my own opinions. He
answered that he thought my motive a right one in sending the book to him,
and that he had read a
considerable part with general concurrence, though, in other parts, the
views expressed were painful to him. But this made no difference in his
continued to the end of his days.
An unknown aphorist of 1750, whom Mr. Bertram Dobell quotes, exclaims:
"Freethinker! What a term of honour; or, if you will, dishonour; but
where is he who can claim it?" Mr. Gladstone might claim it beyond any
other eminent Christian
I have known. It was he who, at the opening of
the Liverpool College some years ago, warned the clergy that "they could
no longer defend their tenets by railing or reticence"—a shaft that went
through the soul of
that policy of silence and defamation pursued by them for half a century. Mr. Gladstone was the first to see it must be abandoned.
It is Diderot who relates that one who was searching for a path through a
dark forest by the light of a taper, met a man who said to him, "Friend,
if thou wouldst find thy way
here, blow out thy light." The taper was Reason, and the man who said blow
it out was a priest. Mr. Gladstone would have said, "Take care of that
and if you can convert it into a torch do so, for you will need it to see
your way through the darkness of human life."
At our last interview he said, "You and I are growing old. The day is
nearing when we shall enter—" Here he paused, as though he was going to
say another life, but not
wishing to say what I might not concur in, in his sense, he—before his
pause was well noticeable—added, "enter a changed state." What my views
were he knew, as I had
told him in a letter: "I hope there is a future life, and, if so, my not
being sure of it will not prevent it, and I know of no better way of
deserving it than
by conscious service of humanity. The universe never filled me with such
wonder and awe as when I knew I could not account for it. I admit
ignorance is a privation. But to
submit not to know, where knowledge is withheld, seems but one of the
sacrifices that reverence for truth imposes on us."
I had reason to acknowledge his noble personal courtesy, notwithstanding
convictions of mine he must think seriously erroneous, upon which, as I
told him, "I did not keep
He had the fine spirit of the Abbé Lamennais, who, writing of a book of
mark depicting the "passive" Christian, said: "The active Christian
who is ceaselessly fighting the
enemies of humanity, without omitting to pardon and love them—of this
type of Christian I find no trace whatever." Mr. Gladstone was of that
type. It was his distinction that he
applied this affectionate tolerance not only to the "enemies of humanity,"
but to the dissentients from the faith he loved so well.
At our last meeting in Brighton he asked my address, and said he would
call upon me. He wished me to know Lord Acton, whom he would ask to see
me. An official
engagement compelled Lord Acton to defer his visit, of which Mr. Glad
stone sent me notice. It was a great loss not to converse with one who
knew so much as Lord
Mr. Gladstone knew early what many do not know yet, that courtesy and even
honour to adversaries do not imply coincidence in opinion. As I was for
the right of free
thought, I regarded all manifestations of it with interest, whether
coinciding with or opposing views I hold. Shortly before his death I wrote
to him, when Miss Helen Gladstone
sent me word, "To-day I read to my father your letter, by which he was
much touched and pleased, and he desired me to send you his best thanks."
I shall always be proud
to think that any words of mine gave even momentary pleasure to one who
has given delight to millions, and will be an inspiration to millions
In former times, when an eminent woman contributed to the distinction of
her consort, he alone received the applause. In these more discriminating
days, when the noble
companionship of a wife has made her husband's eminence possible, honour
is due to her also. Therefore, on drawing the resolution of condolence to
adopted at the Peterborough Co-operative Congress, we made the
acknowledgment how much was due to the wife as well as the husband. I
believe no resolution sent to her,
but ours, did this. Sympathy is not enough where honour is due.
In the splendid winter of Mr. Gladstone's days there was no ice in his
heart. Like the light that ever glowed in the temple of Montezuma the
generous fire of his enthusiasm never went out. The nation mourned his
loss with a pomp of sorrow more deep and universal than ever exalted the
memory of a king.
HERBERT SPENCER, THE THINKER
A STAR of the first magnitude went out of the
firmament of original thought by the death of Herbert Spencer. His
was the most distinctive personality that remained with us after the death
of Mr. Gladstone. Spencer was as great in the kingdom of science as
Mr. Gladstone was in that of politics and ecclesiasticism. Men have
to go back to Aristotle to find Spencer's compeer in range of thought, and
to Gibbon for a parallel to his protracted persistence in accomplishing
his great design of creating a philosophy of evolution. Mr.
Spencer's distinction was that he laid down new landmarks of evolutionary
guidance in all the dominions of human knowledge. Gibbon lived to
relinquish his pen in triumph at the end of years of devotion to his
"History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"—Mr. Spencer planned
the history of the rise and growth of a mightier, a more magnificent, and
more beneficent Empire—that of Universal Law—and for forty years he
pursued his mighty story in every vicissitude of strength with unfaltering
purpose, and lived to complete it amid the applause of the world and the
gratitude of all who have the grand passion to understand Nature, and
advance the lofty destiny of humanity.
Herbert Spencer was born April 27, 1820, in the town of Derby, and died in
his eighty-fourth year, December 8, 1903, at 5, Percival Terrace,
Brighton, next door to his friend, Sir James Knowles, the editor of the
Nineteenth Century. At the time of his birth, Derby was emerging from the
sleepy, dreamy, stagnant, obfuscated condition in which it had lain since
the days of the Romans.
It is difficult to write of Spencer without wondering how a thinker of his
quality should have been born in Derby—a town which had a determined
objection to individuality in ideas. It has a Charter—its first act of
enterprise in a thousand years—obtained by the solicitations of the
inhabitants from Richard I., which gave them the power of expelling every
Jew who resided in the town, or ever after should approach it. Centuries
later, in the reigns of Queen Anne and George I., not a Roman Catholic, an
Independent, a Baptist, an Israelite, nor even an unmolesting Quaker could
be found in Derby.
There still remains one lineal descendant of the stagnant race which
procured the Charter of
Darkness from Richard I.—Mr. Alderman W. Winter, who opposed in the Town
Council a resolution of honour in memory of Spencer, who had given Derby
its great distinction, because his views contradicted the antediluvian
Scriptural account of the Creation, when there was no man present to
observe what took place, and no man of science existed capable of
verifying the Mosaic tradition. The only recorded instance of independency
of opinion was that of a humble Derby girl, who was born blind, yet could
see, like others, into the nature of things. She doubted the Real
Presence. What could it matter what the poor, helpless thing thought of
that? But the town burned her alive. The brave, unchanging girl, whose
convictions were torment-proof, was only twenty-two years old.
The only Derby man of free thought who preceded Herbert Spencer was
William Hutton, a silk weaver, who became the historian of Derby and
Birmingham. In sagacity, boldness and veracity he excelled. The wisdom of
his opinions was a century in advance of his time (1770-1830).
There were no photographs in the time of Mr. Spencer's parents, and their
lineaments are little known. Mr. Spencer's uncle I knew, the Rev. Thomas
Spencer, a clergyman of middle stature, slender, with a paternal
Evangelical expression. But his sympathies were with Social Reform, in
which field he was an insurgent worker for projects then unregarded or
When I first knew Mr. Herbert Spencer, he was one of the writers on the
Leader newspaper. We dined at times at the Whittington Club, then recently
founded by Douglas Jerrold. At this period Mr. Spencer had a half-rustic
look. He was ruddy, and gave the impression of being a young country
gentleman of the sporting farmer type, looking as unlike a philosopher as
Thomas Henry Buckle looked like a historian, as he appeared to me on my
first interview with him. Mr. Spencer at that time would take part in
discussions in a determined tone, and was persistent in definite
statement. In that he resembled William Chambers, with whom I was present
at a deputation to Lord Derby on the question of the Paper Duty. Lord
Derby could not bow him out, nor bow him into silence, until he had stated
In those days Mr. Spencer spoke with misgivings of his health. Mr. Edward Pigott, chief proprietor of the
Leader (afterwards Public Examiner of
Plays) asked me to try to disabuse Mr. Spencer of his apprehensiveness,
which was constitutional and never left his mind all his life, and I
learned never to greet him in terms which implied that he was, or could be
well. Coleridge complained of ailments of which no physical sign was
apparent, and he was thought, like Mr. Spencer, to be an imaginary
invalid. But after
his death Coleridge was found to have a real cause of suffering, and the
wonder was that he did not complain more.
There must be a distinct susceptibility of the nerves—which Sir Michael
Foster could explain—peculiar to some persons. I have had two or three
friends of some literary distinction, whom I made it a rule never to
accost, or even to know when I met them, until they had recovered from the
inevitable shock of meeting some unexpected person, when they would
spontaneously become genial.
Mr. Spencer's high spirit was shown in this. Though he often had to
abandon his thinking, he resumed it on his recovery. The continuity of his
thought never ceased. One form of trouble was recurring depression, so
difficult to sustain, which James Thompson, who oft experienced it,
described—when a man has to endure
"The same old solid hills and leas;
The same old stupid, patient trees;
The same old ocean, blue and green;
The same sky, cloudy or serene;
The old two dozen hours to run
Between the settings of the sun."
Mr. Spencer was first known to London thinkers by being found the
associate of economists like Bagot; philosophers with a turn for
enterprise in the kingdom of speculation—as George Henry Lewes, Darwin,
Huxley, Tyndall; and of great
novelists like George Eliot. In those days the house of John Chapman, the
publisher, was the meeting ground of French, Italian, German and other
Continental thinkers. There, also, congregated illustrious Americans like
Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other unlicensed explorers in the new world of
thought. There Mr. Spencer became known to men of mark in America, who
made his fame before his countrymen recognised him. If it was England who
"raised" Mr. Spencer, it was America that discovered him. Mr. George Iles,
a distinguished American friend of Mr. Spencer, sends me information of
the validity of American admiration of him, on the authority of the Daily
Witness: "Mr. Spencer's income is mainly drawn from the sale of his books
in America, his copyrights there having yielded him 4,730 dollars in the
last six months. A firm of publishers have paid in the last six months
royalties amounting nearly to ten thousand dollars to Mr. Herbert Spencer
and the heirs or executors of Darwin, Huxley and Tyndall. The sales of
Spencer's and Darwin's books lead those of Huxley and Tyndall."
During the earlier publication of his famous volumes, his expenditure in
printing and in employing assistants in gathering facts for his arguments,
exhausted all his means. Lord Stanley, of that day, was understood to have
offered him an appointment, which included leisure for his investigations. But he declined the thoughtful offer, deeming the office to be of the
nature of a sinecure. Wordsworth accepted such an appointment, and repaid
the State in song, as Spencer would have repaid it in philosophy.
I had the honour to be Mr. Spencer's outdoor friend. He asked me to make
known the publication of his work to persons whom I knew to be friendly to
enterprise in thought. For years I assiduously sought to be of service in
One day in 1885, being the guest, in Preston, of the Rev. William Sharman,
he showed me a passage in one of Mr. Spencer's volumes, published in 1874,
which I had not seen, and which surprised me much, in which it appeared
Secularists were below Christians in their sense of fiduciary integrity. Mr. Sharman said, "Defective as we are supposed to be, you will see that
Secularists are one degree lower in morality than the clergy." Mr. Spencer
had given instances which, in his opinion, "showed that the cultivation
of the intellect does not advance morality." If that were so, it would
follow that it was better to remain ignorant—if ignorance better develops
the ethical sense. The instance Mr. Spencer gives occurs in the "Study of
Sociology" (pp. 4 18-19), "Written to show how little operative on
conduct is mere teaching. Let me give, says Mr. Spencer, a striking fact
falling under my observation:
"Some twelve years ago was commenced a serial publication, limited in its
circulation to the well educated. It was issued to subscribers, from each
of whom was due a small sum for every four numbers. The notification
periodically made of another subscription due received from some prompt
attention, from others an attention less tardy than before, and from
others no attention at all. After a lapse of ten years, a digest was made
of the original list, when it was found that those who finally declined
paying for what they had year after year received, constituted, among
others, the following percentages:
Christian defaulters .... .... .... 31 per cent.
Secularist defaulters.... .... .... 32 per cent."
I wrote to Mr. Spencer as follows:
"EASTERN LODGE, BRIGHTON,
"December 1, 1885.
"MY DEAR MR.
SPENCER,—I am like the sailor who knocked down the Jew, and
when he was remonstrated with said, 'He did it because he had crucified
his Lord and Saviour.' When told that that occurred 2,000 years ago he
answered, 'But I only heard of it last night.'
"It was but a few days ago that your notice of Secularist fraudulency,
made in 1874, became known to me.
"From so dispassionate and analytic an authority as yourself, your
reflection on the ethical insensibility of Secularists justifies me in
asking your attention
to certain facts. By what test did you know that 32 per cent. of
defaulters were Secularists? The names I gave you were of persons likely
to take in your work if prospectuses were sent to them. But many of them
were not Secularists. Some of them were ministers of religion, others
Churchmen, but having individually a taste for philosophical inquiry,
"You do not say that these persons sent in their names as subscribers. Yet
unless they did, they cannot be justly described 'as regardless of an
equitable, claim.' Had you informed me of any whose names I gave you, who
had not paid for the work, after undertaking to do so, I could have
procured you the payment, for all whose names I gave I believe to be men
of good faith.—With real regard,
Mr. Spencer sent me the following reply:
"38, QUEEN'S GARDENS, BAYSWATER, LONDON, W.,
"November 16, 1885.
"DEAR MR. HOLYOAKE,—You ask how I happen to know of certain defaulters
that they were Secularists. I know them as such simply because their names
came to me through you; for, as you may remember, you obtained for me,
when the prospectus of the 'System of Philosophy' was issued, sundry
"But for my own part, I would rather you did not refer to the matter. At
any rate, if you do, do not do so by name. You will observe, if you turn
to the 'Study of Sociology,' where the matter is referred to, that I have
spoken of the thing impersonally, and not in reference to myself. Though
those who knew something of the matter might suspect it referred to my own
case, yet there is no proof that it did so; and I should be sorry to see
myself identified by name with the matter.—Truly yours, "HERBERT
But Mr. Spencer had identified Secularists as lacking ethical
scrupulousness, and as I was the reputed founder of that form of
Freethought known as Secularism, some notice became incumbent on my part. The brief article on "Intellectual Morality" in the
Present Day, which I
was editing in 1885, was my answer—the same as appears in my letter to
Mr. Spencer, above quoted.
In 1879 the great recluse meditated going to America. As I was about to do
the same myself, I volunteered to take a berth in the same vessel if I
could be of any service to him on the voyage. He thought, however, that
our sailing in the same ship might cause the constructive interviewers out
there to confuse together the opinions we represented. Yet my friends
would not know his, nor would his friends know mine. But I respected his
scruples, lest his views should become colourably
identified with my own. I had myself a preference for keeping distinct
things separate, and I sailed in another ship and never called at his
hotel but once,
when he was residing at the Falls of Niagara, which I thought was a
curious spot (the noisiest in Canada) to choose for one whose need was
quietude. He would take an entire flat in a hotel that he might be
undisturbed at night. In Montreal, Mr. George Iles gave me the same
splendid, spacious, secluded bedroom which he had assigned to Mr. Spencer
when he was his host there. Professor von Denslow, who told me that he was
the "champion non-sleeper of the United States," asked me to give a
communication from him to Mr. Spencer. That was the reason of my single
visit to him in Canada. At the farewell banquet given to Mr. Spencer in
New York, famous speakers took part; but Henry Ward Beecher, in a speech
shorter than any, excelled them all.
After his return to England, I had several
communications from him on the subject of Co-operation. Like Mr.
Gladstone, he usually made searching inquiries into the details of every
question on which he wrote. One of his letters was as follows:—
"2, LEWES CRESCENT,
"January 6, 1897.
"DEAR MR. HOLYOAKE,—I should have called upon you before now had I not
been so unwell. I have been kept indoors now for about three weeks. I
write partly to say this and partly to enclose you something of interest
as bearing upon my suggestion concerning piecework in co-operative
The experience described by Miss Davenport-Hill bears indirectly, if not
directly, upon them, showing as it does the harmonising effect of
piecework. Truly yours, "HERBERT
Busied as he was with the recondite application of great principles, he
had practical discernment of the possibilities of Co-operation, unthought
of by those of us engaged in promoting co-partnership in the workshop. Trades unions were mostly against piecework as giving more active workers
an advantage over the others. Mr. Spencer pointed out that in a
co-partnership workshop the fruitfulness of piece work was an advantage to
all. The piece-workers increase the output and profits of the society. The
profits, being equally divided upon wages, the least bright and active
members receive benefit from the piece-workers' industry.
Occasionally Mr. Spencer would come to my door and invite me to drive with
him. Another time when he had visitors—Mrs. Sidney Webb and Prof. Masson,
whom I wished to meet again—he would, if in the winter season, send me a
card from "2, Lewes Crescent, Jan. 24, 1897.—I will send the
carriage for you to-morrow (Sunday) at 12.40.
With the hood up and the leather curtain down you will be quite warm.—H.
S." He would occasionally send me grouse or pheasant for luncheon. Very
Pleasant were the amenities of philosophy.
The first work of Mr. Spencer's which attracted public attention was "Social Statics." Like Mr, Lewes' "Biography of Philosophy," it had a
pristine charm which fascinated young thinkers. Both authors restated
their works, but left behind their charm. Mr. Gladstone's first address to
the electors of Newark contains the germs of his whole and entire career. "Social Statics" contains the element of that philosophy which gave
Spencer the first place among thinkers of all times. Bishop Colenso found
the book in the library of the builder of his Mission Houses in South
Africa. Mr. Ryder, of Bradford, Yorkshire, procured it through me and took
it out with him. It was a book of inspiration to him.
Ten years before "Social Statics" appeared I was concerned with others
in publishing, in the "Oracle of Reason," a theory of Regular Gradation.
Our motto, from Boitard, was an explicit statement of Evolution. Five out
of seven of us were soon in prison, which shows that we did not succeed in
making Evolution attractive. Intellectual photography was then in an
infantine state. Our negatives lacked definition and our best impressions
were indistinct. It was not until Darwin and Spencer arose that the art of
developing the Evolutionary plates came to be understood.
Before the days of Spencer the world of scientific thought was mostly
without form and void. The orthodox voyagers who set out to sea steered
compass which always veered to a Jewish pole, and none who sailed with
them knew where they were. Rival theologians constructed dogmatic charts,
increasing the confusion and peril. Guided by the pole star of Evolution,
Spencer sailed out alone on the ocean of Speculation and discovered a new
empire of Law—founded without blood, or the suppression of liberty, or
the waste of wealth—where any man may dwell without fear or shame.
The fascination of Mr. Spencer's pages to the pulpit-wearied inquirer was,
that they took him straight to Nature. Mr. Spencer seemed to write with a
magnifying pen which revealed objects unnoticed by other observers. His
vision, like a telescope, descried sails at sea invisible to those on
shore. His pages, if not poems, gleamed with the poetry of facts. His
facts were the handmaids always at hand which explained his principle. His
repetitions do not tire, but are fresh assurances to the reader that he is
following a continuous argument. A pedestrian passing down a long street
is glad to meet the recurrence of its name, that he may know he is still
upon the same road. In Spencer's reasonings there are no byways left open,
down which the sojourner may wander and lose himself. When cross-roads
come in sight, fingerposts are set up telling him where they lead to, and
directing him which to take. Mr. Spencer pursues a new thought, never
loses sight of it,
and takes care the reader does not. No statement goes before without
the proof following closely after.
When the reception was given to me at South Place Institute, London, in
April, 1903, on my eighty-sixth birthday, he had been confined to his
house from the previous August, yet he took trouble to write some words of
personal regard to myself beyond all my expectation. To the end of his
days—save when the weather was inclement—I used to walk up the hill to
his door to inquire as to his health, and when I could not do so, Mr. Troughton would write me word. Mr. Spencer's last letter to me was in
answer to one I had sent him on his birthday. It was so characteristic as
to deserve quoting:
"Thanks for your congratulations; but I should have liked better your
condolences on my longevity."
He wanted no twilight in his life. Like the sun in America, his wish was
to disappear at once below the horizon—having amply given his share of
light in his day.
Like Huxley, Mr. Spencer would not have slept well in Westminster Abbey. He needed no consolation in death; and if he had, there was no one who
knew enough to give it to him. His conscience was his consolation. His one
choice was that his friend Mr. John Morley—than whom none were
fitter—should speak at his death the last words
over him. Mr. Morley being in Sicily, this could not be. The next in
friendship and power of estimate—the Right Hon. Leonard Courtney—spoke
in his stead, at the Hampstead Crematorium.
Mr. Spencer had a radium mind which gave forth, of its own spontaneity,
light and heat. None who have died could more appropriately repeat the
proud lines of Sir Edward Dyer:
"My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such perfect joy therein I find
As far exceeds all earthly bliss
That God or Nature hath assign'd."
SINGULAR CAREER OF MR. DISRAELI
I PREFER the picturesque name of Disraeli which he
contrived out of the tribal designation of "D'Israeli." Had it been
possible he would have transmuted Benjamin into a Gentile name.
Disraeli is far preferable to the sickly title of Beaconsfield, by which
association he sought to be taken as the Burke of the Tories, for which
his genius was too thin.
Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Beaconsfield
Disraeli is a fossilised bygone to this generation; though in the
political arena he was the most glittering performer of his day. Men
admired him as the Blondin of Parliament, who could keep his feet on a
tight-rope at any elevation. Others looked upon him as a music-hall Sandow
who could snap into two a thicker bar of bovine ignorance than any other
athlete of the "country party." He was capable of serving any party, but
preferred the party who could best serve him. He was an example how a man,
conscious of power and
unhampered by scruples, could advance himself by strenuous devices of
making himself necessary to those he served.
The showy waistcoat and dazzling jewellery in which he first presented
himself to the House of Commons, betrayed the primitive taste of a Jew of
the Minories, and foreshadowed that trinket statesmanship which captivated
his party, who thought sober, honest principles dull and unentertaining.
Germany and England contemporaneously produced the two greatest
adventurers of the century—Ferdinand Lassalle and Benjamin Disraeli. Both
were Jews. Both had dark locks and faith in jewellery. Both were Sybarites
in their pleasures; and personal ambition was the master passion of each. Both were consummate speakers. Both sought distinction in literature as a
prelude to influence. Both professed devotion to the interests of the
people by promulgating doctrines which would consolidate the power of the
governing classes. Lassalle counselled war against Liberalism, Disraeli
against the Whigs. Lassalle adjusted his views to Bismarck, as Disraeli
did to Lord Derby. Both owed their fortunes to rich ladies of maturity. Both challenged adversaries to a duel, but Disraeli had the prudence to
challenge Daniel O'Connell, who, he knew, was under a vow not to fight
one, while Lassalle challenged Count Racowitza, and was killed.
It was a triumph without parallel to bring to pass that the proud
aristocracy of England should accept a Jew for its master. Not approaching
erect, like a human thing, Disraeli stealthily crept, lizard-like, through
the crevices of Parliament, to the front of the nation, and with the sting
that nature had given him he kept his enemies at bay. No estimate of him
can explain him, which does not take into account his race. An alien in
the nation, he believed himself to belong to the sole race that God has
recognised. The Jew has an industrial daintiness which is an affront to
mankind. He, as a rule, stands by while the Gentile puts his hand to
labour. Isolated by Christian ostracism, the Jew tills no ground; he
follows no handicraft—a Spinoza here and there excepted. The Jew, as a
rule, lives by wit and thrift. He is of every nation, but of no
nationality, save his own. He takes no perilous initiation; he leads no
forlorn hope; he neither conspires for freedom, nor fights for it. He
profits by it, and acquiesces in it; but generally gives you the
impression that he will aid either despotism or liberty, as a matter of
business—as many do who are not Jews. There are, nevertheless, men of
noble qualities among them, and as a class they are as good or better than
Christians would be had they been treated for nineteen centuries as badly
as Jews have been.
Derision and persecution inspire a strong spirit with retaliation, and
absolve him from scrupulous methods of compassing it. Two things the Jew
pursues with an unappeasable passion—distinction and authority among
believers, before whom his race has been compelled to cringe. An ancient
people which subsists by subtlety and courage, has the heroic sense of
high tradition, still looks forward to efface, not the indignity of days,
but of centuries—which imparts to the Jew a lofty implacableness of aim,
which never pauses in its purpose. How else came Mr. Disraeli by that form
of assegai sentences, of which one thrust needed no repetition, and by
that art which enabled him to climb on phrases to power?
A critic, who had taken pains to inform himself, brought charges against
D'Israeli the Elder to the effect that he had taken passages of mark from
the books of Continental sceptics and had incorporated them as his own. At
the same time he denounced the authors, so as to disincline the reader to
look into their pages for the D'Israelian plagiaries. In the novels of D'Israeli the Younger I have come upon passages which I have met with
elsewhere in another form. As the reader knows, Disraeli delivered in
Parliament, as his own, a fine passage from Thiers. So that when Daniel
O'Connell described Disraeli as "the heir-at-law of the impenitent thief
who died on the cross," he was nearer the truth than he knew,
for there was petty larceny in the Disraelian family.
When Sir James Stansfeld entered Parliament he had that moral distrust of
Disraeli, which Lord Salisbury, in his Cranborne days, published a Review to
warn his party against. Sir James (then Mr. Stansfeld) expressed a similar
sentiment of distrust. Disraeli said to a friend in the lobby immediately
after, "I will do for that educated mechanic." The vitriolic spite in the
phrase was worthy of Vivian Grey. He kept his word, and caused Mr. Stansfeld's retirement from the Ministry. It was the nature of Disraeli to
destroy any one who withstood him. At the same time he could be courteous
and even kind to literary Chartists who, like Thomas Cooper and Ernest
Jones, helped to frustrate the Whigs at the poll, which served the purpose
of Tory ascendency, which was Disraeli's chance.
In Easter, 1872, I was in Manchester when Disraeli had the greatest
pantomime day of his life—when he played the Oriental Potentate in the
Pomona Gardens. All the real and imaginary Tory societies that could be
got together from surrounding counties were paraded in procession before
him. To each he made audacious little speeches, which astonished them and,
when made known, caused jubilancy in the city.
The deputation from Chorley reminded him of Mr. Charley, member for
Salford. He exclaimed,
"Chorley and Charley are good names!" When a Tory sick and burial
society came up he said "he hoped they were doing a good business, and
that their future would be prosperous!" When the night came for his
speech, the Free Trade Hall
was crowded. It was said that 2,000 persons paid a guinea each for their
Mr. Callander, his host, had taken, at Mr. Disraeli's request, some brandy
to the meeting. It was he who poured some into a glass of water. Mr.
Disraeli, on tasting it, turned to him and said in an undertone, "There's
nothing in it." This wounded the pride of his host, who took it as an
imputation of stinginess on his part, and he filled the next glass
plentifully. This was the beginning
of the orator's trouble. For the first fifteen minutes he spoke in his
customary resonant voice. Then husky, sibilant and explosive sentences
were unmistakable. Apprehensive reporters, sitting below him, moved aside
lest the orator should fall upon them. Suspicious gestures set in. An
umbrella was laid near the edge of the platform, that the speaker might
keep within the umbrella range. For this there was a good reason, as the
speaker's habit of raising himself on his toes endangered his balance.
All the meeting understood the case. The orator soon lost all sense of
time. He, who knew so well how to suit performance to occasion, was
of stopping himself. The audience had come from
distant parts. At nine o'clock they could hear the
railway bell, calling some to the trains. Ten o'clock came, when a larger
portion of the audience was again perturbed by railway warnings. Disraeli
was still speaking. Eleven o'clock came; the audience had further
decreased then, but Disraeli was still declaiming hoarse sentences. It was
a quarter-past eleven before his peroration came to an end; and many, who
wished to have their guinea's worth of Parliamentary oratory, had to sleep
in Manchester that night. Everybody knew the speaker would have ceased two
hours earlier if he could. His host in the chair was much disquieted. His
house was some distance from the city, and he had invited a large party of
gentlemen to meet the great Conservative leader at supper, which had long
been ready. Besides, he was afraid his guest would be unable to appear at
it. Arriving at the house Disraeli asked his host to give him
champagne—"a bottle of fizz" was the phrase he used—which he drank with zest, when,
to the astonishment of his host, he joined the party and was at his best. He delighted every one with his sallies and his satire.
The next morning the city Conservatives were unwilling to speak of the
protracted disappointment of the evening before. The Manchester papers
gave good reports of the long speech, which contained some passages worthy
of the speaker at any time—as when he compared the occupants of the front
bench of the Government in the House of
commons to so many extinct volcanoes. As some members of Her Majesty's
Government were known friends of Mazzini and Garibaldi, the aptitude of
the simile lives in political memory to this day. When the Times report
arrived it was found that a considerable portion of the speech was devoted
to the laudation of certain county families, which were not mentioned in
the Manchester reports, and it was said that Disraeli had dictated his
speech to Mr. Delane before he came down. But though he lost his voice and
his memory, he never lost his wit, for he praised another set of families
that came into his head.
Only in two instances has Mr. Disraeli been publicly charged with errors
of vintage. In his time I heard members manifestly inebriated, address the
House of Commons. On a memorable night Mr. Gladstone said Disraeli had
access to sources of inspiration not open to Her Majesty's Ministers.
In the Morning Star there appeared next day a passage from Disraeli's
speech, reported in vinous forms of sibilant expression. On that occasion
Lord John Manners carried to him, from time to time during his oration,
five glasses of brandy and water. I saw them brought in. There was the
great table between the two front benches, which Mr. Disraeli said was
fortunate, as he feared Mr. Gladstone might spring upon him. All the
while it was not protection Mr. Disraeli wanted from the table,
but support, for he clutched it as he spoke. Sir John Macdonald, Premier
of Canada, whom I had the honour to visit at Ottawa, not only resembled
Disraeli in features, in the curl of his hair, but in his wit. One night
Sir John made an extraordinary after-dinner speech, which had the flavour
of a whole vintage in it. When Sir John found he had astonished the whole
Dominion, he sent for the reporter, who appeared, trembling with
apprehension. "Young man," said Sir John, "with your talent for reporting
you have a great future before you. But take my advice—never report a
speech in future when you are drunk."
Connoisseurs in art who went to the sale of his effects at Disraeli's
Mayfair house were astonished at the Houndsditch quality of what they
found there. Not a ray of taste was to be seen, not an article worth
buying. The glamour of the Oriental had lain in phrases, not in art.
It was the Liberals who were the champions of the Jews, and who were the
cause of their admission to Parliament. Mr. Disraeli must have had some
generous memory of this. Mr. Bright would cross the floor of the House
sometimes to confer with Disraeli. There must have been elements in his
character in which Mr. Bright had confidence. It was believed to be owing
to his respect for Mr. Bright's judgment that he took no part against
America, when his party did all they could to destroy the cause of the
Union in the great Anti-Slavery War. It ought to be remembered to Disraeli's credit, that he made
what John Stuart Mill called a "splendid concession" of household
suffrage, although he took it back the next night, by the pernicious
creation of the "compound householder." Still, Liberals owe it to him that
household suffrage came to prevail when it did.
Disraeli's attacks upon Peel were dictated by the policy of
self-advancement. He was capable of admiring Peel, but he admired himself
more. Standing outside English questions and interests, he was able to
treat them with an airiness which was a political relief. Yet he could see
that our Colonies might become "millstones round the neck of the Empire"
if we gave them too much of Downing Street, or maybe of Highbury.
To say Disraeli had no conscience would be to say more than any man has
knowledge enough to say of another; but he certainly never gave the
public the impression that he had one. He devised the scheme of giving the
Queen the title of "Empress." Mr. Gladstone opposed it as dangerous to
the dynasty, lowering its dignity to the level of Continental Emperorship,
and taking from the Crown the master jewel of law, which has been more or
less its security and glory for a thousand years.
Disraeli seemed to care for the Queen's favour—nothing for the integrity
of the Crown. He
declared himself a Christian, and said in the presence of the Bishop of
Oxford, with Voltairean mockery, that he was "on the side of the angels,"
and elsewhere described Judas as an accessory to the crucifixion before
the act, and to that ignoble treachery all Christians were indebted for
their salvation—an idea which could never have entered a Gentile mind. This was pure Voltairean scorn.
In his last illness he was reported to have had three different kinds of
physicians—allopath, hydropath, homoeopath; and had he chosen the
spiritual ministration of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi,
and Mr. Spurgeon, no one would have been surprised at his sardonic
I had admiration, though not respect, for his career. Yet I was for
justice being done to him. When it was thought the Tories would prevent
his accession to the Premiership, which was his right by service, I was
one of those who cheered him in the lobby of the House of Commons, to show
that adversaries of his politics were against his being defrauded of the
dignity he had won.
How was it that Disraeli's standing at Court was never affected by what
would be deemed seditious defamation of the Crown in any other person? When I mentioned in America the revolutionary license of his tongue in
declaring the Queen to be
physically and morally incapable of governing, the statement was received
with incredulity. The reporters who took down his Aylesbury speech
containing the astounding words hesitated to transcribe them, and one
asked permission to read the passage to Mr. Disraeli, who assented to its
correctness, and the words appeared in the Standard and Telegraph of
September 27, 1871. The Times and Daily News omitted the word "morally,"
deeming it incredible. But it was said. His words were: "We cannot
conceal from ourselves that Her Majesty is physically and morally
incapacitated from performing her duties." This meant that Her Majesty was
imbecile—a brutal thing to suggest, considering family traditions.
At a Lord Mayor's banquet Mr. Disraeli gave an insulting and defamatory
account of the Russian Royal Family and Government, and boasted, like an
inebriate Jingo, of England's capacity to sustain three campaigns against
that Power. As the Queen had a daughter-in-law a member of the Royal House
of Russia, this wanton act of international offensiveness must have
produced a sensation of shame and pain in the English Royal Family. I well
remember the consternation and disapproval with which both speeches were
regarded by the people. Whatever even Republicans may think of the theory
of the Crown, they are against any personal outrage upon it. Yet Mr.
Gladstone, who was always forward to sustain, by
graceful and discerning praise, the interest of the Royal Family, and
procure them national grants, to which Mr. Disraeli could never have
reconciled the nation, was simply endured by Her Majesty, while to Mr.
Disraeli ostentatious preference was shown. It was said in explanation
that Mr. Gladstone had no "small talk" with which Mr. Disraeli
entertained his eminent hostess. It was not "small talk," it was Tory
talk, which the Queen rewarded.
I am of Lord Acton's opinion, that Mr. Disraeli was morally insupportable,
though otherwise astonishing. The pitiless resentment of "Vivian Grey"
towards whoever stood in his way was the prevailing characteristic of the
triumphant Jew. Like other men of professional ambition, he had the charm
of engaging amity to those who were for the time being no longer
impediment to him. When showing distress at a few drops of rain falling,
news was brought Her Majesty that Mr. Gladstone had returned from a voyage
and addressed a crowd on the beach. Disraeli exclaimed with pleasant
"What a wonderful man that Gladstone is. Had I returned from a voyage I
should be glad to go to bed. Mr. Gladstone leaps on shore and makes a
The moral of this singular career worth remembering, is that genius and
versatility, animated by ambition without scruple, may attain
distinction without principle. It can win national admiration,
but not public affection. All it can accomplish is to leave behind a name
of sinister renown. If we knew all, no doubt Lord Beaconsfield had, apart
from the exigencies of ambition, personal qualities commanding esteem.
CHARACTERISTICS OF JOSEPH COWEN
POLITICAL readers will long remember the name of
Joseph Cowen, who won in a single night the reputation of a national
orator. All at once he achieved that distinction in an assembly
where few attain it. After a time he retired to his tent and never
more emerged from it. The occasion of his first speech in Parliament
was the introduction of the Bill for converting the Queen into an Empress.
Queen was a wholesome monarchical name, which implied in England supremacy
under the law; while Empress, alien to the genius of the political
constitution, is a military title of sinister reputation, and implies a
rank outside and above the law. Like Imperialism, it connotes
military government, which, in the opinion of the free and prudent, is the
most odious, dangerous, and costly of all governments. Mr. Cowen
entertained a strong repugnance to the word "Empress," which might become
a prelude to Imperialism—as it has done.
Mr. Cowen's father, who preceded him in the House of Commons,
was scrupulous in apparel, never affecting fashion, but keeping within its
pale. His son was not only careless of fashion—he despised it.
He employed local tailors, from neighbourliness, and was quite content
with their craftsmanship. He never wore what is called a "top" hat,
but a felt one, a better shape than what is known now as a "clerical" hat.
It was thought he would abandon it when he entered Parliament, but he did
not. He commonly left it in the cloak-room. He had no wish to
be singular. His attire was as natural to him as his skin is to an
Ethiopian. His headgear imperilled his candidature, when that came
He had been two years in Parliament before he addressed it.
When he rose many members were standing impatient for division and crying
"Divide! Divide!!" Mr. Cowen, being a small man, was not at
once perceived, but his melodious, honest, and eager voice arrested
attention, though his Northumbrian accent was unfamiliar to the House.
It was as difficult to see the new orator as to see Curran in an Irish
Court, or Thiers in the French Chamber. Disraeli glanced at him
through his eyeglass, as though Mr. Cowen was one of Dean Swift's
Lilliputians, and of one near him he asked contemptuously, as a Northern
burr broke upon his ear, "What language is the fellow talking?"
The speech had all the characteristics of an oration,
historical, compact, and complete—though brief. In it he said three
things never heard in Parliament before. One was that the "Divine
right of kings perished on the scaffold with Charles I." Another was
that "the superstition of royalty had never taken any deep hold of the
English people." The third was to describe our august ally, the
Emperor Napoleon III., as an "usurper." The impression the speech
made upon the country was great. It so accorded with the popular
sentiment that some persons paid for its appearance as an advertisement in
the Daily News and other papers of the day, and the speaker
acquired the reputation of an orator by a single speech. Mr.
Disraeli's contemptuous reception of it did not prevent him, at a later
date, from going up to Mr. Cowen, when he was standing alone by a fire,
and paying him some compliment which made a lasting impression upon him.
Mr. Disraeli had discernment to recognise genius when he saw it, and
generosity enough to respect it when not directed against himself.
If it were, he was implacable.
For years, as I well knew, Mr. Cowen spent more money for the advancement
and vindication of Liberalism than any other English gentleman. He was the
most generous friend of "forlorn hopes" England has known. How many
combatants has he aided; how many has he succoured; how many has he saved! If
the other world be human like this, what crowds of grateful spirits of
divers climes must have rushed to the threshold of heaven to welcome him
as he entered.
Penniless, and his crew foodless, Garibaldi steered his vessel up the
Tyne. Mr. Cowen was the only man in England Garibaldi then sought or
confided in. Before he left the Tyne, Mr. Cowen, on behalf of subscribers
(of whom many were pitmen), presented Garibaldi with a sword which cost
£146. Goldwin Smith says, in his picturesque way, Henry III. had a "waxen
heart." Mr. Cowen had an iron heart, steeled by noble purpose. He knew no
fear, physical or mental. Not like my friend, George Henry Lewes, whose
sense of intellectual right was so strong that he never saw consequences. Cowen did see them, and disregarded
them; he "nothing knew to fear, and nothing feared to know"—neither
ideas nor persons. How many men, not afraid of ideas, are much afraid of
knowing those who have them? Unyielding to the high, how tender he was to
Riding home with him one night, after a stormy meeting in Newcastle, when
we were near to Stella House (he had not gone to reside in the Hall then)
the horse suddenly stopped. Mr. Cowen got out to see what the obstruction
was, and he found it was one of his own workmen lying drunk across the
road. His master roused him and said: "Tom,
what a fool thou art! Had not the horse been the more sensible beast, thou hadst been killed." He would use these Scriptural pronouns in speaking to
his men. The man could not stand, and Mr. Cowen and the coachman carried
him to the door of another workman, called him up, and bade him let Tom
lie in his house till morning. Then we drove on.
Another time a workman came to Mr. Cowen for an advance of thirty
shillings. Being asked what he wanted the money for, the man answered: "To
get drunk, sir; I have not been drunk for six weeks." "Thou knowest,"
said Mr. Cowen, "I never take any drink, because I think the example good
for thee. Thou will go to Gateshead Fair, get locked up, and I shall have
to bail thee out. There is the money; but take my advice, get drunk at
home, and thy wife will take care of thee." How many employers possess
workmen having that confidence in them to put such a question as this
workman did, without fear of losing their situation? No workman lied, or
had need to lie, to Mr. Cowen. He had the tolerance and tenderness of a
When I was ill in his house in Essex Street, Strand, he would come up at
night and tell me of his affairs, as he did in his youth. He had for some
time been giving his support to the Conservative side. I said to him, "Disraeli is dead. Do you
not see that you may take his place if you will? It
is open. His party has no successor among them.
He had race, religion, and want of fortune against him. You have none of
these disadvantages against
you. You are rich, and you can speak as Disraeli
never could. He had neither the tone nor the fire
of conscience—you have both. You have the ear of the House, and the
personal confidence of the
country, as he never had. In his place you would
fill the ear of the world." He thought for a time on what I said to him;
then his answer was: "There is one difficulty—I am not a Tory."
I saw he was leaving the side of Liberalism and that he would inevitably
do Conservative work, and I was wishful that he should have the credit of
it. He was under a master passion which carried him he knew not whither.
It was my knowledge of Mr. Cowen, long before that night, that made me oft
say that a Tyneside man had more humility and more pride than God had
vouchsafed to any other people of the English race. Until middle life Mr.
Cowen was as his father, immovable in principle; afterwards he was as his
mother in implacableness. That is the explanation of his career.
The "passion" referred to—never avowed and never obtruded, but which "neither slumbered nor slept"—was ambition. It might be called Paramountcy—that
dangerous war-engendering word of Imperialism—which only the arrogant
pronounce, and only the subjugated submit to.
The Cowen family had no past but that of
industry, and in Mr. Cowen's youth the "slings and arrows of outrageous"
Toryism, shafts of arrogance, insolence, and contempt, flew about him. He
inherited from his mother a proud and indomitable spirit, and resolved to
create a Liberal force which should withstand all that—and he did. Then,
when he came to be, as he thought, flouted by those whom he had served
(the common experience of the noblest men), he at length resented and
turned against himself. He had reached the heights where he had been
awarded an imperishable place, and then descended in resentment to mingle
and be lost in the ignominious faction whom he had defeated and despised.
Those who had enraged him were not, as we shall see, worth his resentment.
It was not for "a handful of silver" he left us—for he had plenty—nor
for "a ribbon to stick in his coat," for he would not wear one if offered
a basketful. It was just indignation, stronger than self-respect.
Not all at once did the desire of control assume this form. By his natural
nobility of nature he inclined to the view that all the supremacy inherent
in man is that of superior capacity, to which all men yield spontaneous
Some time elapsed before the bent of his mind became apparent. Possibly it
was not known to himself.
When a young man, he promoted and maintained
two or three journals, in which he also wrote himself, without suggesting
to others the passion for journalism by which he was possessed. Some years
later, when proofs of one of his speeches which a reporter had taken down,
and Mr. Cowen had himself corrected, passed through my hands, I was struck
with the dexterity with which he put a word of fire into a tame sentence,
infused colour into a pale-faced expression, and established a pulse in an anæmic
one. It was clear that he had the genius of speech in him and was
ambitious of distinction in it.
Mr. Cowen's father was a tall, handsome man of the Saxon type, which goes
steadily forward and never turns back. He always described himself as a
follower of Lord Durham, and was out on the Newcastle Town Moor in 1819,
at great meetings in support of the Durham principles. His mother was
quite different in person, both in stature and appearance; somewhat of
the Spanish type—dark, and mentally capable of impassable resolution. Her
son, Joseph, with whom we are here concerned, had dark, luminous eyes
which were the admiration of London drawing-rooms—when he could be got to
enter them. His eldest sister, Mrs. Mary Carr, was as tall as her father,
with the complexion of her mother. I used to compare her to Judith, the
splendid Jewess who slew Holofernes. She used to say her brother Joseph
had her mother's spirit,
and that a "Cowen never changed." Her brother never changed in his
purpose of ascendency, but
when inspired by resentment he could change his party to attain his
end—as I have seen done in the House of Commons many times in my day. This is why I have said that in the early part of Mr. Cowen's life he was
his father—placid but purposeful. In the second half he was his
mother—resentful and implacable when affronted by non-compliance where
he expected and desired concurrence. But I have known many excellent men
who did not take dissent from their opinions in good part.
How fearless Mr. Cowen was, was shown in his conduct when a dangerous
outbreak of cholera occurred in Newcastle. People were dying in every
street and lane, but he went out from Blaydon every morning at the usual
time, and walked through the infected streets and passages into Newcastle,
to his offices on the quay, being met on his way by persons in distress,
from death in their houses, who knew they were sure of sympathy and
assistance from him. The courage of his unfailing appearance in his
ordinary way saved many from depression which might have proved fatal to
them. When a wandering guest fell ill at his home, Stella House, Blaydon,
he was sure of continued hospitality until his recovery. Mr. Cowen's voice
of sympathy and condolence was the tenderest I ever heard from human lips.
A poor man, who lived a good deal upon the moors, was charged with
shooting a doctor, and would have been hanged but for Mr. Cowen defending him by legal aid. He thought the police had apprehended him
because he was the most
likely, in their opinion, to be guilty. He was poor,
friendless, and often houseless. The man did not
seem quite right in his mind. After his acquittal, Mr. Cowen took him into
his employ, and made him his gardener. The garden was remote and solitary. I often passed my mornings in it, not without some personal misgiving. Mr.
Cowen eventually enabled the man to emigrate to America, where a little
eccentricity of demeanour does not count.
In the political estrangements of Mr. Cowen, it must be owned he had
provocations. A party of social propagandists came to Newcastle, whom he
entertained, as they had never been entertained before, at a cost of
hundreds of pounds, and was at great expense to give publicity to their
objects. They left him to defray some bills they had the means of paying. Years later, when they came again into the district, he did no more for
them in the former way. He had conceived a distrust of them. Another time
he was asked by persons whom he was willing to aid, to buy some premises
for them, as they would be prejudiced at the auction if they appeared in
person. Mr. Cowen bought the property for £5,000 They changed their minds
when it was bought, and left Mr. Cowen, who did not want it, with it upon
his hands. He did not resent it, as he might have done, but it was an act
meanness which would have revolted the heart of an archangel of human
When the British Association first carne to Newcastle, Mr. Cowen spent
more than £500 in giving publicity to their proceedings. He brought a
railway carriage full of writers and reporters from London, that the
proceedings of every section should be made known to the public. He had
personal notices written of all the principal men of science who came
there, and when he asked for admission of his reporters, he was charged
£19 for their tickets. As I was one of those engaged in the
arrangements, I shared his indignation at this scientific greed and
ingratitude. In all the history of the British Association, before and
since, it never met with the enthusiasm, the liberality and publicity the
Newcastle Chronicle accorded it.
In the days of the great Italian struggle, little shoals of exiles found
their way to England. Learning where the great friend of Garibaldi dwelt,
they found their way to Newcastle, and many were directed there from
different parts of England. Many times he was sent for to the railway
station, where a number of destitute exiles had arrived. He relieved their
immediate wants and had them provided for at various lodgings, until they
were able to get some situation elsewhere. I think Mr. Cowen began to tire
of this, as he thought exiles were sometimes sent to him by persons who
ought to have taken part of the
responsibility themselves, but who seemed to consider that his was the
purse of the Continent.
William Edward Forster
Once when Mr. Cowen attended a political conference in Leeds, he received
as he entered the room marked attention, as he was known to be the leader
of the Liberal forces of Durham and Northumberland. But Mr. W. E. Forster,
who was present, took no notice of him, though Mr. Cowen had rendered him
great political service. When Mr. Bright saw Mr. Cowen he cordially
greeted him. Immediately Mr. Forster, seeing this, stepped up also and
offered him compliments, which Mr. Cowen received very coldly without
returning them, and passed away to his seat. Mr. Cowen's impression was
that as Mr. Forster had suffered him to pass by without recognition, he
did not want to know him before that assembly; but when Mr. Forster saw
Mr. Bright's welcome of his friend, he was willing to know him. Mr.
Forster, as I had reason to know afterwards, was capable of such an
action, where recognition stood in the way of his interests,  but it was
not so on this occasion. Mr. Forster was short-sighted, and simply did not
see Mr. Cowen when he first passed him. But it happened that he did see
him when Mr. Bright stepped forward to speak to him, and there was no
slight of Mr. Cowen intended. Yet from that hour Mr. Cowen entertained a
contempt for Mr. Forster, and would neither meet him nor speak to him. One
day Mr. Cowen and I were at a railway station, where Mr. Forster appeared
in his volunteer uniform. We had to wait some time for the train. Mr.
Cowen asked me to walk with him as far as we could from where Mr. Forster
stood, that we should not pass near him. Some years later, at the House of
Commons, Mr. Forster asked Mr. Cowen to walk with him in the Green Park,
as he wished to speak with him. After two hours Mr. Cowen returned
reconciled. He never told me the cause of it, which he should have done,
as I had taken his part in the long years of resentment. I relate the
incident as showing how personal misconception produces political
estrangement in persons and parties alike.
CHARACTERISTICS OF JOSEPH COWEN
BUT the act which most wounded him occurred at the Elswick works of Lord
Armstrong. Mr. Cowen was returning one day in his carriage at a time of
political excitement. Some of the crowd threw mud upon his coach, and, if
I remember rightly, broke the windows. Just before, when the workmen were
on strike, they went to Mr. Cowen—as all workmen in difficulties did. He
found they did not know their own case, nor how to put it. He employed
legal aid to look into the whole matter and make a statement of it. Mr.
Cowen became their negotiator, and obtained a decision in their favour. The whole expense he incurred on their behalf was £150. Services of this
kind, which had been oft rendered, should have saved him from public
contumely at their hands.
At that time Mr. Cowen was giving the support of his paper against
Liberalism, which he had so long defended and commended, which was an
incentive to the outrage. Still, the sense of gratitude for the
known services rendered to workers, which he continued irrespective of his
change of opinion, should have saved him from all personal disrespect.
The subjection of the Liberals in Newcastle in the days of
his early career, and the arrogant defamation with which it was assailed,
were what determined him to create a defiant power in its self-defence.
He bought the Newcastle Chronicle, an old Whig paper.
He published it in Grey Street, afterwards in St. Nicholas' Buildings, and
then in Stephenson Place, on premises now known as the Chronicle
Buildings. The printing machines at first cost £250 each, then £450.
The Chronicle Buildings were purchased for £6,000, and a similar
sum was expended in adapting them for their new purposes. The site
is the finest in Newcastle. The printing machines now cost £6,000 to
£7,000. Each machine is provided in duplicate, so that if one side
of the press-room broke down, the other side could be instantly set in
motion. Once I made a short speech in the town, which was reported,
set up, cast, and an edition of the paper containing the speech was on
sale within little more than twenty minutes. The office above the
great press-room, in which the public transact business with the paper, is
the costliest, handsomest, Grecian interior know of connected with any
newspaper buildings. What perseverance and confidence must have
animated Mr. Cowen in the enterprise, is shown in the fact that he had
sunk £40,000 in it before it began to pay. 
He made the Chronicle, as he intended to make it, the leading
political power in Durham and Northumberland. The leaders he wrote
in its columns after he left Parliament were unequalled in all the press
of England for vividness, eloquence, and variety of thought. There
could be no greater proof of the dominancy of Mr. Cowen's mind, than his
establishment and devotion to the Chronicle.
I had been a party several years to negotiating with
candidates to stand for Newcastle, whose public expenses Mr. Cowen paid.
I obtained the consent of the Liberals of York, that Mr. Layard, whom they
considered pledged to them, should become a candidate at Newcastle.
"Why should you?" I said one day to Mr. Cowen, "incur these repeated costs
for the candidature of others, when you can command a seat in your own
family for three generations. If you will not be a candidate, why
should not your father?" The conversation ended by his agreeing that
I might persuade his father to go to Parliament if I could. It was
in vain that I assured him that the seat was open to him, but he did not
believe, nor wish to believe it. I several times saw his father at
Stella Hall. He thought himself too old. I told him there were
fifty gentlemen in the House of Commons, willing to become Prime Minister,
and some of them waiting for the appointment, who were fifteen years older
than he, and would be disappointed did not the chance come to them.
He found this true when he at length entered the House. His
objection was that he could not ask his neighbours, among whom he had
lived all his days, to elect him. "Suppose they signed an
undertaking to vote for you in case you came forward?" That he
consented to consider. A requisition signed by 2,178 electors was
sent to him. Then another difficulty arose. His son said: "I
cannot support my father in the Chronicle." 
Then I said, "Let me edit it during the election, and no line shall appear
commending your father to the electors. But whatever pretensions his
adversaries put forth, we will examine." My proposal was agreed to.
It was alleged by the rival candidate, that the requisition was signed out
of courtesy to a popular towns man, and did not mean that those who signed
it had pledged their votes. To this I answered that when Chambers
appeared on the Thames, bookmakers said, "Chambers is a Newcastle man, who
never sells the honour of his town, but will win if he can." Is it
to be true that a Newcastle elector would not only give his promise, but
write it, without intending to keep it? Will he be true on the
Thames and false on the Tyne? All the requisitionists save a few,
whom sickness or misadventure kept from the poll, voted for Joseph Cowen,
senior, who was elected by a large majority.
The great services to the town of the new member by his
arduous chairmanship of the Tyne Commission, would have insured his
election, but his majority was no doubt increased by the popularity of his
son. This did not escape the comment of local politicians, and Mr.
Lowthian Bell said, " How is it, Mr. Cowen, that everybody votes for your
father for your sake? I suppose it is," was the answer, "that while you
have been sitting on winter nights with your feet on the rug by the
fireside, I have been addressing pitmen's meetings in colliery villages,
and finding my way home late at night in rain and blast ; and it happens
that they are grateful for it." This was the only time I knew Mr. Cowen to
make a self-assertive reply.
When Mr. Cowen's father was in the field, and Mr. Beaumont began his
canvass, in one street he
met with forty-nine refusals to vote for him. "Why
will you not vote for me?" he asked. "We are going to vote for Mr. Coon,
now," as his name was pronounced at the Tyneside. "But you have two
Beaumont said; "you can give me one." No! if we had twenty votes we
should give them all to Mr. Coon. When Chambers and Clasper make a £100
match for the honour
of the Tyne, and we cannot make up the money, Mr. Coon always makes it up
for us, and when we win and go to repay him, he gives it to us." This was
not a patriotic
reason to give for voting for "Mr. Coon," but it showed gratitude, as
well as Mr. Cowen's influence, and what a hold his kindness to the people
had given him upon their
affection. Thus they voted for the father from regard for the son. For in
those days the son had no idea of Parliament himself, and votes were not
in his thoughts.
Nothing could be more open or gentlemanly than Mr. Cowen in the contests
to which he was a party. Mr. Somerset Beaumont was member for Newcastle,
and he impressed
Mr. Gladstone with a high sense of his capacity in Parliament. One
morning, as Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Cowen came into Newcastle in the same
train, Mr. Cowen said to
him, "You know, Mr. Beaumont, we all like you personally, but you do not
go far enough for us. We want a more Radical representative for Newcastle. We shall prevent
your election next time if we can, but
only if we have a more advanced candidate. Otherwise we will countenance
no opposition to you."
Who could foresee the day would come when—save Mr. Cowen—the noblest
candidate Newcastle ever had (Mr. John Morley) would be opposed by Mr.
Cowen in the interests
of Toryism? Or that, after withstanding at the hustings when he became a
candidate, and defeating furious collusions between Tories, Conservatives,
and all who had vicious interests to serve or spite to gratify, Mr. Cowen
himself would one day be found aiding or abetting the same parties by
taking their side against
When in Parliament, his father had misgivings touching Mr. Gladstone, who,
he thought, passed him at times without recognition. He had conducted Mr.
Gladstone down the
Tyne in triumph, and his son had assembled 200,000 persons on the Moor,
who were addressed from twenty platforms in support of Mr. Gladstone, and
and published all the speeches. The cost of this was one of a hundred
contributions he made in the interest of Liberalism. I used to explain
that Mr. Gladstone, intent upon
great questions (he was always intent upon something) he had to explain to
the House—he, self-absorbed, would pass by his friends without seeing
them, expecting, as he
had a right to expect, that devotion to the great trust of the State would
be taken to palliate his seeming inattention to friends.
But Mr. Gladstone was not unmindful of the service rendered to him at
Newcastle, and when some time later—no one else thinking of it—I made
representations, through Mr.
(afterwards Sir) James Stansfeld—without knowledge of Mr. Cower, or his
son—I was instructed to inform Mr. Cowen sen., that a baronetcy would be
placed at his
acceptance. Mr. Cowen, jun., objected entirely on his own part. His father
therefore only accepted a knighthood, which Her Majesty, from
consideration of his
years, kindly ordered to be gazetted, obviating his attendance at Court. All the same, it was Mr. Gladstone's intention to recognise the services
of the son as well as
Honours were not much accessible in those days, especially in uncourtly
quarters. My representation, in suggesting what I did, was, that as
personal distinction was
conferred upon persons who had made £100,000, something was due to one who
may be said to have given that sum to the public.  His chairmanship of the
Commission extended over a period of twenty-four years, during which the
Tyne was converted from a creek into a navigable river. The time and
assiduity thus devoted to the
service of navigation and trade would have added £100,000 to his fortune. That his knighthood might be justified in the eyes of his neighbours and
his own, I supplied the facts
which authorised it to Mr. Walker, who was then editor of the Daily News,
and which appeared in his leader columns. My reason for taking the
step I did was a sense of duty to the public, who should see as far as
possible that those who rendered service should find acknowledgment of it.
I was of Coleridge's opinion:—
"It seems a message from the world of spirits,
When any man obtains that which he merits,
Or any merit that which he obtains."
On the death of the father, his son, Mr. Joseph Cowen, was elected in his
place, as a member for Newcastle; and Parliament being dissolved shortly
after, he was again elected by a triumphant majority.
Mr. Cowen had made more speeches at the Tyneside than any other resident
ever did. But the town was unconscious of their merit. They were addressed
mostly to working
men, and to persons whom it was not thought necessary to report or take
into account the speaker. When he became a candidate all classes of
persons were among
the auditors. The town was astonished at the relevance and fire of his
orations. I mention this circumstance to show how a man can be famous in
one half of the town
and not known in the other.
After his retirement from Parliament and platform he occasionally
delivered orations on persons, at inaugurations, which surpassed all I
have ever read of the kind, for aptness
of phrase, variety of thought and vivid portraiture, which ought to be
added to the record of English oratory.
It was not reasonable in him, after the change in his political views, to
expect that his townsmen should adopt the new opinions he had begun to
countenance, and which he
had himself taught them to distrust. But this is what strong leaders do
who suffer the pride of power to become imperious. A just ambition, which
is patient, and will work for
results, can as a rule succeed. It is ambition which is impetuous, and
will not wait longer, which lapses into reaction from disappointment. With
all his virtues, Mr.
Cowen was impetuous. To desert a party because of the folly or excesses of
portions of its members, would oblige a man to change his profession in
politics and his
creed in religion every twelve months.
In his earlier career it may be imagined that Mr. Cowen derived his
principles from generous prejudices, in later days from indignant
persons hold by inheritance right principles into whose foundation they
have never inquired. Investigation, if they entered upon it, would confirm
their convictions, but not resting on examination, their nobler
prepossessions may be displaced by passion. We all know in religion how
vehemently adherents will vindicate
questions of which they know only one side, and hold it to be sinful to
inquire into the other. Such persons, when right, are unstable and liable
to variableness under the
glamour of unknown ideas. Mr. Cowen was well informed on Liberal
principles and never took to Conservative views, and, save in antagonism,
did not assist them.
The bent of his mind to paramountcy in ideas was shown in the
extraordinary requirements he made, that Mr. Morley should disown the
political friends who had invited him
to Newcastle, and become the candidate of the Chronicle. Mr. Morley
answered, "I will not do it, and that is flat." Then Mr. Cowen resolved
that this refusal should cost
him his seat, and ultimately he effected it, not from Conservative
resentment, but from pride. Had Mr. Morley consented to this condition he
would have remained member for
Newcastle, supported with all the force of Mr. Cowen's splendid advocacy. Mr. Cowen always remained true to Home Rule for Ireland. But, as we have
seen done in the
case of others in Parliament, he assailed every one who held it not under
Mr. Cowen was naturally noble, and resentment never made him mean, but
like any one to whom compliance with his essential convictions is a
necessity of his mind, he
was apt to regard non-concurring persons as better out of the way. He would
not destroy them, but they were no longer objects of his solicitude.
Everybody who did not take this into account failed to understand Mr.
Cowen's career. He sought nothing for himself—he refused everything
offered to him, office included, and
accepted no overture made to him. Whatever opinion he held, to whatever
party he allied himself, he might, if he wished, have remained member for
Newcastle all his life.
He wanted no place in Parliament; all he wanted was his own
way—compliance with his own opinions. He had no ambition in the ordinary
sense—he had no sinister end to
serve, and it was always his preference to promote liberty and progress,
generosity and good faith in public affairs.
Conforming to no conventionality, never entering society, nor accepting
any invitation to do it, in his attention to his collieries, his ships,
his firebrick works, manufactory,
newspaper and public meetings, he was occupied from early morning until
late at night, without rest and without hurry. He was never exhausted and
was never still. One
evening he lay down on his sofa, fell asleep, and none around him knew
that he was dead.
It would astonish the reader—were they all narrated—the considerable
undertakings which he conducted and carried through at the same time. He
was a great man of
business, and had the management of heaven been consigned to him as a
resort, he would have made it pay eventually. He was an apostle, not an
apostate, but his apostleship was of his own ideas. He was no apostate of
his party. Had
he been in the celestial world when Lucifer revolted, Mr. Cowen might have
aided Satan, from motives of resentment at being denied, by certain
dissentient cherubim, ascendency himself. But he would never have joined the fallen angels, nor,
as we have seen other politicians do, officially engage in their work, or
identify himself with them.
THE PERIL OF SCRUPLES
AN outlaw is seldom considered a pleasant person,
and naturally occupies a dubious place in public estimation. His position
is worse than that of an exile, who, if once
allowed to return, is reinstated in society, but the outlaw of opinion is
never pardoned. Where justice turns upon the hinge of the oath, there is
no redress for him who has
scruples as to taking it. He who has scruples exposes himself to
unpleasant comments. He is counted a sort of fastidious crank. All the
while it is known
that a man without scruples is a knave, who respects nothing save his own
interests, and will do anything likely to promote them—even to the
commission of robbery or
murder—as police-courts disclose. To be scrupulous is to be solicitous as
to the rightfulness of a thing proposed to be done. It is plainly the
interest of society to encourage
those who act upon honest scruples. Scruples may be trivial or
unfounded—they may be open to objection on
that account. Nevertheless, the habit of being scrupulous is to be
tolerated as conducive to integrity, without which society would be
insufferable. It is therefore not desirable
that perils should accompany scrupulousness, as I have often seen them do.
The obligatory oath has always been detrimental to public morality. When
one oath was imposed on all persons, it was repugnant to their individual
sense of truth in many
cases, and men, to protect their interests, began to tamper with veracity,
and invent new meanings of the terms of the oath. Thus the fortunate
fastidiousness of truth is
The Christian oath is an ecclesiastical device, framed in the interest of
the Church, to enforce, under penalty, the recognition and perpetuation of
its tenets. He who takes the
oath professes to believe that if he breaks it "God will blast his soul
in hell for ever." This is the old brutal, terrifying form in which the
consequence was expressed.
It is softened now, to suit the secular humanity of the age, to a
statement that God will hold the oath-taker responsible for its fulfilment. But God's method of holding any one
responsible, is by sentencing him to "outer darkness," where there will be
"wailing and gnashing of teeth." A very unpleasant region to dwell in. There is no good ground to
suppose that such a sentence for such an offence would be passed, but the
retained. Mr. Cluer, a London magistrate, said lately that "if the fate of
Ananias befel all who swore falsely in his court, the floor would be
strewn with dead bodies." But the
courts fall back upon the pristine meaning of the oath. The magistrate
asks a little child, tendered as a witness, "whether she knows, if she
does not tell the truth, where
she will go to?" and whether she "has never heard of a place called hell
or of its keeper, the devil?" If not, he publicly deplores the neglect of
the child's education, and
declares her to be incapable of telling the truth. Every one who took the
oath, whether rich or poor, a philosopher or a fool, each professed to
believe that the Great God of all
the worlds, notwithstanding the infinite business He has on hand, was
personally present in any dingy court when the oath-taker calls upon Him
"to witness" that he speaks
the truth, and if not, God, who never forgets, burdens His celestial
memory with that fact, with a view to eternal retaliation, in case the
oath is false. He who takes the
oath and does not believe this, lies to begin with, whatever may be the
character of his testimony.
To take the oath in any other sense than that in which it is administered
to you, is to deceive the court.
"He who imposes the oath, makes it.
Not he, who for convenience takes it."
The reliance on the part of those who impose the
oath, is that he who takes it believes the terms of it. If the taker
takes it in a private sense of his own, the virtue has gone out of the
oath, and the
court is deceived. If the Unitarian takes the oath, not believing in an
avenging God, he creates a new oath for himself, in which the compelling
of an eternal terror is absent. He, therefore, does not take the oath of
the court, but another of his own invention; and if he made known to the
court what he was doing, the
court would not receive his testimony. Philosophers, who have less belief
than Unitarians, take the oath. But in the eye of morality it is not less
so, for the philosopher stands for absolute truth, while the Unitarian
stands only for theological truth.
The trouble was that he who refuses to take the oath of the court, in the
sense of the court, became an outlaw, and that was a serious thing. I was
myself an outlaw, until I
was fifty-two years of age, without the power of obtaining redress where I
was wronged, or of punishing fraud or theft from which I suffered, or of
protecting the life and property
of others, where my evidence was required. My ambition was to be a
barrister, but legal friends assured me that the law turned upon the hinge
of oath-taking, and that the
path of the Bar would to me be a path of lying. It happens that I have
never taken an oath. When I found that my belief did not coincide with
that implied by the oath, I felt
precluded from taking it.
This reluctance brought me peril. When the question of a Parliamentary
oath in Lord Randolph Churchill's days raged, a new doctrine was set up
among some partisans of
Freethought—that an Atheist might take the oath. That meant there was no
longer any distinction in terms, or any meaning in principle. If an
Atheist may, for the sake of
some advantage before him, make a Christian profession, there is no reason
why a Christian should not make an Atheistical profession if it answered
his purpose. The
apostles made quite a mistake by incurring martyrdom for conscience sake. Bruno, Servitus, and Tyndale need not have gone to the stake, had they
only understood that
the way to advance the truth was to abandon it, instead of standing to it. If a man is not to stand by the truth when the consequences are against
him, there is an end of
truth as a principle. It is no longer a duty to suffer for it and maintain
It seemed to me that the friends of reason, who rejected theological
tenets, should be as scrupulous as to the truth as partisans of
superstition have often proved themselves
to be, and that the Atheist should have as clear a sense of intellectual
honour as the Quaker, the Catholic, or the Jew; who all suffered rather
than take an oath contrary to
their sense of truth. This was regarded as a reflection upon some
excellent colleagues of mine, who thought it fatuity to
allow an oath to stand in their way, and frustrate their career.
It was brought against me that there were circumstances under which I
should be as little scrupulous as other people. Major Bell, who had
incurred great peril in India for the
sake of honour, put a question to me in the Daily News purporting that, "Had I married before 1837 I should not have hesitated at twice invoking
the Trinity as the Church
service required?" And if I had done so, "should I not have perpetrated
a piece of hypocrisy?" There is an immoral maxim that "All things are
fair in love and war," and it
is probable that I should not have hesitated to perpetrate that "piece of
hypocrisy," as it would have been the lesser of two evils, but it would
not, therefore, cease to be an
evil. If under any compulsion of love or war I was induced to perpetrate "a piece of hypocrisy," it would never occur to me to go about saying it
was not hypocrisy. I
dislike law, custom, or persons who force me to do what I know to be
wrong, but no person could do his worst against me, until he prevailed
upon me to go about saying it
Dr. Moncure Conway asked whether, if his life was in danger in China, and
I could save it by the Chinese oath of breaking a saucer, I would not do
it? Certainly I would, to
save Dr. Conway, if the Confucians would permit me, but I should not the
less deceive them by pretending to have sworn before them in the Chinese
sense. But I should regret the necessity, since in no country would I
willingly treat truth as a
superstition. By taking the "saucer" oath, I should obtain in Chinese
eyes a validity for my word not really belonging to it. However I might
excuse the act, it would still be
deceit, nor ought it to be called by any other name. There is no virtuous
vagueness in unveracity, and he who in peril uses it would not be
justified in carrying it into common
life, where Lord Bacon has warned us, "Truth is so useful, that we should
make public note of any departure from that excellent habit." Major Evans
Bell further argued that
because the Prince of Wales may sign himself my "obedient, humble
servant," while not feeling himself bound to act so, the terms of the oath
may be likewise regarded as a
form of words merely. Yet all "forms" which are unreal are unwise and
hurtful. But the superscription of the Prince is known to be but a false
form, and accepted as
such, while the oath is a profession of faith. If the Prince went into a
public court and swore in the name of God that he really was my "obedient,
humble servant," I should
think him a very shabby Prince if the solemnity went for nothing. As I
have known Major Bell expose himself to what his friends believed to be
fatal peril, from a noble sense
of self-imposed duty, to which neither oath, nor contract, nor any
conventional superscription called
him, I no more imagine him than I did Dr. Conway, to really mean what
their arguments seemed to imply.
Some are for the spirit more than the form. I was for both, and I regard
all legislation as immoral which divorces them. Referring to these
letters, the Daily News (December 23, 1881) regarded them as "marked by rectitude of moral
judgment, which is recognised by those who most deplore what they think is
Some such testimony as he gives was almost needed to efface the impression
which recent events in and out of the House of Commons have made, that
is of necessity associated with religious negation." I was glad of those
words at a time when I was fiercely assailed for saying what I did, in the
midst of the Parliamentary
contest which then occupied the attention of the country. My object was to
assist the right in the contest, and to defend the Free Thought cause. Had
I not spoken then, it
would have been in vain to speak afterward. To be silent about principle
in the hour of its application would have been fatal to its influence and
repute, so far as it might be
represented by me.
As far as in my power lay, I left no uncertainty in the
mind of Parliament as to what was wanted, in lieu of the oath. It
was simply a "promise of honour," to declare the truth in matters of
testimony, and observe good faith in contracts. One of my petitions
to the House of Commons ran thus:—
"Your petitioner is a person who never took an oath, as it implied
theological convictions he did not hold. He, however, has seen persons of
far greater knowledge than he
possesses, of high social position and authority, and whose example men
look up to, take the oath, though it was known to all that they held no
thereunto—the opprobrium and outlawry attending the refusal of the oath
being more than they would incur. This has led to a practice of public
prevarication, that of persons
saying a thing and not meaning it, or meaning something else. Nowhere is
this example more disastrous than in your High Assembly, where anything
conspicuous and its example influential on the conduct of others."
Another petition so interested Professor J. E. Thorold Rogers, M.P. (who
had held holy orders), that he had copies made of it, and sent one with a
letter to each morning paper, saying he regarded it as expressing the
"quintessence of political morality." The petition set forth:—
"That it is at all times important that public declarations should be so
expressed that any one making them shall be able to say what he means, and
mean what he says. In
these days, when popular instruction is being advanced by national
schools, it is yet more desirable that no public
declaration should be exacted, the terms of which are unmeaning or untrue
to those who make it, inasmuch as such declaration deteriorates the
wholesome habit of national
veracity, and is of the nature of a fraud upon the public understanding,
which becomes more repugnant as general intelligence increases.
"Your petitioner respectfully submits that the present Parliamentary oath
is open to these objections so long as it is obligatory upon all members,
irrespective of whatever
personal and private beliefs they may hold.
"Your petitioner, therefore, prays, in the interests of public good faith,
that a form of affirmation may be adopted, optional to all members of
Parliament, instead of the
present ecclesiastical oath."
Francis Place once explained to me that in the Benthamite view, it was not
warrantable to incur martyrdom unless it was clear that the public would
be gainers by the martyr's loss. In a letter, Mr. J. S. Mill, in
answer to questions I put to him with regard to taking an oath, wrote:—
"I conceive that when a bad law has made the oath a condition to the
performance of a public duty, it may be taken without dishonesty by a
person who acknowledges no
binding force in the religious part of the formality. Unless (as in your
own case) he has made it the special and particular
work of his life to testify against such formalities, and against the
which they are connected."
I could not concur with this view. Personal candour is far-reaching in its
effects, and should be cherished where we can, and as far as we can. Truth
is to the life of the mind
what air is to the life of the body. When the mind ceases to breathe
truth, the mind is impaired or dies.
It is necessary to add the grounds which actuated me in endeavours to put
an end to the outlawry of opinion. Many beside myself helped to obtain a
law of affirmation, but I
was the only person among them all who had never taken an oath. Sir George Cornewall Lewis demanded in Parliament how the oath could be a vital
grievance to Atheists,
whose throats were furrowed with swallowing it. When summoned on the grand
jury at Clerkenwell I refused to take the oath in the sense the court
attached to it, and I was
fined twelve guineas for not taking it. I drew up a paper showing the
privileges given by the law to those who were honestly unable to swear. They were exempted from the
militia, from the duty of acting as special constable, they could procure
the acquittal of any thief, fraudulent person, or murderer, where their
evidence was necessary to
conviction. In some cases the thief has escaped, and the person robbed has
been imprisoned instead, for his contumacy in not lying. It became known
among thieves that
where they could find out a witness against them, who disbelieved in an
avenging God, the counsel defending the thief had only to call the
attention of the court to the fact for
the witness to be ordered "to stand down," and the thief would "leave the
court without a stain on his character." Mr. Francis, in his "History of
the Bank of England," relates
how Turner, whose fraud amounted to £10,000 escaped, because the only
witness who could swear decidedly to his handwriting, was a disbeliever in
the New Testament.
The jury returned a verdict of "Not guilty."
Sir John Trelawny told me that the fly-leaves I published on the "
Privileges of Sceptics and the Immunity of Thieves " made more impression
upon members of Parliament
than any petition sent to the House. These and similar services, with my
lifelong refusal to take the oath, caused John Stuart Mill to write to me,
saying : " It is a great
triumph of freedom of opinion that the Evidence Bill should have passed
both Houses without being seriously impaired. You may justly take to
yourself a good share of the
credit of having brought things up to that pass." 
These instances will no doubt satisfy the reader as to the peril of
entertaining scruples in the face of power. The earliest instance which
concerned me was a case in
Birmingham in which several thousand pounds were left for the
a secular school which I was to conduct. Not being willing to take the
oath, I could not prosecute my
claim. When a son of mine was killed by the recklessness of a driver, I
could not give evidence on the inquest because I could not be sworn. My
private house was thrice
robbed by servants who became aware of my inability to prosecute. When in
business in Fleet Street, my property could be carted away, for which I
had no remedy save
lying in wait and knocking down the depredators, which would at the
Mansion House have led to a public scandal and injured the business. Money
was left to me
which I could not claim, being an outlaw.
It would tire the reader to tell him all the instances of the perils
attending scruples. Mr. Roebuck put the case in the House of Commons
against Sir George Cornewall Lewis. Pointing his finger at Sir George, he asked, "What is the right
honourable gentleman going to do? Two men go into court. One disbelieves
in the oath, but he
takes it. The other takes the peril of outlawry rather than profess a
faith which he does not hold. You believe the liar, whom you know to be a
liar, and you reject the evidence
of the man who speaks the truth at his peril." I had asked Mr. Roebuck to
speak when the question of affirmation was before the House. There were
then only he,
Sir John Trelawny, or Mr. Conyngham to whom such a question could be put. It was upon Mr. Roebuck
that I mostly relied. After his speech I thanked him for doing what no one
else could do so well. He disclaimed any desert of thanks, saying, "I
have only done what Jeremy
Bentham taught me."
EVERY ONE of manly mind, every person of thought and
determination, takes sides upon important questions. Those who say
they are indifferent which side prevails, are indifferent whether good or
evil comes uppermost. Those who are afraid to choose a side, command
only the cold respect accorded to cowardice. Those who sit upon a
fence to see which side is likely to prevail before they jump down, are
not seeking the success of a principle, but their own interests. In
most questions—as in business—there is a side of honesty and a side of
fraud. Some do not take either separately, thinking they can better
take both at discretion. If they profit by their dexterous
duplicity, they command no regard. Some persons have no fervour for
the right, and would rather see the wrong prevail than take the trouble to
prevent it. They would be on the side of truth altogether if it gave
them no discomfort, and caused them no outlay. They belong to the
large Laodicean lukewarm class, of whom he who sought their allegiance
said he would "spue them out of his mouth." Not a pleasant simile,
but it is not mine. It shows that no one is enthusiastic about those
who are undecided where decision interferes with advancement.
If the selfish, or the politic, or the supine do not care to
take sides with right, they have no cause to complain if the triumph of
wrong involves them in discredit or disaster. But whatever be their
fate, I am not concerned with them. What I am concerned with is the
omission of all information of what may follow to him who shall take the
right side. These consequences ought never to be out of sight.
It is too often forgotten that in this world virtue has its
price as well as vice, and neither can be bought cheap. Vice can be
bought on the "hire system," by which a person gets into debt
pleasantly—which introduces shiftlessness into life. Wrong is a
money-lender, whose concealed charges and heavy interest have to be paid
one day at the peril of ruin. Right doing may be said to pay as it
goes along, which implies conscience, effort, and often sacrifice of some
immediate pleasure. But independence lies that way, and no other.
Right principle incurs no deferred obligation. Debt is a chain by
which the debtor binds himself to some one else. The connection may
be disregarded but the chain can never be broken, except by restitution.
Many persons are beguiled into doing right under the impression that it is
as pleasant as doing wrong. This is not so, and the concealment of
the fact has injurious consequences. When a person who has been, as
it were, betrayed into virtue, without being instructed as to the
inconvenience which may attend it, when he encounters them, he suspects he
has been imposed upon, and thinks he had better give vice a turn. It
was this that made Huxley declare that the hardest as well as the most
useful lesson a man could learn, was to do that which he ought to do,
whether he liked it or not. Character, which can be trusted, comes
that way, and that way alone. He who enters on that path reaps
reward daily in the pleasure and strength which duty imparts, while sooner
or later follow advantage and honour. The most useful character
George Eliot drew was that of Tito, who was wrecked because he had no
sense that there was strength and safety in truth. The only strength
he trusted to lay in his ingenuity and dissimulation. The world is
pretty full of Titos, who all come to one end, and nobody mourns them.
A few instances may be relevantly given in which rightness
has been attended by disadvantages, when wrongness appeared to have
none—yet wrongness was found to bring great unpleasantness in the end.
When there were petitions before the House of Commons to
change the oath which excluded Jews, and petitions to permit persons to
make affirmations who had conscientious objections to taking an oath, it
was represented to me that if both claims were kept before Parliament at
the same time both would be rejected. The Jewish claim was the
older, and concerned the enfranchisement of a race. I therefore
caused the omission for several years of any petition for
affirmation—though my disability of being unable to take the oath
excluded me from justice and rendered me an outlaw.
When the Jews had obtained their relief, Sir Julian Goldsmid,
a Jew, became a candidate at Brighton. Mr. Matthews, a political
friend of mine in the town, went to Sir Julian and asked whether, as Mr.
Holyoake and those of his way of thinking had deferred their claim for
affirmation that the Jews might become eligible for Parliament, would he
vote for the Affirmation Bill? He said, "No! he would not."
Mr. Matthews then wrote to ask me whether he and others who were in favour
of Affirmation should vote for Sir Julian. I answered, "Certainly,
if he in other respects was the best candidate before the constituency.
However strongly we might be persuaded our own claim was just, we had no
right to prefer it to the general interest of the State."
Speaking one night with Mr. John Morley when we both happened
to be guests of Mr. Chamberlain at Highbury, Birmingham, I remarked that
Cobden and Bright, without intending it, had introduced more immorality
into politics than any other politicians in my time. Mr. Morley
naturally demanded to be informed when, and in what way. I answered,
"When they advised electors to vote for any candidate, irrespective of
their political opinion, who would vote against the Corn Laws. This
incited every party to vote for its own hand—the priest for the church,
the brewers for the barrel, and the teetotalers for the teapot, the
anti-vaccinators for those who were against the lancet. Even women
proposed to vote for any candidate who would give them the suffrage,
regardless whether they put out a Ministry of Progress and put in a
Ministry of Reaction. This was ignoring the general good in favour
of a personal measure. The error of the great Anti-Corn Law
advocates lay in their not making it plain to the country that when the
population were deteriorating and dying from want of sufficient food,
politics must give way to the claims of existence. That was the
justification of Cobden and Bright, and had it been stated, smaller
politicians with narrower aims could never then have pleaded their example
for crowding the poll with rival claims in which the larger interests of
the State are forgotten. Like Bacon's maxim that speaking the truth
was so excellent a habit, that any departure from that wholesome rule
should be noted." The Anti-Corn Law League election policy needed
However many instances may be given of the kind before the
reader, the moral will be the same. Taking sides involves some
penalty which enthusiasts are apt to overlook, and when it arrives ruddy
eagerness is apt to turn pale and change into ignoble prudence.
Taking the side of honesty or fraud, unpleasantness may come. But on
the side of right the consciousness of integrity mitigates regret and
commands respect; while the penalties of deceit are intensified by shame
and scorn. Many think there is safety in a judicious mixture of good
faith and bad, but when the bad is discerned, distrust and contempt are
the unevadable consequences. Besides, it takes more trouble to
conceal a sinister life than to act uprightly. It is true, an evil
policy often succeeds, but the interest of society is to take care that he
who does evil shall be overtaken by evil. As this sentiment grows,
the chances of illicit success continually decrease.
Rascality—refined or coarse—would have fewer adherents if society took
as much trouble to secure that the rightdoer shall prosper, as it takes to
render the career of the knave precarious.
The point of importance, I repeat, is—that persons should
remember, or be taught to remember, that the course of right, like the
course of wrong, is attended by consequences. Many who are
honourably attracted by the right are disappointed at finding that it has
its duties as well as its pleasures—which, had they known at first, they
would have made up their minds to do them; but not being apprised of them,
when they first encounter inconvenience, they think they have been
deceived, falter, and sometimes turn from a noble course upon which they
had entered. Any one would think there was no great peril to be
encountered by taking sides with veracity. Let him avoid the sin of
pretension, and see what will happen.
The sin I referred to is not the common one of declaring that
to be true which you know to be untrue—that has long been known by an
appropriate name, and does not require any new epithet to denote its scandalousness. The sin of pretension in question consists in
assuming, or declaring that to be true, which one does not know to be
true. Years ago this was a very common sin, and everybody committed
it. You heard it in the pulpit more frequently than on the stage.
Nobody complained of it, or rebuked it, or resented it. It was not
until the middle of the last century that public attention was drawn to
it. It was Huxley who first raised the question of intellectual
veracity, and he devised the term Agnostic (which merely means limitation)
to express it. Limitationism does not mean disbelief, but the
limitation of assertion to actual knowledge. The theist used to
declare—without misgiving—the absolute certainty of the existence of an
independent, active Entity, to whom Nature is second-hand, and not much at
that. The anti-theist—also without misgiving—denied that there was
such separate Potentiality. The Limitationist, more modest in
averment, not having sufficient information to be positive, simply says he
does not know. He does not say that others may not have sufficient
knowledge of a primal cause of things; but lacking it himself, he
concludes that veracity in statement may be a virtue where omniscience is
denied. There may be belief founded on inference. But
inference is not knowledge. The Limitationist withholds assertion
from lack of satisfying evidence. He is neutral not because he
wishes not to believe, or desires to deny, but because serious language
should be measured by the standard of proof and conviction.
Thomas Henry Huxley
So strange did this precaution in speech seem in my time, that it was
believed that reticence was not honest precaution, but prudent concealment
of actual conviction, intended to evade orthodox anger. On problems
relating to infinite existence and an unknown future, it requires infinite
knowledge to give an affirmative answer. No one said he had infinite
information, but everybody declaimed
as though he had. It appeared not to have occurred
to many that there was a state of the understanding in which lack of
conviction was owing to lack of evidence. Where the desire to believe is
hereditary, it is difficult to realise that there are questions upon which
certainty may, to many minds, be unattainable, and that an honest man who
felt this was bound to say so. An American journal, which needed
forbearance from its readers for its own heresy, published the opinion
that Huxley was a "dodger" in philosophy. Whereas Huxley was for
integrity in thought and speech. He was for scientific accuracy as far as
attainable. His own outspokenness was the glory of philosophy and science
in his day. He never denied his convictions; he never apologised for them;
he never explained them away. Is it over his noble tomb that we are to
write, "Here lies a Dodger," because he invented an honest term to denote
the measured knowledge of honest thinkers? Dogmatism is not
demonstration, but when I was young nobody seemed to suspect it. It used
to be said that "Darwin, Huxley, and Spencer were not really in a state of
unknowingness concerning the great problem of the universe"—which meant
that these eminent thinkers, upon whose lives no shadow of unveracity ever
rested, described themselves as Limitationists when they were not so. They
were not to be believed upon their word. The term was a mask. Such are the
social penalties for taking sides with veracity.
The public has begun to discover that veracity of speech is not a mask,
but a duty. None can calculate the calamities which arise in society from
the perpetual misdirections disseminated by those who make assertions
resting merely upon their inherited belief or prepossessions, with no
personal knowledge upon which they are founded. This is the sin of
pretension, which recedes before the integrity of science and reason, just
as wild beasts recede before the march of civilisation.
Few would be prepared to believe that, in my polemical days, the desire to
avoid committing the sin of pretension was supposed to indicate
desperation of character, of which suicide would be the natural end. This
was a favourite argument, for a heterodox principle was held to be for
ever confuted, if he who held it hanged himself. The best proclaimed
champion of orthodox tenets, whom I met on many platforms, went about
declaring that I intended suicide, and it was generally believed that I
had committed it. The certainty of it, sooner or later, was little
doubted, whereas it was not at all in my way.
The suicide of Eugene Aram, to escape the ignominy of an inevitable
execution, is intelligible. If Blanco White, whose dying and hopeless
sufferings excited the sympathy even of Cardinal Newman, had done the same
thing, it would have been condonable. Suicide proceeding from disease of
the mind is always pitiable. When Italian prisoners
were given belladonna by their Austrian gaolers, to cause them to
betray, unconsciously, their comrades, some committed suicide to prevent
this, which was honourable though deplorable. When a murderer, knowing his
desert, becomes his own executioner, he is not censurable though still
infamous, since it saves society the expense of terminating his dangerous
career. But in other cases, self-slaughter, to avoid trouble or the
performance of inconvenient duty, is cowardly and detestable.
In my controversial days (which I hope are not yet ended) the clergy did
not hesitate to say that if a man began to think for himself, he would end
by killing himself.
When I thought the doctrine had died out, an instance recurred which led
me to address the following letter to the Rev. R. P. Downes, LL.D. (May
18, 1899), who thought the doctrine valid:—
DEAR DR. DOWNES,—It has been reported to me that in Wesley Place Chapel, Tunstall (March 20, 1899), you, when preaching on the 'Roots of Unbelief,'
illustrated that troublesome subject by saying that 'when Mr. Holyoake was
imprisoned at Birmingham, he attempted suicide.' This is not true, nor was
it in Birmingham, but in Gloucester where the imprisonment occurred.
never attempted suicide—it was never in my mind
to do it. I had no motive that way. I experienced no moment of despair.
Better men than I had been imprisoned before, for being so imprudent as to
protest against intolerance and error. Besides, I never liked suicide. I
was always against it. Blowing out your brains makes an ill-conditioned
splatter. Cutting your throat is a detestable want of consideration for
those who have to efface the stains. Drowning is disagree able, as the
water is cold and not clean. Hanging is mean and ignominious, and I have
always heard unpleasant. The French charcoal plan makes you sick. Indeed,
every form of suicide shows want of taste; and worse than that, it is a
cowardly thing to flee from evils you ought to combat, and leave others,
whom you may be bound to cherish and protect, to struggle unaided. So you
see what you allege against me is not only irrelevant—it implies defect
of taste, which is serious in the eyes of society, which will condone
crime more readily than vulgarity.
"I am against your discourse because of its bad taste. Suicide is no
argument against the truth of belief. Christians are continually
committing it, and clergymen also. The Society for the Propagation of
Christian Knowledge used to bring this argument from suicide forward in
their tracts against heresy. But being educated gentlemen they abandoned it long ago, and it is now only used by the lower
class of preachers.
I do not mean to suggest that you belong to that class—only that you have
condescended to use an argument peculiar to uncultivated reasoners.
"Personally, I have great respect for several eminent preachers of
Wesleyan persuasion, but they think it necessary to inquire into the truth
of an accusation before they make it. You must have borrowed yours from
the Rev. Brewin Grant, with whom in his last illness I had friendly
communications, and he had long ceased to repeat what he said in days when
it was not thought necessary to be exact in imputations against
"I do not remember to have written before in refutation of the statement
you made. No one who knows me would believe it for a moment; but as you
are a responsible, and I understand a well-regarded, preacher, I inform
you of the error, especially as it gives me the opportunity of putting on
record not only my disinclination, but my dislike and contempt for
suicide, and for those who, not being hopelessly diseased or insane,
Dr. Downes sent me a gentlemanly and candid letter, owning that the Rev.
Brewin Grant, B.A., was the authority on which he spoke, whose
representations he would not repeat, and I have reason to believe he has
Such are the vicissitudes of taking sides. He has to pay who takes the
right, but he has honour in the end. But he pays more who takes the wrong
side consciously, and with it comes infamy.
47. Put only where ambition was stronger than his habitual
sense of honour. See chapter lxxix, "Sixty
48. Unwilling that his father or banker should surmise how
much he was exhausting his personal resources, he directed me at one time
to borrow £500 or £1,000 in London. It was advanced by a personal
49. This diffidence of appearing as the advocate of his father
was carried to excess. When a local paper made remarks upon his
father's knighthood, which ought to have been resented, I set out late one
night to Darlington, arriving a little before midnight, and wrote a
vindicatory notice, which, by the friendship of Mr. H. K. Spark, was
inserted in the Darlington Times that night. It was quoted
afterwards in the Newcastle Chronicle.
50. Sir Joseph Cowen was appointed by Act of Parliament, 1850
chairman for life of the Tyne Improvement Commission, an unpaid office.
There was then only six feet of water on the bar at low water spring
tides, and twenty-one at high water. In 1870 there was a depth of
twenty feet at low water, and thirty-five at high water; the deepening
extending nine miles from the bar. In twenty years ending 1870 there
had been raised thirty-eight million tons. In 1870 the tonnage of
the Tyne had risen from two and a half millions to more than four and a
half millions, exceeding by one million that of the Thames. In 1865
there entered the Tyne port for refuge 132 vessels. In 1870 558
vessels fled there from the storms of the North Sea.
51. Blackheath Park, Kent, August 8, 1869.