SPIES are of two classes—those in the pay of despotism, and those who
watch and report upon the proceedings of the enemies of the people. The
vocation of the spy is at best a repulsive pursuit. Deceit, false
pretences, and treachery constitute the capital of the business, and its
success is the success of a traitor. In war it has its only justification. Where murder is the object of both sides, treachery does not count; it
may abridge, or prevent, worse disasters. But in peace it is doing evil
that good may come, and introduces baseness into policy. In avowed war the
spy of a forlorn hope of a patriotic cause is a pathetic figure. He lives
under a double suspicion, and his life is in peril at the hands of foe and
friend. He is killed if discovered by the enemy, and he often shares the
same fate from his friends, who suspect him from observing his intercourse
with the foe. Bound by his mission of secrecy and peril, he is unable to
explain himself to any who may be ignorant by whose instruction he acts. And when he succeeds in what he has undertaken, he may find that those to
whom he looked for defence and honour may have themselves perished in the
same conflict before his dangerous undertaking is over.
The spies of which I write are the venal and baser sort. Some of them do
not restrict themselves to discovering plots, but devise them and seduce
men to engage in them, in order to betray them.
One of these was Edwards, the spy of Fleet Street, who was employed to
prevent the publication of Thomas Paine's works, by finding out the
persons engaged in their secret issue, or, failing that, to implicate
Richard Carlile in some plot by which he might be got rid of. Edwards,
under which name this spy went, was a clever man, who took a room opposite Carlile's shop, professing to be a sculptor, an art for which he had
talent. Avowing great sympathy with Carlile's intrepid efforts for freeing
the press, and not less admiration for the author of "The Rights of Man,"
he made a statue of Paine in proof of his sincerity, and presented it to Carlile, who made it one of the ornaments of his shop. The statue is now
an ornament in one of the ancient halls of Northumberland. Edwards did not
succeed with Carlile, who had such plentiful experience with Government
prosecutions as to have vigilant suspicion of all overtures from
There were several spies in the pay of the Government in the Chartist
agitation of 1839. They attended at the meetings of the Chartist Union,
whose leaders were against physical force and sought the extension of the
suffrage by moral means. These spies sent to congenial papers reports of
venomous speeches which were never made, leading the public to regard the
speakers as wild and dangerous insurgents. The Morning Chronicle was one
of the papers open to these reporters. One morning a leader appeared
saying—"If the ruffianly language held at the Snow Hill meeting on
Friday night—language so foul, so flagitious [which was never uttered],
that we reluctantly sullied our columns with expressions which reflect
scandal upon an assembly of Englishmen, and are calculated to bring the
privilege of free discussion itself into odium and disgrace—if such 'open
and advised speaking' is to pass with impunity, then truly the law is a
dead letter, and the Government deserves all the contempt with which it is
The Morning Chronicle described two meetings held at Farringdon Hall,
Snow Hill, as "Chartist and Irish Confederate gatherings." They had been
neither. They were called by the Co-operative League, a body bent more on
social reform than political agitation. The meeting, on Friday night,
stated to have been held at the "King's Arms" Tavern, Snow Hill, was held
in Farringdon Hall, a building quite distinct from the tavern. It was
stated that several of the Foot Guards were there. Only one was present,
and he in undress uniform. Mr. Ewen was announced as chairman.
The chairman was Mr. Youll. Mr. Walter, reported to have seconded
the resolution, was Mr. Cooper; and an indecent expression attributed to
Mr. Shorter was never uttered by him. It was stated, also, that the
Co-operative League was under the auspices of Douglas Jerrold and William Howitt, who were never seen or heard of in connection with the body. These
facts were made known at the time, but with little effect.
About that period there was a small black man bearing the absurd name of
Cuffy—a name, however derived or acquired, he foolishly retained, though
continually ridiculed by adversaries because of the appellation. He was
about the stature of George Odgers, who, many will remember, was once
nearly elected member for Southwark. Cuffy was a victim of spy
machinations, and was transported. His name contributed to convict him,
yet he was an honest, well-conducted man, and much sympathy was felt for
him. Mr. Cobden showed him respect by employing Mrs. Cuffy in some
domestic office in his household.
The favourite and most successful device of the spies was to advise
"speaking out." Their cry was, "The time has come to let the Government
know what men think!" Measured and reasonable speech, calculated to
impress power without irritating it, was described "as mealy-mouthedness,"
and men were sent to meetings to applaud, on a secret signal, any outrage
of speech by which both speaker and meeting were made to compromise the
cause advocated, and justify the repression by force and prosecution,
which "friends of order" were always ready to counsel. Their policy was
to alarm the timid, who knew nothing of the facts, by a terror which did
not exist, and who therefore gave their vote for "strong measures" for
exterminating a small struggling party with right and misfortune on their
side. Then there would appear among the Radicals a plausible person
affecting to burn with patriotic indignation, and professing to have
military and chemical knowledge which he would place at their service. By
judiciously giving a subscription to their fund, which he represented as
coming from persons who did not wish to be known, he acquired confidence,
and created the impression that there were powerful persons in the
background willing to aid, provided a blow was struck which would "prove
to the Government that the people were in earnest." One of these knaves
produced an explosive liquid, which he said could be poured into the
sewers, and, being ignited, would blow up London from below. This satanic
preparation was tried in a cellar in Judd Street, while I was taking tea
in the back parlour above. I did not know at the time of the operation
going on below, or it might have interfered with my satisfaction in the
repast on which I was engaged.
Another person induced to join in this subterranean plot was a young
enthusiast, who had impetuosity without experience, and who was afterwards
the subject of many friendly attentions from a Conservative peer. The
enthusiast is still living, and there is no reason to suppose that he was
not an honest man. He was the type of the men, ardent without foresight,
who come into this lumbering, slow-moving world, and are indignant that it
does not mend its ways all at once. Their honourable but uninstructed
ardour is the material upon which a treacherous spy selects to work. The
two spies I next describe were of a superior class. I had personal
communication with them extending over several years.
One went under the name of André, a suspicious name, for Washington
hanged one of the family. This André was as fat as a Frenchman could be. He was handsome, literally smooth-faced, and mellow; he was quite
globular, and when he moved he vibrated like a locomotive jelly. His
speech was as soft as his skin. He had an unaffected suavity of manner,
and an accent of honesty and enthusiasm which entirely beguiled you, save
for a certain vagueness of statement which warned you to wait for its
interpretation in action before you entirely trusted it. He had large
commercial views with an indefinite outline, a faculty for finance
proposals difficult to fathom, and an instinct for the friendship of men
who, possessing money, had philanthropic aspirations without business
experience. He first appeared as the friend and counsellor of a group of
generous minded disciples of Professor Maurice, who became known as
Christian Socialists. When they became interested in the organization and
the extension of co-operation, his subtle penetration enabled him to see
that a business agency might be founded in London for the supply of
stores. There was then no Wholesale Buying Society such as that afterwards
founded in the North, and which has attained great magnitude. Premises
were taken in Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square, which became costly by the
alterations made for the transaction of wholesale business before there
existed stores sufficiently numerous to support the agency created for
serving them. The antecedents of André, so far as they were known, were
calculated to inspire confidence in him. When a young man, he was one of
the enthusiastic followers of St. Simon, in Paris, distinguished for
intrepidity and devotion in their cause, and he had created a strong
impression by his eloquence and propagandist fervour. It was difficult to
conceive that a rotund gentleman of luxurious habits could ever have been
an ardent apostle; but, with all his soft obesity, he had the energy of
Count Fosco, whom Wilkie Collins has depicted in his "Woman in White,"
and, like that energetic hero, was not unacquainted with secret
conspiracies. When Enfantin and other leading St. Simonians sought
effacement, he sought employment—without delicacy or scruple as to the
nature of it. He came to England on a political mission devised by the
conspirators of the Empire. He was, I believe, an agent in the
purchase of the Morning Chronicle in the interest of the French usurper, but this
was unknown to the gentlemen of the party with whom he connected himself. His business here was that of a spy of the Empire.
The better to effect this object, and to justify his
secret employment, it was necessary that he could prove his acquaintance
with insurgent parties in England, and his connection with so respectable
a body of social agitators as the disciples of Mr. Maurice not only ensured him from
suspicion, but afforded him the means of influencing popular opinion in
favour of his political paymaster. He became acquainted with famous
Chartist leaders, and, as I was personally acquainted with the friends of
Mazzini and Garibaldi, he showed me many acts of courtesy.
At that time Christian Socialists were generously promoting the interests
of working men and desirous of establishing co-operative workshops.
As many of these existed in France, and many were subsequently subsidised
by the Emperor with a view to making the Empire popular with working men,
André, who had been among them, had precisely that kind of knowledge
useful to gentlemen who honestly thought that working men would become
more interested in Christianity if they were better cared for, and a
considerable fortune was expended by one of the most generous of the
party, Mr. E. V. Neale, in establishing co-operative workshops. They did
not sufficiently appreciate that the elevation of the working men can only
be affected by education within, rather than from without, and that their
training is most sure when they employ and risk their own capital. Working
men may be aided in their efforts, but they quickliest acquire prudence
when they peril their own money as well as that of others.
André inspired me with a feeling of friendliness towards him which has
never left me. He was the greatest artist in espionage of any spy I have
known. He never asked me for any information which would have awakened
suspicion in me, but he gave me opportunities of mentioning things. As,
however, my habit was to consider as their own the affairs of others in
which I was in any way concerned, I never added to André's political
knowledge, but I have no doubt he knew how to turn his acquaintance with
me to his private professional advantage, and in ways of which I was
As I had never seen Oxford, and had a great desire to learn something of
its interior life, André had penetration enough to see that a visit there
would be agreeable to me. He had a personal interest in influencing the
Dean of Oriel as a subscriber to the capital of a new business project of
his own, which he called by the well-chosen title of the "Universal
Purveyor." The Dean, like many other excellent Christians, believed that
the neglect of the social condition of the people was the cause of popular
alienation from Christianity. It never occurred to them that its evidences
were defective, and that the alienation the Christian deplored arose in
most minds from difficulties it presented to the understanding. The
interest I took in any proposal of theirs tending to infuse morality into
trade, giving the workmen participation in the profit of his industry,
appeared to them to proceed from growing reconcilement to church tenets,
especially as I openly honoured and worked willingly with any Christian
person who would render help in this direction. André knew how to colour
that action with theological hope. Accordingly, he took me down to
Oxford, where I became for awhile the guest of the Rev. Charles Marriott, then
Dean of Oriel. I then saw Oxford for the first time, and the happy days I
stayed there will always dwell in my memory. The rooms occupied by
Mr. Ward, who afterwards became a convert to Rome, were entered through
the Dean's chambers, and when we were dining Mr. Ward would sometimes have
occasion to pass through. Only once, when he was entering, did I
catch a glimpse of his florid face and well-fed figure, so different from
Mr. Marriott, who was pallid, thin, and gentle in speech and manners.
As Mr. Ward passed through, he carried his hat on the side of his face—a
delicate consideration, so that Mr. Marriott's guests might not be under
conscious observation. I thought it betokened a gentlemanly instinct, but
it also prevented us from observing him.
One day Mr. Marriott conducted me round several of the colleges, showing
me things he thought might interest me, and we discoursed on the way on
matters of opinion. I told him that I did not share the confidence he had
in the premises of his faith, though desiring as much as himself to know
the will of Deity, and to do it when I did know it. I was restrained by
the difficulty I had of knowing what the Infinite Will might be, except
through the works of nature and the necessity of justice, truth and
kindness in society. I remember he paused in his walk, and, turning to me,
said: "Mr. Holyoake, I would rather reason with a thinking atheist than
with a Dissenting minister. I find the minister has always a little
infallibility of his own which you can never reach; while the atheist,
who proceeds upon reason, is open to reason, and there is a common ground
upon which evidence can operate."
By this time much of the wealth of the Christian Socialists had been
dissipated. André appeared alone as the projector of the Universal
Purveyor. His prospectuses were models of plausibility and just
sentiments, of which the only thing certain was the expensiveness of
putting them into practice. As I approved of his professed object, he had
a right to count on my aid; but he sought it in a form for which I was
unprepared. It was that I should put my name to a bill for him to
negotiate in the City to meet some immediate requirement of his business. I explained to him the rule on which I acted in such cases, which was
never to put my name to a bill unless I was able to pay it if the drawer
did not, and was willing to pay it if he could not.
Some time afterwards he returned to Paris, and when, subsequently I
inquired for him there, on grounds of friendship, I heard he was in a
Government office under the Empire. When the Empire happily fell, it
transpired that he was in the pay of the Emperor as Director of the Secret
Bureau of Espionage, where his personal knowledge of the English parties
and press rendered him a competent and useful agent. He had been a spy all
the while he was in England. The last I heard of him was a report of his
death, which was probable, as he was too fat to live long; but the report
may have been but a form of effacing himself peculiar, to the St. Simonian
order to which he formerly belonged. It is a resort of many, no longer
solicitous of personal recognition, to put in circulation a rumour of
A man of a different stamp, inasmuch as he had scruples
of honour, was a certain Major W----, in whom I had more trust, because he
had more ingenuousness of manner, and by reason of the company in which I
found him. He professed to me to be an agent of Mazzini, to whom I
believe he was really attached. He never awakened more than a
transient suspicion in that penetrating Italian leader. The major
often came to me to give me information, intending to enlist my confidence
in his zeal. Now and then he would make me a present of a new patent
pen, or some other little novelty which he thought might interest me.
He was a well-built, good-looking man of about forty, possessing
considerable strength. He lived at Fulham, in comfortable lodgings,
and always appeared to have means. This observation led me to
inquire, from his friends, whence they were derived, as at the Café d'Etoile, Windmill Street, I often found the
major playing billiards with other foreigners, manifestly having time on
his hands and money to spend. Occasionally he disappeared, at the time of
the rising of the Italian patriots or some affair of Garibaldi's, when he
would send me a small paragraph for insertion in the papers. Sometimes
there would appear from other hands a paragraph in the incidental way of
news, stating that Major W---- had been wounded, which probably never
occurred. When the Empire fell, and the list of Napoleon's agents found at
the Tuileries was published, we were all very much surprised to find, in
addition to the name of André, that of the major. There was no doubt that
he communicated to the enemy information of the forces and resources of
the insurgents. But there was reason to believe that he made, as many
other Italian spies were known to do, a resolution never to betray
Mazzini, nor compromise any movement under his instructions.
A sensuous obesity had much to do with André's success. Fatness is a
force in politics, though its influence is overlooked. Cassius would never
have been suspected by Cæsar had he not been lean. Blatant bulk without
sense goes further with a popular audience than bones with intelligence. The Tichborne Claimant would never have had so many followers had he been
thin. A fat person is always graceful; his motions are without angularity,
even the inclination of the head is self-limited; the nerves themselves
are so embedded that they betray no emotion on the surface. This was shown
in the Claimant, who, when his friends and the noble lord who was his
supporter returned to his chambers in Jermyn Street, all depressed and
unmanned by the adverse turn affairs were taking, the Claimant was
entirely unperturbed, maintaining an easy air, which shamed and reassured
his dismayed friends. A peer could not have manifested more dignity, or a
philosopher more calmness. It was all owing to the physical impossibility
of his manifesting solicitude.
UNPUBLISHED LETTERS OF WALTER SAVAGE PAGE LANDOR.
WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR, whose age at his death exceeded ninety, enjoyed for
seventy years reputation as a poet. As is the case of few poets, he
excelled in prose as well as verse. In all his life there was hardly any
tyranny against which his brave spirit did not utter an indignant protest. In early manhood, after he had dealt with his patrimony in land with more
than princely splendour, he led a troop to join the Spanish patriots who
rose against Napoleon I. On every act of national heroism he lavished
splendid praise. Late in life an action was brought against him by a lady
in Bath, who had provoked him by acts which he regarded as implying
meanness and ingratitude. Against her he wrote verses with a satiric
vigour which belonged to him alone, which even Swift did not equal. Judgment was given against Landor, when he asked me to print for him a
justification of himself, and desired me to transmit copies to certain
persons whose names and addresses he gave me. Though he knew his
publication would involve him in serious consequences if traced to him, he
made no stipulation that I should keep the commission secret. Nor did I
(though, as printer, I was liable in law in like manner) make any
stipulation for indemnity. In applying to me, I supposed he had reason to
believe that he could trust me in a matter where confidence might be of
importance to him. I had Landor's manuscript copied in my own house, so
that no printer should by chance see the original manuscript in the
office. My brother Austin, whom in all these things I could trust as I
could trust myself, set up and printed with his own hands Landor's
defence, so that none save he and I ever saw the pamphlet, until the post
delivered copies at their destination. A reward of £200 was offered for
the discovery of the printer, without result. Twelve years later, Landor
being then dead, I told Lord Houghton I was the printer of his "defence,"
but until this day I have mentioned it to no one else.
In his first letter to me, Landor contemplated my publishing the copies,
but this idea was soon abandoned, as appears in his letters. The action
against him, which had then recently been decided, had cost him more than
£1,500, and another action might arise had I placed the "Defence" on
The eight-paged octavo pamphlet bore the title—
MR. LANDOR'S REMARKS
SUIT PREFERRED AGAINST HIM
SUMMER ASSIZES IN TAUNTON, 1858,
APPENDIX TO HIS HELLENICS.
letter to me was the following:—
"FLORENCE, March, 22, 1859.
"SIR,—I know not whether you will think it worth your while to publish
the papers I enclose. Curiosity, I am assured, will induce many to
purchase it, my name being not quite unknown to the public. For my own
part, I can only offer you five pounds for 100 copies—the rest will
remain yours. The esteem in which I have ever held you induces me to make
this proposal.—I am, sir, very obediently yours,
"W. S. LANDOR.
“No action was brought against the tradesmen for their
reports, which I twice published in Bath, and the publications were bought
up by Mr. H. Yescombe; nor dared he produce them in his action against me. The action
was for verses which the judge would not permit to be recited in court,
where two falsifications might be pointed out, one of which (as a juryman
is reported to have said), would have altered the case, and, of course,
Landor did not take into account that further indictable matter after the
conviction would be regarded by the Court very seriously. The "falsification" he refers to in the preceding letter is a curious instance of the value of a comma. The appellation
which the lady who brought the action against him took to herself was Caina, which is in Dante a region of hell. The judge did not remember the
meaning of the name, and appears to have assumed that Landor applied it to
her. Landor, using Milton's allegory of "Sin and Death," whose offspring
would not be fair to look upon, alluded to a young lady whom he considered
had been ill-treated by Caina, and wrote:—
"Thou hast made her pale and thin
As the child of Death by Sin."
"That is, begotten by Death on Sin. But the plaintiff's lawyer," Landor
said, "inserted a comma which was not to be found in his lines." The
lawyer, by placing a comma after Death, would make it appear that Caina
was guilty of some horrid sin. The jury found out too late what had
been done. After he had received a proof of his "Defence," to use
his own term, he wrote:—
"Your letter has highly gratified me. Would you kindly take the trouble to
send copies to the following?—
To Phinn, M.P. ........................................................................
Monckton Milnes, M.P............................................................
The Judge whosoever he was (It was Baron Channell)...
Mr. Hall, Highgate...................................................................
And the principal periodicals, newspapers, &c., Leigh Hunt, Linton, and
whoso else you please. The rest to me at Florence."
In another letter he further directed me to send copies to other persons,
and named the papers he wished to receive them—Times, Daily News,
Literary Gazette, Examiner, Edinburgh Review,
Quarterly Review. John Forster, Montague Square, 3 copies; Kossuth, Admiral Gawen, Sir W. Napier, Scinde House, Clapham Park, 3 copies; 20 to Florence; the
remainder to Charles Empson, Esq., The Walks, Bath.
In a further letter he wrote, saying:—
forgot, it seems to me, a few persons to whom it seems desirable a part of
my hundred copies should be sent:—
3 to Mr. Carbonell, Camden Street, Camden Town.
3 to Mrs. West, Ruthen Castle, Denbighshire.
3 to some Masters in Chancery, whose sorry adversaries have tried to
obtain an injunction that nothing should be paid to me or my family out of
my estate.—I remain, Dear Sir, truly yours,
W. S. LANDOR."
As I had become unwell from overwork, my brother Austin reported what had
been done, and the following letter Landor wrote to him:—
"DEAR SIR,—I am grieved to hear of your brother's illness. I very much
esteem him, and hope he may soon regain his usual health.
"Many thanks for your care in sending the copies according to my
"I know nothing of the American publishers, but will inform my friends in
that country that they may obtain copies from New York. My opinion is that
many would be sold in that country. I am, Dear Sir, yours very truly, W.
"Mr. AUSTIN HOLYOAKE.
"Pray send 3 or 4. copies to J. Forster, Esq., Montague Square, London"
(not remembering that he had mentioned them before).
His next letter was to me:—
"MY DEAR SIR,—I am as sorry to hear of your continued illness as at my
failure of obtaining redress in my grievous wrongs. It may be necessary
that the title page containing
your name should be torn off; but surely then it would be quite safe to
send a dozen copies to Captain Brickman, Beaufort Buildings, Bath, with my
compliments. Could not the whole come out as printed at Genoa? This is
suggested to me as being safe and practicable. Of what is now printed,
send me a dozen, without the title page containing your name. I have
promised them to friends about to leave Rome and Florence for a tour in
Switzerland.—I remain, my Dear Sir, with high esteem, yours, W. S. LANDOR."
In the letters I quote of Landor's in relation to his defence, I omit many
remarks and also names which, however justifiable they were from his pen
in relation to his own cause, I, who have no resentment to pursue, do not
reproduce. They would be painful to others or the survivors of others. Forster in his "Life of Landor" quotes some letters which ought to have
been omitted for the same reason. What is true, unless it has public
interest or instruction, should have no place either in history or
biography; and what is known to be untrue, and which Landor, being a man
of good faith, would not persist in when it was shown to be untrue, should
be precluded from repetition.
The next letter I quote in full:—
FLORENCE, Oct. 5.
"My DEAR SIR.—On the tenth of last month I wrote a few lines to you
enclosing a letter, in reply to a very polite one, remonstrating on mine
to Emerson. A few days ago, I found my few lines intended for you in my
desk. Pray let me hear, at your leisure, whether this reply ever reached
you; for several of my prepared letters entrusted to a servant never
arrived at their destination.—Believe me, Dear Sir, very truly and
thankfully yours, W. S. LANDOR."
Forster, in his "Life of Landor," if I remember rightly, relates that
Emerson had seen some wonderful microscopes in Florence, and spoke of the
uses to which they were applied; but he found that Landor despised
entomology, yet in the same breath said, "The sublime was in a grain of
dust": which anticipated the fine saying by Herschel about the microscope
and telescope being explorers of the infinite "in both directions."
So far as I know, Landor's reply to the friend who remonstrated with him
concerning his letter to Emerson has not been published. It covers four
large quarto pages. Singularly, being from Landor, it was against the
impending war for the extinction of negro slavery. It is a remarkable
defence of the Southern side of the argument. I cite here only a few
sentences in which his bright precision is visible in every one:—
"Interest is a stronger bond of concord than affinity. Beware of
inculcating unintelligible doctrines. Men quarrel most fiercely about what
they least understand. Laws are religion; let these be intelligible and
uncostly. It is pleasanter at all times to converse on literature than on
politics. However, on neither subject are men always dispassionate and
judicious. They form opinions hastily and crudely, and defend them
frequently on ground ill chosen. Few scholars are critics, few critics are
philosophers, and few philosophers look with equal care on both sides of a
One day I received the following letter:—
STREET, July 7, 1872.
"DEAR Mr. HOLYOAKE, I remember well having a little talk with you. At
what time of the day are you at home, as I should like to renew the
acquaintance.—I am yours sincerely,
I answered Lord Houghton, saying I should appreciate the honour of his
calling. Ordinarily I was at 20, Cockspur Street, where I then resided,
from 5 to 9 p.m. When the House of Commons sat in the morning, I was home
much earlier; but it was an act of mercy to say that my chambers were at
the top. Once there it was a pinnacle from which could be seen all the
kingdom of London and the glory thereof; but I include no other feature
in the reference, remembering Lord Brougham's admonition, "Beware of
Afterwards Lord Houghton asked me "to give him the pleasure of
breakfasting with him at Clifford Street at 10.30 on Saturday next, the
The breakfast justified the celebrity Lord Houghton's morning repasts had
obtained. Several breakfasts and dinners remain in my mind. Even the
flavour as well as the charm I can recall; but for profusion and variety
of joints, birds, fish, wines, fruits, coffee, and cigars, Lord Houghton's
breakfast exceeded all. I remember the astonishment he expressed to a new
footman who brought in coffee half an hour before the birds and wine
ended. On an easel near the table was a new portrait in oil of Landor,
which was shown to every one. This led me to mention that I had several
letters of Landor's, at which Lord Houghton expressed great interest, and
I promised he should see some of them. I made up a parcel, with notes
explaining them. Being precious in my eyes, I left them myself at his
house. I heard no more of them. At times I sat behind him when he came to
the Peers' Gallery in the Commons, and expected he would refer to them. At
length I wrote and asked for their return. In July, 1873, he wrote from
the House of Lords to say, "he was distressed to find that, acting on the
supposition that I had given him the Landor MSS., he had bound some of
them up with one of his books. If worth while, he would take them out
again and send them." As he had never acknowledged their receipt, I did
not understand how he came by the impression that I had given them to him. It was as proofs of Landor's confidence in me that I most valued them, and
also as evidence of the risks I was willing to incur for him. The letters
his lordship had bound up I told him "I was quite content should remain in
his possession, as it would be a pleasure to think they would be preserved
by him." As Lord Houghton was a valued friend of Landor's, I felt that he
was a congenial custodian of relics of him. He sent me copies of the
letters he retained, and others which accompanied them he returned,
"FRYSTON HALL, FERRYBRIDGE, Nov. 28, 1873.
"MY DEAR SIR,—I am obliged for the loan and the gift. I am afraid Landor's repute still remains in the world of men of letters, and not in
that of national literature. There is no doubt that with him the thing
said is less important than his manner of saying it. Every day we become
less and less careful of style for its own sake.—Yours sincerely,
On such a subject no opinion of mine is comparable with Lord Houghton's;
nevertheless, I own I value Landor's writing for its sense as well as its
style, and think that his "repute" in "national literature" is higher and
more assured than Lord Houghton supposed.
Landor did me the honour to write to me many times (after the affair of
his pamphlet) on Italian affairs. Some communications I sent to the
Newcastle Chronicle where they would be more influential than in any
paper of mine; some, relating more to social life and character than to
public affairs, I inserted in the journal I edited. Landor made scarcely a
correction in his proofs. He was sure of what he wanted to say, and said
it in unchangeable terms. He seldom dated his letters. In one from Scena,
July 3 (during the Italian struggle), he remarks:—"If I had any
photograph, I would gladly send it you. Three were sent to me from Bath,
but I know not the name of the artist. Ladies have all three." He wrote
with enthusiasm of Garibaldi, saying, "I hope Sicily may become
independent, and that Garibaldi will condescend to be its king under the
protection of Italy and England." The following sonnet he sent me ends
with a fine line on Garibaldi:—
Again her brow Sicaria rears
Above the tombs: Two thousand years
Have smitten sore her beauteous breast,
And war forbidden her to rest.
Yet war at last becomes her friend,
And shouts aloud
'Thy grief shall end.
Sicaria! hear me! rise again!
A homeless hero breaks thy chain.'"
Walter Savage Landor I admired for his force, simplicity, directness, and
the wonderful compression of his style: for his singular fearlessness,
determination of thought, and his Paganism. As I was precluded from
engagements on the press by reason of my name, I adopted that of "Landor
Praed." Landor in his graceful way sent me his authority to use it, for
reasons I may not repeat, as they existed alone in his generosity of
One night near the end of his days, after Charles Dickens and John Forster
had left him on their last visit, he wrote his own epitaph in these noble
"I strove with none—for none were worth my strife:
Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art.
I've warmed both hands before the fire of life:
It sinks, and I am ready to depart."
He said, in his incomparable way, "Phocion conquered with few soldiers,
and he convinced with few words. I know of no better description of a
great captain or a great orator," which might be said of himself.
IN CHARGE OF BOMBSHELLS.
IT was at Ginger's Hotel, which then stood near
Westminster Bridge, that I first saw the bombs whose construction was
perfected afterwards for use in Paris, in the attempt to kill the Emperor
Napoleon III. The bombs were in sections then. When strangers
came into the coffee-room, Dr. Bernard laid them back on the seat between
him and a friend. Understanding machine work, I could judge whether
they were well devised for their purpose, which was my reason for being
there. At a later stage I was told that Mazzini thought they might
be useful in the unequal warfare carried on in Italy, where the insurgent
forces of liberty were almost armless. 
He who gave the order in Birmingham for their manufacture,
also gave his name and address at the same time, and went down to see the
maker when there was delay through doubt as to the kind of construction
specified. He used no disguise or concealment of any kind. He
acted just as an inventor might act who wanted a new kind of military
weapon made. When two of the shells were afterwards delivered to me
to make experiment with, I understood that they were a new weapon for
military warfare in Italy, to be used from the house tops by insurgents,
when the enemy might be in the streets firing into houses, as the Louis
Napoleon troops did in the days of the Presidential butchery in Paris at
the coup d'état of 1852. At the time of the meeting at
Ginger's Hotel, if there was any thought of operating in Paris, the design
was known only to the six persons ultimately concerned—among whom neither
myself nor Mazzini was included.
When the war-balls came into my hands I had small conception
of what I had undertaken in consenting to test them. The detonating
powder with which they were filled had been prepared for quick explosion.
"Elizabeth," a courageous young woman engaged in the household in which
Orsini resided, had, well knowing the danger, superintended the drying of
the powder before the kitchen fire, where, had accident happened, she had
been heard of no more, and any persons above would have been made
uncomfortable. Percussion caps were on the nipples of the shells
(which, like porcupine quills, stuck out all round them) when I received
them. Their bulk being from four to five inches in diameter, they
were heavy enough to be quite a little load to carry about; and thinking
that any force used in removing the caps, which were firmly fixed, might
cause an explosion, for which I was not provided, I left them on.
Deeming it best to carry them apart, lest coming into collision with each
other they might give me premature trouble, I put one into each of the
side pockets of my coat. As I went along the street it occurred to
me, that it was undesirable to fall down, as I might not be found when I
wanted to get up. When I arrived at home I packed the bombs
considerately in a small, harmless-looking black brief bag; but where to
put the bag was the question. I had no closet which I was accustomed
to lock, and to do it might occasion questions to be put which I did not
want to answer, as the truth might create apprehension that the
inscrutable things might go off of themselves, which for all I knew they
might. This was, however, the only futile apprehension that occurred
to me, for my wife made no trouble about the matter, and found a place of
safety for the parcel. She had respect for those for whom I acted,
and readily aided.
The next morning found me setting off to Sheffield, where I
had an engagement to lecture, and in which town I had proposed to try this
new weapon of war. The insurgent leaders of that day had no funds to
spare; and by choosing a time when I had to travel anyhow, it avoided the
expense of a special journey. The selection of Sheffield was made by
me as being a noisy manufacturing town, where the addition to its uproar
of a bomb going off would be little noticeable. Going on the journey
out to the railway station, I did not take a cab through fear the cabman
or porter might snatch up the bomb-bag in which I had placed the shells,
and afterwards throw it down carelessly. So I carried that bag in
one hand and my portmanteau in the other. At the station I found
opportunity of putting the contents of the bag into my pockets. I
was afraid of the bag in the carriage: it required so much watching.
A passenger might at any minute suddenly remove it to make room for some
box which might strike against it, and as suddenly disperse the travellers
themselves. Besides, I could never leave the train for refreshment,
with the bag in it; and the third-class journey was long in those days
from London to Sheffield—the Midland Company not having set the generous
example of carrying third-class passengers with swift trains. With a
shell as large as a Dutch cheese in each pocket, I looked like John Gilpin
when he rode with the wine kegs on either side of him. But I passed
very well as one who had made ample provision for his journey. My
only anxiety was that some mechanic with his carpenter's or plumber's
basket might choose to sit down by my side, when a projecting hammer or
chisel might be the cause of an unexpected disturbance. For the same
reason I thought it wiser not to sit in the corner of the carriage, where
one of my pockets oscillating against the side by sudden motion of the
train might occasion difficulties there.
On arriving at Sheffield the trouble did not end. In
the house where I lodged new perplexities arose. I might ask for a
closet in which I might lock up my peculiar luggage, but my landlady might
have a duplicate key and be just curious to see what I was so careful in
securing; and thus some accident might ensue upon the discovery.
This fear deterred me from that expedient. My watchfulness kept me a
prisoner in the house, and when I went below to write I took the bag and
placed it on the table, keeping pens and paper in the same receptacle to
divert attention from the other contents. Sunday was an entirely
troublesome day with my percussioned companions, because I had to carry
the bag twice to the morning and evening lecture and place it upon the
table before me while I spoke. As I took my notes and papers from
the bag, its presence on the table was a matter of course. It was
not prudent to put it under the table, lest the toes of some excited
adversary might kick against it there. Had my opponents, who were
numerous at that period, had any idea of the contents of my bag, they
would have been very brief in their observations. At night I was
again solicitous, fearing something should occur in the house, where there
were many inmates.
Monday was welcome to me when I could take one of the
missives out with me and seek a place for its explosion. As I might
need to move rapidly after throwing it, I concealed the one I left behind
between the mattress and the bed in my room, after the bed was made for
the day. Had anything happened to me to prevent my return, the next
lodger sleeping in the bed had found something quite inexplicable under
him. I had lived in Sheffield and knew my way about, having walked
through its suburbs with Ebenezer Elliott
and other rambling friends of that time. But I had never
observed the roads with a view to present requirements. I walked in
various directions until afternoon, before finding a sufficiently straight
road, without houses upon it. It was necessary to command with my
eye a long sweep of way, since I must operate in the middle thereof, and
be sure that no person could enter upon it from either extreme without my
seeing him. Besides, I had to examine both sides of the road to be
certain there was no lane or bye-path by which unseen persons could emerge
and be struck by any flying fragment about at that minute. After all
my trouble, pedestrians, or vehicles, or horsemen, were continually coming
into sight; and I had to return home without making any attempt that day.
And night was useless, it being more dangerous for my purpose than day.
Had I had a companion to keep watch with me, we might have found an
opportunity; but it was my duty not to trust any one with a knowledge of
my object. There was no knowing what alarm he might take at being in
my company with the uncertain missives I bore about me.
The next day I took a different course—that of selecting a
disused quarry, as that would test the quality of the bombs under the most
favourable circumstances. If one would not explode by its own
momentum of descent on so hard a floor, it would show that its
construction was an entire failure. The quarry was in an immediate
suburb, not very far from the centre of the town. There were several
villas in sight of it, with gardens that came near to the verge of it.
What would be the amount of noise I should create, or what would be the
effect of it, I could not tell. I had to trust that it might pass
among other commotions to which Sheffield was subject. Having
examined the quarry to ensure that there was no one in it, and finding no
one above, I threw the bomb from the top—from a point where I could
shelter myself in case the explosion brought any fragments my way.
The sound was very great, and reverberated around. Expecting people
would run from their houses, I quickly arose and sauntered away. I
met a person hastening towards the spot. "Did you hear that great
noise?" he asked. "Oh, yes!" I answered. "I think it came from
the quarry," he replied. "Had it come from there I must have seen
it," I answered, "as I passed by it. It might be some cannon firing.
If you can show me a pathway to yonder field, we should see if there is
anything going on there." He turned and went with me, but we found
nothing there. I was desirous he should not get to the quarry until
the smoke had disappeared. Later in the day I returned to the place,
lest some portions of convexed-nippled iron should lie about, which being
found might excite curiosity; but nothing was to be seen. I posted a
paper to London, without address or signature, saying:
"My two companions
behaved as well as could be expected. One has said nothing; perhaps
through not having an opportunity. The other, being put upon his
mettle, went off in high dudgeon. He was heard of immediately after,
but has not since been seen."
Finding the deposited shell in the bed where I had left it, I returned to
town with it, when it was proposed that I should take another shell with
the one I had, and proceed to Devon, where dwelt one who had the courage
for any affair advancing the war of liberty. For this journey I
received thirty-two shillings, as the distance was great; and this was the
cost of the third-class fare. It was the only expense to which I put
the projectors of these wandering experiments. The object was to
ascertain whether the new grenades would really explode, when thrown as
high as a man could throw them, and falling on an ordinary road. The
journey West was less troublesome than that to the North, as the railway
carriages were less crowded, and mechanics carrying tools were much fewer.
My friend lived in "The Den." This was the actual name of his
residence, and not inappropriate, considering the nature of the business
we had on hand, when we two issued from it. The vigilance falling to
me was much diminished, as my host could take care of my "brief bag" when
I needed personal liberty.
We soon found a suitable highway. My friend watched the
way, and, being tall, could take a wide range of view; but it was
necessary to choose a field which had a stone fence, where, after throwing
the bomb into the air, I could at once lie down and be protected while the
fierce fragments flew around. There was, however, little need of the
precaution, as no explosion followed. The nipples buried themselves
in the earth, and the obstinate shell remained fixed and silent. I
had not foreseen this, and it was necessary to remain on the ground a
while lest the thing might go off after some time. It was not
possible to wait long, for a signal told me a passenger was descried.
The difficulty then was to get the perverse ball out of the earth, since
plucking it might occasion an abrasion of the cap, and cause it to burst
while I was over it. Happily, I restored the wilful shell to my
pocket and I went to meet the traveller to ask him "if he knew where there
was a good place for football about "—in case he had observed the unusual
movements on the way.
Having no taste for further trials on the common roads, we
found opportunities of throwing the two portable thunderbolts on a really
hard surface, where, with loud report, every fragment flew into
untraceable space. It was not without satisfaction that I saw, or
rather heard, the last of my perplexing companions. My next report
to London said:—
treatment was quite thrown away upon our two companions. As a man
makes his bed, so he must lie upon it; still out of consideration, we
wished it to be not absolutely hard. But that did just no good
whatever. The harder treatment had to be tried: and I am glad to say
it proved entirely successful. But nothing otherwise would do."
The result of the experiments was that the bombs in the first state in
which they were perfected were proved to be inefficient; unless thrown to
a great altitude in the air they would not explode on an ordinary roadway.
If the percussion caps did act, they failed to ignite the contents of the
shell. Except upon a well macadamized and hardened ground, or upon
flagstones, they could not be depended upon for the purposes for which
they were intended. They would not answer for ordinary military
operations, where the surface might be soft ground or grass land.
Whether the bombs used in Paris were improved, or whether the choice of
Rue Lepelletier, where the ground was firm, was determined by the
experiments upon which I reported I never inquired. 
If my report ever became known to any one concerned in that affair, it
probably had some instructive result.
ORSINI THE CONSPIRATOR.
OIRSINI was an egotist, but, like Benvenuto Cellini,
he had something to boast of. His love of heroic distinction helped
to make him a patriot; the passion for renown helped him to excel all
other patriots in daring and in doing things of which Italian patriotism
may always be proud. The escape of Baron Trenck was not more
wonderful than Orsini's escape from the impregnable fortress of San
Giorgio. The narrative of his astonishing adventures, published
under the title of "The Austrian's Dungeon," and translated by Madame
Mario, shows, in force of narration, that he was a good writer as well as
an intrepid soldier. When it was ready for the press he came to me,
through the instructions he had received, for suggestions as to the best
mode of issuing it. I see him now as he stood in the shop in Fleet
Street, the sun falling upon his dark hair, bronzed features, and glance
of fire. I told him I would bring out his book gladly, but that
Routledge was able to put many more thousands into the market than I was,
and would no doubt give him £50 for the MS., which, though it did not
amount to much, was of moment to an exile. Routledge did give him
£50. The title, "The Austrian Dungeons in Italy," was one of
interest at the period, but, if reprinted under the title of "The
Wonderful Escape of Orsini," or some other which indicated its
marvellousness, it would have interest in the literature of adventure as
permanent as Silvio Pellico's story. There were heroes in Italy all
about. Bystanders took Orsini, lame and stained with mud and blood,
on the morning of his escape, and secreted him with a certainty of
themselves suffering torture and death in the same fortress, were they
discovered. The whole district was then overrun with spies. He
who realises this will appreciate the courage and resource of the peasant
people—only to be matched in Ireland. I know of no single book
concerning Italy which more stirs the blood of indignation at Austrian
subjugation than Orsini's narrative. The address appended to his
book (he could give his address in England) was 2, Cambridge Terrace, Hyde
Park, July 10, 1856. A year later he was headless.
Felice Orsini relates that an Austrian colonel was one day galloping
through Mercato di Mezzo, followed by a large dog. A youth of
sixteen was passing by with a smaller dog, which was attacked by the
colonel's and almost killed. To save his dog, the youth picked up a
stone and hurled it at the colonel's. By chance it struck its head,
and it fell dead. By order of this colonel the youth was arrested
and sentenced to 30 blows on the cavaletto, which meant 90 strokes of the
bastinado—for three strokes counted as one blow. When the
unfortunate youth was removed from the Cavaletto he was dead. On the
following day the colonel was sitting with some of his fellow officers in
the Cafe dei Grigioni. A man suddenly appeared in their midst, and
after despatching the colonel with several stabs of his poniard,
disappeared before any one could arrest him. This was the father of
the boy who had died under the bastinado. That was a righteous
assassination. Orsini, by his attempt to destroy the French usurper,
intended also to avenge Italy upon the false President of the Republic who
sent troops to put down the heroic Republic of Rome. Orsini perilled
his head to do for France what thousands wished done, and no one else
attempted, with the same determination. When Cato visited the palace
of a tyrant and saw the persons he put to death, and the terror of the
citizens who approached him, he asked, "Why does not some one kill this
man?" Orsini came forward in like case to do it. Those who
engage in political assassination should have no hesitation in sacrificing
themselves. If they are careful for their own welfare, they lose
their lives all the same. By using bombs, Orsini imperilled the
lives of others, and, being wounded by a fragment which filled his eyes
with blood, was unable to complete his design. After his execution
at La Roquette, a compromising article appeared in the Westminster
Review, upon which I addressed the following letter:
"147, FLEET STREET, June 1, 1860.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE 'WESTMINSTER REVIEW.'
the part of the colleagues and friends of Orsini, I am requested to
solicit your attention to the following passages in the Review for
January, 1860. We believe we shall not appeal to you in vain to do
justice to the dead. What is asked is the correction or proof of the
"You say—'Through a confidential agent, he (Louis Napoleon) conveyed a
solemn assurance of his intentions to Orsini, who had been a member of the
same Carbonaro conspiracy in 1831 with the Emperor. Orsini declared
himself satisfied with this communication. He gave the persons who
brought it a. list of friends in Italy, whose co-operation was to be
sought at the proper time, and then wrote as the testament of his dying
convictions the famous letter, pointing to Napoleon III. as the
coming liberator of his country, which was printed in Turin, having been
sent thither by the Emperor for publication. Soon followed the
interview at Plombieres with Count Cavour, and the project succeeded
rapidly towards execution.'
"In connection with this statement, I submit the following facts:—
"Orsini was not born until the end of December, 1819.
"In 1831, when he is alleged to be a joint conspirator with Louis
Napoleon, Orsini was a boy at school, being only eleven years of age; and
he remained at school until 1836—until he was sixteen.
"It was not until 1843 that he was a member of any secret society.
"He never was a member with the Emperor. He never was a Carbonaro at
"He never saw Louis Napoleon before the year 1857.
"The 'famous letter' referred to was not in Orsini's French. He did
not write French well. The letter appeared in pure Florentine
Italian. Orsini was educated as a Bolognese, and was by no means a
master of good Italian.
"Without proof it is not to be believed that Orsini, of all men, would
'give a list of his friends' to the man whom he sought to kill. He
was not the man to do it to save his own life. Was he likely to have
done it when his life was not to be saved? Without proof, no assertion of
this kind is to be believed. It is a serious calumny upon Orsini,
and to be resented.
"Again you state that—'The Emperor learnt at Milan, from the mouth of his
own couriers. . . . and especially of that
confidential one whom we have repeatedly mentioned, and who brought to
Milan the discouraging results of his interview with Orsini's friends,
whom he had found deaf to Bonapartist suggestions.'
"No doubt they were found 'deaf.' Were they ever found at all? No such
persons have ever been visited. A confidential agent of the Orsini
party has been sent over the whole ground, each capi or chief of
sections has been inquired of, and the answer of each is that no
Bonapartist emissary nor any such pretended communication has ever reached
them. The 'confidential one' whom the writer 'repeatedly mentioned'
was M. Pietri.
"The Westminster Review has given too many proofs of its profound
sympathy with Continental liberty, and for those who have given their
lives to promote it, for the friends of Orsini to be under any other
impression than that you have been mislead or misinformed of the facts of
Felice Orsini's character and career.—
Yours faithfully, G. J. HOLYOAKE."
With his usual fairness and promptness the editor inserted this letter at
the end of the next issue of the Westminster Review, regretting
that he had inserted the communication, which he believed at the time to
When in England Orsini was for many weeks the guest of a
friend in the North, whose doors were always open to exiles. His
daily habit was to ride through the country, and his fine figure and
handsome resolute face was met by passengers as he galloped through
splendid scenes and over sterile moors where the volcanoes of industry
reminded him of those of his own brighter land.
When Madame Herwegh presented Orsini with white gloves, he
laid them aside to wear on the morning of his execution, although he was
then free. He had so often been near death that he thought death
always near him, and, as it was impossible for him to cease to conspire
for the freedom of Italy, he regarded himself as destined to the scaffold.
He had known the perils of prisons—he had mastered the language of stone
walls—the language of misery—by which the last messages of the condemned
are struck from cell to cell. When the last hour came and Pierri,
who was with him, faltered, Orsini, not only undaunted but bright and
daring as was his wont in danger, counselled Pierri to be of good courage
and acquit himself as a patriot should.
A FRENCH JACOBIN IN LONDON.
1851 to 1856 we had a real French Jacobin active in England, sprung like a
Revolutionary Phœnix from the ashes of the Parisian clubs of 1793—Dr.
Simon "Bernard le Clubiste," as he signed himself in his first letter to
The Times. Dr. Bernard was born in Carcasonne in 1817.
A physician by education, he, as surgeon on board a man-of-war, displayed
intrepidity in two or more sea battles. He was a Phalansterist of
the school of Fourier. He edited insurgent papers, and was chairman
of the club of the Bazaar Bonne Nouvelle, where he addressed five
thousand people nightly. Unintimidated when his colleagues were
shot, he carried the agitation to Belgium, and was soon in prison and on
his trial there. He got into trouble about Robert Blum, the
publisher, who was shot by the Austrians in Vienna. Eight
prosecutions had spent their rage upon him, when in 1851 he came to
England, and practised as a physician at 40, Regent Circus, Piccadilly,
London. Before two years were well gone he was in Newgate. His
knowledge of the physiology of elocution, in which he excelled, and of the
cure of the impediments of speech, would soon have brought him fame and
fortune. His skill in Belgium had brought him great renown. We
who knew him, liked him for his simplicity, genuineness, and courage.
Becoming involved in the Orsini affair, he was tried for his life at the
Old Bailey, in London, and would have been condemned had it not been for
the defiant spirit of a city of London jury, who would not convict any one
at the bidding of a foreign power. Louis Napoleon, the usurper, was
understood to ask that Dr. Bernard should be put upon his trial, which was
done. The case lasted five days. Edwin James, an advocate
politically popular in his time, defended the doctor. I was in
court, and heard with amazement his ornate appeal so materially destitute
of facts. He was unacquainted with what he was supposed to know, or
might have known—and should have known. The Attorney-General, Sir
Fitzroy Kelly, who prosecuted, made it a point of horror that a letter
from Orsini found in Dr. Bernard's room inquired "How about the Red and
Co.," which the jury were told, with upturned eyes and uplifted hands,
referred to the "Red Republic," for which the doctor and his terrific
correspondent were plotting. All the while Orsini's letter merely
inquired after a lady, the colour of whose hair he exaggerated because she
had refused his offer to marry her. He always afterwards referred to
the committee of which the lady was a member as the "Red and Co."
Mr. Edwin James had no explanation to give. He had not
inquired into the facts of the case which a question would have elicited.
The Attorney-General Kelly was he who shed tears before the jury in
attesting the innocence of the Quaker, Tawell, who had confessed to Kelly
that he had murdered the woman at Berkhampstead, for which Tawell was
hanged. From Sir Fitzroy, pious without scruples, Dr. Bernard had
nothing to expect. Edwin James, his counsel, trusted entirely to the
hereditary spirit of English defiance of foreign dictation, and modelled
his appeal to the jury on the famous reply of Mirabeau to the message of
the king. Fortunately for Dr. Bernard, this intrepid eloquence
succeeded. Spoken in a loud, strong, imperious voice, the following
is the passage which won, or justified, the verdict:—
"Gentlemen, I need not remind you that it has been of the greatest
advantage to this country that her free shores have been open to exiles
from other lands. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes drove to our
shores the Saurins, the Romillys, and the Laboucheres, who have shed a
lustre on this country. Will you, then, at the bidding of a
neighbouring despot, destroy the asylum which aliens have hitherto
enjoyed? Let me urge you to let the verdict be your own, uninfluenced by
the ridiculous fears of French armaments or French invasions, such as were
raised in Peltier's case. You, gentlemen, will not be intimidated;
you will not pervert and wrest the law of England to please a foreign
dictator! No. Tell the prosecutor in this case that the
jury-box is the sanctuary of English liberty. Tell him that on this
spot your predecessors have resisted the arbitrary power of the Crown,
backed by the influence of Crown-serving and time-serving judges.
Tell him that under every difficulty and danger your predecessors have
secured the political liberties of the people. Tell him that the
verdicts of English juries are founded on the eternal and immutable
principles of justice. Tell him that, panoplied in that armour, no
threat of armament or invasion can awe you. Tell him that, though
600,000 French bayonets glittered before you, though the roar of French
cannon thundered in your ears, you will return a verdict which your own
breasts and consciences will sanctify and approve, careless whether that
verdict pleases or, displeases a foreign despot, or secures or shakes, and
destroys for ever the throne which a tyrant has built upon the ruins of
the liberty of a once free and mighty people."
Lord Campbell—one of those Whigs who apologise for their honourable
sympathy with liberty by acts which Tories might covet, and then wonder
why they are not popular—summed up for conviction. As the jury were
about to retire, Dr. Bernard, lifting his hands and standing erect in the
dock, exclaimed with great fervour, "I declare the words which have been
used by the judge are not correct, and that the balls taken by Georgi to
Brussels were not those which were taken to Paris. I have brought no
evidence here, because I am not accustomed to compromise any person.
I declare that I am not the hirer of assassins, that Rudio has declared in
Paris, on his trial, that he asked himself to go to Orsini. I was
not the hirer of assassins. Of the blood of the victims of the 14th
of January there is nothing on my heart any more than on any one here.
We want only to crush despotism and tyranny everywhere. I have
conspired—I will conspire everywhere—because it is my duty, my sacred
duty, as of every one; but never, never, will I be a murderer,"
On the verdict of acquittal being given, men waved their
hats, the members of the bar cheered, ladies stood on their seats and
waved their handkerchiefs or their bonnets, and cheered again, and again,
the crowd outside catching indications of the nature of the verdict, sent
back in still louder cheers, their greetings at the result.
"At length," says The Times reporter, "silence was
restored, and Bernard, whose eye sparkled, and whose frame quivered with
intense emotion, said, in a loud voice, "I do declare that this verdict is
the truth, and it proves that in England there will be always liberty to
crush tyranny. All honour to an English jury!"
Thus the great Jacobin escaped being hanged. Unhappily
he came to a more lamentable end. A bewitching angelic traitor was
sent as a spy to beguile him, and to her, in fatal confidence, he spoke of
his friends. When he found that they were seized one by one and
shot, he realized his irremediable error, lost his reason, and so died.
Dr. Bernard had every virtue save prudence. I observed
with apprehension that he would talk in a loud voice in the streets, of
things it were best to whisper with circumspection in private. It
suggested itself to me that if I conspired it would be well to watch the
ways of him I conspired with. Dr. Bernard had that fervour which
made him imagine all the world had come to his opinion, and took the town
into his confidence. Partly it was England that misled him, he could
not imagine that spies were in English streets.
Edwin James was not a man of many scruples. When he was
a candidate for Marylebone he spoke one day at the usual hustings at the
Regent's Park end of Portland Place. His adversary put himself
forward as a "Resident Candidate," when James exclaimed, "I may be one day
a happy resident—but, alas! as yet I have no wife and family." "You
old incubator," exclaimed a loud-mouthed and abrupt elector, "you have
three families in the borough already, and you know it!" The "gentle
Edwin" was not abashed, but laughed and spoke on. The electors knew
when they voted for him that he would sell them if he could get a price
for them, calculating that, if he could not, he would serve them well.
In which they were right. Within twenty minutes of his entering the
House of Commons after being declared duly elected, I heard him take part
in a debate, and offer himself to Lord John Russell. But Lord John,
when the opportunity came to him, would not buy, and James remained a
popular member—until Lord Yarborough gave him the choice of leaving
England or being indicted here. He went to New York, where the
enemies of the Republic said the bar had fewer scruples as to its
associates. Edwin James found to the contrary. After many
years banishment he returned to England. Re-admission at the bar
being impossible, he began a new legal career, and kept terms in a
solicitor's office, to come up for examination as a new candidate. I
often met him walking to the city at an early hour, pale, sedate,
unostentatious—his ruddiness, grossness, and pomposity gone out of him.
I felt respect for his courage and perseverance. Death intervened,
and he came to his end without attaining his purpose.
THE STORY OF CARLO DE RUDIO.
RUDIO—"Count Carlo de Rudio"  he called himself,
but there was little of the "Count" about him—was an Italian, and one of
the shell-bearers when Orsini and Pierri made their attack on the Emperor
Louis Napoleon in Paris. Rudio bore a shell, but whether he threw it
is doubtful. "He could not get near enough," he said. Though
deported to Guiana for his reputed share in the transaction, he escaped,
it was believed by connivance of the French authorities there. In a
small boat he managed to reach the English colony of Berbice, and after
wards worked his passage to England. Dr. Bernard stated on his trial
at the Old Bailey that Rudio came and was not sought. Why he came,
or who sent him, demanded scrutiny by those who received him before
employing him, or suffering his participation. He may have been
impelled to join in the enterprize by patriotism, and afterwards have
shrunk from the consequences. The Daily Telegraph of August
30, 1861, described him as one who "betrayed his confederates," and stated
that "the revelations he made were of considerable help towards the
prosecution of Dr. Bernard." The allusion must be to information
given at the time of Rudio's own apprehension. Nothing transpired at
Bernard's trial as to "revelations" made by him.
In England Rudio afterwards asked my advice and aid to bring out a Life of
himself, of which some pretentious numbers appeared. Probably I
published some numbers for him. He went about lecturing. At
some places, as the Telegraph reported, he complained that he was
underpaid for his expedition to Paris, and that "Dr. Bernard only gave him
£14 and his railway ticket"; further, that "Mazzini refused to recommend
him to the Revolutionary Committee." Making these statements looked
like the act of a traitor. It was, as far as his word could go,
fixing on Dr. Bernard a complicity of which he had been acquitted by a
jury, and doing so in a form which no one had attempted to prove against
him. Though Rudio's words did not affect Mazzini, who refused to
recognize him, they served to give the public the impression that Rudio
had a right to look to Mazzini as a patron. My wish was to decline
any communication with Rudio, and I would have done so but for the request
of a friend of Dr. Bernard, who, too generously commiserating Rudio's
condition, besought me and also Mazzini to aid him.
Mazzini, always forgiving to his enemies, had pity for Rudio,
because he was an Italian who had, peradventure, entered into conspiracy
and peril for his country, and because he thought that probably fear had
led him to betray others. At that time attempts were made in
Parliament, and in the press of the governing classes, to connect Mazzini
with every act of insurgency or outrage in Europe, as was afterwards done
towards Mr. Parnell with respect to Ireland. Yet Mazzini incurred
the peril of affording a colourable
pretext for this imputation against him, as he had often done, from
motives of humanity.
One of Rudio's letters to me was the following:—
"4, FELIX PLACE, BARKER GATE, NOTTINGHAM,
"Feb. 16, 1861.
"DEAR SIR,—I have received a letter from your friend, —, which tells me
that you offer yourself to help me in my publication. Of course my
letter is to let you know that my
publication cannot go further for the want of pecuniary means, and I am
obliged to leave off, as I have resolved to leave this town and go
elsewhere, where I hope I shall find
means of subsistence for myself and my poor unhappy family. But, as
I am without the most necessary means of carrying out my views, I will
take the liberty to make
you an offer; and that would be
to sell you the copywrite of my pamphlet, leaving at your consciousness
the value of it. I assure you, dear sir, that no man of my condition
has more suffered than I, in this
last few months especially. Many a day we have been without any
thing to eat—without coal to warm us; twice some propositions very
brilliant has been offered to me; but
them was brilliant to those that have another heart than mine. With
strength of mind I have rejected them, and preferred to suffer than become
a spy. To you, then, I
appeal as a man of religious and political principles equally to those
that I am proud to have; no, sir, no human power shall have the chance of
turning me out of that path
that I have been for twelve years. Death only shall put a stop at my
principles, but until I shall have a drop of blood in my veins I shall
always be ready to run against the
danger for the benefit of our noble cause, though I have been repayed with
the blackest of ingratitude. Still I will pessever while my heart
still beats within me, and the taske I
have undertaken is unaccomplished. Hoping of a reply, I with my wife
and child, send our best expression of gratitude, and believe me, Dear
Sir, your truly and fellowman,
"C. CARLO DE RUDIO.
"P.S.—I hope you will excuse my bad styl of the English language; I have a
great presentiment, 'and that is only the aliment that keeps me a life,'
that I shall no longer stay
without that my person will again be sacrificed for the great principle of
patriotism, liberty, and honour."
This letter, creditably written for one in humble society who had taught
himself, had the fault of protesting his fidelity to one who did not
question it, nor believe it. Interest in
the American Civil War led Rudio to wish to go to that country. By
that time he had his English wife, whom he married at Nottingham, and two
children. He wrote to me,
January 13, 1864, saying, "Mr. Bradlaugh had promised him aid," and Rudio
entreated me for more. I had sent him £6 on the second of that month
(as I see from the
cheque before me). The following letter to me relates to these
"MY DEAR FRIEND,—I shall be very grateful for all that you will do with W.
to help our collecting. I did most unhappily
give to Rudio the £1. But if £1 shall be wanted for his going, you
may reckon on another one from me. It will be economy too, for if he
remains I shall have to help him often.—Ever faithfully yours,
Carlo di Rudio
At length the means for a voyage were collected, and I gave Rudio a warm
poncho to protect him from the cold at sea. At that time I was
expecting daily apprehension for
selling unstamped papers at Fleet Street, and this poncho, as I have said,
was kept under the counter with biscuits and a small flask of eau de vie.
I had had experience of
apprehension, and knew the value of warmth and refreshment the first
night. As Rudio was leaving me, I thought this would protect him
from the Atlantic blasts. Whether he
perished in the war, or on which side he fought, I never heard, nor have I
heard of him since.
[Ed. Di Rudio survived. In 1876, he was involved with Lieutenant
Colonel George Armstrong Custer's Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of Little
Bighorn, which he also survived. Di Rudio continued to serve
in the US military, eventually retiring with the rank of major. He died in Los Angeles in 1910.]
STABBING SPIES IN LONDON.
DESPOTISM is the nursing mother of murder. It employs spies
to betray patriots to the scaffold. The friends of liberty have
often no choice but to conspire and kill in self-defence. Sometimes
these desperate feuds, originating in Naples or St. Petersburg, in
Berlin or Paris, were fought out in
One day an announcement appeared in the London papers that a young
Italian, on patriotic duty, had stabbed four foreigners in a restaurant in
Panton Street, Haymarket.
They were all seriously wounded by thrusts which had the vigour of
assassination in them. It was a miracle none were killed. They
were conveyed to an hospital, and the
active assailant, who had attacked them with such invincible rapidity that
they were unable to detain him, was "wanted" by the police. The
question was put to me whether I
would provide for him. I readily agreed to do so, as I held a house
convenient for that purpose. The back rooms overlooked open-gate
grounds, and I could watch the
arrival of the police in that direction if they made a descent in the
rear. So if they came at the back, I could let my active guest out
at the front—if they came at the
front, he could escape at the back. If they came both ways at once,
I had an apartment at the lower end of the garden, and as soon as they had
passed over him to enter
the house, a signal would enable him to leap into adjacent gardens before
they could be aware of the movement. I had information that my guest
would probably refuse to
be taken alive, and a desperate encounter would have caused alarm in my
family, in which there
was illness. As a guarantee against this could not be given, other
arrangements were made for the determined visitor. Afterwards I much
regretted having made the
inquiry as to his intended resistance, as he was not brought to me, and I
lost the pleasure of succouring so alert and brave a man, for whose safety
I had matured
preparations. The four wounded men were foreign spies supposed to be
in the pay of the Emperor Napoleon, and mouchardism is a profession we did
not recognise in
When the men in the hospital recovered, they went their way. They
knew very well who their assailant was, but would never tell, nor could
the police induce them to appear
before the magistrates and make any charge. They had sufficing
reasons for not allowing their own identity, or the nature of their
business, or the name of their employer, to
be known, and the fourfold attempted assassinations in Panton Street
consequently passed out of the memory of London. Their intrepid
assailant knew the spies very
well. He had tracked them to their lair, and fallen upon them with
almost superhuman fury. He kept his own counsel, and no one who knew
it spoke his name. The
contest had to be renewed elsewhere—at another time. The terrible
silence of the perilous enterprise was never broken.
PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATURE IN THE TOWER HAMLETS.
IT was in 1857 that I first became a Parliamentary candidate. It was
in opposition to Sir William Clay, who had for twenty-four years
represented the Tower Hamlets, but who
was regarded as a stationary Liberal.
Eleven years later (1868)—never being impatient — I addressed the electors
of my native town, Birmingham. Fifteen years afterwards, in 1884, I
was a candidate at Leicester,
on the retirement of Mr. P. A. Taylor. My object this
time was to promote the passing of an Affirmation Bill for members of
Parliament, which would open the doors of the
House to all persons who found the ecclesiastical terms of the oath not in
accordance with their personal belief. As I should on this ground
have refused to take the oath, I
might have aided the cause of affirmation had I been supported by a
constituency whose self-respect lay in the same direction. But that
was not to be. On addressing a
public meeting at Leicester, twenty nine questions were put to me.
Nine of them were still-born, were ideal and impracticable, and never had
working life in them. The other
twenty I had invented myself or advocated being put to candidates years
ago when in Leicester, before the questioners were out of their cradles.
The answers therefore were
easy to me.
My candidature in the Tower Hamlets was the first claim ever made to
represent labour in Parliament; and it was the first time Mr. Mill
supported such an intention. It was at my request that Mr. Mill's
subscription of £10 was not made public, as I knew his generosity would do
him more harm than it would do me good. Mr. Mill would have accepted
the consequences, but it was not for me who profited by his friendship to
impose the risk upon him. Some years later, when he sought to
re-enter Parliament for Westminster, it was reported that he had, at the
same time, given a subscription to support the candidature of Mr.
Bradlaugh at Northampton, as little popular as myself—and it cost Mr. Mill
My Committee Room was at 4, West Street, Cambridge Heath, N.E., and Mr.
Charles Bradlaugh was one of my committee. My address to the
constituency was the following, which shows the questions in the minds of
those regarded as "advanced" Reformers of that day:—
"GENTLEMEN,—During sixteen years in which I have been engaged in the
public advocacy of Industrial and Religious Reforms, I have only been
solicitous to be of service.
The last prosecution in this country for the independent expression of
theological opinion was sustained by me. I was the last person
against whom the Queen's Exchequer
Writ was issued for the part taken in securing the Repeal of the Newspaper
Stamp, and but for the risks thus incurred the public might still be
struggling with that question.
I have constantly helped public movements, not the less when those who
accepted my services thought it well not to acknowledge them—the rule of
modern political life being
to ignore those who do the work lest you should discourage those who never
do anything. In all this I have acquiesced, because it is the first
duty of a publicist to help
without permitting any personal consideration to hamper the public cause.
"I should vote for Residential Suffrage; and the Ballot, which would make
it honest; and for Triennial Parliaments, which would make it a power; and
for Equal Electoral
Districts, which would make it just. A public opinion which can only
make itself heard in the streets, and cannot reach the Cabinet, is
impotent. In the late war the only
character that stood the test was the character of the people. When
aristocratic administrators failed, the people were efficient.
Therefore, if English honour was safe in the
hands of the common soldier in the bloody defiles of Inkermann, it may
equally be trusted to the common people at the polling booth.
"First among social improvements is the measure introduced by Sir Erskine
Perry for giving, under just conditions, married women an independent
right to their property and
"Next is the demand that the State should establish well-devised Home
Colonies upon the waste lands of the Crown, which might eventually
colonies where the labourer in distress, instead of taking his wallet for
the parish loaf, need only take his spade to dig his honest bread—home
colonies which should be
training schools of emigrants, who might leave England not as now so often
to perish helplessly out of our sight, but as qualified to support
themselves as agricultural
experience alone can enable them to do.
"In this country there is a decided element of active and progressive
opinion, systematically denied recognition; and which is misjudged,
because never legitimately
represented. This is nowhere more evident than in the Tower Hamlets.
"There wants more than the abolition of Church Rates. All religious
endowments are but a tax imposed by the strong upon the consciences of the
"Then why should a Christian State accept the credit of the Rothschild
House, and refuse Parliamentary position to a member of the family; and
where is the religious
equality in a State which admits the Catholic and excludes the Jew? Religious liberty is not in half the danger from the Chief Rabbi that it
is from the Pope.
"Public justice requires that the oath, like marriage, should be a civil
or religious rite, at the option of those concerned. Without a law
of Affirmation in favour of those who
conscientiously object to the oath as now administered, the magistrate is
made a judge of religious opinion, and awards to unscrupulous consciences
advantages denied to
"In this country, where the mass of the people are so
hard worked, Sunday recreation is both a necessity and a mercy; and, where
it can be accompanied by instruction, it is also a moral improvement.
Hence I should support the opening of the Crystal Palace, the National
Gallery, the British Museum, and similar places on the Sunday afternoon.
Since nonconformity of creed is permitted among us, uniformity of conduct
should not be enforced by Act of Parliament. The poor man who is a
slave to-day and a pauper to-morrow should not be dictated to as to how he
shall spend the only day which is his: whether in seeking the fresh air
from which he has been six days excluded, or in affording instructive
enjoyment to his family. To deny him this humble freedom is surely
the worst of the insolences of opinion.
"All progress is a growth, not an invention.
Legislation can do little more than enable the people to help themselves.
But this help, given with a personal knowledge of their wants, and in a
spirit free from the temerity which would precipitate society on an
unknown future, and free from the cowardice which is afraid to advance at
all, may do much.—I am, gentlemen, your obedient servant, GEORGE JACOB HOLYOAKE.
"147, Fleet Street, March 23, 1857."
Looking at this address with its manifold proposals so long before their
day, the reader will not wonder at my not being elected.
Mr. Acton Smee Ayrton was popular in the Tower Hamlets because he
promised more thoroughness in Liberalism than Sir William Clay, who was a
gentleman of fine
manners and fixed principles—fixed also in the sense of not moving
forwards, and this made many electors wish for a member capable of
progress. Mr. Ayrton's election was
uncertain, my candidature could not be successful, but by persisting in it
I might imperil his chances; so I wrote to him to the effect that I would
retire and advise my friends
to vote for him. At midnight he wrote me a grateful letter of
On the day of the declaration of the poll, I was on the platform.
Mr. Ayrton was not only hoarse, but his voice had that vinous impediment
of utterance that Lord Garlies
manifested when addressing the House of Commons on the Disabilities of
Women, or Viscount Royston's when he spoke upon the Game Laws late at
night. The returning
officer, seeing Mr. Ayrton's distress, with kindly consideration procured
an orange, no easy thing to get on that crowded platform, and handed it to
Mr. Ayrton, saying—"Here, sir, try an orange, it may relieve you." A
Tower Hamlets election mob thirty years ago was not a very dainty crowd,
but they had an instinct for an act of public courtesy, and
cheered the returning officer who showed it. To their astonishment
Mr. Ayrton tossed the orange back into the giver's face, saying, with
incredible rudeness, "I want no orange! That's what they offer people when
they are going to be hanged"—accusing the returning officer of treating
him as a culprit. The remark was probably meant to be a witticism,
and the speaker looked to the audience as though he expected the crowd
would laugh. Their astonished silence did them credit. The
returning officer never offered any more oranges to distressed members
elect, but left them to roar unrelieved.
At the end there was a cry among some of the electors for me to speak.
The majority of the crowd refused to hear anybody speak but Mr. Ayrton,
and the returning officer, who was courteous to every one, said to him,
"They will hear you; just speak to them, and procure Mr. Holyoake a
hearing." Though he had so recently written to me a
letter of thanks for having contributed to his success, he turned away,
and refused compliance with the request. As his election was
assured, nothing could harm him further. But civility was contrary to his nature, nor could the obligation of
gratitude reconcile him to it. The habit of offensiveness never
forsook him. When he became the Right Hon. Commissioner of Works, he was always throwing the orange in somebody's
Mr Ayrton came into St. James's Hall after the great Radical
procession to Hyde Park, and reproached the Queen for not being present in
the Mall to see it pass. Mr.
Ayrton himself was not there. It was then Mr. Bright arose and made
his famous defence of the Queen. The Board of Works, of which Mr.
Ayrton became Commissioner,
suggests familiarity with scaffold poles, excavations, and brick carts,
and Mr. Ayrton's manners were in keeping. He addressed Mr. Barry,
the architect of the House of
Commons, as though he were a jerry builder, and he compared Sir John
Hooker, the great botanical professor at Kew, to a "market gardener."
These uncivil outrages cost
Mr. Ayrton his seat at the Tower Hamlets, and I own to feeling
gratification when discomfiture befel him. His unpopularity excluded
him from Parliament ever after.
Long before his death I aided in promoting his return to the House of
Commons by writing words to his advantage, where they were likely to be
influential (in the Nineteenth
Century): because, though manners are much in politics, principle is more,
and Mr. Ayrton had principles to which, in his offensive way, he was true.
The interest of the
public service required that the architects' accounts and the Kew Gardens
accounts should be audited by the Board of Works. Mr. Ayrton was an
honest minister, and he
encountered hostility enough on this ground without augmenting it by ill
taste. It was to his credit that he opposed every system of
centralisation, aided the repeal of the
taxes upon knowledge, and procured the extinction of the editorial
sureties. He had the credit when in the House of being the only
member who read every bill brought in. He
knew all that was attempted, and if he sometimes made mischief he stopped
much. I ought also to mention that it was Mr. Ayrton who, finding in
the archives of his office my
suggestion made to Lord John Manners to have a light on the Clock Tower,
put it up.
A LONDON REVOLUTION.
THIRTY-THREE years have elapsed since the parcel of papers and placards
relating to the "Anti-Conspiracy Bill Committee" of 1858 (which were for
the first time untied
February 21, 1891) were laid aside. Most of those who took part in
the agitation, which overthrew Lord Palmerston at that time, are now dead.
Of Parliamentary men, Bright,
Byng, Baines, Cobden, Disraeli, Gibson, Gilpin, Roebuck, Lord John
Russell, Sir John Shelley; of members of the Committee, Mr. Ashurst, Mr.
Shaen, Col. A. B. Richards,
Mr. Richardson, and Mr. Mackintosh have all died.
Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
Few persons of the general public now have any definite idea of what took
place in London in the third week in February, 1858. After the
attempt of Orsini to kill the Emperor
of the French in Paris, it was believed the Government would be asked to,
and would, give up Dr. Bernard and another London citizen, reputedly
associated with him. Some
French colonels who happened to be in Paris at the time made warlike and
menacing speeches, expressive of their readiness to come to London and
fetch Dr. Bernard to be
disposed of in Paris. This was an outrage upon the Queen, as it
proclaimed a hostile invasion of her capital; but the Emperor of the
French did not cause to be introduced
into the French Parliament any bill to deal with these belligerent and
compromising colonels. On the contrary, he directed Count Walewski
to bring a charge against the
English Government of "sheltering assassins and actually favouring their
designs." Lord Palmerston, a friend of Louis Napoleon, who connived
at and encouraged his
usurpation, made no reply to this insolent despatch, but brought in a bill
to call foreigners to account who in this country conspired against a
friendly government abroad. The
bill was reasonable, but untimely. Being brought in immediately
after Walewski's despatch, it gave the people of England the impression
that we were going to alter our laws,
or make laws, at the dictation of a foreign Power. To this
Englishmen never consent. Neither Radical, Whig, Tory, nor Quaker
would countenance this un-English proceeding. Then I witnessed the only peremptory revolution occurring in England in my
time, of which I saw the beginning and the end.
Lord Palmerston brought in his Conspiracy Bill, and the House of Commons
passed the first reading. The next day, Mr. W. H. Ashurst, Mr. James Stansfeld, Mr. P. A. Taylor, Sir John Bennett, and Mr. Shaen, subscribed 15 each; Colonel A. B. Richards, George Leverson, Alderman Healey of Rochdale, Mr. John
Mackintosh, and Mr.
Connell subscribed lesser amounts; and I see, on the list made at the
time, the name of C. Bradlaugh for 5s., of which he had very few in
addressing the House of Commons
On Saturday afternoon it was resolved to call a meeting for Monday night,
in the Freemason's Hall, though the intimation of it, owing to shortness
of time, could only be given
by word of mouth to political societies. On Monday, a meeting was
held in the Secular Room at my house, 147, Fleet Street. Mr. W.
H. Ashurst, Mr. W. Shaen, Mr. J. Stansfeld, Colonel
Richards (a Conservative, and then editor of the Morning Advertiser), Mr. John Mackintosh, Mr. J. B. Langley,
Mr. George Leverson, Mr. Connell, and
others were present: I was asked to take the chair, and a committee was
appointed of those present, with power to add to their number. Funds
were to be collected, and I
was elected treasurer. A demonstration was projected, if it could be
brought about, to be held in Hyde Park on Sunday.
On Monday evening, when we arrived, the Freemasons' Hall was so
crowded that the conveners of the meeting were unable to get in. Mr. Stansfeld spoke to the manager of
the hall, who conducted us through the wine cellars to a private passage
that led on to the platform. In a small gallery on the opposite side
of the hall, fronting the platform,
were two French spies, disguised as gasfitters—assumed to be placed there
by the manager in case their services should be required. They were
admitted in the interests
of the French Emperor. There were no foreigners on the platform, nor
were they observable in the meeting. It was an English meeting
called to consider an English question.
The variety and excitement of the audience, who knew not who had called
them together, was metropolitan, and we saw that the question was in the
hands of the people. It
then occurred to the leaders on the platform that they might proceed to
call a public meeting in Hyde Park on the following Sunday, where the
people of London could
assemble to give their opinion on the steps taken by the Government
concerning the honour and reputation of the country. We had
objections to holding political meetings in
Hyde Park on the Sunday except on a great national emergency, when the
voice of London required to be heard. Owing to business pursuits,
the people in imposing
numbers could be assembled on no other day. It was thought that the
occasion justified a Sunday meeting in the Park, and I was asked to
announce it. The audience in the
hall was tumultuous, and, fearing I might not speak with sufficient
loudness for every one to hear, I asked several gentlemen to make the
announcement for me. They,
however, proved unwilling to take the responsibility of it. I
explained that the committee took that onus, and merely wanted to borrow a
voice. Mr. Mackintosh, who wrote as
"Northumbrian" in Reynolds's Newspaper, who had been a
schoolmaster, and had stentorian lungs, finally complied with my request.
For a time he demurred; but on my
saying "Use my name, and say you give the notice at my request," he
consented. The committee desired notice given to that meeting, as
there were not sufficient funds to
make known to the whole of London their intention.
From the way in which the announcement was received, there was no doubt
those present would extend the publicity of it. At eleven o'clock on
that Monday night it was a
matter of doubt if London could be interested in the protest against the
proposed bill. Yet on the following Friday morning all London was in
the streets. I never knew London
change so in a few days. Not one shopkeeper in a hundred takes any
part in public affairs. Probably not one man in a thousand of the
four millions of population can be
counted upon to appear in public agitation; yet on that Friday morning the
shopkeepers in Oxford Street, from Holborn to the Marble Arch, were at
their doors conversing with
passers-by, and discussing the motion of which Mr. Milner Gibson had given
notice for the rejection of Lord Palmerston's Bill. The first
reading of that bill had been carried by
the enormous majority of 200. To destroy that majority in a week was
an unusual undertaking. The Government were not merely
confident—they were jubilant. Mr. Baxter
Langley placed his office in 3, Falcon Court, at our disposal for placard
purposes; and the committee, at 147, Fleet Street, issued the following
circular to known publicists,
societies, and clubs in town and country, for none of us expected that
success would come so swiftly as it did:—
"You are urgently requested to co-operate with the great movement which
has commenced with the meeting at the Freemasons' Tavern on Monday night,
for the purpose of
opposing, by all legal means, the iniquitous Act of Lord Palmerston,
called the Conspiracy to Murder Bill. We shall be happy to receive
delegates from the provinces to
appear at our public meetings in London, and we beg to impress upon you
the value of haste, in order that support may be given to those members of
Parliament who have
voted against the bill, and that the supporters of Palmerston may receive
a warning from their constituencies that if their votes be repeated they
will lose their seats. We
intend now to hold meeting upon meeting, as rapidly as possible, in every
quarter, in order to elicit from the people and the press a full
expression of the wide and deep
feeling of disgust which pervades the public mind in London."
We need not have been so solicitous. Resentment at foreign
interference we found to be instinctive in the English heart.
In the meantime we issued placards. The longest, which follows, was
drafted by Colonel Richards:—
"THE PEOPLE OF LONDON
will meet in Hyde Park on Sunday next, the 21st February, at 3 o'clock
P.M., to protest by their peaceable and orderly presence
against the new Conspiracy Bill, introduced by Lord Palmerston under the
dictation of the French Emperor, Louis Napoleon.
"Think of your
countryman, the Engineer Watts,
driven mad at Naples.
"Think of the insults of the French colonels.
"Are Foreign Spies and Police to be allowed to act on British Soil?
"Let those who attend in Hyde Park on Sunday next
Maintain perfect order.
"By order of the Freemasons' Hall Meeting Committee."'
The next two were written by me:—
"On Monday, at Bow Street, an English magistrate presided at a political
trial, under the surveillance of French Police Agents. Sir Richard
Mayne sat on one hand, and a
French Agent on the other. Is it come to this in London?
"Keep the Peace. Attend at Hyde Park,
"Break no Law. On Sunday, at 3 o'clock.
"Beware of all who
The second was as follows:—
"MEN OF LONDON,
"Lord John Russell has said that, whoever may vote for Lord Palmerston's
Bill, dictated by the French Government, ' that shame and humiliation he
will not share.'
"Let all who would not share it either be present in Hyde Park on Sunday,
at 3 o'clock."
Another placard was a passage from The Times, not complimentary to Lord Palmerston.
We did not know then that The Times attacked him in the
interests of despots:—
"It is impossible to mention a spot from the Tagus to the Dardanelles,
from Sicily to the North Cape, where Lord Palmerston has founded one solid
tangible claim to our
gratitude and confidence. We will not measure him as a Russian
Minister, or an Austrian Minister, or a French Minister, because, if we
do, we must admit that he has given
Russia a plea for successful aggrandisement; that he has helped to
aggravate and confirm the Austrian dominion in Italy, rend her influences
in Germany; and that he may
even claim a share in the honour in making France what it is. He has
played the game of our national rivals and political antagonists, or, to
borrow a sentence from Mr.
Osborne, he has merged into a tool and automaton whose hands have been
directed, and whose moves have been made, by the will and unseen influence
of a foreign
prompter. There is no constituted authority in Europe with which
Lord Palmerston has not quarrelled; there is no insurrection that he has
not betrayed. The ardent partizans
of Sicilian, Italian, and Hungarian independence have certainly no special
cause for gratitude to a minister who gave them an abundance of verbal
encouragements and then
abandoned them to their fate."—The Times, June, 1850.
There was another side to Palmerston's character. He expressed more
sympathy with "struggling nationalities" than any other foreign Minister
of his day, which, from one in
his position, was an advantage to them. Foreign leaders in some
cases expected military aid to follow, and in their disappointment
condemned him for not doing what he had
not promised. Lord Palmerston must have had good in him and have
done some, since every despotic government abroad, save Louis Napoleon's,
detested him. We next
placarded Lord John Russell's famous speech against the Conspiracy Bill.
"'The threat (of France) has been somewhat too barely exposed, somewhat
too loudly uttered; it has been so uttered that I confess if I were to
vote for this bill I should feel
shame and humiliation in giving that vote. Let those who will
support the bill of the Government; that shame and humiliation I am
determined not to share.' (Tuesday,
February 9, 1858.)"
Lord John Russell
We enjoined order on every placard and suspicion of all who did not
observe it. London was overrun by foreign spies, and is, indeed,
never free from them. "Ignorant men,
strangers to public affairs, accuse in general the police of itself
fabricating the plots which it discovers." Thiers said this, and his
word has to be taken into account, as he had
had great State experience. The police are often accused in this
matter wrongfully; but experience also shows that they are at times
accused rightfully. They have invented
plots in England, as they do in Ireland to this day. There are
always "fool friends" of progress who commit the cause quite enough
without police plots.
We issued smaller bills for shop windows and for hand to hand circulation.
"Will you submit to surrender your rights and liberties at the demand of a
Foreign Sovereign? If not—if you have still the same spirit your fathers
had—attend in Hyde Park to
protest against Lord Palmerston's Conspiracy Bill dictated by the French
A meeting of delegates from England and Scotland was assembled in London
then. Mr. Alderman Livesey, of Rochdale (a school-fellow of John
Bright), presided, and made
the most British speech delivered from any platform at that time. At
this meeting I moved a petition to Parliament which set forth that no
foreign prince ought to have power or
jurisdiction in this realm, and that the "French Colonels' Bill"—as it
had become to be called—was unnecessary, impolitic, and humiliating to the
British nation. On receiving
the petition, Lord John Russell wrote to me from Chesham Place saying he
should have pleasure in presenting it.
Our meeting at the Freemasons' Hall was held on Monday night, February 16.
On Friday, in the same week, Mr. Milner Gibson moved the rejection of the
bill by an
amendment drawn, as the press of the day said, "with his consummate
skill." Mr. Walpole spoke against the bill, and so did Mr. Byng.
Mr. Gladstone, too, made a speech
against it, which Mr. Byng—a very good judge—said "excelled the finest
efforts of Burke or Fox." Sir Robert Peel made against it the most
sustained and dramatic speech he
had delivered in the House. The Government had employed a Mr. Bodkin
to prosecute Dr. Bernard. The way in which Sir Robert pronounced
"Lawyer Bodkin" filled the House
with laughter. That night every Liberal speaker seemed nationalized.
Though only one public meeting had been held and one Hyde Park meeting
arranged, the excitement of
the country had taken possession of the House. I have witnessed many
great debates in Parliament, but I never saw the same vehemence and
national spirit as was
displayed from eleven o'clock till twenty minutes past two o'clock on
Saturday morning. I saw the proceedings from the Reporters' Gallery.
Those who think Mr. Gladstone
cannot speak with directness, compression, and economy of words, should
have heard his speech that night. Lord Palmerston was never less
happy or less relevant. His
voice was thick and halting, as though he foresaw defeat. When the
division came, the 200 majority of the Government changed sides or
vanished, and, instead, a majority of
19 was recorded against the "Colonels' Bill." Hats were waved (an
unusual thing in the House then) when the announcement was made. The
lobbies were crowded, and
Palace Yard contained a large throng of publicists and patriots waiting to
learn the decision. They went huzzaing along the streets, and people
leaned out of their bedroom
windows to learn and cheer the good tidings.
A Cabinet Council was held the next afternoon, and the Government
resigned. From an early hour we were busy endeavouring to undo what
we had been energetically
doing—namely, to prevent the meeting we had called in Hyde Park. The
Government being overthrown, and the "Colonels' Bill" dead, we wished to
save London from tumult.
We therefore issued the two following announcements:—
"The committee of the Freemasons' Hall meeting, who have been
making arrangements for a great open-air demonstration in Hyde Park on
Sunday, have resolved on
abandoning such meeting in consequence of the defeat of Lord Palmerston's
Conspiracy Bill by the House of Commons on Friday night."
"This morning a deputation from the committee for arranging the
Hyde Park meeting waited upon Sir Richard Mayne to obtain his advice as to
the best means of
preventing the public inconvenience from the announced meeting."
We spent more money on the Saturday and Sunday to prevent an assemblage in
the Park than we had spent all the week. We had notices of
abandonment of the meeting
posted at all points indicated by the police, where they would meet the
eye of the East End throngs who might set out to the Park. However,
the people went all the same,
and it was computed that 200,000 were present on the Sunday afternoon, who
came to rejoice instead of to protest.
There were some cases of disorder before the courts the next day, when the
London magistrates were offensive and brutal to the people, as they
usually are when political
issues arise. Some cases of pocket-picking occurred, as they do even
at the Lord Mayor's Show. Mr. Beadon, the Marlborough Street
magistrate, said the committee who
brought the people together were "morally as guilty as the pickpockets."
Calling upon the public to meet in defence of national honour is legal,
and it was the duty of the
magistrate to aid the committee on asserting that right, and to punish and
denounce only those who abuse a public right. But London magistrates
acted otherwise. The
police authorities well knew that the committee kept on legal lines.
We had nothing to conceal. I sent to Sir Richard Maine and the Home
Secretary copies of all placards
and circulars the moment they were issued. We had no idea that a
vast meeting would result from any appeal we could make. It was well
for us the bill was defeated, or
London in still greater numbers would have been in the Park, and the
excitement would have been beyond our control. But for that the
Government alone would have been "morally" responsible.
The most memorable contribution to the agitation was the following
brilliant answer to Louis Napoleon by Walter Savage Landor. The
French Government described England as "a den of assassins." The
poet published in the Daily News this "Reply from the 'Den'":—
"We encourage assassins! Sir! Have no fear,
No hold has the murderer or sympathies here:
England loathes an assassin, and loathes him no less
Whether shameful by failure or great by success—
Whether hiding from sight, or set high on a throne—
Whether killer of thousands, or killer of one—
Whether bribe or revenge, or the hope of a name,
Or the dream of a 'Destiny' 'damn him to fame.'
Whatever the prompting, whatever the end,
Has he slaughtered a people he swore to defend:
Has he banded with ruffians, like him, to strike
At a brother assassin—we loathe him alike!
E'en where, Cain-like, by Providence guarded from ill,
With a mark set upon him that no man may kill;
Where prosperity seems all his projects to crown,
We've no faith in his Favour—no fear of his Frown:
Undismayed by his Fortunes—unawed by his Fate,
We smile at his 'Destiny'—WATCH him and WAIT."
People did so—and saw the dynasty of the Usurper go down under the sword
of Germany and the assegai of a Zulu.
MURDER AS A MODE OF PROGRESS.
MY experience at one time made me a connoisseur in
assassination—a question often defended but seldom discussed in a
practical way. Unconsidered applause on one hand and uninstructive
reprobation on the other, are all that meet the public ear.
Professor Tyndall made a notable contribution to physical science,
entitled "Heat a Mode of Motion." It is not less useful in political
science to consider the question of "Murder as a Mode of Progress."
If the theory of political murder were understood, it would not command
many followers. Yet, in consequence of its being treated as a
suppressed question, it has for many persons the enchantment which belongs
to the "forbidden."
Intelligence may be revolutionary, but ignorance, especially
if it be hungry, always is. Its impulse is change by force—its
reason a sense of unendurable wrong. It has no plan—its future is
only a day or a week, yet retaliation as a remedy is far from being the
doctrine of the ferocious. I have known persons of real tenderness
and sympathy, and for whose humanity I could unhesitatingly answer, who
yet have had a reserve of sanguinary principles for advancing political
progress. Those who look to see not what they expect to see, but
what is to be seen, will find that a Government which upholds its
authority by the discriminate killing of adversaries, accepts itself the
principle of progress by murder. Seeing this, persons of strong
purpose whom I have known come to think that the oppressed may use the
same means. Despotism being mere force, wielded by irresponsible
will, tyrant killing, undertaken for public ends, with a view to temper or
suppress despotism, is not regarded by moralists as murder. It is
apparently a necessity of progress there and at that stage only, and is
only defensible when done under such circumstances that armed resistance
cannot be reasonably attempted. Where the justification of
irremediable oppression does not exist, tyrant-killing is a mistake.
It is admitted now that the old theory of kingship is worn
out. Formerly a man was regarded as a lawful ruler who reigned by
what he called "divine right." Since representative government
began, a king is regarded as a despot unless he reigns by Parliamentary
right. A ruler may be good or bad, but he is still a despot if he
rules by his own authority, or prevents any one else ruling by public
appointment. If he be a good ruler, he is called "Paternal"—if bad,
he is called a "Tyrant." But in both characters he is a despot.
Force used without public consent officially expressed, is tyranny, and he
who employs it is a tyrant, whether his purpose be good or evil.
Mankind are prone to be enslaved, and are generally content so long as
they are enslaved pleasantly. If a succession of good kings could be
secured, paternal government would be eternal. The indolence of
mankind would never attempt the honourable trouble of self-government.
Therefore the good tyrants are seldom attacked. Yet they render
manliness and progress impossible. Every man who seeks
self-government himself, or seeks it for his countrymen, is a judge and
adversary of him who renders it impossible. Nevertheless the good
despot who rules justly cannot be usefully killed, since one cannot be
sure that an untried government, introduced by force, could rule better
than he. Self-government is justified as offering greater security
for peace and wider progress, and cannot consistently be begun by blood.
But the base ruler, whose power is personal and regulated by his own will
for his own ends, and not by public law for the public good, is the enemy
of an intelligent people: and if he withstand by force the advocacy of
liberty, the law of progress exposes him, like a beast of prey, to be
destroyed when met. Despotic rulers know this well.
The doctrine of tyrant killing is not a doctrine of the
people merely: it has been accepted by kings as well as peoples.
Silas Titus was accorded a colonelcy under Charles II, because he had
published a pamphlet of deadly purport against the chief ruler—the Lord
Protector Cromwell. The English Tories favoured the assassination of
Napoleon I, and he in his turn pensioned a man who meditated the
assassination of the Duke of Wellington. Charlotte Corday's knife
was applauded by the monarchs of France. Royalist assassins always
abound. Lord Beaconsfield in a famous triplet—"Blessed the hand that
wields the regicidal steel." Mr. Froude shows that Catholics and
Protestants have alike approved tyrannicide and used it. The
doctrine is not confined to the class of "agitators." Governments
hold the doctrine and act upon it. They often cause persons to be
put to death on principle. They have often held it to be good policy
to kill a few popular leaders in order to strike terror into their
followers. Carlyle favoured this policy, Governor Eyre put it in
practice in Jamaica, and he found Canon Kingsley (just minded as he was in
most things) and men more eminent than he came forward to approve it.
Four things seem necessary in him who assumes to act by his
single hand as the agent of a nation:
That the tyrannicide must have intelligence sufficient to
understand the responsibility of setting himself up as the redresser of
a nation. If set upon the work by others he is a tool, or
second-hand operator—an instrument in the hands of others; a bravo
rather than a self-determined patriot.
He who proposes to take a life for the good of the people
must at least be prepared to give his own if necessary—both as atonement
for taking upon himself the office of public avenger and to secure that
his example shall not generate other than equally disinterested
imitators. The many failures of tyrannicidal attempts have been
mainly owing to the precaution taken by the actors for their own safety,
and who end by bestowing upon the tyrant the reputation of "bearing a
charmed life," when retaliatory oppression is brought upon others.
Colonel Titus, the royalist pamphleteer who wrote "Killing no Murder,"
which advised that some one should put Cromwell to death, was without
pretension to the dignity of a tyrannicide, since he was a mere inciter
of assassination which somebody else was to take the risk of committing.
The adversary of the despot must not be weak,
vacillating, or likely to lose his head in unforeseen circumstances, nor
be deficient in the knowledge and skill needful for his purpose.
Without these qualities he should keep clear of an undertaking where
failure will prove dangerous to those he professes to free.
He should have good knowledge that the result intended is
likely to come to pass afterwards. History tells us how many noble
men have been sacrificed; how many a holy cause has been put back for
years, or for centuries even, by untimely self-sacrifice. Curtius
would have been an idiot if he had leaped into the gulph before he was
well-assured that doing so would close it.
If tyrannicide is to be approved as a policy the business of the
despot-ender should be an art, and praise should be given under
conditions. The public avenger is one who aspires to the foremost
place which patriotism can occupy. He, by his single hand, is the
deliverer of a nation from an overshadowing terror and danger. He
voluntarily accepts supreme peril that his country may escape it.
More disinterested than the hero who perishes in battle, where he has
chances of escape, he ranks with the martyr who gives up his life for the
freedom of others. For him we change the dread epithet of "murderer"
and call him by the proud name of "Avenger of the People." He should
be no mean man for whom we do this.
In days when men were wanted for forlorn hopes, I received
letters from persons whom I knew and could trust, offering to engage in
any work involving death which I might commend. I could not advise
where I took no risk. The decision I left to them when they knew the
circumstances of the occasion: and the higher the ideal of duty and peril
in their minds the less likely they were to act heedlessly or needlessly.
Once I was asked to meet a number of ladies, two or three
were wives of members of Parliament. Politics interested them, and
they had capacity for public affairs. They asked my opinion upon
tyrant killing, which they favoured, and there were elsewhere many ready
to act upon their sanction. I answered that "at the time preceding
the French Revolution many ladies held the same opinion, and if these
English ladies spread the doctrine with the same fervour and had the same
influence, they would assuredly share the same fate. For myself, I
had not made up my mind that murder was a mode of progress." I saw
that character of the doctrine had not occurred to them, nor that it was a
doctrine that may have unpleasant adherents. "Disciples," I said,
"might arise of more advanced views than their own, and who might, in the
interests of public progress, apply the doctrine to them."
It was because death by private hands begets death that it
came to be limited by law. The French revolutionists of 1793 were
insurgents created by oppression, who, having no experience of the
limitations of freedom, contrived to make Liberty a greater terror than
despotism. They killed on suspicion. Tyrannicide became a
profession, and thousands followed the calling. Mrs. Francis Pulzsky
once said to me at her own table, "Mr. Holyoake, when we had power we gave
our influence to prevent any throat being cut. But no sooner were
our enemies secure, whom we had saved, than they cut the throats of our
party. When we get power again," said the brilliant little lady, "we
will cut theirs without mercy." I said "I hoped not, for the
forbearance she regretted was the noblest example democracy ever set."
Leniency may fail for a time, but in politics it is a noble error.
Acts of kindness will fail in private life, but kindness in the long run
proves the first of virtues. She was speaking not of her own
country, but of the policy of the Continental defenders of liberty, among
whom were the Hungarian patriots, who suffered everywhere when the
"Saviours of society" again got the upper hand.
In a free country "tyrannicide" is a worn-out theory.
Under representative Government, the ballot-box, penny newspapers, and the
right of public meeting, those who cannot extend the bounds of freedom do
not understand their business. The printing press has made opinion
a force in politics. If all those who depend upon the knife for
improvement were to display half the amount of self-sacrifice which they
have to make in their perilous method of extermination, they would see
accomplished what they wish earlier and more surely.
DEFENDING A POLE.
WHEN a publisher in London, I had my business to
consider, but so often as a public question arose I found myself under
some unprofitable impulse to take part in it, when others with a more
prudent sense of personal interest abstained. Louis Napoleon, in one
of his disquieting and menacing New Year Day addresses, had announced
that—"The Empire seeks a strong power capable of overcoming the obstacles
which might stop its advance." "I do not," he said, "fear to declare
to you to-day that the danger, no matter what is said to the contrary,
does not exist in the excessive prerogatives of power, but in the
absence of repressive laws." This is exactly what has often been
said of Ireland.
The President of the Senate, addressing the Emperor in reply,
said—"Sire, your glorious House sits as firmly as the throne of England.
The revolutionary spirit has been driven from France. [The Emperor
having made the bloodiest revolution on record.] It is from foreign
strongholds, situated in the centre of Europe [meaning England] that hired
assassins are sent. Foreign Governments and people do not take
measures to give a legitimate support to the cause of order."
Mr. William Carpenter, the author of the best "Political Text
Book" of the time, was chairman of the Discussion Forum, which the French
Government described as "a coffee-house near Temple Bar," and he had to
write to the Emperor informing him that "the members were for the most
part substantial tradesmen and men of business, who discussed the question
'Is Regicide Justifiable?' without reference to existing governments or
politics." The Emperor replied that he was satisfied with the
explanation, which he well might be, as he knew all about it, and had hung
about the Fleet Street Forum himself.
At this time (1858), Felix Pyat, M. Besson, and A. Talandier
published a "Letter" in French, entitled "Parliament and the Press."
Proceedings were taken against a Pole, Stanislaus Tchorzewski, for
publishing the letter here. I thought that the ground of the
prosecution, and the manner of it, were alike objectionable and
unnecessary. The English could not read the letter in French, and
the few Frenchmen likely to see it in this country were not likely to be
influenced by it, as it told them nothing they did not already know.
I asked Professor Newman for his opinion upon it, as one far more
competent than myself to judge it. He answered (Reasoner, No.
615) that "the outline of thought in the pamphlet was judicial and its
conclusion breathed no spirit of blood-thirsty revenge. It reminded
us that Louis Napoleon was deposed and condemned for high treason by a
lawful court, and that after this, being no longer a lawful officer, he
had slaughtered citizens for doing that which the law commanded them to
do—namely, to uphold the Constitution against him; and that by such
lawless violence he had seized and kept supreme power." There could
be little danger from the Pyat Letter since it took Lord Derby, who was
then in power, three weeks to make up his mind whether it ought to be
prosecuted. The proceedings against the Polish publisher were
believed to have been taken at foreign instigation, and amounted to denial
of freedom of speech for the exiles among us—exiles who, being friendless,
were entitled to our sympathy, and who, being residents in England, were
entitled to equality; who, being our guests, were entitled to our
protection. I objected to the policy of prosecuting the publisher of
Felix Pyat's "Letter," because it in no way endangered the life of Louis
Napoleon. The conspirators who are to be feared are, as a rule, not
those who are weak enough to proclaim their wishes, or suicidal enough to
publish their intentions. By doing so they invite observation to
themselves and fix suspicion upon their friends. Conspirators who
publish their plans usually give hostages to the police that they shall
The prosecution of Tchorzewski was a purely French
prosecution, conducted with a political indecency alien to English
sentiment. On the left hand of Mr. Jardine, at Bow Street,
there sat, during the investigations, Sir Richard Mayne, the chief of the
Metropolitan police, and on the right, agents of the French police; and we
saw an English magistrate so unmindful of British dignity as to sit under
their surveillance and act like a French official, and, forgetting his
character as an English gentleman and his duty as an English magistrate,
deliver himself of sentiments which we could only suppose were dictated to
him. When Mr. Sleigh, speaking as a British barrister should, in the
presence of the British people, uttered a few words which found their way
to the heart of some poor exiles in court (who, glad to believe that a
foreign servility was not tainting every English tongue, gave utterance to
their feelings), Mr. Bodkin made offensive remarks upon Mr. Sleigh, who
deemed it necessary to apologise for his own manliness. Mr. Bodkin
(Sir Robert Peel's Bodkin), the prosecuting counsel, all the while spoke
himself to that interfering Tuileries public whom, instead of his own
countrymen, he represented. No demagogue in London, nor all the
pamphlets published by exiles, had produced so much ill-blood between the
two nations as the proceedings in Mr. Jardine's court. We cheer the
demagogue and forget his speech. We invite the violent exile to
dinner, and neglect his exhortation; but we remember as an abiding
degradation when the English magistrate insults us in the eyes of the
foreigner, and that too in London, where the countryman comes with wonder,
the artizan with pride, and the provincial gentleman to watch our highest
public manners. I was in Sheffield when I read the account of these
proceedings against Tchorzewski. I consulted no one. My own
sense of duty dictated the step I took, and I telegraphed to London to,
instruct my brother Austin to procure a translation and put it in the
The newspapers soon acquainted the Government that one result
of their prosecuting an unknown Polish bookseller in Rupert Street, for
having issued a French pamphlet, which few would ever see, was that a
publisher in the city of London had issued an English edition which
everybody could read. As I had no wish to be Bodkinized or
Jardinized, I begged the Attorney-General to distinguish between this act
of public defence and one of defiance. In the preface I wrote to the
English edition I issued at Fleet Street, I stated that it was not my
interest to incur imprisonment, that I knew what it was and was not
covetous to renew that experience, and that I neither wanted notoriety nor
martyrdom. Therefore, I prayed the Government not to honour me with
their perilous attentions. I sent the first copy of the Tchorzewski
pamphlet in English to Lord Derby, who was then Premier, saying—
to me the liberty of enclosing to you a pamphlet which I deem a public
duty to publish. I do not send it to each member of the Cabinet—that
might appear a defiance. Not to send it to any one would be a
discourtesy; I therefore send it to your lordship as one who, in the
opinion of the people, views all political questions in an unprejudiced
In the silence of abject submission which reigned in France, we heard only
the chains of the slave and the voice of the informer. That state of
things concerned us. Despotism so near cast its shadow over England.
To extend liberty here was a reproach to our ally; every discussion upon
it in London made Paris uneasy. Every plea for it here was an
indirect reflection upon the ruler there. Still England did not
desist. For myself I sought shelter under no technicality. I
invited no consequences, nor did I evade them. I did but justify an
English act by English reasons.
The pamphlet published by Stanislaus Tchorzewski was signed
by the "Committee of the Revolutionary Commune—Felix Pyat, Besson, A.
Tallandier." Tchorzewski I never saw; Pyat I did not know, nor
Besson. Tallandier was a friend of mine. He was the first who
translated my "History of the Rochdale Pioneers" into the French language;
but no personal reason induced me to publish the manifesto of the Commune
in English. My object was to vindicate the liberty of the English
press. In my note to the English edition I said, "I regretted the
inopportune appearance of the Letter. Being issued while the fate of
Orsini was undecided, it was calculated to ensure his execution. It
was so ill-timed that the Emperor might have been suspected of instigating
its appearance." But at the request of Tallandier I omitted these
words. Mazzini wrote me a letter approving of the Tchorzewski
publication in English, as calculated to convince the Government of the
futility of these prosecutions. Upon re-reading the prosecuted
letter of Pyat, many years later, I thought its style neither so good, nor
its sentiments so bad, as they were both believed to be then.
At the same time I commenced editing a series of "Tyrannicide
Literature," and began with a cheap edition of "Killing no Murder," by
Colonel Titus, to show Englishmen what the Royalist doctrine of
assassination was. I also published a remarkable poem entitled, "The
Peace of Napoleon," by my friend, the late Mr. Percy Greg, and signed with
the name under which he usually wrote for me—Lionel H. Holdreth. The
poem was more indictable than anything which the Government honoured by
prosecution. I quote a few prophetic verses:—
"Peace! Hark, the voices of despairing men
Pining in exile, squalor, solitude,
Cry from the deadly swamps of far Cayenne—
'God! give us blood for blood!'
Since that sad morning when December's sky
Scowled on the brave who fruitlessly withstood
The Perjurer's arms, the stones of Paris cry
'God! give us blood for blood!'
And thou, fair partner of the Perjurer's throne,
Recreant to virtue, truth, and womanhood!
Think, if perchance he should not fall alone,
'Twill but be blood for blood!
I pray thou may'st be scathless—spared in scorn—
Husband, child, empire gone, till thou hast rued
In bitter tears the hour that thou wert born
When God sends blood for blood!
Blood shall have blood ere long, if One on high
The prayer of earth hath heard and understood;
To whom the nations ceaselessly do cry—
'God! give us blood for blood!'"
Notwithstanding, no proceedings were taken against me. By what
reason the Government were actuated I know not—probably it was the City
that saved me. I was a freeman of the city of London, which always
sets itself against prosecutions of the press. My friend, Edward
Truelove, at that time published a pamphlet entitled "Tyrannicide,"
[Ed.--the pamphlet's author was W.
E. Adams] and
his house being west of Temple Bar, he was arrested and taken to Bow
Street. My house being in the City, I must have been taken to the
Mansion House. It was impossible to prosecute the Pole for his
French publication, and I be left unmolested. In the end the
prosecution of Tchorzewski was dropped, and that against Mr. Truelove was
compromised. Miss Harriet Martineau, Mr. William Conyngham, M.P.
for Brighton, Mr. John Stuart Mill, and Professor F. W. Newman publicly
subscribed to a fund for Mr. Truelove's defence, names which may have
induced the Government to desist from the prosecution they had commenced
When the Government ceased to prosecute, the tyrannicide
literature ceased also. The object was not persistence in it, but to
vindicate the liberty of the press. Just resistance is of public
advantage even when not successful in its aim, as in the case here related
it appeared to be. Thiers said of Orsini's bombs,—"They missed the
Emperor, but they killed the Empire."
A LOST WILL.
Mr. FLETCHER, a gentleman of Kennington, often
came to the Fleet Street House. One day he proposed to make me a
loan of £250 in the form of a bill for three years, which I was to get
discounted. I offered it to W. Devonshire Saul, who dealt in
bills and wine, and who knew Mr. Fletcher. Without giving
reasons, he declined it. To put it in circulation I must sacrifice a
large proportion of the amount. As I felt bound to repay Mr.
Fletcher, a large discount would render me unable to do it. All the
while he intended to give the sum to me, but did not say so.
Eventually I returned the bill, lest I incurred an obligation beyond my
power to meet. This act no doubt wounded his commercial pride, and
also gave him a deplorable impression of my business ability. Had I
been a "smart" man, I should have got what I could for the bill, and have
left him to take it up. Had I had business wit, I should have kept
the bill and had it presented by a confederate, when matured, and thus
have profited. It was the feeling of being bound in honour to repay
the money if I received it which prevented my retaining it. Herein
scrupulousness was a disadvantage.
Mr. Fletcher showed no resentment, and made his will in my
favour. At that time he estimated his fortune at £30,000.
Having fair expectation of life, he invested a large portion in purchasing
an annuity of £2,000 a year, expecting that in due course the proceeds of
the annuity would make him still richer. The will he handed to me in
a sealed parcel, which my brother Austin kept for me. At the end of
two years he asked for the parcel again. One day he invited Robert
Cooper and me to tea, and afterwards in my presence handed him the will.
Mr. Fletcher had acquired a prejudice against me, being told by the
chief person in my employ that fair play had not been given at Fleet
Street to Mr. Cooper's works—he being an author and lecturer like myself.
This was entirely untrue. Had I been aware of what had been told to
Mr. Fletcher, it would have been easy to disabuse his mind. If my
conduct had been what he believed, he would have been justified in
resenting it. Mr. Cooper was editing the Investigator.
He considered himself a rival to me, and his paper frequently contained
attacks upon me, not conceived with the intention of being pleasing.
But I published his paper all the same, never caring what anybody said.
Never did any one, save Lloyd Garrison, of America, publish more articles
against himself than I did. In the Reasoner similar articles
were constantly published, nothing being omitted save dishonouring
imputations upon others. My chief clerk at Fleet Street was formerly
a local preacher, who seemed trustworthy. Finding that he owed his
last employer £20, I lent him the money to pay it, as I declined to take
an indebted man into my service. This person ultimately appropriated
to his own uses upwards of £100 of my money. For reasons of his own
he told Mr. Fletcher that I kept back Mr. Cooper's books, although I had
enjoined him that Mr. Cooper's publications should be kept prominently in
sight—and they were so kept—that he might have no cause for jealousy.
No doubt in due time Mr. Fletcher would have found that he
had been misinformed and would have restored his will to me, but in a few
months he unexpectedly died. Being penurious, though rich, he was
insufficiently clothed in inclement weather, and, being overtaken by a
storm, the effects were fatal to him in a few days. Mr. Cooper
received the remainder of his fortune, which, however, did not do him much
good, as he went into a banking business and lost it. For three days
only after Mr. Fletcher's death the sense of my loss was a sharp
discomfort, but it passed away then. During the time the will was in
my possession, I was constantly away debating with adversaries in distant
parts of England and Scotland, and seldom had time to see Mr. Fletcher, or
I should have found out what influence he was under. Thus absorption
in public work was against me.
When the local preacher referred to ceased to be in my
employ, he owed me £112. He then sought an engagement as minister
among the Unitarians. The Rev. Samuel Martin, hearing of this, told
Mr. Kendrick, in whose hands the appointment rested, that he "had better
see Mr. Holyoake before he made it." How Mr. Martin came to know of
the indebtedness to me I was never aware, though I was indebted to Mr.
Martin's consideration. Mr. Kendrick came to me and asked my opinion
of the candidate. My reply was that "he had zeal and doubtless good
intention, but was wanting in self-control, but under clear and strong
direction he might make a useful preacher." As I had once trusted
him, I was unwilling by any word of mine to stand in the way of his
Mr. Kendrick then asked me for what sum, if any less than
that owing, the candidate's indebtedness could be condoned, as they could
not receive him into their communion unabsolved. My answer was that,
as "I had once told him, if he repaid me the half of that which he owed
me, I would acquit him, I would do so still." That sum was sent me,
and I owed that sum to Mr. Kendrick's Unitarian sense of honour. I
wrote a letter at Mr. Kendrick's request, which enabled the appointment to
be made. No acknowledgment was ever sent me by the person concerned
for the consideration shown him, nor any return made for the half amount
in equity due to me, when it became possible to him to make it.