William Lovett: Autobiography (1)

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LIFE AND STRUGGLES OF WILLIAM LOVETT

CHAPTER I


IN resolving to string together the events of my life I am hopeful that they may be of interest to my working-class brethren, with whom and for whom I have laboured for the last forty-five years, in the hopes of improving our social and political condition.  The success of our efforts has not been to the extent of my wishes, although I believe great progress has been effected; and if the following pages may in any way serve to stimulate younger and wiser men to continue the contest, earnestly but discreetly, till the victory is won over political injustice, social oppression, ignorance and wrong, I shall not have written them in vain.

    I am conscious of my inability to make my story interesting by style or force of language, and therefore I shall tell it right on as best I can.

    I was born on the 8th of May, in the year 1800, in the little fishing town of Newlyn, situated about a mile westward of Penzance, in the county of Cornwall.  My mother's maiden name was Kezia Green; she descended from a family of that name, well known in the west of the county for their skill as blacksmiths, and their strength and dexterity as wrestlers, trophies won by my grandmother's brother being still in the family.  My father was a native of Hull, of the same name as myself, and the captain of a small trading vessel, often entering the port of Falmouth, where he met with my Mother.  He was, however, unhappily drowned in his last voyage home before I was born, so I can say nothing further respecting him.  My mother, however, in her lonely position, was relieved and taken care of by an affectionate brother, one who possessed great goodness of heart.

    Soon after this he commenced business as a ropemaker, and, being successful in the beginning, was able to render her ample assistance while I was an infant.  He possessed an amiable disposition and a well-informed mind, which he had been assiduous in cultivating, and was always held up to me as an example by my grandmother.  He died, however, of a decline, in his thirty-second year, and when I was very young.  My mother being thus thrown entirely on her own resources, fortunately possessed a vigorous constitution and a persevering spirit, so that, by labouring industriously in the usual avocations of a fishing town, as well as by selling fish in Penzance market, she was enabled to bring me up in some degree of comfort, as well as to support for the most part her agèd mother, who became greatly dependent on her.

    Among my earliest recollections was that of being taken in my grandmother's arms to see the illuminations for the short peace of 1803, was that of seeing plentiful supply of raisins in the town, occasioned by the wreck of the fig-man—as she was called—the vessel that, I think, knocked down the works of the wherry mine in a storm; and was my being driven home by an old shopkeeper of the town for having run down street in my night-clothes after my mother.

    I have also deeply engraven on the memory of my boyhood the apprehensions and alarms that were experienced amongst the inhabitants of our town regarding the press-gang during the war.  The cry that "the press-gang was coming" was sufficient to cause all the young and eligible men of the town to flock up to the hills and away to the country as fast as possible, and to hide themselves in all manner of places till the danger was supposed to be over.  It was not always, however, that the road to the country was open to them, for the authorities sometimes arranged that a troop of light horse should be at hand to cut off their retreat when the press-gang landed.  Then might the soldiers have been seen, with drawn cutlasses, riding down the poor fishermen, often through fields of standing corn where they had sought to hide themselves, while the press-gang were engaged in diligently searching every house in order to secure their victims.  In this way, as well as out of their boats at sea, were great numbers taken away, and many of them never more heard of by their relations.

    On one of those exciting occasions, it so happened that an old man and his daughter were out at one end of the town, beside a small stream cleansing fish.  The daughter was a woman between thirty and forty, and her father, I should think upwards of sixty, though he looked younger.  Being thus engaged when the press-gang landed, and she being deaf, one of the gang had been and seized her father, and was bearing him off before she was aware of it.  On raising her head, and seeing her father borne off a prisoner, she snatched up one of the dog-fishes she was opening, and running up to the man she asked him what he was going to do with her daddy.  Pointing to the man-of-war at a distance, he told her he was going to take him aboard that big ship.  The words had scarcely passed his lips before she fetched him a blow across his face with the rough dog-fish, that made him relinquish his hold.  Then seizing her father with one hand, and resolutely defending him with the dog-fish in the other, she kept her opponent at bay till other women and boys came to her assistance.  Thus was Honour Hitchers, by her courage, enabled to bear off her daddy in triumph amid the cheers and rejoicings of half the women and boys of the neighbourhood.

    Like most children, when very young, my love of play was far greater than that of learning, for I was sent to all the dame-schools of the town before I could master the alphabet.  Of my first school I remember being sent home at midsummer with a slip of paper round my hat with my name on it in red ink, given as a holiday present.  Of my second school was the being put in the coal-cellar for bad conduct, on the second and last day of my being there.  Eventually, however, I was instructed to read by my great-grandmother, who lived in the village of St. Creed, about three miles from our town, she being at that period about eighty years of age.

    A circumstance I remember in connection with this kind old lady induces me to believe that I had a good memory when a child.  My mother, who generally paid me a visit once a week to bring me clean linen, on one occasion made me a present of Dr. Watt's Divine Songs, saying at the same time, "William, when you have learnt them all, I will make you a present of a new Bible."  This promise so far stimulated me to my task, that I had learnt to repeat them all from memory in a fortnight's time; and I eagerly sent home word by a neighbour to tell my mother to bring the present she promised me as I had learnt all the songs.  On going to meet her a portion of the way, as I usually did, I mounted on a large rock to await her coming, and as soon as she saw me at a distance, she held up the Bible to assure me that my request had not been forgotten.

    I soon, however, got too troublesome for my poor great-grandmother, and was taken home; and I remember that the day after I nearly cut off the top of a finger in playing with a knife.  My grandmother's sister then took me to live with her for a short time.  She was a kind-hearted woman, but fond of drink at times, and I, having accidentally broken one of her windows, one day was sent home in a tiff.

    I was then sent to a boys' school to learn "to write and cypher," thought at that time to be all the education required for poor people.  It was the only school in the town at that time, and I had two masters while there.  The first master was a severe one, and the second was somewhat worse.  Custises on the palm of the hand and very severe canings were punishments for not recollecting our tasks, and on one occasion I saw him hang up a boy by the two thumbs with his toes just touching the ground for playing truant.

    Here, too, I caught the small-pox from seeing a little girl brought into the school in her grandmother's arms; she having her little face and arms thickly beset with the dark-scabbed pustules, caused a strange shivering sensation to come over her at the moment, and in a short time I was taken ill with the disease.  I think that fear had much to do with it, though the germs must undoubtedly have been wafted towards me.  I must here state that the disease at that time being greatly dreaded, I was constantly cautioned by my friends to avoid all children that had had it recently, and being thus brought suddenly face to face with it, with no means of escape, I naturally felt alarmed.  And what a terrible disease it was I can well remember, for I think I was seven or eight years old.  But bad as I had it I was not marked with it as numbers of my schoolfellows were; for so terrible were its ravages at that period, that I can vividly remember the number of seamed and scarred faces among them.  Vaccination at that time had not been introduced into our town, though inoculation for the smallpox was occasionally resorted to; but it was looked upon as sinful and a doubting of providence, although about that period one in every fourteen persons born died from its ravages.

    Having made but little progress at this school, when I got well I was sent to another about a mile from the town and near the parish church.  Here I learned to write tolerably well, and to know a little of arithmetic and the catechism, and this formed the extent of my scholastic requirements.  I remember being once flogged severely by the master, and I think I deserved it.  It was in the winter time, and his little boy had set a trap in the garden for catching birds, when myself and another boy seeing some birds in the trap pulled down the opening and caught them.  We then wrung their necks, brought them into the school, and put them into our school bags unobserved.  Not having however wrung their necks effectually, in a short time they began to flutter, and this led to our detection and punishment.

    This master was, however, a very clever and ingenious person, and I think also a bit of a wit; for he being too busy on one occasion to set me a copy requested me to write one for myself.  From some curious notions I had formed of royalty, I wrote for my copy—"All Kings have long heads," which when my master saw, he wrote on the opposite page, "All horses have longer heads."

    To prove how anxious my poor mother was to check the least deviation from what she believed to be right and just in my conduct, I will relate the following: "Having returned from school one winter evening, and finding my mother not returned from market, I went to meet her.  On crossing a beach leading to the next village, I saw two persons at a little distance from me seeking for something with a lantern.  Before I came to them, seeing something shining upon the beach, I stooped down and found it to be a shilling.  I accordingly made my way towards the parties, believing them to be seeking for it.  But on enquiring what they had lost, I was replied to with a buffet on the head, and bidden to go my way.  Taking this in dudgeon, I went on and took the shilling with me.  Not meeting with my mother on the road I turned back, and found that she had got home before me.  To her I told my story about the shilling, half believing that I had acted rightly, after the treatment I had received, until I saw the frown gathering on my mother's countenance, and the rod being sought for, by a few strokes of which I soon became enlightened to the contrary.  She then took me back to the owner of the shilling, to apologize to him for not having given it to him as soon as I found it; and on my way back I received from her a lecture on honesty, which I never afterwards forgot.

    This old gentleman, to whom I took back the shilling, was a man of some little property in our town, and had, I believe, a large spice of humour in his composition as the following anecdote shows:—He having an orchard at the upper end of the street he lived in, from which he found it difficult to gather much of its fruit, by reason of repeated thefts, got an old man, who lived in a cottage at the bottom of it, to rent it from him.  This old man was a journeyman miller, and made a great profession of religion; but was withal a very curious specimen of a religious man, as he could never be induced to say grace over fish and potatoes, a very common dinner in a fishing town.  The first question when he came home at noon, was to ask his mistress what she had got for dinner.  If it happened to "be baked potatoes, pork, and pie-crust—a favourite dinner with him—Uncle Jemmy would kneel down and make long grace over it; but if it was a dinner of fish and potatoes, Uncle Jemmy could never be induced to say grace; for he always persisted that "God Almighty never ordained fish and potatoes for a working man's dinner."

    But to return to my story about the orchard.  When the bargain had been concluded about the rent, mode of payment, etc., Uncle Jemmy turned to the proprietor and said, "Now, Mr. Pollard, if you have no objection, I'll say a few words of prayer over our bargain?"  No objection having been made, Uncle Jemmy knelt down and began his prayer, praying that God would send sunshine and showers, that he would protect the trees from blight, that he would give him abundant fruit, and that when the apples were ripe, he would prevent the boys from stealing them.  At this point in his prayer, Mr. Pollard, who was standing up near him, tapped him on the shoulder and humorously said, "Uncle Jemmy, do you remember the time when I caught you in the orchard with your pockets full of apples?"  Upon which Uncle Jemmy turned angrily round and said, "Oh, Mr. Pollard, you should never interrupt a man in his prayers, for those you know were only eating articles, and now you have spoiled my prayer."  He, evidently conceiving that in his case there was no sin in steal "eating articles," though he had earnestly prayed that the boys might be prevented from doing the same thing.


    My mother, belonging to the Methodist Connexion, enforced on me very rigidly a regular attendance at chapel or church, and the reading of texts, prayers, and portions of Scripture, in the interval between the hours of attendance, so much so indeed, as to materially lessen the good she sought to confer; for though I could seldom evade her vigilance, I began to think the duties imposed on me more irksome than profitable.  The being obliged to frequent a place of worship three times of a Sunday, strictly prohibited all books but the Bible and Prayer Book, and not being allowed to enjoy a walk, unless to chapel, or recreation of any description, are sufficient to account for those boyish feelings.  My poor mother, like too many serious persons of the present-day, thought that the great power that has formed the numerous gay, sportive, singing things of earth and air, must above all things be gratified with the solemn faces, prim clothes, and half-sleepy demeanour of human beings; and that true religion consists in listening to the reiterated story of man's fall, of God's anger for his doing so, of man's sinful nature, of the redemption, and of other questionable matters, instead of the wonders and glories of the universe; of the wondrous laws that govern it; of trying to understand and live in accordance with those laws; of performing our moral and religious duties; of trying to improve ourselves and to elevate our race; and of striving to make earth more in accordance with heaven.

    But although my mother was strict in the particulars I have referred to, she was very kind and indulgent to me in other respects.  She took great pains in keeping me scrupulously clean and respectable in my person, and—what I then thought a very superfluous duty—great pains to keep me from playing with the boys of the town; for as I delighted in all kinds of boyish amusements, her mandates in this particular gave me much mental pain, as well as frequently involved me in many scrapes.  But what enabled her, more than threats or promises, to keep me from vicious associates, was the encouragement she gave, and the inducements and means she afforded me for amusing myself at home.  She laboured to convince me that good of some description was always to be realized from my cutting, carving, drawing, digging, or writing at home; but that nothing but vice, mischief, or folly could be gained by associating with the ignorant, idle, and vicious boys with which the streets abounded.

    One of my amusements after school hours, was the enclosing, digging, and cultivating of a very small flower garden, which I had formed partly out of an old ruin adjoining our house.  Another was what I then designated "drawing," being very rough sketches of birds, and flowers, more showy than natural.  My first colours, however, were only bits of different coloured stones, which I found on the beach, or dug out of the rocks when the tide was out, and which I rubbed down on another stone.  But having copied out some bills for a German quack doctor, who lodged in the neighbourhood for a short time, he gave me some information about the names, and the mixing of water colours, as well as the place and mode of purchasing better drawing materials at the market town.  With a few pence, given to me by my indulgent mother, I went and bought a few brilliant sorts, and the very showy productions these enabled me to make, soon met with a ready market among the neighbours, whose walls in a short time were very gaily, if not very tastefully, ornamented.

    I also possessed some skill in the use of my knife; and boats, carved birds, and the making of birdcages, afforded me much amusement, as well as often provided me with capital for new projects.  It must not be supposed, however, that these home amusements, nor my mother's good advice, were so far effective as to keep me altogether from play; for the love of it is so natural in youth, that the more it is sought to be restrained, the more it is craved after, and the buoyancy of feeling at times breaks through all restraints, especially when any great temptation presents itself.   Such a temptation presented itself to me one fine moonlight night—and of a Sunday too—when a number of boys were assembled on the sands at play.  My mother, I knew, had gone off to chapel, in the belief that I was safe at my aunt's taking tea, and as my aunt was not very particular in her enquiries when I went out, I bounded off as soon as I could to join in the fun.  When I got down, however, I found the sands wetter than I expected, and having on a new jacket and trousers, I began to think it would be better to look on than join in the play.  Before long, however, a mischievous fellow slyly suggested to another that it would be good fun to push me down and spoil my new clothes.  The idea was no sooner suggested than it was acted upon, for one of them came upon me suddenly and pushed me backwards, but in falling one of my legs caught under in some way, and produced a terrible sprain in my ankle, said by the doctor to be far worse than a broken bone.

    I was carried home by the boys; my mother was sent for from chapel, who pronounced it to be a judgment inflicted upon me for breaking the Sabbath, but notwithstanding sent for the doctor.  I suffered great pain with it, and it took many weeks' doctoring before I had the use of it again.  I had, however, scarcely got over this trouble when I got into another, though not so painful nor expensive.  It happened that a very large basking shark was found floating on the ocean, by some of the fishermen of the town, and towed on shore.  It was of course a favourable opportunity for an assemblage of boys; and while the fishermen were busy in cutting it open, and taking out the great quantity of liver and oil found in it, the boys were busy in their way in extracting amusement out of it.  The mouth of the fish having been propped open by means of handspikes, some boys—myself among the number—had got into its mouth cutting away a black, stiff bristly fringe, that lined a part of it, and which bore a comb-like appearance.  While we were thus busily employed, other mischievous fellows were busy in kicking the bottom of the handspikes on one side, which brought the jaws plop together and laid us sprawling at the bottom.  Our cries soon brought assistance, and the mouth of the fish was opened, but the plight we were in from the oil and slime into which we were tumbled, can be better imagined than described.  I remember it was some days before I got over my fright.

    The time, however, had now arrived when it was necessary that I should learn some useful employment, and as my uncle had been prosperous in his business of rope-making, it was resolved that I should be apprenticed to that trade.  I was accordingly bound to a firm of three persons, for the term of seven years.  But very soon after I was bound the partnership was dissolved, and I was transferred for the remainder of my time to the acting partner.  I may here observe that the division of labour, which is generally carried on in London, and other large towns, is not pursued in that part of the country, as far as rope-making is concerned, so that an apprentice has to learn as many different branches of the trade as would take as many different apprenticeships to acquire in London and other places.  This causes the country business to be a laborious one, and so I found it to be.

    Our rope-yard, being some distance from town, I had, in common with others, to carry to it heavy loads of hemp for our daily supply of spinning; and it being an open yard, not far from the sea-cliff, and very much exposed to the weather, caused me to feel the cold severely at first.  I was also a mere stripling, very thin and tall, and no way fitted by my constitution for that laborious business.  My master was also a very unfit person, at that time, for the instruction of youth, he being given to drink, very passionate, and scrupled not to relate in our presence many anecdotes of his dissipations among the women in early life.  He was also very unreasonable at times, for he very frequently sent me with a heavy load of rope to the adjoining towns after I had done a hard day's work, so that when I returned home, my extreme fatigue has often taken away my appetite for food.

    But what I felt more severely than the labour inflicted on me, was the coming and going some of these lonely roads by night, for popular credulity had peopled particular spots with ghosts and appearances of various kinds, and in which I was a firm believer.  For the numerous stories regarding those nocturnal visitants, told to me in infancy, reiterated in boyhood, and authenticated and confirmed by one neighbour after another, who had witnessed, they said, their existence in a variety of forms, riveted the belief in them so firmly in my brain, that it was many years after I came to London before I became a sceptic in ghosts.  Nor was the belief in them confined to the young, for my master was so fearful of walking these lonely roads after dark—when he went to neighbouring villages to collect his debts, or to obtain orders—that he mostly ordered me or my fellow apprentice to come to meet him, and accompany him home.

    I remember one dark winter evening going to meet him, in company with a young fellow I had induced to be my companion, and not finding my master at the place appointed, we had to follow him to the next village.  Our road to this was up through a long dark lane, in a part of which a monumental stone was erected, on account of a murder having been committed there.  Previous to our approach to this dreaded spot our fears had subdued our tongues and quickened our pulse; but conceive our feelings, when we saw through the darkness a monster ghost of about three feet high, with erect horns, and large eyes glaring at us, from immediately opposite the monument.  We shrunk back for a moment in great terror, but our presence seems to have alarmed the monster also, for it rose up and proved to be a farmer's heifer, which had quietly laid itself down in front of this murderer's monument—which folly had erected in a public highway—doubtless without ever suspecting it would be taken for a demon.

    On another occasion, when we were making a cable for a large Indiaman, I saw another of those supposed ghosts.  It was of a Sunday evening, and all the rope-makers of the town had assembled to help us with our large job, the consent of the parson having been first obtained, an essential requisite at that period, for working on a Sunday.  About midnight my master found out that his stock of brandy was exhausted, and as the men on such occasions expected brandy, or other spirits; and as two well-known women lived at Mousehold, a village about a mile off, who dealt in the smuggled article, he thought the night-time very opportune for obtaining it.  I was accordingly sent off with a large bottle to procure some.

    I went with a very sorrowful heart; for it was a solitary way along the edge of the cliff, it was a ghostly hour, and many were the ghosts and goblins that had been seen on that road.  It was, however, a bright moonlight night, and I had scarcely proceeded a quarter of a mile before I saw in the distance before me what appeared to be the outline of a woman all in white.  It being such a solitary road, and such a lone hour of night, that it never once entered my head to think it a being of flesh and blood.  No, it must be a ghost, but there was one consolation, which I drew from the ghost stories I had heard, it must be good and not evil, for all good spirits were said to be white.  Thus encouraged I went on, but with strange fears and curious imaginings notwithstanding, to overtake this good ghost; for though I was on the search after spirits, they were not of this complexion.  The nearer I approached the better it seemed, as far as regards colour, for it was white from top to toe.  When I got within a few yards of this stately slow walking figure I made a little noise with my feet, when lo! my ghost turned round and waited my approach.  Alas! she was of the earth most earthly, for she proved to be the kept mistress of a lawyer of Penzance, and was returning home at this unseemly hour.

    Soon after my apprenticeship our home was broken up by my mother marrying a man with whom my grandmother and myself could not be comfortable; we therefore took a small house and went to live together, our subsistence depending on the most part on the five shillings per week which I received as wages, eked out by the little which my grandmother could earn in the fishing season.  Our food consisted of barley-bread, fish and potatoes, with a bit of pork on Sundays.  In fact, barley-bread was the common food in my boyhood, excepting that the fishermen mostly took a wheaten loaf to sea with them.  I have also heard my mother say that so scarce and dear was corn of all kinds the year I was born in, that she could not get bread enough to satisfy her hunger, although she travelled many miles round about to seek to purchase it.

    It so happened that my bedroom window in this house was exactly opposite the window of a house having the reputation of being haunted.  It was not, however, a deserted house, although most of its inmates had been frightened at different times by the ghost; the particulars of which, and the forms it assumed, have often been told me by mother, son, and daughter, with whom I was well acquainted.  Whether an indigestible supper had anything to do with their fright, I had not the sense then to enquire.  For me to pass this house, when visiting a neighbour at night, required what Mrs. Chick would call "an effort."  But to avoid seeing the ghost from my bedroom window, I adopted the expedient of shutting my eyes whenever I entered the room.

    I mention these silly things to show that superstition of one kind or another was the curse of my boyhood, and I have reasons for believing that such notions are still firmly believed by thousands of our people.  And those rulers, who by a wise system of education can succeed in enlightening the rising generation, so that they may laugh down such absurdities, will render to society a benefit none can estimate so well as those who have been the victims of such superstitious delusions; for, notwithstanding the progress of knowledge among our people, by means of the press, the school, and the rail, the belief in ghosts is still widely entertained.  The last time but one when I visited my native place, there was quite a sensation there about a ghost that had been seen walking about without a head.  For having laughed at the notion in presence of an old acquaintance of mine, a baker of the town, I was very seriously reprimanded, and told that I could not believe the Bible, for was it not said in it, that the Witch of Ender raised up the spirit or ghost of Samuel, and then he quoted other passages in favour of spirits.

    So deeply seated are these superstitious teachings, and so difficult are they to eradicate, that it is very much to be regretted that our sensational tale-writers still continue to foster the absurd notions of ghosts and goblins; for though some may laugh at them, they have a very prejudicial effect on the minds of others, and more especially on children.

    Being, as I have already said, fond of tools from a boy, I employed most of my leisure hours during my apprenticeship in making something ornamental or useful.  I became an adept in the making of bird-cages, boxes of various descriptions, and, as my grandmother designated them, gimcracks of every kind.  I had also a turn for mechanism, and succeeded in making a small machine, similar to those used in factories for the spinning of twine, which pleased my master so well when he saw it, that he wished me to take it to the rope-yard, by means of which we might all learn to spin twine.

    But this spinning machine turned out to be an experiment productive of many disagreeables to me and my fellow apprentices; for after my master had taught himself and two of us boys to spin twine, he took it into his head to make set-nets, crab-nets, and eventually a foot-seine, and then requested us to go to sea with him of an evening to catch fish with him.  To this I had a great aversion on account of seasickness, a malady I could never get over; indeed, on one occasion during these fishing excursions I narrowly escaped drowning.

    On another occasion during my apprenticeship I had another narrow escape from the kick of a horse.  It occurred in this manner: a poor young fellow of the town, who had recently lost both father and mother, was dependent for his own and his brother's and sister's support, on any little jobs he could obtain by the employment of a horse and cart, left him by his father.  Not having means for the support of his horse, he was obliged to turn it about the lanes to shift for itself.  Seeing the poor horse feeding on the scanty herbage in the road below our rope-yard, it struck my fellow apprentice and myself that it might procure better food for a short time at one end of our yard, where there was a good crop of grass.  We accordingly drove the horse up, where it revelled for a good bit on its good fare, and when we thought it had got its belly full, we thought it well to drive it down again, lest our master might come out and find fault with us.  But on my approaching him to drive him down he threw out his two hind legs with great force, which, hitting me in the abdomen, sent me a great distance, and nearly struck the life out of me, the blow causing me to feel its painful effects for some time, thus exhibiting a sorry example of horse ingratitude.

    When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I had, among my female acquaintances, two or three straw-hat makers, to please whom I was induced to try the experiment of making for them some steel straw-splitters; which at that time were very difficult to procure, as well as expensive.  These are small steel-pointed instruments with circular heads, divided into equal sharp-cutting divisions for splitting the straws into equal portions of various degrees of fineness, the same being fixed into ivory or bone stocks.

    Having succeeded in my attempt, I had several orders to execute for others in the same business, for at that period straw-hat making was a female mania in our neighbourhood.  But what rendered my instruments of less value than those sold in the market town, was the inferiority of the stocks, they being made of wood carved with the penknife, instead of being turned out of ivory or bone.  To remedy this defect I was induced to direct my attention to the making of a turning lathe, from the description of one I had met with in the fragment of an old book, and, after a great deal of scheming and contriving, I made one that answered my purpose.  This opened up to me a new field of amusement as well as some little profit, for I not only succeeded in setting off my straw-splitters with bone stocks, turned out of the nicely bleached bone I met with on the beach, but in a short time I acquired some skill in common turning.  By this new contrivance my female friends were also provided with straw mills for the pressing of their plat, as well as with hat and bonnet blocks, and implements of various kinds.  With the aid of my lathe I was also enabled to make spinning wheels for the spinning of twine for fishing lines, of which I made several.

     About this time I was also fortunate enough to get access to a carpenter's shop, in which cabinet work was occasionally executed.  Here in my leisure hours and on holidays, I acquired some proficiency in the use of carpenters' tools, and by purchasing of the proprietor such bits of wood as I needed, I was permitted to plane and work them up upon a spare bench.

    Near the end of my apprenticeship I was permitted to visit a great-uncle of mine, at a place called Porthleven, on the eastern coast of Mounts-bay, and to have a week's holiday; my uncle being then the huer of a pilchard seine at that place.  At that time they were building Porthleven Pier, and during my stay I was witness of the immense power of the sea on that coast during a gale of wind.  The end of the pier is built of immense stones dovetailed into one another, and secured by iron clamps along the edges.  One of these layers had been put in its place before the gale came on, but had not been secured at the edges, and so powerful was the sea during the storm that the whole layer of these immense stones was driven out of its place, as if it had been a slice of bread.

    An old fisherman of the place took me round the coast, and, among other places, to the Loo Bar, where he gave me a graphic description of the different wrecks he had witnessed on that coast.  He told me that he had seen an Indiaman completely wrecked by the force of two waves, the one driving her on shore, and the other shattering her to pieces.  He showed me the graves of many wrecked seamen he had helped to bury, one of which, he said, had thirty men in it.  The young and most active, he said, were generally drowned first, as they dropped over the sides as soon as the vessel struck ground, believing the sand to be hard, and, as the waves receded very far, they thought they might save themselves by a run.  But, unhappily, instead of solid sand they dropped on, it was quicksand, or sand and water, and which carried them out to sea like a rushing river.

    At this village I saw two remarkable persons.  One was a poor demented creature, who preferred being out in all weather, and in gleaning her food from the dung-hills rather than enter the home provided for her, and it was with great difficulty she could be brought home to get a meal, or a change of clothing.  When, however, she could be induced to eat at home she ate most voraciously, for I was witness, on one occasion, to her eating a large, heaped-up dish of potatoes that, I think, could not be far short of a gallon.  I have seen her sitting down on a hill, during a drenching shower of rain, as unconcerned as if of no consequence.  As her petticoats were ragged at the bottom, all round, as if torn in some curious way, I asked her who tore them so; she told me it was the wind and the rain, but I afterwards learnt that they were torn by the dogs; for, as she was exceedingly troublesome to the neighbours in begging for snuff, the dogs were often allowed to molest her.

    This poor creature, I was informed, was reduced to this sad condition in a singular way.  She was, I was told, a few years previously a sprightly young woman, livings as a servant at a public-house in the village.  It happened that, on one occasion, when she was up-stairs making the beds, that a deserter entered the house, and, calling for some drink, went into the parlour, where he was speedily followed by an officer of his regiment, and, a moment after, the report of a pistol was heard, and, when the room was entered, the deserter was found dead.  The officer said that the soldier had resisted his arrest, which was the cause of his firing, though he only thought of wounding him.  As, however, the officer was known to be the soldier's enemy, a trial took place, and, from the evidence given, the case was going very strong against the former.  At this juncture the servant girl, Betty, was called to give her evidence.  She said that she was upstairs making the beds, and, hearing a scuffle below, and then the sound of a gun, she ran down to the parlour and saw the man dead, and the officer standing over him.

    The word scuffle, in Betty's evidence, is said to have saved the officer's life, and as she was much blamed for using this word—for, it seems, there was no scuffle—and she, greatly troubling about it, became in a few days a helpless lunatic.  She was at first kept in confinement, but, soon proving harmless, she was consigned to the care of an old couple in the village, and great trouble she seemed to have given them.

    The other singular person I have alluded to was an old lady, who was reputed to be a white witch, one who, from the ill she was believed able to inflict, was regarded by some with superstitious dread.  She generally carried a basket about with her, containing all kinds of odds and ends, as well as food, and anything that Aunt Tammy took a fancy too, few who feared her, dared to refuse.  I was witness myself to the power of her nimble and abusive tongue on two occasions, and can readily believe that few would like to come under its lash.

    The first occasion was on Porthleven Pier, where a crowd was assembled in consequence of a poor horse having fallen into the sea.  A young man present happened to say to some one near him, "There is the old witch coming," which Aunt Tammy happening to hear, at once gave him a bit of her mind for it was so droll in a manner few, I think, could match, and laughable.  Among other drolleries, she told him that his mother was such a fool that she hung a pound of butter out in the sun to dry.  That the reason of his being such a poor doodle was that his mother fed him on flies and potato peelings, and much more of a like kind that I cannot now recollect.

    The second time that I heard some of her abusive drolleries, was when I went into Helston Courthouse one day to hear the trials.  The reason, I found, of Aunt Tammy being there was on account of her daughter and another girl, being charged with stealing apples.  Before the magistrates made their appearance, Aunt Tammy had stationed herself in the place allotted to delinquents, and on one of the officials telling her she must move to some other place, she opened out upon him in her peculiar style.  She seemed to have known his pedigree for generations back, and depicted them and him in a manner that convulsed every one present with laughter.  When the magistrates came they were informed of what had taken place, but as she insisted that she had business there, and as they seemingly knew her capability of tongue, she was allowed to remain till her daughter's case was brought on, notwithstanding some curious remarks she made on a previous case.

    As soon as her daughter was brought in and placed beside her, the old lady gave her such a smacking on the back as to nearly take away her breath.  Then, turning to the magistrates, and familiarly calling them by name, she said, "Now, before your begin business, I have something very nice in my basket for you," and, opening it, she presented, in a clean white cloth, a large piece of apple-cake, nicely spread over with clotted cream.  The piece of cake was then conveyed, amid much fun and laughter, and presented to the parson, who, very graciously refusing, passed it on to another, and so to all the gentlemen on the bench, and on its being returned back to Aunt Tammy, she very bluntly said, "Well, if you are all too proud to taste an old woman's cake I must eat it myself."  Her daughter's case then proceeded, not without numerous observations of Aunt Tammy, and when the two girls had been found guilty, and condemned to pay the fine of a pound, she, after a few extra slaps on her girl's back, turned round to the magistrates and said, "Well, I have no money to pay the fine, and I tell you what I shall do; I shall come round to you to-morrow, to see what you are going to give me towards it.  I shall first call on Parson Rogers, and I know I shall get something from him, and I believe, after that, none of you will be shabby enough to send me away empty-handed," and, having thus said her say, Aunt Tammy left the court.

    I must here state that within a few months of the time I was bound for, I found great difficulty in getting from my master the wages due to me, and was eventually obliged to summon him before the magistrates of Penzance to obtain them.  Having succeeded, but knowing it would be equally difficult to obtain them in future, as trade was very bad with my master, my friends got him to give up my indentures.  Thus free and my own master, the next question was what was I to do for a living?  The trade of ropemaking was at that time very bad, owing, among other causes, to the introduction of chain as a substitute for rope for a great variety of purposes.  Thus, it was very difficult to obtain employment at my trade, unless for a few weeks in the winter when vessels came into the bay disabled and wanting ropes.  I was therefore induced by my great-uncle to turn my attention to the fishery as the next alternative; and obtaining a berth on a pilchard seine I pursued it during the season.  But unhappily I could never get over my sea-sickness if the weather was the least rough; in fact I have been ill at times before I had got on the boat—ill from the apprehension of the evil—and this more especially if there was an easterly wind, for that wind produced on our shores short cross loping waves, the movements of which seemed to turn your intestines over your stomach, and your stomach inside out, and to extract gall enough from your liver to embitter your whole existence.  It was, however, owing to this malady, that I was obliged to give up the fishery, or otherwise I might have become a fisherman for life; for my uncle, having a large boat and nets of his own, and no child to inherit them, and he, getting up in years, was very desirous of myself becoming qualified to take his place.  But this was not to be, and hence the career I am about to record.

    The seining season being over, I chanced to meet with a carpenter belonging to a village a short distance off, and he knowing me and knowing my mechanical habits made me a favourable offer to come to work with him, which I did for a short time, helping him to saw some wood with the pit-saw, and to do the woodwork of a cottage which he was then erecting.  But two or three young carpenters, who were serving their apprenticeship at Penzance, were so exasperated to find that a ropemaker could find employment as a carpenter, that they called upon my employer, and talked of legal consequences, and he, being timidly apprehensive of what might take place, told me that he was sorry in being compelled to break his engagement with me.  Thus was I again out of employment.  I then made a walking tour of many miles to different towns (going as far as Falmouth) to see if I could get work as a ropemaker, but I was unsuccessful.

    Having said thus much of my ropemaking, of my mechanical and other pursuits, it may be necessary to state that I was also fond of reading from a boy, but found great difficulty in procuring instructive books.  There was no bookshop in the town—scarcely a newspaper taken in, unless among the few gentry—and there was at that period a considerable number of the adult population who could not read.  To the best of my recollection there was only one bookseller's shop in the market town, and, with the exception of Bibles and Prayer Books, spelling-books, and a few religious works, the only books in circulation for the masses were a few story-books and romances, filled with absurdities about giants, spirits, goblins, and supernatural horrors.  The price of these, however, precluded me from purchasing any, although I was sometimes enabled to borrow one from an acquaintance.  Therefore the Bible, and Prayer and hymn-book, and a few religious tracts, together with fragments of an old magazine, and occasionally one of the nonsensical pamphlets described, were all the books I ever read till I was upwards of twenty-one years of age.

    As I could write tolerably well, I had to write love letters for many young neighbours, and some I voluntarily undertook to teach to write, and this helped in some degree my own improvement.  But in looking back upon this period of my youth, and contrasting it with the present, and the advantages that young people have in the present age—in the multiplicity of cheap books, newspapers, lectures, and other numerous means of instruction—I cannot help regretting that I was unfortunately placed; for, with a desire for knowledge, I had neither books to enlighten nor a teacher to instruct.  A young man of my own age was my companion of an evening very frequently during my apprenticeship, but he too like myself was ignorant.  Of the causes of day and night, of the seasons, and of the common phenomena of nature we knew nothing, and curious were our speculations regarding them.  We had heard of "the sun ruling by day, and the moon by night," but how or in what way they ruled was a mystery we could never solve.  With minds thus ignorant, persons need not be surprised that we were very superstitious.


    I have already stated that I was brought up to attend very regularly the Methodist chapel, but I never joined their connexion, although I was induced to join for a short time a sect called the Bryanites.  I think it was the novelty of their female preachers that first induced me and a young man—my companion—to visit their place of worship; and being there the persuasive eloquence of two young women caused us to be impressed with the general religious enthusiasm that prevailed among the congregation.  We afterwards went to hear them a few times, and became what they called "converted members."  But though my companion seems to have acquired in a short time the conviction that his sins were forgiven him, I could never work my imagination up to that point.  I was, however, very penitent and sincere in my devotions; I attended their prayer-meetings and class-meetings very earnestly, and it was only when we learnt that our young female preachers had been turned out of the body—they having fallen from their saintly position by being with child—that I left the connexion.

    In my frequent visits to the carpenter's shop I have alluded to, I met with an old sea captain of the town, who was there having some work executed, and having often seen me there, entered into conversation with me.  He asked me many questions regarding my trade, and eventually pointed out to me the great improbability of the trade of ropemaking ever again affording me constant employment in that part of the country.  He told me also of the far greater chances I should meet with in such a place as London; "for," said he, "if you fail of getting work as a ropemaker, there is every opportunity of your getting a berth as a ropemaker aboard an Indiaman, or other large ship, and a ropemaker is at once considered an able seaman."

    For some time previous to this my home had been rendered uncomfortable to me; for my scanty means of subsistence, my poor mother's very unhappy marriage, and the difficulty of getting employment, all tended to cause the conversation of this old gentleman to make a greater impression on my mind.  A consideration therefore of the evil of wasting my youthful days at home in a state of half-starving idleness, and the youthful hope that something advantageous might turn out for me abroad, soon determined me to leave home whenever a favourable opportunity presented itself.  But there were two great difficulties to be surmounted.  In the first place I had to obtain the consent of my friends, who were very much opposed at first to my leaving home; and I felt a great reluctance to leave in opposition to the wishes of my mother, aunt, and grandmother.  In the next place I had no money for such a journey; my friends were too poor to assist me, and the prospect of earning any by my trade was as gloomy as could well be.  However, after some weeks had transpired, I obtained from my friends a half-reluctant consent; for the conviction of my poor old grandmother that she should never see me again, bound me the closer to her heart; and though her sister gave her a room on her premises to live in, and promised otherwise to assist her in my absence, it was with great pain that we eventually parted. I regret to add, that I never saw her again, for she died soon after I left.

    To raise the pecuniary means for my journey, I went to the next town and, with a few shillings I had raised, I purchased some mahogany veneers and other requisites for making a lady's work-box, with secret drawers, together with a pair of tea-caddies.  These I got up in the best style I was master of, and being fortunate enough to dispose of them, together with two or three little trinkets I had by me, I increased by these means my stock of money to about fifty shillings.  Having got so much towards my voyage, I commenced another work-box which, when I set out for London, the captain of a small trading vessel agreed to take as part payment of my passage money.

    Previous to leaving home I had procured two or three letters of recommendation to master ropemakers in London; and with these, and a stout heart, I set out on my voyage of adventure.  I left home on the 23rd of June, 1821, and in the course of a few days, I forget how many, for we were becalmed a portion of the time, I arrived in the great city, with the clear sum of thirty shillings in my pocket; knowing no one, nor being known to any.  Having heard a great many curious stories in the country, about London crimping-houses, and London thieves, I thought it best to lodge near the wharf at first, till I had become a little acquainted with the place.  I was therefore induced to put up at a public-house near the wharf, where the Cornish vessels generally land; and early the next morning I set out with my recommendatory letters.

    In passing the Borough end of the old London Bridge I recollect being forcibly struck with the number of blackened eyes, and scratched and battered faces, that I met with among the labourers going to their employments; the result, I afterwards leant, of their Saturday evening and Sunday sprees.  Owing, however, to the general slackness of the ropemaking business at that period, my recommendatory letters failed of procuring; although I found them useful in enabling me to extend the circle of my enquiries, which, to a stranger in London, is no trifling advantage.

    After canvassing about for nearly a fortnight among all the rope-yards I could hear of and failing of success, I began to think myself very unfortunate.  However, I fared very hard and sought about for work in every direction, as I had made up my mind to accept of any kind of honest employment, rather than go home again without any.

    One evening on my return to my lodgings I met with three countrymen, carpenters by trade.  They were, however, strangers to me, but coming from the same county, we soon became acquainted.  In the course of conversation with them, I said that I had picked up some slight knowledge of their trade, and that I thought I might be useful in a short time if I could get employment in a shop, or building, at low wages.  As they were themselves out of employment they readily agreed that I should go round with them to seek for some; and that if we were fortunate enough to get work together in some building, I should do what I could of the roughest part of it, and should allow them half-a-crown each weekly, in consideration of my not having served any time to the business.  To this proposition I readily consented, as I was very anxious to learn the trade, and the following morning we went round together.  Two of my companions, however, were fortunate enough to get work in a few days, and I was left with my other partner to shift for ourselves as we best could.

    My companion was a young man just out of his time, he also had recently come to London, and like myself had very little money.  Indeed my own purse was so scanty that I was necessitated to economize so far as to be content with a penny loaf a day and a drink from the most convenient pump for several weeks in succession.  We generally got up at five o'clock and walked about enquiring at different shops and buildings till about nine; we then bought one penny loaf and divided it between us; then walked about again till four or five in the afternoon, when we finished our day's work with another divided loaf; and very early retired to bed footsore and hungry. 

    My health at that time, however, enabled me to put up with those privations tolerably well, although my stomach often rebelled against them.  At that period too, the water at the public-house we lodged at was very bad; the Thames water, being then pumped up by means of large waterworks at the end of old London Bridge, had all kinds of impurities in it when first pumped up, and the smell and taste of it was abominable; and this to me was a disagreeable worse even than hunger.  Our landlady, too, had little compassion for those of her lodgers who did not drink, for she would not allow us to cook even a meal of potatoes.

    One day, however, as we were passing down Drury Lane together, on seeing some carpenters at work I went up to one of them who appeared to be the foreman, to ask if he could give me a job.  He said he would, as he wanted some flooring laid in a hurry, and requested me to bring my tools next morning.  Having so far succeeded I was anxious to introduce my companion, the person who was to have been my instructor in the business, but from his boyish appearance or some other cause, the foreman would not engage him.  This to me was a sad misfortune, to be deprived of the only person who could render me any assistance in this new occupation, for I had never seen any flooring laid, nor, indeed, much work done in the building line.  But my low purse and gloomy prospects emboldened me to prepare for the morrow.

    I had brought from home a hammer, a chisel or two, and a few other trifling tools: to these I added a few more bought at a second-hand tool shop, and a few others borrowed from my companion, I passed a very anxious and sleepless night, and early in the morning away I went to my new occupation, wondering what would be the result.  It so happened, however, that fortune favoured me in this instance.  I had a very joyous fellow for my partner, and when he took up one end of the board I took up the other, and by watching very carefully all his movements I soon got hold of the method of laying flooring.  I was also fortunate enough to continue in this place till I had replenished my purse to the extent of about fifty shillings.

    This job having been concluded I was presumptuous enough to go round by myself and seek for another; and in a few days was offered some small staircases to make by the piece, provided I could get a partner to assist me.  My young companion, however, had got work in the interim; but meeting at my lodgings with another countryman, who had just arrived in town, we went and took the work together; I agreeing, at the same time, to give my partner half-a-crown a week out of my earnings, and to do the roughest and hardest part of the work.  In about a fortnight's time, however, my fellow countryman got sick of London and went home again, leaving me in the midst of my staircase work, and this being one of the most difficult branches of the business, I was obliged to relinquish it, and at a great sacrifice.

    Having again sought about for employment for a number of weeks, and having failed to secure any, and being at the same time in a half-starved condition, I began to despair of ever learning the business of a carpenter, and at last, very reluctantly, made up my mind to seek for a rope-maker's situation on board some large vessel.  Some of the sailors at the wharf having referred me to an old retired sea captain, who made it his business to look out for berths for seamen; he readily engaged to procure me a situation on board an Indiaman for the fee of a few shillings.

    Within the week I received a note stating that I had been successful, and that I was to meet him and others at a stated place about the final arrangement.  Before, however, I went to engage myself, I thought I would go to see two of my fellow townsmen, who had very recently come to London; one of them being the very person whose shop I was in the habit of frequenting at home.  He had failed in his business as a master and had come to town to work as a journeyman, and had, in conjunction with another countryman, been fortunate enough to obtain work the first week of their arrival in a small shop in Cromer Street, Somers Town.  Being, therefore, well acquainted with one of those persons, I was desirous of consulting him before I engaged myself as a sailor ; for, as I had a great dislike to the sea, I was hopeful that he might have heard of some kind of employment for me.

    I accordingly went to see him at his place of work, and when I mentioned to him my intention of going to sea he did all he could to dissuade me from it, telling me that it would break my mother's and grandmother's hearts.  I informed him how I was situated, and the doubts I entertained of ever getting work at my trade, or of ever getting an opportunity of learning another.  The master of the workshop happening to be present, and hearing our conversation, asked me if I thought I could do cabinet work if he employed me.  While I was hesitating as to the answer I could give him, my countryman expressed his opinion in the affirmative, and having explained to him what he knew of me, and what work he had seen me do, I was requested to come the following morning and to bring what tools I had with me.  This person, being what is called "a trade-working master," gave me at first a portion of his own job to execute, and being fortunate enough to please him he next gave me work on my own account.

    With this master I continued to work for several months, during which time I acquired some proficiency in making such kinds of furniture as he manufactured; being chiefly cabinets, commodes, loo-tables, and card-tables for the London brokers.  We worked by the piece, and the price was low; but long hours, industry and economy, helped me along tolerably well.

    I was now enabled to provide myself with a few clothes which I was much in want of, a coat in particular: for my dress hitherto was that of a sailor (like most of the young men of my native town at that time), and operated, I believe, very much to my disadvantage in obtaining work in London.  During this period I also made myself a tool-chest, and had begun to accumulate a few tools, and should have added others had I been paid my wages regularly; but my employer generally paid us something short of our money every week, and at last got into my debt to the amount of between six or seven pounds and nearly similar amounts to my two countrymen.

    One Saturday evening, when pay-time came, he astounded us all by informing us that he should have to go into the Fleet prison the following week for debt.  He assured us, however, that he would pay us all the money he owed us when the work was finished which was then in hand, especially if we would go and help to finish it in a workshop which he had taken within the rules of the prison; and as some sort of security he gave me one of his beds to take care of, and to the others other articles of furniture.

    We accordingly went to work for him the following week in a little shop in one of the lanes near the Fleet prison; my old acquaintance, however, did little work, he being a little too fond of drink, my employer otherwise engaged with the view of eventually cheating us all.  When the work on hand was completed the two youngest of us received a message from our employer, stating that he wanted to speak with us in the prison.  When we went, he very coolly told us that he had no further need of our services.  I then very quietly asked him how we were to be paid the money he owed us, on which he gave me a backward push and bade me not insult him in a prison.  This, being a little too much for my Cornish blood, was repaid by a blow that sent him to a respectful distance, which led to the interference of an officer, who when he heard how we had been imposed upon, seemed to sympathize with us.  My other old countryman he subsequently served still worse, for having sent him some distance into the country, under the plea of collecting money, he not only got the shop cleared of all the furniture made during his absence, but of the old man's tools also; and he, not getting any money, was obliged to travel to town as he best could.

     I have mentioned that a bed was left in my possession by my employer before he went into prison: this he soon sent a person to demand, but my landlady, in my absence, refused to give it up.  Threats having been used respecting it, I deemed it necessary to apply to a magistrate who, when he heard the case, told me, to refer the parties to him.  This I was induced to do, as my employer sent an old watchman, a friend of his, the night before, to try and capture me after I had gone to bed, and to take me to the watch-house, with a view of frightening me, and causing me to give up the bed.  When I heard him, however, I dressed myself quietly, and slipped over the garden wall into the fields at the back, then occupied by smiths' large dust-heaps, and into a soft portion of which I plunged half-way up the body in my hurry to escape.

    On examining the bed, however, it turned out to be a paltry wool one instead of a feather one, and worth but the merest trifle.  Being thus once more out of employment, and without money—for I had to keep myself while I was helping to finish the work referred to—I felt myself worse off in a pecuniary sense than ever, for I owed my landlady a trifle for rent.  She, however, soon devised the means of payment, for she caused wood to be purchased, and got me to make her up some furniture, for a mere subsistence, in a back kitchen; which served me both for bedroom and workshop.  This place, being wretchedly damp and unhealthy, soon laid me up with a severe fit of illness, which was so far aggravated by the want of proper food and comforts, as to materially injure my constitution.

    Having recovered a little from my illness, I procured the loan of a few shillings from a kind old schoolmaster who lodged in the same house, and with these I purchased wood and made up some trifling articles of furniture, which I hawked about to dispose of among the brokers.  But I found this a wretched life: for the working and sleeping in my miserable kitchen, and the difficulty of selling what articles I made up at a price to enable me to live, soon caused me to abandon that speculation.
 
    With the little knowledge and experience I had now acquired of cabinet-making I resolved to go round and seek work in that line, instead of my former ones of ropemaking and carpentry.  After walking about for some days I got employment in a small shop in Castle Street, Oxford Market, a place where repairs of buhl-work, marquetry, and antique furniture were, principally executed.  Here I was fortunate enough to meet with a journeyman of the name of David Todd, a native of Peebles, one of the most intelligent, kind-hearted and best disposed men I ever met with.  He, finding that I had not served an apprenticeship to the business, not only gave me every assistance and information I required in my work, but advised me as to my best mode of proceeding, with all the benevolence and anxiety of a father.  By his advice I was induced to offer myself as a member of the Cabinet-Makers' Society, he having kindly pointed out to me the extreme difficulty I should have of ever obtaining employment in any respectable shop unless I belonged to them.  But as I had not "worked or served five years to the business" (as their rules required), and as a jealous countryman of mine had informed them that I had served my time to a ropemaker and not a cabinet-maker, they refused to admit me.

    Failing in this object, my kind friend got me a situation at Messrs. ―― cabinet manufactory, where I entered into an agreement to work for them for twelve months for a guinea a week.  They were at that time cabinet-makers to the King, and consequently executed a great variety of work.  At the time I am speaking of, this was not a Society shop, and a number of persons were employed there of very drunken and dissipated habits.  When I first went among them they talked of "setting Mother Shorney at me"; this is a cant term in the trade, and meant the putting away of your tools, the injuring of your work, and annoying you in such a way as to drive you out of the shop.  This feeling against me was occasioned by my coming there to work without having served an apprenticeship to the business.  As soon, therefore, as I was made acquainted with their feelings and intentions towards me, I thought it best to call a shop-meeting, and lay my case before them.

    To call a meeting of this description the first requisite was to send for a quantity of drink (generally a gallon of ale), and then to strike your hammer and holdfast together, which, making a bell-like sound, is a summons causing all in the shop to assemble around your bench.  A chairman is then appointed, and you are called upon to state your business.  In my case, I briefly told them that the reason of my calling them together was on account of the feeling they manifested towards me, which I hoped would be removed when they had heard my story.  I then went on to describe how I had wasted the prime of my life in learning a trade which I found comparatively useless; and appealed to their sense of justice to determine whether it was right to prevent me from learning another.  By thus appealing to them in time the majority of them took my part, and others were eventually won over and induced to be friendly.  But the demands made upon me for drink by individuals among them, for being shown the manner of doing any particular kind of work, together with fines and shop scores, often amounted to seven or eight shillings a week out of my guinea.  However, by taking particular notice of every description of work I saw done in the shop, I became tolerably well acquainted with the general run of work by the expiration of my time.

    Soon after I was engaged I remember that I had to make a work-table, the top of which was made out of what was called "The Wellington Tree of the field of Waterloo," that under the shelter of which the Duke is said to have stood during the early part of the battle.  My little table had a silver plate let into the top stating this.  When the expiration of my apprenticeship took place I thought myself entitled to an advance of wages; but the answer to my request being delayed from time to time, and an opportunity presenting itself of obtaining work in another shop in Catherine Street, Strand, at full wages, I thought it wise to embrace it.
 
    I may here mention that a great improvement, mentally and morally, has taken place among the working classes of London since that period.  There were then comparatively few coffee-houses and eating-houses frequented by working men; workmen, who worked at a distance from their homes, mostly getting their meals at public-houses.  And this great inducement to drink was still further increased by the temptation those places held out, to the young and thoughtless, by the establishment of Singing Clubs and Free-and-Easies—places that I have known to be the destruction of many of my shopmates—not from the musical attractions they afforded, but from the habits of drunkenness and dissipation they engendered.  Pugilism also, at this period, was patronized by numbers of the nobility and gentry as "a glorious art of self-defence," and those who had acquired the "science!" as it was called, were very prone to display their pugilistic prowess in the public streets, and regular concerted contests might be often witnessed in the fields surrounding London on Sunday mornings, without much danger of interruption from the Bow Street officers.  In fact I have seen three pitched battles carried on at one time of a Sunday morning, in Broad Street, St. Giles's, without any one interfering or striving to part them, except their wives, and these occasionally fought with one another.

    After I had worked about twelve months at two other shops, I was fortunate enough to obtain employment at another cabinet-maker's at Castle Street, Oxford Market―at a place where I worked a sufficient number of years to qualify me for joining the Cabinet-Makers' Society, of which body I was soon after elected a member, and subsequently president.  This society is composed of a very respectable body of journeymen, and had then been established for nearly seventy years, an important object of their union, worthy of imitation by others, being the affording of subsistence to their members when out of employment.

    I may here notice, too, the great improvement that has taken place in cabinet-making during my time, both in English and French furniture.  When I first came to London, English-made furniture was generally substantial and well made, but the design was far from elegant and the finish by no means attractive, as most of it was polished with wax or oil; very little French polish being then used.  The French furniture—which I had a good opportunity of seeing in the first cabinet shop I worked at—was tastefully designed and elegantly polished, but the work in most cases was very roughly done and far from being substantial.  I have repaired cabinets that were veneered with tortoise-shell inlaid with silver, the drawers of which were nailed together instead of being dove-tailed, and which were so loosely and badly fitting that you might pitch them in at a distance.  The intercourse since then, however, between the two countries has led to the mutual improvement of both, as our English furniture has greatly improved in design and finish, while that of the French is far more substantial and made in a more workmanlike manner.


 
CHAPTER II.


OWING to the many difficulties I had met with in the way of learning a trade by which to earn my bread, I had hitherto made very little intellectual progress.  My provincialisms and bad English being often corrected by the kind old schoolmaster I have referred to, I was induced by his advice to study Lindley Murray's Grammar, and by making it my pocket companion for a few months, and studying it in all my leisure hours, I was enabled to correct some of my glaring imperfections in speaking. 

    That which first stimulated me to intellectual enquiry, and which laid the foundation of what little knowledge I possess, was my being introduced to a small literary association, entitled "The Liberals," which met in Gerrard Street, Newport Market.  It was composed chiefly of working men, who paid a small weekly subscription towards the formation of a select library of books for circulation among one another.  They met together, if I remember rightly, on two evenings in the week, on one of which occasions they had generally some question for discussion, either literary, political, or metaphysical.  It was by the merest accident that I was introduced to one of their discussions by a member, and you may judge of its effects on me when I state that it was the first time that I had ever heard impromptu speaking out of the pulpit—my notions then being that such speaking was a kind of inspiration from God—and also that the question discussed that evening was a metaphysical one respecting the soul.  There were very excellent speeches made on that occasion which riveted my most earnest attention, and from what I heard on that evening I felt for the first time in my life how very ignorant I was and how very deficient in being able to give a reason for the opinions and the hopes I entertained.  Seeing that their library contained the works of Paley and other authors that I had often heard cited from the pulpit as the great champions of Christianity, I felt an ardent wish to read and study them.

    From my friend Mr. Todd, who was present, I received an invitation to attend their next meeting, and being subsequently proposed by him I was very shortly after elected a member.  I now became seized with an enthusiastic desire to read and treasure up all I could meet with on the subject of Christianity, and in a short time was induced to join my voice to that of others in its defence whenever the question became the subject of debate; and often have I sat up till morning dawned reading and preparing myself with arguments in support of its principles.  Political questions being also often discussed in our association, caused me to turn my attention to political works, and eventually to take a great interest in the parliamentary debates and questions of the day.

    In short, my mind seemed to be awakened to a new mental existence; new feelings, hopes, and aspirations sprang up within me, and every spare moment was devoted to the acquisition of some kind of useful knowledge.  I now joined several other associations in its pursuit, and for a number of years seldom took a meal without a book of some description beside me, and to this day relish my meals the better for such an accompaniment.
 
    I joined also the Mechanics' Institute, which was just started, and before the present building was erected, and attended its lectures very regularly.  I remember being forcibly struck on one occasion, when Dr. Birkbeck was giving some lectures on the senses, on hearing several dumb boys speak, which I looked upon for the moment as something miraculous.  But the explanation of the doctor soon dissipated the miracle; for he told us that they were taught by the eye instead of the ear; first by noticing the action of the mouth and outward movements of the larynx during the pronunciation of vowels and consonants, and trying to imitate the sounds, and then proceeding to words and sentences.  They had in this way made such proficiency that they could readily answer any question asked of them; indeed, one of them repeated a portion of Gray's Elegy, and that very distinctly, the only defect being in the modulation of the voice, as they could not be brought to distinguish the various tones of it.

    I remember that on leaving the lecture-room on that occasion I got into conversation with Sir Richard Phillips, the author, and walked with him round and round St. Paul's churchyard, Newgate Street, and the old Bailey for several hours, it being a bright moonlight night, while he explained to me many of his scientific theories, among others one which he entertained in opposition to Sir Isaac Newton's theory of gravitation, Sir Richard illustrating his theory by diagrams made with a piece of chalk on the walls and window shutters.  About this time, too, I was very fond of attending debating places, especially Tom's Coffee House, in Holborn, and Lunt's Coffee House, on Clerkenwell Green, where, among other celebrities who took part in the discussions, I heard Gale Jones, the Rev. Robert Taylor, C. Whemnan, Richard Carlisle, and others.  It was at Lunt's that I first saw George Thompson, the eloquent anti-slavery advocate, and where I think he made his first attempt at public speaking.  I commenced also about this time the collection of a small library of my own, the shelves of which were often supplied by cheating the stomach with bread and cheese dinners.

    But in the midst of these pursuits after knowledge my attention was arrested by a new object, by her who for the last forty-nine years has been my kind and affectionate wife. And regarding that meeting as one of the most fortunate events of my life, I think it well to give its brief history.

    My wife is a native of Kent, the daughter of a carpenter formerly in a small way of business at Pegwell, near Ramsgate.  Her brother at that period being in business at Boulogne, she went over to be his housekeeper, but on his subsequent marriage she engaged herself as lady's maid in an English family.  Having come over to London on a short visit with her mistress, she was in the habit of frequenting Marylebone Church, where she first attracted my attention on my going there to hear on one occasion the celebrated Dr. Busfield.  In a short time I introduced myself to her notice, and, though repulsed at first, was eventually permitted to visit the house and accepted as her future husband.

    All things now seemed bright and prosperous with me, but a circumstance soon transpired which for a time withered up all my hopes of happiness.  This was a difference in our religious views and opinions; one of the universal causes of dissension throughout the world instead of union.  My intended wife, having been brought up in the views of the Established Church, regarded its forms and ceremonies with the greatest veneration.  I, on the other hand, had been led from my recent studies to look upon practical Christianity as a union for the promotion of brotherly kindness and good deeds to one another, and not a thing of form and profession for mercenary idlers to profit by, who in their miserable interpretations of it too often cause men to neglect the improvement of the present in their aspirations of the future.

    The explanation of my religious views was called forth by her soliciting me to go with her on the following Sunday to take the sacrament, which, from conscientious motives, I was obliged to refuse.  This, as may be supposed, led to some further explanation regarding my religious opinions, for I was resolved to be candid and explicit at all risks, and not subject myself hereafter to the change of subterfuge and hypocrisy.

     My Mary, having been brought up to regard the sacrament as one of the great essentials of religion, after hearing my opinion, at once candidly declared that she could not conscientiously unite her destinies with any man whose opinions so widely differed from her own.  This avowal I felt with the severest anguish; and our parting that evening was to me like the parting of the mental and bodily powers.  I tried to summon some little philosophy to my aid, but philosophy I believe has little control over this strong and powerful passion; and months elapsed before I recovered sufficiently from the shock to resume quietly my usual avocations.  In order, however, to divert my mind as much as possible from the object that so affected me, I went and joined several associations; literary, scientific, and political.  At one or other of these I spent my evenings, and in this way I believe profited to some extent; although I have since regretted I never went through a regular course of study.  And this means of diverting the mind from the object that preys upon it, I would venture to recommend to all those who may experience a similar heart-rending disappointment; for such pursuits serve to excite and strengthen one set of faculties to enable them to overcome the force of another.

    At all events, between active labour by day, and a variety of intellectual pursuits of an evening, I had so far subdued my feelings in the course of twelve months, that I began to plan out for myself the life of a bachelor.  On returning from my work, however, one evening I found a little letter which soon dissipated that notion.  It informed me that the writer, having again arrived at Dover with her mistress for a few days, had presumed to send me the compliments of the season (it being Christmas time), and at the same time hoped that my opinions on the subject of the sacrament had undergone a change.  This opened up between us a kind of controversial correspondence on the subject—she having shortly after gone back to Boulogne—the result of which was that our religious opinions became perfectly satisfactory to one another, and terminated by her coming over to England and accepting me as her husband, we being married on the 3rd of June, 1826. [p39]  In the interim, however, I had provided for this event as far as possible, by making my own furniture, and by otherwise providing for her a comfortable home.

    I need scarcely say that on my marriage I gave up the different associations I had been connected with; as well from motives of economy as from a desire to make my home a place of happiness.  Perceiving also that much of the bickerings and dissensions often found in the domestic circle had their origin in the wife's not understanding and appreciating her husband's political or literary pursuits; too often coupled with his carelessness and indifference in enlightening and instructing her regarding them; I resolved, if possible, to avoid this evil by pursuing an opposite course of conduct.

    My chief recreation at this period was in reading; my meal hours and my evenings being earnestly devoted to the attainment of some description of knowledge.  Soon after my marriage I began also my first attempts in writing short pieces for the press.  In all these matters I sought to interest my wife, by reading and explaining to her the various subjects that came before us, as well as the political topics of the day.  I sought also to convince her that, beyond the pleasure knowledge conferred on ourselves, we had a duty to perform in endeavouring to use it wisely for others.  I endeavoured to make her understand how much of our social improvement and political progress had depended on past sacrifices and sufferings on the part of our forefathers, and how much the happiness of the future will depend on each and all of us doing our duty in the present as our brave old forefathers had done.  And in looking back upon this period how often have I found cause for satisfaction that I pursued this course, as my wife's appreciation of my humble exertions has ever been the chief hope to cheer, and best aid to sustain me, under the many difficulties and trials I have encountered in my political career.  She has ever been to me


"A guardian angel o'er my life presiding,
 Doubling my pleasure and my cares dividing."


    When I married her she was a tall, handsome, fresh-coloured girl; but she, having received a push in the back from her sister when young, received an injury to her spine.  The appearance of it was scarcely perceptible for many years, but when she began to have children her spine began to give way, so that now in her old age she is about a head shorter than when I married her.

    For two years after my marriage I was in good employment, at a cabinet-maker's in St. Paul's Churchyard.  Having now got all our little household comforts about us, and a few pounds in our possession, my wife was desirous of getting into some small way of business that she herself could manage; in the hopes of making some little provision for the sickness that might happen, and for the old age and infirmities sooner or later almost sure to overtake us.

    An acquaintance of mine, having recently commenced the business of a pastry-cook and confectioner, proposed to us that if we could take a small shop in some thoroughfare, and commence that line of business he would serve us on very advantageous terms.  Thinking his terms favourable we agreed to try the experiment.  We accordingly took a small shop in May's Buildings, St. Martins Lane, which we fitted up and stocked to the extent of our means.  Our sale, however, not being such as my friend of large promise expected, he very soon refused to supply our small demands for his goods. This disappointment at the commencement of our speculation entailed on us a great inconvenience as well as loss; for we had to look out for others to serve us on less favourable terms.

    To still further help us down the hill I was laid up soon after our opening with the ague; a disease which I caught by lodging near the marshes at Plumstead, having been working at a gentleman's house in that neighbourhood.  In the midst of it also my poor wife was put to bed with her second child; and, what with care, anxiety, and bad living, was soon laid up on a bed of sickness.

    We left this wretched place as soon as we conveniently could, but not before we had exhausted all our own little means, and had involved ourselves in debt; the hopes of its improvement having allured us on.
 
    A short time before I had embarked on the business referred to, I was induced to join the First London Co-operative Trading Association; a society first established in the premises of the Co-operative Society, Red Lion Square, and subsequently removed to Jerusalem Passage, Clerkenwell.
 
    I think it was about the close of the year 1828 that the first of those trading associations was established at Brighton, by a person of the name of Bryan; and its success was such that between four and five hundred similar associations were very soon established in different parts of the country.  The members of those societies subscribed a small weekly sum for the raising of a common fund, with which they opened a general store, containing such articles of food, clothing, books, etc., as were most in request among working men; the profits of which were added to the common stock.  As their funds increased some of them employed their members; such as shoemakers, tailors, and other domestic trades: paying them journeymen's wages, and adding the profits to their funds.  Many of them were also enabled by these means to raise sufficient capital to commence manufactures on a small scale; such as broadcloths, silk, linen, and worsted goods, shoes, hats, cutlery, furniture, etc.

    Some few months after I had given up my shop in May's Buildings, I was induced to accept the situation of store-keeper to the "First London Association," the late store-keeper, Mr. James Watson, having resigned.  In taking this step I made some little sacrifice, as the salary they offered was less than I could earn at my trade.  But, like many others, I was sanguine that those associations formed the first step towards the social independence of the labouring classes, and I was disposed to exert all my energies to aid in the work.  I was induced to believe that the gradual accumulation of capital by these means would enable the working classes to form themselves into joint stock associations of labour, by which (with industry, skill, and knowledge) they might ultimately have the trade, manufactures, and commerce of the country in their own hands.  But I failed to perceive that the great majority of them lacked the self sacrifices and economy necessary for procuring capital, the discrimination to place the right men in the right position for managing, the plodding industry, skill, and knowledge necessary for successful management, the moral disposition to labour earnestly for the general good, and the brotherly fellowship and confidence in one another for making their association effective.

    I had not, however, been in the situation of store-keeper many months before a reduction in my salary took place, the business not answering the expectation of members.  My wife was next requested to attend to the store at half the salary I had engaged for.  Being thus out of employment myself, and my own trade being exceedingly dull, I employed myself for some months in making a model of an industrial village for the late J. Minter Morgan, author of the "Revolt of the Bees," the "Reproof of Brutus," etc.  A shop of work, however, being offered me before it was in any way finished, the model was never completed.

    At this period, too, our troubles were further increased by the death of my second child, my little Kezia, from an accident.  My eldest child also became so weakly that we were necessitated to send her into the country, to her grandfather's, for about two years.

    In returning, however, to the formation of those societies I must mention that, as our association was the first formed in London, it was looked up to for information and advice from all parts of the country.  This, entailing much labour, led to the formation of another society, entitled "The British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge."  As, also, several of those societies had commenced manufactures on a small scale, they were anxious for some depot, or place in London, where their productions might be deposited for sale to the public, or for exchange with one another.  This desire induced the British Association to take a large house in 19, Greville Street, Hatton Garden, the first floor of which was fitted up as a co-operative bazaar, the lower portion being occupied by our First London Association.

    The first secretary of the British Association was Mr. George Skene, and, subsequently, on his resignation, I became its honorary secretary.  This association kept up the necessary correspondence with the country, held public meetings from time to time, and published several reports of its proceedings.  Lady Byron (who took a great interest in these associations), having placed at the disposal of the British Association a small capital—£100—for helping some of the Spitalfields weavers, who were out of work, to manufacture some silk handkerchiefs.  This, also, was managed by the secretary, Mr. Skene.

    Those societies, from the establishment of which so much had been expected, were, however, in the course of three or four years mostly all broken up, and with them the British Association.  The chief, or, at least, the most prominent causes of their failure were religious differences, the want of legal security, and the dislike which the women had to confine their dealings to one shop.  The question of religion was not productive of much dissension until Mr. Owen's return from America, when his "Sunday Morning Lectures" excited the alarm of the religious portion of their members, and caused great numbers to secede from them.  The want of legal security was also the cause of failure, as they could not obtain the ordinary legal redress when their officers, or servants, robbed, or defrauded them, the magistrates refusing to interfere on the ground of their not being legalized, or enrolled societies.  The prejudice of the members' wives against their stores was, no doubt, another cause of failure.  Whether it was their love of shopping, or their dislike that their husbands should be made acquainted with the exact extent of their dealings, which were booked against them, I know not, but certain it was that they often left the unadulterated and genuine article in search of that which was often questionable.

    When Mr. Owen first came over from America he looked somewhat coolly on those "Trading Associations," and very candidly declared that their mere buying and selling formed no part of his grand "co-operative scheme"; but when he found that great numbers among them were disposed to entertain many of his views, he took them more in favour, and ultimately took an active part among them.  And here I think it is necessary to state that I entertain the highest respect for Mr. Owen's warm benevolence and generous intentions, however I may differ from many of his views; and this respect, I think, most people will be disposed to accord to him, who know that he devoted a large fortune and a long life in reiterated efforts to improve the condition of his fellow men. 

    I must confess, also, that I was one of those who, at one time, was favourably impressed with many of Mr. Owen's views, and, more especially, with those of a community of property.  This notion has a peculiar attraction for the plodding, toiling, ill-remunerated sons and daughters of labour.  The idea of all the powers of machinery, of all the arts and inventions of men, being applied for the benefit of all in common, to the lightening of their toil and the increase of their comforts, is one the most captivating to those who accept the idea without investigation.  The prospect of having spacious halls, gardens, libraries, and museums at their command; of having light alternate labour in field or factory; of seeing their children educated, provided and cared for at the public expense; of having no fear or care of poverty themselves; nor for wife, children, or friends they might leave behind them; is one the most cheering and consolatory to an enthusiastic mind.

    I was one who accepted this grand idea of machinery working for the benefit of all, without considering that those powers and inventions have been chiefly called forth, and industriously and efficiently applied by the stimulus our industrial system has afforded, and that the benefits to the originators and successful workers of them—though large in some instances—have been few and trifling, compared to the benefits which the millions now enjoy from their general application.  Those great results, too, have hitherto been realized by the hope of wealth, fame, or station, keeping up man's energies to the tension point.

    But who can foresee what human beings may become when the individualism in their nature is checked by education, and endeavoured to be crushed out of them by the mandate of a majority—and, it may be, that majority not always a reasonable and enlightened one.  What may become of man's inventions when some plodding, persevering schemer (content to starve in his closet in hopes of perfecting a project that may win him fame and benefit his country) is peremptorily called upon to abandon his hopes and yield to the bidding of authority?  What even may become of the best portion of man's nature (of his industrial, skilful, persevering, saving energies), when some aspiring, hopeful individual, resolving to labour and to save while youth and vigour favour him, in hopes of realizing leisure and independence, or to procure some cherished object of his heart, is constrained to abandon his resolution, to conform to the routine of the majority, and to make their aspirations the standard of his own? Of what advantage the splendour and enjoyment of all art and nature if man has no choice of enjoyment? And what to him would be spacious halls, and luxurious apartments, and all the promised blessings of a community, if he must rise, work, dress, occupy, and enjoy, not as he himself desires, but as the fiat of the majority wills it?

    Surely the poorest labourer, bowed down with toil and poverty, would have reason to bless the individualism that gave him some freedom of choice, and a chance of improving his lot, compared with a fellowship that so bound him in bondage.  But we shall be told of the perfect and wise arrangements that are so to perfect human character, that no man "shall ever need to be blamed for his conduct," nor men ever have occasion to make their fellows "responsible for their actions."  Unfortunately, the great obstacle to the realization of this perfect state of things is, that the perfect and wise arrangements are to depend on imperfect men and women.  And though much is to be expected from an improved system of teaching and training, it is very doubtful, even by these helps, if they will so far succeed in perfecting human organizations that no ill-balanced ones shall be found among them to mar the general welfare; to need not the enactment of laws to deter and control them, and the necessity for some tribunal to make them responsible for their conduct.

    But though mature reflection has caused me to have lost faith in "a Community of Property," I have not lost faith in the great benefits that may yet be realized by a wise and judicious system of Co-operation in the Production of Wealth.  The former I believe to be unjust, unnatural, and despotic in its tendency, a sacrificing of the intellectual energies and moral virtues of the few, to the indolence, ignorance and despotism of the many.  The latter I believe to be in accordance with wisdom and justice, an arrangement by which small means and united efforts may yet be made the instruments for upraising the multitude in knowledge, prosperity, and freedom. [p47]

    I am satisfied, however, that much good resulted from the formation of those co-operative trading associations, notwithstanding their failure.  Their being able to purchase pure and unadulterated articles of food; their manufacturing and exchanging with one another various articles which they were induced to make up in their leisure hours, or when out of employment; the mental and moral improvement derived from their various meetings and discussions, were among the advantages that resulted from them.

    And while speaking of the failure of our co-operative trading associations at that period, I think it may be interesting to some if I give them a brief account of the failure of the Community of New Harmony as communicated to me by M. D'Arusment, Fanny Wright's husband—on one occasion when he took tea with me.  He stated that the chief cause of failure was bad management; persons being appointed to superintend or manage different departments, of which they had no practical knowledge; and chiefly because they professed to believe in Mr. Owen's views.  That instead of first seeking to raise the substantial necessaries and comforts of life, on which their success would mainly depend, the members were more intent on hearing lectures on the New System, or in reading, dancing and amusement.

    Among the illustrations of bad management, he gave me the following.  He said that the Rappists, the former proprietors, who had shown themselves to be very successful farmers, had very conveniently divided the land into necessary portions, very carefully fenced.  These divisions, however, in Mr. Owen's opinion, looked too much like the old world's system, and he ordered the fences to be removed.  The consequence of this was that the pigs of the neighbourhood, which were allowed to roam the lanes and forests, had only to get through one fence to be able to rove over a great portion of the estate, and to obtain their choice of the crops, instead of being restricted to a small field if they broke in.

    Persons, he said, were put to manage agricultural operations who had no practical knowledge of them; and so in like manner in many other departments.  Many intelligent members saw this folly, and greatly lamented it; but the generality of them had such faith in Mr. Owen's knowledge of the system, that nothing was done to check the evil till it was too late.  He said, if you spoke to any of those blind disciples about this bad management, the reply generally was: "Ah! we see only a link or two in the great chain, whereas Mr. Owen comprehends the whole.  The system is his, and he has so much knowledge, and so much experience, that we have best have faith in him, and wait for the result."  One of these men, he said, a warm-hearted enthusiast, to whom he had often spoken about the management, and who had the fullest faith in Mr. Owen, was so stunned and heart-broken when the truth of failure and insolvency was made known to him, that he went into the woods and hung himself.

    I must state, however, that Mr. D'Arusment told me these matters with regretful feelings, and at the same time avowed his belief, that they would have got on very well if the affair had been so managed as to provide them with food and clothing.

    About 1832 Mr. William King put forth a proposal for the establishing of exchange bazaars upon a different and more extended plan than that of Greville Street, and subsequently by the co-operation of his friends succeeded in establishing one in Portland Road, and another at the Gothic Hall, New Road.  By this plan, Exchange or Labour Notes were issued to the depositor of any article in the Bazaar to the extent of its value, which notes were again taken for any article the depositor wanted out of it.  This plan was eminently successful for a short period, until in fact the amount of the ornamental, and comparatively useless articles which had accumulated in the bazaar, preponderated greatly over the useful; then it was that the notes that had been issued began to be depreciated, and useful articles soon ceased to be deposited.

    Before, however, this cause of failure was discovered, Mr. Owen's friends and supporters were very anxious that he also should form one of those exchange bazaars upon a large scale.  To facilitate the project, the proprietor of some very extensive premises in Gray's Inn Road, offered the use of them gratuitously to Mr. Owen for one year, to try the experiment; after which, if successful, they were to be purchased for a stipulated sum.  The proposal being accepted the place was opened as "The Institution of the Industrious Classes."  A very influential council was also appointed to co-operate with Mr. Owen in the management and a sum of money subscribed towards the objects contemplated; namely, an exchange bazaar, an infant school, and an incipient community.

    Great assistance being anticipated from the various trading associations, established throughout the country, the use of the premises was offered to them for the holding of their third congress; they having previously held one at Manchester, and another at Huddersfield.  This congress was subsequently held there, and was attended by delegates from between sixty and seventy different societies, among whom I was one.  We held two very crowded public meetings, and continued the business of the congress for six consecutive days.  We had much talk, but did very little business; the chief object of interest to many (that of forming an incipient community upon the plan of Mr. Thompson, of Cork) being stoutly opposed and finally marred by our friend Mr. Owen.

    The Exchange Bazaar was ultimately opened by Mr. Owen and his council, and for a time promised success, until in fact "the labour notes" began to be depreciated.  Its failure was also accelerated by bad management; and finally by a rupture between the proprietor of the building and Mr. Owen.

    And here I must give a couple of anecdotes regarding Mr. Owen, showing how anti-democratic he was notwithstanding the extreme doctrines he advocated.

    We, having resolved to call the Co-operative Congress referred to, issued, among other invitations, a circular inviting the attendance of Members of Parliament.  Mr. Owen, having seen a copy of the circular drawn up, conceived that it did not sufficiently express his peculiar views.  He therefore sent an amendment, which he wished added to it, on to our meeting by Mr. J. D. Styles.  The committee having discussed the amendment, rejected it, and then sent the circular on to Mr. Hetherington's to be printed.

    When Mr. Owen heard of this, he sent Mr. Bromley, the proprietor of the Exchange Bazaar, to tell Mr. Hetherington that his amendment must be added.  This at first Mr. Hetherington refused to do, but on Bromley swearing that the Congress should not meet at his place unless he did add it, he began to think it a very serious affair, as the meeting was to take place in a few days; we had incurred great expenses, and had no means of taking another place.  He therefore told Bromley, that if Mr. Owen sent him a letter authorizing him to insert it, and took the blame on himself, he would add the amendment.  Judge, therefore, of our great surprise when the circulars were brought to our meeting, embodying the rejected amendment.

    After Hetherington's explanation, it was resolved that a deputation, consisting of Messrs. Lovett, Flather, and Powell, be appointed to go and expostulate with Mr. Owen.  We went, and were shown into Mr. Owen's room at the bazaar, and after briefly introducing our business, he told us to be seated, as he had something very important to read to us.  This something was the proof of a publication just started, called the Crisis.  After he had read to us a large portion of what he had written in it, I found my patience giving way, and at the next pause I took the opportunity of asking him what that had to do with the business we had come about?  I began by telling him of his having submitted an amendment to our circular, of the committee rejecting it by a large majority, and of his taking upon himself to authorize its insertion in the circular notwithstanding; and concluded by asking him whether such conduct was not highly despotic?  With the greatest composure he answered that it evidently was despotic!; but as we, as well as the committee that sent us, were all ignorant of his plans, and of the objects he had in view, we must consent to be ruled by despots till we had acquired sufficient knowledge to govern ourselves.  After such vain-glorious avowal, what could we say but to report—in the phraseology of one of the deputation—that we had been flabbergasted by him?

    In a previous page I have stated that the proposal to establish an incipient community upon Mr. Thompson's plan, was opposed and marred by Mr. Owen.  It was in this curious manner.  After the proposal was discussed for some time, for commencing a community upon the small scale proposed by Mr. Thompson, instead of waiting for the grand plan of Mr. Owen, we retired for dinner.  When we came back our friend Owen told us very solemnly, in the course of a long speech, that if we were resolved to go into a community upon Mr. Thompson's plan, we must make up our minds to dissolve our present marriage connections, and go into it as single men and women

    This was like the bursting of a bomb-shell in the midst of us.  One after another, who had been ardently anxious for this proposal of a community, began to express doubts, or to flatly declare that they could never consent to it; while others declared that the living in a community need not interfere in any way with the marriage question.  One poor fellow, Mr. Petrie, an enthusiast in his way, quite agreed with his brother Owen, and made a speech which many blushed to hear, and contended that it would make no difference, as he and his wife were concerned, for she would follow him anywhere.  He then little thought, poor man, that her virtue and his philosophy would so soon be put to the test, and that his mental powers would give way before it, for so it happened soon after.

    However, nothing could have been better devised than this speech of Mr. Owen to sow the seeds of doubt, and to cause the scheme to be abortive; and when we retired Mr. Thompson expressed himself very strongly against his conduct.  I may add that the reporter of our proceedings, Mr. Wm. Carpenter, thought it wise not to embody this discussion in our printed report.

    At the time that I held the situation of store-keeper at Greville Street, I was (in conjunction with two other persons) served with an exchequer writ, for selling, in ignorance of our "knowledge restricting laws," a small pamphlet on which the duty had not been paid.  And as our aristocratic rulers and their tools have often recourse to very round-about ways for entrapping their victims, it may be well to state the way in which we were nearly caught in the meshes of this paltry law; a law, I believe, devised by old Sidmouth, of knowledge-gagging memory.

    Among the customers who visited our bazaar and store, was a portly old farmer-looking gentleman, who manifested a great anxiety to know everything relating to our co-operative trading associations.  He told us that he had already heard enough about them to make him desirous of opening a store in his own village for the benefit of his labourers, and others living in the vicinity; but still he wanted further information respecting their proceedings.  As a member of the "British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge," I thought it my duty to give so benevolent an individual all the information I could, and as we sold in our store a great variety of books and pamphlets on the subject of co-operation, I showed him our assortment.  From among them he selected two or three copies of our quarterly reports and a few other pamphlets, and went away, as we thought, brimful of zeal in the cause.

    In a few days he called on us again, and informed us that he had been reading our reports and pamphlets, and found from them that some of our members were very great radicals, more especially Lovett, Fosket, and some others whom he named.  When I informed him that I was one of the radicals he referred to, he affected great surprise, and said that he believed I should find it very difficult to defend some of the extreme opinions I entertained before a jury.  I told him that I thought radicalism, as well as all principles based on justice, were very easily defended, the difficulties being on the other side of the question; for when political inequality, hereditary privilege, unjust possessions, and injustice in law and government, had to be defended in the face of justice, honesty, and common sense, there might be some difficulty in substantiating their claims, and more especially if there was an honest jury in the box.

    Some further discussion took place between us, and on leaving he told us that he should have something further to say to us in a few days.  This something appeared in the form of an exchequer writ from Somerset House, which on his information had been forwarded to us.  It seemed to set forth some great offence committed against the State, yet noways enlightening us regarding the precise nature of that offence, the mystery or enigma being left for offenders to solve as they best could, generally done through the instrumentality of their legal advisers. In our ignorance of the offence we had committed, we began to examine the different commodities in our store to see if we had been guilty of selling anything without the proper licence; but we found that for all things requiring it we had the proper document.

    During our investigation Mr. Hetherington chanced to come into our store, and he joined with us in trying to find out the cause of our offence, and but for him we should probably have remained ignorant; for in looking over our stock of books, he found out that one of the quarterly reports of the British Association was on a sheet and a quarter of paper, and on which quarter of a sheet the law required a pamphlet duty of one shilling to be paid, which duty the printer in his ignorance or neglect had forgotten.

    Having found out what we thought to be the cause of the information laid against us, Mr. Hetherington and myself walked down to Somerset House to see if we were right in our surmises.  The right department in this great taxing machinery having been found, we presented our slip of paper, and requested the person in attendance to inform us what had induced them to send us that document.  He referred to a pile of papers, and told us that an information had been laid against us for having published a pamphlet without having paid the required duty.  We then informed him that the parties named in the writ were not the publishers of the pamphlet, and that he had consequently sent it to the wrong parties.  The fact was it was published for the British Association, a distinct body from the East London Co-operative Association, whose trustees they had sent the writ to, the informer having seen their names over the shop door; but this information we did not think it necessary to give him.  He then wanted to know the nature of the First London Society, and the kind of articles we sold.  On which Mr. Hetherington began to reckon up the miscellaneous articles we dealt in, rather humourously contrasting bacon with snuff, butter with books, mustard with raisins, etc., which could not but excite the risible faculties of his questioner.  This person then very authoritatively declared that we were liable to a heavy penalty for having vended the pamphlet.

    We then called his attention to the fact that we bought a variety of books and pamphlets from different persons, and that there was nothing printed on them to indicate whether the duty was paid or not; and, as it was the business of the printer to pay the pamphlet duty, it was evidently a great injustice to visit his offence upon the vendor.  He concluded that as the writ had been issued nothing could be done in our favour unless we laid our case before the Board.  We accordingly drew up a statement for these gentlemen, in which we informed them that as their clerks had made a great mistake in issuing out a writ against us instead of some other persons, we hoped that they would rectify the error, so that we should be subject to no loss.

    In a few days we received a letter from them, stating that they had considered our petition, and had mitigated the penalties against us to ten pounds!  To this we replied that the board had made a very great mistake in supposing our explanation about their clerks to be "a petition."  That not having committed any offence we had not petitioned, and that consequently we should pay no penalties.

    After this we heard no more of the affair; but we frequently saw our farmer friend about the Stamp Office and Court of Exchequer, and on enquiry learnt that he was one of their common informers.


 
CHAPTER III.


ABOUT the same period that I joined the Co-operative Trading Associations I became acquainted with Messrs. Cleave, Hetherington, and Watson, three men with whom I laboured politically and socially for a period of nearly twenty years; some account of these labours in various ways will be met with as I proceed with my story. [p55]  A little before this time, however, I was introduced to Mr. Henry Hunt and a number of other radicals, who were then united with him in seeking to effect a reform in Parliament. 

    Soon after I became acquainted with him, Mr. Hetherington, myself, and some other friends sought to effect a reconciliation between him and the celebrated Mr. W. Cobbett; but the feud between them was too strong for us to be successful.  Mr. Cobbett denounced the despotism of Mr. Hunt, and Mr. Hunt spoke bitterly of the cowardice of Mr. Cobbett.  The memory, however, of those two earnest men I strongly cherish; for, without seeking to extenuate the failings of either, I regard them as two noble champions of the rights of the millions; men who by speaking, writing, and suffering, stamped the necessity for reform so deeply into the heart and mind of England, that no effort of corruption will ever again be able to eradicate it, until all our institutions have been purged and reformed even to the very roots.

    How few of the politicians of the present day are able to estimate how much of their own views and opinions they owe to Mr. Cobbett's long teaching of the multitude, and how many of the reforms that have been effected in England since the days of Castlereagh and Sidmouth, are justly to be attributed to the public opinion he helped to create.

    When Henry Hunt, too, first stood forward as the champion of reform, it needed a man of his nerve and moral daring to face the formidable phalanx of corruption everywhere allied against every one who presumed to talk of the rights of man.  But he went nobly onward with his work of appealing to the good sense and sound feeling of the people, being deterred not by the sabres of Peterloo, nor by threats, sneers, nor imprisonment, till he finally obtained the verdict of his country against the corruptions he assailed.  The Whig Reform Bill was that verdict, a measure, the enactment of which, admitted the corruptions of our representative system, though its provisions went rather to palliate than to effectually remove them; and greatly is it to be regretted that Mr. Hunt, in contending stoutly for an efficient measure of reform, in opposition to the short-comings of that Bill, found himself abused and deserted by the great majority of those whom he sought to enfranchise.  And from the last conversation I had with this warm-hearted friend of the millions, I am induced to believe that it was this injustice and ingratitude that struck him to the heart. [p57]

    For some years, however, previous to this event, I continued to take part in the reform exertions of Mr. Hunt and his friends, and was among those who assisted in getting up the large public meeting at the Eagle Tavern, City Road, in March, 1830, for the formation of "the Metropolitan Political Union."   Mr. O'Connell was in the chair on that occasion, and the meeting was, I believe, the first public meeting he ever addressed in London.  The chief object of that union was "to obtain by every just, legal, constitutional, and peaceful means, an effectual and radical reform in the Commons House of Parliament."  I was one of the council of that body, and continued to take an active part in it until what was called "the three glorious days" of the French revolution; but having taken part at a public meeting at the Rotunda in celebration of that event, in conjunction with Mr. Hetherington, Gale, Jones, George Thompson, and others, our proceedings were thought, in the opinion of some members of our council, to savour of sedition.  The subject being brought before them on the following evening, Mr. Hetherington and myself contended that the spirit of the meeting was such as an oppressed and tax-ridden people should exhibit when they hear of despots being hurled from their pinnacle of power.  This caused our chairman, for the time being, [p58] to declare that he could not continue to be a member with men capable of entertaining such sentiments; and we on our part, not approving of such timidity, thought it well to withdraw from among them.

    Shortly before this affair I became greatly interested in the temperance question, and did what I could in various ways to promote it.  Among other modes I drew up, as early as 1829, a petition for the opening of the British Museum, and other exhibitions of Art and Nature, on Sundays.  The petition was signed by many thousand persons, and was presented to Parliament by Mr. Hume.  A few extracts from it will convey its spirit and intent:


"Your petitioners consider that one of the principal causes of drunkenness and dissipation on the Sabbath is the want of recreation and amusement.  Sunday being the only leisure day for working men, they are naturally induced on that day to seek that recreation and enjoyment from which they are precluded during the week.  So far, however, from there being facilities provided for the rational enjoyment of working men on that day, even their most innocent pleasures (from mistaken feelings of religion) are rigorously prohibited; there is no place of public resort in this metropolis (open on Sundays) where amusement and instruction are blended, or where working men could be led to admire and comprehend the wonderful combinations of nature and art.  It is therefore not surprising that the injunctions delivered from the pulpit are often disregarded, or that labouring men seek relief from religious instruction in the oblivious and demoralizing sociality of the ale-house, which, unfortunately, too often terminates in drunkenness.  Your petitioners are further convinced that many of their labouring fellow countrymen who frequent those haunts of vice and dissipation on Sundays are tempted to spend their leisure hours in this objectionable manner, more from a desire of participating in agreeable pastime than from a love of drink; thus they imperceptibly contract bad habits, and from merely sipping in the first instance the intoxicating poison, they ultimately become actively vicious, and often to fall a prey to pauperism and crime.  Your petitioners suggest to your Honourable House that the best remedy for drunkenness at all times, is to divert and inform the mind, and to circulate sound knowledge among the people, so that their minds may be profitably engaged, and a public opinion in favour of sobriety may be generated.  That attention to those suggestions would do more towards wiping from our national character the stain of drunkenness than prohibitory laws or coercive measures.  That if useful knowledge was extensively disseminated among the industrious classes, if they were encouraged to admire the beauties of nature, to cultivate a taste for the arts and sciences, to seek for rational instruction and amusement, it would soon be found that their vicious habits would yield to more rational pursuits; man would become the friend and lover of his species, his mind would be strengthened and fortified against the allurements of vice; he would become a better citizen in this world, and be better qualified to enjoy happiness in any future state of existence.  In other countries in Europe every facility is afforded on Sundays for the rational recreation of the industrious population.  Music, the museums, and public libraries, all display their attractions, and so far from the innocent diversions and gaiety of the people leading to vice and immorality, the mass of the working population of those countries are confessedly more sober and moral than the same class of persons in our own religious country."


I may now add that the forty-six years that have elapsed since the foregoing was written, have only tended to strengthen my conviction that no more effectual means for the removal of drunkenness could be provided than the opening of our museums, our mechanic and scientific institutions, our libraries, and all our exhibitions of art and nature on Sunday, the only day our working population have to enjoy them, and by giving every facility and encouragement for persons delivering scientific, historical, and every description of instructive lectures to the mass of the people on that day.

    In 1830 I became connected with the "Unstamped Agitation," one of the most important political movements that I was ever associated with.  This unstamped warfare had its commencement in the publication of The Poor Man's Guardian, by Mr. Henry Hetherington; although the idea of publishing a substitute for a newspaper, in such a manner as to evade Castlereagh's Act, first originated with Mr. William Carpenter.  This last gentleman, a well-known author and editor who has been connected with most of the political movements of the last twenty years or more, believed that he could evade this infamous Act (the 38th of Geo. III, etc., passed to put down Mr. Cobbett's two-penny publications) by issuing weekly what he called his Political Letters.

    Before, however, any of these were published Mr. Hetherington brought out a series of Penny daily papers, in a letter form, addressed to different individuals with the view of evading the Act of Parliament and at the same time to provide cheap political information for the people.  After a short time, however, they were published weekly, each having the title of a "Penny Paper for the People, by the Poor Man's Guardian"; and after Mr. Hetherington's first conviction he changed the title to The Poor Man's Guardian, published in defiance of law to try the power of right against might. [p60]   This publication was first edited by Mr. Mayhew, a brother, I believe, of the author of London Labour and the Poor, and subsequently by Mr. James Bronterre O'Brien, a writer and politician of some celebrity.

    It was not started long, however, before the Stamp Office authorities commenced a fierce warfare against it, first against the publisher, and then against the booksellers, who sold it.  This having deterred many from selling it, caused some few of us to volunteer the supplying of it to persons at their own houses within any reasonable distance; and subsequently to organize a general fund for the support of those who were suffering or likely to suffer for striving to disseminate cheap political information amongst the people.  This fund was called the "Victim Fund"; it was kept up by small weekly subscriptions during the many years the contest lasted, and contributed in no small degree to the success of that contest. The Committee of Management consisted for the most part of Messrs Cleave, Watson, Warden, Russell, Petrie, Mansell, and Devonshire Saul: Julian Hibbert was our treasurer; I was the sub-treasurer, and acted also as secretary during the greater part of the time and Mr. Russell the remaining portion.  We met weekly in an upstair room at the Hope Coffee House, King Street, Smithfield, then kept by Mr. John Cleave, and subsequently at his house in Shoe Lane.

    Finding that the booksellers refused to sell the Poor Man's Guardian, and some few other Radical publications subsequently started, we advertised for persons to sell them in the streets and from house to house, and met with many volunteers; some of them from a sincere desire to serve the cause, and others for the mere trifling benefit we held out to them, which was generally a stock of papers to begin with, and a pound in money for every month (or shorter time) they might suffer imprisonment.

    When Mr. Hetherington first commenced the publication of the Guardian he was established in Kings-gate Street, Holborn, as a printer, with a fair run of business, which forx a time was nearly ruined by the resolute course he pursued.  For his name as a Radical became so obnoxious to many of his customers that they withdrew their printing from him.  One of his most useful apprentices, too, refused to work on such a Radical publication, and was sanctioned in his disobedience by the magistrates, who very readily cancelled his indentures.

    I remember being present on one occasion when one of Mr. Hetherington's customers, in a large way of business, offered to give him as much printing as he could do on his premises, provided he would give up his Radical publications; but this splendid offer (in a pecuniary sense) he very nobly refused; although, to my knowledge, his shelves were then filled with thousands of his unsold and returned publications, and all his relations and connections were loudly condemning him for his folly.

    Mr. Hetherington, however, was not the kind of character to yield under such circumstances.  The first time he appeared at Bow Street to answer to the charge of printing and publishing the Guardian and Republican he honestly told the magistrates that he was determined to resist the efforts of a corrupt government to suppress the voice of the people.  His conviction having been confirmed at the next session, he in the interim set off for a tour through the country, and was greatly instrumental in calling up the spirit of the people in opposition to the persecution the Whigs were then waging against the Press.  Finding also that many of the old established booksellers were fearful of selling his publications, he and his friends succeeded in inducing many other persons to commence the sale of them. [p62]  Many of those were prosecuted and imprisoned; but such proceedings only served to enlist public sympathy in their favour, and to increase their business; many of whom are now the largest booksellers for cheap literature in the kingdom.

    In this tour the police pursued Mr. Hetherington in all directions, but by the help of friends he succeeded in eluding their vigilance until his return to town.  This he was induced to do in hopes of seeing the last of his dying mother; but the police (who were on the watch) captured him at his own door, and inhumanly refused him his request of taking a last farewell of his fond parent, or of even letting his wife know of his being taken off to prison.

    But the details of injustice and cruelty on the part of the authorities, and of the self-sacrifices and patriotic devotedness on the part of many individuals engaged in this unstamped warfare would take a larger space than I can devote to it.   Suffice it to say that the contest lasted upwards of five years; during which time upwards of five hundred persons in different parts of the kingdom suffered imprisonment for the publication or sale, of the Poor Man's Guardian, the Political Letters, the Republican, the Police Gazette, and other Radical publications.

    Among those persons, Mr. Wm. Carpenter was imprisoned six months in King's Bench Prison; Mr. Henry Hetherington was imprisoned three times: twice in Clerkenwell Prison, for six months each time, and in King's Bench for twelve months.  Mr. James Watson was imprisoned twice in Clerkenwell Prison, for six months each time; Mr. John Cleave, for two months in Tothill Fields Prison; and in the City Prison till a fine inflicted on him was paid; together with the seizure of his printing press and printing materials.  Mr. Abel Heywood, of Manchester, was imprisoned three months; Mrs. Mann, of Leeds, three months, and several others.  None of the victims being allowed trial by jury, but merely condemned in a summary manner by the magistrates; the police being mostly the witnesses, and Mr. Timms, from the Stamp Office, the prosecutor.  And what adds to the monstrous injustice of this Government persecution, is the fact that, after so many hundred persons had been fined and imprisoned for selling the Poor Man's Guardian, it was finally declared before Lord Lyndhurst and a special jury, to be a strictly legal publication.

    This warfare, however, eventually created a public opinion sufficiently powerful to cause the Government to give up the fourpenny stamp upon newspapers, and to substitute a penny stamp instead. [p63]  But this triumphant change was by no means so important as the amount of good that otherwise resulted from the contest.  For the unstamped publications may be said to have originated the cheap literature of the present day—for few publications existed before they commenced—and the beneficial effects of this cheap literature on the minds and morals of our population are beyond all calculation.  For many of the cheap literary and scientific publications that were published during that period were started with the avowed object of "diverting the minds of the working classes away from politics," and of giving them "more useful knowledge."  In fact a new class of literature sprang up for the first time in England avowedly for the millions, and has gone on increasing and extending its beneficial influence from that period to the present.

    To this cheap literature, and the subsequent cheap newspapers that resulted from our warfare, may be also traced the great extension of the coffee-rooms and reading-rooms of our large towns, and the mental and moral improvement resulting from their establishment.  And although the Radical publications first started were, in many instances, tainted with violence and bitterness, yet some allowance must be made for this, when we consider the rabid persecution waged against those who first strove to unshackle the press, and to bring political knowledge within the reach of the industrious classes.

    The Stamp Office authorities were rampant in their enmity against the publishers of all cheap political publications.  It must not be supposed, however, that the zeal of those gentlemen arose from any patriotic desire to save or add to the revenue, as the following fact tends to prove. For it happened at that time that great complaints were made that stamps of various kinds were missing from the stamping department.  To guard against such delinquents a gentleman, of the name of Riley, invented a very ingenious stamping machine, which not only stamped rapidly, but registered the stamps made; so that the superintendent had only to set and lock up the machine before the stamping began, and to require from each workman, after the day's work was over, the number of stamps registered.

    This ingenious invention was highly approved of by a number of scientific men, Dr. Birkbeck and others.  Lord Althorp, I think, was Prime Minister at that time, and he was so pleased with the invention that he recommended it to the notice of the Commissioners of Stamps.  Mr. Riley took his machine to these gentlemen and explained all about it.  They seemed not to relish it, however, for they told him that should they need such a machine they would communicate with him.  In fact they did not seem to want a machine that would guard the revenue too effectually. Mr. Riley, after waiting and sickening over hope deferred, eventually took himself and his machine to America, where similar official conduct has driven a great number of ingenious inventors.

    The police too, at this period, were encouraged to hound out the vendors of the unstamped by the reward of a sovereign for every person they could succeed in convicting. [p65]  Many persons were also induced, by the offer of places in the police, to volunteer the sale of those publications, so as to be the better able to trace out and betray the poor fellows who were endeavouring to earn their bread by selling them.  As for poor Hetherington, he was hunted from place to place by the police like a wild beast, and was obliged to have resource to all kinds of manoeuvres in order to see or correspond with his family.  I paid him a secret visit on one occasion at the village of Pinner, some little distance from London, where he lived in a retired cottage for upwards of a year under the assumed name of Mr. Williams; the police in the meantime hunting for him in different parts of the kingdom.  And here, too, I think it but justice to the memory of John Cleave to declare that, independent of his fines and imprisonment, he made great sacrifices, both in his business and otherwise, during the many years of this contest.  For long before he commenced the publishing of his Police Gazette—which was very successful for a time—he was indefatigable in going about in all directions advocating the cause of an unshackled Press, and in promoting the sale of the unstamped.  Owing also to our Victim Committee meeting at his coffee house, and the victims coming there to be paid (many of them poor, ragged and dirty), the best portion of his customers were led to desert him; and few were the Radicals who sought to supply their place.

    John Cleave (though, like most of us, not without his faults) was also warm-hearted and benevolent; and that without much means at his disposal.  I have known him, and his kind-hearted wife, to preserve from perishing many of the poor starving boys that were often to be found about the pens of Smithfield by taking them into his kitchen when cold, hungry, and filthy; by feeding and cleansing them; while he has gone round among his friends to beg some old clothes to cover them.  And these poor boys he has generously fed, and otherwise taken care of, till he had finally got them berths at sea, or otherwise provided for them the means of earning their living.

    About the period of Mr. Hetherington's first conviction in 1831, I had my little stock of household furniture taken away from me by the Government because I refused to serve in the Militia, or to pay a sum of money as a substitute.   At the drawing for the Militia, previous to this legalized robbery of myself, I was forcibly struck with the great injustice of these constantly recurring drawings for the Militia, by which a great number of poor men were periodically fleeced of their money, or frightened away from one town to another; and that too in a time of profound peace.

    An acquaintance of mine, newly married, a Mr. Hilson, who had just commenced business for himself, had the misfortune to be drawn for the Militia.  Foreseeing that his business would be ruined if he personally served, he sought about, and engaged a young man in the neighbourhood to become his substitute, and with him went to the authorities.  His substitute was a fine healthy fellow, better fitted in every respect for a soldier than my short fat friend, but the personages before whom he appeared laughed and scoffed at him for the trouble he had taken.  They insolently told him that they wanted not his substitute but his money, and then they could choose for themselves.
 
    Now, although I had previously seen many of my shipmates placed in a similar manner, I had never been so forcibly struck with the injustice of the system as I was in this instance; probably because my Radical convictions had not become sufficiently matured.  When, therefore, I heard of the next schedules for the Militia being distributed (in January, 1831), I sent a note, to Carpenter's Political Letters suggesting that the filling up of the Militia papers afforded a good opportunity for the people to record their protest against the system; at the same time pointing out a mode in which they might fill up their papers.

    A number of persons filled up their schedules according to the plan suggested.  It was called at the time "the no-vote no-musket plan."  However, whether fairly or unfairly, I was drawn; and summoned at the Coliseum Coffee House, New Road, before the Deputy Lieutenant of the County and other authorities to show what grounds of exemption I had to make against serving in the Militia.  I told him that I objected "on the grounds of not being represented in Parliament, and of not having any voice or vote in the election of those persons who made those laws that compelled me to take up arms to protect the rights and property of others, while my own rights, and the only property I had, my labour, were not protected."  Those grounds of exemption, as might be supposed, did not suit the authorities, one of whom, a magistrate of the name of Chambers, was very much incensed against me.

    In a short time, after my refusal to serve, a party of constables accompanied by a broker of the name of Bradshaw, were sent to seize my goods.  Their warrant authorized them to seize to the extent of fifteen pounds, but they took goods away that cost me upwards of thirty, although most of them were made by myself.  I need scarcely say that we highly valued them on that account; but my dear wife proved herself a heroine on that occasion, and suffered them to be carried off without a murmur.  She had been offered the means of saving them a day or two previously, but she very nobly resisted the temptation.  I was at that time building a large wooden house for an acquaintance of mine; and he being very anxious for my completion of it (for we knew not whether they would seize my goods or send me to prison) offered her money to go privately to the authorities and pay for a substitute, without letting me know anything about it; but, as I have said, she very properly refused.

    So much so was the public feeling excited against this robbery in support of the Militia laws, that several brokers refused to sell the goods after they were seized, and the authorities, after keeping them some time, got them sold at last at Foster's Sale Rooms as goods seized for taxes, without giving me any previous notice of the sale, or rendering me any account of what they sold for.  I drew up a petition to the House of Commons on the subject, which was presented by Mr. Hunt, and very ably supported by Mr. Hume.  Suffice it to say the public excitement on the subject, the belief that many would follow my example in future, and the able manner in which the balloting system was exposed in the House, had a very beneficial effect, as no drawing for the Militia has taken place from that time to the present.


 
CHAPTER IV.


IN 1831 I joined a new Association, composed chiefly of working men, entitled "The National Union of the Working Classes and Others," its chief objects being "the Protection of Working Men; the Free Disposal of the Produce of Labour; an Effectual Reform of the Commons' House of Parliament; the Repeal of all Bad Laws; the Enactment of a Wise and Comprehensive Code of Laws; and to collect and organize a peaceful expression of public opinion."

    This Association was organized somewhat on the plan of the Methodist Connexion.  Class-leaders were appointed at public meetings of the members in the proportion of one for about every thirty or forty members; the Class-leaders mostly meeting with their classes weekly at their own houses.  At those meetings political subjects were discussed, and articles from the newspapers and portions of standard political works read and commented on.

    Branches of the Union were established in various parts of the Metropolis.  Public meetings were held weekly in various districts, and speakers appointed to attend them.  A great number of similar associations were also organized in different parts of the country.  Those associations were greatly efficient in aiding our agitation in favour of a Cheap and Unrestricted Press; in extending public opinion in favour of the Suffrage of the Millions; and in calling forth the condemnation of the people against various unjust and tyrannical acts of the authorities of the day; and could the violence and folly of the hot-brained few have been restrained a far larger amount of good might have been effected.  But, as in almost all associations that I have ever been connected with, our best efforts were more frequently directed to the prevention of evil by persons of this description, than in devising every means, and in seeking every opportunity for the carrying out of our objects.  In this Union we had no trifling number of such characters; and night after night was frequently devoted to prevent them, if possible, from running their own unreflecting heads into danger, and others along with them.  Among the first projects of these men that we had to contend against was the calling together "a Secret Convention" of delegates from the working-class Unions of the kingdom on the subject of reform.

    Now Cleave, Watson, Hetherington, and myself, as well as a number of others who acted with us, were always opposed to secret proceedings.  We were for always showing an open and determined front to the enemy, knowing that boldness and honesty in a good cause mostly carry with them public sympathy and support; while the attempts to shun danger by secret plotting, and sneaking contrivances, disgust the public, call forth the suspicion of friends, and place weapons in the hands of the enemy to seal your fate and secure his triumph.  By appealing therefore to the warm-hearted and right-minded portion of our members, we generally managed to frustrate those secret schemes, and in this instance prevented our Association from joining, though not without a large share of abuse from those who were secretly corresponding with others in the country respecting it.  But to show the kind of persons we refrained from joining in this secret convention I may mention that Mr. Hetherington being in the country about twelve months after this affair, learnt the following particulars regarding them.  That, owing to the unwillingness of many associations to take part in it, but few delegates assembled at the place and time agreed on.  Those few, however, having been tolerably well supplied with money, resolved on taking a trip over to Ireland, provided with a lass a-piece.  There they stopped till the Whig Reform Bill was published, when they cooked up out of it a report or bill on the subject of reform, which they presented to their constituents as the result of their labours at the "secret convention."

    Soon after I became a member of this union I was deputed, with another person, to address a public meeting at Spitalfields.  At the conclusion of the meeting a person got up and asked me my advice under the following circumstances.  He said that a friend of his (an honest sober man) had been out of work for a long time, and being exhausted from the want of food, had a few days ago dropped down in a fainting fit; in which state he was taken to the workhouse, and his wife and family compelled to follow him.  That the workhouse being over-crammed (fifteen hundred persons being in it) eight and ten persons were often placed, head to feet, in one bed; and, from the putrid and noxious atmosphere, they were dying off like rotten sheep.  That his poor friend had been separated from his wife, and the children from their mother; and that two of the children were then dying from the fever they had caught there.  That his friend had been placed in a bed with a fever patient, from which bed a person had but just been taken out dead of the fever, without even the bed-linen being changed.  The result was that his poor friend was in a state bordering on madness. He also added that at that very time three lying-in women, with their infants, might be seen in one bed.

    This appeared to me such a horrible story that I deemed it necessary to write it down in the presence of the person, and of many friends who knew him, and got him to append his signature to it; my object being to give it publicity through the Press.  It so happened, however, that there was one of the police present dressed in plain clothes, whose report to his inspector caused that gentleman to inform the master of the workhouse of our proceedings, telling him that if any publicity was made by us, a mere denial of the truth of it from him would be sufficient against a few ignorant Radicals.

    The next morning, however, the master of the workhouse deemed it necessary to send for the person who had given me the information, and by threats and cajoling induced him to come to us with a note (which he had prepared) modifying some and denying other portions of the statement he had made the previous evening.  But it so happened that in his flurry he gave him the note which the inspector had sent to him instead of the one he had prepared; and thus were we made acquainted with the whole affair.

    At that period Mr. Wakley (the proprietor of the Lancet) was the editor of the Ballot newspaper, and generally took a warm interest in all matters of reform.  On making him acquainted with the above story, he requested Mr. Cleave and myself to go with him to investigate to some extent the state of things then existing in Spitalfields.  We accordingly went, and we found not only that the horrible state of the workhouse was true as described, but that the state of vast numbers out of it was even worse, for hunger and nakedness in many cases were added to the disease and wretchedness that prevailed.  In whole streets that we visited we found nothing worthy of the name of bed, bedding, or furniture; a little straw, a few shavings, a few rags in a corner formed their beds—a broken chair, stool, or old butter-barrel their seats—and a saucepan or cup or two, their only cooking and drinking utensils.  Their unpaved yards, and filthy courts, and the want of drainage and cleansing, rendered their houses hotbeds of disease; so that fever combined with hunger was committing great ravages among them.

    In the first house we visited we met a little girl on the stairs screaming for help, saying that her father was killing himself.  We hurried up and found that the poor fellow was trying to destroy himself by running a fork into his throat, and we were fortunately in time to prevent anything serious from being effected.  He seemed to have been reduced to a miserable state of despondency from the want of food; and we, finding that his state of health required medical assistance, sent for the parish doctor.  When he came he was disposed to be rather insolent towards "the Radicals" until he discovered that one of them was Mr. Wakley, the editor of the Lancet, and the exposer of much professional incapacity, when he became exceedingly civil, and attended to the poor patient's wants very promptly.  I may add that our visit to Spitalfields and the stir we made there were the means of great alterations being made in the workhouse; more room being provided, and the poor inmates better attended to.

    The members of our association, having on various occasions maintained the right of the toiling millions to some share in the Government of the country they were enriching by their labours, called forth, both from the Whig and Tory press, the bitterest feelings of hostility against them.  They were denounced as "destructives, revolutionists, pickpockets, and incendiaries; meditating an attack upon every possessor of property, and the uprooting of all law and order."  Gibbon Wakefield and his brother also contributed in no small degree to incense the public against them by the publication of a pamphlet entitled "Householders in danger from the Populace;" in which the Rotunda Radicals and the London thieves were classed together as especial objects of dread to all householders.

    I cannot help thinking, however, but that my refusal to join Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Gougher in their New Zealand scheme of emigration, and my public opposition to it at Exeter Hall, as a plan calculated to place the labourers of our colonies at the mercy of a few capitalists, were the chief inducements that led to the publication of this very exciting pamphlet.  Mr. Wakefield, knowing how anxious many of the co-operators were at that time for establishing communities, was very pressing on me to join him, as, from my office of secretary, I was in correspondence with a great number of them in different parts of the country.  We were not, however, deterred by threats or abuse from the advocacy of what we believed to be right and just; and when the Whig project of the Reform Bill was put forth we were among the first out of doors who proclaimed its shortcomings. 

    Among other means for making known our opinions on this subject, as well as for ascertaining the opinions of others, we put forth the following declaration of our principles; it was drawn up by Mr. Watson and myself.

 

DECLARATION OF THE NATIONAL UNION OF THE
WORKING CLASSES


"Labour is the Source of Wealth.",

"That Commonwealth is best ordered when the citizens are neither too
rich nor too poor
"—THALES.


"At this moment of great public excitement, it is alike the interest of as well as the duty of every working man to declare publicly his political sentiments, in order that the country and Government may be generally acquainted with the wants and grievances of this particular class—in accordance with which we, the working classes of London, declare:—


"1.—All property (honestly acquired) to be sacred and inviolable.

"2.—That all men are born equally free, and have certain natural and inalienable rights.

"3.—That all governments ought to be founded on those rights; and all laws instituted for the common benefit in the protection and security of all the people: and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single man, family, or set of men.

"4.—That all hereditary distinctions of birth are unnatural, and opposed to the equal rights of man and therefore ought to be abolished.

"5.—That every man of the age of twenty-one years, of sound mind, and not tainted by crime, has a right, either by himself or his representative, to a free voice in determining the nature of the laws, the necessity for public contributions, the appropriation of them, their amount, mode of assessment, and duration.

"6.—That in order to secure the unbiassed choice of proper persons for representatives, the mode of voting should be by ballot, that intellectual fitness and moral worth, and not property, should be the qualification for representatives, and that the duration of Parliament should be but for one year.

"7.—We declare these principles to be essential to our protection as working men—and the only sure guarantees for the securing to us the proceeds of our labour—and that we will never be satisfied with the enactment of any law or laws which do not recognize the rights we have enumerated in this declaration.


"In order to ascertain the opinion of the working classes throughout the kingdom, as well as of all those who think with them, we hereby call a Public Meeting of the useful Classes of London to be held on the space in front of White Conduit House, on Monday, November 7th, 1831, at one o'clock precisely, for the purpose of solemnly ratifying this declaration. And we therefore, particularly press upon our fellow labourers, in all parts of the country, to re-echo these principles on the same day in public meetings throughout the country."


    Mr. Thomas Wakley, afterwards M.P. for Finsbury, having agreed to take the chair on that occasion, the declaration was printed and largely distributed.  I may add that the following resolution was agreed to at the same time as our declaration:—


"That as our object is just, we wish our proceedings to be peaceably conducted, and therefore, earnestly impress on every working man to conduct himself with order and propriety, and to consider himself a special constable for that day, for the purpose of enforcing peace from others if necessary."


This resolution was called forth by the ferocious conduct the new police had exhibited on various occasions, a few days previously they having made an unprovoked attack upon Mr. Savage, and a number of Radicals from Marylebone, on their way to the Home Office to present a petition to the King.
 
    In the interim, previous to our public meeting, an announcement was made for the formation of the "National Political Union."  The committee of our association having been informed that this new union was not disposed to go for any measure of reform beyond the Whig Reform Bill; and that its chief object was to support the Whigs in the carrying of that measure at all risks, deemed it necessary to attend the public meeting called, with the view of proposing an amendment in favour of universal suffrage.  But Mr. Cleave and myself had no sooner entered into the Crown and Anchor (the intended place of meeting) than we were requested to go into the Committee-room, as they wanted some conversation with us.  When we presented ourselves, the chairman, Mr. Place, stated that they had been informed of our intention to oppose them, and wished to know what the nature of our opposition would be.  We said that that would depend on the resolutions they submitted to the meeting.  These being shown to us, I made some remarks on their exclusive character, and informed them that as they were about to appeal for the support of the working classes, I should deem it my duty to move an amendment for extending the suffrage to persons of that class.

    Mr. Roebuck and some others who were present, were very anxious for the committee to make that a part of their resolutions, but in this desire they were in the minority.  I may now add that well would it be for the middle and working classes of the present day if this just and reasonable proposition of Mr. Roebuck had been adopted—much of the strife, persecution, and sacrifice, that both have since suffered, might have been avoided, and our country be progressing in peace, prosperity, and happiness, instead of being plunged into ruinous expenses, and disgraceful sacrifices, by aristocratical insolence, ignorance, and official inaptitude.

    The room at the tavern not being large enough for the numbers that attended, they adjourned the meeting to Lincoln's Inn Fields.  Sir Francis Burdett was the chairman appointed.  The Committee and their friends, knowing of our intention to propose an amendment, so arranged themselves that they drowned by their noise and clamour every effort that Mr. Cleave and myself made in proposing our amendment to the meeting.  Mr. Wakley, however, was a little more successful, for, after various efforts to make the chairman put his amendment, it was carried that one half of the council should be working men, which was said to be the cause of Sir Francis retiring from the union in disgust; so much for his patriotism at that time.
 
    Our proceedings in this affair, joined to the former prejudices against us, caused a Proclamation to be issued against our intended meeting.  Special constables were sworn in—the soldiery were marched in great numbers into Islington—and orders were issued to the police to seize on every member of our committee that made his appearance at the meeting.  The Press, also, were not behind in their denunciations of us.  They declared that we wanted to re-enact the Bristol riots, and that we had great numbers of pikes and arms of various kinds preparing in Whitechapel and Spitalfields.

    These false statements caused us to appoint a deputation to wait upon Lord Melbourne, to explain to him our conduct and intention as regarded the meeting.  On being introduced to his lordship, he asked whether the parties were present who signed the printed declaration, which the Government considered highly seditious if not treasonable?  Mr. Watson, and Osborn the secretary, replied that we were the parties.  We were then requested to call again at three o'clock, it being then about twelve.  When introduced the second time we found the minister accompanied with his brother, Mr. Lamb, and the chairs so arranged as if to form a barrier between them and us.  A posse of the new police were also posted in the next room; for happening to slightly move the chair before me in speaking, the side door suddenly pushed open, enabling us to see a number of them arrayed truncheons in hand.  I suppose they thought that prime ministers could not be safely trusted with men who had declared that all hereditary distinctions ought to be abolished.

    We informed his lordship that we wished to undeceive him as regarded our intentions in calling the public meeting which the Press had so wilfully misrepresented; that so far from entertaining any idea of disturbing the public peace we were readily disposed to aid the authorities in preserving it, having offered to be sworn in as special constables.  That we had been charged with a desire to imitate the Bristol proceedings, while the fact was that our declaration was posted on the walls of London before that unfortunate affair was known or even thought of.  That as regards the principles set forth in that document (which his lordship said was seditious and treasonable) we had read them in the works of many eminent men, and were not aware that the simple fact of putting them in the form of a declaration would subject us to so serious a charge.  That they were, however, our opinions, and we saw no impropriety in ascertaining how far our fellow workmen agreed with us.

    Mr. Watson then asked his lordship some questions as regards the intention of the Government, when he read to us the circular issued to the Magistrates, to the effect of the illegality of the meeting, and warning people against it.  I replied to him that I thought it a great injustice that the middle classes should be allowed to have their unions and open-air meetings, while the working classes should be prevented from holding their meetings.  The minister, however, persisted that our meeting was highly illegal, and that any person attending it would be in the act of committing high treason.  Mr. Cleave wished to address him further, but his lordship, it would seem, not wishing to hear more, bade us good morning.

    At our committee meeting in the evening a very warm debate took place regarding the propriety of holding or postponing our public meeting.  One portion of the committee were for holding it at all risks, but the majority, believing that the Government were determined by all the force at their disposal to prevent the meeting from taking place, thought it prejudicial to the cause to provoke the sacrifice that would necessarily ensue.  Reason and prudence, however, at last prevailed, and an unanimous vote was ultimately agreed to for the postponement of the meeting.  I may here state that while the working classes were thus prevented from giving expression to their opinions, the middle classes were devising all kinds of schemes, treasonable and seditious, for the carrying of the Reform Bill—the Whig Press was teeming with daily attacks against our aristocracy for doing all they could to frustrate the measure, and at the same time threatening them with a force of a hundred and fifty thousand armed men who were ready to come up from the country to support the Whigs in carrying it.

    Shortly after this affair Mr. Cleave and myself had again to trouble Lord Melbourne on behalf of a number of working men at Manchester, who had been committed for trial at the Lancaster Assizes on a charge of unlawfully assembling on a Sunday evening.  His lordship having accepted and replied to an address to the King, emanating from a meeting of the same parties on the previous Sunday, praying that the lives of the Bristol and Nottingham rioters might be spared, it was deemed desirable that he should be summoned on the trial.  He being a Cabinet Minister, this could only be done through the Crown Office, and our Union being applied to on the subject by the Radicals of Manchester, Mr. Cleave and myself were deputed to endeavour to subpoena his lordship.

    We accordingly made the application for the summons at the Crown Office, but it was not until a messenger had been sent off to the Home Office to apprise Lord Melbourne of our intention that we obtained it.  When, therefore, we got there, Mr. Phillips, the under-secretary, refused us admission to his lordship.  This afforded us an opportunity of reminding him of the bad example this was setting to the people, in not readily complying with the requirements of law and justice; and of the great want of humanity on the part of his lordship in not readily coming forward to tender his evidence when the lives and liberty of a number of poor working men were thus threatened.  The result of this altercation with the under-secretary was, that he allowed us to leave the summons, promising to deliver it to the minister.  When, however, the trial came on, Lord Melbourne sent a letter to the judge, admitting his having received and replied to the address the parties had sent, but requesting to be excused from personally attending on account of his official duties.  Four of the poor Radicals were, however, found guilty, and sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment to Lancaster gaol for assembling on a Sunday evening.

    In March, 1832, the Government, at the instigation of the would-be saintly Percival, ordained a general fast to be observed throughout the kingdom, for beseeching God to remove the cholera from among us.  Now, most of the members of our union had seen enough in Spitalfields and other districts at that period to convince us that the ravages made by that dreadful disease were chiefly to be attributed to the want and wretchedness that prevailed there; and therefore thought that Parliament would have shown more Christian feeling if they had called upon Percival and his bigoted coadjutors to give up a portion of their annual fleecings of the public to enable a portion of those poor wretches to feast, instead of hypocritically acceding to a fast.  We believed also that the causes that matured and extended that disease were greatly within the power of Government to remove; and, therefore, saw in this proposed fast an attempt on the part of rulers to father their own iniquitous neglect upon the Almighty. [p80]   We saw also that the bigots who originated and promoted the solemn mockery, were first and foremost among those whose injustice, oppression, and gross neglect had occasioned so much ignorance, poverty, and misery in the country, and consequently their concomitants of filth and disease.

    We resolved, therefore, from the first, that we would not comply with this piece of hypocrisy, but that we would enter into a subscription to provide the members of our union with a good dinner on that day; those who could afford it to provide for those who could not.  This we conceived would be a better religious observance of the day than if we had selfishly feasted (as we knew many would) on salt fish with egg sauce, and other delicacies.  As we were prevented by law from working on that day, we first thought of holding public meetings in different parts of London; but having consulted a barrister on the subject—now a celebrated magistrate—and finding that we should subject ourselves to the mercies of the ecclesiastical court, we resolved on taking a peaceable and orderly walk before dinner.  We understood from our legal adviser that there was no law to prevent us from forming a peaceable procession through the streets at any time, provided we had no flags, nor banners, nor weapons of defence.

    On the morning of the fast day we accordingly assembled in Finsbury Square; the Morning Chronicle estimating the numbers of our union to be upwards of twenty thousand, and at least a hundred thousand persons in connection with the object of the procession.  We there formed ourselves in order four abreast, Hetherington, Watson and myself being at the head of the procession; our object being merely to take a walk through the Strand, Piccadilly and Hyde Park, and to return to our respective classes to dine, by way of Oxford Street and Holborn.  But this route we were not allowed to take, for after we had walked peacefully and uninterruptedly through the City our progress through the Strand was obstructed by the new police drawn across Temple Bar armed with staves and drawn cutlasses, said by the newspaper to be "admirably adapted for fighting in a crowd."  We, however, having no intention to fight (not having a walking-stick among us) turned up Chancery Lane into Holborn.  Here again was another body of the police drawn across to prevent us from going up Holborn, and as we wheeled in front of them to go down towards Gray's Inn Lane we fully expected to feel the weight of their truncheons.

    Thus we went on, opposed at different points in our progress, towards Hetherington's Castle Street; and other places of meeting; till in Tottenham Court Road the police, coming down Howland Street, threw themselves across our procession.  Benbow and a few others here lost all patience, and forced their way through the ranks of the police, which caused them to exercise their staves rather freely.  Fearing further disturbance if we went on with the procession we drew up in the North Crescent, and there we, having addressed a few words to the people on the object of the procession, they, by our advice, broke up, and retired to their respective classes to dine.  It will be seen by this slight sketch that the police did all they could on that day to provoke a disturbance; they came out fully prepared, with staves and cutlasses, to have their revenge on us, and they could not forbear from openly expressing their disappointment.

    In the course of a few days Benbow was apprehended for taking part in this procession, and shortly after Mr. Watson and myself.  My arrest took place outside the office door in Marlborough Street, having gone there to hear the case of some young men who had been taken up for practising the broad sword exercise with wooden swords.  Bail for me was at once tendered, but the magistrate required time, he said, to make enquiries.  I was accordingly locked up in a dark cell, about nine feet square, the only air admitted into it being through a small grating over the door, and in one corner of it was a pailful of filth left by the last occupants, the smell of which was almost overpowering.  There was a bench fixed against the wall on which to sit down, but the walls were literally covered with water, and the place so damp and cold, even at that season of the year, that I was obliged to keep walking round and round, like a horse in an apple-mill, to keep anything like life within me.  As it was, I caught a severe cold and hoarseness, from which I did not recover for some weeks.  I had taken no food since my breakfast, and that which was brought me by my friends was refused to be admitted, so that I had none till about eight o'clock at night, when my friend Julian Hibbert put me a few crumbs of biscuit through the wire grating over the door. 

    It being near the sessions we succeeded in traversing our case till the next, which took place at Clerkenwell Sessions House on the 16th of May, 1832.  The indictment charged us with being "disaffected and ill-disposed persons, who with force and arms had made a great riot, tumult, and disturbance on the day stated, and with having for the space of five hours caused great terror and alarm to all the liege subjects of the King."  And to show the animus of the authorities towards us, they mixed up in our indictment the case of two lads (strangers to us) said to have been detected committing some disturbance in Finsbury Square on the evening of the fast-day, while we were meeting in our classes, which the Chairman himself admitted had no reference to our case.

    The evidence against us was given for the most part by the police who provoked the disturbance.  The three of us defended ourselves as we best could, though not without frequent interruptions from the Chairman (a Mr. Retch, or Roach), ours being his first case after his election as chairman of the sessions.  A number of witnesses voluntarily came forward to depose to our peaceful and orderly conduct during the day, among others Mr. Richard Taylor, one of the Common Council of the City of London.  One of the witnesses testified to his having heard one of the directors of the police say to his men, in Tottenham Court Road, "Out with your truncheons, and fall on them and show them no quarter."  Suffice to say we found an honest jury and were triumphantly acquitted, a verdict which was received with great cheering and rejoicing by a very crowded assembly both within and without the court.

    This trial, however, was the cause of Mr. Watson and myself withdrawing our names from the committee of the Union, although we did not resign our membership.  This was owing to Benbow's underhanded conduct in matters relating to the trial, and by him and the lawyer he employed uniting together to impose a very unjust bill upon the funds of the Union, in which acts we thought him countenanced by his re-election on the committee.

    In May in the following year the unfortunate Calthorpe Street affair took place.  This had its origin in a public meeting called by the Union of the Working Classes on the Calthorpe Estate, Cold Bath Fields, for taking preparatory steps respecting the calling of a National Convention.  The proceedings, however, had no sooner commenced than the police made a furious onslaught upon the assembled multitude, knocking down, indiscriminately, men, women, and children, great numbers of them being very dangerously wounded.  In the affray a policeman, of the name of Robert Cully, lost his life, he being stabbed by a person whom he had struck with his truncheon.  On the inquest held on him, the following verdict was returned by the jury:


    "We find a verdict of Justifiable Homicide on these grounds—That no Riot Act was read, nor any proclamation advising the people to disperse; that the Government did not take proper precautions to prevent the meeting from assembling; and that the conduct of the police was ferocious, brutal, and unprovoked by the people; and we, moreover, express our anxious hope that the Government will in future take better precautions to prevent the recurrence of such disgraceful transactions in the metropolis."


    A person of the name of George Fursey was subsequently tried at the Old Bailey, charged with the stabbing of a policeman of the name of Brook at this meeting, with intent of doing him some grievous bodily harm.  He was also acquitted by the jury, amid great applause from the people assembled.

    Not approving of this meeting, I took no part in it, although I was nearly entrapped into it by the representations and the request of a police spy, then thought by me to be one of our warmest friends.  This person for some time previously had been known to Mr. Hetherington and other Radical friends from his frequent attendance at our meetings his regular subscriptions to the Victim Fund; his constant visits to Hetherington's shop for the purchase of periodicals; and for the great zeal and interest he seemed to take in all our proceedings.  He dressed well, professed himself a Republican in politics, and represented himself to belong to an aristocratic family, who had discarded him for the part he had taken in the war of South American Independence.

    The day previous to the Calthorpe Street meeting, I met with him at a public meeting at the Crown and Anchor.  He requested me to go with him to have something to drink, as he particularly wished to have some conversation with me regarding our Working Class Union.  I said that I would prefer going to a coffee-house to any other place, on which he took me into the coffee-room of a tavern at the bottom of Wych Street, and saying something at the bar in passing, we had two glasses of brandy and water set before us.

    There was only one man in the coffee room at the time, and he sat in the box behind me so that he could hear all that was said.  My supposed friend began talking of the Victim Fund, and of our chances of success with "the mistamped," and finally of the intended meeting.  I frankly told him that I thought it a foolish affair, as we could do more in our respective districts in favour of our objects than we could in any such convention; and that entertaining that opinion (in conjunction with many other members of the Union) I had determined to take no part in the meeting.  At this he expressed his very great regret, and said he believed it to be one of the best efforts we had yet made.  But, he added, if you and others—whom he named—stand aloof from it, I fear it will be a very sorry affair.  He then urged me very warmly to attend the meeting, even if I did not take part in it, and to get as many of my friends as possible to be there to give it some kind of countenance, and prevent it turning out the failure which he otherwise anticipated.  He at the same time pressed me very heartily with the drink, but one glass sufficed; whilst he, having taken three or four, began to talk very lively, and to be less guarded.

    In replying to a question which he put to me regarding the organization of the Union, I fancied I saw him making signs to the person in the box behind me, and this for the first time excited my suspicion respecting him; I therefore tried to change the subject of conversation, and became exceedingly cautious regarding what I said for the remainder of the evening.  The next morning, however, he called at my house, and learning from my wife that I had gone to my work, he set off to find me without even asking for the address.  This he seems to have previously obtained in some way, for without any enquiry he came upstairs at once in the shop where I was at work.  He began making some kind of apology for having, as he thought, offended me on the previous evening, he being, he said, a little tipsy at the time.  He said that his principal object in calling on me was to give me half-a-sovereign for the Victim Fund, which he had forgotten to do on the previous evening.  He seemed so hearty and so earnest, and talked about the intended meeting in such a manner as to entirely remove from my mind the slight suspicion I entertained of him from the previous evening; so that I promised him to be at the meeting.

    On leaving, he expressed a wish that I would be there punctually by two o'clock, as he should be there to meet me.  It so happened, however, that I was making a set of dining tables, and had very nearly completed them, when my employer came in to inform me that the gentleman they were for had just called at his house to request that the tables should be sent home that afternoon.  He begged, therefore, that I would stop to finish them before I set off to the meeting, which I readily consented to do.  My employer, being himself a Radical and an earnest good man, would have gone with me to the meeting at the time specified, but for this pressing request about the tables.  The finishing of them therefore caused us to be about half an hour behind the time that the meeting was called for.

    Before, however, we were able to set off, the news came to us of this brutal attack of the police; otherwise, in all probability we should have fared badly.  For we afterwards learnt that this very plausible personage, who had tried so hard to get me to attend the meeting, figured very actively on the side of the police on that day.  I need scarcely say that he never came near me again; I saw him afterwards on two occasions, but he strived to skulk away from me.  In fact, it appeared very clearly that he was for years a spy upon our actions, and when needed, a decoy to induce victims to enter his masters' trap.

    I may here notice, that about this period the spy system was as rife as in the days of Sidmouth and Castlereagh; proofs of which were subsequently brought home to the Melbourne Ministry by the indefatigable William Cobbett, aided by some members of our Union.  In a committee which he obtained, while he was the member for Oldham, ample proofs were afforded to prove that Popay and other police spies were employed by the Government, and paid out of the secret service money.  This Popay had joined different branches of our Union, and worked himself into their confidence by his activity and professions; introducing at the same time his wife into their different families, and making her a confederate in his villainy.  He was known to have suggested, and in many cases to have drawn up resolutions of the most violent character; and to have urged on individuals the procuring of arms of different kinds.  He attended our class-meetings and public meetings constantly for the purpose of reporting them to Government.  The following extract from Mr. Cobbett's report of the evidence that had been laid before the Select Committee, will convey some idea of the rascal.


"Your Committee request the House first to cast their eyes over the ten months' deeds of this most indefatigable and unrelenting spy; to survey the circle of his exploits from the Borough Town Hall to Blackheath, and from Copenhagen House to Finsbury Square.  To behold him dancing with the wife of the man whom he had denounced in his reports, and standing on a tomb-stone writing down, and then reporting the words uttered over the grave of a departed reformer. [p87]  To trace him going from meeting to meeting, and from group to group, collecting matter for accusation in the night, and going regularly in the morning bearing the fruits of his perfidy to his immediate employer, to be by him conveyed to the Government.  To follow him into the houses of John B. Young, and of Mr. Sturges, and then see him and his wife and children relieved and fed and warmed and cherished; and then look at one of his written reports, and see him describe Young's Union Class as armed to a man; and at another, see him describe Mr. Sturges as the teacher of a doctrine that 'fitted man for the worst of offences,' and see Lord Melbourne writing on the back of this report that 'it is not unimportant, and ought not to be lost sight of.'  To look at him making the hearts of these honest men and kind petitioners ache, and bringing tears into their eyes by his piteous tales of poverty; to contemplate his profound hypocrisy, his assumed melancholy and distress of mind, his affected inclination to self-destruction and his putting his wife forward as an auxiliary in the work of perfidy.  Your Committee request the house to cast their eyes over these ten months of the life of this man and then consider whether it be possible for a government to preserve the affections of a frank and confiding people, unless it, at once, and in the most unequivocal manner, give proof of its resolution to put an end, and for ever, to a system which could have created such a monster in human shape."

 
    The great excitement occasioned by the Trades Unions in 1834 was the cause of our National Union of the Working Classes gradually declining in numbers, and eventually of its dissolution.  This vast combination of working men in different parts of the country, unitedly known as "The Consolidated National Trades Union," had its origin, I believe, in 1833.  Not that this was the origin of Trades Unions in general, but of this particular one; for Unions of particular trades have existed in this country for hundreds of years, in some form or other.

    I think the origin of the Consolidated Union may be traced to an attempt on the part of the master manufacturers of Leicester and Derby to break up the particular Trades Unions towns; and the resolve on the part of other trades throughout the kingdom to frustrate their efforts.  Soon after its formation, a great stimulus to its extension was found in the transportation of six poor Dorchester labourers belonging to a friendly society of agricultural labourers, having for their object the improvement of their miserable wages; their alleged offence being the taking of an oath on their admission as members.

    One of the most remarkable processions that perhaps ever walked through the streets of London, was got up by the Consolidated Union to present an address to the King (through Lord Melbourne) in favour of those poor labourers.  The address was signed by two hundred and fifty thousand persons the members and friends of the Trades Unions of the metropolis.  About a hundred and twenty thousand persons walked in procession from Copenhagen Fields, where the Cattle Market now stands, to the Home Office, to present the address; myself being one of the number.  But when the deputation, who had been appointed, took it into the Home Office, it was refused by Lord Melbourne on account of the great numbers accompanying it.

    Many of us Radicals joined this Consolidated Union, as most of us were members of trade societies.  We had also in view the inducing them, if possible, to declare in favour of Universal Suffrage, but in this we were unsuccessful; their principal object being to obtain a fair standard of wages by combination and strikes.  In addition to which they had copied a great number of the forms, ceremonies, signs, and fooleries of freemasonry, and I believe thought more of them, at that time, than of just principles.  A number of unsuccessful strikes, however, in different parts of the country subsequently led to the breaking up of this gigantic Union.

    Our co-operative store in Neville Street having been broken up in this year, I opened the same premises as a coffee-house, one of the rooms being fitted up as a conversation-room, so as to separate the talkers from the readers.  I took in what at that time was considered a large supply of newspapers and periodicals, and had moreover a library attached to it of several hundred volumes.

    The conversation-room was tolerably well attended of an evening, in which debates on various subjects were held, and classes, critical readings, and recitations carried on by the young men who attended.  There was also a little society established there for a short time known as the "Social Reformers."  The place, however, being in a back street, and I being somewhat notorious as a Radical, operated very much against me; and after struggling with it for about two years at a loss, I was obliged very reluctantly to give it up.  I was told by a coffee-house keeper as soon as I opened it that I should never succeed if I continued to sell my tea and coffee genuine at the prices I adopted, the custom in the trade being to mix them with other ingredients.  I persevered, however, in doing what I believed to be just, although I realized the truth of the prediction.  But notwithstanding my want of success, I now look back upon those two years of my life with great pleasure and satisfaction, for during this period I gained a considerable amount of information, and was, I believe, the means of causing much useful knowledge to be diffused among the young men who frequented the place.
 
    Among the number of young men that frequented it was a very clever chronometer maker, of the name of Glashan, from whom I derived a great deal of information, for he had read much and was of a scientific turn of mind.  I remember going with him on one occasion to the Webb Street School of Anatomy, soon after the dissection of the celebrated Jeremy Bentham, where we saw his head on one of the shelves of the place.  I remember that we were both struck with his very large perceptive faculties, but thought his head not so very large considering the vast amount of intellectual labour that he had performed.  It was at my coffee-house, too, that I first became acquainted with Mr. Richard Moore, a cabinet carver, and a person of considerable mental attainments.  I was connected with him in several associations, and since then he has taken a very active part in getting rid of the penny stamp on newspapers; and also a leading part in most elections for the Liberal members for Finsbury.  It was during my residence in Greville Street, too, that I became acquainted with Mazzini, who about that time opened a school, nearly opposite to us, for the instruction of the poor music boys and image boys.

    In this year also (1834), our Victim Fund sustained a great loss by the death of our estimable friend Julian Hibbert, our treasurer.  He was a person of extreme liberal views both in politics and religion; indeed, he used frequently to say that he could wish to practise the good found among all religions, but had no faith in any of their creeds.  He belonged, I believe, to an aristocratic family; had received an excellent education, and was, I understand, a capital Greek scholar.  From my intimate knowledge of him I know that he possessed a kind and generous disposition, and that he was ever foremost in helping the downtrodden and oppressed without show or ostentation.  Acting as treasurer, he was the chief prop of our Victim Fund for nearly four years, and during that period I was a witness of the invaluable aid he rendered in many ways to the cause of the oppressed.  I have also cause for believing that for a number of years before he came among us he was the chief pecuniary supporter of the men whose labours, battles, and sufferings eventually established in this country the right of free discussion in politics and religion.  And however persons may differ from the religious or political views of Richard Carlisle, Robert Taylor, James Watson, and the number of others who laboured and suffered with them, as far as they helped to establish the right of all men to honestly declare and publish their opinions regarding what they believe to be right and true on those important questions, they will merit the thanks of posterity.



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