William Lovett: Autobiography (3)

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CHAPTER VIII.


IT has been stated, in a previous chapter, that no sooner was the committee appointed for the drawing up of the Bill (since designated the People's Charter), than a dissolution of Parliament took place, and they could not be called together again until the new Parliament was elected, and the members came again to town.  On their being again assembled at the British Coffee House, they resolved on making the prayer of the petition, agreed to at the Crown and Anchor, the basis of the bill, and appointed Mr. Roebuck and myself to draw it up.

    We agreed to divide the work into two parts, but unfortunately the Canadian Revolution taking place, and Mr. Roebuck being interested so much in that event, he being their advocate, had no time to attend to the drawing up of the bill.  I was therefore urged, both by him and our own members, to do what I could myself towards the completion of the whole.  Having my bread to earn, and but little time at my disposal, it necessarily took me some time.  In the meantime, the Radicals in different parts of the country began to be impatient respecting it, they having read of the appointment of the committee in our "Address to the Electors."

     When I had finished my work, I took it to Mr. Roebuck, who, when he had read it, suggested that I should show it to Mr. Francis Place, of Brompton, for his opinion, he having taken a great interest in our association from its commencement.  I may here observe that my intimate acquaintance with this clear-headed and warm-hearted old gentleman arose out of a public controversy between us regarding the state and condition of the working classes; several of our letters on the subject may be found in Mr. Hetherington's Twopenny Dispatch.

    The copy of the bill I had prepared, together with that of the petition, I accordingly took down to Mr. Place for his perusal.  In a day or two he sent them back again, accompanied with suggestions for arranging the provisions of the bill under different heads, instead of running on in the usual form of acts of parliament, together with other valuable hints.  This idea being approved by Mr. Roebuck, necessitated my rewriting the whole over again, in order to arrange the different provisions under their respective heads, as "Arrangement for Registration," "Electoral Districts," &c.

    When the bill was so prepared, a meeting of the committee of twelve was called at the office of the Combination Committee, Bridge Street, Westminster, to submit it for their opinion.  The bill having been read, Mr. O'Connell suggested a new preamble to it, the one prepared having set forth several reasons for the enactment of the measure.  He dictated one which he thought would suit the purpose, but that not being approved of by the committee they requested Mr. Roebuck to prepare one against the next meeting.  He did so, and that which he wrote now forms the preamble or first three paragraphs of the bill.  They then went through the various clauses, and after some trifling amendments it was ordered to be submitted to the Working Men's Association previous to its being printed.

    The bill was then discussed, clause by clause, by the members of that association, and after some slight alterations was ordered to be printed and sent to all the Working Men's Associations and Radical Associations of the kingdom for their opinions respecting it.  Among the few suggestions thus made for its improvement was one by Hume, at the Radical Club, respecting the mode of placing names on the register, which was adopted.  Another suggestion adopted was made by a Scotch Association (name I have forgotten), for substituting the registration clerk for the parish clerk, they having no such parochial officer as the latter in many parts of Scotland.  These alterations rendered it necessary that I should rewrite the whole again previous to its being submitted to the general public.  By the request of the committee, I also drew up the following address to be appended to it:—


    "Fellow-countrymen,—Having frequently stated our reasons for zealously espousing the great principles of reform, we have now endeavoured to set them forth practically.  We need not reiterate the facts and unrefuted arguments which have so often been stated and urged in their support.  Suffice it to say, that we hold it to be an axiom in politics, that self-government, by representation, is the only just foundation of political power—the only true basis of Constitutional Rights—the only legitimate parent of good laws; —and we hold it as an indubitable truth that all government which is based on any other foundation, has a perpetual tendency to degenerate into anarchy or despotism; or to beget class and wealth idolatry on the one hand, or poverty or misery on the other.

    "While, however, we contend for the principle of self-government, we admit that laws will only be just in proportion as the people are enlightened; on this, socially and politically, the happiness of all must depend; but, as self-interest, unaccompanied by virtue, ever seeks its own exclusive benefit, so will the exclusive and privileged classes of society ever seek to perpetuate their power and to proscribe the enlightenment of the people.  Hence we are induced to believe that the enlightenment of all will sooner emanate from the exercise of political power by all the people, than by their continuing to trust to the selfish government of the few.

    "A strong conviction of these truths, coupled as that conviction is with the belief that most of our political and social evils can be traced to corrupt and exclusive legislation, and that the remedy will be found in extending to the people at large the exercise of those rights now monopolised by a few, has induced us to make some exertions towards embodying our principles in the following Charter.

    "We are the more inclined to take some practicable step in favour of Reform, from the frequent disappointments the cause has experienced.  We have heard eloquent effusions in favour of political equality from the hustings, and the senate-house, suddenly change into prudent reasonings on property and privileges, at the winning smile of the minister.  We have seen depicted in glowing language bright patriotic promises of the future, which have left impressions on us more lasting than the perfidy or apostasy of the writers.  We have seen one zealous Reformer after another desert us, as his party was triumphant or his interests served.  We have perceived the tone of those whom we have held as champions of our cause lowered to the accommodation of selfish electors, or restrained by the slavish fear of losing their seats.  We have therefore resolved to test the sincerity of the remainder by proposing that something shall be done in favour of the principles they profess to admire.

    "In June last we called a general meeting of our members, and invited to attend that meeting all those Members of Parliament who by their speeches and writings we were induced to believe were advocates of Universal Suffrage.  Several did attend, and after some discussion another meeting was proposed, at which several Members of Parliament pledged themselves by resolutions, signed by their own hands, 'that they would bring in and support a Bill for Universal Suffrage, Equal Representation, Short Parliaments, the Ballot, &c.'  They also passed another resolution at that meeting, appointing persons to draw up such Bill.

    "Many circumstances have transpired to cause the great delay that has taken place in the doing of this, but the following outline of an Act of Parliament is the result of our deliberations.  It has often been urged that Universal Suffrage, as well as all the other essentials to the free exercise of that right, 'could not be reduced to practice.'  This is therefore an attempt to show to the contrary; and we think it would be practically found to be a simpler, cheaper, and better mode of securing to the whole people their elective rights, than the present expensive machinery by which the rich and ambitious few are enabled to pauperize and enslave the industrious many.

    "Although this may be a new form of putting forward our claims, they are in themselves by no means new.  In former times Parliaments were only sessional, and the Members received pay for their attendance.  In 1780 the Duke of Richmond introduced a Bill in the House of Lords for the purpose of establishing Annual Parliaments, and for giving the right of voting to every man not contaminated by crime, nor incapacitated for want of reason.  Three years after this, in his celebrated letter to Colonel Sharman, he says, 'The subject of Parliamentary Reform is that which of all others most deserves the attention of the public, as I conceive it would include every other advantage which a nation can wish; and I have no hesitation in saying, that from every consideration which I have been able to give this great question, that for many years has occupied my mind, and from every day's experience to the present hour, I am more and more convinced that the restoring the right of voting to every man universally who is not incapacitated by nature for want of reason, or by law for the commission of crimes, together with annual elections, is the only Reform that can be effectual and permanent.'  In 1780, the electors of Westminster in public meeting appointed a committee, out of which a sub-committee was appointed to take into consideration the election of Members of Parliament.  Charles James Fox, the leader of the Whigs, and Thomas Brand Hollis, Esq., were the chairmen of these committees.  In their report to the electors they recommended Annual Parliaments, Universal Suffrage, equal Voting Districts, no Property Qualifications, Voting by Ballot, and Payment of Members.

    "The Society of Friends of the People was established in 1792, by Charles Grey, Esq. (now Earl Grey), the Hon. Thomas Erskine, Mr. (afterwards Sir James) Mackintosh, several noblemen and Members of the House of Commons.  In 1795 they resolved to publish a Declaration in which the right of voting should be so moderate that there should be no condition in life in which it might not be acquired by labour, by industry, or talents.

    "These are the doings of the Whigs of former times, persons whose speeches on every other subject our modern Whigs quote with ancestral reverence as texts from holy writ.  Like every other irresponsible body, they have, however, degenerated.  The only remedy for the evil is to render Whig, Tory, and Radical legislators alike responsible to the people, and to instruct the people in a knowledge of their rights and duties.

    "And we could wish it to be engravers on the memory of every Reformer, that the people must be free, in proportion as they will it,' not by foolishly lending themselves to bigotry or party, to become the instruments of the conceited or selfishly ambitious, as they have too often done, nor by violently overthrowing the empire of title, the folly of privilege, or the domination of wealth; for the experience of the past has clearly written for our guidance that a change of men is not always a reformation in principle, and when a knowledge of their rights and duties shall have taught the people that their own vices and ignorance are the chief instruments by which they are bowed to the dust, titles, privileges, and wealth will lose their potency to enslave them.

    "Fellow-countrymen,—The object we contemplate in the drawing up of this Bill is to cause the Radicals of the kingdom to form, if possible, a concentration of their principles in a practical form, upon which they could be brought to unite, and to which they might point, as a Charter they are determined to obtain.

    "We intend that copies of it shall be forwarded to all the Working Men's Associations and to all Reform Associations in the kingdom to which we can have access, and we hereby call upon them, in the spirit of brotherhood, to examine, suggest, and improve upon it, until it is so perfected as to meet, as far as possible, with general approbation.  When it is so far improved, and has received their sanction, we intend that it shall be presented to Parliament, and we trust that petitions will not be wanting to show how far we are united in demanding its enactment.  We hope, also, that electors and non-electors will continue to make it the pledge of their candidates will seek to extend its circulation; talk over its principles and resolve that, as public opinion forced the Whig Reform Bill, so in like manner shall this Bill eventually become the law of England.

    "In drawing it up we have found some difficulty in fixing the requisite qualification of electors, because of many of the barbarous and unjust laws which corrupt and selfish legislators have enacted.  While, for instance, we agree with most reformers that felony should lead to the deprivation of political rights, we think the law which makes it felony for a boy to steal an apple, or to kill a wild animal which crosses his path, is as cruel as it is unjust. [p174]

    "We think, also, that the present alien laws, which had their origin in the bigoted and prejudiced feelings of other days, should be so modified as to permit the right of citizenship to those who, for some definite period, have taken up their abode among us, and are willing to declare their allegiance as citizens, and thus break down those barriers which kingcraft and priestcraft have erected to divide man from his brother man.  But we deemed it far better to lay down just principles, and look forward to the rational improvement of those laws, than to make exceptions to injure the character of the measure we wish to make as perfect as possible.

    "In conclusion, we think that no unprejudiced man can reflect on the present unjust and exclusive state of the franchise, where property (however unjustly acquired) is possessed of rights that knowledge the most extensive, and conduct the most exemplary, fail to attain; can witness the demoralizing influence of wealth in the Legislature; and the bribery, perjury, tumults, and disorders attendant on the present mode of elections, but must admit that the object contemplated is worthy of the task we have imposed upon ourselves, however we may have fallen short in providing an efficient remedy."


    I have deemed it necessary to give this brief history of the origin of the People's Charter, [p175] a document that has excited, among the industrious classes, a more extended and united public opinion in its favour, than perhaps any other political document that has issued from the press.  Among the good resulting from its publication is the extensive public opinion it has served to create among the millions in favour of an equal, just, and efficient measure or representative reform.

Previous to its publication the principle of universal suffrage was sneered at by the enemies of reform, as an Utopian and impracticable theory.  Among reformers of our representative system we had the greatest diversity of opinions regarding what was just and necessary to prevent the House of Commons from being the ready tool and lackey of the Lords, and every variety of organization was found among them according to the conflicting notions they entertained.  Some of them were organized and contending for the ballot, some for short parliaments, some for extending suffrage—some for household and some for universal—and the enemies of all reform laughed at their numerous diversified theories, and their opposing and wasted efforts.

    But the details of the Charter brought home to the minds of the many the justice, the practicability, and the efficiency of the measure.  They at once saw in it a plan calculated to give all classes their legitimate share in the government of their country, instead of the corrupt and privileged few, who for so many years have bowed down the energies of our country and almost withered its hopes.  In less than twelve months from the date of its publication upwards of a million of people had declared in its favour, and it was going on rapidly enlisting new converts and earnest supporters, when a few mad advisers, by furious appeals to the passions of the multitude, stirred up the demons of hate, prejudice, and discord, to obstruct its onward progress.

    The result is too well known; their violence and folly scared back our friends, and placed the desired weapons in the hands of our enemies.  They brought persecution, suffering, and death into our ranks, severed our links of union, cast a gloom across our hopes, and gave the exclusive and privileged classes hopes for believing that Chartism was dead and securely entombed.  But, great as are their rejoicings and their triumphs, those persons may yet live to perceive that so much vitality was buried with it, as to enable it to burst its cerement, and that though its body now sleeps its spirit is abroad watching the men and awaiting the hour—that it is yet destined to have a glorious resurrection, unmarked by violence and untarnished by folly—an uprising that shall inspire all classes who love justice to hail it as the hopeful regenerator of their country.

    The People's Charter was published on the 8th of May, 1838.  The first public meeting it was submitted to was one held at Glasgow on the 21st of May, when Mr. Thomas Attwood and the Council of the Birmingham Union visited Scotland; the persons we appointed to submit it to the men of Glasgow being Mr. Thomas Murphy and Dr. Wade.  It very rapidly received the approval of numerous Associations in different parts of the country, and on the 6th of August, by the men of Birmingham at one of the largest public meetings ever held in that town, our Association having previously agreed to make their National Petition the first petition for the Charter.  It was our waiting for this large meeting to take place that delayed our submitting it to a public meeting in London till the 17th of September following its publication.  And here I may state that so favourable were the opinions entertained of our Working Men's Association by a large portion of the Middle Classes, that we were enabled to make a requisition to the High Bailiff, signed by a number of the most influential men of Westminster, for calling our first public meeting for the People's Charter in Palace Yard.

    Our missionaries also were well received by a large number of the Middle Classes in the different towns they visited; and no inconsiderable portion of the Press republished our Addresses, and advocated our views.  In fact, we were fast gathering up the favourable opinion of the Middle, as well as of the Working Classes, when the violent ravings about physical force, by O'Connor, Stephens, and Oastler, scared them from our ranks; they, doubtlessly conceiving that they had better put up with known evils, than trust to an unknown remedy purposed to be effected by such desperate means.  It was not, however, till near the time of our Meeting in Palace Yard, that our Working Men's Association began to be mixed up with this violence; it having been for the most part confined to the demonstrations in the North against the new Poor Law, in which Stephens, Oastler, and O'Connor were the principal speakers.  In fact, the People's Charter was published and circulated throughout the country some time before it was even noticed in O'Connor's paper; [p177] nor was it till after its adoption by the Birmingham council that he followed public opinion in its favour.
 
    Another circumstance tending to create bad feelings, disunion, and distrust between the Middle and Working Classes on the eve of this Meeting, was the proposed re-agitation against the Corn Laws.  The proposal being made at this particular juncture, coupled as it was with the following advice, given in a popular Middle Class newspaper, [p178] naturally excited the belief of the Working Classes that the object aimed at was not so mulch the repeal of those unjust laws, as it was to frustrate their agitation in favour of political reform.  "All those who want to stave off as long as possible the trial of strength between the proprietary and the working classes ought to direct the meeting that is to be held in Palace Yard, to pass resolutions for the repeal of the Corn Laws, and to move an amendment to the People's Charter."  The keynote having been thus struck other journals took it up, and at one Chartism became with them the especial object of denunciation, and the Corn Law agitation the measure to be exalted.  It was these attacks that caused us to put forth the following address to the people of England, in reply to the objections of the Press:—


    "Fellow-countrymen,—Having great faith in the inherent excellence of humanity, and believing that more of the mental and moral incongruities of men are to be attributed to erroneous convictions than to interested perversions of truth and justice, we should belie our opinions were we to make any foolish attack on the press or its conductors.

    "We rather lament that such a powerful instrument towards man's political and social redemption should be constrained by interest or party, to shut out truth from its pages and make error a marketable speculation; or that men, so competent to direct aright the public mind, should be employed to mystify and mislead it.

    "But we think that the many notorious changes and conversions recently witnessed, the skilful balancing of opinions, the fear-to-offend and desire-to-please disposition which have characterized so great a portion of those papers who call themselves 'liberal,' should open the eyes of all those who desire to see the Press as consistent in practice, as it ought to be honest in principle.

    "Such eccentric courses, and such conduct, in men professing liberality of sentiment and honesty of intention, can only be countenanced by the public's disregard of all principle, or the private encouragement of those who maintain their fraudulent position by unworthy means.

    "We would be the last to restrict the freedom of thought, or the most unbounded expressions that could be given in opposition to our own opinions, as we consider that truth can only be elicited through the severest test of mental conflict; but when, in the same paper, we see the most ultra-political principles set forth in the strongest language to-day, pertinaciously defended by the most cogent arguments to-morrow, and the most sweeping condemnation and invective bestowed on them the day following, we confess we do not think it free discussion, but direct apostasy.

    "We are induced to put forth these observations from the conduct of a great portion of the press, ever since the recent agitation that has commenced in favour of the 'People's Charter and the National Petition,' embracing, as they do, the principles of Universal Suffrage, as well as the other essentials which we believe necessary to a just representative system.  Without, however, individualizing any paper, or noticing their scurrility or abuse, we will proceed to answer some of the objections they have urged against us, or our principles.

    "They say that we are 'adopting and imitating the mischievous conduct of our oppressors, in seeking to make men free and happy by means of legislation.'  What, we would ask, but legislation has made the difference between democratic America, despotic Russia, and pauperised and oppressed England?  If the will of the American people, expressed through their legislature, has raised them from such a poor and heterogeneous origin, to become a nation 'better educated than any other under the sun—where two-thirds of the adults are proprietors, and while most of the others have the prospect of becoming so'—what, we would ask the gentlemen who make those admissions, is there in the character of Englishmen to prevent them from realizing similar advantages, were the same political rights conferred on them as on their American brethren?

    "They say that our 'ignorance and poverty should preclude us from the franchise.'  We beg to refer them back, to the 'beautiful democracy' and all its results, which they admit to exist in America, and ask them whether the intelligence and prosperity of that country preceded their political rights, or whether they are not the consequence of their having obtained them?

    "Granting that a number of our countrymen are in poverty, can these gentlemen show, by any valid reasoning, the absolute necessity of their being so, especially in a country blessed by nature with such abundant resources?  Nay, can they trace the existence of that poverty to any other source than corrupt and exclusive legislation?  Granting too, that ignorance to a great extent prevails, to what other cause can it be attributed than to those who have legislated to keep knowledge from the people?  And, therefore, is it not as immoral as it is unjust to make the effects of corruption a pretence for upholding the cause of it?  We would call upon any reflecting individual to take up the history of his country, and to investigate the true cause of all the wars, the superstitions, the oppressions, and the persecutions, which leave so many stains upon our national character, and he will find it to be an exclusive and corrupt government; and he will find that in proportion as the spirit of democracy has forced its influence on the legislature, so have the venomous influences of later times abated.

    "Warned, therefore, by the experience of the past, and cheered by the example of modern democracy, whether in Switzerland, Norway, or America, we think that every lover of his species ought to exert his influence to remove that prolific source of evil—corrupt legislation.  It is not so much by forms of government that evils are generated or removed, as by the principles of exclusive or responsible representation; the former acts for itself, the latter for the people.  Therefore, according to our humble abilities, in seeking to remedy the evils we complain of, we believe the most effective means will be those we have-embodied in the People's Charter.

    "We are told that 'Universal Suffrage would produce universal confusion'; that 'the people would only substitute noisy demagogues for an idle aristocracy,' and that therefore 'we had better suffer the ills we know, than fly to others that we know not of.'  Those who talk of present ills, we presume, are not among the suffering classes, and they only expose their own selfishness and heartlessness in showing such a disregard to the misery of others.  As to the kind of men we should choose, if Universal Suffrage prevailed, that will need experience to test it; but where it has been tested by the descendants of Englishmen, such 'demagogues' as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and others equally efficient, seem to cast a doubt upon the prophecy.  The 'confusion,' too, likely to flow from removing corruption would, by the same test, be proved more imaginative than real.  America had an adventurous and speculative race to begin with, intermingled with fanatics and convicts from Britain, and for the last half century the poor and oppressed of all the countries of Europe have sought and found an asylum on her hospitable shores.  The greedy speculator, the ruined bankrupt, the broken down insolvent, and the felon pursued by justice, have also transferred their vices to her soil, but her salutary laws and institutions, springing from Universal Suffrage, have enabled her to reform, instruct, and purify the mass, and in despite of that black remnant of kingly dominion—'SLAVERY,' she is the most prosperous and free of all the nations of the earth.

    "We have been gravely assured that 'the best test of intelligence is property'—that 'the outward mark of ascertaining the existence of property is house-rent'—that 'a still surer indication of property is direct taxation,' and 'that therefore the present electoral body is a guarantee for fair legislation.'  While we, in part, admit the truth of some of these propositions, to the extent that wealth will give the means of knowledge, we deny that property is any fair criterion for intelligence.  We know of hundreds of rich fools, and thousands of housekeepers whose knowledge does not extend beyond their counters, and who are no more qualified to judge of any man's political capabilities than the most ignorant ploughman, whose common sense would not at least be subject to such influence as the fear of losing a wealthy customer.  If wealth alone formed 'a sufficient guarantee for just government,' the benevolent portion of mankind would not for so many years have been striving to rescue the enslaved negro from the mercenary grasp of the wealthy planter of India, and the Southern slave-owner of America; nay, further, if intelligence alone were sufficient, we should not have such a catalogue of bad laws to complain of.

    "The great boast of England is 'Trial by Jury'—but why do we prefer the less intelligent jury to the more intelligent judge, who fully knows the law, and is a more competent judge of evidence?  Simply, because honesty is not always united with intelligence.  We have found out that wealthy and intelligent judges cannot even be trusted in a court of law, and we are therefore pleased to submit to the occasional blunders of an unbiassed jury, rather than trust our lives to a designing judge.  If men without responsibility were strictly virtuous, a few intelligent individuals would be found sufficient to make and execute the laws; but as they are not so, we must endeavour to make them honest by making them accountable and responsible for their actions.

    "But we are told that 'we are virtually represented'—that 'our interests are identified with those who represent us.'  This is very false philosophy.  Man does not always pursue his own real interests; if he did, he would never commit so many crimes and blunders as he does; on the contrary, he pursues an imaginary interest, as passion or circumstances determine; and hence the necessity for laws to regulate his conduct.  So with men collectively, so with classes—they uphold the interest of their class according to their power or inclinations; and it is only by a mutual reliance on, and responsibility to each other, that oppression can be guarded against.

    "Land, labour, and capital are the great sources of wealth; without land and labour capital would be unproductive; without capital and land labour could not be employed; and, without labour, both land and capital would be useless.  Here, then, is a mutual necessity for mutual interests; and, being so dependent, each upon the other, justice demands that in all the arrangements necessary for production and distribution, equality in legislation should prevail.  But, no; we are told that 'the capitalists dread the labourers, and therefore will oppose giving them their rights.'  We would here stop to ask these very consistent gentlemen, who talk of 'virtual representation,' what just cause have English capitalists to dread, or to oppose the English labourer, more than American capitalists have to fear the power of Universal Suffrage in that country.  The people there find it to their interest to protect and encourage capital as the best seed for future production,—they find it equally beneficial to remove monopolies and develop their own resources, taking care that, as the public cause is promoted, individual interests shall not suffer.  They know that knowledge is the surest promoter of peace and order, and therefore seek to extend it,—they find that poverty is the most fruitful source of crime, and therefore seek to remove it.  Do the opponents of Universal Suffrage imagine that Englishmen would be less wise in pursuing their own interests than Americans are?

    "But there are a class of reasoners who, when foiled by truth and compelled to admit the justice of principles, will fall back upon that old subterfuge of error, expediency.  We are told that, admitting Universal Suffrage to be just, 'we must demonstrate its expediency.'  In answer to which we would say, if the evils of which most classes complain, can be traced to any one cause, it is as expedient as it is just to remove that cause.  And if we can show that the removal of a similar cause has produced beneficial results in another country, it is 'expedient' to make the trial in our own.  We are next informed that 'Household Suffrage would be a more respectable suffrage' than that which we propose; in reply to which, we think honesty referable to respectability, and believe that all the ignorance which they say they fear would be embodied in Household Suffrage, to the exclusion of the intelligence of the towns, would be embodied in Universal Suffrage.

    "But, as a last resource, the opponents to our rights think it necessary to mislead and misdirect us from our object.  They tell us that 'the repeal of the Corn Laws is of much more importance than the Suffrage,' as it would even give cheap bread, more trade, promote morality, upset the priesthood, and destroy cant.'  That the Corn Laws are highly mischievous we admit, but they are only one of the effects of the great cause we are seeking to remove; and in justice we think the question of their repeal ought to be argued by the representatives of all the people, and not by a faction.  If they had existed so long that people had forgotten the state of things previous to their enactment, we might be induced to have faith in all the blessed promises now made us; but the year 1815 is not of very great antiquity.  And when we find the following bit of advice given by these 'kindly disposed persons,' we think it exhibits their hollowness and hypocrisy.  'All those who want to stave off as long as possible the trial of strength between the proprietary and the working classes, ought to direct the meeting, that is to be held in Palace Yard, to pass resolutions for the repeal of the Corn Laws and to move an amendment to the People's Charter.'  This is evidently an attempt to sow divisions and dissensions, in no ways warranted by the disposition of a patient, long-suffering, industrious people; nor by any supposed interest in opposition to persons or to property.  But we would caution such advisers against making such 'trials of strength,' and warn them also against exciting prejudice it should be their duty to dispel.  In arousing the passions they silence reason, and the weapon they would enlist in their service might be fatal to themselves."


 
CHAPTER IX.


THE Great Birmingham Meeting on the 6th of August might be said to be the first Chartist meeting at which O'Connor introduced his physical force notions, or rather his Irish braggadocio about arming and fighting, for to fight himself formed no part of his patriotism; for when his mad folly subsequently incited violent commotion among "his dear children," he shrank from personal consequences and slunk over to Ireland.  His speech, at the meeting referred to, about "fleshing swords to the hilt," having furnished our opponents with a daily text, and a keen weapon with which to assail us, made us anxious to prevent if possible a like exhibition at our Palace Yard meeting.  Therefore in our instructions to the speakers appointed by our Association we requested them "to keep as closely as possible to the two great questions of the meeting—the Charter and the Petition—and as far as possible to avoid all extraneous matter or party politics, as well as every abusive or violent expression which may tend to injure our glorious cause."  But though our own members and most of the country delegates avoided everything likely to give a handle to the enemy, O'Connor and Richardson (one of his disciples) marred the moral effect of our meeting by their physical force swagger.

    At this meeting the People's Charter and the National Petition were adopted, and eight persons appointed to form part of the convention that were to meet in London in February following, "to watch over the presentation of the petition, and to obtain, by all legal and constitutional means, the enactment of the People's Charter."  The numbers attending our meeting were variously estimated; suffice to say, that we obtained at and during the meeting 16,000 signatures to the National Petition, and that eighty-nine towns sent delegates to attend it.
 
    In the evening after our meeting the delegates assembled at the rooms of our Working Men's Association in Gray's Inn Road, and agreed to resolutions empowering us to prepare an address to the Irish people, the same to be sent round to all the Working Men's and Radical Associations of the kingdom to obtain their concurrence and a signature on behalf of each.  This measure was the more necessary at this juncture as Mr. O'Connell was endeavouring to persuade the Irish people that the English Radicals were their especial enemies; and although he had been a party to the drawing up of the People's Charter, and had otherwise given us his signature pledging himself to support it, he had become so suddenly influenced by a little Whig patronage as to turn round and denounce English Radicalism, and the Chartists in particular, with the most virulent abuse, threats, and bitterness.  Our address when drawn up was sent round and signed on behalf of one hundred and thirty-six Working Men's and Radical Associations, and was then forwarded to all the associations in Ireland we could get access to, and among them to the Precursor Society, recently established by Mr. O'Connell. The following is the Address:—


    "Brothers in Political Bondage,—The deep waters which divide our shores, and the still deeper intrigues of self interest and bigotry which in ten thousand channels have laboured to divide our hearts, have led to the formation of prejudices opposed to our mutual interests.  Those mischievous feelings have been carefully fostered by the interested exclusives of both countries.  They have employed you to silence our demands for freedom, and we have been engaged to keep your country in poverty and subjection.  Prejudice and ignorance have ever been the great allies of despotism, and well do our rulers know it; union and knowledge are the twin brothers which shall destroy its dominion, and it is for us to let our brethren know it; on that knowledge will our liberty depend, and on the establishment of that liberty our happiness.

    "In addressing you, fellow countrymen, our object is union; for though the channel divides, the ocean surrounds us—though bigotry would dissever, charity should unite us—and as the blood of both countries commingles in our veins, and the people of both blend their occupation in the workshop and the field, so, assuredly, under the benign influence of free and equal institutions would our liberties and interests be blended and identified as one united and happy people.

    "We can readily imagine that the oppression and injustice you have received through the legislature of Britain have aroused your feelings and deeply rooted your suspicions against our country.  But we would urge you to remember that we, too, have shared in the injustice; we have been reciprocally taxed to oppress, and drilled to enslave each other; and we are still united victims of the same curse which plunders, oppresses, and blights the happiness of both countries—the curse of exclusive legislation.  This we feel convinced is the great source of our oppression; ignorance, immorality, poverty and crime have their origin directly or indirectly in exclusive legislation; for as long as exclusive interests are made the basis of law and government, so long will exclusive measures be supported at the sacrifice of peace, happiness, and virtue.

    "Therefore it is to this one point especially we would direct your attention; nay, we would urge you to enquire whether you cannot trace the numerous evils you complain of to this baneful origin.  Who but your own exclusive legislators sold your country?  And who but the exclusive legislators of England profited by the blood-cemented bargain?  Your own legislators, corrupted by the gold, and cankered by the patronage of Britain, rendered your domestic legislature a mere puppet of its will;—there it was where landed supremacy predominated, and English interests swayed, till eventually, perfidy concluded the bargain your own corrupt legislature had begun.

    "Since the Union—who have been greater instruments, in the hands of Britain, for binding you to the dust than your own exclusive legislators?  With few exceptions, the interest of their own order has been paramount to the welfare of the nation.  Grattan, your greatest orator, who in civil war opposed coercive measures, when in the United Parliament, supported the very measures he condemned; and his specious example seems not to have been forgotten by the legislators of modern times.  The ruling few of Britain have not been deficient in that selfish sagacity which ever seeks to strengthen injustice by corruption; hence they have united in their unholy compact your most talented orators, profound writers, gallant warriors, and able statesmen—they have inspired your vanity with songs and boastings, and have thrown a halo of glory over the sepulchre of your decay.

    "Captivated by power and riches, at the expense of justice, your gentry have been rendered greedy by patronage; your yeomen corrupted by preferment; and the choicest of your peasantry moulded into instruments of oppression, to exact by steel and bludgeon, the scanty necessities of the poor, to support the extravagancies of the rich.

    "We will not harrow up your feelings in depicting the horrible results of this system, by dwelling on the extremes of wretchedness with which you are familiar, but we would urge you to trust to your own judgment, apart from the captivating tone of eloquence which has so often been your guide—and to ask yourselves whether these evils are wholly attributable to your union with England; and whether they are to be remedied merely by a separation?  We are far from denying your right to a domestic parliament, or the justice of self government; but depend upon it, friends, while an exclusive class have the election of the House of Commons, the interest of that class will be supported to your prejudice and ours, whether Parliament meet in London or in Dublin.  The separation of that house would only be a division of evils  your own aristocracy would be strengthened, and one faction would supply the place of another.  English influence and intrigue would again predominate, and the evil so far from being remedied would be increased in magnitude and power.  Yet this is the chief blessing that is threatened to be conferred upon you, if you will not be content with the less measure of happiness our most gracious ministers are disposed to bestow if they were 'free from Tory influences' to dispense their liberal favours ! ! !  The question of extending the suffrage to the millions we never hear of among the blessings to be derived from a separation.  You have been assured that your commerce would flourish, and your people be prosperous if you had a Parliament of your own.  We believe not, till you have some choice in the electing of it; then indeed when you have legislators whose interests shall be identified with your happiness, will they legislate to effect it, but be assured, not till then.

    "The happiness of a country does not depend on her commerce, so much as on the quantity of comforts she can retain for her population.  Your commerce has been increasing ever since the Union, and your poverty in a like proportion; to what causes is this anomaly to be attributed?  We will presume to express our conviction of the causes for your consideration.

    "In the first place, exclusive legislators, having their own interests to secure, rather than the general happiness of society, have, by their corrupt enactments, ruinous wars, extravagant expenditure, taxation and monopoly, generated great poverty amongst the people.

"Secondly, where poverty exists, there will ignorance and violence exist also; and hence those funds, which ought to be employed in production, have been diverted to the supporting of soldiers, police, prisons, and all those instruments for punishing, what ought in wisdom to have been prevented.

    "Thirdly, when violence and insecurity exist in a country, coupled with the extractions of fraud, monopoly, and injustice, capital will not be secure, and will not be employed there.

    "Fourthly, for want of those employments capital and wealth would create, nearly the whole population are compelled to have recourse to agriculture; thus the consequent competition for land has forced up nominal rents beyond the power of payment; joined to which, the rapacity of tithe-proctors, collectors, and bailiffs, have further paralysed the hand of industry, and prevented those improvements the owner and cultivator might otherwise enjoy.

    "Fifthly, the people thus reduced to live on the lowest description of food, their standard of comforts being almost confined to a sufficiency of it—being the worst housed, fed, and clothed of any people in Europe—there is no demand for these trades and manufactures which generate and support a respectable middle-class population; excepting perhaps in some few exporting towns.

    "Sixthly, the long series of injustice, insults, and neglect to which your peasantry in particular have been exposed, have generated that state of poverty and wretchedness among them, which is gradually undermining the comforts of the class above them, and bids fair to involve all in the same common ruin; for as their numbers increase they force themselves upon the towns, and by their low standard of comforts, are the main instruments for bringing down all others to their own miserable condition.

    "Seventhly, faction has been arrayed against faction, creed against creed, and man against his brother man, not so much from their own conscientious opinions, as from the pernicious counsel and malignant influences of corrupt legislators, who find their own selfish supremacy strengthened by the divisions and dissensions of the multitude.

    "If you agree with us, brethren, as to the origin of those evils, we trust you will co-operate with us to effect a remedy, and the only effectual one, we believe, will be that which Mr. O'Connell has sworn to and pledged himself to support, 'Universal Suffrage,' as well as other essentials to the free exercise of that right.  In all countries where the people are exercising the right of freemen, they are progressing in knowledge and happiness; wherever class legislation prevails, the interests of the millions are despised and neglected.  True liberty cannot exist where man does not exercise the rights of man; for men whose lives and liberties are dependent on others—who are taxed at others' wills—must fight at others' biddings—must pay others before they can write, talk, buy or sell—must toil or starve at the will of others—though they may sing of freedom, are still but the slaves of others.

    "But you have been told that you must first and foremost be placed on an equality with England,' you must have 'municipal reform,' and 'the franchise equal to that of England.'  We fear these counter projects are only intended to baffle the Radicals of England, and create a diversion in favour of the present patronizing ministry.  We can give you the benefit of our experience as regards these enviable measures of reform.  We have men in our municipal corporations who at one time were the greatest advocates of reform; they have now realized all the reform they wished for, and therefore are the greatest opponents of further progress.  Those, too, whose energies were united with the millions to obtain the Reform Bill, are now as energetically opposed to the rights of their former allies.  Do you think the same class in Ireland will be more grateful in extending, or less powerful in opposing, any further reform or extension of right than those of England?  If so, you may, like us, find another agitation to be necessary, and need more efficient co-operators to render it productive of benefit, than those who now call upon you for your aid.

    "We readily admit the great injustice of compelling the Catholics of Ireland to support a Protestant Church Establishment, and cannot but lament the crooked policy which has prevented the settlement of that question.  But lest you may think this a singular injustice, we would take this opportunity of informing you that there are a greater number of persons in England compelled to support a Church from whose doctrines they dissent, than in your own country—nay, there are thousands of conscientious Protestants themselves, who believe that the sanctity of their Church is tainted by its corrupt alliance with the State.

    "But you are called upon to get up an exclusive agitation founded on the measures we have referred to; measures as fruitless and as profitless to the bulk of the people, as they are meant to be mere barriers to secure Whiggery, and stumbling-blocks in the way of Radicalism.  We shall doubtless be condemned as 'Tory Radicals,' in cautioning you against this maudlin delusive scheme; but be assured, you have swallowed more bitterness to retain the present ministry in power, than the united despotism of Whig and Tory could administer, if the friends of the people were justly allied.  You are cautioned against us, because we 'are neither combined nor concentrated,' 'nor have skilful or well-tried leaders,' and talk of using physical force and the shedding of human blood.'

    "Regarding the extent of our combination we will not boast, but are desirous that you should judge of it from the hundreds of thousands who, for the first time, have given up their own projects of reform, and are now pledged and united in favour of the People's Charter and the National Petition.

    "We have not, neither do we desire, leaders, as we believe that the principles we advocate have been retarded, injured, or betrayed by leadership, more than by the open hostility of opponents.  Leadership too often generates confiding bigotry or political indifference on the one hand, and selfish ambition on the other.  The principles we advocate are those of the people's happiness, and to be justly established each man must know and feel his rights and duties; he must be prepared to guard the one, and perform with cheerfulness the other; and if nature has given to one man superior faculties to express or execute the general wish, he only performs his duty at the mandate of his brethren; he is 'the leader' of none, but the equal of all.

    "Regarding the other assertion, that we 'have talked of physical force,' which comes with a mock reproach from him who has so often boasted of physical force.  We are not going to affirm that we have been altogether guiltless of impropriety of language, for when the eye dwells on extremest poverty trampled on by severe oppression, the heart often forces a language from the tongue which sober reflection would redeem, and sound judgment condemn.  But we deny that we are influenced by any other feelings than a desire to see our institutions peaceably and orderly based upon principles of justice.  We believe that a Parliament composed of the wise and good of all classes, would devise means of improving the condition of the millions, without injury to the just interests of the few.  We feel that unjust interests have been fostered under an unjust system, that it would be equally unjust to remove without due precaution; and, when due, individual indemnification.  We are as desirous as the most scrupulous Conservative of protecting all that is good, wise, and just in our institutions, and to hold as sacred and secure the domain of the rich equally with the cottage of the poor.

    "But we repeat that we seek to effect our object in peace, with no other force than that of argument or persuasion; and we call upon you, as we do upon the wise and good of every class, to unite with us in our most holy compact, the ultimate object of which is the freedom and happiness of Britain, and, through her example, that of the world.

    "We call upon you to unite with us to cause the principles of the People's Charter to become the law of these realms, believing it to be a just and necessary measure to ensure equal and just legislation.  We have been too long engaged in trifles and expediencies.  Millions of our fellow men rise up in poverty and perish in crime, whilst mock philanthropy, too regardless of the present, give promises of hope to future generations.

    "But, fellow countrymen, while we are desirous of your aid we shall not despair without it; our cause is strong in proportion as it is just, and our numbers will swell in proportion as our enemies oppose us.  Our National Petition may be indignantly spurned; our charter at first may have but few supporters, but our second petition will swell in numbers at the injustice; our energies shall be redoubled at each division that may be made against us; our third shall embody the numerical power and mental energy of the kingdom, whose determination to have 'justice' will increase with each refusal, till their irresistible resolution can no longer be controlled by all that power and wealth can purchase.

    "These, brethren, are our views, our objects, and our determination.  To carry them forward we implore the cooperation of rich and poor, male and female, the sober, the reflecting, and the industrious; we can spare the drunkard from our ranks till reflection shall have made him a more worthy member of society; and, strong in the right and justice of our cause, we invoke the blessing of success."


 
CHAPTER X.


THIS Address of ours, which was well received by a large portion of the public press, by Sharman Crawford, and other patriotic Irishmen, was replied to by Mr. O'Connell, on behalf of the Precursors.  It was entitled, "The Reply of the Precursor Society, on behalf of the People of Ireland, to the Address of the persons styling themselves the Radical Reformers of England, Scotland, and Wales."  In his reply he deplored our ignorance of the Irish people; contrasted the conduct of Whigs and Tories; charged us with the want of sympathy for the sufferings of his countrymen, and with want of candour in disclaiming leadership; and concluded with charging upon us the physical force doctrine of O'Connor, Stephens, and Oastler.  The following was put forth in answer to it:—


"The Working Men's Association to the Irish People, in Reply to an Address on their behalf by Persons styling themselves the Precursors.

    "Fellow Countrymen,—The object of the Radical address to you, signed on behalf of a hundred and thirty-six associations, was to show you, notwithstanding Mr. O'Connell's assertion to the contrary, that there were men among us cordially disposed to unite with you to render you 'justice,' as there were others resolved to unite to keep you in the reins of Whiggery for their own especial advantage, careless of the beggary and wretchedness of the millions.   And we also, in thus addressing you, are no less anxious to secure your co-operation towards effecting one of the greatest objects men can perform on earth to be acceptable to heaven; that of improving those institutions which, according to their purity or corruption, render a nation enlightened, prosperous, and happy, or ignorant, poor and degraded.

    "It would appear, however, from the persons who style themselves 'the Precursors,' and who have taken upon themselves to write for all Ireland, that whatever hopes or sentiments animate the great bulk of your countrymen, there are persons among you who do not desire union with men whose objects are 'justice for all classes.'  And if we could bring ourselves to believe that these persons represented the national mind of Ireland, and that that mind was so steeped in the opiate of Whiggery as to lay its thoughts and feelings prostrate before one man—though that man's talents were as transcendent as their gratitude has been unbounded—we should rather be disposed to despair for her fate than entertain bright hopes of her regeneration.

    "The document we refer to is an echo of the Whig press of England—what it fails to answer it does not scruple to pervert.  It taunts us with wanting candour, and accuses us of falsehood, and yet itself is made up of the very essentials it condemns.  It is, however, what it was intended to be, a Whig apple of discord; not only to prevent union between the English and Irish Radicals, but, if possible, to divide those already united.  It begins by upbraiding us for not having denounced certain individuals for their expressions of violence.  In reply to which we beg to inform you that our great object has been to honestly pursue principles rather than to denounce men; we have left abuse to those who are better masters of the art.  And even were we so disposed, we could not except that great reprover of his age, Mr. O'Connell himself, who, when denouncing others for impropriety of language, talks of petitioning with 'a million and a half of men of fighting age.'
 
    "From the origin of our Association we have ever discountenanced violence—we have ever declared that the moral power of the people would be the most effective weapon to combat the enemies of freedom, and similar opinions were expressed in the address we sent you.  Yet for all these declarations, our character has been belied and our motives impugned, because individuals have been found to attend our meetings who, like Mr. O'Connell, have appealed to the passions rather than to the intellect of men.  No man has made stronger appeals to the lower feelings of an assembly than the chairman of the Precursors; his 'bloody and brutal' sentiments, his pre-eminently abusive expressions, and fighting threats, have been more loudly applauded by his select audiences than have similar expressions been by the poor weavers of the north.  No persons can more sincerely regret than we do the improprieties of language and threats of violence [that] persons, professing the sacred name of Reformers, have recently indulged in; they have only afforded delight to the enemy, and engendered doubts and recriminations among friends.  We are of [the] opinion that whatever is gained in England by force, by force must be sustained; but whatever springs from knowledge and justice will sustain itself.  Therefore it is that in our aspirations of freedom we seek to build up her temple in peace—to raise up a social and political edifice founded on national enlightenment and justice—a temple in which all classes might freely worship without tax, tribute, or reproach; in which all might unite to devise wisely and execute justly, and where the energies of all should be directed to the solving that great political problem, yet unsolved by any nation—how shall all the resources of our country, mentally, morally, and physically, be made to produce the greatest happiness for all its members?

    "We confess that our imagination sickens at any prospect of civil discord, even if oppressors only were to be the victims, and therefore earnestly trust that the edifice we are seeking to rear may never be established upon a foundation of blood, to be cursed by widowed mothers and undermined by the fatherless.  But we must confess we greatly doubt the sincerity of those who, while deprecating violence, are continually boasting of the physical force of 'eight millions,' and threatening that 'Ireland alone would afford sufficient force to crush a revolution in England,' and that they 'are as ready to go to battle as any people in the world.'

    "But we are wisely informed by the Precursors that the words 'universal suffrage' have no magic in them.  We thank them for this information; but inasmuch as they are words used by all honest Radicals to express the extent of the suffrage they desire, defined also, as these words have been, to mean the right of voting to all males above twenty-one, of sane mind, untainted by crime, we think it more honest and straightforward for all (especially those who have sworn and pledged themselves to universal suffrage) to retain the well-understood term rather than to adopt the less ingenious Whig phrase of 'the greatest possible extension of the suffrage that can practically be obtained.'

    "The extent of the suffrage which 'can practically be obtained' will depend on the honesty and perseverance of reformers.  If they shall ever be induced to give up any portion of their principles to secure any unworthy object or fraudulent position—to gain power, place, or patronage—they will most certainly be induced to make still further sacrifice of principle to retain what they have gained; and thus from their miserable position principle after principle must be abandoned, till those who began as practical reformers turn out practical apostates.

    "Persons wishing to impose upon the public words without definite meaning, as well as those who are not disposed to adopt Radical principles, may have some excuse in coining language to express their desires; but surely the chairman, at least, of the Precursors has not this excuse, for setting aside his public avowals of having been sworn to universal suffrage, we have his signature attached to a resolution of his own proposing, pledging himself 'to support and vote for a Bill to be brought into the House of Commons, embodying the principles of universal suffrage, equal representation, free selection of representatives without reference to property, the ballot, and short Parliaments of fixed duration.'  Nay more, he was one of the committee for drawing up that Bill, and the Bill that emanated from that committee was the People's Charter.  To that great bond of 'justice' we mean to keep him; we shall demand his support and vote for it in the forthcoming session, agreeably to the pledge he has given and the part he has taken; his differing from its details will not be taken as an excuse, but will rather be attributed to his neglect of duty.

    "It would appear that the gentlemen of the Precursors persist in adopting the same unmanly policy towards us as the Whig and Tory press.  Finding they could not justly oppose our principles nor answer our arguments—finding that our public appeals in favour of temperance, knowledge, social improvement, and political right, were bringing around our standard good men of all classes, creeds, and opinions, they have endeavoured to enlist public opinion against us by identifying us with the sentiments and opinions of others.  'The Oastlers, Stephens's, and O'Connors,' are charged as being 'our leaders,' notwithstanding we have repeatedly disclaimed leadership of every description.  Now, what can be more apparent than the wilful perversion of truth, which repeatedly identifies Mr. Oastler in particular with our proceedings; he has often publicly avowed himself as an 'Ultra Tory,' and to our knowledge has never attended one meeting in favour of our Charter.  And Mr. Stephens is more known for his opposition to the new Poor Law than for his advocacy of Radicalism; he has ridiculed our principles and publicly declared his want of confidence in us.  But still, as far as either of these gentlemen has sympathized with the infant factory children, and for the poor and oppressed in their respective districts, they are entitled to our honest praise; but as far as their violent language and mischievous advice to violence have been expressed, we deprecate their conduct.  And as far as Mr. O'Connor and others have deviated from a just course and followed their example, we equally disapprove of theirs; because we think with that honest patriot, Mr. Sharman Crawford, that 'when the application of physical force is held forth as the moving power for attaining the reform of our institutions, the aggregation of the moral power, which can alone render physical force either justifiable or effective, is destroyed.'  But in thus disapproving of the language which Mr. Fergus O'Connor has frequently indulged in, we are no ways inclined to gratify the usefulness of that gentleman, still less to gratify the enemy by dividing the Radicals off North and South.  We verily believe Mr. O'Connor to be sincere in his desire to promote the cause of reform, and it is because we think such language highly mischievous to it, that we thus honestly express our opinion. [p200]

    "We are told by the Precursors 'that no popular party can possibly be without leaders, that those who do the business are necessarily leaders.'  Now let us not be misunderstood—we understand by leadership, the implicit reliance and obedience of any body of men to one man's will—the foolish belief that he of necessity knows more and can do better, under all circumstances for the whole body, than could be done if they deliberated and acted according to the knowledge and judgment of the whole.  Now the experience of the past has taught us, that whenever a person is thus elevated as a leader he becomes the principal, and generally the vulnerable object of attack.  If he can be influenced through his vanity or his avarice, the blind reliance of his followers renders them the secure victims of the enemy.  Do you for a moment suppose, that if the vast number of intelligent minds which do honour to your country, had been free from the domination of leadership, and for the last four years were united to devise the best means of politically and socially benefiting your country, that you would have been led for that time in the quagmire of Whiggery for fear of the bugbear of Toryism?  That you would be loyally shouting your gratitude because Mr. O'Connell has some insecure portion of patronage, and is consequently enabled to drag along with him a train of expectants, who hail him as the idol of to-day, but would as readily bow before other idols to-morrow?

    "We are accused of 'wanting candour' for condemning equally the two factions of Whig and Tory, and that 'our injustice to the Whigs demonstrates our want of sympathy to Ireland.'  We must, however, again confess, that the long catalogue of Whig perfections which the Precursors doubtlessly prepared to move our sympathy, has not effected its purpose.  We think, however, that their superior candour should have caused them to have added Catholic emancipation to the list, which the Tories are said to have given to Ireland; but, as we think of the Whigs on the questions of the Reform Bill and Negro Slavery, they yielded to public opinion what in safety and in justice they could no longer withhold.  But the Whigs, in yielding, completely marred the benefits of the one, and made us pay a very considerable price for the other.  Among all the heinous sins of Toryism, there is not one but its Whig parallel might easily be found, and we conscientiously believe that there are no acts of atrocities which the Tories have inflicted on England or Ireland, that can match those deeds which the perfidious Whigs have inflicted on our Canadian brethren; and shame to Mr. O'Connell—after his profession of sympathy, after his public promises and declaration, that he would use his power and influence to prevent the sacrifice of their constitutional rights—he acquiesced by his absence, in the most despotic act that ever disgraced an English House of Commons in the blackest days of Toryism, and which act, and all the horrible consequences that have followed, might have been prevented if he and his other Whig admirers had been true to justice.  Talk of what the Tories did in America, match their deeds if you can with what the Whigs have inflicted on Canada.  They have not scrupled to destroy every vestige of their constitutional rights—their selfish and arrogant myrmidons were the first to provoke Canadian resistance to their unparalleled despotism—they then imprisoned their legislators and proscribed and hunted down the best men of the country, they have brutally encouraged ignorant savages to glut their thirst for blood, they have destroyed the freedom of the press, suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, proclaimed martial law, burned their churches, sacked their villages, laid the country in ashes at the fiat of one man, and confiscation and plunder have been the warwhoop of their brutal soldiers.  Gracious Creator of human beings! talk of the crimes of Toryism! match Whiggery with Nicholas instead.

    "As to the Coercion Act, which Mr. O'Connell denounces as the standing memento of the Grey and Brougham (and he should have added Melbourne) Administration, we think that next to that despotic measure he ought not to forget the barbarous and arbitrary powers of the one that was substituted for it by his own approval in 1835; and which, when Sharman Crawford moved for its repeal, Mr. O'Connell pronounced to be 'a very necessary law.'  We hope that the Irish people will make an analysis of these two acts for Mr. O'Connell's especial perusal.

    "We must here, however, make an observation on the absurd notion of gratitude inculcated by Mr. O'Connell and his disciples.  It is assumed that because a set of men, called Whigs or Tories, some fifty years or a century ago performed a good action or a dishonourable deed, that we forsooth and our children, must always be very grateful to the party of the one, and cherish eternal enmity against the party of the other, though not even a relative of the persons who did either of the acts compose the present faction.  This kind of 'gratitude' may afford Mr. O'Connell an excuse for his present policy, but it is not of that description our 'common sense' inculcates.

    "We think that no course of policy that could have been adopted could have done more mischief to the cause of Radicalism, than has the absurd folly of pulling down and the setting up of parties and factions. We have long since given up this game, and it shall be our policy for the future, to prevent any faction from possessing political ascendancy in this country, if we can prevent it, aye, even a Radical faction itself, for the principle of Radicalism is opposed to all faction. And in thus expressing our resolve, we think (however contemptible we may appear) we have the power to prevent the supremacy of either Whig or Tory Faction. Nor do we want any 'leader' or party individual to assist us to effect this object.

    "Sincerely hoping that you will give up your devoted attachment to party men and measures of every description, that the good and the wise of all classes among you will be united equally against Whig and Tory domination, and that you will urge your representatives to break through the trammels of political expediency, and advocate those broad principles of justice, which can alone redeem our common country.  We remain with truth and sincerity your fellow-countrymen."


    Now there was no doubt of the truth of Mr. O'Connell's assertions regarding the physical force mania generated in many parts of the kingdom by the speeches of O'Connor, Stephens, and Oastler against the New Poor Law; the great injustice was in branding all the Radicals of England and Scotland as the abettors and followers of these men.  For it was well known to him that a large section of them had for years previously disclaimed the doctrine of physical force, even when he himself was reminding his countrymen that those "who would be free, themselves must strike the blow."  He knew well that the Birmingham Council, the members of our Association, and a number of the Radical and Working Men's Associations of Scotland had repudiated the doctrine, and had exerted themselves in various ways to check its progress.  The fact was known to him that a large number of the Radicals of Edinburgh met on the Carlton Hill and passed a series of resolutions condemnatory of the physical-force folly, which were warmly responded to by mother towns, and were ably supported by the earnest eloquence and abilities of such men as John Fraser, the Editor of the True Scotsman, the Rev. Patrick Brewster, and numerous others.  Indeed Fergus O'Connor must have considered them as highly censurable of himself, for he posted off to Edinburgh with great speed and called a meeting of his disciples together to pass votes of confidence in him and Stephens, and, as he called it, to rescind the Carlton Hill resolutions.  But Mr. O'Connell's conduct was the more to be condemned as he had by his desertion and treachery to our cause, coupled with his entreaties and blarneying in favour of Whiggery, caused many of the Liberal members of Parliament to stand aloof from our movement whose aid, coupled with his own powerful talents, would have effectually kept back the physical force advocates, and conducted our movement to a successful issue.  I had it from Mr. Joseph Hume himself that it was Mr. O'Connell's entreaties to give the Whigs a fair trial for the sake of Ireland, that led him and others to stand aloof as they had done.
 
    But the meeting of the Convention was now fast approaching, and so strong was the hope reposed in that meeting by the Chartist body, that the great majority of them manifested the strongest desire to sacrifice their peculiar feelings and convictions for the sake of union.  A few hot-brained enthusiasts, however, were not so patriotic; union was naught with them compared with their own blustering harangues about arming and fighting; these and their daily invectives against everything bearing the resemblance of moderation, preparedness, or intellectual and moral effort, served to create constant irritation in our ranks, and ultimately to cause distrust and disunion.  On the other hand there were not wanting exciting incidents, opposing preparations, denunciations, and ridicule, on the part of those who opposed our claims, to stir up the feelings and try the patience of poor frail humanity; so that when the gauntlet was eventually cast down we need not wonder at the numbers prepared to take it up in the spirit of resolute and reckless defiance.


 
CHAPTER XI.


THE General Convention of the Industrious Classes originated with the Birmingham Political Union, as did also the National Rent Fund, the proposal for a Sacred Month, the plan of Simultaneous Meetings, and the first National Petition. [p205]  This last document was, I believe, drawn up by the late Mr. R. K. Douglas, then editor of the Birmingham Journal, an able and talented writer, and a keen, clear, eloquent speaker; one, in fact, of the most efficient men delegated to the Convention.  The delegates to this body were, for the most part, appointed by very large bodies of men.  The Birmingham meeting was composed of 200,000, the Manchester meeting of 300,000, that of Glasgow of 150,000, of Newcastle of 70,000, and other towns equally large in proportion to their population.  The number of delegates composing the Convention was fifty-three, many of them representing several places, with the view to economy.  Of this number three were magistrates, six newspaper editors, one clergyman of the Church of England, one Dissenting minister, and two doctors of medicine, the remainder being shopkeepers, tradesmen, and journeymen.  They held their first meeting at the British Coffee House, Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, on Monday, February 4th, 1839, and subsequently met in the hall of the Honourable and Ancient Lumber Troop, Bolt Court, Fleet Street.

    On their first assembling the Birmingham delegates proposed me as secretary, and, though the proposition was at first strongly opposed by some of the physical-force party, I was eventually elected unanimously.  This, it would seem, gave great offence to O'Connor, who was not present when the election took place, for at the next meeting he posted up a notice of motion, by the adoption of which he thought he should get rid of me as secretary.  It was to the effect that persons accepting any paid office in the Convention should resign their delegation.  Finding, however, that I had resolved to offer my services gratuitously as secretary, rather than resign my privilege as a delegate, he withdrew the notice he had given.

    Not intending in this memoir to give a particular history of all the doings of the Convention, I shall confine myself to a few of the most prominent particulars, sufficient perhaps to show the causes that marred the great object we had in view, that of creating and extending a public opinion in favour of the principles of the People's Charter.  Soon after our assembling the subject of the Queen's speech from the throne became a question for discussion, in consequence of a passage in it charging some portion of the people with "disobedience, and resistance to the laws."  This induced us to put forth an address to the people (drawn up by Dr. Taylor), in which the charge was repudiated, and in which the Whigs were reminded of their own resistance to the laws, for the forcing of the Reform Bill, when Mr. William Brougham and Lord Fitzwilliam in particular publicly declared their resolution of resisting the law by the non-payment of taxes.

    The rules and regulations for conducting our proceedings, drawn up by myself, were next agreed to, and a barrister consulted for ascertaining the legality of our objects, whose opinion, though very guardedly worded, seemed satisfactory to the members.

    On the collection of the petition sheets from different towns it was found that many parts of the country, in which there had been no political organization, had done little or nothing, towards procuring signatures.  This caused us to delay its presentation for a few weeks, and in the interim to send out a number of our members as missionaries to different parts of the country, with the view of making the principles of the Charter more generally known, and for obtaining additional signatures to our petition.  The instructions given to our missionaries were, "to refrain from all violent and unconstitutional language, and not to infringe the law in any manner by word or deed."  Mr. James Paul Cobbett, delegate from Yorkshire, seems to have been alarmed by this resolution to send out missionaries, and shortly afterwards brought forward a series of resolutions, to the effect that the whole business of the Convention should be to present the national petition.  This proposal, not being agreed to by the members, that gentleman gave in his resignation.

    The delay, too, in presenting the petition, gave great offence to the physical-force party, and more especially to the Democratic Association of London, at the head of which was Mr. George Julian Harney, one of the most indiscreet, if not the most violent, among them, for he scrupled not to flourish his dagger at public meetings, in order to give point to his perorations. [p206]  This party, being joined by a few of the most hot-headed and enthusiastic members of the Convention, were very industrious out of doors in censuring and denouncing us for our delay at their various meetings, and also created much excitement, division, and loss of time in the Convention by their insane and foolish conduct.  It was to gratify this party that O'Connor brought forward his motion for calling the public meeting at the Crown and Anchor, on March 11th, at which meeting the physical force party displayed such violence and folly as to cause the Birmingham delegates, Messrs. Salt, Hadley, and Douglas, to secede from us.  It may be necessary, however, to state that this violent party were greatly in the minority, both for numbers and talent, till the resignation of the Birmingham delegates and other resignations that speedily followed, whose places were supplied, for the most part, with men of less reasonable views.

    During the delay that took place in the presentation of the petition, those of the members not engaged as missionaries employed themselves in the discussion of a variety of questions brought before them.  About the first of those questions was that of "ulterior measures," or measures to be adopted if the petition should be rejected.  This was introduced by Bailie Craig, of Ayrshire, but which question it was judged prudent to postpone until after the presentation of the petition.  The "grievances of Ireland" also gave rise to a long discussion, but very little practical benefit, as did also "the suffering in the manufacturing districts," "the factory system," the "New Rural Police Bill," and several other subjects.  In fact the love of talk was as characteristic of our little house as the big one at Westminster.

    Among the letters read one morning was one from the London Democratic Association, containing a series of resolutions passed at one of their meetings, to the effect, "that if the Convention did its duty the Charter would be the law of the land in less than a month"; "that no delay should take place in the presentation of the national petition"; and "that every act of injustice and oppression should be immediately met by resistance."  A motion that this ultra communication should not be received gave rise to a very long discussion, in which the conduct of three members, Harney, Ryder, and Marsden (who took part in the meeting referred to), was very warmly reprobated and condemned.  They having expressed their approbation of the resolutions referred to during the debate, a motion was brought forward at the next meeting by Mr. Whittle, the editor of the Champion, to the effect that they should be called upon to offer an apology for, and disclaimer of the resolutions addressed to the Convention.  They having refused to do this, a motion was brought forward the next day for expelling them, when they deemed it advisable to make the apology required, after they had thus wasted three days of our time.

    Another subject, about this period, which produced great excitement in the Convention, as well as throughout the country, was the conduct of Lord John Russell's Ministry towards Mr. John Frost, of Newport (one of our members), whom they struck from the roll of magistrates for attending two Chartist meetings in London.  It was thought, however, that Mr. Frost's straightforward and independent letter to Lord John Russell, in reply to the charge made against him, formed a more serious offence in the eyes of his little mightiness, than the ostensible one of attending the public meetings.  That Mr. Frost's conduct, as a magistrate and a man, was greatly estimated by his townsmen may be judged of by the fact that on the first rumour of his exclusion, a testimonial was transmitted to the Home Secretary on his behalf, signed by most of the leading and influential men of the town, men of all political creeds and opinions.

    In the beginning of April, Mr. Richardson brought forward a motion, of which he had given previous notice, relative to the right of the people to arm, and in a long speech quoted a great many authorities, ancient and modern, in support of his views.  A resolution to the effect "that it was admitted by the highest authorities, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the people of this country had the right to use arms," was finally agreed to, it having been supported by Messrs. O'Brien, Fletcher, M'Douall, Harney, Neesom, and O'Connor, and opposed by Halley, Carpenter, Burns, Rogers, and others.

    One day towards the latter end of this month O'Connor got up and called the attention of the Convention to the fact, that in the indictment sent up to the King's Bench against the Rev. Mr. Stephens, the jurors had declared on their oaths, that the Convention was an illegal body.  On the following day he proposed "that on Monday, the 13th of May, the Convention should commence holding its sittings in Birmingham."  No reasonable argument having been adduced in favour of such a motion, and thinking, moreover, that it seemed a cowardly proceeding, I thought it well to propose an amendment to the effect "that we continue to hold our sittings in London till after the presentation of the petition, and until we had come to some vote respecting the introduction of the People's Charter to Parliament."  My amendment having been lost by a majority of seven, and other objections having been taken to O'Connor's motion it was postponed to a future day.

    On the 6th of May the national petition was taken to the residence of Mr. Attwood, in Parton Square, that. gentleman, in conjunction with Mr. Fielder, having promised to present it to Parliament on the following Monday.

    When all the sheets of this bulky document were united it was found to be nearly three miles long, and signed by 1,283,000 persons, all of them, I believe, the genuine signatures of men earnest in their desire for the suffrage however they may have differed about the means of obtaining it.  On our arrival at Mr. Attwood's, that gentleman informed us that he was then doubtful when he should be able to present it, as Lord John Russell's resignation from the Ministry was expected that evening.  We informed him that we were desirous that he should present it as early as possible, and that he should also take the earliest opportunity to move for leave to bring in a Bill entitled the People's Charter.  This last he refused to do, as he said he did not agree with all the points of it, especially that of electoral districts.  A long conversation then took place regarding what he would do in the matter, which, he said, would altogether depend on the manner in which he was treated by the House of Commons when he presented the petition.  In fact the issue of paper money was more important to Mr. Attwood than the People's Charter.

    One of our members, Mr. Vincent, having been arrested on the 10th of May, 1839, on a warrant by the magistrates of Newport, on a charge of conspiracy and sedition, Fergus O'Connor again brought forward his motion for adjourning to Birmingham.  The topics of his speech were, the change of ministers; the arrest of Vincent, the safety of the Convention, and the sympathy and support we should have if we adjourned to Birmingham.  In this proposal he was supported by many delegates who had previously opposed it, as the change in the ministry had rendered it doubtful when the petition would be presented.  There were others who opposed it on the grounds that we had not yet agreed to the project of "ulterior measures,"' of which so much had been said.  And here I deem it necessary to give a brief history of our "Manifesto of Ulterior Measures," for reasons hereafter stated.

    As many members of the Convention lodged at the Arundle Coffee House, opposite St. Clement's Church, a number of us were induced to subscribe a small sum for the purpose of retaining the first floor of that place to ourselves, it being a very convenient place for assembling together to talk matters over when we were not engaged in the business of the Convention.  As many of the physical force party, on those occasions, as well as in the convention, had talked largely of "ulterior measures," without seeming to entertain any very clear ideas on the subject, many of the more prudent portion thought it necessary to call a meeting of the delegates together in that room for the purpose of talking the matter over and arriving at some definite opinion on the subject, rather than trust to its being hastily introduced to the Convention by some hot-headed member without thought or consideration.

    A meeting of the delegates was therefore called at the "Arundle" for the purpose of talking the subject over among themselves before it was introduced publicly to the Convention.  At this meeting a large number of the delegates attended; a chairman was appointed, and every member present called upon in rotation for his opinion regarding the ulterior measures to be adopted should the prayer of the petition be rejected.  As their secretary, I took notes of the opinions given and conclusions arrived at, which in the course of the week I embodied in the form of a manifesto, and laid before them at their next meeting at the same place.  At that meeting the Rev. Mr. Stephens attended, and, after the manifesto was read over, he and others were very complimentary in its praise.

    It was then resolved that we should hold another meeting at the rooms of the Working Men's Association for the purpose of discussing it clause by clause.  After it had been thus discussed it was all but unanimously agreed to, the only dissentient being Mr. Halley, of Dunfermline.  Being thus far agreed to, it was resolved that we should publicly name a committee the next day in the Convention for considering the subject of ulterior measures.  We did so, the committee named being Messrs. Frost, O'Connor, Bussy, Pitkeithley, and Mills, together with myself as secretary.  The manifesto as prepared was laid before them, and, after some slight verbal alterations, was agreed to, and ordered to be laid before the Convention as their report.

    Before, however, this could be done, O'Connor had proposed the adjournment to Birmingham, as before described; so that when the manifesto was brought before the Convention, it was resolved "that the further consideration of it be deferred till we got to Birmingham."  To that town we accordingly went on the 13th of May, and were welcomed by a vast assemblage of the people, whose excitement about this period had been greatly increased by the arbitrary conduct of their local authorities regarding the right of meetings in the Bull-ring, coupled with Lord John Russell's letter to the magistracy offering arms to any association of the middle classes that might be formed for putting down the Chartist meetings.

    The day after our arrival at Birmingham the consideration of the manifesto took place, which, after some trifling amendment, was adopted, and ten thousand copies of it ordered to be printed and circulated.  At the next meeting O'Connor proposed that in the event of any attempt being made to interfere with the simultaneous meetings, about to be held, the delegates should repair to Birmingham, declare their meetings permanent, and "recommend the observance of all the measures contained in the manifesto."

    During the Whitsun holidays the delegates repaired to their different constituencies for the purpose of attending the simultaneous meetings, and for ascertaining the opinion of the people regarding the manifesto.  O'Connor (and others who have since condemned that document) spoke at several of those meetings, but not one word did they say in opposition to, or in repudiation of it at that time, but when I was cooped up in Warwick Gaol he had the impudence to boast that he was the man that prevented the Sacred Month from taking place! although, as described, he was an active party in recommending it.  He subsequently on several occasions endeavoured to persuade his dupes that I was the concoct of the violent measure, although himself and his disciples were the first to talk of arming, of the run upon the banks, and the Attwood project of the Sacred Month.  I mention these facts in no way to disclaim the hand I had in it, although I believe that I did an act of folly in being a party to some of its provisions; but I sacrificed much in that Convention for the sake of union, and for the love and hope I had in the cause, and I have still vanity enough to believe that if I had not been imprisoned I could have prevented many of the outbreaks and follies that occurred.  The following is a copy of the manifesto referred to:―


"Countrymen and Fellow-Bondsmen,—The fiat of our privileged oppressors has gone forth—that the multitude must be kept in subjection.  The mask of CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY is thrown for ever aside, and the form of DESPOTISM stands hideously before us: for, let it be no longer disguised, THE GOVERNMENT OF ENGLAND IS A DESPOTISM AND HER INDUSTRIOUS MILLIONS SLAVES.  Her 'constitutional rights'are specious forms wanting substance; her forms of 'justice' subterfuges for legal plunder and class domination; her 'right of the subject' is slavery, without the slave's privilege; her 'right of petitioning' a farce; her 'religious freedom' a cheat.

    "Fellow-Countrymen,—Our stalwart ancestors boasted of rights which the simplicity of their laws made clear, and their bravery protected; but we, their degenerate children, have patiently yielded to one infringement after another till the last vestige of RIGHT has been lost in the mysticism of legislation, and the armed force of the country transferred to soldiers and policemen.  But if there be yet within you a latent spark of that quality which was wont to distinguish Englishmen throughout the globe—of that manly courage with which our forefathers sacredly guarded our island, and arrested with their iron grasp foreign foe or domestic spoiler—you will start from your political slumber, and resolve, by all that renders life desirable, to make your homes happy, your laws just, and your altars free, or peril life in the attempt.
 
    "We will not, however, point out a path in which we are not prepared to lead; neither will we peril our political rights on any ill-advised proposal, which would give joy to the enemy, but death to our cause.  But we are prepared—and we trust that you, our constituents, are also—to peril that life which God has bestowed for no holier purpose than to righteously endeavour to make our country free and our brethren happy.  And in thus expressing our determination, we appeal to Almighty Wisdom with reverence, and to impartial posterity with confidence—that we have right and justice on our side.

    "Believing that our political burthens and social grievances are the result of exclusive law-making, we have provided for that evil what we conceive to be a remedy—'The People's Charter'—and public opinion has been concentrated in favour of that remedy to an extent unprecedented in the annals of our country.  We have embodied its principles in a Petition to Parliament; those who dared to brave the menaces of employers, the sneers of faction and the power of wealth, have appended their signatures to that petition, and millions who dared not brave starvation and misery to do so, have responded in silence to its prayer.

    "The answer, fellow-countrymen, to your 'constitutional' and peaceful application may now be anticipated.  We were prepared on the presentation of the petition for the subtle sophistry and fraudulent assertions of Whiggery; but we may now be prepared for the worst; for we clearly perceive the despotic determination of both Whigs and Tories to maintain their power and supremacy at any risk.

    "We see victim after victim daily selected, and silently witness one constitutional right after another annihilated; we perceive the Whig and the shuffling professor of Liberalism uniting their influence to bind down the millions, and, if possible, to stifle their prayers and petitions for justice.

    "Men and women of Britain, will you tamely submit to the insult?  Will you submit to incessant toil from birth to death, to give in tax and plunder out of every twelve hours' labour the proceeds of nine hours to support our idle and insolent oppressors?  Will you much longer submit to see the greatest blessings of mechanical art converted into the greatest curses of social life?—to see children forced to compete with their parents, wives with their husbands, and the whole of society morally and physically degraded to support the aristocracies of wealth and title?  Will you thus allow your wives and daughters to be degraded, your children to be nursed in misery, stultified by toil, and to become the victims of the vice our corrupt institutions have engendered?  Will you permit the stroke of affliction, the misfortunes of poverty and the infirmities of age to be branded and punished as crimes, and give our selfish oppressors an excuse for rending asunder man and wife, parent and child, and continue passive observers till you and yours become the victims?

    "Perish the cowardly feeling; and infamous be the passive being who can witness his country's degradation, without a struggle to prevent or a determination to remove it!  Rather like Samson would we cling to the pillars which sustain our social fabric, and, failing to base it upon principles of justice, fall victims beneath its ruins.

    "Shall it be said, fellow-countrymen, that four millions of men, capable of bearing arms, and defending their country against every foreign assailant, allowed a few domestic oppressors to enslave and degrade them?  That they suffered the constitutional right of possessing arms, to defend the constitutional privileges their ancestors bequeathed to them, to be disregarded or forgotten, till one after another they have been robbed of their rights, and have submitted to be awed into silence by the bludgeons of policemen?  Hence our modern legislators, fearing that knowledge has even converted soldiers into patriots, are preparing to dispense with their services in England, and to substitute a legion of police, to mar the peace of every village in the empire.

    "Men of England, Scotland, and Wales, we have sworn with your aid to achieve our liberties or die! and in this resolve we seek to save our country from a fate we do not desire to witness.  If you longer continue passive slaves, the fate of unhappy Ireland will soon be yours, and that of Ireland more degraded still.  For, be assured, the joyful hope of freedom which now inspires the millions, if not speedily realized, will turn into wild revenge.  The sickening thought of unrequited toil—their cheerless homes—their stunted starving offspring—the pallid partners of their wretchedness—their aged parents pining apart in a workhouse—the state of trade presenting to their imaginations no brighter prospects—these, together with the petty tyranny that daily torments them, will exasperate them to destroy what they are denied the enjoyment of.  Terror will soon give wings to British capital, and it will fly to other climes where security can be found.  The middle-class population of our country—the distributors and exchangers of wealth—will be broken down by bankruptcy and insolvency.  Our famed commerce, which at present is sustained by a breath, will be destroyed.  The wrongs which landlords, farmers and manufacturers, have conspired to heap upon the working millions, will burst into a flame; and the property of our cities, no ways vengeance proof, will be the more in peril by being the basis of legislative injustice.

    "This, fellow-countrymen, is a state of things we are anxious to avert, and however the paid libellers of the day may impute to us other motives, we solemnly believe that the Radical Reformers are the only restraining power that prevents the execution of an outraged people's vengeance.  We would therefore urge all friends of peace and order to declare at once in favour of justice; and unite with us to obtain that share of political power for the unenfranchised people which cannot much longer be safely withheld.  How, we would ask, can those of the middle classes, who are yet standing apart from us, reconcile their conduct with their conscience, when they were parties to a compact with us to contend for the Reform Bill, and promised in return they would make it a stepping-stone to our political rights, while they still ungratefully neglect us?

    "Why will they presumptuously risk the consequences of such selfish conduct?  What fruits do they hope to gain by their exclusiveness?  They are now sowing the seeds of disappointment; we would implore them to beware of the harvest.
 
    "Do they ardently desire the happiness and prosperity of their country?  Do they seek to develop the moral and intellectual energies of the people?  Do they aim at cheap and efficient government?  Do they desire equal laws justly administered?  Do they wish for security for person and property, and to give to industry its honest reward?  We, too, are in pursuit of similar objects; let common interests, then, unite us in the pursuit.

    "We are contending for no visionary or impracticable scheme.  The principles of our charter were the laws and customs of our ancestors, under which property was secure, and the working people happy and contented.  Nay, these principles are now in practical operation in different parts of the world; and what forms the strongest argument in favour of their general adoption is, that wherever they are in practice the people are prosperous and happy.

    "But, fellow-countrymen, both Whigs and Tories are seeking, by every means in their power, to crush our peaceful organization in favour of our charter.  They are sending their miscreant spies to urge the people into madness; they are arming the rich against the poor, and man against his fellow-man.  The war hounds of their will are trained and loosened for our slaughter; every bulwark of their injustice is fortified against us; and they fain hope that our impatient impetuosity may afford sport for their vengeance, and their triumph over our defeat give stability to their power.

    "We trust, brethren, that you will disappoint their malignity, and live to regain our rights by other means—at least, we trust you will not commence the conflict.  We have resolved to obtain our rights, 'peaceably if we may, forcibly if we must'; but woe to those who begin the warfare with the millions, or who forcibly restrain their peaceful agitation for justice—at one signal they will be enlightened to their error, and in one brief contest their power will be destroyed.
 
    "You appointed us, fellow-countrymen, the humble instruments of your will and determination; we have performed the duty you imposed on us to the extent of our power, and are prepared still further to execute your commands.  But, from the numerous communications we have received, we believe you expect us to collect the will and intentions of the country respecting the most efficient means for causing the People's Charter to become the law of the land.

    "Anxious, therefore, clearly to ascertain the opinions and determination of the people in the shortest possible time, and doubly anxious to secure their righteous object bloodless and stainless, we respectfully submit the following propositions for your serious consideration:—


    "That at all the simultaneous public meetings to be held for the purpose of petitioning the Queen to call good men to her councils, as well as at all subsequent meetings of your unions or associations up to the 1st of July, you submit the following questions to the people there assembled:―


    "1. Whether they will be prepared, at the request of the Convention, to withdraw all sums of money they may individually or collectively have placed in savings banks, private banks, or in the hands of any person hostile to their just rights?

    "2. Whether, at the same request, they will be prepared immediately to convert all their paper money into gold and silver?

    "3. Whether, if the Convention shall determine that a sacred month will be necessary to prepare the millions to secure the charter of their political salvation, they will firmly resolve to abstain from their labours during that period, as well as from the use of all intoxicating drinks?

    "4. Whether, according to their old constitutional right—a right which modern legislators would fain annihilate—they have prepared themselves with the arms of freemen to defend the laws and constitutional privileges their ancestors bequeathed to them?

    "5. Whether they will provide themselves with chartist candidates, so as to be prepared to propose them for their representatives at the next general election; and, if returned by show of hands such candidates to consider themselves veritable representatives of the people—to meet in London at a time hereafter to be determined on? [p219]

    "6. Whether they will resolve to deal exclusively with Chartists, and in all cases of persecution rally around and protect all those who may suffer in their righteous cause?

    "7. Whether by all and every means in their power they will perseveringly contend for the great objects of the People's Charter, and resolve that no counter agitation for a less measure of justice shall divert them from their righteous object?

    "8. Whether the people will determine to obey all the just and constitutional requests of the majority of the Convention?


    "After these simultaneous public meetings the Convention will hold its sittings, when by its deliberations, its missionaries, or otherwise, it will endeavour to ascertain the opinions of the people on all these important questions; and having thus carefully ascertained the opinions and determination of the country, immediately after the 1st of July it will proceed to carry the will of the people into execution.

    "Remember, Brethren, our motto is Union, Prudence, and Energy; by these combined we shall win the people's charter in spite of the people's enemies. Hopping that you will steadfastly and cautiously observe this motto, we remain your faithful representatives,


"THE MEMBERS OF THE CONVENTION."         


 
CHAPTER XII.


ALTHOUGH there was great excitement throughout the country in consequence of the different arrests that had taken place, and the despotic conduct of the local authorities in many counties, the Simultaneous Meetings were very numerously attended, and went off very peaceably, the Convention having previously put forth their advice on the subject.  During the recess, however, it became a serious question among the more prudent portion of the members, as to the course to be pursued when the Convention resumed its sittings at Birmingham.  For though many of them had advocated the possession of arms, as an ancient and constitutional right, and as a means for securing protection and respect, they were far from advising the public exhibition or use of them.  Still less were they agreed on the propriety of a general suspension of labour for a month, although they were not adverse to the discussion of the subject, as a threat to our adversaries.  In fact, one of the Scotch delegates, Abraham Duncan, very pithily described the policy of this party when he said―"We must shake our oppressors well over hell's mouth, but we must not let them drop in."  The withdrawal of their trade and benefit funds, and a run upon the banks, however, they thought perfectly right and justifiable, as it was their own money, and they had the precedent for it from the Whigs.  The putting forth of an address, therefore, on this subject was abort one of the first measures they adopted on their return to Birmingham; unfortunately coupled with an addenda regarding the sacred month which had much better been avoided.  Respecting this sacred month, some few of us entertained the opinion, that before committing ourselves (as the Convention subsequently did when I was in prison), by the fixing of any specific time for its commencement, the Convention should fix a day for one or two trades to cease from labour, and at the same time call upon the country to raise a fund for supporting them.  This we thought would be a mode of testing the country; for if persons were not disposed to pay a small sum weekly for such an object, we could not expect that they would agree to cease labouring altogether; and then we should have had a very reasonable excuse for abandoning the project.  I had in fact made arrangements for preparing an Address on this subject, to be laid before the Convention on the Monday, but my arrest on the Saturday prevented the accomplishment of my desire.

    The following are the circumstances that led to my arrest, and that of my fellow-prisoner, Mr. Collins:—It appears that the middle classes of Birmingham, during the agitation for the Reform Bill, were in the habit of meeting in the Bull-ring, in conjunction with the working classes, during a portion of their dinner hours and in the evenings, for the purpose of hearing the news of the day; when stirring appeals from the newspapers were read, and speeches made regarding the measure then before Parliament.  The Reform Bill, however, being passed, a great change was soon seen in the political conduct of some of the leading reformers of Birmingham, as well as of other towns.  Municipal reform had given power and authority to some, and Whig patronage snug places to others.  When; however, the agitation for the People's Charter commenced, the working classes, following the example of their former leaders, began to hold their meetings also in the Bull-ring.  But this of course was not to be endured by the ex-reform authorities; what was once right and legal in themselves was denounced as seditious and treasonable in the multitude. [p221]  The poor infatuated workers, however, could not perceive the distinction of the Birmingham authorities between the two political measures, but continued to meet as usual; and though several of them were arrested, and held to bail for their obtuseness, their meetings where kept up.  At last the governing powers of Birmingham, indignant at such proceedings, sent up to London to their former friends and allies requesting them to send down a strong posse of the new police to assist them.  They came down by rail, and were no sooner out of their vans than they were led on by the authorities, truncheon in hand, and commenced a furious onslaught upon the men, women, and children who were assembled in the Bull-ring, listening peaceably to a person reading the newspaper.  This proceeding, as may be supposed, greatly exasperated the people, and speedily a cry was raised for "Holloway," one of their usual places of meeting a little out of town.  On their way thither, happening to pass St. Thomas's Church, they bethought themselves of a weapon with which to defend themselves should they be again attacked, and pulled down the railings round the churchyard.  Once armed, however, they resolved on again returning to town to wreak their vengeance on the police.  On returning, however, they were met by Dr. Taylor and Dr. McDouall, two of our Convention, who, after much persuasion, induced them to throw away their arms.  Dr. Taylor also subsequently interfered to prevent the ill-usage of one of the police, and very soon after was arrested for having been seen among the crowd.

The morning after this brutal attack, a number of the working classes of Birmingham called at the Convention Rooms, and stated that they were anxious that some public expression of opinion should be made regarding the outrage, and some advice given to them as to what was best to be done respecting their right of public meeting.  Feeling most strongly with them, that a great injustice had been inflicted, I drew up and proposed to the Convention the three following resolutions, which were unanimously agreed to, and ordered to be printed.  They were signed by myself as secretary, and taken to the printer by one of our members, Mr. John Collins:—


    "1st.—That this Convention is of opinion that a wanton, flagrant, and unjust outrage has been made upon the people of Birmingham by a bloodthirsty and unconstitutional force from London, acting under the authority of men who, when out of office, sanctioned and took part in the meetings of the people; and now, when they share in public plunder, seek to keep the people in social slavery and political degradation.

    "2nd.—That the people of Birmingham are the best judges of their own right to meet in the Bull-ring or elsewhere—have their own feelings to consult respecting the outrage given, and are the best judges of their own power and resources in order to obtain justice.

    "3rd.—That the summary and despotic arrest of Dr. Taylor, our respected colleague, affords another convincing proof of the absence of all justice in England, and clearly shows that there is no security for life, liberty, or property till the people have some control over the laws which they are called upon to obey."


    These resolutions were not posted long about the town before the printer was arrested, who, it seems, was speedily liberated on naming the person who had brought him the manuscript.  The authorities then sent for Mr. Salt, one of the members of the Convention who had resigned, with the view of getting him to identify my handwriting.  Having so far satisfied themselves, Mr. Collins and myself were next arrested, and brought up for examination before the newly-made recorder, Mr. Hill ; and Messrs. P. H. Muntz, Shaw, Clark, Chance and Walker, magistrates of Birmingham.  It was rather singular that the recorder was the gentleman whom we had consulted in London a few months previously regarding the legality of our movement.  As there were no witnesses brought forward against us on this occasion, the recorder adopted the very un-English mode of questioning us, with the view of getting us to make such admissions as should self-convict us.  In this course it would appear that he succeeded, to his own and the magistrates' satisfaction, for we were committed to take our trial at the next assizes, the bail required for our appearance being £1000 each.  We were accordingly sent off the next morning to Warwick Gaol till bail could be provided, and in the meantime the magistrates raised every possible objection to the bail offered, even requesting the bail offered for Mr. Collins to be bound over to good behaviour, as well as to appear at the assizes.  One of my bail, Mr. Watts, of Islington, they at first refused, because he could not give a reference to a banker in town, although he offered to leave bank scrip, and title deeds to the amount of £1600 in their hands till the trial took place.  And it was not till after Mr. Leader, M.P. for Westminster, and Sir William Molesworth had offered to become my bail, that the magistrates agreed to accept the bail first offered, after they had been the means of keeping us in prison for nine days.

During this period of our imprisonment a number of other arrests had taken place, and the town of Birmingham kept in a very excited state by the constant aggressions made upon the people by the police.  I may here remark that their conduct was subsequently made the subject of a public inquiry by the Town Council of Birmingham, headed by Mr. Joseph Sturge, and the opinion arrived at was couched in almost the very terms of one of the resolutions for which I was imprisoned, namely, "That it was proved that a brutal and bloody attack had been made upon the people of Birmingham, and that it was their opinion that if the police had not attacked the people, no disorder would have occurred, and they considered the riot was incited by the London police."  The excitement, however, was, as I have said, continued from day to day by the constant collisions between the people and the police, aided at times by the soldiery, till, on the evening of the 15th of July, it broke through all bounds.  It would seem that the news of our bail having been accepted, and that we were expected into town that evening, had led great numbers of the people to again assemble in the Bull-ring.  The sudden appearance of the police for the purpose of dispersing them, only served to exasperate them into frenzy.  In a short time the police were scattered, the gas-lights extinguished, and a rush made upon the shops of several persons in the Bull-ring, who had rendered themselves peculiarly obnoxious to the people by their recent conduct, and very speedily their shops were in flames.

    On our return from Warwick towards Birmingham we were fortunately met on the road by Mr. Collins's brother and two or three of his friends, who had come for the purpose of making us acquainted with this lamentable affair.  This determined us at once to change our route, so as to enter Birmingham by an opposite direction to that we were going.  And fortunately it was for us that we met with those persons, as we should otherwise have entered through the Bull-ring, and possibly have been charged with the burnings.  As it was, the outrage was in a great measure laid to our charge, and the weapons, said to have been taken from persons by the police on that occasion, were brought forward by Lord Campbell and laid upon the table during our trial, as if to prejudice the jury still further against us.

    On our return to town I drew up a petition to both Houses of Parliament, declaring the indignities to which we had been subjected in Warwick Gaol while we were waiting for trial, before we were tried or found guilty of any offence.  The one to the Commons was presented by Mr. Leader, and that to the Lords by Lord Brougham, the latter having made a very impressive speech on the occasion.  When he came to that part of our petition about my hair being cropped by a common felon, it was received with a derisive laugh by some members of the House of Privilege, which at once was met by a severe rebuke from Lord Brougham.  He said, "I am extremely mortified to perceive that such a statement as this should produce in any part of this House tokens of merriment.  I deem it to be the most disgraceful conduct I have ever known in any assembly.  I feel almost ashamed to belong to such an assembly.  I really am ashamed to belong to a place where any man could hear of such indignities being committed upon the persons of their fellow-creatures, and consider it a fit subject for mirth.  It can only, however, I trust, be with very few of your lordships."  The following are extracts from our petition:—


    "That when your petitioners were removed to the County Gaol of Warwick, they were stripped stark naked in the presence of the turnkeys, and measured in that condition, and examined all over, to discover any particular marks on their bodies, an indignity by them so severely felt that they find themselves compelled to notice it emphatically to your right honourable House.

    "That your petitioners were then taken into a room, in which there were not less than eight prisoners, recently brought into the gaol, and with these men, some of whom were in a filthy state, were compelled again to strip themselves naked, bathe in the same cistern of water as the men did, and dry themselves as well as they could on the same towel.

    "That a common felon was ordered to crop the hair of your petitioner, William Lovett, and to this indignity your petitioner was also compelled to submit.

    "That their shirts were taken from them, and the initial letters of their names, in roman letters an inch long, stamped thereon in indelible ink.

    "That your petitioners were then put into a ward where there were twenty-two prisoners, one of whom was infected with the itch.

    "That during each of the nine days your petitioners were confined, they were at five different times, and sometimes more frequently, each day compelled to fall into their exact place among the prisoners in a row in the open yard, to answer to their names, receive their food, to be examined by the doctor to discover if they had taken the itch, and to be exhibited to persons who came to see the prison, when they were compelled to stand bareheaded.

    "That your petitioners were limited to the common gaol allowance, and no one was allowed to supply them with any addition thereto.

    "That this allowance consisted of a small loaf, which your petitioners suppose might weigh 1½lbs., one pint of oatmeal gruel for breakfast, which was given at nine in the morning; for dinner at 12 o'clock about 2 ounces of cheese, excepting Sundays and Wednesdays, when they were served with a pint of what was called beef soup, in which there was no other appearance of meat than some slimy, stringy particles, which, hanging about the wooden spoon, so offended your petitioners' stomachs that they were compelled to forgo eating it; and at 6 p.m. one more pint of oatmeal gruel; while from 12 o'clock on Sundays until 9 a.m. on Monday, your petitioners were not served with any food.

    "That in addition to this, the common gaol allowance, your petitioners, in common with all untried prisoners, were permitted to expend three pence per day in butter, sugar, bacon, eggs, salt, pepper, worsted, thread, or tape; but your petitioners were not allowed to have either eggs or bacon cooked, and had themselves no access to fire to cook them, and did actually eat both eggs and bacon raw.

    "That during eleven hours out of the twenty-four, your petitioners were locked up in a vaulted cell paved with brick, at the door of which, to their great discomfort, they were compelled to leave their boots: that in this cell there was neither chair, stool, nor table, the whole furniture consisting of a wooden tub, an iron bedstead with a wooden bottom, a wooden pillow, a straw mattress, two blankets, a rug, but no sheets.

    "That your petitioners were, under the penalty of solitary confinement, compelled to make their bed in a particular manner, and each morning fold up the mattress, etc., in a close and compact form, to the exclusion of air, so that, when unrolled in the evening, the smell was offensive to an extent not to be conceived.

    "That during two hours each morning, a half-hour before being locked up at night, and once in each day, your petitioners were turned into the yard, and not allowed to retreat into any place of shelter.

    "That your petitioners were prohibited from seeing any person, excepting on four days in the week, and then in the presence of the gaoler, at fixed times, only for a few minutes, a wicket-gate with spikes on the top of it being between them and their friends.

    "That the watch and money of your petitioners, and everything else their pockets contained, were taken from them, and they were not allowed the use of knife, fork, plate, nor any other vessel save a small wooden tub, and a spoon of the same material.

    "That no books or printed papers (the Bible or Prayer-book excepted) were permitted: that your petitioners were debarred from the free use of pen, ink, and paper; no letter addressed to them was permitted to reach them until it had been examined, and every part of the paper which was not written upon carefully torn off.

    "That your petitioners were not allowed to write to any person, however necessary it might be, but in a particular room, where other prisoners were also allowed to write, and in which they were locked up, and were compelled to leave their letters open, to be examined before they were dispatched by post.

    "That your petitioners at the same time beg to be understood as making no complaint of the personal conduct of the Governor, Mr. Atkins.

    "That your petitioners having been thus treated as convicted felons, where the discipline is particularly severe, having been treated with great indignity, having been deprived of all comforts in every respect, limited both in quantity and quality of food, and otherwise treated as shown in this their petition, pray your Right Honourable House to take the same into your consideration as conduct such as no Englishman should be subject to while under confinement pending the production of bail, and previous to being convicted of any crime," etc. etc.


It will now be necessary to mention that during the time we had been in prison waiting for bail, Mr. Attwood had brought forward a motion in the Commons—"That the House resolve itself into a Committee for considering the prayer of the National Petition"—the Petition itself having been presented on the 14th of June.  Mr. Attwood's speech on this occasion was mixed up with many of his currency crotchets, and the motion was but feebly supported by the Liberal Members, many of them contenting themselves with a silent vote; while Lord John Russell, in his opposition to it, scrupled not to introduce all kinds of false and virulent charges against the petitioners; among others charging them with the desire for an equal division of property.  The motion was lost by a majority of 189.

    The Convention, now having reassembled in London, resumed the discussion regarding the sacred month; and finding Mr. Attwood's motion rejected, a great number of their body arrested and bound over for trial, the Government justifying the onslaught that had been made upon the people, and the police and authorities actively engaged in every possible way in putting down the meetings of the people, came to a resolution—"That in their opinion the people should work no longer after the 12th of August, unless the power of voting for Members of Parliament, to protect their labour, is guaranteed to them."  This resolution, I heard, having been come to in a very thin meeting, produced much dissatisfaction among the absent members, many of whom were then engaged with their constituents in different parts of the country.  Further inquiry also proved that the Convention had been grossly deceived, regarding the preparedness of the people in many districts, by the false and exaggerated statements of many of their correspondents.  These accordingly led to a rediscussion of the subject, and on the 6th of August, the proposal for the observance of a sacred month was abandoned, and on the 6th of the following month, on a motion by Mr. O'Brien, the Convention was dissolved.

    As before stated, Mr. Collins and myself were bound over to attend the Warwick Assizes in July, 1839, as were also Dr. Taylor and G. J. Harney.  The charges against the two last were, however, ultimately abandoned.

    The first cases tried were those of the persons charged with the riot and burning in the Bull-ring, four of whom were condemned for death, but eventually transported.  My trial took place on the 6th of August, before Mr. Justice Littledale; Mr. Collins' having taken place the day before.  The three resolutions, already referred to, were charged against us as a seditious libel; my offence being for writing them, and my colleague for taking them to the printer.  It had been arranged between us, while we were in prison, waiting for bail, that we should both defend ourselves; myself to defend the right of public meeting—which had been outraged by the police—as well as the principles involved in the charge against us; and Mr. Collins to bring forward the whole proceedings respecting the Bull-ring, and the attack upon the people.  When, however, Mr. Collins arrived at Birmingham, his friends dissuaded him from this course, and advised the retaining of Serjeant Goulbourne to defend him.  This very unfortunate advice, which diverted my friend Collins from his resolution, was to me a source of great annoyance, as it obliged me to make fresh arrangements, and to collect new matter so as to embrace, as far as possible, the whole case.  Some of my friends, also, were influenced by it, and began to think that I was too presuming in seeking to defend myself; and several of them quoted to me the old adage: "That he who defends himself has a fool for his client."  But recollecting a saying of Lord Lyndhurst, on John Cleave's trial, that "that was an adage made by the lawyers," I was not much influenced by it.

    When also I arrived at Warwick, Serjeant Goulbourne did all he could to dissuade me from making "my political speech," as he called it, and to leave the both cases to him.  But I was firm in my determination to have my say; being satisfied that there were points to be defended that no counsel would contest, and more especially a Tory one.  This resolution of mine would seem to have led to two indictments being prepared, that against Mr. Collins being brought on first, probably in compliance with the request of the learned Serjeant.  In point of justice, however, my case should have been the first, as I was evidently the chief offender, being the writer of the libel.  But, after the learned Serjeant had made the defence of my colleague a mere party question of Whig and Tory, and had done his best to excite the ire of the Attorney-General, Lord Campbell, and after the condemnation of Mr. Collins, for the minor offence of taking the copy to the printer, it will be seen that I had no possible chance of escape, whatever I might urge in my defence.

    But it may be asked, how do I know that Sergeant Goulbourne made the defence of Mr. Collins a mere party question?  If further evidence is wanted than is contained in his own speech on that occasion, I will state it.

    It would seem that the learned gentleman was very anxious to rake up all the ultra-Whig speeches made by Lord Campbell during the agitation of the Reform Bill to fling against him on this occasion, without reference to the fate of poor Collins.  He accordingly wrote a note to the Secretary of the Conservative Society at Coventry, requesting him "to send him a file of the papers of that period, stating in his note that having to defend the Chartist Collins (about whom he cared little), it was a glorious opportunity of having a slap at the Whigs."  The person to whom the note was entrusted to take to Coventry not finding the person to whom it was addressed, on his way back, by some mischance, fell into the water.  The wet and torn note, taken from his person—by some misunderstanding—was given into the hands of Mr. Collins just as he was removed from the dock, who in the excitement and bustle of the moment, put it in his pocket.  Some months afterwards, in rummaging his pockets, he found the remains of this wet note, and showed it to me, by which we discovered another proof to convince us how lamentably our case had been injured by Serjeant Goulbourne making it a mere party question.

    I need scarcely to state, that when my case came on I had but little, if any, chance of escape.  In the first place I had not a fair jury; for several of them, on the eve of my trial, had been heard to express themselves very strongly against us; two of them in particular to wish all the Chartists were hanged.  This fact was communicated to me by several persons who heard them say so, but, being given to believe that I could peremptorily challenge any person on the jury, I neglected to bring my witnesses into court, as required in cases of misdemeanour, so that I was left to the mercy of men who would have substituted hanging for imprisonment if they had had the power.  In the next place the Attorney General had very unjustly caused to be spread out on the table a display of weapons of various kinds, said to have been taken from persons in the Bull-ring, and by his handling and referring to them during his address, evidently sought to connect me with the riots and burnings, that had taken place there.  And, to add to the difficulties of my defence, I had to examine, as I best could, most of the witnesses we had provided—a duty which Mr. Collins had entrusted to Serjeant Goulbourne, whereas he only called two persons to speak to the character of my colleague.

    When my defence had been concluded, the reply to it was made by Mr. Balguy, in the absence of the Attorney-General; and at the conclusion of the case the jury, as may be supposed, hesitated not a moment in finding me guilty.  I was therefore immediately taken from the dock, and, in that feverish, excited state, thrust into my cell without shoes on the cold brick floor.  The next day I was brought up for judgment with my friend Collins, and both of us were sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment in the County Gaol.

    In the course of the week, the clergyman visited the prison for the purpose of questioning new prisoners regarding their religious persuasion; of which, I believe, a register is kept.  How far any such record of the religion of prisoners is to be depended upon may be judged of by the following:—We being new comers, some of the old stagers, told us, as a valuable piece of information, that when we went into the parson's room he would ask each of us our name, trade, and religion; and that "if we told him we were Catholics, the old codger would not ask us another word"; that having been the plan they had adopted themselves to prevent any unpleasant questioning respecting the Church they attended, or the creed they professed.  We were cautioned, however, not to make a mistake in giving our trade for our religion, as a prisoner had done shortly before.  It seems he had been schooled to give his replies in the order in which the questions were generally given; but some variation having been made in the questioning, the prisoner, when asked what religion he was, said he was "a pearl-button maker."  This advice to us, though kindly given, I did not avail myself of; I merely said I that was of that religion which Christ taught, and which very few in authority practised, if I might judge from their conduct; but whether I was registered as Protestant, Catholic, or Infidel I know not.

    On the morning after my trial, when my little bucket of gruel was served out to me, I took up a black-beetle in about the first spoonful; this, together with the feverish state in which I was, caused me to take a loathing against this part of my prison fare.  I therefore tried to satisfy my appetite for a few days with a little bread soaked in cold water for breakfast, and a morsel of bread and cheese for dinner.  But this diet in a short time brought on a horrible diarrhœa, under which, I believe, I should have speedily sunk had not my weakly appearance attracted the notice of William Collins, Esq., the member for Warwick, one of the visiting magistrates, on his going his rounds through the prison.

    Being too weakly to stand, I was reclining on a dust-bin in the yard as he passed through.  Seeing me look so ill, he came up to me and kindly questioned me about my health, and at once ordered me to be taken into the hospital.  As soon as I recovered a little I was again ordered down to the yard, when Mr. William Collins very kindly undertook to lay before the magistrates of the county any request we might choose to make to them.  We accordingly wrote, that as we found it impossible to preserve our health on the kind of food allowed to us, we begged to be permitted to purchase a little tea, sugar, and butter, and occasionally a small quantity of meat.  Also that we might have access to a fire to warm ourselves, the use of pens, ink, and paper, and be allowed to retire to our cells to read and write.  This request the magistrates refused to comply with, without they had a specific authority from the Secretary of State.

    Mr. Collins then offered to take up to town for us a memorial to Lord John Russell.  We accordingly memorialized his lordship that we might receive the like indulgences that had been granted to Wooler, Edmonds, Maddox and others, imprisoned for a similar offence in the same prison, who had been placed on the debtors' side, allowed to purchase their own food, and to have the free use of pens, ink, and paper.  A reply to this was verbally given to us by the Rev. John Boudier, one of the magistrates, to the effect that we were to be allowed the use of pens, ink, and paper, until, in their opinion, we abused the privilege, but not the other indulgences.  He said, at the same time, that "he had no hesitation in saying that any application from us to the visiting magistrates would have received much more attention but for our highly-coloured petition!"  This, in fact, constituted our chief offence in the eyes of these gentlemen.  They hated us, and did all they could to punish us when they had us in their power, for having presumed to expose the treatment we received before trial, as well as for the expense that exposure cost them; for, owing to that, they were obliged to erect a new and more convenient bathroom, and to provide coarse sheets for the prisoners, instead of the old filthy blankets, which stank so abominably that Mr. Collins and myself were obliged to throw open our cell window, and shake them up and down for upwards of a hour before we could bear to lie clown in them.  And if this speech of Mr. Boudier is not sufficient to show their animus towards us, the manner in which they acted during the whole time they had it in their power will serve to confirm it.

    During our incarceration one petition and memorial after another were presented in our favour—the Working Men's Association sent two memorials, another was presented by the people of Birmingham, one by my wife, and another by Mr. Francis Place, who was indefatigable in trying to obtain an amelioration in our condition.  Mr. Warburton, M.P., also very kindly interested himself on our behalf;  and Mr. Thomas Duncombe very nobly brought our case before the House of Commons, together with that of other political offenders.  To all of which the authorities turned a deaf ear, the only favour granted being that alluded to, together with a pint of tea instead of the prison gruel.  Whenever the magistrates were applied to for any little mitigation of our severities, they invariably contended that they had no power without the sanction of the Secretary of State; and when he was memorialized he referred us to the visiting magistrates.  Their reply to him was accompanied with the certificate of the prison surgeon, which was generally of the same character—"I find the prisoners in good health, and do not consider an increase of diet called for at present."  Even when I was so weakened by the diarrhoea as not to be able to sit upright, he certified that I was suffering from a mere attack of the bowels common at that season of the year.  My friends, not satisfied with these certificates, sent down Dr. Black to examine the state of my health.  His report regarding my sinking state was laid before the Marquis of Normanby (the Secretary of State during the latter part of my imprisonment), who forwarded it to the visiting magistrates, but still they remained inexorable.

    Thus were we kept by them for the first six months of our imprisonment without a bit of animal food [meat], nor should we, I believe, have had any during our whole term had we not found out some facts connected with the making of the prison soup, which we turned to our advantage.  The facts were these:― The prisoner who cooked the soup and gruel for the prison being taken ill towards the end of his term, was sent into the hospital at a time when Mr. Collins and myself were both there ill.  From him we learnt not only the mode by which the soup was prepared (being parboiled and pounded up into mere fibre), but also the quantity of meat put into it, he having had the weighing of it, and knowing also the proportion according to the number of prisoners.  Some short time after our recovery we were visited in our cell by T. Galton and ―― Bracebridge, Esqrs.―two of the visiting magistrates—to whom we complained of the great hardship of being deprived of animal food.  Mr. Bracebridge having expressed surprise at this, Mr. Galton said, "But you have meat in the soup, half-a-pound twice a week."  We replied that we had reason for believing that they did not put that quantity in it.  At this he seemed a little excited, and asked very earnestly if we intended to make that an allegation.  We replied that we had been informed by the cook, who had the weighing of the meat, that for the last week he cooked, there was but from 34 lbs. to 35 lbs. of meat to make soup for a hundred and thirty odd prisoners, being little more than a quarter of a pound for each.  At this statement Mr. Galton seemed surprised, and was very particular in writing it down.

    The next day, Jan. 2nd, we received a visit from Sir Eardley Wilmot.  He said that he wished to see us, that he might be enabled to say so, if he should have to defend the visiting magistrates, as he expected he should when Mr. Duncombe brought forward the subject of Dr. Black's visit.  He told us that it was of no consequence what Dr. Black or any other medical man said, the surgeon of the prison excepted, he being responsible.  He had seen, he said, the Marquis of Normanby about three weeks ago on some other business, when our case was mentioned, and that he told him then that whatever he ordered, if even for the opening of the doors, it should be done.  But he thought the Marquis would be very careful of interfering with prisoners in England, as he had burnt his fingers with them in Ireland.

    We then reiterated the old complaint of being kept without animal food, when he very roughly replied that prisons were not places of relaxation or pleasure, and that he had not come to argue with us.  We then told him that we were desirous of ascertaining his opinion regarding the power given to the visiting magistrates by the following clause from the prison rules:—"No prisoner who is confined under the sentence of any Court, nor any prisoner confined in pursuance of any conviction before a justice, shall receive any food, clothing, or necessaries, other than the gaol allowance, except under such regulations and restrictions as to the justices in general, or Quarter Sessions assembled, may appear expedient, with reference to the several classes of prisoners, or under special circumstances to be judged of by one or more of the visiting justices."  He replied that the magistrates certainly have the power by that clause to grant us any indulgences, but that they did not choose to exercise it, and he added that a prison was a place of punishment, and not for indulgence.

    We then pressed upon him the fact of our diet not being such as was specified by the rules, a copy of which we produced (having taken the precaution of bringing one in with us).  He asked us if they contained the rules for the dietary.  We said they did, and referred to them.  He asked for what class of prisoners.  The governor, who was present, said that the dietary was the same for all alike.  We then pointed out to him that the rule stated half-a-pound of meat twice a week, and soup, whereas we had no meat.  He then asked of the governor whether these were the last regulations?  He said no.  We reminded him, however, that the copy we were referring to was a copy of those presented by the magistrates, and printed by order of the House of Commons, when our petition was presented.  He said that the rules ought to be hung up in the prison.  We replied that they were the same as those we showed to him.  He then asked the governor whether these were the rules he went by?  He replied that they were not; that they had been altered about two years ago, so as to reduce the quantity of meat in the soup to a quarter of a pound instead of the half pound.  He added that the late surgeon, Mr. Birch, had always contended for the half pound of meat, but that the present surgeon, Mr. Wilmshurst, said that that quantity made the soup too rich!

    After this exposure of the doings of the magistracy, Sir Eardley all at once began to assume a very kind and sympathizing tone towards us, and said that he had no doubt but that twelve months' imprisonment to persons like us was a far greater punishment than two years would be to many others.  He also wrote off a letter the same evening to the Marquis of Normanby, in which he professed great sympathy for us, yet, nevertheless, justified the magistrates in their treatment of us; contending that they had no power by the rules to act otherwise than they had.  At the same time, he hoped his lordship would relax the rules in our favour, so as to make the last six months of our confinement less rigid.  The Marquis, in his reply to him, pointed out the same clause of the rules that we had, to show that the magistrates had the power to grant indulgences to prisoners, and not him; and that he thought, that, in my case at least, whose health had been represented to be delicate, some relaxation might have been reasonably made.
 
    To maintain, however, their own obstinate opinion of the rules, and at the same time get out of the invidious position in which this reply had placed them, they resolved on a provisional improvement of the dietary of all the prisoners in the gaol, giving them an addition of the two half pounds of meat in a solid form, which caused great rejoicing throughout the prison.  This change was a great blessing to both of us; and without it, I believe, I should never have survived the term of my imprisonment.  As it was, I became so weak and emaciated towards the conclusion of the term that the surgeon was induced to allow me a more nourishing kind of diet during the last few weeks of my imprisonment to keep me from sinking altogether.  As for my fellow-prisoner, Mr. Collins, who was of a more robust constitution than myself, he, from being a stout, portly person when he entered, became so thin, before the animal food was allowed to us, that be could easily put his hat within the waistband of his trousers.

    Its would be tedious to recount the various annoyances to which we were subjected, by the orders of our very severe disciplinarians, the magistrates, during our imprisonment.  The few letters addressed to us were invariably opened, and those we sent out scrupulously examined, to see if they contained a sentence savouring of freedom, which, if they did, were prevented from going altogether.  A letter to my poor old mother was kept back altogether, because I said something in it of better men having suffered in the cause of liberty.  My wife was only allowed to see me twice during my imprisonment, and that in the presence of the turnkey, who heard every word spoken.  We were not even allowed to have a razor of our own to shave ourselves, but to submit to the operation of the prison barbers, one of the prisoners.  One of whom who shaved me for some time was the notorious Jem Bradley, who, with some others, was, I understand, subsequently hanged in Australia for the number of murders they had committed.  I had not, however, any cause to complain of Jem's conduct towards me, but having heard him on one occasion describing to the prisoners how he threw a woman down who had offended him, and then kicked her in the face and eyes, I had some scruples in trusting my face to him in future, and managed to bribe him with some of my bread for the loan of his razor to operate on myself.  A few weeks before the termination of our imprisonment we were informed by the magistrates that the Government was disposed to remit the remaining part of our sentence, providing we would be bound for our good behaviour for twelve months.  This we refused to do, and were kept our full term.  The following letter contains our reasons for this refusal


"Warwick Gaol, May 6th, 1840.
"To the Right Hon. the Marquis of Normanby, Her            
Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department.   


    "My Lord,—The Visiting Magistrates of the County Gaol of Warwick having read to us a communication, dated Whitehall, May 5th, and signed S. M. Phillips, in which it is stated that your lordship will recommend us to her Majesty for a remission of the remaining part of our sentence, provided we are willing to enter into our own recognizances in £50 each for our good behaviour for one year, we beg respectfully to submit the following as our answer:—That to enter into any bond for our future good conduct would at once be an admission of past guilt; and, however a prejudiced jury may have determined the resolutions we caused to be published, condemnatory of the attack of the police, as an act in opposition to the law of libel, we cannot yet bring ourselves to believe that any guilt or criminality has been attached to our past conduct.  We have, however, suffered the penalty of nearly ten months' imprisonment for having, in common with a large portion of the public press and a large majority of our countrymen, expressed that condemnatory opinion.  We have been about the first political victims who have been classed and punished as misdemeanants and felons because we happened to be of the working class.  We have had our health injured and constitutions greatly undermined by the treatment already experienced, and we are disposed to suffer whatever future punishment may be inflicted upon us rather than enter into any such terms as those proposed by your lordship.

    "We remain your lordship's most obedient servants,

"Wm. LOVETT,
"JOHN COLLINS."

 
    I may here state that when pen, ink, paper, and a few books were allowed to us, I commenced the writing of a little work entitled, "Chartism, or a New Organization of the People," which was published when we came out, in our joint names.  The chief object of this work was to induce the Chartists of the United Kingdom to form themselves into a National Association for the erection of halls and schools of various kinds for the purposes of education—for the establishing of libraries; the printing of tracts; and the sending out missionaries; with the view of forming an enlightened public opinion throughout the country in favour of the Charter, and thus better preparing the people for the exercise of the political rights we were then contending for.  The writing a little of this work daily, when I was well enough, contributed very much to relieve the tedium and monotony of my prison life, although, as will hereafter appear, it was the means of bringing down upon my head censures unmitigated and unparalleled.  Being very doubtful whether such a work would be allowed to pass the prison gates, we contrived to smuggle out a copy of it, with the view of getting it published on the day of our liberation.  But the friend to whom it was sent, wishing me to unite in another project—the Corn Law Agitation—threw cold water on the proposal, so that its publication was greatly delayed, to our ultimate loss.

    In the brief sketch I have given of our treatment in Warwick Gaol, most persons must be struck with the immense power for evil which our unpaid magistracy possess—a power to obstruct all mitigation of suffering, and to give, if they choose, a two-fold severity to the law. For let two persons, in two different counties, be tried for similar offences before the same judge, and condemned under the same Act to suffer similar penalties, owing to the power possessed by the magistracy, the punishment of the one person may be two-fold more severe than that of the other.  In the one prison the diet may be poor and scanty, the silent system enforced, the discipline severe, and measures the most arbitrary and despotic adopted for the enforcement of it; while in the other prison kindness of treatment and an ample supply of food may render imprisonment comparatively light.

    Thus it is seen that magistrates, by having the making and enforcement of our prison regulations, have a power to increase the severity or to neutralize the power of the law; a power in fact greater than is possessed by Queen, Lords, or Commons.  In fact, our whole prison discipline seems calculated to make bad worse, instead of improvement or reformation. The instruction of the poor boys in Warwick Gaol was entrusted to an ignorant turnkey, and the deprivation of food the means adopted for quickening the remembrance of the tasks imposed on them.  As for the adults, they were allowed to instruct each other regarding the best means of making and passing bad money, and for becoming more expert and successful depredators.  We heard one of them instructing another, whose time had nearly expired, how to rob his own mother, [p242] the conditions being that he was to send in to him a pair of shoes, with some of the silver between the soles; and yet we were obliged to be silent for our own safety, they being our daily companions.

    But Warwick Gaol was provided with a clergyman to teach these poor neglected wretches their religious duties.  His power for good may be judged of when I state that I have seen him from the pulpit point out to the gaoler poor wretches for unavoidably coughing, after they had been kept standing in the cold yard for nearly half an hour, without their hats, in the winter season; and for which trifling offence they would be locked up in the refractory cell for a certain period.  And the nature of this cold, dark cell may be imagined when I state, that I knew a boy of the name of Griffiths, of the age of 17, locked up in it for three days and nights in the month of February, for having quarrelled and struck another boy, and when he came out he was so swollen as hardly to be known; he had several holes in his feet, and two of his toes festered off.
 
    While my friend Collins and myself were thus squabbling and ruminating in Warwick Gaol, important events were taking place outside, of which a few imperfect scraps of information occasionally reached us through the new prisoners admitted into our yard.  The trial of our friend Vincent, I may observe, took place a few days before our own, and ended in his incarceration for twelve months.  His treatment was also severe, and his jury equally prejudiced against him as our own; for in a petition describing his mode of treatment, it is deposed that one of his jury, in rejoicing at his capture, had been heard to declare, that he would give nine-pence to buy a halter for hanging him without judge or jury.

    Our trials were speedily followed by those of McDouall, Brown, O'Brien, Richardson, Penning, Richards, O'Connor, Crabtree, Frost, Carrier and Neesom, all members of the Convention, and by a host of others in different parts of the kingdom; the political prisoners incarcerated in the prisons of England and Wales in the years 1839 and 1840 being 443, besides many others subsequently.  But the most serious of all the events that happened during our imprisonment was the Newport outbreak, and the transportation of John Frost and his companions.

    Of the cause of this unhappy affair I had no opportunity of learning while in prison; but soon after I came out I made enquiries, and from a person who took an active part in matters pertaining to it, I learnt the following:—That the chief cause that led to the outbreak was the treatment pursued towards Vincent in particular, as well as of the Chartists generally.  That Mr. Frost, having done all he could to effect an alteration in Vincent's treatment, came to London.  That, in company with two or three members of the Convention, on complaining of the conduct of the authorities, he said he had great difficulty in restraining the Welsh Chartists from endeavouring to release Vincent by force.  On this one of the parties present said, if the Welsh effect a rising in favour of Vincent, the people of Yorkshire and Lancashire, he knew, were ready to join in a rising for the Charter.

    This seems to have been the origin of the affair, but nothing further was done until both parties had gone back and consulted the leading men in their respective districts; Mr. Frost, it would seem, having taken upon himself to consult the Welsh, and Peter Bussy, the people of Yorkshire and Lancashire.  Soon after a meeting was convened at Heckmondwick, where about forty delegates attended from the surrounding districts; three of them being members of the Convention, and my informant one of them.  At this meeting they were informed of the intended rising in Wales, and in the discussion that ensued respecting it—while several thought the rising premature—they were very general in their determination to aid it, by an outbreak in the North.

    From another communication made to me by Mr. J. Collins—who had it from one of the parties—it would seem that in anticipation of this rising in the North—a person was delegated from one of the towns to go to Fergus O'Connor, to request that he would lead them on, as he had so often declared he would.  Collins's informant was present at this interview, and described to him the following conversation that took place:—Delegate: Mr. O'Connor, we are going to have a rising for the Charter, in Yorkshire, and I am sent from to ask if you will lead us on, as you have often said you would when we were prepared.  Fergus: Well, when is this rising to take place?  Delegate: Why, we have resolved that it shall begin on Saturday next.  Fergus: Are you all well provided with arms, then?  Delegate: Yes, all of us.  Fergus: Well, that is all right, my man.  Delegate: Now, Mr. O'Connor, shall I tell our lads that you will come and lead them on?  Fergus now indignantly replied, "Why, man! when did you ever hear of me, or of any one of my family, ever deserting the cause of the people?  Have they not always been found at their post in the hour of danger?"  In this bouncing manner did Fergus induce the poor fellow to believe that he was ready to head the people; and he went back and made his report accordingly.  But the man subsequently lost caste among his fellow-townsmen, for bringing them a false report—Fergus having solemnly assured them that he never promised him anything.  No sooner, however, did he find out that they were so far in earnest as described, that he set about to render the outbreak ineffectual; notwithstanding all his previous incitements to arming and preparedness, and all his boast and swaggering at public meetings, and in the columns of the Star, he is said to have engaged George White to go into Yorkshire and Lancashire, to assure the people that no rising would take place in Wales; and Charles Jones he sent into Wales, to assure the Welsh that there would be no rising in Yorkshire, and that it was all a Government plot.

    When Jones arrived at Mr. Frost's house, he found he had already left for the country, for the purpose of conferring with the leaders in different districts, and was directed where to find him.  On his meeting Mr. Frost, and telling him his errand, he was informed that Mr. O'Connor's message had come too late; that the people were resolved on releasing Vincent from prison; and that he might as well blow his own brains out as try to oppose them or shrink back.  He then urged Charles Jones to go back to Yorkshire and Lancashire and tell the leaders what the Welsh had resolved on doing.  Jones being short of money for the journey back, Mr. Frost gave him three sovereigns, to aid him in getting back as fast as possible.

    Before, however, anything could be done in the North, the Welsh Chartists had congregated together, to the amount of some thousands, and, amid a drenching storm in November, had marched on with the object of releasing Vincent from prison.  The result is well known; they were met at Newport by the soldiery, a skirmish ensued, ten people were killed and nearly fifty wounded, and Mr. Frost and several others speedily arrested.  When the news of this disaster reached Yorkshire, the Chartists there were exasperated beyond measure, to find that they had been misinformed respecting the Welsh.  They, therefore, resolved that they would have their rising—as previously projected—and that on the following Saturday Peters Bussy, one of the delegates to the Convention, having been appointed to be their leader.  Peter, however,—although one of the physical force party—seems not to have relished this prominent position, for he was very suddenly taken ill.  The Chartists of Bradford, however, were resolved to see for themselves whether Peter was ill or not, but on searching his house he was not to be found; he was gone, it was said, into the country for the benefit of his health.  His little boy, however, in chattering among the customers, let the truth out—for Peter, be it remembered, kept a beer-shop and huckster's shop combined.  "Ah, ah!" said the boy, "you could not find father the other day, but I knew where he was all the time; he was up in the cock-loft behind the flour sacks."  This being soon noised about, Peter was obliged to wind up his affairs, and soon embarked for America.  Fergus also, apprehensive of being called upon to set an heroic example, in those rising times, thought it a timely opportunity for visiting Ireland, so that by the time he came back most of the foolish outbreaks were over.  Having been back for a short time, and keeping very silent, many of his disciples called upon him to make some exertions in favour of Mr. Frost and the other Chartist prisoners; when he deemed it necessary to bestir himself, and offer a week's receipts of the Star towards the expenses of their trial.



END OF VOL. I.


PRINTED BY WM. BRENDON AND SON, LTD., PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND.



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