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Now, my good neighbours, a few plain facts will enable you to form a perfectly correct judgment of this man's conduct and character.
FIRST, he knew, that I had written many essays reprobating, in the strongest terms, the practice of duelling.
SECOND, he knew, that I had held it as a species of suicide for a man, in my situation, to fight a duel, seeing, that, if one missed me, another would be found, till some one should hit me.
TAIRD (and this was his rock of safety), he knew well, that if I accepted of his challenge, I must forfeit instantly five thousand pounds sterling. He knew this well, forhe, who is a lawyer, mind, knew that I had been bound in recognisances for seven years from the year 1812.
This was his safeguard! You often hear of people, who are going to fight duels, taken before magistrates and bound over. That puts an end to the affair. But, he knew, and well knew, that I was bound over beforehand, and in a monstrous and ruinous sum ; and, when you are told, that he brought two witnesses with him, you will easily guess what were his real intentions.
When men mean to fight, they go to work in a very different way. They send a single friend to tell the party of it in a whisper. They do not go to the party and take two witnesses with them. They do not run blustering about and making a noise; and, my real belief is, that, if I had done anything, which would have amounted to a breach of the peace ; if I had accepted of a challenge, and had appointed a time to fight, Lockhart the Brave would have taken care to have us both bound over, and would have also taken care, that this breach of the peace should have cost me five thousand pounds! This is my belief; but you have the facts before you, and I leave you to judge for yourselves.
It was my intention to offer you some remarks on the Death of Cashman, and on the Arrests in Lancashire ; but, I shall be very late as it is, and must now conclude with expressing to you my unalterable attachment and respect.
“Unhappy men, whom schoolmasters for spite,
London, March 20th, 1817. “Poor DELUDED PEOPLE,”
In writing the last Number I was pressed for time. The Hampshire parsons and Lockhart the Brave had taken up those hours, which ought
to have been devoted to a better purpose. However, as that was the last public meeting under the old laws of the land, and, as the conduct of our adversaries was somewhat singular and discovered their temper, it was not altogether useless to put an account of it upon record.
We now live, those of us who may be said to live at all, under a new set of laws. First, every man and woman is now liable to be seized at any moment, and to be put into a prison, and kept there for any length of time, cut off from all communication with friends, wife, children, or any body else whatever ; and also from pen, ink, paper, books, in short, any man or woman may now be taken up, sent to any prison in the king. dom, however distant, without any charge being made known to them, without their knowing what is alleged against them, without having any idea of who is their accuser ; without having even a hearing from any body, and without their very children knowing how they are treated, or what prison they are in. And after all, if a man outlive these sufferings; if he do not die in prison, his time of remaining there is quite uncertain. It may be for a short, or for a long time ; and, if the law be continued in force, it may be for many, many years. The absolute power of imprisoning men in this way is lodged in any one of the Secretaries of State, or, in any six Privy Councillors. This, therefore, is the state, in which we are all now placed, except the Members of the two Houses of Parliament themselves, who cannot be thus imprisoned, without the House being first informed of the cause, and without the consent of the House, who would, of course, hear the accused party in his defence. But, all the rest of us are liable to be taken out of our shops, fields, or beds, and imprisoned and kept in prison, in the manner that I have above described.
The next Act makes it DEATH to attempt to seduce SOLDIERS or sailors from their duty. Now, therefore, my “poor deluded” friends, you ought to bear in mind, that, if any one of you were to ask a soldier to quit his post, or to refrain from doing anything that he had been ordered to do, or to do anything that he had been ordered not to do, you would be liable to be hanged upon the oath of that soldier. If, for in. stance, any man, sitting in a public-house with a soldier, were to hold a conversation with the soldier, however carelessly, which might be con. strued to have for its object to induce the soldier not to obey any command of his officers, such man would be liable to be hanged. If a mother, wife, or sweetheart, were to endeavour to induce a son, a hus. band, or lover, to desert, she would be liable to be hanged. If a wife or daughter, were to endeavour to induce a soldier to wink at the escape of a husband or a father, in pursuit of whom that soldier had been sent, such wife, or daughter, would be liable to be hanged. If a son, seeing a soldier about to plunge a bayonet into the body of his father, by command of his superior (as in case of riot, &c.); if such son were to endeavour to persuade the soldier not to obey the command, such son would be liable to be hanged. Supposing a son to be the soldier in such a case, and his mother were to fling herself before him and scream out to him to spare his father's life, such mother would for such offence, be liable to be hanged. And, observe, this law is now made perpetual; that is to say, it is intended not to last for any limited time, but to be always the law in future.—Therefore, take care. These are cases which may never exist; but such is the letter of the law.
The Third Act relates to public meetings, to clubs or societies, and reading rooms and other places for reading. As to public meetings,
there can be no more, except such as the sheriffs, mayors, and magistrates approve of; and, deluded as you are, you know very well what sort of meetings they will allow of. Seven householders may call a meeting by public NOTICE; but, they must sign their Notice and lodge it with the clerk of the peace; and, when the meeting takes place, any single magistrate may come, and, if he chooses, disperse it; and, if any speaker utter any thing which the magistrate may think calculated to stir up the people to hatred or contempt of the Government, the magistrate may take such speaker into custody, And, if any number of people exceeding twelve remain together after the meeting is ordered to disperse ; or, if any one resist the authority of the magistrate in any way upon these occasions ; all such persons are to suffer death. So that, as you see, no meeting can now be held without the consent of sheriff, mayor, magistrate, or some person in authority ; for, to suppose, that, under such a law, any other sort of meeting will take place is nonsense. Suppose, for instance, that seven of us, in Hampshire, were to call a meeting by public notice, Parson Baines of Exton, or any other magis: trate, might come to it, and if he choose, order us all to disperse in an hour upon pain of death. Or, when any of us began to speak, if we talked about sinecures, tures, or seats, or any thing else, no matter what, which Parson Baines might think calculated to bring the Government into hatred or contempt, he might seize us and imprison us; and, if any one resisted the seizure, he would be liable to suffer death.
This being now the law, I leave you to guess, whether any meetings will be again beld, except those, which are called by persons authority; and what sort of meetings those are you know well enough.
As to clubs and societies none can now exist for any political purpose. I do not see how it is possible for any man to belong to any such society, without subjecting himself to the pains and penalties of this law.
Then comes the part of the law that is levelled against the press. There are many places, where people meet to read. They used to meet to read the Register. One person read, and the rest listened, so that a single Register served for a hundred or two of persons; and by this method the heavy expense occasioned by the stan.p, &c. was so divided as to make it nothing at all. There are what are called reading-rooms all over the kingdom. In most large towns there are several of these. At these places books, pamphlets, and newspapers are bought into a common stock by the subscribers to the room, who go when they like and read at the room. The books, pamphlets, and newspapers are bought, or taken in, by a vote of the majority of the subscribers ; and in most cases, the publications inculcate different political prin. ciples and views, because, generally, men like to hear both sides. The magistrates and parsons have long had great sway in these rooms, and have kept out of them, very frequently, every work that they disliked. The Register, for instance, has long been banished from the most of them, as it has been from the mess-rooms of the army and navy; and my Paper against Gold,” which now surpasses in sale any publication that ever was heard of in London, except the Register, and which is so well calculated to enlighten the nation upon the most important of all subjects at this moment, and the events so clearly foretold in which are now developing themselves in such a tremendous manner; even this work, which is purely on political
economy, and has nothing at all to do with party politics ; even this work was shut out of the reading-rooms with the most persevering obstinacy. Still, however, there was no positive law to prevent any particular work, or works of any description, from being read in these rooms; and, the truth is, that the change of times and circumstances began to open these places to works in favour of economy and reform. Now therefore this new law puts all these rooms, as well as all places for lecturing, whether house, room, other building, or field, under the superintendence and power of the magistrates. There is now to be no reading place, or place for giving out publications to be read, no lecturing place, no debating place, without a license, granted at the sole pleasure of the magistrates; and, the magistrates may, whenever they please, revoke and put an end to the license. If the magistrates find that any publications, which they may deem to be of an irreligious, immoral, or seditious TENDENCY, is kept in any such place, they may take away the license and put an end to the business of the man who keeps the room or place for reading. The magistrates are, therefore, to be the sole judges of what ought to be read in such places and of what ought not to be read, They can refuse a license to any man; and they can take a license away from any man after he has got it. They are authorized by this law to demand admittance into every such place, in order, of course, that they may hear, or see, what publications the man keeps to be read, or given out to be read, and, if they are refused admittance, they may, at once, put a stop to the man's business as keeper of such reading place. It is quite clear, then, that no publications can now be kept in any of those places, ercept such as the magistrales shall approve of. If, for instance, a reading-room at Southampton has taken in the Register, it is not very likely, that the magistrates there will suffer the master of the room to have a license, unless upon condition of his throwing out the Register ; and, if he suffer it to come in after he has got his license, it is not very likely, that he will be permitted to retain his license. So on with regard to all other publications which the magistrates do not like ; for, to be sure, they will look upon all such publications as having a tendency of an immoral or seditious sort. Hitherto it has been deemed sufficient to punish severely the authors, printers, and publishers of irreligious, immoral and seditious publications. If the works could be proved to the satisfaction of even a special jury to be libellous, the works were stopped and the parties punished. But, now, though a work be ever so innocent in the eye of the libel-law, it may still be not so in the eye of a magistrate, and then it is to be shut out of these rooms, and the keepers of these rooms may possibly be ruined for suffering them to come into their rooms, though brought in by a vote of their subscribers.
Under such circumstances, it is quite obvious, that there will be no works, not even newspapers, suffered to be read, or kept, in reading places, except such as the magistrates, the most active of whom are the parsons, approve of. It is quite obvious, that they will now have the absolute power of selecting works for the gentlemen and tradesmen to read at all these numerous places; and that they will let them have no works to read, which the Government do not like they should read, there can, I suppose, be very little doubt. One consequence of this will be, a great diminution of the subscriptions to reading-rooms; for, it is impossible to believe, that the subscribers will not revolt at the idea of
placing themselves voluntarily under this odious species of superintendance and dictation ; and, as to those, who have now) subscribed, they have clearly a right instantly to withdraw, and not to pay one farthing from the day of the passing of the Act, seeing that the Act nullifies their previous engagement, and leaves them not to that free choice of publi. cations, which they enjoyed under their contract with the master of the room. With respect to public-houses, inns, coffee-houses, and the like, as the granting or refusing of their licenses depend already upon the absolute will and pleasure of the magistrates, it would be foolish; indeed to suppose, that any newspapers would, in future, be received in them, which the magistrate shall think to contain any thing of an irre-: ligious, immoral, or seditious TENDENCY. And, only think of the extent of this word tendency! Only think of the boundless extent of such a word, and of such a word being left to the interpretation of thousands of men ! Suppose the editor of a newspaper to insert an article, which article recommended the reduction of the Salt-tax. What does this tend to ? Why, to be sure, a magistrate might think, to make the people discontented with the Salt-tax; to make them discontented with the Salt-tax would be, he might think, to make them discontented with those who compel the people to pay it; those who compel the people to pay it are kings, lords and commons; and, therefore, here is an article which tends to make the people discontented with kings, lords, and commons, and which, of course, tends to produce hatred of them, and to bring about insurrection, treason, revolution, and blood and carnage. There is no bounds to this word tendency, and that, too, as left to the mere opinion of the magistrate. Therefore it is manifest, that while the direct power will overawe and regulate and control the reading, rooms and such places, the indirect power will banish from public. houses of all sorts, every publication, which is at all hostile to the views of the Government; and, in short, that there will, in none of these places, be any reading, except on one side.
Hence will follow a great falling off in the bookselling and newspaper trades, in the amount of the newspaper and paper duty, in the paper-making trade, and in all the various emoluments, to which the making of paper, and the printing and binding and circulating of books and papers give rise. Another consequence will be, a disregard, a total disregard, for all that is permitted to be read. Those who disapprove of these new restraints will consider all that is now permitted in the reading places as partial trash, intended to be crammed down their throats; and, even those, who have been mortified at the growing influence of opinions which they disliked, will soon begin to sicken at the effects of the accomplishment of their own wishes: They will soon begin to feel, that to triumph over argument by the force of penal statutes, is a thing not to be proud of. They will very soon be ashamed of their success. They will very soon lose all relish for reading that which the law permits not to be controverted. They will soon perceive, that they are placed in the situation of a man, who being upon the point of defeat in a boring match, has saved himself by resorting to the protection of a dagger. They will see their adversaries retire indeed, but retire amidst the applause and admiration of all the good and the brave, while they themselves have nothing to keep them in countenance but the unconsoling tears of sophistry, selfishness, servility, and of cowardice without a parallel in the history of mankind.
This is the shameful state to which our adversaries are now reduced.