« AnteriorContinuar »
The triumph is ours, not theirs. It was a combat of argument, and they have taken shelter under the shield of physical force. Yet, Mr. CANNING, amidst loud cheering, as is reported, accused us of foul play! He said, that we, who have written in the cause of Reform, have poisoned the sources of education ; that we have turned the capacity to read, amongst the labouring people, to a most mischievous account; that we have acted like an enemy, who, too cowardly to meet our adversaries in the field, nave attacked him secretly by putting poisonous drugs into the wells and springs of water !
This comes with decency indeed from one of those, who have resorted to a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act! If, indeed, we had stopped the hawking of our enemy's publications while our own were permitted to be hawked freely; if I, for instance, had seized numerous poor creatures and put them in prison for selling corruption's pamphlets, while I protected the sellers of my own; if I had caused scores of lying publications to be sent forth and given away, while corruption had contented herself with a fair sale ; if I, unable to answer corruption, had sent out placards to be posted up against her in the dead of the night, while she scorned to resort to any such means against me ; if this had been the conduct of the parties, then, indeed, I might justly have been accused of the most infamous foul play. But, exactly the reverse has been the fact. I have relied solely upon the power of truth and of reason ; I have had no other aiders and abettors than these ; I have trusted wholly to the honesty and the sound understandings of the people; and, how have I been answered ?
But, if the people, if millions of people, if pine-tenths of the whole nation, really are“ poor deluded creatures,” why has the delusion not been prevented ? There are twenty thousand parsons, four or five thousand lawyers, the two Universities, the two Houses of Parliament, many thousands of magistrates, many hundreds of writers for pay. What! and could not all these, with all their learning, and with all their weight. coupteract the effect of one poor twopenny pamphlet! For, you will observe, that this it was, which, at bottom, was the main thing! Lord Sidmouth, in his speech, clearly pointed it out, though he did not actually name it. He said, that cheap publications had found their way into the very cottages and hovels. And, he said very truly ; but, what reason was this for suspending the Act of Habeas Corpus? He said, that the pamphlets had been submitted to the law-officers, and that they were found to be written with so much dexterity that he was sorry to say, that. hitherto, the law officers could find in them nothing to prosecute! And, what then? Why he proposed, in that very speech, the suspension of the Act of Habeas Corpus ! I would even now willingly disbelieve this re. port of the speech of Lord Sidmouth; but, from what has passed since, I am afraid that it was but too much like what the newspapers have reported.
Why not name me at once? Why not order me not to write any more? Mr. Elliot, one of the friends of Burke and of Lord Fitzwilliam, said, on the second day of the session, that the designing men were sending forth poison in their “venomous weekly publications." I will not tell this gentleman of what I might tell him; nor will I call his observations venomous ; but I ask him if it was a venomous act to put a stop to all t'e violences against machine-owners and against bakers, butchers, and farmers ?
Ten thousand of such men as he would not have been able to do this,
which I alone did, and that, too, in the space of one month, and by the means of that publication, which he was pleased to call “s venomous.” But, again, if it was vedom, that I was sending forth, why was not the antidote administered ? Or, does this gentleman suppose, that the superintendance of reading-rooms, or the suspension of our personal safety, is the proper antidote? Is this the way to convince either me, or my readers, that we are in error ? Are errors ever corrected in this way?
Oh, no! Mr. Elliot you may be well assured, that if the people have been "deluded,” they are not to be put right by means like these ; but, on the contrary, they will now not even listen to anything that shall be written to them on the other side. If I were to be rendered silent, they would still, more firmly than ever, adhere to my doctrines. They would, and they will at any rate, treasure up all the little books that they have got.—They will sooner part with their shirts than they will part with them. As measures to close the people's eyes against these books, the new laws have come too late. That which you call "venom,” and which I call wholesome food for the mind, has already been received to repletion. Little more could have been done in the way of inculcating principles ; if nothing at all were done in addition, those principles will never be eradicated, and never cease to actuate the minds of Englishmen; and though at the bottom of a dungeon, I shall always have the consolation to reflect that more, many more, than a million of my little books are in the hands of my countrymen.
Towards me above all men this treatment is most foul. I have never practised delusion; I have never courted popularity ; I never fell into the cry against tithes, or that against the Corn Bill ; I have never endeavoured to set the poor against the rich ; I have never been guilty of an attempt to practise delusion of any sort. My hostility to the funding system has been long and persevering ; I have proposed the checking of its mischieis to every man in high station, to whom I have ever had an opportunity of speaking. Fourteen years ago, when the interest of the debt was only just half what it is now, I urged the adoption of this measure. A thousand times did I endeavour to impress upon the mind of Mr. WINDHAM a sense of the extreme danger of this terrible system, and this is a fact very well known to Mr. Elliot, who did not then appear to look upon my sentiments as venomous." I laid a plan before Mr. Windham, which, if it had been adopted, would have insured, at this day, tranquillity, happiness and liberty, instead of what we have the sorrow and the shame to feel. It was not a subject congenial to bis turn of mind. He thought my apprehensions groundless. He used to say, that it would be time enough to jump over that ditch when we came to it; but, I answered, that, if we stayed till we got to the ditch, we never should be able to jump over it. I told him a thousand times, that if the Funding System were not effectually checked, this nation must be enslaved. I told him, that at last, the thing would become wholly unmanageable; that it would roll backwards and forwards like the billows of the troubled ocean, swallowing up a certain portion of happiness at every roll, and that at last, it would produce the very thing that the war and that all his endeavours had been intended to prevent.
And, have I, then, my countrymen, deluded you as to this subject, upon which all others depend ? · Have I told you anything, as to this greatest of all points, more than I told this statesman many years ago ? The only difference is, that you have listened to me, and he did not,
because I could not make him see the danger. The application for å Reform of the Parliament we have proved to be just and expedient; but, this is a matter which still admitted of discussion. The misery, however, produced by the funding system came and mired itselj' with the question of Reform. And, whose fault was that? Not mine ; for, I would, loog ago, have effectually prevented the misery by checking the funding system ; and that, I know, could be done even now. But, because the misery existed, were we not to urge our claims for Reform in a peaceable and orderly manner, and with the observance of all the forms and cere. monies prescribed by the Constitution ?
No : you have not been deluded. It is not a misfortune that you have been able to read. You have read, and you understand, and will long remember, what you have read. It is quite impossible for any man to foresee what will now take place; but, it must be clear to every one, that the measures which have been adopted will not operate as a cure for any part of the evils that oppress the country. My real belief is, that a few conciliatory words would have done much more than all these laws; and, besides, the mere absence of tumult is not tranquillity. That tranquillity which is worth anything must have a source other than that of force and of fear. Prosperity never can return under these laws, which, if they continue in force for any length of time, will infallibly reduce the nation to a state of feebleness such as it never before knew. Its character will sink very fast, and, along with its character, its resources and its power. There are now a million people, men and their families, supported by subscription, exclusive of the paupers usually so called. In such a state of things, how is it possible that the people should not become utterly degraded, while, at the same time, the means of employment are daily growing less and less ?
These are all the natural and inevitable consequences of a Funding System. A Funding System has never existed in any country, without producing indescribable misery. Paixe most aptly observed, that such a system gave unnatural vigour 'till it arrived at its climax, and then it produced unnatural poverty and feebleness. This has been precisely the case here ; and, as to the nonsense about “a sudden transition from war to peace,” it is only the offspring of sickly brains. Here is a great cause of misery and feebleness at work, and nothing can restore happiness and energy except the removal of that cause. Mr. CANNING and his fellow-labourer Mr. Elliot may scold about my “ poison" and “ renom” as long as they please; but to my shop they must come at last, or the malady will end in a most dreadful convulsion.
Before I conclude, let me notice a famous falsehood, which has appeared in the Morning Post of the 18th instant, in the following words :
" COBBETT CHASTISED.-In one instance, at least, this hectoring bully has met with his deserts. Understanding that he passed the night of Sunday at Mr. Timothy Brown's at Peckham, Mr. LOCKHART repaired thither early yesterday morning, with the intention of chastising the Reformer for his insolence at Winchester. Before Mr. L. had reached the Bricklayers' Arms, he met Cobbelt returning to town, and, being furnished with a tremendous horse-whip, he applied it, sans ceremonie, to the broud and well-adapted shoulders of his antagonist. COB. BETT escaped into the shop of Mr. Jones, the apothecary, where he remained for two hours. His sconce appears to have suffered considerable damage, as he was seen to leave the apothecary's shop with an enormous plaster over his left eye."
Now, who, at a distance from London, would not believe this to be
true? Who would not believe, that there was, at least, truth in some part of it? Who would not believe, that, at any rate, I was at Mr. Brown's on Sunday ? Who would believe, that it was wholly false ? Nevertheless, I never was within several miles of Peckham last Sunday; I slept at No. 8, Catherine-street on that night; I never was out of that house on the Monday; and I have never seen Lockhart the Brave sinca he came to me, with the two witnesses, at the Black Swan at Win. chester !
This is " delusion" indeed! It is the readers of these vile publications who are “deluded." This is, however, only a specimen of what corruption is capable of, and of what she has long practised. It is, after this, hardly necessary to say, that it would be foolish, and even base, in my readers, ever again to listen for one moment to anything which corruption's press may say against me, be it what it may, and be it stated with whatever solemnity. I have often said, that these men would not stick at false oaths, and, I am persuaded, that the public will now be of my opinion. Can any one believe, that a wretch, who could sell himself to a purpose like this, would not sell his oath, if he could get a good price for it? I have often said, and I repeat, that those who have the power over the greater part of the London press, are the very basest of mankind. The wretch, who publishes this “venom," is a slaunch partizan of the late measures, and a gross calumniator of the friends of Reform. There needs no more upon the subject. The nation will judge him all in good time.
I am, my worthy Countrymen,
The great cause of the Nation's sufferings – How this cause has violated contracts. What is the meaning of National Faith.- What Justice now demands at the hands of the Government.--What will be the end of all this?
(Political Register, March, 1817.)
Botley, 26th March, 1817. PAPER-MONEY MEN,
The First Lord of the Treasury has lately said, that the Funds rose in consequence of the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; and the late Lord Chatham said, more than forty years ago, that the spirits of the Fundholders and Money Dealers always rose in the same proportion as the liberty of their country fell. More than thirteen years ago, I said, that, unless a stop was put to the Funding System, this country must become a den of slaves ; for, that it would, in process of time, become impossible to carry on the System, with a great and permanent military force, and without putting an end to every fragment of the people's freedom.
This consequence was unavoidable. To collect taxes to pay the interest of such an enormous debt must necessarily produce inexpressible misery. Out of this misery must necessarily arise great discontent in the most numerous classes of the people. Out of this discontent would necessarily, in the natural course of things, arise tumults and acts of violence. Such did not arise, because hope was cherished in the breasts of the people by those " evil minded" men, the Leaders of the Reformers. But, unless a Reform took place, it was clear, that something in the way of coercion would be adopted. To be prepared for this coercion an army was necessary. Thus the whole of the intolerable burden arises from the funding system ; and the loss of all, even the very last of our liberties, is ascribable to the same all-destroying cause.
Lord HARROWBY, at the opening of the session, said, that this system had saved the country. Saved it! What! Is it saved then ? With a press under the superintendance of the Magistrates; with a new treason bill revived; with the Habeas Corpus Act suspended in time of profound peace; with millions in a state of starvation; with a ruined commerce, manufactures, and agriculture! With all these notoriously existing, can the country be said to be saved? The Sinecures have, indeed, been saved; the Pensions and Grants have been saved ; and the Boroughs have been saved; St. Mawe's, St. Michel's, Old Sarum, Gatton, have been saved : but, to such a degree have the nation been ruined, that one half of the people, in many places, have become paupers, and we read in the public papers, that a Deputation is coming from the opulent town of Birmingham to inform the Ministers, that rates can no longer be raised to feed the poor, and that the town prays for assistance! And yet, says Lord HARROWBY, the paper-money system has saved the country. His Lordship's notions about country are very different from mine.
If, indeed, the peace had brought what the Pittites promised us that it should bring; if it had brought us only the same degree of prosperity that existed before the war; if the peace had brought a peaceable government, and the usual blessings of peace, then, indeed, it might have been said with some colour of reason, that the nation had been saved by the paper-money, seeing that it was that paper-money, which enabled the government to carry on the war. But, as the thing now stands, what could have happened worse from not going to war? It is now very clear to me, as it was to Sir Francis Burdett and many other persons at the outset, that peace might have been preserved, with all possible advantage to this country. But, at any rate, what worse could have taken place than has now taken place? What could remaining at peace have produced worse than what has been produced by the paper-money war? Could remaining at peace have done any thing worse than destroy all our liberties and make us a nation of wretched, ruined people? No civilized na. tion was ever in so miserable a state as this nation now is. This is notorious. This is denied by nobody. Only read a paper in this Number relative to the Watchmakers, and another relative to the diseases of the