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accident, kindly invite you to talk a little about your fathers and mothers. For this you hate them, and all the Boroughimongering tribe.
Still you pull together, because your union of effort is necessary to prevent Reform. Part, however, you must, in the course of a very few years, or you will be a mutual destruction, as you have been a mutual support ; and, when that parting comes, then comes happiness to the country.
For the reason before mentioned, it is not to be expected, that the Parliament will do anything, in the way of reduction of interest, till the last moment. But, there are so many projects on foot; so many nostrummongers are at work; there is such a shifting of plans and grounds, that the thing cannot possibly go on long. Besides, the mischief is so busily and so powerfully at work in all the walks of life. The poison is so active and is of so deadly a nature, that a cure, or death, must speedily come. And, that there is no cure short of a sponge, general or partial, I am certain. The scheme for getting the journeymen and labourers to make savings to put into the funds, and, thus, to make them all fund. holders, would, if it could succeed, only induce them to array themselves against the land holders and not leave them either acre or stump of tree; but, it is too ridiculous to talk of, except as it is, amongst many others, a proof of the desperate quackery that is on foot.
However, time will show us what is to be done; and, for the present, I leave you to your dear associates and your agreeable reflections.
MR. COBBET T'S
London, 21st March, 1817. MY BELOVED COUNTRYMEN,
Soon after this reaches your eyes, those of the writer will, possibly, have taken the last glimpse of the land that gave him birth, the land in which his parents lie buried, the land of which he has always been so proud, the land in which he leaves a people, whom he shall, to his last breath, love and esteem beyond all the rest of mankind.
• This is the last paper that Mr. COBBETT wrote before his departure for America in 1817. He dictated it in a very short time, on the evening of the 21st of March, at No. 8, Catherine-street, in the Strand, the house at which his Register was then published; and he then sat out with that part of his family which was in London, making arrangements for his family to follow him in the autumn. At five o'clock on the morning of the 22nd he left London, with bis two eldest sons, WILLIAM and John, and proceeded to Liverpool, whence on the 27th he and they embarked on board the Importer, American vessel, and reached New York on the 5th of May.-ED.
Every one, if he can do it without wrong to another, has a right to pursue the path to his own happiness ; as my happiness, however, has long been inseparable from the hope of assisting in restoring the rights and liberties of my country, nothing could have induced me to quit that country, while there remained the smallest chance of my being able, by remaining, to continue to aid her cause. No such chance is now left. The laws, which have just been passed, especially if we take into view the real objects of those laws, forbid us to entertain the idea, that it would be possible to write on political subjects according to the dictates of truth and reason, without drawing down upon our heads certain and swift destruction. It was well observed by Mr. BROUGHAM, in a late Debate, that every writer, who opposes the present measures, “ must now feel, that he sits down to write with a halter about his neck ;” an observation the justice of which must be obvious to all the world.
Leaving, therefore, all considerations of personal interest, personal feeling, and personal safety ; leaving even the peace of mind of a numerous and most affectionate family wholly out of view, I have reasoned thus with myself. What is now left to be done? We have urged our claims with so much truth; we have established them so clearly on the ground of both law and reason, that there is no answer to us to be found other than that of a suspension of our personal safety. If I still write in support of those claims, I must be blind not to see that a dungeon is my doom. If I write at all, and do not write in support of those claims, I not only degrade myself, but I do a great injury to the rights of the nation by appearing to abandon them. If I remain here, I must, therefore cease to write, either from compulsion or from a sense of duty to my countrymen ; therefore, it is impossible to do any good to the cause of my country by remaining in it; but, if I remove to a country where I can write with perfect freedom, it is not only possible, but very probable, that I shall, sooner, or later, be able to render that cause important and lasting services.
Upon this conclusion it is, that I have made my determination ; for, though life would be scarcely worth preserving, with the consciousness that I walked about my fields, or slept in my bed, merely at the mercy of a Secretary of State ; though, under such circumstances, neither the song of the birds in spring, nor the well-strawed homestead in winter, could make me forget that I and my rising family were slaves, still there is something so powerful in the thought of country, and neighbourhood, and home, and friends ; there is something so strong in the numerous and united ties with which these and endless other objects fasten the mind to a long-inhabited spot, that to tear oneself away, nearly ap, proaches to the separating of the soul from the body. But, then, on the other hand, when I asked myself :-"What ! shall I submit in "silence ? Shall I be as dumb as one of my horses ? Shall that in. "dignation which burns within me be quenched ? Shall I make no “ effort to preserve even the chance of assisting to better the lot of my “ unhappy country ? Shall that mind, which has communicated its light “and warmth, to millions of other minds, now be extinguished for "ever; and shall those, who, with thousands of pens at their command, " still saw the tide of opinion rolling more and more heavily against " them, now be for ever secure from that pen, by the efforts of which " they feared being overwhelmed ? Shall truth never again be uttered ? "Shall her voice never again behcard, even from a distant shore ?" : Thus was the balance turned ; and, my countrymen, be you well as. sured, that, though I shall, if I live, be at a distance from you ; though the ocean will roll between us, not all the barriers that nature as well as art can raise, shall be sufficient to prevent you from reading some part, at least, of what I write; and, notwithstanding all the wrongs, of which I justly complain ; notwithstanding all the indignation that I feel; not. withstanding all the provocations that I have received, or that I may receive, never shall there drop from my pen any thing, which, accord. ing to the law of the land, I might not safely write and publish in England. Those, who have felt themselves supported by power, have practised towards me foul play without measure; but, though I shall have the means of retaliation in my hands, never will I follow their base example.
Though I quit my country, far be it from me to look upon her cause as desperate, and still farther be it from me to wish to infuse despondency into your minds. I can serve that cause no longer by remaining here ; but, the cause itself is so good, so just, so manifestly right and virtuous, and it has been combated by means so unusual, so unnatural, and so violent, that it must triumph in the end. Besides, the circumstances of the country all tend to favour the cause of Reform. Not a tenth part of the evils of the system are yet in existence. The country gentlemen, who have now been amongst our most decided adversaries, will very soon be compelled, for their own preservation, to become our friends and fellow-labourers. Not a fragment of their property will be left, if they do not speedily bestir themselves. They have been induced to believe, that a Reform of the Parliament would expose them to plunder or degradation ; but they will very soon find, that it will afford them the only chance of escaping both. The wonder is, that they do not see this already, or, rather, that they have not seen it for years past. But, they have been blinded by their foolish pride ; that pride, which has nothing of mind belonging to it, and which, accompanied with a consciousness of a want of any natural superiority over the labouring classes, seeks to indulge itself in a species of vindictive exercise of power. There has come into the heads of these people, I cannot very well tell how, a notion that it is proper to consider the labouring classes as a distinct caste. They are called, now-a-days, by these gentlemen, “the peasantry.” This is a new term as applied to Englishmen. It is a French word, which, in its literal sense, means country folks. But, in the sense in which it is used in France and Flanders and Germany, it means, not only country people, or country folks, but also a distinct and degraded class of persons, who have no pretensions whatever to look upon themselves, in any sense, as belonging to the same society or community, as the gentry; but who ought always to be “kept in their proper place.” And, it has become, of late, the fashion to consider the labouring classes in England in the same light, and to speak of them and treat them accordingly, which never was the case in any former age.
The writings of Malthus, who considers men as mere animals, may have had influence in the producing of this change; and, we now frequently hear the working classes called “the population,” just as we call the animals upon a farm “ the stock.” It is curious, too, that this contumely towards the great mass of the people should have grown into vogue amongst the country gentlemen and their families at a time when
they themselves are daily and hourly losing the estates descended to them from their forefathers. They see themselves stript of the means of keeping that hospitality, for which England was once so famed, and of which there remains nothing now but the word in the dictionary; they see themselves reduced to close up their windows, live in a corner of their houses, sneak away to London, crib their servants in their wages, and hardly able to keep up a litile tawdry show; and, it would seem, that, for the contempt which they feel that their meanness must necessarily excite in the common people, they endeavour to avenge themselves, and at the same time to disguise their own humiliation, by their haughty and insolent deportment towards the latter : thus exhibiting that mixture of poverty and of pride, which has ever been deemed better calculated than any other union of qualities to draw down upon the possessors the most unfriendly of human feelings.
It is curious, also, that this fit of novel and ridiculous pride should have afflicted the minds of these persons at the very time that the working classes are become singularly enlightened. Not enlightened in the manner that the sons of Cant and Corruption would wish them to be. The conceited creatures in what is called high life, and who always judge of men by their clothes, imagine that the working classes of the people have their minds quite sufficiently occupied by the reading of what are called “religious and moral tracts." Simple, insipid dialogues and stories, calculated for the minds of children seven or eight years old, or for those of savages just beginning to be civilized. These conceited persons have no idea that the minds of the working classes ever presume to rise above this infantine level. But these conceited persons are most grossly deceived: they are the “ deluded” part of the community; deluded by a hireling and corrupt press and by the conceit and insolence of their own minds. The working classes of the people understand well what they read; they dive into all matters connected with politics; they have a relish not only for interesting statement, for argument, for discussion ; but the powers of eloquence are by no means lost upon them; and, in many, many instances, they have shown themselves to possess. infinitely greater powers of describing and of reasoning, than have ever been shown generally by that description of persons, who, with MALTHUS, regard them as mere animals. In the Report of the Secret Committee of the House of Lords, it is observed, that, since the people have betaken themselves to this reading and this discussing, “ their character seems to be wholly changed." I believe it is indeed! For it is the natural effect of enlightening the mind to change the character. But, is not this change for the better? If it be not, why have we heard so much about the efforts for instructing the children of the poor? Nay, there are institutions for teaching full-grown persons to read and write; and a gentleman, upon whose word I can rely, assured me, that, in a school of this sort, in Norfolk, he actually saw one woman teaching another woman to read, and that both teacher and pupil had spectacles upon their noses! What, then! Has it been intended, that these people, when taught to read, should read nothing but Hannah More's “Sinful Sally," and Mrs. Trimmer's Dialogues ? Faith! The working classes of the people have a relish for no such trash. They are not to be amused by a recital of the manifold blessings of a state of things, in which they have not half enough to eat, nor half enough to cover their nakedness by day or to keep them from perishing by night. They are
not to be amused with the pretty stories about "the bounty of Pro"vidence in making brumbles for the purpose of tearing off pieces of “the sheep's wool, in order that the little birds may come and get it to “ line their nests with to keep their young ones warm !” Stories like these are not sufficient to fill the minds of the working classes of the people. They want something more solid. They have had something more solid. Their minds, like a sheet of paper, have received the lasting impressions of undeniable fact and unanswerable argument; and it will always be a source of the greatest satisfaction to me to reflect, that I have been mainly instrumental in giving those impressions, which, I am very certain will never be effaced from the minds of the people of this country.
Do those who pretend to believe that the people are deluded, and who say that these laws are not aimed against the people, but merely against their seducers; do these persons really imagine, that the people are thus to be deceived ? Do they imagine, for instance, that the people who read my Register, will not in this case, regard any attack upon me, as an attack upon themselves ? It is curious enough to observe how precisely the contrary the reasoning of these persons is in all other cases. An attack upon the Clergy is always deemed by them to be an attack upon Religion. An attack upon the King is always deemed by them to be an attack upon the Nation. And it is very notorious, that in all criminal cases, the language of the law is, that the offence has been committed against the peace of the realm, and in contempt of the king, his crown, and dignity. Yet, in the present case, the leaders of the Reformers are to be supposed to have no common interest with the Reformers themselves; and it appears to be vainly imagined, that millions of men, all united in petitioning, in the most peaceable and orderly manner for one particular object, will be easily persuaded to believe, that those who have taken the lead amongst them may be very properly sacrificed, and that, too, without any injury at all to the cause! What should we think of an enemy in the field, who were to send over a flag of truce, and propose to us to give up our Generals ? Only our Generals ! That is all! The enemy has no objection to us: it is only our Generals that he wants; and, then, we shall have peace with him at once. There was once, the Fable tells us, a war between the Wolves and the Sheep, the latter being well protected by a parcel of brave and skilful Dogs. The Wolves set on foot a negotiation, the object of which was everlasting peace between the parties, and the pro. position was this on the part of the Wolves, that there should be hostages on both sides; that the Wolves should put their young ones into the hands of the Sheep, and that the Sheep should put their Dogs into the hands of the Wolves. In evil hour the Sheep agreed to this compact; and the very first opportunity, the Wolves, having no longer auy Dogs to contend with, flew upon the fleecy fools and devoured them and their lambs without mercy and without mitigation.
The flocks of Reformers in England are not to be " deluded" in this manner. They will well know, that every blow, wbich is aimed against the men who have taken the most prominent part in the cause of Reform, is aimed against that cause itself and at every person who is attached to that cause, just as much, just as effectually, as a blow aimed at the head of a man is aimed at his fingers and his toes.
The country gentlemen, therefore, will never see the day when the