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A few years ago, being at Barnet fair, I saw a battle going on, arising out of some sudden quarrel between a butcher and the servant of a westcountry grazier. The butcher, though vastly superior in point of size, finding that he was getting the worst of it, recoiled a step or two, and drew out his knife. Upon the sight of this weapon, the grazier turned about and ran off till he came up to a Scotchman who was guarding his herd, and out of whose hand the former snatched a good ash stick about four feet long. Having thus got what he called a long arm, he returned to the combat, and, in a very short time, he gave the butcher a blow upon the wrist which brought his knife to the ground. The grazier then fell to work with his stick in such a style as I never before witnessed. The butcher fell down and rolled and kicked; but, he seemed only to change his position in order to insure to every part of his carcase a due share of the penalty of his baseness. After the grazier had, apparently, tired himself, he was coming away, when happening to cast his eye upon the knife, he ran back and renewed the basting, exclaiming every now and then, as he caught his breath, “Dra thy knife wo't!” He came away a second time, and a second time returned and set on upon the caitiff again ; and this he repeated several times, exclaiming always when he recommenced the drubbing, “ Dra thy knife wo't!” Till, at last, the butcher was so bruised, that he was actually unable to stand, or even to get up; and yet, such, amongst Englishmen, is the abhorrence of foul fighting, that not a soul attempted to interfere, and nobody seemed to pity a man thus unmercifully beaten.
It is my intention to imitate the conduct of this grazier; to resort to a long arm, and to combat Corruption, while I keep myself out of the reach of her knife. Nobody called the grazier a coward, because he did not stay to oppose his fists to a pointed and cutting instrument. My choice, as I said before (leaving all considerations of personal safety out of the question) lies between silence and retreat. If I remain here, all other means will be first used to reduce me to silence; and, if all those means fail, then will come the dungeon. Therefore, that I may still be able to write, and to write with freedom, too, I shall write, if I live, from America ; and my readers may depend on it, that it will not be more than four months from the date of this Address, before the publication of the weekly pamphlet will be resumed in London, and will be continued very nearly as regularly as it has been for years past. My main object will be to combat Corruption ; but, I shall also be able to communicate some very useful information ; especially as I shall now have, at one and the same time, the situation of both countries under my eye. If it be said, that I cannot expect to get any one here to print, or publish, what I write in America, I ask, then, what is the use of writing here, seeing that the same obstacle would exist as to what should be written in England. Be. sides, I shall be as careful as I have been, not to write any thing that even a special jury would pronounce to be a libel. I have no desire to write libels. I have written none here. Lord SiDMOUTH was “ sorry to say," that I had not written any thing that the law-officers could prosecute with any chance of success. I do not remove for the purpose of writing libels, but, for the purpose of being able to write what is not libellous. I do not retire from a combat with the Attorney-general, but from a combat with a dungeon, deprived of pen, ink, and paper. A combat with the Attorney-general is quite unequal enough. That, however, I would have encountered. I know too well what a trial by special jury is. Yet that, or any sort of trial I would have stayed to face. So that I could have been sure of a trial of whatever sort I would have run the risk. But, against the absolute power of imprisonment without even a hearing, for time unlimited, in any jail in the kingdom, without the use of pen, ink and paper, and without any communication with any soul but the keepers ; against such a power it would have been worse than madness to attempt to strive. Indeed, there could be no striving in a case, where I should have been as much at the disposal of the Secretary of State as are the shoes which he has upon his feet. No! I will go, where I shall not be as the shoes upon Lord Sidmouth's and Lord Castlereagh's feet. I will go where I can make sure of the use of pen, ink, and paper ; and these two Lords may be equally sure, that in spite of every thing that they can do, unless they openly enact or proclaim a censorship on the press, or cut off all commercial connection with America, you, my good and faithful countrymen, shall be able to read what I write. In my letter to Earl Grosvenor, I said that something very near to the chopping-off of my land, or the poking out of your eyes, should be done, before I would cease to write and you would cease to read. What has been done would not be very far from this, if I were to remain here; but, when I wrote that sentence, I had a full knowledge of what was going to be done, and I had also resolved upon the course to pursue in order, as far as related to myself, to defeat its intention.
And now, my countrymen, before I set off, let me caution you against giving the smallest credit to any thing that Corruption's press may assert of me. You have seen what atrocious falsehoods it has put forth in my presence; what, then, will it not do in my absence? I have written thousands of letters to various persons in all parts of the kingdom. I give any one leave to make public any letter of mine, accompanied by the certificate of any respectable friend of mine, that it is in my handwriting. I challenge all those whom I ever conversed with to say, that I ever uttered a wish 10 see overthrown any one of the Constitutional es. tablishments of the kingdom ; and, I most solemnly declare, that I never associated with any man, who professed, even in private, to entertain any such wish; but, on the contrary, all those, with whom I have ever been intimate in politics, have always had in view the preservation of all the establishments and orders of the kingdom as one of the objects of a timely Reform of the Parliament.
The sacrifice I make would, under any other circumstances, be justly considered as enormous. The ceasing of a profit of more than ten thou. sand pounds a year from my works; the loss of property of various sorts, left scattered about in all manner of ways; the leaving of numerous friends and of local objects created under my own hands, and affording me so many pleasing sensations. But, all this weighs nothing, when compared with the horrid idea of being silenced; of sneaking to my farm and quietly leaving Corruption to trample out the vitals of my country, while her infamous press was revelling in unexposed falsehoods and calumnies levelled against myself and my friends : compared to this, no loss of fortune, no toils necessary to support a numerous family, no poverty, no bodily suffering ; there is nothing of this kind that must not appear trifling, and even wholly unworthy of notice, when compared with the loss of that satisfaction which I shall now derive from still retaining the power of combating Corruption, and from the hope that I shall never cease to entertain of returning to my beloved country in the day of the restoration of her freedom.
Every species of falsehood, deception, imposture, will Corruption now resort to, in order to blacken my character, to disfigure my motives, and to diminish the effect of my writings. But, my countrymen, if you have witnessed so much of all these while I was present, I need not fear that you will believe in them when I am absent. In more than ten publications, the writers have taken my name, and made me the author ! They will now play off this trick more than ever. But, the matter of their publications will soon undeceive you. Nothing will be sent by me but • Cobbett's l’eekly Political Pamphlet," and nothing will be of my writing, which will not have at the foot of it the name of the same gentleman, whose name will appear as the publisher of the address. How. ever, I am not much afraid of your being imposed upon in this way, for, amidst the crowd of writers, I hope you will now as easily distinguish my voice as a lamb does that of its mother, though there be hundreds of others bleating at the same moment.
A mutual affection, a powerful impulse, equal to that out of which this wonderful sagacity arises, will, I hope, always exist between me and my hard-used countrymen: an affection, which my heart assures me, no time, no distance, no new connections, no new association of ideas, however enchanting, can ever destroy, or in any degree enfeeble or impair. The sight of a free, happy, well-fed and well-clad people will only tend to invi. gorate my efforts to assist in restoring you to the enjoyment of those rights and of that happiness, which are so well merited by your honesty, your sincerity, your skill in all the useful arts, your kind-heartedness, your valour, and all the virtues which you possess in so supereminent a degree. A spendid mansion in America will be an object less dear to me than å cottage on the skirts of Waltham Chase or of Botley Common. Never will I own as my friend him who is not a friend of the people of England. I will never become a subject or a citizen in any other state, and will always be a foreigner in every country but England. Any foible that may belong to your character, I shall always willingly allow to belong to my own. All the celebrity which my writings have obtained, and which they will preserve, long and long after Lords Liverpool and Sid. mouth and Castlereagh are rotten and forgotten, I owe less to my own talents than to that discernment and that noble spirit in you, which have at once instructed my mind and warmed my heart; and my beloved countrymen, be you well assured, that the last beatings of that heart will be, love for the people, for the happiness and the renown of England; and hatred of their corrupt, hypocritical, dastardly and merciless foes.
P.S. There will, of necessity, be about three months before the Weekly Political Pamphlet will be revived; but, in the meantime, my readers will find occupation in reading over and over again what I have addressed to them within the last five or six months. I beseech them to keep all the nice little books that they have got; not to be humbugged by any of the publications of Corruption; they will find all my foretellings come true. I exhort them to exercise all the patience and fortitude they are masters of; and not to be inveigled into any foolish and
fruitless attacks upon bakers and butchers and the like ; never to give up one jot of their right to Parliaments chosen annually, and to a vote for every man twenty-one years of age ; and never to give up the hope that this right will be restored to them along with that happiness to which their industry and honesty and public spirit justly entitle them. They may be assured, that if I have life for only a year or two at farthest, I shall be back with them again. The beautiful country, through which I have so lately travelled, bearing upon every inch of it, such striking marks of the industry and skill of the people, never can be destined to be inhabited by slaves. To suppose such a thing possible would be at once to libel the nation and to blaspheme against Providence. readers not fear my finding out the means of communicating to them whatever I write. They will see the Political Pamphlet revive and he continued, until the day when they will tind me again dating my addresses to them from London or from Botley.
WM. COBBETT. Liverpool, March 28, 1817.
A HISTORY OF THE LAST HUNDRED DAYS
OF ENGLISH FREEDOM,
Ending with the Passing of the Absolute-Power-of-Imprisonment Act, in the
Month of March, 1817. Addressed to Mr. John Goldsmith, of Hambledon, and Mr. Richard Hinxman, of Chilling, who were the Chairman and Seconder at the Meeting of the People of Hampshire on Portsdown Hill, in the Month of Pebruary, 1817, to Petition for a Redress of Grievances, and for a Reform in the Commons House of Parliament.
(Political Register, July, 1817.)
North Hampstead, Long Island, June 10, 1817. My Worthy and Beloved Friends,
A Revolution the most extraordinary has taken place in our country. The Revolution of 1688 was a nothing, in point of importance, compared with that which we have now witnessed. Then the Royal Family and the line of descent of the Crown were changed, because a tyrant had grossly violated some of the fundamental laws of the land ; but now, all the fundamental laws of the land stand abrogated by Acts of the Parliament. In England, in that same England, which was the cradle of real liberty and just laws, or, at least, which was the spot, where law and justice and freedom were preserved while despotism reigned over the rest of the world; in that England, which was so long held by the world to exhibit an example of all that was desirable in politics and in juris
prudence; in that England, whence the wise and brave men who first settled this now happy country brought all those principles of law and of government, which, by being adhered to, have been the cause of that happiness and virtue which are here everywhere apparent; in that same England what do we now behold ? The very thought, though I am here beyond the reach of the evil, wrings my heart. We behold a system of taxation that has spread ruin, madness and starvation over the land ; a band of Sinecurists, Pensioners, Bankers, and Funders, who strip the land of all its fruits, except the portion which they share with the standing army who aid them in the work of seizing on those fruits ; a people who have no voice in the choosing of those, who make laws affecting their property and their lives; a House of Commons, the sale and barter of seats in which las, within its own walls, been acknowledged to be as notorious as the sun at noon-day; and, finally, in answer to the nation's petitions for a redress of this enormous grievance, the cause of every calamity, we behold Acts passed by this same House of Commons, which have taken from the people all liberty of the press, all liberty of speech, and all the safety which the law gave to their very persons, it being now in the absolute power of Ministers to punish any man whom they may please to punish, in the severest possible manner short of instant death, not only without any trial by jury, but without any trial at all; without hearing him themselves in his defence; without letting him know the cause of his punishment; without telling him who are his accusers; and without any appeal, now or hereafter, from their decisions! They, or any one out of three of them, have the power to send for either of you at any hour; to cause you to be conveyed away to any jail in the kingdom ; to be put into any dungeon or cell; to be deprived of pen, ink and paper ; to be kept from all communication with wife, child, friend, or any body else ; to be locked up in a solitary cell ; to be kept in a damp or stinking hole ; and to be kept without any limit as to time, other than what their own sole will and pleasure may dictate.
Such is the present state of England, and, thanks to the virtue and valour of our brethren on this side of the Atlantic, I have the power to describe that state to the world, a power, which I certainly should not have had, if the people of this country had not successfully resisted the attempts of our Government in 1814 and 1815, when Sir JOSEPH YORKE said, in the House of Commons, that there was Mr. PRESIDENT Madison yet to be put down ; and, when the Times newspaper told the then deceived people, that regular Governments never could be safe, until the world was deprived of the " dangerous example of successful democratic rebellion;" or, in other words, that the Boroughmongering System never could sleep in quiet, while there was one free country left on the face of the earth. The TIMES was right. The “ Holy Alliance" is of no avail as long as this country remains what it now is. Hither, at last, all the oppressed, who harbour the just desire to resist, may come; and, in the end, resistance would go from here, if it were to arise from no other quarter.
The Revolution which has taken place in England is not seen in its true character without our taking some time to look at all its parts. We are too apt to speak of it merely as a Suspension of the Act of Habeas Corpus; but, this is by no means doing the thing justice. That Act is, indeed, rendered nugatory; but, that is merely incidental. That Act, which was passed so late as the reign of Charles II., merely