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very naturally and easily into their place upon paper; and, as I most sincerely felt the truth and justice of all that I wrote, I wrote with as much force both of language and argument as I had, in any case, at my command.
The arrangements had been made the week before for the manner and price of the publication ; and I felt quite confident not only of a great sale, but of a very great effect, my object, as my Publisher can prove, being, upon that occasion not to receive any profit at all, but merely to pay the expenses of printing and publishing, though I had every reason to expect that this Cheap Edition would, for that one week at any rate, diminish the profits of my regular publication, seeing that the contents of both would be precisely the same.
This Number was written on Wednesday, sent off on Wednesday evening to London and published on the Saturday. After the manuscript was gone off, my fears of premature effect returned ; and, after two days resolving, and re-resolving, and misgiving, I sent off my son John by the night-coach to prevent the Cheap Edition being published for a short time at any rate. But, on the Sunday morning, instead of his informing me that he had obeyed my orders, he informed me that six thousand of the Cheap Edition had been sold before his arrival. It was too late now to balance ; it was too late to calculate any longer about time. I had put myself before the wind, which I well knew would prove too strong to suffer me to stop, or to slacken my pace. - It was impossible now, in this new scene, to remain at Botley. I went off to London in a few days, and remained there, except when I went into Hampshire to the Portsdown Meeting, and to Winchester to the Meeting there, until my final departure for Liverpool ; and, of the eventful days of my eventful life, these were certainly the most eventful.
The effects of No. 18 were prodigious. It occupied the conversations of three-fourths of all the active men in the kingdom. The whole town was in a buz. The labouring classes of the people seemed as if they had never heard a word on politics before. The effect on their minds was like what might be expected to be produced on the eyes of one bred up in the dark, and brought out, all of a sudden, into broad day-light. Every body was permitted by me, expressly to republish this Number; and, in town and country, there were, in two months, more than two hundred thousand of this one Number printed and sold; and this, too, in spite of all the means which the Government, the Church, the Military and Naval Half-Pay, and all the innumerable swarms of Tax-gatherers and Tax-eaters, were able to do to check the circulation, not forgetting their fast allies, the great Manufacturers, Loan-Jobbers, and some of the Yeomanry.
Amongst the striking and instantaneous effects of this Cheap Register was the unlocking of the jaws of the London Press with regard to me and my writings. For nearly five years I had been unable to extort a word from this press. The hirelings of the Ministry hated me because I exposed the acts of the Ministers; the papers attached to the Whig faction hated me because I proved that that faction was as hostile to the people as the Ministers themselves; and the papers which took, as to object, the same side with myself, though they could not, if they spoke at all, refrain from approving, chose to say nothing, so that the silence was as complete as if it had been the result of a direct and most solemn convention. There were a few exceptions as to the weekly papers, and
one as to the daily papers; but, these were too trifling to amount to much; and, nothing short of a degree of industry and perseverance, such as I possessed, could have kept up a publication under such circum. stances. There were besides, what the French call the Chutchutments or the Whisperings, to contend with. And it is quite surprising how these are managed, and what effects they produce in London, and thence throughout the kingdom. The word starts from WHITEHALL, and away it goes in every direction. A gentleman in Berkshire was pointing out to a Parson in that county in the summer of 1816, something to read in "Cobbett.” “Cobbett !” said the other, “ does lie write now ?” The crafty Priest knew well enough that I did, but it was his business to cause it to be believed, that I was become of no consequence.
Upon the appearance, however, of No. 18, away went all the Chutchutments, and all the pretendings of ignorance ; and the corrupt part of the press, instead of its apparently sworn silence, treated the public with volleys of lies and execrations against me that never had a parallel in the world. It seemed as if the curses of these hirelings had, for years past, been kept without sound, like those of Mandeville's sailors, which having been uttered during a terrible hard frost, filled the air with their crackings when the thaw came. No. 18 seemed to have a similar effect upon the long-suppressed falsehoods and execrations of Walter, Stewart, Perry, and others in London ; and the very air was filled with the sound of their abominable abuse. To all this abuse I opposed nothing but the consciousness of my integrity. At last, however, at the end of two months, I gave, in No. 1 of Volume 32, entitled “A New Year's Gift to George Rose,” an answer to every calumny that carried anything of weight in it; and, here it was that I experienced the good effects of long endurance of calumny; for the indignation of the people against my base and malignant calumniators, and their applause of my own conduct and character, were boundless; and these were expressed in a way that I never can remember without the deepest sense of gratitude.
Soon after the publication of No. 18, the first meeting in Spa Fields took place, of which I shall speak more fully, when I come to treat of the " Pluts” that formed the subject of the contents of the Green Bag. In the meanwhile the Cheap Register went on, and the Government went on with its efforts to check it. At first the opinion appears to have been, that I was to be beaten by the press, supported by the Government. A set attack upon me in the Times newspaper was distributed at the price of a hilf-penny, though the paper must have cost a penny. Great numbers of this paper, reprinted by Clowes, printer of the Tax-papers, and, of course, in the employ of the Government, were carried, in the night, to the office of the Courier, where a great number of PLACARDERS were assembled, who, at two o'clock in the morning, were sent out to stick them up, for the doing of which they were to be paid fifteen guineas. Two of these men, having been taken up by the Watch, were taken to the Captain of the Watch, and were by him released upon their informing him that they were doing “a Government job.” All this I had it in my power to prove before a court of justice, and, I trust, that the opportunity of doing this will yet be afforded me.
About this time, which was early in December, Mr. Becket, the Under Secretary of State to Lord Sidmouth, said, in answer to a proposition for silencing me in some very atrocious manner, “ No: he must be written down,” Accordingly, up sprang all the little pamphlets at
Norwich, at Romsey, at Oxford, and at many other places, while, in London, there were several, one of which could not cost less than two thousand guineas in advertising in large and expensive placards, which were pulled down, or effaced, the hour they were put up, and which were replaced the next hour, as one wave succeeds another in the sea. At last, after all the other efforts of this kind, came “ ANTI-COBBETT," published at the same identical office which George Rose originally set up with the public money, and one-half of which, as intended partner of John Heriot, was offered to me on my return to England from Ame. rica, and which I refused, as stated in the “ New Year's Gift to George Rose.” This “ANTI-COBBETT” was written “by a Society of Gentlemen," amongst whom, I was told, were CANNING, WILLIAM GIFFORD, and Southey. The expenses attending it could not fall short of twenty thousand pounds before I left England. Not content with advertisements in three hundred newspapers ; not content with endless reams of placards; the managers of this concern actually sent out two hundred thousand circular letters, addressed to persons by name, urging them to circulate this work amongst all their tradesmen, farmers, workpeople, and to give it their strong recommendation; and this they were told was absolutely necessary to prevent a bloody revolution !
These efforts of the suborned press were, however, all in vain. They did produce effect; but it was this : amongst candid people, even though opposed to me as to political views, they produced shame at the un. warrantable means that my enemies resorted to, and they awakened in the minds of many such persons the first dawnings of a suspicion that I was, after all, in the right. Amongst the mass of the people these publications produced indignation to see so foully treated a man, from whose writings they had derived so much information, and whose own conduct had been so open and so fair, who had never disguised any point of force in the arguments of his adversaries, and who had always been the first to acknowledge the errors into which he himself had, at any time, fallen, Amongst all classes, not excepting the tax-eaters themselves, these atrocious publications, thrust upon the public with so much earnestness, excited a high opinion of the powers of my pen, and a consequent desire to see, at any rate, some of its dreaded productions.
By the beginning of January, or thereabouts, the Government had discovered, that it was quite useless to carry on any longer this contest with the pen. But, though open force appears now to have been resolved on, it was very hard to make out any pretext for employing such force. The machinations for the obtaining this pretext I shall speak of by and by, it being first necessary to speak of the line which the Reformers pursued. And here I shall first answer those, who thought, that we went too far at once. The fact is, that the Boroughmongers must, they well knew, refuse all, or yield all. A Reform, to be effectual as to any rational purpose, must take from them the whole of the power that they had nsurped. They must cease to have the power of filling the seats in the Commons' House, or they must still have that power. It was nonsense, therefore, to think of any compromise. Such a scheme could only amuse the people, and open the way for new delusions. The Boroughmongers would yield nothing; or they would yield all; because they very well knew, that if they yielded any part of their unjust power, they must, and that too, at no distant day, yield all the rest of it; and, the only QUESTION, with regard to their disposition, was, whether they would
be disposed to yield now, in order to prevent being compelled to yield at some future day; or whether they would positively refuse now, and rely upon force, both for the present and the future? As to my own opinion upon this question, I expected them to adopt the latter course; I expected that they would do what they have done ; but as I shall show by and by, it was just and right for me to act as I did, notwithstanding this opinion, which I never scrupled to communicate to any body.
As to those who proposed Trienniul Parliaments, and who wanted to stop at the mere enlargement of some of the Boroughs; they were either excessively foolish or very insincere. Such a change would have done no good, if it could have been effected ; and, that man must have been wholly ignorant of the state of the public mind, who did not know that the mass of the people, all the whole mass of petitioners, all the whole mass of those who were in downright earnest for Reform, would have treated with scorn, would have considered as the grossest of insults, any proposition of this sort.
There were points of difference amongst the Reformers themselves, at first, of greater nicety. The question of ballot or no ballot, and the question of householders only, or all men twenty-one years of age. The ballot was a matter of little consequence. But, the latter was of great consequence in the principle, though it would have been of no effect at all, if we had come to the practice. When the Deputies met in Lon. don, I myself proposed the restriction to householders, and Major CARTWRIGHT did not object; out, as he knows well, it was done merely because it was hoped that Sir Francis BURDETT would bring in a Bill for a Reform, and because I knew, that he would not consent to what is called Universal Suffrage. However, finding that the Deputies from the country were not only decidedly for universal suffrage, but that they were prepared with good and sound arguments in favour of it, we gave way, as it became us to do.
Thus, then, all the people, nine-tenths of the active men in the nation, were unanimous for a Reform of the Parliament upon the fixed principles, "That no man ought to be taxed without his own consent; and that Parliaments ought to be annually chosen." The arguments in favour of the restriction to householders melted into air before the fact, that every journeyman and labourer paid ten pounds a year in taxes out of every eighteen pounds that he earned and expended. of a fact like this, all the talk about householders shrunk into fancisul niceties, which were instantly rejected by common sense.—And, besides, we had the letter and the bill of the late Duke of RICHMOND, the latter recognising our principles, and the former most clearly proving them to be bottomed upon reason as well as upon the Constitution and laws of England. To stop at householders nobody could find arguments to support, other than such as rested upon the impracticability of taking an election by Universal Suffrage; and, this impracticability was soon found not to exist.
Those who would confine the votes to visible property of any sort, or in any degree; those who would confine it to householders ; neither have any principle or any law for their guide. We have both; and to that has been owing the humiliation of the Boroughmongers; for, humbled they are in exact proportion to the outrages they have been compelled to commit, in order to avoid yielding to the force of reason
In the presence
and of justice.
As to the carrying of our point ; as to the policy of our proceedings; is there a man on earth, whose imagination, however whimsical, can invent a reason for his believing, or affecting to believe, that the Boroughmongers would not as soon yield their power of seat-filling to all the men of twenty-one years of age as to all the householders? It is so absurd, so shockingly absurd, to believe any such thing, that no man in his sober senses can believe it, and for any man to affect to believe that the people have gone too far in praying for Universal Suffrage, while he himself professes a wish to go as far as householders, cannot possibly be ascribed to any thing but mere whin, or, to a desire to draw himself away from the cause altogether ; especially when he sees not one single petitioner of the same opinion with himself! It would be a curious thing indeed for a man to ask for a Reform, because two mil. lions of men bave petitioned for it, and, in his plan of Reform to shut out the main principle of the Petitioners, and to exclude one-half of themselves from any benefit to be derived from their own prayer! Solomon says that there is nothing new under the sun; but, this would be something new at any rate; and, it would come, too, directly in the teeth of the great principle of the law : “That no man shall be taxed without his own consent.”
The line of conduct, therefore, which the Reformers pursued, was wise as well as just. They had law and reason on their side all the way through, and hence they were unanswerable ; and, besides, as far as I, or any other, who might be called a leader in the cause, had anything to do, the people would have it so ! They had taken the thing into their own hands. They no longer looked up to Palace-yard, nor to the Guildhall of London. They had met all over the kingdom; and, they had shown that they wanted no leaders. In their Resolutions, their Petitions, their Speeches, they had shown that talent was no longer confined to those who are educated by Monks at the Universities. Some of the documents drawn up, and some of the speeches delivered in Scotland, in Lancashire, in Nottinghamshire, and many other places, would, if they dared accept of the challenge and lay their documents and speeches by the side of them, put the gentlemen of St. Stephen's to shame, if their fortitude were not too powerful to suffer them to experience any such feeling. At no former period could the people be said to ask for a Reform. How many times has Sir Francis BURDETT, in his speeches. complained of the silence of the people of the country! How many times has he said, that he saw no hope, till the country bestirred itself? At last it did bestir itself in good earnest. But it was Universal Suffrage for which it stirred, as, indeed, it must be; for, who could expect more that half the tax-payers to testir themselves in order still to be excluded from the right of voting?
The people understood very clearly, long before the period to which I am alluding, what share of the taxes they paid ; every journeyman and labourer clearly understood, that out of 20s. for salt, he paid 16s. or 18s. in tax, including the additional charge arising out of the tax. He understood, that his beer was three-fourths tax. He understood, that his candles and soap, his tobacco, shoes, suger, tea, spirits, and almost everything else that he bought and used, paid enormous taxes. He understood, that out of every eighteen pounds of his earnings he paid ten pounds in taxes. And, what an excellent Reform must that appear to him, which was founded upon the principle, " that no man ought to be