Imágenes de páginas

with regard to the whole subject of Parliamentary Reform, of which he perceived that he had lived to see himself not the only great champion. To suppose that he could suffer bis son to go into the army for interest's sake; to suppose that he had suffered himself to be quieted by offers of titles ; to suppose that he has been influenced by Coutts's million of money ; to suppose that he has changed his opinion as to the question of Reform ; to suppose any of these, is to do injustice to his mind even more than to his heart. As far as he may have yielded to any of them, they have been effect, and not cause. The great cause has been, the proofs which he daily witnessed, that, if the question of Reform was carried, he himself would soon be surpassed on that line where it was his ambition always to be at the head, and not only at the head, but so far a-head as to have no other near him ; like those hounds, with the dispo. sition of which he is well acquainted, and which, though the finest of the whole pack, will never hunt with the pack; and if they cannot keep a-head, will rather hang behind upon a stale scent than join in the general cry. This is just what he is doing at present; but, again I tell him that he may be assured, that none of these Tavern-speeches; not all the big words which he can now muster up, will weigh as one feather against his failure of duty at the opening of the last session of Parliament.

It is not till since Sir Francis Burdett saw so many able men rising up in the cause of Reform, that he has taken to that everlasting harping ahout the importance of property. It used to be the importance of the people; the importance of the people's rights; the importance of men's rights, as men. This was the language of no very great many months ago. But, now, it is all property. It is the country gentlemen; it is the gentlemen of property. These are the persons that are now to be looked to, 'it seems, as the sole, or, at least, as the great prop of the cause of Reforn). These notions appear, upon looking back into the Speeches of Sir Francis Burdett, to be wholly new in his mind, and I am very sure that, both in theory and in expected effect, they are altogether erroneous. Property does not consist solely in house and land, nor in goods and chattels; nor in certificates of Stock, like that of Courts's ; nor in specie and bank-notes. Every man has property in the works of his hands, or in those of his mind. Would you call a fellow a man of property because he has a hut and a bit of ground worth forty shillings a year, and set down as a man of no property a physician or a lawyer, who, though in constant practice, had neither house nor land and not a second shilling in his pocket? No; language is not to be thus abused for the sake of putting the ignorant possessors of his landed estates above men of sense and talent, and making the former, in spite of nature as well as of justice, the lords and masters of mankind. Civil society is built upon this basis, that the whole mass is to derive benefit from the wisdom which it contains ; and for it to derive benefit from the wisdom, men must be left freely to choose the most wise of the society to manage its affairs. But, according to Sir Francis's present notions, the wisdom rust be in the acres of land, and then comes the monstrous absurdity of acting upon the principle that forty shillings' worth of land ought to have as much voice as forty thousand shillings' worth of laud.

But, these absurdities are not the natural production of Sir Francis Burdett's enlightened mind. They are the production of that unaccountable and that fatal jealousy, which induces him to do any thing rather than labour amidst equals in point of popularity. Gentle, kind and

benevolent to all his inferiors, in point of fortune. No base aristocratical pride, that indulges itself in looking down with disdain upon the poor or the lowly born; no envious feelings with regard to those who surpass him in extent or in value of estates. No; this, all this is too low for Sir Francis Burdett; but, in the race for popularity, he will admit of no equal; and, as it is impossible that he alone can accomplish the great work of the nation's deliverance, the consequence of this fatal propensity of his mind is, that he has, at last, been a quicksand to that cause, of which he seemed destined by nature as well as by the habits of his life to be at once, the corner-stone and the ornament.

When Sir Francis Burdett talks again about the property of the country doing such famous things, I beg him to look over the list of those persons who subscribed the money to defray the expenses of his l'est. minster elections. Will he find there a parcel of proprietors of estates ? Will he find there a set of seedling Borougimongers, such as those of whose company he boasted at the last Westminster Dinner? Will be find there what he calls the property of the country?" No; he will find there none of the Bond-street Bucks; he will find there 110 foxhunters who have sons in the standing army in time of peace; he will find there no fundholders and no army-tailors, who keep packs of foxhounds to treat the poor and proud ancient gentry to a chase now and then. He will find there for the far greater part, tradesmen, who work for their bread; honest, industrious and public-spirited tradesmen. whose property consists in their capacity to labour, and who are men, not only of more high and honourable minds, but of minds, too. far more enlightened than the insolent Boroughmonger broods, of whom he appears lately to have become so enamoured. This was the description of men all over England and Scotland and Wales that raised and supported bim. There were found upon the subscription-list the names of some few gentlemen of landed estates. . Very few, indeed, and those marked out by the Boroughmonger tribe as Jacobins and Levellers, Let Sir Francis Burdett, therefore, look over this list once more, and, I think, or, at least, I hope, that he will not, in future, insult us by appear. ing to confine the quality of respectability to those who denominate themselves the “gentlemen of the country.”

Besides, if property is to be made to consist in landed or in pecuniary possessions, let me ask Sir Francis Burdett, upon what ground it is, that journeymen and labourers are not only invited, but compelled to take up arms and venture their*lives in defence of the country? If they are to be regarded as having no property, with what justice are they thus forced to leave their homes, their wives, children and aged parents, and to waste the prime of their lives, while they are submitting to all the bardships, all the restraints and all the severities of a military life and of military discipline? I should be glad if he would distinctly answer these questions; and iell us plainly at once, that the tradesmen, the farmers, the journeymen and the labourers are destined, in consequence of his Divine richt, to spill their blood in defence of his estates.

Oh, no! He will not declare the affirmative of this proposition; and, yet, it is a necessary deduction from all the doctrines which he has lately broached with regard to the pre-eminence of property, meaning, as he has clearly defined it, the proprietorship of landed estates. What! is not that man a slave to all intents and purposes, who, deprived of all political rights, deprived especially of the right of voting at elections, LAST HUNDRED Days of English Freedom. is still liable at any moment to be called forth to fight in defence of the possessions of others? To call such a man a free man is mockery. What was it, I would ask Sir Francis Burdett, which constituted the mark of vassalage? Why, it was that the vassal was considered as having no property in his labour or in his capacity to labour, and, that his Lord could command him to come forth at any moment he chose, to fight in defence of that Lord's possessions. If the people of England, who have no real property, that is to say, no property in house or land ; if they are to be considered as having no property in their labour and in their capacity to labour ; and if, notwithstanding this, they are to be liable to be called forth to fight in defence of the country, they are not only in a state of vassalage to the proprietors of the houses and the land, but they are infinitely worse off than vassals, seeing that they have enormous taxes to pay, and that the vassals had no taxes at all to pay. What! will you tell a man that he has no property, at the very moment that you are calling upon him and compelling him to pay many pounds a year in taxes towards the support of peace and war establishments, and towards paying the interest of what is called the National Debt ? “You have no property, “ you vagabond; but part of the National Debt is due from you, and you “shall pay one-half of your earnings in taxes, or else you shall go to “jail." Will Sir Francis Burdett address this naked language to the people ? As he certainly will not, let us hope that he will cease to put forth these new notions about the pre-eminence of landed property, and that he will return, and right speedily too, to those notions, which brought from him the public declaration that, to induce the people to fight cordially for their country, it was necessury to give them something to fight for! As things then stood, he said they had nothing worth fighting for, and yet he now talks about the rights of nothing but property in house and land ; and distinctly proposes his Reform of Parliament, contrary to the prayers of the people, and by which Reform he would exclude from all right of voting more than one-half of the men who pay taxes, and nine-tenths of those who are liable to be called upon to defend the country.

But, I must break off here, and leave for another letter all the tricks resorted to by the Ministers and their hirelings to impose upon the country, and to make timid men believe, that there was a plan on foot by the Reformers and others to subvert the kingly government, and to produce the destruction or confiscation of all property. The heart-cheering news of the acquittal of Doctor Watson and of Messrs. THISTLEWOOD, Preston and Hooper, has just been received by me. Nothing that I ever heard in my life gave me half so much pleasure. My next Register will be upon this subject; but I cannot help observing here, that I have read the evidence of Mr. Hunt and Mr. Bryant, and that I, as well as my son William, have more than twice heard Mr. Hunt state, very nearly word for word, all that is stated in the evidence relative to the conduct of Castles and the other parties at Bouverie-street, and also relative to the very important circumstance of Mr. Hunt's being met by the mob in Cheapside, and being called upon by Castles, by this same CASTLES, to go and join the mob in taking the Tower! Now, then, who were the plotters? Who are the men, who ought to suffer that death, which Walter and STEWART doomed Mr. Hunt to suffer? The conduct of these two men on that occasion ought never to be forgotten for one moment. These were the men who hallooed the Ministers on to deeds

of death. My Letter to Mr. Hunt, published in the month of December, and in which I cautioned him against false witnesses, and particularly against the machinations originating with these two men, is now verified in all its parts. These two men were the prime agents of the whole of the ***** *; but of this I shall say more hereafter. In the meanwhile, that you, my good and faithful friends, may see that I have not been unmindful of my duty towards these, my falsely-accused fellow-countrymen, I subjoin here as the close of this letter, a notice which I published in the American papers on the 24th of July.

“I see, that it is stated in the London papers, that Young Watson is in the United States of America. A little while back, I heard that he was in this country, but that he went under a borrowed name. Upon asking the reason why he did not go by his own name, the answer was, that he was afraid of being claimed by the English government, in virtue of a treaty between the two countries. This is a mistake. There was a treaty, made in 1794, which enabled the two Govern. ments reciprocally to claim the surrender of murderers and forgers. This treaty is no longer in existence; and, if it were, it could, in no sense, apply to Mr. Watson. This stipulation, though, upon the face of it, very fair and just, was one of a very dangerous tendency; for though the article took care that no man should be surrendered, except upon proof, produced in a court of justice, in the country where he was found, that he had been guilty of the crime alleged, and that too in the construction of the laws of that country; yet, there was the want of fair trial of this proof, because, while a vindictive Government might easily find evidence to send over in support of the charge, the accused party would have no means of bringing evidence in his defence, being at such a distance from all his friends, and all who might be able to prove his innocence. He would, indeed, have a trial for murder or forgery after he got home; and, if innocent, would, we will say, be acquitted of that crime; but, he might immediately bé detained and tried for sedition or treason. A surrender of fugitives never, until now, made part of the compacts even between the sovereigns of Europe; and, I am quite sure, that no particle of such a horrid system will ever again be given into by America. However, this treaty has long since been at an end; and, as far as related to forgers, it was, I believe, never acted upon. It would have been shocking indeed if it had; for, it would have been, on the part of this country, surrendering up a man to suffer death for a crime, which, in no case, is punished with death in this country. But, eren if the treaty were still in being, Mr. Watson's case, supposing him to have seriously wounded Platt (which I never believed), never could have come within the ineaning of that treaty, which speaks of persons, charged with murder or forgery. Now, it is very well known that Platt is alive ; and, it is also well known, that to make out a charge of murder there must be a death upon the spot, or ensuing directly from the act. I never believed, nor do I believe it now, that Platt was ever seriously hurt. I said this in print in England. I challenged the COURIER to bring forth the surgeon's certificate. There was an account of a ball not extracted. Timid people were kept in alarm for a long time with the most shocking description of the sufferings of poor Platt; but, after we had been told of the discharges of the wound for six or seven weeks, and after the Acts were passed, the thing died wholly away. Mr. Platt became well, nobody knew very well how; and, in all the trials of the rioters, not one word of evidence came out as to this most mortal wound, the existence of which was never certified by any surgeon from the beginning to the end, an omission that was never known to take place before on any similar occasion. The public were favoured with not one word upon the subject, first or last, under the hand of Mr. Platt himself, or of any of his numerous relations, though his father-in-law was living within a few yards of the spot where the act was said to have been committed, and though he is a man, I was informed, upon whose word the public would have placed a firm reliance.

Mr. Platt, they told 119, escaped over a high wall after he had received the 'mortal wound.' We were told by the hirelings themselves, that Mr. Watson, as soon as he had shot off the pistol, and upon hearing Platt say that he was shot, exclaimed, “I am an unfortunate young mun! let me dress your wound :' and yet, this young man was called a murderer, an assassin, a bloody monster,



another Robespierre; and thus were the people of the whole country endeavoured to be thrown into a state of alarm. The birelings stated, too, that the business of Mr. Watson and his associates was to obtain arms to go and attack the Tolder, and that Platt first seizeil hold of Watson to take him into custody ; yet, this latter, when be had shot off his pistol, or when the pistol had gone off, exclaimed: 'I am an unfortunate young man! I am a surgeon ; let me examine your wound,' and in the face of this, their own account, they call this young man a murderer, and an assassin, though the man he is said to have shot is still alive, and though the act was committed (if committed at all) not only in open day, and before hun. dreds of witnesses, but in order to resist an attempt to take him prisoner. But these words were merely made use of as the words Jacobin and disaffected and blasphemous and seditious are: they are words intended to deceive the ignorant and alarm the timid.

"I think it likely that Mr. Platt received something of a hurt: and, perhaps, his fears augmented his danger; but, I do not believe, that he received any serious wound; and, as to a bullet, the surgeon, I believe, might have looked for à bullet in his body with as little chance of success as the noble Duke of Montrose and his coadjutor, Lord James Murray, looked for a bullet in the Prince's bulletproof coach.

“However, Mr. Watson is able to clear this matter up, and I hope he will come forward in his own proper name and do it. His father is, I see, by this time, tried for high treason: the son has now a duty to perform, the most imperative that can exist; that of rescuing from dishonour the name of his father; and of à father, too, who, from every account from every quarter, has borne, through. out life, the character of a most virtuous, kind, and humane man. Indeed, it was his huinanity, which in all likelihood, has produced his late misfortunes : for, his time was, in great part, devoted to the assistance, which, as a surgeon, he gave to the poor and friendless. Perhaps, before this time, he may have added one to the long list of those who, during the present reign, have been sentenced to be hanged, but not till dead, and to have their live bowels ripped out, to have their four quarters separated, and to have them placed at his Ma. jesty's disposal. But, such was the sentence on Russell and on Sydney, except that they had the favour to have their heads chopped off; and yet, their de. scendants are Dukes and Lords. We are not, therefore, upon the bare ground of this sentence, if it should take place, to concludle, that it is improper for any one to explain satisfactorily, if he be able, the conduct of Dr. Watson; and, it is so far from being improper in his son, that it is his bounden duty to the memory of his father. Besides, the son himself, perhaps, is tried by this time, for the same offence; and, if found guilty, he will be condemned, and will be outlawed. It behoves him, therefore, on his own account, to come forward, and to make his defence before the world, and particularly in the face of that nation, amongst whom he has sought refuge.

“For my own part, being satisfied that Mr. Watson, if he really did wound Platt at all, never premeditated any such act; haviug seea, in the confessions of the very hirelings themselves, that he could not have thought of committing a murder, or of doing harm to any individual; having seen, that every one who knew him spoke of him as being a very humane though enthusiastic young man; being thoroughly convinced that he had no treasonable designs in view; and knowing that he has been, by the execrable London press, most foully calumni. ated, I shall be perfectly ready, if he be in this country, to afford him any assist. ance in my power, in the circulation of any statement that he may think proper to make upon this subject, so interesting to the nation to which he belongs, and to that which has given him protection; so deeply affecting the character of his father and himself, and so important in every point of view.

“ To this end, I shall be glad to see him at my house as soon as he can make it convenient. Faithful to the settled laws of iny country, I will never abet or countenance any conspiration, direct or indirect, against the king and bis family, or their well-known and lawful authority; but a man may faithful and true allegiance bear to our Sovereign Lord the King,' and yet may be very impatient under certain acts of his ministers; and may entertain a mortal hatred of traflicking in seats of Parliament. In other words, a man may be indiscreetly eager to obtain a Reform of the Parliament, without being a traitor. And as to enthusiasm, so far from its being a disrecommendation with me, it is on the coatrary, the very quality which, of all others, is now most wanted in our country.

« AnteriorContinuar »