Imágenes de páginas

where, wbile propositions the most constitutional and the best calculated to promote harmony and peace were under sober consideration, the firing of guns was heard from the City. It is notorious, that the persons who broke open the first gunsmith's shop had been first collected, almost close to the spot, to witness the hanging of four men! This fact is noto. rious ; but still these corrupt writers persist in ascribing the riots to a Meeting held and quietly dispersed at a distance of more than a mile!

Misrepresentations like these have the most fatal tendency for the peace of the country. The resolutions passed at Spafields; the letter of Mr. Hunt to Lord Sidmouth; his Lordship's answer; the speech of Mr. Hunt upon this occasion, all are before the public; and, let that public say, whether any meeting that ever was held in England, was conducted with more propriety in all respects, and especially with a more anxious desire to preserve the public peace; which object was attained too, and that in a manner to excite the admiration of all well-disposed people. But, the truth is, that it is this manner of conducting popular discussions, which stings the authors and abettors of these corrupt publications to the soul. They wish to see the friends of Reform guilty of folly and violence. This would answer their purpose; and, the writer in the Courier expressly said, a few weeks ago, that it was this peaceable conduct which was the greatest cause of suspicion and aların ! Alarm ! for what ? Why, for corruption, for immorality, for wickedness of all sorts ; but not for the tranquillity and happiness of the country.

The tendency of such wicked writings is to make the people despair, and from popular despair general confusion must arise. We are labouring most earnestly, and I hope, not in vain, to keep hope alive, to check impatience, to inspire fortitude. We hold out what we believe to be a real and general remedy. We recommend a strict submission to the laws; we use no means that are not legal ; we have no disguise ; we have no cabals, societies, or secret correspondence; we speak and publish our opinions; we deal in argument and not in abusive reproaches and names; we challenge our adversaries into the field of discussion ; we contend for rights which we think we are entitled to ; we think that we have justice and even policy on our side; and we are answered by every species of scurrility and of calumny. These have prevailed heretofore, but they will prevail no longer. The people are enlightened, and the power of calumny is at an end. We contend, that it is the taxes, the loans, the debt, and the paper-money, which are the real causes of our sufferings. We think, that a Reformed Parliament, annually chosen by ballot by the People at large, would be able to put all to rights, in a short time, and to prevent such evils in future. We give our reasons for this belief; and we are answered by foul names and atrociously false accusations. We recommend the people to petition for a constitutional reform in the representation, and the corrupt press recommends the Ministers to seize our persons and strip us of our property.

It is my sincere opinion, that the hope held out of a reform of the Parliament has done, and is doing, more for the tranquillity of the country than all the other means put together; and, as far as I myself am concerned, or have any power to do good or harm, I am perfectly convinced, that if I could possibly entertain the cruel and unnatural wish of seeing my country plunged into confusion and bloodshed, my course would be. not to write Registers, but never to write ur utter another word upon public affairs; and, I am certain that, if the press and all popular disa

cussion could at once be put an end to, it would not be one single month before pillage, devastation and carnage, would spread themselves over every part of the country. It is my belief, that the encouragement given to the people to hope for an approaching Reform is the best security for the public tranquillity as well as for a return of happiness ; it is this belief which has induced me to take the liberty to address your Lordship, and to endeavour to prevail on you to give your powerful aid in the strengthen. ing of a hope, the enfeebling of which I cannot help regarding as the sure forerunner of calamities, such as never were experienced by any nation in the world.

I am, with the greatest respect,
Your Lordship's most obedient,
and most humble Servant,







(Political Register, December, 1816.)

London, 20th December, 1816. GENTLEMEN,

Innumerable are the instances in private life where men blindly and pertinaciously listen to those who are their worst enemies, who are undermining their characters and their fortunes, and who are fattening at their expense; while, towards those who are naturally, as well as by inclination, their friends, they wear an eye of constant suspicion, and entertain a feeling nearly approaching to that of enmity. That this failing, which is so common amongst individuals, is not without its in fluence on whole bodies of men, the conduct of the Country Gentlemen of these Islands, for many years past, most abundantly proves. And, as such conduct in private life seldom fails to produce ruin to the party, or his family; so, in your case, total ruin to yourselves, or, at least, to your descendants, appears to be a consequence altogether incvitable, unless you immediately rouse yourselves, shake off the infatuation, and act as becomes men who have children whom they do not wish to become beggarly dependents.

Amongst the other marks of this fatal infatuation, is, an obstinate refusal, not only to follow the advice of those who propose a Reform of

the Parliament, or who disapprove of the measures of the Government; but, a relusal equally obstinate to hear what they have to say. A stubborn, a stupid, a contemptible obstinacy, to give way to which is justly punishable with ruin and disgrace. And, indeed, instead of patiently hearing what we have to say, no small part of you have repaid our endeavours with every species of persecution within your power, You have shown no sense of justice in these matters. You have not heard both sides, as common fairness pointed out; but have suffered yourselves to be led along by Corruption's sons, as an ass is led by a gipsy; you have spitefully kicked at every man who has endeavoured to set you free; and even now, when your backs are breaking under your burdens, and your bones are sticking through your skins, you appear to feel a new fit of alarm at the proposition of that measure, which alone can, by any possibility, afford you relief and security.

Under such circumstances, it is almost impossible for us so far to master our resentment as to entertain a desire that you should now act the part that becomes you ; but, to harbour such resentment would be to injure the great cause of the country, and it is, therefore, our duty to bury it, if possible, in everlasting oblivion. For my own part, bred up in the country, and taught in early life to look towards your order with great respect; remembering the times when your hospitality and benevolence had not been swept away by the tax-gatherer; having still in my recollection so many excellent men, to whose grandfathers, upon the same spots, my grandfathers had yielded cheerful obedience and reverence, it is not without sincere sorrow that I have beheld many of the sons of these men driven from their fathers' mansions, or holding them as little better than tenants or stewards, while the swarms of Placemen, Pensioners, Contractors, and Nabobs, with all the keen habits of their former lives, have usurped a large part of the soil, and wholly changed the manners, and even the morals of the country. Upon this occasion, I wish to address you in the temper inspired by the recollection of early impressions, rather than in that which recent facts would naturally dictate. For more than ten years I bave been endeavouring to convince you, that that which has now taken place would take place. I have hitherto, with regard to you, laboured in vain ; and, one more effort, though it should prove equally useless, will form but a trifling addition to the disappointments already experienced.

My opinion is, that you have now no choice remaining, except that which lies between a Reform of Parliament and the loss of your estates through the means of taxation; and the soundness of this opinion I will, if you will give me a patient hearing, endeavour to prove in the clearest manner.

Let me first ask you a question or two applicable to this matter. Look, each of you, just around your own neighbourhoods. Take a circumference of thirty or forty miles. Put all the Gentlemens' mansions within that compass down upon paper. Write against each who was the owner thirty years ago, and who is the owner now. And then tell me, what reason you have to hope, that your sons will possess your estates ? If you have any love for your children, can you take this survey without experiencing the most poignant anguish? Then, look at the numerous little farm-houses tumbling down, or suffered to dwindle into wretched sheds for labourers. Look at the out-stretchings of the Metropolis, and see the increase of glittering chariots that rattle through its streets and

squares ; then turn to the places where numerous hamlets once stood, inhabited by happy people; and, then tell me, whether the accumulation of property into great masses, by the means of taxes and loans, has been for the glory or the disgrace of the country? Search the poor-books of fifty years back, and, when you find but one pauper for every hundred paupers that now are upon those books, tell me whether you can behold the horrid sight without shame>for the present and apprehension for the future? The sons of Corruption would fain induce you to believe, that this dreadful change has been produced by a change in the morals and manners of the labouring people. This is not a very decent charge to make against them at the close of a war, during which those classes have shown so much valour, and have endured, with patience, so many and such great hardships. But the fact is, that there is less drunkenness than formerly; the labourers work harder than their forefathers worked ; and, it surely will not be denied, that they are better educated, if by education we mean reading and writing. What, then, can have caused the poor. rates to rise, during the sway of the Pitts and the Roses, from two millions and a quarter to eiyht millions a year? What can have been the cause of this increase of human degradation ? It is useless, besides being unjust, to rail against the poor. It is clear, that they ought to be fed, that they have both a legal and equitable right to be fed out of the produce of the soil ; but it is also clear, that they must be so fed. They never can be made to die by thousands quietly under the hedges ; and, if they could, the evil would be still greater ; for then there would be nobody to labour, and the country would become again a wilderness.

It is impossible for you to dwell upon reflections of this kind for ten minutes without being convinced, that there is some great radical cause of all these evils. And, does it not become you, then, patiently to investigate that cause ? If you, however unreasonably, have imbibed a dislike of the person who now addresses you; if you have been addicted, however unjustly, to rail against his motives ; if you still think him actuated by mischievous designs, even that opinion ought not, unless you prefer self-destruction to self-preservation, to shut your ears against his reasonings, which can belong to no family or name, which must be either true or false, whether they come from him or any body else ; thus to shut your ears would be to act as foolish a part as the refusing of a guinea because tendered to you by a man against whom you happened to have a grudge. If you had a bad opinion of the man who tendered the guinea, you would examine very carefully to ascertain whether it was gold; you would weigh it to see whether it was weight: but, if you found it of pure quality and of full quantity, you never would be so foolish as to refuse to put it into your pocket.

But, at the present day, there is another and most important reason for your lending a patient ear; for your examining and well weighing what is tendered to you, which reason is this : that your farmers, your tradespeople, your workmen of all sorts are very attentirely reading upon these subjects. It is quite useless for you to endeavour to discourage and check the progress of political knowledge. That knowledge has gone forth like the rays of the sun bursting a black cloud asunder; and it is as impossible to destroy the effect of that knowledge as it would be to smother the rays of the sun. Even error, when strongly imprinted on the mind, has always been found extremely difficult to efface. What, hen, is to efface truth, when imprinted on the mind in fair and distinct

characters ? “ The lower classes," as they are called by the sons of Corruption, appear, to some, to have become enlightened all of a sudden. They have, indeed, put forth their proofs of knowledge all of a sudden; but, the truth is, that they have long been acquiring that knowledge. They have been patiently and impartially listening ; they have been reading attentively what you have been turning your eyes from; and now that the times call them forth, they astonish you with their political learning. You must, therefore, if it be only in your own defence, now resort to the same sources. It is useless for you, in conjunction with the Pittite parsons, to shut the light out of reading-rooms and great booksellers' shops. It makes its way through the country in spite of your and their threats. It has been, by a singular process, shut out of mess-rooms and ward-rooms. But all these measures have only served to keep the higher or richer classes in political ignorance, while the middle and lower classes, as you call them, have been acquiring light, and improving in knowledge. The mass of information which has been discovered at the several public meetings seems quite surprising. The Mayors, Provosts, Boroughreeves, and others, who have refused to call public meetings, imagined, I dare say, that the people were nothing of themselves. They have found their mistake by this time, and they must have been ready to gnaw their very fingers off to see the accounts of those proceedings, which have been published, and in which a degree of talent and of wisdom bas appeared, surpassing and very far surpassing, any thing that was ever before brought forth at public meetings in this or any other country. At Nottingham, the corporate body, like men of sense, have cordially acted with the people; but, at Manchester, Wigan, Boston, Lynn, Glasgow, Paisley, Renfrew, and divers other places, all persons in authority bave either thrown obstacles in the way, or have at the very least, refused to participate. This, however, has not at all held the people in check. They know their rights, and they have come forward and exercised them with talent and spirit, and, at the same time, with the greatest possible prudence. Must not the natural consequence be, that the people will drop that respect for the rich which they have hitherto entertained ?-And, is not this a most awful warning to the Country Gentlemen ? Must they not see in these instances a proof, that, unless they place themselves at the head of the people, in the work of Reform, the people will find leaders amongst their own body ? Must they not see even a greater danger ; must they not see, that, if they still keep aloof, they will, at last, become objects, not altogether of contempt, but also of resentment? When the rich and the powerful of both the political factions united met in the open air at Maidstone, to propose an address to the Prince on the marriage of his daughter, they had no more idea of an opposition from the people than they bad of an opening of the earth beneath them. What must have been their “surprise and regret,” when chey found the people, not that shouting, huzzaing rabble that followed old Blucher about the streets, but a well-informed body who saw to the bottom of the subject, who knew how to trace their own sufferings down from the grants of public money, and who, having spirit equal to their understanding, hissed the rich and powerful addressers from the open air into a room in a tavern! Will not instances like these satisfy you, that the time is arrived for you to show yourselves ? If they will not, you must be in more than Egyptian darkness.

But, and this brings me to the main point as concerns you, what do VOL. V.


« AnteriorContinuar »