'Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life' (2)
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IF the reader knew how many of my friends have been imprisoned, or have come to a worse end, suspicion would arise as to the prudence of proceeding further in my narrative.  If no proof of such assertion is given, it may seem pretentiousness to make it; if it be substantiated, it may be said that I present a sort of Newgate Calendar of my friends, whereas the list of their names is mainly a roll-call of honourable penalties incurred in the service of society.  To some I may recur in separate chapters.

Giuseppe Mazzini

    The most illustrious were Garibaldi and Mazzini.  Garibaldi had known imprisonment and torture.  From youth to mature age he lived in an atmosphere of peril; his days passed in battle, in flight, in exile, in want, in adventure, and in the face of death by flood and field.  Mazzini, greater than Garibaldi, as his sword had been blind had not the pen of Mazzini given it eyes, underwent vicissitudes of which imprisonment was the least forlorn and perilous.  Mazzini was not merely the great devisor of action on behalf of liberty, but the inspirer of public passion which made Italian Unity possible.  His life was sought in three nations.  Only an Italian could have kept his head on his shoulders under such a fierce, organized, imperial, protracted competition for it.

    Alberto Mario, the husband of Jessie Meriton White, was several times in Italian prisons, an intrepid soldier and Republican leader.  He was the confidant of Garibaldi, by whose side he fought in his most adventurous campaigns, and was a brilliant disciple of Mazzini.  He was an orator as well as a soldier.  Handsome, enthusiastic, and incorruptible, he exercised immense influence.

Giuseppe Garibaldi

    Orsini, who, like Garibaldi, had a passion for fatal enterprises, was beheaded.  Pierri, without having any such passion, perished in the same way.  Rudio only escaped the headsman's axe, it was said, by betraying his colleagues.  Bottesini was one day called upon to play at the Tuileries, when Count Bacciocchi, Master of Ceremonies to Napoleon III., examined his double bass to see whether it contained Orsini bombs.  Orsini headless was a terror to despots.

    Aurelio Saffi, second Triumvir with Mazzini, shared the perils of the defence of Rome, and exile in England.  He succeeded his great friend in representing the Republican principle with similar refinement, force, and fidelity.  In his later years he was a professor in Bologna, and lived amid the winepresses and vineyards of Forli, honoured, as I found when last his guest there, as foremost of those whose intrepidity and devotion contributed to the freedom of Italy.

    I had friendly and personal relations with several eminent Frenchmen who were in peril oft for freedom.  Dr. Simon Bernard, known, like Blanqui, as a stormy petrel of revolution on the Continent, was involved in the Orsini affair, and his name became noised over the world.  Dr. Bernard, as the reader will see, was in trouble before he took refuge in England.  Eight prosecutions had been instituted against him; twice he had been condemned to imprisonment, and here he narrowly escaped the hangman.  Some who were personally in contact with him came to share his danger.

    Ledru Rollin was an exile here to escape the same fate.  We always held him in honour, as Mazzini said he was the only Frenchman who sacrificed his political position for a country not his own—namely, for justice to Italy.  I had the honour to defend him when in England.  Mazzini never ceased to inspire friendships for him.  Rollin was too little in England to understand us.  Mr. Horace Mayhew's famous letters in the Morning Chronicle on the condition of the industrious classes in London, misled Rollin into the belief that England was played out.  He was confirmed in this belief by the speeches of Tory orators in Parliament, who were always saying, when any measure of reform was proposed, that the British Constitution was exploded, and that the sun of England was going down for ever.  He did not know that the Tories are the professional defamers of the land.  During more than half a century, to my knowledge, the sun of England has set for ever every year, and has always turned up again in the next spring.  These whimsical predictions so bewildered Ledru Rollin that he published a book on the "Decadence of England," which caused him loss of prestige among us.  He never observed that England had still vitality, since it was able to protect him against the wrath of the emperor of his own land, who would have pursued him here had he dared.

    Louis Blanc I knew during all the years of his exile, and was invited by his family to his burial in Père la Chaise.  Next to Mazzini, he was master, not only of the English tongue, but of English ways of thought, and understood the land.  He made no mistake like Ledru Rollin.  Louis Blanc showed me original records of the great French Revolution, amid which were letters stained with the blood of those who had written them.  Louis Blanc was a small man, but he was so entirely a man—you never thought of his stature.  He had an impressive face, a firm mouth, and was without any of that assumption of manner which small men often wear lest you should not recognize their importance.  Louis Blanc had conscious power which needed no assertion.  Though he acquired English staidness of deportment, his French fire broke out in platform speech.  He was the greatest expositor of Republicanism, democratic and social, of his day.  When Louis Blanc was first an exile here, he was not credited with the fine qualities he possessed, which became apparent in the protracted years of exile.  Seventeen years after the Presidential treachery of 1852, the electors of the Seine, Marseilles, and other places besought him to reappear in Parliament, but he would take no oath of allegiance to the Usurper.  He answered, "The distinction of Republicanism is inflexibility of principles—its love of the straight line—its solicitude for human dignity, and its passion for equality."  In reply to the suggestion that he should take the oath, he remarked, "The oath, it is said, is an idle formality.  Let us not repeat this word too often, if we desire to raise the standard of public morality.  There is one man, the Emperor, who has considered it a 'mere formality,' and France knows what has come of that."  Louis Blanc added, "A noble example is an act."  St. Just said, "Those who do nothing are strong"—when action is dishonour.  Louis Blanc remained an exile until the fall of the emperor.

Louis Blanc

    Louis Blanc had a brother, Charles, who was a member of the French Academy.  M.  Pailleron, who succeeded him, thus described both:

    "Charles was exuberant, passionate, even violent; but easily resigned, amiable at bottom, and above everything good—a reed, painted like iron.  Louis, on the contrary, was gentle, humble, timid, polite, almost obsequious; yet beneath this mild exterior tenacious, resolute, rebellious—iron, painted so as to resemble a reed."

    Of Carlo de Rudio and his troubles I have written in another chapter.  He set himself forth as "Count" de Rudio, but if he were a count, his education had been neglected.

    Victor Schœlcher, a stormy exile upon whom the French Emperor tried to lay hands, was a frequent visitor to the Reasoner office, and a frequent subscriber to our insurgent funds.  He was a man of high character and strange experience, and in his day had rendered the State important service.  After the fall of Louis Napoleon at Sedan, Schœlcher returned to France, and was accorded the dignity of a Senator.  There are pretentious friends of the advance of society who, when they cannot do what they would, do nothing.  Schœlcher, when he could not do all he wished, did what he could.

    Ulric de Fonvielle, my friend and sometime host, accompanied Victor Noir on a visit to Prince Pierre Napoleon, who shot Victor Noir dead, and fired twice at Ulric de Fonvielle.  A very uncivil gentleman was Prince Pierre Napoleon.  Wilfrid de Fonvielle, an elder brother of Ulric, and I have been friends for nearly forty years.  He was another stormy petrel of the Revolution, both on land and in the air, being an adventurous balloonist at the siege of Paris—distinguished for intrepidity and volcanic ardour, and as a barricadist, a journalist, a man of science, and author of notable books.

    The brothers Reclus have both been in peril and prison as philosophical anarchists.  To Elie Reclus, because it had valued memories for him, I gave a fine copy of the only portrait of Robert Owen in which that famous social philosopher appeared as a gentleman—an aspect belonging to him which all other engravings of him missed.  Reclus, in his last letter to me, said:—

"MY DEAR FRIEND,—I went to the Congresses of Lausanne and Geneva, where I saw your name in the hotel Gibbon des Bergues, but not your person.  Afterwards I stayed in Auvergne, and now I must, in three or four days hence, be in Normandy.  If you were here on the 15th, I might still have the joy of seeing you.  My brother Elisée, whom I expect daily from a tour in the Pyrenees, will be here, and, I daresay, you will soon become friends together.  I write to MM.  Bewsdeley and Henry Schmahl, who are earnest co-operators, announcing to them your visit, and I trust they will be of some service to you.  At the Credit au Travail, rue Baillet 3 (behind St.  Germain l'Auxerrois, near to the Rue de Rivoli), the accountant, Mr. Joseph Gaud, will be apprised of your arrival."

    Felix Pyat I never saw, though I was his publisher.  He could never have kept his head upon his shoulders in France, and I incurred the risk of imprisonment in defending his right to use his head in England by publishing, in the face of prosecution, his "Letter on Parliament and the Press."

    Martin Nadaud was a Parisian workman who came to England for security.  His intelligence, integrity, and manliness won for him the esteem of Mazzini.  He worked at his trade in England, still giving his spare time to promoting freedom both in France and Italy.  I found him in 1880 holding a permanent office in the French Parliament House, of which he was a member, always true to his order—the honest Order of Industry.

    Alexander Herzen, the accomplished Russian who sent the Kolokol (the Bell) through the dominions of the Czar, had left Russia for good reasons.  We met first at Southampton, where he was seeking information, which I gave him, where the meeting would take place in the Isle of Wight between Garibaldi and Mazzini.  A greater than Herzen was Karl Blind, whom I have still the pleasure to count among my friends.  Before he did us the honour to reside in England, now nearly forty years ago, he had had terrible trials, experiencing casemate incarceration.  Since then his name is known in every nation and in every literature where the lovers of freedom breathe.

    Then there was Dr. Arnold Ruge, of the Frankfort Parliament, who escaped to us to avoid the fate of Blum, the bookseller, who was shot.  He resided many years in Brighton, and I had the honour to publish a work which he wrote for me.

    The giant Bakounine, who had fled from Russian prisons, was an oft visitor at Fleet Street.

    Heinzen was another Russian propagandist, familiar with the interior of a fortress, who was a welcome visitor at the Reasoner office.  He afterwards went to America, and was the author of many determined pamphlets on insurgency, displaying power and originality.  One published in Chicago bore the unpleasant title of "Murder and Liberty."

    Prince Krapotkin is the most accomplished anarchist, save the Recluses, whom I have known.  No one who does not know the prince can imagine how bright, ardent, wise, and human he is.  But the impression his writings give you is that his many attainments are tempered by dynamite.  Prince Krapotin is familiar with prisons: still he neither swerves nor fears. 

    Wilhelm Weitling was a German Communist.  His "Gospel of Poor Sinners" was a book of force and original thought.  He said he learned English from two works of mine ("Practical Grammar" and "Public Speaking") when first an exile in England.  At some expense, I had his speeches translated and printed in the Movement when he first spoke in London, and thinking to serve him by enabling him to send copies to America, where he was going, I presented him with some.  He, however, violently resented the act as a great affront, thinking I assumed that he had the vanity to diffuse his own speeches.  He first taught me that foreigners were apt to be alien in mind as well as race, until naturalized by intercourse and knowledge.  He came to England with the reputation of a "dangerous Communist."  His liking of prison life in Germany did not grow by what it fed upon; so he, in 1848, tried London for a change, being expelled from Switzerland at the instigation of the German Government.  In one of his speeches in our John Street Institution in London (held by disciples of Robert Owen) he said what was new then, and is not yet old—that "there will neither be equality nor justice so long as those who labour are poorer than those who govern."  Wilhelm Weitling was born at Magdeburg in 1808, and died in America in 1871.  He was the first after Babœuf who gave to Socialism a fighting policy, and his proceedings and apostolic advocacy were anxiously watched by various European Governments.  In 1834 he formed the "League of the Proscribed."  This was followed by a "League of the Just," a less happy and more pretentious title in the eyes of outsiders.  Weitling was the leader of this League when he came to England.  With all his public ardency, he followed his own industry for subsistence.  He came one day to make my wife a dress, and I remember how surprised she was to be asked to take off her gown that he might more accurately make the measurement.  Men dressmakers and their German customs were unknown to us.  Weitling edited a journal in 1841 in which he advocated the formation of a cooperative society.  Politics was with him a means to a social end.

Louis Kossuth

    Louis Kossuth, the Hungarian leader, acquired more rapidly than Blanc a wonderful mastery of English, but he never understood, any more than Garibaldi, our illogical freedom, or the mysteries of our political constitution.  I published a bust of the Magyar orator, made for me by Signor Bezzi, and cheap editions of Kossuth's speeches.  Kossuth would have been shot on sight had the Austrians got sight of him.  Kossuth's wife, like Garibaldi's Anita, suffered the vicissitudes of war and flight.  Though less inflexible than Mazzini or Blanc, and though he entered into political relations with the French Usurper, who was not to be trusted on his word any more than his oath, yet Kossuth gave proof of integrity when peril menaced him.  His generals, Bern and Kemetty, adopted the Mahomedan faith for the sake of Ottoman protection.  Kossuth bravely refused.  Bern, when an exile in England, lived near me, a little off the Euston Road, and I used to meet him as he walked where Bolivar had walked before him, on the broad pavement that runs through Euston Square.  Kossuth had studied English in the fortress of Buda.  No orator ever spoke in a foreign tongue with the effect with which he spoke in England.  His ideas were as remarkable as his manner, and were an addition to our knowledge, as Toulmin Smith and Professor F. W. Newman testified.

    Francis Pulzsky, the Hungarian Prime Minister under the Kossuth Government, narrowly escaped being shot by the Austrians.  His youngest son, who wore a picturesque Hungarian dress at evening parties, which well became his handsome face, was a frequent visitor at my house while a student at the London University.  Once or twice I dined with his father, who showed me six or seven iron-clasped chests, containing the Royal jewels and the Hungarian crown, which he had with him in an upper room of his house at Highgate (the second or third house at the bottom of Swain's Lane).  Madame Pulzsky was a remarkably small, gentle lady, and you wondered that her sons should be men of fine stature.  We conversed at table upon the noble moderation of the French in the Revolution of 1848, in not executing those who would have executed them had they been victors.  The Usurper who, by the leniency of Republicans came into power, made short work with the Republicans, and shot and transported them by thousands.  Madame Pulzsky had seen so many of her friends destroyed that she distrusted the policy of leniency, and said to me, "Mr. Holyoake, if we come into power again, we will cut all the throats we spared before!" The energy with which this was said by so gentle a lady was very impressive.  I contented myself by answering that leniency did fail sometimes, and so did relentlessness, but I believed that in the long run the cause of liberty gains more by pardon than by death.

    Among leaders of opinion whom I knew who incurred peril in America, the chief was Lloyd Garrison, who was dragged through Boston streets with a rope round his neck, and was imprisoned by the mayor to save him being lynched.  In 1879 I had pride in speaking in Stacey Hall on the platform from which he was pulled down.  Mr. Quincy, the son of the mayor who saved Garrison, was in the chair.  Mr. Garrison lived to find himself honoured in two worlds—in America, and on this "aged" side of the Atlantic.  Lord John Russell spoke at a public breakfast given to Garrison, and Mr. Bright made the most eloquent of all the brief speeches I ever heard from him, and read a passage from the New Testament as I have never heard it read before or since—comparing the persecutions of Garrison with those of the Apostles.  About 1850-2, he published in the Liberator a letter from Mr. W. J. Linton against me.  But Lloyd Garrison was incapable of being mean or unfair, and published a reply from his valued correspondent, Edward Search.  Harriet Martineau was also a reader of the Liberator, and as soon as she saw the Linton letter she wrote a most generous vindication of me—which was her custom towards any friend whom she knew to be unjustly assailed.

    Others who were not hanged came, like Garrison, near to it, and deserve regard when they knowingly took that risk for the service of the unfriended slave, as Harriet Martineau did when in America.  Men shrank from the peril she incurred, though men were ready to risk their lives in her defence.  To prevent danger to them, she forewent journeys she contemplated, as her death was arranged for her on her way.  Had the peril been hers alone, she would never have drawn back.

    Not less did George Thompson risk death.  Of him I heard Lord Brougham say "he had the most persuasive voice of any orator he ever listened to."  And his competent testimony was confirmed by all who heard Thompson.  On his two first visits to America, speaking for the slave, he was hunted to be "hanged on a sour apple-tree."  On his third visit he dwelt with my friend, Mr. Seth Hunt, at his home under Mount Holyoke.  He slept in the "Prophet's Chamber," where others in peril had slept before; and which in happier days I had the honour to occupy.  But were I to mention all my friends who succoured the hunted and condemned, I must include here certain Englishmen, Colonel Hinton, of Washington; Mr. W. H. Ashurst; Mr. R. A. Cooper, of Norwich; Major Evans Bell, and many others.  George Thompson afterwards became M.P.  for the Tower Hamlets.  Had his personal fortune enabled him to remain in the House of Commons, he would have become eminent there.  Mr. F. W. Chesson, who continued through another generation the same noble exertions on behalf of the oppressed and unfriended in many nations, married Thompson's daughter.

Since Toussaint L'Ouverture, whose tragic story has been written by Harriet Martineau in "The Hour and the Man," there has been no nobler champion of the coloured race than Frederic Douglas.  He was born under sentence—the dread sentence of slavery—a doom of lifelong imprisonment without hope of ending.  When wandering homeless at night about Peoria, no minister would open his doors to the slave (though Douglas was himself a preacher), when a passenger told him to knock at Colonel Robert Ingersoll's gate, and he would find shelter and welcome under the generous heretic's roof.  It was in Ingersoll's house that I spent my first evening with the noble slave, who was then Provost Marshal of Washington.  The colonel produced his choicest champagne to celebrate the event.  It is told in the annals of slavery, that when Douglas was assailed and hissed on the platform by slave-owners, he paused, and then said, "Yes, a hiss is what you always hear when the waters of truth drop on the fires of hell."  This saying is also ascribed to Clay, another orator for the freedom of the slave; but it shows the quality of Douglas on the platform that the splendid retort should be related of him.


THE reader will observe that some names are mentioned only incidentally, and others at more length.  Some described here briefly are in other chapters further mentioned.

    Another friend whom I knew, bearing a memorable name—Leigh Hunt—was imprisoned, as all the world knows, for his boldness in reminding a certain Royal personage that personal morality would be as useful in those of high as in those of humble station.  Leigh Hunt's career was before my time, but I had the honour to know him in his later years, and still read with pride a published letter which he addressed to me.  From his earlier years to his closing day, he never swerved from the perilous principle of saying what he thought right and knew to be useful, regardless of that cowardly policy of waiting on public opinion until the right thing can be done safely.

    Madame Jessie White Mario was the first distinguished platform speaker among Englishwomen.  When she first spoke on Italian questions, women had not spoken in public with the view of influencing State affairs.  Madame Mario was more than Miss Nightingale at Scutari; she went with Garibaldi's expedition and rescued the wounded under fire.  She was imprisoned in Genoa five months in 1857, in Ferrara where Tasso was incarcerated, and in Rome.  As well as aiding by her intrepid services the cause of Italy, she wrote vindicatory lives of the distinguished heroes whose names, before all others represent the unity of that wondrous land.  She told me at Lendinara that, should a war arise between England and Italy, she had become so much Italian that she could not live and see Italy suffer; yet she was at the same time English at heart, and could not bear the thought that her native land should fail.  Therefore, should war occur, she should apply at St.  Peter's Gate for some retreat in his dominions.  Madame Mario has published works of authority on the lives of Mazzini, Garibaldi, Dr. Bertani, and others.  It was "To Miss J. Meriton White that Walter Savage Landor addressed the following letter, which caused great disquietude in the Tuileries.  It first appeared in the Atlas newspaper under the intrepid editorship of Mr. Henry J.  Slack:

"At the present time I have only One Hundred Pounds of ready money at my disposal, and am never likely to have so much in future.  Of this, I transmit FIVE to you, towards 'the acquisition of 10,000 Muskets to be given to the First Italian Province which shall rise.'  The remaining £95, I reserve for the Family of the First Patriot who asserts the dignity and performs the duty of tyrannicide.  Abject men have cried out against me for my commendation of this Virtue, the highest of which a man is capable, and now the most imperative.  Is it not an absurdity to remind us that usurpers will rise up afresh? Do not all transgressors? And must we therefore lay aside the terrors of chastisement, or give a Ticket of Leave to the most atrocious criminals? Shall the laws be subverted, and we be told that we act against them, or without their sanction, when none are left us, and when guided by Eternal justice we smite down the subvertor? Three or four blows, instantaneous and simultaneous, may save the world many years of war and degradation.  If it is unsafe to rob a Citizen, shall it be safe to rob a People?"

    Before enumerating political advocates in England, insurgent publishers claim notice who, in a sense, made the advocates what they were, and created for them their auditors.  Foremost among them—greatest, most determined and impassable of them all—was Richard Carlile, my friend and adviser at my own trial at Gloucester, and who had himself been imprisoned nine years and four months.  In the "Dictionary of National Biography," I have written Carlile's life.  Acts of defiance of the evil Governments of his day, in which Carlile persisted, had been visited by a long term of transportation, as happened to Muir and Palmer.  It was Carlile's intrepid publication of prohibited books which established the freedom of the press in England.

    Next to him, and contemporaneous with him, was Henry Hetherington.  The first time I spoke at a graveside was at Kensal Green, when Hetherington was buried amid a concourse of 2,000 persons.  The Times said of him that he was one of a band "who were familiar with the inside of every gaol in the kingdom."  Hetherington made no parade, no defiance, but was immovable.  He did for the unstamped press what Carlile did for Freethought works.  A disciple of Robert Owen, Hetherington was always for reason; but he had the courage of reason, which he was capable of infusing into others—for 500 persons were imprisoned for selling his unstamped papers.  He defended trades unions when they were illegal, and had the merit of defining the policy which co-operative advocates of profit-sharing labour have maintained since.

    James Watson was my first publisher.  He was imprisoned several times for his persistence in publishing prohibited books and newspapers.  Between Watson and Hetherington a remarkable friendship existed.  Both published some earlier works for me, but neither would publish without understanding that it was consistent with the business interest of the other that he should do it.

    John Cleave incurred imprisonment.  He was a rotund, energetic, Radical publisher, and was the third of the trio of newsvendors whose names were known in every town and village in the three kingdoms—"Hetherington, Watson, and Cleave."  Henry Vincent married Cleave's daughter.  Cleave did not give others an impression that he had a passion for risk; but Watson and Hetherington, whenever peril came to others which they ought to share, placed themselves at once in the front rank of jeopardy.

    Abel Heywood, in earlier years, published a work for me.  The name of Heywood in the provinces was as famous as that of Hetherington in London.  Heywood was imprisoned for the sale of unstamped publications.  He was afterwards Mayor of Manchester, and the Queen was dissuaded from visiting the city during his mayoralty as she intended, by those who resented his steadfast and honourable defence of public liberty: though, had her Majesty known it, it was a reason why she should have done honour to a mayoralty held by one whose services reflected distinction on her reign.

    One of my earliest friends in Birmingham was John Collins, a Birmingham local preacher, whose hand I held as a boy when we walked together to Harborne, a village four miles from Birmingham, where he went to preach on a Sunday, and I to teach in the Sunday School the little I knew.  He was imprisoned two years in Warwick Gaol for making speeches on behalf of Chartism.

    Another friend of mine, at whose grave I afterwards spoke, was William Lovett.  He was imprisoned also two years at the same time as Collins, and in the same gaol.  They were both what was known in their days as "Moral Force" Chartists, in contradistinction to "Physical Force" agitators.  In those days there was only a middle-class suffrage, composed (as W. J. Fox said in the House of Commons) of the "Worshipful Company of Ten-pound Householders."  Moral force was before its time then.  Now the people have a free vote, a free platform, a free press, and the ballot-box—if they cannot get what they want without physical force, they do not understand their business.  Lovett and Collins composed in prison, and afterwards published, a well-thought-out scheme for the political education of working-class politicians.  Collins, like Attwood, Salt, and O'Connor, died from failure of mental power.  It was a justification of those who sought redress by violence that, avoiding it and advocating moral force alone, they should be condemned to imprisonment all the same.

Thomas Cooper

    "Thomas Cooper, the Chartist," as he proudly wrote on the title-page of his remarkable poem "The Purgatory of Suicides," was imprisoned two years in Stafford Gaol.  During fifty years over which our friendship has extended, there has been change of conviction in him, but never of honest principle.  Mr. Cooper preceded and exceeded Lovett and Collins in the political instruction of the people, and had himself a passion for self-education which has made his name eminent by his attainments.  His name is in all booksellers' catalogues, and his praise is in all the churches.  Poems, novels, essays, sermons, are departments of literature in which he has been distinguished.

    Henry Vincent appeared among us in John Frost's days.  I have the sword which Frost wore when he commenced his ill-fated insurrection in Newport.  It was taken from him by Colonel Napier.  Vincent was an ardent, inflammatory orator, who said as much against Christianity as against political oppression.  All the while he was a Christian at heart, and, like Thomas Cooper, a greater advocate than he was a heretic—being a heretic from indignation rather than from intellectual conviction.  Vincent's imprisonment was in Monmouth Gaol.  He afterwards was an occasional preacher in Liberal Dissenting churches, but, like all men who have been for a time on the other side, he never returned again to the dark valley of unseeing faith, but dwelt on the hills of orthodoxy, where some light of reason falls.  He ultimately acquired a cultivated style of oratory, and became a celebrated lecturer both in England and America.  His orations, for the quality of his speeches entitled them to that term, were mainly expositions of political principles.  He married, as has been said, the daughter of John Cleave.

Ernest Jones

    Ernest Jones was notable alike for impassioned oratory and poetic inspiration.  By birth, culture, and sacrifice, he lent distinction to the Chartist cause he espoused.  Thomas Carlyle went to see him through the bars of the prison where he was confined two years.  We never knew whether Jones was Hanoverian or English by birth, but he was always English in his advocacy and sympathies.  Carlyle had no discernment that he was a man of genius who had resigned affluent prospects for penury and principles, and who, in great vicissitude, never turned back.  The only time I ever spoke on Nelson's Monument in Trafalgar Square was in commemoration of his premature death.

    Joseph Rayner Stephens, the greatest orator on the Chartist side, was imprisoned in York Castle.  Stephens was a Tory, not of the baser sort who seek personal power for purposes of political supremacy, but of the nobler kind who desire to see power in the hands of the wise (which they take themselves to be) for the improvement of the condition and the better contentment of the people.  Stephens was for the Crown, but he was for the people, come what might of the Crown.  On the platform he was a master of assemblies.  In conversation he excelled all men I have known.  He saw all that was in the words he used and all round the subject upon which he spoke.  His easy precision resembled that of Lord Westbury.  Stephens did vehemently teach armed resistance, not against public order, but against public wrong.  The Government did not see the distinction—no wonder the people did not.

    I had but limited acquaintanceship with Richard Oastler, although great admiration for his personal character.  In spite of his Toryism, I had a regard for him, on account of his humanity and real interest in the welfare of factory children.  I first knew him when visiting George White at Queen's Bench Prison, where Mr. Oastler was also confined.  Like Joseph Rayner Stephens, his great colleague, he cared for throne and factory children, but for children first and children most.

    William Prouting Roberts, whom we called the "Miners' Attorney-General," was one who incurred six months' imprisonment at Devizes for his defence of labour.  He was the terror of many a local Bench, and defended many a miner and weaver who otherwise had had no redress or deliverance.

    The most volcanic voice in the Chartist movement was that of G. J. Mantle.  When I was with Mr. J. S. Mill at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, in the Hyde-Park-railing days, Mill could not be heard far into the vast valley of people there assembled; the outer concourse was lost in the deep shadows of the great hall which two fierce lights on the platform deepened.  Then Mantle was chosen to read the resolutions to be passed.  His sentences seemed shot from a culverin.  His throat opened like the mouth of a tunnel.  No doubt the jury heard his defence long before (1839-40), when he was accorded two years' imprisonment for speeches made to Hyde Park Chartists.  The judge embellished his sentence by a few graceful words (common among judges, who are never political), saying—"It was you who made seditious speeches, and were a party to the conspiracy and riot.  It is true you were not at the latter in body, but your spirit was there; you sounded the trumpet, but you were not in the van, and it is always so with people like you.  You are a young man with a very voluble tongue and an empty head, as most mob orators are.  I advise you to study more and speak less—to know, if you can be made to know, that a boy of twenty-two is not the person to alter, the constitution of this country."


    George Julian Harney was early in prison.  He was in the heart of the Chartist movement, and always a picturesque figure in it.  His fervour of speech and his ubiquitous activity made him widely known and popular.  It was long hoped he would be the historian of the movement, of which he knew more than any other leader.  His first wife, who died early, came from Mauchline.  She was tall, beautiful, and of high spirit, a brave counsellor in all risks and a resolute sharer of any consequences.  Harney was worthy of the heroic companionship it was his good fortune to possess.  His last publication in England was the Red Republican, a title which admitted of no mistake, and he was the first Chartist who adopted Louis Blanc's motto—"The Republic, Democratic and Social."

    James, afterwards Alderman, Williams, of Sunderland, was a bookseller, printer, and publicist, and one of the few Chartist agitators in those ardent days who thought that political passion was the better for being controlled by good sense.  At Durham Assizes he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment.  He defended himself.  The jury had recommended leniency on the ground of his being a young man.  Williams said he claimed no consideration on that ground, as what he had done was the result of calm deliberation.  He only claimed consideration on the ground of the utility of his public conduct.  Williams was counted too intellectual in his advocacy, and fell below the level of orators of passion; but at the bar he was in respect of courage far above most of the men of passion, who, like O'Connor and some others, denied what they had said.

    Irish leaders of English political agitation were daring, eloquent, inspiring, impetuous, and dangerous—dangerous because they were impatient, and impatient here because, despairing in their own land, they naturally incited insurgency here which might lead to liberty in Ireland.

    Feargus O'Connor, a man more powerfully built than O'Connell, whom he succeeded as a political advocate in England, was imprisoned for two years in York Castle.  O'Connor was the most impetuous and most patient of all the tribunes who ever led the English Chartists.  In the Northern Star he let every rival speak, and had the grand strength of indifference to what any one said against him in his own columns.  Logic was not his strong point, and he had colossal incoherence.

    Thomas Ainge Devyr, an energetic and fertile Irish leader of English Chartism, would have been imprisoned a long time by Lord Abinger had he not fled to America.  His bail was estreated in his absence.  He was the earliest of the advocates of land and landlord reform in Ireland, and claimed, with some truth, to be the originator of the land theories that afterwards became famous.  The Northern Liberator, edited by him before his flight from Newcastle-on-Tyne to America, was the most readable of all the insurgent newspapers of that period.

    James Bronterre O'Brien, who excelled all the Chartist leaders in passion of speech and invective, was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment at the Liverpool Assizes.  He was the only Chartist who comprehended fully how large a share, social, financial, and commercial, error contributes to the suffering of the people.

    For George White I had as much regard as for any Irish leader among the Chartists.  He was so frank, generous, and brave.  Whenever the early Socialists were in trouble with their theological adversaries, White would bring up his "Old Guard" and man the hall during a debate to see fair play.  In one case in Birmingham they attended five nights, at Beardsworth Repository, from seven to eleven o'clock.  Though poor men, they paid for their own admission.  He said to me that whenever I was in any danger of ill-usage on the platform I was to send him word and he would bring up the "Old Guard."  This he never failed to do.  When he was imprisoned in London, my wife used to make pies for him and take them to him at the Queen's Bench.  They were very welcome to him, as he always had a precarious revenue.  He died ultimately in the Infirmary in Sheffield, I have no doubt dreaming of pies to come, for he was very desolate.  He was the personification of energy, physical and mental, possessing a vigorous frame and bright eyes, with a ready, trenchant speech which had the prance of the war-horse in it, neighing for battle.  Like other Chartists, he took money from the Tories, the better to enable him to destroy the Whigs, whom he distrusted—because they went tardily on the way of redress.  He opposed the Whigs more than he did the Tories, who never set out that way at all.  The father of Lord Cranbrook (it was said by Bradford colleagues), partly from kindness to White, and otherwise for his political services, allowed him many years a small stipend—besides special aid when Anti-Corn Law League meetings required to be broken up.


AMONG the following inhabitants of the prison-house are valued friends and colleagues of my own.  Others I knew and had certain relations with, but without approving or condoning what they had done.  One whom I was bound by ties of friendship to save if I could, sent me a petition to sign, as I was known to the Minister to whom it was addressed.  But I declined, as the plea drawn up by the petitioner justified his act.  I did not agree with the justification, and could not ask a minister to condone an offence which a jury had recognized as harmful to the secular interests of the public.  At the same time I drew up another petition asking for mitigation of sentence on other grounds which could fairly be pleaded.

    Mr. Charles Southwell had been out with Sir de Lacy Evans in the Spanish expedition.  He was imprisoned in 1840 for twelve months, in Bristol Gaol, for an article in the Oracle of Reason, entitled the "Jew Book."  He was sentenced by Sir Charles Wetherell, the "Old Bags" of Hone.  I took the vacant editorship and came to a similar end.  Mr. Southwell was the youngest of thirty-six children, and was the liveliest of them all.  In this he resembled Bishop Bathurst, who was one of thirty-six children by the same father; but Charles Southwell resembled the bishop in no other particular.  Mr. Southwell was for some time upon the stage, and was a good actor.  He was, like myself, a social missionary lecturing upon Mr. Owen's system of society.  He had great versatility—infinite animation, chivalry, and daring.  When Bishop Philpotts intimidated two social missionaries into taking the oath as licensed preachers to avoid certain disabilities, I and Charles Southwell protested against and refused to swear to the thing which was not.  On one occasion he undertook to deliver a lecture for the benefit of prisoners in Edinburgh, in the interests of the Anti-Persecution Union.  He did lecture, and for an hour and a half a large audience was delighted with his wit, vivacity, and discursiveness.  At the conclusion of his address, I said, "Why, Southwell, you never mentioned the subject of your lecture!"  He answered, "Well, I quite forgot it."  So did we all while he was speaking.  He died in Auckland, New Zealand; but though he had ceased to advocate his principles, he maintained them in his death.

    George Adams was imprisoned in Gloucester Gaol for publishing the Oracle of Reason from friendship for me.  Mrs.  Harriet Adams, his wife, was also imprisoned for like cause.  She was handsome, intelligent, and of invincible spirit.  Both died at Watertown, in America.

    Miss Matilda Roalfe, at a time when persecution in Edinburgh prevailed, went from London to conduct a small publishing business, though the previous owner of the shop was imprisoned.  She also was sentenced to be imprisoned sixty days (1843) for the publication of prohibited Freethought works.  She was confined in an unclean cell, and her life was imperilled by religious tumult on her release on bail.  On her trial she cross-examined the witness with good judgment.  She was told that if she pleaded she was unaware of the nature of the books she sold she might escape.  This she would not do.  She was instructed by her legal friends that there were serious legal flaws in the proceedings against her.  She declined to seek escape on technical grounds, but stood on the right of freedom of the press in honest criticism and speculation.  She was as remarkable for quiet courage as for good sense.  She made no complaint and no submission.  She afterwards became the wife of a valued friend of mine, who, next to my brother Austin, was my most trusted assistant at the Fleet Street house.

    Mrs.  Emma Martin was another lady distinguished in her day as a platform speaker on questions of social reform, at whose grave I spoke.  She suffered brief imprisonments.  She was a handsome woman, of brilliant talent and courage.

    Thomas Finlay was a man of sixty years of age when I first knew him.  He was of good presence, intelligence, and devotion to principle.  He made a case with a glass frame and placed in it a copy of the Bible in large type, open at a part which he thought unfit to be found in a sacred book, and placed it where it could be read by passers-by in a main street in Edinburgh.  For this he was imprisoned and the Bible also.  I have the copy which was sent to me, bearing the imprimatur of the Procurator-Fiscal certifying its legal detention for blasphemy.  Finlay defended himself in a speech of considerable length, but was sentenced to six months' imprisonment.  He had a daughter married to Mr. Henry Robinson, of Edinburgh, who was agent for works I published.  He also was imprisoned by the Edinburgh authorities.

    Thomas Pooley, the Cornish well-sinker, whom I aided in rescuing from twenty-one months' imprisonment, was an honest, indomitable, incoherent man, whose career the reader may see described in another chapter.

    Thomas Paterson was a young Scotchman who also went out with Sir de Lacy Evans in the Spanish expedition, to which Southwell also belonged, but they were unknown to each other at that time.  They were afterwards colleagues in the defence of free opinion and underwent similar imprisonment.  Paterson's chief imprisonment was in Scotland, where he went as a volunteer during the Edinburgh prosecutions, being imprisoned fifteen months in 1843.  While I was a stationed lecturer in Sheffield he lived in my house nine months, and was known as my "curate," as I engaged him to assist me in the schools conducted in connection with my lectureship at the Rockingham Street Hall.  No danger and no imprisonment intimidated Paterson.  In any project of peril in which I was concerned, he was always a volunteer.  For this reason I remained his friend until his death, which brought me trouble, as Paterson published attacks on friends of mine from which I entirely dissented.  This he did without my knowing it, but as my friendliness with him was known, I was considered as concurring in his opinion, and thus I lost friends.

    Mr. G. W. Foote was imprisoned for publishing Biblical caricatures not worse than the caricatures which theological adversaries deal in without reproach, and, indeed, with popular approval.  Mr. Ramsay, an intelligent and hard-working propagandist, was imprisoned in like manner for selling them.  I did what I could to induce Sir Wm.  Harcourt to release them on the grounds that, were they chargeable with misplaced ridicule, the consequences fell upon their cause, and it was no business of the State to protect Freethinkers from the excess of their own enthusiasm, and that, since Christians were allowed unbridled license to ridicule their adversaries, and did it, both parties should be imprisoned, or neither.

    The most unjust of all prosecutions of the kind was that of Edward Truelove, a man not only of blameless, but honourable life, who had been a bookseller and publisher for nearly half a century.  He was imprisoned four months for selling Robert Dale Owen's little work on "Physiology in Relation to Morals"—the most ascetic, reasonably-written of all pamphlets on the limitation of families that have been published for forty years.  The sensuality is all on the side of those who object to the principle of such works.  Mr. Truelove, though of advanced age, bravely refused to compromise the right of free publication of opinion, and sustained the traditions of the school of Carlile, Watson, and Hetherington.

    Mr. J. B. Langley was a publicist with whom I was associated for more than thirty years.  He had the passion of public service, and, like all who have it, he neglected his own interest to advance it.  He was imprisoned for the violation of an Act never put in force before, and which, if honestly put in operation, would imprison hundreds of persons in the city of London who are counted of good commercial fame, and who would share the same fate.  Mr. John Bright and Mr. Samuel Morley contributed to a fund to enable Mr. Langley to go to the coast for a time when free, he having many friends who knew how a forlorn hope or struggling cause could always command his services day or night, near or far.  Indeed, it had been better for him had he given more time to his own business and less to the public cause.  Mr. Langley was one of the minor poets, as well as a ready public speaker.

    Mr. Swindlehurst, a very hard worker for social improvement, was imprisoned in like manner from a like cause.

    Robert Southey, who was hanged at Maidstone, was not one of my friends, but I was an adviser of his, and endeavoured to assist him.  He killed seven persons, and was very deservedly executed.  I have known many who earned the gallows in their effort to obtain notoriety, but Southey was the only one who chose it for that purpose.

    Gerald Supple, named elsewhere, a journalistic colleague, was sentenced to be hanged for shooting two persons and killing the wrong one.  He had ability, chivalry, and courage worthy of his country.  He came from Dublin.

    Rudolph Herzel was a tall, thoughtful-looking secretary to a Secular Society at Leeds.  Ardent, intelligent, enthusiastic, devoted, always ready to go to the front, he offered himself to me to serve on any forlorn hope, in conspiracy or battle.  I declined to dispose of any man's life, and did no more on his request than inform him where conflict was impending, but the choice of entering upon it must be his own.  He afterwards went out during the Italian war, and was no more heard of by me.

    One whom I do not name, but who had many claims on my regard, got involved in the unwise defence of some persons, unknown to me, in serious railway robberies.  I have no doubt he acted from some mistaken sense of justice, and wrote a letter intimidatory of the authorities who were investigating the robberies, with which he could not possibly have been concerned.  One morning I saw in The Times a lithographed letter with an offer of £300 reward for discovery of the writer.  I knew at a glance who he was and remonstrated with him.  He wrote, with a fearless defiance natural to him, saying, he knew I needed money, and that I was quite at liberty to give information as to the authorship of the letter, and he not only should not reproach me, but be glad if he could be of service to me.  My answer was that I never took blood-money, especially that of one I had treated as a friend.  He was imprisoned several times subsequently, but never on that or any similar account, and sometimes from causes creditable to him.  A curious thing occurred in connection with the letter referred to.  Having to go to Scotland I took his self-inculpating letter and a copy of The Times containing the lithograph letter with me, intending to give both to him.  I never removed them from my trunk.  Some days after my arrival at my destination I sought them, but they, alas! were not there.  In what way they could have been abstracted or lost I never could make out.  My anxiety lest they had fallen into dangerous hands was very great.  What became of them I never knew.  Fortunately nothing resulted from their loss.

    Now, I have fulfilled my promise to justify my assertion that I have had so many questionable friends that the reader might feel reasonable alarm at continuing the perusal of these pages.  In this and the two preceding chapters I have enumerated sixty-eight persons in whom the State took personal interest.  In enumerating those who were hanged, I have said nothing of others who, in the opinion of confident, if not competent observers, ought to have ended that way.  But every man who had knowledge of public affairs knows a great number of these also.  I have confined myself, with one or two exceptions, to those who nobly incurred peril.  In my memory are many more whom, perhaps, I ought to mention; but I have cited enough to prove my intimation that I am a person of suspicious acquaintances.  But it is a good rule in autobiography, as in debate, to state your case, clear your case, prove your case, and then cease.  To do more is to weary the reader, and that is the prime crime a writer can commit.


HAVING been for more than half a century concerned in the advocacy of Robert Owen's "New Views of Society," which attracted a band of adherents when first announced, I think it is relevant that I should give some account of this class of social ideas.

    Just as Thomas Paine was the founder of political ideas among the people of England, Robert Owen was also the founder of social ideas among them.  He who first conceives a new idea has merit and distinction; but he is the founder of it who puts it into the minds of men by proving its practicability.  Mr. Owen did this at New Lanark, and convinced numerous persons that the improvement of society was possible by wise material means.  There were social ideas in England before the days of Owen, as there were political ideas before the days of Paine; but Owen gave social ideas form and force.  His passion was the organization of labour, and to cover the land with self-supporting cities of industry, in which well-devised material condition should render ethical life possible, in which labour should be, as far as possible, done by machinery, and education, recreation, and competence should be enjoyed by all.  Instead of communities working for the world, they should work for themselves, and keep in their own hands the fruit of their labour; and commerce should be an exchange of surplus wealth, and not a necessity of existence.  All this Owen believed to be practicable.  At New Lanark he virtually or indirectly supplied to his workpeople, with splendid munificence and practical judgment, all the conditions which gave dignity to labour.  Excepting by Godin of Guise, no workmen have ever been so well treated, instructed, and cared for as at New Lanark.

    Co-operation as a form of social amelioration and of profit existed in an intermittent way before New Lanark; but it was the advantages of the stores Owen incited that was the beginning of working-class co-operation.  His followers intended the store to be a means of raising the industrious class, but many think of it now merely as a means of serving themselves.  Still, the nobler portion are true to the earlier ideal of dividing profits in store and workshop, of rendering the members self-helping, intelligent, honest, and generous, and abating, if not superseding competition and meanness.

    During all the discussions upon Mr. Owen's views, I do not remember notice being taken of Thomas Holcroft, the actor, who might have been cited as a precursor of Mr. Owen.  Holcroft, mostly self-taught, familiar with hardship, vicissitude, and adventure, became an author, actor, and playwriter of distinction.  He expressed views of remarkable similarity to those of Owen.  Holcroft was a friend of political and moral improvement, but he wished it to be gradual and rational, because he believed no other could be effectual.  He deplored all provocation and invective.  All that he wished was the free and dispassionate discussion of the great principles relating to human happiness, trusting to the power of reason to make itself heard, not doubting the result.  He believed the truth had a natural superiority over error, if truth could only be stated; that if once discovered it must, being left to itself, soon spread and triumph.  "Men," he said, "do not become what by nature they are meant to be, but what society makes them."

    Actors, apart from their profession, are mostly idealess; and the few who are capable of interest in human affairs outside the stage, are mostly so timid of their popularity that they are acquiescent, often subservient, to conventional ideas.  Not so Holcroft.  When it was dangerous to have independent theological or social opinions, he was as bold as Owen at a later day.  He did not conceal that he was a Necessarian.  He was one of a few moralists who took a chapel in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, with a view to found an Ethical Church.  One of his sayings was this: "The only enemy I encounter is error, and that with no weapon but words.  My constant theme has been, 'Let error be taught, not whipped.'"  Owen but put this philosophy into a system, and based public agitation upon the Holcroft principle.  Owen's habit of mind and principle are there expressed.  Lord Brougham, in his famous address to the Glasgow University in 1825, declared the same principle when he said no man was any more answerable for his belief than for the height of his stature or the colour of his hair.  Brougham, being a life-long friend of Owen, had often heard this from him.  Holcroft was born 1745, died 1809. 

    Robert Owen was a remarkable instance of a man at once Tory and revolutionary.  He held with the government of the few, but, being a philanthropist, he meant that the government of the few should be the government of the good.  It cannot be said that he, like Burke, was incapable of conceiving the existence of good social arrangements apart from kings and courts.  It may be said that he never thought upon the subject.  He found power in their hands, and he went to them to exercise it in the interests of his "system."  He was conservative as respected their power, but conservative of nothing else.  He would revolutionize both religion and society—indeed, clear the world out of the way—to make room for his "new views."  He visited the chief courts of Europe.  Because nothing immediately came of it, it was said he was not believed in.  But there is evidence that he was believed in.  He was listened to because he proposed that crowned heads should introduce his system into their states, urging that it would ensure contentment and material comfort among their people, and by giving rulers the control and patronage of social life, would secure them in their dignity.

    Owen's fine temper was owing to his principle.  He always thought of the unseen chain which links every man to his destiny.  His fine manners were owing to natural self-possession and to his observation.  When a youth behind Mr. McGuffog's counter at Stamford, the chief draper's shop in the town, he "watched the manners and studied the characters of the nobility when they were under the least restraint."  It ever fell to me to entertain many eminent men, even by accident; but the first was Robert Owen.  His object was to meet a professor and some young students at the London University.  Two of them were Mr. Percy Greg and Mr. Michael Foster, both of whom afterwards became eminent.  There were some publicists present, and Mr. W. J. Birch, author of the "Philosophy and Religion of Shakspeare," all good conversationalists.  Mr. Owen was the best talker of the party.  Perhaps it was that they deferred to him, or submitted to him, because of his age and public career; but he displayed more variety and vivacity than they.  He spoke naturally as one who had authority.  But his courtesy was never suspended by his earnestness.  Owen, being a Welshman, had all the fervour and pertinacity, without the impetuosity of his race.  Though he had made his own fortune by insight and energy, his fine manners came by instinct.  He was successively a draper's counterman, a clerk, a manager, a trader and manufacturer; but he kept himself free from the hurry and unrest of manner which the eagerness of gain and the solicitude of loss, impart to the commercial class, and which mark the difference between their manners and those of gentlemen.  There are both sorts in the House of Commons.  As a rule, you know on sight the members who have made their own fortunes.  If you accost them, they are apt to start as though they were arrested.  An interview is an encroachment.  They do not conceal that they are thinking of their time as they answer you.  They look at their minutes as though they were loans, and only part with them if they are likely to bear interest.  There are business men in Parliament who are born with the instinct of progress without hurry.  But they are the exception.

    A gentleman has no master, and is neither driven nor hurries as though he had some one to obey.  Mr. Owen had this charm of repose.  He had a clear and abiding conception that men had no substantial interest in being base; and that when they were base, it was an intrinsic misfortune arising from inherited tendency, or acquired from contact with untoward circumstances.  This belief made him patient with dishonesty; but dishonesty never blinded him nor imposed upon him.  He could see as far into a rogue as any man.  His theory of the influences of heredity and circumstances gave him a key to character.  Miss Martineau had frequent visits from Mr. Owen, who, she said, "always interested her by his candour and cheerfulness.  His benevolence and charming manners would make him the most popular man in England if he could but distinguish between assertion and argument, and refrain from wearying his friends with his monotonous doctrine."  It is a peculiarity in some Welshmen that, if refuted in argument and they admit the refutation to be conclusive, their previous conviction returns to them, and they reassert it as though it had never been answered.  I observed this in Welshmen in America, where there is no market for abandoned ideas, and no time for returning to errors.  Mr. Owen had this recurrency of anterior ideas, but in him it seemed earnestness rather than mere iteration.  Besides, it was consistency in him, seeing that he never thought confutation of his views possible, and never met with it.

    Because he insisted on these far-reaching principles, which were sufficient to recast the social policy of the nation, he was described disparagingly as "a man of one idea."  I never shared this objection to persons of one idea, having known so many who had none.  Many people have but fragments of ideas, and no complete conception of any.

    Mr. Owen's fault was that he repeated his great idea in the same words.  It is variety of statement of the same thing—if there be truth in it—which conquers conviction.


Mr. OWEN'S sense of fame lay in his ideas.  They formed a world in which he dwelt, and he thought others who saw them would be as enchanted as he was.  But others did not see them, and he took no adequate means to enable them to see them.  James Mill and Francis Place revised his famous "Essays on the Formation of Character," of which he sent a copy to the first Napoleon.  Mr. Owen published nothing else so striking or vigorous.  Yet he could speak on the platform impressively and with a dignity and force which commanded the admiration of cultivated adversaries.

    Like Turner, Owen had an earlier and a later manner.  His memoirs—never completed—were written apparently when Robert Fulton's death was recent.  They have incident, historic surprises, and the charm of genuine autobiography; but when he wrote of his principles, he lacked altogether Cobbett's faculty of "talking with the pen," which is the source of literary engagingness.  It was said of Montaigne that "his sentences were vascular and alive, and if you pricked them they bled."  If you pricked Mr. Owen's, when he wrote on his "System," you lost your needle in the wool.  He had the altruistic fervour as strongly as Comte, but Owen was without the artistic instinct of style, which sees an inapt word as a false tint in a picture or as an error in drawing.

    His "Lectures on Marriage" he permitted to be printed in a note-taker's unskilful terms, and did not correct them, which subjected him and his adherents also to misapprehension.  Everybody knows that love must always be free, and, if left to take its own course, is generally ready to accept the responsibility of its choice.  People will put up with the ills they bring upon themselves, but will resent happiness proposed by others; just as a nation will be more content with the bad government of their own contriving than they will be under better laws imposed upon them by foreigners.  Polygamous relations are inconsistent with delicacy or refinement.  Miscellaneousness and love are incompatible terms.  Love is an absolute preference.  Mr. Owen regarded affection as essential to chastity; but his deprecation of priestly marriages set many against marriage itself.  This was owing more to the newness of his doctrine in those days, which led to misconception on the part of some, and was wilfully perverted by others.  He claimed for the poor facilities of divorce equal to those accorded to the rich.  To some extent this has been conceded by law, which has tended to increase marriage by rendering it less a terror.  The new liberty produced license, as all new liberty does; yet the license is not chargeable upon the liberty, nor upon those who advocated it: but upon the reaction from unlimited bondage.

    Owen's philanthropy was owing to his principles.  Whether wealth is acquired by chance or fraud—as a good deal of wealth is—or owing to inheritance without merit, or to greater capacity than other men have, it is alike the gift of destiny, and Mr. Owen held that those less fortunate should be assisted to improvement in their condition by the favourites of fate.  Seeing that every man would be better than he is were his condition in life devised for his betterment, Owen's advice was not to hate men, but to change the system which makes them what they are or keeps them from moral advancement.  For these reasons he was against all attempts at improvement by violence. Force was not reformation.  In his mind reason and better social arrangements were the only remedy.

    In the autumn of 1845 I sent to Mr. Owen (he being then in America) a copy of my first book on his social philosophy, and the method of stating it on the platform.  It was entitled "Rationalism," treated from an Individualist point of view.  Mr. Owen's party were then known as "Rational Religionists."  Solicitous of the opinion of the master, I asked him, in case he approved of it, to please to tell me so, and permit me to say so.  In 1848, he being again in England, I sent him a further copy, as possibly the other never reached him.  He kindly answered as follows:


"March 18, 1848.

"MY DEAR SIR, -Many thanks for your note, papers, and book, which came here last night only, although your note is dated 3rd inst.  I am just now overwhelmed with most important public business, which will more than occupy every moment of my time until I return from Paris.  As soon as I shall have leisure for both reading and study, I will attend to your 'Rationalism,' and give my opinion of it.

"Yours, my dear sir,

"Very truly and affectionately,


"P.S.—Keep up the type of the first 500 copies" [alluding to a work I was printing for him].

    Always intent on the diffusion of his views, I conclude he never found time to give me the opinion I sought.

    In another letter he had told me that Mr. Cobden had presented to Parliament a petition from him.  I do not possess any letter in which he referred to the opinion he promised to give me; but I inferred from his continued friendship that he did not much dissent from what I had said in "Rationalism," or he would have made time to do so; for when, in a proof of an article I had sent him (he contributed several to the Reasoner I was then editing), his sharp eye detected the words "misery, producing circumstances," he desired me to tell the printer to remove the comma and put a hyphen in its place, that it might read "misery-producing circumstances."  On one occasion he held £10 scrip in the Fleet Street house.

    In 1847, Mr. Owen was a candidate for the representation of Marylebone.  The principles he offered to advocate are notable to-day, as showing how well he understood the political needs of the nation, and how much he was in advance of his times:—

  1. A graduated property tax equal to the national expenditure.

  2. The abolition of all other taxes.

  3. No taxation without representation.

  4. Free trade with all the world.

  5. National education for all who desire it.

  6. National beneficial employment for all who require it.

  7. Full and complete freedom of religion under every name by which men may call themselves.

  8. A national circulating medium, under the supervision and control of Parliament, that could be increased or diminished as wealth for circulation increased or diminished; and that should be, by its ample security, unchangeable in its value.

  9. National military training for all male children in schools, that the country may be protected against foreign invasion, without the present heavy permanent military expenditure.

    Mr. Owen was afterwards a candidate for the City of London.  I, being a freeman, was one of his nominators, and attended at the Guildhall, at his request, to propose or second him on the day of election.

    For many weeks I published an advertisement of the commencement of the Millennium in 1855.  This I continued at his request until March 25th.  But up to quarter day no sign of it appeared.  I received payment for the advertisement in the Reasoner, which, had I believed the Millennium was so near, I should not have taken.


Mr. OWEN had three sons who had distinction in their day.  One was employed by the United States Government on geological survey of territories, another fought in the war of the Rebellion, and died by injudiciously tasting embalming water, brought to him for analysis.  Robert Dale, his eldest son, came to be United States Minister at Naples, and delighted King Bomba with spiritual seances until Garibaldi swept the tyrant and the spirits away.  The minister's daughter Rosamond became Mrs.  Oliphant—a bright young lady who wrote a singularly wise pamphlet on the Rights of Women.

Robert Dale Owen

    American papers, who best knew the facts concerning Robert Dale Owen, explained that for a period before his death he suffered from excitement of the brain, ascribed to overwork in his youth.  He was, from his youth upward, a man of absolute moral courage, and to the end of his days he maintained the reputation of it.  As soon as he was deceived by the Spiritist, Katie King, he published a card and said so, and warned people not to believe what he had said about that fascinating impostor.  A man of less courage would have said nothing, in the hope that the public would the sooner forget it.  It is clear now, that spiritism did not affect his mind; his mind was affected before he presented gold rings to feminine spirits.  Towards the end of his days he fancied himself the Marquis of Breadalbane, and proposed coming over to Scotland to take possession of his estates.  He had a great scheme for recasting the art of war by raising armies of gentlemen only, and proposed himself to go to the then raging East and settle things there on a very superior plan.  He believed himself in possession of extraordinary powers of riding and fighting, and had a number of amusing illusions.  But he was not a common madman; he was mad like a philosopher—he had a picturesque insanity.  After he had charmed his friends by his odd speculations, he would spend a few days in analyzing them, and wondering how they arose in his mind.  He very coolly and skilfully dissected his own crazes.  The activity of the brain had become at times incontrollable; still his was a very superior kind of aberration.  In politics, Robert Dale Owen was not a force so much as an ornament, and never fulfilled the promise of his youth in being a leader of men.  In his Freethought writings he excelled all his contemporaries in finish of expression.


WHEN a book was issued some years ago in London, in defence of small families, it bore a disagreeable title, and I suggested to the author that "Elements of Social Science" would be a better one, which he adopted.  Afterwards Prof. Newman pointed out in his discerning way, in letters to the Reasoner, that the author's doctrine included a principle which would lead to evil: as it implied that seduction might be a physiological necessity.  The merciful aim of the work was so far frustrated by its execution.  To any similar work the objection made by me related solely to its expression.  This I made clear in the book "John Stuart Mill, as the Working Classes knew him."  On a question such as family limitation, delicacy of phrase and purity of taste are everything.  They are themselves safeguards of morality.  Foolishness of thought, coarseness of illustration, deter from acts of the highest prudence and repel instead of attracting serious attention.

    Nations, as well as persons, are on some subjects comparatively without the sense of taste.  Joseph Barker, whom many readers know, was entirely deficient in it.  In his first book, "Memoirs of a Man," he gave incredible and unquotable instances of it, and elsewhere also.  Americans, as a rule, are far less reticent on domestic questions than Englishmen.  Scotland is notable in the same way; I have heard at public assemblies there things said before a mixed audience, by educated persons, which no class in England could anywhere be found to utter.  We have reservation it is not well to disregard, since it is a sentiment of civilization, and means moral refinement.  It was from Scotland this subject first came into England.  In these days of Board schools and science lectures, physiology can be explained to girls, whatever they need to know, by lady physicians.  Youths should be taught by a medical professor in the same way; and no course of education should be considered complete until a series of select class lectures had been given, so that domestic knowledge should be insured of all that can affect, for good or evil, the future of the human race.

    In 1874-5, I was engaged in writing the "History of Co-operation in England," when I became acquainted with a curious episode in the career of the founder of that system.

    Robert Owen, finding the world in manifest disorder, suggested how it might be put straight.  Looking at it with an intelligent and benevolent eye, he saw that crime was error, and that misery was crime—in other words, that misery was preventable, and that it was a crime in rulers to permit it.  He was the first publicist amongst us who looked with royal eyes upon children.  He regarded grown persons as proprietors of the world, bound to extend the rights of hospitality to all visitors.  He considered little children as little guests, to be welcomed with gentle courtesy and tenderness, to be offered knowledge and love, and charmed with song and flowers, so that they might be glad, and proud that they had come into a world which gave them happiness and only asked from them goodness.

    Mr. Owen began his career as a reformer—in what we regard now as the pre-scientific period—before men measured progress by single steps.  As Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar expressed it with admirable comprehensiveness—"Mr. Owen looked to nothing less than to renovate the world, to extirpate all evil, to banish all punishment, to create like views and like wants, to guard against all conflicts and hostilities."  There is grandeur in this wide horizon of social effort, which will always have inspiration in it.  Finding pious benevolence, seeking progress by prayer-which did not bring it—Mr. Owen boldly proposed to substitute for it scientific benevolence, which seeks human improvement by material methods.  "Here," he said, if not in terms, in theory, "is the new path of deliverance, where no thought is lost, no effort vain; where the victory is always to the wise and the patient, and the poor who are wise will no longer be betrayed."

    We know not now what courage it required to say this.  When Mr. Owen said it, gentlemen expected to provide the poor with their religion.  If they subscribed to any school, this was the chief object they had in view; for it was very little secular learning they imparted.  In Sunday schools, spelling, reading, writing, and arithmetic were given in homœopathic doses, and they were generally subordinated to the Catechism.  Mr. Owen gave lessons in the knowledge of the world in his schools, and justified their being given.  Both the clergy and dissenting ministers regarded with jealousy any influence arising not under their direction, and they made it difficult for social improvers to do anything.  They gave bad accounts of any working men who allied themselves to social schemes, so that inquirers were intimidated.  It was a great merit of Mr. Owen that he did more to resent this, and inspire others to deliver society from it, than any other man of wealth in his time.

    In those alarmed days, when politicians and capitalists were as terrified as shopkeepers at the progress of co-operation, Mr. Owen, not content with spreading disquiet among the clergy, threw a new alarm into the midst of conventional conservatism, which has strangely passed out of the sight of history.  Mr. James Mill had written in the "Encyclopædia Britannica" that it was both desirable and possible to limit the families of the poor.  He held the opinion that it ought to be done, and that the poor should see to it.  He despised working people who crowded the labour market with their offspring, and then complained of the lowness of wages and want in their homes, where there were more hungry mouths than food.

    Certainly man or woman entering the office of a parish overseer to be questioned with suspicion, relieved with reluctance, treated as a burden on the parish, and advised to emigrate (as the shopkeeper naturally begrudges the flesh on their bones which he has to pay for), is a humiliating business, so shocking and deplorable that those who come to this state had better never have been born.  Any legitimate remedy which the wit of man could devise would seem purity and dignity by the side of this degradation.  Those who undertook to make communities soon found that the inmates would come to certain ruin if overrun with children, and they listened to James Mill's warning, and not his alone.  The Edinburgh Review was quite as emphatic and more explicit to the same end than the "Encyclopædia."  Mr. Owen, who always gave heed to the philosophers, circulated papers addressed "To the married of the working people," warning them of their danger.  His courage and thoroughness was wonderful.  No man had a better right than he to invent the maxim he was fond of using, "Truth without mystery, mixture of error, or fear of man."  He was not better able, peradventure, than other men to obtain truth free from error; but he was beyond question as free from fear of man in moral things as any publicist who ever lived.  It was stated in the Black Dwarf, by several correspondents, that this was so.  Mr. Richard Carlile wrote a letter from Dorchester Gaol, which was published, stating that if Mr. Owen was written to "he would proudly admit to any one" that families should be manageable.  Mr. Jonathan Wooler, the editor, treated the statement as a fact.

    The Black Dwarf stated that "Mr. Owen had become a convert to Mr. Malthus's views as to the danger of population, and had been to France to learn in what way French families were limited.  He consulted the most eminent physicians of France upon the subject, as he was alarmed at the result of large families in communities."  He made known the result of his inquiries in 1822.  The following year, a packet of papers upon this subject was sent to No.  5, Water Lane, Fleet Street, London, where Mr. Richard Carlile then had a shop, with a request that he would forward it as directed; after the manner of booksellers, he did so, and no mean commotion shortly followed, the noise of which was long heard in the land, and reverberations occurred in The Times as late as 1873. [13]

    In September, 1823, as Mr. John Edward Taylor, editor of the Manchester Guardian, was sitting at dinner, with Mr. Jeremiah Garnett and other gentlemen, a messenger, whom he had sent to his office, 29, Market Street, for letters that might come in by the evening mails, brought him, besides the letters, a parcel which had come by coach, directed to him at the Guardian office.  The direction was written on an envelope, and within was an anonymous note, requesting him respectfully to have the parcel delivered to Mrs. Mary Fildes, No. 3, Comet Street, Manchester.  The writer gave as his reason for troubling Mr. Taylor that he was not sure of the lady's address.  Mr. Taylor, not knowing the handwriting, asked a London guest at the table "if it were the handwriting of any of the London Radicals."  Mr. Taylor reading the note, and not opening the parcel, and knowing nothing of its contents, ordered it to be delivered to Mrs.  Fildes, who, astounded at what she found in it, and being a capable woman, active in things political, and able to write a good letter, wrote demanding an explanation of Mr. Taylor.  She subsequently sent one of the papers to Sir Robert Giffard, Knight, the then Attorney General, saying that in her opinion "the morals of society would be completely destroyed by them."  A year or two later Mrs.  Fildes thought differently upon the subject, and with her customary decision said so.  It appears from the Labourer's Friend and Handicraft's Chronicle, published in London at that period, that similar papers had been sent among the Spitalfields weavers.  Mr. Owen never denied the statement that the papers originally "emanated from him."  Mr. Place, who preserved the publications in which the foregoing facts are recorded, left nothing from Mr. Owen—so far as I can find—decidedly in reference to it.  Indeed, as Owen himself, when editor of the Crisis, announced nine years later, namely, October 27, 1832, that his son, Robert Dale, had published a book upon the same subject, and to the same effect, there is no reason to suppose that he intended to contradict the allegation in question.  Sir R. Giffard is understood to have taken steps to discover the actual distributors of the papers, and curious traditions have existed as to his success.  In 1849, as I have said, an attempt was made to connect J. A. Roebuck with the distribution.  In 1873, twenty-five years later, Mr. John Stuart Mill was said to have been one of the parties, probably because his father held strong opinions on this question.  No conjecture has been too wild to obtain circulation at the clubs, as distance of time rendered certainty difficult.  Mr. Mill, who neither agreed with Mr. Owen's communism, nor with his son Robert Dale Owen's book on the subject in question, was specially exempted from persons probable.  Mr. Owen, who was publicly known to be an actor in the matter, has altogether escaped these charges.  It is proof of his wonderful fearlessness that he meddled with this question at all, and it is no less wonderful that, amid all the fertility and hostility of the Anti-Socialist adversaries who attacked Mr. Owen's "systems," this special charge was never made.

John Stuart Mill

    The venerable vindictiveness and educated malevolence which pursued Mr. Mill, spared Mr. Owen, nor does it appear to have influenced the eminent friends who acted with Mr. Owen, and to whom everything was known.  His theological criticism was remembered against him, and thus Mr. Owen experienced the reality of the maxim of Thomas, that "the propagation of new truths affecting clerical dogmas is the last crime that men forgive."

    Beyond any gentleman of his time, Mr. Owen cared for the friendless, regardless of himself.  This question concerned none save the poor, and he boldly counselled them not to be coerced by opprobrium into supplying offspring to be ground up alive in the mill of capital, or to be cast aside when the labour market was glutted, to fall into the hands of the constable or the parish overseer.

    No notice of this curious and characteristic episode in Mr. Owen's life occurs in the biographies of him which have appeared since his death—not even in the "Life and Times of Robert Owen" by his disciple Lloyd Jones.  Nothing is said of it in Sargant's "Life of Robert Owen," containing a variety of facts which it must have taken considerable research and cost to accumulate.  Though Mr. Sargant's views were unsympathetic and antagonistic, he never calumniated, although he often failed to judge accurately points which an alien historian could hardly be expected to understand; but as he was never dull, never indecisive, and often was right in the opinions he formed, he was an instructive writer to those who incline to the side of the innovators, and must have considerably increased the curiosity of the public of his generation, who regarded Mr. Owen, if they knew him at all, as an heresiarch whose proceedings have been unknown in polite society.

    In 1840, I left the employment in which until my twenty-third year I was engaged.  For a while I was an assistant teacher in a private school in Moor Street, Birmingham.  For a year I had charge of the books and correspondence of Mr. Pemberton, a brother of Charles Reece Pemberton, a Venetian wire blind maker.  Some time I wrote technical treatises for mechanics who were masters of their craft, but not used to the pen.  A publisher had engaged them to supply handbooks by reason of their known skill.  After they had told their story in their own way, I retold it for them and they shared their payment with me.  At one time I wrote advertisements for an eminent firm whom I persuaded that to tell the truth in them would be the greatest novelty out.  I did what I could to combine picturesqueness with veracity, and received 7s. 6d. for each advertisement.  The same firm still advertises or I should give their names.  At intervals of years I have seen some of my old work among announcements of fashionable commodities.


PERSONS favourable to the organization of the social state, whom Robert Owen had incited to action, came to be called "Socialists."   Mr. Cobden spoke at times in the House of Commons in condemnation of them without appearing to be aware that there never were any agitators in England of the kind he had in his mind.  Continental Socialists meditated rearranging society by force.  There never were in England any philanthropists of the musket and the knife.  English Socialists expected to improve society by showing the superior reasonableness of the changes they sought.  A small branch of these propagandists existed in Worcester.  An enthusiastic carpenter had enlarged and fitted up an oblong workshop as a lecture-room, some sympathisers—who never appeared in the hall—furnished means of purchasing materials.  These humble lecture-rooms were called "Halls of Science," not that we had much science—merely a preference for it.  A less pretentious name would have better pleased me, but it proclaimed our intention of permitting science to be explained on Sundays, when any one among us had any to explain.  I, who held that Science was the Providence of Life, agreed with this use of Sunday.  In those days science was regarded by theologians as a form of sin.  Occasionally we had little festivals of the families of members.  Once laughing gas—then a new thing—was administered for amusement.  The effect upon the carpenter was quite unexpected; he turned somersaults all down the hall, and downstairs out into the open.  Being a heavy man, this unforeseen performance produced consternation.  One of the auditors at this hall became a scientific balloonist, and his name was known over Europe.  My first lectureship was at this hall, at a salary of 16s.  a week.  Socialist salaries were not of a nature to tempt any one to act against his conscience; but my conviction laying that way, I accepted the appointment.  One advantage was that my family, though it consisted of only three persons, found themselves under favourable circumstances for acquiring the art of economy.  I had never heard of D'Alembert's motto, "Liberty, Truth, Poverty."   I soon saw that they went together in propagandism, but I did not give heed to that.

    At first my family resided in Birmingham, which involved a walk of twenty-six miles to visit them.  On days when I returned to lecture at night, I used to find that on the first stage to Bromgrove (thirteen miles) I could arrange pretty clearly the order of my intended discourse, while on the second thirteen miles my grasp of the subject seemed weaker; but the cause of that did not occur to me.  Eventually we all resided in Worcester, where, by the introduction of a lady friendly to the "cause" I increased my income by teaching mathematics to a ladies' school, where I was known as Mr. Jacobs, as my own name would have carried alarming associations with it.

    After six months, I was proposed as an accredited lecturer, of the "Socialist" movement.  The general body was known as the "Association of all Classes of all Nations," which would have been a very considerable society if it had ever answered to its name.  It took a second title, that of "Rational Religionists," to which there were many objections—as few would believe in a rational religion, and more thought that "rationality" savoured too much of carnal reason.  There was a central board for the government of the party, and every year there was a congress at which ten or twelve stationed lecturers were appointed to the chief branches.  The term "congress" was an American term introduced by William Pare, and had not been in popular use in England.  When the question of my appointment came to be considered, objection was taken to my voice as wanting in strength.  The objection would have been fatal had it not been for Mr. J. L. Murphy, an influential Irish member of the board, who said my voice was as strong as that of Lalor Sheil, which could be very well heard by a meeting willing to listen.  Others concluded that, in a party widely credited with subversive and dangerous purposes, an unaggressive voice like mine might confuse prejudice, if it did not disarm it.  The result was that I was appointed by the Manchester Congress of 1841, Station Lecturer at Sheffield.

    The title given to such persons was "Social Missionary," and some wrote "S. M."   after their names.  The Sheffield branch wanted a lecturer who was willing also to teach a day school, and for these double duties of speaking three times a week and teaching every day the salary was 30s.  To conduct the school more effectually I provided an assistant at my own cost, as I approved of branches having good schools.  My assistant was Thomas Paterson, the young Scotchman already mentioned.

    Sometimes by small articles for papers, sometimes by a preface to an author's book, sometimes by revising a technical treatise for a writer who had knowledge without words, and by now and then giving private lessons in Euclid, I brought a little increase to the household funds.  Once I was selected to deliver the anniversary lectures in Huddersfield, for which travelling expenses were given, and by walking the distance the fare was, so much gain.  The journey to Huddersfield was thirty miles, and nearing the town I found my mind, which had been very alert on setting out, had become limp.  On the Sunday morning when I had first to speak it had not recovered, and it was night before my voice was clear and my ordinary animation returned.  I had too little physiological knowledge to know then that great fatigue affected the mind as well as the body, and that physical exhaustion rendered efforts of thought impossible.

    It was in Sheffield that I published my first pamphlet, "The Advantages and Disadvantages of Trades Unions."   I began with the conviction that it was of little use suggesting improvement in anything until you had shown that you comprehended the good there is already in the thing to be supplemented or superseded.  This brought me the acquaintance of Ebenezer Elliott, the Corn Law Rhymer.  I had adapted two lines from one of his poems

"O pallid want!  O labour stark!
 Behold! behold! the second Ark—
 The Land!  The Land!"

Instead of "The Land" I substituted "Co-operation."   Elliott sent me a friendly protest against changing his terms and destroying his metre, and an invitation to breakfast.

    Once, at a public meeting in Sheffield at which I spoke, Elliott rose and said words of me—he being generous and I the advocate of an unpopular party—which would have ruined me had I believed them.  His modesty towards himself, his affluence of praise to others, was shown in his saying to Joseph Barker; "I give you brass, you give me gold."   It was the reverse in fact.  But when he wrote criticism or praise, it could always be trusted—he kept close to proportion and truth.  My chief friends in Sheffield, outside the Hall of Science, Rockingham Street, were Mr. John Fowler, who was chosen by Mr. Fox and Serjeant Talfourd to write the life of Pemberton; and Mr. Paul Rodgers, a local poet.  One day we all went to the house Ebenezer Elliott had built for himself.  He gave us a country luncheon, and strolled with us down the path which he had celebrated in his "Wonders of the Lane."   As my hearers in Rockingham Street Hall were Communists, he made merriment for me by repeating his clever lines—

"What is a Communist?  One who hath yearnings
 For equal division of unequal earnings.
 Idler or bungler, or both, he is willing
 To fork out his penny and pocket your shilling."

This was the newspaper definition.  The English Communists were exactly opposite.  They had a passion for industry, and sought only an equitable division of profits.  I valued the society of wits and men of higher cultivation.  Neither missionaries nor preachers acquire robust views who live always in the confined atmosphere of their congregations.

    Nothing save a strong propagandist predilection would have led me to accept an appointment for which I had little popular qualification.  With a bold voice and good presence a little sense goes a long way; with some audiences it goes all the way.  If a splendid voice is accompanied by splendid sense, the orator becomes invincible, as was Gambetta with his voice of storm, thunder, and energy—the mere report of which still echoes in European ears.  A striking gesture, a new tone, will sometimes make the fortune of a speech.  But without resonance of voice the tone which charms the ear may not occur.  I had nothing to recommend me but the passion of persuasion and the aim of usefulness.  For many years the fault beset me of crowding too many objects on the canvas of my speeches.  The main subject was then indeterminate.  Fortunately, there are always some bird-minded hearers in every assembly—who think in the air.  Their good time is when a speaker talks over the heads of his audience—as they are just in the way to catch what he says.  Mr. Anthony Young, who afterwards resided with me, then an actor in Sheffield, made me a character in a pantomime.  I did not know it when I entered the theatre, and was surprised at the clever personation of myself.  Young, with the discernment of the stage, told me I squandered points by not stopping to make them.  This was a defect in art.  I knew this, and in 1846 purchased a portrait of Talleyrand, which ever after hung in my writing room.  Mazzini described him as the "greatest liar in Europe"; but he did not lie in a hurry, and acted on the maxim of "never doing to-day what might by any possibility be put off till to-morrow."   His unhasting face was a charm allaying my futile impetuosity.  Swinbourne the tragedian, Weitling the German Communist, Wendell Phillips, and one or two great preachers told me they found incitement in a book on "Public Speaking" I wrote; but it was long before I was successful with hearers, and then only in assemblies within the compass of my voice.

    Yet I had some instinct of art.  I admired Robespierre—not on account of principles ascribed to him, but because he used one sized paper, and wrote out himself all his speeches in a large and careful hand.  No one can do that without detecting verbiage, irrelevance, and limpness of expression.  But though I knew the plan to be good, I have never had time to follow it.

    Whatever art I had, or could acquire, my audiences had need of it.  There are various classes of hearers.  One have capacity, and thirst for new ideas, and know what to do with them when they get them.  Another class have only room for one idea at a time in their heads, and if they by chance get a new one, it puts out the one they had.  Generally the new idea is non-insertable.  They are such persons as Sojourner Truth once met, of whom she said in her discerning way, "I would have told them something, only I saw they had nowhere to put it."  A third class, very numerous, have sandy brains.  The soil of their minds is loose, and nothing takes root in it.  Some brains require a chemical treatment of the soil to get them into a fruitful state and keep them so.  An inciting weekly address is the salvation of minds of this order.  Those who have room for only one idea in their heads at a time need cranial enlargement, which if attempted at once, the receptacle might give way.  The only safe course is slow and continuous expansion.  Then there are a large class of petrified publicists.  Year by year they remain the same, becoming no wiser, no more discreet, no more daring.  They have mere Esquimaux minds, all blubber and bearskin.  They are what in new colonies are called the squatters of progress.  They sit down on the first bare place they find, and never get up again.  At the end of years you find them where they were.  They say the same things, they think in the old way, they retail the old suspicions, and if a new idea comes in their way they have no appetite for it.  They nibble at it like a rabbit.  And if they choose ideas for themselves, they, rabbit like, are allured by the greenest.

    Then there is a further class who conclude they know everything, and who think neither sermons, nor books, nor newspapers, nor lectures are of any use or need to them.  They fancy themselves self-acting and all-knowing.  These are adherents who are at once the ornaments and discouragements of a cause, who disseminate apathy and know it not.  Only those of strong and exceptional natures are able to work for a length of time unaided by the stimulus of daily recurring and renewed impressions.  It is a fortunate law of human nature that no impression remains long of the same force.  Were it not so, the first great sorrow would bow us low all our lives.  Disappointment would subjugate us, and we should fall into leaden despair.  It is the same with our noblest impressions; they, too, grow weaker with time.  No will is strong enough to maintain its pristine force.  No high purpose, no deep sense of duty can keep us always at the level of a great resolve.  Every man has to deplore how he has failed in carrying out his greatest resolutions.  Business, necessity, daily duties, claims of others upon him, new events which none can foresee and none evade, al.  come and dissipate, the fiercest resolution.

"For each day brings its petty dust
 Our soon choked minds to fill;
 And we forget because we must,
 And not because we will."

    What it fell to me to teach such hearers as appeared in the hall, were secular grounds of tolerance and unity as might render co-operative efforts possible.  The substance may be briefly stated.

    Man is small and does not require a big theory of life.  A plain working plan is enough; each creature has two main qualities—susceptibility and resistance.  The capacities of receiving noble impressions, and of insensibility to the ignoble ones, are our best endowments.  When thought or circumstances create within us impulse of choice or action, we call that will.  As we know other persons to be constituted as ourselves, we strive by reason or by surrounding them with suitable material conditions to create the will we wish to prevail.  The whole question is described by Wordsworth in the lines—

"The eye it cannot choose but see,
 We cannot bid the ear be still,
 Our bodies feel where'er they be,
 Against or with our will.

 Nor less I deem that there are powers
 Which of themselves our minds impress,
 And we can feed this mind of ours
 By a wise passiveness."

    Wordsworth saying this was counted spirituality—in us it was assailed as materialism; and the clergy were angry with us.  According to their own account, God had been very bountiful to them in according to them many graces—but we found discernment was very sparingly vouchsafed to them in those days.  Attacked without reason, we went out on the warpath.  On the banner entrusted to me I put the words—"They who believe they have the Truth ask no favour, save that of being heard: they dare the judgment of mankind: refused co-operation, they accept opposition—for opposition is their opportunity."   It was demanded of us that we gave our opinion on Theism and Futurity.  Mine was brief, but as straight as I knew how to make it.

    Outside the world of science and morality lies the great debateable ground of the existence of Deity and a future state.  The ruler of the debateable ground is named Probability, and his two ministers are Curiosity and Speculation.  Over that mighty plain, which is as wide as the universe and as old as time, no voice of the gods has ever been heard, and no footstep of theirs has been traced.  Philosophers have explored the field with telescopes of a longer range than the eyes of a thousand saints, and have beheld nothing save the silent and distant horizon; and priests have denounced them for not seeing what was invisible.  Sectaries have clamoured and the most ignorant have howled—as the most ignorant always do—that there was something there, because they wished to see it.  All the while the white mystery is still unpenetrated in this life, and we must die to find it out.  But a future being undiscovered is no proof that there is no future.  Those who reason through their desire will believe there is; those who reason through their understanding may yet hope that there is.  In the meantime all stand before the portals of the untrodden world in equal unknowingness of what lies beyond.  In this world which is under our feet we may be equal in friendliness, duty, and justice.  The reverence of that which is right is no mean form of worship.  As we read in the family motto of the Maharajahs of Benares, "There is no Religion higher than Truth," and the only truth which can be trusted is that which can be tested here.  The believer said to the prophet: "I will set my camel free and trust him to Allah."   Mahomet answered: "Tie thy camel first and then commit him to God."

    Such were the teachings of my lectureship.  If it did not go far, it did not mislead.  It was for a prudent piety.  I saw the gods had a good deal on their hands if they personally took care of everybody, and it seemed most reverential to give them as little trouble as possible.  It was the aim of English Socialism to make good citizens, good neighbours, good parents, and good workmen.  Our principles went no further, and as Karpos said to Prince Tuctan, we hoped God would take it in good part, and have mercy on our souls.


IT never entered into my mind that I should one day be a prisoner.  It came about in this wise.  Robert Owen, the princely advocate of a new social state, entitled it a "rational religion."  Reason in piety was not then, as has been said, understood—faith being regarded as above logic.  The Conservatives of that day assailed the religion of usefulness, which taught that the character of man could be improved by better material conditions than then existed.  This was thought to diminish the power of going wrong, whereas it merely tended to make virtue inevitable.  The Bishop of Exeter, Dr. Philpotts, took the floor of the House of Lords against us, and caused dismissal from office of many of the new way of thinking.  My townsman, William Pare, thus lost his registrarship in Birmingham, though a man of high official character and wide civic repute.  The lecture-halls of these rationalists being under episcopal license, the lecturers could be called upon to make public oath that they held Christian tenets, and took the Bible as the guide of their teaching—which they did not, excepting so far as its moral precepts were conducive to the nobler human life they advocated.  Two of these lecturers—Robert Buchanan, the father of the poet of that name, and Mr. Lloyd Jones—both colleagues of mine, took this oath.  Mr. Jones, the foremost man on the social warpath, being an Irishman, was for meeting the enemy with his own weapons—took the oath at once.  Mr. Buchanan, being a Scotchman, and having the veracity of the Covenanter lingering in his bones, took a week to consider whether he would swear the thing which was not — but swore at last.  Mr. G. A. Fleming, editor of the New Moral World, justified seeking safety by the oath.  This kind of oath-taking rather compromised the new moral world.  Mr. Charles Southwell and myself, with Mr. Maltus Questell Ryall, the son of an engraver in London, and William Chilton, a printer of Bristol, formed a Defiant Syndicate of Four, and issued the Oracle of Reason.  Southwell was a speaker of dramatic power, familiar with the stage as well as the platform.  Ryall was an accomplished iconoclast, fiery, original, and, what rarely accompanies those qualities, gentlemanly.  Chilton was a cogent solid writer, ready for any risk, and the only absolute atheist I have known.  His articles in the Oracle on the "Theory of Regular Gradation" preceded by twelve years the articles on Evolution by Herbert Spencer in the Leader, when "regular gradation" began to receive the name of evolution.  Of course we soon got into trouble.  For issuing No.  4 of our militant Journal, Southwell was sentenced at Bristol to twelve months imprisonment.  As we had no travelling funds in those days, 7 walked from Birmingham to Bristol, ninety miles, to visit him in gaol, and "fell among thieves" on my way.  I delivered a lecture in the Cheltenham Mechanics' Institution upon Self-Supporting Home Colonies, when a local preacher arose and said "I had spoken of our duty towards man, but had said nothing of our duty towards God," and asked for information thereon.  It was plainly open to me to reply that theology was not my subject.  At no time did I ever undertake to speak on one subject and introduce another.  I had a theological mind and I had a secular mind, but I never had a mixed mind, and always kept distinct, things which are separate.  My duty was to refuse to answer an irrelevant question, and to point out that he who asked a lecturer to do it invited him to commit a breach of faith towards his audience, who, assembled to hear one subject, would have another imposed upon them which they would never have come to hear had they foreknown it.  In these days this representation would be deemed fair, but in those he who made it was at once accused, amid applause, of "holding opinions which he dared, not avow."  There were, however, local circumstances which would cause an otherwise reasonable refusal to answer the preacher, to be regarded as an evasion.

    At that time there was a young schoolmaster and poet in Cheltenham, named Sperry, who had espoused the social opinions I represented, I, having previously resided in the town as a lecturer upon them.  Sperry had expressed social sentiments in a poem he had published.  He was told that unless he retracted them he would lose his teachership.  He did retract them, which created an impression of social cowardice in the party of social advocates, as the oath-taking by Mr. Lloyd Jones in Bristol was known in Cheltenham.  When Sperry had retracted, he was dismissed all the same.  He was humiliated, and then ruined.  Had I refused to answer the question put to me, I should have increased the belief in our want of courage and candour.  So at once I gave a defiant answer to the preacher—but not one that shocked anyone, for it produced merriment.  In our proposed industrial colonies, I observed, all were free to erect as many churches as they pleased, but, from my point of view, it was bad political economy to expend money that way, seeing the distressed condition in which the people then were.  My answer was to this effect, but with terms of audacity which I deemed the occasion required.  (The story in detail is told in the History of the Trial at Gloucester.) This unforeseen incident brought consequences which affected all my future life.

    All was owing to the habit, from which I have never departed, of permitting discussion after a lecture.  It has always seemed to me a criminal thing to deliver any address intended to influence belief and conduct, without giving the hearer opportunity of challenging there and then the validity of the argument advanced in the presence of those who heard it, while the impression was vivid in their minds.  Every hearer, according to his belief, has to answer to his conscience or to God for the opinions he holds.  Each man has to answer for himself.  And since no speaker takes the hearer's responsibility, he is deficient in the sense of self-protection who does not think for himself where he has to answer for himself.  Not less is the speaker the enemy of the hearer who under any pretext imposes upon him opinions without affording him the means of self-defence by question and debate.  Had I prohibited discussion, I should have saved myself a world of trouble.  But I should have been dishonest to the hearer, and have known myself to be so.  Free discussion has its penalties as well as its advantages.  Its advantages are that new truth rests on a solid foundation when those who accept it know both sides of a new question.  The penalties are liability to have free speech abused—meetings thrown into confusion by ignorant, unscrupulous, irrelevant, and malevolent adversaries, and possible imprisonment of the lecturer who answers a question with imprudent candour.  But we, who maintained the salutary principle of free debate, were willing to accept this penalty, if it came.


WITHOUT intellectual distinction Cheltenham had extraordinary theological sensitiveness.  It was the common talk of the town, when the incident recorded in the last chapter occurred, that a Mormon preacher was committed to gaol on a charge of blasphemy, for having said in one of his sermons that "Euclid was as true as the Bible."  The Grand Jury at Gloucester were suspected of latitudinarianism when they threw out the bill.  Had the trial taken place, he had surely been convicted.

    Mr. Capper, one of the magistrates, said that what I did was for the purpose of notoriety.  Had that been my intent, Cheltenham was the last place in which I should have sought it.  As I have elsewhere said [14], the day is chilled in my memory when I first set foot in the town.  Snow had been frozen on the ground a fortnight.  I was then a stationed missionary in Worcester sent down to evangelize Cheltenham in social ideas.  With a household income of 16s.  a week, there was little to feed the passion for "notoriety" upon.  I feel now the fierce blast which came in at the train window from "the fields of Tewkesbury," on our way.  The cold wrapped us round like a cloak of ice.

    The shop lights threw their red glare over the snow-bedded ground as we entered the town of Cheltenham, and nothing but the drift and ourselves moved through the deserted streets.  When at last we found a fire, we had to wait to thaw before we could begin to speak.  When tea was over, we were escorted to the house where we were to stay for the night.  I was told it was "a friend's house."  Cheltenham is a fashionable town, a watering, visiting place, where everything is genteel and thin.  As the parlours of some prudent housewives are kept for show, and not to sit in, so in Cheltenham numerous houses are kept "to be let," and not to live in.

    The people who belong to the apartments are like the supernumeraries on a stage—they are employed in walking over them.  Their clothes are decent, but they cannot properly be said to wear them; they carry them about on their backs to show that they have such things.  In the same manner eating and drinking is rather pantomime than reality.  Such a house was the "friend's house" to which we were conducted.  We were asked to sit by the kitchen fire on "the bench in the corner," and there we sat from eight till one o'clock, without being asked to take anything to eat.  My wife, with her child at the breast, fared badly that night.  Waiting upon a party elsewhere kept my "friends" up till two o'clock—up to which time we saw no prospect of bed or supper.  Soon after we entered the house, my wife, with a woman's prescience, said, "George, you had better go and buy some food."  "Buy food," I replied, in simplicity, "the people at this fine house will be outraged to see me bring in food."  I repented me of my credulity that night.  When at last I clearly comprehended that we were to have nothing to eat, I proceeded to take affairs into my own hands, and being too well assured of the insensibility of my host, I did it in a way that I conceived suited to his capacity, and began as follows:

    "We have talked for some time about social progress, and if you have no objection we will make some.  And if eating," I added, "be not an irregular thing in your house, we will take some supper."
     "I am very sorry to say," he answered, "we have nothing to offer you."
    "Charge me for bed and board while we are with you," I rejoined, "but let us have both.  You have bread, I suppose?"
    "We have some rice bread."
    "Perhaps you will toast it."
    "Will you have it toasted?"
    "I will.  Could you not make coffee?"
    "We have no coffee."  "Tea?"
    "We have no tea."
    "Any water? "
    "No hot water."
    "Any butter? "
    "Yes, we have salt butter."
    "Then put some on the rice bread," I added, for he did not even propose to do that.  I had to dispute every inch of hospitality with him.  My "friend," Mr. V., was an instance of that misplacement of which Plato speaks in his "Republic."  What a capital Conservative he would have made! No innovation with him—not even into his own loaf!—I was obliged to take the initiative into the "salt" butter.

    After seeing the bread toasted, and buttering it myself, to make sure that it was buttered, I put on my hat and went into the streets in search of material out of which to manufacture a cordial, for eight hours had elapsed since Mrs.  Holyoake had had any sustenance, and my good host's choice reserve of cold water did not seem suitable.

    When I reached the dark streets, to which I was so absolute a stranger, not knowing the neighbourhood, I found the ground slippery, made so by rain frozen on snow: I had not gone (or rather slipped) far before I was lost.  Like the sense in a Rousseauian love-letter, I neither knew whence I came nor whither I was going, and when I had succeeded in my errand it was at the last place at which I should wish to be found.

    During my absence, that voluptuous caterer, "mine host," whom I had left behind—whose counterpart Maginn must have had before him when he drew the portrait of "Quarantotti"—had proceeded so far as to boil some water.  The evening ended without inconsistency, and the bed corresponded with the supper.

    The next day I took lodgings, where, expecting nothing, I was no longer disappointed.  But on this occasion, profiting by the experience of the preceding night, I went provided with a small stock of loaves and chocolate.  My stay in Cheltenham was more agreeable than was to be expected after such an introduction; but I remember that I had to pay my expenses back again, and though they only amounted to 12s., I felt the want of them afterwards.  Yet Cheltenham was not without generous partizans, but, as is common in the incipiency of opinion, they were at that time among that class who had fewest means.  The experience here recounted was a sample of that frequently recurring, not exactly of the kind to nurture the love of notoriety.  The day after the adventure with the preacher I walked to Bristol, where I received a Cheltenham Chronicle, the organ of the Rev. Francis Close, afterwards Dean of Carlisle, in which I read that a warrant was out for my apprehension.  Thus forewarned by my friends, a prudent person would have kept clear of Cheltenham; but I was not a prudent person.  I was of Cobden's opinion—that there are times when it is rashness to do nothing.  The motive which influenced me in answering the preacher as I did, disinclined me from running away.

    It was a hot and blazing day in June when I walked back (thirty miles) to Cheltenham.  The authorities, persuaded that persons of my way of thinking would keep clear of peril, never thought of my reappearing.  They kept no look-out for me, and before the sun went down on June 1st, I was at Mr. Adams' house not far from the police station.  The Chartists had announced a meeting in the Mechanics' Institution for the night and I being a friend of theirs, they gave up their room to me.  The Chartists were always good at conflict, and readily assisted me, as I had done their leaders in like circumstances. [15]  It was, soon noised abroad that I was actually speaking at a public meeting in the town.  After I had spoken an hour in vindication of free speech in answer to public questions, the superintendent of police entered, armed with all the available force at hand.  They formed a handsome addition to the audience, and as they ranged themselves against the walls on either side the door, their shining hats formed a picturesque background to, the meeting.  This determined me to speak an hour longer—not having foreseen such an opportunity of extending Liberal views in official quarters.  At the conclusion I placed myself at the disposal of the chief of the police.  Asking to see the warrant for my apprehension, I was told the magistrates did not stand on those ceremonies in Cheltenham.  It appeared that they did not know that a warrant was necessary.  That night the plank bed in the cell was unpleasant, and more so the tipsy and turbulent inmates there.  The next morning came the interview with the acting magistrate, who, to my surprise, was the Rev. Dr. Newell.  The Rev. S.  Jones was another magistrate.  A brewer is not eligible to adjudicate on affairs of the hostelry, but here was a clergyman exercising penal power in the affairs of the pulpit.  Gentlemanly scruples were in those days no part of Cheltenham divinity.

    The prosecutor was a Mr. Bubb, a particularly gross, furious, squab-built, vulgar person.  On my stating to the magistrates that I had been brought there without any proper warrant, Mr. Capper, one of them, stated that any person at the meeting would have been justified in taking me up without any warrant from a magistrate.  This would produce plentiful disturbance of the peace of "our Lady the Queen," if every person was entitled, on his own motion, to apprehend every other person who might express opinions distasteful to him.  For years after "Cheltenham law" was a byword in legal circles in London.

    One of the witnesses against me was a dog-fancier and prize-fighter, pursuits which did not imply theological discrimination or sensitiveness.  The other witness was a printer in the Chronicle office.  Neither had any positive idea of what had been said at the meeting, and they could only swear "to the best of their belief."  When two friends tendered bail for me, one of them was refused, because he said that, "to the best of his belief," he was worth the £50 required.  I reminded the Bench that the testimony against me had been accepted on the "best of the witnesses' belief."  The reverend magistrate resented this as quibbling, and when another friend offered bail, I desired him not to do so, and let the Bench take its own course.  Shortly after handcuffs were put on me, which, being too small, pinched my wrists, and, with two policemen, I was taken through the town to walk to Gloucester Gaol, nine miles.  This was a needless outrage, as a prisoner who had surrendered himself was not likely to attempt to escape—nor to succeed, if he did, with two policemen with him.  Our road lay by the railway station, which was some distance from the town, where friends who had accompanied me ascertained that by paying the policemen's fares and my own, we might ride—which was done.

    The station of Gloucester was also some distance from the city, and as the handcuffs were never removed I had to walk through the city as I had walked through Cheltenham.

    It was a doctrine of mine that anger was but the exhibition of ignorance taken by surprise: and that hatred was opposed to economy of time, as it enabled persons whom you knew and detested, to occupy your thoughts with schemes of retaliation.  There is a period in law when debts are no longer recoverable, and I have suggested to co-operative societies that associative animosities should be closed with the accounts, and not carried forward to the next quarter.  Certainly the best new year's resolve is to cancel the hatreds which the past twelve months may have engendered—to treat them as though they had never been, and begin each new year free from the unprofitable burden of resentment or malevolence to any man.  Though this rule has brought me a sense of peace like an annual endowment, I find after fifty years some anti-clerical indignation creep into my mind when the intentional indignities of my march to Gloucester Gaol recur to me.

    On Mr. Southwell's imprisonment for editing the Oracle of Reason, I had taken his place.  The knowledge of this did not commend me favourably to the authorities.

    My host in Cheltenham was Mr. George Adams.  Indignant at what befell me, he put the Oracle in his window and sold it, which led to his being apprehended.  His wife, a handsome, intelligent, and spirited woman, indignant at that, continued the sale of the Oracle, and she was apprehended with her youngest child in her arms.  Four other children were left alone in the house—father and mother both being locked up.  When the neighbours found the poor children the neighbours were indignant.  The next day Mrs.  Adams was liberated on bail, but both she and her husband were committed for trial.

    The reverend adversaries into whose hands I had fallen, committed me for felony.  Free speech, however objectionable it might be, was not felony.  If it was not ignorance in them to treat it so, it was malice.  They also said in the warrant that I had spoken "wickedly."  Yet there is no wickedness where there is no evil intent.

    They said I had "uttered" the words complained of "before children," which was untrue, as there was no child in the place.  Had children been present, they could not have understood what was said.  But neither accuracy nor veracity were magisterial attainments in 1842.

    At that time I was in the custody of the clergy, and this language of theirs was so unexpected and untrue, that it created in my mind a dislike and distrust of them I had never felt before.  I have been assured that they merely used certain terms of the law.  But lying according to law is a worse offence than that of Ananias, since it adds the authority of law to falsehood.  Lying before a God by those who believe Him to exist is surely worse than speaking the truth by those who deem His existence to be unknown.  I had been accustomed to regard with reverence the ministers of God as persons who would neither speak nor write what was untrue, however erroneous the doctrines they might hold.  I had ample time to think of all this as I sat on the edge of my cell bed during the first night in Gloucester Gaol.  The lice I observed creeping about the blankets prevented me lying down.


MARTYRDOM was never to my taste.  No person could be more disinclined than myself to acquire that unpleasant distinction.  It has been said, "Blessed are ye when men persecute you."  I already knew the contrary.  Persecution is entirely disagreeable, whether it be incurred for righteousness' sake or any other sake.  It was said I sought it.  This is always said when public trouble overtakes you.  It is the popular excuse of those who bring it upon you.  Yet when it comes in consequence of doing what you think to be your duty, it is to be accepted.  But he who seeks it is a fool who forfeits all claim to commiseration when he gets what he wanted.  Some years later (1847) when I took out a policy in the Equity Law Life Office I asked for the condition that it should not be invalidated if death came to me in prison.  The company, like others, held that a policy became void by suicide—the assumption of directors being that as soon as a man insured his life he would cut his throat.  I did not expect to die in a prison.  I did not want to, I did not mean to, but I did not intend to incur penalties which would affect my family if imprisonment happened to me.

    When imprisonment did come to me, I neither feared it nor whined about it.  The only favour I asked was not to be put among criminals.  The choice offered me was a vacant side of the gaol where the condemned cells lay, with a large yard to walk in.  There I spent three weeks, the only occupant of that uncheerful solitude.  There was time to prepare my defence, but the material was lacking.  The chaplain vetoed the books which he did not approve.  Yet how was a prisoner to defend himself against a charge of the Church, if the chaplain selected the works of reference?  On Sir James Graham expressing to the magistrates his disapproval, my books were handed to me.  But this was not until the day before my liberation, and only seven days before the assizes opened.  They had kept them from me three valuable weeks.

    The reason of my detention in prison was my refusal to take an oath.  I was required to provide two sureties of £50 each and enter into and swear to my own recognizances in £100.  This I declined to do, the oath implying a belief I did not hold.  The governor—Captain Mason—who was always gentlemanly, thought this unfair to myself because, the assizes being near, I should, when liberated, have very little time in which to prepare my defence.  He said to me, "What does it matter, Holyoake, how many gods you swear by, since you do not appear to believe in any?" I said, "It certainly did not matter to the gods, but it mattered very much to me to pretend to a belief I do not hold.  Not assenting to Christianity, how could I take the Christian oath?" At last I was liberated without making an oath, from fear of the scandal of putting a prisoner on his trial who had been denied the means of defence.

    This was owing to outside opinion.  The Weekly Despatch, of great influence in that day, extended to me its protection.  "Publicola" (Captain Williams) wrote in condemnation of the conduct of the magistrates.  "Publicola's" letters were read all over the country, and each week as they appeared in Gloucester, they occasioned disquietude in the magisterial breast.  More than all, Sir James Graham, then Home Secretary, was my friend, as no Home Secretary since has befriended any similar prisoner.  He said in his place in Parliament that the magistrates had behaved "with unnecessary harshness" towards me.  There was serious censure upon them, and was felt to be so in the county.

    Mr. Craven Berkeley, M.P., a friend of the Church, was put up in the House of Commons, in order to obtain the publication of his correspondence with the magistrates that their defence of themselves might be before the public.  Sir James Graham adhered to the statements he had made in answer to Mr. Roebuck's inquiry, namely, that "serious irregularities" had been committed, and said he had ordered an inquiry into them.  Sir James was of opinion that they had no defence which could serve them.

    Mr. J. A. Roebuck, always the friend of intellectual liberty, presented for me a memorial to Parliament which represented that, as my commitment was to the Quarter Sessions, my judges would be the same magistrates who had already treated me vindictively.  Sir James Graham's sense of justice concurred in this view, and when Mr. Roebuck spoke to him upon it he said "justice should be done," and he kept his word.  A Bill was immediately brought in and passed, appointing all trials relating to speculative opinion to take place at assizes only, where an independent judge presided.  Thus the magistrates were put out of court.  I was the first person tried under this Act.

    On my liberation I went to London, which I had never seen, walking most of the way.  It seemed to me an enchanted city as I entered it, and seems so still.  My first night was spent in a summer-house, in a garden in Lambeth, with my colleague on the Oracle, M. Q. Ryall, arranging the order of my defence.  Morning had long broken before we lay down on the benches to sleep.  In those days there was an hostelry near the Mansion House, known as the "City House of Commons," where successive city politicians from the years of the preceding century had discussed public affairs.  I was invited to give a narrative of the proceedings at Cheltenham.  Afterwards the company made a subscription towards the expenses of the trial.  Another night I spoke in the Rotunda, Blackfriars Road.  "Publicola" was present, and gave an account in the Despatch of what I said, which, better than anything I might say now, will satisfy the reader as to the nature of the principles for which we contended, which, admitted now, then excited implacable hostility and personal defamation.

    Captain Williams said:—"Mr. Holyoake delivered a lecture on the Right of Free Discussion to a crowded audience in the Rotunda.  He commented on his treatment in Cheltenham, of which mention was made in this journal The Despatch at the time.  The magistrates on that occasion declared that they did not care of what religion he might be so long as he did not propagate his doctrines.  Mr. Holyoake then expatiated very eloquently upon this selfish principle.  'Thus,' he said, 'a man may see the errors of certain systems, and yet not point out emendations.' Our ideas, argued the lecturer, are engendered by the objects around us, and if we are prosecuted by law for the expression of these ideas the external objects which created our ideas ought to be prosecuted.  For any class of men to take upon themselves to say to the people, 'If you think in a manner which militates against our ideas, you must not express your sentiments,' is degrading.  Without liberty of speech, interchange of ideas, which freedom of discussion can alone encourage, is impossible; no new systems of utility can be adduced; and had not opinions been more or less freely circulated at different times, humanity would be without progressive civilization.  Our wealth, our knowledge, our power, are to be attributed to the Press and to the diffusion of opinions.  The Press has converted the world into one large conversational party, whose views, wishes, and opinions are thereby communicated to each other.  Speculative opinions beget important truths, and useful systems are founded most frequently upon ideas that were at first but wild theories.  If the law describes a magic circle around the radii of men's ideas, it naturally forbids the entertainment of progressive measures, and enforces a stationary and sedentary position, to which the activity of the human mind and the nature of human interests are both averse.  New generations have new interests, which are only to be defined by legislative enactment, after due and unchecked discussion.  All the learning which our greatest men have ever possessed would little avail posterity, unless their assertions might be duly canvassed.  It is a very singular fact that we may discuss astronomy, chemistry, botany, geology, and other sciences, but our sentiments must be curbed by the law when once we touch upon politics or religion.  Such was the subject of Mr. Holyoake's lecture, in the course of which he uttered many striking truths of an original character, which elicited considerable applause." (Weekly Despatch, July, 1841.)

    It was within those few days of my visit to London that I made the acquaintance of Mr. W. H. Ashurst, whose friendship then and afterwards was of the greatest advantage to me.  He advised me as to my defence, and John Humphry Parry, afterwards Serjeant Parry, then a young barrister, prepared the legal argument which I used at my trial.

    One night I went down to the House of Commons.  It was the old house, afterwards destroyed by fire.  Before long I heard my own name pronounced to my surprise.  A young prisoner never feels safe for some time afterwards, and I thought I was going to be apprehended again.  It was merely my friend Mr. Roebuck, who was presenting a memorial to the House concerning the legal irregularities of the Cheltenham Bench.

    It was a bright summer afternoon when I set out alone from the house of my eldest sister, in which my family resided, in Aston, Birmingham, to proceed to Gloucester Assizes.  It was not in my power to leave any provision for those I left behind, owing to the unforeseen and unsought apprehension which had befallen me.  My little daughter, Madeline, ran from her mother's knee to the door, when she found I had gone, and called after me down the street.  Her sweet, clear voice arrested me.  I looked back, and saw her dark, black eyes gleaming.  I never met her glance again, nor heard her voice any more.


THE assizes opened on August 2, 1842.  Mr. Knight Hunt, the author of "The Fourth Estate," who succeeded Dickens as editor of the Daily News, reported the trial for me.  Hearing that I intended to defend myself, the magistrates told me "the Court would not hear me." The judge, being told of my intention, decided to take my case last, which caused the assizes to extend into another week.  On Saturday my case might have come on; but no one could conjecture how long I should speak.  The fear of the Court having to sit until Sunday morning caused the judge to defer the trial till Monday.  This made trouble among the javelin men attending upon the judge, who had to be kept in the city.  The jurymen who had left their farms, their barrels, their poultry, flour mills, shop tills, and orange baskets, suffered in mind, body, and estate; and not less the authorities who found with consternation £200 added to the county expenses through my wilfulness.  The Shire Hall was crowded as early as ten o'clock on Monday morning; some of the nobility of the county and wives of clergymen were present, and a fair assortment of surplice wearers.

    No one was bound over to prosecute Mrs.  Adams.  It was not intended that she should be tried, but she was bound out of mere vindictiveness to appear at the assizes, and was kept wandering about the court for ten days, which amounted to a considerable fine, considering the limited means of her house hold and anxiety for her five children left to chance care.  Had she been a lady, with means of defence, they would not have attempted it.  I saw then that the people are never so malignant towards the rich as the rich are towards the poor; as the powerful are towards those of less estate.

    Being unable to bring over their bail, she and her husband were alarmed at being told that their bail would be escheated.  I told Adams to go into court and state to the judge that he was unable to bring his bail, but he and Mrs.  Adams were there ready to surrender themselves.  The judge kindly told them that that was sufficient.  Mr. Adams's case was first taken.  As the prosecution of Adams was owing to his generous resentment of my arrest, I was very solicitous that he should not incur any consequences I could prevent.  It was my duty to defend the right of free speech, but he was under no responsibility of that kind, and I therefore requested my friends to provide counsel for him.  We chose Mr. Thompson, because he was the son of General Perronet Thompson, as we thought him less likely to make a compromising defence.  In those days, and for many years after, there was no barrister, except Mr. Serjeant Thomas, of London, who would defend a heretic without apologizing for his opinions.  This Mr. Thompson did at the conclusion of his defence, and expressed "contrition" on the part of the defendant.  I said to Adams, in the hearing of the Court, "Don't permit him to do that unless you are really contrite." Adams at once told the judge that he did not concur with what the counsel said, as he did not feel "contrition" for defending, in his humble way, the right of free speech.  This did not improve his sentence, but made it more honourable to him.  He was awarded one month's imprisonment.

    Mr. Adams had witnesses to his character who described him as of entirely good repute, and, indeed, "a pattern of morality in all the relations of life." The judge told him that "in a charge of robbery that might avail him, but unless he had testimony that he was a Christian it could not avail him in a charge of that kind."

    Entering the dock on my name being called, I asked Ogden, the chief gaoler, a tall, stout, surly, imperious, pock-marked person, who had had charge of me in prison, to hand me a box which lay near.  Thinking it his duty to show the disrespect he presumed the Court to entertain, he told me to take my place at the bar.  Again my injunction was, "Hand me my box." Looking indignantly at the corded chest outside the dock, he said, "You can't have that box here.  Go to the bar and plead." "Nonsense, give it me," was my reply.  Beginning to think it was he who was detaining the Court, he reluctantly did as I told him, when I applied to the judge for the use of a table.  The judge said, "There is one," pointing to a ledge in the dock which, his lordship thought, would serve my purpose.  Although not convenient, I proceeded to arrange my books and papers there, which occupied twenty minutes.  By which time it was remarked the dock resembled a small bookseller's shop.  The judge looked on with great patience, and when ready I went forward and pleaded.  Mr. Alexander was the prosecuting counsel.  He was less coarse, but as malignant as Mr. Bubb.  He told the jury, "I had not put my diabolical intent in the announcement of the lecture, but had concealed it, with a view to attract an audience," which was contrary both to fact and evidence.  The Cheltenham Bench, to do them justice, never said this.  It was pure invention on the part of Mr. Alexander to recommend me to the favourable consideration of the jury.

    The only offence chargeable against me was that of incidentally, without premeditation or intention, and under the provocation of an insolent question, for which no occasion had been given—uttering certain words—yet the Court permitted an indictment to be read which described me as a "labourer," though I was well known as a public lecturer, who had resided in Cheltenham in that capacity.  It charged me with devising, intending, and maliciously publishing with a "loud voice" (which I never possessed) the answer to the question of a preacher, intending "with force and arms to bring Almighty God into disbelief."  Seven farmers, one grocer, one poulterer, one miller, one nondescript shopkeeper, and one maltster were then empanelled to ascertain whether I had, or had not, assaulted Omnipotence with "force of arms."  The utmost offence in my words were infinitesimal compared with the profanity of this amazing indictment.  It said I wickedly "composed the words I had spoken, although they occurred in debate without chance or possibility of premeditation.  It charged me with having spoken "against the peace of our Lady the Queen," whereas I had neither spoken against the peace nor broken the peace, and had neither thought of the Queen nor meant her disrespect.

    Historians think they illustrate their pages very conclusively when they quote legal documents describing the profession and purposes of some person recorded therein.  Why should law courts, which profess to be the guardians of public morality, lie more than rumour, in their documents?

    The Oracle of Reason, which I undertook to edit during Mr. Southwell's imprisonment, made the defiant declaration, written by Ryall:—"We war not with the Church but the Altar—not with the forms of Christianity but with Christianity itself—not with the attributes but with the Existence of Deity." After what had taken place I was determined to maintain the right of inquiry into these things.  My acquaintance with heresy was too short and my knowledge too limited to enable me to do more intelligently.  The conception of Deity entertained by the clerical adversaries we encountered seemed to me neither true nor desirable, and I believed that God Himself must dislike persons of that way of thinking about Him.

    My defence if it lacked prudence did not lack explicitness.  I spoke nine hours and fifteen minutes.  In the latter part my voice much improved in strength and tone.  When the Court adjourned at mid-day, some ladies, observing that I was taking nothing, offered me some tartlets they had brought for their own refreshment: one I was told was the wife of a clergyman.  Not needing to eat, I declined the kindly offer.

    When I had spoken six hours, the governor of the gaol came to me to ask how long I should continue, as the judge was interested in knowing.  I answered, "If the Court was likely to hear me, I should end in three hours."  In all reason the Court "had heard me sufficiently," but the magistrates, who had told me repeatedly that "the Court would not hear me, and I should not be allowed to make my own defence," did me harm in making me thus persistent.  When I had spoken some three hours longer, it occurred to me that the Court "had heard" me, and I concluded.

    Mr. Justice Erskine said, "If I could convince the jury that my only meaning was that the incomes of the clergy ought to be reduced, and that I did not intend to insult God, I should tell the jury that you ought not to be convicted."  This was the exact purport of what I said.  To "insult God" was never in my mind; nor in anybody's mind.  It is ever some degrading conception of Deity which is denied.  I never knew a case of an atheistic denial in which there was not more reverence in the mind of the heretic than the prosecutor.  Had I confined myself to the two points named by the judge, there was a chance my sentence might have been mitigated.  But my mind was set upon two other things—one was that we would seek neither favour nor mercy by solicitation or concession; the other was to vindicate the right to say what I did, whatever it might be taken to mean.

    Mr. Justice Erskine suggested to the jury that there was no evidence that I had connived at some person putting the question to me to give me an opportunity of uttering these sentiments.  This was very fairly said—had the jury been intelligent—but in effect it was a most injurious suggestion.  The counsel had put the idea of connivance into their heads, and the stolid and prejudiced jury believed the judge to confirm it.  I expected twelve months' imprisonment, as my defence contained no apology, but was absolute and defiant for free speech.  The judge admitted that, with my views, I could not honestly answer my questioner otherwise than I did, and, being a young man, he gave me six months' imprisonment to encourage me in candour.

    That night Captain Mason remarked that he thought the sentence was not to be much complained of, seeing how many hours I had occupied the Court.  In this I quite concurred with him, and never did complain of it.  Indeed, I more deserved the imprisonment for the defence than the offence.  Never having been a prisoner before, and unacquainted with the ways of magistrates, their ignorant menace had harmed me—made me resentful, and exposed me to the charge of being wanting in good sense, which was more serious in my mind than to be thought wanting in orthodoxy.

    Mr. Justice Erskine was the grandson of the famous Lord Chancellor of that name, who defended the publication of one of Thomas Paine's books.  The Erskines were descendants of one of the oldest Scottish families.  Mr. Justice Erskine bore small trace of his Scottish descent, and was a placid, mild-mannered English gentleman when I made his acquaintance.  He displayed patience and good temper during the unconscionable time I detained him upon the Bench.  Some time after he disappeared from the Bench.  How I never inquired—always retaining respect for his memory for his fairness to me.

    It was eleven o'clock at night when I walked from court to gaol.  Captain Mason considerately asked me if I objected to go with two stray criminals he had in charge.  I said I would prefer to walk with Adams only.  It was so arranged, and together we set out.  Before being locked in my cell I asked if I could have a little of something to eat.  I had been thirteen hours in court without food, and a feeling of extreme hollowness came over me.  All that could be got for me at that hour was a cup of warm water, and the warder found an old apple in his pocket, which he kindly gave me, and with these I made the first repast of my new imprisonment.

    But for a misadventure of refreshments, I might have fared better that day.  At that time, a Mrs. Chichester resided in Gloucestershire, who took interest in social improvement, and had enough experience to know that the theological portraits of heretics were not executed by pre-Raphaelite artists skilled in adherence to the truth of nature.  She knew that in matters of controversy people who read only one side of a question and boast of the duty of not knowing the other, did not come within the pale of competency or trust; she therefore sent down to Gloucester small presents of wine and birds, as she understood I might have to wait about court seven or ten days before the trial came on.  The medium for conveying those kindly gifts was Mr. Fry, whom she knew as professing the lofty moral mysticism of John Pierrepoint Greaves, who had disciples in Cheltenham.  Mr. Fry, however, was not mystical—he was very practical, for, being a teetotaller, he drank all the wine himself, and, being a vegetarian, he ate the birds.  Mr. Fry was editor of the Communist Apostle, one of whose mottoes was that "It is the beauty within that reflects beauteous light on outward objects." It was presumably on this principle that my wine and pheasants became irresistible to him.

    On the morning of my trial he brought me a small bottle of raspberry vinegar, which he said Mrs.  Chichester had sent, as it might be of use to me in speaking.  It was two years after before I learned what else she had sent.  She must have wondered at my want of civility in never sending a word in acknowledgment.

    One day, attending the courts during the ten days I was awaiting my own trial, I saw a man sentenced to transportation for life to Norfolk Island.  His offence had arisen in ignorant and depraving circumstances, yet, when he heard the ferocious sentence, in genuine and awkward humbleness he made a rustic bow to the Bench, saying, "Thank you, my lord."  Ignorance had never appeared to me before so frightful, slavish, and blind.  Unable to distinguish a deadly sentence passed upon him from a service done to him, he had been taught to bow to his pastors and masters, and he bowed alike when cursed as when blessed.

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This referred to the article by Mr. A. Hayward, of malicious memory, who accused Mr. J. S. Mill of complicity in this affair, which Mill indignantly denied.  In 1849, Mr. J. A. Roebuck, believing Mr. Hayward had made similar accusation against him, challenged?  Mr. Hayward to a duel.  Mr. Hayward sent me a pamphlet which showed that he had been acquitted of Mr. Roebuck's charge at the time.


 "History of the Last Trial for Atheism."


Mr. George Julian Harney, writing in the Northern Star, under date of 11, Hartshead, Sheffield, June 13, 1842, said: "The Chartists of Sheffield know how ever ready Mr. Holyoake was to serve them while in their town."



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