'Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life' (4)
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GEORGE HENRY LEWES was intellectually the bravest man I have known.  It was not that he was without the wisdom which looks around to see what the consequences of any act would be; but where a thing seemed right in itself he ignored the consequences of doing it.  He did not dare the consequences; he did not recognize them.  They were to him as though they were not.  When he accepted a principle, he accepted all that belonged to it.  Courage means facing a danger by force of will, facing danger which you know to be such.  Men of natural intrepidity never take danger into account, or, if they are conscious of it, it only influences them as an inspiration of action.  Mr. Lewes had intellectual intrepidity of this kind.  This was my experience and impression of his character which I gave George Eliot at the time of his death.

George Henry Lewes

    Most persons regard toleration as a reluctant necessity; others regard it as an unpleasant duty which they nevertheless have to discharge, and they apologise for their concession by diminishing the credibility of those they condescend to recognize, by pointing out—as even W. J. Fox did in one instance—that anti-Theistic belief is due to some mental deficiency.  Lewes did nothing of the kind.  He regarded toleration as a right of others.  It was he who proposed that my name should appear on the published list of contributors to the Leader newspaper, which was attended with polemical consequences that the reader has seen recounted.

    Mr. Lewes, like Mr. Herbert Spencer, wrote a charming book, and did not appear to know it, and afterwards superseded it by a work which never interested the same readers.  Mr. Spencer published "Social Statics," which interested readers wherever the English language was intelligible; and this he superseded by "Principles of Sociology," which was only intelligible to a limited class of advanced thinkers.  About the same time, Mr. Lewes wrote a "Biography of Philosophy," in four shilling volumes, for Charles Knight, and presented me with the set, in which he inscribed his name.  The book fascinated all students who were beginning to turn their attention to philosophy.  To this day, all who possess the original volumes value them highly.  Mr. Lewes afterwards reproduced the work, with all the erudite illustrations and authorities with which he was so familiar.  It is valued by scholars, but is beyond the appreciation of the far larger class whom he had first interested, instructed, and inspired.

    Lewes had few rivals as a conversationalist.  But he told me he found one once.  He was invited by W. J. Fox to meet, at his house, Margaret Fuller, afterwards Countess Ossoli.  Carlyle was another guest that night.  Fox, Carlyle, and Lewes were famous talkers; but when Margaret Fuller took her turn they were all silenced, and—their turn came no more.  When in America I met with an interesting instance of the regard in which Mr. Lewes's writings were held by backwoodsmen, who told me they had read them by camp fires at night—books which were then far from popular in England.


THE writer does not forget that the reader can take little interest in episodes of controversial turbulence (these not being uncommon) except as illustrating the manners of the period.  Milton says that "Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War."  But they are less renowned, and in most cases not renowned at all.  The battles for opinion, however, have some popular interest when they take a fighting form.  Robert Owen, the most mild, abstract-speaking, gracious-mannered unaggressive propagandist who ever appeared, was often met by outrage in his time.  He, nevertheless, by having declared "all the religions of the world" to be wrong, did not reserve for himself a friend in any church.  He excited all against him; and, nothing loath, they went as far in rebuking their philosophical adversary as the popular idea of Christian charity—not much restraining in those days—would warrant.

    Shortly before I went to Worcester as a lecturer on Owen's views, he was encountered at a public meeting by the then Dr. Retford, who before a large audience made a gesture of outrage at Mr. Owen undescribable here.  Mr. Owen, being a philanthropist who had spent life and fortune in the service of the people, did not mitigate anger at his intellectual errors which were attempted to be confuted in this unpleasant way.  Dr. Retford's energetic behaviour was the talk of every citizen in Worcester when I was there, many of whom had witnessed the act.  The doctor had a son who became art critic of the Daily News, and was a man of tolerant and gentlemanly manners.  The preceding incident is merely mentioned as an illustration of the theological ways of a cathedral city when I entered the field of controversy.  It is in a cathedral city, with its divine advantages, that you expect the perfect thing in Christianity—but civility is not always one of them.

    When mischief was intended to me personally it never came to much.  My protection was often my voice.  Had I been capable of speaking in strident and imperious tones, my opinions would have been counted highly objectionable.  Believing with Leigh Hunt that "the errors of men proceeded more from defect of knowledge than defect of goodness," it seemed the best course to explain the reasons for any new opinion.  Thus some listened from curiosity, and those who were not interested were not irritated.

    In 1851, in consequence of a magisterial decision in Whitehaven, I volunteered to go down there and speak upon it.  Mr. James Hughan, a Unitarian street-lecturer, speaking at the Bulwark on the harmless subject of "Progression," was knocked down by one Charles Flinn, who had been twice before convicted of assaults; but on this occasion, the Rev. F. W. Wicks being on the bench, Flinn was dismissed and Mr. Hughan censured as having "incited" the man by his address.  The reputation of others who had been before me, rather than my own, caused me to be regarded with hostility.  A Social Missionary who believed in sensationalism had issued a placard, giving the inhabitants the unwelcome intimation that "The Devil and Socialism were in the town."  It was not necessary to do this, as the clergy had suggested to the people that the two creatures went about together.  All the lecturer had in view was to dispute the existence of that disagreeable personage, and to explain that, if indeed he was about, the Social System of Robert Owen was disconnected from him.  The lecturer's irritating announcement had a meritorious motive.  Since the attack of the Bishop of Exeter, which caused even in Birmingham the resignation of the Registrar, the clergy had been an intimidating force in every town, and many alarmed and prudent persons had denied their opinions or explained them away in self-protection.  Therefore, open, even ostentatious, defiance had merit, and some justification from the point of view of self-respect.  It had, however, rendered the town angry and resentful.  Unfortunately Mr. Lennon—a courageous sea-rover, an abstainer from alcohol (rare in seaport men then), and well respected for intelligence and character—who had made arrangements for my visit—broke a blood vessel a week before my arrival.  The animosity shown to him living was not mitigated by his death, and the burial service was refused over his remains.  The religious riots which my predecessors had occasioned were censured by Sir James Graham, who always had the fairness and boldness to rebuke intolerance.

    It had not, however, subsided when I entered the town and my friends showed, in their countenances and speech dismal apprehensions.  That there was some unusual dread in the air was evident from the fact that the women shared it.  Hitherto I had found them, under circumstances of danger, to be the last to utter words of discouragement, but here they helped to diffuse the panic.  This led me to avoid the houses of friends whom I should otherwise have visited lest I compromised them.  The Irish population were dreaded, and their prejudices were known to be above the reach of reason, and the population of Lord Lonsdale's collieries were no less causes of alarm.  It was in vain that I urged that the charges of admission should be raised, which would keep out the more dangerous disturbers.  The answer was they would force the door.  "If they do," I said, "they cannot reach the stage to interrupt the lecture."  "They say they will come armed with stones, and throw at the speaker, and chairman, and whoever is on the stage," was the unpleasant assurance given me.  Thinking that so much ingenuity ought not to lack appropriate exercise, I arranged to be my own chairman, and to exclude the committee from the stage, so that, the objects to be thrown at being reduced to one, it might be more to the credit of the mob if they hit it.  The proprietor of the theatre sent word that there would be a disturbance, and he demanded payment for both nights before we occupied the place.  Some religious Whitehaven men, who were friendly to me personally, had told me in Newcastle-on-Tyne that I should not be heard in their town, and it would be no use going there.  When there, appearances looked very much like it.

    On the day of the lecture a man went into the shop of a respectable tradesman in Whitehaven, and said, "the theatre would be pulled down that night."  The serjeant of police had been heard saying that "there would be blood and slaughter in the theatre, and he should order his men to keep out of the way, as they were not going to get their heads broken."  A friend of mine, whom I asked to call at the Police Office with a request that two policemen should be at the door, received a more assuring answer.  The superintendent said he would be on that beat and would pass the theatre every five minutes, and look in as often as his duty allowed.

    As my engagement was to lecture, I was precluded from feeling apprehension until afterwards.  I had long seen that there never could be a quarrel unless there were two parties to it—not even on the platform—and I was not going to be one.  Experience showed me that men of the rudest nature seldom break out into outrage at once; they act on, indeed often wait for, some pretext or provocation, and if this is not afforded they are confused and do nothing.  Anyhow it was most foolish to go about telling every one that an attack was expected; since, if it did not occur, we should be in a manner bound to get up one ourselves, to prevent public disappointment.

    One incident occurred which seems ludicrous now, but was lawful then.  At that time white hats were in fashion, and a friend in Newcastle had given me one of white silk.  The newest gloss of unworn brightness was upon it, and my itinerant wardrobe fortunately included a new coat.  In this attire I walked out to inspect the foe.  In practice we know divinity doth hedge a gentleman as well as a king, and there was reason to think that appearances might find a response where principle would find none.  So it transpired.  The local mob made way for me, and those who would have knocked me down had I worn a "seedy" aspect, stepped involuntarily out of the way.  Many did not suspect me of being the invading lecturer, and those who did, finding me respectable, surmised I might have friends, and it might not be so safe as they thought to assault me.

    When the hour of the lecture came, I was at the theatre, saw to the lights, and that the door was manned by groups of able-bodied friends, placed as much out of sight as possible, that no provocation might occur.  Others diffused themselves over the theatre where Christians were thickest, holding themselves ready either to listen to the lecture or restrain an attack, if a party issued from near them.  Wherever two or three militant Christians were gathered together, there was a sentinel in the midst of them.  The precautions we took would have been superfluous in orthodox persons, who, having mansions in the skies, see in death but an agreeable change of residence; but to others, no less hopeful, but not so certain as to a celestial manor house, manslaughter amounts to apprehensive disinheritance, and therefore they decline that casualty when obtruded upon them prematurely.  Certainly I did not want to fight the people of Whitehaven.  I went to reason with them.  It was not part of my taste to die in Whitehaven.  Besides, if a man is to be killed in an irregular way, he ought to be indulged in his choice of the place and the selection of his own executioner.

    The first lecture was well received.  The audience included ladies; the gallery was filled, the pit moderately, and the boxes were just inhabited.  The Whitehaven Herald gave a very fair report of my address, which disarmed the prejudice of the intelligent part of the town.  My subject was, "The Moral Innocency of Speculative Opinion, even the most extreme, when conscientiously entertained, setting forth how far a man might dissent from the Religious Opinions of his Neighbours, and yet hope to live in Truth and die in Peace."  The latter part had reference to the death of Lennon.  My expectations were verified as to the audience.  They were astonished at not being outraged, and they saw that a speaker might promote conviction without putting the "Devil" on his placard.  My argument was one they could not fight and did not answer.  All the discussion amounted to was a few feeble speeches, and a few reluctant admissions.  The trick was tried of asking me whether "I believed the Bible to be the revealed will of God!"  "Whether I believed in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ."  I answered that they should know my opinions on those subjects quickly enough, should I have an opportunity of speaking upon them in Whitehaven.  For the present, while I was obliged by the expression of their curiosity, I must confine myself to the subject on the placard, or the public would complain that under the pretext of speaking on one subject I had introduced others.  It might gratify me and them to talk about anything else, but there was something higher than gratification, and that was good faith; and, as nothing more had to be said on the proper topic of the night, I, thanking them for their attention, closed the meeting, when the speeches of debate had occupied us perhaps three-quarters, of an hour.

    On the second night our fortifications were the same.  It had, however, become known that the police were not likely to interfere.  Some persons appeared at the door inciting the people to riot, and, as there were three clergymen on the magistrates' bench, the police could calculate on their sanction of the violation of duty.  The new audience were turbulent.  Mr. Stuart Potter, a Wesleyan local preacher, was very noisy until some one stopped his mouth by laying a heavy hand upon it.  A grey-headed adversary in front of the gallery threw his arms about as though his intention was to throw stones.  Like a steam arm, his appeared to move independently of the will of the owner, and had a suspicious activity.  Two persons walked on to the stage to enjoy the advantage of closer intercourse with me, but, suspecting the enjoyment might not be mutual, I refused to answer any questions until they resumed their places below.  Another man clambered on the stage who seemed to meditate some personal attention to me.  I assured him I was sensible of the consideration he showed me by the trouble he was taking to come to me, but I preferred to conduct the meeting without assistance.

    Thus ended the adventure in Whitehaven.  I left the town next day under the impression that the "beasts of Ephesus" had propagated their species.


WHEN a publisher in Fleet Street, a demand was made upon me for tithes.  When the demand was first made, it astounded me.  I, who once proposed to walk ninety miles to see the Rev. George Harris, because of his great sermon against the Rathcormac massacre—I, who, then dreading the Unitarian faith, yet honoured the Unitarian minister whose eloquent denunciations made tithes hateful for ever—I pay tithes?  Well, the tithes on "147" were £2 8s. or £2 10s. a year, or more.  The first quarter was 12s. 8d.  As I entered at the half-quarter, half was the affair of Mr. Carvalho, my predecessor.  He, though a Jew, paid tithes.  I was bound to fulfil my agreement as to taxes with Mr. Carvalho, and I paid the 12s. 8d., which I regarded as so much blood-money after what I had read of the manner of their collection in Ireland.  In due time I was served with a tithe notice on my own account.  I said, "What I might do when I was forced to do something I could not tell, but no tithe should I pay until forced, and not then if I could help it."

    A gentleman was sent to me to explain that the parish of St.  Bride, or the City, had sold the tithe to Sir Edward Somebody's ancestors two centuries ago, and that certain civil advantage accrued to Fleet Street in consequence, and I was merely paying for that.  I answered that "neither City nor parish had sold my conscience; and if they had sold the tithe, why did he come collecting it? "

    Clergymen in debate upon the French Revolution had frequently shown how Atheists attempted spoliation of church property.  If that were so, was it less discreditable, I asked, than the Church in the plenitude of its power, in the affluence of its wealth, in days of peace, unprovoked by any antagonism, unincited by any want, descending upon a house in Fleet Street and carrying away the property of an "atheist."

    Whether my representations were faithfully reported to the Vicar of Fleet Street, I had no means of knowing.  He made me no visit, and I was too busy to call upon him.  No instance was known to me in which any demand for tithes was ever mitigated by argument or remonstrance.  A notice was sent me that unless the tithe claim was paid on demand there would be a distraint.  The demand was not paid, and a seizure of goods took place.  The officers had some difficulty in making a selection of what to seize.  The books in my shop were heretical, or philosophical with an heretical tendency, and the Church had some misgiving as to the seemliness of becoming salesmen at an auction of works of a very unclerical character.  Their agents, therefore, went roaming about the house in search of something better to their taste.  One year they took my clock.  In the printing office they found another time some reams of blank paper, which they thought they could sell with a clear conscience.  They had a conscience, such as it was, about the propriety of selling heterodox publications, but no conscience as to the propriety of taking my property as a penalty on my convictions.  Whether the proceeds of the sale exceeded, as it ought to have done, the demands made against me, no surplus was returned to me.  Some years three or four times the value of the rate was taken.

    Satisfied with the result of their raids, they continued to come again.  As the paper seized the year before was found in the printing office—my brother Austin's department—he said reasonably he would not have them there again, as they had no right to seize things in his office for a claim against me.  Nor did I feel like wishing to pay again for what they might seize another year.  I therefore resolved to meet this ecclesiastical demand in a proper ecclesiastical manner, which I hoped would be agreeable to the vicar.  When notice of another distraint came, I told the officer "I should pay this year, and send the amount to the vicar."  The vicar, on hearing this, no doubt regarded it as a sign of wholesome repentance on the part of his refractory parishioner.

    In due course I wrote to the vicar stating that, as it was proper to tender tithes "in kind," as editor and publisher of the Reasoner I forwarded him three volumes of that work—they being the "kind" of property produced on my farm.  Three volumes likely to interest his reverence were chosen.  The "trade price" of them was more than the demand.  The vicar was therefore asked for a receipt "in full" for that year's tithes.  The vicar did not find it lawful or seemly to refuse this mode of payment; whether he was gratified by it I never heard.  He sent me no receipt and no demand for the payment of tithes any more.  I consoled myself for the virtual act of payment by the hope that I might have accomplished an act of salutary propagandism, as, for all I knew, the vicar might present the books to the vestry library.


NO truth can be fully trusted until it has been fully discussed in fair and equal contention.  Milton thought truth was never worsted in a "free and open encounter."  But debate may be "free" and not fair.  It may be "open," and yet one-sided if the disputants have unequal advantages.  For want of all-round watchfulness in these respects truth has often been put down within my experience.  In the Cowper Street debate the conditions were equal, excepting, perhaps, that my adversary was provided with an income, and I had to earn one otherwise, during the six weeks the discussion lasted.

    As the report of what took place appeared in a half-crown volume, of which forty-five thousand were sold; as purchasers still survive, and copies exist in public libraries, a description of the affair will be relevant here.  The debate took place in 1853, which will soon be forty years since; thus the subject may have novelty if not interest to this generation.

    The Rev. John Angell James, of Birmingham, was the promoter of this discussion.  In the Reasoner, which I edited, a new form of Freethought had been originated, to which the name of "Secularism" was given.  Some took this to be a new name for an old thing, whereas it was a new name for a new conception.  Many had shown that morality resting on theology was not universally accepted.  We maintained that morality resting on material and social facts was a force among all people.  We were the first who taught that the secular was sacred.  This was the new conception to which the new name was given.

    This form of opinion accepted the ethical precepts of Christianity, so far as they were consonant with the welfare of society.  The word secular was taken as George Combe defined it—as implying "those issues which can be tested by the experience of this life."  This doctrine of conduct is now widely accepted by Christian preachers as being good—so far as it goes.  It was not approved then, and a Dissenting preacher, one Rev. Brewin Grant, of fine disputative faculty, was sent out on a "three years' mission" to arrest the dissemination of the new principles.  The rev.  gentleman had manifest courage, pertinacity, and ceaseless fertility in objection, but the scrupulousness which commands respect was not so conspicuous.  In earlier years there was a Socialist Society in Leicester, and Mr. Grant, then a youth in a hosiery warehouse, used to make smart speeches after the lectures—as discussion was always encouraged by the social reformers, who held that truth was best elicited by comparison of ideas.  The vivacity of the youthful disputant brought him into notice, and the elders of the Congregational Church thought they saw in him the making of a defender of the faith.  He was sent to college by them, and the alertness in controversy he manifested led to his being sent out on the aforesaid "mission."

    The Rev. Dr. Ackworth, of Bradford, had challenged me to a "foot-to-foot encounter," which I afterwards engaged in.  It was determined that a debate in London should have precedence.  It was to the credit of Mr. Grant's manliness that he was willing to enter the lists in London, where what he took to be error was mainly promulgated, and that he was willing to meet the advocate who was held to be the originator of the new heresy in a six nights' discussion on six successive Thursday evenings, from January 20 to February 24, 1853.

    Mr. Grant could have no misgiving in meeting me.  The apprehension ought to have been all on my side, for he had informed the public that he had "silenced" Cardinal Newman.  Conceive Brewin Grant silencing Cardinal Newman, who crushed Professor Kingsley between two sentences!  The Cardinal was then known as John Henry Newman.  When he delivered his famous lectures to the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri, Mr. Grant announced that he had compelled him "to take down his flag and reduce his lectures from twelve to nine."  It does not appear that Dr. Newman ever took the slightest notice of Mr. Grant, but this did not concern him whose contentment with himself was immeasurable, and who mistook the Cardinal's contempt for terror.

    Mr. Grant's discussion with me was held in the Cowper Street School rooms.  His committee was the Rev. Dr. Campbell, editor of the British Banner; Rev. Robert Ashton, Samuel.  Morley, S. Priestly, and J. S. Crisp.  My committee was James Watson, Richard Moore, my brother Austin, and the Rev. Ebenezer Syme.  Mr. Samuel Morley acted as chairman for Mr. Grant, the Rev. E. Syme was chairman for me, and the Rev. Howard Hinton was umpire.

    The Rev. Howard Hinton, the umpire, was a distinguished Congregational preacher, who looked upon Christianity with the eye of a philosopher, as well as that of a believer.  He was in Congregational divinity what Sir Benjamin Brodie was in medicine—dispassionate and many-sided in his knowledge.  His son, James Hinton, became eminent both as an aurist and a thinker.  His work on the "Mystery of Pain" is still in the minds of men.  Some years after the debate I had the pleasure to meet him at dinner, at the Rev. Stopford A.  Brooke's, when I was impressed by his searching power of thought, as others had been.  As I walked with him to his door that night, he referred to his father's admission made in one of his discourses upon the discussion—that some of my arguments were entitled to consideration, naming one where I pointed out that the evangelical doctrine of motives was a pathless wilderness.  It was this: First, a young inquirer is told to observe moral duties; then he is told he cannot do that, or anything good, unless God first disposes him; then that whatever good works he performs will be of no avail unless he also believes; then that he cannot believe unless God gives him grace to believe; then that God will not give him this grace of belief unless he asks Him; and then that he cannot ask Him effectually unless he already has the grace of faith, which is the very thing he has to ask for.

    Mr. Grant's chairman was, as I have said, Mr. Samuel Morley, who became the great leader of the Nonconformist party.  He was a man of truth and fairness first, and a Christian afterwards.  He would have ascribed these high qualities to his Christianity, but as they were conspicuous in him, in a degree beyond that of his co-religionists, I judged them to be inherent.  Some years afterwards he sent me £5 through his secretary, the Rev. Mr. Price, to assist in procuring a law of Secular Affirmation, as the Christian oath was then obligatory as a condition of legal justice—which justice was refused to all who had conscientious scruples as to solemnly professing a faith they did not hold.  In acknowledging the subscription in the Reasoner, I omitted the name of the giver, as I had reason to know it would subject him to the necessity of explanation and misconception.

    A valued friend of mine, who was a student in the Congregational College supported by Mr. Morley, acquired other convictions, and accepted an appointment in a rural Unitarian Church, which afforded but a slender salary.  Mr. Morley, knowing that he had done this for conscience' sake, sent him a cheque for £100, although it must have deeply pained Mr. Morley that a Congregational College student should become a Unitarian preacher.  There were other instances known to me in which Mr. Morley generously assisted political and social movements, although he knew that those engaged in them differed widely from himself.  He seemed to think that progress by reason was compatible with Christianity, although its incentive was purely secular.

    As an employer, he had regard to the welfare of his workmen, as they often told me; and his manufactures, known for their genuineness, exalted the character of British industry.  While other philanthropists whom I have known, having the honourable ambition of usefulness, would reserve their wealth to make one splendid gift that would bring them renown, and let hundreds perish in their day, whose lives they could have cheered and extended—Mr. Morley, by countless acts of unostentatious kindness, diffused happiness among the living, less fortunate than himself, who could never requite him, nor would the world ever know of the service he rendered them.  This form of kindness always seems higher to me than any form of monumental benevolence to posterity, which commands larger public admiration.  He who is the friend of his contemporaries may, on entering another world, expect to meet many who will accord him grateful welcome, while he who has given thought only for those who may live after him, will meet no one who knows him.  Those who have had no regard for the born nor the unborn, neither gods nor men will have any interest in knowing; and those who have lived only for themselves may rightly be left to perish by themselves.

    The Rev. Dr. Campbell, editor of the British Banner, became friendly to me until his death, and his son was equally so after him; so that the discussion has many pleasant memories to me.  Mr. J. S. Crisp, connected with Ward and Co., the publishers, showed impartiality and judgment in seeing the debate through the press, and each month for nine months I and Mr. Grant received £5 each on every one thousand of the debate printed.  We each received £45 altogether.

    The Rev. Ebenezer Syme, my chairman, was at that time assistant to Dr. John Chapman and sub-editor of the Wesminster Review.  He was the brother of the Rev. Alexander Syme, of Nottingham, also a Congregational minister, with whom I had debated with instruction to myself, and for whom I conceived regard.

    In the debate Mr. Grant professed that I had commended works from which he had rather not read passages.  I demanded that he should do it.  He would not, but called upon me to do it; whereupon the Rev. E. Syme, my chairman, rose and promptly undertook to read every passage Mr. Grant wished provided he would read an equal number of passages from the Old Testament which Mr. Syme would select.  This relevant and decisive offer was not accepted.  It made a lasting impression on the great assembly, and thus that episode ended.  It was an instance of Mr. Grant's ingenuity to urge that I should read his illustrations, whereby the time of my speech would be entirely taken up in presenting his case instead of my own.

    The general subject was—"What advantages would accrue to mankind generally, and the working class in particular, by the removal of Christianity and the substitution of Secularism in its place?"  The pretentious and misleading words "the removal of Christianity" were my adversary's invention.  Five years before, I had elsewhere insisted that our object was to contest the error, not the truth, which was included in Christianity; whereas to remove it all would be to remove the good as well as the evil.  But at no time could we induce adversaries (not even one so amiable as the Rev. H. Townley) to discuss our propositions as we expressed them; and we had to accept their wording (which was always against us) or forego the advantage of debate.  Mr. Morley, with his usual frankness, admitted that I had, in committee, objected to the interpolated words.  In the discussion I refused to accept the sweeping responsibility.  What I maintained was the secular principle that duties of this life which we know should take precedence over those of another which we do not know; that in human affairs science is the providence of man, that morality rests upon foundations purely human; that escape from the penalties of sin by the death of another is not good in principle nor in example; and that where Scriptural precepts appear to conflict, guidance can only come by selection.

    In the debate I spoke of my early pastor, the Rev. John Angell James, with a respect due to one who was for many years the minister of my mother, and because of the way in which he had spoken of me, at a time when one less generous might have used disparaging words.  Mr. Grant, conceding nothing to this sentiment, charged me with inconsistency in the expression of it.  He construed courtesy into an offence.  On the other hand the Rev. Thomas Binney wrote to me to assure me that he thought my expressions of regard for my former pastor creditable to me.  Mr. Binney, himself a Newcastle-on-Tyne man, was one of the figures of the platform.  He wrote afterwards a notable little book entitled "How to Make the Best of Both Worlds."  He was the first preacher in my time who admitted and enforced the secular side of New Testament teaching.  He had natural vigour of expression, boldness, and humour.  He had the true genius of the preacher; he was inspired by his subject and his audience.  I once heard him make a remarkable speech in the Town Hall, Birmingham.  Many wanted him to publish it, but he answered it was impossible.  He said he did not foresee what he should say, and could never recall what he had said.  I think he was like Sojourner Truth, the famous negress preacher of America, who said what she spoke the Lord put into her mouth at the time, and she did not know before she began what it would be.  She said the audience went to hear her, and she came to hear herself, that she might know what the Lord had to say to her.

    My reverend opponent conducted his part of the discussion entirely to his own satisfaction.  It was one of the endowments of Mr. Grant to be always satisfied with himself.  He had advantage over me in his rapidity of speech.  He boasted that he should talk three times as fast as I should, and so have three times more pages in the report, not reflecting that his velocity rendered it beyond the power of the hearer to follow him.  He was the nimblest opponent I ever met, but he never bit your arguments; he only nibbled at them.  He was rabbit-minded, with a scavenger's eye for the refuse of old theological controversy.  With him epithets were arguments.  I was made answerable for whatever could be found in any book I had reviewed favourably, and for every sentiment expressed by writers and correspondents in fourteen volumes of the Reasoner I had edited!  "There was nothing meaner than a mask, and nothing viler than the purpose for which we wore it," was one thing he said in terms of polished force, but his general epithets were below the level of street-corner coarseness.  Regarding personal invective as a digression in argument, I did not reciprocate this language.  Had I imitated my adversary's epithets, it would have been ascribed to the viciousness of my principles; while his invective would be counted as "holy wrath" in him.  Observation of conflicts and controversy had taught me that he who strikes the first blow begins a fight, because a blow oft obliges another in self-defence.  It is the second person in a dispute who begins a quarrel.  Not even a lunatic can keep up a dispute with himself.  He who, in discussion, explains his case and does not retort, makes a quarrel impossible, and his adversary who seeks it appears a disorderly person.  This, in the end, Mr. Grant came to appear in the eyes of his friends.

    I had contended that there were two Christs in the New Testament—Christ the Gentle and Christ the Austere.  Had Mr. Grant given the audience the right of choice, he would have made converts where he made none.  Unless the spirit of the present is breathed into the letter of the past, stagnation petrifies the minds of men.  As Lord Houghton wrote

"So, while the world rolls on from change to change,
 And realms of thought expand,
 The letter stands without expanse or range,
 Stiff as a dead man's hand."

Yet it ought to be owned that the theologian is honest under the fetter of infallible Scripture, when he refuses to depart from the letter.  To drop the "letter" is to drop the doctrine.  To "expand" the letter is to change it.  New "range" means new thought which, in this insidious way, is put forward to supersede the old.  The frank thing is to say so, and admit that the "letter" is obsolete—is gone—is disproved and that new views which are truer constitute the new letter of progress.  The best thing to do with the "dead hand" is to bury it.  To try to expand dissolution and life is tying the dead to the living.


SOME readers of the Newcastle Chronicle asked for the sequel to the Cowper Street debate.  The story is brief.  The Congregationalist leaders who promoted Mr. Grant's Three Years' Mission did not extend the term of his services.  Some said and more thought that his mode of controversy was not calculated to win adherents to the cause he represented.

    Afterwards the Nonconformist body beheld a transformation scene none could have expected.  Their champion deserted them and their cause, and wrote a book against them entitled "The Dissenting World," which the Athenæum (October 16, 1869) described as "overflowing with spite, vanity, insolence, and coarse derision."  So I was not alone in considering him a minister of peculiar ways.  His book made it plain to his friends that unjust epithets imply an unjust spirit.  He afterwards obtained admission into the Church of England.  It was said of the late Dr. Adler, the great Rabbi, that when an importunate Jew threatened to go and be converted if his wishes were not complied with, the Rabbi offered to pay for a cab that he might arrive at the place of conversion speedily, before he changed his mind.  Mr. Grant's colleagues were quite as willing to expedite his transference to the Church.  I will, however, do him the justice to say that he had one merit, rare in an adversary of that day: he would at times quote fully and fairly what you said.  But when he came to put his interpretation upon it, you did not know it again.  His powers of seeing things unexpressed and unimplied would have entitled him to a gold medal, if such honour were provided for such attainments.  When the preliminaries of the Cowper Street debate were being arranged, he asked me to meet him, which I declined to do.  As he had described me as one not to be trusted on my word, an interview seemed useless.  If I was what he asserted, he could not be interested in my company, and, if he believed what he had said, I could not be interested in his.

    A year or so later I was invited by the Rev. Dr. Rutherford to breakfast at his house.  To my surprise Mr. Grant appeared at table.  In the course of conversation with Mr. Grant, I said, "he had precluded himself from friendly intercourse, unless he felt justified in retracting publicly what he had said publicly."  I added, "Were I to apply to you the epithets you apply to me, discussion would be a bear garden of invective."  He at once rejoined, "I wish you would," which showed his good judgment.  Had I, representing infantine and unfriended opinions against full-grown popular orthodoxy, descended to his level, I should have been lost.

    In 1854 I joined in a further discussion with Mr. Grant for six nights in the City Hall, Glasgow.  Friends of mine in that city had invited the Rev. Dr. Wm. Anderson, affectionately called "Willie Anderson" by the people.  Vigorous in speech and wilful in opinion, he had taken the side of Garibaldi, Kossuth, and Mazzini on the platform.  In after years pleasant words from him came to me through Mr. Logan, a city missionary, whom I first knew at Bradford; but in 1854 Dr. Anderson had no friendly opinion of me, thought Mr. Grant good enough to meet me, and advised his being sent for, and thus the Glasgow discussion with him came about.

    An attempt was made to get me to discuss Reign of Terror questions in which atrocity was attributed to me in the terms of the propositions.  This I declined, preferring, as fairer and more instructive, a form of question which implied the comparative reasonableness of our opposing opinions.  On one night during the discussion I received a telegram that my wife was attacked by cholera in London.  Had I left Glasgow to visit her, Mr. Grant would have represented me as running away, and that he had silenced me, as he said he had Cardinal Newman, who had never exchanged a word with him.  One night for half an hour I showed how my opponent's cause might be made to appear did I pursue the same course toward him as he pursued towards us.  His friends were very uneasy.  That method which they applauded when applied to me did not seem so interesting when applied to themselves.  Mr. Southwell and other friends of mine loudly applauded this half hour's retaliation, but I went no further.  It was sufficient to show that it was possible to meet Mr. Grant on his own ground and in his own way.  But when the way is a bad way, it is not profitable to truth to walk therein.  Discussion is brought into distrust and contempt when it is seen to be a struggle to overthrow an adversary instead of to overthrow error.

    Enough has been said, perhaps more than enough, of the epithets Mr. Grant employed in the London and Glasgow debates.  A list of them which I had prepared is omitted, as they are not edifying, and they failed in effect, even in Scotland, where theologians used to keep a large variety on hand.  Mr. John Brown, of the Citizen, whom I did not then know, pointed out that they did not answer their purpose, and that strangers to the disputants in the City Hall took me to be the Christian and Mr. Grant to be the other person.  But there is no profit in dwelling upon controversial imputation except on the Irish principle—"that the only way to prevent what is past is to stop it before it happens."


FEW persons think that there are adventures in controversy as well as on sea or land.  To be murderously assailed in the dark by one who mistakes you for some one else passes for an adventure by common consent.  But, in controversy by pen or speech, a man may be mistaken as to what he means and be assassinated in open day.  An attack upon character may be more serious than an attack upon life, but is accounted little noteworthy.

    It has been said, with the frequency of a proverb, that the lives of literary-minded men are distinguished by few adventures.  That is because only one kind of adventures is thought of; yet there are intellectual adventures as strange, as dramatic, and as full of fatalities as those of the physical kind.

    How many family feuds and party feuds have arisen from a single saying, perhaps spoken in anger, in most cases never intended to be understood in the sense it was taken.  Yet incurable animosity has come of it, and a vendetta which has lasted for years through the lives of a family or the duration of a party.  The fortunes of a Cabinet, the reputation of a minister, the fate of a dynasty have sometimes turned on a phrase creating inextinguishable resentments.  Carlton has suggested the danger of words in notable lines:—

"Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds,
 You can't do that way when you're flying words—
 Careful with fire is good advice we know:
 Careful with words is ten times doubly so.
 Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead,
 But God Himself can't kill them when they're said."

Very gradually I found this out.

    As a social missionary, I was often called upon to give names to infants before the congregation in our lecture halls.  Sometimes foolish names were proposed; sometimes I was responsible for them.

    Wanting a name for writing purposes that did not suggest my own, I selected "Landor Praed."  Landor I took because the brief, vigorous, clear style of Landor were useful to me to bear in mind.  Using Landor as a Christian name would not, I thought, strike any one as an affectation of his qualities.  For a surname Praed seemed convenient, being brief and obscure.  I took it from a Paddington omnibus which ran to "Praed Street," a street I had never been in and thought little known.  After a while I found there was a banker of that name in Fleet Street, and, what was worse, there was a Winthrop Mackworth Praed whom more people knew than knew Praed Street, and some thought his name intentionally chosen.

    Afterwards I observed that Mr. Washington Wilks, some time editor of the Morning Star, was disparaged, in respect of qualities he really possessed, because his sphere of activity did not enable him to sustain the portentous pretension of the name of "Washington."  But graver misadventures befel me.

    In 1852 a proposal was made for a shilling subscription in aid of European freedom, to be placed at the discretionary disposal of Kossuth and Mazzini on behalf of Hungary and Italy.  Viscount Gooderich, Thornton Hunt, Douglas Jerrold, Professor Newman, and James Stansfeld were on the committee, on which my name also appeared.  I published in the Reasoner the manifesto relating thereto, and did all I could to give effect to it.  By aid of the personality of Mazzini it was evident that money could be had.  Therefore I asked him to write me a letter.  He did so, and I soon collected one thousand shillings, then another thousand, and so on until nine thousand were sent to me.  Correspondence, acknowledgment and transmission of the money was done by me at the cost of a ¼ per cent.  to the fund.  My brother Austin, with his usual ardour, took a great share of the labour this involved.  We had the pleasure of remitting to the great triumvir £450.

    There was one, however (W. J. Linton), as desirous as myself to see the subscription succeed, who became my enemy because I did not effect the collection in his name—which was not possible.

    The same writer addressed a letter to the Star of Freedom saying that "our friend 'Ion' who writes in the Leader, has accepted the office of touter in ordinary to the 'Walmsley Incapables,' and serves them from time to time with his most careful emssculations, from the once free-speaking 'Ion,' to the foolishest, tiredest Chartist, who means only to 'take what he can get,' on 'Ion's' recommendation."

    I was the subject also of an epigram from the same pen which represented me as once deserving the name of Iron from the unyieldingness of my arguments; but now the r was well dropped out in "Ion" since I had become flaccid and nerveless.

    Among the many who have from time to time done me the service of being my friends, I must often have created confusion and even distrust in their regard by acts the effects of which were unforeseen and which I went on committing when I did see the effect.  Among every man's friends there are some who are less discerning than others, and judge by impression or prepossession, without looking at the facts of the case.  For instance, when I spoke in favour of Lord Elcho at St.  Martin's Hall meeting, it seemed to many that I was more influenced by the pleasure of so appearing than by honesty of opinion.  Lord Elcho in 1852 had said things in the House of Commons from which I, as well as my colleagues of the National Reform League, dissented; but at the same time he volunteered to attend an indignation meeting convened by us, to listen to what had to be said against him, and reply face to face.  I thought this manly then, and I think so still.  He acknowledged the right of the working class to judge his conduct, and in meeting them to defend what he said he paid them a tribute which contradicted his apparent estimate of them, and atoned in some measure for his wrong judgment of them.  At the same time he had supported in the House a proposal for an Intelligence Franchise in favour of which I had written public letters to Lord John Russell.

    At the same meeting Professor Beesley declared—amid the foolish applause of the meeting that he would not go across Long Acre, in which street the hall stood, to vote in behalf of any Reform Bill, if it did not include the social improvement of the working classes.  I was in favour of a Reform Bill without any conditions, because it was better to have political reform if you could get it, without social reform, than to postpone political reform until you could have them both together.  Professor Beesley's doctrine would delay political redress until some scheme of social redress was agreed upon (which at that time was not formulated), whereas enfranchisement would place in the hands of the people a powerful and constitutional instrument for forcing social redress to the front, when the people clearly understood what they wanted.  My being in favour of obtaining what we could get exposed me to the accusation of being unfriendly to entire enfranchisement, of which I was more in favour than Professor Beesley, who, being a Comtist, was against the people having political power.

    My willingness to accept an Intelligence Franchise arose from seeing that it would admit at once the most advanced artizans to the electorate, where they could help those below them to enfranchisement.  It was not in my mind to accept this limited measure in lieu of the general right of voting, but as an aid to it.  If a million could be added to the number of electors, it was treachery to them to prevent their enfranchisement because the larger number could not be included.  Lord Elcho, being in favour of an intelligence Franchise, was so far, in my opinion, a friend of the working-class politicians; and when he appealed to me to say what I thought upon his conduct, it would have been cowardice not to maintain there the principle I had maintained elsewhere.  At the same time I said it was strange that Lord Elcho, who had founded the Volunteer force, should give workmen muskets and refuse them votes.

    In reply to those at the meeting who represented me as opposed to manhood suffrage, I said that I went further than they, for I had always been an advocate of womanhood suffrage.  But this did not help me with my assailants.  They regarded me as "throwing in the apple of discord."  Thus the civil rights of women was then regarded as an "apple of discord" among Radicals.

    At the time of Mr. Foote's imprisonment (1883) for some heterodox proceeding, Dr. Aveling wrote to me to sign a petition "humbly praying mercy" for Mr. Foote.  As this was contrary to English traditions of Freethought, it was not in my way to sign it, unless the person for whom "mercy" was asked wanted it.  Then my signature was at his command, as I never made my sense of pride or duty the rule of another.  When I was imprisoned, I should have treated him as my worst enemy who put upon me the outrage of asking for "mercy" in my name, without my knowledge or consent.  Such a petition implies the renunciation of doing the same thing again.  It was to assume Mr. Foote to be a coward without our knowing it, and to act upon the ignominious assumption.  In any other way, on ground of injustice, needlessness, or excessiveness of the sentence, I would sign any petition, and said so.  Yet Mr. M. D. Conway went to a public meeting at St.  James's Hall, and described me, amid outcries, as the only person who would not sign a petition on Mr. Foote's behalf.  Mr. Conway, not being an Englishman, might know nothing of the traditions of Freethought among us, and therefore could not be expected to share our sense of freethinking honour, which might be mistaken, but stood up for what it took to be truth—never explained itself away, and never supplicated for mercy.

    Nevertheless I addressed the following letter to Sir William Vernon Harcourt, then Home Secretary:—

"SIR,—Two prisoners, Mr. Foote and Mr. Ramsey, are undergoing excessive sentences.  Permit me to give reasons why they should be released.  A Freethinker who believes what he is doing to be right, never ceases to do it, equally as his adversaries do.  I therefore ask for justice, not 'mercy.'  I take Mr. Foote and Mr. Ramseys method of advocacy to be a principle with them, and therefore I think that their sentences should be terminated as a matter of justice.  Blasphemy is the sin of all sects, but only punished in the weakest.  There is, however, one thing more repulsive than blasphemy, and that is outrage.  I do not pretend that outrage is either undefinable or unpunishable under impartial law.  Outrage, as they who commit it know full well, is when any one imputes to others a conscious infamy of belief which they do not hold, and intends to shock, or irritate, or affront them, regardless whether it pains them or not.  This is outrage, and, in the interests of society and good-feeling, should be discouraged.  Yet this outrage is constantly committed by Christian preachers and writers against Freethinkers, and the law never steps in to protect them.  Since, therefore, the law does not deem it its duty to defend the few against the many, it is not needful or seemly that it should be employed to defend the many against the few.  Outrage may be committed in excitement or under provocation, and is then an error rather than a crime; while outrage, as a method of argument, whether employed by the few or the many, is a polecat policy, which induces every self-regarding person to keep clear of the 'cause' which adopts it, whether it be Freethought or Christianity.  Therefore, in a civilized community, intellectual outrage may be left to its own consequences, and needs not that the law should decrease them by sentences which, by exciting public sympathy, obscure the intrinsic hatefulness of the offence.  Since the country regards you as a Home Secretary who would not do wrong under intimidation, nor be deterred from doing right by unreflecting prejudice, I venture to submit these considerations to you."

    At a later date, when the Queen's Jubilee occurred, I accepted an invitation of Major Dickson, M.P., to be present at the Crystal Palace when the working-class representatives were to send an address to the Queen.  In my speech, as reported in The Times (June 27, 1887), I said Her Majesty's father, the Duke of Kent, was like his father, George III., before him, a promoter of co-operative self-help.  The Prince Consort was a subscriber of £50 a year to a band to play in an East End park on Sundays, so that poor workpeople should have music once a week.  The Prince of Wales had, with not less kindness, countenanced and encouraged social progress among the people.  The Queen, therefore, was entitled to congratulations on her Jubilee, for these things had not come to pass had she disapproved them.

    The Echo thought it strange that "I, of all men in London, was celebrating (at the Crystal Palace) the virtues of Prince Albert and the Queen, and thereby magnifying the Crown."  My reply to the Echo was that these Royal personages I had named had shown interest in the co-operative and social improvement of the people, and this I acknowledged.  I do not see how we can expect these services from those more fortunately placed than ourselves, if we show no appreciation of them.  If my enemy did me a friendly thing, I should acknowledge it, though I should combat him, nevertheless, when I thought his acts pernicious.  I expressly said, in the remarks I made at the Crystal Palace, "that the power of the Crown is greater than is generally known," and it was because great power had been left to it, and no serious attempt made to diminish it, that the Crown is able, if it chooses, not only to retard, but prevent social progress in various ways.  Because it has not done so, but, on the other hand, assisted social freedom, I think a fair ground of Jubilee congratulations had been established.  Many things have been done tending to increase the enjoyment of the people, at the instigation of the Prince of Wales, which might not have been done had the Queen disapproved it.

    It is not an advantage to be represented as changed in your political convictions, when they remain the same, such imputed change being ascribed to feebleness of intellect or abandonment of principle—to decay of mind or decay of honour—and all because you are just in acknowledgment of the services of others, queens or opponents.  It is a maxim in England to "give the devil his due."  But England is the only country in which he gets it, as a rule; but the maxim failed in my case.

    No faculty I have has given me more pleasure than laughing at the absurdities of things I like.  Let him beware who exercises the faculty.  He will have adventures raining upon him.  Only he who looks all round the field of propagandism ever sees over which fence the bull is coming.  But if he gives warning he will have his own friends rush at him.  This has oft befallen me in temperance quarters, but not where Sir Wilfrid Lawson had rule.  Once I said, "One of the most insipid, unattractive, underivable, meaningless words which ever stood as the badge of a party is the term "Teetotalism."  It neither means total water nor total Souchong.  It is weak, alike in sound and sense.  But, viewed in the light of the men it has rescued from ruin, it is one of the fairest, brightest, sunniest, sweetest words that ever gladdened eye or ear; every syllable is illumined and radiant with social deliverance.  But it is often belied, dimmed and distorted by incapacity and antagonism."

    This went for nothing with the Alliance News, which long treated me as an enemy of temperance.  Because I suggested that a term which endangered the efficiency of an advocacy be changed, it was interpreted among those who were wedded to a term, and were incapable of seeing its consequences, that I objected to the advocacy itself.  The term "Teetotal," which never had any meaning, originated in the old Lord Derby's Cockpit in Lancaster.  It became afterwards a favourite place of meeting.  I myself lectured in it.  When Joseph Livesey began to advocate abstinence from intoxicating drinks, an illiterate but honest man, who was first to agree to abstain, explained that he was a total abstainer.  But, having an incurable stutter in his speech, he said he was a "t-t-t-total abstainer."  Livesey, who did not know what name to call his new adherents by, at once exclaimed, "That is the name we will take—tee-tee-totalers!"  This was contracted into teetotaler.  So the ludicrous but useful name came to be adopted. 

    A term which is good in itself becomes after a time like a coin—battered and defaced by reckless ill-conditioned persons using it—and ought to be sent to the mint of worn-out phrases, a new one being issued.

    My dislike to see a good cause made to look absurd brought me many enemies when I advised a change would be an improvement.  It was not, as many thought, from egotism or vanity that I did so, but because it seemed to me of more importance that our friends should be in the right than that our adversaries should.  Any one who looks no further than into the pamphlet literature of movements with which I was connected from 1840 to 1880, will find abundant evidence that there are adventures ludicrous and sometimes tragical connected with the use of words.


THE freedom of the press dates from 1693, when the Commons struck out by a special vote the list of temporary acts against the press which were intended to be continued.  But restriction upon its liberty by taxation was the persistent device of the governing classes, who were terrified at the apparition of the wilful little printing-press.

    The Free Press Terror lasted 142 years.  "Twenty years of resolute government" Lord Salisbury thought sufficient to extinguish the spirit of freedom in Ireland.  The press was subjected to "resolute restriction" nearly a century and a half, yet it burst its bonds after all.  A free press was never a terror to the people—it was their hope.  It was the governing classes, who were under alarm.  The "terror" began and ended in the reign of two women—Queen Anne (the only queen whose death is always treated as absolute) and Queen Victoria.  The Anne Tax commenced in 1713; it ceased with Victoria in 1855, The second lady was better than the first, for Victoria repealed what Anne imposed.  The press is a spy upon authority and sells its observations to the public.  It makes known new ideas before it knows who will be affected by them, and often after it does know.  Princes and priests soon saw an enemy in the press.  Type was in their opinion the most serious form lead could take.  They therefore hit on the compulsory stamp to restrain the issue of papers, which put money into the Crown's purse and limited news.  It robbed the reader by making him pay exorbitantly for his paper, and kept the poorer classes ignorant.  Anne put a halfpenny tax on a little sheet and a penny on a larger one.  George II, whom Landor says "was always reckoned vile," added a halfpenny to the impost.  George III., who was no better, added another halfpenny.  A second time he added a halfpenny, and, finding the larceny of the press profitable, he increased the tax three halfpence, raising the stamp to fourpence.  I speak of monarchs doing this.  By constitutional jugglery it is contrived that no Minister shall be responsible for injustice.  The monarch is exonerated under the pretence that Parliament made the law.  All the while the people had no control over the House of Commons.  When the king set himself against a good measure, it required the menace of a revolution to pass it.  He who could resist good was answerable for evil which he permitted.  Thus the rich classes—otherwise the conspiring classes—of the State shut out, as far as they could, all knowledge of their doings, alleging that their object was to prevent the dissemination of "heresy and immorality," thus proclaiming their interest in virtue while concealing their political and ecclesiastical vices.

    Nothing reminded the world so long and so disagreeably of the existence of Queen Anne as the 10th Act of her malevolent reign.  From 1713 to 1855 she was the pestilent troubler of the press.  George III.  mitigated in one respect, but intensified in another, her pernicious initiative.  The Queen Anne Stamp was put not only on every paper "containing news intended to be made public," but on essays not political, as any one may see who looks at Sir Richard Steele's Spectator in the Library of the British Museum.  Sir Richard's harmless paper was killed by the red ban of Queen Anne.  The 60th George III.  extended the stamp to "pamphlets containing remarks on any matter in Church or State published at intervals not exceeding twenty-six days, and sold at less than 6d."  George III.  further ordained that publishers of a newspaper must, under penalty of £20, enter into a bond of £400 or £300, together with sureties, in case the paper contained a blasphemous or seditious libel—every editor being assumed to be a criminally disposed person and naturally inclined to blasphemy and sedition.  Every person possessing a printing-press or types for printing, and every type-founder was ordered to give notice to the Clerk of the Peace.  Every person selling type was ordered to give an account of all persons to whom they were sold.  Every person who printed anything for him had to keep a copy of the matter printed, and write on it the name and abode of the person who employed him to print it.  The printer was treated as an enemy of the State, and compelled to become an informer. 

    The most popular part of the contest against the taxes centred in the repeal of the newspaper stamp.  Until the time of the Reform Bill of 1832, there was little objection to the stamp by Englishmen in general; they rather thought it an inevitable arrangement.  The Atlas, edited by Mr. H. J. Slack, which had the suggestive intrepidity of Leigh Hunt's Examiner, said "the Englishman was a stamped animal: he was tattooed all over.  There was not a single spot of his body corporate that was not stamped several times.  He could not move without knocking his head against a stamp, and before he could arrive at any station of respectability he must have paid more money for stamps than would have set him up for life.  The stamp penetrates everywhere; it seizes upon all things, and fixes its claws wherever there is a tangible substance.  Sometimes, indeed, it flies to the intangible, and quarters itself upon the air, the imagination of man, his avocations, his insanity, his hopes and prospects, his pleasures and his pains, and does not scruple to fasten upon his affections.  Even love is stamped.  A man cannot fall in love and marry a lady without an acknowledgment of the omnipotence of the stamp.  An Englishman is born to be stamped: he lives in a state of stamp, and is stamped while he is dying, and after he is dead."

Henry Hetherington

When Lord John Russell introduced the Parliamentary Reform Bill in 1831, the stamp on English newspapers was fourpence.  The ordinary price of a newspaper was sevenpence.  The interest excited by the Reform Bill created a great demand for newspapers among thousands to whom sevenpence was a prohibitive price.  This demand was supplied by publishing newspapers without a stamp in defiance of the law.  Some persons did this to make a living by supplying a want.  Others were actuated by indignation at the restriction of political knowledge.  These ran great risks and suffered serious penalties.  Among them no one was more distinguished than Henry Hetherington, who published several unstamped newspapers with news in every column.  But the paper on which he set his heart was the Poor Man's Guardian, price one penny.  This was exactly the kind of paper the suppression of which was intended by the 10th of Anne and the 60th of George III.  The Guardian's method of obtaining redress of grievance was to call for Universal Suffrage.  It advocated passive resistance to oppressive laws, and was against violence.  But it constantly discussed "every matter in Church and State."  It gave no bond to the Stamp Office against "blasphemy and sedition," and it paid no stamp duty.  More than five hundred persons were prosecuted for selling it, and Mr. Hetherington suffered two imprisonments of six months each for publishing it.  He was hunted by the police for years, having to conceal himself, and enter his place of business in successive disguises.  His shop goods were carried off, and blacksmiths were brought in to destroy his presses and type.

    After three years' persecution, on 17th June, 1834, the Poor Man's Guardian was brought before the Court of Exchequer.  Henry Hetherington was at the same time sued for publishing the People's Conservative, a paper at a higher price, which contained a considerable amount of miscellaneous news.  Mr. Hetherington defended himself in person in a speech interesting, argumentative and resolute.  He said the "odious 60th George III.  was the work of the notorious Lord Castlereagh, who afterwards cut his throat at North Cray, Kent."  Under the Castlereagh Act, he said, it was unlawful to print the Bible in numbers with any comment thereon.  The Solicitor-General contended that the Guardian and Conservative were clearly newspapers, as the jury would, on inspecting them, see.  He said little, as convictions followed with mechanical celerity, Lord Lyndhurst said less, but to more purport—namely, that "the Poor Man's Guardian was a much more meagre publication than the Conservative, but the jury could inspect them, and they knew as much about a newspaper as he did."

    They did, and their verdict was against the Conservative, with two penalties, £100 for not delivering the affidavit, and £20 for selling them unstamped, while their verdict upon the Poor Man's Guardian was in favour of Mr. Hetherington, who at once exclaimed—"I am glad of that, for it legalizes the publication."  Lord Lyndhurst then said—"Mr. Hetherington is anxious that it should be understood that the jury do not think the Poor Man's Guardian comes within the Act."  [See report of trial in the acquitted Guardian of June 21st, 1834.]  Thus Lord Lyndhurst volunteered to explain to the jury the purport of Mr. Hetherington's jubilant exclamation.  What could be the intention of the Tory Radical Chief Baron in practically legalising the Guardian, for publishing which five hundred persons had been imprisoned, it is difficult to conjecture.  He must have intended to terminate the disreputable prosecutions continued by the Government, for he knew that the "meagreness" of the publication was its offence.  The 60th George III.  was designed by Castlereagh to restrain papers "published in great numbers, and at very small prices."] "Meagreness" was an aggravation rather than an alleviation of the crime.  Lord Lyndhurst knew that the 60th of George III.  left standing the Act 10th Queen Anne, which Act declared that "every printed paper containing news to be dispersed and made public must bear a stamp."  He treated this act as though it was "as dead as Queen Anne" herself.  All the while it had an infamous existence on the Statute Book.  He, however, in suggesting to the jury that a "meagre" publication was exempted shows that a judge can, when he pleases, annul an Act and virtually create a new law.

    The Inland Revenue Board must have been mad, after obtaining five hundred convictions under the Act, to be baffled and condemned, and, as Mr. Collet wrote, the Board "indignantly left the Government and the Constitution of these realms as well as our holy religion to take care of themselves evermore" as far as "meagre" papers could trouble them.  They had still the power of action, for they had the 10th of Queen Anne to go upon, and afterwards they did put it in force on outside instigation.  Of course it was the duty of the Revenue Board to protect those publishers who did pay the duty against the rivalry of those who did not.  But when public sentiment was against the tax, it became odious to enforce it.

    Mr. Alderman Abel Heywood of Manchester, who was one of the imprisoned, recently stated at a City meeting, when the honorary Freedom was conferred upon him, that all told in town and country the number imprisoned was 750.


IN 1836 the stamp duty was reduced to a penny.  This put an end to the competition of the unstamped newspaper, but it did not put an end to unstamped publications.  Papers not "meagre" began to appear as rivals to the stamped press.  Among the most eminent violators of the 10th of Anne were afterwards the Athenæum, the Builder, and the Penny Magazine.  The most defiant violators of the 60th George III.  were subsequently the Reasoner and the National Reformer

    Our free press has two histories.  The right of the free publication of opinion goes back to the days of Milton's splendid advocacy of "Unlicensed Printing," and Jeremy Taylor's "Liberty of Prophesying," and comes down to the days of Richard Carlile, Watson, Hetherington, and others.  We are not concerned here with the penalties of opinion, but with the taxes which impeded its expression, though a history of the twelve years' agitation against these taxes would be an interesting political story of modern times,

    By the Reform Bill of 1832, the government of the country was consigned to what W. J. Fox called the "Worshipful Company of Ten Pound Householders," who sent representatives to Parliament who had the merit of thinking it was time that the dead hand of Queen Anne should be taken off the press.  On March 9, 1849, an association was formed "to obtain the exemption of the press from all taxation and from all control except that of a court of law."  Francis Place was treasurer; James Watson, sub-treasurer.  Richard Moore, who was afterwards chairman, C. D. Collet, secretary, and others, were members of the committee, which in 1850 was increased by James Stansfeld, George Dawson, and myself.  In 1851, Mr. Milner Gibson, M.P., became president, and J. Alfred Novello sub-treasurer.  The committee was increased by the names of Dr. Black, John Bright, M.P., R. Cobden, M.P., Passmore Edwards, W. E. Gladstone, M.P., Joseph Hume, M.P., John Cassell, Thornton Hunt, Professor T. H. Key, Rev. E. R. Larken, George Henry Lewes, William Scholefield, M.P., and others.

    These persons had no interest to serve, and only resentment to encounter, in the part they took.  It was generous and disinterested indignation at the injustice and insolence of law that brought them into the field.  The first Lord Shaftesbury wrote—"I know nothing greater or nobler than the undertaking and managing some important accusation by which some high criminal of State, or some formed body of conspirators against the public, may be arraigned and brought to punishment, through the honest zeal and public affection of a private man."  "Public affection"—a happy phrase, well describes the sentiment that animated the committee.

    The Taxes on Knowledge in 1848 consisted of duties of the following kind, producing in round numbers

On foreign books..........................


On advertisements ......................


On paper .......................................


The penny stamp .........................


    At that time (1848) sixty millions of newspapers were transmitted by post.  The cost of this transmission and the manufacture of stamps, taken at £150,000, would leave a net revenue from taxes on knowledge of upwards of one million.

    It was entirely an uphill enterprize to undertake the abolition of these long established, fiercely defended, profitable imposts on ideas.  Time and artifice had disguised them from the people most affected by them.  Canning accused the people of "an ignorant impatience of taxation."  He might more reasonably have accused them of ignorant acquiescence in it.  Editors of newspapers, fearing competition, were mostly against the repeal of the stamp.  Paper makers were against the repeal of the duty on paper, which, being paid in advance, kept small funded competitors out of the field.  Even the advertisement duty had its defenders, as it kept rival tradesmen from appealing to the general public.  Yet, within twelve years of incessant and intelligent agitation, all these taxes were swept away by a committee which never had an average income of £300 a year.

    Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden were the great supporters of the question in Parliament.  The leader of the repeal there was Mr. Milner Gibson.  Never had a leader more celebrated supporters.  Never had supporters a more intrepid and ingenious leader.  Mr. Gibson was a young Tory squire when he became member for Ipswich, which seat he lost through becoming convinced of the common sense of Free Trade.  He was elected member for Manchester, and his fine abilities enriched Liberalism.  He was tall, handsome, with a pleasant, winning expression, and a singular softness and persuasiveness of speech.  There was, as the Daily News said, "a sparkle in his brisk talk and light comedy manner," and adversaries were oblivious of the rapier in his argument until they felt the point.  The contrast of a country gentleman of debonnaire manners being the cordial colleague of manufacturers and Puritan politicians, was a theme of comment.  Mr. Gibson was a dexterous debater, master of the methods of Parliament, and excelled in drawing up a resolution which the largest number of those objecting to it would be compelled to vote for.

    Next to Mr. Milner Gibson, the success of the movement with means so limited, was owing to Mr. Collet Dobson Collet, whose energy, resource and devices were like Cleopatra's charms, of infinite variety.  At every meeting of the committee he had twenty schemes of action to lay before them, from which Bright and Cobden and Gibson would select the most practical, and the most mischievous to the enemy. [18]  A good secretary, who has enterprize together with deference to the opinion of those responsible, is master of the movement in which he is engaged.  He at once serves and instructs without offending the self-respect, or alienating the members by action without their knowledge and consent.  The courageous policy of the committee (founded on that of Henry Hetherington) was to destroy obnoxious laws by compelling the Government to enforce them impartially.  Odious enactments are maintained by permitting powerful offenders to escape and applying them to poorer offenders, who have no means of resistance or retaliation.

    By the same policy the Sunday Society might have repealed in less than twelve years the infamous act of Bishop Porteous, against which they have been for more than thirty years vainly supplicating.

    In the chapter on the "Personal Characteristics of Mr. Bright," mention is made of Mr. Peter Borthwick's meeting at the City of London Tavern, called to form a separate society for repealing the advertisement duty.  As a Tory, Mr. Borthwick was against the diffusion of political information amongst the "masses"—a civil substitute (about that time invented) for the term "mob."  The policy of the Morning Post was to put the question of the advertisement duty into other hands, which would have diverted public attention and destroyed the unity of the demand for the complete emancipation of the press.  When the amendment was carried which I proposed, the Borthwick scheme was heard of no more.  The terms in which The Times mentioned my speech was of advantage to me.  The next day Francis Place spoke of it to me, saying, in the generous way he had of encouraging young men, that I might become a useful advocate.  This I remember, as it was the first time I had received approval from him, for, though he freely gave counsel, he seldom gave praise.

    As Punch, the Athenæum, the Builder, and Dickens's Household Narrative of Current Events all contained news weekly, and were not required to be stamped, the attention of Mr. Timm, of the Inland Revenue, was called to these cases.  When he intimidated small country publishers by threatening them with prosecution, he was asked why he assailed publishers whom prosecution would ruin, and left unmolested rich offenders who could well defend themselves.  Mr. Timm's answers were never satisfactory.  Thereupon further letters would be sent, pointing out the deficiency of his answers, and a member of Parliament, often Mr. Gibson, would ask for explanation in the House.  This worried the Inland Revenue Board, and Mr. Timm would seek repose by not replying to letters.  Then questions were again put in Parliament asking why he was silent when the public interest required information from him, which made Mr. Timm's life not worth living.  Mr. John Wood, the chairman of the Inland Board of Revenue, said this paltry stamp tax, which only brought in about £500,000 a year, gave them more trouble than all the rest of the revenue put together, including the income-tax.  The committee exerted themselves to increase that trouble, and John Stuart Mill afterwards said that "the committee converted a department," which can only be done by compelling the administrators to apply their Acts to rich as well as to poor.

Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens published the Household Narrative of Current Events without a stamp, unaware that the 10th of Queen Anne was not, like its mistress, dead, but only sleeping.  The committee promoted a prosecution, which at once suspended that publication—at a loss to him, it was said, of £4,000 a year.  Two of the three judges, before whom the case came, decided against Queen Anne, and in favour of Mr. Dickens.  Baron Parke dissented.  The Attorney-General (afterwards Lord Chief Justice Cockburn) agreed with Baron Parke that the decision was against the law; but it helped the agitation greatly.

    The Inland Revenue Board had sleepless nights through our demand that they should define what was "news."  It was not in them to do it.  They could give no unassailable answer.  Disraeli came to their assistance, as the reader will see further on, but failed to give them relief.  When the Dickens trial came on, the cry in the newspaper offices was—"What the Dickens is news?"


EVERY reader of Bunyan knows how the town of Mansoul was taken in the "Holy War."  The taking of Somerset House by the forces of the No-Stamp Agitators was, if less memorable, not less "Holy," for it was the war against political and religious ignorance.

Benjamin Disraeli

    The first Parliamentary triumph against these taxes was on April 14, 1853, when Mr. Milner Gibson carried a resolution for the total repeal of the advertisement duty, in which he was supported by the vote of Mr. Disraeli.  Four days later Mr. Gladstone brought in his Budget, which proposed to reduce the duty from 1s. 6d.  to 6d.  The resolution that Mr. Gibson carried pledged the House against the tax, but did not repeal it.  When Mr. Gladstone brought in the Bill to fix the duty at 6d., Mr. Gibson moved its total repeal, but he was beaten by 116 votes in favour of the 6d., only 106 voting against it.  The Government, having performed their duty, went to the clubs or the opera, and left the House to its divisions on the details in committee.  It was moved that there be a duty of 6d., when Mr. E. J. Craufurd, M.P.  for the Ayr Burghs, who was always at hand in late divisions, moved an amendment that in the Bill the figure 6 should be omitted and 0 substituted.  The House divided, when it proved that there were 77 votes in favour of 0, and only 68 in favour of 6: majority for 0—9.  So the House determined that there should be an advertisement duty of no pounds, no shillings, no pence, no farthings.  "Is this correct?"  asked Mr. Gibson.  "Perfectly," answered the Speaker, who was then Mr. Shaw Lefevre, afterwards Lord Eversley.  Mr. Craufurd, appearing at his club the next day, was saluted with the exclamation:—"See the conquering Zero comes!"  The next morning when Mr. Gladstone awoke, he found his sixpence irrevocably gone.  Ministers were surprised, and Lord John Russell was said to be very wroth.

William Ewart Gladstone

   Mr. Craufurd had greater intellectual independence than any Scotch member of my time.  His father was Mr. Craufurd of Auchinames and Crosby Castle, formerly Treasurer-General of the Ionian Islands.  His mother was Sophia Mariana, a daughter of Major-General Horace Churchill, and great grand daughter of Sir Robert Walpole.  One of her daughters married Aurelio Saffi, the second Triumvir of Rome with Mazzini.

    In 1833 the duty on advertisements was 3s. 6d. in Great Britain, and 2s. 6d. in Ireland; it was reduced to 1s.  6d.  in Great Britain and 1s. in Ireland.  When, in 1853, the duty was totally repealed, it yielded £180,000.

    The policy of the committee of which I write was to encourage publishers who issued papers liable to the stamp duty to continue doing it, and inviting them, in case they were interfered with, to communicate with the committee, who would do what they could to defend them.  The Potteries Free Press and Working Man's Chronicle was one of these papers.  It was published by George Turner, a spirited newsagent of Stoke-upon-Trent, who announced that the paper was "under the protection of the Society for Repealing the Taxes on Knowledge."  In some cases Mr. Collet gave his name as publisher, so that he might be answerable for the consequences.

    To incite Somerset House to action when it showed a politic somnolency, it was decided, at the time of opening Parliament, to get some newspaper of repute to publish a single copy of its issue containing the Queen's Speech, without the newspaper stamp, and call upon the Government to prosecute it.  But who would run the risk?  I was asked to ascertain that.  All in vain I tried the most likely offices.  Then I asked the paper whose intrepidity I knew—the Leader.  The proprietor was willing, but, being a man of fortune, he prudently consulted his solicitor, who advised him that the resources of mischief concealed in the odious Stamp Act were such that he should ask for a £2,000 bond.  They said it ought to be £10,000.  There was no means of giving the bond required, and it fell to me to publish special news without the stamp.  If any paper had complied with the request, we intended calling upon Mr. Timm at once to prosecute it.  It was therefore fair that proprietors should ask for some indemnity.  I believe I inquired whether the committee could promise any assistance in case of my becoming involved in liabilities beyond my means.  But I soon saw no guarantee could be given, as the Government, if they had chosen, could condemn me in fines which would have absorbed Mr. Milner Gibson's whole fortune.  Mr. Collet was of opinion the Government would not go to such an extreme, but said, for reasons mentioned in the Lord's, Prayer, it was well not to "lead them into temptation."

    After the Dickens decision of the Court of Exchequer, which declared monthly publications not liable to the stamp duty, I received letters from Mr. C. D. Collet, saying:—"I hope to complete my arrangements for publishing my monthly War Chronicle next Wednesday.  Will you publish it for me? paying me at the rate of £3 12s. 2d. per thousand; no credit.  An answer will oblige."  Mr. Richard Moore and Mr. James Hoppey wrote me letters making the same inquiry.  In each case I assented.  The news in these Chronicles was mainly made up from the columns of the Empire, a paper owned by Mr. Thomas Livesey and edited by John Hamilton (afterwards editor of the Morning Star).  Thus Moore's War Chronicle, Collet's War Chronicle, and Hoppey's War Chronicle appeared.  The fourth Chronicle purported to be "published by authority" of the Dickens decision in the Court of Exchequer.  We had trouble through the fears of newsvendors; therefore I sent notices to the "trade" saying that a "Legal War Chronicle would be published monthly, as several enterprising persons had announced their intention to start monthly war papers.  In order to secure the public the advantage of continuous news of the war, Messrs. Holyoake and Co. had made arrangements to supply all newsagents with one of these papers every week.  If difficulty was experienced by booksellers in the country in obtaining the papers, they should write to Messrs.  Holyoake and Co., who would supply them from their office."  These papers being issued on successive Saturdays in the month, the series gave the public an unstamped newspaper every week.  It struck the Revenue Board as curious that four separate proprietors of monthly papers should choose me for their publisher, and, as they were entirely wanting in confidence in my simplicity, they took action.  Writs were issued to alarm us, but the Attorney-General neglected or refused to file information against the proprietor and publisher.  The Board of Inland Revenue were excited, and wrote letters to all whom they had served with writs, threatening to anticipate the judgment of the Court of Exchequer and the verdict of a jury by a summary process.  This was an unconstitutional and unprecedented procedure.  To counteract this threat I assured the vendors, in a further circular, "that it was not likely proceedings would be taken against them, until conviction had been obtained against me; and instructed any one who should be summoned to apply to me or Mr. Collet."  As writs were served upon us, and no information filed, it was clear that there was trouble at the Inland Revenue Board.  I therefore issued in two colours a large placard as follows:

Against the Unstamped Press.
Holyoake and Co.
Announce that, though
Diplomatic Relations
Between Fleet Street and Downing Street have been
Yet they have good reason to believe that the Stamp
Office is commanded by Admiral Keogh,
Whose force is destitute of gunboats, and that there is
In the City of London.  Nothing can therefore prevent
the public from being supplied with the
Except the
Connivance or Credulity of
The "War Chronicle," Price 1d., is published every
Wednesday morning by
Holyoake and Co.,
147, Fleet Street, London.
Signed-Holyoake and Co., Printers.

    While the unstamped papers, described in the previous chapter, were being issued, I was under daily liability of arrest.  The Crown had the power to arrest every person in my house, seize all the books, and destroy all the printing presses, as they had done to Mr. Hetherington.  I kept a poncho under the counter with some refreshments in, and was in attendance during six weeks, to serve the unstamped papers, as I would never allow any one else to incur the responsibility which I had myself invoked.  My brother Austin was not less ready than myself, but I asked him to wait his turn.  The poncho, I gave to "Count de" Rudio.

    At this time Mr. Edward Lloyd, the founder of Lloyd's News, was publishing a penny picture paper, in which he gave an account of the escape of a lion, which, though useful information to the public, was declared to be news.  Whereupon Mr. Lloyd found it was less dangerous to fall in the way of the lion than into the jaw of the Stamp laws.  He was at once told he must stop or stamp.  He stamped, raised his paper to twopence, and lost his circulation.  I neither stopped nor stamped.  It was computed in one of the publications of the committee for repealing these taxes that I sold some 30,000 copies, which, as the fine upon each was £20, represented fines of £600,000.  Besides these, I published nineteen numbers of the Fleet Street Advertiser, which had not a large sale, but every number was liable to the same fine.  The best subscriber to it was the Inland Revenue Board themselves, whose agent came regularly every Saturday morning and purchased the first half-dozen copies, so that I was in for £120 of fine before breakfast.  In nineteen weeks my liability from official custom alone amounted to £2,280.  Finally, I was summoned to the Court of Exchequer to answer to my liability, which obliged me to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would oblige me by taking the amount weekly, as I had not the money by me.  Mr. Gladstone was then the Chancellor, and in my absence from town my brother Austin was one of a deputation to him.  Mr. Gladstone said, in his gracious way, "He knew my object was not to break the law, but to try the law."  Fortunately for me, the Repeal of the Stamp Duty took place shortly after.  Though my solicitors, Messrs. Ashurst and Son, put in an appearance on my behalf, the case was never proceeded with, and I have never applied to have it opened.

    All the while I was publishing every week forbidden news in the Reasoner.  The attention of the Board of Inland Revenue was called to the fact that they were neglecting their duty by not indicting me, as the Reasoner had always published news without a stamp.  Eventually they resolved to do it.  Their reluctance arose from not wishing to give State publicity to a journal which was not so orthodox as could be desired.  As I was a Freeman of the City of London, and my house was within the precincts of the City, it was necessary to take me before the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House.  Then they found that the City authorities were opposed to having a press prosecution in the City.  The reputation of those they had had in the days of Hone and Carlile was such that they coveted no more of it.  So the Government left alone the Reasoner, the oldest defiant paper in London at that time.

    This defiancy of issue of War Chronicles was done not only in spite of interest and ignorance, but in spite of newsvendors.  Though they were selling two hundred illegal papers, they were insensible to their own danger.  They held a meeting in St.  Martin's Hall a few nights before the Repeal, and sent a deputation to Mr. Gladstone with instructions to dissuade him from going on with his bill.  On the other hand, we sent him word urging him to proceed with it.  Being a newsvendor myself, I attended the St.  Martin's Hall meeting, and moved an amendment in favour of their supporting the Repeal in their own interest.

    The newsvendors were present in considerable numbers at some of the public meetings.  Their fear was that the introduction of penny papers would deprive them of their profits.  Mr. Cobden on one occasion said to them, "He had no doubt.  that could he meet them a few years hence they would acknowledge that their extreme susceptibility to the interests of their pockets had exceedingly blinded their mental vision." [19] This they have long since admitted.


THE Midland Railway, by putting third class carriages in all its trains, was the first to bring the workman to his destination at the same time as the gentleman.  It was foreseen that the repeal of the newspaper stamp would do more for the workman, for it would bring all the news of the world to his door before his employer was out of bed.  Instead of having to wait a week for his master's second-hand newspaper, he would have one of his own.  This was worth working for.

    The Inland Revenue Board was drawn into an ethical difficulty.  I sent a memorial asking that the Reasoner, of which I was proprietor, might be put upon the same footing as several other publications, religious and literary, which by the use of the stamp were permitted to pass through the post office free.  The privilege was worth the penny, and I was willing to pay that sum for it.  This cost "my Lords" of the Treasury, the Revenue Office, and the Postmaster, some tribulation.  Messrs. Ashurst, Waller, and Morris revised my memorial, and conducted a disquieting correspondence with the Board.  Mr. Ashurst had been, as I have said, the adviser of Sir Rowland Hill in the affair of the penny postage, and was master of the art of giving discomfort to the official mind, in the most constitutional way.

    When they asked for a reply from the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote to acquaint my solicitors that "an official communication will be addressed to Mr. Holyoake from the Lords of the Treasury in reply to his memorial."  At length Mr. J. P. Godby informed me that "the Postmaster-General had been pleased to authorize the Reasoner to circulate under the usual newspaper privileges, provided each copy is duly stamped in accordance with the regulation of the office."  Mr. Ashurst replied that "Mr. Holyoake, upon application at the Stamp Office, was told that the Reasoner could not be stamped, unless he made a declaration that the Reasoner is a newspaper, which it is not; and that Mr. Holyoake declined to make any such declaration, as it would be false, and was advised that it would be a misdemeanour to do so."  The opinion of Mr. Hoggins, Q.C., and Mr. Phinn, Q.C., which Mr. Ashurst had taken, decided that "it was a misdemeanour besides an act of immorality to declare the thing which was not.  The essence of the definition of perjury is that it is a false statement made in some judicial proceeding, but a false declaration that a paper is a newspaper which is not a newspaper is a statutable misdemeanour."

    I sent to "my Lords" a list of seventeen publications with the names and addresses of the publishers, all of which obtained post-office privileges by means of a "false declaration."  Three of these were the Church Missionary Intelligencer, The Clerical Journal, and the Protestant Magazine.  Clearly these journals were no more newspapers than the Reasoner, yet they made a declaration that they were.  Mr. Godby was reduced to the necessity of advising me to make a "false declaration" as the only means of obtaining post-office privileges.  Thus we worried the departments, and showed that they connived at public falsehood and gave a premium of privilege to it.

    In 1855 the newspaper stamp was abolished.  On June 13, 1861, the paper duty followed.  The agitation for this repeal was fruitful in devices and in curious incidents, though free from the dangerous penalties of the earlier agitation.  In the Gazette of the society, Mr. Collet had to write (May, 1861) an article "On the Tax which Nobody Paid."  It was proved logically and conclusively, by officials and politicians, that the duty was a tax which came out of nobody's pocket—and how the Chancellor of the Exchequer collected it was the only thing left unexplained.

    We owed the repeal of the paper duty to Mr. Gladstone.  The opposition in Parliament held the loss to the revenue to be £1,252,000.  No other Chancellor of the Exchequer would have taken the risk of this loss with the income tax at tenpence in the pound.  The Bill Mr. Gladstone drew was far more comprehensive as to the removal of incidental restrictions than the one passed under Sir George Cornewall Lewis's manipulation.  The philosophical baronet was far excelled by Mr. Gladstone.  Where a thing was right Mr. Gladstone went all the way of it.

    If the reader should look into the People's Review edited by me, and into volumes of the Reasoner from 1849 to 1862, he will find more authentic documents and a fuller record of facts concerning this agitation than elsewhere, save in the Gazette of the association for the repeal of these taxes, and in official records in Mr. Collet's possession.  The readers of the Reasoner made repeated subscription in aid of the agitation.  For the testimonial to Mr. Milner Gibson, Mr. John Francis, the secretary, said I collected in town and country £200.  I knew everybody who would give anything for agitations of progress, and, as I went about the country speaking, I could, without expense to the committee, promote their objects.

    Mr. John Francis, publisher of the Athenæum, whose remarkable life has been published by his son, was distinguished in a high degree by public spirit, practical judgment, and untiring persistence.  He contributed greatly to the abolition of the paper duty by establishing a "Newspaper and Periodical Press Association" in support of it.  Mr. Milner Gibson and his Parliamentary and public colleagues continued the fight until the repeal of that obstructive impost was won.  In 1861, a testimonial of several hundred pounds was presented to Mr. Gibson by a committee of whom Robert Chambers was treasurer.

    A secretary of sagacity, energy, and resource is the maker of a movement, and Mr. Collet, who had been the secretary of the "Association for Repealing the Taxes on Knowledge" from the beginning to the end (and for seven years of the time his services were honorary) had well earned a testimonial.  Afterwards (1862) one was presented to him with grateful unanimity.  On the committee were the names of W. H. Ashurst, A. S. Ayrton, M.P., E. H. J. Craufurd, M.P., W. E. Hickson, Dr. J. A. Langford, M. E. Marsden, S. Morley, J. Stansfeld, M.P., P. A. Taylor, M.P., Washington Wilks, and Professor F. W. Newman.  Each name had honour in it.

    In 1859, Mr. Milner Gibson having accepted the office of President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Ayrton took charge of the Repeal of the Paper Duty.  To Mr. Acton Smee Ayrton also belongs the credit of carrying (Feb. 7, 1861) the abolition of the Security System.  He had before carried the Bill three times through the House of Commons, only to be rejected by the Lords.

    Success was owing to others also, who on the platform gave their great influence to the society.  A greater array of eminent men took part in this work than in any other agitation of that time.  No cause, not even those of the Anti-Corn Law League, provided for the public of London a more interesting platform of speakers than the Anti-Knowledge Tax Society.  On the night of its first public meeting (December 1, 1852), Douglas Jerrold was in the chair at St.  Martin's Hall.  Cobden, Milner Gibson, Charles Knight, the Rev. Thomas Spencer, M.A.  (the uncle of Herbert Spencer), George Henry Lewes (who was one of the speakers), Samuel Wilderspin, and others were present.  George Cruikshank was one who, when Jerrold saw him enter the committee room, exclaimed—"Now, George, remember that water is very very good anywhere except upon the brain."' Cruikshank had become a vehement teetotaller, which Jerrold was not.

    Bright spoke on other occasions, as did Cobden.  Other speakers were George Dawson, with his easy, luminous, satiric audacity; and Dr. John Watts, with his measured metallic voice, clear statement, and confident mastery of facts.  Dr. Watts, in earlier years a fellow social missionary with me in the Robert Owen movement, was always the advocate of free knowledge.

    On other occasions we had as speakers G. A. Sala, George Thompson, John Cassell, Professor Key, Charles Knight, Edward Miall, Serjeant Parry, and W. J. Fox.  One night Horace Greeley, the founder of the New York Tribune, who, twice visited me at Fleet Street, displayed a newspaper "of vast dimensions when unfolded," to an Exeter Hall audience who had never seen anything like it.  "That is what we have for a few cents in America," exclaimed Greeley, "where we have no taxes on knowledge."

    At a soiree given to Mr. Milner Gibson at the Whittington Club in 1854, at which Sir John Shelley presided, Samuel Lucas, of the Morning Star (who married a sister of Mr. Bright), and Mr. Cobden spoke.  Mr. Gibson proposed "The memory of Francis Place, Henry Hetherington and the agitators of 1836."

    It was Leigh Hunt, in the early days of the Examiner, who first used the phrase, "Taxes upon knowledge"—a phrase which passed to every tongue.  Lord Lytton, then Mr. Edward Lytton Bulwer, was the next conspicuous person who used it, and some erroneously thought he originated it.  Though that was not so, he acquired patent rights in it.  On the famous night when the stamp fell, I was in the House of Commons when the 10th of Queen Anne was put to death.  It was on the 26th of March, 1855, and I was present from four o'clock in the afternoon until nearly one o'clock next morning.

    Mr. Bouverie had vacated the chair, the usher raised the mace, the Speaker took his seat, and announced with a voice reverberant as the Long Parliament—loud enough to reach into innumerable sessions to come—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's (Sir George Cornewall Lewis) Bill would be proceeded with.

    While Mr. Deedes moved an amendment (in a dull, insipid, gaseous speech, of the carbonic acid kind) to defer the second reading of the Bill, a fashionably-dressed, slenderly-built member appeared on the right of the gangway taking notes.  From the Speaker's Gallery he seemed a young man.  Before the dull Deedes had regained his seat, the elegantly-looking lounger from the club threw down his hat and caught the Speaker's eye.  Rebuking his "honourable friend" (Deedes) for assuming that the House had not had time to understand the bill before it, he announced that twenty years ago he (the lounger) had introduced a similar Bill into Parliament.  Strangers then knew that Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton was the member addressing the House.  It was said that Sir Edward purchased his baronetcy by compromising the Newspaper Stamp Bill of 1836.  Be this as it may, he nobly vindicated his liberal and literary fame by his brilliant speech this night.  "Do not fancy," he exclaimed, "that this penny tax is a slight imposition.  Do not fancy that a penny paper is necessarily low and bad.  Once there existed a penny daily paper—it was called the Spectator.  Addison and Steele were its contributors.  It did more to refine the manners of the people than half the books in the British Museum.  Suddenly a penny tax was put on that penny paper, and so one fatal morning, the most pleasing and graceful instructor that ever brought philosophy to the fireside, had vanished from the homes of men.  A penny tax sufficed to extinguish the Spectator and divorce that exquisite alliance which genius had established between mirth and virtue."

    This fine passage was worthy of the occasion.  Nothing comparable to it was said during the debate.  What might have been the condition of society had the interval of more than a century, between Sir Richard Steele and Charles Knight, been illumined by the activity of a free press, instead of the weary period between the Spectator and Penny Magazine being one of the parlimentary depression of literature!

    Mr. Miall rose several times without catching Mr. Speaker's eye.  At length the House observing him, courteously called, "Miall, Miall."  The honourable member for Rochdale, who had then begun to wear a beard, and looked all the sturdier a Nonconformist for doing so, then addressed the House; and his speech was as forcible, as compact, as sharply-chiselled, as anything spoken that night, not excepting Mr. Gladstone's, felicitous speech on the Sardinian loan five hours before.

    Sir George Cornewall Lewis spoke more fluently than report gave him credit for; more fluently than Palmerston, who was, gutteral, halting, and inelegant.  Disraeli's voice, commonly silvery, was, on this night, thick and explosive.  His definition of "news" was ludicrous.  "N E W S," he said, was derived from the four points of the compass—North, East, West, and South.  A fact from one point was not news; a fact from all four was.  Whether one fact could come from all four points at once, he did not inform the House.

    Those who say old convictions are never shaken, nor votes, won by debate, should have stood in the lobby at midnight after this division.  A burly country squire of the Church-and-King species—fat and circular as a prize pig—a Tory "farmers' friend," born with the belief that a free press would lead to an American Presidency in St.  Stephen's, and that the penny stamp was the only barrier in the way of a French Convention in this country, and that Gibson, Cobden, and Bright, were counterparts of Danton, Robespierre, and Marat in disguise—this obese legislator, nudging a Liberal who had voted in the majority, said, "I gave a vote on your side to-night!  Lytton convinced me."  A triumph of oratory that for Sir Edward!  215 voted for a free press on this night—161 against; majority 54.  Lord Palmerston, be it said, threw in some determined and valuable words before the vote.

    The next week we placed a new motto on our War Fly-sheet, as follows:—"Consisting exclusively of intelligence from the Seat of War in the East, and published in accordance with the recorded and mature judgment of the Right Hon.  Benjamin Disraeli, formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer, that intelligence from only one point of the compass is not News."  According to this dictum, an American, an African, or Continental journal was not a newspaper, when its news was indigenous.  The New York Tribune was not a newspaper when its information was American.  The Journal des Debats was not a newspaper if its matter was exclusively French.  Oh, ingenious Benjamin Disraeli!  Of the two men of literary renown in the House, Bulwer spoke up for freedom of knowledge—Disraeli voted against it.

    Every member of Parliament had been supplied by adversaries with a paper marked "For immediate perusal."  It consisted of various extracts from the Reasoner, supposed to be specially calculated to awaken the terrors of the House at the prospect of an unstamped press.  A passage was quoted which recorded Mr. Cowen's permission to incorporate the Northern Tribune in the Reasoner.  That was thought to forbode the immediate dissolution of the Empire.  A parody I had written on the Rev. Brewin Grant's style of controversy was given as also a ground of alarm.  Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton took up the circular, and commenting upon it, said it had increased his disgust at the opponents of the measure.  He called it "trumpery—an eclecticism of twaddled bugbear."  It happened that these "twaddlers in bugbear" had used an unrevised list of Members of Parliament and sent copies to twelve dead members.  The Postmaster, finding the circulars bore no writer's name and no printer's name, but guided by the subject, supposed them to be some advertisement I had issued, ordered them to be sent to the "Publisher of the Reasoner Newspaper."  Thus the secret circular was a dead opposition—sent to dead members—returned to the Dead Letter Office—proving a dead failure.

    The English Churchman said that "the Reasoner was at the bottom of this agitation."  Every member of the House of Commons and House of Lords was told it; yet in after years, when the blessings of the repeal of the taxes on knowledge were admitted by all classes, I found Christian organs, which declared in 1855 that the Reasoner was the cause, claiming the victory themselves, and declaring we had nothing to do with it.

    The Government itself gave an instance of this contradictoriness.  Their Stamp Bills included the precise measures indicated in the memorials I had sent to the Treasury.  The Lords of the Treasury had told me six months before that "they had no power to grant my request of posting the Reasoner with an ordinary postage stamp.  "They had no power—the law did not authorise them to grant my request."  This was the stereotyped official answer which had strangled a hundred agitations.  No movement ever went beyond this point before.  We sent the reply of their lordships to eminent counsel, who answered that the lords had the power.  In another memorial we respect fully submitted these opinions to the Treasury.  "My Lords" then replied (but not admitting their power) saying "they had caused a Bill to be prepared for giving them the power."  Yet on the night of the debate Sir George Cornewall Lewis assured the House of Commons that no Bill on the matter of postage was necessary, for his colleagues had the power to make a Treasury warrant whereby unstamped publications could be admitted to postal privileges at any rate determined upon.  The power which the lords under their own seal told us (see Reasoner, No. 457, p. 315) they could not exercise, they told the House of Commons a few weeks later they could.

    Thus the association which undertook to free the press from all taxation did free it.  When it concluded its agitation, advertisements were free.  The stamp upon political knowledge was abolished.  News was no longer criminal.  The exciseman was banished from paper manufactories, and editors were no longer a criminal class who had to give heavy bail for their good behaviour.


OUTSPOKENNESS is not sensationalism, though it may cause sensation.  Outspokenness is the plain, bold, honest, statement of principle.  It is reasoned truth, without dishonouring imputation on any of a different way of thinking.  Sensationalism is attracting attention by device or language which causes surprise and excitement—appealing to ignorance, passion, or prejudice, regardless whether it pains or repels permanently, providing it answers profitably for the purpose of attracting readers or hearers.

    One evil of sensational advocacy is that it allures for a time chiefly a class of people who care only for the gratification "of giving the adversary as good as he sends."  Applauding from the love of excitement, caring nothing for the principle, the sensationalists can never be counted upon; when trouble comes they desert those whom they have cheered into danger.  This is not the worst result of the policy of outrage.  The practical adherents of the cause are compromised by excesses, and stand aloof from a cause discredited by extravagance.  A town is often set against a movement which seems without self-controlling principle, and the advocacy of the cause is killed there.  The class of citizens of most influence cease to countenance sensational exhibitions, and, when the halls are once closed against the wilder sort of advocates, no one able to do it takes any part in getting them reopened, lest the same thing should occur again.  I have known many towns in which honest and advanced movements have been extinguished in this way for years.

    The public hall in Nottingham could at one time be had for the public discussion with the clergy.  Mr. Charles Southwell encountered the Rev. Brewin Grant there, giving him in the way of vituperation "as good as he sent."  Those who approved of sceptics being assailed did not approve of the reprisal, and arranged that the authorities should refuse the hall.  The debate ended in tumult, and long years elapsed before discussions with ministers occurred there again.  Before that time, there were ministers of the quality of the Rev. Alexander Syme, entirely dispassionate and fair, and discussions with them were informing to the public.  A calculating advocate of Christianity could succeed in closing the halls in any town by inciting foolish adversaries to debate in his own way, when a pretext was furnished for those who distrusted all discussion to get discussion prohibited.

    A hall which had cost a considerable sum to erect could have its value destroyed almost in a night by one wild lecturer.  Some Freethought speakers consider themselves authorised to be free lances—whereas a free lance is a free traitor, taking credit for aiding a party which he destroys, and all the while helping the party to which he pretends to be opposed.  Liberty merely means the power of doing what is right—whereas the sensationalist takes it to be freedom to do what suits his purpose.  Denunciation being much easier than argument, denunciation is mostly cultivated.

    A generous-minded confectioner in Plymouth, thinking it discreditable that there should be no place in the town where liberal opinions could be advocated, sold his business and devoted his savings to the erection of a hall which he thought might, by letting, yield sufficient for his moderate needs—he being an abstainer on principle, and distinguished by heroic self-denial.  I warned him that unless he used judgment as to the speakers, he would find the commercial value of the property destroyed.  Not understanding that secular thought required as much regulation and control as religious advocacy, he made no conditions, and the result was that the place acquired the colour of extreme heresy in a few months, and was entirely unlettable for general purposes, as the townsfolk would not go there.  The result was ruin to him.

    Sensationalism, besides the disadvantage it has brought upon a cause, has often proved perilous through the disadvantage it has brought upon the individual.  Some will go to extremes in encouraging extremes.  Excitement and zeal will lead to sacrifices beyond the means of those who make them.  This led me to discourage gifts which, when the day of reaction came, would cause regret.  A young German gentleman, Max Kyllman, sent for me one morning to an hotel in Regent Street, and offered me two bank notes for promoting the law of affirmation.  Not knowing his resources or connections, I gave him one back, saying that "at a future time, if more money was needed I would let him know."  Mr. Le Blond, in 1855, for several weeks gave me £10 every Sunday morning at South Place Chapel, as loans for the Fleet Street House.  After the fifth morning I refused to take more.  At an early period in secular advocacy, I proposed that gift or sacrifice, for public principles, should be based on tithes, not to exceed one-tenth of the giver's means—as he who gave more was likely one day to discourage others who observed or suffered from the consequences of his enthusiasm.

    Persecution sometimes incites sensationalism, which is then held as justifying persecution to put it down.  If those assailed contented themselves with simply maintaining what was, unfairly prohibited, just as though the prohibition was not, persecution would be equally defeated, right would be equally vindicated, and persecution afforded no pretext for recommending itself.  The harm of ostentatious defiance by a minority is that power is irritated and becomes more vindictive and intimidating.  Those who show the greatest daring are themselves commonly ruined.  If their courage sustains them, and they do not repine themselves, their families spread warnings and dismay by telling the story of the disadvantages brought upon them.  Then many who could afford to resist are alarmed, and do nothing.  The hero of extreme defiance often goes to the other extreme himself, and, after keeping no terms with the Church, ends in taking a pew in it and being as ostentatious in supporting as he was in defying it, without the justification of believing it.

    The clergy do not know their own business when they keep what they call "blasphemy laws" on the statute books, since they repress extremes by which they can always profit.  I am neither for time-serving nor for cowardice.  I am for courage and good sense—I am for a man doing all he can, and not attempting more than he can carry through.  He who errs in extremes by miscalculation is to be respected—he who errs from not calculating at all is disentitled to respect.  I confine myself to the detail of effects which I myself have seen. 

    Many years after my visit to Cheltenham, before described, I had a third time an opportunity of speaking there.  Covetous of publicity in the papers for what I had to say, I drew up a placard which might excite curiosity without recalling the memory of the resentful past.  I, however, failed entirely to get the ear of the press—by no act of my own.  Two friends I much valued, who happened to be visitors there, were desirous of retaliating upon the town for its former treatment of me.  Yielding to them, I accepted the placard which they drew up.  It contained disturbing lines.  I was under no illusion as to the consequences.  The public were instantly excited.  Some of the residents, in favour of my views, applauded the project of retaliation, and many others who cared more for excitement than conviction made themselves prominent in approval of the proposed attack.  In that town my own pride incited me to defiance, and, with command of the press, I should have had satisfaction and success.  When the hour of action came, most of the residents who should have stood by me left me to the consequences.  The owner of the hall engaged was intimidated by the authorities, and the doors were locked.  A large room in an inn was procured with difficulty at the last hour.  Not a single resident would give his name to indict the owner of the hall for breach of contract after duly letting it.  Costs I had incurred beyond my means I was left to defray.  Not a single journal ventured to report the proceedings.  My original object, which was to reunite the friends of Freethought in the place, was entirely defeated, and never since has any party of protest or exposition existed in the town.  Retaliation is very pleasant, but it is not often propagandism.  This maxim is true in political, in moral, and in religious agitation.


IN the early days of the Reasoner, a gentleman called upon me, saying he wished to contribute an argument upon the existence of Deity.  He was a tall, low-speaking man, expensively dressed, and he sometimes came in a carriage with two horses—leaving them in a street near to my house.  He gave the name of Aliquis, and desired to be known only by that name.  It was ten years later before I knew his name to be Mr. George Gwynne.  As he did not wish his name to transpire, I made no attempt to know it.  He frequently sent cheques for £5, and occasionally more, to the Reasoner Fund.  His ambition was to reply to a much paraded "Demonstration of the Existence of Deity" by one who, I believe, was a countryman of his—William Gillespie, of Bathgate, Scotland.  No writer who assailed us was so dry, abstract, unimaginative as Mr. Gillespie; and Aliquis, in reasoning against him, acquired like qualities.  Though both disputants had great powers of sequence, it was, as respects popular interest, the most sawdust controversy we ever had in that journal.  Aliquis would never publish anything until he had discussed every line of his paper with me.  When I thought the argument should be differently expressed, or changed in character, he would spend days in recasting it.  He usually came to me at night when I was well weary of the day's work, and made me read and analyse for hours every line of his argument.  In this way I earned far more than the subscriptions he made to the Reasoner.  It was impossible not to acquire the belief that the existence of Deity became much less apparent during the wearisome years these two clever gentlemen spent in endeavouring to make it plain.  They gave me the impression that theistical disputants had little material to go upon.  Aliquis's was, like Gillespie's, dry-bone argument—a well-articulated frame of logic without a bit of flesh upon it.

    True, writers without a gleam of imagination or a single striking sentence on their pen will expect you to publish their articles, which would kill a hundred readers a week and fill with dismay a thousand others.  True, a proposition of Euclid has no single sentence which has any gleam of genius in it, but the whole proposition may be as delightful as a poem to him who eventually understands it.  But such articles are for students and must be sparsely introduced in a paper for general reading.  No popular paper can be conducted by charity.  An editor must have money to pay for articles of such quality and variety as he may suggest or select.  It is insufficient means that generally render propagandist journals uninteresting save to the converted.

    I might here remark that money sent me for public purposes, received only on that ground, and publicly acknowledged as such, and spent with the knowledge of the subscribers, I was sometimes called upon to repay.  One, a farmer in the Isle of Arran, whose proneness to extremes in advocacy I at times restrained, and who had sent £10 for the Fleet Street House, many years after threatened an action to recover the amount, with compound interest up to date.

    William Honyman Gillespie, of Torbane Hill, Bathgate, had also an office in Melville Street, Edinburgh.  Mr. Arthur Trevelyan had chambers in the same building, with only a partition wall between them.  Neither knew nor suspected the identity of the other.  Yet for many years they were in epistolary conflict.  Coming downstairs one day from his chambers, Mr. Trevelyan suffered collision with a gentleman coming up.  They mutually apologised and exchanged cards.

"Dear me," said Mr. Gillespie, looking at the card he had received, "are you Mr. Arthur Trevelyan? I am Mr. William Gillespie."

"Dear me," exclaimed Mr. Trevelyan, "we have been writing against each other for nine years, with only a partition wall between us without knowing it.  We might have discussed our differences with less trouble had we been aware how near we were to each other."

    Gillespie always dating from Bathgate, and Trevelyan from Pencaitland, their neighbourhoodship in Edinburgh did not transpire between them.

    Mr. Gillespie was the most uninteresting and self-sufficient of all the adversaries we encountered.  The Rev. Brewin Grant had a diverting offensiveness; but Mr. Gillespie had his boundless egotism without being diverting at all.  When he had come to an end of a series of his dreary letters, he wrote—"I need not tell you that our debate is finished.  No one can be in any doubt as to how the discussion terminated.  My adversary—to say nothing of his coadjutors—was flagrantly beaten."  Yet all the while Mr. Gillespie was the most abstract, dull, and dry of all disputants.  He had a leaden style, and no particle of imagination glimmered anywhere about it.  The sawdust style is not uncommon in literature, but these controversialists excelled in it.

    Mr. Arthur Trevelyan was the brother of Sir Walter Trevelyan, and uncle of Sir George Otto Trevelyan.  Mr. Arthur had the strong decision of opinion which characterised the Trevelyan family.  He acted on Archbishop Whately's principle—he not only "believed the opinions he maintained, but maintained them because he believed them."  Whenever any emergency arose in the advocacy of views in which he was interested, his support could always be counted upon.  If any one applied to me for aid which I was willing but unable to render, and I communicated the case to Mr. Trevelyan, he was sure to aid.

    When I wrote the pamphlet, "The Social Means of Promoting Temperance," apart from a Maine Law, it was inscribed to "Arthur Trevelyan, J.P., of Pencaitland, the constant helper by his means, his influence and his example, of Social Progress and Unsectarian Temperance."

    Arthur Trevelyan had more life in his writing than either of the others.  His interests were wider.  He cared for men and little for a priori abstractions.  He had distinctive thoughts and passages in his communications which were worth noting.  Still, he had a catapult style, and threw his arguments at the reader.  They were unconnected; you could not tell whence they sprung; but they hit, and often hurt, the enemy.  Arthur Trevelyan, like all his family, had the courage of his convictions.  He sacrificed a valuable estate in his youth for love—preferring to marry one whom he liked, to a fortune.  Like his brother, Sir Walter, he was an imperious abstainer.  He did not believe in temperance—but in prohibition.  One day, as I walked with him through his estate in Midlothian, where he had suppressed all the inns, he directed my attention to a girl with her mother's shawl hanging down over her dress.  "That girl," he said, "has a bottle of whiskey suspended to her neck.  She is the walking public-house of this village."

    I answered that "It was a sad sight, and a bad method of enforcing abstention by demoralizing girls.  It would be better to do as Lady Noel Byron did on her estates—keep the inns in her own hands, employing persons to manage them at a salary, they having no interest in selling drink, and whose instruction should be to serve but a limited quantity to each applicant."

    Difference of opinion brought no estrangement.  Arthur Trevelyan had as much tolerance in opinion as he had zeal—a rare thing in one who has great zeal.


SEVERAL times I had received letters urging me to visit a friend in the West of England, whose daughter had read many publications of mine, and much desired to converse with me upon some of the subjects which had interested her.  This led her father to invite me to spend a few days at his home.  It appeared the young lady had been in ill-health for some time, and when she heard that I was in the courtyard, and about to enter the house, she expired.  Afterwards I was his guest on two or three occasions.  He wished a remaining daughter to be educated abroad.  Her father made many remittances to the master, but heard very little of the pupil, and for a time nothing.  One day he received a letter requesting an immediate remittance of money to defray the expenses of her burial, with thoughtful assurances that, since he could do no good, he need not give himself the pain of coming.  This suspicious solicitude determined him.  Being a man of promptitude, instead of sending the money he went himself, and found his daughter alive.  He did not arrive too soon, for it was feared it was intended that she should die.  She was confined in a room with so little to eat that other residents in the house, whose sympathy was called to her condition, sometimes threw her food over the fanlight of her chamber.  Her father brought her back to his house straightway.

    Afterwards he took a foreigner into the house for the purpose of having his daughter privately educated in languages at home.  His sympathy with the struggles of Continental nations at that time blinded him to the fact that everybody is not good even in a kingdom of patriots, and he was again unfortunate in his choice.  The teacher he selected had a French wife.  My friend's daughter being motherless, the French lady, who had assuming ways, and was a Lady Macbeth in determination, soon interfered in the control of the house.  The foreign teachers became distasteful to the pupil, and, very little progress being made, they were ultimately desired to leave, when they refused to go.

    The intruders had good discernment, and found out that the gentleman would be subject to unpleasant remarks from his neighbours if it transpired that his sympathy for foreign nationalities, of which they disapproved, had been ill-placed.  The astute teachers concluded that he would be likely to sacrifice money rather than that the unsatisfactory relations with them should become known.  My friend was anxious on this account to secure a peaceable departure of his vexatious guests; but there was a limit to which this apprehension might be pushed, of which they were not aware.  The foreign lady had made herself a terror.  Daily and increasing alarm being created in the house, the daughter one morning ran into the garden to her father for protection.  He was a tall, powerfully built man, a Saul in stature, and commonly went about with a long staff, which looked like a young tree from its height and girth.  He strode into the house, determined to put an end to the impudence of a forced occupancy of his home by strangers.  On his appearance thus armed, the foreigner, who was pacing up and down the parlour, at once saw that mischief was meant, and drew a stiletto.  Upon seeing this the host threw away the staff and prepared for a fight in the English manner.  Whether the unfamiliar mode of attack dismayed his adversary or the fury displayed by one whose single blow might have broken the bones of the foe, the foreigner capitulated in haste.

    A cab was called, and the host went in it to the railway.  This act passed for a courteous attention to his guests, but it was really a police precaution to see that they left the district.  Forty sovereigns was given them for their journey.

    This foreigner was Pieri, who was afterwards beheaded with Orsini, at La Roquette.  It was believed that he acted under the inspiration and terror of the formidable lady he had with him.  Conspiracy might be a relief from such dominion.  Anyhow a man who was capable of entering into a dangerous plot at the imminent risk of sacrificing his life, with a view to save his country, could not be wholly base; and if he had been, such perilous devotion as he displayed for the advantage of two nations was some atonement.

――――End of Volume I.――――

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"It would be unjust of him not to mention the services of their secretary, Mr. Collet.  His friend Mr. Cobden had said to him a short time since, 'I wonder what Collet will turn his hand to next?' He hoped he would undertake something, for it would be a pity if such wonderful tact, good-nature, zeal and intelligence were not always employed in the service of his country."—John Bright, M.P., Speech at Exeter Hall, at meeting far Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge, February, 1855.


I R. Cobden, M.P., Speech at Exeter Hall, February, 1855.



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