James Watson
Home W. J. Linton. Memories The Chartists Claribel Misc Poems Stories for Children James Watson Republican Letters The English Republic Site Search Main Index







And ever honoured for his worthiness.




her husband's true helpmate
I dedicate
this insufficient record of his life:

                                W. J. LINTON.

New-Haven, U.S.A.



        Whoever rightly advocates the good of some thereby promotes
the good of the whole.




Inter vitæ, scelerisque purus.

MY STORY is not of crowned Emperor or King, nor of any laurelled conqueror, the slaughterer of his fellow-men; it is not of One pre-ëminent, whether in the art of war or the arts of peace.  I have to speak of only a plain man, indeed a true servant of Humanity, yet reintroduced by History to Fame, but whom nevertheless I will take as an exemplar of some qualities for which we Englishmen pride ourselves,—wholesomeness and integrity of nature, stedfastness in purpose, firmness of will, indomitable courage, with power of endurance, and self-devotion:—a man whose life displayed at once the healthful sturdiness of the antlered oak, and therewithal such gentlest beauty of disposition as knightliest Sidney had rejoiced to know, and loved.  Are such men rare?  I trow not.  But this man it was my happiness to know, as friend knows friend.

    Concerning him, in some forgotten journal, with the date of March 30, 1833, I find the lines here following: his own writing:


The Petition of James Watson, of 33, Windmill Street, Finsbury Square, in the County of Middlesex, Bookseller, Printer, and Publisher, at present unjustly confined in the New Prison, Clerkenwell:—

    Showeth.—That your Petitioner is imprisoned in default of payment of a penalty of £20, having been convicted (under the 60th Geo. III., cap. 9) for selling for one penny a printed paper called the Poor Man's Guardian, containing "news, intelligence, and occurrences," not having a four-penny stamp affixed to it.  Your Petitioner is therefore a debtor to the Crown for the sum of £20.

    "Your Petitioner intreats the consideration of your Honourable House to the very severe punishment inflicted upon your Petitioner by the magistrates of the Bow Street Police Office, Sir Frederick Roe and Thomas Halls, Esquire, by whom your Petitioner was summarily convicted in a penalty of £20, and, in default of payment, subjected to six months imprisonment, without the intervention of a trial by jury.

    "Your Petitioner is the more surprised at this injustice, for in all previous proceedings for similar offences, on the first conviction, no individual received, at the utmost, more than three months imprisonment.

    "Your Petitioner also informs your Honourable House, that, in the honest discharge of his business as a general bookseller, your Petitioner exposed for constant sale, not less than twenty different periodicals, at the price of one penny: among others—the Penny Magazine, the Penny Cyclopædia, the Saturday Magazine, the Christian's Magazine, the Working Man's Friend, &c., some of which pamphlets are under the patronage of the Lord Chancellor and others of the King's present ministers, and the Bishops of the Church of England, as by Law established: and for the sale of which weekly papers the publishers and proprietors have never received any molestation; though the magistrates have admitted that all these publications equally violate the Act under which your Petitioner has been convicted, and which demonstrates that it is the opinions advocated in the Poor Man's Guardian that the Commissioners of Stamps, and the Government, are anxious to suppress, and not the protection of the revenue against the loss it is said to sustain from the circulation of cheap political papers.

    "In proof of this statement, your Petitioner begs leave to point out to your Honourable House, that an information was laid at Bow Street, against the publishers of the Literary Gazette, and although the number of the publication then before the Magistrates contained twenty-one articles of news, the proceedings were quashed, on the plea that no other persons but the Commissioners of Stamps or their agents could lay informations against offenders; since which period the publishers have proceeded unmolested, and in open violation of the Act, with the perfect knowledge of the Commissioners of Stamps.

    "Your Petitioner claims the attention of your Honourable House, to the fact of your Petitioner being subjected to the same treatment in this prison as pickpockets, swindlers, passers of bad money, committers of rapes and other criminal acts of a like kind, to the great pain and annoyance of your Petitioner, and in violation of an Act 4th Geo. IV., cap. 64, entitled 'an Act for consolidating and amending the laws relating to the building, repairing, and regulating, of certain Gaols and Houses of Correction in England and Wales,'—which Act states that arrangements shall be made to preserve the health; and improve the morals of the prisoners, and in another part of the same Act of Parliament it is expressly prohibited to class persons for offences like that of your Petitioner with the abandoned characters, and crimes before mentioned.

    "Your Petitioner has a separate sleeping-cell, of small dimensions, usually appropriated to the solitary confinement of refractory prisoners; to which cell your Petitioner occasionally resorted during the day, to write a note, or read a book, and to escape from the mental torment of hearing from his associates the most horrid swearing and the grossest licentiousness.  Yet even this self-inflicted solitude has been denied your Petitioner, by one of the visiting magistrates of the prison, named Samuel Hoare, banker, of Lombard Street, he having strictly prohibited all access to the cell during the day.

    "Your Petitioner having to intermix with so many prisoners, the number in the ward varying from 20 to 60, is in constant dread of contracting disease or of being infested with vermin.  Your Petitioner is also constantly exposed to the severity of the weather, there being but one fire for the use of all the prisoners confined in the ward.  Your Petitioner has complained to the visiting magistrates of the cruel treatment to which he is subjected, but without obtaining any redress.

    "Your Petitioner, therefore, appeals to your Honourable House to institute an inquiry into these complaints and to redress the abuses which subject him to the treatment of a criminal; or to take such steps as your Honourable House, in its wisdom, may consider best to cause the immediate discharge of your Petitioner from his cruel and unmerited imprisonment.

"And your Petitioner will ever pray."

To which, before going farther, I would append these Words of a Believer (the Abbé Lamennais):—

    When you see a man led to prison, or to punishment, say not in your haste—This is some wicked man who has committed a crime against his fellows!

    For peradventure it is a good man who has wished to serve his fellows, and who for that is punished by their oppressors.


The inscription here-beneath is, or not long since was, on the base of a statue erected in 1831 on a little plot of railed-in garden ground, in Burton Crescent, London.

born 28th Sept., 1740 ; died 23rd Sept., 1824;

It was the eve of the "Reform Bill," passed in 1832 by the Whigs under the leadership of Earl Grey, an ancient professor of Major Cartwright's faith.  Not that in office the Party attempted to carry out their earlier principles.  Content with a £10 household qualification for electors in boroughs, and a leasehold, or a copyhold, qualification for electors in counties, they gave to the middle classes a privileged share in the government of the Country, to the exclusion of the mass of "the people": so enabling the middle classes to dictate laws after the shopkeeper's heart,—to wit, the Poor Law Amendment Act to check "the growing evil of pauperism," and the Repeal of the Corn Laws—for assurance of freer trade in labour.

    Nearly two hundred years had passed since the religious and patriotic uprising of the English Puritans, since the day on which a number of "long heavy swords with the initials O.C. on their hilts" arrived at a certain farmhouse in Huntingdonshire,—nearly two hundred years since the impaneling of the grandest jury the world has known, for the trial of a King.  Exactly two hundred years since Cromwell entered upon his St. Ives farm, to watch and wait events.  As yet Thomas Carlyle had not spoken to remind Englishmen what manner of man this Cromwell was.  Even Godwin had not understood him.  Universal England had forgotten him: or recalled him only through her established church services, the lustral commemoration of the Blessed Martyrdom and the more galling annual thanksgiving for the unhappy Restoration of The Dissolute,—those two most religious ceremonies which, as was well remarked by Walter Savage Landor, had been perfectly satisfactory had each been but transferred to the other occasion.  The race of the Puritans had passed away.  The occupiers and tillers of the soil grew loyal on their stint of bread per week; hand-loom weavers upon Yorkshire moors had their occasional cut of the Roast Beef of Old England from cows dying with dysentery; and the Factory System, that crowning mercy of the Trader's Reign, had already begun to indicate its capacity for degrading and deteriorating our mechanics.  From underground, in coal or iron mines, as yet was no report.  Mankind knew nothing of the women and little children buried living there.  Priestley's house, in the very heart of England, Shakspere's own neighbourhood, had been burned by a Church-and-King mob, Priestly fleeing for his life to America; as Paine also, for daring to assert the Rights of Man.  Peterloo had given proof that the yeomanry (ignorant farmers and farmers' sons) could be trusted to ride down insurgent peasants, (blood for bread); and the gentle hanging and disemboweling of the Cato Street conspirators [1.] (part of the coronation ceremonies at the accession of George the fourth) was a fair sample of the tender mercy of the Crown.  In truth the French Revolution with its fierce assertion of human right had thoroughly scared the lords and gentlemen and clergy and all that was pious and respectable in the kingdom; and woe to him who dared but whisper a hope of political or religious liberty!  Paine spoke, and was expatriated, outlawed, vilified.  Let the serf keep silence!  The infamous Castlereagh Cabinet (Castlereagh committed suicide in 1822) had stamped the legend of Tyranny on our coinage; and none other might pass current.

         "Corpses are cold in the tomb,
         Stones on the pavement are dumb,
         Abortions are dead in the womb;
 And their mothers look pale, like the white shore
          Of Albion free no more.

         "Her sons are as stones in the way;
          They are masses of senseless clay;
          They are trodden and move not away
 The abortion with which she travaileth
          Is Liberty smitten to death." [2.]

Smitten to death, and even lament forbidden!  Among other devices, to confine the people in that ignorance in which is the supposed security for a brutish submission, was a tax of four-pence on every periodical publication wherein political events were chronicled or discussed: or in legal phraseology,—"which contained news, intelligence, or occurrences, or remarks or observations thereupon, or on matters in Church or State."  In days when the cost of a single letter (postage between London and Bristol one shilling) put it beyond the reach of the day-labourer (nine shillings a week "good wages" for a man with a family of nine [3.]) this tax was equivalent to a prohibition: it was so intended.  By which means, with the additional precaution of fore-given security, required of the printer or publisher, as provision for penalties to be imposed by the Government for whatsoever writing they might choose to call offensive, political knowledge was, so far as governmental wit could devise, confined to the respectable classes, whose interests were said to consist with the perpetuation of helotry.  Chained (the chain of the modern slave is hunger), chained and gagged, what was to be done toward enfranchising the masses?

    By two ways only can Liberty be won: by the sword, or by the power of the spoken or the written word.

    By the sword?  The well-born, whose fathers fought with Cromwell, now, lame with gout and their brains all muddled by thick port, were at the side of tyranny; and where, among the perennially clammed, was to be found an arm fit to wield the flail of the Lord and of Gideon?  Brought up and stunted in the upas-shadow of a Church drunken and disreputable, in the words of Cowper—

"a priesthood such as Baal's was of old,"

the untaught albeit repeatedly catechised populace were the blind tools as well as victims of oppression; or took refuge in the passive discontentedness of such aped puritanism as was inaugurated by Wesley, which looked to heaven for reward of its surly patience and no more had care or thought for the establishment of God's Laws on earth.  By the sword?  And where the swordsmen, the "strong-limbed and godly men who dare"?  The strong earning rheumatism at the plough, the godliest skulking in some conventicle, cursing prelacy, but cursing equally the "infidel" disturber of that "order" in which prelacy grew rank.  One bravely spoken word had been heard in England since the Rascal Restoration: he who spoke it,—I repeat, and will have again to repeat his name—THOMAS PAINE, has to this day obtained as little grace or honour from the lips of dissenting presbyters as from the rounder mouths of priests or popes.  Who else has been so violently assailed, whose character so villainously abused?  Church-legal and dissent have rivaled each other in slanderous vituperation against the wretch who would have broken the double chain of clerical and political imposture.  They made his name a bye-word and a reproach, and set a mark on whosoever was known but to have read his writings.  Yet men kept those writings hidden away, as their fathers had kept the first English Bible.  And read, but were too weak to act.  For the mass, not only were they weak, but from their souls was washed out ("by the blood of the Lamb," in the jargon of the herdsmen) even the wish for rebellion.  Pig-like, worse than sheepish, they grunted around their troughs, listened or did not listen to the Te-Deums of the swineherds; and in due season were gathered to their fathers—in the smoke-room.  Thicker darkness than wrapped old Egypt plagued by Moses swathed anarchic England in those days.  A few alone, [4.] like Cartwright, from time to time ventured to repeat the first principles of government; and whoso could might read the hand-writing on the wall: else no glint of light was visible in the gloom save some sparks of the fire which France had kindled, scattered by the hand of Paine.  One Richard Carlile (not Thomas Carlyle nor of his kindred) thought it were well to keep some heat alive by republication of Paine's works.  One William Carpenter looked for a chance of redemption through the mediation of a free and untaxed press.  Rebels, but not men of war, they believed in the might of the Word, which sometimes is able to prevent the Sword; and hoped, for themselves and their fellows, to vindicate that first of all liberties, the Miltonic liberty "to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience."  Single-handed each began to put his thought into action.  With them to will was to do.  Give them honour for so much!  Not all men are so brave.

    Of Carlile, on account of his connection with Watson, there is need to say something more.  Carlile began his work in the day of a crazy king, a profligate regent, and a corrupt government, 1817.  The son of a shoe-maker, he was born in 1790 at Ashburton in Devonshire.  As a boy he collected faggots to burn in effigy "Tom Paine," the "Guy Fawkes" of that time.  Apprenticed to a tin-plate-worker (Bunyan was also a tin-man), he followed that business until his twenty-sixth year, when, meeting with Paine's works, he was converted, and moved to eke out scant employment by the sale of Cobbett's Register, Wooler's Black Dwarf, and other "radical" periodicals which the authorities were anxious to suppress; none of which, however, he thought bold enough.  Some success as a vendor led him to publish on his own account; first Paine's political and afterwards his theological writings.  He brought out too Southey's Wat Tyler, when the poet turned conservative would have suppressed it, selling of it twenty-five thousand copies; also Hone's Parodies, if every one else was afraid to meddle with them; parodies on the Church Services, which cost him eighteen weeks of prison pending the trial of Hone, whose acquittal released him.  Later, however, in November 1819, he was sentenced, as a publisher of "blasphemous and seditious libels," to suffer three years imprisonment in Dorchester jail, with a fine of £1,500.  In his defence he read to the Court the whole of Paine's Age of Reason, and outwitted his preventers by printing the whole in a cheap form as part of the report of the trial—a privileged publication.  In February, 1821, his wife was imprisoned; and later in the same year his sister also.  Nevertheless the sale of his publications went on, volunteers helping, until it was judged necessary to form a "Constitutional Association" with the name of Arthur Duke of Wellington heading a list of subscribers, to provide funds, to defend State and Church by the vigorous prosecution of Carlile's shop-men and assistants.  Susanna Wright, William Holmes, George Beer, John Barkley, Humphrey Boyle, William Tunbridge, Joseph Rhodes, James Watson, and others, so prosecuted, suffered terms of imprisonment, from six months to three years.  Some samples of the sentences may as well be given here.

JOSEPH RHODES: for selling a "blasphemous" pamphlet, two years in the House of Correction, with hard labour, and sureties for £500, for good behaviour during life.

WILLIAM CAMPION: for Age of Reason, three years in Newgate, and his own bail in £100 to keep the peace for life.

JOHN CLARKE: for selling Carlisle's Republican, three year's in Newgate, and to give bail for good conduct during life.

W. V. HOLMES: two years in prison; there told that "if hard labour was not expressed in his sentence, it was implied."

HUMPHREY BOLE: in prison for five months before his trial, eighteen months afterwards, had a mind, my lord! "that can bear such a sentence with fortitude."

WILLIAM TUNBRIDGE: for Palmer's Principles of Nature, in prison for two years, fined £100, "to be imprisoned until the fine be paid."

So dealt the Law with those offenders.  But they tired out the "Constitutional Association," and the Law itself began to limp.  So much, without more particulars, may suffice to show the conditions of free thought and free speech in that day of "Bible-and Unicorn" supremacy; to show also the dauntless temper of Carlile, whose full service of incarceration for the public liberties extended to nine years and fours months.  Before his last sentence, anticipating his being punished by a fine, to be paid—if he would pay it at all—only out of the continued sale of his prohibited publications, and that he might also be required to find sureties for future lawful behaviour, he gave in the following deposition:

    "And deponent saith that, in case the Court should think a penalty necessary, this deponent has no other property from which he can pay a fine than [his] printed books; and from the political business in which this deponent is involved he can not reasonably ask any other persons to become sureties that his future proceedings may not be construed into a political offence; not but that this deponent is anxious to live in peace and amity with all men, but that there do exist many political and moral evils which this deponent will through life labour to abate."


Watson's petition to the "Commons" has date of 1833.  Twenty-one years later, no fortune made, nor sought—his business was not money-making, but health needing rest, and a bare sufficiency for life to be expected from the continued sale of his publications even in hands less energetic,—his retirement from business gives occasion for friends to gather round him, to express esteem and gratitude, with presentation of some formal address to be kept as a reminder of their appreciation of his worth.  Acknowledging the address, he rendered account of his career.  I will not interrupt; his own modest words, as reported with some approach to accuracy, will stand for prologue and sufficiently as text for farther speech.

    "I was born in an obscure town, Malton in Yorkshire, in the year 1799.  Our family consisted of my mother, my sister, and myself, my father having died when I wanted about a fortnight of a year old; so that I had but one parent to do the duty of two, and I am proud to say that duty was performed with all a mother's kindness and devotion.  My mother, although poor, was intelligent, as a proof of which I may state that she was a teacher in one of the Sunday-schools of the town.  To my mother I owe my taste for reading and what school education I received.  I could read well, write indifferently, and had a very imperfect knowledge of arithmetic.  At twelve years of age a clergyman, in whose family my mother had lived before her marriage, and who paid for the last three or four quarters of my schooling, induced my mother to bind me to him as an apprentice for seven years, to learn field labour, work in the garden, clean horses, milk cows, and wait at table; occupations not very favourable to mental development.  At that time there were no cheap books, no cheap newspapers or periodicals, no Mechanics' Institutions to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge.  The government was then in the hands of the clergy and aristocracy, the people, ignorant and debased, taking no part in politics, except once in seven years, when the elections were scenes of degradation and corruption.  During my stay with the clergyman my mother again became a servant in the family, and well do I remember reading by the kitchen fire during the long winter nights.  My favourite books were two folio volumes with illustrations, one a history of Europe, the other a history of England.  My interest in those books was intense, and many times I thought, while poring over them, shall I ever see any of the places here described? and I have seen many of those places since, although my position then seemed so unfavourable.  At the end of six years my master's wife died, and he retired into Nottinghamshire, which caused my indentures to be cancelled.  After this I lived with my mother and sister; but, not liking to be a burthen on them, myself and a companion, similarly situated, resolved to quit our native town and seek employment (and some relatives) in Leeds.  We succeeded in finding both.  I found employment at a drysalter's as warehouseman, and had the charge of a saddle-horse.

    "It was in the autumn of 1818 that I first became acquainted with politics and theology.  Passing along Briggate one evening, I saw of the corner of Union Court a bill, which stated that the Radical Reformers held their meetings in a room in that court.  Curiosity prompted me to go and hear what was going on.  I found them reading Wooler's Black Dwarf, Carlile's Republican, and Cobbett's Register.  I remembered my mother being in the habit of reading Cobbett's Register, and saying she wondered people spoke so much against it; she saw nothing bad in it, but she saw a great many good things in it.  After hearing it read in the meeting room, I was of my mother's opinion.

    "In that room I first became acquainted with one who became my friend and constant companion; his name was William Driver.  His name and my own were spoken of together amongst our friends in the same manner as afterward my name was mentioned with that of my friend Hetherington.  From this time until 1822 I was actively engaged with Mr. Brayshaw, Joseph Hurtley, Robert Byerley (my wife's father), Humphrey Boyle, Mr. Gill, and a number of other friends, in collecting subscriptions for Mr. Carlile, spreading the liberal and free-thinking literature, and, by meetings and discussions, endeavouring to obtain the right of free discussion.  In 1821 the Government renewed the prosecutions for blasphemy, and Mr. Carlile (then in Dorchester gaol under a three years sentence) appealed to the friends in the country to serve in the shop.  Humphrey Boyle was the first volunteer from Leeds.  He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment.  On the 18th of September, 1822, I arrived in London, the second Leeds volunteer.  I served in the shop at 5, Water Lane, Fleet Street, until Christmas, when I spent a week with Mr. Carlile in Dorchester gaol.  At that time Mrs. Carlile and Mr. Carlile's sister were his fellow-prisoners.  We talked over many plans and business arrangements.

    "At this time the plan of selling the books by a sort of clockwork, so that the seller was not seen, was in practice.  Notwithstanding that precaution, Wm. Tunbridge was arrested, tried, and sentenced to two years imprisonment, and fined £100.  In January, 1823, Mr. Carlile took a shop in the Strand, No. 201.  Mrs. Carlile, having completed her two years imprisonment, resided in the rooms above the shop.  Towards the end of February I was arrested for selling a copy of Palmer's Principles of Nature, taken to Bow Street, and, not able to procure bail in London, was sent to Clerkenwell prison, where I remained six weeks.  Two of my Leeds friends, Joseph Hurtley and Robert Byerley, then became bail for me.  My trial took place on the 23rd of April, at Hick's Hall, Clerkenwell Green, before Mr. Const and the bench of magistrates.  I conducted my own defence.  Reports had been circulated that the persons who had been taken from Mr. Carlile's shop were but tools in the hands of others, and incapable of defending themselves: which was not true, as Boyle and others of the shopmen had defended themselves.

    "In my defence I endeavoured to prove from the Bible that Palmer was justified in what he had written, when I was interrupted, and told that I might quote from the Bible, but not comment upon it."  I was convicted, and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment in Coldbath-Fields prison, and to find bail for my good behaviour for two years.

    "I had for fellow-prisoners Wm. Tunbridge and Mrs. S. Wright.  Mr. Tunbridge and I had a room to ourselves.  During this twelve-month I read with deep interest and much profit Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Hume's History of England, and other standard works, amongst others Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History.  The reading of that book would have made me a free-thinker if I had not been one before.  I endeavoured to make the best use of the opportunity for study and investigation, and the more I read and learned the more I felt my own deficiency.  So the twelve months confinement was not lost upon me.  Mr. Tunbridge did not share my studies.  The evenings I usually spent with another fellow prisoner (Mr. Humphrey), an intelligent man, who possessed a good collection of books.  For three or four hours after dark we read to each other, after which until bedtime we conversed or played a game at cribbage.  We found the governor, Mr. Vickery, an old Bow Street officer, a kind-hearted man, more disposed to multiply our comforts than to restrict them.  And thus our prison life passed as pleasantly and profitably as was possible under the circumstances.  I was liberated on the 24th April, 1824, and shortly after visited Malton, to convince my mother and friends that imprisonment had not made me a worse son or a bad citizen.  In May, 1824, the Government renewed the prosecutions of Mr. Carlile's assistants, by arresting, trying, and convicting Wm. Campion, John Clarke, T. R. Perry, R. Hassell, and several others, some of whom were sentenced to three years imprisonment.

    "After visiting Leeds, and the friends there, I returned to London.  I applied for employment at a number of places, but found my having been in prison, and shopman to Mr. Carlile, a formidable difficulty, and I incurred in consequence considerable privation.  I had, however, a townsman and schoolfellow in London, whose bed and purse were ever at my service.  That friend, I have the pleasure to say, is now present.

    "In August of this year, Mr. Boyle, who had managed Mr. Carlile's business sometime, withdrew from it, and I was applied to by Mr. Carlile to supply his place.  I conducted the business from that time until Mr. Carlile's liberation from Dorchester gaol, in November, 1825.

    "At the end of 1825 I learned the art of a compositor, in the office in which Mr. Carlile's Republican was printed.  Whilst there I was attacked by cholera, which terminated in typhus and brain fever.  I owe my life to the late Julian Hibbert.  He took me from my lodgings to his own house at Kentish Town, nursed me and doctored me for eight weeks, and made a man of me again.  After my recovery Mr. Hibbert got a printing press put up in his house, and employed me in composing, under his directions, two volumes, one in Greek, the other in Greek and English.  I was thus employed from the latter part of 1826 to the end of March, 1828.  In 1825 I was first introduced, by my friend Mr. Thomas Hooper, to the advocates of Mr. Owen's New Views of Society; and to the end of 1829 I was actively engaged, helping to form co-operative associations and societies for political and religious liberty.  In April, 1828, I undertook the agency of the Co-operative Store at 36, Red Lion Square, and I remained in that employment until Christmas, 1829.

    "In the beginning of 1830 I visited Leeds, Halifax, Dewsbury, Bradford, Huddersfield, Todmorden, Wakefield, and other places, to advocate the establishment of co-operative associations.  In May I took the house 33, Windmill Street, Finsbury, Square, and there commenced the business of bookseller.  During the excitement occasioned by the French Revolution in July I took an active part in the numerous enthusiastic meetings following that event.

    "In 1831 I became a printer and publisher.  My friend Julian Hibbert gave me his press and types.  The first use I made of them was to print Volney's Lectures on History, which I composed and printed with my own hands.  At this time I became a member of the National Union of the Working Classes.

    "In 1832 the excitement of the people on the subject of the Reform Bill was at its height.  The cholera being very bad all over the country, the Government, to please the Agnewites, ordered a 'general fast.'  The members of the National Union, to mark their contempt for such an order, determined to have a procession through the streets of London, and afterwards to have a general feast.  In April I was arrested, with Messrs. Lovett and Benbow, for advising and leading the procession.  We were liberated on bail, tried on the 16th of May, each conducting his own defence, and all acquitted.  Towards the end of this year Mr. Hetherington was sentenced to his second six months confinement, in Clerkenwell prison, for the Poor Man's Guardian.

    "In February, 1833, I was summoned to Bow Street for selling a Poor Man's Guardian.  Before the magistrates I justified my conduct in selling unstamped newspapers.  They considered me as bad as my friend Hetherington, and sentenced me to six months in the same Clerkenwell prison.  I was liberated on the 29th July, and attended the same day a meeting to commemorate the third anniversary of the French Revolution, in which Mr. Julian Hibbert, the Rev. Robert Taylor, Mr. Hetherington, and others, took part.  At the end of this year I was engaged with Mr. Saull, Mr. Prout, Mr. Franks, and Mr. Mordant in fitting up the Hall of Science, in the City Road, as a lecture room for Rowland Detrosier.  In January, 1834, occurred the lamented death of Mr. Julian Hibbert.  In his will he again gave me a marked token of his regard, by a legacy of 450 guineas.  With this sum I enlarged my printing operations.  My legacy was soon absorbed in printing Mirabaud's System of Nature, Volney's Ruins, Frances Wriglit's Popular Lectures, Paine's Works, and others.  In addition to the legacy, I incurred a debt of £500 in printing and publishing these.  In April I took part in the great meeting of the Trades Unions in Copenhagen Fields, in favour of the Dorchester labourers.

    "On the 3rd of June, 1834, I was married.  Before a month was over I was again summoned to Bow Street, but preferred a short trip to Jersey, where I stayed three weeks.  On the 7th of August the officers again seized me, and I was taken to Clerkenwell for my third imprisonment.  I was liberated on the 21st of January, 1835, and from that time to the present have remained unmolested.  In 1836, '37, '38, I was engaged with others in the formation of Working Men's Associations, and assisted to prepare the document called the People's Charter.  In 1840 took place the trial of Henry Hetherington, for 'blasphemy.'  He was convicted and imprisoned.  My friend honoured me by dedicating his trial to me, and I have been more proud of his testimony and friendship than of anything I ever received.  Since 1841 my bookselling and public work is known to most of my hearers.

    " . . I have trespassed on your forbearance: but I had one object in view,—to show my fellow-workmen that the humblest may render effectual aid to the cause of progress if he bring to the task honest determination and unfaltering perseverance."

    The two great questions to which the life of Watson was devoted were the right of free speech and free printing, and the right of every man yet unconvicted of disabling crime to take part in choosing the nation's government.  Or, to speak more exactly, single question with him was the elevation of his own class (that of the workman—the man dependent on his work for daily bread) by these means:—not without thought of the education to be obtained even through the struggle for them.  Of the man himself and of what he encountered his own words have told us.  Some additional notice I would give here of his work; first of what he did for the establishment of a free press.  I have no complete list; but I find the following among his publications:—

Paine's Works, complete.[5.] [Also issued separately ]
The Life of Paine.
Mirabaud's System of Nature.
Palmer's Principles of Nature.
Volney's Lectures on History; and Ruins of Empires.
Sir W. Drummond's Preface to the Œdipus Judaicus.
Byron's Cain; and Vision of Judgment.
Shelley's Queen Mab, with the prosecuted Notes
    . . . .Masque of Anarchy.
Clark's Letters to Dr. Adam Clarke,—on the Life and
    Miracles of Christ.
Robert Owen's Essays on the Formation of Character.
    Lectures: Evils of Existing State of Society.
Robert Dale Owen: Discussions with Origen Bacheler
    on the authenticity of the Bible, and on the
    existence of God.
Frances Wright d'Arusmont's Lectures.
    . . . . A Few Days in Athens.
Buonarotti's History of Babeurs Conspiracy.
Godwin's Political Justice.
Lamenois' Modern Slavery.

Other works mostly of the English Index-marked for expurgation or legal physicking out, not without risk he kept on sale; but those named above were all, I believe, produced at his own cost, many set up and printed by his own hands, the legacy from Hibbert his only capital. Most of these works were unprofitable; he but asked if a book ought to be read instead of prohibited, would it be useful to his class; then he calculated how cheaply it could be brought out, content if all his business returns were sufficient for the simplest necessaries of life and to enable him to publish more. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, with harlequin Brougham at their head, and funds and interest without stint, did not show such a list. Their notion of useful knowledge included neither political nor religious, certainly excluded both subjects, except when cooked for the occasion, as were Harriet Martineau's untruthful Poor-Law Tales. [6.]

    And as to social questions—I do not hesitate to assert, the daring of one earnest man did more for the education of the People in those days than all that easy issue of Whig benevolence, all that kindly supply of juiceless chaff for the troughs or mangers of the "insatiable wild beasts," [a parliamentary term for the populace,] whom they hope so to tame to run more quietly in harness.

    In some respects, also, to Watson and to his fellows is owing whatever good came from his rivals: for neither the Diffusion Society's Penney Magazine nor its follower the Christian-promoting Saturday, with other "Information for the People" (Chambers'—to wit), had perhaps appeared but for the sake of counteracting the influence of the new cheap literature of Watson and Hetherington, Cleave, Heywood, and others.  Like the Whig Political Union (not "national," but only of the middle classes), a new middle-class literature had to be encouraged, opportunity for profit of course duly considered also, lest the malaria from the low lands should infect the healthy dwellers in Respectability, and the comfortable continuance of "Things-as-they-are" be even more influentially vexed by outcries for alteration.  So much can the one man win for his age.  So much can be done by so little leaven of earnestness.

    I have said Watson cared rather than for profit to place good reading before the uneducated people: wherefore he was content with the smallest margin of gain enough for means of life.  But he cared also for the correctness and decent appearance of his books, even the cheapest.  They were his children (he had none else): he would have them well-dressed and fit to be admitted anywhere.  You may tell a man's character by everything he does: this man's was to be seen in a penny pamphlet.  Good matter, carefully edited, on fair paper, cleanly printed, squarely folded, thoroughly stitched, in plain but always neat binding or wrapper: you could not but see that it was done by a conscientious worker, gifted with a keen sense of fitness and propriety.  He set his face against the proverb "cheap and nasty," desiring to break down the prejudice of his time (not yet quite obsolete) which confounded radicalism with coarseness and dirt; sometimes did not lack at least an outer justification.  There was no mistaking an edition by J. Watson.  To him life and all its circumstances were to be kept in wholesomeness, though means of beautifying might fail him.  The pride of the poor man was his.  His honesty should be clean-skinned and pure, if his clothes were thread-bare; his public appearance as his home ever dignified, made worthy of respect.  Serving in his shop, he had pleasant and informing words for all who sought his wares; the character of this or that book, about which you asked, might be trusted to his judgment.  His conversation, if you cared to make acquaintance with it, supplemented what he sold: what he had given—if apostles in his day had been able to print and live without debt.  Of debt he had a horror.  If in his stead [in later days] , at the receipt of custom you found his wife, you could be sure that he was either at press work or otherwise employed toward new desired or needed publication, or attending to some public duty—in deputation somewhere, in open meeting, or in prison for his honest, unspared service in the working-man's behalf.  In prison he used his leisure for self-instruction; he had no other University experiences.  Out of prison he was one to whom the strivers for the Miltonic liberty of speech looked for counsel of sound judgment, and for that certainty whereon to lean which is the prerogative of the most manly—the stay of fibre that can not yield, nor flinch.  He was of the stuff [nearly sold out—I hear—a not-paying manufacture] of those old martyrs, who smiled when they were flayed alive—[our modern nerves tremble as we read of agonies they bore]—who thrust their hands into fire to pluck out unharmed their more tender souls.  For the respect in which his probity and his business qualities were held, his name as treasurer of subscriptions in aid of political sufferers may be voucher enough.  He was one to whom you might have trusted untold gold: he could not have wronged you of the smallest coin.

    I have been able to give some statement of his doings as publisher; of his public work there is neither record nor possibility of adequate recollection.  Here confining myself to the endeavour for free publishing, and for the extension of liberal opinions, his books indicate but one direction of his energies.  In class meetings, in public meetings, he was as earnest: no man else more earnest.  Only his friend Henry Hetherington was more zealous.  But Hetherington would neglect his own business rather than the public duty should be left undone, and so was ruined and incurred reproach; and Watson, wiser, in his home more happily aided, tempered zeal with discretion and neglected nothing: not even the "mint and anise."  Not the slightest duty unfulfilled marred the perfectness of his harmonious life.  Yet he never failed his friend: and by their side, as prudently active, constant, intrepid, and devoted, as Watson himself, stood Richard Moore, to whom and Dobson Collet—the energetic secretary of the "Society for the abolition of the Taxes upon Knowledge" we mainly owe their ultimate repeal in England, the remission of that last, worst penny, as it was justly called, which the shifty Whigs retained when, forced by the publications and exertions of Hetherington and his friends to give up their fourpenny stamp, they hoped by continuing the lesser but no less offensive hinderance to be still able to crush the cheap newspapers: beaver-like biting off what might (but did not) divert the hunters, to save their miserable lives; ready ever, as foretold of them by Job [or were, there Whigs in his time?] to give all else, even to their dirty skins.  Am I unjust to these English Girondists?  Sir Henry Bulwer answers for me.  "The Whig Party was—always essentially an exclusive party: its regards were concentrated on a clique, to whom all without it were tools and instruments."  The mantle of Castlereagh had fallen on them, and they prophesied in right Tory fashion: Woe to a discontented People!

    In the history of the fight for free newspapers—any record more complete than is room for in this personal memoir, Hetherington rather than Watson will be recognised as the real leader; Watson himself so placed him.  When, in 1831, the law-administrators declared that any endeavour to give political knowledge to the people was ipso facto to be considered illegal, and as such worthy of punishment, Hetherington came forward to contest their ruling, by the publication of his Poor Man's Guardian, "a weekly paper for the People, established contrary to 'Law' [afterwards published in defiance of "Law"], to try the power of Might against Right: [7.] which will contain [in the words of the prohibitory Act, here in italic] news, intelligence, and occurrences, and remarks and observations thereon, and on matters in Church and State, tending decidedly to excite hatred and contempt of the Government and Constitution of the tyranny of this Country as by Law established and also to vilify the ABUSES of religion; and will be printed in the United Kingdom for sale, and published periodically (every Saturday) at intervals not exceeding twenty-six days; and will not exceed two sheets; and will be published for a less sum than sixpence (to wit, the sum of ONE PENNY); exclusive of the duty imposed by the 38 Geo. III cap 78 and 6o Geo. III c. 9, or any other acts whatsoever, and despite the 'laws,' or the will and pleasure, of any tyrant or body of tyrants whatsoever, any thing herein-before or anywhere else contained to the contrary notwithstanding."

    Repeatedly convicted, hunted like a wild beast, imprisoned, stripped of his property, he gallantly maintained the contest to a successful ending: till he forced his opponents to abandon that straining of the Law in which the magistracy had been their handy tool, and to bring him, June the seventeenth, 1834, to fair trial by a jury.

    The result is told under the heading of the number of the Guardian for June 21:

    "This paper, after sustaining a Government prosecution of three years and a half duration, in which UPWARDS OF FIVE HUNDRED PERSONS [8.] were unjustly imprisoned, and cruelly treated, for vending it, was on the trial of an ex officio information filed by the Attorney-General against Henry Hetherington, in the Court of Exchequer before Lord Lyndhurst and a special jury, declared to be a strictly legal publication. "


HETHERINGTON was born in London in 1792; and brought up as a printer.  He was one of the earliest and most active of working-men engaged with Dr. Birkbeck in founding the first Mechanics' Institute; and in 1830 he was chosen by the radical workingmen of London to draw up a plan for Trades Unions, which became the basis of the National Union of the Working Classes, out of which sprang the movement for the People's Charter.

    For four years he bore the brunt of the battle for a free press.  Ever busy in the interest of his class during the Whig Reform ferment, he was among the most zealous as well as of the wisest leaders of Chartism afterwards.  A ready speaker, bold and fluent, passionate, sarcastic, or humorous on occasion [he had a spice of fun in him through all his trouble], he was deservedly popular in those days; and in the Chartist Convention of 1839 sat as delegate from Stockport and for London.  Time and thought, and toil also, he gave unsparingly in aid of the social and religious thriving of the time.  He closed his unresting and useful life, after a few days' sickness, on the 24th of August, 1849.  For his character, I find no better words than some I wrote to be spoken at his burial.  There is not a word I would retract or modify.

    [Of all the men in the battle for the People's Right, I have known none more single-minded, few so brave, so generous, so gallant as he.  He was the most chivalrous of all our party.  He could neglect his own interests (which is by no means a virtue, but there is never lack of rebukers for all failings of that kind), but he never did, and never could, neglect his duty to the cause he had embraced, to the principles he had avowed.  There was no notoriety-hunting in him: as, indeed, so mean a passion has no place in any true man.  And he was of the truest.  He would toil in any unnoticeable good work for freedom, in any "forlorn hope," or even, when he saw that justice was with them, for men who were not of his party, as cheerfully and vigorously as most other men will labour for money or fame or respectability.  He was a real man, one of that select and "glorious company" of those who are completely in earnest.  His principles were not kept in the pocket of a Sunday coat (I don't know that he always had a Sunday change of any sort): but were to him the daily light which led his steps.  If strife and wrath lay in his path, it was seldom from any fault of his; for though hasty, as a man of impulsive nature, and chafed by some afflictions, he was not intolerant, nor quarrelsome, nor vindictive.  Men who did not know him have called him violent.  He was, as said before, hasty and impetuous, but utterly without malice; and he would not have harmed his worst enemy, though, in truth, he heartily detested tyranny and tyrants.  Peace be with him, on the other side of this fitful dream which we call life; peace, which he seldom knew here, though his nature was kindly and his hope strong, though he loved Truth, and wilfully injured no man.  One of the truest and bravest of the warm-hearted has lain down among the tombs, not worn out, but sorely wearied.  May we rest as honourably, with as few specks to come between our lives and the grateful recollections of those who have journeyed with us.  If our young men, in the vigour of their youth, will be but as enthusiastic and as untiring as was Hetherington even in the last days of his long exertion, we need not despair of Freedom, nor of a worthy monument to a noble life, which else would seem but as a vainly-spoken word, wasted and forgotten.

    Yet again, peace be with him; and in his place the copy and thankful remembrance of the worth we loved in him.]

    So much I have had to say of Hetherington, not only as his due—but too scantily rendered, but also because for twenty years he was the tried and trusty comrade of my friend.  What Hetherington did was ever seconded by Watson: what Watson did had surely Hetherington's endorsement.  One can not be praised but the other will "divide his crown."  In Watson's own words, spoken at his friend's grave, their "single friendship never knew two interests."  During the struggles of the Unstamped they were as David and Jonathan: the two were as one.  That battle gained, they stood in as close brotherhood in preparation and in action for the People's Charter.

    Hetherington's victory was decisive.  The pursuit was left to Moore and Collet.  Prosecution was at an end.  The logical conclusion required no longer defiance, but persistence only; and the secretary of the Society for the removal of the yet remaining penny, C. Dobson Collet, might be fitly surnamed the Persistent.  And Moore I must halt yet somewhere in my memoir of Watson, not to neglect his other friend and comrade, dear to him as Hetherington, yet closer than he,—my own friend also, RICHARD MOORE.


    Born in 1810, he was brought up as a woodcarver, in which art he excelled.  Early in association with Lovett, Hetherington, and Watson, he shared all their labours; and marrying a niece of Watson, a wife worthy to be so mated, became yet more intimate with him.  For forty years he was among the foremost in all the liberal movements of the time.  One of the framers of the People's Charter, he sat in the first Chartist Convention; he was a leading elector in the radical borough of Finsbury; he was active in behalf of Poland and of Italy.  But most especially he claims remembrance as chairman [Collet, as already said, secretary], during thirteen Years, of the Society for the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge, the main promoter of that unceasing agitation which forced the Government to give up not only the stamp, but also the taxes on advertisements and paper.  Ever labouring with remarkable singleness of purpose in the public service, he was as modest as active.  Few men—says one who knew him well—"have enjoyed the confidence and friendship of leading politicians more than he.  All the prominent English Radicals and liberal Exiles he could reckon among his friends . . . The purity of his life was only equalled by his disinterestedness. . . There was something singularly earnest, gentle, and chivalrous, in his character."  I can only echo these words, knowing how well they were deserved.  To him—if the claim of the Wife had not been paramount—this memoir would have been dedicated; him I had ever in my mind while writing, him first among those for whose approval of my work I cared.  True-hearted man and sterling patriot! no name could be more fitly coupled with your friend's.  Only since completing my record of him I learn that in death as in life you are together.  Richard Moore died December 7, 1878.

    Here too, before I leave the story of the Unstamped, may be fit place to render homage to JULIAN HIBBERT, treasurer, and chief prop of the Victim Fund during the battle for the Guardian.  There is his life.  In his will, out of regard to his relatives, people of "family," his mother (I believe) a catholic, he ordered his papers to be destroyed and forbade his friends to speak of him.  "I ask only silence."  So passed into oblivion one more of the martyr myriad, the ransom for Humanity.  His friends could not but respect his prayer.  It is now too late to inquire concerning him.  He died in 1834.

    His portrait is marvellously like Shelley's.  He seems indeed (that I learned) to have been a prose Shelley, with the same gentleness of nature and chivalrous zeal against Wrong; like Shelley also in his public spirit, in his generosity, his tenderness of disposition, his poetic enthusiasm for what he deemed the Right.


Free publication of honest thought and fair opportunity for sharing in the national government: these two most important of all questions moved, as I have said before, the life of Watson.  The second made him a "Chartist."  That Chartist phase of English history has been misunderstood or misrepresented by party writers of the time, and seems now almost obliterated from the minds of the present generation of "liberal" politicians, who do not even dream how much they are indebted to it.  On this account, as well as because of its important influence on the life of England, some words beyond the relation of Watson's actual part in it may not be out place.

    The movement for the "People's Charter," as already told, grew out of a document prepared by Hetherington in 1831, in which originated the National Union of the Working Classes, "to collect and organise a peaceful expression of public opinion," for "protection of workmen in the free disposal of their labour," to obtain an "effectual reform in Parliament " (instead of the unfair arrangement projected by the Whigs), "the repeal of all bad laws, and the enactment of a wise and comprehensive code."  The association was formed after the model of Wesleyanism: class-leaders being appointed at general meetings to groups of from thirty to forty members, the classes held weekly at members' homes.  Those meetings were for political instruction, by readings and discussions.  In what records remain of the proceedings I trace Watson's name, not prominent (he never cared to be prominent) but honourably conspicuous.  The declaration of principles was drawn up by him and Lovett.


"We, the Working Classes of London, declare―

"1—All property (honestly acquired) to be sacred and inviolable.

"2—That all men are born equally free, and have certain natural and inalienable rights.

"3—That governments ought to be founded on those rights; and all laws instituted for the commons benefit in the protection and security of all the people: and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single man, family, or set of men.

"4—That all hereditary distinctions of birth are unnatural, and opposed to the equal rights of man; and therefore ought to be abolished.

"5—That every man of the age of twenty-one years, of sound mind, and not tainted by crime, has a right, either by himself or his representative, to a free voice in determining the nature of the laws, the necessity for public contributions, the appropriation of them, their amount, mode of assessment, and duration.

"6—That in order to secure the unbiassed choice of proper persons for representatives, the mode of voting should be by ballot; that intellectual fitness and moral worth, and not property, should be the qualification for representatives; and that the duration of Parliament should be but for one year.

"7—We declare these principles to be essential to our protection as working men, and the only sure guarantees for the securing to us the proceeds of our labour, and that we will never be satisfied with the enactment of any law or laws which do not recognize the rights enumerated in this declaration."

    The declaration headed a call for a public meeting of the "useful classes, to be held in the space in front of White-Conduit House, London, on Monday, November 7, 1831, at one o'clock precisely, for the purpose of solemnly ratifying" the above principles.  The Whig Government met this popular challenge by the formation of a counter association, the "National Political Union" of the middle classes, to support, by force if necessary, their class Reform Bill, and to prevent anything beyond that.  The meeting of the working-men was prohibited by Lord Melbourne; special constables were mustered; troops were marched in; and orders were given to arrest every member of the Committee of the Association who should appear at the place of meeting.  The temper of those Reformers—Grey, Russell, Brougham, etc.—may be sufficiently indicated by this: the Whig Press at that very time daily greatening thee Tories with evolution, boasting of a hundred ands fifty thousand men armed to enforce their partial measure.  I read in the journals of same date, of four poor men in Lancashire sentence, under and obsolete and forgotten law, to twelve months imprisonment for unlawfully assembling on a Sunday evening.  But they were not assembled for worship of the Reform Bill.

    The Association was wise enough not to accept this provocation to a conflict undesired and which could but result in useless bloodshed: it gave up the meeting, and went on its peaceful way.  In May of the next year a second attempt at public meeting; preparatory to calling a National Convention, was put down by actual force: the police attacked the assembled people.  In the melee a policemen was killed, stabbed by a man whom he had struck.  The jury upon the coroner's inquests returned a verdict of "justifiable homicide," on the grounds that no proclamation forbade the meetings, that the Riot Act was not read requiring the crowds to disperse, and that "the conduct of the Polite was ferocious, brutal, and unprovoked."  This, at least in intention a fit pendant to the Tory massacre at Peterloo, is what is known as the Calthorpe-street affair, having happened on some open ground thereby.  Care was taken as soon afterwards as possible to build upon the land, effectually to prevent other meetings there.

    The National Union did good educational work; but had to give way to the consolidated Trade-Unions, then as now standing, as they always must stand, as obstacles to political endeavour: tempting men with better wages for to-day from what in moments of despondency seems the hopelessness of going to the root of the evil.  Still, staunch to their principles, the originators and leaders of the Union made another attempt for the wiser action by the formation in 1836 of the London Working Men's Association, [9.] whose published addresses earned a warm meed of praise, for all his dainty literary taste and careless poet dislike of political strife, from "the gentlest of the wise," Leigh Hunt.  To that association too belongs the honour of sending an Address to the foreigner, [10.] the first public attempt to exorcize the king-fostered spirit of national antagonism.

    In February, 1837, the Association, having prepared their way, convened a public meeting at and within the Crown-and Anchor tavern, in the Strand (indoor meetings not illegal then), at which a petition to the House of Commons, for universal suffrage and new ordering of Parliament, obtained the signatures of three thousand persons.  This petition the Association left in the hands of Mr. Roebuck for presentation; and toward his support requested a conference with those members of the reformed House who professed liberal principles.  Eight came: T. Perronet Thompson, Joseph Hume, Charles Hindley, Daniel O'Connell, Dr. Bowring, John Temple Leader, William Sharman Crawford, Benjamin Hawes.  The conference took up two nights, the members of the Commons' House, except Hawes, assenting generally to the principles in discussion, but most of them hesitating as to any immediate promotion of the same.  O'Connell dodged, he would have substituted an ingenious scheme of his own; failing which, he agreed with the course of the Association,—not honestly intending, as afterwards sufficiently appeared.  The following resolutions were adopted: June 7, 1837.

1—We agree to support any proposition for Universal Suffrage made on the Petition emanating from the Working Men's Associations, when presented to the House of Commons by Mr. Roebuck.

Proposed by Daniel O'Connell.
Seconded by Charles Hindley.

2—We agree to support and vote for a Bill or Bills, to be brought into the House of Commons, embodying the principles of Universal Suffrage, Equal Representation, Free Selection of Representatives without reference to Property, the Ballot, and Short Parliaments of fixed duration, the limit not to exceed three years.

Proposed by Daniel O'Connell.
Seconded by Charles Hindley.

3—We agree to support and vote for a Bill, or Bills, to be brought into the House of Commons, for such a reform in the House of Lords as shall render it responsible to the People.

Proposed by Daniel O'Connell.
Seconded by Sharman Crawford.

4—That a Committee of twelve persons be appointed, to draw up a Bill, or Bills, in a legal form, embodying the principles agreed to, and that they be submitted to another meeting of the liberal members of Parliament and the Working Men's Association : that the following be the persons appointed―














Proposed by J. Tempe Leader.
Seconded by Robert Hartwell.

The labour of drafting the bill was deputed to Roebuck and Lovett; but, owing to Roebuck's parliamentary and other engagements, fell almost wholly on Lovett.  Every clause was carefully considered in the Association, and the bill so completed finally submitted to the public, as THE PEOPLE'S CHARTER―"the outline of an Act to provide for the just representation of the People of Great Britain and Ireland in the Commons' House of Parliament: embracing the principles of Universal Suffrage, No Property Qualification (for Members), Annual Parliaments, Equal Representation, Payment of Members, and Vote by Ballot."

    On the 6th of August, 1838, at a meeting at New-Hall Hill, Birmingham, the People's Charter was formally approved, even, after some reluctance, by the Household Suffragists of the Birmingham Political Union.  From this time Feargus O'Connor also joined the Chartists.  At this meeting it was proposed that a Convention of the Working Classes should be summoned, and a National Petition be obtained, and that a National Rent should be collected to defray the necessary expenses.  On the 17th of the following September, another meeting in the Palace Yard, Westminster, the High Bailiff in the chair, solemnly adopted the People's Charter and National Petition, and recommended meetings throughout the country to appoint the delegates "to watch over the Charter and Petition when presented to Parliament."  At this meeting one of the resolutions was moved by Ebenezer Elliott, "the Corn Law Rhymer."

    The delegates so appointed met, on February the 4th, at the British Coffee House, as the General Convention of the Working Classes.  The Convention, 55 members, was elected by show of hands of, it was said, three millions of persons: "450,000 had been assembled for the election on Kersal Moor, 200,000 at Peep-Green, 250,000 at Birmingham, 200,000 at Glasgow, etc."  Enthusiasm ran high; money was subscribed; meetings were multiplied; the Convention sent out its members as missionaries through the country; Chartist Associations sprang up in the manufacturing districts, and elsewhere.  On the 13th of May, the Convention, having deposited the petition of 1,280,000 persons with Mr. Attwood, transferred their sittings, for the consideration of "ulterior measures," to Birmingham; and then dispersed to hold simultaneous meetings throughout the country.  The Petition was presented to the "Commons" on the 14th of June, and on the 12th of July 235 members, against 46, refused to consider its prayer.  Meanwhile the Whig Ministers had not been forgetful of their old tactics, the foolish conduct of some members of the Convention playing into their hands.  Threats of what the people could do were lightly used; whereupon some sections of them began to arm and train themselves: ill-founded reports of the war-like determination of the masses were given in to and published by the Convention; which moreover had neither fore-looking purpose, nor unanimity, nor capacity for guidance.  Arrests were made, for training and drilling; arrests of members of the Convention for "seditious" speaking.  The Calthorpe Street policy was renewed, and a band of London Police, ordered down to Birmingham, while the Convention was sitting there, attacked the people peaceably meeting in the Bull-Ring.  Lovett, the secretary of the Convention, was arrested for signing an address justifying the resistance of the people.  And when the Convention met again in London with very reduced numbers, on the 10th of July, it was but to see their petition mocked at; to decide on the 16th of July, upon a "sacred month"—an abstinence from all work for that period, to begin on the 12th of August throughout the country, for the overthrow of the Government; and to substitute, on the 5th of August, one day's holiday for the impracticable month, and to appeal to the unpolitical Trades, to help a manifestation then.  On the 14th of September the Convention dissolved, having utterly failed in everything, except the Petition.

    The baseless reports of Chartist power and determination still continued, over-living even the deplorable contradiction furnished by Frost's abortive attempt on Newport, on the 4th of November: an attempt induced by a too-ready credence to bragging exaggerations of others.  On the 26th of December a second Convention met in London, with the object of saving Frost and his fellow-victims.  But the game was up.  All that remained was the popularity of the ever-active O'Connor and of his Northern Star: both of which should have been turned to account.

    Lovett, having come out of prison, founded in 1842 the "National Association," to re-commence a general organization.  He was joined by most of those who had been most active in the Working Men's Association; and violently opposed by O'Connor and his party,—a party which had been helped by the Star to keep up the agitation since 1839, but which had changed Chartism to O'Connorism and almost lost sight of the suffrage while looking for allotments of unprofitable land.  But Lovett was impracticable; and his new association, after obtaining a few hundred members, dwindled into a debating club, and their hall became a dancing academy, let occasionally for unobjectionable public meetings.  Lukewarmness among the more sensible of the working men, and aimless violence, not without good intention, among the O'Connorites, just kept alive the name of Chartism till the proclamation of the French Republic, in February, 1848, awoke old hopes in England.

    Then again some efforts were made to resuscitate the movement.  Another National Convention met in London, under the auspices of O'Connor, to superintend another Petition.  Almost every fault of the first Convention was repeated.  Blustering talk led to foolish riots.  The Petition with "5,700,000 signatures," afterwards reduced to 2,000,000, including fictitious, was presented on the 10th of April; and on the 17th the Convention dissolved to meet again on the 1st of May, as a "National Assembly," to carry the Charter.  But all was now confusion.  Even the elections (by show of hands) without principle or method; 3,000 men electing three members for London, 100,000 at Halifax electing one.  The Assembly simply exhibited its incapacity, and merged into the "National Charter Association," which pursued the same course: gathering tumultuous crowds of purposeless men, doing little to teach, and nothing to organize, unable even to command regular subscriptions, and mustering throughout the country only some 5,000 paying members after the ten years' turmoil.  Those of the Chartists still anxious in 1848 to make some attempt at organization, found themselves joined by but a few hundreds, by them feebly, and for a little while.  Men no longer rallied around the Chartist banner; some few only when it was dragged in the dirt.  Chartism went down in the whirlpool of its own folly.

    So much of the history of Chartism I wrote in 1851, [11.] not sparing censure, having to warn the people against a repetition of their folly; for in that hour a few were looking beyond the twilight dimness of a parliamentary reform for the day-star of the Republic.  Nevertheless, when you have consented to the verdict, be not content to note the emptiness of that Chartist hubbub, but take notice also that such outspokenness, albeit over-loud for gentility or discreeter ears, however vainly Jericho-like, was a true and honest and manly utterance, healthier by far than aimless grumbling or the secret conspiracies by Castlereagh's provocation-and-spy system laid grub-like in the hearts of justly discontented Englishmen.  Chartism had at least a manlier fibre.  Also, underneath and beside all the blatancy were wiser thoughts at work, not able indeed to lead that horn-mad mob in triumph, but even in defeat preparing for future conquest.  The better temper of the oppressed, better for all the bellowing, was due to Watson and Hetherington, and their friends, and when the trumpet-braying gave out, some memories of principles taught by them remained.  It must also be acknowledged that, although the Charter is not yet law, the very noise scared those in high places, the unhanged Hamans; and poor had been the likelihood of the many changes and many and great improvements in England, in the action of its still usurping legislature and in the condition of its yet unenfranchised people, but for the stirring and striving, so liberally criticized and so satisfactorily condemned, of those insatiable wild beasts, as comfortable reformers suffered them to be called, who only asked for their own rights (for rights not doubted by the men who refused them), who neither harmed nor wished harm to any, and whose worst follies were their being from over-tameness themselves so easily dismayed; and sometimes a blind rush, haply incited for their own political ends by the party that drove back and scourged them.  To my Lords Melbourne, Grey, and Russell, to such well-placed patriots as Brougham, to Burdett and Hume and O'Connell, be awarded the juster condemnation of History,—for that, having betrayed the people, they stung them designedly to madness, for the sake of their own iniquities frustrating the hopes their own promises had evoked.  No fouler blot smirches our English record than the conduct of the Great Whig Party from 1830 to 1850; their treachery toward Freedom culminating in the acceptance of the Napoleon-Infamy.  On the tomb of the Whigs one word is epitaph: the name of a trickster: PALMERSTON.  And unless the Miltonic day must be excepted, the glorious hours of Eliot, Cromwell and Vane, no worthier cause has occupied the heart of England in any time than that so unsuccessful struggle for a "man-like place," the real and avowed object of the framers of the PEOPLE'S CHARTER.

    I am losing sight of Watson, as he, and Hetherington too, was lost sight of in the whirl of the O'Connor madness.  The demagogues led the multitude by the ears, while the tyrants looked on, grinning at the confusion, nor failed to stir the witch-broth when it seemed to cool.  The old plan of inciting in order to betray, rife in those horrible days of Castlereagh and Sidmouth, and not forgotten during the battle of the Unstamped, [sturdy old Cobbett made the House of Commons see it when their own Committee of Inquiry gazed through Parliamentary spectacles in vain], was not left out of the tactics of our Whigs succeeding to Tory place and practice, although lack of practice caused their sometimes untoward blundering: blunders of less consequence when every man had to cook "his own goose" and "the land to be bought up at £40 for an acre" were the cries of the popular wool gatherers; and the fleeces followed.

    When O'Connor first and afterwards Ernest Jones led their followers into that wilderness of land-schemes, and the mill-owners, Cobden, Bright, & Co., sought to bribe the ill-fed masses with repeal of the tax on bread (free trade was what they talked about intending nothing of the sort), wanting cheap bread—the cheapest possible, that "our mills" might be run at less cost, and poor-rates reduced to a minimum—[I except those nearer angelic or poetic "free-traders" ignorant of policies and earthly realities, who were persuaded philanthropically to abet any belly-filling schemes, good for at least an afternoon]—Hetherington and Watson stood aside: not denying, but even as strenuously affirming the usurpation of the People's Land, nor heedless of the agony of the hungry poor; but resolute in their wise perception and determination that before all things it is necessary for a man to be a man, so recognised by the Law and by the Custom of Society; after which he may be strong enough to vindicate other rights.  Never before: though the aforesaid poets and good-meaning angels sit in Parliament cheek by jowl with the wealthiest free-traders, and are regularly allowed to speak, and to vote—in the minority.

    Feargus O'Connor and his minions [I believe in the honest intentions of O'Connor, I think a truer man than O'Connell, though of the same not-small-potato breed] never faced the real Chartists—Hetherington, Watson, Lovett; while in Finsbury, the most radical of metropolitan boroughs, where Moore and Watson lived, represented by surgeon Wakley, stalwart editor of the Lancet, and Thomas Slingsby Duncombe, [12.] the Corn-law League dared not call a public meeting.  Not that an opposing hand would have been raised in favour of the bread-tax, but that as from one voice, they would have heard the rebuke of their more selfish policy—Give us our place of manhood, and that with other injustices shall cease; but manhood even before bread!

    In the last attempt to inspire the Chartist body with a reasonable soul Watson stood first.  One of the callers, and chairman, of the first meeting for congratulation of the French Republicans on their triumph in February, '48, he sought at once to reinvigorate Chartism, toward a Republican party in England.[13.]  But the effort was too late.  Habits of occasional enthusiasm and evaporation in blustering talk unfit the best-intentioned for sacrifice or work, and the earnest man had poor following.  Five men such as Watson had been powerless for the revival of Chartism, self-slain.


I first became acquainted with Watson in, I think, 1835.  I had been brought up more piously than the Church of England requires; but the liberal tendencies of my brother-in-law, Thomas Wade, the poet (then editor of Bell's New Weekly Messenger, a semi-radical London newspaper), some reading of Voltaire and Shelley, and the stirring words of Lamennais in his famous Scripture anathematised by the Pope [14.]―the Paroles d'un Croyant, had brought me in contact with the religious and social and political problems of the time.  More especially I was indebted, through occasional attendance at his lectures, to William Johnson Fox, the sometime Unitarian minister, the most eloquent orator of his day, the virtual founder of that new school of English radicalism, which looked beyond the established traditions of the French Revolution, and, more poetical, escaped the narrowness of Utilitarianism: a man wiser than his compeers, who but for lack of boldness (perhaps accounted for by his physique) had been the royal leader of the English democracy.  So prepared I was ready for active sympathy with the cause of the people, then finding expression in the cry for political enfranchisement.  Almost every day I passed a certain book-shop, a few doors from Dunhill Fields [The Dissenters' burial-ground: John Bunyan lay there,—but there was a talk lately of building over it]; and often I stopped to buy one of Roebuck's Pamphlets or Gilbert A'Becket's Figaro in London (the forerunner of Punch), Volney's Ruins of Empires, the Lectures on History, or such-like; sometimes remaining to talk with the shopkeeper, a thin, haggard, thoughtful man, with a grave but gentle manner, who appeared more interested than tradesmen usually are in the worth of what he sold.  This was Watson, recently from prison, and still suffering the effects of his imprisonment.

    In 1838 I was projecting what I hoped might become a sort of cheap library for the people: to consist mainly of selected extracts from such prohibited works as were beyond the purchasing-reach or time for study of working-men; and I had grown into so much confidence in Watson that I went to him to publish for me.  He laid before me the difficulties in my way, the cost of money and of obloquy; then, finding me still resolute, offered to me (a nameless stranger) his books and his services.  At the end of six months, a volume of weekly numbers completed, my means nearly used up, I reckoned with him.  The account rendered, I noticed that there was no charge for folding or stitching—some two thousand a week—say fifty thousand sheets in all.  He had been "sure that the book could not pay," and he and his wife had folded and stitched every copy, to save me so much of expense.

    So began our friendship,—a friendship for which, as for other such, I paid with the loss of early friends and home affections: for in those days (not fifty years ago) Deists were certainly Atheists; Unitarians were not allowed to call themselves Christians; and a good churchman of the established persuasion would disown his son, and the mother pass him in the street, unspoken to, for no better reason than that he refused to join publicly in their communion,—not from preference for any vicious pleasures (which would have been forgiven), but only because of conscientious scruples, inoffensively avowed, which rendered him liable to the name of Infidel.  The man so treated was my friend.  I speak of what I know.  For Unitarians, they lived, married, and traded, among themselves: a proscribed class, though the worthiest of England's sons and daughters, and the foremost English thinkers, were of that sect.  The friendship of one such as Watson was cheaply bought at the price.

    For years after, working in the same cause, our course of public action one, our trust in each other unlimited, I familiar in his home and he always welcome in mine, we moved together in every endeavour of the time: his earlier friend Hetherington not closer to him, I believe, than I was.  So I learned to know him thoroughly.  If I speak here of myself, it is to warrant my speaking of him; and I have a right to the honour his comradeship bestows upon me.

    When Frost and his fellow-rebels, Zephaniah Williams and Jones, were condemned to death as leaders in that mad outbreak at Newport, brought about by the foolish bluster of O'Connor, it was in the little sitting-room behind Watson's shop that we copied out a petition for a reprieve, the subscriptions to which, in not many hours, became so numerous that the Government was fain, for all reluctance, to send a stay of the death-sentence (the punishment was afterwards commuted to transportation for life) to Hetherington's more prominent place of business, in the Strand, to be there exhibited in order to allay the popular excitement.

    Later, in 1840 or '41, when the Government visited its political opponents, the working-class, with indictments for blasphemy (the pretext a mere sale, amongst other publications, of an intemperate book, Haslam's Letters to the Clergy, so pushed into notoriety), and Heywood, one of the prosecuted, advised retaliation upon the Government partisans, that goose and gander might be served with the same sauce, it was Watson, with Hetherington, who took up the case in London, by indicting four metropolitan booksellers of unimpeachable respectability for the same offence of blasphemy,—inasmuch as they had published or exposed for sale the "blasphemous and seditious" works of one Percy Bysshe Shelley, containing notably his Queen Mab, for which already, indeed many years before, William Clark (if I mistake not the name) had incurred the vengeance of offended Law.  We knew of course that the book would but sell the more for prosecution; we had no desire that it should be otherwise: but if social disgrace from a conviction for "blasphemy" was to be used as a weapon against us, it seemed politic that, boomerang-like, it should return on its employers.  Conviction was sure: Law, like Physic, always obedient to Precedent.  Our purpose was to prevent the trial of Hetherington, [15.] or to affect his sentence, if condemned.  The first object was defeated: the indicted parties getting their trials removed from the Old-Bailey sessions to the higher Court of Queen's Bench, and delaying them by buying off our indispensable witness to the purchase of the books, a compositor in Hetherington's employ, a former apprentice of his.  And here occurred two incidents which may give some insight into the character of these men, stigmatized as seditious and stirrers up of strife, etc., as of old, it is said, were certain other men, not altogether unlike these, in Athens and Ephesus and elsewhere.  Hetherington had determined not to pay a fine.  "They might take it out of his bones:" if not so courtly in expression, yet of the same courage as brave Sir John Eliot's answer to Charles I.  And this martyr also had his possessions: a shop and books, presses and other printing-material, besides household-stuff.  Once, before all had been swept off; he would be wiser now.  Two or three days before the trial I was with him when he called upon the London agent of an old good friend, Hugh Williams, a Caermarthen lawyer. [16.] Williams had ordered for a sufficient sum to be paid to Hetherington, who passed the same to the hand of one of his shopmen named Powell. [17.]  He thereupon bought of Hetherington his whole property, brokers being called in to value all, in order to legalize the sale; and Hetherington, returning his friend's loan, went penniless into Court, to meet the most that could be inflicted.  He defended himself [18.] with much eloquence and moderation, in spite of a very bitter and unfairly personal attack of Attorney-General Campbell; was complimented for it by Denman, then Chief-Justice; and sentenced to the lightest punishment upon record—imprisonment for six weeks in a debtors' prison.  When he came out we were still looking for his compositor.  One day walking together, Hetherington and Watson accidentally met the man; and their moral influence was sufficient to outweigh the bribe which had first tempted him.  He came into Court, gave evidence, and Moxon, notwithstanding the eloquent pleading of Talfourd, was found guilty.  It remained for the prosecutors to call him up for judgment, which of course was never done, personal animosity or revenge being beside the question; nor was further proceeding taken against the other indicted "blasphemers," Frazer, Richardson, and Saunders of the firm of Saunders and Ottley.  We had gained enough.  Prosecutions for blasphemy were stopped.  I think there has since been only one, with foolish wilfulness provoked, for the sake of a spurious notoriety.

    In the matter of these prosecutions, as in all other in which I had occasion to act with him, Watson's conduct commanded general respect; he knew nor undue haste nor wavering, but walked straight toward his aim as one whose will went forth to conquer; his judgment never was at fault.  But for his modesty, he had all the qualities of a leader.  Yet, unobtrusive and unassuming as he was, he led, in virtue of his quiet self-possession, his sterling good sense, his dauntless courage, and that unbounded trust which all his associates placed in him.  When the dispute was at its highest between "physical" and "moral," force to the needless disintegration of the Chartist body,—when the old steadily earnest party of Lovett and Hetherington and Watson was outvoiced by the O'Connorites, and impulsive Hetherington came in for his share of objurgation and abuse, never was there an ill word or disrespectful spoken against Watson.  His calm and dignified bearing, his justice toward all men, his well-considered language even when most indignant, lifted him above the reach of calumny or the intemperance of anger, however unsparing the severity of his rebuke—never unfairly personal—when severity became a public duty.  Strongly, sternly opposed to the empty braggart speech and conduct in which our hopes of universal suffrage were wrecked, when active patriotism at last meaned only a mad mob howling to the praise and glory of Feargus O'Connor and Ernest Jones (but demagogues however well-desiring) and G. W. M. Reynolds, the tin kettle at the mad mob's tail,— I think there was not one of his opponents who would have done him any harm, who did not honour him even when most hostile.  And his friends, beyond the closer circle of his fellow-workers:—his friends were Mazzini, and Mazzini's old comrade and dearest of all friends, the more than noble Pole, Stanislaus Worcell, by birth a noble, yet nobler in exile-martyrdom; and William Bridges Adams, railway engineer, a man as magnificently disinterested as James Watson himself; and Francis Sibson, physician, brother of the artist; and the present Member for Newcastle on Tyne, Joseph Cowen; and――Surely these witnesses to character are sufficient: else I could cite many more, dead and living, lovers and admirers of his worth.

    Some were in strong sympathy with his principles, and so perhaps prepossessed in his favour; others, misliking his surroundings, or without care for his mode of action, no less esteemed the man: he had no lack of friendship beyond the range of his political or religious walk.  Nor was he himself so narrow that he could not work except for his special life-purpose: not to the direct hindrance of that.  Though he held to the Charter as the one and most urgent need of the time, and refused to accept the Reform Bill as payment of the People's Debt, or peddle the People's birthright for any mess of corn-law pottage, he worked zealously for the few honest men in the Whig House of Commons, none more actively for Duncombe and Wakley, by the exertions of him and Moore and of others of the same Chartist faction repeatedly returned to Parliament for the borough of Finsbury.  Mazzini's "People's International League" [19.] had his prompt adhesion, his constant attention, and his ready subscription to the full reach of his scanty means.  Of foreign affairs he cared to be informed; and the exiles, Italian, Polish, and French, found in him an unfalteringly loyal friend.  His sympathies, as his principles, were sure, both firmly based; and wide.  He was great-hearted, and fearless.  Despising bluster, and disliking force, if force might be avoided,—a peaceable man, but not for peace at whatever price,—he could not keep silence when the men of Bradford were insurgent, but while the politic hesitated, boldly defended their right to judge for themselves how soon the time of patience was over and the occasion for resistance come.  He was, as I have already said, one of the conveners of the first public meeting in England to congratulate the French on their Revolution of 1848; he was on the Committee to help the latest Polish insurrection, in 1863-4.  Latest, not last.

His own account has told us, only too briefly, of the Fast-day in 1832: when, the country being afflicted with cholera, an enlightened Government, on the prescription of a certain Saint Percival, not a doctor of medicine, ordered its removal (the removal of the cholera) by exhibition of one day's general fast and solemn performance of prayer to Almighty God.  Performance, going through a form, says Ruskin.  Orthodox salt-cod-and-egg-sauce in respectable society—I need not pause to enumerate the necessary accompanying wines, condiments, etc.,—seeming to the radical and perhaps impious Association of working-men no specific for an evil starvation-helped, (with fifteen hundred persons in one London poorhouse—eight and ten to a bed, "from the putrid and noxious atmosphere dying off like rotten sheep,") these radical and so impracticable working-men refused obedience to the ministerial edict; and forbidden to work on the law-appointed holiday, nor allowed (under old ecclesiastical law revived for the occasion) to hold a public meeting, thought therefore to protest in such manner as was left to them,—to show by a quiet procession how many disapproved of Percivalism—State-humbug, and after the walk to provide a dinner for the poorer members of the Association.  But the police obstructed and dispersed them; and afterwards arrested the prime movers of the procession, Watson, Lovett, and Benbow, and had them brought to trial at the next sessions for intention to riot and breach of the peace.  Of course no one supposed it was so.  The object of the prosecution was to damage the National Union through its leaders.  Twelve men, from the people, not specially selected, are not often on the side of any tyranny in England.  These, as the jury in the Calthorpe Street affair, and later in the matter of the Poor Man's Guardian, gave their deliberate verdict for the pubic liberties; a verdict of Not Guilty, after a spirited speech from each of the accused, Watson's very manly and straightforward, principally in vindication of the public right, at the same time insisting on their own peaceful conduct.

    One of many witnesses voluntarily appearing to prove the peaceable, orderly behaviour of the procession was a member of the Common Council of London, Richard Taylor, a master-printer, a man of liberal views but not active in politics, highly esteemed in the city, of some note for editing Horne Tooke's Diversions of Purley.

    On a latter occasion for protesting (in 1846, I think) another Fast-day, this time for relief of Irish famine, we had our public meeting, Watson in the chair, and from among the audience rose old Richard Taylor, to remind his friend the chairman of that former day, to congratulate him on the greater freedom we had gained, ending his unexpected speech with warm praise of him for his persistent endeavouring and for the blameless character he had maintained throughout his course.

    Persistence in all that he considered right and careful avoidance of any just cause for blame were indeed characteristics of the man.


Let us look back to the prison history!  In September, 1822, Watson came up to London, and spent Christmas with Carlile in jail, as foretaste of the course of instruction preparing for him in that Liberal University.  Six weeks of real imprisonment before trial in the beginning of the next year, and then he remains for the full term of twelve months.  Time for mature consideration out of which to shape his future life.  That twelve months imprisonment was not lost upon him.

    Of that year in Cold-Bath-Fields prison I have some record in his own words.  He was not ill-treated by his keepers; he had a room to himself; his friends were allowed to visit him at certain times; even the Governor would drop in upon him for a talk; he read much, and made notes of what he read; used his "opportunity for study and investigation; kept also some sort of diary, I fancy even more monotonous than diaries usually are.  Here, however, are two entries that will interest us.

April 21, 1824—

"This day the Governor visited me.  I had some of my lumber removed from the prison, as a prelude to self removal, and am not sorrowful for the circumstance.  I wrote letters to friends Byerley and Driver, of Leeds, and received a letter from Mr. Carlile.  The weather warm and calm."

April 22—

"This day I had all my chattels removed from the prison, except my box.  Had a long walk with Mrs. Wright [the wife of a Leeds bookseller; in prison for the same offence as Watson, for selling in Carlisle's shop]; drank a couple of glasses of rum-punch with my fellow-prisoners, Mr. Humphreys and Mr. Lord [no political sinners, one for smuggling tobacco]; the Governor [evidently impressed in his favour] congratulated me on the near termination of my imprisonment.  The weather fine and warm."

    Fine warm Spring weather: who does not understand the freed prisoner's gladness, and the joy of that home visit to the good, anxious mother, "to convince her that imprisonment had not made him a worse son."  A good son surely, as sure to be a worthy citizen!  Now back to London for a livelihood, in order to fulfil the duties of a citizen.  But already he is a marked man: who will employ one of Carlile's shopmen?  Let him seek work and not find, and, wanting bread, learn the worst misery of the proscribed!  He is young.  Fortunately Carlile still needs him, will have him to conduct his business.

    Perhaps his position as manager, and afterwards his employment as compositor on the Republican, saved him from another imprisonment: the governmental raid was upon those who sold the publications.  Then came that kindly fever which took him to the care of good Julian Hibbert, procuring for him his noble friendship, finding him work until the Spring of 1828.

    He was not abandoning the cause for which he had at first adventured.  The man was unchangeable.  Though somewhere brought up under the shadow of a shovel-hat, he had with him his mother: a woman who would read Cobbett's "Gridiron" even in a parsonage.  And his first experience of punishment only set him more resolutely on the way he had traced out for himself, for the public good.  He came to London, an unknown man, in 1822.  In 1828 we find him acting as store-keeper of the "First London Co-operative Trading Association," in Red Lion Square, Holborn: in the formation of which association and others similar [20.] he had been an active helper.

    In the following year he took the management of another store, in Jerusalem Passage, Clerkenwell.  In '30 he rented a house, in Windmill Street, letting the upper part, and retaining for his own uses only two rooms on the ground-floor.  The front room was his shop, with a deal table for counter, on which to place his papers and books: no trashy "light" literature among them.  The back room was his home: an old sofa did duty for bed; he was his own servant for all work, preparing his own spare meals, waiting upon himself.  And here he began to print for his own publications, when customers were not, or working before and after the hours of business.  Lowell's words on Garrison may be applied to him :—

"In a small chamber, friendless, and unseen,
     Toil's o'er his types one poor, unlearn'd young man;
 The place was dark, unfurnitured and mean;—
     Yet there the freedom of a race began.

"Help came but slowly; surely no man yet
     Put lever to the heavy world with less;
 What need of help?   He knew how types were set;
     He had a dauntless sprit, and a press."

After a while he so far enlarged his domain as to make room for a housekeeper, his niece, his sister's daughter, afterwards the wife of his friend Richard Moore.

    The Fast-day prosecution was in 1832, when the jury stood between him and a second imprisonment; counting preliminary six weeks in 1823 as nothing.  In '33 he was with his friend and fellow-offender Hetherington in Clerkenwell prison: six months each for the Poor Man's Guardian.  This, what we call his second prison-service, had such aggravation of punishment as is disclosed by his Petition to the "Commons;" the deprivation of that which is most cared for by decent men: some privacy, some mental solace and respectable society.  Subjected to the companionship of the vilest and most brutal criminals, a compelled listener to "the most horrid swearing and the grossest licentiousness;" refused even occasional withdrawal to the retirement of a solitary cell—[a separate sleeping-cell, which had not been obtained without urgent solicitation.  If I mistake not, both he and Hetherington had at the first to sleep in the general ward]: and this suffering, this moral torture, dread of vermin and disease superadded, was inflicted on them illegally, under the summary jurisdiction of police-magistrates, for selling a paper which afterwards, upon trial before a Jury, was declared to be a publication strictly according to Law.

    That six months passed; and he was not crushed nor converted.  Only with Hibbert's legacy he began to enlarge his publishing operations, and continued active as ever in political and co-operative move-merits.

    In 1834 he moved to 18, Commercial-place, City-road—still Finsbury; being one of the lessees and manager of the Hall of Science, a hall near by, used for popular meetings; having care of that as well as his own trade.  Here, having now reached thirty-five years of age, he on the 3rd of June brought home a Wife, the daughter of his old (somewhile deceased) friend Robert Byerley.

    Now surely he will give up a single man's enthusiasm, and provide first hereafter for the interests of his family and home.  He is of more heroic mould.  Duty to him is (not independent of, but) higher than wife or home.  And his wife is one with him: would not seduce him to play the craven.  She has married him to be his helper, not his hinderer.  On the 3rd of June he is married; a week later he goes with his wife to see his old bed-rid mother, eighty-two years of age, and before the end of the month is again summoned as an offender to the police-court.  On the 7th of August he again enters his prison, for six months more, leaving the newly-wedded wife to manage his business during his absence.  I give in her own words what here follows.

    "We were married on the third of June, 1834.  On the 25th he was sentenced (in his absence) for selling the Conservative, one of Hetherington's unstamped papers.  He left home; stayed a week or two with Hetherington; wrote me directions about the business, of which I then knew nothing; and then went to Jersey, to the house of his first London friend, Thomas Hooper. [21.]  He returned in August, and was with me for a few days.  On the 7th of August two Bow-street officers arrested him: he was going along the City-road [on some election business].  They let him return a moment, to bid me farewell: and then took him to Clerkenwell Prison.  I went every day but two (Sundays excepted) all the six months.  It was a bitter winter; but we never met under a roof, only in the open yard, with no seat.  They let me take him food and sheets for- his loose straw bed, which was on a shelf, in a bare stone cell;—no fire; no glass, but only bars to the windows.  Some books I took him (Lawrence's Lectures on Physiology, Morgan's Philosophy of Morals,' they would not allow him to have."

    In his prison he writes to cheer the young wife: one day, perhaps, when she can not come: a letter that may give some glimpses of the man's nature.

"New Prison, Clerkenwell: September 12, 1834.

    "My dearest Ellen!  I read and re-read your note. . . . Do not suppose that my imprisonment gives me pain: it is not that; it is the separation from you. . . . Never mind!  I am now recovering, and your love and attachment will more than repay all I have endured.  I have no wish beyond that of making you happy and endeavouring as far as possible to make the world, or rather its inhabitants, more comfortable.  I want neither wealth nor greatness.  Your confidence and the means honestly to pay my way are the bounds of my ambition.  I care not how much I have to work, nor for the quality or quantity of food I eat, so long as I can keep clear of dependence upon others.  Surely we can do this . . . . . . . .

    "I am fond of home, of privacy, of books, of a select society of friends . . .

    "Do not let my staidness disconcert you or make you think I am unhappy.  Remember, my dear Ellen! what a school of adversity I have been trained in, the obstacles I have had to encounter, the struggles I have had to make; to which add that my studies, by choice—I admit, have been of a painful kind.  The study of the cause and remedy for human woe has engrossed all my thoughts  . . . . . . . .

    "No one has stronger attachments when once formed, . . . my Mother is to me an everlasting affection.  She deserves it, too: yet I never could pen those empty and heartless words that some can."

    Truly a man not given to express his feelings in many words.  A man of the puritan, or quaker stamp; silent and reserved save when occasion called him out.  Then he was a ready and impressive speaker, if not eloquent.  But if his tenderest heart-thoughts had not words, they had the richer growth of deeds.  His loving kindnesses towards his mother and his sister, [22.] toward all his relations, and his wife's also, so far as his means enabled were generously manifested.—I turn back to his letters.  Here is his prison life:―

    "I bear my position cheerfully.  See how I pass my time.  I rise between eight and nine; wash and shave; breakfast, wash up my cup and saucer; walk for a time; sit down; read some instructive or amusing book; then pass a delightful hour with you; walk again; dine, and read; walk again; tea; walk a short time.  Locked up in my dormitory, five feet wide by seven feet long, make my straw bed; sit down and read or write [There was no fire in his cell those winter nights.] until eleven or twelve o'clock; then think of you as I lay down for the night.  Thus I pass my time.  Were you with me, what would signify bolts, bars, or locks?  Take care of yourself!  You are to me everything."

    From other letters—as manly, as affectionate, as uncomplaining, bearing witness to the bravery and gentle-heartedness of the man as well as to the worth and fortitude of the wife, I could but will not quote.  So much given may be sufficient, from letters not meaned for any eyes but those of the loved and loving.

    Now again be repeated those Words of a Believer: When you see a man led to prison, or punishment, say not in your haste—This is some wicked man who has committed a crime against his fellows!

    For peradventure it is a good man―

    Nay! not per adventure: through any chance or happening.  This surely is the good man who has striven to serve his fellows, and so is punished by the oppressors.

    Well, having fulfilled this third term, six months for illegal selling of the Conservative, he came out of prison on the twenty-first of January, 1835.  Be it noted that the Guardian, between which and the Conservative there was scarcely a technical difference, had been declared a strictly legal publication in June of the preceding year.  But both papers were Hetherington's, and by the aid of the technicality the authorities had their way.  After this Watson was unmolested.  Indeed, by Hetherington and him, and their five or six hundred assistants the Government had been defeated.


My story has been of public life and acts, with only such glimpses of the man himself as could not but appear in that relation.  What presentment have I given of him?  Chiefly of a stern, uncompromising antagonist, a stiffly upright stirrer of strife, hard, obstinate, and rebellious?  His enemies might have seen him in this light: his only enemies the wrongdoers against whom he stood.  And my readers, some perchance, may not have seen further.  A plain working-man, habited, even as he was fed and lodged, no better than an ordinary mechanic, who held mere finery in contempt, who would have no luxuries of any kind, who had been ashamed of the appearance of costliness or indulgence while men hungered within his reach; a rigid puritan, whose eyes were sad, whose aspect was severe, who had nor quips nor cranks for your amusement:—Does this describe him?  His photograph without name beneath it would pass for portrait of one of Cromwell's Ironsides.  I know no modern face with more of that seventeenth-century religiously earnest character.  But look at it again!  Those sad eyes under the bent brows are full of womanly tenderness.  A smile of kindliest benevolence, ay! and a sense of humour too, lurks around the firm-set lips.  This man, who had not shrunk from any martyrdom,—I have seen him fling his hat over his head and leap up as he had in his boyhood, according to an old country superstition, when he heard the cuckoo for the first time in Spring.  This man, the firm voice of whose severity rebuked throned Injustice, drew the little children to his knees by the undoubted gentleness of his inviting glance.  If he had not much fun, no word a girl should not have heard was ever on his tongue; his manner, though grave, was cheerful; if self-possessed and strict, he was yet companionable; patient with opposition; never querulous; considerate for others in all respects; stoutly set upon his own way, but tolerant of those who went differently; not harsh, albeit hard against tyranny and vice, Vice of himself he knew not.  If ever there was a virtuous man, it was he.  His moral conduct was irreproachable.  The white marble statue, which his life deserved, was not more pure, more free from flaw or stain.  And let it be remarked that his youth was in the days of George, Prince-regent, (the sty time of England) when even the "goddess" Liberty, so lately come from France, had something of the harlot in her nature; when men in their extreme reaction against repression forgot the righteousness of self-restraint, and freedom for the sake of Order, the freedom of the stars in their appointed courses, seemed almost hypocrisy, or was dreaded to be a new phase of the old Unequal Law.  The wandering, the excesses, the licentiousness of even noble men of that day would have more excuse if their judges (of this present generation) could realize their surroundings, and recall the intoxication of that time of renewed youth to Western Europe, in which the double chain of monarchy and priestcraft was riven by France,—though soldered since, no more to be reforged.  Days of the Saturnalia of freed slaves!  The chains now knocked off, the walk is not that of sober freemen.  To return to one for whom excuse was never needed.

    Severe and self-denying as Watson was, he was warm of heart, and generous to the full extent of his means.  Devoting all his gains to further public services, he had little respite from his work.  His one holiday, for sake of health, was an occasional day or, when it could be so managed, some days in the country (for which he, born and bred there naturally yearned), and long rambles in the fresh air with some friend.  Many an hour have we spent together under the trees of Woodford forest, within one day's easy reach of London; and no artist companion I ever had more thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the mountain-climbs in our beautiful Lake Country than did Watson, when, after a severe sickness, he came to recruit with me, then living at Brantwood (the home now of Ruskin), by Coniston-Water.  Seriously then we talked of his coming, whenever he could withdraw from business, to live with me and help in my republican propagandism, and the bringing out of my English Republic.  After circumstances, not the will of either, hindered the fulfilment of our purpose, to my loss.

    I have said, the country holidays were his one enjoyment, his one recreation and rest.  Not that he had not other tastes; but he spared neither time nor money for his pleasures.  But after he gave up publishing he took a lodging for himself and wife in the neighbourhood of the Crystal Palace, at Norwood, so that he might daily wander among its treasures of art and manufacture, and hear the music.  I go back to earlier times.

    Three years, including the prison time, he rented the house in Commercial-place; then for a year he found it more convenient to occupy the lower rooms of the Hall of Science.  From there he removed across the street to 15, City-road.  In 1843 he had a shop at 5, Paul's Alley, and afterwards at 3, Queen's Head Passage, Paternoster Row, where I find him some eleven years later, the date of the testimonial.  The upper part of the house in the Passage he had, however, let, retaining only the shop for his own use; and had for some two or three years been living, in easier circumstances but simply as of old, at 17, Thornhill Terrace (127 Hemingford-road), Islington.  Here he continued to reside until, I think, 1865 or '66, when he went to Norwood, to be within walking reach of the Crystal Palace.  Though out of business he still retained his interest in the old questions of freedom of opinion; and if as years passed by they found him less active than heretofore, the cause lay in the years themselves,—the stagnant years that succeeded a period of so great excitement.  There was no let or deadening of his patriotic and philanthropic zeal; the man was yet ready if opportunity had invited or occasion called him forth.  He aided his friend Moore, throughout the prolonged struggle, for an absolutely untaxed Press; [23.] and was, as said before, one of the Committee of sympathizers with unhappy Poland in 1864.  His devoted love of Liberty, the Liberty which is the right of growth, knew no abatement; and the old man, nearing the term of three-score and ten years, was young at heart.

    The evening of his life was worthy of the morning.  Happy in his home with a wife who loved and honoured him; loved and honoured too by many friends; in fair health (though tried in earlier years); with an income (not greater indeed than a day-labourer's) sufficient for his simple needs and all his own earning, his books and leisure, and outside opportunities of enjoyment: he had the well-deserved reward of all his conscientious work, his self-denial and devotedness for the good of others.  Day by day there was his walk to the Palace, and hours of quiet pleasure, viewing and examining the marvels of art and science here stored.  More than all, there was a never-failing delight in the frequent concerts.  Knowing not a note of music, he yet had a liking for the best.  He would come home and say—"I am late, but we had a selection from Handel (or from Mozart or Beethoven) on the Grand Organ, and I could not but stay to hear it."  Sometimes the wife accompanied him.  Often too he would meet old friends,—it might be by accident, it might be they had come with purpose to see and spend some hours with him.  But he was no less happy alone.  So passed the next five or six years.

    A severe sickness of his wife, in 1872, first broke him down.  Fear for her, anxiety and exertion, overtaxed his strength.  When, returning from America, I last saw him, in 1872-3, he was suffering from intensest melancholy without apparent cause, and failing fast.  Winter of 1873-4 he stayed at Blaydon-on-Tyne, at the house of Joseph Cowen, who, and his wife also, esteemed and loved him; and their careful kindness seemed to revive him.  Helped further by a journey into Wales with his old friend Hooper, he rallied for a while.  It was only for a while.  The sadness returned.  Still he would go to the Palace: the music cheered him.  But the fire of life was flickering out.  Some days of wavering memory, one week in bed,—and the weary had found his rest: passing away in his sleep, without a struggle, without a sigh.  He died on the twenty-ninth of November, 1874, at Burns Cottage, Hamilton-road, Lower Norwood; and was buried in Norwood Cemetery.  A plain granite obelisk erected over the grave, through the ready action of an old Chartist comrade, Joseph W. Corfield, marks the spot where sleeps that "noblest work of God"―


On the grey granite obelisk is the following inscription:


And on a square block of polished red granite beneath:

Born Sept. 21, 1799—Died Nov. 29, 1874.

Gentle as brave he shunn'd no duteous strife
    To help his fellow men opposing wrong.
Scorning reward, he freely spent his life;
    And made of all his days a patriot song.


In personal appearance Watson was not remarkable: he would not have been spoken of as handsome, though he was well-made and well-featured, and of goodly stature,—his passport says—"height 5 feet, 8 inches" (I would have said taller), and "light complexion, blue eyes and brown hair;" square-shouldered, and firmly but sparely made, certainly no tendency to corpulence.  His head square and well set; his features regular; till late in life close-shaven.  In the latter years he let his beard grow.  In ordinary talk his manner was generally serious, earnest always, his matter weighty and sincere; the tone of his voice was pleasant, his words were correct and well-spoken: sometimes with those nearest to him, or when moved, recurring to the Yorkshire old country form, yet used, the quaker thou and thee, instead of you.  On the platform his bearing was simple, dignified, earnest, and impressive, and without gestures; his speech unhesitating but deliberate, well chosen-words clearly enunciated, and sound argument.  No oratorical display, but straight-hitting strong good sense delivered direct from the heart.  He seemed always, and in private as well as public, to have before him the ideal of what an English workman ought to be [I think of him always as a workman, because, though he had a shop, he was in no sense a tradesman—a buyer and seller for gain], not through any priggish assumption born of introspective formality.  Too healthy a man to require continual self-probing, he grew as a tree, in worthiness, though using his human reason in training and pruning for more certain growth.

    Of his political opinions there is little need to speak, after all already told.  They may be summed up as of the school of Paine, those writings have been, and still are, the political Gospel of our English working classes.  The more philosophical views of the French revolutionists, whatever additional impulse they have given, were never so well digested by the masses as the plainer common sense of their own countryman.  French teachings rather had issue in the thoughts of the more scholarly of English politicians, an indirect rather than a direct influence upon English action.

    On his religious meditations I do not care to intrude.  Such speculations, so far as they concern only the man himself, it seems to me are no concern of any one else.  Had he been questioned, I think he might have replied in the words of Paine—To do good is my religion; and have found sufficient ground for action in these of good old John Woolman—Whoever rightly advocates the good of some thereby promotes the good of the whole.  I would imagine (I do not recollect to have heard him say) that his faith was much the same as Paine's: a simple belief in some over-ruling Power which leads the harmony of the Universe,—whence he deducted his maxim of duty, toward which he could not but square his life, uncaring for any bribe of "heaven," nor needing to be driven by dread of "hell."  I do not know that he troubled himself about particular providences, or essayed to fathom the Infinite, in order to justify the ways of God; but I do know that he had a clear perception of righteousness and the Higher Law, to which he reverently bowed his life in daily and hourly worship.  Of course I am aware that "only this" takes him from the pale of Christianity and relegates him to the glorious company of "Infidels."  Which may not matter much.  As he cared not to talk of what thoughtful speculations stirred his soul, I shall not pretend to speak concerning them, but rather leave his religion with this report, indefinite or precise according to the reader's judgment.  For myself, I learned his faith sufficiently from his work.

    His favourite poem was Bryant's Thanatolsis: it may be because expressing his own as calm contemplation of death as rest after a well spent life.  To look for glory or reward was not a necessity for one whose work was reward enough.  The last books he read were Forster's Lives of Sir John Eliot and Goldsmith (Goldsmith but a few days before the end): characteristic of himself,—brave and conscientious as the first, and gentle-hearted as the other.

    He was not a man of genius; he did not care to make a name; he had "no ambition for authorship."  Yet he deserved the oaken crown.  I never before considered whether he had or had not genius.  In the presence of his integrity of life it seems a question altogether unrequired.  God forbid that I should depreciate genius!  Assuredly do I recognise in the flashes of a Byron or a Burns the wondrous lightnings of the Eternal.  But in the steady life-splendour of one who never faltered, who never swerved from right, whose careful thought was always obeyed by corresponding deeds, whose word was his bond, whose record is without stain—I perceive—if not the exceptional fire of heaven—the clear common daylight, in which the Highest is revealed to us, as by the pillar of flame, to guide or cheer us on our way.

    It has been my rare fortune to have as friends and to be intimate with many noble men: the greatest of this age—of the ages, Joseph Mazzini,—the Polish martyr, Worcell,—the Russian patriot, Herzen,—the venerable Lamennais,—William Bridges Adams,—Leigh Hunt, beside artist comrades close and dear, Thomas Sibson, Edward Wehnert, Alfred Stephens, and some yet living:—but of no man's friendship am I more proud than of the forty years friendship of JAMES WATSON.

    With what more words shall I conclude?  I can find none fitter to my own feelings than those I wrote on first hearing of his death: printed in the New York Evening Post, afterwards in England, in the Newcastle Chronicle.

ONCE more the Powers have taken hence
    Their own.   Why fall our tears?
Who gave resume!   O vain defence
    Of slowly fading years!

How many noble Englishmen,
    Death! hast thou in thy fold:
Their legends writ with firmest pen
    On History's tombs of gold?

Yet he, whom thou hast gather'd now,
    May rank among thy best,
Though passing with unlaurell'd brow
    Unnoticed to his rest.

To-day is come and will depart,―
    To-morrow none will say―
From English life our truest heart
    So lately passed away.

Only an obscure workman he,
    Poor without place of birth;
Yet born to make his country free
    By energy of worth.

O peerless Milton! flawless Vane!
    We miss you doubly now,―
Your thought in him lived once again
    The same undaunted brow.

Was his before the front of Power,
    The same unprison'd soul,
The same clear sight beyond the hour
    To see the further goal.

The same integrity of life:
    He gave it without stint;
And loving peace, yet sought the strife
    At Duty's lightest hint.

A man who knew not how to lie―
    He knew not how to fear:
Upright in his firm honesty,
    And loving as sincere.

A patriot, strict to private due;
    Severe, and yet so sweet;
So glad a nature, his smile drew
    The children round his feet.

O poorly rear'd, as lowly born!
    When thy sad eyes are dim
Before the uplifted hand of Scorn,
    Point thou beyond to him.

O Labour's bondslaves, who would claim
    The freeman's fitter place!
Write in your hearts this labourer's name
    Whose life brought labour grace;

Who made his work a poem grand,
    No poet's words more high;
Who dared and suffered to withstand
    Thy spoilers, Industry!

Not asking for himself reward
    Of praise or worldly part;
Still giving, from the exhaustless hoard
    Of his most royal heart.

Brave as the bravest Ironside,
    Yet gentlest of the brave ―
O Friend! like thee to have lived and died
    Were worth a noteless grave.

    Knowing the world's forgetfulness of those who have passed out of sight, I did not when writing those lines expect a monument to be raised to him; nor think until asked by Mrs. Watson of writing this Memoir.  Would that it more fully represented my love for him; would that it were worthier of the man!




1. Conspirators by contrivance of the Government.  The conspiracy was concocted by a Government Spy.  No uncommon proceeding with monarchical governments; and done, it is said, for the sake of example.
2. "Lines written during the execrable Castlereagh Administration," by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
3. In the agricultural districts.  And for mechanics: date March, 1833:—"W
ILLIAM CARTER, Journeyman Framework-knitter, of Leicester: his average labour seventeen hours a day, his earnings nine shillings a week, subject to the following deductions: Frame-rent, 1s. 3d.; Winding, 4d.; Candles, 9d.; Needles, 3d.; Master's charge on work, 3d.; Coals for the shop, 3d.; Seaming, 10d.; leaving 5s. 1d. for house-rent, fuel, soap for washing, food, and clothing, for himself, a wife, and five children."
4. Among them not to be forgotten Benjamin Flower, the Editor of the Cambridge Intelligencer, with his profound reverence for womanhood, the father of two of the most beautiful and most gifted and influential women in England,—Eliza Flower, the musical composer, and Sarah, author of Vivia Perpetua, Hymns, &c., the wife of W. Bridges Adams.
5.    Including the Address on the Abolition of Royalty.  Translated from the French, in Brissot's Patriote Francais of 27 October, 1792; unknown in any previous English version.  It first appeared, placarded by Achille Duchatelet, on the walls of Paris, on occasion of the King's flight.  The first demand for the Republic.
6.    Poor-Laws and Paupers illustrated, 1833-4.  Harriet Martineau, as it seems to me, has not been quite understood.  Instead of being an exact writer, she was in matters of fact most inexact.  Her famous Poor-Law Tales, got up to order, to prepare the way for the inhuman Whig "Poor-Law Amendment" Act, are clever romances.  She could not wilfully misrepresent, but she gives half-truths, which most often are worse than lies.  How much of this was owing to her imperfect hearing, how much rather to one-sidedness of brain, it might be hard to say.  But the same want of exactitude is noticeable even in a book in which there is barely possibility of personal bias; her Guide to the Lake Country, the district in which she lived.  Having so to speak of her writings, I am bound also to add my full recognition of the manly integrity of her life; her desire for truth and her stedfast adherence to whatever she thought to be true.  She was a feminine Cobbett, sturdy, somewhat antagonistic, honest, well-meaning, but hasty in judgment and expression; notwithstanding all her manliness with the woman's weakness of argument and impulsiveness of assertion.
7.    Before this he had brought out daily, and then weekly, Penny Letters to the People, by the Poor Man's Guardian, acting upon a suggestion by Carpenter, who proposed so to evade the stringency of Castlereagh's Act.  The first of these Letters was issued in October, 1830; but on his being convicted of illegality he changed the title to the P
OOR MAN'S GUARDIAN, in bold and open defiance.  The first number with this heading is dated 9 July, 1831.  The Guardian was at first edited by Edward Mayhew; and after his untimely death, by James Bronterre O'Brien.
8.    One of the imprisoned and cruelly treated, as his own story has told us, was Watson.  Not in opposition, but in aid of the common cause, he too published a weekly paper, similar to the Guardian,—the Working-Man's Friend, which escaped prosecution, the fiercer assailant perhaps drawing off the government fire.

    Among these sufferers for the Liberty of the press A
BEL HEYWOOD is not to be left unnoticed.  He was wholesale agent in Manchester for the Guardian, and a fair target for prosecution.  He took his prison degree, paid his fines when he could afford it, and went on selling his Guardians.  Then the Authorities seized the papers in the hands of the carriers, and various devices had to be sought in order that they might pass in safety.  Some packed with shoes, some in chests of tea, some otherwise, they sent the proscribed goods through the country; and their circulation continued until the reduction of the duty, as was expected, ruined the cheap papers.  By this time the Guardian had been made the foundation of a business; which Heywood's perseverance and ability enlarged until he, denounced in earlier days as seditious and a blasphemer, became a "well-to-do" citizen, and the honoured Mayor of Manchester.
In a list of those who took most active part in the association I note the names of Henry Hetherington, James Watson, William Lovett, Richard Moore, William Moore, John Cleave, Henry Vincent, Robert Hartwell, Henry Mitchell, William Savage, Charles H. Neesom, Thomas Ireland, S. Calderara, George Julian Harney: names to be ever held in grateful remembrance by English workingmen.
10.   An Address to the Working Classes of Belgium, I believe drawn up by Lovett, on occasion of the imprisonment of one Jacob Katz, for calling a public meeting of workmen to discuss their grievances.
11.   English Republic, Vol. i, Art. Chartism.  In the same article I wrote—From first to last Chartism never had a real intention, that is a clear resolve to act; and consequently never made even an endeavour at such an organization as would be necessary for successful action.  There was in the National Union of the Working Classes, and elsewhere, ordering for mutual instruction; there were not unfrequent efforts to broadcast political knowledge among the masses; there were well-tried arrangements for getting together so many thousand throats to bawl—"The Charter! and no surrender!" but there never was any serious endeavour to create and weld together a popular power with a determined object, determined means for obtaining it, and determination to act accordingly at whatever risk.  The elements of success were left out of view.  Nothing else.

    History, giving the meaning of Chartism, will say—It was the outcry of a long-felt want [in 1819 Cartwright's petition had a million signers], a people's protest.  Nothing more or less than that.
12.   The pluckiest on the Opposition bench; an aristocrat by nature as well as circumstance, yet ever on the people's side, as fearless as Roebuck and more popular, as Roebuck sided with the Whigs in their poor-law policy: a man to be honoured if only for his chivalrous conduct in the exposure of the infamous meddling with the Exiles' letters (Mazzini's and others') in 1844, in the English Post Office, when the Bandieras were betrayed to Austria, and Sir James Graham as whipping-boy for Lord Aberdeen got more than his share of the well-merited but insufficient punishment that followed that most rascally un-English proceeding.  My own and Lovett's letters to Mazzini were among those opened.  He and Watson were of the few public-spirited enough to characterize the conduct of the Government as it deserved.  In the Commons' debate Shiel, Macaulay, and Wakley stood with Duncombe; but the Liberal Party "would not embarrass" the Ministers.  Even Milner Gibson excused himself from speaking: his head "too full of Muscovado sugar."  And the Free Traders (some excepted, men such as W. J. Fox, Bridges Adams, old Francis Place, P. A. Taylor, and W. E. Higson, editor of the Westminster Review) were of course regardless of English honour.
13.   At our first meeting he was unanimously chosen president; but lie gave way to Thomas Cooper (author of the Purgatory of Suicides), then just from prison, whose name he thought might be more useful.

14. "We damn for ever this book of small size but huge depravity." Pope Gregory XVI.
15. Cleave also had been indicted, but the indictment was withdrawn on his promise to sell no more. The others were not men to compromise.
16. In after days the instigator and undiscovered leader of the one successful uprising in Britain since Cromwell,—the "Rebecca" movement in South Wales: a movement intended by him to be educational. His sister, a woman of decided character and, I believe, of republican principles, was the wife of Richard Cobden.
17. T
HOMAS POWELL (so trusted and in that and all other respects most worthy of trust—I need hardly say that he handed back the property to his friend) was a Chartist like the rest of us.  He too had had his twelvemonths gaol-lesson, graduating in patriotism.  Caught for some unguarded words, which were wrested into illegal contrary meanings, he was punished for being strong enough to hold men back, a man more dangerous than the mere mob-inciter.  After the failure of Chartism he busied himself with organizing an emigrating party to South America.  That too, failed.  He died, a few years later, in Trinidad.***
18. The Defence he dedicated to Watson.
19. Formed in 1847, at the instigation and with the help of Mazzini, in order "To enlighten the British Public as to the political condition and relations of Foreign Countries; to disseminate the principles of National Freedom and Progress; to embody and manifest an efficient public opinion in favour of the right of every People to Self-Government and the maintenance of their own Nationality; and to promote a good understanding between the Peoples of all Countries."  On the list of Council stood the names of W. B. Adams, Dr. Bowring, W. J. Fox, Goodwyn Barmby, Douglas Jerrold, T. S. Duncombe, P. A. Taylor, P. A. Taylor junior, beside others: the last-named, both father and son, with Moore and Watson, of the Council also, the most active of its members.
20. The fore-runners of the more successful co-operative stores of to-day.  The first of these associations was, I believe, started at Brighton, in 1828; and numerous others soon followed throughout the country: the first necessary funds raised by weekly contributions of all the members.  They failed, after many trials perhaps from many causes: one sufficient. that there was then no legal security for such associations,— association for any purpose whatever discountenanced by the ruling powers.
21. A right worthy friend!  Of whom Mrs. Watson adds, writing to me since her husband's death,—"A true, kind friend to me now proud of their fifty years' friendship."
22. Fifteen years older than himself.  "A gentle, loving creature, very proud of her brother;" says the wife, writing to me lately.

By her work as a dress-maker, she helped her mother to support him during his childhood.  She afterwards married a carpenter, on whose earnings of fifteen shillings a week, supplemented by her own, she had to bring up, and brought up well, a large family.  In those expressive words of Ebenezer Elliott, a many-childed. bone-weary woman; a quiet quaker-like gentlewoman, as I remember her, of nice manners, worthy of any position, of any companionship or surroundings.


Some idea may be had of the labour here involved when I state, on Collect's authority, that the Committee of which Moore was chairman [appointed by the People's Charter Union as the "Newspaper (penny) Stamp Abolition Committee," afterwards Committee of the Association for repeal of all the taxes on knowledge,] from its formation, in 1849, to the abolition of the duty on paper, in 1861, had to meet 473 times.


[Home] [W. J. Linton.] [Memories] [The Chartists] [Claribel] [Misc Poems] [Stories for Children] [James Watson] [Republican Letters] [The English Republic] [Site Search] [Main Index]