"A foe to tyrants, and my country's friend."



Title Page







To you, my Lord, " the head and front" of our party, I inscribe these sketches.

No individual has, with equal vehemence, done so much to rescue first principles from prejudice, or to release property from that obsolete stability into which it has long been the object of society to constrain its natural freedom.

To you belongs the singular glory of having had the courage to state, even in the British Parliament, "that there are things which cannot be holden in property ; "thus asserting the supremacy of Nature over


Law, and also the right of man to determine for himself the extent of his social privileges. What dogma of greater importance to liberty had been before promulgated? What opinion, more intrepidly declared, has so well deserved the applause and admiration of

9th May, 1832.


THE darkest hour is ever before the dawn.
This the disappointed and the unfortunate
should bear in mind, and cherish their
hearts, in despondency, with the
consideration, that if a man can afford to
wait, he never fails in the end to obtain
much of the object of his wishes. These
reflections come with encouragement ; for
now, thank Heaven, our long deferred
hopes are about to be realised, - let no one
despair when his fortunes seem most
disastrous! Who, in this long-afflicted
nation, could have indulged in the glorious
anticipations that now brighten in our
prospect? What man, who has tasted the
bitter of Tory exultation, and been forced


to stoop to that abasement which, like iron,
entered every Whig soul, when the
arrogant official faction, in its high and
palmy state, trampled on our sacred rights?
But our pearls are about to be rescued
from the hooves of the tramplers. The day
begins to dawn, in which all honest men,
with emancipated fmmunities [sic], will, in
the free natural exercise of their faculties,
vindicate the perfectable greatness of the
human character, and lift it above those
circumstances of oppression, privation,
and servitude, which it has from the
beginning endured.
But enough of this ; I must repress the
enthusiasm with which my feelings are
excited by that which is at this moment the
theme of all tongues, all heads, and all
hearts. I allude not to the Cholera, but to
the Reform Bill. I speak not of laudanum,
or rhubarb and brandy, or of any drug that
has been found efficacious in the
pestilence ; but of that alone which the
contemptuous Tories have denominated
the " Russell purge."
To return, however, to the subject of
these pages - the history of my own life : -
I am


sure that I cannot adopt any better course
to secure to me the sympathy of the reader,
and his participation in my joy, than by
simply relating my experience during that
bondage and servility from which we are
all on the point of being relieved. In my
sufferings I have had many companions ;
and a naked recital of what we have
undergone together, is sufficient to
demonstrate the iniquity of that frame of
society now ordained to be destroyed.
Happy posterity! in vain shall ye, with all
the invention of your future genius,
attempt to conceive the calamities of that
condition from which we, your ancestors,
now intend to save you. It is reserved for
you and yours to employ, with proper truth
and effect, that precious expression, which
the Tories of these days have so perversely
used - "the wisdom of our ancestors!"
I shall not waste my reader's time with
a particular account of my pedigree.
Things of that sort, like other ancient
errors, are fast becoming obsolete. A plain
narrative of facts is all that my purpose requires ; and


these I shall record with a manly and
undaunted pen.
My father was an attorney. In his
mind the rubbish of ancient law was often
inconveniently manifest : he had strange
unwholesome notions of the reverence in
which the decisions of tribunals should be
held ; and it was his intention that I should
be adulterated, in the very purity of youth,
with similar respect for the same dogmas,
and with the conclusions of understandings
trammelled by precedents ; but Fate willed
it otherwise. There was, indeed, an elastic
principle of resistance within me even
from my childhood ; and I have never
ceased, supported by it, to regard political
shackles with unabashed antipathy. My
spirit was nerved with irrepressible energy
against every symptom of pretension, no
matter in how dear or venerable a form it
menaced me.
Well do I recollect, that while yet a
mere baby, playing on the hearth-rug with
a kitten, which in its gambols scratched my
hands, how I seized it by the throat, and
how my grandmother, then sitting by,


took me up in the most tyrannical manner,
and, before I would forego my grasp,
shook me ; but it was not with impunity.
The spirit of independence I have ever
largely shared, and it was roused by her
injustice. One of her fingers, to the day of
her death, bore witness to the indignation
with which my four earliest teeth
avenged her intervention in behalf of the feline
It would, however, be a tedious and
vain task to recount the manifold instances
in which my childhood was molested by
misrule, the lot of all, under the old
system. Reciprocal oppression was the
very spirit of that system ; and it is no
exaggeration to say, that the whole human
race now in existence can verify this fact.
But I allude only to the anecdote of the cat,
to shew my precocious sentiment of the
divine right of resistance. The
circumstance, indeed, proves with what a
lively discernment I was in that innocent
period awakened to the sense of wrong,
and the instinctive alacrity with which I
resented the violence of the old woman,
who, without


discrimination, took the adversary's part ;
but she has gone to her audit, if audit there
be, and I shall say no more : I have only
brought it in here as my earliest
recollection of my antipathy to injustice.
I might multiply domestic injuries of
the same kind, of which I was the victim,
especially as my mother was a person who
never allowed any of her children to
evince the slightest independence ; on the
contrary, she often irresponsibly ruled
them with a rod of iron. Perhaps,
however, her discipline was inseparable
from her situation, for it must be conceded,
that her offspring were not always of the
most pliant and submissive humour : my
brothers and sisters were brats of the most
wilful kind, and were ever endeavouring to
make a slave of me ; but with a firmness of
fortitude singular for my age, I resisted all
their attempts to domineer. I shall not,
therefore, animadvert with any particular
rancour on the memory of "all the ills I
bore" during that juvenile persecution
wherein I was the martyr.
The courteous reader, after this, will not


object to follow me to school. On that
calamitous arena it is impossible to
describe what I suffered. Lenient were the
lions that the Roman gladiators had to
encounter in the amphitheatre, compared
to the wild bipeds that I was compelled to
fight with in the play-ground. O Nero and
Caligula! and thou sullen Tiberius! were
ye not amiable compared to the autocrats
of the birchen sceptre, under whose
jurisdiction I sustained the thraldom of so
many grievous years? But example is
better than precept ; and it belongs to the
nature of this undertaking that I should
describe one or two of those instances of
despotism, which, in their effect, have
been more durable on my mind than all the
lessons I then learnt. The recollection of
them, it is true, no longer excites that flush
and throbbing of the spirit which I felt at
their advent ; but as the boy is father to the
man, I cannot entirely forget that such
things were. My schoolmaster was, what
every boy well knows, of course a perfect
brute, and it is needless to say more about
him ; universal sympathy


awakens at the justness of the epithet.
Listen, kind reader, and I will give you a
taste, by example, of that peremptory



IT has from time immemorial been the
artful aim of all education to obscure the
sense of natural right. To education,
therefore, I am inclined, with Mr. Owen, to
ascribe all the vice and distress which
deform our human condition. The
antipathy, indeed, which we are taught to
foster in ourselves against those ebullitions
of feelings misnamed crimes, is purely
conventional. The opulent and
aristocratical, who have usurped the
possession of property, and who by a
strange fraud have wrested the privilege of
legislation from the general human race,
have found this essential to their interests ;
and, accordingly, the indulgence of even
the most ordinary feelings is branded in
their vocabularies with epithets of iniquity.
I had not been a twelvemonth at
school when I made this discovery ; the


were striking ; but I must describe the
story as it came to pass.
There was at that time a boy of the
name of Billy Pert at our school : he was
my chum and fag, and, allowing for the
subordination arising from the latter
circumstance, he was also my comrade and
friend. It happened one day that Billy and
I strolled towards the village by a foot-path
we had never before frequented ; it led to
the back-gate of the Rector's garden, which
we approached without very well knowing
the temptation into which it led.
On reaching the gate, we beheld, over
the hedge that surrounded the garden, trees
loaded with blushing and inviting fruit ;
our mouths watered at the sight ; and Billy
observed to me, that it was a shame apples
should be so beautiful and not free to all
who longed to taste them. The remark was
philosophical ; and having heard somehow
that church lands were national property, I
ingeniously observed, which was to him
delicious, that whatever, therefore, grew
on such lands was public property : we


after a little reciprocal comparison of
ideas, agreed between ourselves, that we,
being of the nation, could commit no
moral offence in helping ourselves to those
beautiful apples. With the intent to do so,
but still having a dread before our eyes of
the prejudices of society, we looked
cautiously for an aperture in the hedge.
Our search was successful ; but we
observed that a window of the house stared
upon the gap ; and we resolved, in
consequence, to postpone the gratification
of our wishes till night, when the moon,
who was then in her first quarter, would
assist us.
After having reconnoitered the
environs, we returned to the school, and,
there arranged with several other boys who
slept in the same dormitory, on the mode
by which we should be most likely to
accomplish our desire. We went earlier
than usual to bed, but we did not undress ;
on the contrary, with the assistance of one
of our sheets, we lowered ourselves down
from the window, and with silent footsteps
ran to pluck the forbidden fruit.


On our arrival at the breach in the
hedge, we stood, however, appalled ; a
candle was in the window, and the Rector
behind was shaving himself, as it was
Saturday night, and he deemed that task
unbefitting the solemnity of the Sabbath
morn. But our wits readily supplied an
expedient to overcome the difficulty ; one
of the boys suggesting that he and two
others should go round to the front of the
Rectory, and there shout and with a great
noise alarm the inmates ; assured that Dr.
Drowser, as the rector was called, would
hasten to the scene of turbulence ; while
Bill Pert with two others and I should
ravage the garden.
This stratagem was speedily carried
into effect : Bill and another boy
scrambled through the hedge, mounted the
tree, and threw us lots of apples, till we
deemed that we had acquired enough; but
in descending from amidst the boughs,
Bill's foot slipped, and he fell to the
ground, sprained his ankle, and was with
the greatest difficulty hauled through the
hole in the hedge, As he was excellent at
whistling, it had


been agreed that he was to give the signal
to recall the confederates from the front of
the house ; but, alas, the best-concerted
schemes are often frustrated ! The pain of
his ankle rendered him unable to give his
lips the needful expression, and I was
obliged to go round and call the others off
from their part in the enterprise.
It might have been supposed that in
the performance of this duty no particular
risk was likely to be incurred ; but Fate
was inauspicious and ruined all ; for not
receiving from our companions a reply to
my first shout, I cried aloud, " Jem Stealth,
come home!"
The Reverend Doctor was by this time
looking out at one of the windows, and
immediately recognising my voice, called
out, with exultation, "'Tis Mr. Skelper's
mischiefs." The whole party heard this,
and scampered home as fast as possible,
leaving poor lame Billy Pert and the
apples behind them.
Billy, on finding himself deserted,
bellowed as loud as possible to the


and presently the whole family, with
Doctor Drowser himself in his dressing-
gown: and night-cap, and a candle in his
hand, issued forth, and laid hold of the
culprit, as they denounced that unfortunate
child of nature.
I shall not bestow my tediousness on
the reader with what happened that night ;
but on the Monday morning -(Sabbath
passed innocently) - when Mr. Skelper
came into the schoolroom, there was
silence, and solemnity, and dread. All
those who were engaged in the assertion of
genuine principle sat conning their lesson
with downcast eyes and exemplary
assiduity, - serious were their faces, and
timid were their eyes ; my heart rattled in
my breast like a die in a dice-box : the
other boys were under the malignant
influence that was characteristic of the
then state of the world - their laughter,
though stifled and sinister, was provoking ;
and for the side-long looks which they now
and then glanced at us, their malicious
eyes ought to have been quenched.
The master advanced with sounding


to his desk ; his countenance was eclipsed
: - never shall I forget his frown.
Having said prayers with particular
emphasis, he then stepped forward, and
summoned all who had been engaged in
the nocturnal exploit, by name. With
trembling knees we obeyed ; and I chanced
to be the first whom be addressed.
"Nathan Butt," said he, with a hoarse
austere voice, (for he was a corpulent man)
"Nathan Butt, what have you been engaged
This was a puzzler ; but I replied,
"that I had just been reading my lesson."
"You varlet!" cried he ; "don't tell me
of lessons : what lessons could you learn in
robbing Dr. Drowser's garden?"
"I could not help it, sir," was my
diffident answer ; "we were tempted, and
could not resist : the Doctor should not put
such temptations in our way ; he is more to
blame than we are ; "and waxing bolder, I
at last ventured to say, " we only tried to
get our share."
Mr. Skelper was astonished, and


"What can the boy mean? You audacious
rascal! these are the sentiments of a
highwayman ; "and with that he hit me
over the shoulders with his cane, as if he
had been a public lictor, and I a
malefactor. In a word, no more questions
were asked, nor the truth of our opinions
attempted to be ascertained ; but each and
all of us were compelled, after receiving a
cruel caning, to sit on a form by ourselves,
ruminating indignantly on our wrongs, a
spectacle to the whole school. The sequel
is still more illustrative of the bold
character of my companions, and the free
and noble principles which from that day
have continued to animate my abhorrence
of coercive expedients in the management of mankind.



SITUATION develops character ; and the
little adventure which I have just described
illustrates this truth. School-boys before,
and school-boys hereafter, have been, and
may be, subjected to punishment for
stealing apples ; but few, I suspect, were
ever animated in such an exploit by
motives so exalted as mine. It was not the
sordid feelings of the covetous thief that
drew me into that enterprise ; but an innate
perception of natural right and the
consequence has been indelible : it rivetted
my young determination to reform a
system of society which took so little
cognisance of the extent of temptation.
The tale itself has often served, by its
incidents, to brighten the social hour; but
the effects have ever been like molten
sulphur in my indignant "heart of hearts."
For days and nights after that morn of


retribution, I burned with resentment : my
meals were unrelished ; my tasks, which
were never pleasant, became odious ; one
time I thought of flying from the school -
of playing the Roman fool ; I roamed
about the common, moody and vindictive ;
and when the fit was strong upon me, I
could have put the master to death ; but I
was afraid of what the eloquent and
energetic Caleb Williams calls " the gore-
dropping fangs of the law."
From the greatest depths of despair
the elastic spirit often rebounds ; and
accordingly, from that ultimate abasement
of purpose to which it is the nature of
revenge to sink us, my spirit recoiled - I
became animated with the noblest
impulses : instead of subjecting Mr.
Skelper to penalties, I resolved to rouse
the school to a glorious Reformation. It is
impossible to describe the rapture with
which the conception entered into my
mind. The ecstasy of Jean Jacques
Rousseau, when he imagined his essay
against the Arts and Sciences, was flat and
stale compared with mine, which
descended upon me with the


enthusiasm of a passion ; and I saw that
the vindication of the privileges of my
young companions opened a career
illustrious and sublime.
No sooner had the animating idea
revealed to me its beauty, than with
youthful ardour I obeyed the impulse.
Sagacity taught me that my companions
and partners in suffering were already
prepared by Destiny to listen to my
suggestions with glad ears ; and it was so ;
for when I took occasion to speak my
purpose, they declared their willingness
"To share the triumph, and partake the gale."
It was on the Sunday week from the
day of our punishment that I first broke my
mind. The scene was in the churchyard,
after sermon ; the bumpkin crowd had
dispersed : around us were the tombs of
the dead! Had we been companions of
Catiline, meditating the overthrow of
Rome, we could not have been more grim
at first in our determinations of revenge;
but as we proceeded to plan the
operations, our awe of failure gradually
diminished, insomuch that


in the end we relished in anticipation the
result of the undertaking, and revelled in
the assurance of success : a clear proof, as
it has ever since seemed to me, that man
has not that innate and gloomy abhorrence
of those bold risks by which liberty must
be conquered from the few who have an
interest in maintaining general servitude
and poverty.
Our first resolution was vengeance on
Mr. Skelper ; and our next was a
unanimous determination to quit the
school in a body, with, three triumphant
cheers, at the consummation of our
success. Some of the boys, with a true
republican spirit, proposed to tar-and-
feather the despot ; but my humanity
revolted at the idea, and I endeavoured to
assuage their animosity by an exhortation
to a philanthropical suggestion : others
thought that he should be seized in his easy
chair, and carried out of his study, at the
dead of night, and plunged into a gravel-
pit that was near the house and full of
water. But these extremities were
congenial only to the few ; and, after a
long discussion, it was agreed, over a new
grave, with a mutual shaking of


hands, that on the next Saturday night
every edible and drinkable in the house
should be taken away from larder, closet
and cellar, by the avengers ; and that when
all was fairly removed out of the house,
the boys should assemble in front and give
three brave farewell huzzas.
Alas! in this contrivance we counted not
on the weather. The fatal night came on as
wet as it could pour, and our preparations
were so far advanced that discovery was
inevitable ; my good genius, however,
pointed out a way of rendering this disaster
subservient to our gratification.
As was the case in rainy weather, we
had that night the use of the school-room.
There, mounted on a form, I harangued my
compeers on the exigency. They received
my oration with shouts of applause. I
pointed out to them that it would be a
confession of cowardice to be baffled by
Fate, and on such a night it could not fail
to be otherwise, if we attempted our
original purpose ; "but," said I, dilating as
I spoke, "we are in this but urged to a
greater undertaking : forth


we cannot go in such a night ; it would
drench us to the skin, and frustrate our
ingenuity : let us, therefore, invoke the
spirits of justice and the demon of revenge
; let us use the cords of our beds, not to
hang him, but to tie the arms of the tyrant
and the myrmidons of his household ; and
when we have done so, let us put candles
in every candlestick and empty bottle in
the house, and fill his devoted mansion
with illumination ; then let us place
ourselves round the table, before his eyes,
and riot upon every savoury article
beneath his roof ; when we are satisfied,
let us drink his health, and place regular
watches over him for the night : in the
morning, as it cannot rain always, we shall
be ready to depart at an early hour."
With exultation this suggestion was
adopted. A party was sent to the
dormitories to uncord the beds ; and when
the nightly bell was tolled as a signal for
us all to go to sleep, we gave a roof-
rending huzza, and each well-appointed
phalanx proceeded in the execution of
their several hests.


I led that band by which our dreadful
retribution on the master was to be
executed. He submitted to our cords
without uttering a word ; but on one
occasion he gave me a look that withered
my heart. By this time the outcries of the
maids were shrill and piercing, mingled
with horrible giggling and screams. Old
Mrs. Dawson the housekeeper, who had
retired, before the bell rang, to her own
chamber, hearing the uproar, came to the
banisters of the stair, and inquired with
alarm what was the matter ; we, however,
respected her sex : she was a good-natured
body, and a favourite with all the boys ; in
consequence she was only ordered into her
own room.
The revolution was now irresistible ;
but in the midst of the fury, a cry from
Mrs. Dawson's window, wild as that of
fire, was heard, and presently a knocking
thundered at the door. From what hand
that knocking came, none stayed to
question ; but all, with a simultaneous
rush, fled by the back door, despite the
rain, and sought refuge in the Goose and
Goslings Inn at the village. The


arrival of so many juvenile guests terrified
the landlord. The news of the insurrection
spread like wildfire ; the whole town was
presently afoot ; and before we could rally
our scattered senses, we were led captive
by beadles and constables back to our
But mark with what singular emphasis
Destiny spoke her will to me : all the other
boys were received back, and on the spot
decimated for punishment on Monday
morning, all save me ; me Mr. Skelper
would not again receive : he called me the
ringleader, a boy of incurable audacity,
and ignominiously inflicting his toe on a
tender part, bade the constable take me out
of his sight.
A transaction of this kind needs no
comment. I saw the full iniquity of that
system in which such irresponsible power
was allowed to be exercised. No prayers I
said that night ; but I made a solemn vow,
that the overthrow of that organisation of
things in which man durst so treat his
fellow-man, even though he were a child,
ought to be the intrepid business of my
In the morning I was sent home by the


stage-coach, the guard of which was the
bearer of a libellous letter to my father.
What ensued on my arrival, when the old
gentleman read the nefarious epistle,
cannot be told ; but it gave me both black
and blue reasons to resent the ruthlessness
of that false position in which children and
parents stand, with respect to each other.
Who ever heard that, in a state of nature,
where all is beneficent and beautiful, the
cruel hyaena, which so well deserves the
epithet, inflicts coercive manipulations on
her young?



For several days after my return home, my
situation might have drawn sympathy from
statues. My father never spoke ; my
mother looked at me in silence and shook
her head : I was as a tainted thing ; and my
meals, with a refinement of cruelty, were
made solitary, in another room from the
family parlour. The impression of such
iron-hearted conduct, to a generous high-
minded lad of fifteen, may be guessed, but
cannot be described. My heart swelled
with grudging ; and I could see no remedy
for my deplorable condition, but only
supplications for pardon. To this
meanness, however, I strengthened myself
with the sternest resolutions never to stoop
; and, in the end, my tenacity of purpose
was rewarded as virtue ought always to be.
My mother, on the third or fourth day,


began to relent. The first symptom of the
thaw was evinced by her presenting me
with a pear, and saying that she hoped I
had received a lesson that would serve me
for life. My father, however, remained
still inexorable ; and his first speech, on
the morning of the fifth day, was appalling.
" Nathan Butt," said he, "you have been
from your infancy a turbulent child,
ordained to break the heart of your parents
and send their gray hairs with sorrow to
the grave. The offence that you have been
guilty of to Mr. Skelper can never be
forgiven ; it is a blot upon your character
which can never be effaced ; but you were
not sent into the world to sulk in idleness
all the days of your life; I have therefore
resolved that you shall go to another
school, where you may learn something,
and redeem, by endeavour, the past. To-
morrow morning you shall come with me
by the stage-coach to Witherington school
: you may have heard that the Rev. Dr.
Gnarl, who keeps it, is a very different
person from the lenient Mr. Skelper. He is
a man that will make you stand


in awe of him; the audacity of such a
thought as tying him in his chair, you will
find dare not there enter your head. I say
no more; but be ready when the coach
passes at daylight to-morrow, to come with
There was something cool and steady
in the severity of this speech that I did not
much like, and destiny presented to me no
alternative but only to submit; accordingly,
in the course of the day, I began my
preparations; and in the evening, much to
my surprise - for I had been all these
dismal days a stepson in the family - my
mother invited me to sup with the rest ;
and I observed that the supper on this
occasion was distinguished with a spacious
florentine, which I lacked not the
discernment to perceive had been
consecrated for the celebration of my
departure; but, with the same fortitude and
forbearance that have ever distinguished
me in life, I resolved not to taste it,
enticing and savoury-smelling as it was. In
this masculine resolution I persevered, my
father and mother exchanging rueful looks.


Without taking any part in the
conversation, I retired early to bed, though
not sleepy ; and as I lay tossing in the dark,
I heard my mother come stepping softly
into the room, and take a seat at my pillow,
where she had not sat long till she began to
sigh and sob. The room was dark, and I
could not see ; but I have no doubt she was
indulging in a fit of tears ; for she had not
the spirit of a Volumnia, though her son
had so much in him of Coriolanus.
When she had given way for some
time to her sensibility, she inquired if I
was sleeping. My innate respect for truth
would not suffer me to disguise the fact,
though I had an apprehension of what
would follow.
On receiving my answer, she began to
exhort me to change my behaviour, adding
a great deal of motherly weakness and
affection, more than I could endure,
insomuch that, while she was speaking in
the most earnest manner, I found it
expedient to give a great snore, and
pretend that I had fallen fast asleep. At
this she rose with a heartfelt


sigh, and pronouncing a benediction, went
Early next morning I embarked with
my father in the coach for Witherington,
where we arrived in time for breakfast,
which we took at the Black Bull Inn, and
afterwards proceeded to the residence
of Dr. Gnarl.
His house stood on the edge of a
green common, within a white-painted
railing, many palisades of which were
broken, and all around wore an aspect of
the ruin that is more akin to destruction
than decay ; indeed, though we saw none
of the doctor's pupils, it was quite evident,
from the appearance of the place, that it
was the domicile of numerous school-
boys; and so I soon found ; for, instead of
the thirty blithe and bounding boys that I
had left at Mr. Skelper's, there were
upwards of a hundred lads, of various
ages, all of whom possessed a particular
artificial character, the effect of the
doctor's austere discipline, through which,
however, as I afterwards observed, their
natural tempers and buoyancy


broke out with an amiable brilliancy. They
consisted chiefly of youths who had been,
like me, expelled from other seminaries,
but for causes of bravery which, when we
became more acquainted, they were proud
to relate. They were, indeed,
notwithstanding their submission to the
authority of the doctor, gallant and
congenial companions, and had a just
sense of the thraldom to which they had
been consigned by their parents and
guardians, in obedience to those prejudices
with which society has been so long
oppressed and deformed.
My introduction to Dr. Gnarl was an
epochal event, never by me to be
forgotten, - an era in my life. My father
and I were shewn into a raw, unfrequented
kind of a drawing-room, where soon after
the reverend doctor came to us, and to
whom my father said, at his entrance, " I
have brought you Nathan Butt, my son,
who I trust will, in your hands, be
reclaimed from his audacious courses."
I looked at the doctor. He was a little,


stumpy, red-faced man, with austere eyes,
and as erect as it was possible to be ;
dressed in black, neatly I must say. His
legs were thick, and his feet small, on
which he wore bright and glittering shoes,
fastened by little round silver buckles. He
also wore a trim close wig, slightly
powdered, with his spectacles up ; and
spoke with a lisp, which inspired me at the
first hearing with no reverential sentiment.
My father having some business to
transact in the borough, which returned
two members to Parliament, and it was
then the eve of a general election, soon
after left me alone with the doctor, by
whom I was immediately treated in a
manner that made my blood boil. Having
seen my father to the porch, he bowed ;
and bidding him good morning, returned
into the drawing-room, where I was
standing, by no means comfortable ; nor
was my felicity in the slightest degree
increased by the manner in which he said, -
"Nathan Butt, follow me into the schoolroom ;


and when the other boys have said their
lessons, I shall see what progress you have
With these words he twirled on his
heel, and marching with an air of
consequence on before me, led the way to
the school. I followed with a palpitating
heart ; for it was impossible to conceal
from myself that his accent and appearance
betokened humiliation to me.
As we approached the school, which
was behind the house, I heard a dreadful
clamour within, which recruited my faded
energies, and I took fresh heart from the
music of the din ; but the moment we
entered, all was silence, and my courage
instantly sank, for it was a sudden and
ominous tranquillity, that told, with more
emphasis than words, the power with
which the master ruled, and the terror with
which the adolescentes obeyed.



ALTHOUGH I had now turned my
fifteenth year, I was not at all aware of the
state of society. The blind gropings of
instinct had, indeed, instructed me of
something wrong in the habits and usages
of mankind ; but nothing very precise
could be said to have obtained my serious
attention. I could see around me the hand
of oppression ever visible, and I felt in my
own case that power rather than justice
was consulted by those who regarded my
independence with jealousy. But the time
was drawing nigh when the inductions of
reason were to ratify the apprehensions of
instinct, and the nebulae of sentiment to
assume the clearness and distinct forms of
rational conclusions.
I have mentioned that the ancient
borough of Witherington returned two
members to Parliament, and that a general
election was


soon expected. In less than a month after
my arrival at Dr. Gnarl's school, the
dissolution of Parliament took place ; and
at the same time it was made known that
one of the old members, a Whig, retired,
and that two new candidates, a Radical and
a moderate Tory, intended a contest for the
vacant seat. The tidings of this struggle
were received with gladness by all the
school; and in the course of a few days the
pupils declared themselves resolute
adherents of the liberal cause. Dr. Gnarl,
however, with a strange sagacity, inspired
by his fears, foresaw this result ; and
accordingly announced that he would
punish, as guilty of a gross offence, every
boy who presumed to take a part in the
This decision was fatal to the joyful
thoughts with which we were animated,
especially as he declared that on the days
of election the doors of the school would
be shut, and no egress allowed while the
poll continued open. But arbitrary
absolutism has ever been defeated ; -- the
boys held a consultation together in the


ground ; and it was resolved to address a
round-robin to the Doctor, and remonstrate
with him for so interdicting us in the
exercise of our undoubted rights as
Britons. Some of the bigger lads advised a
different course, and suggested that we
should dissimulate our principles, and
pretend to be of the Tory party. This,
however, was scouted by those who knew
the Doctor best and longest. They asserted,
that, notwithstanding all his Tory
predilections within the school, he was out
of it an inveterate Whig and the most
pontifical of living things, maintaining that
no apparent change on our part would
cajole him.
This opinion soon became universal ;
and the majority of the boys declaring that
it would be equivalent to an abandonment
of principle to disguise our feelings, the
expedient of the round-robin was adopted,
drawn out, and signed. It was to the
following effect :-
"Sir, - Glorying in the name of
Britons, we have been astonished at your
prohibition of our privileges; but we will
assert our


native and immutable rights. Give us,
then, freedom to attend at the hustings, or
prepare yourself to endure the
consequences of a refusal."
Six boys, including me, at my own
request, were appointed to present to the
potentate this Spartan epistle ; and next
morning, when the election was to begin,
the ceremony of giving the round-robin
was to be performed.
Never did an incident of the kind
exhibit the corruption of nature in man
more impressively than this ceremony. At
eight o'clock in the morning the deputation
went to present the remonstrative robin.
Whether we had been betrayed by any
sinister adherent, I know not ; but the
Doctor was seated in his elbow-chair, and
beside him stood a gigantic horse-whip.
He received us, however, coolly, with a
smiling countenance ; and having taken the
paper in his hand, he read it aloud,
carefully looking over the names. His
sneers were satanic ; in the most
irresponsible manner he flung the paper
into the fire, and suddenly


grasping his whip, he laid on the shoulders
of the deputation, as if they had been each
an obstinate waggon-horse. We fled
before him, and sought refuge elsewhere ;
but his tyranny was only exasperated by
our flight. One by one he called up the
other boys, and treated them with as little
mercy. Their cries and screams, which
ascended from beneath his dreadful
flagellation, for the whipping made him
fiercer, filled us with sympathetic anguish
and sorrow ; till one of our number, called
Jack Scamp, cried out, that the cowardly
rascals deserved it all, for sitting silent
spectators of the outrage committed on us.
This led to a change of operations. We
instinctively gave three huzzas ; and with
indefatigable zeal, and being on the
outside of the school, broke every pane of
glass in the windows. The lion at this
came rushing forth, pale and ghastly,
followed by the whole school, who
immediately joined our party, and assisted
to envelop the little man in a cloud and
whirlwind of missiles, snatched from the
ground. By what partial God he was borne


away from our vengeance, still remains
undivulged ; but when the storm abated, he
was no where to be seen.
Our triumph was complete. We
arranged ourselves in a body on the spot,
and marched in regular array to the
hustings. To crown the eclat of our noble
assertion of independence, we happened to
fall in by the way with an old fiddler, who
was playing to obtain charity. Him we
instantly impressed and placed at our head,
astonishing the assembled multitude at the
who made way for our procession!
I have been the more particular in
these details, because they are associated
with the hallowed doctrines that Mr.
Chase, the popular candidate, impressed
me with on that memorable day. It was,
indeed, the birthday of my soul's freedom ;
for the manner in which he described the
malefactions of the Whigs and Tories (he
spared the delinquency of neither) was
congenial to my best feelings ; and the tale
he unfolded of the usurpations of their
aristocracies, not only in legislation, but in
property, froze the very marrow in my


bones. It seemed to me as if the world had
been, from time immemorial, in
backsliding confusion; and my heart
burned with a vehement ardour to arrest
the chaos into which it was fatally
hurrying. But in that moment, the demon
of the age - that genius of the oppression
which so saddens the earth - was hovering
at hand ; and in the very flame and passion
of my antipathy to the afflictions of the
world, a numerous band of constables
surrounded the whole of Dr. Gnarl's
resolute youths, and, in the most shameful
and lawless manner, compelled us to
return with them to the school ; where the
despot, with a courage that would have
done honour to a better cause, welcomed
us back, hoped we had been well edified
by the trash we had heard, and with
undaunted sobriety ordered us apart in
threes and fours to our respective rooms,
where he kept us on bread and water for
two days ; at the end of which, to our
amazement, when summoned into the
schoolroom, we beheld our fathers and
guardians assembled.
"Gentlemen," said the Doctor to them,


when we were arranged before them - "is
it your pleasure to remove these
rebellious youths from under my
jurisdiction? or am I free to let them feel
a weight of discipline equivalent to the
offence they have committed?"
The courteous reader need not be
told what answer the fiend of the existing
order of things taught them to give ; but
from that hour the law went forth ; and
for the next twelve months never more
than three of the boys were allowed to be
seen talking or in any manner associating
together, under the penalty of a severe
horsing. Thus, with a harshness that
would have disgraced the worst of all the
Caesars, he re-established the discipline
of the school ; peace was restored, -
peace, did I say? Alas! can it, therefore,
be wondered, that I am so animated
against a system in which crimes so
obnoxious to the freedom of rational
beings can with impunity be committed?
On that day I swore never to abate in my
desire to crush a social organisation
whose natural secretions evolved such
suffering and guilt.



THE remainder of that year of bondage,
worse than Egyptian bondage, which I
breathed under the iron rule of Dr. Gnarl,
completed my epoch of youth. At the end
of it my father summoned me home ; and
though I carried with me the reputation of
being subdued, I know that in my heart I
was none altered. The true complexion
and the right side of things were revealed
to me, and, I need not add, with no
increase of admiration for either. Some
of our neighbours acknowledged that they
saw a change upon me ; but with that
inherent predilection for detraction which
belongs to morbid sentiment, they
described it as something which could not
be understood, and never failed to call it
malignant. My stern and manly contempt
of oppression, in whatsoever form it
appeared, they spoke of as sullenness.


The effect of their calumnious
insinuations was soon visible. Many lads
of my own age and station, who had been
originally my playmates, and whom I again
expected to be the associates of my riper
years, became prejudiced against me ; and
the first years that I spent in my father's
office after my return, for he placed me on
the lofty tripod stool, were well calculated
to nourish morose determinations.
I soon discovered, by that perspicacity
with which I was naturally endowed, that I
could only hope to be received into
fellowship by the young men whom I had
expected would be my friends, by a
submission, on my part, of the erectness of
my principles, and a pliancy of conduct
towards theirs, the bare idea of which was
revolting ; and accordingly, with a
decision of mind, which their contumely
and manifest aversion made no sacrifice, I
turned from those who should have been
my companions, and soon found a
congenial refuge among spirits of a more
generous philanthropy.
The town in which my father's house was


situated, had, a few years before, been a
listless village ; but the accident of a
wealthy manufacturer ascertaining that the
brook which bounded the green was
practicable for mills, induced him to build
a large factory there, and doomed
"Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plains,"
to the hectic prosperity of the cotton trade.
Among the spinners and weavers
which this insalubrious change introduced,
was an aspiring band of young men, with
pale faces and benevolent principles. In
their society I found an agreeable sola
and compensation for my abandonment of
those whose station was more on a par
with my own. We held frequent nocturnal
meetings, at which they always treated me
with the greatest respect, and made me
their president ; but this honour, I felt, was,
like all others, most incommodious :
seldom an opportunity arose, while in the
chair, to give utterance, by opinion or
argument, to the inductions of my
understanding ; and, in consequence, I
resolved to abdicate the pre-eminence to


which that portion of the old leaven with
which they were yet leavened inspired
them to raise me. After this abdication, I
found myself in all my energy ; a free
gladiator in the arena, my strength and
superiority were then displayed.
During the first winter we discussed
general topics and the speculative
conjectures of erudite men ; but when the
rumours of what was then taking place at
Paris reached our rural haunts, and the
London mail brought daily news as it
passed through our town, patriotism and
curiosity constrained us to club together
for a newspaper.
If the orations of Mr. Chase, on the
hustings of Witherington, roused my latent
feelings, that newspaper gave them
tendency and purpose. It was soon evident
to those brave philosophers - who were
such indeed, though by profession but
weavers and cottonspinners - my
companions, that mankind had incurred a
fearful arrear in their duties to one another
; and in vain we endeavoured to discover
by what right, sanctioned by the equity of
nature, lords were lordly, and the


poor man doomed to drudge. That
something was wrong, and destructive of
natural rights, in the unequal existing
division of property, could not be
questioned. The speeches of the illustrious
great of the French Convention, confirmed
by the eloquence of some of the brightest
stars in the constellation of the British
senate, enlightened our understandings. It
required, indeed, but little other reasoning
to convince us all, that the world had been
led by some pernicious undiscoverable
influence in the olden time to prefer the
artificial maxims of society to those
natural first principles which ought ever to
be paramount with man.
When we had arrived, self-taught, at
this conclusion, the majority of our
association held resolute language, and
began to nerve themselves for enterprise.
A few, however, among us, tainted with a
base diffidence, listened with alarm to our
distinction between the institutions which
originate in the frame of the social state,
and those absolute rights which man has
inherited from nature, anterior to the
operation of


the gregarious sympathies that have led to
the organisation of society - an
organisation which gives forth the
grievances of the world.
Debates for some time ran high and
warm : at last we became so fervent
towards our respective adversaries, that a
breach was inevitable. Soon after, several
of those who were considered as the
champions of the existing social order,
married, and became church-goers. I do
not insinuate, however, by this, that they
recanted their former notions of the
ecclesiastical usurpations ; but I thought of
what Lord Bacon says about men who give
hostages to society, and ceased, in
consequence, to have any intercourse with them.



WHILST I was thus, in obedience to
Destiny, developing my faculties, and
fitting myself to take a part in those great
purposes in which I am, to all appearance,
appointed to be drawn forth, it is necessary
I should here relate a personal incident that
has had some influence on my subsequent
career, and in the adjustment of my
feelings between nature and society.
About the time of which I have been
speaking, an amiable young woman and I
were brought into a very awkward position
by the parish officers. Perhaps, as the
affair was altogether private, I ought not to
have mentioned it in these pages ; but as
my chief object is to exhibit the perverted
world as I found it, I can do no less than
narrate some of the circumstances ;
especially as they serve to shew how
widely that artificial


system which has so long been
predominant, is different from the beauty,
the simplicity, and the integrity of nature.
For some weeks there had been a shy
and diffident acquaintanceship between
Alice Hardy and me, insomuch that, before
we exchanged words, we had looked
ourselves into familiarity with one another.
She was not, however, in that rank of life
which my father, in his subserviency to the
prejudices of society, would approve of as
a fit match for me ; and therefore I
resolved to seek no closer communion
with her. Nevertheless, it came to pass, I
cannot well tell how, that one day we
happened to fall into speaking terms ; and,
from less to more, grew into a pleasant
reciprocity. Nothing could be more pure
and natural than our mutual regard ; it was
the promptings of an affection simple,
darling, and congenial.
While in this crisis of enjoyment,
malignant Fortune influenced the parish,
and we were undone. One morning the
beadle, wearing his cocked hat, big blue
coat with red capes trimmed with broad
gold lace,


appeared at the door of Alice's mother,
and calling her forth by name,
impertinently inquired respecting some
alteration that he had been told was visible
in her appearance. To this she gave a
spirited answer ; at which the intrusive old
man struck the floor with his silver-headed
staff in a magisterial manner, and said,
with a gruff voice, which alarmed the poor
girl, that if she refused to answer his
question, he would have her pulled before
her betters.
This threat she related to me in the
evening, when we met, as our custom was,
to walk in my lord's park ; and next
morning I went to the saucy beadle myself,
and demanded why he had presumed to
molest her with his impertinence. But
instead of replying as he ought to have
done, he said, with a look which I shall
never forget, that he was coming for me to
give security that the parish should not be
burthened, as he called it, with a job.
This was strange tidings ; and I was so
confounded, that I did not know what
answer to make. I assured him, however,


that it had all come of an unaccountable
accident, and should be so treated ; for that
neither Alice nor I had the least idea of the
consequence - indeed, we never thought of
it at all. But I spoke to a post ; and, by
what ensued, it was plain to me how much
parochial beadles are opposed to the
fondest blandishments of nature.
In some respects, the affair, in the end,
as far as the parish and the beadle were
concerned, was amicably settled ; but my
father, highly exasperated that I could not
discern, or would not confess, a fault,
resolved that I should no longer remain in
that country side. Accordingly, I was sent
off very soon to my uncle, in one of the
principal manufacturing towns of the
kingdom, to be placed in his counting-
house ; it being deemed of no use to think
I could ever make any figure in the law ;
my mind, as the old man asserted, was
doggedly set against the most valued
institutions of the country, and altogether
of an odd and strange revolutionary way of


"Nathan Butt," said he, on the evening
previous to my departure, " you go from
your father's house - what he says with
sorrow and apprehension - an incorrigible
young man : you have, from your youth
upward, been contumacious to reproof,
and in your nature opposed, as with an
instinctive antipathy, to every thing that
has been endeared by experience."
This address a little disconcerted me ;
but in the end my independence gave me
fortitude to say, - "Sir, that I have not been
submissive to the opinions of the world
and to yours is certain ; but it is not in my
character to be other than I am. Fate has
ordained me to discern the manifold forms
which oppression takes in the present
organisation of society - "
"Oppression!" cried the old
gentleman, with vehemence, " do you call
it oppression, to have been, from your
childhood, the cause of no common grief
to your parents ; to have been kicked out
of one school, and the rebel ringleader in
another? - Nathan Butt! Nathan


Butt! unless you change your conduct,
society will soon let you know, with a pin
in your nose, what it is to set her laws and
establishments at defiance."
"Alas! sir, pardon me for the
observation - but you have lived too long ;
the world now is far ahead of the age
which respected your prejudices. I am but
one of the present time ; all its influences
act strongly on me, and, like my
contemporaries, I feel the shackles and
resent the thraldom to which we have been
"You stiff-necked boy!" exclaimed my
father, starting up in a passion ; "but I
ought not to be surprised at such
pestiferous jargon. And so you are one of
those, I suppose, destined to be a
regenerator of the world! Come, come,
Mahomet Butt, as I should call you, no
doubt this expulsion to your uncle's will be
renowned hereafter as your Hegira. I have
seen young men, it is true, in my time -
that which you say is now past - who, with
a due reverence for antiquity, and a
hallowed respect for whatever age and use
had proved beneficial - but the


lesson is lost on you : however, let me tell
you, my young Mahomet, that we had in
those days mettlesome lads, that did no
worse than your pranks ; but -"
"Well then, sir, what was the
difference between them and me ?"
"Just this, you graceless vagabond! -
what they did, was in fun and frolic, and
careless juvenility ; but you, ye reprobate!
do your mischief from instinct ; and evil,
the devil's motive, is, to your eyes and
feelings, good! You - ye ingrained heretic
to law, gospel, and morality, as I may
justly say you are - have the same
satisfaction in committing mischief, that
those to whom I allude had, in after-life, in
acts of virtue and benevolence."
It was of no use to answer a man who
could express such doctrine ; so I just said
to him, that I claimed no more from him
than the privilege of nature. "The beasts
and birds," said I, "when they have come
to maturity, leave their lairs and nests, and
take their places in the world."
The old man, in something like a


caught me by the tuft of hair on my
forehead by the one hand, and seizing a
candle with the other, pored in my face, at
first sternly, and then softening a little, he
flung me, as it were, from him, and said, -
"Go, get out of my sight, thou beast or bird
of prey!"
I shall make no animadversions on
such a domestic life ; the reader will
clearly see that it belonged to that state of
society which soon, thanks be and praise,
is about to be crushed. It will no longer be
in the power of one, dressed in a little brief
authority, to play such fantastic tricks with
those in whom the impulses of nature are
justly acknowledged as superior to all
artificial maxims and regulations.



MY uncle, Mr. Thrive, was a brother of
my mother, and the toppingest merchant in
all the town of Slates. He was a bustling,
easy-natured man, indulgent to the foibles
of others, yet, at the same time, regular and
respectable in his own habits. His
reception of me was familiar and jocose.
He had previously been prepared for my
arrival by a letter from my father ; and I
delivered him one from my mother, which
he read over before be spoke to me ; and
as he read, I could perceive a temperate
smile dawn and brighten on his
countenance. He, however, at the
conclusion, affected a droll austerity,
which was to me as relishing as pleasantry.
"You scamp," said he, "you have too
good a mother ; - here is my soft sister
beseeching me for all manner of kindness


towards you, and mitigating, with a deal of
fond and motherly palaver, the impression
which she fears your father, in his anger,
may have produced upon me. But I will
make no promises , - if you do well, it will
be better for yourself ; but if you be
abandoned to the follies your father speaks
of, Nathan, my nephew, you are a gone
There was certainly something in the
manner of this address that I did like ; but
there was also a firmness of tone in the
utterance of the latter part, that fell upon
my spirit with the constraint of a magic
spell. I perceived that Mr. Thrive was a
stout and steady man of the world ; though
a merchant, he was yet less indulgent than
my father, who was an attorney.
There was a great difference in their
appearance too. My uncle was a portly,
well-dressed person, of an urbane,
gentlemanly air : my father, who had been
more than five-and-thirty years the legal
adviser of Lord Woodbury, one of the


beaux of his time, was, in his appearance,
the opposite of all ever deemed
fashionable and favour-bespeaking. His
clothes were of a strange and odd cut : he
wore halfboots, light-blue stockings, and
brown kerseymere inexpressibles, with
large silver kneebuckles ; commonly a
black satin waistcoat with spacious
pockets, a bluish - grey coat with broad
brass buttons, a tye-wig well powdered ;
and his face was red as with the setting
glow of a departed passion.
But the difference was most
remarkable in their tempers. Mr. Thrive
was a shrewd, sharp observer, who saw
many things with a glance, which he
afterwards recollected apparently without
effort. My father, on the contrary,
possessed but little of that alert faculty,
and somehow was as little inclined to
remember whatever he observed
objectionable. This much I am bound to
say in candour ; for it was the general
opinion of those who had known him
longest. Towards myself, however, I do
think his character was an exception for
my least faults he uniformly noticed
severely, and


never forgot ; my most piquant remarks he
often scouted with derision, or blamed
with animadversion in no measured terms :
in short, he was an aristocrat of the Tory
tribe, and I in those days gloried in being a
thorough democrat. It requires, therefore,
nothing additional, to assure the reader
that we did not live on the best of terms.
My removal to Slates was, in consequence,
really an agreeable translation ; for my
uncle, what with his business, and bustling,
and jocose disposition, seemed to look
lightly on my peculiarities ; and for some
time I spent with him the happiest halcyon
days of my life ; - and yet Mr. Thrive was
a stanch Government man.
When I had been a few weeks at
Slates, I gradually fell into acquaintance
with several spirited liberal young men,
more distinguished in the town for their
philosophical principles than for those
aberrations in conduct, which made others
of the same class less eminent for
decorum. It would ill become me, indeed,
to speak lightly of those to whom I allude ;
but I soon was led


to notice that there was something of an
organic difference between my
companions and them.
We were of a sedate and methodical
character, addicted to books more than to
bottles, - thoughtful, inquisitive, and in our
way of life sober and reasonable. Our
adversaries, for such in truth they were,
gave themselves up, in many respects, to
wild and dissolute habits, possessed little
information, and, with a kind of irreverent
ribaldry, professed themselves the
champions of those institutions of which
we, on our part, considered it the greatest
of duties to work the overthrow. They
were, indeed, like the drunken soldier who
in the Puritan war swore to a church, that
he would stand by her old soul while he
had a drop of blood in his veins.
It was during my intercourse with
those enlightened associates, that my crude
reflections on the causes of unhappiness in
the world assumed form and consistency.
At that time the war of the French
revolution was raging ; the Great nation,
having got rid of their ancient government,
and having


cured their country of all its hereditary
scrofula, was renewed in vigour ; every
thing they undertook was consolatory to
the oppressed of the earth ; and they
exhibited to astonished Europe the
amazing effects of that enlarged
philanthropy which they had so long
cherished, and by which they had become
the foremost people in the universe. It was
delightful to contemplate the triumphs of
liberty among them, and how they
hallowed their cause with blood. But the
contrast, when I looked around me, was
deplorable. Never can I forget the
indignant feelings with which I regarded
the obstinacy of the infatuated Pitt, and the
audacity with which his sordid adherents
resisted the progress of knowledge, and
arrested the perfectability of man.
In the midst, however, of the
humiliation which that weak and wicked
statesman and his colleagues made me
suffer, I was cheered, as the mariner in the
storm is with the sight of a beacon shining
bright and high. The disasters which so
often overwhelmed their measures gave
confidence to


my hopes that shipwreck was their doom.
But it would be to weary the intelligent
reader, to descant on this theme. It is
sufficient to observe, that the ruling demon
of society and the genius of nature were
then fighting in the mid heavens ; and the
latter could not but sooner or later prevail.
"Thrones and sovereignties," said I, "the
resources of empires, hierarchies, and
orders, and the progeny of artificial life,
may for a time withstand the eternal
goddess ; but as sure as the moon waxes to
the round bright full, she will vindicate her
jurisdiction, and gladden the earth."



IT is not my intention, as I have already
intimated, to record in these paces my
private memoirs ; but I cannot adequately
describe the impressions which I received
from many circumstances, originating
exclusively in that state of society which
there is now the happy prospect of living
to see dissolved and abrogated, without
now and then departing from the strict rule
prescribed to myself, and touching a little
on the incidents of my domestic history.
When I had resided some time, better
than a year, with my uncle, he said to me,
as we were sitting together one Sunday
evening by the fire-side, he looking over
some family papers, and I reading
Godwin's Political Justice, a work in the
highest style of man :
"Nathan Butt," said he, "our family is
not very numerous, and in course of


bating my sister, you are the nearest, as the
eldest of her children, to me of kin ; should
you survive me, I have thought that it
would be a prudent thing of you, and a
great satisfaction to me, were you to make
a prudent marriage. I see it is not necessary
that fortune should be an essential
ingredient in the choice, but it can be no
To this I replied, "That I was very
sensible of the kindness with which he
treated me ; but, sir," I added, "marriage is
what I have never thought of : indeed, to
speak plainly, I have great objections to
incur an obligation, to which the world has
attached so many restraints, at variance
with the freedom which mankind have
derived from nature."
"Pooh, pooh, Nathan," cried my
uncle, "I am serious ; don't talk such stuff
now ; we are not on an argument, but an
important business of life."
"I assure you, sir," was my sedate
answer, "I have never been more serious.
Marriage, sir, is one of those artificial


invented by priests and ecclesiastics to
strengthen their moral dominion."
I shall not dispute with you, Nathan,"
replied my uncle, "that marriage does
bring grist to the church's mill ; but we are
not to judge of it merely by the tax which
we pay for its blessings ; therefore say
nothing on that head. Men and women
must have some law to regulate them in
their domicile, and as no better has yet
been enacted, we must conform to what
"In Paris, sir," said I, "it is no longer -
"Nathan Butt," said my uncle, rather
sternly, "I am speaking to you on a very
important subject ; therefore don't trouble
me with any thing about your French trash,
and the utility of living in common like the
beasts that perish."
I had never heard Mr. Thrive express
himself in this manner before : hitherto he
had only laughed, as it were, at what he
called my Jacobin crotchets ; but I could
discern that a feeling of a more sensitive
kind affected him on this occasion. He


was a rich man - his favour was therefore
worth cultivating ; and I frankly
acknowledge that this consideration had
great weight with me. But principle
should be above corruption ; and I felt at
the moment that I was yielding to the
deleterious influences of the artificial
social state, when, for a moment, I thought
it might be for my interests to accede to
what was evidently his intention.
However, I rallied, and frankly told him
that I never intended to marry.
"You are a fool," cried he, "and may
live to repent it:" and abruptly gathering
up his papers and rising, said, before
leaving the room, "Reflect, Nathan, well
on this short conversation. I do not look
for an old head on young shoulders, and
you are not destitute, on some occasions,
of common sense ; reflect on this, I say,
for a week, and next Sunday evening we
shall resume the conversation."
He then went away ; and as his
remarks had disturbed the philosophic
equanimity with which I had been
pondering over the sound and sane maxims
and apothegms of


the book before me, I closed it ; and
drawing my chair close to the fire, placed
my feet on the fender, and began to
ruminate on my uncle's worldly dogmas.
It was clear to me, that, with all his
ability as a man of business - and in that he
was considered eminent - Mr. Thrive had
no right conception of the difference
between man in a state of nature, and as a
member of society which is in so many
things opposed to nature. "What good, I
would ask," said I to myself, "can he
expect to reap, by alluring me, with
pecuniary considerations, to hazard all that
is valuable to a rational being, by taking on
me the fetters of an obligation that is not
only fast becoming obsolete, but is
acknowledged by so many as the most
vexatious that can be incurred ;" and I
thought of Doctors' Commons.
For several days I did reflect on the
conversation just recited, and felt, even to
the Thursday night, that all my principles
remonstrated, as it were, against a
compliance with the wishes of my uncle ;
but from


that evening I certainly underwent some
I then thought, for the first time, of the
shortness of life - no elixir or expedient
having been discovered by which it could
be prolonged. I reflected also, with a sigh,
on the uncertainty of fortune, how often
the best-laid schemes were frustrated, and
the seeds of' industry and skill blighted in
their growth, affording no harvest. I
became sad ; a feeling of grief, more
intense than melancholy, occupied my
heart ; and I said to myself, "Man is but a
cog on a wheel, a little wheel in the great
enginery of Fate."
This nothingness of individual man in
the universal system of things had a great
effect upon me and at last I began to think,
who among all the females of our circle
would make the best wife : but this was
unsatisfactory. Over and over again I
meditated on the subject; but the more I
meditated respecting them, the faults of
each became more conspicuous to me ;
insomuch that by the Sunday evening,
although I had resolved,


in submission to circumstances, to assent
to an occultation of principle, I was
embarrassed, and could determine on no
choice. Thus it happened, when the hour
came round, I was exceedingly perplexed,
and, contrary to custom, instead of taking a
book, as was my wont, I sat idle ; while my
uncle, I could perceive, eyed me with
occasional sinister glances, that made me
thrill, as if I felt that he suspected me of
some delinquency. At last he broke
silence :
"Well, Nathan Butt," said he, "I
observe by your manner that you have
been giving some heed to what I said last
Sunday night ; what is your
"Truly, sir," was my diffident answer,
"I know not what to say : marriage itself I
consider as one of the incidental evils of
the social state, and until that undergoes a
thorough reformation, it appears to me, all
things considered, that, out of a
philosophical respect for the opinions of
others, it must be tolerated."
"Well, Nathan, I do not say that your
remark, which looks so like philosophy, is


altogether nonsense ; but the matter in
hand is, Are you, then, disposed to take a
"I cannot exactly answer that
question, because I am acquainted with no
young lady that I would prefer more than
another ; and therefore, as I have little
inclination for the state, and no motive of
preference, I am very likely to remain a
"Well, I must say, Nathan, you are a
young man of very odd notions ; but as I
am convinced marriage is the best, thing
that can happen to you, my endeavour
shall not be wanting to discover a proper
match. What think you of Miss Shuttle,
the daughter of my old friend ? I have long
considered that she would make you a very
suitable wife, being largely endowed with good
common sense, with which you are not
overburdened, and a cheerful social
temper, in which you are greatly deficient."
Now, Miss Shuttle had never
blithened my cogitations ; but the moment
my uncle mentioned her name, I was
sensible of an attractive bias towards her.
Not, however, to trouble the courteous
reader with further


particulars, let it suffice that we were in
due time made man and wife, according to
the most approved forms of the
Establishment ; though I, being the son of
a Dissenter (for my father was a
Presbyterian), would have preferred a
ceremony less ostentatious.



MY wife certainly possessed those
qualities for which she had been
recommended ; her only fault was, indeed,
of the most blameless description. She
had not the slightest predilection for
ratiocination ; but, on the contrary, she was
a living effigy of passive obedience ; and it
was only in this supple compliance that I
ever found her tiresome. Once, however,
she did evince a capability of sustaining an
argument - the highest faculty in man ; and
I have never since ceased to wonder at it,
for on that occasion she was triumphant.
She had changed our cook ; at which,
as the woman was civil and managing, I
expressed some surprise, it being my habit
to partake of my philosophical share of
dinner without remark.
"What you say, my dear, is very true,"


was her answer ; "she is an excellent
creature, but a very bad cook, and I hired
her for a cook."
"But," replied I, "you should have
balanced her good qualities against her
"That would not have mended her
cookery - it would still have been as bad as
ever ; and you cannot deny, Nathan Butt,
that good eating is one of the greatest
comforts in life."
"Is it ? I'm sure, Mrs. Butt, I pay no
attention to it : it is a subject - an animal
subject - beneath the dignity of an
intellectual being."
"It may, sir ; but when one thing at
table happens to be better than another, I
observe you instinctively prefer the best ;
and it is only by having a good cook that
we can be sure of enjoying a comfortable
This silenced me ; it being evident
that the enjoyment we have in eating,
especially in good eating, is one of the few
unimpaired innate immunities of the
species ; and that


my wife was quite right in her estimate of
a cook.
With the single exception of this brief
discussion, we never had a word which
shewed the least difference of opinion
between us : indeed, I had no occasion to
contradict her ; she always submitted to
my pleasure, and so maintained, in an
amiable manner, the peace of our house.
Although the accordance of my
conduct to the promptings of nature, was
generally, I may truly say always,
reciprocated by Mrs. Butt, we yet had one
serious controversy ; all others were
uniformly of the most amicable kind. It
only required a little firmness on my part
to see that every thing was done as I
desired ; for I never could abide to debate
first principles in such trifles as household
particularities. I anticipated all objections
by the judicious serenity with which I
announced my will and orders. But
uniform tranquillity belongs
not to man in his social condition.
In the course of the second year after
our marriage, my first-born in wedlock, a


came to light. At that epoch there was a
moderation in men's minds, such as had
not been experienced for some years. The
French, under the fatal dominion, of
Napoleon, had lost much of their
interesting character. He had degraded
himself by a union with the sentenced
blood of Austria ; and those who had once
thought they saw in him the deliverer of
the human race ; were mortified by his
apostacy. The effect of this made me, as
well as all of my way of thinking, shrink
back into ourselves, and seek to obscure
our particular opinions by a practical
adherence to the existing customs of the
world - errors and prejudices which we
never forgot they were.
It thus happened, when Mrs. Butt
proposed to me that our child should be
baptized, I made no objection ; only
remarking, that it was a usage to which we
must submit, and the expense being
inconsiderable, it was not a case in which
we should shew ourselves different from
our neighbours.
Sometimes before, I had observed that
she was not very well satisfied with an


word which dropped from me respecting
priestcraft and ecclesiastical usurpation ;
but as my father was a Presbyterian, she
ascribed those accidental strictures to the
tenets of his sect, supposing me of the
same persuasion. But that I should speak
of baptism as deserving of consideration
only on account of the fees, produced an
effect for which I was not prepared.
She was standing when she put the
question, and I was reading the book of a
recent continental traveller, a man of
liberal principles, who had shrewdly
inspected the world, and correctly
discerned its prevalent errors and abuses ;
for it was, indeed, chiefly from such
travellers that I obtained right expositions
of these controverted topics. Without
raising my eyes over the edge of the
leaves, I gave her the answer quoted ; to
which she made no reply, but, retreating
backwards to the elbow-chair opposite, sat
down and drew a deep sigh.
Not expecting that any thing particular
was about to take place, I took no other
notice of her consternation than by casting


a glance over the top of the book ; which
she observed, and, wiping her eyes,
suddenly rose and went away, and wrote to
my mother on the subject. In the course of
two or three days, on the evening before
the day appointed for the christening, the
old lady made her appearance ; having
come, as she unhesitatingly declared, to
witness the solemnity.
I welcomed her as she justly merited
to be from me ; for although in some
things she was wilful, as most parents are,
she nevertheless had made herself, by her
kindnesses, a cosy corner in my bosom,
and I was sincerely glad to see her, - a
little surprised, however, at her unexpected
Early next morning my father also
arrived by the mail. He had travelled all
night, and seemed in rather an irksome
humour. After swallowing a hasty
breakfast, he went directly to my uncle ;
saying, in a manner that struck me as
emphatical, that they would both dine with
us, adding, "The ceremony must be
deferred till the evening;" and, grinning
with vehemence,


he shook his stick at me as he left the
room, adding, " You blasphemer, to break
my heart in this manner!"
The secret motive of the visit was thus
immediately disclosed ; for no sooner was
his back turned, than my mother and Mrs.
Butt took out their handkerchief - as
evidently preparatory to a scene, as the
drawing up of the curtain is to a tragedy.
"Much has your poor wife, Nathan
Butt, endured ; but this is beyond pardon.
I have come a long journey, and your
worthy father has travelled all night - a
dreadful thing at his age. We can,
however, forgive all that ; but who will
forgive you for making the baptism of your
first-born a consideration of parish fees,
with no more reverence for religion than if
you were a sucking turkey?"
"Do turkeys suck?" said I : "that they
are irreligious is doubtful. I have often
myself noticed that they, as well as other
poultry, never take even a drink of water
from the dub, without lifting their heads
and eyes towards the heavens in
"Oh, Nathan, Nathan!" was her


in an accent of grief that smote my very
heart, "what will become of you and your
poor baby? for now ye're the head of a
family. Oh, oh!"
I made no answer ; but I could not
help wondering at the folly of the general
world in thinking religion something
different from the forms and genuflexions
in which its offices are performed ; or that
there was aught in it beyond the ingenuity
of those who in different ages had invented
its several rites, as a mode of levying taxes
for the maintenance of their order. And I
turned to my wife, who was sitting hard
by, and, with really more asperity than I
ever made use of to her before, said,
"What is the meaning of this ? Surely you
very well knew that I was quite neutral in
my wishes on the subject. If you desired
our boy to be made a Christian, I had no
objection : by making him undergo the
ceremony, he could not therefore be less a
man. You might have spared me from the
reproaches of my father and mother,
whose prejudices, at their time of life, it is
vain to assail, and


allowed the infant to be baptized quietly,
and without more ado."
Her reply filled me with amazement :
"In all temporal things, Nathan Butt, I
considered it a duty - a sworn duty - to
obey you, and never till this occasion have
I ever felt a wish to depart from the strictness of my marriage vow. But,
Nathan, this is not an earthly and mortal
matter ; the soul may be in danger of hell-
fire by us ; and religion admonishes me,
yea strengthens me, poor, weak, and silly
thing that I am, to give this sentenced
scion of a fallen race the chance of
I was confounded by her energy, and I
pricked up my ears, for her manner was
full of a fine enthusiasm, and she spoke
like the Pythia. My mother then took up
the strain, but with more familiar rhythm.
"She entreated your father and me,"
said the old lady, " to come to her aid ; for
she could not in conscience allow you, in
your present state of unbelief, to take upon
you the baptismal vows. Your father and
uncle are to be the sponsors."


"And am not I to have any thing to say
in this affair?" replied I, a little fervently;
for it seemed to me then, as it has done
ever since, something beyond all
toleration, that a father should, by any
occult influence of the theocracy, be thus
deprived of his natural right.
"Do you deserve to have any?" cried
my mother.
My answer was sedate : "I do not
reckon on what I may deserve, but only on
what is due to me as a parent."
"This, Nathan," said my wife, "is not
what is due to a parent. God has revealed
that by baptism the condemned souls of
the tainted race of Adam will again be
rendered acceptable to his love ; but
wherefore it has been made the
qualification for that election is a mystery.
Yes, Nathan, I may in this be a disobedient
wife, but there is holiness in the
disobedience ; and I hope that our dear
baby, by receiving the sign and impress
required by the Redeemer, will become
eligible to partake of the blessing."


"Why should there be mysteries in the
world?" said I.
"Why should you be in the World?"
exclaimed my mother.
"Hem!" was all I could say to this
jargon ; but, to do my wife justice, she
spoke as it were with the voice of an
oracle. At other times the terms of her
phrases were like those of other women -
simple, and not more to the point than
needful ; but that day her mien and
elocution were impassioned, and her
accent high, yet melancholy, like that of
the afflicting spirit in a painful task of
I grew uneasy with her exhortations,
and being irked too by my mother's
vituperative persuasion, rose and went



I HAVE no reminiscence of my early life
that still affects me like the recollections of
that discussion ; for although many
arguments of the women were feminine
enough, there was a solemnity about my
wife that I had never seen any thing like
before. I saw clearly that she was not only
resolved to have the child christened, but
that she meditated something more - what
that was, the sequel will shew ; but I could
not help reflecting, as I walked along, on
the inveteracy of religious prejudice,
which could so disguise the various taxes
by which it was upheld, that even very
shrewd persons were unable to discern its
object or tendency.
Instead of strolling towards the town
on this occasion, although it was near the hour


when the London mail and news usually
arrived, I bent my steps towards the fields.
At all times since my childhood I have
been a lover of Nature ; and when my
feelings have been chafed by the effects of
the existing system, I have sought solace
and soothing from the beauty and calm of
the landscape. But on this occasion its
wonted sweet influences were stale ; for in
my bosom there was a bitter controversy,
in which conscious rectitude, and
adherence to my own notions of the right,
would not intermingle. Something
decisive was, however, requisite ; and at
last calling to mind how much nobler it is
to sacrifice one's own sentiments to those
which are dear to others, I resolved to
make no farther objection either to the fees
or the baptismal performance ; and
accordingly returned home in this
benevolent resolution, where, finding my
wife alone in our bedchamber, I bade her
wipe her tears, and do in the whole affair
as she thought fit, adding,
"I am ready to do my part - the father's


part in the ceremony - since to you and the
old people it is so important."
"Instead of returning me any answer,
she began to weep still more grievously,
which seemed very inexplicable ; and I
expressed my regret, with some surprise,
that she should receive my concession with
so little satisfaction.
"0 Nathan!" cried she, " speak not to
me in that manner : although you are my
husband, the father of my child, and one
whom I have vowed at the holy altar to
love and obey - it will yet make me turn
from you with feelings that I dare not
entertain. Your concession fills me with
horror. In the ceremony you have no part ;
and it is the dreadful thought, that it is I
who must object to you, which makes
these tears to flow."
"What do you mean?" cried I; "you
are incomprehensible."
"Ah! in that lies much of my grief.
Your irreligious opinions - I will call them
by no harsher name - disqualify you to


take the Christian vows. Your father and
uncle are to stand in your place."
"Come, come," said I, somewhat
disconcerted ; "this is carrying the joke too
far : I assure you, my dear, that I will do
what I ought, and all that you can desire."
"But you shall not. No, Nathan Butt,
it is I that bar you from the altar. You are
not fit to take upon you the sacred
obligations for your own child. Your
father and uncle must incur them for you."
I was not pleased to hear this bigotry,
and was on the point of replying with more
sternness than I had ever felt towards her
before ; but at that moment a housemaid
announced that the two gentlemen, with a
third, the Rev. Mr. Trial, a Presbyterian
preacher, whose church my uncle regularly
attended, had returned.
I went immediately to the drawing-
room, into which they had been shewn ;
and on making my appearance, my father
came towards me, and taking me by the
hand, in a manner which affected me with


said : "We have brought with us a religious
man, who will converse with you alone
before dinner. The ceremony is to be
performed in the evening by Dr.
Colridge, the rector. Your wife being of
the Establishment, surely you will not
object : I am willing to indulge her in this
little matter of mere form."
"The whole affair," said I, "is a matter
of no importance to me."
"So I see," rejoined my father, with a
severe accent ; and taking my uncle by the
arm, led him out of the room, and left me
with the Presbyterian minister.
It would be a tedious story to relate
the conversation that then ensued between
us ; for he was a narrow-minded man, and
spoke of a future state as confidently as of
tomorrow ; which shewed how little his
mind had been accustomed to examine
opinions unsupported by fact. But, saving
this weak credulity, he was not so austere
in his notions as many others of his cloth
that I have met with ; for, in answer to a
remark of mine, expressive of wonder that
he should


so readily consent that Dr. Colridge should
receive all the fees, he in a very
gentlemanly manner said, these were of no
importance in the question ; "the point of
difference," he added, "between Dr.
Colridge and me is a mere etiquette ; and
no sensible man, either of the Scottish or
English persuasion, attaches to it much
importance. In the scruples of Mrs. Butt,
however, we are both deeply interested :
she is a pious woman ; and to reason with
her respecting the state of her conscience
in this matter, would be to disturb her, yea,
perhaps, to shake the foundation of her
Language of this sort, seeming so
liberal, on a subject that is any thing but
liberal, perplexed me not a little ; but when
I called to mind that the poor man's stipend
and welfare were at stake in his doctrine, I
so far complied with what at the time
appeared as a domestic duty, that I said he
was very right.
"Mr. Trial, what you have expressed,"
said I, "is very edifying ; but you know in
a matter of this sort a man cannot be too


delicate ; and I would not altogether like to
take upon me obligations, which in my
conscience I felt were susceptible of
I could perceive by his manner that
the reverend gentleman was much troubled
with the force of my observations ; for,
after a pause of some time, he rose and
said, "We had better join the company ;
our respective opinions are not to be easily
reconciled I perceive, Mr. Butt ; only it is
some sign of a promise of grace, that you
are not so strongly opposed to the
principles of your wife, as to resist her in
this solemn matter."
We then joined the company in the
drawing-room, where I observed Mr. Trial
and Dr. Colridge soon after enter into
conversation by themselves, which I could
not fail to discern, by their side-long
glances, was all about me. Nevertheless,
dinner passed over with a little less
pleasantry on all hands than might have
been expected on such an occasion ; and in
the evening the ceremony took place, my
father, uncle, and mother, being the
sponsors. I stood a mere spectator, not
very well comprehending the


utility of what passed. But from that time
till our son had come to years of
discretion, his mother ingrained him, I am
sorry to say, with such obsolete notions,
that I doubt, now when our moral courage
ought to be lively and alert, that he is not
among the number of those who will prove
themselves the emancipators of the human
But to return to the effect which
public measures and events had upon me, I
must beg the intrepid reader to attend to
what I felt at the progress of Napoleon -
that great bad man, who so singularly
threw away the world.



WHEN Napoleon came upon the scene as
a monarch, it was an epoch of the drama
wherein he bore the principal part. From
the moment in which he assumed the
imperial attributes, I had my doubts of his
integrity ; for I beheld then that the star of
ancient things was again in the ascendant.
I trembled at his restorations - I grieved at
his institutions ; and I saw only a revival of
thraldom for mankind, especially when he
blended his fortunes, by marriage, with the
fated progeny of the doomed. But, when,
after that lapse, he again stepped forth in
his glory, conquering and to conquer, a
new hope dawned upon me. Alas! it
proved but the glare of that false light,
which streams up in the northern sky, and
is succeeded by no day. The Russian
campaign disappointed my


dreams ; and the havoc and storm which
pursued him to the Isle of Elba, smote me
with consternation. All around seemed
blasted ; and my sad ears heard no sound
but the riveting again of shackles and
fetters on the wrists and ankles of man.
In this dismal crisis, when the cry
arose that the captive Eagle was again on
the wing, and the wrens and sparrows
cowering and flying before him,
inadequate is the utterance of my pen to
express what I then felt. The primeval
energy of my spirit blazed up, and I
anticipated the renewal of all those fond
illusions which I had cherished with
enthusiasm in former years. But the
fortune of the world is like the destiny of
individuals - a very shuttlecock. Brief
indeed was the flattering hope that the
return of Napoleon to the Tuileries, and
the flight of Louis to Ghent, inspired.
The battle of Waterloo blighted my
expectations ; and with a sick and humbled
heart, I acknowledged that the cause of
philanthropy was, in consequence,
suspended. But I had yet the embers of
secret consolation


unquenched at the bottom of my heart.
"The cause of man," said I to myself,
"is a sacred cause - a cause to which the
heavens themselves are propitious ; and
this very eclipse that has darkened its
splendour, is a proof that it is in progress,
and will hereafter shine forth with more
refulgent lustre. It is to make the world
sensible of the blessing shed by the French
revolution, that the restoration of
malevolent things is permitted. Another
revolution - the bright breaking of another
- and all will go well!"
The comfort I derived from the
foresight of these reflections was soon
realised. The revulsion which took place
after the peace, was, in its calamities,
convincing to me that I had thought with
sagacity ; and the rumours which then
began to rise of discontents in the
manufacturing districts, assured me that
the great cause still lived, and that the
candle, though low in the socket, was not

"Even in their ashes live their wonted fires,"

said I to myself, when I considered the


front with which men, determined to have
their wrongs redressed, assembled at the
convocations of those advocates of reform
who vindicated the rights of their brethren.
The adversaries of freedom and
equality were not blind to the danger
kindling around them. With the same
disregard of eternal principles which had
enabled them to come victors out of the
war, they exerted their utmost to stifle the
rising spirit - and undoubtedly for a time
they succeeded. Smother it, they could
not, for it is a divine flame ; but they
certainly did manage for a while to put
down what they sarcastically called the
"Radical uproar." I shall not, however,
speak of the promiscuous blood which, at
their instigation, was shed, nor of the
persecution to which the bold and free
were consigned. The reader will recollect
them all.
Still, even in those triumphs and
victories, as the adversaries of
emancipation deemed them, there was
consolation to the subdued and oppressed.
It was clearly visible that the champions of
freedom were not yet in circumstances


to contend with the usurpers of property,
and the possessors of power. Measures,
therefore, more consonant to our
condition, were forced upon our
consideration by the ineffectuality of the
Scottish Radical campaign. To strive with
those who in the field commanded the
sinews of war, required a peculiar, and
new as peculiar, system of tactics. But the
same untired genius that ever delighted to
re-illume [sic] our darkening hopes, was
still amongst us. Taught by it, we retired
from the battle of blows, and with a
unanimity that will be remarked by
posterity as among the wonders of the
time, we had recourse to the weapons of
reason, and the intellectual contests of
argument. Yet in this retreat we did not
escape contumely. On the contrary, we
were treated as if we had been subjugated ;
and in the endurance of that exultation, we
acquired the patience which is now giving
us a foretaste of at last becoming in our
turn the conquerors.
Well do I recollect the ineffable sneer
with which my father, at this time an old


man, attempted to rebuke me while
describing to a party at his table the glories
of the French revolution, and how much
the world had lost by its failure, - the effect
of the unprepared elements it had to work
"It was," said I, "a new era - the
revelation of better truths and dogmas,
when the spirit of liberty, which had long
struggled in the bowels of despotism, burst
forth at Paris with an explosion that
astonished the whole earth."
"Truly, Nathan," interposed my father,
"French liberty was indeed a fundamental



"EXPERIENCE teaches fools;" and her
lessons were not lost upon me, nor upon
those who, like me, were stimulated by an
innate antipathy to that oppression which it
is the effect of the social state, in its
existing structure, to entail on man.
It was evident that Nature, ever wise
and beneficent, rejected the design of
advocating her cause by force. Nothing
but this palpable truth can explain the
disasters which befell our arms. But,
though late, instruction came at last ; we
saw that our weapons were arguments, and
our artillery reasons ; and accordingly we
suited our belligerency to our means.
After the fatal turbulence displayed in
the manufacturing districts, and the
apparently subdued bravery with which we
retired from the hostile demonstration of


mobs with clubs, we instinctively turned
our valour to intellectual controversy.
No man could deny the burdens of the
nation - all felt them, and augmented the
general cry. Nothing could be more
galling to the latent indignation of the
country, than that so many should enjoy
the fruit of the taxes - should revel in
elegance, or wallow in opulence, on the
hard-won earnings of the industrious poor ;
and we took up this obvious truth as our
"What did it avail," we said, "that
these persons, supported by the taxes, had
either served the state by themselves or
relations? More honourable it had been for
them, had they employed themselves in the
arts or honest trades, and provided for
their friends from their individual gains,
rather than have deemed themselves, from
the accident of their being servants of the
public, entitled to pasture their kindred
near them on the same common."'
This argument took : Whigs and
Tories, subdued by its plausibility, joined
in the cry ; and retrenchment became the


shout. It never once occurred to these
witlings, that retrenchment could not be
made to touch the public establishments
without affecting individuals ; and they
both, regardless of consequences urged
and clamoured for it as an unmingled
This was serving our purpose, and
recruiting our ranks. Every one who was
cast upon his own resources by
retrenchment, became added to the
phalanx of Reform. The more the cry for
it prevailed, the stronger we waxed in
numbers ; while the two poor, short-
sighted, rival factions were devouring each
other - the Tories, by yielding to the
representations of the Whigs, and the
Whigs, by goading on the Tories into
measures that were one day to leave them
both without that influence in society,
which it is the nature of patronage to
ensure, and of property to beget. The more
that the one was provoked by the taunts of
the other to sanction retrenchment, their
respective powers were diminished. But
the infatuated saw not this. The Whigs
cried out for reduction ; the Tories, in their


endeavours to appease them, discharged
and reduced the adherents of Government,
or, in other words, lessened the number of
the mercenaries in the system of
oppression, and made it in some sort
A rational war like this was the only
war we ever should have waged. But at
first, - as the child, who grows conscious
of strength, instinctively employs it in
mischief, - we unfortunately were not
aware that physical coercion never could
accomplish moral purposes ; and yet to
attain them we had recourse to physical
means. When our reason, however, grew
to maturity, we saw our error ; and the
indefatigable use of the mere word "
retrenchment," did more for the restoration
of natural privileges than all the crimson
struggles of the early French revolution -
the insubordination of the manufacturing
districts - and the abortive endeavours of
embodied multitudes to intimidate the law.
It enchanted the Tories to part with their
guards - it left the Whigs without a pretext
to take them into their service ; and the
victims of what was considered


national policy, in their destitution and
bereavement, flocked to our standard. It
was this, thank Heaven, that made us what
we now are - that put us in a condition to
render the Whigs subservient to our will,
and the Tories, in their astonishment, the
objects of our derision. Too late have the
latter discovered, that in yielding to
retrenchment, they but multiplied
discontent. But in vain is all their bravery
; we have wrested from them the sceptre -
one struggle more, and it is broken for
When the effect of the cry for
retrenchment became visible, I remember a
discussion that I had at the time with my
old friend Mr. Grudger - a true man he
was, with all his feelings palpitating and
obvious : Spagnoletti never painted one of
his skinless subjects with muscles more
strikingly articulated than Mr. Grudger,
with his throbbing sensibilities, always
appeared to me.
"No doubt, Mr. Butt," said he, " from
the manner in which retrenchment is
administered, as you observe, the general


of the human race may derive great
advantage ; but think how very nearly it
has endangered the Radical cause. Had
the aristocracy of the Tories seen the thing
in its true light, they would have made a
stout stand against retrenchment in the
very beginning, or would have begun their
reductions with plucking, what one of the
most strenuous advocates of retrenchment
calls "the birds of prey." Instead, however,
of doing so, they have always regarded the
desire in man for the re-establishment of
equality as a temporary cholera ; and,
partly from folly mixed with sordidness,
they began their reductions with their
dependants. Had they set about lopping
their own salaries and sinecures, and given
up to their inferiors something, instead of
taking from them every thing, the feeling
towards them would have been very
different. The age required that men who
had large private properties should have
resigned what they drew from the public
purse. But the Tories have acted otherwise
; and as they have sown, so shall they reap.
As for the Whigs,


their conduct has, in principle, been still
more efficacious, though unintended.
They have never lost an occasion on which
they could decry the cupidity of their
adversaries, and thus have fought our
battles ; little aware, that, when the time
should come that office was to be at their
acceptance, the very words which they
employed against the grasping of the
Tories, would be used as javelins and
barbed arrows against themselves. By
their arguments they have advocated our
cause ; and the Tories by their conduct
were also, unconsciously, our auxiliaries."
"What you remark, Mr. Grudger, is
very true; had the Tories done, as you say
they might have done, the very course of
proceeding that makes for us, might have
been otherwise ; for then retrenchment, in
that case, would have taken the sacred
character of sacrifice, and the hearts of
men might have rallied to uphold a system
productive of such beautiful results. But,
my dear sir, you forget that corruption,
which it is the aim of every philanthropist
to remove, prevented


the Tories from doing what you say ; and
the Whigs in employing the means they
have done to drive their rivals from place,
happily forgot that the schoolmaster was
abroad, and in oblivion of that
circumstance, they spoke to his unwashen
pupils, the populace, as their predecessors,
the Whigs of other days, cajoled the
country gentlemen. The commonalty now
are at least equal in understanding to the
De Coverleys and Westerns of other
My friend seemed a little thoughtful
as I said this, and, disinclined to continue
the conversation, subjoined, "It would take
a wiser head than mine to say what course
would now be most salutary for the world ;
but let us hope that it cannot be an evil
thing which so many are pursuing with
such ardour."



SUBSEQUENTLY to the discussion with
Mr. Grudger, it often occurred to me that
retrenchment alone was not sufficient to
account for the visible strengthening of our
cause ; and I began, in consequence, to
look into the secret workings of the world,
both as they affected man, and man
affected them. The result was consolatory.
It appeared to me, by this study, that a
moral transmutation was taking place, at
least equal in importance to that political
change which had at first attracted my
attention. The olden and the reverenced
were no longer regarded with the same
sentiment as in other times ; and men's
minds, instead of considering what might
be for the good of society, began to
question whether society itself, organised
as it was with error, could be of any good
at all. I frequently wondered


how it came to pass that mankind ever
consented to endure artificial arrangements
subversive of the rights of nature ; for
there can be no doubt that the
arrangements which result from the social
structure are corrosive of individual
powers and endowments. Privilege is but
a poor substitute for faculty ; and it is as
much the nature of society to subvert
individual faculty, as it is of education to
extinguish original genius.
Not, however, to enlarge on this
interesting subject, I perceived a growing
doubt in the world as to the utility of many
things which our ancestors held in
veneration ; and to search out the root of
that doubt was, for some time, with me an
object of peculiar solicitude. In the
investigation I was well rewarded ; for it
afforded me a striking assurance that
prejudice was becoming obsolete.
Among other changes, at the same
time, which I observed taking place in
society, was an ebb or subsidence of
anxiety for the interests of posterity, - an
ancestral error in the feeling of patriotism
or public spirit.


which occupied a high station in the minds
of our predecessors. For example, it had
been deemed the very acme of human
wisdom to put off the evil day always as
far as possible ; and accordingly the nation
incurred debt, and the more freely, too, as
posterity could not complain of the
condition to which it would by it be borne,
not having any experience of better
circumstances. But when the truth of the
case was discerned, it became the general
opinion that we should remove the taxes
that were to relieve, by the Sinking Fund,
our progeny from the debt, to enjoy the
fruits of that removal
ourselves. Many taxes were, in
consequence, reduced and taken off, and
the debt left for posterity to deal with as
might be seen fit. But, strange enough, it
came to pass, that as the taxes were
extinguished, both public and private
distress increased, - a phenomenon that has
yet to be explained.
The distress which flowed from
retrenchment was obvious and explicable ;
but that a similar result should be a
consequence of reducing the public
burdens, puzzled many


sound heads ; nor could it be deemed
accounted for, when it was said, that the
greater the amount of taxation, the quicker
is the circulation of money ; and in
proportion to the velocity of the circulation
is the vivacity of prosperity.
I did not, however, perplex myself
with investigating the causes of this effect.
I was pleased with the moral issues to
which it tended, inasmuch as with them
was a more legitimate progress of right
thinking, than from the sordid discontent
generated by retrenchment. But with many
of my friends the satisfaction was not so
decided. They saw in the afflictions
occasioned by the stagnation, only evils,
which I regarded but as the calamities of a
battle, where victory promotes a righteous
cause, - for it seems to be an ordinance of
Nature, that evil should be ever the
precursor of good.
One day as I was speaking on this
topic with a neighbour, and expressing my
wonder to Mr. Thole, how it so happened
that the community became in all its
manifold interests, more and more
depressed by the


measures intended to repair its elasticity,
he, who was not altogether of a sound and
sane way of thinking on many points, said,
after some cogitation, that he thought I
made a mistake, by attributing the distress
to one cause, which by its results was
evidently the consequence of another.
"It is manifest, Mr. Butt," continued
he, "that if the taxes be burdensome and a
grievance, their removal should lighten a
load ; and therefore I do think it stands to
reason, that if when they are removed an
increased weight be felt, and a grievance
becomes more galling, something else than
the taxes must be in fault."
I was a little in doubt as to the answer
I should make to this, which looked so like
reason, and said, "Very true, Mr. Thole ;
but as Radicalism thrives by it, and the
general world is turned more towards the
question of permitting property to continue
in such large masses, we need not trouble
ourselves as to what may be the real source
of that suffering, which seems to come of
reducing the taxes. It is sufficient that it
does come,


and if not the spring of the distress, it is
certainly a sign."
"I cannot be of that opinion," replied
Mr. Thole ; "for although I have in many
cases great reliance on your judgment, it
startles me to hear you ascribe to one
cause an effect which clearly belongs to
another : I cannot away with that."
"Then what do you think," said I, "can
be the origin of the distress, which, if it
does not arise from abridging the
circulation by taking off the taxes, is
coeval with it ? for I am willing to admit
that the phenomenon is perplexing."
"I am not a man, Mr. Butt, as you
know well, much addicted to abstruse
matters ; I have, however, a notion, that
unless rents are reduced in an equal degree
universally with the taxes, much of the
distress may be owing to that
circumstance. The newspapers now and
then tell us of this gentleman, and that
nobleman, who on his audit-day remitted
so many per cents to his tenantry ; but I
doubt if the fashion has yet become


"Then, Mr. Thole, does not that
convince you of the badness of that state
of things wherein the few have the power
of producing such affliction to the many?
No, sir : whatever be the cause of so much
and such general distress, it cannot be
doubted that the breaking into pieces of
the great masses of property would
essentially contribute to alleviate the
grievances. Get change for a shilling, and
you may relieve four-and-twenty beggars ;
but while you have only the shilling entire,
where is your charity? Let the great
properties be smashed, what will then be
the effect of the fragments distributed
among the million?"
I had him here on the hip - he could
not controvert the inference ; and I added,
as a clencher, which for that time closed
the discussion, "Is it not something to
know the cause of the distress of the
world? for knowing the cause, we may
bethink ourselves of removing it. Yes :
you are right. The taxes have nothing to do
with the distress ; the rents! - the rents! -
should be looked to! and can that be done without


looking to the land that yields them? Tell
me, sir, why it is that the world permits the
continuation of such an abuse as the
existence of that class or order called
'landlords?' What is the origin of their
property? How was it derived ? For what
purpose was it given to them?- Look to
that, Master Brook -look to that!"



BUT while I was thus occasionally
indulging speculative opinions with my
friends, and had hitherto in no particular
degree felt the severity of the times, the
hour of visitation was drawing nearer
and nearer. The business in which I was
engaged with my uncle was one of those
sober and methodical trades which are less
subject to vicissitudes than others
sometimes more profitable. We
experienced the flush of prosperity in more
moderation than many of our neighbours,
and, in like manner, the blight of adversity
fell milder on our industry, when it
reached to the roots and often withered the
branches of theirs.
That very regularity in our business,
which may be said to have had a moral
influence in attaching the old gentleman to
the existing


form of things, and caused him to dislike
changes, as fraught with danger, was
destined, in the shock of commerce, to
sustain molestation. He had retired from
active life ; but be left his name and a large
portion of his capital in the concern, of
which I of course became the head and
manager. The system worked well, and I
had only to see that the wheels were
properly oiled. The course of Nature in
the seasons was not more trustworthy than
the regularity with which our affairs
produced their accustomed harvest ; but as
in the former the Universal Mother
sometimes goes awry, we had also to
endure accidents; and thus it happened,
that an old and esteemed correspondent,
who was deeply in our debt, and of whose
solvency we had never a doubt, suddenly
died ; and on examining his books, it
appeared that the general decay of trade
had so preyed upon his means for some
years, that his assets were not adequate, by
a considerable sum, to the discharge of his
obligations. Our loss was great, so great
that it materially injured


our fortune, and caused a depression of
spirits, and the most gloomy forebodings,
to fasten on my uncle's mind.
For some time he bore up against the
calamity with an energy that was
encouraging to contemplate in an aged
man, and I was nerved by his example; but
in the course of the following winter his
health began to give way, and he fell into a
black and pale despondency of the most
funereal kind. The disease slowly but still
increasing, grew apace as his strength
declined ; and at last the doctor told me
that be could not live long.
At this period my uncle resided a few
miles from the town, in a country-house
which he had purchased to enjoy his
freedom when he quitted active life, and I
had not seen him for sometime. On
receiving the physician's intimation,
however, I went to him immediately - for I
was more affected by the tidings than a
strict philosophy could justify. Nature
had, by old age, so plainly served her writ
upon him, that be could no longer
postpone the payment of her debt.


It was the evening - a winter night - as I
approached his dwelling, a handsome
mansion, situated in a respectable park.
The leaves were all fallen, and the wind
blew gusty through the branches, as I rode
up the avenue. I saw a light in his bed-
room as I approached the house, and by
several of the windows I could perceive
persons with candles in their hands moving
to and fro in the house. From my earliest
years I have been accustomed, by some
inscrutable association, to connect such
numerous and moving lights, dimly
gleaming from the windows of silent
houses, with ideas of anguish and
misfortune, and the mysteries of death.
My mind was, accordingly, at the time full
of these solemnities, to which the warning
of the doctor had given the most saddening
probability. I alighted at the door with
awe and sorrow ; for the old man had
always been very kind to me.
The servant, who took my horse,
answered to my eager inquiry, that my
uncle, his master, was still alive ; and,
without ceremony, I softly ascended the
stairs and


hastened into his bed-chamber ; but a
feeling of uncontrollable dread seized me
as I entered, and I could not advance
towards the couch, - and yet I shall never
forget the scene that was before me.
On a table, with a shaded lamp, stood
a mass of Esculapian mummery -labelled
phials, open papers of the apothecary, with
pill-boxes, tea-cups, and a small basin with
a spoon. A Presbyterian clergyman, an old
friend of the dying man, sat at his pillow,
and on the coverlet lay the New Testament
open ; while Mrs. Guidance, the venerable
housekeeper, grasping the curtain with one
hand, and holding a handkerchief in the
other, stood gazing in the old man's face,
whose fixed and glassy eye glittered as
with the reflection of a ray - but it was not
of the mind.
My consternation, for I have no other
name to give to what I felt, dissolved
away, and I advanced. The suppressed
noise of my movement for a moment
excited attention. The minister looked up ;
Mrs. Guidance towards me behind her ;
and as I bent


forward, the good old man, whose time
was come, turned his eye upon me with a
gleam of intelligence, and expired.
For some time I was so agitated with
the thought of having been almost too late,
that I could not recover my scattered
senses. I had never been so impressively
affected before ; and though it is
impossible to say wherefore, I sat down on
a chair, and my tears began to flow. At
this crisis, Mr. Trial, the clergyman
alluded to, left his seat beside the dead
man's pillow, and coming towards me,
took me in a merciful manner by the hand.
"You must go with me," said he ; "the
women are coming, and it is not meet that
we should at this time remain longer here :
let us go down stairs. He has had a
pleasant departure, and has been blessed
with that hope in death which can only be
earned by a well-spent life. Come, let us
go together ; his latest words were of pity
concerning you, and I promised to repeat
to you his last request."
Having, all my days, had a judicious,


suspicion of ecclesiastical craftiness, this
expression put me on my guard; and I
replied, "At some more convenient season,
Mr. Trial, I shall be most happy to receive
any communication you may have to make
; but at present the fatigue of my ride, and
the mournful spectacle we have just
witnessed, render me unfit to give proper
"It was his wish," said Mr. Trial, "that
I should take the very first moment, when
the impression of his death was strongest,
to deliver to you his last solemn advice."
I felt this as a little importunate, and
replied, " No doubt it is natural that you,
Mr. Trial, should be eager to perform your
duty; but you are a sensible man, and know
well that the wisest in the crisis of death
are not in the best situation to give advice."
"Sir," cried he, drawing up, as if I had
offended him, "men in all ages have ever
deemed a death-bed admonition deserving
of more than common consideration."
"I know what you say is the prevalent
opinion of the World," replied I, "and the


gentlemen of your cloth have found an
advantage in upholding it; but the truth,
notwithstanding, is, that a man in the
throes of death has quite enough to do with
his own pains and fears, without thinking
much about what may be for the benefit of
others. I shall, however, in the morning be
in a better condition to hear what you have
to say to me from my uncle, than I am at
this moment."
Without making any answer, he
looked at me for a short space of time with
the wonted self-sufficiency of his order ;
and seeing I was serious, and, indisposed
to farther conversation, he turned on his
heel, and with an air that would have
become a pope or metropolitan, bade me
good night, and immediately left the
Since that incident, I have studiously
kept myself aloof from all the different
denominations of the priesthood ; for I
never so clearly saw as I did on that
occasion, that there is something in their
office which leads them to imagine
themselves superior to the commonalty of
mankind, or prompts


them to desire that the world should
believe so. It is only by individuals
commencing in their respective spheres the
work of reformation, that it ever can be
accomplished. Were all men to treat the
members of the privileged orders as I have
done, the nuisance of being troubled with
them would soon be abated.



THE natural extinction of my uncle, as
may be easily deduced from the foregoing
chapter, forms an era in my life. The
cause which hastened on the event had
great influence on my conduct ; and the
event itself, as I have shewn, induced me
to determine on finally separating myself
from the ecclesiastical order. With the
aristocracy I had never much communion,
and accordingly no particular
estrangement was requisite towards them.
The same cause which accelerated the
exit of the worthy old man, acted on me in
a twofold manner. It abridged my means,
and, by obliging me to attend with more
sordid eagerness to mercantile concerns,
diminished the time I had to spare for
loftier pursuits. The result was manifest
on my fortune ; and I soon saw that I must


trade or politics. The election to a liberal
mind was not difficult : I retired with a
competency below what, had I continued,
would probably have been my portion ;
small, however, is the enough for a
philosopher :
"Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long."
But the domestic tribulation which I
still suffered, from the effects of the
ecclesiastical dogmas on the mind of my
wife, was not so easily alleviated ; for she
never ceased to express her grief at the
insensibility with which she alleged I
treated my eternal interests.
In vain did I often tell her, that
marriage was but a temporal arrangement,
the necessary consequence of those laws of
inheritance which the mistaken founders of
society had imposed upon the innate
freedom of the species ; and that beyond
the duration of the legal tie there could be
no reciprocal obligation on the one to care
for the other. "Besides, Mrs. Butt," said I,
" why do you think I regard my soul less,
if I have one, than you do yours ? Truly


give yourself too much thought on this
Thus it happened, though I cleared
myself of that occasional interference of
the priests, with which I had been molested
from the baptism of my son, I was yet
compelled to endure from Mrs. Butt a
constancy of remonstrance on the subject,
the more afflicting, as the poor woman was
really sincere, and seemed to think that
belief in her doctrines could be brought
about by exhortation. But her error in this
respect at last became intolerable ; my
instinctive sense of liberty revolted at such
unvaried anxiety concerning matters of
which the evidence, to say the least of it, is
concealed in mystery ; and I resolved to
revert to first principles, and rid myself of
the grievance.
"Mrs. Butt," said I, one night as we
were sitting by the parlour fire-side, "it is a
very extraordinary thing, that now, when I
am free from the cares of business, and can
give my full attention to the solicitudes of
philanthropy, I experience no increase of


"How, indeed, Nathan, can you ever
expect it - you whose only trust is in the
things of this world - things, too, that are
but possibilities in the future time.? Were
you, Nathan, to set your heart on the
stabilities of that future which lies beyond
time, the case would be far different with
"That, Mrs. Butt, is just a repetition of
what you have said times without number ;
and you would not lower yourself in my
good opinion, were you to forbear such
reiteration ; for, let me tell you, I begin to
think that much of the molestation of my
condition comes of your incessant probing
and pricking of what you are pleased to
call my infidelity. There must be an end of
the plague."
"What end, Nathan? Can I ever give
up my regard for your immortal welfare ?"
"If that is your opinion, Mrs. Butt, the
sooner we come to a right understanding the better."
"What mean you?"
"It is needless," said I, "to repeat, that
I am too much of a philosopher to


think of enduring afflictions which may be
"Would indeed that you were less in
some things ! But what is it in the troubles
of human life, that you can shun?"
"You," was my court [sic] reply.
To this she made no answer ; but
looking in my face with a smile tinctured
with sadness, she took hold of my hand ; I
had however, fortitude to add, "It is not to
be disguised, Mrs. Butt, that your way of
thinking - indeed the very substance of
your thoughts - is different from mine ;
and we should both act prudently, before
coming to an open quarrel, were we to
break up our domicile."
I need not relate what then ensued ;
but she said that surely I was beside
myself, to carry my phantastical notions to
such an extremity ; and concluded, "But I
will never consent, - I am your wedded
wife :" and then she added, jocularly, -
"the law will not allow it."
"You do not suppose," replied I, "that
in a rational matter of this kind I would


have recourse to the law ; I only put it to
you, as a sensible woman, how much more
expedient it would be for us to live in
different houses, than to be worrying the
life out of one another in this way."
"And who do you intend to put in my place?"
"That's a very feminine suspicion,"
said I, coolly ; and seeing she was at the
time in a very irrational mood, I rose and
left her to ruminate on what we had been
talking of.
As usual, when disturbed, I walked
into the garden ; for although the season
was advanced, the night was clear and
pleasant - the stars were all out, and the
new moon, the sickle of time, in its
brightest polish, hung sharp on the
horizon. The still air was bracing, without
being cold ; and, after I had taken two or
three turns, I felt myself in a composed
and judicious mood and course for calm
"Without question," said I to myself,
as I paced the walk, "the woman is in the
right ; and the yoke that galls me is not of


her nature, but is plainly one of those evils
which result from the institutions of
property, as well as from the ascendency
of the pontifical order, whose influence,
more or less, pervades in all things the
condition of man. By those fatal laws
which have rivetted husband and wife
together, a dependency is induced of the
weaker on the stronger ; and, to make it
the more indissoluble, it has been
consecrated. As a general institution it
may perhaps be susceptible of some
defence ; but between two enlightened and
intellectual beings, like my wife and me,
surely neither of us should set so much
store on an ancient custom, as to punish
ourselves by adhering to it."
Having thus reasoned myself into the
fullest conviction, that in our case there
was manifest folly in doing as the world
did, I went into the house with the intent of
coming to an explicit understanding ; but,
much to my surprise, I found Mrs. Butt
sitting in the dark, in her own chamber,
and weeping very bitterly. I had at the
time a candle in my hand, and I placed it
on the


dressing-table, and inquired, in a soft
voice, what had happened.
"Need you ask, Nathan?" was her
reply. "But it is not the first time I have
noticed, with awe, that you have allowed
light words to drop from you concerning
the marriagevow. What have I done, that
you should speak of sending me away?
Am not I your wife, the mother of your
children? And, in all things save the claim
of Heaven, I have been ever to you true
and faithful. Your conscience cannot
accuse me of any deficiency. Why, then,
do you harbour such cruel and disreputable
thoughts against me?"
"You take a wrong view of the matter
altogether, my dear," was my considerate
reply. " I am only anxious that we both
should try our natural rights ; and your
very blamelessness is with me a reason for
proposing it ; for there is nothing which
the world can impute to you in
disparagement, but every thing to render
the step respectable in the eyes of our
neighbours. It is just such a pair as we
have ever been, that


should shew an example of superiority to
"Nathan Butt," was her answer,
wiping her eyes - "if I had not always
heard you spoken of as a man of talents -
nay, a man of genius, with nothing more to
object to than a few of those innocent
crotchets inseparable from that
temperament, I should think you either a
bad or a mad man. Just content yourself
with me ; for I'll never consent to a
separation, which only crime or necessity
can justify - and neither of us has a plea of
that sort to set up."
Seeing that she was thus so obstinate
in her prejudices, I refrained from pressing
the subject, for there is much good reason
in forbearance, when you see your
argument falls ineffectual, like water spilt
on the ground.



IF I did not in every thing meet with that
compliancy in my domestic circle, after I
quitted business, that I had so much cause,
from my philosophical sobriety, to expect,
out of doors my character and name were
increasing; and I perceived that many of
my neighbours were inclined to my way of
thinking. We did not, as on former
occasions, hold meetings to display our
strength and numbers : we pursued a more
effectual and impressive course, and saw
clearly before us, that, even if we failed to
vindicate the jurisdiction of Nature over
society, we should yet better the condition
of mankind, by persevering in our efforts
to procure reform.
I ought, however, in justice to the
unaltered integrity of my principles, to
mention, that I was not quite satisfied to


in the compromise which this implied. I
still remained as convinced as ever, that
the prize and goal of our pursuit should be
nothing less than the emancipation of the
human race from the trammels and
bondage of the social law ; although,
certainly, I did abet rational undertakings
to procure parliamentary reform, as among
the means by which my own great and
high purpose might be attained. It thus
came to pass that, notwithstanding the
celebrity I acquired among the Reformers,
I was not, in fact, a strict member of the
sect : my heart beat warmly towards them,
but my hopes went far beyond their
desires. I saw in the accomplishment of
their objects that a new stepping-stone
would be established to help on to mine.
The truth is, that the Reformers and
the Radicals are two very different parties.
It is not impossible - and I say so, having
studied their predilections -that the former
may hereafter amalgamate themselves with
the Whigs and Tories, which the latter
never can. Radicalism is an organic
passion, and


cannot be changed in its tendencies ; it
goes to the root of the evil that is in the
world, and discerns that, without an
abolition of the laws and institutes which it
has been so long the erroneous object of
society to uphold, the resuscitation of first
principles can never be effected ; and
nothing less than that resuscitation will be
Once, when I happened to say so to
my neighbour Mr. Cobble, who was not a
Radical, but only a Reformer, he made a
remarkable observation, which I have
never been able properly to digest.
"Radicalism, then," said he, "is but
that desire for further improvement which
is the result of improvement, and can have
no end or limitation : whereas the reform
that I seek is a moderate measure of
amendment in things that have fallen into
abuse. Yours is a new system - a
revolution ; but we seek no overthrow ; we
only would repair the dilapidation of ages,
and the tear and wear of time. We would
not have society put on a new aspect, or
greatly depart from her wont ; but you
behold evil in all


things, and aim at their total removal. I
doubt, Mr. Butt, that if the Reformers once
suspect your party of being actuated by
such ambition, they will make no scruple
of joining our common adversaries to
repress them."
I pondered on this speech ; and being
unable to understand it properly, I
exclaimed to myself, "Can any two things
be more dissimilar than society and a state
of nature? Is not society the creation of
mere human wisdom, and therefore
defective? but is not nature endowed with
a divine fatality, which is constantly
operating to the confusion and overthrow
of the artificial state? What is meant by
the spirit of one age being milder than that
of another, but that the progress of
knowledge has taught men to relax the
fetters that society has placed on nature ?"
In short, the remark of Mr. Cobble
troubled me, and opened my eyes to many
things which perhaps my sanguine temper
had made me overlook, Hitherto it had
been too much my habit to consider the
simple Reformers as of our party, and only
a lukewarm


class of them ; but from his expressions I
discerned the inherent difference, but did
not perceive for some time how much that
difference was intrinsic ; and when I did
discover that it was vital and elementary,
my mind was far from content. In fact, it
was obvious that if the Radicals were
under the influence of a misconception, the
Reformers committed no very hazardous
mistake in reckoning them in their
association ; but the case was
unfortunately otherwise, when the Radicals
imagined that the Reformers were with
them : a difference to be remembered.
This detection, as I would call it, cave
me great uneasiness ; for as soon as the
suggestion was confirmed, by what may be
described as auricular demonstration, I
was sensible of the necessity of changing
our course.
"Sooner or later," said I, "these timid
Reformers will be absorbed by the Whigs
and Tories ; and out of the amalgamation a
fourth party will be coagulated, stronger
than either, the denomination of which is
as yet dormant in the womb of time. It


us, therefore, to be wary ; and as the
Whigs have used the Reformers for their
own ends, and the Reformers have treated
us with as little principle, we must, in our
great cause, make no scruple of fighting
them all with their own weapons."
The force of this opinion I took aner early opportunity of testing among friends erwho were thorough philanthropists ; and,
by its effect on them, I saw that the true
course which we ought to take, was to
intermingle ourselves still more, and
systematically, with the Reformers, and
avail ourselves of every judicious
opportunity of sowing among them the
seeds of our regenerative philosophy. This
esoteric doctrine, or rather the practice
directed by it, soon became general in the
country, and it is since quite extraordinary
with what rapidity it has spread. I do not,
however, say that all Reformers now are in
their hearts Radicals ; but many who did at
first believe that a reform of the Commons'
House would extinguish all grievances, are
now fully persuaded that it will not even
lessen them ; and that, unless there


shall be some perennial fount of first
principles established, at which legislation
can be refreshed, - the reform will have
only the effect of subtracting from the wise
few that power which, in the possession of
the foolish many, may lead to interminable
It is, however, more in accordance
with the scope of these sketches, to
illustrate by incidents than to enforce by
theory ; I shall therefore abstain, at
present, from farther dissertation, to give
some account of the result on the conduct,
both of my friends and myself, as it came
to pass, when we discovered how much the
Reformers, those ephemeral philosophers,
were making tools of us, whose principles
are as indestructible as the atoms of light -
for truth is light - moral light, and its
particles eternal!



IN this state of doubtful opinion as to the
strength of parties, I had a few confidential
friends one day to dinner ; and our
conversation, after Mrs. Butt had retired,
was in the highest style of philosophy.
Few topics connected with the condition of
man were left untouched : the West India
question of slavery ; the inconvenience
arising to the boldest and the best men, by
the political subdivision of the world ; and
the insurmountable barrier which so many
different languages present to the progress
of knowledge, - were all discussed as they
should be, and in some instances with an
intrepidity of argument that was quite
Mr. Blazon was particularly eloquent
on that most abominable tax on
knowledge, which renders the newspapers,
those oracles of a wisdom not materially
manacled by


education, so costly, that seven pence is
demanded for what would be dear at a
penny ; concluding his peroration with a
prophetic vista of the time when the
English language, by the American States,
and the Oriental Colonies, would be
universal over all the earth ; maintaining
that we should regard it as one of our
greatest duties to promote a consummation
so devoutly to be wished.
Often have I thought since, that the
Society for the Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge had its origin from what
passed on that occasion ; for soon after,
one of the party visited London, where he
no doubt met with many remarkable men,
to whom, as a matter of course, he
probably related what he had heard, and
thus sowed the seeds of that most pregnant
institution ; an institution which may with
propriety be referred to as a well-head of
the human mind, which it is now purifying.
Its cheap tracts are worth the recondite
quartos of a former age. Can philosophy
desire a better proof of the perfectibility of


On the occasion alluded to, after we
had handled several interesting topics with
powerful effect, Mr. Asper, a shrewd but
cautious man, most invaluable as a
neighbour for his suggestions, though little
inclined to take a very active part in the
measures of which he was the father, said
the time was come in which it was
befitting our cause that we should assume
more ostentation in the world ; and
proposed that we should for the future
advocate the enterprises of the Reformers,
but in such a manner as to leaven them to
our own purposes. On this proposition
there was a great deal of sound opinion
offered ; but it took no effect with any
of the party till the middle of the summer
following, when it was determined that
three of us, a post chaise full, should
together visit some of the most excited
parts of the country, and place ourselves
before the people.
When this was determined on, I
resolved to be one of the three ; for my
talent lay in the hardihood with which I
always, from my very youth, went through
adventures of


bravery. Not that I was either froward or
forward but it delighted me to have a task
of stratagem or difficulty - a spirit which
lay dormant while I was in business, but
awakened and came forth in revived
vigour when I became my own
independent master.
Accordingly, when the fixed period
arrived, Mr. Blazon, Mr. Asper, and I, set
out for the north. It was concerted among
us that we should be a considerable
distance from our own neighbourhood
before we entered on our vocation. Not
that any particular diffidence affected us ;
but we called to mind the old saying, that
prophets are not respected in their own
countries ; and on the hint of Mr. Asper,
resolved to keep our lantern shut till we
were in a proper situation.
At this time we had received some
information, which led us to believe that
the men of Old-Port were verging to a
right way of thinking ; and we resolved to
begin with them. Two reasons led to this.
The first was, that in the neighbourhood of
that town lived a Whig gentleman, whose


and board were ever open and free to men
earnest in the good work ; and the other
was no less cogent, - the corporation of the
place, however liberal and enlightened the
citizens, was strictly Tory. But it was
apprehended a change would soon come to
pass ; as the chief magistrate, who had
been particularly fierce in his opinions,
had recently died ; and the other who
survived was reported to be an easy man,
and not very stern in his opposition to the
display of popular feeling. We were
therefore induced to select Old-Port as our
first scene for these reasons, that if a
change in the sentiments of the town were
manifested, we might have the credit of
being instrumental in producing it. The
result, however, was not exactly as we had
Mr. Greedison, our Whig friend, lived
about a couple of miles from the town.
His mansion was one of the best in that
part of the country ; but his servants were
rather notorious for their arrogance ;
indeed, he was a man himself of an austere
temperament, and perhaps encouraged
them a little


in their failing, by his example.
Nevertheless, he received us in the most
hospitable manner, and it was evident that
our arrival was an epoch to his household.
We had purposely so arranged it that
we should reach Mr. Greedison's some
time before dinner, having announced to
him by letter, that in our tour to ascertain
the state of public opinion in that quarter,
we intended to hold a meeting next day in
Old-Port. It accordingly happened, that
being thus apprised of our intention, he
had sent notice concerning us to the town,
where a great expectation was awakened,
and every heart beat high with the most
exalted feelings. "It is truly delightful,"
said Mr. Greedison, "to see the enthusiasm
which awaits you ; but I am rather
surprised that no answer has been sent to
the letter I wrote to the magistrate to
announce the object of your visit."
In this, however, he was not long left
to marvel ; for while we were at dinner, a
letter came from the town-clerk,
announcing that the surviving magistrate
had not altogether


made up his mind to let the meeting take
place at all. Such a communication was
most provoking ; but Mr. Greedison
declared that he would not be disappointed
; and with great manfulness, he upon the
instant sent two servants to the town to
give notice that the meeting should still
take place next day in his park, which
should be open to every British subject
that chose to attend.
This was, no doubt, spirited of him ;
but it was not just what we wanted. We
could not say in his park what we intended
- we felt that the genius of the place would ompel us to say more of Reform and
Whiggery than consisted with our design.
But it could not be helped ; and Mr. Asper
suggested, during the evening, that the two
orators, Mr. Blazon and myself, could
enlarge on many grievances without
difficulty, and give such a turn to them as
would help our own cause. But it will be
as well to relate what took place next day,
rather than to enter into a description of
what passed among ourselves.



NEXT morning a cart was drawn out to
the bottom of a rising ground in the park,
and the congregation both of men and
women, in their best apparel, from Old-
Port, was extraordinary. Mr. Greedison,
who, like all the Whigs, was accustomed
to open-air meetings, estimated the
multitude at some thousands. This was
highly gratifying ; it would indeed have
been a great disappointment had the
assembly that day been thin : fortunately it
was otherwise ; for the good people of
Old-Port, never having had before a
reform meeting, were moved alike by
principle and curiosity to come forward on
this occasion.
Mr. Greedison himself announced the
object of our visit, stating that the time was
come when every man should boldly stand
forth in the defence of his own and of his


neighbours rights. His sentences were
pithily put - as all of his party well know
how to do, when addressing a multitude ;
and he was listened to with the greatest
attention, and concluded amidst the
loudest applauses.
Mr. Blazon followed : his speech was
much to the purpose. He likened the
nation to Christian in the Pilgrim's
Progress, plunging, and struggling, and
staggering through the Slough of Despond,
with a grievous burden on his back. His
description was most pathetic ; and many
in the crowd shed tears of sympathy with
the ineffectual endeavours of poor
oppressed John Bull to reach a steadfast
footing. But it is not for me to describe
the effect of the different topics on which
he descanted : one thing, however, is
certain, that all his auditors were fully
convinced by his oration - as, indeed, how
could it be otherwise? - that the British
people were the most deluded and
oppressed of the earth. No demonstration
could be clearer than that we stood in a
false position with respect to our situation.
In our prosperity there was no soundness -


it was but a hectic glow, foreboding decay
- crimson cloudy morning, that betokened
a tempest : even our national
improvements were all of the most fatal
description - expensive to prodigality -and
when executed, destitute of use. These
facts were detailed with energy and a
graphic precision : no one could listen to
the least of them without alarm. But it is
useless for me to attempt even a summary
of what he said ; let it suffice, that it was
most eloquent and striking, affording his
hearers the utmost satisfaction. They were
sensible that as a nation we were the
derision of the world, and that our name
was become a by-word and reproach in
foreign countries.
When the cheering which attended his
peroration had subsided, I presented
myself, with a downcast look and modest
air, to the attention of the multitude. I
spoke with gentle accents, and in a
conciliatory manner. Truth was my object,
and truth needs no heralding where she
asserts her dominion. I told the crowd that
I was a man plain in speech, sober in my
philosophy, and had all


my days been addicted to the
contemplation of the right side of things.
"That we are a ruined people," said I,
"there can be no doubt. You have heard
from my friend that we are so ; and after
what he has stated so perspicuously, who
can question the fact? In truth, fellow
countrymen, even language amongst us is
corrupted to the core ; its meaning is
perverted, and by that perversion we are
credulous to the most amazing
improbabilities. Has it not been an axiom,
from the beginning of time, that the wise
are few, and the foolish numerous? and yet
how little does the opinion of the few avail
in our public affairs ? - the majority rules
all. If there be any truth in the remark -
and who shall deny it? - that the minority
of mankind are the wise, what but some
unspeakable metamorphosis causes, in
every stage of our legislation, the judicious
sentiments of the wise to be rejected, while
the blazing declamations of the foolish are
received with plaudits and invested with
power. Yes! my fellow-subjects, till on
this point a right


understanding is established, violence and
outrage will continue to rule the earth.
Let, then, your first efforts in the sacred
cause of reform be directed to this point ;
for, until all questions, whether of public
or of private life, are determined by the
opinion of the few, it is in vain to expect
that we shall be able to accomplish any
consequential change."
This clause of my speech was heard
with the most profound attention - to
myself that attention was delightful ; and
the moveless eyes and open months before
me, were signs that would have made a
Demosthenes proud on the Areopagus.
Then, after a brief pause, I applied the
sense of what I had been stating to the
condition of those who were, like myself,
impressed with its truth. "We are, my
friends, probably but a small party in this
great nation," I resumed ; "but each of you
must be conscious that we are therefore
not the less correct in our opinions. That
consideration should be encouragement to
our perseverance ; for even were we fewer
in number than we are, the conviction


that wisdom is with the few, should alone
make us superior to our adversaries. But
let us not be deceived, even by the clearest
conclusions of our understandings. The
world is ruled by force, which is by nature
clothed with physical means, and
therefore, however wise, or just, or right,
we may be, still we must employ the
physical means to attain our ends." -
Just as I said this, a kind of burr and
clattering of hoofs was heard, and
discovered a squadron of cavalry coming
furiously up the avenue ; and in the same
moment the crowd began to disperse, like
chaff before the wind ; insomuch that in the
twinkling of an eye only the
triumvirate of visitors, with Mr.
Greedison, were left on the spot ; all the
park was dotted with fugitives.
In this crisis, and before we had time
to alight and run, the dragoons surrounded
our rostrum. In the course of a few
seconds a post-chaise hove in sight, and
from it descended the surviving magistrate,
attended by the town-clerk, and, with
terror in his looks and trepidation in his
limbs, read the


riot-act, and at the conclusion called to the
officer commanding the troops, with a
fearful voice, to do his duty ; whereupon
he directed his men to return their swords
into the scabbards, and they rode back
with an easy canter to Old-Port.



WHEN the dragoons had disappeared,
Mr. Greedison went to the surviving
magistrate of Old-Port, and reproached
him for his intemperate conduct ; and
without shewing him the slightest courtesy,
allowed him and the town-clerk, with the
riot-act in his pocket, to depart in their
post-chaise, while we returned into the
That we were all indignant at having
been so interrupted, the reader does not
require to be told ; and the aggression on
the liberty of the subject was justly
condemned in the most veracious London
papers. But it was a mistake both in the
Government journals and in those on our
side, to say that the massacre was
appalling. There was in fact no massacre
at all ; and I have a suspicion that our
adversaries only made their statement to
insinuate that we were turbulent,


and that in consequence a massacre was
probable ; while our friends - those at least
who conceived they were so - made their
representation to awaken sympathy for our
cause, and to enhance the public antipathy
against our foes. Be this, however, as it
may, it must be allowed that the whole
affair proved nugatory; for the people in
the neighbourhood talked so much about
the uproar created by the dragoons, that no
one seemed to have received any
impression whatever from the doctrines we
attempted to inculcate.
But although we had failed, and been
frustrated in our intent, the effect on that
part of the country was most salutary.
Several respectable persons from Old-Port
came to Mr. Greedison's house in the
evening, and, complaining bitterly of the
contumelious treatment we had received
from the surviving magistrate, proposed
that we should hold another meeting of the
same kind in a timber-yard belonging to
one of them, and in which, being enclosed
and private property, he assured us the
magistrate would


not dare to shew his face. An offer of this
kind was truly patriotic, and we
accordingly accepted it ; but nothing in
human affairs ever runs smooth in its
anticipated channel.
By the post, on the morning of the
appointed day, I received a letter,
requesting me to return immediately home,
as my mother lay at the point of death, and
was anxious to see me before she closed
her eyes. Public spirit and personal
affection were thus set at war in my
bosom. "If I delay obedience to the
summons," thought I, "till after the
meeting, I shall justly incur the imputation
of neglecting private predilections for
public duties ; but then, though in the eye
of affection I may incur blame, the action
will rank me with the Bruti ; but if I obey
the summons, and fly as it were from the
performance of the public obligations, the
case will be quite the reverse."
I hesitated ; and it was not till the
multitude had begun to assemble, that I
recollected how in all things the
incitements of nature should be held in
reverence above the usages


of society. "It is true," said I to myself,
when I reflected on the dilemma in which I
was placed, " that there always must be
some thing wrong where nature in the
heart goes against the calls of society.
Were not the social state egregiously
perverted, there could exist no cause for
the public meeting we intend to hold ; and
as that public meeting springs rather from
a wish to avenge the wrongs of nature than
from a direct suggestion of the goddess
herself, the claim upon me to visit my
expiring parent is clearly more direct, and
in so far ought to be allowed a proper
predominance." This reflection decided
my hesitation ; I resolved not to go to the
timber-yard, but to return immediately
I was afterwards informed that Mr.
Blazon made a very affecting use of the
incident, and thereby greatly ingratiated
both himself and me with his numerous
Singular as it may appear, it is to this
simple circumstance that I owe my
enviable situation in the House of
Commons. Had I attended the meeting,
many would have


thought that the report of my mother's
illness was not so alarming, and would not
have given me credit for that abstinence of
feeling which I really might have deserved
; but when the struggle with which natural
and social duty agitated my bosom was
represented by Mr. Blazon, it was moving
to hear how much the multitude were
touched with commiseration.
The report that Mr. Greedison sent
me, by the next post, of what had taken
place, was wonderfully interesting. The
neighbouring borough of Mothy, in which
the elective franchise was in the
potwallopers, was softened, as he said, so
much in my favour, that it was openly
spoken of at a public supper, which was
held the same evening in Old-Port, in a
manner so gratifying, that Mr. Asper, in
proposing my health, suggested that no
borough, which possessed its proper
freedom, could choose for its
representative a more amiable man, or one
more pure in principle or firm in purpose.
"I am well persuaded," added Mr.


"that, as a dissolution of parliament is soon
expected, were you to allow yourself to be
put in nomination on the popular interest at
Mothy, you would be assuredly returned."
But this letter did not reach me in an
auspicious moment ; it came when my
feelings were racked, and I threw it into
my scrutoire as a trifle, to be examined at a
more convenient season : - indeed, it could
not have come upon me at a worse period ;
for, as I have already prepared the reader
to expect, when I reached my father's
house, I found the good lady just upon the
point of making her exit from the mortal



ON leaving Old-Port, instead of
proceeding to my own home, the letters I
had received concerning the condition of
my mother induced me to go straight to her
residence. My father being dead some time
before, and his end in no way remarkable,
it was not necessary to be noticed when it
took place ; but the poor good lady's
departure happened in a crisis which
rendered it particularly impressive. In
truth, the death of a mother is always much
more affecting to her children than that of
a father, and I felt the influence of the
universal rule.
On my arrival at her door, I requested
the aged servant who admitted me, and
who had from time out of mind been in the
family, to conduct me to her mistress.
Without reply, she did so at once, and, on
entering the room, I found the invalid


sitting in her bed supported by pillows ; in
her appearance less, however, as one on
the eve of embarking for another world
than I had prepared myself to see.
As she had always been very kind to
me, ever seeking to discover some gentle
excuse for many of those actions which my
father, of a severer humour, loudly
condemned, I was in rather an
unphilosophical state of agitation at the
sight of her emaciated features, and the
ghastly satisfaction with which she glared
on me when she discovered my approach.
It required no long contemplation to
perceive that her last sands were nearly all
ebbed ; and yet there was a speculation in
her eyes which shewed that the undying
spirit, as she called it herself, was still
vivid within.
She raised her hand when she saw me,
and stretched it out to welcome me; but
her decayed strength would not second the
effort, and it fell in feebleness on the
coverlet, before I could reach forward to
snatch it. This touched with coldness my
heart ; but


her voice, weak and broken, had still
consistency enough to sustain the maternal
sentiment that she endeavoured to convey :
my feelings were then irrationally strong.
" Nathan Butt," said she, " I am glad
to see you. It was my prayer that you
might be at my death-bed, and the
goodness of Heaven is manifested, - you
are here: - sit down. You have ever been a
wayward and ungracious lad, with a
warmer heart than you were conscious of
possessing, and a weaker head than you
ever suspected. Nothing but his conviction
of that made your poor father remain, to
his death, your kind friend, though rough
was the husk in which, no doubt, you often
thought he shewed himself."
Not knowing what she intended to
add, I said, in the pause which occurred
after she had thus spoken, " Madam, I
never was insensible to my father's
kindness ; - but what would you say? -
although I have often had reason to think
he was not the most enlightened of
"He was the best of fathers!" was her


emphatic reply. " The only dregs in his
cup of life were the fears that he
entertained lest your recklessness would
draw you into danger. But, Nathan, I have
not strength left to tell you how sincerely
he was your father."
By this effort her strength was
exhausted, and her head dropped on her
bosom, in which position she continued so
long that my heart became sore with
looking at her. At last she again rallied,
and added, "But, Nathan, I have not time
to importune you with exhortations. I
must bid you farewell. You have been
from your childhood a betterhearted
creature than the world, from your actions,
has a plea to think ; and if you reflect on
this truth, you will soon discover that
riding up and down the land, making a
street-talk of yourself, is not the way to
raise a respectable character. Nathan, my
dear, as you are a lad but of an indifferent
understanding, and the part you have
chosen for yourself in the world is not
exactly the one that befits your talents and
capacity, I would advise you -"


I was rather surprised to hear my
mother disparage me in this manner ; but I
remained silent, for I saw she was seized
with the throes of death, and in that crisis
the reason is not in the best of conditions.
When she had some time spoken to me in
the irrelevant manner that I have
described, and during which I was very
strangely affected, she then pronounced a
blessing, and said,
"Now, Nathan, go away, leave me ;
for I have not long to live, and I have an
account to reckon up before I quit this inn
- for such has the world ever been. I have
always felt in it that I was on a journey to
another country - my home in this but a
I could say nothing ; and for a minute
she looked in my face very tenderly,
"Oh! Nathan Butt, are you that blithe
and innocent boy that gladdened my heart
so long ago?" - and she turned her face
aside from me, and, after a few words
murmured in pity, she became still.
I then left the room, and went to my
own chamber, where, after a season, I
grew impatient at my softness, and cried
out, with


a grudge, " Why is it that man alone
should be molested with such scenes?"
But, do what I would, and resolutely as I
nerved myself, I could not check the
current of my thoughts and tears. This was
undoubtedly an unbecoming imbecility ;
and for a time, in spite of myself, I was
obliged to give way to the mood that fell
upon me. In the sequel, however, I
recovered my self-possession ; and it is
salutary to reflect how soon, after the
grave has closed on the truest of friends - a
parent - a man regains his accustomed
wont. No doubt, the shrinking sense of
grief is afterwards felt occasionally in the
lone and the sad hour, and I have not been
without the experience of its icy touch ;
but sorrow is not a habitude of nature, and,
to confess the fact, I really felt that the
demise of my worthy mother left me freer
to pursue the course of my endeavours to
improve the condition of man ; for while
she lived, my dread of giving any cause of
uneasiness to her made me shy to
undertake many enterprises of pith and
moment that the heritage of the world so
wofully requires.



DURING the space of time that I was
employed in settling the domestic affairs
which the demise of my mother had
occasioned, my friends in Old-Port, and
their connexions in the neighbouring
borough of Mothy, were not idle. Mr.
Asper, who had considerable influence in
that quarter, went about among his
relations, and represented me to them as a
man of no ordinary calibre of
understanding ; and Mr. Blazon held
frequent meetings with influential persons
in Mothy, where he made earnest
speeches, and persuaded his hearers that
they could not, in the event of an election,
choose a better man to represent them in
From time to time I heard what was
going on ; and, to say the truth, was none
displeased to observe that my reputation
was rising amongst them ; and the natural


produced by this was most pleasant,
especially when I read the following
paragraph in the county newspaper, then
published weekly in the borough of
"We have great satisfaction in
announcing to our readers and this part of
the kingdom in general, that Mr. Butt,
whose remarkable oratory made so great
an impression at the Chevy Chase of
Greedison Park, is likely to offer himself,
on the popular interest, as a candidate to
represent our venerable borough in the
next parliament."
This notification was, in many
respects, highly conciliatory to my feelings
; it delicately insinuated that my powers of
elocution were duly appreciated, and that
they had been exerted with impressive
effect on a memorable occasion. But no
man is deservedly an object of praise, in
this corrupted world, without at the same
time being an object of animadversion.
In the town of Old-Port there was at
this time a detractive newspaper, published
also weekly. The sale, to be sure, was not
considerable ; for it was a Tory concern,


supported by certain gentlemen of large
fortunes and little ideas, who resided in the
neighbourhood. No sooner had the Mothy
weekly "Oracle" published its
unprejudiced opinion of my qualifications,
in the paragraph quoted, than the
malignant editor of the Old-Port
"Champion" resolved to give, not me, but
the Oracle itself, a most unmannerly thrust.
Accordingly, in his very next Number, he
had the following most impertinent
remarks on the subject :
"A neighbouring contemporary, not
distinguished for his perspicacity, has, in
the playful vagaries of his lively
imagination, actually conceived that there
was some chance of the ancient and
respectable borough of Mothy electing one
Butt to represent it in the next parliament.
We have some reason to believe that the
protégé of our friend is the same individual
that proved himself such a theoretical fool
at the hurly-burly in Greedison Park. Poor
man! his return will be an emphatic lesson
to the community at large, of the kind of
representatives that may be expected in
Parliament if


the popular influence is allowed to
predominate. We recollect the speech of
this sage personage went to shew the
abstruse fact, that the majority ought
always to rule the world."
Now, could a greater perversion be
made, of what I maintained ought to be the
ascendency of the few? The vulgar abuse,
however, left no impression upon me - I
was above that, and, moreover, I expected
it : but for the purblind scribe to charge me
with opinions so diametrically opposite to
what I had ever cherished, was really a
little too much. Nor was my indignation at
the calumny at all appeased by the manner
in which the weak man, unconsciously to
himself, advocated my very doctrine. It
was plain, by his expression, that he meant
the very reverse of what he uttered ; for, in
ascribing to me, with a sneer, the absurdity
of asserting the superiority of the irrational
many over the enlightened few, he clearly,
unknown to himself, was secretly of my
opinion. I therefore pardoned him the
sneer, certain that by it he would mitigate
that antipathy which the


soundness and novelty of my speculations
were calculated to awaken.
Still - though, upon consideration, the
nefarious paragraph fell like an ineffectual
javelin from the mail of philosophical
temper in which I had encased myself - yet
it was exceedingly provoking to be
annoyed by one who had only impudence
to recommend him.
But, whatever were my own
sentiments on this undeserved and
unprovoked attack, the effect on my
friends was most stimulative. They saw
that I was ordained to be a subject of Tory
persecution, and they came forward in a
most manful manner in my defence.
No sooner was the Old-Port
Champion published, with its most
aggressive paragraph, than my friends,
both in Mothy and Old-Port, and in the
vicinity, met, as it were with one accord,
and at once, without any correspondence
with me, nominated me a candidate, and
sent, by the next post, an invitation to
stand at the election, which they declared
should not cost me a penny ; adding, they
were determined to bring in a


member who should prove himself at once
a man of integrity in principle, of talent in
endowment, and in virtue that honour to
human nature, which I had so
courageously shewn myself to be.
Such a solicitation, I frankly confess, I
felt myself unable to withstand. My reply
overflowed with feelings of gratitude : but,
to avoid the expression of sentiments that
might be construed as egotistical, I reserve
for another chapter the details of the
transactions in which I was in consequence
soon after engaged.



THE dissolution of parliament took place
more abruptly than we were quite prepared
for ; but still I was none daunted.
Immediately on receiving the news, I
hurried off to Mothy, where I lost no time
in apprising my friends there of my arrival
: nor had I to long for their presence ; for
they immediately came flocking around,
and all was hurry, talk, and activity,
instantly, in the town.
That evening I was rather fatigued
with my journey, which had been
performed with uncommon celerity ; but
Mr. Greedison proposed that we should
convene some of the leading characters in
the place, men of well-known Whig
principles and intrepid patriotism. To this,
tired as I was, I offered no objection ;
because I had made up my mind to be,
during the election, all things to all men ;
for it is necessary, on such occasions,


to swerve a little from the
straightforwardness of principles.
I acknowledge this because, in fact, I
never have been very partial to the Whigs,
not being endowed with sagacity enough
to discern in what respect they differed
essentially from the Tories ; farther than
that, while the latter endeavoured to
preserve things as they are, the Whigs have
only been anxious to make changes in
forms, without altering the substance,
merely to contrive new places and
employments for their partisans.
The distinction between the Radicals
and the rival factions is obvious. By us,
anxious to restore to mankind the salutary
operation of primitive principles, an
honesty and simplicity of purpose are
strikingly evinced. Our object is not to
preserve old things, or to recast them into
new shapes ; but to remove them entirely
away ; in this respect we differ. It were as
easy for a Radical, without infringing his
integrity, to unite with the Tories, who
admit of no change, as for him to join the
Whigs, who are for all change, - they both
look only to the bullion.


The Tories are of opinion that the
ancient gorgeous cups and cans are of a
taste and pattern that cannot be improved ;
and the Whigs think the bullion in them
would be more useful were it converted
into forks and spoons. The Radicals are of
a wiser caste : such luxuries we justly
condemn ; and our intent is, if we can, to
make the material into coin, and add it to
the circulating medium. But I forget that it
was not of our respective opinions I
intended to speak, but only relative to what
happened that night in the Red Lion inn at
In the course of a short time, by the
means and emissaries of Mr. Greedison, a
considerable company was assembled ;
and, as it was expected I should in some
sort make an exposition of my public
motives, I was requested to ascend a table
and address the crowd. This I did with
good humour.
I reminded them of our early longings
for the epoch that had at last come to pass,
and that the object of all our wishes
seemed to be now within our reach. "
Reform," said I, "which a few years ago
was as the unsubstantial


vision of a dream, has taken consistency,
and become a thing of flesh and blood. It
is no longer a phantom -but a friend and a
visitor. Every one recognises it - all
welcome it : it blithens our hearths ; it
gives hilarity to our boards ; and realises
the beautiful mythology of antiquity,
which describes the gods as holding
familiar intercourse with man, and the
heavens on visiting terms with the earth." -
By some accident, a rank Tory, one
Mr. Rivet, had got in among us, and, just
as I said this, being standing opposite to
me, he looked, in my face, and, with
satirical sobriety, inquired whether, on
these occasions, tea or punch together was
the go ? Another, then, of the same
inordinate sect, whose name I never learnt
- for I did not afterwards choose to make
him of so much importance, as to seem
that I had noticed him - also looked up and
said, derisively, that the earth, however,
never returned the visit.
This interruption was resented by my
friends ; and ultimately the two intrusive


strangers were compelled to withdraw ;
and when order was restored, I resumed
my speech, which, by cheers and applause,
was acknowledged to be very much to the
point. I concluded by assuring the
company, that it was my fixed
determination, if returned to parliament, to
support every measure of reform, without
scruple ; so much did I regard that great
desideratum paramount to every other
The orators who followed were, in
their respective strains, to the same effect.
But it was not till late, and towards the
close of the business, that the name of the
opposing candidate to me was ascertained.
It had been known for some time, that the
anti-reformers were resolved to contest the
borough ; that they had applied, without
success, to Lord James Feudal to stand
against me ; and that old Sir Vicary Stale
had also been entreated in vain. Several
other Tory gentlemen were likewise
solicited ; but at last they persuaded Sir
Ormsby Carcase to venture.
Their choice excited some surprise ;


although he was undoubtedly a Tory,
addicted to the society and parties of the
neighbouring aristocracy, it was thought
that he could not be otherwise than a
friend of the people at heart -being a new
man ; his father, the first baronet of the
family, having raised himself by mud-
larking, as it was called, in the common
sewers of trade ; and he himself was more
distinguished for the round, bold shape of
his head than for the specimens he now
and then produced of its contents.
However, not to dwell on personalities, the
announcement of Sir Ormsby Carcase as
my adversary was heard with evident
surprise and some tokens of
disapprobation ; but when the first emotion
subsided, the effect was cheering ; a faint
murmur ran round the room - a more
audible buzz succeeded - and at last, from
all sides, vehement voices broke out,
declaring resolutions that would
overwhelm him with disgrace.
"Had he been of the old gentry," cried
one, "it would have been nothing, for they
are naturally Tories." "It is an insult to


the people of England," exclaimed
another, "that such a man dares to think he
may resist their unanimous will!" "He shall
rue, with punishment, his presumption,"
said a lean little man, grinning with
acrimony, and shaking his fist. In short,
the indignation which the intelligence
kindled was individualised in its symptoms
by the characteristics of every man present
; and before the meeting broke up, there
was a mutual pledge given, to exert both
heart and hand to procure my return. A
subscription opened on the spot for that
purpose was surprisingly liberal.
This affair of the subscription was not,
however, entirely satisfactory to me. I
could not see why it should be deemed
requisite ; for it certainly implied
something not quite so sound among us as
might have been wished among men
zealous in a good cause, and resolute to
assert their rights.
I had always, till the subscription was
mentioned, believed the Tories to be the
only party in the state who generally made
use of bribery. Now and then I did,


hear of Whig elections having cost a
ruinous deal of money ; but that the
Radicals were to have recourse to the same
delinquent expedients was distressing ; and
I told Mr. Asper, who was there, and who
was the author of the subscription, that I was
reluctant to lend myself to men who
thought their principles stood in need of
corrupt operations. He, however, said that
it was not until reform should be
established, that we could venture to trust
only to virtue.
"Recollect, Mr. Butt, that we must
fight our battles with weapons as effective
as those of the enemy. In physical war, the
best moral argument falls effectless,
compared to the energy of a cannon-ball ;
and, depend upon't, if we do not employ as
good reasons as those of our foes, we shall
be beaten. No, no, Mr. Butt ; purity of
election is a blessing of future days. In the
meantime, our wisdom is to use the world
as we find it."
These remarks very solemnly affected
me ; and when I retired to sleep, fatigued
as I then was, I could not shut my eyes for


on the deleterious influence of these
principles on society ; since here, in my
own case, was a striking example of the f
orce of custom in practice over precept in
"Oh, world," said I to myself, "how
corrupt thou art! The globe itself is but
one foul pustule - a pimple on the face and
beauty of Universal Nature." Soon after, I
fell asleep, murmuring to myself, with a
pathetic subsidence of sense, from one of
my friend John Galt's unfortunate
tragedies, which, like many other good
things in the world, have only been
distinguished for their blemishes :

"Oh, holy Nature! thee I do acquit
Of all the foul that stains thy minion here :
How fair, how nobly hast thou done thy part!
How bright and glorious shines the generous sun!
How rich and soft earth's carpeting of flowers!
How fresh and joyous to the corporal sense
The all-embracing dalliance of the air!
Contrasted with the base device of courts,
The dire cabal, and midnight craft of guilt!"



FROM that moment of my early life in
which I first discerned that all the evils
inherited by man spring from the
impediments opposed by the institutions of
society to the eternal workings of nature -
as pure streams and flowing currents are
interrupted by rocks and cataracts in their
course - I studiously endeavoured to obey
the sympathies and antipathies implanted
in my bosom. Often and often have I said
to myself - "Of what use are penal laws?
Is not the remorse with which bad and
wicked actions are remembered, sufficient
of itself to deter every well-regulated mind
from committing them, without the artifice
of legal penalties? And do not the kind
feelings of affection constitute a motive to
cherish it with constancy and in purity?"
I will not, however, deny that,


of the instigations which the institutions of
society excite in the human race, there are
individuals of that species who receive
from nature malignant propensities. But
the adder and the malevolent man are of
similar naturalities : the one can no more
prevent death from following its bite, than
the other mischief from his practice - both
are alike unconscious of the ill within
them. Such men are as little apt to be
improved by punishment, as the venemous
[sic] reptile is by the missiles with which
children, in their innate aversion, attempt
its destruction.
I am led to make this observation,
owing to a very trifling incident, which
might have changed the entire complexion
of my subsequent life.
It has been mentioned, that I received
the invitation to be a candidate for the
borough of Mothy at a time when my mind
was disturbed by the death of my mother,
and the anxieties which that event entailed
upon my attention.
The letter, as I said, was thrown carelessly
from me ; and I forgot to acknowledge the
receipt, till one day the


recollection of it flashed like lightning
across my mind. I was absolutely
thunderstruck at my own negligence ; I had
no words to express my vexation ; and was
just on the point of sitting down to answer
it, with heartfelt contrition - when, lo! at
the very instant, the postman brought
another letter on the same subject from
Mr. Greedison expressing the sincerest
apprehension lest the original letter had
miscarried. Thus was I, by a stroke of
good fortune, relieved from a most
embarrassing predicament.
I immediately again took up my pen,
which I had laid down when the letter was
brought in ; and, instead of the penitential
eloquence which I had prepared myself to
utter, I merely informed him, that I had
received his letter of the 29th current, and
would be with him, with all my heart and
the resolution that every honest man
should feel in a good cause, on the 2d
On the same day that this happened,
Parliament was dissolved, and I hastened
to the contest.
The interval which had taken place


the date of the first and second letter was
so much lost time to me ; to the rival
candidate it was all gain : nevertheless,
with undismayed courage, my friends and I
proceeded to the canvass, in which,
certainly, we were very successful ; but my
rival being ahead, it was by no means a
decided case - indeed, it was almost
desperate : insomuch that Mr. Greedison
proposed, that, as the sessions were near at
hand, and the jail full of prisoners, chiefly
the paper-capt potentates of the town, we
should make a demand for them to be
allowed to vote at the election.
This ingenious suggestion was
proposed in conclave ; but it was deemed
expedient that the real political leaning of
the prisoners should be first ascertained ;
because, as Mr. Greedison justly said, if
they are men of Tory principles, as all
rogues necessarily are, then it would only
be to strengthen the cause of our adversary
to require them. But Mr. Asper, who was
with me - a sly and dry old man -
remarked, that he had no doubt they were
all Whigs, inasmuch as they had a
particular predilection for the


property of others ; for what else can be
said of taking away from the possessors
pensions and places, to help themselves or
their friends from the plunder? I saw Mr.
Greedison redden with displeasure at this
insinuation ; and I said, that although the
election was vested in the pot - wallopers
and inhabitants at large of the borough, a
stronger objection might be urged against
the stratagem, - as it could not be
maintained that such of the freemen as
were then incarcerated could be described
as inhabitants at large of the borough.
The other gentlemen of the committee
were of the same opinion ; but Mr.
Greedison argued, that by the ancient and
common law of England (a Whig
doctrine), every man was deemed innocent
until found guilty, and could not therefore
be deprived of any of his legitimate rights
before trial and conviction : all the
prisoners were in this state. "None of
them," said he, "have yet been brought to
trial, and therefore they are all innocent,
and in the full possession of every
privilege which belongs to a British


"You had better try," said Mr. Cannykin, a
fat old justice of the peace, a Whig by
profession, but in practice a vitriolic Tory ;
adding, "My good friends, let us not waste
time ; for whether the inmates of the prison
be or be not inhabitants of the town at
large, no magistrate will venture to send
them to us for their votes."
I was greatly struck with this most
shrewd remark : - can any thing, indeed, be
more absurd than to consider a delinquent
innocent until he is proved guilty? It may
be well enough in the eye of a lawyer to
see this untruth on paper ; but the moral
sense of mankind revolts at the
preposterous supposition. However, not to
become tedious with details, - in the end,
after a neck and neck race, I was returned
duly elected.



EVERY body knows that soon after the
general election, the new Parliament was
assembled. Great expectations were
entertained of the good it would do ; and
all the members repaired to their posts
with the utmost alacrity. I, of course, went
to mine also ; and my feelings on the
occasion were, no doubt, in unison with
those of the others who had been returned
for the first time. But, whatever may have
been the state of theirs, mine were not of
the most harmonious tenor.
The thought of the House was
constantly present with me. I heard the
voice of great orators in the ear of my
spirit, round, sweet, and vehement. I was
afraid ; and when I went down to see the
halls of Parliament, on the day before they
were opened for business, a chilly dread
overawed me. I


beheld the green leathern cushions on the
benches of the House of Commons as
things that betokened a mystery ; and in
the shape of the speaker's chair there was a
phantasma that inspired me with a strange
imagination of something as it were
begotten between a pulpit and a tomb.
Mr. Greedison had kindly taken me
under his wing, and came to town with me,
that there might be no lack in the
respectability of my introduction ; for he
had great influence with the ministers, and
several of the most distinguished orators
among the Whigs were his friends.
Accordingly I went into the House
between Mr. Bletherington, that popular
man, and Mr. Assert, than whom there is
not in Parliament a member of greater
talent at the invention of facts.
On the third day after Parliament had
met, I took the oaths and my seat.
In the meantime, my rival, who had so
nearly been triumphant, Mr. Oakdale, a
Tory, had not been idle. A rumour had
gone forth, from the close of the poll, that
not only he intended to petition against my


return, but that even some of his friends
were no less resolved. Against this
menace, the party on my side were equally
determined : but as it did not consort with
the notions that I entertain of what the
purity of election should be, I told them
frankly that I would not myself take any
step in the business, stating my reasons,
which won from them great applause, and
nerved them to be intrepid in supporting
my cause.
It is but fair, however, to acknowledge
that I was not thoroughly content at
hearing my rival was every day growing
bolder ; and little was I prepared for such a
shock as I received, when, about an hour
after I had taken my seat, an old member
came to the bar with a paper in his hand,
which he almost immediately, in the body
of the House, announced was a petition,
respectably signed, against my return, as
effected - not by bribery and corruption,
for that's the Tory practice -but by perjury
of the grossest kind.
I shook like the aspen on hearing this ;


for it instantly struck me that there was
some probability in the charge ; inasmuch
as the party which I represented were not
in obvious circumstances to practise much
bribery ; which rendered it the more likely
that perjury had been employed. Not,
however, to waste time in needless
narration, a committee was appointed to
try the merits of the case ; and as it was
necessary to meet the petition bravely, I
announced the event by the post of that
evening to many of my friends.
I cannot describe the exact effect
which the incident of the petition had upon
me ; but I said to Mr. Greedison, who
called at my lodgings in Abingdon Street,
the same evening, that I was perplexed and
uneasy. "I cannot conceive," observed I to
him, "the use of the rules of Parliament
concerning bribery or perjury at elections.
Things are bad according to the
circumstances in which they arise ; but
nothing can be more obnoxious to
common sense than the hair-on-end looks
which Parliament puts on, when that old
woman bears either of the one


term or the other. If a man has a vote, has
he not a property, and may he not sell that
property? In what respect, then, can the
voter be more unconstitutional than the
votee, who buys it, and in turn takes a
place for himself or kindred of a
satisfactory value ? And then," said I,
"this horror of perjury is only a proof of
the inveteracy of the evil which springs
from our unnatural system of government ;
for, if it be abstractly true that every man
should have a vote, it is as clear as the sun
at noonday, that society is to blame for any
ill that may be in the perjury by which he
asserts his natural right."
"Very true," said Mr. Greedison,
"very true, Mr. Butt ; but, nevertheless, the
law makes both offences heinous, and we
must submit to the law while it exists. It
therefore signifies very little to you or me
whether the thing be right or wrong in
principle - our task is to fight with our
adversaries as dexterously, by law, as
possible. Who is in the right? is not the
question ; but who can be proved to have
violated the law?"
"Ah! Mr. Greedison," replied I, "you


make a sad comment on the ways of the
world : for my part, the right is what I
will always stand by. The expedient in
legislation is an abuse that I shall ever
stoutly resist ; but, as you say, it is the way
of the world. The man that robs a crown
with violence, is, in the eyes of the world,
raised into worship ; but the poor fool that
filches only half-a-crown, is sent to the
correction house. No, no, Mr. Greedison ;
when the time arrives that I shall be heard
fulminating, many are the preposterous
customs that deform legislation, which it
shall be my study to blight, overwhelm,
and extirpate."



DURING the time that my election
committee was sitting, the Reform Bill,
which the unanimous nation so loudly
applauds and so vehemently demands, was
introduced into the House. Wearied,
troubled, and irritated as I was in the
forenoon with the inquiries of the
Committee, I never missed my place in the
evening. Night after night I attended there
; uniform was my support of the great
measure ; but I was not so well seconded
as I expected. The main body of the
Tories were to the full as frightened as any
rational person could expect. The Whigs,
over against them, were no less
loquacious, though in a different strain, on
the merits of the bill. A few country
gentlemen were as short-sightedly selfish
as the squirarchy in general are on all
questions of national improvement ; only a
very few


were truly of my way of thinking. Several,
no doubt, sported opinions not unlike
those that I have ever entertained ; but
none - no, not one - courageously struck at
the root of the evil.
I was disconcerted at observing how
far the House was influenced in its
deliberations by obsolete maxims, which,
in this enlightened age, should have been
discarded ; and for some time I was
unaffectedly in doubt whether the bill was,
indeed, that salutary panacea so much the
theme of universal applause. But, after
considering the subject carefully, I began
to form a different opinion of its efficacy.
"The bill," said I to myself, " is not to
be regarded as the medicine which the
state requires ; the consequences that must
flow from it, when it shall have passed, are
the ingredients of the purge that will
renovate the hopes and brighten the
anticipations of man.
"When this bill is passed, and a new
Parliament under it is assembled, will not
that Parliament be more in a condition to
pass another liberal bill than the present


is to pass this one? Well, what next? for
after the second bill, is it not consistent
with nature, that the new Parliament
assembled under it should pass another,
still more congenial to the oppressed and
the needful?"
"Under that third bill," said I to a
gentleman one night in the lobby, who had
been instrumental in returning me to
Parliament, "it is my opinion, the scourge
of the poor-laws will be abolished ; no
reformed Parliament, of the third degree,
will be daring enough to sanction such a
preposterous measure, as supporting the
poor by a tax upon those who are
themselves in difficulties, while the parks,
palaces, and grandeur of the aristocracy
exist. No, my friend ; in the bright vista of
the future I perceive what must, of a
natural necessity, come to pass. Last
Sunday I was up the river ; and I saw, in
passing, Zion House and its magnificent
conservatory. Why, said I, should such
environment be maintained for an
individual ? The reflection brought in
array before me


all the blessed successive reforms which
are destined to be the consequences of this
"I doubt," replied the gentleman, "that
you extend your views too far : there may
be a time when all things concurring shall
effect such an alteration on the phasis of
society ; but that is a work for posterity. If
we get a measure of reform that will better
our condition, we ought to be thankful and
I started aghast to hear this, for he had
the reputation of being an indefatigable
Reformer ; and I replied, with unaffected
astonishment, that I was surprised to hear
him say so. "I thought, sir, your views
were of a braver kind, and that, like me,
you considered this bill but as a forerunner
-'the morning star, day's harbinger.'"
"I will not deny," was his answer,
"that I have been strenuous in urging a
greater reformation than even what is
proposed to be accomplished by the bill ;
but it was because I was well aware, that if
we did not demand a great deal, we should
only receive


very little. The world, Mr. Butt, is
far from being so ripely philosophical
as you seem to think ; and I fear, from
what I have observed in the spirit of the
late debates, that, make what reform, by
act of Parliament, the ministers choose, no
more of that act will be carried into effect
than the nation is prepared to receive.
However, let us get what we can ; and if it
be too little to satisfy the age, we must
struggle for more."
Something at this moment drew me
aside from the friend with whom I was
conversing, and he went away. I felt,
however, that he had left his mantle
behind. I thought and cogitated much on
what he had said ; and it did then seem to
me that there was great truth in his remark
; for the human mind, in welling itself
clear, purifies the law. No member of
Parliament would now venture to propose
some of those Draco enactments which
still disgrace the statute-book. Even the
late Lord Londonderry, who was not easily
daunted by circumstances, facetiously
proposed the abolition of the statutes


witchcraft - yea, at the witching time of
night. The law is an oracle that speaks
only the will of the majority.
Next morning, however, I was able to
investigate the subject more coolly ; and it
did not appear that it could, for a moment,
be admitted that legislation should be
regulated by expediency, or made
subservient to temporary exigencies. "It
must," I exclaimed, "be regulated by
eternal principles ; and it is because it has
been for so many ages adapted to the
wants of occasion, rather than to the
necessities of nature, that it has been,
instead of a protection to mankind, an
everflowing fountain of bitter waters."



THE investigation of my case proceeded
in a parallel with that of the Reform bill ;
but as the probability of the latter passing
the House was more and more developed,
I am sorry to say my chance of success
diminished. This was altogether owing to
those obsolete and artificial restrictions
which the laws of the realm and the rules
of Parliament have imposed for the
regulation of elections, - a consideration
not the more consolatory to me, who might
be among the last victims ; and for two
First, it is not congenial to the human
mind to be in any thing disappointed ; and
secondly, I was most earnest in wishing to
give my vote at the third reading of the bill
; that I might go down to posterity, in red
ink on Ridgway the bookseller's list, as an
illustrious benefactor of the human race.


No doubt, the number of those ambitious
of this distinction was rather too great to
make the honour remarkable ; but few, in
their aim, were actuated, like me, by a pure
and noble passion. Many, indeed, were
under the influence of sordid fear, and
thought more of obtaining a seat in the
next Parliament, than a niche in the temple
of fame. Yet there certainly was no want
of members about the House - chiefly of
the Tory temperament, however - who
were exceedingly provoking by their
constant reiteration of the old proverb, that
only foul birds file their own nests -
alluding to the manner in which many had
declared the House of Commons naught ;
but with such I entertained no communion
of sentiment. It was not on account of any
thing in the House itself that I supported
the bill through thick and thin ; but solely
and entirely because I foresaw it would be
the parent of a more comprehensive
measure, destructive of those pernicious
inheritances that I had been born to
The day before the bill was to be read


a third time, the committee on my election
decided, on grounds which no rational man
could approve, that I had been returned by
most flagitious perjury. And what greatly
surprised me - which it should not have
done, considering how such things are
administered - although bribery and
corruption was clearly proven against my
rival's party in several instances, not a
word was said on that head in mitigation of
the delinquency with which my friends had
been charged. However, I was not entirely
forlorn nor discomfited by the result, as I
had the best assurances from those who
acted with and for me, that at the first
election under the Reform bill, I might
count on being returned with triumph and
The anticipation of this result has,
undoubtedly, sweetened the bitterness of
my regrets. The bill is an era - a mile-
stone in the highway of perfectibility, and
is worthy of all acceptation. To the
Tories, unquestionably, it is objectionable,
inasmuch as it may have the effect of
strengthening the legislative influence of


rivals, who have availed themselves of the
means of office to achieve a great
advantage. To some of the Radicals,
likewise, it may not be quite satisfactory,
being, in fact, greatly short of what we
desire. But, nevertheless, as a resting-
place, from which we may look far along
the future road, it affords an exhilarating
prospect ; even although it be not easy to
describe in what the benefit expected shall
consist. I cannot therefore, deficient as it
may be, resist the delight of congratulating
my countrymen in particular, and mankind
in general, on the boon which at last awaits
us. For certain it is, or ought to be, that
every relaxation in law is a concession to
freedom ; and I regard the bill as, in its
tendencies on the nature of things,
calculated to promote that irresponsible
liberty of action, without which man is but
the slave of statutes and the thrall of
individual caprice and arrogance.

Alas! how fluctuating are human
hopes! The bill - the immortal elixir that
was to


renovate liberty into its pristine vigour, is
spilled in the very act of being poured
from the phial into the spoon. Dark clouds
have again fallen on our prospects. The
sun is eclipsed. But still let us not despair.
Neither Peers nor prejudices can
extinguish Nature. The vestal fire is
eternal, for it is an element ; and the time
is still coming on when every man shall sit
under his own vine and fig-tree. This
should console us ; and with this assurance
at heart I am none daunted by the disaster.
My only apprehension lest it may never be
destined to come to pass in this country, is,
that in the cold climate of England the fig-
tree grows not to such a size as to afford
shelter or enjoyment in the shadow of its



Back to 'The Works of John Galt'