Изображения страниц

men— who can embody the living thought in the winged and burning word—and who, in the fight with the thousand delusions which error has called into existence, which selfish interests have conspired to strengthen and mature, which association has rendered seemly and natural, which time has rendered sacred as aught man can cling to and love, battles bravely for truth and right. Well is it for England that there are such men upon her soil—men who with unshrinking eye can look upon names the most dread and powers the most august, and who can tell how they even have blighted the earth they professed to bless —men who can recall the heedless masses from the Cynthias of the minute to those eternal verities which, forgotten, trampled under foot, denied, are revenged in the degradation and misery of the human race--- men who, fearing not the world, or the world's law, have sung the dirge of the tyrant, and have fired the victim with the unalterable resolve, with the indomitable will, to do and dare all that becomes a man.

We are not speaking of Mr. Fox as a theologian. With his opinions on religious subjects we have nothing whatever to do. This is not the place to express either our assent or dissent; but we speak of him simply as a philanthropist—as the advocate of the working men and women of our land—as one who, while he demands for men a standing in political society which at present they have not, at the same time, by the diffusion of moral and political knowledge, would fit them for the rank to which he would assert their right. We may even doubt the propriety of thiswe may think it better that things should remain as they are-we may prefer the “coming man” of D’Israeli to the coming millennium of Mr. Fox; but we must also admit that the course he has taken in the Lectures at the National-hall is that best adapted to win over those who are not distinguished by any ardent attachment to the popular cause. Unlike the demagogue, the people's friend will seek the advancement of the people in moral and intellectual science; and for this end are the Lectures of Mr. Fox most admirably fitted.

The subjects treated of are numerous, and all of them such as would yield interest and instruction. The volume before us contains twenty lectures-on passing events-on living poets, and their services to the cause of human freedom — and on most of the political questions that now agitate English hearts. We would willingly transplant much to our pages, but we find a difficulty in selecting. Suicide we believe to be on the increase; Mr. Fox thus speaks of it:

“Regard it in whatever light we may; treat it as a disease or offence; speculate how you will ---still this is the inevitable conclusion, that suicide is a protest against society, a voice rising up from the depths of misery, and demanding in the most powerful tones that we should listen to the cry of destitution. It is the claim, not only of right and mercy, but of justice also. It says, “ Are we not human? We testified to it through the labour of our lives ; we confirmed that testimony by our voluntary deaths.' It is a protest, not drawn up in choice words, or graced with signatures ; but it is couched in the strong language of facts; and misery affixes its mark—the halter, the poison-bottle, and the knife. Let power, wealth, and affluence, read and ponder well the import of this lesson ; for it is one that should not be passed by unheeded. Brutal luxury should not overlook it, and merely study what it will eat and drink, and wherewithal it shall be clothed. Partisanship should not disregard it, because it cannot be made a Whig or a Tory question. It is the plea of our nature----the protest of the want, suffering, agony, and despair of humanity against the wrongs inflicted by society. If men will not hear it, God will. It declares the existence of injustice so enormous, and mistakes so tremendous, that they ought not to continue. It proclaims, in a voice of thunder, that there must be a fairer and freer course, even for those in the most unfortunate circumstances, that they may find something to render life valuable, and lead them to consider prolonged existence a blessing and not a


Again, the law on this subject needs amendment: “ I told you in the last lecture, that of the thirty-four cases which I found recorded in the newspapers during the month after I had announced this subject, there was only one in which the jury brought the corpse, memory, and property of the supposed offender under the penalties of the law. In every case but one they either found the party insane, in defiance of the most glaring proofs to the contrary, or, with plenty of evidence before them, they shut their eyes, and declared that there was no proof at all as to the state of mind of the deceased. When juries come to such a point as this, it is clear that there must be a falsehood in the law, of which society is weary, and which ought to be forthwith corrected. The law has evidently gone on a wrong principle; but how absurd it is ever to drive juries into such a position, that they have only the alternative of falsehood or inhumanity! The same demoralising system prevailed at the time when capital punishments were inflicted for comparatively trivial thefts; and the system proceeded to such a length, that, at last, in defiance of the most glaring evidence, one jury after another refused to convict, or brought in the parties as guilty of a different crime from that which would have subjected them to capital punishment. How many offenders indicted for stealing in a dwelling-house above the value of forty shillings, at the time when that offence was capital, had, beyond all doubt, stolen property of a large amount, but the after another were brought in guilty of stealing under that value? There might have been ten-pound notes among the things stolen, but they were all brought in under the value of forty shillings. In consequence of this determination on the part of juries, the penal code at length was modified. Surely the same result ought to be produced as regards the law of suicide ; and it would, were it not that the law cares less about this matter, and is content to uphold the fallacies, so long as a compassionate perjury is tender of respectability and property. The truth is that we are looking altogether in a wrong direction in our mode of dealing with those who lay violent hands on themselves. We should regard suicides, not so much in the light of criminals as of sufferers; and be less solicitous about weighing their conduct in the scale of morality than of ascertaining the causes which have plunged them into such wretchedness. This is the real and only business of the state in cases of suicide. Think not of what the act may be according to your own standard, or that of any one else; but reflect upon what must have been the coudition of society, or the causes acting upon the state of human life, when the instances are so numerous in which the instinctive love of life is thus overwhelmed and altogether demolished. In the great majority of cases, suicide is not the result of any sudden impulse. There have been days and weeks of determination, following, in many cases, years of hard endurance. One natural feeling after another must have been torn up by the very roots with a rude and violent hand. Tears must have been shed in secret, and pangs of the heart endured, which no words can describe ; moans and pleadings with the individual himself; many a wretched and forlorn looking round for succour from this quarter or that, but still returning back to the sad conviction that there was no way of escape. Oh! men, magistrates, judges, jurymen, law-givers, and divines, go not into speculations upon the morality of the matter; ask the cause ; inquire how all this mischief has been produced and accumulated. Inquire into the machinery which generates destitution in the world ; which makes men suffer, where they might live peaceably and happily. Apply yourselves to the investigation of these causes, their alleriation, and, if possible, removal; and you will achieve a much better work than by all the verdicts which ever, while the law so ordained, sentenced a poor body to the stake or cross-roads."

What can be happier than the summing up of the whole matter? “ I have not spoken here as to the moral right or wrong of suicide ; that will receire its appropriate award: my business with these matters is as social phenomena, and I am satisfied that the more intimately we contemplate them the better. As an exhibition of the ill-working of institutions, of unequal laws, artificial lack of employment, and a consequent scarcity of food and clothing, let us bear in mind that here is an admonition to us to exert ourselves in the cause of the survivors, that something may be done to arrest the course of such events. Happy is it, and due to the memories of those who have perished, if all are animated by a corresponding determination, as much as in them lies, to remove these causes in the future. If any individual is led to look more wisely and justly at the arrangements of society; to place life more in reality, and less in seeming and conventionalism; to protest against laws which plunder the many for the benefit of a few, and rob the industrious for the gain of the idle; to demand that public charity shall be administered in the spirit of benevolence and not that of severity; to raise their voices in favour of a social renovation and reform of all institutions obstructing the just distribution of wealth; claiming for the labourers their rights, and for humanity its due: and if by the combination of such protests and exertions good result, and a gradual work commences

by which all this shall be ultimately rectified, and a happier state of things brought about-then we may with better feelings look at the fate of those gone by, and say, · Ye perished in misery, but ye have not fallen in vain. Patriotic feelings, earnest exertion, truthful opinions and principles, and successful appeals to right and justice, and, as a consequence of these eventually, the busy workshops, the rich fields, the rising institutions, the growing towns, the lovely country filled with those who can enjoy its beauties, happy multitudes, theatres of instruction, enjoyment, and improvement, and all the freedom, grandeur, and happiness of an age of rapid progress--these will be your monuments, victims of society, and will shed a consecration over your hitherto unhallowed graves.””

Can men talk of the “swinish herd” when Mr. Fox thus lectures to them on Greece and her glory:

“Greece gave power to those who, without thinking of it, were striking for their freedom of conscience and civil rights. So has it ever been: there is, in the records of what they were, and the deeds they performed, an everlasting power; a spring which never fails; an impulse which a thousand repetitions cannot wear out, still urging man onward towards the fulfilment of his glorious destiny. The world's classics—its masters yet in art-foremost of the laurelled-a nation of poets and patriots-a land of citizens ready to die for their country, which constituted their life of life while they existed,—theirs is a glory which can never set; and, as we look back, it rises on our intellectual sight like some mountain-top gilded with the sunshine amid the desolation of the flood. Such was that brief day of Athenian democracy in the dark deluge of the world's history."

The Church of England has a day set apart for the martyrdom of King Charles I. Well does Mr. Fox ask:

“And why should the Church single out this one instance of a human being put to death as an act for continual expiation by prayer and fasting? Admitting it to have been as great a crime as the authors of the service represent it, yet it is not the only one of a similar description in our annals. There have been plenty of murders perpetrated both upon and by royal personages. Whichever version of the story we take, and there are various, but all agreeing in the main fact, the young Prince Arthur was murdered by his uncle John. Richard the Second was sacrificed to confirm the crown on Henry the Fourth, and Pomfret Castle rang with shrieks of an agonising king. There were the two young children-unless Perkin Warbeck was one of them, which would make the case no better-who were murdered in the Tower. There were, also, the wives of the great founder of the Church of England, who were called one after another from the palace bed-chamber to the dungeons of the Tower and the scaffold. There was the beautiful Stuart, sacrificed partly to the womanly jealousy of Queen Elizabeth, and in some measure also to the outcry of Protestant bigots. After that there was the death of the gallant Monmouth. All these murders of persons connected with royalty have been perpetrated; and yet for them no day is set apart for humiliation, fasting, and expiation. If one looked at the subject in a religious point of view, there is no expiation sought for the sin of Archbishop Cranmer in burning the poor Anabaptists--no atonement for the cruelty practised to the Independents, whom the first of the Stuart sovereigns harried and worried out of the kingdom, or else out of their lives. The Divine vengeance is not deprecated for the butchery of the Scotch Presbyterians, dragooned by Claverhouse ; or for the injury inflicted upon the two thousand ministers who in one day were ejected from their means of subsistence because they would not subscribe to every word and syllable of the Prayer-book, which many of them had no opportunity of seeing before the day when the Act of Uniformity demanded subscription. All these are not thought worthy to be compared with the judicial putting to death of a wicked sovereign. No; there is no expiation for them. There are no occasional services for indirect and illegal murder ; no commemoration for the deaths of such men as Sidney and Russell on the scaffold, or for the equally flagrant murders committed in later times—for the sacrifice, for example, of such a man as Gilbert Wakefield, who fell a victim to his long confinement in Dorchester gaol, because he dared to call upon the government of this country to test their policy by the principles of Christianity. No days of fasting are appointed for Muir, Palmer, and Skirving, the Scotch reformers, who were sent into a long exile, which was in fact a lingering death. The gratitude and veneration of like-minded men with those noble patriots may at length raise them a monument; but it is not the act of the country, or a national confession and recantation of the sin. No expiation is besought of the guilt of the long and bloody wars which this country waged against human rights and freedom, either in the new or old world, in which millions both of lives and treasure were expended to put down the independence of America or the freedom of France. No lamentations of the Church are ordered for deeds of wholesale blood and slaughter at home as well as abroad ; no form of fasting, prayer, and deprecation of Heaven's justice, or assertion of our own guilt, for any such transactions whatever, from the massacre of Glencoe to the massacre of Manchester. No ; the only crime which the Church can see is that of a king having been tried, condemned, and executed, as many other felons have been, and none more deservedly. In the conviction and capital punishment of Charles, their clerical eyes behold guilt in its blackest colours ; and for that act they make their confession as humbly and ferrently as the pious Roman Catholic, who reckoned among his virtues the having shot a few heretics at the massacre of St. Bartholomew, but was sorely afraid of being sent to the devil for having picked the wing of a chicken upon a Friday.

But we must cease from our quotations. We rejoice that these Lectures are published. We trust they will be extensively read. Those who, from conscientious or other reasons, were prevented from hearing them delivered on Sunday evenings will have the opportunity of perusing them; and sure are we that they will be perused with instruction and delight. We ency not the young man who does not rise from the perusal of them with his sympathy for those that suffer-his hatred against those who wrong their fellow-man-his love for virtue and truth strengthened and matnred. If these Lectures teach him no wholesome truth-if they in no way fit him for the struggle, it is given him to wage with injustice, with falsehood, with vice; it is himself alone he will have to blame. To the young men whose cause we advocate, we would say, as Mr. Fox has 'eloquently said to the working men that listened as he closed the retrospect of the last year:

“ Be pure, though cast amid scenes of corruption; and sincere, though living in an age of cant. These are duties which the time requires. Working people of England, enter upon the new year as one which is to prolong for you the necessity of continuous toil; but let that toil be encountered by strong and cheery hearts. Hold on your way as those who have made up their minds to the difficulties of your condition; as men with whom it will go hard but you will better that condition; and, by acting soberly, earnestly, and energetically, accomplish the work to which you are called, trusting confidently that you shall not fail of your recompense. Working people of England, fulfil the duties of the year for your minds as well as bodies; labour to extend your knowledge, to exercise your faculties, and to cherish whatever latent powers you may possess. Their development may become the means of kindling up the light of truth, and diffusing the highest enjorments. Stand strong for the oppressed and the injured. Devote yourselves to the cause of commercial and political freedom, and all that entwines itself with the well-being of humanity. Working people of England, live down calumny, shame the fears of the timid, refute the objections of the sophist, and earn again and again eulogies far more valuable than that which I have read to you this evening, because they will be the concessions of minds convinced and hearts impressed. Thus shall you cause the world to bless the day-long though it be in coming-when your example and conduct made the ruling classes of society learn faith in humanity, and recognise the safety and worth of demo cracy."


METROPOLITAN INTELLIGENCE. announced in our pages last month. We

shall shortly have something further to say We proceed to lay before our readers upon the subject. our usual summary of intelligence for the past month. In doing so, we would merel. PROCEEDINGS OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE reiterate the hope expressed in our last,

OP THE METROPOLITAN DRAPERS' ASSOthat there will be no backwardness on

CIATION the part of any in rallying round the Com- Resolved, “ That, in order to avoid the mittee of the Metropolitan Drapers' Asso- expenditure of the Association exceeding ciation, that they may be enabled to carry its income, and that all the members of the ut with spirit the important measures Central Committee may be able to make

themselves acquainted with the state of its that until that period he had many times funds, the Secretary do make, quarterly,a re- been in that court, on business that preturn of the income and expenditure of the As- cluded him from getting a meal, from nine sociation, commencing from Jan. 1st, 1845.” in the morning until past that hour in the

Resolved, " That this Committee beg to evening. He instanced that to show them tender to Mr. Francis, on this the occasion that the system had begun in a high quarof his resignation, their best thanks for the ter, and that it rested with themselves to zeal manifested on all past occasions by that work it out in their own circle. gentleman in furtherance of the object of Dr. Epps moved the third resolution, early closing."

calling on them to join the London General The rest of the business in Committee Association of all Trades, which, having has not been of a nature necessary to be been seconded by Mr. Brook, was unanipublished.

mously carried.

The meeting was subsequently addressed

by Mr. Moore, Dr. Bowkett, R. Swift, Esq., On Wednesday evening, the 16th ult., and several other influential gentlemen, the Metropolitan Clickers and Assistants and resolutions, calling on those present Early-closing Association convened a Public to use their utmost endeavours to bring Meeting at the National-ball, Holborn. about the objects for which the meeting Mr. G. Thompson in the chair. The Hall was convened, having been carried, the was very respectably attended.

meeting separated. Mr. Thompson opened the business by stating its object to be the early-closing of

We have received the following comshops, and release from labour of their occu

munication from the London General Assopants at an hour that would allow their

ciation of all Trades respecting a proposed partaking of those healthful and mental

Conference of the various Early-closing amusements requisite for men. It was one

Associations. of the reproaches of this country that, amidst all its splendour, the shopkeepers

Resolved, " That, while this Committee and their assistants were mere slaves, and

entertain, in accordance with its original not men. Although the present meeting

proposition, the idea that a Conference, was one of a special trade, it was only part

composed of deputies from the several Asof a common movement; and, under those

sociations formed for the purpose of abridgcircumstances, he earnestly called on those

ing the hours of business will be attended

with the most beneficial results, it cannot, present to exert themselves individually in

after mature deliberation, but think, that carrying out an object that would give to

in consequence of the very late hours to their fellow-creatures and themselves an

which business is protracted just at this opportunity of enjoying the many sources

season of the year, that the Conference, of mental and healthful amusements of fered, which the late-hour system deprived

as far as this Committee is concerned, must

of necessity be but thinly attended ; and them of.

therefore recommend that the same be postMr. Taylor read the Report of the As

poned till the first Monday in September sociation, which deplored the apathy that their labours had hitherto met with, and

next ensuing. In the interim, members are

urged to consider the subject of early called upon them to join with the other Associations now formed for the like pur

closing, and the best means whereby the

same may be speedily accomplished." pose.

Mr. James Simpson, advocate, of Edinburgh, moved the first resolution, the adop- We learn from a circular just issued that tion of the Report, and that it be printed the Religious Tract Society will close their and circulated under the direction of the establishment at seven o'clock from the Committee.

Ist of August. It tells in favour of the Mr. Humphreys Parry moved the second principle of early hours, when a large Soresolution: “ That, considering the prac- ciety, with two eminent physicians on its tice of evening shopping to be a source of board, thus publicly avow their conviction great privation to those employed, and in that time afforded to assistants for mental no way beneficial to the purchaser, this relaxation is not lost to the employer. The meeting pledge themselves to discontinue date of commencement, the glorious lst of such practice as much as possible, and to August, reminds us of another emancipainduce others to do the same."

tion; and we trust that the example will Mr. Payne seconded the resolution. He be followed by the few houses in the was happy to say they, in conjunction with Row” who still adhere to the old system. other members of the Bar, had gained the The rule throughout the trade is early; the recent alteration in the hours of the Central exception are the late hours. And it is Criminal Court ; and he could assure them right that those who are most benefited

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »