That a man, who was giving such annoyance to the corrupt, should pass without being calumniated, was not to be expected. Every man, who attacks corruption, who makes war upon the vile herd that live upon the people's labour, every such man must lay his account with being calumniated; he must expect to be the object of the bitterest and most persevering malice; and, unless he has made up his mind to the enduring of this, he had better, at once, quit the field. One of the weapons which corruption employs against her adversaries is calumny, secret as well as open. It is truly surprising to see how many ways she has of annoying her foes, and the artifices to which she stoops to arrive at her end. No sooner does a man become in any degree formidable to her, than she sets to work against him in all the relationships of life. In his profession, his trade, his family; amongst his friends, the companions of his sports, his neighbours, and his servants. She eyes him all round, she feels him all over, and, if he has a vulnerable point, if he has a speck, however small, she is ready with her stab. How many hundreds of men have been ruined by her without being hardly able to perceive, much less name, the cause; and how many thousands, seeing the fate of these hundreds, have withdrawn from the struggle, or have been deterred from taking part in it!
Mr. Hunt's separation from his wife presented too fair a mark to be for a moment overlooked; but, it required the canting crew, with a Mr. Charles Elton at their head, to give to this fact that deformity which it has been made to receive. Gentlemen, I wish to be clearly understood here. I do not think lightly of such matters. When a man separates from his wife there must always be ground for regret; it is a thing always to be lamented; and, if the fault, in this case, was on the side of Mr. Hunt, it is a fault, which, even in our admiration of his public conduct, we ought by no means to endeavour to palliate. But, Gentlemen, I do not, and the public cannot, know what was the real cause of the separation of which so much has been said. Mr. Hunt has, upon no occasion that I have heard of, attempted to justify his conduct, in this respect, by stating the reasons of the separation; but, I am sure that you are too just to conclude from that circumstance, that the fault was wholly his. It is impossible for the public to know the facts of such a case. They cannot enter into a man's family affairs. The tempers and humours of wives and of husbands nobody but those wives and husbands know. They are, in many cases, unknown even to domestic servants and to children; and, is it not, then, the height of presumption for the public to pretend to any knowledge of the matter?
But, be the facts of the case what they may, I am quite sure, that as a candidate for a seat in Parliament, they have nothing to do with the pretensions of Mr. Hunt, any more than they would have had to do with his claims to a title for having won the battle of Trafalgar. There is a Mr. Walker, who, I think, is an Attorney at Bristol, who has written a pamphlet against Mr. Hunt, in which pamphlet he argues thus: 'Mr. Hunt has, by quitting his wife to live with another woman, broken his plighted vows to his own wife; a man who will break his promises in one case will break them in another case; and, therefore, as Mr. Hunt has broken his promises to his wife, he will break his promises to the people of Bristol.' These are not Mr. Walker's words, but you have here his reasoning, and from it you may judge of the shifts to which Mr. Hunt's adversaries are driven. As well might Mr. Walker tell you that you will break any promise that you may make to your neighbours, because you have not wholly renounced the Devil and all his works, and all the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, as you, in your baptism, promised and vowed to do. If Mr. Walker's argument were a good one, a man who lives in a state of separation from his wife ought to be regarded as a man dead in law; or, rather, as a man excommunicated by the Pope. If his promises are good for nothing when made to electors, they are good for nothing when made to any body else. He cannot, therefore, be a proper man for any body to deal with, or to have any communication with; and, in short, he ought to be put out of the world, as being a burden and a nuisance in it.
There is something so absurd, so glaringly stupid, in this, that it is hardly worth while to attempt a further exposure of it, or I might ask the calumniating crew, who accuse Mr. Hunt of disloyalty, whether they are ready to push their reasoning and their rules up to peers and princes, and to assert that they ought to be put out of power if they cease to live with their wives. They would say, no; and that their doctrine was intended to apply only to those who had the boldness to attack corruption. The man who does that is to be as pure as snow; he is to have no faults at all. He is to be a perfect Saint; nay, he is to be a great deal more, for he is to have no human being, not even his wife, to whisper a word to his disadvantage. "You talk of mending the constitution," said an Anti-jacobin to Dr. Jebb, when the latter was very ill, "mend your own:" and I have heard it seriously objected to a gentleman that he signed a petition for a Reform of Parliament while there needed a reformation amongst his servants, one of whom had assisted to burden the parish; just as if he had on that account less right to ask for a full and fair representation of the people! After this, who need wonder if he were told not to talk against rotten boroughs while he himself had a rotten tooth, or endeavour to excite a clamour against corruption when his own flesh was every day liable to be corrupted to the bone?
After this, Gentlemen, I trust that you are not to be cheated by such wretched cant. With Mr. Hunt's family affairs you and I have nothing to do, any more than he has with ours. We are to look to his conduct as a public man, and, if he serve us in that capacity, he is entitled to our gratitude. Suppose, for instance, the plague were in Bristol, and the only physician, who had skill and courage to put a stop to its ravages, was separated from his wife and living with the wife of another man; would you refuse his assistance? Would you fling his prescriptions into the kennel? Would the canting Messrs. Mills and Elton and Walker exclaim, "no! we will have none of your aid; we will die rather than be saved by you, who have broken your marriage vows!" Would they say this? No; but would crawl to him, would supplicate him, with tears in their eyes. And yet, suffer me to say, Gentlemen, that such a physician in a plague would not be more necessary in Bristol than such a man as Mr. Hunt now is; and that the family affairs of a Member of Parliament is no more a matter of concern with his constituents than are the family affairs of a physician a matter of concern with his patients. When an important service had been received from either, it would be pleasanter for the benefited party to reflect that the party conferring the benefit was happy in his family; but, if the case were otherwise, to suppose the benefit less real, or the party conferring it entitled to less gratitude, is something too monstrously absurd to be entertained by any man of common sense.
The remainder of my subject I must reserve for another Letter, and in the mean while, I am, Gentlemen, your sincere friend, Wm. COBBETT. Botley, July 27, 1812.
By the insertion of these letters, which were published at the time, I shall give the reader a pretty clear insight into the whole of my exertions at that period. My doing this will show that I entertained and avowed exactly the same principles of politics at that moment which I do at this moment, and that I have not deviated to the right or to the left ever since; and thus I think I shall be enabled, by unquestionable documentary proof, to shew that I have been the consistent undeviating friend of universal liberty up to the present day.
It was generally imagined that the return of Mr. Davis would be rendered void by a committee of the House of Commons, and I was preparing my case and ready to attack him, as one of the most corrupt and unprincipled pillars of a corrupt administration, when the Parliament was dissolved, by proclamation, on the 29th of September, which at once put an end to my labours relating to that petition. As soon as the Parliament was dissolved, I addressed a public letter to the Electors of Bristol, promising them to be at my post on the day of election; which promise, as will hereafter he seen, I scrupulously observed.
As a petitioner, who had given the proper securities to try the merit of his appeal, I was entitled to a seat below the Bar in the House of Commons, and I occasionally availed myself of this privilege. During the latter part of this Parliament, an interesting discussion took place in the House of Commons, upon the subject of the treatment of prisoners in Lincoln Gaol, to which Mr. Finnerty and Mr. Drakard had been sentenced by the Judges of the Court of King's Bench (Lord Ellenborough, Judges Grose, Le Blanc, and Bayley,) for the term of eighteen months each, for Libels. Mr. Finnerty had previously sent up a petition, but this discussion arose upon Sir Samuel Romilly presenting a petition from Thomas Houlden late a prisoner for debt in the said Gaol of Lincoln. Sir Samuel moved for a committee of the House, to inquire into the grounds of the complaint preferred by Mr. Houlden against MERRYWEATHER, the Gaoler and Dr. CALEY ILLINGWORTH, a Parson Justice, and Visiting Magistrate. In the 22d volume of Cobbett's Register, a full and ample account of this interesting debate is given, accompanied by some very just and most appropriate remarks. In speaking of Mr. Finnerty's conduct, in bringing this affair before the public, Mr. Cobbett says, "By his courage and perseverance he has not only bettered his own condition, but that of others also; and is now, I hope, in a fair way of doing the public a still greater service. The conduct of the Magistrates, as they are called, but of the Justices of the Peace, as they ought to be called, stands in need of investigation more than that of almost any other description of men in authority; the powers which they possess are, when one reflects on them, really terrific; if their conduct is not to be investigated, what responsibility is there? What check is there? And in what a state are the people who are so much within their power?" This was Mr. Cobbett's opinion in 1812, but it appears that similar dreadful evils in 1821 and 1822, are not worthy Mr. Cobbett's attention, neither have they been thought of sufficient import to excite the interest of his readers, even although they have been grappled with and exposed in a much more efficient manner, within the walls of Ilchester Gaol. I have not the least doubt in my own mind, from what I have heard from the most respectable authority, but that the Gaoler, MERRYWEATHER, and the Parson Justice, Dr. CALEY ILLINGWORTH, were at that time equally criminal with the Gaoler BRIDLE, and the Parson Justice Dr. HUNGERFORD COLSTON, at the present time.
I believe, through the exertions of Sir Samuel Romilly, a commission was sent down to Lincoln, to inquire into the conduct of the Gaoler, &c., and from that time forth the affair was completely hushed up, and the said worthy Gaoler was considered as a much injured calumniated man. This gentleman Gaoler, it seems, has feathered his nest pretty handsomely. With a handsome salary, besides pickings, "cheese parings and candle-ends," &c. he has an elegant garden of two acres, fitted up with hot-houses, &c. equal to any nobleman's, the finest wall fruit, &c. &c.; the fruit from which walls and hot-houses finds its way upon the table of the Visiting Justices. By these and other means, Mr. MERRYWEATHER, I am told, contrives to lead the Worthies as completely by their noses as Bridle did some of the Somersetshire Worthies.—When, however, we call to mind who and what these said Magistrates are, and how they are appointed, this is not to be wondered at so much. It should always be kept in recollection that ONE HUNDRED POUNDS a year qualifies any man for a Magistrate; and that they are all appointed by the Lord Chancellor, at the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant of the County, who is appointed by the Ministers of the Crown; and that, therefore, the Lord Lieutenant take cares to recommend gentlemen whose principles and politics are well known. In most counties they also take care to have a sufficient sprinkling of Parsons in the Commission of the Peace, a precious and over-whelming sample of which breed we have in this county. I have frequently been admonished, by some very worthy men, for making use of the term PARSON so often, it being looked upon as rather derogatory to the CLOTH; but, really, gentlemen must excuse me. If the Clergy do not degrade themselves, nothing that I can say will ever bring them into disrepute. Why, it was only the other day that I saw, by the Police Report, published the 19th March, 1822, I think it was, that a Clergyman of the Church of England was committed to one of the Prisons of the Metropolis, as a ROGUE and VAGABOND! I have accidentally laid my hand upon it, and I will insert it as a proof of what a Parson can be. GUILDHALL.—R.S—-, a clergyman who, we understand, once enjoyed considerable popularity, was brought before Alderman BROWN, on a charge of having committed an act of vagrancy. Mr. Dunsley, hosier, Cheapside, stated, that on the previous night the prisoner came to his shop, and begged charity for himself and family. Ha stated that he had not himself for a considerable time tasted bread, and that his wife and children were lying in a deplorable condition at some place in Ratcliffe-highway. The prisoner was in a disgraceful state of intoxication. The complainant, who knew him, remonstrated with him upon disgracing himself as an ordained clergyman, by presenting himself in such a condition. The prisoner upon this changed his tone, said he would have relief before he quitted the shop, and became so violent in his abuse, and so outrageous in his conduct, that the complainant was under the necessity of availing himself of the protection of an officer, to whom he gave the prisoner in custody. This, the prosecutor said, was the third time he had been so treated by the prisoner. The prisoner, in an eloquent address, deprecated the wrath of the prosecutor, by admitting that his conduct had been most disgraceful. But he declared it was done without the slightest reflection, and that his aberrations were occasioned by a contusion which he received on the brain whilst on service in Egypt. His family, he admitted, were well provided for, and he promised if he were this time forgiven, to retire to the country, and endeavour to live upon his half-pay of fifty-four pounds per annum, in solitude and repentance. All the eloquence of the unfortunate Divine on this occasion proved unavailing. Mr. Dunsley pressed the execution of the law, stating that he had on former occasions received promises of this kind, which were never thought of by the prisoner after his release. The Alderman expressed great pain at seeing a Clergyman in such a situation, but found himself compelled to put the law in force. He committed the prisoner to the Compter for fourteen days, as a "rogue and vagabond."
I could exhibit some living specimens of Clergymen of the Church of England, in this county, that would not only be a match for the worthy described in this police report, but would far surpass in infamy what is here held up as an example to the world. I could produce an instance of a man, or at least a thing in the garb of a man, the opprobrium and scorn of human nature, dressed up on a Sunday in the robes of priesthood, mounted in the pulpit and defiling the very show of religion, by pretending to read and preach lessons of holiness and godliness to those who, the night before, had witnessed him in a state of beastly intoxication, at a common village alehouse, not only degrading the character of a clergyman, but even that of the lowest and most abandoned of the human species, by exhibitions of his person, most indecent and most revolting to humanity; nor am I alluding to this as a solitary instance of such conduct, but to his common practice in the presence of the lowest of his parishioners. I am not drawing the picture of an imaginary monster, but of a living clergyman of this county; and I could describe others equally disgusting. These are pretty examples of morality; these are pretty specimens of clerical purity! There is seldom a week passes over my head that I do not receive some evidence of the abandoned behaviour of some of the clergy; and is not this a precious race of men out of which to select Magistrates! In fact, I scarcely ever see a farmer, who has not some tale to tell me, of the rapacity, immorality, or injustice, of some one of these Parson Justices; one and all exclaiming against the tythe system, which does more to uphold infidelity than ever did all the works of Voltaire, Rousseau, Mirabaud, Paine, and all the theological writers that ever existed, put together.
Let it be always remembered, that I know many very honourable exceptions, even in this county, which appears to be notorious for profligate and time-serving parsons; for instance, there is the Rev. Dr. Shaw, of Chelvey, near Bristol; a better christian, both in principle and practice, does not exist. A more honourable, upright, and public spirited man does not live; England cannot boast a more pious and exemplary divine; in him is combined the gentleman, the scholar, the liberal and enlightened patriot, and real christian. He is an honour to his country, and he does justice to that profession of which he forms one of the brightest ornaments. Although labouring under the pressure of ill health, and approaching the age of eighty, this venerable divine has made two pilgrimages, a distance of nearly forty miles, to visit the "Captive of Ilchester," during his incarceration, to console, to comfort, to cherish, and to cheer him in his dungeon. What a contrast does this worthy and pious clergyman furnish, to the Clerical Parson Justice, Dr. Colston! It would be dangerous for me to draw that contrast; a person who did not know the fact would scarcely believe that two dignified clergymen of the same diocese, that two doctors of divinity, could form two such opposite characters. For the honour of the county of Somerset, and of the cloth also, I can boast the kindness and attention of many other clergymen, and to no one do I stand more indebted for repeated acts of that nature than to the patriotic and public spirited clergyman, the Rev. Henry Cresswell, the Vicar of Creech St. Michael. I am proud to bear testimony to his zealous co-operation to assist me and the worthy Alderman Wood, to procure the liberation of poor old Mr. Charles Hill, who was falsely imprisoned and wrongfully detained in this Bastile for SIXTEEN YEARS. I had the happiness to see him liberated, in spite of his remorseless persecutors, who have repeatedly sworn, ever since I have been here, that he should never leave Ilchester Gaol alive. It will be recollected that it was this poor man's sufferings that I made the ground-work of my charges against the monster of a gaoler and the Magistrates. How much more delightful is the occupation to record the good, than the evil deeds of one's fellow creatures; how much more gratifying is it to me, to write of a Dr. Shaw, than of a Dr. Colston!
When the Parliament was dissolved I was at Rowfant, in Sussex, attending to my farm, where Sir Francis Burdett and his brother Jones Burdett had recently been to pay me a visit, for a few days. The Baronet wishing to purchase an estate in that county, I showed him over several that were to be sold, but he saw none that he liked, except the one which I occupied, Rowfant House, and the estate of a thousand acres of land attached to it. This was certainly a most gentleman-like property, and just such an estate as would have suited the Baronet. The party who had purchased it would also have been very happy to have disposed of it, if they could, to have got rid at once of the inconvenience of the lease which they had granted to me; and as the Baronet appeared to have set his mind upon it, and had got the ready cash, so that price did not appear to be an object to him, there seemed to be no obstacle; but, as I saw the danger of a disagreement between him and myself, in case he should purchase it, I made him fully acquainted with the nature of my lease, which empowered me to grub up and destroy six thousand thriving young oak trees; a measure of all others that would have been the most annoying to him, because, instead of grubbing up one tree, he would have planted thousands and encouraged the growth of timber, which was so congenial to the soil. I perceived very clearly that, were he to purchase the estate, he would give me my own price for the lease, or any sum, to save the trees. Instead, however, of thinking of my own interest, I was anxious to avoid every thing that could produce a quarrel or a shyness between us, and therefore I took care to put him fully upon his guard, and to conceal nothing from him, expecting, at all events, that he would consult me about the terms that I would take to give up the lease, or at least to give up that part of it which empowered me to destroy the timber. It was obvious to me that I could make a handsome sum out of the Baronet, which would have been of no small importance to me, and yet would have been nothing to him who was so rich. But I repeat, that I acted from the most disinterested motives, and far from planning how I could make the most of him, I was excessively anxious to avoid whatever might lead to any thing like a money transaction between us. For this reason I unreservedly laid open the whole affair to him, informing him upon what terms I had offered to forbear to grub the timber, and almost urging him not to think of purchasing the estate, with such a lease upon it, till he had reflected whether he could approve of my conditions for giving up the lease. I believe that there were few men in the kingdom who would have so acted as I did, but I valued the friendship of Sir Francis Burdett far above any pecuniary consideration. The Baronet was a most delightful visitor, a gentleman-like, easy, unassuming, cheerful inmate; and as we had every comfort at Rowfant compatible with the residence of a country gentleman, both he and his brother, but particularly Sir Francis, expressed themselves as well pleased with their reception as we were with our visitors.
About a week after the Baronet left us, I received a letter from the persons who were concerned for the proprietors of Rowfant, to say that they had entered into a treaty with Sir Francis Burdett for the estate at Rowfant, which treaty they expected would be completed in a few days. I was rather surprised at this intelligence; and although I concluded that Sir Francis Burdett had made up his mind to purchase the estate and comply with my terms; and although I knew that it would answer the purpose of Sir Francis to give me what I asked, even had it been double the sum, yet I had a sort of inherent dread of any money transaction between us, a sort of presentiment that it might be the cause of some disagreement, which might end in shyness. I therefore wrote to him immediately, requesting him by all means not to purchase the estate till he and myself had settled definitively the terms upon which I was to give him up the lease, as I knew that he was also desirous at once to have the house as a residence. I did this from the purest motives, and from a most anxious wish not to have the Baronet in my power; for fear that he might suspect me of having made a market of him. I believe, nevertheless, that the very means that I took to prevent any chance of any thing of the sort, tended to create a suspicion on his part, and he suddenly broke off the bargain, and never mentioned the subject after except in a casual manner. Thus did it happen, I have no doubt, that, from an over delicacy in striving to avoid every thing like the shew of over-reaching, or taking advantage of the Baronet's liberality, I excited in him a suspicion which I by no means merited. As it turned out afterwards that political disagreements occurred between us, I am, however, most happy that we never had any the slightest money transaction. Some time after this, I disposed of the lease of this estate for five hundred pounds more than I should have demanded of him; a fact which proves at once that I acted towards him in the most honourable manner, and that I had no reason to regret his not having purchased the property.
On the 15th of August Mr. Cobbett published his Third Letter to the Independent Electors of Bristol, and, as these letters will give the reader a clear insight into the whole affair, I shall insert the whole of them in this work. This Bristol election was a very important transaction of my history, and one to which, I have no doubt, I may fairly attribute some part of my sentence of TWO YEARS AND SIX MONTHS, and a very considerable portion of the persecution and ill-treatment which I have experienced from the local authorities and Magistrates of this county; and for this reason I wish to have the whole placed fairly upon record.
TO THE INDEPENDENT ELECTORS OF BRISTOL.
GENTLEMEN,—Before I resume the subject, upon which I addressed you in my last, give me leave to explain to you what I mean by an independent elector. I do not mean a man who has money or land enough to make him independent; for, I well know, that money and land have no such effect; as we see every day of our lives, very rich men, and men of what is called family too, amongst the meanest and most dirty dependents of the ministry or the court. Independence is in the mind; and I call independent that man, who is, at all times, ready to sacrifice a part, at least, of what he has, and to brave the anger and resentment of those from whom he derives his living, rather than act, in his public capacity, contrary to the dictates of his own mind. This is what I mean by an independent man. The journeyman who carries all his fortune in a silk handkerchief is as likely to be an independent man as is a Lord or a 'Squire; and, indeed, we find him much oftener worthy of the name.
It is to men of this description that I address myself upon the present occasion, and to their attention I now beg leave to recall some of the circumstances of the late election at Bristol, or, rather, the late contest; for, according to my notion of the law, there can be no election where soldiers are present during any portion of the time, from the beginning to the end of the poll.
Of the two candidates, generally, I have spoken before; but, I now wish to draw your attention more particularly to the pledges tendered you, and given you, by Mr. Hunt. He promised and vowed three things: 1st. That he never would, as long as he lived, either directly or indirectly, pocket a single farthing of the public money. This, Gentlemen, is, with me, and so, I trust, it is with you, a capital point. Indeed, it always appears to me necessary to the safety of the electors, as far as the fidelity of their member goes. If the man elected can take the public money, is not the temptation too great for most men? In short, what can be more absurd, what can be more revolting to reason, what more shocking to common sense, than the idea of a man's being a guardian of the public purse, while, at the same time, he votes, in that capacity, part of the people's money into his own pocket? In all the other situations of life we see the payer and the receiver a check upon each other; but, in the case of a Member of Parliament who receives part of the public money, there is no such check.
We are often asked, whether we would wish gentlemen of great talents to serve the country as Secretaries of State, Chancellors of the Exchequer, &c. &c. without any pay? To which I, for myself, answer no. I would not only have them paid, but well paid; but I would not have them sit in parliament while they received the pay. If we are told that this is impracticable, we point to the experience in its support; for, in the United States of America, there are no paid officers in the Legislature. No man can be a member of either House who is in the receipt of a six-pence of the public money under the Executive; and, what is more, he cannot receive any of the public money, in the shape of salary, during the time for which he has been elected, if the office from which the salary is derived has been created or its income increased since his election. This is the case in America. There are no chancellors of the exchequer, no secretaries of state, or of war, or of the admiralty, in either House of Congress; there is no Treasury Bench; there are no ministers and none of those other things of the same kind, and which I will not here name. Yet is America now exceedingly well governed; the people are happy and free; there are about eight millions of them, and there are no paupers; in that country poor men do not, to be sure, crawl almost upon their bellies before the rich, but, there are very few murders. I lived eight years in the largest city in the country, and there was no human being hanged, or otherwise put to death for a crime, while I lived there. The country, therefore, must be pretty well governed, and yet there is no member of either House of the Legislature who is in any office whatever under the government. The members are paid for their time, and paid their expenses to and from the place of sitting. They are appointed by the people and paid by the people; they are the people's representatives, and are not suffered to be the servants of, or to receive pay from, any body else.
Here, then, we have a proof, an experimental proof, of the practicability of conducting a government without giving placemen seats in the Legislature. And, though the positive pledge may, in all cases, not be insisted on, the principle ought to be clearly understood; and, where the candidate is not very well known indeed, and has not had long trial, I am for insisting upon the positive pledge. This pledge Mr. Hunt has given you, and you must be well assured, that, if he were disposed to break it, he would not dare to do it. For this alone I should prefer him to either of the other candidates, both of whom, all three of whom, you may be assured, have in view either public money or title, both of which Mr. Hunt disclaims. The 2nd pledge that Mr. Hunt has given you is, that he will endeavour, if elected, to do away all the sinecure places, and all the pensions not granted for real services. This is a pledge which I deem of great importance. The sum of money expended annually in this way has been stated by Sir Francis Burdett at nearly a million of pounds sterling, that is to say, a sum sufficient to maintain 125,000 poor people all the year round, supposing them not to labour at all I, for my part, should deem the abolition of these places and pensions of far greater importance to us than the gaining of a hundred battles, by land or sea.
The 3rd pledge of Mr. Hunt is, that he will, if elected, do all that in him lies to procure for the nation a peace and a Reform of Parliament. Now, Gentlemen, look back for the last 20 years; reflect on what has passed during that time; and then say, whether you sincerely believe, that this nation can possibly continue in its present course much longer. The finger of wisdom, of common sense, points to peace as the only possible means of rescuing ourselves from our dangers; but, Gentlemen, how are we to have peace? The terms offered by the Emperor of France are fair; they are, indeed, such as I never expected to see obtained at the close of a negociation; they would, if accepted of, leave us in possession of all our conquests, of all the Islands in the West Indies; of the exclusive fishery of Newfoundland; of the Cape of Good Hope and the French Settlements in Senegal; of the French and Dutch Settlements in the East Indies; of the Isles of France and Bourbon; in short, they would leave us in possession of about 40 millions of conquered people, while France herself would not possess above 17 or 18 millions of conquered people. And, which is never to be forgotten, they would leave in our hands, the island of Malta itself, which, as you well know, was the avowed object of the war.
Why, then, have we not peace? Because we have not reform, it being absolutely impossible, in my opinion, for our present internal system to be continued during a peace which should be accompanied with the usual consequences of peace. When the present war began, it was stated by the then Minister, Addington, that we were at war because we could not be at peace; and, I suppose, that the same reason would now be given; for, otherwise, it is, I think, impossible to account for the rejection of the late overtures of the Emperor Napoleon, which, as I have, I am persuaded, clearly shown in a former Register, were both honourable and advantageous to England. Not only, therefore, will this country, in my opinion, never regain its former state of freedom and happiness without a reform of parliament; but, I am convinced, that, without such reform, it will never again have peace with France.
This being the case, it must be an inexcusable folly for you to elect any man who is not decidedly for a reform of the parliament; and, amongst all your candidates, Mr. Hunt is the only man who has declared for that reform. The partisans of Sir Samuel Romilly say, that they doubt not that he will declare for reform. I do not think that he ever will; at least, not till such men as Mr. Hunt shall have made it inconvenient to be against reform. If Sir Samuel Romilly were for reform, why should he be so loath to make the declaration? He has told you, that those who promise most perform least; but, if this were to be taken as a rule without an exception, there would, at once, be an end of all promises and engagements between man and man. In this case, however, the rule did not apply; for he might have expressed his wish to see reform take place without making any promise upon the subject. This he did not do; and, during the whole time that he has been a candidate for Bristol, he has not once mentioned, in any way, the subject of parliamentary reform.
There is, besides, with regard to Sir Samuel Romilly, a most suspicious circumstance; and that is, that his leading partisans all belong to that corrupt faction, which has been designated under the name of Whigs, and which faction is, if possible, more hostile to reform than the followers of Pitt and Perceval themselves. I have frequently asserted, that the two factions cordially unite upon all occasions, where an attack is made upon corruption in general, or where the interests of party are concerned. We saw them join hand-in-hand and heart to heart when the late Perceval and Castlereagh were accused by Mr. Madocks, on the 11th of May, 1809, on the anniversary of which day Perceval was shot, at the door of the very place where he had before triumphed. We saw them join in rallying round that same Perceval when Sir Francis Burdett was sent to the Tower under the escort of thousands of soldiers. We saw them join in reprobating the Address to the Prince Regent proposed by Sir Francis Burdett. In short, upon all occasions when something was to be effected hostile, decidedly hostile, to the people, the two factions have cordially joined; they have, for the time, become one. They hate one another; they would destroy one another; but, they love the public money more than they hate one another; and, therefore, when the system is in danger, they always unite. They cordially unite also against every man who is hostile to the system. They hate him even more than they hate each other; because he would destroy the very meat that they feed on.
Hence, Gentlemen, the united rancour of the factions against Mr. Hunt, and their united approbation of Mr. Bragge Bathurst. But, of this latter we must take more particular notice. There has appeared in the Bristol newspapers a publication respecting a Meeting for the purpose of uniting in a testimony of gratitude to Bragge Bathurst. At this meeting the following resolutions were passed; but, I beg you to observe, first, the language and sentiments of the resolutions, and next, who were the principal actors in the scene. The whole of the publication was as follows:——"At a General Meeting of the Merchants, Traders, and other Inhabitants of this City, convened by public advertisement, for the purpose of uniting in a testimony of gratitude to their late Representative, the Right Hon. Charles Bathurst,—THOMAS DANIEL, Esq. in the Chair,—the following Resolutions were moved by Michael Castle, Esq. and seconded by John Cave, Esq. and carried unanimously:—1st, That the conduct of the Right Hon. Charles Bathurst has been distinguished, during 18 years that he represented this City in Parliament, by a meritorious attention to its local interest, and an invariable zeal for the individual concerns of its inhabitants, entirely independent of every consideration of political party.—2d, That in the retirement of the Right Hon. Charles Bathurst from that elevated situation which he so deservedly held amongst us, we feel desirous of testifying, in this public manner, the gratitude we entertain for services that have reflected so much honour upon his abilities and exertions.—3d, That a Subscription be now entered into, for the purpose of presenting the Right Hon. Charles Bathurst with a permanent Token of our esteem and approbation of services that have been so frequently called upon, and attended to with so much advantage to the City at large.—4th, That a Committee be appointed of those Gentlemen who signed the requisition for the call of this meeting, together with any of those who may be subscribers, for the purpose of carrying into execution the wishes and intentions of this meeting.—5th, That the name of Mr. Robert Bruce be added to the twenty gentlemen who have signed the requisition, for the purpose of forming a Committee, with any other of the Subscribers.—6th, That Mr. Thomas Hellicar be requested to take upon himself the office of Treasurer.—THOMAS DANIEL, Chairman."
Now, Gentlemen, you will observe, that here is as decided praise as men can bestow. Mr. Bragge is praised for his eighteen years' conduct, though, during that time, he has been doing every thing which the supporters of Sir Samuel Romilly affect to disapprove of. To describe his conduct under three heads, it has been this: he has uniformly supported Pitt and the war; he has uniformly distinguished himself as an opponent of Parliamentary Reform, and was one of the foremost in reprobating Mr. Madocks's motion; he has, during the 18 years of war and national misery, been a great part of the time a placeman, and he is now a placeman in possession of a rich sinecure, with immense patronage attached to it. And, it is for conduct like this that these townsmen of yours are about to give a testimony of their gratitude!
If, however, this were confined to the friends of Bragge Bathurst, to those who profess his principles, all would be in its place, all would be natural enough. But, you will bear in mind, Gentlemen, that the two factions have united here, and these resolutions, extolling to the skies a sinecure placeman, a Pittite, and a known and decided enemy of reform of parliament; you will bear in mind that these resolutions were moved by Mr. MICHAEL CASTLE, the very man who introduced Sir Samuel Romilly into your city; the very man in whose carriage Sir Samuel Romilly entered your city; the very man who filled the chair at Sir Samuel Romilly's dinner. This was the man selected to MOVE resolutions expressive of the gratitude of the people of Bristol for the conduct of Bragge Bathurst, the sinecure placeman, the supporter of Pitt and the war, and the decided and distinguished enemy of parliamentary reform. This was the man, this Mr. Michael Castle, to tell the world in the most solemn manner, that the friends of Sir Samuel Romilly approved of the conduct of the very man, whom they, when canvassing you for your votes, represented as unfit to be your member.
Gentlemen, can you want any further proof of the political hypocrisy of such men as Mr. Charles Elton, and Mr. Mills, and Mr. Castle? Can you be made to believe that they are sincere when they tell you that they wish for a reform of any sort? The truth is, they wish to put in a member of their own, that they may enjoy the benefit of his patronage; but, in doing this, they must take care not to do any thing hostile to the system, for without the existence of that all their prospects are blasted. You see, that they have in these resolutions, no scruple to declare the vile and abominable principle upon which they act. They here most explicitly avow, that they are grateful to Bragge Bathurst for the zeal he has shown in the individual concerns of his constituents. That is to say, in getting them places under the government; or, in other words, in enabling them to live upon the taxes; that is to say, upon the fruit of the people's labour. I told you, in my first letter, that they had no other object than this in view; that one part of them only wanted to put in Sir Samuel Romilly that he might give them more of the taxes than thev had been able to get from Bragge Bathurst. Mr. Hunt had told you this before; and now you see the fact openly avowed. The jobbers on both sides plainly tell whoever is to be their candidate, that he must take care of their individual concerns.
This, Gentlemen, is the real cause of the hatred, the rancour, the poisonous malice, of both factions towards Mr. Hunt, who makes open war upon the tax-eaters. This is the reason why they hate him. There are other reasons, but this is the great reason of all; and you may be well assured, that you will see both the factions always unite against any man, be he who he may, who is opposed to the system of places and pensions. But, what, then, must be the extent of the hypocrisy of the friends of Sir Samuel Romilly! They pretend that they wish for a reform of parliament, when they must well know, that such a reform would totally destroy the very root whence spring those individual benefits for which they express their gratitude to Bragge Bathurst. Sir Samuel Romilly, as I had before the honour to observe to you, has never told you that he is for a reform of the parliament; and, after the publication of these Resolutions, moved by the man who introduced him into your city, there are very few amongst you, I trust, who will not be convinced, that his partisans are well convinced that he will not support such a reform as shall give us a chance of destroying that corruption which is now eating out the very vitals of the country.
Clear as it is, then, that both the factions are your enemies, I hope that you will stand firmly by each other in opposition to so detestable an union. Both factions are hateful; but of the two the Whigs are the worst; because they disguise their hostility to the cause of freedom. Take, however, only a little time to reflect, and you will not be deceived by the cant of Mr. Charles Elton and Mr. Mills, both of whom, I would venture my life, have bespoke places for themselves in case of success to their candidate. They well know that the success of Mr. Hunt would defeat their scheme, and therefore they hate him. They do not dislike him for his separation from his wife; they would not give his wife a bit of bread to save her life, if she was a beggar instead of being, as she is, well and liberally provided for; they would see her drop from their door dead in the street, rather than tender her a helping hand; but, to speak of the separation suits the turn of the hypocrites; by having recourse to it, they can cast calumny on their foe without letting their real motive appear. They would, if they dared, tell him that he is a cruel savage for endeavouring to prevent them from pocketing the public money; but this would not suit their purpose; and they therefore resort to his separation from his wife.
Trusting now, Gentlemen, that you see clearly the motives of the two factions, and that their main object is to get a share of the public money, I shall not fear, that, at another election, you will resolutely endeavour to defeat that vile object. The whole mystery lies here. It is the public money that the factions want to get at. They are not attached to any particular set of men or of means. Whoever or whatever will give them the best chance of getting at the public money is the man or the thing for them; and Sir Samuel Romilly has been brought forward upon the recent occasion, only because there were a set of men, who found that they could not get so much of the public money as they wanted under any of the other candidates. They found the old ground too thickly settled for them; they therefore resolved to get new ground of their own; and they chose Sir Samuel Romilly, because he was at once likely to be a placeman, and was a man of a good deal of deserved popularity. They, if he were elected, would say as Falstaff did of the moon: "the chaste Diana, under whose influence we steal." They mean to make a passage of him through which to get at the people's earnings; and, all this, too, under the guise of virtue and patriotism. With me there wanted nothing to produce conviction of this fact before; and now, I trust, that there is no man who will affect to doubt it; now when we see them moving and signing resolutions, applauding the conduct of a member of parliament who has become a sinecure placeman, and who is notoriously a most decided enemy of reform of parliament.
With these facts before him, it is not to be believed, that any one amongst you will give his vote for this hypocritical faction. If Sir Samuel Romilly will declare openly for reform of parliament, you will do well to vote for him and for Mr. Hunt; but, if he will not, it is your duty not only not to vote for him, but to do all that lies in your power to prevent his being elected; for, be you well assured, that, without a reform of parliament, no man living can save this country or render it any essential service. There is no national evil that we feel, be it small or great, which may not be traced to the want of a parliamentary reform, and such a reform, too, as shall cut up corruption by the roots.
It is with great pleasure that I perceive Mr. Hunt has promised you to be a candidate at Bristol at every future election, as long as he has life and health, unless he should be a member when a vacancy takes place for your city. This promise ensures you an election; it secures you against being sold like dumb creatures; it secures you the exercise of your right of voting, and the right of now and then openly reproaching and loading with just maledictions any of the wretches who may betray you. To be a member for Bristol, in future, a man must stand an election of some days, at any rate; no one will be able to get in by a mere day's parade; an election at Bristol will not in future be a ceremony like that of choosing a churchwarden; your voices will be heard, and, I hope, they will always carry terror to the hearts of the corrupt. You have only to persevere. To keep steadily on. To suffer nothing to turn you aside. Your enemies cannot kill you, nor can they do you harm. If they collect and publish lists of your names; you will do well to collect and publish lists of theirs, and then stand your chance for the final effect. But, above all things, be upon your guard against the fraudulent dealings of the Whigs, who are the worst faction of the two, because they are the greatest hypocrites. They make use of the name of Sir Samuel Romilly as the means of deceiving you, and of getting a share of the public money into their own pockets; and of this fact I beg you never to lose sight.
I am, Gentlemen, your friend,
WM. COBBETT. Botley, Tuesday, 11th August, 1812.
These three letters will give a clear view of the state of politics at Bristol. I offered myself as a candidate for that city, not with the expectation of being returned as one of the Members, but from a firm conviction, and, indeed, a thorough knowledge, that it was one of the most corrupt cities in the universe; that the people had been kept in total ignorance and darkness by the intrigues and cabals of the two factions, the Whigs and Tories, in which glorious and praiseworthy work those factions had been ably assisted by the local press of the city. MATTHEW GUTCH, the Editor of Felix Farley's Journal, the Ministerial or Tory hack editor, and JOHN MILLS, the Whig hack editor, two beings equally unprincipled in politics, had contributed mainly to assist in perpetuating the ignorance of the people; the whole of the patriotism of the citizens consisting in being devoted tools either to the Whig or Tory factions, blind supporters of the high or the low party. It will be seen by these letters, that my great object was to rescue the people of Bristol from this deplorable state of ignorance and darkness, into which they had been plunged by the intrigues and unprincipled compromise of these two factions. How far I was successful in this attempt, may be best deduced from the unwarrantable and villainous abuse that was poured out upon me by all the rascally editors of the public press of that day. Gutch and Mills vied with each other which could be most scurrilous, and which could tell the greatest number of the most unprincipled and barefaced falsehoods. It will be seen also, from these letters, that I was assailed by Mr. Charles Elton and Mr. Walker, both supporters of Sir Samuel Romilly; the former the son of Sir Abraham Elton, and the latter an attorney, who published a pamphlet at the time on purpose to abuse one. When I say that these two gentlemen were the most liberal minded men in the City of Bristol, you may form some idea of the prejudice that was excited against me, and the pains that were taken to put me down. As, however, Mr. Elton and Mr. Walker have made some amends, by expressing themselves in a very different manner of me since I have been here, I am by no means disposed to bear them any ill-will; on the contrary, I think them two of the very best men amongst the gentry of Bristol, and an exception to the sweeping character which, in my last number, I gave of the Bristol gentlemen, although at the period to which I allude they were two of the foremost to abuse and belie me. If either of them should read this, I have not the least doubt but they will lament the injustice they did me; the names of both of them appear amongst those who have subscribed to remunerate me for some of my expenses; and I am informed that they liberally promoted the Bristol petition, that was presented to the House of Commons last week by Mr. Bright, one of the Members for that city. This evidently shews that, if they still remain my political enemies, they are at any rate liberal and generous foes; but I would fain hope that they have by this time convinced themselves from observation, that I am more deserving of their support than their hatred and opposition. They will have seen that I have, ever since they first saw me at Bristol, been the steady persevering friend of Radical Reform; they will see that I have always advocated the same principles; and they will acknowledge that the very principles and sentiments that I promulgated, during the first election for Bristol, are become almost universal now; that the very same language which I made use of upon the pedestal, in the front of the Exchange, has lately been made use of, and repeated almost verbatim, by Noblemen and Members of Parliament, at county meetings; that the very remedies which at Bristol I declared, in 1812, to be necessary, to restore the country to freedom and happiness, are now almost universally allowed to be the only remedies in 1822. These letters, which were written by Mr. Cobbett, I do not publish for the sake of raking up any old grievances; far from it but I do it for the purpose of maintaining and proving my consistency, and also that, whatever I may have erred in, my errors have sprung from the head and not from the heart.
The reader has seen in these letters, that I promised the electors of Bristol that I would always be a candidate for Bristol, at all future elections; but this, of course, was conditional. When the proper time comes I shall, I think, give a very satisfactory reason why I did not keep this promise, or at least why I was prevented from doing so; although perhaps, it would, as it turned out, have been much better for me, personally, if I had gone there again, under all the disadvantages which I had to anticipate, rather than have destroyed my health and wasted my property in opposing Sir Francis Burdett for the City of Westminster. Still, however much I may have suffered upon that occasion, I must persist in thinking that a great public good was effected by it. These things, however, I shall at least honestly account for, whether my explanation prove satisfactory or not, at the proper epoch of my history.
The general election was to take place in October. The Bristol election was fixed to commence on the 6th of that month. On the 5th I arrived once more in Bristol, and I was received, if possible, with more enthusiasm and greater demonstrations of respect than ever by the people. A most dirty trick was played me by Mr. Protheroe, one of the Whig candidates. He and his friends, by bribes and threats, got possession of my inn, the Talbot, which I had occupied upon the former occasion; and, as I had arranged to go there again, it created some disappointment to my friends, for these cunning fellows had taken possession of this inn only the day before I arrived in Bristol. My friends, however, took me as usual to the Pedestal, at the Exchange, where, in addressing the multitude, I informed them of this trick that had been played me, which I had not been aware of till I came into the city. But I soon convinced these gentry that I was not to be driven out of the city by such means, although I had been informed that all the inn-keepers had been threatened with the loss of their licenses, if they admitted me into their houses. I declared my resolution to take up my residence upon the Pedestal, where I then stood, if I could procure no other accommodation. This sort of mean persecution to which I was exposed, generally, however, brings with it its own remedy; and I soon had a message from the mistress of the Swan-inn, in Maryport-street, that she would furnish me with apartments. It appeared that her husband was a partizan of the Whigs, and would fain have kept me out of his house, but the lady was resolute, and she discovered a degree of spirit and independence, in which the gentlemen of Bristol were lamentably deficient, and I was consequently received into very good quiet apartments, and received every accommodation and attention that I required.
There were four candidates—Mr. Davis, the White Lion or Tory candidate, Mr. Protheroe, and Sir Samuel Romilly, both of whom stood upon the Whig interest, and myself, who contended upon true constitutional principles, to maintain the right of the people to free election. The morning came, and I proceeded to the Exchange, where, while I was addressing my friends who had assembled in great numbers, intelligence was brought to me, that the Sheriffs, with the other three candidates and their friends, were gone to the Guildhall, which was filled almost to a state bordering upon suffocation. Thus, by another trick, had these worthies stolen a march upon me, by filling the hall with their friends before the usual hour. As no time was to be lost, I proceeded thither with as much speed as the density of the crowd would permit. I believe that no man except myself would have been allowed to penetrate Broad-street; but I was cheered by friends and even foes, all anxious to assist me to the hustings. When I came to the hall-door, the steps were so jammed with the people, that it was impossible to penetrate through the solid mass of human bodies, upon which one man, at the top of the stairs, hailed those at the bottom, as follows:—"Mount Mr. Hunt upon your shoulders, my friends, and let him pass over us, as he cannot get through the crowd." This plan was instantly adopted, and I marched along deliberately stepping upon the shoulders of those assembled, every individual endeavoring to assist me, as I passed amidst the cheers of the whole multitude; but when I sprung upon the hustings, the shout was such as made the old walls of the Guildhall shake, and it was actually so deafening that it was some time before I could hear again. I found that the greatest confusion and uproar prevailed, in consequence of the Sheriffs having stopped up and barricadoed the Two Galleries with three-inch deal planks, lashed together with strong iron plates and hoops. These galleries were the very best places for the people to see the election, as they completely overlooked the hustings and the whole court, which was calculated more than any other circumstance to secure fair play. At any rate, every trick, quibble, and foul proceeding, every fraud and underhanded transaction, that had been attempted at the former election, by the agents of the factions who had combined against me, was detected and exposed, and the detection was exceedingly facilitated by my friends, and the friends of fair play and the freedom of election, some of whom took care to place themselves in these galleries every day; and they were sure to be so completely on the alert, that when any thing escaped my observation, it was sure to be instantly detected by these watchful lookers-on, who, from their peculiar situation, had the most commanding power of seeing every transaction that passed. This was a most galling circumstance to those who wished to carry on their old pranks, as heretofore, unperceived and undetected.—Amongst this number was the worthy perpetual Under Sheriff, Mr. Arthur Palmer. He appeared to be dreadfully annoyed by being thus rigidly scrutinized; and therefore, as deputy commanding officer over all the minutiae of benches, tables, seats, &c. &c. he had, in conjunction with his friend Jerry Osbourn, proposed and planned this notable scheme, to get rid of what they considered as so intolerable a nuisance, by curtailing one-fourth of the space of the hall, which before was infinitely too small for the purpose of holding an election.
In consequence of this obstruction, the greatest uproar ensued, and a scene of tumult followed, such as, in all my previous attendance at public meetings, I had never witnessed before. The people were highly exasperated at this wanton and daring encroachment upon their rights, as freemen, to the freedom of election; and every now and then we could discover a voice more powerful than the rest exclaiming, "open the galleries! down with the planks!" &c. &c. The pressure of the crowd towards the hustings now increased to such a degree, and the heat was so intolerable, that the Sheriffs (the two young Mr. Hillhouses) appeared greatly alarmed; all were grasping for breath, and I believe that some would have suffered from suffocation, if the Sheriffs had not resorted to the expedient of admitting a little fresh air, by dashing to pieces the large Gothic window, or at least the glass of it, at the back of the hustings, which they did with their swords. I sat quietly down, and with my arms folded I calmly looked on in silence upon this tremendous scene of uproar and confusion. Poor Sir Samuel Romilly! I shall never forget his looks; he stood aghast, and I saw his eyes were frequently turned to me, with a sort of imploring expression. The Sheriffs, after having in vain made repeated attempts to procure silence, appealed to me, and in the most supplicating manner requested me to address the multitude to obtain it. I, however, sat firm upon my seat, and resolutely refused to interfere; saying, that I could have no influence, as the Sheriffs had, by a trick, shut out all my friends, and packed the hall with the friends of the other candidates. I therefore begged them to apply to those candidates, to procure silence from their own partisans. The Sheriffs did so; but Davis and Protheroe knew they should not be attended to, and consequently they declined to make the attempt. At length Sir Samuel Romilly stood forward, but without the least possible chance of a single word that he uttered being heard: he retired, and then joined his intreaties to those of the Sheriffs, to request me to address the people to be silent while the Sheriffs read the writ for commencing the election. For some time I declined to interfere; and urged the knight of the gown and wig to try again, repeating what I had before said, that I could not be expected to have any influence, as the greatest part of my friends were, by a petty trick of the Sheriffs, shut out and left upon the Exchange, while the hall was packed and crammed full by the friends of the other three candidates. I observed that there were a great majority wearing the colours of Sir Samuel Romilly, and I entreated him to make another attempt to be heard; he did so, but it was all in vain. They all now repeated their supplications to me, that I would rise and endeavour to gain silence, but for, I suppose, nearly half an hour, I remained immovable. I thought this a proper opportunity to place the question of my popularity beyond all dispute. The corrupt hirelings of the press, particularly the corrupt John Mills, the proprietor of the Bristol Gazette, had denied that I was the popular candidate, and claimed this honour for Sir Samuel Romilly; I was therefore determined to put this question at rest at once. All the corrupt knaves of attorneys, petty-foggers and all, looked to me in the most humble and imploring manner, and they might have looked and implored till this hour, before I would have stirred an inch, or have uttered a word to have gratified them, had I not been loudly called for from all parts of the hall, and the call of the people I instantly obeyed.
The moment that I rose from my seat I was received with three cheers, upon which I gave a slight wave of my hand, and immediately, as if by magic, the most profound silence ensued. I began as follows: "In the name of the insulted freemen of Bristol, I demand of the Sheriffs to be publicly informed by whose authority it is that the galleries have been barricadoed!" (loud cheers.) "I'll wait for an answer"!!! The Sheriff, the elder Hillhouse, "an unlicked cub," both of them being mere boys, totally incapable of performing the office of Sheriff with any degree of credit to themselves, or honour to the City, drawled out in a faultering voice, "that the galleries had been examined by the city surveyor, and had been pronounced unsafe." I knew this was a shuffle, as it was evident that the galleries were most substantial; for, being supported by large upright solid pillars, they were capable of sustaining ten times the weight required to fill them with people. I therefore demanded if the surveyor was present to answer for himself? The answer was, no. The name of the surveyor was demanded, but an abusive answer was given by Mr. Perpetual. After a shower of hisses from the audience, I deliberately declared it to be an infamous shuffle, a premeditated insult to the citizens, and a step calculated to obstruct the freedom of election, and to promote and screen bribery and corruption. I, therefore, desired the people to remove the nuisance, by taking down the planks and forcing an entrance into the galleries as usual, and I would be answerable for the consequences. A sailor instantly scaled the height, and in about twenty minutes the immense barricado was removed, and the planks, iron and all, were handed over the people's heads into the streets; and thus what had taken Mr. Arthur Palmer several days to erect, was now removed in a few minutes. The galleries were soon filled with several hundred people, and complete silence was restored. To accomplish this might altogether have taken up two hours. Davis, Protheroe, Romilly, and Hunt, were duly and regularly proposed and seconded by their respective friends, and each having addressed the electors, the show of hands was taken by the Sheriffs, and declared by them "to have fallen upon Mr. Hunt and Sir Samuel Romilly, by a very large majority;" upon which Davis and Protheroe demanded a poll; and each candidate having polled a few electors, the election was adjourned till the next morning.
My friend Davenport had kindly consented to accompany me to Bristol, and I was surrounded and supported by all my former friends, who had given me their support during the recent contest, with the exception of a Mr. Webb, who did not appear amongst them. It was soon found that he had openly joined the ranks of the enemy, as his secret intrigues and infamous treachery, during the former election, had been detected by my friends, who found out that every night, after he left my committee, he had proceeded to a secret committee of Mr. Davis, and communicated to them the whole of the plans of my supporters; and, in fact, through this treacherous caitiff they every night knew what we had done, and what we intended to do on the following day. Although this was a most diabolical act on the part of Mr. Webb, and very unfair upon my committee, of whom he made one, and generally the chairman, yet as I had no secrets, it did not serve the purpose of my opponents much. To be sure, it in a small degree enabled them to anticipate and frustrate the effect of the plans of my committee; but, as I took a straight forward course, it did not put me off my guard at all, and, besides, as I soon found that all the projects of my committee were known to the enemy, and was, of course, quite sure that we had a spy in our camp, I took good care to keep my order of battle to myself till it was about to be put in force. I must, however, own that this viper did completely deceive me; as I had not the slightest suspicion of him till after the election, when he was detected, in fact, not till I had it from one of the White Lion Club, that Webb came every night to them, and frequently supped with them after he left my committee; and even then I was incredulous, till he related some particular facts, that put all doubt out of the question, by proving the truth of his information in the most unequivocal manner.
In my address to the electors, I put it fairly to Sir Samuel Romilly, to declare whether he would support a real Reform in Parliament or not; I meant such a Reform as Sir Francis Burdett at that time advocated; and I declared it to be my intention, in case he answered in the affirmative, to give him every aid in my power. Sir Samuel candidly and honestly declared that he would vote for a reform of abuses, and also that he would always vote for a moderate Reform; but that he could not with consistency favour the kind of Reform for which Sir Francis Burdett was contending. This reply was received with cheers by his immediate advocates, such as Mister Mills, and Mr. Winter Harris, who had declared to the citizens, upon their canvass, that the Knight was a staunch friend of Reform. As, however, the Knight had never declared it himself, I thought this the proper time to put the question; the answer to which the great body of the people received, some with surprise and some with disgust. I then stated my objections to a lawyer, and especially my particular objection to a King's Counsel, being a Member of Parliament for an independent and populous city; which objection was this, that the moment a counsellor received a silk gown, he accepted a retaining fee from the Crown, to plead at all times against the people. This assertion was received with cheers from the people, and a burst of indignation from the partizans of Sir Samuel Romilly. I repeated the assertion, and added, that in case any one of Sir Samuel Romilly's voters had an indictment preferred against him for a libel, for any offence under the excise laws, for high treason, or, indeed for any offence where the prosecution was in the name of the King, that the worthy counsellor could not plead for his constituent the subject, against his master the King, unless the subject would submit to the juggle of taking out a licence, for which he must pay ten or twelve pounds to the King, to enable the gentleman with the silk gown to plead against the Crown. This caused a great sensation throughout the hall, and the truth of it was most vociferously denied by the Romillites, many of whom declared that it was a base and false assertion. John Mills, always foremost at such times with his brazen face and stentorian lungs, roared out that it was a lie. As this gentleman was remarkably deficient in sense and talent, he endeavoured to make amends by bluster and violence; this will sufficiently account for the vulgarity of his language. An apology from him was, however, loudly insisted upon by his indignant hearers. As soon as silence was restored, I turned round to Sir Samuel Romilly, and called upon him to say honestly and fairly whether I had not spoken the truth; and as I stated that I waited for an answer, the Knight came forward amidst the cheers of his partizans. Knowing what would be the result, I did not fail to cheer also. Sir Samuel Romilly said he had no hesitation in admitting that what Mr. Hunt bad stated was perfectly true, that a King's Counsel could not plead for a subject in a criminal prosecution, without a licence from the Crown. If Sir Samuel Romilly had not been present to admit the fact, these amiable Bristolians would have lied and sworn out of it, but they were now chop fallen, and I was allowed to proceed without any further interruption.
During the whole election afterwards, no statement of mine was contradicted. I said nothing against Sir Samuel; on the contrary, I gave him full credit for being one of the very, best of the gown and wig gentry; not one offensive personal expression was used by me towards him throughout the whole election; neither did he throw out one insinuation against me; on the contrary, it was the fashion for us to compliment each other. In fact, he followed my example, and after the poll was closed for the day, he every evening addressed the people upon the Exchange from the window of his Committee-room. I always gave him the precedence to address them, so that had he been disposed to join his Committee, by endeavouring to practise delusion, I should have immediately detected and exposed any such sophistry upon the spot. But I will repeat now what I unequivocally stated at the time, that, had the Committee and the friends of the Knight possessed half the liberality and honesty that he did, and practised one-tenth of the fairness that was shewn upon all occasions by Sir Samuel, I have no doubt but he would have been elected with myself, instead of Mr. Davis and Mr. Protheroe. But the Romillites in Bristol were not a rush better or more liberal than the friends of Davis or Protheroe. There was as much corruption, bribery, treating, intimidation, and undue influence, exercised on the part of these hypocritical, professed friends of freedom, as there was by the partizans of Davis, who was the avowed enemy of freedom, and the determined, unprincipled champion of tyranny and despotism. By this conduct the real friends of Reform were disgusted, and the enthusiasm that was so visible during the former election was paralized: neither myself nor any one of my friends ever canvassed for a single vote; the electors had been all canvassed, over and over again, by the partizans of Davis, Protheroe, and Romilly. I saw that the latter was most heartily sick of being made the tool of the Whig faction, without any chance of being elected. Sir Samuel frequently told the people that they were indebted to Mr. Hunt for the little share of the freedom of election which they had left them, and although he got behind upon the poll every day, yet he solemnly declared that he would not resign as long as there was a man left to poll for him. This declaration, however, proved to be a bravado, for he resigned on the eighth day, when there were a considerable number of voters left unpolled in the city, and one half of the out-voters had not been polled. My friends, Williams, Pimm, Cranidge, Brownjohn, and others, stood firmly and staunchly by me, and Mr. Cossens, one of Sir Samuel Romilly's committee, I found also to be a staunch friend; and I believe this was the only friend I had amongst them: almost all the freemen that he brought up to the hustings polled for Romilly and Hunt, but all those of Sir Samuel Romilly's voters, who were under the influence of their masters, were ordered to give plumpers for Sir Samuel Romilly, and all of them were canvassed to do so. Such, however, as had the spirit to follow the dictates of his conscience, voted for Hunt and Romilly; almost all the London voters did this, although they were urged to vote for Romilly alone.
During this contest, if it may be called one, the notorious Captain Gee was a very active partizan of Mr. Davis's; he headed a gang of blackguards, a set of second-rate prize-fighters, amongst whom was the notorious Bob Watson. This gang used to annoy the voters of Sir Samuel Romilly most infamously. Watson used to come into the box, where ten or twelve of Sir Samuel Romilly's voters were assembled waiting to poll, and with the assistance of two or three more of his gang, backed on by Captain Gee, he would hustle and drive them all out of the box, and prevent them from giving their votes. At length, Sir Samuel was induced to snake a serious remonstrance to the Sheriff against such an unwarrantable violation of the freedom of election, and he called upon the Sheriff to have Watson taken into custody, who had actually been assaulting several of his voters in the presence of the Sheriff. Although Mr. Sheriff had been an eyewitness of these proceedings several times before, yet he felt that, now his attention was thus publicly called to the subject, he could not connive at them any longer; and as Watson had been laying about him in the most outrageous manner, in which he had the audacity to persevere, although called upon by the Sheriff to desist, Mr. Sheriff ordered his constables to take Watson into custody. Two or three of these guardians of the peace made a faint attempt to obey his orders, but Watson beat them all off, and set them at defiance. Sir Samuel remonstrated again; the constables were called up, and they informed the Sheriff that, notwithstanding there were fifty of them in the Hall, yet they dared not seize Watson. Mr. Sheriff, turning to Sir Samuel, said, "there you hear, Sir, what the constables say, what can I do more than I have done?" This pusillanimous speech made Watson ten times more violent than he was before. I confess that my blood boiled at hearing such language from the Sheriff; and although I was not personally concerned, as Watson had not touched one man that had my colours in his hat, yet I felt disgusted and angered to see such partial and indecisive conduct on the part of the Sheriff, who actually turned round and appealed to me to know what he should do? I replied indignantly, "why, commit the constables, and seize the daring violater of the law yourself, to be sure; you cannot plead that you have not the means to put a stop to this brutal insolence, when you have the power of calling every man to aid and assist you." The Sheriff did not like this advice, or at best he did not attempt to follow it; but made some paltry excuse, saying that it would be very dangerous to interfere with such desperate ruffians, and he could not do more than he had done.
All this time Watson was committing the most daring outrages upon every one who came within reach of his fist. At length I said aloud to the Sheriff, "Sir, as your constables have refused to obey your orders, will you authorise me to bring Watson before you?" "By all means, Mr. Hunt, and I shall really be much obliged to you if you will aid and as sist." I sprang from the hustings upon the table appropriated for the inspectors, and from thence into the box where Watson was, and seized the ruffian by the collar, and almost in the twinkling of an eye I threw him out of the box upon the table. In the effort I had stripped his coat, waistcoat and shirt, off his back, nearly down to his waist; there he stood riveted in my grasp, with his brawney shoulders naked and exposed to the whole assembly; and the Sheriff and Sir Samuel Romilly appeared to be thunderstruck for the moment. The Sheriff ordered him into the custody of half a score of constables, and directed that he should be taken before the mayor, either to be committed or bound over to keep the peace, and Sir Samuel Romilly undertook to go and prefer the charges against him. The fellow was led away thus guarded, and I received the warm thanks of Sir Samuel as well as the Sheriff; the former was very sincere, but the latter was most jesuitical. Within five minutes the news was brought, that Watson had no sooner got into the street than he upset the ten constables, and made his escape. However, my decisive conduct had the effect of keeping Mr. Watson out of the hall for the remainder of the election, and the very brave Captain Gee became much less troublesome afterwards. Those who saw this transaction will never forget it.
Sir Samuel Romilly having resigned on the eighth day, the poll was continued open on the ninth, and the electors continued to offer their votes and poll, although but slowly; yet as it was expected that a considerable number of out-voters from London and other places would arrive on the following day, to vote for Sir Samuel Romilly, some of his friends wished to keep open the poll; but the Sheriff ordered it to be closed at four o'clock on the tenth day, at which time Messrs. Davis and Protheroe, whose forces had been united by a coalition, were declared to be duly elected. The numbers who voted were stated to be, for Davis 2910—Protheroe 2435—Romilly 1685—Hunt 455. The only remarkable thing in these numbers is, that so many should have voted for me, who never spent a shilling, and who never canvassed a vote, and whose friends never spent a penny. The fact was, that the city had been canvassed by all parties but myself, and every species of bribery, intimidation and corrupt practice had been resorted to by the partizans of the three candidates, by whom an immense sum had been squandered away. The White Lion candidate and the Club, of course, according to their ancient and laudable custom, scattered their money profusely to purchase votes; they had an interest in doing so; but Mr. Protheroe's and Sir Samuel Romilly's appeared to be a bad speculation. Mr. Protheroe and his friends could not have expended less than twenty thousand pounds. It was, indeed, said to have cost the two successful candidates and their friends as much as thirty thousand each; and, when all things are taken into consideration, perhaps this is not over-rating it. The expenses of Sir Samuel Romilly's election could not have been less than twenty thousand pounds, it might have been more, for it will be recollected that eight thousand were subscribed in one day at the meeting held at the Crown and Anchor in London; so that for every vote given to Sir S. Romilly it cost at least ten pounds a man; and for every vote given to Davis and Protheroe, supposing the number to have been 3,000 and the expenses of each 30,000l. every vote must have cost twenty pounds a man; while any whole expenses, thither and back, and while I retrained there, did not exceed twenty-five pounds, about a shilling for each vote. Only look at the contrast, and no one will be surprised at the apparent smallness of the number which voted for me. I believe almost every man who voted for me voted also for Sir Samuel Romilly; but his partizans evinced full as great an hostility to me as the myrmidons of the White Lion Club did. Every vote was urged to poll plumpers for Romilly; and, in fact, when they answered that they should poll for Hunt and Romilly, they were frequently told that the friends of Romilly would not accept their votes on any such terms, they would rather lose the votes altogether than suffer them to vote for Hunt. Between two and three thousand freedoms were taken up and paid for by the friends of the candidates, and all those taken up by the partizans of Romilly were paid for upon the express condition that they did not vote for Hunt, but give plumpers for Romilly. It was this shameful conduct that palsied all public feeling, and filled the real patriotic friends of Liberty with disgust. Many hundreds would not come forward at all, as they deemed it absolute folly to lay themselves open to the vindictive revenge of the agents of Government, merely to support such illiberal proceedings; and many hundreds, when they found what was the language of those who canvassed for Sir Samuel Romilly, actually went and voted for Davis and Protheroe, under the impression that, if they must support such a corrupt system, they had much better do it where they could do so with safety, and where they could benefit rather than injure themselves. If the friends of Sir Samuel, or rather those who wished to make a tool of him to serve their own grovelling interests, had come forward manfully, and declared their readiness to support and vote for Hunt as well as for him, against the coalition of Tories and sham Whigs, the public enthusiasm would have been such that we should undoubtedly have been both elected, instead of Davis and Protheroe, in spite of all the money that the latter were spending to bribe the voters. But the mean, selfish, temporising conduct of the friends of Romilly, lost him the election. The fact was, that these hypocritical Whigs would rather have sacrificed Romilly a hundred times, and have elected the devil himself, than they would have voted for Hunt. "Take any shape but that!" They knew that I should spoil their sport; they knew that I would not connive at the corruption of the Whigs, any more than I would at that of the Tories; and therefore I was no man for them; and the result was, that Romilly lost his election solely through this dastardly and corrupt feeling.
Sir Samuel took his departure for London immediately, and I went to a friend's near Bath, whence I returned the next day, by appointment, to dine with my friends in Bristol. The multitude that came out to receive me, the unsuccessful candidate, surpassed all former precedent. I was taken as usual to the Exchange, where I pledged myself, if supported at all by the friends of Romilly, that I would present and prosecute a petition to Parliament against the return of Davis and Protheroe. Upon this, I received the assurance of many of Romilly's friends, that they would support the petition, by a pecuniary subscription; although they, snake-like, or rather Bristol-men-like, declined to be seen openly supporting it. I own I did not rely much upon these promises, and it was fortunate that I did not, for, if I had, I should have been most wretchedly deceived.
I returned into the country, and as soon as the Parliament met, I presented the following Petition to the Honourable House:—
"To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled.
"The Petition of Henry Hunt, of Rowfant House, in the County of Sussex, Esquire; William Pimm, of the City of Bristol, salesman; Thomas Pimm, of the City of Bristol, currier; William Weetch, of the City of Bristol, clothier; and Thomas Gamage, of the City of Bristol, cabinet-maker,
"That your petitioners, William Pimm, Thomas Pimm, William Weetch, and Thomas Gamage, now are, and at the time of the last election of two Members to serve in the present Parliament for the City of Bristol, were electors of the said City, and claim to have a right to vote, and did vote, at the said election; and at the said election your petitioner Henry Hunt, together with Richard Hart Davis, Esquire, Edward Protheroe, Esquire, and Sir Samuel Romilly, Knight, were candidates to represent the said City, as citizens of the same, in this present Parliament.
"That the said Richard Hart Davis, Esquire, and Edward Protheroe, Esquire, by themselves, their agents, friends, managers, committees, partizans, and others on his and their behalf, previous to and at the said election, were guilty of gross and notorious bribery and corruption; and at and during the said electron, and previous thereto, the said Richard Hart Davis and the said Edward Protheroe, by themselves, their agents, friends, managers, committees, partizans, and others on their behalf, by gifts and rewards, and promises and agreements, and securities for gifts and rewards, did corrupt and procure divers persons, as well those who were qualified to vote, as those who claimed or pretended to have a right to vote, at the said election, to give their votes for them the said Richard Hart Davis and Edward Protheroe, Esquires; and did also, by gifts and rewards, and promises, agreements, and securities for gifts and rewards, corrupt and procure divers other persons, being qualified to vote at the said election, to refuse and forbear to give their votes at the same, for your petitioner the said Henry Hunt, or the other candidate, contrary to the laws and statutes enacted for the prevention of such corrupt practices.
"That the said Richard Hart Davis and the said Edward Protheroe, by themselves, their agents, friends, managers, committees, partizans, and others on their behalf, were guilty of the most flagrant and notorious acts of intimidation, thereby basely and unlawfully procuring by threats, divers other persons, being qualified to vote at the said election, through the fear of being persecuted, ruined, imprisoned, and otherwise ill-used and punished, to forbear to give their votes to your petitioner the said Henry Hunt, or the other candidate, in violation of the rights of the electors, the privileges of Parliament, and the freedom of election.
"That the said Richard Hart Davis and Edward Protheroe, by themselves, their agents, friends, managers, committees, partizans, and others on their behalf, after the test of the writ for the said election, and before the election of the said Richard Hart Davis and Edward Protheroe to serve in the Parliament for the said City of Bristol, did give, present and allow to divers persons, who had votes, or claimed or pretended to have a right to vote at such election, money, meat, drink, entertainment and provision, and make presents, gifts, rewards and entertainments, and make promises, agreements, obligations, to give and allow money, meat, drink, provision, presents, rewards and entertainments, to and for such persons having or claiming or pretending to have a right to vote at the said election; and to and for the use, advantage, benefit, emolument, profit and preferment of such person and persons, in order to their the said Richard Hart Davis and Edward Protheroe being elected, and to procure the said Richard Hart Davis and Edward Protheroe to be returned to serve in the present Parliament for the said City of Bristol, in violation of the standing orders and regulations of your Honourable House, and in defiance of the laws and statutes of the realm enacted for preventing charge and expense in the election of Members to serve in Parliament.
"That a large body of military, consisting of the Middlesex militia, were quartered within two miles of the said City, and many of whom were actually stationed within the walls of the said City of Bristol; and that Colonel Gore, commandant of the Bristol Volunteers, gave orders, the day before the election commenced, to have two pieces of brass ordnance, six pounders, removed from the Grove, where they had been kept for the last two years, and had them placed upon the Exchange, where they remained during the whole of the said election, to the terror of the electors and peaceable inhabitants of the said City of Bristol, regardless of the privileges of your Hon. House, and contrary to the statute of the 8th of George the Second, chap. 30th, in that case made and provided.
"That a great number of freemen were employed by the said Richard Hart Davis and Edward Protheroe, or their agents, under the denomination of bludgeon men, or pretended constables, and that various sums of money were paid by the said Richard Hart Davis and Edward Protheroe, or by their agents, committees, friends, managers or others on their behalf, to influence such of them as were entitled to vote, or pretend to have a right to vote, at the said election, and to induce them to give their votes for the said Richard Hart Davis and Edward Protheroe, Esqrs.
"That the poll was closed by the Sheriffs, the returning officers, two days sooner than by law directed, notwithstanding your petitioner, the said Henry Hunt, openly protested against it; several freemen at the time having offered to poll for the said Henry Hunt, which votes were refused to be taken and entered on the poll, and notwithstanding the Sheriffs were publicly informed that many other votes were on the road, who were coming with the intent to poll at the said election.
"Your petitioners therefore humbly pray, that the Honourable House will take the premises into their most serious consideration, and that the election and return of the said Richard Hart Davis, Esquire, and Edward Protheroe, Esquire, maybe declared to be null and void; and that such further relief may be granted to your petitioners as the justice of the case may require." "HENRY HUNT. "WILLIAM WEETCH. "WILLIAM PIMM. "THOMAS GAMAGE. "THOMAS PIMM."
Having done this, I entered into the usual securities for the prosecution of the inquiry before a Committee of the Honourable House, which Committee was appointed to be ballotted for on the 24th of February following.
A very extraordinary and unexpected change had in the mean time taken place in Russia; namely, the defeat of the French army, the recovery of Moscow by the Russians, and the rapid retreat of the French amidst a Russian winter. When Napoleon entered Moscow, the Governor Rochtopchin had, as we have before seen, caused great part of the capital to be destroyed by fire; and as the Emperor saw that it was destruction to attempt to remain there with his army during the winter, he resolved upon a retreat; but he remained too long before he began it. He first proposed an armistice, which was rejected, and he began his retreat on the ninth of November. The frost sat in severely nearly a month earlier than usual that year, and the ground was covered with a deep snow. The Russian armies pursued the retiring invaders; and the sufferings of the French and their allies were indescribable. The men and horses perished from cold upon the road by hundreds, and their carriages and artillery were broken to pieces and abandoned. Having accompanied the remains of his army back to Poland, Napoleon set off to Paris, where the Senate shewed him every mark of respect and attachment; but great discontent was very evident amongst the people. The loss sustained by the French, in men, and what is called the materiel of the army, was immense and incalculable. Thus was the finest, the bravest, the best disciplined, and the best equipped army that in all probability ever took the field—an army that, under such a leader, would have been victorious against a world in arms, was overthrown, defeated, routed, and destroyed by the horrid climate, by the artillery of a Russian winter.