« הקודםהמשך »
Inquisition, suppression of
Keith, Mr. R., death of
115 Religious Ideas,' by W. J. Fox 396
*Literary Gazette' and Mr. Holyoake 402 Remonstrance of Sartot
Louis Blanc's Paris Workshops 244 Slavery and the Bible
Martyrs of Rome, in memory of 330 Socialism in London
Music and Books
251 Sterling and his Contemporaries
Poetry 48, 126, 174, 221, 237, 253, 269, Working Man's Thoughts
Words spoken at the Grave of Arthur
229 / Young Men's Societies
The Reasoner, which has been conducted in the spirit in which men should conduct life, ready to give it up when destiny or duty shall require it, proceeds to speak its epilogue. That time, at which some will rejoice and others regret, has at length come.
The impersonal tone in which, in this volume, the highest opinions have been considered, has extended the acceptability of the Reasoner. Though less in quantity, the circulation has increased with the general public, but not sufficiently to balance the rather low degree indicated by that barometer of our strength, the 'Shilling List.' Here then it pauses. Experience suggests no middle course: conscience admits of no other modifi. cation. The Reasoner, being devoted to the advocacy and illustration of important principles (but little recognised in private theory or public practice) and to instructive criticism (more useful than popular), it has laboured under greater disadvantages than those papers which subordinate the duty of improving to the task of pleasing : and as, in pursuing this path which a sense of duty has dictated, a paying circulation has not been attained by the Reasoner, no course is open but to suspend the paper —or (which has hitherto been the case when personal resources have failed) to again solicit the assistance of such as think its advocacy publicly useful.
We prefer not to do this again. To be willing to depend upon subscriptions seems a violation of that austere incorruptibility which it should be every man's pride, as it is in every man's power (even the poorest) to preserve, and upon the recognition of which must depend any credit a publicist has with the people.
To diverge from the path walked in so long, at so much peril—to adopt the language of a faith which we do not hold-to adulterate the truth in order to sell it—to explain away meanings which the errors of society require to be made more clear and emphatic-none of these things are to our taste. Our precepts, if they bave no other force, shall at least have the commendation of personal example. We will not dishonour what we can no longer sustain, and therefore suspend this advocacy, improved and extended we hope—but certainly as unsullied as we took it up.
For the last three months, a person has been engaged to devote his whole time to visiting the metropolitan, and corresponding with the provincial, vendors; and the number is so great who refuse to take the Reasoner the moment it is named, that it evidently will yet require a great expenditure of capital to overcome this repugnance, as whatever we write in our own defence must operate faintly so long as it never reaches those for whom it is intended.
Persecution of free opinion by the Biblists has been very successful in England. We, indeed, have no serious penal persecution; but we have a social persecution which is omnipresent and relentless. The penal persecution made men antagonistic formerly, as the social persecution intimidates them now.
As formerly none but the very brave or very reckless could stand by heretical opinions, the defence of such opinions often devolved on men whose chief qualifications were their sincerity and courage. Hence the only public advocacy possible was often disastrously rude; for, though not to be silenced by penalties and imprisonment, the old pioneers were poisoned by it. Persecution, like the bite of the adder, but too often communicates its own virus, and the victim grows as vindictive as the serpent-bigot. Not to go far back, we find a memorable case in Carlile. The credit which his endurar.ce of nine years' imprisonment brought to his cause he more than destroyed afterwards by the bitterness of the personalities with which his unparalleled persecution inspired him. Carlile, as I have said in his Life, resembled one of those prisoners who are tatooed by the enemy into whose hands they fall. He was like a soldier who has fought long in the front ranks, who is discoloured by the powder expended in the battle, and never after wears the hue of peace.*
Robert Taylor felt the intensity of persecution so exquisitely-he felt so expatriated from society, so reduced in caste when he had once publicly proclaimed the emancipation of his conscience from the fetter of a false creed-that he lost self-respect and plunged into retaliative extremes. His wit became ribald, his learning inexact, his life careless, and he desecrated bis advocacy so seriously with all sober men that it has not yet outlived the consequences. The Oracle of Reason-intended as a species of successor to the Lion and the Prompter—was projected on the two-fold principle of the antagonistic tactics of Carlile and the levity of Taylor. It was in vain that we pursued a widely different course in the Movement. The shadow of the Oracle was over it. It has been in vain that we have sedulously developed an entirely distinct and converse policy in the Reasoner. The public, as we have explained, bave never been permitted to read it; and we resemble one seeking an acceptance with questionable letters of recommendation : he presents them again and again--but the proper parties will never look into them. There is no course open but to get new ones. We will do so. The public, once well outraged, are repulsed for a generation. They believed the Oracle writers to be honest, but regarded them as offensive. The prejudice has been fatal to us. It was a serious error to create it; and I point it out distinctly, as nearly all persecuted persons have fallen into it, and there are social and political parties still committing it, not
* Life and Character of Richard Carlile, p. 39.
seeing that the highest truth is perfectly compatible with suavity Experience shows that we have reached that point at which the world will forgive plain speakiny, providing it be, at the same time, passionless and just.
One thing we have distinctly learned, which could only be learned by experience-namely, that it is a disastrous policy to a tempt to make converts by creating a sensation. It is a great mistake to travel out of the simple utterance of earnest conviction and impressive reasoning to set people thinking. The adherents only to be won thus are seldom worth having. They follow you only as the gin-drinker follows bis glass for the sake of the excitement; and they fall off when the excitement fails. You must ruin yourself to win such converts, and ruin your cause to keep them. We have seldom entered other objection to such policy than our own example; because there appeared something in the remark so frequently made, that. It all does good: it sets people thinking.' The impression of these apologists is that it is all-important that persons should think-no matter how. On the contrary, our conviction is that it is of little consequence that people think unless they think rightly. To say that we may set people thinking, no matter how, is to justify every extravagance that the philosophical mountebank may invent, and every vulgarity and every invective which the ignorant and violent propagandist may employ. It is, in effect, to say that when the traveller after truth arrives at a cross road, we may send him in any direction—no matter which, so that he is kept moving. This is a mistake ; and there is much very popular teaching of the people which is less useful to society and less virtuous employment than sweeping a crossing.
There is a peculiar point from which we may usefully survey our position. While opinion was put down with a violent hand, its simplest and crudest utterance was acceptable, and was a triumph. But when free expression is left comparatively unmolested, the fact of the utterance becomes subordinate, and the quality of the utterance grows all important. The public remark, Now you are able to speak, what have you to say? And we are called upon to demonstrate the use to which we are prepared to put the contested and partly conceded privilege of speaking. Our journal is called upon to compete with all other publications on a common ground of popularity and quantity. At this point persecution check-mates us. Our opinions being sedulously proscribed by the whole power of the Churches, we have infinite difficulty in making them popular—and while few will sell the journal, it would be tempting certain failure to give great quantity, the paper not being likely to be bought extensively. Before adopting the resolution announced in this article, we spent two months in planning and perfecting the details of an enlarged series of the Reasoner, meeting the requirements just sketched. It included writing of a periodic and permanent character perspicuous digest of all new books and all newspapers, with a view to present weekly
* We take, in illustration of this, the fact that the Life of Richard Carlile, upon which was expended much historical care-the only Life of him written-has never, in any instances (save those of the Northern Star and Spirit of the Times) that we are aware of, been noticed by the press-though the Lite of the man who did more than any other man in this country to free that press.
the aggregate advancement, in the two-fold development of liberal opinions and efforts for the betterance of social condition—presenting the highest and newest conquests of Free-thought and Communistic Theory, the world over. In addition to these improvements, there were departments intended for the special instruction of young thinkers and correspondents, in the only way in which it could be done publicly. The desire was to create what has not yet existed—in the same sense, a Philosophical Newspaper. But to work out this plan, also doubling the quantity without increase of price, would be an expensive experiment, which, with the ascertained unwillingness of agents generally to sell the Reasoner, it would be wasting money to make. Nothing less than what is here sketched would satisfy the expectation of the public, and it is better to pause than continue longer to fall short of it. This is not a hasty or inadequate impression. Five hundred readers have lately been written to, and the answers returned have confirined this conclusion.
We had, also, higher objects in view than mere literary and typographical improvements. We trusted to attain to an advancement in opinion commensurate with the other improvements indicated. In the Cause of the People Mr. Linton and myself sought to elevate political advocacy, by advising that the suffrage should be demanded, not so much on the ground of Right as on that of Duty. So in speculative opinion, we ought to pass from insisting on the right of private judgment to insisting on the obligation of private judgment—it being not only a right to be claimed, but a duty to be performed. We take pride in the reflection that we have accomplished some change in public opinion. The result of our own efforts demand of us to advance yet further, that we may not be found following when we should lead opinion-resembling those numerous though unconscious opponents of progress, who never see that consistency to the past, when circumstances are changed, is a crime against the present.
It is due to the friends and supporters of the Reasoner (whose subscriptions to the Shilling List' I have to acknowledge, have always been made in the independent spirit of those who performed a duty rather than imposed an obligation) to render explicit reasons for the course now taken. "Priests will rejoice that they have suppressed the Reasoner, but they can only rejoice on grounds which disgrace them.*
Let Truth and Falsehood grapple, whoever knew Truth put to the worse in a fair and open encounter ?' These are oft-quoted words of Milton's, but those who quote them commonly overlook the wise condition with which the sagacity of the great republican qualified his assertion. Milton writes a fair and open encounter,
This we have never had. Truth is often put to the worse in an unequal conflict, and under assaults by covert foes. It has been in this way only that we have been overcome.
When one accustomed to defend the people retires for a time from his post, the popular impression is that his opinions are changed, his courage
* A letter lately arrived at our office from the West Indies, from a very old resident in one of our colonies, remitting dollar notes for the latest volumes of the Reasoner, remarking that strict surveillance was exerciesd by the clergy there to prevent the importation of such books, the booksellers being instructed to reply to all orders for them-' not to be had.'