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No. 1. Vol. 14.] LONDON, Friday, July 14, 1826. [Price 6d.
AN ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF THIS ISLAND, BY
London, July 9, 1826. Near eight months have elapsed since I was liberated from Dorchester Gaol, after six years of imprisonment. Though I have not been idle during that time, I have considered myself in a passive state, from the want of a proper establishment wherein to conduct my business. I had much rather have remained in the Gaol for this last eight monthis, than have been so unpleasantly situated as I have been as to place of business. But the difficulty is at length surmounted, and I present myself to the public in an establishment equal to the convenience and respectable appearance of conducting that important business which I hope to carry on, as the only sure prelude to a redress of the grievances of the people of this Island, and a reformation of that system of political and theological rule by which they are grieved.
Nine years have elapsed since I first made my appearance in Fleet Street as a bookseller. Near seven of that nine have been passed in different Gaols, for the publication of what have been called libels, which mean books and nothing but books, such books as one part of an ill-formed community desires that another part shall not read; such books as are calculated to remove all ignorance of the cause of political grievances; such books as have been the “ forbidden fruit," wherever tyranny has acquired power; such books as are allegorized in the Book of Genesis, as the fruit of the tree of knowledge, the eating of which is the only food that will make man superior in character to his fellow animals; such books' as form the key to the allegory of “ Christ crucified," or the anointed reason of man persecuted almost to ex. tinction by the malevolent power of pre-existing, profitable error.
During the year 1816, a period of distress among the mechanics of the community, I was emploged as a tinplate-worker, in the form of Mathews and Masterman, of Voion Court, Holborn Hill; and in that year, the general complaint of distress drew my
· Printed and Published by R, Carlile, 62; Fleet Street.
attention to the state of politics, or to politics generally. Before this year, I had neither read the writings of Paine or of any other political writer. I do not recollect that I had ever bought a newspaper. I was in as complete a state of political ignorance as any animal called man on the face of the earth. Distress and a general complaint of distress was the stimulus to my political enquiry. I began to be a politician without the aid of books, and this eir. cumstance and the want of experience in the political affairs of the world caused me to think of nothing but the figure I would strive to make in taking an active part in the much talked-of and mucb-expected general and revolutionary insurrection. I had no political acquaintance out of the work-shop. I was one of po party; my views, however erroneous, were as purely patriotic as ever were the views of any man.
During the year 1816, and before I began to sell books in 1817, I had not read a single pamphlet of Paine's; my political reading was confined to a few newspapers, to Cobbelt's Register and to the Black Dwarf; none of which appeared to me that sort of political food which I, and, as I thought, others, wanted and ought to have. The Black Dwarf was my favourite, until Mr. Sherwin's “ Republican” appeared, the title alone of which enamoured me.
While working at the mechanic's bench, I had begun to scribble scraps for the newspapers, the whole of which were condemned as too violent. I felt a burning desire to print something of my own writing; though I now confess, that I was not then competent, from inexperience as to politics and literature, to write a sentence fit for the public eye. In this state of excited mind, I began to think of turning bookseller. The story of Lackington's beginning with a stall was often recalled to my mind, and why, thought I, may I not, by perseverance, begin with a stall or a bag, and become as extensive a bookseller as Lackington ?, The resolution was formed early in 1817, and on the 9th of March, I sallied forth from the manufactory to commence bookselling, with a pound's worth of books in a handkerchief. In a few weeks, my kit consisted of a large green bag, and each week added something to the extent of my sale. In April, before I had given up my bench of work in the manufactory, Mr. Sherwin offered me his little shop in Fleet Street. Though it was a mere hole, one window of the shop now held by Mr. Cobbett, 1 recollect well, that my ideas of its magnitude and importance as an acquisition were much greater than those which I now, conceive in the possession of one of the best shops and houses in the street. every thing to me, and I saw it as I now see it, as the first step to a betler establishment.
In cogitatin, on politics wbile working at my trade, I inferred that no writers, no printers, no publishers, whose works came under my eye, were bold enough to prepare the people to work the necessary reform or redress of grievances. I say, that the
suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act frighted away the little courage that had been exhibited, and England appeared to me, in its politics, to be going back io the state of the Continental system. Under this view of things, I formed the resolve to shrink from nothing that could tend to instruct, or to give courage in the way of example to, the public. Whether I have firmly acted upon this resolve, I leave to the conclusion of the reader. I could not see a good reason why discussion on any subject should be forbidden, nor upon what good inolive a desire to forbid it could rest; therefore, I fixed on free discussion as my moral war-eryand took perseverance, under all circumstances, as my moito. Has it, or has it not, been well done?
This statement is so stale, as a repetition, that, I must pledge myself, that, this shall be " positively the last time," except, that, I hereafter write my own memoir, like other great men, who fear that no one else will be at the trouble to do it for them. In stating my past conduct, it was necessary to say something of the early points of my political career; and, like Mr. Cybbett, I find; that no one can speak of myself like myself. A certain line of conduct bas led me to the acquisition of a certain character. I state my motives for that line of conduct and leave the reader to draw his own inferences, as to whether they are apparently correct.
I have stated that I was entirely ignorant of the subject of politics at the commencement of the year 1816; and I state, that I was entirely ignorant of the subject of religion at the commencement of the year 1317. The first stimulant to my examination of that subject was the prosecution of the Parodies o: the Book of Common Prayer, as blasphemous and profane. Thrown into an imprisonment of eighteen weeks for the publication of the parodies, the dawnings of my present state of mind as to matters of religion commenced. From that, my first, in prisonment, the subject of religion has been my regular study; and my conclusion, after as much examination as ever man gave to any subject, is, that religion is the greatest vice that has appeared among mankind, and one of the principal causes, if not the principal cause, of all the misery that attends them.
While confined in the Gaol at Dorchester, the subject' of religion was my peculiar study. It was there that I saw and an. nounced that religion had no association with morality, and that they were distinct principles in the human mind, a complete antithesis ; the one, the root of vice; the other, the root of all virtuons action. It was in the Gaol, that I so far examined the powers and properties of matter as to assert, that the doctrine of spiritual intelligences is a doctrine of fictions; that intelligence is solely a prineiple of the animal organization ; and that reason is not a natural gift of God to man, but that it is wholly an artificial acquirement. A knowledge of these simple facts constitute the
grand emancipation of the human mind from all the errors and
The imprisonment which I have suffered in the course of my
In maintaining the war of discussion, to accomplish its freedom, I confess, that I have often had to resort to personalities. I cannot see that I have been wrong in so doing, as my case was peculiar, and I was personally assaulted with all the venom that Christianity or religious fury could apply. The “ Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge” has frequently designated me in its publications as a “ wretch ;” almost every Christian has paid me the same compliment; while I feel that they are the wretches, and that I am a high-minded man, with a spirit above every thing that is low, grovelling, or base. I cannot truckle so as to be a passive hypocrite upon the wretchedness of religion. Instead of calling me a wretch, the Christians should acknowledge that I am a bold, open, fair, and generous enemy, ready to converse, in the most familiar and most polite manner with any of them, utterly incapable of being the first to give a personal affront in conversation, always desiring to be instructed or to instruct, and ready to conciliate wherever it can be honourably done.
Christians! I am not a wretch. I have discovered that your religion is falsely founded in history and in physics; I have shewn you the allegory upon which it has arisen; and in so doing, I am your friend and the universal friend of my species. I will do nothing, I will adhere to nothing, I will associate myself with pothing, that is wretched. My error, if any, shall be on the side of suspicion and scrupulous exactness as to the persons and
things with whom I connect myself. I have uniformly acted on this disposition, and in so doing have gained some ill-will. Publjely situated and publicly marked as I have been, I have had to encounter the intrusions of all sorts of characters; but I feel both a pride and a pleasure in saying, that I have not made a bad man my companion, nor given the least countenance to an individual, after I have seen his moral reputation soundly impeached. But as to my assaults upon the religion of the country, or upon its political and theological rule, I glory in them, as the first signs of free discussion that must produce good. Good has been already produced. The religious and political tone of the country is very different from what it was seven years ago-much of the fury of religious zeal and of political party animosity is abated, and all classes in a better state of mind for mutual instruction and improvement. I
present myself to you as an individual, the business of whose life shall be to work reforms in whatever he sees to be wrong, and though such an individual must necessarily be troublesome and be opposed to and by many, he is not the less generally useful. I present myself to you, as one who considers the present but as the commencement and not the conclusion of his career, and who will bestir himself wherever he sees that he can make himself useful. Upon this ground, and this only, I ask your support, not in the shape of subscriptions, but in the way of business and the good offices of explanation and recommendation, just as far as you can see that support likely to conduce to your own benefits.
In beginning my political career, I had those common notions which the enthusiasm of youth and inexperience produces, that all reforms must be the work of physical force. The heat of my imagination shewed me every thing about to be done at once. Time and experience have cooled that enthusiasm, or rather corrected it, I trust, without abating any of its useful parts. I am now enthusiastic, but it is in working where I can work practically, rather than theoretically; and though I would be the last to oppose a well-applied physical force, in the bringing about of reforms or revolutions, I would also be the last in advising others to rush into useless dangers that I would shun or where I would not lead. I have long formed the idea, that an insurrection against grievances in this country must, to be successful, be spontaneous and not plotted, and that all political conspiracies, private caballings, or secrets are general, and may be local and even individual, evils. I will never countenance any thing of this kind, by word or deed. I never did give countenance to any thing in the shape of a political conspiracy ; I detested the treachery that I have seen necessarily associated with it; and though my situation has in some measure compelled me to be the receptacle of rumours that were afloat upon such subjects, I challenge the omniscience of the Home Department, to say, whether, by any words written or spoken, or by any acts acted, I have done