Page images

advocacy of infidel doctrines. Various attempts spiritual pale. Activity, devotedness and ardour in have, from time to time, been made to establish the work of evangelisation, these are the magnets cheap journals for circulation among the working- which attract his affections and his energies ; and, classes bearing this exclusive character; but the therefore he leaves the slow, stately, and to him unattempt has invariably failed of late years, and the sympathising grandeur—the studied written dispublications have either suddenly vanished alto- courses, and the set forms of prayer of episcopal gether, or, varying the nature of their contents, sanction, for the untaught but natural eloquence, have continued for a brief time a struggling exis- and the stormy energy, of a lower but more congetence in a modified form. The necessity of veiling nial order of minds. Hence, for one working-man their attacks upon what they are pleased to de- communicant at the parish church, there are twenty nominate public prejudice and credulity is even to be met with at the Dissenting chapels and little acknowledged by the partisans of infidelity; and Methodist Bethels, which rear their dingy gables in a late publication by one of them, the writer in the muddy, out-of-the-way back-streets of our calls upon the friends of “free inquiry" to propa- cities, in the suburbs, and in the out-lying villages. gate their doctrines, not at present by avowed op- The Methodists, indeed, who generally know pretty position to the “Christian superstition,” but rather well what they are about in dealing with the lower by the subtle and secret means of inuendo and orders, have monopolised a good portion of the inference, in conversation with friends, neighbours, entire of this class. Their body of local preachers, and all parties whom they may wish to impress. who shrink from nothing in the shape of hard Whether this advice has been followed I cannot work and no pay, is, if one may judge from such say; but it has been too much the fashion of late to signs as hard horny hands and technical phrasemake almost every species of literature, no matter ology, almost entirely made up of working-men. what the subject may be, the vehicle of insinuations Some of them have managed to pick up a respectintended and adapted to generate contempt for the able amount of knowledge, and can read their doctrines or the statements of the Bible. It is Hebrew Bibles' and Greek Testaments; while likely that this practice has tended more to un- others, looking upon all human learning as mere settle the popular mind in reference to truth than vanity and useless dross, dispense a species of deany open and undisguised attack could have done, clamation which, though it originate in the most seeing that an insidious deduction, bearing the laudable sincerity, often borders upon the groaspect of a plain, fair and unavoidable logical in- tesque and ridiculous. But though one cannot help ference, has always more force than the bare asser- smiling sometimes at their strange and incongruous tion of a principle, which it may be the interest, figures of speech, we should be slow to judge of as it is the avowed intention, of the assertor to the efficacy of a species of oratory which, however support; because, while this is open to the suspi-discordant to an educated ear, yet may and often cion always attachable to the dogmas of a pro- does produce the desired effect upon an audience selytising zealot, that wears the seductive appear- for whom it is adapted. The tool, after all, is fitted ance of honest, undisguised truth incidentally for the rough work it has to perform, and merits expressed.

no contempt at our hands. When an educated or half-educated working- There are various branches, offshoots, and superman becomes, from any cause, profoundly impressed cessions from the Methodists and other dissenting with the religious sentiment, it is very rarely in- bodies, which, being lower in pretension and poorer deed that he contents himself with shutting it up in purse, are all the greater favourites with a not in his own breast, or even confining its influence very extensive section of illiterate and low-class to his own domestic circle. The instinct of labour, workmen, who may truly be said to labour under which controls him for six days in the week, is religious impressions. These pious congregations not to be subdued on the seventh ; and on Sunday, generally take the name of some popular leading therefore, it is ten to one but he is found as hard seceder who has been spurned out of his regular at work as ever, either as a teacher in a ragged-orbit for some offence against the governing eccleschool or a Sunday-school, or as a tract-distributor siastical polity of his sect

, and has carried off a at some crowded railway-station or some other pretty nnmerous tail of adherents along with him. resort of pleasure; or he acts as a Bible-reader or These, under the name it may be of Smithites, a visitor of the sick, and may be seen gliding Brownites, Jonesites, or Robinsonians, make a noiselessly into his place of worship in the covenant together-erect a new chapel at the cost middle of the service, after having fulfilled his of some hundred and fifty pounds, which they conown peculiar mission, on which, perhaps, he started trive to borrow, instal the ejected pastor in the at dawn, or before, after working at his trade till pulpit, and found a new denomination, whose creed midnight on the Saturday. But the grand object and constitution are liberal and all-embracing in a of his ambition is to become useful in what he precise ratio with the illiteracy and poverty of its tering " the capacity of an evangelist;" and he founders. looks forward to the occasional occupancy of some One evening when, during a slack scason, I was small rural or suburban pulpit as the climax of his returning early from my work, I was tempted by desires. It may be partly owing to this not unnatural the prospect of a brilliant sunset to prolong my peculiarity in his character that the national Church, walk by making a leisurely circuit round the outwhich offers so few opportunities for the employ- skirts of the northern part of the city. At twilight, ment of his zealous offices, embraces so compara- I found myself threading a winding lane with tively small a number of working-men within its black brick cottages on one side and stunted aspen



trees on the other. Lying back about a dozen herent mutterings, I suspected he was but a new paces from the row of mean habitations, I saw a convert himself, to whom some savour of the old pair of small arched chapel windows, through Adam yet remained, which no doubt he would which lights were glimmering; and I knew from have got rid of if he could. "Oh, glory!" he the strange mixture of sounds that greeted me muttered to himself

, while his whole frame trembled that something unusual was going on within. with excitement, and swam in perspiration, “ ain't Creeping softly along the narrow flag-stone pave this a precious Pentecost ?-thirteen sinful souls at ment, I opened the door and entered as stealthily one haul !" Then he would bawl an amen to the as possible, and was startled by what certainly petition of the moment; and again, in an undermust be considered an odd phase of divine wor-tone, Oh, crikey! here's a blessed manifestation." ship—if it were not something else. The build- Anon, he would read a verse or two during a pause ing was a chapel of some thirty feet square, with in the proceedings, and press the leaves of the two small galleries, one on either side of the book to his livid lips, and then, unable to conentrance. In the pulpit was an unshaven orator trol or repress the expression of his satisfaction, addressing an audience in the highest state of would burst out with such involuntary ejaculations excitement, and consisting apparently of labouring- as, “Gemini, here's an adorable go! Here's a men and their wives, with a good sprinkling of stunnin' outpouring !" with sundry others of a young children. Every sentence uttered by the similar and even less orthodox description, which speaker was received with audible demonstrations I have no inclination to record. The united of rapturous enthusiasm. The individuals who prayers being ended, the preacher came down occupied the pews which filled the centre of the from the pulpit

, and beckoning a couple of folarea rose every now and then upon their feet, and lowers from the precentor's desk, the three togelooked anxiously and scrutinisingly around-cast-ther pulled, hauled, and carried their now proing compassionate glances upon about a dozen strated and exhausted converts into the vestry in dimly-seen proselytes who appeared to be struggling the rear, where it is to be hoped they gave them upon their knees in comparative darkness among something more restorative than a second course some benches under the gallery. Suddenly, a of jobation, though what they there did with them I labouring-man rose from a form in the aisle, and had no means of knowing. Another speaker mounted making staggeringly for the agonising group, the pulpit stairs, and, after a short address, and a plumped himself down among them, which was hymn, which was sung exultingly to the tune of the signal for a simultaneous shout from every lip " Jolly Dick the Lamplighter,” dismissed the conof “Another! another! Glory to the Father, gregation with a benediction, and an appointment another !" followed by the instinctive explosion in for another service for the morrow night. chorus of a verse of a hymn celebrating the vic. This reads very like a piece of gratuitous exag, tories of Immanuel to the tune of “ Rule Bri- geration and caricature, and yet it is nothing of tannia," most vociferously and discordantly yelled the sort ; indeed, I might have shown the affair in out. That was no sooner finished than the black a much more ridiculous aspect, and yet have adbeard in the pulpit roared forth, “ Let us help them, hered to the truth. Some years have elapsed since my friends ! let us help them !" and then in a I was present at the scene above described, but the solemn voice, “Let us pray!" Then he began a same thing is observable at the present hour by passionate prayer to the Great Being, whom he those who choose to look for it. No later than last violently adjured to come down that instant and year, in the month preceding the opening of the assist his creatures in the throcs of the new birth. Great Exhibition, I was accidentally present at a The voice of the preacher was lost in the exultant scene equally preposterous and far more miserable responses of the congregation, many of whom and melancholy. In the very heart of the metroprayed much louder than their leader; and when polis, and within hearing of the roar of the traffic they paused for breath for a moment, the wailing of Fleet-street, a small band of the self-styled elect

, and sobbing from the wretched creatures flounder- almost exclusively of the lower and labouring ing about among the benches, and lifting their ranks, had met together for the purpose of depreclasped hands and streaming, distracted and grimy cating the wrath of God about to be let loose upon faces now and then into the light, filled up the a guilty land to avenge the national sins consumintervals in a manner truly characteristic and de- mated in the erection of the Crystal Palace, which plorable. While this strange scene was going on, was relentlessly doomed, as the great temple of I could not help closely remarking the behaviour Mammon, to a sudden and horrible destruction, of a pale-faced, starveling operative of about five together with the rebellious city which had raised and-twenty, who stood near me, with the remains it in mockery of the Most High! The grieving of a dirty and dog's cared hymn-book, the leaves and groaning community, of some sixty or seventy of which he kept on greasily thumbing over, in jaundiced-looking individuals

, occupied the floor of his hand. He looked like, and probably was, a the chapel, the galleries being shut up as useless, poor working-shoemaker of the lowest class; but and left to the dust of years. Three long-visaged whatever the actual misery of his lot, and he was messengers of woe entered the pulpit at once. wan, meagre, and ill-clad in the extreme, his pre- The first who spoke launched out into such a sent rapturous condition was such as would have violent strain of prophetic denunciation as soon mocked at compassion. He was in a perfect elicited a chorus of dreadful groans from all preextacy of saintly delight, though from the voca- sent. He shot forth every tenth syllable from his bulary in which he expressed it in fitful and inco- lungs with such tremendous force as would have drowned the crack of a rifle, and actually raised | do it—do it, Lord !-remember!" at the end of the dust in the forsaken galleries to such a degree which stunning and almost ferocious conjuration that he and his compeers stood aloft in a mist, the assembly broke up. through which their magnified forms loomed like The above are some of the forms in which the evil genii threatening horror and ruin. In the religious sentiment finds embodiment among the exercise of his Christian charity he compared the lowest and least educated section of the workingmodern metropolis to the Sodom of old Judea, and classes. I forbear to make any comment upon declared that it came off“ second best" in the com- them, because a sincere zeal for what a man conparison. He assured his audience that all the real siders to be the truth, however mistaken he may Christians in London (perhaps he mentally excepted be, has some claims to respect. If these things be the present company) might be trundled out of repulsive to well-ordered minds, they will ascribe town in one of the omnibuses then rolling along their existence to the right cause, which is the low the Strand. When he had tired himself out, which state of knowledge among the populace on the he did in about twenty minutes, another followed subject of Christianity. Had the Church of Engin the same strain, though he at least condescended land done her duty during the two centuries last to give a reason for the doom he threatened, and past—had her priests and bishops really earned that reason was, he said, the sins of the aristocracy, but a tenth part of the money they have been paid whom he accused of having gone after strange for instructing the people, such doings as these gods in worshipping Jenny Linds. The third would never have been witnessed. They are the speaker, a sallow north-countryman, half-choked wild weeds of a religious soil—the natural outwith the Northumbrian burr, graciously directed croppings of a religious necessity in a region which attention to the sole means of averting the impend- has been the subject of unprincipled neglect from ing calamity, which he solemnly declared was only the preferment-hunting crew whose bounden duty to be accomplished by the urgent prayers of the it was to have cultivated it with care. faithful then and there present; "that small and chosen band were the remnant who had not bowed down to idols, and they held in their hands the If the above desultory sketches point to the present destinies of the modern Babylon; and deliverance, true condition of the labouring-classes of this counif it came at all, must come from the sacred vio- try—and, as far as I am enabled to judge from my lence of their united and unwearying prayers, own means of observation, I believe them to be truthwhich alone had power to stay the avenging arm ful—then they may contribute towards helping us of an insulted God.” All this was received by the to a clear perception of the character of the matepoverty-stricken, sickly and woe-begone assembly rial upon which all whose desire and purpose it is as the veritable utterances of prophecy, and was to impress and guide these masses of our population responded to by a chorus of gasping sobs and have to operate. Immersed in ignorance as are groans from a dozen or two of male and female the great majority, and governed alternately by "sweaters," cobblers, shoebinders and slop-makers, the cravings of necessity and those of a selfish senwhom foul air, confinement, want of exercise and suality, it is not to be wondered at that they regard semi-starvation had first etiolated, then endued their own condition with anything but complacency, with a saffron-coloured skin, and at last landed in and that they should be readily impressed by the the monomania of religious fanaticism. I could oratory of any and every projector of a new theory not help thinking as I looked upon them that three of social organisation which promises the ameligrains of calomel round, with a double dose for oration of their lot. Without any knowledge of the orators, followed at a proper interval by a the principles of political economy, and with only general participation in a social bowl of salts and such vague notions of politics in general as he has senna, would have sent their peculiar and truly picked up at the public-house or imbibed from the pitiable piety to the right about, and restored them perusal of inflammatory publications, the struggling to the perception of common-sense; and I would workman is convinced of the truth of the doctrine gladly have paid the expense of the entertainment which so many of those who write for his weekly had it been practicable. When the last speaker pence are continually setting forth—and that is, had blown his wailing blast, and the three to that he is one of a class which, according to the gether had disappeared in the dusty mist they had order of things settled by those whom the mere raised, a man plumped himself suddenly on his accident of birth has placed over him, is bound to knees on the table beneath the pulpit, and began a bear all the public burdens, suffer all the public very noisy and desperate kind of oration, which calamities, perform all the labours of the commupartook as much of the nature of a public an- nity, pay all the public debt, and undergo all the nouncement as it did of a prayer. Now he ad- miseries of famine and pestilence with which it dressed the people, whom he charged to come at may please Heaven to visit the nation. A d he is half-past two, in order to wrestle with God for not slow to add, that, in reward for all this, he is the salvation of " this seething Sodom," and who allowed to starve in the midst of plenty when his replied aloud to his appeal, “We will! we will!" energies fail him, and is held up to universal And now he challenged the Deity to be punctual, odium and contempt if he endeavour to redress his repeating several times his admonition, “Remem grievances. According to his own account, he is ber

, Lord, at half-past two precisely--be thou born with the world already robbed and plunhere, and bring thy blessings with thee!" amid dered of everything that could render life a benereiterated cries from the congregation of “Do it- faction. The society into which he steps forth, a luckless, pre-doomed helot, has already appro- exit from the world, through the sufferings and priated to its more fortunate but not more deserv- hardships inseparable from such a life. With him ing children all the comforts, the amenities and all religion save that which is self-supporting is the luxuries of life. Upon the very soil which priestcraft; and every appeal made to him for conclaims his patriotic services he is allowed to tread tributions for a religious purpose is an attempt to but by sufferance; for the light that enters his plunder him for the sake of a job. wretched dwelling he has until very lately been The state of mind and sentiments here described, compelled to pay by the sweat of his brow, because and which is common to an immense proportion Cæsar has shut out the sun by a tax. The wicked of the labouring community, is precisely that best extravagance of whole centuries of meddling mis- adapted for the reception of the Socialist and Comrule is heaped upon his shoulders, and he must toil munist doctrines which promise such great things and struggle for life under the burden of a debt for the human race; and we consequently find that contracted for the defence of property and pri- it is chiefly among working-men holding these vileges; all possible preventives being carefully and similar opinions that such doctrines essentially combined to debar him from participation in them. prevail. In my next and concluding chapter, I It too frequently happens that to these sentiments propose inquiring briefly, before winding up my are added a deep and settled hatred of the minis- personal narrative, what chance of permanent prosters of religion, whom he regards as confederated perity there might be for us in the supposed case in a system of government which condemns him of a general reception of these doctrines. to a life of toil and degradation, and to a premature

(To be concluded in our nexl )

THE CONDITION OF THE UNITED KINGDOM. WHILE, in 1818, nearly all the continental The majority of the Irish people were, during states of Europe were plunged in bloody revolu- at least half a century, habituated to " rejoice in a tions, and their inhabitants were suffering the cala- potato regimen.” Sustained by that root, with mities which have always accompanied and followed a little salt, and occasionally a drop of butter internal disorders—while, in each of those states, milk, with a taste of animal food and a lighted by force on the part of the people, or by concession, taper twice only in the year, at Christmas and at through fear, on the part of their rulers, free con- Easter, they nevertheless continued to increase stitutions were instituted—and while, during the and multiply; until they became, in the late Mr. last four years, almost every one of those states O'Connell's estimation, or at least in his ea prezhas lost every vestige of civil and political liberty, sion, “the finest peasantry in the world.” and religious freedom—it may now be wise and An awful blight came at last. The Irish could instructive to illustrate briefly what the condition no longer “rejoice in potatoes.” A malady had of Great Britain and Ireland is now, and has been for two years infested and corrupted the root, and during the same eventful period.

destroyed its powers of nutrition. Famine and its For more than four years preceding the 1st of concomitant diseases, and Death, stalked over the January, 1848, a railway-mania affected the majo- land. rity of the whole population : more than two hun- At the same time, in the years 1816 and 1817, dred millions of money was, by the sanction of two bad harvests caused scarcity in the United Parliament, risked in those daring enterprises. Kingdom, and in most of the states of Europe. During the same period commercial speculations The Corn-laws were abolished, and the Narigawere greatly increased, especially with the East tion-laws were suspended. Indies and China ; and a Free-trade system, and Millions of the taxes paid by the people of Great the abolition of food-duties and the duties on raw Britain were expended and large amounts wasted materials, by Sir Robert Peel, had caused a profit in works, and otherwise mismanaged for the relief able augmentation of the trade of the United of Ireland. Notwithstanding this, a spirit of turKingdom with the United States and the Conti- bulence had broken forth, and Sir R. Peel consinent of Europe.

dered it necessary to submit to Parliament a Bill At the same time, it was generally suspected for enforcing tranquillity. He was opposed by that many of the oldest and most eminent mer- the Wbigs, who were a-thirst and a-hungry for cantile houses had long been in a failing condi- office. They were joined, we regret to say, by the tion; that their investments in sugar-plantations, Radicals, and of course by the Irish Liberal Memmavaged or mismanaged at a great expense by bers; and the most practical and useful statesman distant agents, must have left all such investments that these kingdoms ever possessed was driven in a losing or ruinous condition; that rash specu- from power. lations of great magnitude had been undertaken He was succeeded by Lord John Russell, who, by houses in the India trade; that they had made ɔn meeting Parliament in 1847, proposed a similar clear purchases in the East, and that they must, Bill to that on which he had destroyed the Peel in order to meet their well-known heavy engage. | Ministry. ments, make sales at ruinous prices in Europe. But how did Sir Robert Peel act on the occasion? He scorned all base personal retribution. five per cent worse than, refused to discount the Ile soared magnanimously far above all such mean Government paper. A national bankruptcy and factious conduct. He came frankly and seemed inevitable; and consequently the bankgenerously forth and said

ruptcy of all banks, merchants and manufacturers. "I should be unwilling, sir, to let the first night Confidence was lost, and it was in this awful juncof the debate on the proposal of her Majesty's Go- ture that the Bank restrictions were suspended by vernment to pass without publicly declaring that the Government. Hope, credit, and confidence, it is my intention to give to that proposal a cordial the operations of industry, trade and navigation, support. I cannot resist the force of the appeal were at once, as if by magic, restored. Men who which the Right Hon. Gentleman has made to the before looked sad now rejoiced; and the nation, in House. . . . Why cannot I resist the force of fact, was at the time richer than ever it had been the appeal thus made by the Right Hon. Gentle before. That is, if the products of labour conmau? Because it is precisely the same appeal stitute riches; for there never was so great a which some two years since I myself made, and quantity of all kinds of the products of labourmade in vain. Now, sir, let me not be mistaken. of those of every soil, mine, and country, within I most fully admit that measures of this nature and belonging to the United Kingdom, as in the are no effectual remedy for the social evils that end of 1847 and the beginning of 1848. prerail in Ireland. Nay, for I will conceal none The Bank of England was not even under the of the objections, it is always with great reluctance necessity of using the relief which was extended that I have consented to propose, or that I consent wisely to it by the Government. The fact that it to support, such measures, because there is this evil could do so—could issue its notes and discount attending them, even with reference merely to the any requisite amount of exchequer and other bills, peace and tranquillity of the country, that it is im- was sufficient to re-establish the one thing at the possible to enforce them without in some degree time needful-credit and confidence. diminishing confidence in the efficacy of the ordi- Soon after, the continent of Europe was connary law, and paralysing its operation. But still, vulsed by revolutious. Neither the example nor the when I hear upon the authority of the Govern- spirit of foreign insurrection were manifested in the ment, and when I find the statement confirmed United Kingdom. The abortive folly of the meetby evidence, that there exists in Ireland an organ- ing of the Chartists, on the 10th of April, was ised conspiracy, employing assassins, in order, memorable indeed, as exemplifying, not the power without reference to age, sex, property or condi- of fire-arms and the sword, but of a round piece of tion, to deprive of their lives the faithful and un- wood, two inches thick, and eighteen inches long, offending subjects of her Majesty, I say the conti- in the hand of a man in a blue suit of clothes-of nuance of this conspiracy is such a scandal, that that implicit obedience and respect for the laws none of the objections that may apply to the mea- and for domestic order which the people of Great sure appear worth consideration compared with Britain have always manifested from the dawn of the evil of apparent connivance at that scandal. their freedom, and more so than ever as that freeAnd although I think this Bill is no permanent dom, political, civil and religious, has been enlarged. remedy for the social evils of Ireland, yet I, for Let no one, therefore, dare to say, as Lord one, will not postpone my consent to this measure, Derby has insultingly done since his accession to till I hear what are the other measures, what are power, that there exists within Great Britain any the more permanent remedies, the Government dangerous spirit of democracy. has to propose. I will enter into no parley with Down to the present day we have been making assassips.

progress in the peaceful paths of industry and The Crime and Outrages Bill in Ireland enabled commerce ; the Free-trade policy has been perLord Clarendon, with a formidable army and a severed in; the Navigation-laws have been nearly, police force of 10,000 men, as well equipped and but not entirely abolished. The exports of British armed as any military force, to preserve peace, manufactures have increased from £37,927,561 with the exception of an occasional assassination. in 1830 (when we had made few relaxations in our But free trade in food, the large quantities of commercial policy, and, from that period, as we have Indian corn meal distributed to the poor, and the unfettered trade and navigation), to £57,406,430 plentiful harvest of 1847 in the United Kingdom, in 1840, to £60,111,082 in 1845, to £65,756,032 were far more powerful in Ireland than either the in 1850, and to £08,492,659 in the year 1851. soldiery or the constabulary force.

Our imports of all kinds have increased in the The close of 1817 was a period of commercial same proportion ; so has the tonnage, especially calamity. What was foreseen, occurred. The that of the magnificent large-class sailing and railway-mania had its inevitable re-action; men ex- steamships of the United Kingdom. Notwithpressed their losses by their gloomy countenances standing the abolition of the food-duties, and the rather than by their words, by ceasing to ride in duties on all raw materials, except oak and fir carriages, by discharging servants with powdered timber, and the repeal of the duty on many manuhair and gay liveries. There was a monetary as factured articles, of the excise on auctions and well as a commercial crisis. The great and old bricks, yet the revenue of the Customs and the mercantile houses tumbled down; distrust became Excise have not diminished, the increased congeneral; exchequer-bills became valueless. The sumption having provided more than the amount Bank of England, whose securities were twenty- of the abolished duties.

« PreviousContinue »