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THOMAS COOPER (CONTINUED).
SANUEL M. KYDD.
Reminiscences of Ebenezer Elliott-339, 354,
The Demon of Despotism-356, 377, 393, 409.
The Philosopy of Death—427.
France; The Chaos of Order'-50. The
Thoughts Suggested by the Birth of a Child
Signs of Progress-113.
Labour and Capital : Association-273.
C. F. NICHOLLS.
TRUTH, FREEDOM, AND PROGRESS.
"And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously to misdoubt her strength, Let her and Falsehood grapple! Who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"-Milton's Areopagitica.
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF THE WORKING CLASSES.
LETTER I. NEW SERIES.
MEN OF THE FUTURE,—If any new proof had been wanting, in addition to the many recorded by history, that the freedom which the intellectual Few can win, the unintellectual Many may easily lose,-this proof has been given us in the events of the year just closed. The unintellectual Many elevated Louis Napoleon to the Presidency, and France became a Republic only in name; hence followed the overthrow of Italian liberty ; noble Hungary was left helpless, while her despotic and barbarous foe took fresh courage-deriving also his fatal advantage from treachery; and the prospect of European freedom which opened so brilliantly upon us in 1848, was blighted. Should not this sad catastrophe of struggles so hopefully begun, teach us, more than ever, to labour earnestly for the increase of intelligence in our own fatherland-in order, first, that the demand for the franchise may be more speedily successful, by its being the universal demand of an intelligent people—and, then, that the franchise when won, may be preserved unimpaired, by its being wisely exercised ? I know that many a young and earnest mind will give an affirmative response to tris question.
What, then, can we do, in this year 1850, towards laying a sure and enduring foundation for our great enterprize--the enlightenment and enfranchisement of ALL? The old Mechanics' Institutes, it is confessed by their best and worthiest supporters, have failed to accomplish their purpose: the political associations of the Working Classes have become almost lifeless. Is it the time to attempt the formation of a PROGRESS UNION, that shall combine efforts for the spread of intelligence with an united struggle for the franchise, and for the general amelioration of our political and social condition? Such a union, it seems to me, (but, by many of you reflecting upon it, the thought may be improved) might be created by these means :
1. Societies should be formed, having Mutual Instruction and Discussion Classes, Libraries, and weekly lectures : their rules should be free of all restriction as to the subjects of discourse or debate, or the character of the books or papers purchased ; above all, their quarterly, monthly, or weekly payments should be within the means of all working men—by being proportioned to the average earnings of workmen in each locality. Such societies, I have pleasure in knowing, are already formed in several districts of London, and in some of the populous towns in the provinces. I care nothing about their names, whether ‘Mechanics’ Institutes,' (though there are few of these free of restrictions,) “Working Man's Institutes,' Mutual Improvement Societies,' or . Temperance Associations. The difference of their names need be no hinderance to their joining in a general PROGRESS UNION. Nor need any new, or general name, 'be imposed on such new local societies as may hereafter be formed,-unless by general consent.
2. Such societies should call together their members, in order to learn their minds respecting the advisableness of joining such a union. If their consent were obtained, it might be signified in this journal; and, when the idea was sufficiently ripened, a Conference of Delegates should be held, to determine upon rules and the general operations of the Union.
Concerning the machinery and purposes of such a Union, I may be permitted to give my notions, a little more at large.
1. The life of the Union would consist in a body of Lecturers--selected for their intelligence, moral character, and sincere devotion to their work
-labouring for a given time in one neighbourhood, and then removing to another, according to a matured plan.
2. So fast as the list of localities augmented, new districts should be formed-until, in the course of time, a network of communication (similar to the Wesleyan “Circuits') should be spread over the country.
3. The stations and movements of the body of Lecturers should be fixed and regulated by a Conference of Delegates, meeting annually (or oftener in the outset)- while the affairs of the Union, in the interim, might be managed by a Board, or Council, appointed by the Conference ; but in this Board there should be no stated President, -the Board being left to elect its own chairman at each of its meetings, or for such period as it judged fit. A General Secretary, of course, would be necessary; and as the Union grew, and it became needful for him to devote the whole of his time to the business of his office, he would have to be properly remunerated.
4. The Union when formed should have a missionary spirit. The effort should be made to form Societies in every possible direction-without waiting, at all times, for formal invitations into a locality.
5. To raise the intellectual and moral condition of the whole community should be the first professed object of the Union: its Lecturers would, therefore, be required to select (according to their ability) subjects in history, biography, science, politics, social economy, and general literature, for their themes, and to endeavour to do all in their power towards enlightening, refining, and elevating their audiences; while both in example and precept the teacher should recommend the highest morality of life.
6. The great indubitable right of every human being, of sane mind, and arrived at the years of maturity, to share equally in the choice of representatives by whom laws are made and mankind governed-should invari. ably be asserted by the Lecturers of the Union.
7. The equally indubitable right of every man and woman to live happily by their useful labour, whether of hand or brain,-should be as invariably asserted.
8. The wickedness and injustice of persecution for opinion, the evil of taxes on knowledge,—the turpitude of war,—the folly and wrong of capital punishments, and all other excessive penal laws,-the absurdity and injustice of privilege and titles,—the claim of the unemployed to the waste lands,—the necessity of financial reforms, of sanitary improvements, the promotion of temperance,-in brief, the advocacy of all political and social ameliorations, should claim the energy of the PROGRESS UNION, and of its Lecturers.
It may be objected that such a scheme is too unwieldy; and that societies for distinct reforms are more likely to accomplish their objects. I can only reply, that many societies already exist which blend several objects in their avowed purpose; and, so far as I am able to judge from a not very limited observation of my own order, it is their prevailing wish to see societies formed which shall no longer be narrowed to one object, or straitened by prejudices in the mode of working for the accomplishment of all that pertains to progress. At the same time, be it observed, that such a Union as I am advocating would be forbidden, by the very principles on which it was founded, to disturb or molest any other association having for its object the accomplishment of any useful reform: on the contrary, it would be bound to assist their efforts.
I leave these thoughts to your consideration,-making the appeal especially to you,--because, as I have often repeated, I am convinced that with you it rests, by your union and intelligent energy, to make your country free and happy; and that no privileged power in existence can withstand your efforts, if they be put forth wisely and determinedly. An enterprize of this character is not a plaything for a day, or for a year. It would be the institution of a new order of things: it would eventually set aside every order of men who largely absorb the fruits of your industry under the guise of authorised teachers; and give rise to the true priesthood for humanity. Not only the mature in years, but children-the men of a further future-might partake of its benefits; for better schools for the young might also grow out of such a Union, if government could not be impelled to furnish the means for a good secular education that should be truly national.
So far as my strength will allow, I am ready to assist in the formation of a Progress Union. If there be any accepted Teacher of the People, willing to give me the hand of a brother, and to aid in carrying out such a design, let him say so. If there be any society already formed, or any number of young men ready to unite and form a society,-earnestly willing, likewise, to join such a Union, let them communicate their resolve. I may have spoken too soon ; if so, nothing effective will grow out of these hints. But as small beginnings by no means argue eventual failure, I shall not be discouraged, if, at first, but a faint response be the answer.
My Dear Sir,-I learn, from various sources, your intention of starting with the New Year á journal devoted to the instruction and elevation of your own order—the veritable working men of England. It occurs to me that this is a favourable time for offering a few remarks on the “Eight Letters to the Young Men of the Working Classes," written by you, and published originally in the Plain Speaker.
I have profited by the “perusal” of these letters: they are helps to the anxious and enquiring mind; and containing, as they do, the processes by which you acquired knowledge, they must afford valuable hints to your younger and less experienced brethren. “Read and think," you say: "that is the whole secret." You are right: no improvement can be made without labour. “There is no royal road to knowledge.” It is well for us all that it should be so. Thinking is natural to man, and reading necessary, to afford to him valuable materials for thought. It is an exercise of the understanding that makes reading valuable: to eat heartily and to have imperfect digestive organs, if possible, can neither be a profitable nor pleasant use of man's bodily functions; and to read much without studiously thinking on what we do read, will yield but little fruit worth either having or keeping. It is reflection which teaches man his weakness, that he may one day know his strength; and which gives him the ability to discriminate that he inay appreciate; to sow, that he may reap; and enables him to feel his worth, dignity, and independence, as man.
It is above all necessary that our workmen should become thinkers, for it is clear that force, fraud, and gold cannot for ever rule. The past fifty years of our country's history, unfold a great era of industrial enterprize : the shadows of Arkwright, Hargreaves, and Watt, are every where manifest. The next fifty years must unfold a universal intellectual development, proportioned to the industrial wealth of our country; or all may run to wreck, riot, and anarchy. Nothing short of universal thought can save us : plug-plots, stack-burnings, and hunger mobs, will do nothing towards what is really wanted. Burke defined laws to be
an application of man's means to man's wants.' I like the definition much; we have not yet got an application of means 'to wants. And how are we to get it, except by increased thinkings and increased knowings? The rich cannot save the people :the ignorant, of whatever faith, creed, or party, cannot save the people : the people must save themselves. On riches, let me quote a'sentence from Bacon's Essays:
“ I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue; for as the baggage is to an army, so iz riches to virtue ; it cannot be spared nor left behind, but it hindereth the march; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory. Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceit, so saith Solomon; Where much is, ther are many to consume it ; and what hath the owner but the sight of it with his eyes ?' The personal fruition in any man cannot reach to feel great riches: there is a custody of them, or a power of dole and donation of them, or a fame of them, but no solid use to the owner."
How can we amend the distribution but by increased knowledgeThe same Bacon saith in another part :
“ Neither is money the sinews of war (as it is timidly said), where the sinews of men's arms in base and effeminate people are failing; for Solon said well to Cræsus, (when in ostentation he showed him his gold), “ Sir, if any one hath better iron than you, he will be master of all this gold."
It would be well that the statesmen and merchants of our country would read these sentences; they would then discover how they should live, and how they should legislate. And if they understood their full meaning earnestly, we should have less talk and more work, in the great houses of legislature, better parliaments and less need of them. I have only to add, “knowledge is power,” and whoever gains the knowledge most efficiently, and uses it the best, will in the end prove to be the most useful and the most powerful among the sons of man. Courage, then countrymen: get knowledge, and “above all get understanding."
In Letter Fifth, addressed chiefly to the youthful instructors of the people, you say, “The people want more of these relations of what you have read : it is the teaching from fact which is most needed. If the people are to be trained to read, you must tell them what there is in books, declamation has too long constituted the stock in trade of public speakers, and that is the cause why the people have profited so little by it." In my humble judgment, no portion of these eight letters, taken by itself, is of more practical utility than these sentences. It would be a work worthy of the labour of a lifetime to familiarize the minds of even a portion of the working classes, with the lives and writings of the best men and wisest authors of all ages.
Many men of middle age, whose early education has been neglected, have still a craving for knowledge : they have not read history, but desire to know it: they have heard the names of the sages and heroes of the past, and are ever ready to listen to what may be said of them. Such men may be attracted and instructed by lectures on history and biography. And the examples of the great and good