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the object of which meeting was, “to raise “ money” by subscription for “supporting “ the election of Sir Samuel Romilly at “Bristol ;” and it is added, that a large sum was accordingly raised. This meeting appears to me to have for its object the deeeiving of the electors of Bristol; an object, however, which I am satisfied will not be accomplished to any great extent. I do not mean to say, that Sir Samuel Romilly would use deceit; but, I am quite sure, that there are those who would use it upon this occasion. The truth is, that the raising of these large sums of money (amounting already, they say, to £8,000) proves that Sir Samuel Romilly does not put his trust in the FREE VOICE of the people of Bristol. At this meeting MR. BARING, one of the persons who makes the loans to the government, was in the chair. This alone is a circumstance sufficient to enable you to judge not only of the character of the meeting, but also of what sort of conduct is expected from Sir Samuel Romilly if he were placed in parliament by the means of this subscription. Mr. WhitBREAD was also at the meeting, and spoke in favour of the subscription. But, we must not be carried away by names. Mr. Whitbread does many good things; but Mr. Whitbread is not always right. Mr. Whitbread subscribed to bring Mr. Sheridan in for Westminster, and was, indeed, the man who caused him to obtain the appearance of a majority; Mr. Whitbread supported that same Sheridan afterwards against Lord Cochrane; and though Mr. Whitbread is so ready to subscribe now, he refused to subscribe to the election of Sir Francis Burdett, notwithstanding the election was in a city of which he was an inhabitant and an Elector. These, Gentlemen, are facts, of which you should be apprized; otherwise names might deceive you. I beg to observe also, that, at this meeting, there was nothing said about a parliamentary reform, without which you must be satisfied no good of any consequence can be done. There was, indeed, a MR. Mills, who said he came from Bristol, who observed that “the great majority of the in“habitants of Bristol felt perfectly con“vinced of the necessity of SOMETHING “LIKE Reform.” And is this all? Does your conviction go no farther than this? I remember, that, when a little boy, I was crying to my mother for a bit of bread and cheese, and that a journeyman carpenter, who was at work hard by, compassionately
offered to chalk me out a big piece upon a board. I forget the way in which I vented my rage against him; but, the offer has never quitted my memory. Yet, really, this seems to come up to the notion of Mr. Mills : the carpenter offered me SOMETHING LIKE a big piece of bread and cheese. Oh! no, Gentlemen, it is not this something like that you want :, you want the thing itself; and, if Sir Samuel Romilly meant that you should have it, do you believe, that neither he, nor any one for him, would have made any specific promise upon the subject? Even after Mr. Mills had said that you wanted something like Reform, there was nobody who ventured to say, that Sir Samuel Romilly would endeavour to procure even that for you. His friends were told, that, if he would distinctly pledge himself to reform, whether in place or out of place, Mr. Hunt, who only wished to see that measure accomplished, would himself assist in his election; but, this Sir Samuel Romilly has not done, and, therefore, he is not the man whom you ought to choose, though he is beyond all comparison better than hundreds of other public men, and though he is, in many respects, a most excellent member of parliament. Gentlemen, these friends of Sir Samuel Romilly call upon you to choose him, because he is, they tell you, a decided enemy of the measures of the present ministers. Now, they must very well know, that all those measures have had the decided support of the parliament. Well, then, do these his friends allow, that the parliament are the real representatives of the people, and that they speak the people's voice? If Sir Samuel's friends do allow this, then they do, in fact, say, that he is an enemy to all those measures which the people's voice approves of; and, if they do not allow this; if they say that the parliament do not speak the people's voice and are not their real representatives, how can they hope that any man will do you any good who is not decidedly for a reform of that parliament? Let the meeting at the Crown and Anchor answer these questions, or, in the name of decency, I conjure them to hold their tongues, and to put their subscriptions back again into their pockets. To say the truth (and this is not a time to disguise it from you) this subscription is a subscription against, and not for, the freedom of election. If Sir Samuel Romilly's friends were willing to put their trust in the free good will of the people of Bristol, why raise money in such large A 2 -
quantities, and especially why resort to party men and to loan makers for this purpose 2 They will say, perhaps, that the money is intended for the purpose of carrying down the London voters and for that of fetching voters from elsewhere; but, why are they afraid to put their trust in the resident voters of Bristol 2 The object of this subscription is very far indeed from resembling the object of that which was set on foot in Westminster, which was not to gain votes by dint of money, but merely to pay the expenses of printing, of clerks, and other little matters inseparable from an election at Westminster, and the whole of which did not amount to more than about eight hundred pounds; whereas as many thousands are stated to be already subscribed for procuring the election of Sir Samuel Romilly. In short, this attempt of the friends of Sir Samuel Romilly is like many others that have been made before. "It is purse against purse. Mr. PROTHERo has shaken his purse at Sir Samuel; and, as the latter does not choose to engage with his own purse, his friends, with a loan maker at their head, came forward to make up a purse for him; and the free and unbought voice of the electors of Bristol is evidently intended by neither party to have any weight at all in the decision. Let us now return and take a view of the political picture which Bristol at this moment presents. And, here, the first observation that strikes one, is, that neither the friends of Sir Samuel Romilly nor the friends of Mr. Prothero say one word in opposition to Mr. HART DAvis, though he avowedly stands upon the principles of Mr. Bragge and the present ministers; though he quitted his canvass about ten weeks ago, to come express to London to vote in favour of the Orders in Council; and though he now says, that he will tread in the steps of Mr. Bragge. Though they have all this before their eyes, not one single syllable does any one of them utter against the pretensions or the movements of Mr. Davis ; and, though the meeting at the Crown and Anchor took place several days after the Bristol and Colchester writs were moved sor, and though the parties at the meeting must necessarily have been well acquainted with all that I have above stated to you upon the subject of those writs, not one word did they utter against the pretensions of Mr. Davis, nor did they (according to the printed report of their proceedings) even mention his name, or take the smallest notice of the circumstance, that an election,
a little, snug, rotten-borough-like election, was, at that moment, getting up in that very city, for the interest and honour of which they were affecting so much concern And, can you, then, believe them sincere? Can you believe, that they have any other view than merely that of securing a seat for the parly in Bristol 2 Can yout doubt, that the contest, on their part, is not for the principle but for the seat 2 Having pointed out this circumstance to your attention, it is hardly necessary for me to advert to the conduct of Mr. Hunt, which, in this case in particular, forms a contrast with that of the other parties too striking not to have produced a lasting impression upon your minds. He does not content himself with talking about defending your liberties. He acts as well as talks. He hears that the enemy is in your camp, and he flies to rescue you from his grasp. He does not waste his time in a tavern in London, drawing up flourishing resolutions about “ public spirit.” He hastens amongst you; he looks your and his adversary in the face; he shows you that you may depend upon him in the hour of trial. These, Gentlemen, are marks of such a character in a representative as the times demand. Sir Samuel Romilly is a very worthy gentleman; an honest man; a humane man; a man that could not, in my opinion, be, by any means, tempted to do a cruel or dishonest act; and he is, too, a man of great talents. But, I have no scruple to say, that I should prefer, and greatly preser, Mr. Hunt to Sir Samuel Romilly, as a member of parliament; for, while I do not know, and do not believe, that the latter excels the former in honesty or humanity, I am convinced that his talents, though superior, perhaps, in their kind, are not equal, in value to the public, to the talents possessed by Mr. Hunt, who is, at this moment, giving you a specimen of the elsect of those talents. Gentlemen, the predominance of Lawyers, in this country, has produced amongst us a very erroneous way of thinking with respect to the talents of public men; and, contrary to the notions of the world in general, we are apt to think a man great in mind in proportion to the glibness of his tongue. With us, to be a great talker is to be a great man; but, perhaps, a falser rule of judging never was adopted. It is so far from being true as a general maxim, that it is generally the contrary of the truth ; and, if you look back through the list of our own public men, you will find,
that, in general, they have been shallow and mischievous in proportion to their gift of talking. We have been brought to our present miserable state by a lawyer-like policy, defended in lawyer-like debates. Plain good sense has been brow-beaten out of countenance; has been talked down, by the politicians from the bar; haranguing and special pleading and quibbling have usurped the place of frank and explicit statement and unsophistical reasoning. In Mr. Hunt you have no lawyer, but you have a man who is not to be brow-beaten into silence. You have a man not to be intimidated by the frowns or the threats of wealth or of rank; a man not to be induced to abandon his duty towards you from any considerations of danger to himself; and, I venture to foretel (begging that my words may be remembered) that, if you elect him, the whole country will soon acknowledge the benefit conferred on it by the city
of Bristol. Gentlemen, this letter will, in all likelihood, find you engaged in the bustle of an election. With all the advantages on the side of your adversary, you may not, perhaps, upon the present occasion, be able to defeat him. But, you will have a chance; you will have an opportunity of trying; you will have an election ; and this you would not have had if it had not been for Mr. Hunt, for the whole affair would have been over before you had scarcely heard of it. At the very least you will have some days of liberty to speak your minds ; to tell Mr. Davis what you think of him and of his predecessor; to declare aloud your grievances and your indignation; and even for this liberty you will be indebted to Mr. Hunt, and solely to Mr. Hunt. You are |
told of the zeal of Mr. Prothero and Sir Samuel Romilly in your service; you are told of their desire to promote your interest and your honour; but, where are they now * Where are they when the enemy is in your city, when you were to have been handed over from Bragge Bathurst to Hart Davis as quietly as if you had been a cargo of tallow or of corn ? It is now, it is in this mounent of real need, that Mr. Hunt comes to your aid; and, if he fail in defeating, he will, at the least, harass your enemy, make his victory over you cost him dear, and by exposing the sources and means of his success, lay the foundation of his future defeat and disgrace.
- I am, your friend,
- W.M. COBBETT. State Prison, Newgate, -
Monday, 29th June, 1812.
This is the title which I intend to give to the several articles, which I shall necessarily have to write upon the subject of the measures now about to be adopted by the government, with regard to the counties of England, which have, for some time past, been in a state of disturbance.—It is well known, that the frame-breakers in Nottingham took the name of Luddiles; that this name has since spread into the neighbouring counties; and that several counties have, for many months, been in a state of great trouble. On Saturday, the 27th of June, the following Message was delivered to the two Houses of Parliament, to the Lords by Viscoust Sidmouth and to the Commons by LoRD CAST LeREAGh.“GEORGE P. R.—His Royal Highness “ the Prince Regent, in the name and on “behalf of his Majesty, has given orders “ that there be laid before the House of “Commons, Copies of Information re“ceived by his Majesty's Government, re“lative to certain violent and dangerous “ proceedings, in desiance of the laws, “which have taken place, and which con“tinue to take place, in certain counties of “the kingdom.—His Royal Highness con“fidently relies on the wisdom of the “House of Commons that they will adopt “such measures as are necessary to secure “ the lives and property of the peaceable “ and loyal inhabitants of the disturbed “ districts, and to restore order and tran“quillity.” The first remark that presents itself here is, that, so long as three weeks ago, Lord Castlereagh assured the House of Commons, that the accounts which were received by government from the disturbed counties were very satisfactory, more and more so every day. Either, therefore, he was misinformed, or the people have relapsed. —On Monday the 29th of June, both Houses voted, without a division, an Address to the Regent, promising to take the subject into their consideration, and to adopt such measures as might be necessary to ensure the end pointed out in the latter part of the Message
LoRD CAstle REAGh. Mr. Whitbread and Sir Francis Burdett expressed their hope that nothing was about to be attempted against the great constitutional laws of England. The next thing that was done was the making of a motion in both Houses for the appointment of a SECRET Coinmittee to examine and report upon certain papers that were laid upon the table, SEALED UP! The motion was, in the House of Commons (to which we will now confine ourselves), that the Committee should be appointed by ballot; that is to say, in fact, appointed by the ministry. What passed upon this subject was very interesting indeed. I will, therefore, insert it, and I beg the reader, especially if he be a young man, to make a point of bearing it in mind. “LoRD CAstleREAGh then “moved, that the Papers he had this day “presented, should be referred to a Com“mittee, that it be a Committee of Se“crecy, and that the number of Members “ be 21, which were severally ordered. “His Lordship likewise moved, that the “ members be chosen by ballot.—MR. “Whitbread protested against this mode “ of proceeding, since, it would give the “JWoble Lord the appointment of every “ Member of the Committee. He wished “ that the Members of it should be public“ly named and chosen, that the House, “ and not the Noble Lord, might have the “formation of the Committee. (Hear!) “—Lord CAst LE:teach persisted in his “motion, since he was certain that on no “side of the House on such a question “would party feelings be exercised; he “ was convinced that it would be treated “ by Parliament in a manner, which while “it did it honour, would give satisfaction “to the people.—SIR F. Bur DETT, lookin “at the precedents to which Mr. Whit“bread had referred, could not help feel“ing great jealousy as to the conduct of “Government; he hoped that the bounds “ of the Constitution would not a-new be “transgressed by them. The mode in
which the Committee was formed, if the satisfaction of the people were looked to, was of the utmost importance. (Hear, “hear ()—It ought to be of such a de“scription, that the country would place reliance upon its wisdom and impartiality, and not to be merely composed of the creatures of ministerial nomination. “ —The question, that the Committee be “chosen by ballot was then put and carried, though there were a long number of dissentient voices.—On the question that Members prepare lists, and appear to-morrow to put them into the classes appointed for their reception, Mr. Whit“BREAD declared that he should not attend “for that purpose, as experience had shewn “ that it would be useless, since any list he might prepare would be smothered in the vast heap of names supplied by the “Noble Lord and his political friends.-“It was ordered that the Papers commu“nicated by the Prince Regent should re“main sealed until the appointment of the ** Committee.” From this the reader will form his opinion of the nature of a ballot. But, indeed, a ballot is no more than this. Every member present at a given time, puts a ballot into a box, or something, with a list of any 21 members' names that he may choose to write on a ballot. When the Speaker takes out the ballots, he counts the number of times that he finds the several names written. These 21 members whose names are written the greatest number of times are the Committee. From this it follows, of course, that the majority of the House select the Committee. The name of ballot does, doubtless, lead some persons to suppose, that the names of all the members are put into a box, and that, as in the case of a common jury, the first twenty-one names drawn out are the names of the Committee; but, after what has been said above, no one will be deceived upon this subject again. The ministry did not, during the debate, develope their intended schemes. But, on the contrary, appeared extremely anxious to avoid making any explicit state. ment upon the subject. Mr. Whitbread, however, took occasion to anticipate any attempt upon the constitutional laws, as did also Sir Francis Burdett, and the former warned the ministers (by bidding them look at the example of other countries) of the consequences of resorting to measures unwarranted by the usual laws of the country. Mr. Wilberforce said something, and, as it was curious, we will have it upon record.
“He entirely participated in the hope, that
“ they became assassins and incendiaries,