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Themselves would check my fury; I am lord
THE PENNY PRESS,
It gives us no small satisfaction to find that our exposé of the proceedings of the corporation for the “ Diffusion of Useful Knowledge” have attracted very general attention, and are likely to lead to some practical measures, calculated, we hope, remove the serious public grievances of which we have complained. Our popular contemporary, the “Literary Gazette,” and other periodical journals of great ability and influence, have exhibited a determination to co-operate with us strenuously upon this subject. We are grateful for their assistance, because we really feel that the contest in which we are now engaged is one that concerns the character of our national literature, as well as the advancement of science and civilization.
A second reply, in the shape of a printed circular, has been put forth by Mr. Knight, in which he takes care to confine himself to a statement of dates, in order to show that the “ Penny Cyclopædia” was suggested by himself to the Committee, before a similar publication was nounced in any other quarter. Suppose, then, for the sake of the argument, that we admit Mr. Knight's assertions with respect to the
Cyclopædia ” to be correct, will not the reader be astonished to learn, that this very trivial item, in the long catalogue of our articles of inpeachment against the Society, is the only one to which he has even attempted to give an answer ? He does not defend the interference of the Society with the sale of “ Constable's Miscellany," with the Almanacs of the Stationers' Company, with the Maps of Messrs. Arrowsmith and Cary, with the Portraits of Messrs. Harding and Lepard. He does not deny that the “ Penny Magazine" and the “ Penny Cyclopædia" are his own property, which he publishes under the assumption that they belong to the Society, and that they are superintended by the eminent persons whose names stand at the head of that anti-commercial confederacy. He abstains from telling us, though we put the question
to him in the most pointed way, what amount of rent he pays for the hire of the Society's name, which he uses in these publications. He forbears from justifying the very unworthy practice which this Society has adopted of thus letting out its name for a pecuniary reward-a practice which, if it had been pursued by any literary person of eminence, would undoubtedly cover him with irretrievable disgrace. These and several other topics Mr. Knight passes over in silence. But such silence is perfectly intelligible ; it is an unqualified admission that the case which we have made out against the Society is unanswerable.
We must here rectify one mistake which, though Mr. Knight does not allude to it, we committed in our last article. We therein treated the “Companion to the Newspaper” as one of the reputed publications of the Society. Upon looking at that periodical again, we find that it does not, in fact, bear upon its front the imprimatur of the new corporation; it professes simply to be published by Charles Knight. And now observe the immense difference between a journal issued by the same person, in the name of the Society, and one for which he alone professes to be responsible. The “ Penny Magazine,” in every respect an ill-conducted and a very worthless work, circulates upwards of one hundred and fifty thousand copies weekly; while the “Companion to the Newspaper,” which exhibits considerable merit, after struggling for some time as a weekly journal, has recently subsided into a monthly publication, and seems likely, before long, to be extinguished altogether. Here is a single fact that speaks a volume in favour of our argument; for it shows that even Mr. Knight, notwithstanding the extensively-organized agency which he has at his command, cannot rival the influence of the name of the Society, whenever he embarks in a literary enterprise avowedly as a private bookseller. Though his production may be stamped by every token of the first-rate talent, nevertheless it falls, almost stillborn from the press, because it wants the fiat of the Lord Chancellor! Mr. Knight's case, in this instance, is that of every other publisher in the kingdom who is imprudent enough, in the present state of things, to venture upon any speculation of importance.
We shall show hereafter the disastrous effect, which the interference of the Corporation with the legitimate trade of the country has already produced upon our literature. At present, let us inquire whether the consequences of their operation have not created, or at least sanctioned, the continuance of the numerous political publications which are now conducted upon
penny system, and openly aim at the subversion of society, with a view to reconstruct it upon principles fatal to the monarchy—to the improvement, the peace, and freedom of the country ? Has not the example of the “ Penny Magazine given countenance to the “ Crisis," the “ Poor Man's Guardian," the “ Pioneer,” and a host of other unstamped journals, which beard the law, represent the upper classes of society as the oppressors of the poor, laugh at the idea of keeping faith with the public creditor, inculcate the grossest contempt for every principle of religion and morality, and advocate the necessity of committing depredations upon every species of property ? Far be it from us for a moment to suppose, that such results as these were apprehended by the distinguished persons upon whose advice and recommendation the charter of the corporation received the royal sign-manual ; but we ask by what process the penny" Pioneer,” for instance, can be
put down, so long as the “ Penny Magazine” shall continue to be circulated, bearing on its wrappers the names of the first law adviser of the Crown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Paymaster of the Forces, and the Lord Chief Justice of England ? Public prosecutions are of no avail, unless they carry with them the voice of the people; and that voice they never can win, unless they be directed with impartiality against all offenders of the law. The slightest deviation from this rule converts the verdict of a jury, however honestly pronounced, into the sentence of an inquisition, and the culprit, who undergoes the penalty of the law, into a martyr.
We have already seen * that, by means of the “ Crisis” and the other penny publications of the Trades' Unions, Mr. Owen and his party have succeeded in diffusing very generally among the industrious poor the idea that gold, and silver, and bank paper are no longer necessary for carrying on commercial dealings, and that the “ labour-note,”—in other words, the principle of general barter,-is the true remedy for all the evils which at present disturb society, and prevent the mechanic from being raised to a state of affluence. But as the practical introduction of this system required an entire change in the existing notions of society, a “declaration of principles ” was promulgated, in which it is maintained that the constitution of this and all other countries must be radically altered, in order to meet the improved intelligence of the age; that religion is no longer necessary; that, as love depends on liking, all ceremonies of marriage which bind the parties for life are crimes against the human heart; that the natural love for offspring ought to be suppressed as a mistake ; and that all children should be at the public charge, as the state has a greater interest in them than a parent can possibly feel! Courts of justice, it is added, and all the paraphernalia of law, are but remnants of the old evils, and must be abolished. Celibacy, in either sex, beyond the age of maturity, is to be considered as a crime, punishable by severe penalties, so long as there shall be a single spot of earth in want of population. Cities, towns, villages, churches, universities, prisons, workhouses, and other such tokens of past ages of ignorance, are to be wholly swept away as useless; and all persons are to live in parallelogrammatic communities, located in pastoral retreats, where they are to enjoy invariable felicity!
Between this prospectus of universal reform and that promulgated by the St. Simonians, whose missionaries are now amongst us, there is no substantial difference. The principles of both are the same- -open profligacy and plunder; and they are cunningly addressed, in the first instance, to the weaker sex, upon whom they hope to make a fatal impression, as the serpent succeeded with Eve. Educated females will, however, see at once that the establishment of such a system would be to deprive them of the honourable station which they now deservedly hold in every civilized society; to separate them from their offspring ; to strip them of the noble character which they now sustain, of being the best guardians of the domestic virtues; and to send them adrift upon the world, where they would be the mere slaves of man's caprice, the unhappy victims of a tyranny from which they could never be released, except by excessive infamy in youth, or the feebleness of a shameless old age. Some few fallen members of the sex may perhaps have the
* Vide " Notes on Periodicals," in our Number for December, p. 426.
hardihood to applaud the new doctrine. Outlaws of all classes seek consolation in the depraved sympathies of each other. Let them find it if they can. But to the sacred circle of home, where the instructed and honoured matron watches over the opening minds of her children, imparting to them the delicate purity of thought, the fervour of religion, the hope of happiness hereafter, which animate and illumine her own breast, -these foul whispers of adventurers reeking from the hot-beds of every vice can never find an entrance. Upon that point we have no apprehension.
Can any reasonable man, however, look on with a similar degree of confidence when he finds such profligate doctrines as those which we have mentioned, inculcated by the “penny press amongst the manufacturing classes of the community, who have just enough of education to enable them to read the journals which contain the poison, but not enough to give them that power of reflection which might serve them as an antidote ? We believe we may state, without fear of being charged with error, that all the Trades' Unions, without exception, have adopted the doctrines in question, and resolved to carry them into execution. A few specimens of the kind of reasoning which the “ penny press in propagating its pernicious principles, will perhaps astonish the reader who has paid but a superficial attention to that class of publicationspublications with which not only the metropolis, but all the manufacturing towns are at this moment actually inundated.
“Hitherto,” says the “ Crisis," “ the non-producers have governed the world; henceforth the sceptre must be put into the hands of the producers only; and the consequence will be, that the affairs of society shall be conducted much more rationally and much more beneficially for all parties than they have ever been in any former period. Workmen will say to their rulers—If you won't allow reason to govern the world, then raise your own food, and make your own clothes, and build your own houses ; for we are independent of you.'
Nothing," says the same journal, can resist the determination of the productive classes, provided they are well organized, and have sufficient generalship to manage their own affairs without division or party spirit. Their deliverance is the work of a few months. One year may disorganize the whole fabric of the old world, and transfer, by a sudden spring, the whole political government of the country from the master to the servant."
The language of the "Poor Man's Guardian” is at least equally intelligible :
“ If they who call themselves the best part of the community will vacate the land of which they have robbed us, and betake themselves to those colonies of which they boast so much, we can soon show them that we want them not. We will support our children on the fruits of our own labour."
Capital usurps the right of government, and to the children of labour is nought but slavery. Is this justice ? If not, let the sons of labour unite and demand it. The principles of the Union are equality. back to first principles, and will fight for our Magna Charta as the barons did at Runnymede.
Let us now listen to the “ Pioneer:"_
“ The crisis of our condition is at hand-close upon us: firmness and union will secure our triumph. Brother freemen, band yourselves together; let there be no distinction because of trade or place. The contest affects all alike; and wo unto the man who deserts his post! The question to be decided is— Shall labour or capital be uppermost 3–shall industry or idleness reign ?'
It is possible, in a very short time, by a combi
nation among the agricultural labourers, to make the whole landed property of the country change hands."
The “ Destructive” thus announces the adhesion of the Unionists to the “Declaration of the Rights of Man" by Robespierre :
“ It is the work of one of the most enlightened and beneficent spirits that ever appeared in the world. Fools believe, and knaves pretend, that Robespierre perished because he tried to prolong the reign of terror.' Miserable delusion! It required but a few more well-directed blows at the usurers to have saved the world. The base shopkeepers of Paris, however, betrayed him into the hands of his enemies; and the consequence has been, that upwards of 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of human beings were sacrificed, which the continuance of his power would have saved-not to speak of the many millions who have since lived in misery and bondage, or died of hunger and broken hearts—the premature victims of cannibal civilization. Every member of a Trades' Union-every friend of universal suffrage-every lover of his species-should have a copy of Robespierre's · Declaration of the Rights of Man.'”
We have now before us a copy of the “ Déclaration de la Société des Droits de l'Homme,” to which this panegyrist of Robespierre alludes. It was presented by that perpetrator of every crime which can be conceived by the heart of a depraved man, to the National Convention of 1793, and rejected even by that assembly. The society, after declaring their own immediate object to be the realization of the sovereignty of the people, proclaim themselves adherents to every particle of the doctrine set forth in this precious document- -as the inspiration of eternal wisdom, and the only practicable basis of the social reform which is now in progress. They style it a gospel-a koran which Robespierre had bequeathed to his disciples, charging them to propagate it over all the earth. They announce themselves as the inheritors of the mission which had been undertaken by the genius of the National Convention“héritiers de la mission qu'avait entreprise le génie de la Convention Nationale.” Armed with this declaration of their master, they are resolved to fix for ever, without variation or dispute, the maxims of civilization, conscience, and justice. Then follow ten fundamental articles, which we need not repeat, as they will be found in the principles which our unionists have promulgated, and in almost each of the thousand wild constitutions to which the French revolution gave birth. In the twelfth article it is proposed that there shall be a general federation of Europe, founded on the common adoption of the principle of the sovereignty of the people-a plan which they admit to be attended with some difficulty, but with respect to the accomplishment of which they entertain no apprehension, inasmuch as they are the only politicians who have “ système entier, conséquent, moral; ils ont seuls des doctrines, parce que seuls ils ont de la conscience et de la logique; de la force, il n'y en a également qu'en eux, parce qu'il n'est de convictions, de progrès et de confiance que là; il n'y a déjà plus d'actualité qu'en eux." Robespierre, in short, is in their eyes, as he will doubtless also be in those of our unionists, a modern Mahomet, whose doctrines are to be received as infallible, and therefore not to be changed in the slightest degree by those who call themselves, as by some right divine, “ héritiers de la mission qu'avait entreprise le génie de la Convention Nationale.” We have witnessed some extraordinary events in our time; but we confess that we