Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

dragged in the dirt. Chartism has gone down in the whirlpool of its own folly. What escapes the wreck ? A handful of men clinging yet to a forlorn hope, that a Conference among themselves, or a new Convention, may reëstablish the party : some few believers in the impossible, waiting for Opportunity to come back.

II.

WHAT REMAINS ? Such are the broad outward facts of Chartism: not without significance, which he who runs may read. In 1839, 1,280,000 men had made up their minds as to the one thing first and immediately needful for their salvation. They take ten years to talk about it; and at the end of that probation some four in a thousand are advanced enough to think it may be possible by shouting a little louder to get the Government to give way. Go to Jericho'! politely returns the Government: 'a citadel garrisoned by privileged Reform electors does not topple down at mere sound. So blow your own trumpets as long as you like.'-Something worse than this : for they say a million and a half of men petitioned for equal rights in Cartwright's time, so far back as 1819. Twenty years later, as we saw, it was a million and a quarter. Ten years later still it is two millions,—with some deductions for “fictitious names'; and, disappointed patriotism being intensified to a white heat, five thousand of the petitioners pay some pence a week toward obtaining a plan of action, to realize the thirty years' conviction. Disappointed intense patriotism purified to an active body of 5000, only asks for a plan of some sort; and gets none. Why, the FreeholdLand scheme, to buy up all England at £40 an acre, out of the savings of the serfs and factory-slaves, looks like a promising affair, in comparison with the chances of Chartist victory.

Meetings of a quarter of a million men swearing lustily to do or die, drilling and training and flourishing of arms,--and ending in a Newport insurrection and a Tenth of April! A sacred month for all England, and not a tenth of England observing the one day's holiday! A million and a quarter shouting around us to-day, and, when we would merely call over their names, some five thousand are all that can be found, by dint of ten years' advertizing and sending round of numerous unimpeachable bellmen! Is Chartism then a voice, and nothing more? the mere passionate outcry, and latterly the vituperative complaint, of trampled slaves, just roused enough to acknowledge that they ought to be men, and slinking back for fear they should be taken at their word. For Chartist, must we read, in our next Dictionary, nothing but empty braggart? Matters little now to weigh in exactest scales the incompetence of leaders against the apathy of those insatiable wild beasts,' the steady plodding serfs who eschewed politics and looked to trades-unions for at least some personal benefit, or the unsteady whose dissipated habits (there is political dissipation also) unfitted them for patriotic endeavours. To apportion to each his exact amount of blame would serve us little here. Enough, and more than enough, that leaders, led and unled, have been all at fault. From first to last Chartism has never had a real intention—that is to say, a clear resolve, TO ACT; and con

sequently it has never made even an endeavour at the organization which is necessary for successful action. There has been, as in the National Union of the Working Classes,' and sometimes since, organization for mutual instruction; there have been not unfrequent efforts to broadcast political knowledge among the People; there have been well-tried arrangements for getting together so many thousand throats to bawl-' the Charter and no Surrender ': but from first to last there has been no serious striving to create and weld together a popular power with a determined object, determined means of obtaining it, and determination to act accordingly at whatever risk. The elements of success have been left out of view. Nothing else.

History, giving the meaning of thirty years' Chartism (so long existing, though unnamed), will say--It was the utterance of a general want, a people's protest : nothing more. Very necessary the protest; but to stop there Let us hope that so much of the business is at last well nigh done with, and that men will soon advise together with what mode of action their protest shall be followed up. Thirty years continual word-pouring and vociferation of a million and a quarter of men may surely be judged sufficient prologue to the work they declare necessary. Spare five quiet, serious minutes to consider whether it is not time to leave off promising and to begin performing; to finish your threats, and to do. Think of one generation of especially practical' Englishmen, and logical, hard-headed, economical Scotchmen, wasting their whole lives in merely telling each other what they are going to do. Five minutes may perhaps be enough for bemoaning such a loss of energies and forswearing further bluster. Begin now to prepare for work.

The Chartist movement' is as good as dead. It would have been successful if a Whig Jericho could have been shaken by trumpets. But the experiment is unsuccessful, a failure manifest to all. The very brazenest of the wind-instruments are wearing out-absolutely soundless from long use, not to say abuse. But the discontent and the occasion for discontent, which gave rise to Chartism, remain still as of old unsatisfied, and the preparation for a remedy, the preparation only, prescribed by Chartism, is yet untried.

While we have been talking, Time has gone on to the threshold of a new Reform Bill. The game of 1832 is to be played over again; and undoubtedly with the same result if the People will, as then, be content with protesting. Nay, it seeins not umlikely, in their present distracted state, that when the last moment of the contest between the middle-class and the aristocracy shall be at hand, the foolish generosity of the uncombined People will step in, as in 1832, to carry this new • Reform,' to lift the rest of the shop-keepers into their thrones, and to retire on the morrow to some new Calthorpe Street, to read over again the moral of popular folly.

How is this to be prevented?' Only by setting earnestly to work, beginning even from the beginning: for there is just nothing done yet. One might almost say, worse than nothing. There is not one effective political association in the Country. You can not find five hundred --no, not one hundred men prepared to act together to obtain even the preliminary of the RepublicDuiversal Suffrage. There is but one way to action :--to begin anew in every

place, to organize local associations of men understanding what they aim at, determined to devote their lives to its attainment, and therefore associating, in order more effectively to propagandize and to advise as to the best methods of procedure. But you have yet to make men understand the object. Chartism has not done this. It has held debate of wrongs; but it has not taught remedies,-only the preparation for remedying. It has spoken of rights; but has not shown to what they may lead, nor to what they should lead. We need now, not merely Chartist, but Republican Associations.

You would, then, oppose the present Chartist Associations?' Not so: but I would form Republican Asssociations of the best men among them; and so in time, I hope, supersede the present associations, by a more vital, a furtherpurposed, and a more powerful organization. No repetition, nor modification, of the old methods of Chartist agitation or action, can avail us anything. They may be tried for thirty generations, and they will not change the Government or regenerate the People. The Freehold-Land scheme may enfranchise us after many centuries; but Chartism-in any shape in which it has hitherto shown itself-never. And if an altogether new organization is to be commenced, what can it be but Republican? Taking the enduring principle of the Charter as its first object, the foundation upon which to build.

REPUBLICAN MEASURES.

PRELIMINARY ARTICLE.

BY W. J. LINTON.

AVE readers of the ‘English Republic' have had laid before them—1, the U confession of the republican faith; * 2, an exposition of the principles of

that faith ; 6 and 3, a plan of organization for republican propagandism. I am aware that this is not all. To embrace the creed, to be able thoroughly to explain its every article, to be filled with such zeal and to be so wisely active that our preaching draws the whole nation to our side,-this is not enough. It is necessary that the party to be formed should understand not only the theory of republicanism, but how to put republican principles into practice. We must learn through wbat measures our faith may work, our hopes be consummated. We must aim not only at creating a power, but at endowing that power with intelligence. I would not be the creator of a political Frankenstein, a power

* At pages 8-9 of the English Republic, in the Address of the Central European Democratic Committee to the Peoples.

b At page 10. At page 54.

without educated will, a new form of Anarchy, only miscalled republican. Already it is said to us- Your theories are beautiful, but impracticable; long years must pass, and much preparation, before even fragments of them can be realized.' It is for us to demonstrate the practicability of republicanism. The day will come also in which power shall be in our hands, when the men of our own party will ask -How now to act ? To forestall this question I now endeavour to utter something like a republican programme, a scheme of reform, such as I believe to be practicable from the very day of the establishment of the People's majority.

I put forth the programme, not dogmatically. The creed, indeed, which I have confessed I must hold unaltered. I do not ask my countrymen merely to consider to what portions of that they can assent, how far they will go with me there; but I ask them to join me under that banner, and I ask none to join me unless they can accept the creed and its consequences, without reserve. But beyond the principles there is no dogma. My exposition of those principles is open to correction : it should be the first business, of those who join me, to reconsider and maturely weigh that exposition to detect any possible want of exactness in the deductions, and only to subscribe to it when fully convinced that its teachings are true and logically consequent on the confession of our faith. My plan of association and propagandism may be mended or modified or altered, according to circumstances: I did but, since some one must begin, suggest an outline for my brothers utterly without organization. So also the republican measures, which I now attempt to enunciate, are but propositions for the consideration of those with whom I hope to act. I offer them as texts for their debating; and when I come to discourse upon these texts I shall still be only uttering my undogmatic opinion of the business before us. Let all who call themselves Republicans, all who care to establish a real republican party in England, labour earnestly with me to master both the theory and practice of our faith. Without further preface I submit the following measures of reformation as necessary for the government of England as a Republic.

REVOLUTIONARY MEASURES. Abolition of Monarchy, the House of Lords, the Peerage, and all laws of primogeniture and entail..

Severance of the connection between the Church'l and the State.
Abolition of all restrictions upon the Press, direct or indirect.

& Pages 8-9. e About Monarchy we need scarcely trouble ourselves: it will die out quietly. But the House of Lords is å mischievous impediment to legislation, and, with all its accompani. ments, will need extinguishing on the first opportunity.

" That Church which is no longer the Church of the Nation, but a mere sect. Besides, even if it was the Church of the majority, its present connection with the State would be intolerable. It is indeed a part of the business of the Government to teach the essentials of religion, those essentials which are common to all sects; but never to force particular forms upon the people, or to give one sect (however numerous) a preference to the others. A State Church must be capable of embracing men of all denominations; or its existence is insupportable.

INSTITUTIONAL MEASURES. Establishment of the republican form of Government; and of Universal Suffrage of men and women, 8 exercised directly, and absolutely in right of their existence as human beings and component parts of the nation.

Adoption of a written Constitution based upon republican principles, unalterable in its fundamental rules even by the majority of the nation.

Unity of power. One single representative Assembly, elected by the majority of the nation, enthroned as the nation's servants, to realize the programme of the Constitution, to work within those prescribed limits. Every project of law to be submitted to the whole people. The Executive chosen by the Assembly and subordinate to it.

Absolute freedom of opinion and the utterance of opinion, whether in the press, the pulpit, the public meeting, or the association.

Inviolability of the right of association, whether for political, religious, or social purposes. Abrogation of all laws against combination or partnership.

Recognition of the right to labour, with a special minister to superintend its realization. Establishment of a system of credit for the assistance of the labourer, specially in times of difficulty. Access to the land to be facilitated. Improved modes of transit and scientific appliances rendered available to the agriculturist and mechanic; agricultural associations and trades-unions encouraged; rewards for inventors and public benefactors, and abolition of all patent and copyright. Freedom of Trade so far as not to contravene the rights of Labour. Establishment of public bazaars and storehouses.

Ample provision, at the cost of the State, for the infirm and aged.

National education, under the superintendence of the Government, for all the children of the nation, obligatory and at the public expense. The noble function of teacher adequately rewarded and elevated to its due rank in the consideration of the people. Establishment of colleges of art, science, and literature, free of charge and accessible to all classes of the nation. Establishment of schools for teachers. Establishment of a general system of religious worship based upon generally acknowledged truths, for the religious teaching of the nation.' Marriage and Divorce free.

ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL REFORMS. Simplification of laws. The multitude of present laws to be repealed, and a new code framed, written in plain language.

Simplification of the machinery of law and justice. The public service to be democratically organized: Capacity the only condition of eligibility; every functionary to be utterly independent in all matters not appertaining to his office.

& Let the monarchist sneer, out of loyalty to his Queeu ; let the Wlig Reformer eat his own words-— Taxation without representation is tyranny.' The Republican can only be true to his principles. Right and Duty are of no sex.

There is of course no power to prevent the majority from doing as they like. But after all, the constitution is the compact between the majority and the minority. If the minority breaks that bond, it is rebellion against the State; if a majority breaks it, the minority retires into its right of individuality, and resumes the duty of protest and insurrection.

Sce note f, page 86.

« НазадПродовжити »