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Title: Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions — Volume 1
Author: Mackay, Charles, 1814-1889
Language: English
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By Charles Mackay

Author Of

"The Thames And Its Tributaries," "The Hope Of The World," Etc.

"Il est bon de connaitre les delires de l'esprit humain. Chaque people a
ses folies plus ou moins grossieres." MILLOT






     N'en deplaise a ces fous nommes sages de Grece;
     En ce monde il n'est point de parfaite sagesse;
     Tous les hommes sont fous, et malgre tous leurs soins,
     Ne different entre eux que du plus ou du moins.


In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they
have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement
and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole
communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its
pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with
one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some
new folly more captivating than the first. We see one nation suddenly
seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a fierce desire
of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious
scruple, and neither of them recovering its senses until it has shed
rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped
by its posterity. At an early age in the annals of Europe its population
lost their wits about the Sepulchre of Jesus, and crowded in frenzied
multitudes to the Holy Land: another age went mad for fear of the Devil,
and offered up hundreds of thousands of victims to the delusion of
witchcraft. At another time, the many became crazed on the subject of
the Philosopher's Stone, and committed follies till then unheard of in
the pursuit. It was once thought a venial offence in very many countries
of Europe to destroy an enemy by slow poison. Persons who would have
revolted at the idea of stabbing a man to the heart, drugged his pottage
without scruple. Ladies of gentle birth and manners caught the
contagion of murder, until poisoning, under their auspices, became quite
fashionable. Some delusions, though notorious to all the world, have
subsisted for ages, flourishing as widely among civilized and polished
nations as among the early barbarians with whom they originated,--that
of duelling, for instance, and the belief in omens and divination of
the future, which seem to defy the progress of knowledge to eradicate
entirely from the popular mind. Money, again, has often been a cause
of the delusion of multitudes. Sober nations have all at once become
desperate gamblers, and risked almost their existence upon the turn of
a piece of paper. To trace the history of the most prominent of these
delusions is the object of the present pages. Men, it has been well
said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while
they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

In the present state of civilization, society has often shown itself
very prone to run a career of folly from the last-mentioned cases.
This infatuation has seized upon whole nations in a most extraordinary
manner. France, with her Mississippi madness, set the first great
example, and was very soon imitated by England with her South Sea
Bubble. At an earlier period, Holland made herself still more ridiculous
in the eyes of the world, by the frenzy which came over her people for
the love of Tulips. Melancholy as all these delusions were in their
ultimate results, their history is most amusing. A more ludicrous and
yet painful spectacle, than that which Holland presented in the years
1635 and 1636, or France in 1719 and 1720, can hardly be imagined.
Taking them in the order of their importance, we shall commence our
history with John Law and the famous Mississippi scheme of the years
above mentioned.


     Some in clandestine companies combine;
     Erect new stocks to trade beyond the line;
     With air and empty names beguile the town,
     And raise new credits first, then cry 'em down;
     Divide the empty nothing into shares,
     And set the crowd together by the ears.


The personal character and career of one man are so intimately connected
with the great scheme of the years 1719 and 1720, that a history of the
Mississippi madness can have no fitter introduction than a sketch of the
life of its great author, John Law. Historians are divided in opinion as
to whether they should designate him a knave or a madman. Both epithets
were unsparingly applied to him in his lifetime, and while the unhappy
consequences of his projects were still deeply felt. Posterity, however,
has found reason to doubt the justice of the accusation, and to confess
that John Law was neither knave nor madman, but one more deceived
than deceiving; more sinned against than sinning. He was thoroughly
acquainted with the philosophy and true principles of credit. He
understood the monetary question better than any man of his day; and if
his system fell with a crash so tremendous, it was not so much his
fault as that of the people amongst whom he had erected it. He did not
calculate upon the avaricious frenzy of a whole nation; he did not see
that confidence, like mistrust, could be increased, almost ad infinitum,
and that hope was as extravagant as fear. How was he to foretell that
the French people, like the man in the fable, would kill, in their
frantic eagerness, the fine goose he had brought to lay them so many
golden eggs? His fate was like that which may be supposed to have
overtaken the first adventurous boatman who rowed from Erie to Ontario.
Broad and smooth was the river on which he embarked; rapid and pleasant
was his progress; and who was to stay him in his career? Alas for him!
the cataract was nigh. He saw, when it was too late, that the tide which
wafted him so joyously along was a tide of destruction; and when he
endeavoured to retrace his way, he found that the current was too strong
for his weak efforts to stem, and that he drew nearer every instant to
the tremendous falls. Down he went over the sharp rocks, and the
waters with him. He was dashed to pieces with his bark, but the waters,
maddened and turned to foam by the rough descent, only boiled and
bubbled for a time, and then flowed on again as smoothly as ever. Just
so it was with Law and the French people. He was the boatman and they
were the waters.

John Law was born at Edinburgh in the year 1671. His father was the
younger son of an ancient family in Fife, and carried on the business
of a goldsmith and banker. He amassed considerable wealth in his trade,
sufficient to enable him to gratify the wish, so common among his
countrymen, of adding a territorial designation to his name. He
purchased with this view the estates of Lauriston and Randleston, on
the Frith of Forth on the borders of West and Mid Lothian, and was
thenceforth known as Law of Lauriston. The subject of our memoir, being
the eldest son, was received into his father's counting-house at the
age of fourteen, and for three years laboured hard to acquire an insight
into the principles of banking, as then carried on in Scotland. He
had always manifested great love for the study of numbers, and his
proficiency in the mathematics was considered extraordinary in one of
his tender years. At the age of seventeen he was tall, strong, and well
made; and his face, although deeply scarred with the small-pox, was
agreeable in its expression, and full of intelligence. At this time he
began to neglect his business, and becoming vain of his person, indulged
in considerable extravagance of attire. He was a great favourite
with the ladies, by whom he was called Beau Law, while the other sex,
despising his foppery, nicknamed him Jessamy John. At the death of his
father, which happened in 1688, he withdrew entirely from the desk,
which had become so irksome, and being possessed of the revenues of the
paternal estate of Lauriston, he proceeded to London, to see the world.

He was now very young, very vain, good-looking, tolerably rich, and
quite uncontrolled. It is no wonder that, on his arrival in the capital,
he should launch out into extravagance. He soon became a regular
frequenter of the gaming-houses, and by pursuing a certain plan,
based upon some abstruse calculation of chances, he contrived to gain
considerable sums. All the gamblers envied him his luck, and many made
it a point to watch his play, and stake their money on the same chances.
In affairs of gallantry he was equally fortunate; ladies of the first
rank smiled graciously upon the handsome Scotchman--the young, the rich,
the witty, and the obliging. But all these successes only paved the way
for reverses. After he had been for nine years exposed to the dangerous
attractions of the gay life he was leading, he became an irrecoverable
gambler. As his love of play increased in violence, it diminished
in prudence. Great losses were only to be repaired by still greater
ventures, and one unhappy day he lost more than he could repay without
mortgaging his family estate. To that step he was driven at last. At
the same time his gallantry brought him into trouble. A love affair, or
slight flirtation, with a lady of the name of Villiers [Miss Elizabeth
Villiers, afterwards Countess of Orkney] exposed him to the resentment
of a Mr. Wilson, by whom he was challenged to fight a duel. Law
accepted, and had the ill fortune to shoot his antagonist dead upon the
spot. He was arrested the same day, and brought to trial for murder
by the relatives of Mr. Wilson. He was afterwards found guilty, and
sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to a fine, upon the ground
that the offence only amounted to manslaughter. An appeal being lodged
by a brother of the deceased, Law was detained in the King's Bench,
whence, by some means or other, which he never explained, he contrived
to escape; and an action being instituted against the sheriffs, he was
advertised in the Gazette, and a reward offered for his apprehension. He
was described as "Captain John Law, a Scotchman, aged twenty-six; a
very tall, black, lean man; well shaped, above six feet high, with large
pockholes in his face; big nosed, and speaking broad and loud." As this
was rather a caricature than a description of him, it has been supposed
that it was drawn up with a view to favour his escape. He succeeded in
reaching the Continent, where he travelled for three years, and devoted
much of his attention to the monetary and banking affairs of the
countries through which he passed. He stayed a few months in Amsterdam,
and speculated to some extent in the funds. His mornings were devoted
to the study of finance and the principles of trade, and his evenings to
the gaming-house. It is generally believed that he returned to Edinburgh
in the year 1700. It is certain that he published in that city his
"Proposals and Reasons for constituting a Council of Trade." This
pamphlet did not excite much attention.

In a short time afterwards he published a project for establishing what
he called a Land-bank [The wits of the day called it a sand-bank, which
would wreck the vessel of the state.], the notes issued by which
were never to exceed the value of the entire lands of the state, upon
ordinary interest, or were to be equal in value to the land, with the
right to enter into possession at a certain time. The project excited a
good deal of discussion in the Scottish parliament, and a motion for
the establishment of such a bank was brought forward by a neutral
party, called the Squadrone, whom Law had interested in his favour.
The Parliament ultimately passed a resolution to the effect, that, to
establish any kind of paper credit, so as to force it to pass, was an
improper expedient for the nation.

Upon the failure of this project, and of his efforts to procure a pardon
for the murder of Mr. Wilson, Law withdrew to the Continent, and resumed
his old habits of gaming. For fourteen years he continued to roam about,
in Flanders, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and France. He soon
became intimately acquainted with the extent of the trade and resources
of each, and daily more confirmed in his opinion that no country could
prosper without a paper currency. During the whole of this time he
appears to have chiefly supported himself by successful play. At every
gambling-house of note in the capitals of Europe, he was known and
appreciated as one better skilled in the intricacies of chance than any
other man of the day. It is stated in the "Biographie Universelle" that
he was expelled, first from Venice, and afterwards from Genoa, by the
magistrates, who thought him a visitor too dangerous for the youth
of those cities. During his residence in Paris he rendered himself
obnoxious to D'Argenson, the lieutenant-general of the police, by whom
he was ordered to quit the capital. This did not take place, however,
before he had made the acquaintance in the saloons, of the Duke de
Vendome, the Prince de Conti, and of the gay Duke of Orleans, the latter
of whom was destined afterwards to exercise so much influence over his
fate. The Duke of Orleans was pleased with the vivacity and good sense
of the Scottish adventurer, while the latter was no less pleased with
the wit and amiability of a prince who promised to become his patron.
They were often thrown into each other's society, and Law seized every
opportunity to instil his financial doctrines into the mind of one whose
proximity to the throne pointed him out as destined, at no very distant
date, to play an important part in the government.

Shortly before the death of Louis XIV, or, as some say, in 1708, Law
proposed a scheme of finance to Desmarets, the Comptroller. Louis is
reported to have inquired whether the projector were a Catholic, and, on
being answered in the negative, to have declined having anything to
do with him. [This anecdote, which is related in the correspondence
of Madame de Baviere, Duchess of Orleans, and mother of the Regent,
is discredited by Lord John Russell, in his "History of the principal
States of Europe, from the Peace of Utrecht;" for what reason he
does not inform us. There is no doubt that Law proposed his scheme to
Desmarets, and that Louis refused to hear of it. The reason given for
the refusal is quite consistent with the character of that bigoted and
tyrannical monarch.]

It was after this repulse that he visited Italy. His mind being still
occupied with schemes of finance, he proposed to Victor Amadeus, Duke of
Savoy, to establish his land-bank in that country. The Duke replied that
his dominions were too circumscribed for the execution of so great a
project, and that he was by far too poor a potentate to be ruined. He
advised him, however, to try the King of France once more; for he was
sure, if he knew anything of the French character, that the people would
be delighted with a plan, not only so new, but so plausible.

Louis XIV died in 1715, and the heir to the throne being an infant only
seven years of age, the Duke of Orleans assumed the reins of government,
as Regent, during his minority. Law now found himself in a more
favourable position. The tide in his affairs had come, which, taken at
the flood, was to waft him on to fortune. The Regent was his friend,
already acquainted with his theory and pretensions, and inclined,
moreover, to aid him in any efforts to restore the wounded credit of
France, bowed down to the earth by the extravagance of the long reign of
Louis XIV.

Hardly was that monarch laid in his grave ere the popular hatred,
suppressed so long, burst forth against his memory. He who, during his
life, had been flattered with an excess of adulation, to which history
scarcely offers a parallel, was now cursed as a tyrant, a bigot, and
a plunderer. His statues were pelted and disfigured; his effigies
torn down, amid the execrations of the populace, and his name rendered
synonymous with selfishness and oppression. The glory of his arms
was forgotten, and nothing was remembered but his reverses, his
extravagance, and his cruelty.

The finances of the country were in a state of the utmost disorder.
A profuse and corrupt monarch, whose profuseness and corruption were
imitated by almost every functionary, from the highest to the lowest
grade, had brought France to the verge of ruin. The national debt
amounted to 3000 millions of livres, the revenue to 145 millions, and
the expenditure to 142 millions per annum; leaving only three millions
to pay the interest upon 3000 millions. The first care of the Regent was
to discover a remedy for an evil of such magnitude, and a council was
early summoned to take the matter into consideration. The Duke de St.
Simon was of opinion that nothing could save the country from revolution
but a remedy at once bold and dangerous. He advised the Regent to
convoke the States-General, and declare a national bankruptcy. The
Duke de Noailles, a man of accommodating principles, an accomplished
courtier, and totally averse from giving himself any trouble or
annoyance that ingenuity could escape from, opposed the project of St.
Simon with all his influence. He represented the expedient as alike
dishonest and ruinous. The Regent was of the same opinion, and this
desperate remedy fell to the ground.

The measures ultimately adopted, though they promised fair, only
aggravated the evil. The first, and most dishonest measure, was of no
advantage to the state. A recoinage was ordered, by which the currency
was depreciated one-fifth; those who took a thousand pieces of gold or
silver to the mint received back an amount of coin of the same nominal
value, but only four-fifths of the weight of metal. By this contrivance
the treasury gained seventy-two millions of livres, and all the
commercial operations of the country were disordered. A trifling
diminution of the taxes silenced the clamours of the people, and for the
slight present advantage the great prospective evil was forgotten.

A chamber of justice was next instituted, to inquire into the
malversations of the loan-contractors and the farmers of the revenues.
Tax collectors are never very popular in any country, but those of
France at this period deserved all the odium with which they were
loaded. As soon as these farmers-general, with all their hosts of
subordinate agents, called maltotiers [From maltote, an oppressive
tax.], were called to account for their misdeeds, the most extravagant
joy took possession of the nation. The Chamber of Justice, instituted
chiefly for this purpose, was endowed with very extensive powers. It was
composed of the presidents and councils of the parliament, the judges
of the Courts of Aid and of Requests, and the officers of the Chamber
of Account, under the general presidence of the minister of finance.
Informers were encouraged to give evidence against the offenders by the
promise of one-fifth part of the fines and confiscations. A tenth of all
concealed effects belonging to the guilty was promised to such as should
furnish the means of discovering them.

The promulgation of the edict constituting this court caused a degree
of consternation among those principally concerned which can only
be accounted for on the supposition that their peculation had been
enormous. But they met with no sympathy. The proceedings against them
justified their terror. The Bastile was soon unable to contain the
prisoners that were sent to it, and the gaols all over the country
teemed with guilty or suspected persons. An order was issued to all
innkeepers and postmasters to refuse horses to such as endeavoured
to seek safety in flight; and all persons were forbidden, under heavy
fines, to harbour them or favour their evasion. Some were condemned to
the pillory, others to the gallies, and the least guilty to fine
and imprisonment. One only, Samuel Bernard, a rich banker, and
farmer-general of a province remote from the capital, was sentenced to
death. So great had been the illegal profits of this man,--looked
upon as the tyrant and oppressor of his district,--that he offered six
millions of livres, or 250,000 pounds sterling, to be allowed to escape.

His bribe was refused, and he suffered the penalty of death. Others,
perhaps more guilty, were more fortunate. Confiscation, owing to the
concealment of their treasures by the delinquents, often produced less
money than a fine. The severity of the government relaxed, and fines,
under the denomination of taxes, were indiscriminately levied upon all
offenders. But so corrupt was every department of the administration,
that the country benefited but little by the sums which thus flowed into
the treasury. Courtiers, and courtiers' wives and mistresses, came in
for the chief share of the spoils. One contractor had been taxed in
proportion to his wealth and guilt, at the sum of twelve millions of
livres. The Count * * *, a man of some weight in the government, called
upon him, and offered to procure a remission of the fine, if he would
give him a hundred thousand crowns. "Vous etes trop tard, mon ami,"
replied the financier; "I have already made a bargain with your wife for
fifty thousand." [This anecdote is related by M. de la Hode, in his Life
of Philippe of Orleans. It would have looked more authentic if he had
given the names of the dishonest contractor and the still more dishonest
minister. But M. de la Hode's book is liable to the same objection as
most of the French memoirs of that and of subsequent periods. It is
sufficient with most of them that an anecdote be ben trovato; the veto
is but matter of secondary consideration.]

About a hundred and eighty millions of livres were levied in this
manner, of which eighty were applied in payment of the debts contracted
by the government. The remainder found its way into the pockets of the
courtiers. Madame de Maintenon, writing on this subject, says, "We hear
every day of some new grant of the Regent; the people murmur very much
at this mode of employing the money taken from the peculators."
The people, who, after the first burst of their resentment is over,
generally express a sympathy for the weak, were indignant that so much
severity should be used to so little purpose. They did not see the
justice of robbing one set of rogues to fatten another. In a few months
all the more guilty had been brought to punishment, and the chamber of
justice looked for victims in humbler walks of life. Charges of fraud
and extortion were brought against tradesmen of good character, in
consequence of the great inducements held out to common informers. They
were compelled to lay open their affairs before this tribunal in order
to establish their innocence. The voice of complaint resounded from
every side, and at the expiration of a year the government found it
advisable to discontinue further proceedings. The chamber of justice was
suppressed, and a general amnesty granted to all against whom no charges
had yet been preferred.

In the midst of this financial confusion Law appeared upon the scene.
No man felt more deeply than the Regent the deplorable state of the
country, but no man could be more averse from putting his shoulders
manfully to the wheel. He disliked business; he signed official
documents without proper examination, and trusted to others what he
should have undertaken himself. The cares inseparable from his high
office were burdensome to him; he saw that something was necessary to
be done, but he lacked the energy to do it, and had not virtue enough
to sacrifice his case and his pleasures in the attempt. No wonder that,
with this character, he listened favourably to the mighty projects, so
easy of execution, of the clever adventurer whom he had formerly known,
and whose talents he appreciated.

When Law presented himself at court, he was most cordially received.
He offered two memorials to the Regent, in which he set forth the
evils that had befallen France, owing to an insufficient currency,
at different times depreciated. He asserted that a metallic currency,
unaided by a paper money, was wholly inadequate to the wants of a
commercial country, and particularly cited the examples of Great
Britain and Holland to show the advantages of paper. He used many
sound arguments on the subject of credit, and proposed, as a means of
restoring that of France, then at so low an ebb among the nations, that
he should be allowed to set up a bank, which should have the management
of the royal revenues, and issue notes, both on that and on landed
security. He further proposed that this bank should be administered
in the King's name, but subject to the control of commissioners, to be
named by the States-General.

While these memorials were under consideration, Law translated into
French his essay on money and trade, and used every means to extend
through the nation his renown as a financier. He soon became talked of.
The confidants of the Regent spread abroad his praise, and every one
expected great things of Monsieur Lass. [The French pronounced his name
in this manner to avoid the ungallic sound, aw. After the failure of his
scheme, the wags said the nation was lasse de lui, and proposed that he
should in future be known by the name of Monsieur Helas!]

On the 5th of May, 1716, a royal edict was published, by which Law was
authorised, in conjunction with his brother, to establish a bank, under
the name of Law and Company, the notes of which should be received in
payment of the taxes. The capital was fixed at six millions of livres,
in twelve thousand shares of five hundred livres each, purchasable
one-fourth in specie and the remainder in billets d'etat. It was not
thought expedient to grant him the whole of the privileges prayed for
in his memorials until experience should have shown their safety and

Law was now on the high road to fortune. The study of thirty years was
brought to guide him in the management of his bank. He made all his
notes payable at sight, and in the coin current at the time they
were issued. This last was a master-stroke of policy, and immediately
rendered his notes more valuable than the precious metals. The latter
were constantly liable to depreciation by the unwise tampering of the
government. A thousand livres of silver might be worth their nominal
value one day and be reduced one-sixth the next, but a note of Law's
bank retained its original value. He publicly declared at the same time
that a banker deserved death if he made issues without having sufficient
security to answer all demands. The consequence was, that his notes
advanced rapidly in public estimation, and were received at one per
cent. more than specie. It was not long before the trade of the country
felt the benefit. Languishing commerce began to lift up her head; the
taxes were paid with greater regularity and less murmuring, and a degree
of confidence was established that could not fail, if it continued, to
become still more advantageous. In the course of a year Law's notes rose
to fifteen per cent. premium, while the billets d'etat, or notes
issued by the government, as security for the debts contracted by the
extravagant Louis XIV, were at a discount of no less than seventy-eight
and a half per cent. The comparison was too great in favour of Law not
to attract the attention of the whole kingdom, and his credit extended
itself day by day. Branches of his bank were almost simultaneously
established at Lyons, Rochelle, Tours, Amiens, and Orleans.

The Regent appears to have been utterly astonished at his success, and
gradually to have conceived the idea, that paper, which could so aid a
metallic currency, could entirely supersede it. Upon this fundamental
error he afterwards acted. In the mean time, Law commenced the famous
project which has handed his name down to posterity. He proposed to
the Regent, who could refuse him nothing, to establish a company,
that should have the exclusive privilege of trading to the great river
Mississippi and the province of Louisiana, on its western bank. The
country was supposed to abound in the precious metals, and the company,
supported by the profits of their exclusive commerce, were to be the
sole farmers of the taxes, and sole coiners of money. Letters patent
were issued, incorporating the company, in August 1717. The capital was
divided into two hundred thousand shares of five hundred livres each,
the whole of which might be paid in billets d'etat, at their nominal
value, although worth no more than 160 livres in the market.

It was now that the frenzy of speculating began to seize upon the
nation. Law's bank had effected so much good, that any promises for the
future which he thought proper to make were readily believed. The Regent
every day conferred new privileges upon the fortunate projector. The
bank obtained the monopoly of the sale of tobacco; the sole right of
refinage of gold and silver, and was finally erected into the Royal Bank
of France. Amid the intoxication of success, both Law and the Regent
forgot the maxim so loudly proclaimed by the former, that a banker
deserved death who made issues of paper without the necessary funds to
provide for them. As soon as the bank, from a private, became a public
institution, the Regent caused a fabrication of notes to the amount of
one thousand millions of livres. This was the first departure from sound
principles, and one for which Law is not justly blameable. While
the affairs of the bank were under his control, the issues had never
exceeded sixty millions. Whether Law opposed the inordinate increase
is not known, but as it took place as soon as the bank was made a royal
establishment, it is but fair to lay the blame of the change of system
upon the Regent.

Law found that he lived under a despotic government, but he was not yet
aware of the pernicious influence which such a government could exercise
upon so delicate a framework as that of credit. He discovered it
afterwards to his cost, but in the mean time suffered himself to be
impelled by the Regent into courses which his own reason must have
disapproved. With a weakness most culpable, he lent his aid in
inundating the country with paper money, which, based upon no solid
foundation, was sure to fall, sooner or later. The extraordinary present
fortune dazzled his eyes, and prevented him from seeing the evil day
that would burst over his head, when once, from any cause or other, the
alarm was sounded. The Parliament were from the first jealous of his
influence as a foreigner, and had, besides, their misgivings as to
the safety of his projects. As his influence extended, their animosity
increased. D'Aguesseau, the Chancellor, was unceremoniously dismissed by
the Regent for his opposition to the vast increase of paper money, and
the constant depreciation of the gold and silver coin of the realm.
This only served to augment the enmity of the Parliament, and when
D'Argenson, a man devoted to the interests of the Regent, was appointed
to the vacant chancellorship, and made at the same time minister of
finance, they became more violent than ever. The first measure of the
new minister caused a further depreciation of the coin. In order to
extinguish the billets d'etat, it was ordered that persons bringing
to the mint four thousand livres in specie and one thousand livres in
billets d'etat, should receive back coin to the amount of five thousand
livres. D'Argenson plumed himself mightily upon thus creating five
thousand new and smaller livres out of the four thousand old and larger
ones, being too ignorant of the true principles of trade and credit to
be aware of the immense injury he was inflicting upon both.

The Parliament saw at once the impolicy and danger of such a system,
and made repeated remonstrances to the Regent. The latter refused to
entertain their petitions, when the Parliament, by a bold, and very
unusual stretch of authority, commanded that no money should be received
in payment but that of the old standard. The Regent summoned a lit de
justice, and annulled the decree. The Parliament resisted, and issued
another. Again the Regent exercised his privilege, and annulled it,
till the Parliament, stung to fiercer opposition, passed another decree,
dated August 12th, 1718, by which they forbade the bank of Law to have
any concern, either direct or indirect, in the administration of the
revenue; and prohibited all foreigners, under heavy penalties, from
interfering, either in their own names, or in that of others, in the
management of the finances of the state. The Parliament considered Law
to be the author of all the evil, and some of the counsellors, in the
virulence of their enmity, proposed that he should be brought to trial,
and, if found guilty, be hung at the gates of the Palais de Justice.

Law, in great alarm, fled to the Palais Royal, and threw himself on the
protection of the Regent, praying that measures might be taken to reduce
the Parliament to obedience. The Regent had nothing so much at heart,
both on that account and because of the disputes that had arisen
relative to the legitimation of the Duke of Maine and the Count of
Thoulouse, the sons of the late King. The Parliament was ultimately
overawed by the arrest of their president and two of the counsellors,
who were sent to distant prisons.

Thus the first cloud upon Law's prospects blew over: freed from
apprehension of personal danger, he devoted his attention to his famous
Mississippi project, the shares of which were rapidly rising, in spite
of the Parliament. At the commencement of the year 1719 an edict was
published, granting to the Mississippi Company the exclusive privilege
of trading to the East Indies, China, and the South Seas, and to all the
possessions of the French East India Company, established by Colbert.
The Company, in consequence of this great increase of their business,
assumed, as more appropriate, the title of Company of the Indies, and
created fifty thousand new shares. The prospects now held out by Law
were most magnificent. He promised a yearly dividend of two hundred
livres upon each share of five hundred, which, as the shares were
paid for in billets d'etat, at their nominal value, but worth only 100
livres, was at the rate of about 120 per cent. profit.

The public enthusiasm, which had been so long rising, could not resist
a vision so splendid. At least three hundred thousand applications were
made for the fifty thousand new shares, and Law's house in the Rue de
Quincampoix was beset from morning to night by the eager applicants.
As it was impossible to satisfy them all, it was several weeks before a
list of the fortunate new stockholders could be made out, during which
time the public impatience rose to a pitch of frenzy. Dukes, marquises,
counts, with their duchesses, marchionesses, and countesses, waited
in the streets for hours every day before Mr. Law's door to know the
result. At last, to avoid the jostling of the plebeian crowd, which,
to the number of thousands, filled the whole thoroughfare, they took
apartments in the adjoining houses, that they might be continually near
the temple whence the new Plutus was diffusing wealth. Every day the
value of the old shares increased, and the fresh applications, induced
by the golden dreams of the whole nation, became so numerous that it
was deemed advisable to create no less than three hundred thousand new
shares, at five thousand livres each, in order that the Regent might
take advantage of the popular enthusiasm to pay off the national debt.
For this purpose, the sum of fifteen hundred millions of livres was
necessary. Such was the eagerness of the nation, that thrice the sum
would have been subscribed if the government had authorised it.

Law was now at the zenith of his prosperity, and the people were rapidly
approaching the zenith of their infatuation. The highest and the lowest
classes were alike filled with a vision of boundless wealth. There was
not a person of note among the aristocracy, with the exception of the
Duke of St. Simon and Marshal Villars, who was not engaged in buying
or selling stock. People of every age and sex, and condition in life,
speculated in the rise and fall of the Mississippi bonds. The Rue de
Quincampoix was the grand resort of the jobbers, and it being a narrow,
inconvenient street, accidents continually occurred in it, from the
tremendous pressure of the crowd. Houses in it, worth, in ordinary
times, a thousand livres of yearly rent, yielded as much as twelve or
sixteen thousand. A cobbler, who had a stall in it, gained about two
hundred livres a day by letting it out, and furnishing writing materials
to brokers and their clients. The story goes, that a hump-backed man who
stood in the street gained considerable sums by lending his hump as a
writing-desk to the eager speculators! The great concourse of persons
who assembled to do business brought a still greater concourse of
spectators. These again drew all the thieves and immoral characters of
Paris to the spot, and constant riots and disturbances took place. At
nightfall, it was often found necessary to send a troop of soldiers to
clear the street.

Law, finding the inconvenience of his residence, removed to the Place
Vendome, whither the crowd of agioteurs followed him. That spacious
square soon became as thronged as the Rue de Quincampoix: from morning
to night it presented the appearance of a fair. Booths and tents were
erected for the transaction of business and the sale of refreshments,
and gamblers with their roulette tables stationed themselves in the very
middle of the place, and reaped a golden, or rather a paper, harvest
from the throng. The Boulevards and public gardens were forsaken;
parties of pleasure took their walks in preference in the Place Vendome,
which became the fashionable lounge of the idle, as well as the general
rendezvous of the busy. The noise was so great all day, that the
Chancellor, whose court was situated in the square, complained to the
Regent and the municipality, that he could not hear the advocates. Law,
when applied to, expressed his willingness to aid in the removal of the
nuisance, and for this purpose entered into a treaty with the Prince de
Carignan for the Hotel de Soissons, which had a garden of several acres
in the rear. A bargain was concluded, by which Law became the purchaser
of the hotel, at an enormous price, the Prince reserving to himself the
magnificent gardens as a new source of profit. They contained some fine
statues and several fountains, and were altogether laid out with much
taste. As soon as Law was installed in his new abode, an edict was
published, forbidding all persons to buy or sell stock anywhere but
in the gardens of the Hotel de Soissons. In the midst among the trees,
about five hundred small tents and pavilions were erected, for the
convenience of the stock-jobbers. Their various colours, the gay ribands
and banners which floated from them, the busy crowds which passed
continually in and out--the incessant hum of voices, the noise,
the music, and the strange mixture of business and pleasure on the
countenances of the throng, all combined to give the place an air of
enchantment that quite enraptured the Parisians. The Prince de Carignan
made enormous profits while the delusion lasted. Each tent was let at
the rate of five hundred livres a month; and, as there were at least
five hundred of them, his monthly revenue from this source alone must
have amounted to 250,000 livres, or upwards of 10,000 pounds sterling.

The honest old soldier, Marshal Villars, was so vexed to see the folly
which had smitten his countrymen, that he never could speak with
temper on the subject. Passing one day through the Place Vendome in his
carriage, the choleric gentleman was so annoyed at the infatuation of
the people, that he abruptly ordered his coachman to stop, and, putting
his head out of the carriage window, harangued them for full half an
hour on their "disgusting avarice." This was not a very wise proceeding
on his part. Hisses and shouts of laughter resounded from every side,
and jokes without number were aimed at him. There being at last strong
symptoms that something more tangible was flying through the air in
the direction of his head, Marshal was glad to drive on. He never again
repeated the experiment.

Two sober, quiet, and philosophic men of letters, M. de la Motte and the
Abbe Terrason, congratulated each other, that they, at least, were free
from this strange infatuation. A few days afterwards, as the worthy
Abbe was coming out of the Hotel de Soissons, whither he had gone to buy
shares in the Mississippi, whom should he see but his friend La Motte
entering for the same purpose. "Ha!" said the Abbe, smiling, "is that
you?" "Yes," said La Motte, pushing past him as fast as he was able;
"and can that be you?" The next time the two scholars met, they talked
of philosophy, of science, and of religion, but neither had courage for
a long time to breathe one syllable about the Mississippi. At last, when
it was mentioned, they agreed that a man ought never to swear against
his doing any one thing, and that there was no sort of extravagance of
which even a wise man was not capable.

During this time, Law, the new Plutus, had become all at once the most
important personage of the state. The ante-chambers of the Regent were
forsaken by the courtiers. Peers, judges, and bishops thronged to the
Hotel de Soissons; officers of the army and navy, ladies of title and
fashion, and every one to whom hereditary rank or public employ gave a
claim to precedence, were to be found waiting in his ante-chambers to
beg for a portion of his India stock. Law was so pestered that he was
unable to see one-tenth part of the applicants, and every manoeuvre that
ingenuity could suggest was employed to gain access to him. Peers, whose
dignity would have been outraged if the Regent had made them wait half
an hour for an interview, were content to wait six hours for the chance
of seeing Monsieur Law. Enormous fees were paid to his servants, if
they would merely announce their names. Ladies of rank employed the
blandishments of their smiles for the same object; but many of them came
day after day for a fortnight before they could obtain an audience. When
Law accepted an invitation, he was sometimes so surrounded by ladies,
all asking to have their names put down in his lists as shareholders in
the new stock, that, in spite of his well-known and habitual gallantry,
he was obliged to tear himself away par force. The most ludicrous
stratagems were employed to have an opportunity of speaking to him. One
lady, who had striven in vain during several days, gave up in despair
all attempts to see him at his own house, but ordered her coachman to
keep a strict watch whenever she was out in her carriage, and if he saw
Mr. Law coming, to drive against a post, and upset her. The coachman
promised obedience, and for three days the lady was driven incessantly
through the town, praying inwardly for the opportunity to be overturned.
At last she espied Mr. Law, and, pulling the string, called out to the
coachman, "Upset us now! for God's sake, upset us now!" The coachman
drove against a post, the lady screamed, the coach was overturned,
and Law, who had seen the accident, hastened to the spot to render
assistance. The cunning dame was led into the Hotel de Soissons, where
she soon thought it advisable to recover from her fright, and, after
apologizing to Mr. Law, confessed her stratagem. Law smiled, and entered
the lady in his books as the purchaser of a quantity of India stock.
Another story is told of a Madame de Boucha, who, knowing that Mr. Law
was at dinner at a certain house, proceeded thither in her carriage, and
gave the alarm of fire. The company started from table, and Law among
the rest; but, seeing one lady making all haste into the house towards
him, while everybody else was scampering away, he suspected the trick,
and ran off in another direction.

Many other anecdotes are related, which even, though they may be a
little exaggerated, are nevertheless worth preserving, as showing the
spirit of that singular period. [The curious reader may find an anecdote
of the eagerness of the French ladies to retain Law in their company,
which will make him blush or smile according as he happens to be very
modest or the reverse. It is related in the Letters of Madame Charlotte
Elizabeth de Baviere, Duchess of Orleans, vol. ii. p. 274.] The Regent
was one day mentioning, in the presence of D'Argenson, the Abbe Dubois,
and some other persons, that he was desirous of deputing some lady, of
the rank at least of a Duchess, to attend upon his daughter at Modena;
"but," added he, "I do not exactly know where to find one." "No!"
replied one, in affected surprise; "I can tell you where to find every
Duchess in France:--you have only to go to Mr. Law's; you will see them
every one in his ante-chamber."

M. de Chirac, a celebrated physician, had bought stock at an unlucky
period, and was very anxious to sell out. Stock, however continued to
fall for two or three days, much to his alarm. His mind was filled with
the subject, when he was suddenly called upon to attend a lady, who
imagined herself unwell. He arrived, was shown up stairs, and felt the
lady's pulse. "It falls! it falls! good God! it falls continually!" said
he, musingly, while the lady looked up in his face, all anxiety for his
opinion. "Oh! M. de Chirac," said she, starting to her feet, and ringing
the bell for assistance; "I am dying! I am dying! it falls! it falls! it
falls!" "What falls?" inquired the doctor, in amazement. "My pulse! my
pulse!" said the lady; "I must be dying." "Calm your apprehensions, my
dear Madam," said M. de Chirac; "I was speaking of the stocks. The truth
is, I have been a great loser, and my mind is so disturbed, I hardly
know what I have been saying."

The price of shares sometimes rose ten or twenty per cent. in the course
of a few hours, and many persons in the humbler walks of life, who had
risen poor in the morning, went to bed in affluence. An extensive holder
of stock, being taken ill, sent his servant to sell two hundred and
fifty shares, at eight thousand livres each, the price at which they
were then quoted. The servant went, and, on his arrival in the Jardin de
Soissons, found that in the interval the price had risen to ten thousand
livres. The difference of two thousand livres on the two hundred and
fifty shares, amounting to 500,000 livres, or 20,000 pounds sterling, he
very coolly transferred to his own use, and, giving the remainder to his
master, set out the same evening for another country. Law's coachman in
a very short time made money enough to set up a carriage of his own, and
requested permission to leave his service. Law, who esteemed the man,
begged of him as a favour, that he would endeavour, before he went, to
find a substitute as good as himself. The coachman consented, and in the
evening brought two of his former comrades, telling Mr. Law to choose
between them, and he would take the other. Cookmaids and footmen
were now and then as lucky, and, in the full-blown pride of their
easily-acquired wealth, made the most ridiculous mistakes. Preserving
the language and manners of their old, with the finery of their new
station, they afforded continual subjects for the pity of the sensible,
the contempt of the sober, and the laughter of everybody. But the folly
and meanness of the higher ranks of society were still more disgusting.
One instance alone, related by the Duke de St. Simon, will show the
unworthy avarice which infected the whole of society. A man of the name
of Andre, without character or education, had, by a series of well-timed
speculations in Mississippi bonds, gained enormous wealth, in an
incredibly short space of time. As St. Simon expresses it, "he had
amassed mountains of gold." As he became rich, he grew ashamed of the
lowness of his birth, and anxious above all things to be allied to
nobility. He had a daughter, an infant only three years of age, and he
opened a negotiation with the aristocratic and needy family of D'Oyse,
that this child should, upon certain conditions, marry a member of that
house. The Marquis d'Oyse, to his shame, consented, and promised to
marry her himself on her attaining the age of twelve, if the father
would pay him down the sum of a hundred thousand crowns, and twenty
thousand livres every year, until the celebration of the marriage. The
Marquis was himself in his thirty-third year. This scandalous bargain
was duly signed and sealed, the stockjobber furthermore agreeing to
settle upon his daughter, on the marriage-day, a fortune of several
millions. The Duke of Brancas, the head of the family, was present
throughout the negotiation, and shared in all the profits. St. Simon,
who treats the matter with the levity becoming what he thought so good
a joke, adds, "that people did not spare their animadversions on this
beautiful marriage," and further informs us, "that the project fell to
the ground some months afterwards by the overthrow of Law, and the ruin
of the ambitious Monsieur Andre." It would appear, however, that the
noble family never had the honesty to return the hundred thousand

Amid events like these, which, humiliating though they be, partake
largely of the ludicrous, others occurred of a more serious nature.
Robberies in the streets were of daily occurrence, in consequence of
the immense sums, in paper, which people carried about with them.
Assassinations were also frequent. One case in particular fixed the
attention of the whole of France, not only on account of the enormity of
the offence, but of the rank and high connexions of the criminal.

The Count d'Horn, a younger brother of the Prince d'Horn, and related
to the noble families of D'Aremberg, De Ligne, and De Montmorency, was
a young man of dissipated character, extravagant to a degree, and
unprincipled as he was extravagant. In connexion with two other young
men as reckless as himself, named Mille, a Piedmontese captain, and one
Destampes, or Lestang, a Fleming, he formed a design to rob a very rich
broker, who was known, unfortunately for himself, to carry great sums
about his person. The Count pretended a desire to purchase of him a
number of shares in the Company of the Indies, and for that purpose
appointed to meet him in a cabaret, or low public-house, in the
neighbourhood of the Place Vendome. The unsuspecting broker was punctual
to his appointment; so were the Count d'Horn and his two associates,
whom he introduced as his particular friends. After a few moments'
conversation, the Count d'Horn suddenly sprang upon his victim, and
stabbed him three times in the breast with a poniard. The man fell
heavily to the ground, and, while the Count was employed in rifling his
portfolio of bonds in the Mississippi and Indian schemes to the amount
of one hundred thousand crowns, Mille, the Piedmontese, stabbed the
unfortunate broker again and again, to make sure of his death. But the
broker did not fall without a struggle, and his cries brought the people
of the cabaret to his assistance. Lestang, the other assassin, who had
been set to keep watch at a staircase, sprang from a window and escaped;
but Mille and the Count d'Horn were seized in the very act.

This crime, committed in open day, and in so public a place as a
cabaret, filled Paris with consternation. The trial of the assassins
commenced on the following day, and the evidence being so clear, they
were both found guilty and condemned to be broken alive on the wheel.
The noble relatives of the Count d'Horn absolutely blocked up the
ante-chambers of the Regent, praying for mercy on the misguided youth,
and alleging that he was insane. The Regent avoided them as long as
possible, being determined that, in a case so atrocious, justice should
take its course; but the importunity of these influential suitors was
not to be overcome so silently, and they at last forced themselves into
the presence of the Regent, and prayed him to save their house the shame
of a public execution. They hinted that the Princes d'Horn were allied
to the illustrious family of Orleans, and added that the Regent himself
would be disgraced if a kinsman of his should die by the hands of a
common executioner. The Regent, to his credit, was proof against all
their solicitations, and replied to their last argument in the words of

     "Le crime fait la honte, et non pas l'echafaud:"

adding, that whatever shame there might be in the punishment he would
very willingly share with the other relatives. Day after day they
renewed their entreaties, but always with the same result. At last
they thought that if they could interest the Duke de St. Simon in
their layout, a man for whom the Regent felt sincere esteem, they might
succeed in their object. The Duke, a thorough aristocrat, was as shocked
as they were, that a noble assassin should die by the same death as a
plebeian felon, and represented to the Regent the impolicy of making
enemies of so numerous, wealthy, and powerful a family. He urged, too,
that in Germany, where the family of D'Aremberg had large possessions,
it was the law, that no relative of a person broken on the wheel could
succeed to any public office or employ until a whole generation had
passed away. For this reason he thought the punishment of the guilty
Count might be transmuted into beheading, which was considered all over
Europe as much less infamous. The Regent was moved by this argument, and
was about to consent, when Law, who felt peculiarly interested in the
fate of the murdered man, confirmed him in his former resolution, to let
the law take its course.

The relatives of D'Horn were now reduced to the last extremity. The
Prince de Robec Montmorency, despairing of other methods, found means
to penetrate into the dungeon of the criminal, and offering him a cup of
poison, implored him to save them from disgrace. The Count d'Horn turned
away his head, and refused to take it. Montmorency pressed him once
more, and losing all patience at his continued refusal, turned on his
heel, and exclaiming, "Die, then, as thou wilt, mean-spirited wretch!
thou art fit only to perish by the hands of the hangman!" left him to
his fate.

D'Horn himself petitioned the Regent that he might be beheaded, but Law,
who exercised more influence over his mind than any other person, with
the exception of the notorious Abbe Dubois, his tutor, insisted that
he could not in justice succumb to the self-interested views of the
D'Horns. The Regent had from the first been of the same opinion, and
within six days after the commission of their crime, D'Horn and Mille
were broken on the wheel in the Place de Greve. The other assassin,
Lestang, was never apprehended.

This prompt and severe justice was highly pleasing to the populace of
Paris; even M. de Quincampoix, as they called Law, came in for a share
of their approbation for having induced the Regent to show no favour
to a patrician. But the number of robberies and assassinations did
not diminish. No sympathy was shown for rich jobbers when they were
plundered: the general laxity of public morals, conspicuous enough
before, was rendered still more so by its rapid pervasion of the middle
classes, who had hitherto remained comparatively pure, between the open
vices of the class above and the hidden crimes of the class below them.
The pernicious love of gambling diffused itself through society, and
bore all public, and nearly all private, virtue before it.

For a time, while confidence lasted, an impetus was given to trade,
which could not fail to be beneficial. In Paris, especially, the good
results were felt. Strangers flocked into the capital from every part,
bent, not only upon making money, but on spending it. The Duchess of
Orleans, mother of the Regent, computes the increase of the population
during this time, from the great influx of strangers from all parts of
the world, at 305,000 souls. The housekeepers were obliged to make up
beds in garrets, kitchens, and even stables, for the accommodation of
lodgers; and the town was so full of carriages and vehicles of every
description, that they were obliged in the principal streets to drive at
a foot-pace for fear of accidents. The looms of the country worked with
unusual activity, to supply rich laces, silks, broad-cloth, and velvets,
which being paid for in abundant paper, increased in price four-fold.
Provisions shared the general advance; bread, meat, and vegetables were
sold at prices greater than had ever before been known; while the wages
of labour rose in exactly the same proportion. The artisan, who formerly
gained fifteen sous per diem, now gained sixty. New houses were built
in every direction; an illusory prosperity shone over the land, and so
dazzled the eyes of the whole nation that none could see the dark cloud
on the horizon, announcing the storm that was too rapidly approaching.

Law himself, the magician whose wand had wrought so surprising a change,
shared, of course, in the general prosperity. His wife and daughter were
courted by the highest nobility, and their alliance sought by the
heirs of ducal and princely houses. He bought two splendid estates
in different parts of France, and entered into a negotiation with the
family of the Duke de Sully for the purchase of the Marquisate of Rosny.
His religion being an obstacle to his advancement, the Regent promised,
if he would publicly conform to the Catholic faith, to make him
comptroller-general of the finances. Law, who had no more real religion
than any other professed gambler, readily agreed, and was confirmed by
the Abbe de Tencin in the cathedral of Melun, in presence of a great
crowd of spectators.

[The following squib was circulated on the occasion:--

     "Foin de ton zele seraphique,
     Malheureux Abbe de Tencin,
     Depuis que Law est Catholique,
     Tout le royaume est Capucin

Thus, somewhat weakly and paraphrastically rendered by Justansond, in
his translation of the "Memoirs of Louis XV:"--

     "Tencin, a curse on thy seraphic zeal,
     Which by persuasion hath contrived the means
     To make the Scotchman at our altars kneel,
     Since which we all are poor as Capucines?]

On the following day he was elected honorary churchwarden of the parish
of St. Roch, upon which occasion he made it a present of the sum of five
hundred thousand livres. His charities, always magnificent, were not
always so ostentatious. He gave away great sums privately, and no tale
of real distress ever reached his ears in vain.

At this time, he was by far the most influential person of the state.
The Duke of Orleans had so much confidence in his sagacity, and the
success of his plans, that he always consulted him upon every matter
of moment. He was by no means unduly elevated by his prosperity, but
remained the same simple, affable, sensible man that he had shown
himself in adversity. His gallantry, which was always delightful to the
fair objects of it, was of a nature, so kind, so gentlemanly, and so
respectful, that not even a lover could have taken offence at it. If
upon any occasion he showed any symptoms of haughtiness, it was to the
cringing nobles, who lavished their adulation upon him till it became
fulsome. He often took pleasure in seeing how long he could make them
dance attendance upon him for a single favour. To such of his own
countrymen as by chance visited Paris, and sought an interview with him,
he was, on the contrary, all politeness and attention. When Archibald
Campbell, Earl of Islay, and afterwards Duke of Argyle, called upon him
in the Place Vendome, he had to pass through an ante-chamber crowded
with persons of the first distinction, all anxious to see the great
financier, and have their names put down as first on the list of some
new subscription. Law himself was quietly sitting in his library,
writing a letter to the gardener at his paternal estate of Lauriston
about the planting of some cabbages! The Earl stayed for a considerable
time, played a game of piquet with his countryman, and left him, charmed
with his ease, good sense, and good breeding.

Among the nobles who, by means of the public credulity at this time,
gained sums sufficient to repair their ruined fortunes, may be mentioned
the names of the Dukes de Bourbon, de Guiche, de la Force [The Duke de
la Force gained considerable sums, not only by jobbing in the stocks,
but in dealing in porcelain, spices, &c. It was debated for a length of
time in the Parliament of Paris whether he had not, in his quality of
spice-merchant, forfeited his rank in the peerage. It was decided in
the negative. A caricature of him was made, dressed as a street porter,
carrying a large bale of spices on his back, with the inscription,
"Admirez La Force."], de Chaulnes, and d'Antin; the Marechal d'Estrees,
the Princes de Rohan, de Poix, and de Leon. The Duke de Bourbon, son
of Louis XIV by Madame de Montespan, was peculiarly fortunate in his
speculations in Mississippi paper. He rebuilt the royal residence of
Chantilly in a style of unwonted magnificence, and, being passionately
fond of horses, he erected a range of stables, which were long renowned
throughout Europe, and imported a hundred and fifty of the finest racers
from England, to improve the breed in France. He bought a large extent
of country in Picardy, and became possessed of nearly all the valuable
lands lying between the Oise and the Somme.

When fortunes such as these were gained, it is no wonder that Law should
have been almost worshipped by the mercurial population. Never was
monarch more flattered than he was. All the small poets and litterateurs
of the day poured floods of adulation upon him. According to them he was
the saviour of the country, the tutelary divinity of France; wit was in
all his words, goodness in all his looks, and wisdom in all his actions.
So great a crowd followed his carriage whenever he went abroad, that the
Regent sent him a troop of horse as his permanent escort, to clear the
streets before him.

It was remarked at this time, that Paris had never before been so full
of objects of elegance and luxury. Statues, pictures, and tapestries
were imported in great quantities from foreign countries, and found
a ready market. All those pretty trifles in the way of furniture and
ornament which the French excel in manufacturing, were no longer the
exclusive play-things of the aristocracy, but were to be found in
abundance in the houses of traders and the middle classes in general.
Jewellery of the most costly description was brought to Paris as the
most favourable mart. Among the rest, the famous diamond, bought by
the Regent, and called by his name, and which long adorned the crown of
France. It was purchased for the sum of two millions of livres, under
circumstances which show that the Regent was not so great a gainer as
some of his subjects, by the impetus which trade had received. When
the diamond was first offered to him, he refused to buy it, although he
desired, above all things, to possess it, alleging as his reason, that
his duty to the country he governed would not allow him to spend
so large a sum of the public money for a mere jewel. This valid and
honourable excuse threw all the ladies of the court into alarm, and
nothing was heard for some days but expressions of regret, that so rare
a gem should be allowed to go out of France; no private individual being
rich enough to buy it. The Regent was continually importuned about it;
but all in vain, until the Duke de St. Simon, who, with all his ability,
was something of a twaddler, undertook the weighty business. His
entreaties, being seconded by Law, the good-natured Regent gave his
consent, leaving to Law's ingenuity to find the means to pay for it. The
owner took security for the payment of the sum of two millions of livres
within a stated period, receiving, in the mean time, the interest of
five per cent. upon that amount, and being allowed, besides, all the
valuable clippings of the gem. St. Simon, in his Memoirs, relates, with
no little complacency, his share in this transaction. After describing
the diamond to be as large as a greengage, of a form nearly round,
perfectly white, and without flaw, and weighing more than five hundred
grains, he concludes with a chuckle, by telling the world, "that he
takes great credit to himself for having induced the Regent to make
so illustrious a purchase." In other words, he was proud that he had
induced him to sacrifice his duty, and buy a bauble for himself, at an
extravagant price, out of the public money.

Thus the system continued to flourish till the commencement of the year
1720. The warnings of the Parliament, that too great a creation of paper
money would, sooner or later, bring the country to bankruptcy, were
disregarded. The Regent, who knew nothing whatever of the philosophy
of finance, thought that a system which had produced such good effects
could never be carried to excess. If five hundred millions of paper had
been of such advantage, five hundred millions additional would be of
still greater advantage. This was the grand error of the Regent, and
which Law did not attempt to dispel. The extraordinary avidity of the
people kept up the delusion; and the higher the price of Indian and
Mississippi stock, the more billets de banque were issued to keep pace
with it. The edifice thus reared might not unaptly be compared to the
gorgeous palace erected by Potemkin, that princely barbarian of Russia,
to surprise and please his imperial mistress: huge blocks of ice were
piled one upon another; ionic pillars, of chastest workmanship, in ice,
formed a noble portico; and a dome, of the same material, shone in the
sun, which had just strength enough to gild, but not to melt it. It
glittered afar, like a palace of crystals and diamonds; but there came
one warm breeze from the south, and the stately building dissolved away,
till none were able even to gather up the fragments. So with Law and his
paper system. No sooner did the breath of popular mistrust blow steadily
upon it, than it fell to ruins, and none could raise it up again.

The first slight alarm that was occasioned was early in 1720. The Prince
de Conti, offended that Law should have denied him fresh shares in India
stock, at his own price, sent to his bank to demand payment in specie
of so enormous a quantity of notes, that three waggons were required for
its transport. Law complained to the Regent, and urged on his attention
the mischief that would be done, if such an example found many
imitators. The Regent was but too well aware of it, and, sending for the
Prince de Conti, ordered him, under penalty of his high displeasure, to
refund to the Bank two-thirds of the specie which he had withdrawn from
it. The Prince was forced to obey the despotic mandate. Happily for
Law's credit, De Conti was an unpopular man: everybody condemned his
meanness and cupidity, and agreed that Law had been hardly treated. It
is strange, however, that so narrow an escape should not have made both
Law and the Regent more anxious to restrict their issues. Others were
soon found who imitated, from motives of distrust, the example which had
been set by De Conti in revenge. The more acute stockjobbers imagined
justly that prices could not continue to rise for ever. Bourdon and
La Richardiere, renowned for their extensive operations in the funds,
quietly and in small quantities at a time, converted their notes into
specie, and sent it away to foreign countries. They also bought as much
as they could conveniently carry of plate and expensive jewellery, and
sent it secretly away to England or to Holland. Vermalet, a jobber, who
sniffed the coming storm, procured gold and silver coin to the amount
of nearly a million of livres, which he packed in a farmer's cart, and
covered over with hay and cow-dung. He then disguised himself in the
dirty smock-frock, or blouse, of a peasant, and drove his precious load
in safety into Belgium. From thence he soon found means to transport it
to Amsterdam.

Hitherto no difficulty had been experienced by any class in procuring
specie for their wants. But this system could not long be carried on
without causing a scarcity. The voice of complaint was heard on every
side, and inquiries being instituted, the cause was soon discovered. The
council debated long on the remedies to be taken, and Law, being called
on for his advice, was of opinion, that an edict should be published,
depreciating the value of coin five per cent. below that of paper. The
edict was published accordingly; but, failing of its intended effect,
was followed by another, in which the depreciation was increased to ten
per cent. The payments of the bank were at the same time restricted to
one hundred livres in gold, and ten in silver. All these measures were
nugatory to restore confidence in the paper, though the restriction of
cash payments within limits so extremely narrow kept up the credit of
the Bank.

Notwithstanding every effort to the contrary, the precious metals
continued to be conveyed to England and Holland. The little coin that
was left in the country was carefully treasured, or hidden until the
scarcity became so great, that the operations of trade could no longer
be carried on. In this emergency, Law hazarded the bold experiment of
forbidding the use of specie altogether. In February 1720 an edict was
published, which, instead of restoring the credit of the paper, as was
intended, destroyed it irrecoverably, and drove the country to the very
brink of revolution. By this famous edict it was forbidden to any person
whatever to have more than five hundred livres (20 pounds sterling) of
coin in his possession, under pain of a heavy fine, and confiscation of
the sums found. It was also forbidden to buy up jewellery, plate,
and precious stones, and informers were encouraged to make search for
offenders, by the promise of one-half the amount they might discover.
The whole country sent up a cry of distress at this unheard-of tyranny.
The most odious persecution daily took place. The privacy of families
was violated by the intrusion of informers and their agents. The most
virtuous and honest were denounced for the crime of having been seen
with a louis d'or in their possession. Servants betrayed their
masters, one citizen became a spy upon his neighbour, and arrests and
confiscations so multiplied, that the courts found a difficulty in
getting through the immense increase of business thus occasioned. It
was sufficient for an informer to say that he suspected any person of
concealing money in his house, and immediately a search-warrant was
granted. Lord Stair, the English ambassador, said, that it was now
impossible to doubt of the sincerity of Law's conversion to the Catholic
religion; he had established the inquisition, after having given
abundant evidence of his faith in transubstantiation, by turning so much
gold into paper.

Every epithet that popular hatred could suggest was showered upon the
Regent and the unhappy Law. Coin, to any amount above five hundred
livres, was an illegal tender, and nobody would take paper if he could
help it. No one knew to-day what his notes would be worth to-morrow.
"Never," says Duclos, in his Secret Memoirs of the Regency, "was seen a
more capricious government-never was a more frantic tyranny exercised by
hands less firm. It is inconceivable to those who were witnesses of the
horrors of those times, and who look back upon them now as on a dream,
that a sudden revolution did not break out--that Law and the Regent did
not perish by a tragical death. They were both held in horror, but the
people confined themselves to complaints; a sombre and timid despair, a
stupid consternation, had seized upon all, and men's minds were too vile
even to be capable of a courageous crime." It would appear that, at one
time, a movement of the people was organised. Seditious writings were
posted up against the walls, and were sent, in hand-bills, to the houses
of the most conspicuous people. One of them, given in the "Memoires de
la Regence," was to the following effect:--"Sir and Madam,--This is to
give you notice that a St. Bartholomew's Day will be enacted again on
Saturday and Sunday, if affairs do not alter. You are desired not to
stir out, nor you, nor your servants. God preserve you from the flames!
Give notice to your neighbours. Dated Saturday, May 25th, 1720." The
immense number of spies with which the city was infested rendered the
people mistrustful of one another, and beyond some trifling disturbances
made in the evening by an insignificant group, which was soon dispersed,
the peace of the capital was not compromised.

The value of shares in the Louisiana, or Mississippi stock, had fallen
very rapidly, and few indeed were found to believe the tales that had
once been told of the immense wealth of that region. A last effort was
therefore tried to restore the public confidence in the Mississippi
project. For this purpose, a general conscription of all the poor
wretches in Paris was made by order of government. Upwards of six
thousand of the very refuse of the population were impressed, as if in
time of war, and were provided with clothes and tools to be embarked
for New Orleans, to work in the gold mines alleged to abound there.
They were paraded day after day through the streets with their pikes and
shovels, and then sent off in small detachments to the out-ports to be
shipped for America. Two-thirds of them never reached their destination,
but dispersed themselves over the country, sold their tools for what
they could get, and returned to their old course of life. In less than
three weeks afterwards, one-half of them were to be found again in
Paris. The manoeuvre, however, caused a trifling advance in Mississippi
stock. Many persons of superabundant gullibility believed that
operations had begun in earnest in the new Golconda, and that gold and
silver ingots would again be found in France.

In a constitutional monarchy some surer means would have been found for
the restoration of public credit. In England, at a subsequent period,
when a similar delusion had brought on similar distress, how
different were the measures taken to repair the evil; but in France,
unfortunately, the remedy was left to the authors of the mischief.
The arbitrary will of the Regent, which endeavoured to extricate the
country, only plunged it deeper into the mire. All payments were ordered
to be made in paper, and between the 1st of February and the end of
May, notes were fabricated to the amount of upwards of 1500 millions of
livres, or 60,000,000 pounds sterling. But the alarm once sounded, no
art could make the people feel the slightest confidence in paper which
was not exchangeable into metal. M. Lambert, the President of the
Parliament of Paris, told the Regent to his face that he would rather
have a hundred thousand livres in gold or silver than five millions
in the notes of his bank. When such was the general feeling, the
superabundant issues of paper but increased the evil, by rendering still
more enormous the disparity between the amount of specie and notes in
circulation. Coin, which it was the object of the Regent to depreciate,
rose in value on every fresh attempt to diminish it. In February, it
was judged advisable that the Royal Bank should be incorporated with
the Company of the Indies. An edict to that effect was published and
registered by the Parliament. The state remained the guarantee for the
notes of the bank, and no more were to be issued without an order in
council. All the profits of the bank, since the time it had been taken
out of Law's hands and made a national institution, were given over by
the Regent to the Company of the Indies. This measure had the effect of
raising for a short time the value of the Louisiana and other shares
of the company, but it failed in placing public credit on any permanent

A council of state was held in the beginning of May, at which Law,
D'Argenson (his colleague in the administration of the finances), and
all the ministers were present. It was then computed that the total
amount of notes in circulation was 2600 millions of livres, while the
coin in the country was not quite equal to half that amount. It was
evident to the majority of the council that some plan must be adopted to
equalise the currency. Some proposed that the notes should be reduced to
the value of the specie, while others proposed that the nominal value of
the specie should be raised till it was on an equality with the
paper. Law is said to have opposed both these projects, but failing in
suggesting any other, it was agreed that the notes should be depreciated
one-half. On the 21st of May, an edict was accordingly issued, by which
it was decreed that the shares of the Company of the Indies, and the
notes of the bank, should gradually diminish in value, till at the end
of a year they should only pass current for one half of their nominal
worth. The Parliament refused to register the edict--the greatest outcry
was excited, and the state of the country became so alarming, that, as
the only means of preserving tranquillity, the council of the regency
was obliged to stultify its own proceedings, by publishing within seven
days another edict, restoring the notes to their original value.

On the same day (the 27th of May) the bank stopped payment in specie.
Law and D'Argenson were both dismissed from the ministry. The weak,
vacillating, and cowardly Regent threw the blame of all the mischief
upon Law, who, upon presenting himself at the Palais Royal, was refused
admitance. At nightfall, however, he was sent for, and admitted into the
palace by a secret door,[Duclos, Memoires Secrets de la Regence.] when
the Regent endeavoured to console him, and made all manner of excuses
for the severity with which in public he had been compelled to treat
him. So capricious was his conduct, that, two days afterwards, he took
him publicly to the opera, where he sat in the royal box, alongside of
the Regent, who treated him with marked consideration in face of all the
people. But such was the hatred against Law that the experiment had well
nigh proved fatal to him. The mob assailed his carriage with stones
just as he was entering his own door; and if the coachman had not made
a sudden jerk into the court-yard, and the domestics closed the gate
immediately, he would, in all probability, have been dragged out and
torn to pieces. On the following day, his wife and daughter were also
assailed by the mob as they were returning in their carriage from the
races. When the Regent was informed of these occurrences he sent Law a
strong detachment of Swiss guards, who were stationed night and day in
the court of his residence. The public indignation at last increased so
much, that Law, finding his own house, even with this guard, insecure,
took refuge in the Palais Royal, in the apartments of the Regent.

The Chancellor, D'Aguesseau, who had been dismissed in 1718 for his
opposition to the projects of Law, was now recalled to aid in the
restoration of credit. The Regent acknowledged too late, that he had
treated with unjustifiable harshness and mistrust one of the ablest,
and perhaps the sole honest public man of that corrupt period. He had
retired ever since his disgrace to his country-house at Fresnes, where,
in the midst of severe but delightful philosophic studies, he had
forgotten the intrigues of an unworthy court. Law himself, and the
Chevalier de Conflans, a gentleman of the Regent's household, were
despatched in a post-chaise, with orders to bring the ex-chancellor to
Paris along with them. D'Aguesseau consented to render what assistance
he could, contrary to the advice of his friends, who did not approve
that he should accept any recall to office of which Law was the bearer.
On his arrival in Paris, five counsellors of the Parliament were
admitted to confer with the Commissary of Finance, and on the 1st of
June an order was published, abolishing the law which made it criminal
to amass coin to the amount of more than five hundred livres. Every one
was permitted to have as much specie as he pleased. In order that the
bank-notes might be withdrawn, twenty-five millions of new notes were
created, on the security of the revenues of the city of Paris, at
two-and-a-half per cent. The bank-notes withdrawn were publicly burned
in front of the Hotel de Ville. The new notes were principally of
the value of ten livres each; and on the 10th of June the bank was
re-opened, with a sufficiency of silver coin to give in change for them.

These measures were productive of considerable advantage. All the
population of Paris hastened to the bank, to get coin for their small
notes; and silver becoming scarce, they were paid in copper. Very few
complained that this was too heavy, although poor fellows might be
continually seen toiling and sweating along the streets, laden with
more than they could comfortably carry, in the shape of change for fifty
livres. The crowds around the bank were so great, that hardly a day
passed that some one was not pressed to death. On the 9th of July, the
multitude was so dense and clamorous that the guards stationed at the
entrance of the Mazarin Gardens closed the gate, and refused to admit
any more. The crowd became incensed, and flung stones through the
railings upon the soldiers. The latter, incensed in their turn,
threatened to fire upon the people. At that instant one of them was hit
by a stone, and, taking up his piece, he fired into the crowd. One man
fell dead immediately, and another was severely wounded. It was every
instant expected that a general attack would have been commenced upon
the bank; but the gates of the Mazarin Gardens being opened to the
crowd, who saw a whole troop of soldiers, with their bayonets fixed,
ready to receive them, they contented themselves by giving vent to their
indignation in groans and hisses.

Eight days afterwards the concourse of people was so tremendous, that
fifteen persons were squeezed to death at the doors of the bank.
The people were so indignant that they took three of the bodies on
stretchers before them, and proceeded, to the number of seven or eight
thousand, to the gardens of the Palais Royal, that they might show the
Regent the misfortunes that he and Law had brought upon the country.
Law's coachman, who was sitting on the box of his master's carriage,
in the court-yard of the palace, happened to have more zeal than
discretion, and, not liking that the mob should abuse his master, he
said, loud enough to be overheard by several persons, that they were
all blackguards, and deserved to be hanged. The mob immediately set upon
him, and, thinking that Law was in the carriage, broke it to pieces. The
imprudent coachman narrowly escaped with his life. No further mischief
was done; a body of troops making their appearance, the crowd quietly
dispersed, after an assurance had been given by the Regent that the
three bodies they had brought to show him should be decently buried at
his own expense. The Parliament was sitting at the time of this uproar,
and the President took upon himself to go out and see what was the
matter. On his return he informed the councillors, that Law's carriage
had been broken by the mob. All the members rose simultaneously, and
expressed their joy by a loud shout, while one man, more zealous in
his hatred than the rest, exclaimed, "And Law himself, is he torn to
pieces?" [The Duchess of Orleans gives a different version of this
story; but whichever be the true one, the manifestation of such feeling
in a legislative assembly was not very creditable. She says, that the
President was so transported with joy, that he was seized with a rhyming
fit, and, returning into the hall, exclaimed to the members:--

     "Messieurs! Messieurs! bonne nouvelle!
     Le carfosse de Lass est reduit en canelle!"]

Much undoubtedly depended on the credit of the Company of the Indies,
which was answerable for so great a sum to the nation. It was,
therefore, suggested in the council of the ministry, that any privileges
which could be granted to enable it to fulfil its engagements, would be
productive of the best results. With this end in view, it was proposed
that the exclusive privilege of all maritime commerce should be
secured to it, and an edict to that effect was published. But it was
unfortunately forgotten that by such a measure all the merchants of
the country would be ruined. The idea of such an immense privilege was
generally scouted by the nation, and petition on petition was presented
to the Parliament, that they would refuse to register the decree. They
refused accordingly, and the Regent, remarking that they did nothing but
fan the flame of sedition, exiled them to Blois. At the intercession
of D'Aguesseau, the place of banishment was changed to Pontoise, and
thither accordingly the councillors repaired, determined to set the
Regent at defiance. They made every arrangement for rendering their
temporary exile as agreeable as possible. The President gave the most
elegant suppers, to which he invited all the gayest and wittiest company
of Paris. Every night there was a concert and ball for the ladies. The
usually grave and solemn judges and councillors joined in cards
and other diversions, leading for several weeks a life of the most
extravagant pleasure, for no other purpose than to show the Regent of
how little consequence they deemed their banishment, and that when they
willed it, they could make Pontoise a pleasanter residence than Paris.

Of all the nations in the world the French are the most renowned for
singing over their grievances. Of that country it has been remarked with
some truth, that its whole history may be traced in its songs. When Law,
by the utter failure of his best-laid plans, rendered himself obnoxious,
satire of course seized hold upon him, and, while caricatures of his
person appeared in all the shops, the streets resounded with songs, in
which neither he nor the Regent was spared. Many of these songs were far
from decent; and one of them in particular counselled the application of
all his notes to the most ignoble use to which paper can be applied. But
the following, preserved in the letters of the Duchess of Orleans, was
the best and the most popular, and was to be heard for months in all the
carrefours of Paris. The application of the chorus is happy enough:--

     Aussitot que Lass arriva
     Dans notre bonne ville,
     Monsieur le Regent publia
     Que Lass serait utile
     Pour retablir la nation.
     La faridondaine! la faridondon.
     Mais il nous a tous enrich!,
     A la facon de Barbari,
     Mort ami!

     Ce parpaillot, pour attirer
     Tout l'argent de la France,
     Songea d'abord a s'assurer
     De notre confiance.
     Il fit son abjuration.
     La faridondaine! la faridondon!
     Mais le fourbe s'est converti,
     A la facon de Barbari,
     Mon ami!

     Lass, le fils aine de Satan
     Nous met tous a l'aumone,
     Il nous a pris tout notre argent
     Et n'en rend a personne.
     Mais le Regent, humain et bon,
     La faridondaine! la faridondon!
     Nous rendra ce qu'on nous a pris,
     A la facon de Barbari,
     Mon ami!

The following smart epigram is of the same date:--

     Lundi, j'achetai des actions;
     Mardi, je gagnai des millions;
     Mercredi, j'arrangeai mon menage,
     Jeudi, je pris un equipage,
     Vendredi, je m'en fus au bal,
     Et Samedi, a l'Hopital.

Among the caricatures that were abundantly published, and that showed
as plainly as graver matters, that the nation had awakened to a sense of
its folly, was one, a fac-simile of which is preserved in the "Memoires
de la Regence." It was thus described by its author: "The 'Goddess of
Shares," in her triumphal car, driven by the Goddess of Folly. Those
who are drawing the car are impersonations of the Mississippi, with his
wooden leg, the South Sea, the Bank of England, the Company of the West
of Senegal, and of various assurances. Lest the car should not roll fast
enough, the agents of these companies, known by their long fox-tails and
their cunning looks, turn round the spokes of the wheels, upon which are
marked the names of the several stocks, and their value, sometimes high
and sometimes low, according to the turns of the wheel. Upon the ground
are the merchandise, day-books and ledgers of legitimate commerce,
crushed under the chariot of Folly. Behind is an immense crowd of
persons, of all ages, sexes, and conditions, clamoring after Fortune,
and fighting with each other to get a portion of the shares which she
distributes so bountifully among them. In the clouds sits a demon,
blowing bubbles of soap, which are also the objects of the admiration
and cupidity of the crowd, who jump upon one another's backs to reach
them ere they burst. Right in the pathway of the car, and blocking up
the passage, stands a large building, with three doors, through one of
which it must pass, if it proceeds further, and all the crowd along
with it. Over the first door are the words, "Hopital des Foux," over the
second, "Hopital des Malades," and over the third, "Hopital des Gueux."
Another caricature represented Law sitting in a large cauldron,
boiling over the flames of popular madness, surrounded by an impetuous
multitude, who were pouring all their gold and silver into it, and
receiving gladly in exchange the bits of paper which he distributed
among them by handsfull.

While this excitement lasted, Law took good care not to expose himself
unguarded in the streets. Shut up in the apartments of the Regent, he
was secure from all attack, and, whenever he ventured abroad, it was
either incognito, or in one of the Royal carriages, with a powerful
escort. An amusing anecdote is recorded of the detestation in which he
was held by the people, and the ill treatment he would have met, had
he fallen into their hands. A gentleman, of the name of Boursel, was
passing in his carriage down the Rue St. Antoine, when his further
progress was stayed by a hackneycoach that had blocked up the road. M.
Boursel's servant called impatiently to the hackneycoachman to get out
of the way, and, on his refusal, struck him a blow on the face. A crowd
was soon drawn together by the disturbance, and M. Boursel got out of
the carriage to restore order. The hackney-coachman, imagining that he
had now another assailant, bethought him of an expedient to rid himself
of both, and called out as loudly as he was able, "Help! help! murder!
murder! Here are Law and his servant going to kill me! Help! help!"
At this cry, the people came out of their shops, armed with sticks
and other weapons, while the mob gathered stones to inflict summary
vengeance upon the supposed financier. Happily for M. Boursel and his
servant, the door of the church of the Jesuits stood wide open, and,
seeing the fearful odds against them, they rushed towards it with all
speed. They reached the altar, pursued by the people, and would have
been ill treated even there, if, finding the door open leading to the
sacristy, they had not sprang through, and closed it after them. The
mob were then persuaded to leave the church by the alarmed and indignant
priests; and, finding M. Boursel's carriage still in the streets, they
vented their ill-will against it, and did it considerable damage.

The twenty-five millions secured on the municipal revenues of the city
of Paris, bearing so low an interest as two and a half per cent., were
not very popular among the large holders of Mississippi stock. The
conversion of the securities was, therefore, a work of considerable
difficulty; for many preferred to retain the falling paper of Law's
Company, in the hope that a favourable turn might take place. On the
15th of August, with a view to hasten the conversion, an edict was
passed, declaring that all notes for sums between one thousand and ten
thousand livres; should not pass current, except for the purchase of
annuities and bank accounts, or for the payment of instalments still due
on the shares of the company.

In October following another edict was passed, depriving these notes
of all value whatever after the month of November next ensuing. The
management of the mint, the farming of the revenue, and all the other
advantages and privileges of the India, or Mississippi Company, were
taken from them, and they were reduced to a mere private company. This
was the deathblow to the whole system, which had now got into the hands
of its enemies. Law had lost all influence in the Council of Finance,
and the company, being despoiled of its immunities, could no longer hold
out the shadow of a prospect of being able to fulfil its engagements.
All those suspected of illegal profits at the time the public delusion
was at its height, were sought out and amerced in heavy fines. It was
previously ordered that a list of the original proprietors should be
made out, and that such persons as still retained their shares should
place them in deposit with the company, and that those who had neglected
to complete the shares for which they had put down their names, should
now purchase them of the company, at the rate of 13,500 livres for each
share of 500 livres. Rather than submit to pay this enormous sum for
stock which was actually at a discount, the shareholders packed up all
their portable effects, and endeavoured to find a refuge in foreign
countries. Orders were immediately issued to the authorities at the
ports and frontiers, to apprehend all travellers who sought to leave the
kingdom, and keep them in custody, until it was ascertained whether
they had any plate or jewellery with them, or were concerned in the late
stock-jobbing. Against such few as escaped, the punishment of death was
recorded, while the most arbitrary proceedings were instituted against
those who remained.

Law himself, in a moment of despair, determined to leave a country where
his life was no longer secure. He at first only demanded permission to
retire from Paris to one of his country-seats; a permission which the
Regent cheerfully granted. The latter was much affected at the unhappy
turn affairs had taken, but his faith continued unmoved in the truth
and efficacy of Law's financial system. His eyes were opened to his own
errors, and during the few remaining years of his life, he constantly
longed for an opportunity of again establishing the system upon a
securer basis. At Law's last interview with the Prince, he is reported
to have said--"I confess that I have committed many faults; I committed
them because I am a man, and all men are liable to error; but I
declare to you most solemnly that none of them proceeded from wicked
or dishonest motives, and that nothing of the kind will be found in the
whole course of my conduct."

Two or three days after his departure the Regent sent him a very kind
letter, permitting him to leave the kingdom whenever he pleased, and
stating that he had ordered his passports to be made ready. He at
the same time offered him any sum of money he might require. Law
respectfully declined the money, and set out for Brussels in a
postchaise belonging to Madame de Prie, the mistress of the Duke of
Bourbon, escorted by six horse-guards. From thence he proceeded to
Venice, where he remained for some months, the object of the greatest
curiosity to the people, who believed him to be the possessor of
enormous wealth. No opinion, however, could be more erroneous. With
more generosity than could have been expected from a man who during the
greatest part of his life had been a professed gambler, he had refused
to enrich himself at the expense of a ruined nation. During the height
of the popular frenzy for Mississippi stock, he had never doubted of
the final success of his projects, in making France the richest and most
powerful nation of Europe. He invested all his gains in the purchase
of landed property in France--a sure proof of his own belief in the
stability of his schemes. He had hoarded no plate or jewellery, and sent
no money, like the dishonest jobbers, to foreign countries. His all,
with the exception of one diamond, worth about five or six thousand
pounds sterling, was invested in the French soil; and when he left that
country, he left it almost a beggar. This fact alone ought to rescue
his memory from the charge of knavery, so often and so unjustly brought
against him.

As soon as his departure was known, all his estates and his valuable
library were confiscated. Among the rest, an annuity of 200,000 livres,
(8000 pounds sterling,) on the lives of his wife and children, which
had been purchased for five millions of livres, was forfeited,
notwithstanding that a special edict, drawn up for the purpose in the
days of his prosperity, had expressly declared that it should never be
confiscated for any cause whatever. Great discontent existed among the
people that Law had been suffered to escape. The mob and the Parliament
would have been pleased to have seen him hanged. The few who had not
suffered by the commercial revolution, rejoiced that the quack had
left the country; but all those (and they were by far the most numerous
class) whose fortunes were implicated, regretted that his intimate
knowledge of the distress of the country, and of the causes that had led
to it, had not been rendered more available in discovering a remedy.

At a meeting of the Council of Finance, and the general council of the
Regency, documents were laid upon the table, from which it appeared that
the amount of notes in circulation was 2700 millions. The Regent was
called upon to explain how it happened that there was a discrepancy
between the dates at which these issues were made, and those of the
edicts by which they were authorised. He might have safely taken the
whole blame upon himself, but he preferred that an absent man should
bear a share of it, and he therefore stated that Law, upon his own
authority, had issued 1200 millions of notes at different times, and
that he (the Regent) seeing that the thing had been irrevocably done,
had screened Law, by antedating the decrees of the council, which
authorised the augmentation. It would have been more to his credit if he
had told the whole truth while he was about it, and acknowledged that
it was mainly through his extravagance and impatience that Law had
been induced to overstep the bounds of safe speculation. It was also
ascertained that the national debt, on the 1st of January, 1721,
amounted to upwards of $100 millions of livres, or more than 124,000,000
pounds sterling, the interest upon which was 3,196,000 pounds. A
commission, or visa, was forthwith appointed to examine into all the
securities of the state creditors, who were to be divided into five
classes, the first four comprising those who had purchased their
securities with real effects, and the latter comprising those who could
give no proofs that the transactions they had entered into were real and
bona fide. The securities of the latter were ordered to be destroyed,
while those of the first four classes were subjected to a most rigid and
jealous scrutiny. The result of the labours of the visa was a report,
in which they counselled the reduction of the interest upon these
securities to fifty-six millions of livres. They justified this advice
by a statement of the various acts of peculation and extortion which
they had discovered, and an edict to that effect was accordingly
published and duly registered by the parliaments of the kingdom.

Another tribunal was afterwards established, under the title of the
Chambre de l'Arsenal, which took cognizance of all the malversations
committed in the financial departments of the government during the late
unhappy period. A Master of Requests, named Falhonet, together with
the Abbe Clement, and two clerks in their employ, had been concerned
in divers acts of peculation, to the amount of upwards of a million of
livres. The first two were sentenced to be beheaded, and the latter
to be hanged; but their punishment was afterwards commuted into
imprisonment for life in the Bastile. Numerous other acts of dishonesty
were discovered, and punished by fine and imprisonment.

D'Argenson shared with Law and the Regent the unpopularity which had
alighted upon all those concerned in the Mississippi madness. He was
dismissed from his post of Chancellor, to make room for D'Aguesseau; but
he retained the title of Keeper of the Seals, and was allowed to attend
the councils whenever he pleased. He thought it better, however, to
withdraw from Paris, and live for a time a life of seclusion at his
country-seat. But he was not formed for retirement, and becoming moody
and discontented, he aggravated a disease under which he had long
laboured, and died in less than a twelvemonth. The populace of of Paris
so detested him, that they carried their hatred even to his grave.
As his funeral procession passed to the church of St. Nicholas du
Chardonneret, the burying-place of his family, it was beset by a riotous
mob, and his two sons, who were following as chief-mourners, were
obliged to drive as fast as they were able down a by-street to escape
personal violence.

As regards Law, he for some time entertained a hope that he should be
recalled to France, to aid in establishing its credit upon a firmer
basis. The death of the Regent, in 1723, who expired suddenly, as he
was sitting by the fireside conversing with his mistress, the Duchess
de Phalaris, deprived him of that hope, and he was reduced to lead
his former life of gambling. He was more than once obliged to pawn
his diamond, the sole remnant of his vast wealth, but successful play
generally enabled him to redeem it. Being persecuted by his creditors at
Rome, he proceeded to Copenhagen, where he received permission from the
English ministry to reside in his native country, his pardon for the
murder of Mr. Wilson having been sent over to him in 1719. He was
brought over in the admiral's ship, a circumstance which gave occasion
for a short debate in the House of Lords. Earl Coningsby complained that
a man, who had renounced both his country and his religion, should
have been treated with such honour, and expressed his belief that his
presence in England, at a time when the people were so bewildered by the
nefarious practices of the South Sea directors, would be attended with
no little danger. He gave notice of a motion on the subject; but it
was allowed to drop, no other member of the House having the slightest
participation in his lordship's fears. Law remained for about four years
in England, and then proceeded to Venice, where he died in 1729, in
very embarrassed circumstances. The following epitaph was written at the

     "Ci git cet Ecossais celebre,
     Ce calculateur sans egal,
     Qui, par les regles de l'algebre,
     A mis la France a l'Hopital."

His brother, William Law, who had been concerned with him in the
administration both of the Bank and the Louisiana Company, was
imprisoned in the Bastile for alleged malversation, but no guilt was
ever proved against him. He was liberated after fifteen months, and
became the founder of a family, which is still known in France under the
title of Marquises of Lauriston.

In the next chapter will be found an account of the madness which
infected the people of England at the same time, and under very similar
circumstances, but which, thanks to the energies and good sense of a
constitutional government, was attended with results far less disastrous
than those which were seen in France.


     At length corruption, like a general flood,
     Did deluge all, and avarice creeping on,
     Spread, like a low-born mist, and hid the sun.
     Statesmen and patriots plied alike the stocks,
     Peeress and butler shared alike the box;
     And judges jobbed, and bishops bit the town,
     And mighty dukes packed cards for half-a-crown:
     Britain was sunk in lucre's sordid charms.

The South Sea Company was originated by the celebrated Harley, Earl
of Oxford, in the year 1711, with the view of restoring public credit,
which had suffered by the dismissal of the Whig ministry, and of
providing for the discharge of the army and navy debentures, and other
parts of the floating debt, amounting to nearly ten millions sterling.
A company of merchants, at that time without a name, took this debt
upon themselves, and the government agreed to secure them, for a certain
period, the interest of six per cent. To provide for this interest,
amounting to 600,000 pounds per annum, the duties upon wines, vinegar,
India goods, wrought silks, tobacco, whale-fins, and some other
articles, were rendered permanent. The monopoly of the trade to the
South Seas was granted, and the company, being incorporated by Act of
Parliament, assumed the title by which it has ever since been known. The
minister took great credit to himself for his share in this transaction,
and the scheme was always called by his flatterers "the Earl of Oxford's

Even at this early period of its history, the most visionary ideas
were formed by the company and the public of the immense riches of the
eastern coast of South America. Everybody had heard of the gold
and silver mines of Peru and Mexico; every one believed them to be
inexhaustible, and that it was only necessary to send the manufactures
of England to the coast, to be repaid a hundredfold in gold and silver
ingots by the natives. A report, industriously spread, that Spain was
willing to concede four ports, on the coasts of Chili and Peru, for
the purposes of traffic, increased the general confidence; and for many
years the South Sea Company's stock was in high favour.

Philip V of Spain, however, never had any intention of admitting the
English to a free trade in the ports of Spanish America. Negotiations
were set on foot, but their only result was the assiento contract, or
the privilege of supplying the colonies with negroes for thirty years,
and of sending once a year a vessel, limited both as to tonnage and
value of cargo, to trade with Mexico, Peru, or Chili. The latter
permission was only granted upon the hard condition, that the King of
Spain should enjoy one-fourth of the profits, and a tax of five per
cent. on the remainder. This was a great disappointment to the Earl of
Oxford and his party, who were reminded much oftener than they found
agreeable of the

     "Parturiunt montes, nascitur ridiculus mus."

But the public confidence in the South Sea Company was not shaken. The
Earl of Oxford declared, that Spain would permit two ships, in addition
to the annual ship, to carry out merchandise during the first year;
and a list was published, in which all the ports and harbours of these
coasts were pompously set forth as open to the trade of Great Britain.
The first voyage of the annual ship was not made till the year 1717,
and in the following year the trade was suppressed by the rupture with

The King's speech, at the opening of the session of 1717, made pointed
allusion to the state of public credit, and recommended that proper
measures should be taken to reduce the national debt. The two great
monetary corporations, the South Sea Company and the Bank of England,
made proposals to Parliament on the 20th of May ensuing. The South
Sea Company prayed that their capital stock of ten millions might be
increased to twelve, by subscription or otherwise, and offered to accept
five per cent. instead of six upon the whole amount. The Bank made
proposals equally advantageous. The House debated for some time, and
finally three acts were passed, called the South Sea Act, the Bank Act,
and the General Fund Act. By the first, the proposals of the South Sea
Company were accepted, and that body held itself ready to advance the
sum of two millions towards discharging the principal and interest of
the debt due by the state for the four lottery funds of the ninth and
tenth years of Queen Anne. By the second act, the Bank received a lower
rate of interest for the sum of 1,775,027 pounds 15 shillings due to it
by the state, and agreed to deliver up to be cancelled as many Exchequer
bills as amounted to two millions sterling, and to accept of an annuity
of one hundred thousand pounds, being after the rate of five per cent,
the whole redeemable at one year's notice. They were further required
to be ready to advance, in case of need, a sum not exceeding 2,500,000
pounds upon the same terms of five per cent interest, redeemable by
Parliament. The General Fund Act recited the various deficiencies, which
were to be made good by the aids derived from the foregoing sources.

The name of the South Sea Company was thus continually before the
public. Though their trade with the South American States produced
little or no augmentation of their revenues, they continued to flourish
as a monetary corporation. Their stock was in high request, and the
directors, buoyed up with success, began to think of new means for
extending their influence. The Mississippi scheme of John Law, which
so dazzled and captivated the French people, inspired them with an
idea that they could carry on the same game in England. The anticipated
failure of his plans did not divert them from their intention. Wise in
their own conceit, they imagined they could avoid his faults, carry on
their schemes for ever, and stretch the cord of credit to its extremest
tension, without causing it to snap asunder.

It was while Law's plan was at its greatest height of popularity, while
people were crowding in thousands to the Rue Quincampoix, and ruining
themselves with frantic eagerness, that the South Sea directors laid
before Parliament their famous plan for paying off the national debt.
Visions of boundless wealth floated before the fascinated eyes of the
people in the two most celebrated countries of Europe. The English
commenced their career of extravagance somewhat later than the French;
but as soon as the delirium seized them, they were determined not to be
outdone. Upon the 22nd of January 1720, the House of Commons resolved
itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration
that part of the King's speech at the opening of the session which
related to the public debts, and the proposal of the South Sea Company
towards the redemption and sinking of the same. The proposal set forth
at great length, and under several heads, the debts of the state,
amounting to 30,981,712 pounds, which the Company were anxious to take
upon themselves, upon consideration of five per cent. per annum, secured
to them until Midsummer 1727; after which time, the whole was to become
redeemable at the pleasure of the legislature, and the interest to be
reduced to four per cent. The proposal was received with great favour;
but the Bank of England had many friends in the House of Commons, who
were desirous that that body should share in the advantages that were
likely to accrue. On behalf of this corporation it was represented, that
they had performed great and eminent services to the state, in the most
difficult times, and deserved, at least, that if any advantage was to be
made by public bargains of this nature, they should be preferred before
a company that had never done any thing for the nation. The further
consideration of the matter was accordingly postponed for five days.
In the mean time, a plan was drawn up by the Governors of the Bank.
The South Sea Company, afraid that the Bank might offer still more
advantageous terms to the government than themselves, reconsidered their
former proposal, and made some alterations in it, which they hoped would
render it more acceptable. The principal change was a stipulation that
the government might redeem these debts at the expiration of four years,
instead of seven, as at first suggested. The Bank resolved not to be
outbidden in this singular auction, and the Governors also reconsidered
their first proposal, and sent in a new one.

Thus, each corporation having made two proposals, the House began to
deliberate. Mr. Robert Walpole was the chief speaker in favour of the
Bank, and Mr. Aislabie, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the principal
advocate on behalf of the South Sea Company. It was resolved, on the 2nd
of February, that the proposals of the latter were most advantageous
to the country. They were accordingly received, and leave was given to
bring in a bill to that effect.

Exchange Alley was in a fever of excitement. The Company's stock, which
had been at a hundred and thirty the previous day, gradually rose to
three hundred, and continued to rise with the most astonishing rapidity
during the whole time that the bill in its several stages was under
discussion. Mr. Walpole was almost the only statesman in the House who
spoke out boldly against it. He warned them, in eloquent and solemn
language, of the evils that would ensue. It countenanced, he said, "the
dangerous practice of stockjobbing, and would divert the genius of the
nation from trade and industry. It would hold out a dangerous lure to
decoy the unwary to their ruin, by making them part with the earnings of
their labour for a prospect of imaginary wealth." The great principle
of the project was an evil of first-rate magnitude; it was to raise
artificially the value of the stock, by exciting and keeping up a
general infatuation, and by promising dividends out of funds which could
never be adequate to the purpose. In a prophetic spirit he added,
that if the plan succeeded, the directors would become masters of the
government, form a new and absolute aristocracy in the kingdom, and
control the resolutions of the legislature. If it failed, which he was
convinced it would, the result would bring general discontent and ruin
upon the country. Such would be the delusion, that when the evil day
came, as come it would, the people would start up, as from a dream, and
ask themselves if these things could have been true. All his eloquence
was in vain. He was looked upon as a false prophet, or compared to the
hoarse raven, croaking omens of evil. His friends, however, compared him
to Cassandra, predicting evils which would only be believed when they
came home to men's hearths, and stared them in the face at their own
boards. Although, in former times, the House had listened with the
utmost attention to every word that fell from his lips, the benches
became deserted when it was known that he would speak on the South Sea

The bill was two months in its progress through the House of Commons.
During this time every exertion was made by the directors and their
friends, and more especially by the Chairman, the noted Sir John Blunt,
to raise the price of the stock. The most extravagant rumours were in
circulation. Treaties between England and Spain were spoken of, whereby
the latter was to grant a free trade to all her colonies; and the rich
produce of the mines of Potosi-la-Paz was to be brought to England until
silver should become almost as plentiful as iron. For cotton and woollen
goods, with which we could supply them in abundance, the dwellers
in Mexico were to empty their golden mines. The company of merchants
trading to the South Seas would be the richest the world ever saw, and
every hundred pounds invested in it would produce hundreds per annum
to the stockholder. At last the stock was raised by these means to
near four hundred; but, after fluctuating a good deal, settled at three
hundred and thirty, at which price it remained when the bill passed the
Commons by a majority of 172 against 55.

In the House of Lords the bill was hurried through all its stages with
unexampled rapidity. On the 4th of April it was read a first time; on
the 5th, it was read a second time; on the 6th, it was committed; and on
the 7th, was read a third time, and passed.

Several peers spoke warmly against the scheme; but their warnings fell
upon dull, cold ears. A speculating frenzy had seized them as well
as the plebeians. Lord North and Grey said the bill was unjust in its
nature, and might prove fatal in its consequences, being calculated to
enrich the few and impoverish the many. The Duke of Wharton followed;
but, as he only retailed at second-hand the arguments so eloquently
stated by Walpole in the Lower House, he was not listened to with even
the same attention that had been bestowed upon Lord North and Grey. Earl
Cowper followed on the same side, and compared the bill to the famous
horse of the siege of Troy. Like that, it was ushered in and received
with great pomp and acclamations of joy, but bore within it treachery
and destruction. The Earl of Sunderland endeavoured to answer all
objections; and, on the question being put, there appeared only
seventeen peers against, and eighty-three in favour of the project.
The very same day on which it passed the Lords, it received the Royal
assent, and became the law of the land.

It seemed at that time as if the whole nation had turned stockjobbers.
Exchange Alley was every day blocked up by crowds, and Cornhill was
impassable for the number of carriages. Everybody came to purchase
stock. "Every fool aspired to be a knave." In the words of a ballad,
published at the time, and sung about the streets, ["A South Sea Ballad;
or, Merry Remarks upon Exchange Alley Bubbles. To a new tune, called
'The Grand Elixir; or, the Philosopher's Stone Discovered.'"]

     Then stars and garters did appear
     Among the meaner rabble;
     To buy and sell, to see and hear,
     The Jews and Gentiles squabble.

     The greatest ladies thither came,
     And plied in chariots daily,
     Or pawned their jewels for a sum
     To venture in the Alley.

The inordinate thirst of gain that had afflicted all ranks of society,
was not to be slaked even in the South Sea. Other schemes, of the most
extravagant kind, were started. The share-lists were speedily filled up,
and an enormous traffic carried on in shares, while, of course, every
means were resorted to, to raise them to an artificial value in the

Contrary to all expectation, South Sea stock fell when the bill received
the Royal assent. On the 7th of April the shares were quoted at three
hundred and ten, and on the following day, at two hundred and ninety.
Already the directors had tasted the profits of their scheme, and it was
not likely that they should quietly allow the stock to find its natural
level, without an effort to raise it. Immediately their busy emissaries
were set to work. Every person interested in the success of the
project endeavoured to draw a knot of listeners around him, to whom he
expatiated on the treasures of the South American seas. Exchange Alley
was crowded with attentive groups. One rumour alone, asserted with the
utmost confidence, had an immediate effect upon the stock. It was said,
that Earl Stanhope had received overtures in France from the Spanish
Government to exchange Gibraltar and Port Mahon for some places on the
coast of Peru, for the security and enlargement of the trade in the
South Seas. Instead of one annual ship trading to those ports, and
allowing the King of Spain twenty-five per cent. out of the profits, the
Company might build and charter as many ships as they pleased, and pay
no per centage whatever to any foreign potentate.

Visions of ingots danced before their eyes, and stock rose rapidly.
On the 12th of April, five days after the bill had become law, the
directors opened their books for a subscription of a million, at the
rate of 300 pounds for every 100 pounds capital. Such was the concourse
of persons, of all ranks, that this first subscription was found to
amount to above two millions of original stock. It was to be paid at
five payments, of 60 pounds each for every 100 pounds. In a few days the
stock advanced to three hundred and forty, and the subscriptions were
sold for double the price of the first payment. To raise the stock still
higher, it was declared, in a general court of directors, on the 21st of
April, that the midsummer dividend should be ten per cent., and that
all subscriptions should be entitled to the same. These resolutions
answering the end designed, the directors, to improve the infatuation
of the monied men, opened their books for a second subscription of a
million, at four hundred per cent. Such was the frantic eagerness of
people of every class to speculate in these funds, that in the course
of a few hours no less than a million and a half was subscribed at that

In the mean time, innumerable joint-stock companies started up
everywhere. They soon received the name of Bubbles, the most appropriate
that imagination could devise. The populace are often most happy in the
nicknames they employ. None could be more apt than that of Bubbles. Some
of them lasted for a week, or a fortnight, and were no more heard of,
while others could not even live out that short span of existence.
Every evening produced new schemes, and every morning new projects. The
highest of the aristocracy were as eager in this hot pursuit of gain
as the most plodding jobber in Cornhill. The Prince of Wales became
governor of one company, and is said to have cleared 40,000 pounds by
his speculations. [Coxe's Walpole, Correspondence between Mr. Secretary
Craggs and Earl Stanhope.] The Duke of Bridgewater started a scheme
for the improvement of London and Westminster, and the Duke of Chandos
another. There were nearly a hundred different projects, each more
extravagant and deceptive than the other. To use the words of the
"Political State," they were "set on foot and promoted by crafty knaves,
then pursued by multitudes of covetous fools, and at last appeared to
be, in effect, what their vulgar appellation denoted them to be--bubbles
and mere cheats." It was computed that near one million and a half
sterling was won and lost by these unwarrantable practices, to the
impoverishment of many a fool, and the enriching of many a rogue.

Some of these schemes were plausible enough, and, had they been
undertaken at a time when the public mind was unexcited, might have
been pursued with advantage to all concerned. But they were established
merely with the view of raising the shares in the market. The projectors
took the first opportunity of a rise to sell out, and next morning
the scheme was at an end. Maitland, in his History of London, gravely
informs us, that one of the projects which received great encouragement,
was for the establishment of a company "to make deal-boards out of
saw-dust." This is, no doubt, intended as a joke; but there is
abundance of evidence to show that dozens of schemes hardly a whir more
reasonable, lived their little day, ruining hundreds ere they fell.
One of them was for a wheel for perpetual motion--capital, one million;
another was "for encouraging the breed of horses in England, and
improving of glebe and church lands, and repairing and rebuilding
parsonage and vicarage houses." Why the clergy, who were so mainly
interested in the latter clause, should have taken so much interest in
the first, is only to be explained on the supposition that the scheme
was projected by a knot of the foxhunting parsons, once so common in
England. The shares of this company were rapidly subscribed for. But the
most absurd and preposterous of all, and which showed, more completely
than any other, the utter madness of the people, was one, started by an
unknown adventurer, entitled "company for carrying on an undertaking
of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is." Were not the fact
stated by scores of credible witnesses, it would be impossible to
believe that any person could have been duped by such a project. The
man of genius who essayed this bold and successful inroad upon public
credulity, merely stated in his prospectus that the required capital was
half a million, in five thousand shares of 100 pounds each, deposit 2
pounds per share. Each subscriber, paying his deposit, would be entitled
to 100 pounds per annum per share. How this immense profit was to
be obtained, he did not condescend to inform them at that time, but
promised, that in a month full particulars should be duly announced,
and a call made for the remaining 98 pounds of the subscription. Next
morning, at nine o'clock, this great man opened an office in Cornhill.
Crowds of people beset his door, and when he shut up at three o'clock,
he found that no less than one thousand shares had been subscribed for,
and the deposits paid. He was thus, in five hours, the winner of 2,000
pounds. He was philosopher enough to be contented with his venture, and
set off the same evening for the Continent. He was never heard of again.

Well might Swift exclaim, comparing Change Alley to a gulf in the South

     Subscribers here by thousands float,
     And jostle one another down,
     Each paddling in his leaky boat,
     And here they fish for gold, and drown.

     Now buried in the depths below,
     Now mounted up to heaven again,
     They reel and stagger to and fro,
     At their wit's end, like drunken men

     Meantime, secure on Garraway cliffs,
     A savage race, by shipwrecks fed,
     Lie waiting for the foundered skiffs,
     And strip the bodies of the dead.

Another fraud that was very successful, was that of the "Globe Permits,"
as they were called. They were nothing more than square pieces of
playing cards, on which was the impression of a seal, in wax, bearing
the sign of the Globe Tavern, in the neighbourhood of Exchange Alley,
with the inscription of "Sail Cloth Permits." The possessors enjoyed no
other advantage from them than permission to subscribe, at some future
time, to a new sail-cloth manufactory, projected by one who was then
known to be a man of fortune, but who was afterwards involved in the
peculation and punishment of the South Sea directors. These permits sold
for as much as sixty guineas in the Alley.

Persons of distinction, of both sexes, were deeply engaged in all these
bubbles, those of the male sex going to taverns and coffee-houses to
meet their brokers, and the ladies resorting for the same purpose to
the shops of milliners and haberdashers. But it did not follow that all
these people believed in the feasibility of the schemes to which they
subscribed; it was enough for their purpose that their shares would, by
stock-jobbing arts, be soon raised to a premium, when they got rid
of them with all expedition to the really credulous. So great was the
confusion of the crowd in the alley, that shares in the same bubble were
known to have been sold at the same instant ten per cent. higher at
one end of the alley than at the other. Sensible men beheld the
extraordinary infatuation of the people with sorrow and alarm. There
were some, both in and out of Parliament, who foresaw clearly the ruin
that was impending. Mr. Walpole did not cease his gloomy forebodings.
His fears were shared by all the thinking few, and impressed most
forcibly upon the government. On the 11th of June, the day the
Parliament rose, the King published a proclamation, declaring that
all these unlawful projects should be deemed public nuisances, and
prosecuted accordingly, and forbidding any broker, under a penalty
of five hundred pounds, from buying or selling any shares in them.
Notwithstanding this proclamation, roguish speculators still carried
them on, and the deluded people still encouraged them. On the 12th of
July, an order of the Lords Justices assembled in privy council was
published, dismissing all the petitions that had been presented for
patents and charters, and dissolving all the bubble companies. The
following copy of their lordships' order, containing a list of all these
nefarious projects, will not be deemed uninteresting at the present day,
when there is but too much tendency in the public mind to indulge in
similar practices:--

"At the Council Chamber, Whitehall, the 12th day of July, 1720. Present,
their Excellencies the Lords Justices in Council.

"Their Excellencies, the Lords Justices in council, taking into
consideration the many inconveniences arising to the public from several
projects set on foot for raising of joint stock for various purposes,
and that a great many of his Majesty's subjects have been drawn in to
part with their money on pretence of assurances that their petitions
for patents and charters, to enable them to carry on the same, would
be granted: to prevent such impositions, their Excellencies, this day,
ordered the said several petitions, together with such reports from the
Board of Trade, and from his Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor General,
as had been obtained thereon, to be laid before them, and after mature
consideration thereof, were pleased, by advice of his Majesty's Privy
Council, to order that the said petitions be dismissed, which are as

"1. Petition of several persons, praying letters patent for carrying on
a fishing trade, by the name of the Grand Fishery of Great Britain.

"2. Petition of the Company of the Royal Fishery of England, praying
letters patent for such further powers as will effectually contribute to
carry on the said fishery.

"3. Petition of George James, on behalf of himself and divers persons of
distinction concerned in a national fishery; praying letters patent of
incorporation to enable them to carry on the same.

"4. Petition of several merchants, traders, and others, whose names
are thereunto subscribed, praying to be incorporated for reviving and
carrying on a whale fishery to Greenland and elsewhere.

"5. Petition of Sir John Lambert, and others thereto subscribing, on
behalf of themselves and a great number of merchants, praying to be
incorporated for carrying on a Greenland trade, and particularly a whale
fishery in Davis's Straits.

"6. Another petition for a Greenland trade.

"7. Petition of several merchants, gentlemen, and citizens, praying to
be incorporated, for buying and building of ships to let or freight.

"8. Petition of Samuel Antrim and others, praying for letters patent for
sowing hemp and flax.

"9. Petition of several merchants, masters of ships, sail-makers, and
manufacturers of sail-cloth, praying a charter of incorporation, to
enable them to carry on and promote the said manufactory by a joint

"10. Petition of Thomas Boyd, and several hundred merchants, owners
and masters of ships, sailmakers, weavers, and other traders, praying a
charter of incorporation, empowering them to borrow money for purchasing
lands, in order to the manufacturing sail-cloth and fine Holland.

"11. Petition on behalf of several persons interested in a patent
granted by the late King William and Queen Mary, for the making of linen
and sail-cloth, praying that no charter may be granted to any persons
whatsoever for making sail-cloth, but that the privilege now enjoyed by
them may be confirmed, and likewise an additional power to carry on the
cotton and cotton-silk manufactures.

"12. Petition of several citizens, merchants, and traders in London,
and others, subscribers to a British stock, for a general insurance from
fire in any part of England, praying to be incorporated for carrying on
the said undertaking.

"13. Petition of several of his Majesty's loyal subjects of the city of
London, and other parts of Great Britain, praying to be incorporated,
for carrying on a general insurance from losses by fire within the
kingdom of England.

"14. Petition of Thomas Burges, and others his Majesty's subjects
thereto subscribing, in behalf of themselves and others, subscribers
to a fund of 1,200,000 pounds, for carrying on a trade to his Majesty's
German dominions, praying to be incorporated, by the name of the Harburg

"15. Petition of Edward Jones, a dealer in timber, on behalf of himself
and others, praying to be incorporated for the importation of timber
from Germany.

"16. Petition of several merchants of London, praying a charter of
incorporation for carrying on a salt-work.

"17. Petition of Captain Macphedris, of London, merchant, on behalf
of himself and several merchants, clothiers, hatters, dyers, and other
traders, praying a charter of incorporation, empowering them to raise
a sufficient sum of money to purchase lands for planting and rearing a
wood called madder, for the use of dyers.

"18. Petition of Joseph Galendo, of London, snuff-maker, praying a
patent for his invention to prepare and cure Virginia tobacco for
snuff in Virginia, and making it into the same in all his Majesty's


The following Bubble Companies were by the same order declared to be
illegal, and abolished accordingly:--

1. For the importation of Swedish iron.

2. For supplying London with sea-coal. Capital, three millions.

3. For building and rebuilding houses throughout all England. Capital,
three millions.

4. For making of muslin.

5. For carrying on and improving the British alum works.

6. For effectually settling the island of Blanco and Sal Tartagus.

7. For supplying the town of Deal with fresh water.

8. For the importation of Flanders lace.

9. For improvement of lands in Great Britain. Capital, four millions.

10. For encouraging the breed of horses in England, and improving of
glebe and church lands, and for repairing and rebuilding parsonage and
vicarage houses.

11. For making of iron and steel in Great Britain.

12. For improving the land in the county of Flint. Capital, one million.

13. For purchasing lands to build on. Capital, two millions.

14. For trading in hair.

15. For erecting salt-works in Holy Island. Capital, two millions.

16. For buying and selling estates, and lending money on mortgage.

17. For carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to
know what it is.

18. For paving the streets of London. Capital, two millions.

19. For furnishing funerals to any part of Great Britain.

20. For buying and selling lands and lending money at interest. Capital,
five millions.

21. For carrying on the Royal Fishery of Great Britain. Capital, ten

22. For assuring of seamen's wages.

23. For erecting loan-offices for the assistance and encouragement of
the industrious. Capital, two millions.

24. For purchasing and improving leasable lands. Capital, four millions.

25. For importing pitch and tar, and other naval stores, from North
Britain and America.

26. For the clothing, felt, and pantile trade.

27. For purchasing and improving a manor and royalty in Essex.

28. For insuring of horses. Capital, two millions.

29. For exporting the woollen manufacture, and importing copper, brass,
and iron. Capital, four millions.

30. For a grand dispensary. Capital, three millions.

31. For erecting mills and purchasing lead mines. Capital, two millions.

32. For improving the art of making soap.

33. For a settlement on the island of Santa Cruz.

34. For sinking pits and smelting lead ore in Derbyshire.

35. For making glass bottles and other glass.

36. For a wheel for perpetual motion. Capital, one million.

37. For improving of gardens.

38. For insuring and increasing children's fortunes.

39. For entering and loading goods at the custom-house, and for
negotiating business for merchants.

40. For carrying on a woollen manufacture in the north of England.

41. For importing walnut-trees from Virginia. Capital, two millions.

42. For making Manchester stuffs of thread and cotton.

43. For making Joppa and Castile soap.

44. For improving the wrought-iron and steel manufactures of this
kingdom. Capital, four millions.

45. For dealing in lace, Hollands, cambrics, lawns, &c. Capital, two

46. For trading in and improving certain commodities of the produce of
this kingdom, &c. Capital, three millions.

47. For supplying the London markets with cattle.

48. For making looking-glasses, coach glasses, &c. Capital, two

49. For working the tin and lead mines in Cornwall and Derbyshire.

50. For making rape-oil.

51. For importing beaver fur. Capital, two millions.

52. For making pasteboard and packing-paper.

53. For importing of oils and other materials used in the woollen

54. For improving and increasing the silk manufactures.

55. For lending money on stock, annuities, tallies, &c.

56. For paying pensions to widows and others, at a small discount.
Capital, two millions.

57. For improving malt liquors. Capital, four millions.

58. For a grand American fishery.

59. For purchasing and improving the fenny lands in Lincolnshire.
Capital, two millions.

60. For improving the paper manufacture of Great Britain.

61. The Bottomry Company.

62. For drying malt by hot air.

63. For carrying on a trade in the river Oronooko.

64. For the more effectual making of baize, in Colchester and other
parts of Great Britain.

65. For buying of naval stores, supplying the victualling, and paying
the wages of the workmen.

66. For employing poor artificers, and furnishing merchants and others
with watches.

67. For improvement of tillage and the breed of cattle.

68. Another for the improvement of our breed of horses.

69. Another for a horse-insurance.

70. For carrying on the corn trade of Great Britain.

71. For insuring to all masters and mistresses the losses they may
sustain by servants. Capital, three millions.

72. For erecting houses or hospitals, for taking in and maintaining
illegitimate children. Capital, two millions.

73. For bleaching coarse sugars, without the use of fire or loss of

74. For building turnpikes and wharfs in Great Britain.

75. For insuring from thefts and robberies.

76. For extracting silver from lead.

77. For making China and Delft ware. Capital, one million.

78. For importing tobacco, and exporting it again to Sweden and the
north of Europe. Capital, four millions.

79. For making iron with pit coal.

80. For furnishing the cities of London and Westminster with hay and
straw. Capital, three millions.

81. For a sail and packing cloth manufactory in Ireland.

82. For taking up ballast.

83. For buying and fitting out ships to suppress pirates.

84. For the importation of timber from Wales. Capital, two millions.

85. For rock-salt.

86. For the transmutation of quicksilver into a malleable fine metal.

Besides these bubbles, many others sprang up daily, in spite of the
condemnation of the Government and the ridicule of the still sane
portion of the public. The print-shops teemed with caricatures, and
the newspapers with epigrams and satires, upon the prevalent folly. An
ingenious card-maker published a pack of South Sea playing-cards, which
are now extremely rare, each card containing, besides the usual figures,
of a very small size, in one corner, a caricature of a bubble company,
with appropriate verses underneath. One of the most famous bubbles
was "Puckle's Machine Company," for discharging round and square
cannon-balls and bullets, and making a total revolution in the art of
war. Its pretensions to public favour were thus summed up, on the eight
of spades:--

     A rare invention to destroy the crowd
     Of fools at home, instead of fools abroad.
     Fear not, my friends, this terrible machine,
     They're only wounded who have shares therein.

     The nine of hearts was a caricature of the English Copper and Brass
     Company, with the following epigram:--

     The headlong fool that wants to be a swopper
     Of gold and silver coin for English copper,
     May, in Change Alley, prove himself an ass,
     And give rich metal for adulterate brass.

     The eight of diamonds celebrated the Company for the Colonization of
     Acadia, with this doggrel:--

     He that is rich and wants to fool away
     A good round sum in North America,
     Let him subscribe himself a headlong sharer,
     And asses' ears shall honour him or bearer.

And in a similar style every card of the pack exposed some knavish
scheme, and ridiculed the persons who were its dupes. It was computed
that the total amount of the sums proposed for carrying on these
projects was upwards of three hundred millions sterling, a sum so
immense that it exceeded the value of all the lands in England at twenty
years' purchase.

It is time, however, to return to the great South Sea gulf, that
swallowed the fortunes of so many thousands of the avaricious and the
credulous. On the 29th of May, the stock had risen as high as five
hundred, and about two-thirds of the government annuitants had exchanged
the securities of the state for those of the South Sea Company. During
the whole of the month of May the stock continued to rise, and on the
28th it was quoted at five hundred and fifty. In four days after this it
took a prodigious leap, rising suddenly from five hundred and fifty to
eight hundred and ninety. It was now the general opinion that the stock
could rise no higher, and many persons took that opportunity of selling
out, with a view of realising their profits. Many noblemen and persons
in the train of the King, and about to accompany him to Hanover, were
also anxious to sell out. So many sellers, and so few buyers, appeared
in the Alley on the 3rd of June, that the stock fell at once from eight
hundred and ninety to six hundred and forty. The directors were alarmed,
and gave their agents orders to buy. Their efforts succeeded. Towards
evening confidence was restored, and the stock advanced to seven hundred
and fifty. It continued at this price, with some slight fluctuation,
until the company closed their books on the 22nd of June.

It would be needless and uninteresting to detail the various arts
employed by the directors to keep up the price of stock. It will be
sufficient to state that it finally rose to one thousand per cent. It
was quoted at this price in the commencement of August. The bubble
was then full-blown, and began to quiver and shake, preparatory to its

Many of the government annuitants expressed dissatisfaction against the
directors. They accused them of partiality in making out the lists for
shares in each subscription. Further uneasiness was occasioned by
its being generally known that Sir John Blunt, the chairman, and some
others, had sold out. During the whole of the month of August the stock
fell, and on the 2nd of September it was quoted at seven hundred only.

The state of things now became alarming. To prevent, if possible,
the utter extinction of public confidence in their proceedings, the
directors summoned a general court of the whole corporation, to meet in
Merchant Tailors' Hall, on the 8th of September. By nine o'clock in the
morning, the room was filled to suffocation; Cheapside was blocked up
by a crowd unable to gain admittance, and the greatest excitement
prevailed. The directors and their friends mustered in great numbers.
Sir John Fellowes, the sub-governor, was called to the chair. He
acquainted the assembly with the cause of their meeting, read to them
the several resolutions of the court of directors, and gave them an
account of their proceedings; of the taking in the redeemable and
unredeemable funds, and of the subscriptions in money. Mr. Secretary
Craggs then made a short speech, wherein he commended the conduct of the
directors, and urged that nothing could more effectually contribute to
the bringing this scheme to perfection than union among themselves. He
concluded with a motion for thanking the court of directors for their
prudent and skilful management, and for desiring them to proceed in such
manner as they should think most proper for the interest and advantage
of the corporation. Mr. Hungerford, who had rendered himself very
conspicuous in the House of Commons for his zeal in behalf of the South
Sea Company, and who was shrewdly suspected to have been a considerable
gainer by knowing the right time to sell out, was very magniloquent on
this occasion. He said that he had seen the rise and fall, the decay
and resurrection of many communities of this nature, but that, in his
opinion, none had ever performed such wonderful things in so short a
time as the South Sea Company. They had done more than the crown, the
pulpit, or the bench could do. They had reconciled all parties in one
common interest; they had laid asleep, if not wholly extinguished, all
the domestic jars and animosities of the nation. By the rise of their
stock, monied men had vastly increased their fortunes; country-gentlemen
had seen the value of their lands doubled and trebled in their hands.
They had at the same time done good to the Church, not a few of the
reverend clergy having got great sums by the project. In short, they
had enriched the whole nation, and he hoped they had not forgotten
themselves. There was some hissing at the latter part of this speech,
which for the extravagance of its eulogy was not far removed from
satire; but the directors and their friends, and all the winners in
the room, applauded vehemently. The Duke of Portland spoke in a
similar strain, and expressed his great wonder why anybody should be
dissatisfied: of course, he was a winner by his speculations, and in
a condition similar to that of the fat alderman in Joe Miller's Jests,
who, whenever he had eaten a good dinner, folded his hands upon his
paunch, and expressed his doubts whether there could be a hungry man in
the world.

Several resolutions were passed at this meeting, but they had no effect
upon the public. Upon the very same evening the stock fell to six
hundred and forty, and on the morrow to five hundred and forty. Day
after day it continued to fall, until it was as low as four hundred.
In a letter dated September 13th, from Mr. Broderick, M.P. to Lord
Chancellor Middleton, and published in Coxo's Walpole, the former
says,--"Various are the conjectures why the South Sea directors have
suffered the cloud to break so early. I made no doubt but they would do
so when they found it to their advantage. They have stretched credit
so far beyond what it would bear, that specie proves insufficient
to support it. Their most considerable men have drawn out, securing
themselves by the losses of the deluded, thoughtless numbers, whose
understandings have been overruled by avarice and the hope of making
mountains out of mole-hills. Thousands of families will be reduced
to beggary. The consternation is inexpressible--the rage beyond
description, and the case altogether so desperate that I do not see any
plan or scheme so much as thought of for averting the blow, so that I
cannot pretend to guess what is next to be done." Ten days afterwards,
the stock still falling, he writes,--"The Company have yet come to no
determination, for they are in such a wood that they know not which way
to turn. By several gentlemen lately come to town, I perceive the very
name of a South-Sea-man grows abominable in every country. A great many
goldsmiths are already run off, and more will daily. I question
whether one-third, nay, one-fourth, of them can stand it. From the
very beginning, I founded my judgment of the whole affair upon the
unquestionable maxim, that ten millions (which is more than our running
cash) could not circulate two hundred millions, beyond which our paper
credit extended. That, therefore, whenever that should become doubtful,
be the cause what it would, our noble state machine must inevitably fall
to the ground."

On the 12th of September, at the earnest solicitation of Mr. Secretary
Craggs, several conferences were held between the directors of the South
Sea and the directors of the Bank. A report which was circulated,
that the latter had agreed to circulate six millions of the South Sea
Company's bonds, caused the stock to rise to six hundred and seventy;
but in the afternoon, as soon as the report was known to be groundless,
the stock fell again to five hundred and eighty; the next day to five
hundred and seventy, and so gradually to four hundred. [Gay (the poet),
in that disastrous year, had a present from young Craggs of some South
Sea stock, and once supposed himself to be master of twenty thousand
pounds. His friends persuaded him to sell his share, but he dreamed of
dignity and splendour, and could not bear to obstruct his own fortune.
He was then importuned to sell as much as would purchase a hundred a
year for life, "which," says Fenton, "will make you sure of a clean
shirt and a shoulder of mutton every day." This counsel was rejected;
the profit and principal were lost, and Gay sunk under the calamity so
low that his life became in danger.--Johnson's Lives of the Poets.]

The ministry were seriously alarmed at the aspect of affairs. The
directors could not appear in the streets without being insulted;
dangerous riots were every moment apprehended. Despatches were sent off
to the King at Hanover, praying his immediate return. Mr. Walpole, who
was staying at his country-seat, was sent for, that he might employ his
known influence with the directors of the Bank of England to induce them
to accept the proposal made by the South Sea Company for circulating a
number of their bonds.

The Bank was very unwilling to mix itself up with the affairs of the
Company; it dreaded being involved in calamities which it could not
relieve, and received all overtures with visible reluctance. But the
universal voice of the nation called upon it to come to the rescue.
Every person of note in commercial politics was called in to advise in
the emergency. A rough draft of a contract drawn up by Mr. Walpole was
ultimately adopted as the basis of further negotiations, and the public
alarm abated a little.

On the following day, the 20th of September, a general court of
the South Sea Company was held at Merchant Tailors' Hall, in which
resolutions were carried, empowering the directors to agree with the
Bank of England, or any other persons, to circulate the Company's
bonds, or make any other agreement with the Bank which they should think
proper. One of the speakers, a Mr. Pulteney, said it was most surprising
to see the extraordinary panic which had seized upon the people. Men
were running to and fro in alarm and terror, their imaginations filled
with some great calamity, the form and dimensions of which nobody knew.

     "Black it stood as night--
     Fierce as ten furies--terrible as hell."

At a general court of the Bank of England held two days afterwards, the
governor informed them of the several meetings that had been held on the
affairs of the South Sea Company, adding that the directors had not yet
thought fit to come to any decision upon the matter. A resolution was
then proposed, and carried without a dissentient voice, empowering the
directors to agree with those of the South Sea to circulate their bonds,
to what sum, and upon what terms, and for what time, they might think

Thus both parties were at liberty to act as they might judge best for
the public interest. Books were opened at the Bank for a subscription of
three millions for the support of public credit, on the usual terms of
15 pounds per cent. deposit, per cent. premium, and 5 pounds per cent.
interest. So great was the concourse of people in the early part of
the morning, all eagerly bringing their money, that it was thought the
subscription would be filled that day; but before noon, the tide
turned. In spite of all that could be done to prevent it, the South Sea
Company's stock fell rapidly. Their bonds were in such discredit, that a
run commenced upon the most eminent goldsmiths and bankers, some of whom
having lent out great sums upon South Sea stock were obliged to shut up
their shops and abscond. The Sword-blade Company, who had hitherto been
the chief cashiers of the South Sea Company, stopped payment. This being
looked upon as but the beginning of evil, occasioned a great run upon
the Bank, who were now obliged to pay out money much faster than they
had received it upon the subscription in the morning. The day succeeding
was a holiday (the 29th of September), and the Bank had a little
breathing time. They bore up against the storm; but their former rivals,
the South Sea Company, were wrecked upon it. Their stock fell to one
hundred and fifty, and gradually, after various fluctuations, to one
hundred and thirty-five.

The Bank, finding they were not able to restore public confidence, and
stem the tide of ruin, without running the risk of being swept away with
those they intended to save, declined to carry out the agreement into
which they had partially entered. They were under no obligation whatever
to continue; for the so called Bank contract was nothing more than the
rough draught of an agreement, in which blanks had been left for
several important particulars, and which contained no penalty for their
secession. "And thus," to use the words of the Parliamentary History,
"were seen, in the space of eight months, the rise, progress, and fall
of that mighty fabric, which, being wound up by mysterious springs to a
wonderful height, had fixed the eyes and expectations of all Europe,
but whose foundation, being fraud, illusion, credulity, and infatuation,
fell to the ground as soon as the artful management of its directors was

In the hey-day of its blood, during the progress of this dangerous
delusion, the manners of the nation became sensibly corrupted. The
Parliamentary inquiry, set on foot to discover the delinquents,
disclosed scenes of infamy, disgraceful alike to the morals of the
offenders and the intellects of the people among whom they had arisen.
It is a deeply interesting study to investigate all the evils that were
the result. Nations, like individuals, cannot become desperate gamblers
with impunity. Punishment is sure to overtake them sooner or later. A
celebrated writer [Smollett.] is quite wrong, when he says, "that such
an era as this is the most unfavourable for a historian; that no reader
of sentiment and imagination can be entertained or interested by a
detail of transactions such as these, which admit of no warmth, no
colouring, no embellishment; a detail of which only serves to exhibit
an inanimate picture of tasteless vice and mean degeneracy." On the
contrary, and Smollett might have discovered it, if he had been in the
humour--the subject is capable of inspiring as much interest as even a
novelist can desire. Is there no warmth in the despair of a plundered
people?--no life and animation in the picture which might be drawn of
the woes of hundreds of impoverished and ruined families? of the
wealthy of yesterday become the beggars of to-day? of the powerful
and influential changed into exiles and outcasts, and the voice of
self-reproach and imprecation resounding from every corner of the land?
Is it a dull or uninstructive picture to see a whole people shaking
suddenly off the trammels of reason, and running wild after a golden
vision, refusing obstinately to believe that it is not real, till, like
a deluded hind running after an ignis fatuus, they are plunged into a
quagmire? But in this false spirit has history too often been written.
The intrigues of unworthy courtiers to gain the favour of still more
unworthy kings; or the records of murderous battles and sieges have
been dilated on, and told over and over again, with all the eloquence
of style and all the charms of fancy; while the circumstances which have
most deeply affected the morals and welfare of the people, have been
passed over with but slight notice as dry and dull, and capable of
neither warmth nor colouring.

During the progress of this famous bubble, England presented a singular
spectacle. The public mind was in a state of unwholesome fermentation.
Men were no longer satisfied with the slow but sure profits of cautious
industry. The hope of boundless wealth for the morrow made them
heedless and extravagant for to-day. A luxury, till then unheard-of, was
introduced, bringing in its train a corresponding laxity of morals. The
overbearing insolence of ignorant men, who had arisen to sudden wealth
by successful gambling, made men of true gentility of mind and manners,
blush that gold should have power to raise the unworthy in the scale of
society. The haughtiness of some of these "cyphering cits," as they were
termed by Sir Richard Steele, was remembered against them in the day
of their adversity. In the Parliamentary inquiry, many of the directors
suffered more for their insolence than for their peculation. One of
them, who, in the full-blown pride of an ignorant rich man, had said
that he would feed his horse upon gold, was reduced almost to bread and
water for himself; every haughty look, every overbearing speech, was set
down, and repaid them a hundredfold in poverty and humiliation.

The state of matters all over the country was so alarming, that George
I shortened his intended stay in Hanover, and returned in all haste to
England. He arrived on the 11th of November, and Parliament was summoned
to meet on the 8th of December. In the mean time, public meetings were
held in every considerable town of the empire, at which petitions were
adopted, praying the vengeance of the Legislature upon the South Sea
directors, who, by their fraudulent practices, had brought the nation to
the brink of ruin. Nobody seemed to imagine that the nation itself was
as culpable as the South Sea Company. Nobody blamed the credulity and
avarice of the people,--the degrading lust of gain, which had swallowed
up every nobler quality in the national character, or the infatuation
which had made the multitude run their heads with such frantic eagerness
into the net held out for them by scheming projectors. These things were
never mentioned. The people were a simple, honest, hard-working people,
ruined by a gang of robbers, who were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered
without mercy.

This was the almost unanimous feeling of the country. The two Houses of
Parliament were not more reasonable. Before the guilt of the South
Sea directors was known, punishment was the only cry. The King, in his
speech from the throne, expressed his hope that they would remember that
all their prudence, temper, and resolution were necessary to find out
and apply the proper remedy for their misfortunes. In the debate on the
answer to the address, several speakers indulged in the most violent
invectives against the directors of the South Sea project. The Lord
Molesworth was particularly vehement. "It had been said by some, that
there was no law to punish the directors of the South Sea Company, who
were justly looked upon as the authors of the present misfortunes of
the state. In his opinion they ought, upon this occasion, to follow the
example of the ancient Romans, who, having no law against parricide,
because their legislators supposed no son could be so unnaturally wicked
as to embrue his hands in his father's blood, made a law to punish this
heinous crime as soon as it was committed. They adjudged the guilty
wretch to be sown in a sack, and thrown alive into the Tyber. He looked
upon the contrivers and executors of the villanous South Sea scheme as
the parricides of their country, and should be satisfied to see them
tied in like manner in sacks, and thrown into the Thames." Other members
spoke with as much want of temper and discretion. Mr. Walpole was more
moderate. He recommended that their first care should be to restore
public credit. "If the city of London were on fire, all wise men would
aid in extinguishing the flames, and preventing the spread of the
conflagration before they inquired after the incendiaries. Public credit
had received a dangerous wound, and lay bleeding, and they ought to
apply a speedy remedy to it. It was time enough to punish the assassin
afterwards." On the 9th of December an address, in answer to his
Majesty's speech, was agreed upon, after an amendment, which was
carried without a division, that words should be added expressive of the
determination of the House not only to seek a remedy for the national
distresses, but to punish the authors of them.

The inquiry proceeded rapidly. The directors were ordered to lay before
the House a full account of all their proceedings. Resolutions were
passed to the effect that the calamity was mainly owing to the vile
arts of stockjobbers, and that nothing could tend more to the
re-establishment of public credit than a law to prevent this infamous
practice. Mr. Walpole then rose, and said, that "as he had previously
hinted, he had spent some time upon a scheme for restoring public
credit, but that, the execution of it depending upon a position which
had been laid down as fundamental, he thought it proper, before he
opened out his scheme, to be informed whether he might rely upon
that foundation. It was, whether the subscription of public debts and
encumbrances, money subscriptions, and other contracts, made with the
South Sea Company should remain in the present state?" This question
occasioned an animated debate. It was finally agreed, by a majority of
259 against 117, that all these contracts should remain in their present
state, unless altered for the relief of the proprietors by a general
court of the South Sea Company, or set aside by due course of law. On
the following day Mr. Walpole laid before a committee of the whole
House his scheme for the restoration of public credit, which was, in
substance, to ingraft nine millions of South Sea stock into the Bank
of England, and the same sum into the East India Company, upon certain
conditions. The plan was favourably received by the House. After some
few objections, it was ordered that proposals should be received from
the two great corporations. They were both unwilling to lend their aid,
and the plan met with a warm but fruitless opposition at the general
courts summoned for the purpose of deliberating upon it. They, however,
ultimately agreed upon the terms on which they would consent to
circulate the South Sea bonds, and their report, being presented to
the committee, a bill was brought in, under the superintendence of Mr.
Walpole, and safely carried through both Houses of Parliament.

A bill was at the same time brought in, for restraining the South Sea
directors, governor, sub-governor, treasurer, cashier, and clerks from
leaving the kingdom for a twelvemonth, and for discovering their estates
and effects, and preventing them from transporting or alienating the
same. All the most influential members of the House supported the bill.
Mr. Shippen, seeing Mr. Secretary Craggs in his place, and believing
the injurious rumours that were afloat of that minister's conduct in the
South Sea business, determined to touch him to the quick. He said, he
was glad to see a British House of Commons resuming its pristine vigour
and spirit, and acting with so much unanimity for the public good.
It was necessary to secure the persons and estates of the South Sea
directors and their officers; "but," he added, looking fixedly at Mr.
Craggs as he spoke, "there were other men in high station, whom, in
time, he would not be afraid to name, who were no less guilty than
the directors." Mr. Craggs arose in great wrath, and said, that if the
innuendo were directed against him, he was ready to give satisfaction to
any man who questioned him, either in the House or out of it. Loud cries
of order immediately arose on every side. In the midst of the uproar
Lord Molesworth got up, and expressed his wonder at the boldness of Mr.
Craggs in challenging the whole House of Commons. He, Lord Molesworth,
though somewhat old, past sixty, would answer Mr. Craggs whatever he
had to say in the House, and he trusted there were plenty of young men
beside him, who would not be afraid to look Mr. Craggs in the face, out
of the House. The cries of order again resounded from every side; the
members arose simultaneously; everybody seemed to be vociferating at
once. The Speaker in vain called order. The confusion lasted several
minutes, during which Lord Molesworth and Mr. Craggs were almost the
only members who kept their seats. At last the call for Mr. Craggs
became so violent that he thought proper to submit to the universal
feeling of the House, and explain his unparliamentary expression. He
said, that by giving satisfaction to the impugners of his conduct in
that House, he did not mean that he would fight, but that he would
explain his conduct. Here the matter ended, and the House proceeded to
debate in what manner they should conduct their inquiry into the affairs
of the South Sea Company, whether in a grand or a select committee.
Ultimately, a Secret Committee of thirteen was appointed, with power to
send for persons, papers, and records.

The Lords were as zealous and as hasty as the Commons. The Bishop
of Rochester said the scheme had been like a pestilence. The Duke of
Wharton said the House ought to show no respect of persons; that, for
his part, he would give up the dearest friend he had, if he had been
engaged in the project. The nation had been plundered in a most shameful
and flagrant manner, and he would go as far as anybody in the punishment
of the offenders. Lord Stanhope said, that every farthing possessed
by the criminals, whether directors or not directors, ought to be
confiscated, to make good the public losses.

During all this time the public excitement was extreme. We learn, front
Coxe's Walpole, that the very name of a South Sea director was thought
to be synonymous with every species of fraud and villany. Petitions
from counties, cities, and boroughs, in all parts of the kingdom, were
presented, crying for the justice due to an injured nation and the
punishment of the villanous peculators. Those moderate men, who would
not go to extreme lengths, even in the punishment of the guilty, were
accused of being accomplices, were exposed to repeated insults and
virulent invectives, and devoted, both in anonymous letters and public
writings, to the speedy vengeance of an injured people. The accusations
against Mr. Aislabie, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Craggs,
another member of the ministry, were so loud, that the House of Lords
resolved to proceed at once into the investigation concerning them. It
was ordered, on the 21st of January, that all brokers concerned in the
South Sea scheme should lay before the House an account of the stock
or subscriptions bought or sold by them for any of the officers of the
Treasury or Exchequer, or in trust for any of them, since Michaelmas
1719. When this account was delivered, it appeared that large quantities
of stock had been transferred to the use of Mr. Aislabie. Five of the
South Sea directors, including Mr. Edward Gibbon, the grandfather of the
celebrated historian, were ordered into the custody of the black rod.
Upon a motion made by Earl Stanhope, it was unanimously resolved,
that the taking in or giving credit for stock without a valuable
consideration actually paid or sufficiently secured; or the purchasing
stock by any director or agent of the South Sea Company, for the use
or benefit of any member of the administration, or any member of either
House of Parliament, during such time as the South Sea Bill was yet
pending in Parliament, was a notorious and dangerous corruption. Another
resolution was passed a few days afterwards, to the effect that several
of the directors and officers of the Company having, in a clandestine
manner, sold their own stock to the Company, had been guilty of a
notorious fraud and breach of trust, and had thereby mainly caused the
unhappy turn of affairs that had so much affected public credit.
Mr. Aislabie resigned his office as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and
absented himself from Parliament until the formal inquiry into his
individual guilt was brought under the consideration of the Legislature.

In the mean time, Knight, the treasurer of the Company, and who was
intrusted with all the dangerous secrets of the dishonest directors,
packed up his books and documents, and made his escape from the country.
He embarked in disguise, in a small boat on the river, and proceeding
to a vessel hired for the purpose, was safely conveyed to Calais. The
Committee of Secrecy informed the House of the circumstance, when it was
resolved unanimously that two addresses should be presented to the King;
the first praying that he would issue a proclamation, offering a reward
for the apprehension of Knight; and the second, that he would give
immediate orders to stop the ports, and to take effectual care of the
coasts, to prevent the said Knight, or any other officers of the South
Sea Company, from escaping out of the kingdom. The ink was hardly
dry upon these addresses before they were carried to the King by Mr.
Methuen, deputed by the House for that purpose. The same evening a royal
proclamation was issued, offering a reward of two thousand pounds for
the apprehension of Knight. The Commons ordered the doors of the House
to be locked, and the keys to be placed upon the table. General Ross,
one of the members of the Committee of Secrecy, acquainted them that
they had already discovered a train of the deepest villany and fraud
that Hell had ever contrived to ruin a nation, which in due time they
would lay before the House. In the mean time, in order to a further
discovery, the Committee thought it highly necessary to secure the
persons of some of the directors and principal South Sea officers, and
to seize their papers. A motion to this effect having been made, was
carried unanimously. Sir Robert Chaplin, Sir Theodore Janssen, Mr.
Sawbridge, and Mr. F. Eyles, members of the House, and directors of the
South Sea Company, were summoned to appear in their places, and answer
for their corrupt practices. Sir Theodore Janssen and Mr. Sawbridge
answered to their names, and endeavoured to exculpate themselves. The
House heard them patiently, and then ordered them to withdraw. A motion
was then made, and carried nemine contradicente, that they had been
guilty of a notorious breach of trust--had occasioned much loss to great
numbers of his Majesty's subjects, and had highly prejudiced the public
credit. It was then ordered that, for their offence, they should be
expelled the House, and taken into the custody of the sergeant-at-arms.
Sir Robert Chaplin and Mr. Eyles, attending in their places four days
afterwards, were also expelled the House. It was resolved at the same
time to address the King, to give directions to his ministers at foreign
courts to make application for Knight, that he might be delivered up
to the English authorities, in ease he took refuge in any of their
dominions. The King at once agreed, and messengers were despatched to
all parts of the Continent the same night.

Among the directors taken into custody, was Sir John Blunt, the man whom
popular opinion has generally accused of having been the original author
and father of the scheme. This man, we are informed by Pope, in his
epistle to Allen, Lord Bathurst, was a dissenter, of a most religious
deportment, and professed to be a great believer. He constantly
declaimed against the luxury and corruption of the age, the partiality
of parliaments, and the misery of party spirit. He was particularly
eloquent against avarice in great and noble persons. He was originally
a scrivener, and afterwards became, not only a director, but the most
active manager of the South Sea Company. Whether it was during his
career in this capacity that he first began to declaim against the
avarice of the great, we are not informed. He certainly must have seen
enough of it to justify his severest anathema; but if the preacher had
himself been free from the vice he condemned, his declamations would
have had a better effect. He was brought up in custody to the bar of the
House of Lords, and underwent a long examination. He refused to answer
several important questions. He said he had been examined already by
a committee of the House of Commons, and as he did not remember his
answers, and might contradict himself, he refused to answer before
another tribunal. This declaration, in itself an indirect proof of
guilt, occasioned some commotion in the House. He was again asked
peremptorily whether he had ever sold any portion of the stock to
any member of the administration, or any member of either House of
Parliament, to facilitate the passing of the hill. He again declined to
answer. He was anxious, he said, to treat the House with all possible
respect, but he thought it hard to be compelled to accuse himself. After
several ineffectual attempts to refresh his memory, he was directed to
withdraw. A violent discussion ensued between the friends and opponents
of the ministry. It was asserted that the administration were no
strangers to the convenient taciturnity of Sir John Blunt. The Duke
of Wharton made a reflection upon the Earl Stanhope, which the latter
warmly resented. He spoke under great excitement, and with such
vehemence as to cause a sudden determination of blood to the head. He
felt himself so ill that he was obliged to leave the House and retire
to his chamber. He was cupped immediately, and also let blood on the
following morning, but with slight relief. The fatal result was not
anticipated. Towards evening he became drowsy, and turning himself on
his face, expired. The sudden death of this statesman caused great grief
to the nation. George I was exceedingly affected, and shut himself up
for some hours in his closet, inconsolable for his loss.

Knight, the treasurer of the company, was apprehended at Tirlemont, near
Liege, by one of the secretaries of Mr. Leathes, the British resident
at Brussels, and lodged in the citadel of Antwerp. Repeated applications
were made to the court of Austria to deliver him up, but in vain. Knight
threw himself upon the protection of the states of Brabant, and demanded
to be tried in that country. It was a privilege granted to the states
of Brabant by one of the articles of the Joyeuse Entree, that every
criminal apprehended in that country should be tried in that country.
The states insisted on their privilege, and refused to deliver Knight to
the British authorities. The latter did not cease their solicitations;
but in the mean time, Knight escaped from the citadel.

On the 16th of February the Committee of Secrecy made their first report
to the House. They stated that their inquiry had been attended with
numerous difficulties and embarrassments; every one they had examined
had endeavoured, as far as in him lay, to defeat the ends of justice. In
some of the books produced before them, false and fictitious entries had
been made; in others, there were entries of money, with blanks for the
name of the stockholders. There were frequent erasures and alterations,
and in some of the books leaves were torn out. They also found that some
books of great importance had been destroyed altogether, and that
some had been taken away or secreted. At the very entrance into their
inquiry, they had observed that the matters referred to them were of
great variety and extent. Many persons had been intrusted with various
parts in the execution of the law, and under colour thereof had acted
in an unwarrantable manner, in disposing of the properties of many
thousands of persons, amounting to many millions of money. They
discovered that, before the South Sea Act was passed, there was an entry
in the Company's books of the sum of 1,259,325 pounds, upon account of
stock stated to have been sold to the amount of 574,500 pounds. This
stock was all fictitious, and had been disposed of with a view to
promote the passing of the bill. It was noted as sold at various days,
and at various prices, from 150 to 325 per cent. Being surprised to see
so large an account disposed of, at a time when the Company were
not empowered to increase their capital, the committee determined
to investigate most carefully the whole transaction. The governor,
sub-governor, and several directors were brought before them, and
examined rigidly. They found that, at the time these entries were made,
the Company was not in possession of such a quantity of stock, having
in their own right only a small quantity, not exceeding thirty thousand
pounds at the utmost. Pursuing the inquiry, they found that this amount
of stock, was to be esteemed as taken in or holden by the Company, for
the benefit of the pretended purchasers, although no mutual agreement
was made for its delivery or acceptance at any certain time. No money
was paid down, nor any deposit or security whatever given to the Company
by the supposed purchasers; so that if the stock had fallen, as might
have been expected, had the act not passed, they would have sustained no
loss. If, on the contrary, the price of stock advanced (as it actually
did by the success of the scheme), the difference by the advanced price
was to be made good to them. Accordingly, after the passing of the act,
the account of stock was made up and adjusted with Mr. Knight, and the
pretended purchasers were paid the difference out of the Company's cash.
This fictitious stock, which had been chiefly at the disposal of Sir
John Blunt, Mr. Gibbon, and Mr. Knight, was distributed among several
members of the government and their connexions, by way of bribe, to
facilitate the passing of the bill. To the Earl of Sunderland was
assigned 50,000 pounds of this stock; to the Duchess of Kendal 10,000
pounds; to the Countess of Platen 10,000 pounds; to her two nieces
10,000 pounds; to Mr. Secretary Craggs 30,000 pounds; to Mr. Charles
Stanhope (one of the Secretaries of the Treasury) 10,000 pounds; to the
Swordblade Company 50,000 pounds. It also appeared that Mr. Stanhope
had received the enormous sum of 250,000 pounds as the difference in the
price of some stock, through the hands of Turner, Caswall, and Co., but
that his name had been partly erased from their books, and altered to
Stangape. Aislabie, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had made profits
still more abominable. He had an account with the same firm, who were
also South Sea directors, to the amount of 794,451 pounds. He had,
besides, advised the Company to make their second subscription one
million and a half, instead of a million, by their own authority, and
without any warrant. The third subscription had been conducted in a
manner as disgraceful. Mr. Aislabie's name was down for 70,000 pounds;
Mr. Craggs, senior, for 659,000 pounds; the Earl of Sunderland's for
160,000 pounds; and Mr. Stanhope for 47,000 pounds. This report was
succeeded by six others, less important. At the end of the last, the
committee declared that the absence of Knight, who had been principally
intrusted, prevented them from carrying on their inquiries.

The first report was ordered to be printed, and taken into consideration
on the next day but one succeeding. After a very angry and animated
debate, a series of resolutions were agreed to, condemnatory of the
conduct of the directors, of the members of the Parliament and of the
administration concerned with them; and declaring that they ought, each
and all, to make satisfaction out of their own estates for the injury
they had done the public. Their practices were declared to be corrupt,
infamous, and dangerous; and a bill was ordered to be brought in for the
relief of the unhappy sufferers.

Mr. Charles Stanhope was the first person brought to account for his
share in these transactions. He urged in his defence that, for some
years past, he had lodged all the money he was possessed of in Mr.
Knight's hands, and whatever stock Mr. Knight had taken in for him, he
had paid a valuable consideration for it. As to the stock that had been
bought for him by Turner, Caswall, and Co. he knew nothing about it.
Whatever had been done in that matter was done without his authority,
and he could not be responsible for it. Turner and Co. took the latter
charge upon themselves, but it was notorious to every unbiased and
unprejudiced person that Mr. Stanhope was a gainer of the 250,000 pounds
which lay in the hands of that firm to his credit. He was, however,
acquitted by a majority of three only. The greatest exertions were made
to screen him. Lord Stanhope, the son of the Earl of Chesterfield, went
round to the wavering members, using all the eloquence he was possessed
of to induce them either to vote for the acquittal or to absent
themselves from the house. Many weak-headed country-gentlemen were led
astray by his persuasions, and the result was as already stated. The
acquittal caused the greatest discontent throughout the country. Mobs
of a menacing character assembled in different parts of London; fears
of riots were generally entertained, especially as the examination of
a still greater delinquent was expected by many to have a similar
termination. Mr. Aislabie, whose high office and deep responsibilities
should have kept him honest, even had native principle been
insufficient, was very justly regarded as perhaps the greatest criminal
of all. His case was entered into on the day succeeding the acquittal of
Mr. Starthope. Great excitement prevailed, and the lobbies and avenues
of the house were beset by crowds, impatient to know the result. The
debate lasted the whole day. Mr. Aislabie found few friends: his guilt
was so apparent and so heinous that nobody had courage to stand up in
his favour. It was finally resolved, without a dissentient voice, that
Mr. Aislabie had encouraged and promoted the destructive execution of
the South Sea scheme with a view to his own exorbitant profit, and had
combined with the directors in their pernicious practices to the ruin
of the public trade and credit of the kingdom: that he should for
his offences be ignominiously expelled from the House of Commons, and
committed a close prisoner to the Tower of London; that he should be
restrained from going out of the kingdom for a whole year, or till the
end of the next session of Parliament; and that he should make out a
correct account of all his estate, in order that it might be applied to
the relief of those who had suffered by his malpractices.

This verdict caused the greatest joy. Though it was delivered at
half-past twelve at night, it soon spread over the city. Several persons
illuminated their houses in token of their joy. On the following day,
when Mr. Aislabie was conveyed to the Tower, the mob assembled on
Tower-hill with the intention of hooting and pelting him. Not succeeding
in this, they kindled a large bonfire, and danced around it in the
exuberance of their delight. Several bonfires were made in other places;
London presented the appearance of a holiday, and people congratulated
one another as if they had just escaped from some great calamity. The
rage upon the acquittal of Mr. Stanhope had grown to such a height that
none could tell where it would have ended, had Mr. Aislabie met with the
like indulgence.

To increase the public satisfaction, Sir George Caswall, of the firm of
Turner, Caswall, & Co. was expelled the House on the following day, and
ordered to refund the sum of 250,000 pounds.

That part of the report of the Committee of Secrecy which related to the
Earl of Sunderland was next taken into consideration. Every effort was
made to clear his Lordship from the imputation. As the case against him
rested chiefly on the evidence extorted from Sir John Blunt, great
pains were taken to make it appear that Sir John's word was not to be
believed, especially in a matter affecting the honour of a peer and
privy councillor. All the friends of the ministry rallied around the
Earl, it being generally reported that a verdict of guilty against him
would bring a Tory ministry into power. He was eventually acquitted,
by a majority of 233 against 172; but the country was convinced of his
guilt. The greatest indignation was everywhere expressed, and menacing
mobs again assembled in London. Happily no disturbances took place.

This was the day on which Mr. Craggs, the elder, expired. The morrow had
been appointed for the consideration of his case. It was very generally
believed that he had poisoned himself. It appeared, however, that grief
for the loss of his son, one of the Secretaries of the Treasury, who had
died five weeks previously of the small-pox, preyed much on his mind.
For this son, dearly beloved, he had been amassing vast heaps of riches:
he had been getting money, but not honestly; and he for whose sake he
had bartered his honour and sullied his fame, was now no more. The
dread of further exposure increased his trouble of mind, and ultimately
brought on an apoplectic fit, in which he expired. He left a fortune of
a million and a half, which was afterwards confiscated for the
benefit of the sufferers by the unhappy delusion he had been so mainly
instrumental in raising.

One by one the case of every director of the Company was taken into
consideration. A sum amounting to two millions and fourteen thousand
pounds was confiscated from their estates towards repairing the mischief
they had done, each man being allowed a certain residue, in proportion
to his conduct and circumstances, with which he might begin the world
anew. Sir John Blunt was only allowed 5,000 pounds out of his fortune
of upwards of 183,000 pounds; Sir John Fellows was allowed 10,000
pounds out of 243,000 pounds; Sir Theodore Janssen, 50,000 pounds out of
243,000 pounds; Mr. Edward Gibbon, 10,000 pounds out of 106,000 pounds.;
Sir John Lambert, 5000 pounds out of 72,000 pounds. Others, less deeply
involved, were treated with greater liberality. Gibbon, the historian,
whose grandfather was the Mr. Edward Gibbon so severely mulcted, has
given, in the Memoirs of his Life and Writings, an interesting account
of the proceedings in Parliament at this time. He owns that he is not an
unprejudiced witness; but, as all the writers from which it is possible
to extract any notice of the proceedings of these disastrous years,
were prejudiced on the other side, the statements of the great historian
become of additional value. If only on the principle of audi alteram
partem, his opinion is entitled to consideration. "In the year 1716," he
says, "my grandfather was elected one of the directors of the South Sea
Company, and his books exhibited the proof that before his acceptance
of that fatal office, he had acquired an independent fortune of 60,000
pounds. But his fortune was overwhelmed in the shipwreck of the year
twenty, and the labours of thirty years were blasted in a single day. Of
the use or abuse of the South Sea scheme, of the guilt or innocence of
my grandfather and his brother directors, I am neither a competent nor
a disinterested judge. Yet the equity of modern times must condemn the
violent and arbitrary proceedings, which would have disgraced the cause
of justice, and rendered injustice still more odious. No sooner had
the nation awakened from its golden dream, than a popular, and even a
Parliamentary clamour, demanded its victims; but it was acknowledged on
all sides, that the directors, however guilty, could not be touched by
any known laws of the land. The intemperate notions of Lord Molesworth
were not literally acted on; but a bill of pains and penalties was
introduced--a retro-active statute, to punish the offences which did not
exist at the time they were committed. The Legislature restrained the
persons of the directors, imposed an exorbitant security for their
appearance, and marked their character with a previous note of ignominy.
They were compelled to deliver, upon oath, the strict value of their
estates, and were disabled from making any transfer or alienation of any
part of their property. Against a bill of pains and penalties, it is
the common right of every subject to be heard by his counsel at the bar.
They prayed to be heard. Their prayer was refused, and their oppressors,
who required no evidence, would listen to no defence. It had been at
first proposed, that one eighth of their respective estates should be
allowed for the future support of the directors; but it was speciously
urged, that in the various shades of opulence and guilt, such a
proportion would be too light for many, and for some might possibly
be too heavy. The character and conduct of each man were separately
weighed; but, instead of the calm solemnity of a judicial inquiry, the
fortune and honour of thirty-three Englishmen were made the topics of
hasty conversation, the sport of a lawless majority; and the basest
member of the committee, by a malicious word, or a silent vote, might
indulge his general spleen or personal animosity. Injury was aggravated
by insult, and insult was embittered by pleasantry. Allowances of 20
pounds or 1 shilling were facetiously moved. A vague report that a
director had formerly been concerned in another project, by which some
unknown persons had lost their money, was admitted as a proof of his
actual guilt. One man was ruined because he had dropped a foolish
speech, that his horses should feed upon gold; another, because he was
grown so proud, that one day, at the Treasury, he had refused a civil
answer to persons much above him. All were condemned, absent and
unheard, in arbitrary fines and forfeitures, which swept away the
greatest part of their substance. Such bold oppression can scarcely
be shielded by the omnipotence of Parliament. My grandfather could not
expect to be treated with more lenity than his companions. His Tory
principles and connexions rendered him obnoxious to the ruling powers.
His name was reported in a suspicious secret. His well-known abilities
could not plead the excuse of ignorance or error. In the first
proceedings against the South Sea directors, Mr. Gibbon was one of the
first taken into custody, and in the final sentence the measure of
his fine proclaimed him eminently guilty. The total estimate, which he
delivered on oath to the House of Commons, amounted to 106,543 pounds
5 shillings 6 pence, exclusive of antecedent settlements. Two different
allowances of 15,000 pounds and of 10,000 pounds were moved for Mr.
Gibbon; but, on the question being put, it was carried without a
division for the smaller sum. On these ruins, with the skill and credit
of which Parliament had not been able to despoil him, my grandfather,
at a mature age, erected the edifice of a new fortune. The labours of
sixteen years were amply rewarded; and I have reason to believe that the
second structure was not much inferior to the first."

The next consideration of the Legislature, after the punishment of the
directors, was to restore public credit. The scheme of Walpole had been
found insufficient, and had fallen into disrepute. A computation was
made of the whole capital stock of the South Sea Company at the end of
the year 1720. It was found to amount to thirty-seven millions eight
hundred thousand pounds, of which the stock allotted to all the
proprietors only amounted to twenty-four millions five hundred thousand
pounds. The remainder of thirteen millions three hundred thousand pounds
belonged to the Company in their corporate capacity, and was the profit
they had made by the national delusion. Upwards of eight millions of
this were taken from the Company, and divided among the proprietors and
subscribers generally, making a dividend of about 33 pounds 6 shillings
8 pence per cent. This was a great relief. It was further ordered, that
such persons as had borrowed money from the South Sea Company upon stock
actually transferred and pledged at the time of borrowing to or for the
use of the Company, should be free from all demands, upon payment of ten
per cent. of the sums so borrowed. They had lent about eleven millions
in this manner, at a time when prices were unnaturally raised; and they
now received back one million one hundred thousand, when prices had sunk
to their ordinary level.

But it was a long time before public credit was thoroughly restored.
Enterprise, like Icarus, had soared too high, and melted the wax of
her wings; like Icarus, she had fallen into a sea, and learned, while
floundering in its waves, that her proper element was the solid ground.
She has never since attempted so high a flight.

In times of great commercial prosperity there has been a tendency to
over-speculation on several occasions since then. The success of
one project generally produces others of a similar kind. Popular
imitativeness will always, in a trading nation, seize hold of such
successes, and drag a community too anxious for profits into an abyss
from which extrication is difficult. Bubble companies, of a kind similar
to those engendered by the South Sea project, lived their little day
in the famous year of the panic, 1825. On that occasion, as in 1720,
knavery gathered a rich harvest from cupidity, but both suffered when
the day of reckoning came. The schemes of the year 1836 threatened, at
one time, results as disastrous; but they were happily averted before
it was too late. The South Sea project thus remains, and, it is to be
hoped, always will remain, the greatest example in British history, of
the infatuation of the people for commercial gambling. From the bitter
experience of that period, posterity may learn how dangerous it is to
let speculation riot unrestrained, and to hope for enormous profits from
inadequate causes. Degrading as were the circumstances, there is wisdom
to be gained from the lesson which they teach.


     Quis furor o cives!--Lucan.

The tulip,--so named, it is said, from a Turkish word, signifying a
turban,--was introduced into western Europe about the middle of the
sixteenth century. Conrad Gesner, who claims the merit of having brought
it into repute,--little dreaming of the extraordinary commotion it was
to make in the world,--says that he first saw it in the year 1559, in a
garden at Augsburg, belonging to the learned Counsellor Herwart, a man
very famous in his day for his collection of rare exotics. The bulbs
were sent to this gentleman by a friend at Constantinople, where the
flower had long been a favourite. In the course of ten or eleven
years after this period, tulips were much sought after by the wealthy,
especially in Holland and Germany. Rich people at Amsterdam sent for the
bulbs direct to Constantinople, and paid the most extravagant prices
for them. The first roots planted in England were brought from Vienna
in 1600. Until the year 1634 the tulip annually increased in reputation,
until it was deemed a proof of bad taste in any man of fortune to be
without a collection of them. Many learned men, including Pompeius de
Angelis and the celebrated Lipsius of Leyden, the author of the
treatise "De Constantia," were passionately fond of tulips. The rage for
possessing them soon caught the middle classes of society, and merchants
and shopkeepers, even of moderate means, began to vie with each other
in the rarity of these flowers and the preposterous prices they paid for
them. A trader at Harlaem was known to pay one-half of his fortune for a
single root--not with the design of selling it again at a profit, but to
keep in his own conservatory for the admiration of his acquaintance.

One would suppose that there must have been some great virtue in this
flower to have made it so valuable in the eyes of so prudent a people
as the Dutch; but it has neither the beauty nor the perfume of the
rose--hardly the beauty of the "sweet, sweet-pea;" neither is it as
enduring as either. Cowley, it is true, is loud in its praise. He says--

     "The tulip next appeared, all over gay,
     But wanton, full of pride, and full of play;
     The world can't show a dye but here has place;
     Nay, by new mixtures, she can change her face;
     Purple and gold are both beneath her care--
     The richest needlework she loves to wear;
     Her only study is to please the eye,
     And to outshine the rest in finery."

This, though not very poetical, is the description of a poet. Beckmann,
in his History of Inventions, paints it with more fidelity, and in prose
more pleasing than Cowley's poetry. He says, "There are few plants which
acquire, through accident, weakness, or disease, so many variegations as
the tulip. When uncultivated, and in its natural state, it is almost of
one colour, has large leaves, and an extraordinarily long stem. When it
has been weakened by cultivation, it becomes more agreeable in the eyes
of the florist. The petals are then paler, smaller, and more diversified
in hue; and the leaves acquire a softer green colour. Thus this
masterpiece of culture, the more beautiful it turns, grows so much the
weaker, so that, with the greatest skill and most careful attention, it
can scarcely be transplanted, or even kept alive."

Many persons grow insensibly attached to that which gives them a great
deal of trouble, as a mother often loves her sick and ever-ailing child
better than her more healthy offspring. Upon the same principle we must
account for the unmerited encomia lavished upon these fragile blossoms.
In 1634, the rage among the Dutch to possess them was so great that the
ordinary industry of the country was neglected, and the population,
even to its lowest dregs, embarked in the tulip trade. As the mania
increased, prices augmented, until, in the year 1635, many persons were
known to invest a fortune of 100,000 florins in the purchase of forty
roots. It then became necessary to sell them by their weight in perits,
a small weight less than a grain. A tulip of the species called Admiral
Liefken, weighing 400 perits, was worth 4400 florins; an Admiral Von
der Eyk, weighing 446 perits, was worth 1260 florins; a shilder of 106
perits was worth 1615 florins; a viceroy of 400 perits, 3000 florins,
and, most precious of all, a Semper Augustus, weighing 200 perits, was
thought to be very cheap at 5500 florins. The latter was much sought
after, and even an inferior bulb might command a price of 2000 florins.
It is related that, at one time, early in 1636, there were only two
roots of this description to be had in all Holland, and those not of the
best. One was in the possession of a dealer in Amsterdam, and the other
in Harlaem. So anxious were the speculators to obtain them that one
person offered the fee-simple of twelve acres of building ground for
the Harlaem tulip. That of Amsterdam was bought for 4600 florins, a new
carriage, two grey horses, and a complete suit of harness. Munting, an
industrious author of that day, who wrote a folio volume of one thousand
pages upon the tulipomania, has preserved the following list of the
various articles, and their value, which were delivered for one single
root of the rare species called the viceroy:--

     Two lasts of wheat..............  448
     Four lasts of rye...............  558
     Four fat oxen...................  480
     Eight fat swine.................  240
     Twelve fat sheep................  120
     Two hogsheads of wine...........   70
     Four tuns of beer...............   32
     Two tons of butter..............  192
     One thousand lbs. of cheese.....  120
     A complete bed..................  100
     A suit of clothes...............   80
     A silver drinking cup...........   60

People who had been absent from Holland, and whose chance it was to
return when this folly was at its maximum, were sometimes led into
awkward dilemmas by their ignorance. There is an amusing instance of
the kind related in Blainville's Travels. A wealthy merchant, who prided
himself not a little on his rare tulips, received upon one occasion a
very valuable consignment of merchandise from the Levant. Intelligence
of its arrival was brought him by a sailor, who presented himself
for that purpose at the counting-house, among bales of goods of every
description. The merchant, to reward him for his news, munificently made
him a present of a fine red herring for his breakfast. The sailor had,
it appears, a great partiality for onions, and seeing a bulb very like
an onion lying upon the counter of this liberal trader, and thinking it,
no doubt, very much out of its place among silks and velvets, he slily
seized an opportunity and slipped it into his pocket, as a relish for
his herring. He got clear off with his prize, and proceeded to the
quay to eat his breakfast. Hardly was his back turned when the merchant
missed his valuable Semper Augustus, worth three thousand florins, or
about 280 pounds sterling. The whole establishment was instantly in an
uproar; search was everywhere made for the precious root, but it was not
to be found. Great was the merchant's distress of mind. The search was
renewed, but again without success. At last some one thought of the

The unhappy merchant sprang into the street at the bare suggestion. His
alarmed household followed him. The sailor, simple soul! had not
thought of concealment. He was found quietly sitting on a coil of ropes,
masticating the last morsel of his "onion." Little did he dream that he
had been eating a breakfast whose cost might have regaled a whole ship's
crew for a twelvemonth; or, as the plundered merchant himself expressed
it, "might have sumptuously feasted the Prince of Orange and the whole
court of the Stadtholder." Anthony caused pearls to be dissolved in
wine to drink the health of Cleopatra; Sir Richard Whittington was
as foolishly magnificent in an entertainment to King Henry V; and Sir
Thomas Gresham drank a diamond, dissolved in wine, to the health of
Queen Elizabeth, when she opened the Royal Exchange: but the breakfast
of this roguish Dutchman was as splendid as either. He had an advantage,
too, over his wasteful predecessors: their gems did not improve the
taste or the wholesomeness of their wine, while his tulip was quite
delicious with his red herring. The most unfortunate part of the
business for him was, that he remained in prison for some months, on a
charge of felony, preferred against him by the merchant.

Another story is told of an English traveller, which is scarcely less
ludicrous. This gentleman, an amateur botanist, happened to see a
tulip-root lying in the conservatory of a wealthy Dutchman. Being
ignorant of its quality, he took out his penknife, and peeled off its
coats, with the view of making experiments upon it. When it was by
this means reduced to half its original size, he cut it into two equal
sections, making all the time many learned remarks on the singular
appearances of the unknown bulb. Suddenly the owner pounced upon him,
and, with fury in his eyes, asked him if he knew what he had been doing?
"Peeling a most extraordinary onion," replied the philosopher. "Hundert
tausend duyvel," said the Dutchman; "it's an Admiral Van der E. yck."
"Thank you," replied the traveller, taking out his note-book to make
a memorandum of the same; "are these admirals common in your country?"
"Death and the devil," said the Dutchman, seizing the astonished man of
science by the collar; "come before the syndic, and you shall see." In
spite of his remonstrances, the traveller was led through the streets,
followed by a mob of persons. When brought into the presence of the
magistrate, he learned, to his consternation, that the root upon which
he had been experimentalizing was worth four thousand florins; and,
notwithstanding all he could urge in extenuation, he was lodged in
prison until he found securities for the payment of this sum.

The demand for tulips of a rare species increased so much in the year
1636, that regular marts for their sale were established on the Stock
Exchange of Amsterdam, in Rotterdam, Harlaem, Leyden, Alkmar, Hoorn,
and other towns. Symptoms of gambling now became, for the first time,
apparent. The stockjobbers, ever on the alert for a new speculation,
dealt largely in tulips, making use of all the means they so well knew
how to employ, to cause fluctuations in prices. At first, as in all
these gambling mania, confidence was at its height, and everybody
gained. The tulip-jobbers speculated in the rise and fall of the tulip
stocks, and made large profits by buying when prices fell, and selling
out when they rose. Many individuals grew suddenly rich. A golden bait
hung temptingly out before the people, and, one after the other, they
rushed to the tulip marts, like flies around a honeypot. Every one
imagined that the passion for tulips would last for ever, and that the
wealthy from every part of the world would send to Holland, and pay
whatever prices were asked for them. The riches of Europe would be
concentrated on the shores of the Zuyder Zee, and poverty banished from
the favoured clime of Holland. Nobles, citizens, farmers, mechanics,
seamen, footmen, maidservants, even chimney-sweeps and old clotheswomen,
dabbled in tulips. People of all grades converted their property into
cash, and invested it in flowers. Houses and lands were offered for sale
at ruinously low prices, or assigned in payment of bargains made at the
tulip-mart. Foreigners became smitten with the same frenzy, and money
poured into Holland from all directions. The prices of the necessaries
of life rose again by degrees; houses and lands, horses and carriages,
and luxuries of every sort, rose in value with them, and for some months
Holland seemed the very antechamber of Plutus. The operations of the
trade became so extensive and so intricate, that it was found necessary
to draw up a code of laws for the guidance of the dealers. Notaries and
clerks were also appointed, who devoted themselves exclusively to the
interests of the trade. The designation of public notary was hardly
known in some towns, that of tulip notary usurping its place. In the
smaller towns, where there was no exchange, the principal tavern was
usually selected as the "showplace," where high and low traded in
tulips, and confirmed their bargains over sumptuous entertainments.
These dinners were sometimes attended by two or three hundred persons,
and large vases of tulips, in full bloom, were placed at regular
intervals upon the tables and sideboards, for their gratification during
the repast.

At last, however, the more prudent began to see that this folly could
not last for ever. Rich people no longer bought the flowers to keep them
in their gardens, but to sell them again at cent. per cent. profit.
It was seen that somebody must lose fearfully in the end. As this
conviction spread, prices fell, and never rose again. Confidence was
destroyed, and a universal panic seized upon the dealers. A had agreed
to purchase ten Sempers Augustines from B, at four thousand florins
each, at six weeks after the signing of the contract. B was ready with
the flowers at the appointed time; but the price had fallen to three
or four hundred florins, and A refused either to pay the difference or
receive the tulips. Defaulters were announced day after day in all the
towns of Holland. Hundreds who, a few months previously, had begun to
doubt that there was such a thing as poverty in the land, suddenly found
themselves the possessors of a few bulbs, which nobody would buy, even
though they offered them at one quarter of the sums they had paid for
them. The cry of distress resounded everywhere, and each man accused
his neighbour. The few who had contrived to enrich themselves hid their
wealth from the knowledge of their fellow-citizens, and invested it in
the English or other funds. Many who, for a brief season, had emerged
from the humbler walks of life, were cast back into their original
obscurity. Substantial merchants were reduced almost to beggary, and
many a representative of a noble line saw the fortunes of his house
ruined beyond redemption.

When the first alarm subsided, the tulip-holders in the several towns
held public meetings to devise what measures were best to be taken to
restore public credit. It was generally agreed, that deputies should be
sent from all parts to Amsterdam, to consult with the government upon
some remedy for the evil. The Government at first refused to interfere,
but advised the tulip-holders to agree to some plan among themselves.
Several meetings were held for this purpose; but no measure could be
devised likely to give satisfaction to the deluded people, or repair
even a slight portion of the mischief that had been done. The language
of complaint and reproach was in everybody's mouth, and all the
meetings were of the most stormy character. At last, however, after much
bickering and ill-will, it was agreed, at Amsterdam, by the assembled
deputies, that all contracts made in the height of the mania, or prior
to the month of November 1636, should be declared null and void, and
that, in those made after that date, purchasers should be freed from
their engagements, on paying ten per cent. to the vendor. This decision
gave no satisfaction. The vendors who had their tulips on hand were, of
course, discontented, and those who had pledged themselves to purchase,
thought themselves hardly treated. Tulips which had, at one time, been
worth six thousand florins, were now to be procured for five hundred; so
that the composition of ten per cent. was one hundred florins more than
the actual value. Actions for breach of contract were threatened in all
the courts of the country; but the latter refused to take cognizance of
gambling transactions.

The matter was finally referred to the Provincial Council at the Hague,
and it was confidently expected that the wisdom of this body would
invent some measure by which credit should be restored. Expectation
was on the stretch for its decision, but it never came. The members
continued to deliberate week after week, and at last, after thinking
about it for three months, declared that they could offer no final
decision until they had more information. They advised, however, that,
in the mean time, every vendor should, in the presence of witnesses,
offer the tulips in natura to the purchaser for the sums agreed upon. If
the latter refused to take them, they might be put up for sale by public
auction, and the original contractor held responsible for the difference
between the actual and the stipulated price. This was exactly the plan
recommended by the deputies, and which was already shown to be of no
avail. There was no court in Holland which would enforce payment. The
question was raised in Amsterdam, but the judges unanimously refused to
interfere, on the ground that debts contracted in gambling were no debts
in law.

Thus the matter rested. To find a remedy was beyond the power of the
government. Those who were unlucky enough to have had stores of tulips
on hand at the time of the sudden reaction were left to bear their
ruin as philosophically as they could; those who had made profits were
allowed to keep them; but the commerce of the country suffered a severe
shock, from which it was many years ere it recovered.

The example of the Dutch was imitated to some extent in England. In the
year 1636 tulips were publicly sold in the Exchange of London, and the
jobbers exerted themselves to the utmost to raise them to the fictitious
value they had acquired in Amsterdam. In Paris also the jobbers strove
to create a tulipomania. In both cities they only partially succeeded.
However, the force of example brought the flowers into great favour,
and amongst a certain class of people tulips have ever since been prized
more highly than any other flowers of the field. The Dutch are still
notorious for their partiality to them, and continue to pay higher
prices for them than any other people. As the rich Englishman boasts of
his fine race-horses or his old pictures, so does the wealthy Dutchman
vaunt him of his tulips.

In England, in our day, strange as it may appear, a tulip will produce
more money than an oak. If one could be found, rara in tetris, and black
as the black swan alluded to by Juvenal, its price would equal that of
a dozen acres of standing corn. In Scotland, towards the close of the
seventeenth century, the highest price for tulips, according to the
authority of a writer in the supplement to the third edition of the
"Encyclopedia Britannica," was ten guineas. Their value appears to have
diminished from that time till the year 1769, when the two most valuable
species in England were the Don Quevedo and the Valentinier, the former
of which was worth two guineas and the latter two guineas and a half.
These prices appear to have been the minimum. In the year 1800, a common
price was fifteen guineas for a single bulb. In 1835, so foolish were
the fanciers, that a bulb of the species called the Miss Fanny Kemble
was sold by public auction in London for seventy-five pounds. Still more
astonishing was the price of a tulip in the possession of a gardener
in the King's Road, Chelsea. In his catalogues, it was labelled at
two hundred guineas! Thus a flower, which for beauty and perfume was
surpassed by the abundant roses of the garden,--a nosegay of which might
be purchased for a penny,--was priced at a sum which would have provided
an industrious labourer and his family with food, and clothes, and
lodging for six years! Should chickweed and groundsel ever come into
fashion, the wealthy would, no doubt, vie with each other in adorning
their gardens with them, and paying the most extravagant prices for
them. In so doing, they would hardly be more foolish than the admirers
of tulips. The common prices for these flowers at the present time vary
from five to fifteen guineas, according to the rarity of the species.


     A fouth o' auld knick-knackets,
     Rusty airn caps and jinglin' jackets,
     Wad haud the Lothians three, in tackets,
     A towmond guid;
     An' parritch pats, and auld saut backets,
     Afore the flood.


The love for relics is one which will never be eradicated as long as
feeling and affection are denizens of the heart. It is a love which is
most easily excited in the best and kindliest natures, and which few are
callous enough to scoff at. Who would not treasure the lock of hair that
once adorned the brow of the faithful wife, now cold in death, or that
hung down the neck of a beloved infant, now sleeping under the sward?
Not one. They are home-relics, whose sacred worth is intelligible
to all; spoils rescued from the devouring grave, which, to the
affectionate, are beyond all price. How dear to a forlorn survivor the
book over whose pages he has pored with one departed! How much greater
its value, if that hand, now cold, had written a thought, an opinion, or
a name, upon the leaf! Besides these sweet, domestic relics, there are
others, which no one can condemn; relics sanctified by that admiration
of greatness and goodness which is akin to love; such as the copy of
Montaigne's Florio, with the name of Shakspeare upon the leaf, written
by the poet of all time himself; the chair preserved at Antwerp, in
which Rubens sat when he painted the immortal "Descent from the Cross;"
or the telescope, preserved in the Museum of Florence, which aided
Galileo in his sublime discoveries. Who would not look with veneration
upon the undoubted arrow of William Tell--the swords of Wallace or of
Hampden--or the Bible whose leaves were turned by some stern old father
of the faith?

Thus the principle of reliquism is hallowed and enshrined by love.
But from this germ of purity how numerous the progeny of errors and
superstitions! Men, in their admiration of the great, and of all that
appertained to them, have forgotten that goodness is a component part of
true greatness, and have made fools of themselves for the jaw-bone of a
saint, the toe-nail of an apostle, the handkerchief a king blew his nose
in, or the rope that hanged a criminal. Desiring to rescue some slight
token from the graves of their predecessors, they have confounded the
famous and the infamous, the renowned and the notorious. Great saints,
great sinners; great philosophers, great quacks; great conquerors, great
murderers; great ministers, great thieves; each and all have had their
admirers, ready to ransack earth, from the equator to either pole, to
find a relic of them.

The reliquism of modern times dates its origin from the centuries
immediately preceding the Crusades. The first pilgrims to the Holy Land
brought back to Europe thousands of apocryphal relics, in the purchase
of which they had expended all their store. The greatest favourite was
the wood of the true cross, which, like the oil of the widow, never
diminished. It is generally asserted, in the traditions of the Romish
Church, that the Empress Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great,
first discovered the veritable "true cross" in her pilgrimage to
Jerusalem. The Emperor Theodosius made a present of the greater part of
it to St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, by whom it was studded with precious
stones, and deposited in the principal church of that city. It was
carried away by the Huns, by whom it was burnt, after they had extracted
the valuable jewels it contained. Fragments, purporting to have been
cut from it were, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, to be found in
almost every church in Europe, and would, if collected together in one
place, have been almost sufficient to have built a cathedral. Happy
was the sinner who could get a sight of one of them; happier he who
possessed one! To obtain them the greatest dangers were cheerfully
braved. They were thought to preserve from all evils, and to cure the
most inveterate diseases. Annual pilgrimages were made to the shrines
that contained them, and considerable revenues collected from the

Next in renown were those precious relics, the tears of the Saviour. By
whom and in what manner they were preserved, the pilgrims did not often
inquire. Their genuineness was vouched by the Christians of the Holy
Land, and that was sufficient. Tears of the Virgin Mary, and tears of
St. Peter, were also to be had, carefully enclosed in little caskets,
which the pious might wear in their bosoms. After the tears the next
most precious relics were drops of the blood of Jesus and the martyrs.
Hair and toe-nails were also in great repute, and were sold at
extravagant prices. Thousands of pilgrims annually visited Palestine in
the eleventh and twelfth centuries, to purchase pretended relics for the
home market. The majority of them had no other means of subsistence than
the profits thus obtained. Many a nail, cut from the filthy foot of some
unscrupulous ecclesiastic, was sold at a diamond's price, within six
months after its severance from its parent toe, upon the supposition
that it had once belonged to a saint. Peter's toes were uncommonly
prolific, for there were nails enough in Europe, at the time of the
Council of Clermont, to have filled a sack, all of which were devoutly
believed to have grown on the sacred feet of that great apostle. Some of
them are still shown in the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle. The pious come
from a distance of a hundred German miles to feast their eyes upon them.

At Port Royal, in Paris, is kept with great care a thorn, which the
priests of that seminary assert to be one of the identical thorns that
bound the holy head of the Son of God. How it came there, and by whom
it was preserved, has never been explained. This is the famous thorn,
celebrated in the long dissensions of the Jansenists and the Molenists,
and which worked the miraculous cure upon Mademoiselle Perrier: by
merely kissing it, she was cured of a disease of the eyes of long
standing. [Voltaire, Siecle de Louis XIV.]

What traveller is unacquainted with the Santa Scala, or Holy Stairs, at
Rome? They were brought from Jerusalem along with the true cross, by the
Empress Helen, and were taken from the house which, according to popular
tradition, was inhabited by Pontius Pilate. They are said to be the
steps which Jesus ascended and descended when brought into the presence
of the Roman governor. They are held in the greatest veneration at Rome:
it is sacrilegious to walk upon them. The knees of the faithful must
alone touch them in ascending or descending, and that only after they
have reverentially kissed them.

Europe still swarms with these religious relics. There is hardly a Roman
Catholic church in Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, or Belgium, without
one or more of them. Even the poorly endowed churches of the villages
boast the possession of miraculous thigh-bones of the innumerable
saints of the Romish calendar. Aix-la-Chapelle is proud of the veritable
chasse, or thigh-bone of Charlemagne, which cures lameness. Halle has a
thighbone of the Virgin Mary; Spain has seven or eight, all said to be
undoubted relics. Brussels at one time preserved, and perhaps does now,
the teeth of St. Gudule. The faithful, who suffered from the tooth-ache,
had only to pray, look at them, and be cured. Some of these holy bones
have been buried in different parts of the Continent. After a certain
lapse of time, water is said to ooze from them, which soon forms a
spring, and cures all the diseases of the faithful. At a church in
Halle, there is a famous thigh-bone, which cures barrenness in women. Of
this bone, which is under the special superintendence of the Virgin, a
pleasant story is related by the incredulous. There resided at Ghent
a couple who were blessed with all the riches of this world, but whose
happiness was sore troubled by the want of children. Great was the
grief of the lady, who was both beautiful and loving, and many her
lamentations to her husband. The latter, annoyed by her unceasing
sorrow, advised her to make a pilgrimage to the celebrated chasse of
the Virgin. She went, was absent a week, and returned with a face all
radiant with joy and pleasure. Her lamentations ceased, and, in nine
months afterwards, she brought forth a son. But, oh! the instability of
human joys! The babe, so long desired and so greatly beloved, survived
but a few months. Two years passed over the heads of the disconsolate
couple, and no second child appeared to cheer their fire-side. A third
year passed away with the same result, and the lady once more began to
weep. "Cheer up, my love," said her husband, "and go to the holy chasse,
at Halle; perhaps the Virgin will again listen to your prayers." The
lady took courage at the thought, wiped away her tears, and proceeded on
the morrow towards Halle. She was absent only three days, and returned
home sad, weeping, and sorrow-stricken. "What is the matter?" said
her husband; "is the Virgin unwilling to listen to your prayers?" "The
Virgin is willing enough," said the disconsolate wife, "and will do what
she can for me; but I shall never have any more children! The priest!
the priest!--He is gone from Halle, and nobody knows where to find him!"

It is curious to remark the avidity manifested in all ages, and in all
countries, to obtain possession of some relic of any persons who have
been much spoken of, even for their crimes. When William Longbeard,
leader of the populace of London, in the reign of Richard I, was hanged
at Smithfield, the utmost eagerness was shown to obtain a hair from
his head, or a shred from his garments. Women came from Essex, Kent,
Suffolk, Sussex, and all the surrounding counties, to collect the mould
at the foot of his gallows. A hair of his beard was believed to preserve
from evil spirits, and a piece of his clothes from aches and pains.

In more modern days, a similar avidity was shown to obtain a relic of
the luckless Masaniello, the fisherman of Naples. After he had been
raised by mob favour to a height of power more despotic than monarch
ever wielded, he was shot by the same populace in the streets, as if he
had been a mad dog. His headless trunk was dragged through the mire for
several hours, and cast at night-fall into the city ditch. On the morrow
the tide of popular feeling turned once more in his favour. His
corpse was sought, arrayed in royal robes, and buried magnificently
by torch-light in the cathedral, ten thousand armed men, and as many
mourners, attending at the ceremony. The fisherman's dress which he had
worn was rent into shreds by the crowd, to be preserved as relics; the
door of his hut was pulled off its hinges by a mob of women, and eagerly
cut up into small pieces, to be made into images, caskets, and other
mementos. The scanty furniture of his poor abode became of more value
than the adornments of a palace; the ground he had walked upon was
considered sacred, and, being collected in small phials, was sold at its
weight in gold, and worn in the bosom as an amulet.

Almost as extraordinary was the frenzy manifested by the populace of
Paris on the execution of the atrocious Marchioness de Brinvilliers.
There were grounds for the popular wonder in the case of Masaniello,
who was unstained with personal crimes. But the career of Madame de
Brinvilliers was of a nature to excite no other feelings than disgust
and abhorrence. She was convicted of poisoning several persons, and
sentenced to be burned in the Place de Greve, and to have her ashes
scattered to the winds. On the day of her execution, the populace,
struck by her gracefulness and beauty, inveighed against the severity of
her sentence. Their pity soon increased to admiration, and, ere evening,
she was considered a saint. Her ashes were industriously collected, even
the charred wood, which had aided to consume her, was eagerly purchased
by the populace. Her ashes were thought to preserve from witchcraft.

In England many persons have a singular love for the relics of thieves
and murderers, or other great criminals. The ropes with which they have
been hanged are very often bought by collectors at a guinea per foot.
Great sums were paid for the rope which hanged Dr. Dodd, and for those
more recently which did justice upon Mr. Fauntleroy for forgery, and
on Thurtell for the murder of Mr. Weare. The murder of Maria Marten,
by Corder, in the year 1828, excited the greatest interest all over the
country. People came from Wales and Scotland, and even from Ireland, to
visit the barn where the body of the murdered woman was buried. Every
one of them was anxious to carry away some memorial of his visit. Pieces
of the barn-door, tiles from the roof, and, above all, the clothes of
the poor victim, were eagerly sought after. A lock of her hair was sold
for two guineas, and the purchaser thought himself fortunate in getting
it so cheaply.

So great was the concourse of people to visit the house in Camberwell
Lane, where Greenacre murdered Hannah Brown, in 1837, that it was found
necessary to station a strong detachment of police on the spot. The
crowd was so eager to obtain a relic of the house of this atrocious
criminal, that the police were obliged to employ force to prevent the
tables and chairs, and even the doors, from being carried away.

In earlier times, a singular superstition was attached to the hand of
a criminal who had suffered execution. It was thought that by merely
rubbing the dead hand on the body, the patient afflicted with the king's
evil would be instantly cured. The executioner at Newgate, sixty or
seventy years ago, derived no inconsiderable revenue from this foolish
practice. The possession of the hand was thought to be of still greater
efficacy in the cure of diseases and the prevention of misfortunes. In
the time of Charles II as much as ten guineas was thought a small price
for one of these disgusting relics.

When the maniac, Thom, or Courtenay, was shot, in the spring of 1838,
the relic-hunters were immediately in motion to obtain a memento of so
extraordinary an individual. His long, black beard and hair, which were
cut off by the surgeons, fell into the hands of his disciples, by
whom they are treasured with the utmost reverence. A lock of his hair
commands a great price, not only amongst his followers, but among the
more wealthy inhabitants of Canterbury and its neighbourhood. The tree
against which he fell when he was shot, has already been stripped of all
its bark by the curious, and bids fair to be entirely demolished within
a twelvemonth. A letter, with his signature to it, is paid for in gold
coins; and his favourite horse promises to become as celebrated as his
master. Parties of ladies and gentlemen have come to Boughton from a
distance of a hundred and fifty miles, to visit the scene of that fatal
affray, and stroke on the back the horse of the "mad Knight of Malta."
If a strict watch had not been kept over his grave for months, the body
would have been disinterred, and the bones carried away as memorials.

Among the Chinese no relics are more valued than the boots which have
been worn by an upright magistrate. In Davis's interesting Description
of the Empire of China, we are informed, that whenever a judge of
unusual integrity resigns his situation, the people all congregate to
do him honour. If he leaves the city where he has presided, the crowd
accompany him from his residence to the gates, where his boots are drawn
off with great ceremony, to be preserved in the hall of justice. Their
place is immediately supplied by a new pair, which, in their turn, are
drawn off to make room for others before he has worn them five minutes,
it being considered sufficient to consecrate them that he should have
merely drawn them on.

Among the most favourite relics of modern times, in Europe, are
Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, Napoleon's willow, and the table at
Waterloo, on which the Emperor wrote his despatches. Snuffboxes of
Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, are comparatively rare, though there are
doubtless more of them in the market than were ever made of the wood
planted by the great bard. Many a piece of alien wood passes under this
name. The same may be said of Napoleon's table at Waterloo. The original
has long since been destroyed, and a round dozen of counterfeits along
with it. Many preserve the simple stick of wood; others have them cut
into brooches and every variety of ornament; but by far the greater
number prefer them as snuff-boxes. In France they are made into
bonbonnieres, and are much esteemed by the many thousands whose cheeks
still glow, and whose eyes still sparkle at the name of Napoleon.

Bullets from the field of Waterloo, and buttons from the coats of the
soldiers who fell in the fight, are still favourite relics in Europe.
But the same ingenuity which found new tables after the old one was
destroyed, has cast new bullets for the curious. Many a one who thinks
himself the possessor of a bullet which aided in giving peace to the
world on that memorable day, is the owner of a dump, first extracted
from the ore a dozen years afterwards. Let all lovers of genuine relics
look well to their money before they part with it to the ciceroni that
swarm in the village of Waterloo.

Few travellers stop at the lonely isle of St. Helena, without cutting
a twig from the willow that droops over the grave of Napoleon. Many
of them have since been planted in different parts of Europe, and have
grown into trees as large as their parent. Relic-hunters, who are unable
to procure a twig of the original, are content with one from these.
Several of them are growing in the neighbourhood of London, more prized
by their cultivators than any other tree in their gardens. But in
relics, as in everything else, there is the use and the abuse. The
undoubted relics of great men, or great events, will always possess
attractions for the thinking and refined. There are few who would
not join with Cowley in the extravagant wish introduced in his lines
"written while sitting in a chair made of the remains of the ship in
which Sir Francis Drake sailed round the world:"--

     And I myself, who now love quiet too,
     Almost as much as any chair can do,
     Would yet a journey take
     An old wheel of that chariot to see,
     Which Phaeton so rashly brake.


As epidemic terror of the end of the world has several times spread over
the nations. The most remarkable was that which seized Christendom about
the middle of the tenth century. Numbers of fanatics appeared in France,
Germany, and Italy at that time, preaching that the thousand years
prophesied in the Apocalypse as the term of the world's duration, were
about to expire, and that the Son of Man would appear in the clouds
to judge the godly and the ungodly. The delusion appears to have been
discouraged by the church, but it nevertheless spread rapidly among the
people. [See Gibbon and Voltaire for further notice of this subject.]

The scene of the last judgment was expected to be at Jerusalem. In
the year 999, the number of pilgrims proceeding eastward, to await the
coming of the Lord in that city, was so great that they were compared to
a desolating army. Most of them sold their goods and possessions before
they quitted Europe, and lived upon the proceeds in the Holy Land.
Buildings of every sort were suffered to fall into ruins. It was thought
useless to repair them, when the end of the world was so near. Many
noble edifices were deliberately pulled down. Even churches, usually
so well maintained, shared the general neglect. Knights, citizens, and
serfs, travelled eastwards in company, taking with them their wives and
children, singing psalms as they went, and looking with fearful eyes
upon the sky, which they expected each minute to open, to let the Son of
God descend in his glory.

During the thousandth year the number of pilgrims increased. Most of
them were smitten with terror as with a plague. Every phenomenon of
nature filled them with alarm. A thunder-storm sent them all upon their
knees in mid-march. It was the opinion that thunder was the voice of
God, announcing the day of judgment. Numbers expected the earth to
open, and give up its dead at the sound. Every meteor in the sky seen
at Jerusalem brought the whole Christian population into the streets to
weep and pray. The pilgrims on the road were in the same alarm:--

     Lorsque, pendant la nuit, un globe de lumiere
     S'echappa quelquefois de la voute des cieux,
     Et traca dans sa chute un long sillon de feux,
     La troupe suspendit sa marche solitaire.
     [Charlemagne. Pomme Epique, par Lucien Buonaparte.]

Fanatic preachers kept up the flame of terror. Every shooting star
furnished occasion for a sermon, in which the sublimity of the
approaching judgment was the principal topic.

The appearance of comets has been often thought to foretell the speedy
dissolution of this world. Part of this belief still exists; but
the comet is no longer looked upon as the sign, but the agent of
destruction. So lately as in the year 1832 the greatest alarm spread
over the Continent of Europe, especially in Germany, lest the comet,
whose appearance was then foretold by astronomers, should destroy the
earth. The danger of our globe was gravely discussed. Many persons
refrained from undertaking or concluding any business during that year,
in consequence solely of their apprehension that this terrible comet
would dash us and our world to atoms.

During seasons of great pestilence men have often believed the
prophecies of crazed fanatics, that the end of the world was come.
Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity. Prophecies of all
sorts are rife on such occasions, and are readily believed, whether for
good or evil. During the great plague, which ravaged all Europe, between
the years 1345 and 1350, it was generally considered that the end of
the world was at hand. Pretended prophets were to be found in all the
principal cities of Germany, France, and Italy, predicting that within
ten years the trump of the Archangel would sound, and the Saviour appear
in the clouds to call the earth to judgment.

No little consternation was created in London in 1736 by the prophecy of
the famous Whiston, that the world would be destroyed in that year, on
the 13th of October. Crowds of people went out on the appointed day to
Islington, Hampstead, and the fields intervening, to see the destruction
of London, which was to be the "beginning of the end." A satirical
account of this folly is given in Swift's Miscellanies, vol. iii.
entitled, "A True and Faithful Narrative of what passed in London on a
Rumour of the Day of Judgment." An authentic narrative of this delusion
would be interesting; but this solemn witticism of Pope and Gay is not
to be depended upon.

In the year 1761 the citizens of London were again frightened out of
their wits by two shocks of an earthquake, and the prophecy of a third,
which was to destroy them altogether. The first shock was felt on the
8th of February, and threw down several chimneys in the neighbourhood of
Limehouse and Poplar; the second happened on the 8th of March, and was
chiefly felt in the north of London, and towards Hampstead and Highgate.
It soon became the subject of general remark, that there was exactly
an interval of a month between the shocks; and a crack-brained fellow,
named Bell, a soldier in the Life Guards, was so impressed with the idea
that there would be a third in another month, that he lost his senses
altogether, and ran about the streets predicting the destruction of
London on the 5th of April. Most people thought that the first would
have been a more appropriate day; but there were not wanting thousands
who confidently believed the prediction, and took measures to transport
themselves and families from the scene of the impending calamity. As the
awful day approached, the excitement became intense, and great numbers
of credulous people resorted to all the villages within a circuit
of twenty miles, awaiting the doom of London. Islington, Highgate,
Hampstead, Harrow, and Blackheath, were crowded with panic-stricken
fugitives, who paid exorbitant prices for accommodation to the
housekeepers of these secure retreats. Such as could not afford to pay
for lodgings at any of those places, remained in London until two or
three days before the time, and then encamped in the surrounding fields,
awaiting the tremendous shock which was to lay their high city all level
with the dust. As happened during a similar panic in the time of Henry
VIII, the fear became contagious, and hundreds who had laughed at the
prediction a week before, packed up their goods, when they saw others
doing so, and hastened away. The river was thought to be a place of
great security, and all the merchant vessels in the port were filled
with people, who passed the night between the 4th and 5th on board,
expecting every instant to see St. Paul's totter, and the towers of
Westminster Abbey rock in the wind and fall amid a cloud of dust. The
greater part of the fugitives returned on the following day, convinced
that the prophet was a false one; but many judged it more prudent to
allow a week to elapse before they trusted their dear limbs in London.
Bell lost all credit in a short time, and was looked upon even by the
most credulous as a mere madman. He tried some other prophecies, but
nobody was deceived by them; and, in a few months afterwards, he was
confined in a lunatic asylum.

A panic terror of the end of the world seized the good people of Leeds
and its neighbourhood in the year 1806. It arose from the following
circumstances. A hen, in a village close by, laid eggs, on which were
inscribed, in legible characters, the words "Christ is coming." Great
numbers visited the spot, and examined these wondrous eggs, convinced
that the day of judgment was near at hand. Like sailors in a storm,
expecting every instant to go to the bottom, the believers suddenly
became religious, prayed violently, and flattered themselves that they
repented them of their evil courses. But a plain tale soon put them
down, and quenched their religion entirely. Some gentlemen, hearing of
the matter, went one fine morning, and caught the poor hen in the act
of laying one of her miraculous eggs. They soon ascertained beyond doubt
that the egg had been inscribed with some corrosive ink, and cruelly
forced up again into the bird's body. At this explanation, those who had
prayed, now laughed, and the world wagged as merrily as of yore.

At the time of the plague in Milan, in 1630, of which so affecting a
description has been left us by Ripamonte, in his interesting work "De
Peste Mediolani", the people, in their distress, listened with avidity
to the predictions of astrologers and other impostors. It is singular
enough that the plague was foretold a year before it broke out. A large
comet appearing in 1628, the opinions of astrologers were divided with
regard to it. Some insisted that it was a forerunner of a bloody war;
others maintained that it predicted a great famine; but the greater
number, founding their judgment upon its pale colour, thought it
portended a pestilence. The fulfilment of their prediction brought them
into great repute while the plague was raging.

Other prophecies were current, which were asserted to have been
delivered hundreds of years previously. They had a most pernicious
effect upon the mind of the vulgar, as they induced a belief in
fatalism. By taking away the hope of recovery--that greatest balm in
every malady--they increased threefold the ravages of the disease. One
singular prediction almost drove the unhappy people mad. An ancient
couplet, preserved for ages by tradition, foretold, that in the year
1630 the devil would poison all Milan. Early one morning in April,
and before the pestilence had reached its height, the passengers were
surprised to see that all the doors in the principal streets of the city
were marked with a curious daub, or spot, as if a sponge, filled with
the purulent matter of the plague-sores, had been pressed against them.
The whole population were speedily in movement to remark the strange
appearance, and the greatest alarm spread rapidly. Every means was taken
to discover the perpetrators, but in vain. At last the ancient prophecy
was remembered, and prayers were offered up in all the churches that
the machinations of the Evil One might be defeated. Many persons were
of opinion that the emissaries of foreign powers were employed to spread
infectious poison over the city; but by far the greater number were
convinced that the powers of hell had conspired against them, and that
the infection was spread by supernatural agencies. In the mean time the
plague increased fearfully. Distrust and alarm took possession of every
mind. Everything was believed to have been poisoned by the devil; the
waters of the wells, the standing corn in the fields, and the fruit upon
the trees. It was believed that all objects of touch were poisoned; the
walls of the houses, the pavement of the streets, and the very handles
of the doors. The populace were raised to a pitch of ungovernable fury.
A strict watch was kept for the devil's emissaries, and any man who
wanted to be rid of an enemy, had only to say that he had seen him
besmearing a door with ointment; his fate was certain death at the
hands of the mob. An old man, upwards of eighty years of age, a daily
frequenter of the church of St. Antonio, was seen, on rising from his
knees, to wipe with the skirt of his cloak the stool on which he was
about to sit down. A cry was raised immediately that he was besmearing
the seat with poison. A mob of women, by whom the church was crowded,
seized hold of the feeble old man, and dragged him out by the hair of
his head, with horrid oaths and imprecations. He was trailed in this
manner through the mire to the house of the municipal judge, that he
might be put to the rack, and forced to discover his accomplices; but
he expired on the way. Many other victims were sacrificed to the popular
fury. One Mora, who appears to have been half a chemist and half a
barber, was accused of being in league with the devil to poison Milan.
His house was surrounded, and a number of chemical preparations were
found. The poor man asserted, that they were intended as preservatives
against infection; but some physicians, to whom they were submitted,
declared they were poison. Mora was put to the rack, where he for a long
time asserted his innocence. He confessed at last, when his courage was
worn down by torture, that he was in league with the devil and foreign
powers to poison the whole city; that he had anointed the doors,
and infected the fountains of water. He named several persons as his
accomplices, who were apprehended and put to a similar torture. They
were all found guilty, and executed. Mora's house was rased to the
ground, and a column erected on the spot, with an inscription to
commemorate his guilt.

While the public mind was filled with these marvellous occurrences, the
plague continued to increase. The crowds that were brought together to
witness the executions, spread the infection among one another. But the
fury of their passions, and the extent of their credulity, kept pace
with the violence of the plague; every wonderful and preposterous story
was believed. One, in particular, occupied them to the exclusion, for a
long time, of every other. The Devil himself had been seen. He had
taken a house in Milan, in which he prepared his poisonous unguents, and
furnished them to his emissaries for distribution. One man had brooded
over such tales till he became firmly convinced that the wild flights of
his own fancy were realities. He stationed himself in the market-place
of Milan, and related the following story to the crowds that gathered
round him. He was standing, he said, at the door of the cathedral, late
in the evening, and when there was nobody nigh, he saw a dark-coloured
chariot, drawn by six milk-white horses, stop close beside him. The
chariot was followed by a numerous train of domestics in dark liveries,
mounted on dark-coloured steeds. In the chariot there sat a tall
stranger of a majestic aspect; his long black hair floated in the
wind--fire flashed from his large black eyes, and a curl of ineffable
scorn dwelt upon his lips. The look of the stranger was so sublime
that he was awed, and trembled with fear when he gazed upon him. His
complexion was much darker than that of any man he had ever seen,
and the atmosphere around him was hot and suffocating. He perceived
immediately that he was a being of another world. The stranger, seeing
his trepidation, asked him blandly, yet majestically, to mount beside
him. He had no power to refuse, and before he was well aware that he
had moved, he found himself in the chariot. Onwards they went, with the
rapidity of the wind, the stranger speaking no word, until they stopped
before a door in the high-street of Milan. There was a crowd of people
in the street, but, to his great surprise, no one seemed to notice the
extraordinary equipage and its numerous train. From this he concluded
that they were invisible. The house at which they stopped appeared to
be a shop, but the interior was like a vast half-ruined palace. He went
with his mysterious guide through several large and dimly-lighted rooms.
In one of them, surrounded by huge pillars of marble, a senate of ghosts
was assembled, debating on the progress of the plague. Other parts
of the building were enveloped in the thickest darkness, illumined at
intervals by flashes of lightning, which allowed him to distinguish a
number of gibing and chattering skeletons, running about and pursuing
each other, or playing at leap-frog over one another's backs. At the
rear of the mansion was a wild, uncultivated plot of ground, in the
midst of which arose a black rock. Down its sides rushed with fearful
noise a torrent of poisonous water, which, insinuating itself through
the soil, penetrated to all the springs of the city, and rendered them
unfit for use. After he had been shown all this, the stranger led him
into another large chamber, filled with gold and precious stones, all of
which he offered him if he would kneel down and worship him, and consent
to smear the doors and houses of Milan with a pestiferous salve which he
held out to him. He now knew him to be the Devil, and in that moment of
temptation, prayed to God to give him strength to resist. His prayer was
heard--he refused the bribe. The stranger scowled horribly upon him--a
loud clap of thunder burst over his head--the vivid lightning flashed
in his eyes, and the next moment he found himself standing alone at the
porch of the cathedral. He repeated this strange tale day after day,
without any variation, and all the populace were firm believers in its
truth. Repeated search was made to discover the mysterious house, but
all in vain. The man pointed out several as resembling it, which were
searched by the police; but the Demon of the Pestilence was not to be
found, nor the hall of ghosts, nor the poisonous fountain. But the minds
of the people were so impressed with the idea that scores of witnesses,
half crazed by disease, came forward to swear that they also had
seen the diabolical stranger, and had heard his chariot, drawn by the
milk-white steeds, rumbling over the streets at midnight with a sound
louder than thunder.

The number of persons who confessed that they were employed by the
Devil to distribute poison is almost incredible. An epidemic frenzy was
abroad, which seemed to be as contagious as the plague. Imagination was
as disordered as the body, and day after day persons came voluntarily
forward to accuse themselves. They generally had the marks of disease
upon them, and some died in the act of confession.

During the great plague of London, in 1665, the people listened with
similar avidity to the predictions of quacks and fanatics. Defoe says,
that at that time the people were more addicted to prophecies and
astronomical conjurations, dreams, and old wives' tales than ever they
were before or since. Almanacs, and their predictions, frightened them
terribly. Even the year before the plague broke out, they were greatly
alarmed by the comet which then appeared, and anticipated that famine,
pestilence, or fire would follow. Enthusiasts, while yet the disease had
made but little progress, ran about the streets, predicting that in a
few days London would be destroyed.

A still more singular instance of the faith in predictions occurred
in London in the year 1524. The city swarmed at that time with
fortune-tellers and astrologers, who were consulted daily by people of
every class in society on the secrets of futurity. As early as the month
of June 1523, several of them concurred in predicting that, on the 1st
day of February, 1524, the waters of the Thames would swell to such
a height as to overflow the whole city of London, and wash away ten
thousand houses. The prophecy met implicit belief. It was reiterated
with the utmost confidence month after month, until so much alarm was
excited that many families packed up their goods, and removed into
Kent and Essex. As the time drew nigh, the number of these emigrants
increased. In January, droves of workmen might be seen, followed by
their wives and children, trudging on foot to the villages within
fifteen or twenty miles, to await the catastrophe. People of a higher
class were also to be seen, in waggons and other vehicles, bound on
a similar errand. By the middle of January, at least twenty thousand
persons had quitted the doomed city, leaving nothing but the bare walls
of their homes to be swept away by the impending floods. Many of the
richer sort took up their abode on the heights of Highgate, Hampstead,
and Blackheath; and some erected tents as far away as Waltham Abbey, on
the north, and Croydon, on the south of the Thames. Bolton, the prior
of St. Bartholomew's, was so alarmed that he erected, at very great
expense, a sort of fortress at Harrow-on-the-Hill, which he stocked with
provisions for two months. On the 24th of January, a week before
the awful day which was to see the destruction of London, he removed
thither, with the brethren and officers of the priory and all his
household. A number of boats were conveyed in waggons to his fortress,
furnished abundantly with expert rowers, in case the flood, reaching
so high as Harrow, should force them to go further for a resting-place.
Many wealthy citizens prayed to share his retreat, but the Prior, with
a prudent forethought, admitted only his personal friends, and those who
brought stores of eatables for the blockade.

At last the morn, big with the fate of London, appeared in the east. The
wondering crowds were astir at an early hour to watch the rising of the
waters. The inundation, it was predicted, would be gradual, not sudden;
so that they expected to have plenty of time to escape, as soon as
they saw the bosom of old Thames heave beyond the usual mark. But the
majority were too much alarmed to trust to this, and thought themselves
safer ten or twenty miles off. The Thames, unmindful of the foolish
crowds upon its banks, flowed on quietly as of yore. The tide ebbed at
its usual hour, flowed to its usual height, and then ebbed again, just
as if twenty astrologers had not pledged their words to the contrary.
Blank were their faces as evening approached, and as blank grew
the faces of the citizens to think that they had made such fools of
themselves. At last night set in, and the obstinate river would not lift
its waters to sweep away even one house out of the ten thousand. Still,
however, the people were afraid to go to sleep. Many hundreds remained
up till dawn of the next day, lest the deluge should come upon them like
a thief in the night.

On the morrow, it was seriously discussed whether it would not be
advisable to duck the false prophets in the river. Luckily for them,
they thought of an expedient which allayed the popular fury. They
asserted that, by an error (a very slight one) of a little figure, they
had fixed the date of this awful inundation a whole century too early.
The stars were right after all, and they, erring mortals, were wrong.
The present generation of cockneys was safe, and London 'would be washed
away, not in 1524, but in 1624. At this announcement, Bolton, the prior,
dismantled his fortress, and the weary emigrants came back.

An eye-witness of the great fire of London, in an account preserved
among the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum, and recently published
in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, relates another
instance of the credulity of the Londoners. The writer, who accompanied
the Duke of York day by day through the district included between the
Fleet-bridge and the Thames, states that, in their efforts to check the
progress of the flames, they were much impeded by the superstition of
the people. Mother Shipton, in one of her prophecies, had said that
London would be reduced to ashes, and they refused to make any efforts
to prevent it. [This prophecy seems to have been that set forth at
length in the popular Life of Mother Shipton:--

     "When fate to England shall restore
     A king to reign as heretofore,
     Great death in London shall be though,
     And many houses be laid low."]

A son of the noted Sir Kenelm Digby, who was also a pretender to the
gifts of prophecy, persuaded them that no power on earth could prevent
the fulfilment of the prediction; for it was written in the great book
of fate that London was to be destroyed. Hundreds of persons, who
might have rendered valuable assistance, and saved whole parishes
from devastation, folded their arms and looked on. As many more gave
themselves up, with the less compunction, to plunder a city which they
could not save.

The prophecies of Mother Shipton are still believed in many of the rural
districts of England. In cottages and servants' halls her reputation is
great; and she rules, the most popular of British prophets, among all
the uneducated, or half-educated, portions of the community. She is
generally supposed to have been born at Knaresborough, in the reign
of Henry VII, and to have sold her soul to the Devil for the power of
foretelling future events. Though during her lifetime she was looked
upon as a witch, she yet escaped the witch's fate, and died peaceably
in her bed at an extreme old age, near Clifton in Yorkshire. A stone
is said to have been erected to her memory in the church-yard of that
place, with the following epitaph:--

"Here lies she who never lied; Whose skill often has been tried: Her
prophecies shall still survive, And ever keep her name alive."

"Never a day passed," says her traditionary biography, "wherein she
did not relate something remarkable, and that required the most serious
consideration. People flocked to her from far and near, her fame was so
great. They went to her of all sorts, both old and young, rich and poor,
especially young maidens, to be resolved of their doubts relating
to things to come; and all returned wonderfully satisfied in the
explanations she gave to their questions." Among the rest, went
the Abbot of Beverley, to whom she foretold the suppression of the
monasteries by Henry VIII; his marriage with Anne Boleyn; the fires for
heretics in Smithfield, and the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. She
also foretold the accession of James I, adding that, with him,

     "From the cold North,
     Every evil should come forth."

On a subsequent visit she uttered another prophecy, which, in the
opinion of her believers, still remains unfulfilled, but may be expected
to be realised during the present century:--

     "The time shall come when seas of blood
     Shall mingle with a greater flood.
     Great noise there shall be heard--great shouts and cries,
     And seas shall thunder louder than the skies;
     Then shall three lions fight with three, and bring
     Joy to a people, honour to a king.
     That fiery year as soon as o'er,
     Peace shall then be as before;
     Plenty shall everywhere be found,
     And men with swords shall plough the ground."

But the most famous of all her prophecies is one relating to London.
Thousands of persons still shudder to think of the woes that are to
burst over this unhappy realm, when London and Highgate are joined by
one continuous line of houses. This junction, which, if the rage for
building lasts much longer, in the same proportion as heretofore, bids
fair to be soon accomplished, was predicted by her shortly before her
death. Revolutions--the fall of mighty monarchs, and the shedding of
much blood are to signalise that event. The very angels, afflicted by
our woes, are to turn aside their heads, and weep for hapless Britain.

But great as is the fame of Mother Shipton, she ranks but second in the
list of British prophets. Merlin, the mighty Merlin, stands alone in his
high pre-eminence--the first and greatest. As old Drayton sings, in his

     "Of Merlin and his skill what region doth not hear?
     The world shall still be full of Merlin every year.
     A thousand lingering years his prophecies have run,
     And scarcely shall have end till time itself be done."

Spenser, in his divine poem, has given us a powerful description of this
renowned seer--

     ".......who had in magic more insight
     Than ever him before, or after, living wight.

     "For he by words could call out of the sky
     Both sun and moon, and make them him obey;
     The land to sea, and sea to mainland dry,
     And darksome night he eke could turn to day--
     Huge hosts of men he could, alone, dismay.
     And hosts of men and meanest things could frame,
     Whenso him list his enemies to fray,
     That to this day, for terror of his name,
     The fiends do quake, when any him to them does name.

     "And soothe men say that he was not the sonne,
     Of mortal sire or other living wighte,
     But wondrously begotten and begoune
     By false illusion of a guileful sprite,
     On a faire ladye nun."

In these verses the poet has preserved the popular belief with regard
to Merlin, who is generally supposed to have been a contemporary of
Vortigern. Opinion is divided as to whether he were a real personage, or
a mere impersonation, formed by the poetic fancy of a credulous people.
It seems most probable that such a man did exist, and that, possessing
knowledge as much above the comprehension of his age, as that possessed
by Friar Bacon was beyond the reach of his, he was endowed by the
wondering crowd with the supernatural attributes that Spenser has

Geoffrey of Monmouth translated Merlin's poetical odes, or prophecies,
into Latin prose, and he was much reverenced, not only by Geoffrey, but
by most of the old annalists. In a "Life of Merlin, with his Prophecies
and Predictions, interpreted and made good by our English Annals," by
Thomas Heywood, published in the reign of Charles I, we find several of
these pretended prophecies. They seem, however, to have been all written
by Heywood himself. They are in terms too plain and positive to allow
any one to doubt for a moment of their having been composed ex post
facto. Speaking of Richard I, he says:--

     "The Lion's heart will 'gainst the Saracen rise,
     And purchase from him many a glorious prize;
     The rose and lily shall at first unite,
     But, parting of the prey prove opposite.

     *           *          *           *

     But while abroad these great acts shall be done;
     All things at home shall to disorder run.
     Cooped up and caged then shall the Lion be,
     But, after sufferance, ransomed and set free."

The sapient Thomas Heywood gravely goes on to inform us, that all these
things actually came to pass. Upon Richard III he is equally luminous.
He says:--

     "A hunch-backed monster, who with teeth is born,
     The mockery of art and nature's scorn;
     Who from the womb preposterously is hurled,
     And, with feet forward, thrust into the world,
     Shall, from the lower earth on which he stood,
     Wade, every step he mounts, knee-deep in blood.
     He shall to th' height of all his hopes aspire,
     And, clothed in state, his ugly shape admire;
     But, when he thinks himself most safe to stand,
     From foreign parts a native whelp shall land."

Another of these prophecies after the event tells us that Henry VIII
should take the power from Rome, "and bring it home unto his British
bower;" that he should "root out from the land all the razored skulls;"
and that he should neither spare "man in his rage nor woman in his
lust;" and that, in the time of his next successor but one, "there
should come in the fagot and the stake." Master Heywood closes Merlin's
prophecies at his own day, and does not give even a glimpse of what
was to befall England after his decease. Many other prophecies, besides
those quoted by him, were, he says, dispersed abroad, in his day, under
the name of Merlin; but he gives his readers a taste of one only, and
that is the following:--

     "When hempe is ripe and ready to pull,
     Then Englishman beware thy skull."

This prophecy, which, one would think, ought to have put him in mind of
the gallows, the not unusual fate of false prophets, and perchance his
own, he explains thus:--"In this word HEMPE be five letters. Now, by
reckoning the five successive princes from Henry VIII, this prophecy is
easily explained: H signifieth King Henry before named; E, Edward, his
son, the sixth of that name; M, Mary, who succeeded him; P, Philip of
Spain, who, by marrying Queen Mary, participated with her in the English
diadem; and, lastly, E signifieth Queen Elizabeth, after whose death
there was a great feare that some troubles might have arisen about the
crown." As this did not happen, Heywood, who was a sly rogue in a small
way, gets out of the scrape by saying, "Yet proved this augury true,
though not according to the former expectation; for, after the peaceful
inauguration of King James, there was great mortality, not in London
only, but through the whole kingdom, and from which the nation was not
quite clean in seven years after."

This is not unlike the subterfuge of Peter of Pontefract, who had
prophesied the death and deposition of King John, and who was hanged by
that monarch for his pains. A very graphic and amusing account of this
pretended prophet is given by Grafton, in his Chronicles of England.
There is so much homely vigour about the style of the old annalist,
that it would be a pity to give the story in other words than his own.
[Chronicles of England, by Richard Grafton; London, 1568, p. 106.] "In
the meanwhile," says he, "the priestes within England had provided them
a false and counterfeated prophet, called Peter Wakefielde, a Yorkshire
man, who was an hermite, an idle gadder about, and a pratlyng marchant.
Now to bring this Peter in credite, and the kyng out of all credite with
his people, diverse vaine persons bruted dayly among the commons of
the realme, that Christe had twice appered unto him in the shape of a
childe, betwene the prieste's handes, once at Yorke, another tyme at
Pomfret; and that he had breathed upon him thrice, saying, 'Peace,
peace, peace,' and teachyng many things, which he anon declared to the
bishops, and bid the people amend their naughtie living. Being rapt also
in spirite, they sayde he behelde the joyes of heaven and sorowes of
hell, for scant were there three in the realme, sayde he, that lived

"This counterfeated soothsayer prophecied of King John, that he should
reigne no longer than the Ascension-day next followyng, which was in the
yere of our Lord 1211, and was the thirteenth yere from his coronation;
and this, he said, he had by revelation. Then it was of him demanded,
whether he should be slaine or be deposed, or should voluntarily give
over the crowne? He aunswered, that he could not tell; but of this he
was sure (he sayd), that neither he nor any of his stock or lineage
should reigne after that day.

"The king hering of this, laughed much at it, and made but a scoff
thereat. 'Tush!' saith he, 'it is but an ideot knave, and such an one as
lacketh his right wittes.' But when this foolish prophet had so escaped
the daunger of the Kinge's displeasure, and that he made no more of it,
he gate him abroad, and prated thereof at large, as he was a very idle
vagabond, and used to trattle and talke more than ynough, so that
they which loved the King caused him anon after to be apprehended as
a malefactor, and to be throwen in prison, the King not yet knowing

"Anone after the fame of this phantasticall prophet went all the realme
over, and his name was knowen everywhere, as foolishnesse is much
regarded of the people, where wisdome is not in place; specially because
he was then imprisoned for the matter, the rumour was the larger, their
wonderynges were the wantoner, their practises the foolisher, their
busye talkes and other idle doinges the greater. Continually from
thence, as the rude manner of people is, olde gossyps tales went
abroade, new tales were invented, fables were added to fables, and lyes
grew upon lyes. So that every daye newe slanders were laide upon the
King, and not one of them true. Rumors arose, blasphemyes were sprede,
the enemyes rejoyced, and treasons by the priestes were mainteyned; and
what lykewise was surmised, or other subtiltye practised, all was then
lathered upon this foolish prophet, as 'thus saith Peter Wakefield;'
'thus hath he prophecied;' 'and thus it shall come to pass;' yea, many
times, when he thought nothing lesse. And when the Ascension-day was
come, which was prophecyed of before, King John commanded his royal
tent to be spread in the open fielde, passing that day with his noble
counseyle and men of honour, in the greatest solemnitie that ever he did
before; solacing himself with musickale instrumentes and songs, most
in sight among his trustie friendes. When that day was paste in all
prosperitie and myrth, his enemyes being confused, turned all into an
allegorical understanding to make the prophecie good, and sayde, 'he
is no longer King, for the Pope reigneth, and not he.'" [King John was
labouring under a sentence of excommunication at the time.]

"Then was the King by his council perswaded that this false prophet had
troubled the realme, perverted the heartes of the people, and raysed the
commons against him; for his wordes went over the sea, by the help of
his prelates, and came to the French King's care, and gave to him a
great encouragement to invade the lande. He had not else done it so
sodeinely. But he was most lowly deceived, as all they are and shall
be that put their trust in such dark drowsye dreames of hipocrites. The
King therefore commanded that he should be hanged up, and his sonne also
with him, lest any more false prophets should arise of that race."

Heywood, who was a great stickler for the truth of all sorts of
prophecies, gives a much more favourable account of this Peter of
Pomfret, or Pontefract, whose fate he would, in all probability, have
shared, if he had had the misfortune to have flourished in the same age.
He says, that Peter, who was not only a prophet, but a bard, predicted
divers of King John's disasters, which fell out accordingly. On being
taxed for a lying prophet in having predicted that the King would be
deposed before he entered into the fifteenth year of his reign, he
answered him boldly, that all he had said was justifiable and true; for
that, having given up his crown to the Pope, and paying him an annual
tribute, the Pope reigned, and not he. Heywood thought this explanation
to be perfectly satisfactory, and the prophet's faith for ever

But to return to Merlin. Of him even to this day it may be said, in the
words which Burns has applied to another notorious personage,

     "Great was his power and great his fame;
     Far kenned and noted is his name?

His reputation is by no means confined to the land of his birth, but
extends through most of the nations of Europe. A very curious volume of
his Life, Prophecies, and Miracles, written, it is supposed, by Robert
de Bosron, was printed at Paris in 1498, which states, that the Devil
himself was his father, and that he spoke the instant he was born, and
assured his mother, a very virtuous young woman, that she should not die
in child-bed with him, as her ill-natured neighbours had predicted. The
judge of the district, hearing of so marvellous an occurrence, summoned
both mother and child to appear before him; and they went accordingly
the same day. To put the wisdom of the young prophet most effectually
to the test, the judge asked him if he knew his own father? To which the
infant Merlin replied, in a clear, sonorous voice, "Yes, my father is
the Devil; and I have his power, and know all things, past, present, and
to come." His worship clapped his hands in astonishment, and took the
prudent resolution of not molesting so awful a child, or its mother

Early tradition attributes the building of Stonehenge to the power of
Merlin. It was believed that those mighty stones were whirled through
the air, at his command, from Ireland to Salisbury Plain, and that he
arranged them in the form in which they now stand, to commemorate
for ever the unhappy fate of three hundred British chiefs, who were
massacred on that spot by the Saxons.

At Abergwylly, near Caermarthen, is still shown the cave of the prophet
and the scene of his incantations. How beautiful is the description of
it given by Spenser in his "Faerie Queene." The lines need no apology
for their repetition here, and any sketch of the great prophet of
Britain would be incomplete without them:--

     "There the wise Merlin, whilom wont (they say),
     To make his wonne low underneath the ground,
     In a deep delve far from the view of day,
     That of no living wight he mote be found,
     Whenso he counselled with his sprites encompassed round.

     "And if thou ever happen that same way
     To travel, go to see that dreadful place;
     It is a hideous, hollow cave, they say,
     Under a rock that lies a little space
     From the swift Barry, tumbling down apace
     Amongst the woody hills of Dynevoure;
     But dare thou not, I charge, in any case,
     To enter into that same baleful bower,
     For fear the cruel fiendes should thee unwares devour!

     "But, standing high aloft, low lay thine care,
     And there such ghastly noise of iron chaines,
     And brazen caudrons thou shalt rombling heare,
     Which thousand sprites, with long-enduring paines,
     Doe tosse, that it will stun thy feeble braines;
     And often times great groans and grievous stownds,
     When too huge toile and labour them constraines;
     And often times loud strokes and ringing sounds
     From under that deep rock most horribly rebounds.

     "The cause, they say, is this. A little while
     Before that Merlin died, he did intend
     A brazen wall in compass, to compile
     About Cayr Merdin, and did it commend
     Unto these sprites to bring to perfect end;
     During which work the Lady of the Lake,
     Whom long he loved, for him in haste did send,
     Who thereby forced his workmen to forsake,
     Them bound till his return their labour not to slake.

     "In the mean time, through that false ladie's traine,
     He was surprised, and buried under biere,
     Ne ever to his work returned again;
     Natheless these fiendes may not their work forbeare,
     So greatly his commandement they fear,
     But there doe toile and travaile day and night,
     Until that brazen wall they up doe reare."

     [Faerie Queene, b. 3. c. 3. s. 6--13.]

Amongst other English prophets, a belief in whose power has not been
entirely effaced by the light of advancing knowledge, is Robert Nixon,
the Cheshire idiot, a contemporary of Mother Shipton. The popular
accounts of this man say, that he was born of poor parents, not far from
Vale Royal, on the edge of the forest of Delamere. He was brought up to
the plough, but was so ignorant and stupid, that nothing could be
made of him. Everybody thought him irretrievably insane, and paid no
attention to the strange, unconnected discourses which he held. Many of
his prophecies are believed to have been lost in this manner. But they
were not always destined to be wasted upon dull and inattentive ears.
An incident occurred which brought him into notice, and established his
fame as a prophet of the first calibre. He was ploughing in a field when
he suddenly stopped from his labour, and, with a wild look and strange
gestures, exclaimed, "Now, Dick! now, Harry! O, ill done, Dick! O, well
done, Harry! Harry has gained the day!" His fellow labourers in the
field did not know what to make of this rhapsody; but the next day
cleared up the mystery. News was brought by a messenger, in hot haste,
that at the very instant when Nixon had thus ejaculated, Richard III had
been slain at the battle of Bosworth, and Henry VII proclaimed King of

It was not long before the fame of the new prophet reached the ears of
the King, who expressed a wish to see and converse with him. A messenger
was accordingly despatched to bring him to court; but long before he
reached Cheshire, Nixon knew and dreaded the honours that awaited him.
Indeed it was said, that at the very instant the King expressed the
wish, Nixon was, by supernatural means, made acquainted with it, and
that he ran about the town of Over in great distress of mind, calling
out, like a madman, that Henry had sent for him, and that he must go
to court, and be clammed; that is, starved to death. These expressions
excited no little wonder; but, on the third day, the messenger arrived,
and carried him to court, leaving on the minds of the good people of
Cheshire an impression that their prophet was one of the greatest ever
born. On his arrival King Henry appeared to be troubled exceedingly at
the loss of a valuable diamond, and asked Nixon if he could inform him
where it was to be found. Henry had hidden the diamond himself, with
a view to test the prophet's skill. Great, therefore, was his surprise
when Nixon answered him in the words of the old proverb, "Those who hide
can find." From that time forth the King implicitly believed that he had
the gift of prophecy, and ordered all his words to be taken down.

During all the time of his residence at court he was in constant fear of
being starved to death, and repeatedly told the King that such would
be his fate, if he were not allowed to depart, and return into his own
country. Henry would not suffer it, but gave strict orders to all his
officers and cooks to give him as much to eat as he wanted. He lived
so well, that for some time he seemed to be thriving like a nobleman's
steward, and growing as fat as an alderman. One day the king went out
hunting, when Nixon ran to the palace gate, and entreated on his knees
that he might not be left behind to be starved. The King laughed, and,
calling an officer, told him to take especial care of the prophet during
his absence, and rode away to the forest. After his departure, the
servants of the palace began to jeer at and insult Nixon, whom they
imagined to be much better treated than he deserved. Nixon complained to
the officer, who, to prevent him from being further molested, locked him
up in the King's own closet, and brought him regularly his four meals a
day. But it so happened that a messenger arrived from the King to this
officer, requiring his immediate presence at Winchester, on a matter of
life and death. So great was his haste to obey the King's command, that
he mounted on the horse behind the messenger, and rode off, without
bestowing a thought upon poor Nixon. He did not return till three days
afterwards, when, remembering the prophet for the first time, he went to
the King's closet, and found him lying upon the floor, starved to death,
as he had predicted.

Among the prophecies of his which are believed to have been fulfilled,
are the following, which relate to the times of the Pretender:--

     "A great man shall come into England,
     But the son of a King
     Shall take from him the victory."

     "Crows shall drink the blood of many nobles,
     And the North shall rise against the South."
     "The cock of the North shall be made to flee,
     And his feather be plucked for his pride,
     That he shall almost curse the day that he was born,"

All these, say his admirers, are as clear as the sun at noon-day. The
first denotes the defeat of Prince Charles Edward, at the battle of
Culloden, by the Duke of Cumberland; the second, the execution of Lords
Derwentwater, Balmerino, and Lovat; and the third, the retreat of the
Pretender from the shores of Britain. Among the prophecies that still
remain to be accomplished, are the following:--

     "Between seven, eight, and nine,
     In England wonders shall be seen;
     Between nine and thirteen
     All sorrow shall be done!"

     "Through our own money and our men
     Shall a dreadful war begin.
     Between the sickle and the suck
     All England shall have a pluck,"

"Foreign nations shall invade England with snow on their helmets, and
shall bring plague, famine, and murder in the skirts of their garments."

     "The town of Nantwich shall be swept away by a flood"

Of the two first of these no explanation has yet been attempted; but
some event or other will doubtless be twisted into such a shape as will
fit them. The third, relative to the invasion of England by a nation
with snow on their helmets, is supposed by the old women to foretell
most clearly the coming war with Russia. As to the last, there are not
a few in the town mentioned who devoutly believe that such will be its
fate. Happily for their peace of mind, the prophet said nothing of the
year that was to witness the awful calamity; so that they think it as
likely to be two centuries hence as now.

The popular biographers of Nixon conclude their account of him by
saying, that "his prophecies are by some persons thought fables; yet by
what has come to pass, it is now thought, and very plainly appears,
that most of them have proved, or will prove, true; for which we, on all
occasions, ought not only to exert our utmost might to repel by force
our enemies, but to refrain from our abandoned and wicked course
of life, and to make our continual prayer to God for protection and
safety." To this, though a non sequitur, every one will cry Amen!

Besides the prophets, there have been the almanack makers, Lilly, Poor
Robin, Partridge, and Francis Moore, physician, in England, and Matthew
Laensbergh, in France and Belgium. But great as were their pretensions,
they were modesty itself in comparison with Merlin, Shipton, and Nixon,
who fixed their minds upon higher things than the weather, and who were
not so restrained in their flights of fancy as to prophesy for only one
year at a time. After such prophets as they, the almanack makers hardly
deserve to be mentioned; no, not even the renowned Partridge, whose
wonderful prognostications set all England agog in 1708, and whose
death, at a time when he was still alive and kicking, was so pleasantly
and satisfactorily proved by Isaac Bickerstaff. The anti-climax would be
too palpable, and they and their doings must be left uncommemorated.


Jack. Where shall we find such another set of practical philosophers
who, to a man, are above the fear of death?

Wat. Sound men and true!

Robin. Of tried courage and indefatigable industry!

Ned. Who is there here that would not die for his friend?

Harry. Who is there here that would betray him for his interest?

Mat. Show me a gang of courtiers that could say as much!

Dialogue of thieves in the Beggars' Opera.

Whether it be that the multitude, feeling the pangs of poverty,
sympathise with the daring and ingenious depredators who take away the
rich man's superfluity, or whether it be the interest that mankind in
general feel for the records of perilous adventures, it is certain
that the populace of all countries look with admiration upon great and
successful thieves. Perhaps both these causes combine to invest their
career with charms in the popular eye. Almost every country in Europe
has its traditional thief, whose exploits are recorded with all the
graces of poetry, and whose trespasses--

     "--are cited up in rhymes,
     And sung by children in succeeding times."

     [Shakspeare's Rape of Lucretia.]

Those travellers who have made national manners and characteristics
their peculiar study, have often observed and remarked upon this
feeling. The learned Abbe le Blanc, who resided for some time in England
at the commencement of the eighteenth century, says, in his amusing
letters on the English and French nations, that he continually met with
Englishmen who were not less vain in boasting of the success of their
highwaymen than of the bravery of their troops. Tales of their address,
their cunning, or their generosity, were in the mouths of everybody, and
a noted thief was a kind of hero in high repute. He adds that the mob,
in all countries, being easily moved, look in general with concern upon
criminals going to the gallows; but an English mob looked upon such
scenes with 'extraordinary interest: they delighted to see them go
through their last trials with resolution, and applauded those who were
insensible enough to die as they had lived, braving the justice both of
God and men: such, he might have added, as the noted robber Macpherson,
of whom the old ballad says--

     "Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,
     Sae dauntingly gaed he:
     He played a spring, and danced it round
     Beneath the gallows tree."

Among these traditional thieves the most noted in England, or perhaps in
any country, is Robin Hood, a name which popular affection has encircled
with a peculiar halo. "He robbed the rich to give to the poor;" and
his reward has been an immortality of fame, a tithe of which would be
thought more than sufficient to recompense a benefactor of his species.
Romance and poetry have been emulous to make him all their own; and the
forest of Sherwood, in which he roamed with his merry men, armed with
their long bows, and clad in Lincoln green, has become the resort of
pilgrims, and a classic spot sacred to his memory. The few virtues he
had, which would have ensured him no praise if he had been an honest
man, have been blazoned forth by popular renown during seven successive
centuries, and will never be forgotten while the English tongue endures.
His charity to the poor, and his gallantry and respect for women, have
made him the pre-eminent thief of all the world.

Among English thieves of a later date, who has not heard of Claude
Duval, Dick Turpin, Jonathan Wild, and Jack Sheppard, those knights of
the road and of the town, whose peculiar chivalry formed at once the
dread and the delight of England during the eighteenth century? Turpin's
fame is unknown to no portion of the male population of England after
they have attained the age of ten. His wondrous ride from London to York
has endeared him to the imagination of millions; his cruelty in placing
an old woman upon a fire, to force her to tell him where she had hidden
her money, is regarded as a good joke; and his proud bearing upon the
scaffold is looked upon as a virtuous action. The Abbe le Blanc,
writing in 1737, says he was continually entertained with stories of
Turpin--how, when he robbed gentlemen, he would generously leave them
enough to continue their journey, and exact a pledge from them never to
inform against him, and how scrupulous such gentlemen were in keeping
their word. He was one day told a story with which the relator was
he the highest degree delighted. Turpin, or some other noted
robber, stopped a man whom he knew to be very rich, with the usual
salutation--"Your money or your life!" but not finding more than five
or six guineas about him, he took the liberty of entreating him, in the
most affable manner, never to come out so ill provided; adding that, if
he fell in with him, and he had no more than such a paltry sum, he
would give him a good licking. Another story, told by one of Turpin's
admirers, was of a robbery he had committed upon a Mr. C. near
Cambridge. He took from this gentleman his watch, his snuff-box, and all
his money but two shillings, and, before he left him, required his word
of honour that he would not cause him to be pursued or brought before
a justice. The promise being given, they both parted very courteously.
They afterwards met at Newmarket, and renewed their acquaintance. Mr. C.
kept his word religiously; he not only refrained from giving Turpin into
custody, but made a boast that he had fairly won some of his money back
again in an honest way. Turpin offered to bet with him on some favourite
horse, and Mr. C. accepted the wager with as good a grace as he could
have done from the best gentleman in England. Turpin lost his bet and
paid it immediately, and was so smitten with the generous behaviour of
Mr. C. that he told him how deeply he regretted that the trifling affair
which had happened between them did not permit them to drink together.
The narrator of this anecdote was quite proud that England was the
birthplace of such a highwayman.

[The Abbe, in the second volume, in the letter No. 79, dressed to
Monsieur de Buffon, gives the following curious particulars of the
robbers of 1757, which are not without interest at this day, if it
were only to show the vast improvement which has taken place since that
period:--"It is usual, in travelling, to put ten or a dozen guineas in
a separate pocket, as a tribute to the first that comes to demand them:
the right of passport, which custom has established here in favour of
the robbers, who are almost the only highway surveyors in England, has
made this necessary; and accordingly the English call these fellows
the 'Gentlemen of the Road,' the government letting them exercise their
jurisdiction upon travellers without giving them any great molestation.
To say the truth, they content themselves with only taking the money
of those who obey without disputing; but notwithstanding their boasted
humanity, the lives of those who endeavour to get away are not always
safe. They are very strict and severe in levying their impost; and if
a man has not wherewithal to pay them, he may run the chance of getting
himself knocked on the head for his poverty.

"About fifteen years ago, these robbers, with the view of maintaining
their rights, fixed up papers at the doors of rich people about London,
expressly forbidding all persons, of whatsoever quality or condition,
from going out of town without ten guineas and a watch about them, on
pain of death. In bad times, when there is little or nothing to be got
on the roads, these fellows assemble in gangs, to raise contributions
even in London itself; and the watchmen seldom trouble themselves to
interfere with them in their vocation."]

Not less familiar to the people of England is the career of Jack
Sheppard, as brutal a ruffian as ever disgraced his country, but who
has claims upon the popular admiration which are very generally
acknowledged. He did not, like Robin Hood, plunder the rich to relieve
the poor, nor rob with an uncouth sort of courtesy, like Turpin; but he
escaped from Newgate with the fetters on his limbs. This achievement,
more than once repeated, has encircled his felon brow with the wreath of
immortality, and made him quite a pattern thief among the populace. He
was no more than twenty-three years of age at the time of his execution,
and he died much pitied by the crowd. His adventures were the sole
topics of conversation for months; the print-shops were filled with his
effigies, and a fine painting of him was made by Sir Richard Thornhill.
The following complimentary verses to the artist appeared in the
"British Journal" of November 28th, 1724.

     "Thornhill! 'tis thine to gild with fame
     Th' obscure, and raise the humble name;
     To make the form elude the grave,
     And Sheppard from oblivion save!

     Apelles Alexander drew--
     Cesar is to Aurelius due;
     Cromwell in Lilly's works doth shine,
     And Sheppard, Thornhill, lives in thine!"

So high was Jack's fame that a pantomime entertainment, called
"Harlequin Jack Sheppard," was devised by one Thurmond, and brought out
with great success at Drury Lane Theatre. All the scenes were painted
from nature, including the public-house that the robber frequented in
Claremarket, and the condemned cell from which he had made his escape in

The Rev. Mr. Villette, the editor of the "Annals of Newgate," published
in 1754, relates a curious sermon which, he says, a friend of his heard
delivered by a street-preacher about the time of Jack's execution. The
orator, after animadverting on the great care men took of their bodies,
and the little care they bestowed upon their souls, continued as
follows, by way of exemplifying the position:--"We have a remarkable
instance of this in a notorious malefactor, well known by the name
of Jack Sheppard. What amazing difficulties has he overcome! what
astonishing things has he performed! and all for the sake of a stinking,
miserable carcass; hardly worth the hanging! How dexterously did he pick
the chain of his padlock with a crooked nail! how manfully he burst his
fetters asunder!--climb up the chimney!--wrench out an iron bar!--break
his way through a stone wall!--make the strong door of a dark entry fly
before him, till he got upon the leads of the prison! then, fixing
a blanket to the wall with a spike, he stole out of the chapel. How
intrepidly did he descend to the top of the turner's house!--how
cautiously pass down the stair, and make his escape to the street door!

"Oh! that ye were all like Jack Sheppard! Mistake me not, my brethren;
I don't mean in a carnal, but in a spiritual sense, for I propose to
spiritualise these things. What a shame it would be if we should not
think it worth our while to take as much pains, and employ as many deep
thoughts, to save our souls as he has done to preserve his body!

"Let me exhort ye, then, to open the locks of your hearts with the nail
of repentance! Burst asunder the fetters of your beloved
lusts!--mount the chimney of hope!--take from thence the bar of good
resolution!--break through the stone wall of despair, and all the
strongholds in the dark entry of the valley of the shadow of death!
Raise yourselves to the leads of divine meditation!--fix the blanket of
faith with the spike of the church! let yourselves down to the turner's
house of resignation, and descend the stairs of humility! So shall you
come to the door of deliverance from the prison of iniquity, and escape
the clutches of that old executioner the Devil!"

But popular as the name of Jack Sheppard was immediately after he had
suffered the last penalty of his crimes, it was as nothing compared to
the vast renown which he has acquired in these latter days, after
the lapse of a century and a quarter. Poets too often, are not fully
appreciated till they have been dead a hundred years, and thieves, it
would appear, share the disadvantage. But posterity is grateful if our
contemporaries are not; and Jack Sheppard, faintly praised in his own
day, shines out in ours the hero of heroes, preeminent above all his
fellows. Thornhill made but one picture of the illustrious robber, but
Cruikshank has made dozens, and the art of the engraver has multiplied
them into thousands and tens of thousands, until the populace of England
have become as familiar with Jack's features as they are with their own.
Jack, the romantic, is the hero of three goodly volumes, and the delight
of the circulating libraries; and the theatres have been smitten with
the universal enthusiasm. Managers have set their playmongers at work,
and Jack's story has been reproduced in the shape of drama, melodrama,
and farce, at half a dozen places of entertainment at once. Never was
such a display of popular regard for a hero as was exhibited in London
in 1840 for the renowned Jack Sheppard: robbery acquired additional
lustre in the popular eye, and not only Englishmen, but foreigners,
caught the contagion; and one of the latter, fired by the example,
robbed and murdered a venerable, unoffending, and too confiding
nobleman, whom it was his especial duty to have obeyed and protected.
But he was a coward and a wretch;--it was a solitary crime--he had not
made a daring escape from dungeon walls, or ridden from London to York,
and he died amid the execrations of the people, affording a melancholy
exemplification of the trite remark, that every man is not great who is
desirous of being so.

Jonathan Wild, whose name has been immortalised by Fielding, was no
favourite with the people. He had none of the virtues which, combined
with crimes, make up the character of the great thief. He was a pitiful
fellow, who informed against his comrades, and was afraid of death. This
meanness was not to be forgiven by the crowd, and they pelted him with
dirt and stones on his way to Tyburn, and expressed their contempt by
every possible means. How different was their conduct to Turpin and
Jack Sheppard, who died in their neatest attire, with nosegays in
their button-holes, and with the courage that a crowd expects! It was
anticipated that the body of Turpin would have been delivered up to
the surgeons for dissection, and the people seeing some men very busily
employed in removing it, suddenly set upon them, rescued the body, bore
it about the town in triumph, and then buried it in a very deep grave,
filled with quick-lime, to hasten the progress of decomposition. They
would not suffer the corpse of their hero, of the man who had ridden
from London to York in four-and-twenty hours to be mangled by the rude
hands of unmannerly surgeons.

The death of Claude Duval would appear to have been no less triumphant.
Claude was a gentlemanly thief. According to Butler, in the famous ode
to his memory, he

     "Taught the wild Arabs of the road
     To rob in a more gentle mode;
     Take prizes more obligingly than those
     Who never had breen bred filous;
     And how to hang in a more graceful fashion
     Than e'er was known before to the dull English nation."

In fact, he was the pink of politeness, and his gallantry to the fair
sex was proverbial. When he was caught at last, pent in "stone walls
and chains and iron grates,"--their grief was in proportion to his rare
merits and his great fame. Butler says, that to his dungeon

     "--came ladies from all parts,
     To offer up close prisoners their hearts,
     Which he received as tribute due--

     *     *     *     *

     Never did bold knight, to relieve
     Distressed dames, such dreadful feats achieve,
     As feeble damsels, for his sake,
     Would have been proud to undertake,
     And, bravely ambitious to redeem
     The world's loss and their own,
     Strove who should have the honour to lay down,
     And change a life with him."

Among the noted thieves of France, there is none to compare with the
famous Aimerigot Tetenoire, who flourished in the reign of Charles VI.
This fellow was at the head of four or five hundred men, and possessed
two very strong castles in Limousin and Auvergne. There was a good deal
of the feudal baron about him, although he possessed no revenues but
such as the road afforded him. At his death he left a singular will. "I
give and bequeath," said the robber, "one thousand five hundred francs
to St. George's Chapel, for such repairs as it may need. To my sweet
girl who so tenderly loved me, I give two thousand five hundred; and the
surplus I give to my companions. I hope they will all live as brothers,
and divide it amicably among them. If they cannot agree, and the devil
of contention gets among them, it is no fault of mine; and I advise them
to get a good strong, sharp axe, and break open my strong box. Let them
scramble for what it contains, and the Devil seize the hindmost." The
people of Auvergne still recount with admiration the daring feats of
this brigand.

Of later years, the French thieves have been such unmitigated scoundrels
as to have left but little room for popular admiration. The famous
Cartouche, whose name has become synonymous with ruffian in their
language, had none of the generosity, courtesy, and devoted bravery
which are so requisite to make a robber-hero. He was born at Paris,
towards the end of the seventeenth century, and broken alive on the
wheel in November 1727. He was, however, sufficiently popular to have
been pitied at his death, and afterwards to have formed the subject of
a much admired drama, which bore his name, and was played with great
success in all the theatres of France during the years 1734, 5, and 6.
In our own day the French have been more fortunate in a robber; Vidocq
bids fair to rival the fame of Turpin and Jack Sheppard. Already he
has become the hero of many an apocryphal tale--already his compatriots
boast of his manifold achievements, and express their doubts whether
any other country in Europe could produce a thief so clever, so
accomplished, so gentlemanly, as Vidocq.

Germany has its Schinderhannes, Hungary its Schubry, and Italy and
Spain a whole host of brigands, whose names and exploits are familiar
as household words in the mouths of the children and populace of those
countries. The Italian banditti are renowned over the world; and many of
them are not only very religious (after a fashion), but very charitable.
Charity from such a source is so unexpected, that the people dote upon
them for it. One of them, when he fell into the hands of the police,
exclaimed, as they led him away, "Ho fatto pitt carita!"--"I have given
away more in charity than any three convents in these provinces." And
the fellow spoke truth.

In Lombardy, the people cherish the memory of two notorious robbers, who
flourished about two centuries ago under the Spanish government. Their
story, according to Macfarlane, is contained in a little book well known
to all the children of the province, and read by them with much more
gusto than their Bibles.

Schinderhannes, the robber of the Rhine, is a great favourite on the
banks of the river which he so long kept in awe. Many amusing stories
are related by the peasantry of the scurvy tricks he played off upon
rich Jews, or too-presuming officers of justice--of his princely
generosity, and undaunted courage. In short, they are proud of him, and
would no more consent to have the memory of his achievements dissociated
from their river than they would to have the rock of Ehrenbreitstein
blown to atoms by gunpowder.

There is another robber-hero, of whose character and exploits the people
of Germany speak admiringly. Mausch Nadel was captain of a considerable
band that infested the Rhine, Switzerland, Alsatia, and Lorraine during
the years 1824, 5, and 6. Like Jack Sheppard, he endeared himself to the
populace by his most hazardous escape from prison. Being confined, at
Bremen, in a dungeon, on the third story of the prison of that town,
he contrived to let himself down without exciting the vigilance of
the sentinels, and to swim across the Weser, though heavily laden with
irons. When about half way over, he was espied by a sentinel, who fired
at him, and shot him in the calf of the leg: but the undaunted robber
struck out manfully, reached the shore, and was out of sight before the
officers of justice could get ready their boats to follow him. He was
captured again in 1826, tried at Mayence, and sentenced to death. He was
a tall, strong, handsome man, and his fate, villain as he was, excited
much sympathy all over Germany. The ladies especially were loud in their
regret that nothing could be done to save a hero so good-looking, and of
adventures so romantic, from the knife of the headsman.

Mr. Macfarlane, in speaking of Italian banditti, remarks, that the
abuses of the Catholic religion, with its confessions and absolutions,
have tended to promote crime of this description. But, he adds, more
truly, that priests and monks have not done half the mischief which has
been perpetrated by ballad-mongers and story-tellers. If he had said
play-wrights also, the list would have been complete. In fact, the
theatre, which can only expect to prosper, in a pecuniary sense, by
pandering to the tastes of the people, continually recurs to the annals
of thieves and banditti for its most favourite heroes. These theatrical
robbers; with their picturesque attire, wild haunts, jolly, reckless,
devil-may-care manners, take a wonderful hold upon the imagination,
and, whatever their advocates may say to the contrary, exercise a very
pernicious influence upon public morals. In the Memoirs of the Duke of
Guise upon the Revolution of Naples in 1647 and 1648, it is stated, that
the manners, dress, and mode of life of the Neapolitan banditti were
rendered so captivating upon the stage, that the authorities found it
absolutely necessary to forbid the representation of dramas in which
they figured, and even to prohibit their costume at the masquerades.
So numerous were the banditti at this time, that the Duke found no
difficulty in raising an army of them, to aid him in his endeavours
to seize on the throne of Naples. He thus describes them; [See also
"Foreign Quarterly Review," vol. iv. p. 398.]

"They were three thousand five hundred men, of whom the oldest came
short of five and forty years, and the youngest was above twenty. They
were all tall and well made, with long black hair, for the most part
curled, coats of black Spanish leather, with sleeves of velvet, or cloth
of gold, cloth breeches with gold lace, most of them scarlet; girdles
of velvet, laced with gold, with two pistols on each side; a cutlass
hanging at a belt, suitably trimmed, three fingers broad and two feet
long; a hawking-bag at their girdle, and a powder-flask hung about
their neck with a great silk riband. Some of them carried firelocks, and
others blunder-busses; they had all good shoes, with silk stockings,
and every one a cap of cloth of gold, or cloth of silver, of different
colours, on his head, which was very delightful to the eye."

"The Beggars' Opera," in our own country, is another instance of the
admiration that thieves excite upon the stage. Of the extraordinary
success of this piece, when first produced, the following account is
given in the notes to "The Dunciad," and quoted by Johnson in his "Lives
of the Poets." "This piece was received with greater applause than
was ever known. Besides being acted in London sixty-three days without
interruption, and renewed the next season with equal applause, it spread
into all the great towns of England; was played in many places to the
thirtieth and fortieth time; at Bath and Bristol, &c. fifty. It made
its progress into Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, where it was performed
twenty-four days successively. The ladies carried about with them the
favourite songs of it in fans, and houses were furnished with it in
screens. The fame of it was not confined to the author only. The person
who acted Polly, till then obscure, became all at once the favourite of
the town; [Lavinia Fenton, afterwards Duchess of Bolton.] her pictures
were engraved and sold in great numbers; her life written, books of
letters and verses to her published, and pamphlets made even of her
sayings and jests. Furthermore, it drove out of England, for that
season, the Italian Opera, which had carried all before it for ten
years." Dr. Johnson, in his Life of the Author, says, that Herring,
afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, censured the opera, as giving
encouragement, not only to vice, but to crimes, by making the highwayman
the hero, and dismissing him at last unpunished; and adds, that it was
even said, that after the exhibition the gangs of robbers were evidently
multiplied. The Doctor doubts the assertion, giving as his reason that
highwaymen and housebreakers seldom frequent the playhouse, and that it
was not possible for any one to imagine that he might rob with safety,
because he saw Macheath reprieved upon the stage. But if Johnson had
wished to be convinced, he might very easily have discovered that
highwaymen and housebreakers did frequent the theatre, and that nothing
was more probable than that a laughable representation of successful
villany should induce the young and the already vicious to imitate it.
Besides, there is the weighty authority of Sir John Fielding, the
chief magistrate of Bow Street, who asserted positively, and proved his
assertion by the records of his office, that the number of thieves was
greatly increased at the time when that opera was so popular.

We have another instance of the same result much nearer our own times.
Schiller's "Rauber," that wonderful play, written by a green youth,
perverted the taste and imagination of all the young men in Germany. An
accomplished critic of our own country (Hazlitt), speaking of this play,
says it was the first he ever read, and such was the effect it
produced on him, that "it stunned him, like a blow." After the lapse of
five-and-twenty years he could not forget it; it was still, to use his
own words, "an old dweller in the chambers of his brain," and he had
not even then recovered enough from it, to describe how it was. The
high-minded, metaphysical thief, its hero, was so warmly admired, that
several raw students, longing to imitate a character they thought so
noble, actually abandoned their homes and their colleges, and betook
themselves to the forests and wilds to levy contributions upon
travellers. They thought they would, like Moor, plunder the rich, and
deliver eloquent soliloquies to the setting sun or the rising moon;
relieve the poor when they met them, and drink flasks of Rhenish with
their free companions in rugged mountain passes, or in tents in the
thicknesses of the forests. But a little experience wonderfully cooled
their courage; they found that real, every-day robbers were very unlike
the conventional banditti of the stage, and that three months in prison,
with bread and water for their fare, and damp straw to lie upon, was
very well to read about by their own fire sides, but not very agreeable
to undergo in their own proper persons.

Lord Byron, with his soliloquising, high-souled thieves, has, in a
slight degree, perverted the taste of the greenhorns and incipient
rhymesters of his country. As yet, however, they have shown more good
sense than their fellows of Germany, and have not taken to the woods or
the highways. Much as they admire Conrad the Corsair, they will not go
to sea, and hoist the black flag in emulation of him. By words only, and
not by deeds, they testify their admiration, and deluge the periodicals
and music shops of the hand with verses describing pirates' and bandits'
brides, and robber adventures of every kind.

But it is the play-wright who does most harm; and Byron has fewer
sins of this nature to answer for than Gay or Schiller, and the modern
dramatizers of Jack Sheppard. With the aid of scenery, fine dresses, and
music, and the very false notions they convey, they vitiate the public
taste, not knowing,

     "-----------vulgaires rimeurs
     Quelle force ont les arts pour demolir les moeurs."

In the penny theatres that abound in the poor and populous districts
of London, and which are chiefly frequented by striplings of idle and
dissolute habits, tales of thieves and murderers are more admired, and
draw more crowded audiences, than any other species of representation.
There the footpad, the burglar, and the highwayman are portrayed in
unnatural colours, and give pleasant lessons in crime to their delighted
listeners. There the deepest tragedy and the broadest farce are
represented in the career of the murderer and the thief, and are
applauded in proportion to their depth and their breadth. There,
whenever a crime of unusual atrocity is committed, it is brought out
afresh, with all its disgusting incidents copied from the life, for the
amusement of those who will one day become its imitators.

With the mere reader the case is widely different; and most people have
a partiality for knowing the adventures of noted rogues. Even in
fiction they are delightful: witness the eventful story of Gil Blas de
Santillane, and of that great rascal Don Guzman d'Alfarache. Here there
is no fear of imitation. Poets, too, without doing mischief, may sing of
such heroes when they please, wakening our sympathies for the sad fate
of Gilderoy, or Macpherson the Dauntless; or celebrating in undying
verse the wrongs and the revenge of the great thief of Scotland, Rob
Roy. If, by the music of their sweet rhymes, they can convince the world
that such heroes are but mistaken philosophers, born a few ages too
late, and having both a theoretical and practical love for

     "The good old rule, the simple plan,
     That they should take who have the power,
     That they should keep who can,"

the world may, perhaps, become wiser, and consent to some better
distribution of its good things, by means of which thieves may become
reconciled to the age, and the age to them. The probability, however,
seems to be, that the charmers will charm in vain, charm they ever so


     Speak with respect and honour
     Both of the beard and the beard's owner.


The famous declaration of St. Paul, "that long hair was a shame unto
a man" has been made the pretext for many singular enactments, both of
civil and ecclesiastical governments. The fashion of the hair and the
cut of the beard were state questions in France and England from the
establishment of Christianity until the fifteenth century.

We find, too, that in much earlier times men were not permitted to do
as they liked with their own hair. Alexander the Great thought that the
beards of his soldiery afforded convenient handles for the enemy to lay
hold of, preparatory to cutting off their heads; and, with the view of
depriving them of this advantage, he ordered the whole of his army to
be closely shaven. His notions of courtesy towards an enemy were quite
different from those entertained by the North American Indians, amongst
whom it is held a point of honour to allow one "chivalrous lock" to
grow, that the foe, in taking the scalp, may have something to catch
hold of.

At one time, long hair was the symbol of sovereignty in Europe. We learn
from Gregory of Tours that, among the successors of Clovis, it was the
exclusive privilege of the royal family to have their hair long,
and curled. The nobles, equal to kings in power, would not show any
inferiority in this respect, and wore not only their hair, but their
beards, of an enormous length. This fashion lasted, with but slight
changes, till the time of Louis the Debonnaire, but his successors, up
to Hugh Capet, wore their hair short, by way of distinction. Even the
serfs had set all regulation at defiance, and allowed their locks and
beards to grow.

At the time of the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, the
Normans wore their hair very short. Harold, in his progress towards
Hastings, sent forward spies to view the strength and number of the
enemy. They reported, amongst other things, on their return, that "the
host did almost seem to be priests, because they had all their face and
both their lips shaven." The fashion among the English at the time was
to wear the hair long upon the head and the upper lip, but to shave the
chin. When the haughty victors had divided the broad lands of the Saxon
thanes and franklins among them, when tyranny of every kind was employed
to make the English feel that they were indeed a subdued and broken
nation, the latter encouraged the growth of their hair, that they might
resemble as little as possible their cropped and shaven masters.

This fashion was exceedingly displeasing to the clergy, and prevailed
to a considerable extent in France and Germany. Towards the end of the
eleventh century, it was decreed by the Pope, and zealously supported
by the ecclesiastical authorities all over Europe, that such persons as
wore long hair should be excommunicated while living, and not be prayed
for when dead. William of Malmesbury relates, that the famous St.
Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester, was peculiarly indignant whenever he saw
a man with long hair. He declaimed against the practice as one highly
immoral, criminal, and beastly. He continually carried a small knife
in his pocket, and whenever anybody, offending in this respect, knelt
before him to receive his blessing, he would whip it out slily, and cut
off a handful, and then, throwing it in his face, tell him to cut off
all the rest, or he would go to hell.

But fashion, which at times it is possible to move with a wisp, stands
firm against a lever; and men preferred to run the risk of damnation
to parting with the superfluity of their hair. In the time of Henry I,
Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, found it necessary to republish the
famous decree of excommunication and outlawry against the offenders;
but, as the court itself had begun to patronize curls, the fulminations
of the church were unavailing. Henry I and his nobles wore their hair
in long ringlets down their backs and shoulders, and became a scandalum
magnatum in the eyes of the godly. One Serlo, the King's chaplain, was
so grieved in spirit at the impiety of his master, that he preached a
sermon from the well-known text of St. Paul, before the assembled court,
in which he drew so dreadful a picture of the torments that awaited them
in the other world, that several of them burst into tears, and wrung
their hair, as if they would have pulled it out by the roots. Henry
himself was observed to weep. The priest, seeing the impression he had
made, determined to strike while the iron was hot, and, pulling a pair
of scissors from his pocket, cut the king's hair in presence of them
all. Several of the principal courtiers consented to do the like, and,
for a short time, long hair appeared to be going out of fashion. But
the courtiers thought, after the first glow of their penitence had been
cooled by reflection, that the clerical Dalilah had shorn them of their
strength, and, in less than six months, they were as great sinners as

Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been a monk of Bec,
in Normandy, and who had signalized himself at Rouen by his fierce
opposition to long hair, was still anxious to work a reformation in this
matter. But his pertinacity was far from pleasing to the King, who had
finally made up his mind to wear ringlets. There were other disputes, of
a more serious nature, between them; so that when the Archbishop died,
the King was so glad to be rid of him, that he allowed the see to remain
vacant for five years. Still the cause had other advocates, and every
pulpit in the land resounded with anathemas against that disobedient and
long-haired generation. But all was of no avail. Stowe, in writing of
this period, asserts, on the authority of some more ancient chronicler,
"that men, forgetting their birth, transformed themselves, by the length
of their haires, into the semblance of woman kind;" and that when their
hair decayed from age, or other causes, "they knit about their heads
certain rolls and braidings of false hair." At last accident turned the
tide of fashion. A knight of the court, who was exceedingly proud of
his beauteous locks, dreamed one night that, as he lay in bed, the devil
sprang upon him, and endeavoured to choke him with his own hair. He
started in affright, and actually found that he had a great quantity of
hair in his mouth. Sorely stricken in conscience, and looking upon the
dream as a warning from Heaven, he set about the work of reformation,
and cut off his luxuriant tresses the same night. The story was soon
bruited abroad; of course it was made the most of by the clergy, and the
knight, being a man of influence and consideration, and the acknowledged
leader of the fashion, his example, aided by priestly exhortations, was
very generally imitated. Men appeared almost as decent as St. Wulstan
himself could have wished, the dream of a dandy having proved more
efficacious than the entreaties of a saint. But, as Stowe informs us,
"scarcely was one year past, when all that thought themselves courtiers
fell into the former vice, and contended with women in their long
haires." Henry, the King, appears to have been quite uninfluenced by the
dreams of others, for even his own would not induce him a second time
to undergo a cropping from priestly shears. It is said, that he was
much troubled at this time by disagreeable visions. Having offended
the church in this and other respects, he could get no sound refreshing
sleep, and used to imagine that he saw all the bishops, abbots, and
monks of every degree, standing around his bed-side, and threatening to
belabour him with their pastoral staves; which sight, we are told, so
frightened him, that he often started naked out of his bed, and attacked
the phantoms sword in hand. Grimbalde, his physician, who, like most of
his fraternity at that day, was an ecclesiastic, never hinted that his
dreams were the result of a bad digestion, but told him to shave his
head, be reconciled to the Church, and reform himself with alms and
prayer. But he would not take this good advice, and it was not until he
had been nearly drowned a year afterwards, in a violent storm at sea,
that he repented of his evil ways, cut his hair short, and paid proper
deference to the wishes of the clergy.

In France, the thunders of the Vatican with regard to long curly hair
were hardly more respected than in England. Louis VII. however, was
more obedient than his brother-king, and cropped himself as closely as
a monk, to the great sorrow of all the gallants of his court. His Queen,
the gay, haughty, and pleasure-seeking Eleanor of Guienne, never admired
him in this trim, and continually reproached him with imitating, not
only the headdress, but the asceticism of the monks. From this cause, a
coldness arose between them. The lady proving at last unfaithful to her
shaven and indifferent lord, they were divorced, and the Kings of France
lost the rich provinces of Guienne and Poitou, which were her dowry.
She soon after bestowed her hand and her possessions upon Henry Duke
of Normandy, afterwards Henry II of England, and thus gave the English
sovereigns that strong footing in France which was for so many centuries
the cause of such long and bloody wars between the nations.

When the Crusades had drawn all the smart young fellows into Palestine,
the clergy did not find it so difficult to convince the staid burghers
who remained in Europe, of the enormity of long hair. During the absence
of Richard Coeur de Lion, his English subjects not only cut their hair
close, but shaved their faces. William Fitzosbert, or Long-beard, the
great demagogue of that day, reintroduced among the people who claimed
to be of Saxon origin the fashion of long hair. He did this with the
view of making them as unlike as possible to the citizens and the
Normans. He wore his own beard hanging down to his waist, from whence
the name by which he is best known to posterity.

The Church never showed itself so great an enemy to the beard as to long
hair on the head. It generally allowed fashion to take its own course,
both with regard to the chin and the upper lip. This fashion varied
continually; for we find that, in little more than a century after the
time of Richard I, when beards were short, that they had again become
so long as to be mentioned in the famous epigram made by the Scots who
visited London in 1327, when David, son of Robert Bruce, was married to
Joan, the sister of King Edward. This epigram, which was stuck on the
church-door of St. Peter Stangate, ran as follows--

     "Long beards heartlesse,
     Painted hoods witlesse,
     Gray coats gracelesse,
     Make England thriftlesse."

When the Emperor Charles V. ascended the throne of Spain, he had no
beard. It was not to be expected that the obsequious parasites who
always surround a monarch, could presume to look more virile than their
master. Immediately all the courtiers appeared beardless, with the
exception of such few grave old men as had outgrown the influence of
fashion, and who had determined to die bearded as they had lived. Sober
people in general saw this revolution with sorrow and alarm, and thought
that every manly virtue would be banished with the beard. It became at
the time a common saying,--

     "Desde que no hay barba, no hay mas alma."
     We have no longer souls since we have lost our beards.

In France, also, the beard fell into disrepute after the death of Henry
IV, from the mere reason that his successor was too young to have
one. Some of the more immediate friends of the great Bearnais, and
his minister Sully among the rest, refused to part with their beards,
notwithstanding the jeers of the new generation.

Who does not remember the division of England into the two great parties
of Roundheads and Cavaliers? In those days, every species of vice and
iniquity was thought by the Puritans to lurk in the long curly tresses
of the Monarchists, while the latter imagined that their opponents were
as destitute of wit, of wisdom, and of virtue, as they were of hair. A
man's locks were the symbol of his creed, both in politics and religion.
The more abundant the hair, the more scant the faith; and the balder the
head, the more sincere the piety.

But among all the instances of the interference of governments with
men's hair, the most extraordinary, not only for its daring, but for its
success is that of Peter the Great, in 1705. By this time, fashion had
condemned the beard in every other country in Europe, and with a voice
more potent than Popes or Emperors, had banished it from civilized
society. But this only made the Russians cling more fondly to their
ancient ornament, as a mark to distinguish them from foreigners, whom
they hated. Peter, however resolved that they should be shaven. If he
had been a man deeply read in history, he might have hesitated before
he attempted so despotic an attack upon the time-hallowed customs
and prejudices of his countrymen; but he was not. He did not know
or consider the danger of the innovation; he only listened to the
promptings of his own indomitable will, and his fiat went forth, that
not only the army, but all ranks of citizens, from the nobles to the
serfs, should shave their beards. A certain time was given, that people
might get over the first throes of their repugnance, after which every
man who chose to retain his beard was to pay a tax of one hundred
roubles. The priests and the serfs were put on a lower footing, and
allowed to retain theirs upon payment of a copeck every time they passed
the gate of a city. Great discontent existed in consequence, but the
dreadful fate of the Strelitzes was too recent to be forgotten, and
thousands who had the will had not the courage to revolt. As is well
remarked by a writer in the "Encyclopedia Britannica," they thought it
wiser to cut off their beards than to run the risk of incensing a man
who would make no scruple in cutting off their heads. Wiser, too, than
the popes and bishops of a former age, he did not threaten them with
eternal damnation, but made them pay in hard cash the penalty of their
disobedience. For many years, a very considerable revenue was collected
from this source. The collectors gave in receipt for its payment a
small copper coin, struck expressly for the purpose, and called the
"borodovaia," or "the bearded." On one side it bore the figure of a
nose, mouth, and moustachios, with a long bushy beard, surmounted by
the words, "Deuyee Vyeatee," "money received;" the whole encircled by a
wreath, and stamped with the black eagle of Russia. On the reverse,
it bore the date of the year. Every man who chose to wear a beard was
obliged to produce this receipt on his entry into a town. Those who were
refractory, and refused to pay the tax, were thrown into prison.

Since that day, the rulers of modern Europe have endeavoured to
persuade, rather than to force, in all matters pertaining to fashion.
The Vatican troubles itself no more about beards or ringlets, and men
may become hairy as bears, if such is their fancy, without fear of
excommunication or deprivation of their political rights. Folly has
taken a new start, and cultivates the moustachio.

Even upon this point governments will not let men alone. Religion as
yet has not meddled with it; but perhaps it will; and politics already
influence it considerably. Before the revolution of 1830, neither the
French nor Belgian citizens were remarkable for their moustachios;
but, after that event, there was hardly a shopkeeper either in Paris or
Brussels whose upper lip did not suddenly become hairy with real or mock
moustachios. During a temporary triumph gained by the Dutch soldiers
over the citizens of Louvain, in October 1830, it became a standing joke
against the patriots, that they shaved their faces clean immediately;
and the wits of the Dutch army asserted, that they had gathered
moustachios enough from the denuded lips of the Belgians to stuff
mattresses for all the sick and wounded in their hospital.

The last folly of this kind is still more recent. In the German
newspapers, of August 1838, appeared an ordonnance, signed by the King
of Bavaria, forbidding civilians, on any pretence whatever, to wear
moustachios, and commanding the police and other authorities to arrest,
and cause to be shaved, the offending parties. "Strange to say," adds
"Le Droit," the journal from which this account is taken, "moustachios
disappeared immediately, like leaves from the trees in autumn; everybody
made haste to obey the royal order, and not one person was arrested."

The King of Bavaria, a rhymester of some celebrity, has taken a good
many poetical licences in his time. His licence in this matter appears
neither poetical nor reasonable. It is to be hoped that he will not take
it into his royal head to make his subjects shave theirs; nothing but
that is wanting to complete their degradation.


     There was an ancient sage philosopher,
     Who swore the world, as he could prove,
     Was mad of fighting.    *    *    *


Most writers, in accounting for the origin of duelling, derive it from
the warlike habits of those barbarous nations who overran Europe in the
early centuries of the Christian era, and who knew no mode so effectual
for settling their differences as the point of the sword. In fact,
duelling, taken in its primitive and broadest sense, means nothing
more than combatting, and is the universal resort of all wild animals,
including man, to gain or defend their possessions, or avenge their
insults. Two dogs who tear each other for a bone, or two bantams
fighting on a dunghill for the love of some beautiful hen, or two fools
on Wimbledon Common, shooting at each other to satisfy the laws of
offended honour, stand on the same footing in this respect, and are,
each and all, mere duellists. As civilization advanced, the best
informed men naturally grew ashamed of such a mode of adjusting
disputes, and the promulgation of some sort of laws for obtaining
redress for injuries was the consequence. Still there were many cases
in which the allegations of an accuser could not be rebutted by any
positive proof on the part of the accused; and in all these, which must
have been exceedingly numerous in the early stages of European society,
the combat was resorted to. From its decision there was no appeal. God
was supposed to nerve the arm of the combatant whose cause was just, and
to grant him the victory over his opponent. As Montesquieu well remarks,
["Esprit des Loix," liv. xxviii. chap. xvii.] this belief was not
unnatural among a people just emerging from barbarism. Their manners
being wholly warlike, the man deficient in courage, the prime virtue
of his fellows, was not unreasonably suspected of other vices besides
cowardice, which is generally found to be co-existent with treachery.
He, therefore, who showed himself most valiant in the encounter,
was absolved by public opinion from any crime with which he might be
charged. As a necessary consequence, society would have been reduced to
its original elements, if the men of thought, as distinguished from the
men of action, had not devised some means for taming the unruly passions
of their fellows. With this view, governments commenced by restricting
within the narrowest possible limits the cases in which it was lawful
to prove or deny guilt by the single combat. By the law of Gondebaldus,
King of the Burgundians, passed in the year 501, the proof by combat was
allowed in all legal proceedings, in lieu of swearing. In the time of
Charlemagne, the Burgundian practice had spread over the empire of the
Francs, and not only the suitors for justice, but the witnesses, and
even the judges, were obliged to defend their cause, their evidence,
or their decision, at the point of the sword. Louis the Debonnaire, his
successor, endeavoured to remedy the growing evil, by permitting the
duel only in appeals of felony, in civil cases, or issue joined in a
writ of right, and in cases of the court of chivalry, or attacks upon
a man's knighthood. None were exempt from these trials, but women, the
sick and the maimed, and persons under fifteen or above sixty years of
age. Ecclesiastics were allowed to produce champions in their stead.
This practice, in the course of time, extended to all trials of civil
and criminal cases, which had to be decided by battle.

The clergy, whose dominion was an intellectual one, never approved of a
system of jurisprudence which tended so much to bring all things under
the rule of the strongest arm. From the first they set their faces
against duelling, and endeavoured, as far as the prejudices of their
age would allow them, to curb the warlike spirit, so alien from the
principles of religion. In the Council of Valentia, and afterwards
in the Council of Trent, they excommunicated all persons engaged in
duelling, and not only them, but even the assistants and spectators,
declaring the custom to be hellish and detestable, and introduced by the
Devil for the destruction both of body and soul. They added, also, that
princes who connived at duels, should be deprived of all temporal power,
jurisdiction, and dominion over the places where they had permitted them
to be fought. It will be seen hereafter that this clause only encouraged
the practice which it was intended to prevent.

But it was the blasphemous error of these early ages to expect that the
Almighty, whenever he was called upon, would work a miracle in favour of
a person unjustly accused. The priesthood, in condemning the duel, did
not condemn the principle on which it was founded. They still encouraged
the popular belief of Divine interference in all the disputes or
differences that might arise among nations or individuals. It was the
very same principle that regulated the ordeals, which, with all their
influence, they supported against the duel. By the former, the power of
deciding the guilt or innocence was vested wholly in their hands, while,
by the latter, they enjoyed no power or privilege at all. It is not to
be wondered at, that for this reason, if for no other, they should have
endeavoured to settle all differences by the peaceful mode. While that
prevailed, they were as they wished to be, the first party in the state;
but while the strong arm of individual prowess was allowed to be the
judge in all doubtful cases, their power and influence became secondary
to those of nobility.

Thus, it was not the mere hatred of bloodshed which induced them to
launch the thunderbolts excommunication against the combatants; it a
desire to retain the power, which, to do them justice, they were, in
those times, the persons best qualified to wield. The germs of knowledge
and civilization lay within the bounds of their order; for they were
the representatives of the intellectual, as the nobility were of the
physical power of man. To centralize this power in the Church, and
make it the judge of the last resort in all appeals, both in civil and
criminal cases, they instituted five modes of trial, the management
of which lay wholly in their hands. These were the oath upon the
Evangelists; the ordeal of the cross, and the fire ordeal, for persons
in the higher ranks; the water ordeal, for the humbler classes; and,
lastly, the Corsned, or bread and cheese ordeal, for members of their
own body.

The oath upon the Evangelists was taken in the following manner:
the accused who was received to this proof, says Paul Hay, Count du
Chastelet, in his Memoirs of Bertrand du Guesclin, swore upon a copy of
the New Testament, and on the relics of the holy martyrs, or on their
tombs, that he was innocent of the crime imputed to him. He was also
obliged to find twelve persons, of acknowledged probity, who should take
oath at the same time, that they believed him innocent. This mode
of trial led to very great abuses, especially in cases of disputed
inheritance, where the hardest swearer was certain of the victory. This
abuse was one of the principal causes which led to the preference given
to the trial by battle. It is not all surprising that a feudal baron, or
captain of the early ages, should have preferred the chances of a fair
fight with his opponent, to a mode by which firm perjury would always be

The trial by, or judgment of, the cross, which Charlemagne begged his
sons to have recourse to, in case of disputes arising between them, was
performed thus:--When a person accused of any crime had declared his
innocence upon oath, and appealed to the cross for its judgment in his
favour, he was brought into the church, before the altar. The priests
previously prepared two sticks exactly like one another, upon one of
which was carved a figure of the cross. They were both wrapped up with
great care and many ceremonies, in a quantity of fine wool, and laid
upon the altar, or on the relics of the saints. A solemn prayer was then
offered up to God, that he would be pleased to discover, by the judgment
of his holy cross, whether the accused person were innocent or guilty. A
priest then approached the altar, and took up one of the sticks, and the
assistants unswathed it reverently. If it was marked with the cross,
the accused person was innocent; if unmarked, he was guilty. It would be
unjust to assert, that the judgments thus delivered were, in all
cases, erroneous; and it would be absurd to believe that they were left
altogether to chance. Many true judgments were doubtless given, and, in
all probability, most conscientiously; for we cannot but believe that
the priests endeavoured beforehand to convince themselves by secret
inquiry and a strict examination of the circumstances, whether the
appellant were innocent or guilty, and that they took up the crossed
or uncrossed stick accordingly. Although, to all other observers, the
sticks, as enfolded in the wool, might appear exactly similar, those who
enwrapped them could, without any difficulty, distinguish the one from
the other.

By the fire-ordeal the power of deciding was just as unequivocally left
in their hands. It was generally believed that fire would not burn the
innocent, and the clergy, of course, took care that the innocent, or
such as it was their pleasure or interest to declare so, should be so
warned before undergoing the ordeal, as to preserve themselves without
any difficulty from the fire. One mode of ordeal was to place red-hot
ploughshares on the ground at certain distances, and then, blindfolding
the accused person, make him walk barefooted over them. If he stepped
regularly in the vacant spaces, avoiding the fire, he was adjudged
innocent; if he burned himself, he was declared guilty. As none but the
clergy interfered with the arrangement of the ploughshares, they could
always calculate beforehand the result of the ordeal. To find a person
guilty, they had only to place them at irregular distances, and the
accused was sure to tread upon one of them. When Emma, the wife of King
Ethelred, and mother of Edward the Confessor, was accused of a guilty
familiarity with Alwyn, Bishop of Winchester, she cleared her character
in this manner. The reputation, not only of their order, but of a queen,
being at stake, a verdict of guilty was not to be apprehended from any
ploughshares which priests had the heating of. This ordeal was called
the Judicium Dei, and sometimes the Vulgaris Purgatio, and might also be
tried by several other methods. One was to hold in the hand, unhurt, a
piece of red-hot iron, of the weight of one, two, or three pounds. When
we read not only that men with hard hands, but women of softer and more
delicate skin, could do this with impunity, we must be convinced that
the hands were previously rubbed with some preservative, or that the
apparently hot iron was merely cold iron painted red. Another mode was
to plunge the naked arm into a caldron of boiling water. The priests
then enveloped it in several folds of linen and flannel, and kept the
patient confined within the church, and under their exclusive care,
for three days. If, at the end of that time, the arm appeared without a
scar, the innocence of the accused person was firmly established. [Very
similar to this is the fire-ordeal of the modern Hindoos, which is thus
described in Forbes's "Oriental Memoirs," vol. i. c. xi.--"When a man,
accused of a capital crime, chooses to undergo the ordeal trial, he is
closely confined for several days; his right hand and arm are covered
with thick wax-cloth, tied up and sealed, in the presence of proper
officers, to prevent deceit. In the English districts the covering was
always sealed with the Company's arms, and the prisoner placed under an
European guard. At the time fixed for the ordeal, a caldron of oil is
placed over a fire; when it boils, a piece of money is dropped into the
vessel; the prisoner's arm is unsealed, and washed in the presence of
his judges and accusers. During this part of the ceremony, the attendant
Brahmins supplicate the Deity. On receiving their benediction, the
accused plunges his hand into the boiling fluid, and takes out the coin.
The arm is afterwards again Sealed up until the time appointed for a
re-examination. The seal is then broken: if no blemish appears,
the prisoner is declared innocent; if the contrary, he suffers the
punishment due to his crime." * * * On this trial the accused thus
addresses the element before plunging his hand into the boiling
oil:--"Thou, O fire! pervadest all things. O cause of purity! who givest
evidence of virtue and of sin, declare the truth in this my hand!" If no
juggling were practised, the decisions by this ordeal would be all the
same way; but, as some are by this means declared guilty, and others
innocent, it is clear that the Brahmins, like the Christian priests of
the middle ages, practise some deception in saving those whom they wish
to be thought guiltless.]

As regards the water-ordeal, the same trouble was not taken. It was a
trial only for the poor and humble, and, whether they sank or swam,
was thought of very little consequence. Like the witches of more modern
times, the accused were thrown into a pond or river; if they sank, and
were drowned, their surviving friends had the consolation of knowing
that they were innocent; if they swam, they were guilty. In either case
society was rid of them.

But of all the ordeals, that which the clergy reserved for themselves
was the one least likely to cause any member of their corps to be
declared guilty. The most culpable monster in existence came off clear
when tried by this method. It was called the Corsned, and was thus
performed. A piece of barley bread and a piece of cheese were laid
upon the altar, and the accused priest, in his full canonicals, and
surrounded by all the pompous adjuncts of Roman ceremony, pronounced
certain conjurations, and prayed with great fervency for several
minutes. The burden of his prayer was, that if he were guilty of the
crime laid to his charge, God would send his angel Gabriel to stop his
throat, that he might not be able to swallow the bread and cheese.
There is no instance upon record of a priest having been choked in
this manner. [An ordeal very like this is still practised in India.
Consecrated rice is the article chosen, instead of bread and cheese.
Instances are not rare in which, through the force of imagination,
guilty persons are not able to swallow a single grain. Conscious of
their crime, and fearful of the punishment of Heaven, they feel a
suffocating sensation in their throat when they attempt it, and they
fall on their knees, and confess all that is laid to their charge. The
same thing, no doubt, would have happened with the bread and cheese
of the Roman church, if it had been applied to any others but
ecclesiastics. The latter had too much wisdom to be caught in a trap of
their own setting.]

When, under Pope Gregory VII, it was debated whether the Gregorian chant
should be introduced into Castile, instead of the Musarabic, given by
St. Isidore, of Seville, to the churches of that kingdom, very much ill
feeling was excited. The churches refused to receive the novelty, and it
was proposed that the affair should be decided by a battle between two
champions, one chosen from each side. The clergy would not consent to a
mode of settlement which they considered impious, but had no objection
to try the merits of each chant by the fire ordeal. A great fire was
accordingly made, and a book of the Gregorian and one of the Musarabic
chant were thrown into it, that the flames might decide which was most
agreeable to God by refusing to burn it. Cardinal Baronius, who says
he was an eye-witness of the miracle, relates, that the book of the
Gregorian chant was no sooner laid upon the fire, than it leaped out
uninjured, visibly, and with a great noise. Every one present thought
that the saints had decided in favour of Pope Gregory. After a slight
interval, the fire was extinguished; but, wonderful to relate! the other
book of St. Isidore was found covered with ashes, but not injured in the
slightest degree. The flames had not even warmed it. Upon this it was
resolved, that both were alike agreeable to God, and that they should
be used by turns in all the churches of Seville? [Histoire de Messire
Bertrand du Guesclin, par Paul Hay du Chastelet. Livre i. chap. xix.]

If the ordeals had been confined to questions like this, the laity would
have had little or no objection to them; but when they were introduced
as decisive in all the disputes that might arise between man and man,
the opposition of all those whose prime virtue was personal bravery, was
necessarily excited. In fact, the nobility, from a very early period,
began to look with jealous eyes upon them. They were not slow to
perceive their true purport, which was no other than to make the Church
the last court of appeal in all cases, both civil and criminal: and not
only did the nobility prefer the ancient mode of single combat from
this cause, in itself a sufficient one, but they clung to it because
an acquittal gained by those displays of courage and address which the
battle afforded, was more creditable in the eyes of their compeers, than
one which it required but little or none of either to accomplish. To
these causes may be added another, which was, perhaps, more potent than
either, in raising the credit of the judicial combat at the expense
of the ordeal. The noble institution of chivalry was beginning to take
root, and, notwithstanding the clamours of the clergy, war was made the
sole business of life, and the only elegant pursuit of the aristocracy.
The fine spirit of honour was introduced, any attack upon which was only
to be avenged in the lists, within sight of applauding crowds, whose
verdict of approbation was far more gratifying than the cold and formal
acquittal of the ordeal. Lothaire, the son of Louis I, abolished that
by fire and the trial of the cross within his dominions; but in England
they were allowed so late as the time of Henry III, in the early part
of whose reign they were prohibited by an order of council. In the mean
time, the Crusades had brought the institution of chivalry to the full
height of perfection. The chivalric spirit soon achieved the downfall
of the ordeal system, and established the judicial combat on a basis
too firm to be shaken. It is true that with the fall of chivalry, as an
institution, fell the tournament, and the encounter in the lists; but
the duel, their offspring, has survived to this day, defying the
efforts of sages and philosophers to eradicate it. Among all the
errors bequeathed to us by a barbarous age, it has proved the most
pertinacious. It has put variance between men's reason and their honour;
put the man of sense on a level with the fool, and made thousands who
condemn it submit to it, or practise it. Those who are curious to
see the manner in which these combats were regulated, may consult the
learned Montesquieu, where they will find a copious summary of the code
of ancient duelling. ["Esprit des Loix," livre xxviii. chap. xxv.]
Truly does he remark, in speaking of the clearness and excellence of the
arrangements, that, as there were many wise matters which were conducted
in a very foolish manner, so there were many foolish matters conducted
very wisely. No greater exemplification of it could be given, than the
wise and religious rules of the absurd and blasphemous trial by battle.

In the ages that intervened between the Crusades and the new era that
was opened out by the invention of gunpowder and printing, a more
rational system of legislation took root. The inhabitants of cities,
engaged in the pursuits of trade and industry, were content to
acquiesce in the decisions of their judges and magistrates whenever any
differences arose among them. Unlike the class above them, their habits
and manners did not lead them to seek the battle-field on every slight
occasion. A dispute as to the price of a sack of corn, a bale of
broad-cloth, or a cow, could be more satisfactorily adjusted before the
mayor or bailiff of their district. Even the martial knights and nobles,
quarrelsome as they were, began to see that the trial by battle
would lose its dignity and splendour if too frequently resorted
to. Governments also shared this opinion, and on several occasions
restricted the cases in which it was legal to proceed to this extremity.
In France, before the time of Louis IX, duels were permitted only in
cases of Lese Majesty, Rape, Incendiarism, Assassination, and Burglary.
Louis IX, by taking off all restriction, made them legal in civil eases.
This was not found to work well, and, in 1303, Philip the Fair judged it
necessary to confine them, in criminal matters, to state offences,
rape, and incendiarism; and in civil cases, to questions of disputed
inheritance. Knighthood was allowed to be the best judge of its own
honour, and might defend or avenge it as often as occasion arose.

Among the earliest duels upon record, is a very singular one that
took place in the reign of Louis II (A.D. 878). Ingelgerius, Count of
Gastinois, was one morning discovered by his Countess dead in bed at her
side. Gontran, a relation of the Count, accused the Countess of
having murdered her husband, to whom, he asserted, she had long been
unfaithful, and challenged her to produce a champion to do battle in her
behalf, that he might establish her guilt by killing him.[Memoires
de Brantome touchant les Duels.] All the friends and relatives of the
Countess believed in her innocence; but Gontran was so stout and bold
and renowned a warrior, that no one dared to meet him, for which, as
Brantome quaintly says, "Mauvais et poltrons parens estaient." The
unhappy Countess began to despair, when a champion suddenly appeared
in the person of Ingelgerius, Count of Anjou, a boy of sixteen years
of age, who had been held by the Countess on the baptismal font, and
received her husband's name. He tenderly loved his godmother, and
offered to do battle in her cause against any and every opponent. The
King endeavoured to persuade the generous boy from his enterprise,
urging the great strength, tried skill, and invincible courage of the
challenger; but he persisted in his resolution, to the great sorrow
of all the court, who said it was a cruel thing to permit so brave and
beautiful a child to rush to such butchery and death.

When the lists were prepared, the Countess duly acknowledged her
champion, and the combatants commenced the onset. Gontran rode so
fiercely at his antagonist, and hit him on the shield with such
impetuosity, that he lost his own balance and rolled to the ground. The
young Count, as Gontran fell, passed his lance through his body, and
then dismounting, cut off his head, which, Brantome says, "he presented
to the King, who received it most graciously, and was very joyful, as
much so as if any one had made him a present of a city." The innocence
of the Countess was then proclaimed with great rejoicings; and she
kissed her godson, and wept over his neck with joy, in the presence of
all the assembly.

When the Earl of Essex was accused, by Robert de Montfort, before King
Henry II, in 1162, of having traitorously suffered the royal standard
of England to fall from his hands in a skirmish with the Welsh, at
Coleshill, five years previously, the latter offered to prove the
truth of the charge by single combat. The Earl of Essex accepted
the challenge, and the lists were prepared near Reading. An immense
concourse of persons assembled to witness the battle. Essex at first
fought stoutly, but, losing his temper and self-command, he gave an
advantage to his opponent, which soon decided the struggle. He was
unhorsed, and so severely wounded, that all present thought he was dead.
At the solicitation of his relatives, the monks of the Abbey of Reading
were allowed to remove the body for interment, and Montfort was declared
the victor. Essex, however, was not dead, but stunned only, and,
under the care of the monks, recovered in a few weeks from his bodily
injuries. The wounds of his mind were not so easily healed. Though a
loyal and brave subject, the whole realm believed him a traitor and a
coward because he had been vanquished. He could not brook to return to
the world deprived of the good opinion of his fellows; he, therefore,
made himself a monk, and passed the remainder of his days within the
walls of the Abbey.

Du Chastelet relates a singular duel that was proposed in
Spain.[Histoire de Messire Bertrand du Guesclin, livre i. chap. xix.] A
Christian gentleman of Seville sent a challenge to a Moorish cavalier,
offering to prove against him, with whatever weapons he might choose,
that the religion of Jesus Christ was holy and divine, and that of
Mahomet impious and damnable. The Spanish prelates did not choose that
Christianity should be com promised within their jurisdiction by the
result of any such combat, and they commanded the knight, under pain of
excommunication, to withdraw the challenge.

The same author relates, that under Otho I a question arose among
jurisconsults, viz. whether grandchildren, who had lost their father,
should share equally with their uncles in the property of their
grandfather, at the death of the latter. The difficulty of this question
was found so insurmountable, that none of the lawyers of that day could
resolve it. It was at last decreed, that it should be decided by single
combat. Two champions were accordingly chosen; one for, and the other
against, the claims of the little ones. After a long struggle, the
champion of the uncles was unhorsed and slain; and it was, therefore,
decided, that the right of the grandchildren was established, and that
they should enjoy the same portion of their grandfather's possessions
that their father would have done had he been alive.

Upon pretexts, just as frivolous as these, duels continued to be fought
in most of the countries of Europe during the whole of the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries. A memorable instance of the slightness of the
pretext on which a man could be forced to fight a duel to the death,
occurs in the Memoirs of the brave Constable, Du Guesclin. The advantage
he had obtained, in a skirmish before Rennes, against William Brembre,
an English captain, so preyed on the spirits of William Troussel, the
chosen friend and companion of the latter, that nothing would satisfy
him but a mortal combat with the Constable. The Duke of Lancaster,
to whom Troussel applied for permission to fight the great Frenchman,
forbade the battle, as not warranted by the circumstances. Troussel
nevertheless burned with a fierce desire to cross his weapon with Du
Guesclin, and sought every occasion to pick a quarrel with him. Having
so good a will for it, of course he found a way. A relative of his had
been taken prisoner by the Constable, in whose hands he remained till he
was able to pay his ransom. Troussel resolved to make a quarrel out of
this, and despatched a messenger to Du Guesclin, demanding the release
of his prisoner, and offering a bond, at a distant date, for the payment
of the ransom. Du Guesclin, who had received intimation of the hostile
purposes of the Englishman, sent back word, that he would not accept his
bond, neither would he release his prisoner, until the full amount of
his ransom was paid. As soon as this answer was received, Troussel sent
a challenge to the Constable, demanding reparation for the injury he had
done his honour, by refusing his bond, and offering a mortal combat, to
be fought three strokes with the lance, three with the sword, and
three with the dagger. Du Guesclin, although ill in bed with the ague,
accepted the challenge, and gave notice to the Marshal d'Andreghem, the
King's Lieutenant-General in Lower Normandy, that he might fix the day
and the place of combat. The Marshal made all necessary arrangements,
upon condition that he who was beaten should pay a hundred florins
of gold to feast the nobles and gentlemen who were witnesses of the

The Duke of Lancaster was very angry with his captain, and told him,
that it would be a shame to his knighthood and his nation, if he forced
on a combat with the brave Du Guesclin, at a time when he was enfeebled
by disease and stretched on the couch of suffering. Upon these
representations, Troussel, ashamed of himself, sent notice to Du
Guesclin that he was willing to postpone the duel until such time as he
should be perfectly recovered. Du Guesclin replied, that he could not
think of postponing the combat, after all the nobility had received
notice of it; that he had sufficient strength left, not only to meet,
but to conquer such an opponent as he was; and that, if he did not make
his appearance in the lists at the time appointed, he would publish
him everywhere as a man unworthy to be called a knight, or to wear an
honourable sword by his side. Troussel carried this haughty message to
the Duke of Lancaster, who immediately gave permission for the battle.

On the day appointed, the two combatants appeared in the lists, in the
presence of several thousand spectators. Du Guesclin was attended by
the flower of the French nobility, including the Marshal de Beaumanoir,
Olivier de Mauny, Bertrand de Saint Pern, and the Viscount de la
Belliere, while the Englishman appeared with no more than the customary
retinue of two seconds, two squires, two coutilliers, or daggermen, and
two trumpeters. The first onset was unfavourable to the Constable: he
received so heavy a blow on his shield-arm, that he fell forward to
the left, upon his horse's neck, and, being weakened by his fever, was
nearly thrown to the ground. All his friends thought he could never
recover himself, and began to deplore his ill fortune; but Du Guesclin
collected his energies for a decisive effort, and, at the second charge,
aimed a blow at the shoulder of his enemy, which felled him to the
earth, mortally wounded. He then sprang from his horse, sword in hand,
with the intention of cutting off the head of his fallen foe, when the
Marshal D'Andreghem threw a golden wand into the arena, as a signal that
hostilities should cease. Du Guesclin was proclaimed the victor, amid
the joyous acclamations of the crowd, and retiring, left the field to
the meaner combatants, who were afterwards to make sport for the people.
Four English and as many French squires fought for some time with
pointless lances, when the French, gaining the advantage, the sports
were declared at an end.

In the time of Charles VI, about the beginning of the fifteenth century,
a famous duel was ordered by the Parliament of Paris. The Sieur de
Carrouges being absent in the Holy Land, his lady was violated by the
Sieur Legris. Carrouges, on his return, challenged Legris to mortal
combat, for the twofold crime of violation and slander, inasmuch as he
had denied his guilt, by asserting that the lady was a willing party.
The lady's asseverations of innocence were held to be no evidence by the
Parliament, and the duel was commanded with all the ceremonies. "On
the day appointed," says Brantome, [Memoires de Brantome touchant les
Duels.] "the lady came to witness the spectacle in her chariot; but the
King made her descend, judging her unworthy, because she was criminal in
his eyes till her innocence was proved, and caused her to stand upon
a scaffold to await the mercy of God and this judgment by the battle.
After a short struggle, the Sieur de Carrouges overthrew his enemy, and
made him confess both the rape and the slander. He was then taken to the
gallows and hanged in the presence of the multitude; while the innocence
of the lady was proclaimed by the heralds, and recognized by her
husband, the King, and all the spectators."

Numerous battles, of a similar description, constantly took place, until
the unfortunate issue of one encounter of the kind led the French King,
Henry II, to declare solemnly, that he would never again permit any such
encounter, whether it related to a civil or criminal case, or the honour
of a gentleman.

This memorable combat was fought in the year 1547. Francois de Vivonne,
Lord of La Chataigneraie, and Guy de Chabot, Lord of Jarnac, had been
friends from their early youth, and were noted at the court of Francis
I for the gallantry of their bearing and the magnificence of their
retinue. Chataigneraie, who knew that his friend's means were not very
ample, asked him one day, in confidence, how it was that he contrived to
be so well provided? Jarnac replied, that his father had married a
young and beautiful woman, who, loving the son far better than the sire,
supplied him with as much money as he desired. La Chataigneraie betrayed
the base secret to the Dauphin, the Dauphin to the King, the King to his
courtiers, and the courtiers to all their acquaintance. In a short time
it reached the ears of the old Lord de Jarnac, who immediately sent for
his son, and demanded to know in what manner the report had originated,
and whether he had been vile enough not only to carry on such a
connexion, but to boast of it? De Jarnac indignantly denied that he had
ever said so, or given reason to the world to say so, and requested his
father to accompany him to court, and confront him with his accuser,
that he might see the manner in which he would confound him. They
went accordingly, and the younger De Jarnac, entering a room where the
Dauphin, La Chataigneraie, and several courtiers were present, exclaimed
aloud, "That whoever had asserted, that he maintained a criminal
connexion with his mother-in-law, was a liar and a coward!" Every eye
was turned to the Dauphin and La Chataigneraie, when the latter stood
forward, and asserted, that De Jarnac had himself avowed that such was
the fact, and he would extort from his lips another confession of it. A
case like this could not be met or rebutted by any legal proof, and the
royal council ordered that it should be decided by single combat. The
King, however, set his face against the duel [Although Francis showed
himself in this case an enemy to duelling, yet, in his own case, he had
not the same objection. Every reader of history must remember his answer
to the challenge of the Emperor Charles V. The Emperor wrote that he
had failed in his word, and that he would sustain their quarrel
single-handed against him. Francis replied, that he lied--qu'il en avait
menti par la gorge, and that he was ready to meet him in single combat
whenever and wherever he pleased.] and forbade them both, under pain of
his high displeasure, to proceed any further in the matter. But Francis
died in the following year, and the Dauphin, now Henry II, who was
himself compromised, resolved that the combat should take place.
The lists were prepared in the court-yard of the chateau of St.
Germain-en-Laye, and the 10th of July 1547 was appointed for the
encounter. The cartels of the combatants, which are preserved in the
"Memoires de Castelnau," were as follow:--

"Cartel of Francois de Vivonne, Lord of La Chataigneraie.


"Having learned that Guy Chabot de Jarnac, being lately at Compeigne,
asserted, that whoever had said that he boasted of having criminal
intercourse with his mother-in-law, was wicked and a wretch,--I, Sire,
with your good-will and pleasure, do answer, that he has wickedly lied,
and will lie as many times as he denies having said that which I affirm
he did say; for I repeat, that he told me several times, and boasted of
it, that he had slept with his mother-in-law.

"Francois de Vivonne."

To this cartel De Jarnac replied:--


"With your good will and permission, I say, that Francois de Vivonne has
lied in the imputation which he has cast upon me, and of which I spoke
to you at Compeigne. I, therefore, entreat you, Sire, most humbly, that
you be pleased to grant us a fair field, that we may fight this battle
to the death.

"Guy Chabot."

The preparations were conducted on a scale of the greatest magnificence,
the King having intimated his intention of being present. La
Chataigneraie made sure of the victory, and invited the King and a
hundred and fifty of the principal personages of the court to sup with
him in the evening, after the battle, in a splendid tent, which he had
prepared at the extremity of the lists. De Jarnac was not so confident,
though perhaps more desperate. At noon, on the day appointed, the
combatants met, and each took the customary oath, that he bore no charms
or amulets about him, or made use of any magic, to aid him against
his antagonist. They then attacked each other, sword in hand. La
Chataigneraie was a strong, robust man, and over confident; De Jarnac
was nimble, supple, and prepared for the worst. The combat lasted for
some time doubtful, until De Jarnac, overpowered by the heavy blows
of his opponent, covered his head with his shield, and, stooping
down, endeavoured to make amends by his agility for his deficiency of
strength. In this crouching posture he aimed two blows at the left thigh
of La Chataigneraie, who had left it uncovered, that the motion of
his leg might not be impeded. Each blow was successful, and, amid the
astonishment of all the spectators, and to the great regret of the King,
La Chataigneraie rolled over upon the sand. He seized his dagger, and
made a last effort to strike De Jarnac; but he was unable to support
himself, and fell powerless into the arms of the assistants. The
officers now interfered, and De Jarnac being declared the victor,
fell down upon his knees, uncovered his head, and, clasping his hands
together, exclaimed:--"O Domine, non sum dignus!" La Chataigneraie was
so mortified by the result of the encounter, that he resolutely refused
to have his wounds dressed. He tore off the bandages which the surgeons
applied, and expired two days afterwards. Ever since that time, any sly
and unforeseen attack has been called by the French a coup de Jarnac.
Henry was so grieved at the loss of his favourite, that he made the
solemn oath already alluded to, that he would never again, so long as
he lived, permit a due]. Some writers have asserted, and among others,
Mezeraie, that he issued a royal edict forbidding them. This has been
doubted by others, and, as there appears no registry of the edict in
any of the courts, it seems most probable that it was never issued.
This opinion is strengthened by the fact, that two years afterwards, the
council ordered another duel to be fought, with similar forms, but with
less magnificence, on account of the inferior rank of the combatants.
It is not anywhere stated, that Henry interfered to prevent it,
notwithstanding his solemn oath; but that, on the contrary, he
encouraged it, and appointed the Marshal de la Marque to see that it
was conducted according to the rules of chivalry. The disputants were
Fendille and D'Aguerre, two gentlemen of the household, who, quarrelling
in the King's chamber, had proceeded from words to blows. The council,
being informed of the matter, decreed that it could only be decided in
the lists. Marshal de la Marque, with the King's permission, appointed
the city of Sedan as the place of combat. Fendille, who was a bad
swordsman, was anxious to avoid an encounter with D'Aguerre, who was
one of the most expert men of the age; but the council authoritatively
commanded that he should fight, or be degraded from all his honours.
D'Aguerre appeared in the field attended by Francois de Vendome, Count
de Chartres, while Fendille was accompanied by the Duke de Nevers.
Fendille appears to have been not only an inexpert swordsman, but a
thorough coward; one who, like Cowley, might have heaped curses on the

     "-------(Death's factor sure), who brought
     Dire swords into this peaceful world."

On the very first encounter he was thrown from his horse, and,
confessing on the ground all that his victor required of him, slunk away
ignominiously from the arena.

One is tempted to look upon the death of Henry II as a judgment upon
him for his perjury in the matter of duelling. In a grand tournament
instituted on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter, he broke
several lances in encounters with some of the bravest knights of the
time. Ambitious of still further renown, he would not rest satisfied
until he had also engaged the young Count de Montgomeri. He received a
wound in the eye from the lance of this antagonist, and died from its
effects shortly afterwards, in the forty-first year of his age.

In the succeeding reigns of Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III, the
practice of duelling increased to an alarming extent. Duels were not
rare in the other countries of Europe at the same period; but in
France they were so frequent, that historians, in speaking of that age,
designate it as "l'epoque de la fureur des duels." The Parliament
of Paris endeavoured, as far as in its power lay, to discourage the
practice. By a decree dated the 26th of June 1559, it declared all
persons who should be present at duels, or aiding and abetting in them,
to be rebels to the King, transgressors of the law, and disturbers of
the public peace.

When Henry III was assassinated at St. Cloud, in 1589, a young
gentleman, named L'isle Marivaut, who had been much beloved by him, took
his death so much to heart, that he resolved not to survive him. Not
thinking suicide an honourable death, and wishing, as he said, to die
gloriously in revenging his King and master, he publicly expressed his
readiness to fight anybody to the death who should assert that Henry's
assassination was not a great misfortune to the community. Another
youth, of a fiery temper and tried courage, named Marolles, took him at
his word, and the day and place of the combat were forthwith appointed.
When the hour had come, and all were ready, Marolles turned to his
second, and asked whether his opponent had a casque or helmet only, or
whether he wore a sallade, or headpiece. Being answered a helmet only,
he said gaily, "So much the better; for, sir, my second, you shall
repute me the wickedest man in all the world, if I do not thrust my
lance right through the the middle of his head and kill him." Truth to
say, he did so at the very first onset, and the unhappy L'isle Marivaut
expired without a groan. Brantome, who relates this story, adds, that
the victor might have done as he pleased with the body, cut off the
head, dragged it out of the camp, or exposed it upon an ass, but that,
being a wise and very courteous gentleman, he left it to the relatives
of the deceased to be honourably buried, contenting himself with the
glory of his triumph, by which he gained no little renown and honour
among the ladies of Paris.

On the accession of Henry IV that monarch pretended to set his face
against duelling; but such was the influence of early education and the
prejudices of society upon him, that he never could find it in his
heart to punish a man for this offence. He thought it tended to foster a
warlike spirit among his people. When the chivalrous Crequi demanded
his permission to fight Don Philippe de Savoire, he is reported to have
said, "Go, and if I were not a King, I would be your second." It is
no wonder that when such were known to be the King's disposition, his
edicts attracted but small attention. A calculation was made by M. de
Lomenie, in the year 1607, that since the accession of Henry, in 1589,
no less than four thousand French gentlemen had lost their lives in
these conflicts, which, for the eighteen years, would have been at
the rate of four or five in a week, or eighteen per month! Sully, who
reports this fact in his Memoirs, does not throw the slightest doubt
upon its exactness, and adds, that it was chiefly owing to the facility
and ill-advised good-nature of his royal master that the bad example
had so empoisoned the court, the city, and the whole country. This wise
minister devoted much of his time and attention to the subject; for the
rage, he says, was such as to cause him a thousand pangs, and the King
also. There was hardly a man moving in what was called good society,
who had not been engaged in a duel either as principal or second; and
if there were such a man, his chief desire was to free himself from the
imputation of non-duelling, by picking a quarrel with somebody. Sully
constantly wrote letters to the King, in which he prayed him to renew
the edicts against this barbarous custom, to aggravate the punishment
against offenders, and never, in any instance, to grant a pardon, even
to a person who had wounded another in a duel, much less to any one who
had taken away life. He also advised, that some sort of tribunal, or
court of honour, should be established, to take cognizance of injurious
and slanderous language, and of all such matters as usually led to
duels; and that the justice to be administered by this court should be
sufficiently prompt and severe to appease the complainant, and make the
offender repent of his aggression.

Henry, being so warmly pressed by his friend and minister, called
together an extraordinary council in the gallery of the palace of
Fontainebleau, to take the matter into consideration. When all
the members were assembled, his Majesty requested that some person
conversant with the subject would make a report to him on the origin,
progress, and different forms of the duel. Sully complacently remarks,
that none of the counsllors gave the King any great reason to felicitate
them on their erudition. In fact, they all remained silent. Sully held
his peace with the rest; but he looked so knowing, that the King turned
towards him, and said:--"Great master! by your face I conjecture that
you know more of this matter than you would have us believe. I pray
you, and indeed I command, that you tell us what you think and what you
know." The coy minister refused, as he says, out of mere politeness to
his more ignorant colleagues; but, being again pressed by the King, he
entered into a history of duelling both in ancient and modern times.
He has not preserved this history in his Memoirs; and, as none of the
ministers or counsellors present thought proper to do so, the world is
deprived of a discourse which was, no doubt, a learned and remarkable
one. The result was, that a royal edict was issued, which Sully lost
no time in transmitting to the most distant provinces, with a distinct
notification to all parties concerned that the King was in earnest, and
would exert the full rigour of the law in punishment of the offenders.
Sully himself does not inform us what were the provisions of the new
law; but Father Matthias has been more explicit, and from him we learn,
that the Marshals of France were created judges of a court of chivalry,
for the hearing of all causes wherein the honour of a noble or gentleman
was concerned, and that such as resorted to duelling should be punished
by death and confiscation of property, and that the seconds and
assistants should lose their rank, dignity, or offices, and be banished
from the court of their sovereign. [Le Pere Matthias, tome ii. livre

But so strong a hold had the education and prejudice of his age upon
the mind of the King, that though his reason condemned, his sympathies
approved the duel. Notwithstanding this threatened severity, the number
of duels did not diminish, and the wise Sully had still to lament the
prevalence of an evil which menaced society with utter disorganization.
In the succeeding reign the practice prevailed, if possible, to a still
greater extent, until the Cardinal de Richelieu, better able to grapple
with it than Sully had been, made some severe examples in the very
highest classes. Lord Herbert, the English ambassador at the court
of Louis XIII repeats, in his letters, an observation that had been
previously made in the reign of Henry IV, that it was rare to find a
Frenchman moving in good society who had not killed his man in a duel.
The Abbe Millot says of this period, that the duel madness made the most
terrible ravages. Men had actually a frenzy for combatting. Caprice and
vanity, as well as the excitement of passion, imposed the necessity
of fighting. Friends were obliged to enter into the quarrels of their
friends, or be themselves called out for their refusal, and revenge
became hereditary in many families. It was reckoned that in twenty years
eight thousand letters of pardon had been issued to persons who had
killed others in single combat. ["Elemens de l'Histoire de France, vol.
iii. p. 219.]

Other writers confirm this statement. Amelot de Houssaye, in his
Memoirs, says, upon this subject, that duels were so common in the first
years of the reign of Louis XIII, that the ordinary conversation of
persons when they met in the morning was, "Do you know who fought
yesterday?" and after dinner, "Do you know who fought this morning?" The
most infamous duellist at that period was De Bouteville. It was not at
all necessary to quarrel with this assassin to be forced to fight a duel
with him. When he heard that any one was very brave, he would go to
him, and say, "People tell me that you are brave; you and I must fight
together!" Every morning the most notorious bravos and duellists used
to assemble at his house, to take a breakfast of bread and wine, and
practise fencing. M. de Valencay, who was afterwards elevated to the
rank of a cardinal, ranked very high in the estimation of De Bouteville
and his gang. Hardly a day passed but what he was engaged in some duel
or other, either as principal or second; and he once challenged De
Bouteville himself, his best friend, because De Bouteville had fought
a duel without inviting him to become his second. This quarrel was only
appeased on the promise of De Bouteville that, in his next encounter,
he would not fail to avail himself of his services. For that purpose he
went out the same day, and picked a quarrel with the Marquis des Portes.
M. de Valencay, according to agreement, had the pleasure of serving as
his second, and of running through the body M. de Cavois, the second
of the Marquis des Portes, a man who had never done him any injury, and
whom he afterwards acknowledged he had never seen before.

Cardinal Richelieu devoted much attention to this lamentable state of
public morals, and seems to have concurred with his great predecessor,
Sully, that nothing but the most rigorous severity could put a stop
to the evil. The subject indeed was painfully forced upon him by his
enemies. The Marquis de Themines, to whom Richelieu, then Bishop of
Lucon, had given offence by some representations he had made to Mary of
Medicis, determined, since he could not challenge an ecclesiastic,
to challenge his brother. An opportunity was soon found. Themines,
accosting the Marquis de Richelieu, complained, in an insulting tone,
that the Bishop of Lucon had broken his faith. The Marquis resented both
the manner and matter of his speech, and readily accepted a challenge.
They met in the Rue d'Angouleme, and the unfortunate Richelieu was
stabbed to the heart, and instantly expired. From that moment the
Bishop became the steady foe of the practice of duelling. Reason and the
impulse of brotherly love alike combined to make him detest it, and
when his power in France was firmly established, he set vigorously
about repressing it. In his "Testament Politique," he has collected his
thoughts upon the subject, in the chapter entitled "Des moyens d'arreter
les Duels." In spite of the edicts that he published, the members of
the nobility persisted in fighting upon the most trivial and absurd
pretences. At last Richelieu made a terrible example. The infamous De
Bouteville challenged and fought the Marquis de Beuoron; and, although
the duel itself was not fatal to either, its consequences were fatal to
both. High as they were, Richelieu resolved that the law should reach
them, and they were both tried, found guilty, and beheaded. Thus did
society get rid of one of the most bloodthirsty scoundrels that ever
polluted it.

In 1632 two noblemen fought a duel, in which they were both killed. The
officers of justice had notice of the breach of the law, and arrived at
the scene of combat before the friends of the parties had time to remove
the bodies. In conformity with the Cardinal's severe code upon the
subject, the bodies were ignominiously stripped, and hanged upon a
gallows, with their heads downwards, for several hours, within sight of
all the people. [Mercure de France, vol. xiii.] This severity sobered
the frenzy of the nation for a time; but it was soon forgotten. Men's
minds were too deeply imbued with a false notion of honour to be
brought to a right way of thinking: by such examples, however striking,
Richelieu was unable to persuade them to walk in the right path, though
he could punish them for choosing the wrong one. He had, with all his
acuteness, miscalculated the spirit of duelling. It was not death that
a duellist feared: it was shame, and the contempt of his fellows. As
Addison remarked more than eighty years afterwards, "Death was not
sufficient to deter men who made it their glory to despise it; but
if every one who fought a duel were to stand in the pillory, it would
quickly diminish the number of those imaginary men of honour, and put an
end to so absurd a practice." Richelieu never thought of this.

Sully says, that in his time the Germans were also much addicted to
duelling. There were three places where it was legal to fight; Witzburg,
in Franconia, and Uspach and Halle, in Swabia. Thither, of course, vast
numbers repaired, and murdered each other under sanction of the law. At
an earlier period, in Germany, it was held highly disgraceful to refuse
to fight. Any one who surrendered to his adversary for a simple wound
that did not disable him, was reputed infamous, and could neither cut
his beard, bear arms, mount on horseback, or hold any Office in the
state. He who fell in a duel was buried with great pomp and splendour.

In the year 1652, just after Louis XIV had attained his majority, a
desperate duel was fought between the Dukes de Beaufort and De Nemours,
each attended by four gentlemen. Although brothers-in-law, they had
long been enemies, and their constant dissensions had introduced much
disorganization among the troops which they severally commanded. Each
had long sought an opportunity for combat, which at last arose on a
misunderstanding relative to the places they were to occupy at the
council board. They fought with pistols, and, at the first discharge,
the Duke de Nemours was shot through the body, and almost instantly
expired. Upon this the Marquis de Villars, who seconded Nemours,
challenged Hericourt, the second of the Duke de Beaufort, a man whom
he had never before seen; and the challenge being accepted, they fought
even more desperately than their principals. This combat, being with
swords, lasted longer than the first, and was more exciting to the six
remaining gentlemen who stayed to witness it. The result was fatal to
Hericourt, who fell pierced to the heart by the sword of De Villars.
Anything more savage than this can hardly be imagined. Voltaire
says such duels were frequent, and the compiler of the "Dictionnaire
d'Anecdotes" informs us, that the number of seconds was not fixed. As
many as ten, or twelve, or twenty, were not unfrequent, and they often
fought together after their principals were disabled. The highest mark
of friendship one man could manifest towards another, was to choose him
for his second; and many gentlemen were so desirous of serving in this
capacity, that they endeavoured to raise every slight misunderstanding
into a quarrel, that they might have the pleasure of being engaged
in it. The Count de Bussy Rabutin relates an instance of this in his
Memoirs. He says, that as he was one evening coming out of the theatre,
a gentleman, named Bruc, whom he had not before known, stopped him very
politely, and, drawing him aside, asked him if it was true that the
Count de Thianges had called him (Bruc) a drunkard? Bussy replied, that
he really did not know, for he saw the Count very seldom. "Oh! he is
your uncle!" replied Bruc; "and, as I cannot have satisfaction from him,
because he lives so far off in the country, I apply to you." "I see what
you are at," replied Bussy, "and, since you wish to put me in my uncle's
place, I answer, that whoever asserted that he called you a drunkard,
told a lie!" "My brother said so," replied Bruc, "and he is a child."
"Horsewhip him, then, for his falsehood," returned De Bussy. "I will
not have my brother called a liar," returned Bruc, determined to quarrel
with him; "so draw, and defend yourself!" They both drew their swords
in the public street, but were separated by the spectators. They agreed,
however, to fight on a future occasion, and with all regular forms of
the duello. A few days afterwards, a gentleman, whom De Bussy had never
before seen, and whom he did not know, even by name, called upon him,
and asked if he might have the privilege of serving as his second. He
added, that he neither knew him nor Bruc, except by reputation, but,
having made up his mind to be second to one of them, he had decided upon
accompanying De Bussy as the braver man of the two. De Bussy thanked him
very sincerely for his politeness, but begged to be excused, as he had
already engaged four seconds to accompany him, and he was afraid that if
he took any more, the affair would become a battle instead of a duel.

When such quarrels as these were looked upon as mere matters of course,
the state of society must have been indeed awful. Louis XIV very early
saw the evil, and as early determined to remedy it. It was not, however,
till the year 1679, when he instituted the "Chambre Ardente," for the
trial of the slow poisoners and pretenders to sorcery, that he
published any edict against duelling. In that year his famous edict was
promulgated, in which he reiterated and confirmed the severe enactments
of his predecessors, Henry IV and Louis XIII, and expressed his
determination never to pardon any offender. By this celebrated ordinance
a supreme court of honour was established, composed of the Marshals of
France. They were bound, on taking the office, to give to every one who
brought a well-founded complaint before them, such reparation as would
satisfy the justice of the case. Should any gentleman against whom
complaint was made refuse to obey the mandate of the court of honour,
he might be punished by fine and imprisonment; and when that was not
possible, by reason of his absenting himself from the kingdom, his
estates might be confiscated till his return.

Every man who sent a challenge, be the cause of offence what it might,
was deprived of all redress from the court of honour--suspended
three years from the exercise of any office in the state--was further
imprisoned for two years, and sentenced to pay a fine of half his yearly
income. He who accepted a challenge, was subject to the same punishment.
Any servant, or other person, who knowingly became the bearer of a
challenge, was, if found guilty, sentenced to stand in the pillory and
be publicly whipped for the first offence, and for the second, sent for
three years to the galleys.

Any person who actually fought, was to be held guilty of murder, even
though death did not ensue, and was to be punished accordingly. Persons
in the higher ranks of life were to be beheaded, and those of the middle
class hanged upon a gallows, and their bodies refused Christian burial.

At the same time that Louis published this severe edict, he exacted a
promise from his principal nobility that they would never engage in a
duel on any pretence whatever. He never swerved from his resolution to
pursue all duellists with the utmost rigour, and many were executed in
various parts of the country. A slight abatement of the evil was the
consequence, and in the course of a few years one duel was not
fought where twelve had been fought previously. A medal was struck to
commemorate the circumstance, by the express command of the King. So
much had he this object at heart, that, in his will, he particularly
recommended to his successor the care of his edict against duelling, and
warned him against any ill-judged lenity to those who disobeyed it. A
singular law formerly existed in Malta with regard to duelling. By this
law it was permitted, but only upon condition that the parties should
fight in one particular street. If they presumed to settle their quarrel
elsewhere, they were held guilty of murder, and punished accordingly.
What was also very singular, they were bound, under heavy penalties, to
put up their swords when requested to do so by a priest, a knight, or
a woman. It does not appear, however, that the ladies or the knights
exercised this mild and beneficent privilege to any great extent; the
former were too often themselves the cause of duels, and the latter
sympathised too much in the wounded honour of the combatants to attempt
to separate them. The priests alone were the great peacemakers. Brydone
says, that a cross was always painted on the wall opposite to the spot
where a knight had been killed, and that in the "street of duels" he
counted about twenty of them. [Brydone's "Tour in Malta." 1772.]

In England the private duel was also practised to a scandalous extent,
towards the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth
centuries. The judicial combat now began to be more rare, but several
instances of it are mentioned in history. One was instituted in the
reign of Elizabeth, and another so late as the time of Charles I. Sir
Henry Spelman gives an account of that which took place in Elizabeth's
reign, which is curious, perhaps the more so when we consider that it
was perfectly legal, and that similar combats remained so till the year
1819. A proceeding having been instituted in the Court of Common Pleas
for the recovery of certain manorial rights in the county of Kent,
the defendant offered to prove by single combat his right to retain
possession. The plaintiff accepted the challenge, and the Court having
no power to stay the proceedings, agreed to the champions who were to
fight in lieu of the principals. The Queen commanded the parties to
compromise; but it being represented to Her Majesty that they were
justified by law in the course they were pursuing, she allowed them to
proceed. On the day appointed, the Justices of the Common Pleas, and all
the council engaged in the cause, appeared as umpires of the combat,
at a place in Tothill-fields, where the lists had been prepared. The
champions were ready for the encounter, and the plaintiff and defendant
were publicly called to come forward and acknowledge them. The
defendant answered to his name, and recognised his champion with the due
formalities, but the plaintiff did not appear. Without his presence
and authority the combat could not take place; and his absence being
considered an abandonment of his claim, he was declared to be nonsuited,
and barred for ever from renewing his suit before any other tribunal

The Queen appears to have disapproved personally of this mode of
settling a disputed claim, but her judges and legal advisers made no
attempt to alter the barbarous law. The practice of private duelling
excited more indignation, from its being of every-day occurrence. In the
time of James I the English were so infected with the French madness,
that Bacon, when he was Attorney-general, lent the aid of his powerful
eloquence to effect a reformation of the evil. Informations were
exhibited in the Star Chamber against two persons, named Priest and
Wright, for being engaged, as principal and second, in a duel, on which
occasion he delivered a charge that was so highly approved of by the
Lords of the Council, that they ordered it to be printed and circulated
over the country, as a thing "very meet and worthy to be remembered
and made known unto the world." He began by considering the nature
and greatness of the mischief of duelling. "It troubleth peace--it
disfurnisheth war--it bringeth calamity upon private men, peril upon
the state, and contempt upon the law. Touching the causes of it,"
he observed, "that the first motive of it, no doubt, is a false and
erroneous imagination of honour and credit; but then, the seed of this
mischief being such, it is nourished by vain discourses and green and
unripe conceits. Hereunto may be added, that men have almost lost the
true notion and understanding of fortitude and valour. For fortitude
distinguisheth of the grounds of quarrel whether they be just; and not
only so, but whether they be worthy, and setteth a better price upon
men's lives than to bestow them idly. Nay, it is weakness and disesteem
of a man's self to put a man's life upon such liedger performances.
A man's life is not to be trifled with: it is to be offered up and
sacrificed to honourable services, public merits, good causes, and noble
adventures. It is in expense of blood as it is in expense of money. It
is no liberality to make a profusion of money upon every vain occasion,
neither is it fortitude to make effusion of blood, except the cause of
it be worth." [See "Life and Character of Lord Bacon," by Thomas Martin,

The most remarkable event connected with duelling in this reign was
that between Lord Sanquir, a Scotch nobleman, and one Turner, a
fencing-master. In a trial of skill between them, his lordship's eye was
accidentally thrust out by the point of Turner's sword. Turner expressed
great regret at the circumstance, and Lord Sanquir bore his loss with as
much philosophy as he was master of, and forgave his antagonist. Three
years afterwards, Lord Sanquir was at Paris, where he was a
constant visitor at the court of Henry IV. One day, in the course of
conversation, the affable monarch inquired how he had lost his eye.
Sanquir, who prided himself on being the most expert swordsman of the
age, blushed as he replied that it was inflicted by the sword of
a fencing-master. Henry, forgetting his assumed character of an
antiduellist, carelessly, and as a mere matter of course, inquired
whether the man lived? Nothing more was said, but the query sank
deep into the proud heart of the Scotch baron, who returned shortly
afterwards to England, burning for revenge. His first intent was
to challenge the fencing-master to single combat, but, on further
consideration, he deemed it inconsistent with his dignity to meet him as
an equal in fair and open fight. He therefore hired two bravos, who
set upon the fencing-master, and murdered him in his own house at
Whitefriars. The assassins were taken and executed, and a reward of one
thousand pounds offered for the apprehension of their employer. Lord
Sanquir concealed himself for several days, and then surrendered to
take his trial, in the hope (happily false) that Justice would belie her
name, and be lenient to a murderer because he was a nobleman, who, on
a false point of honour, had thought fit to take revenge into his own
hands. The most powerful intercessions were employed in his favour, but
James, to his credit, was deaf to them all. Bacon, in his character of
Attorney-general, prosecuted the prisoner to conviction; and he died the
felon's death, on the 29th of June, 1612, on a gibbet erected in front
of the gate of Westminster Hall.

With regard to the public duel, or trial by battle, demanded under the
sanction of the law, to terminate a quarrel which the ordinary course of
justice could with difficulty decide, Bacon was equally opposed to it,
and thought that in no case should it be granted. He suggested that
there should be declared a constant and settled resolution in the state
to abolish it altogether; that care should be taken that the evil be
no more cockered, nor the humour of it fed, but that all persons found
guilty should be rigorously punished by the Star Chamber, and these of
eminent quality banished from the court.

In the succeeding reign, when Donald Mackay, the first Lord Reay,
accused David Ramsay of treason, in being concerned with the Marquis of
Hamilton in a design upon the crown of Scotland, he was challenged by
the latter to make good his assertion by single combat. [See "History
of the House and Clan of Mackay."] It had been at first the intention of
the government to try the case by the common law, but Ramsay thought he
would stand a better chance of escape by recurring to the old and almost
exploded custom, but which was still the right of every man in appeals
of treason. Lord Reay readily accepted the challenge, and both were
confined in the Tower until they found security that they would appear
on a certain day, appointed by the court, to determine the question.
The management of the affair was delegated to the Marischal Court of
Westminster, and the Earl of Lindsay was created Lord Constable of
England for the purpose. Shortly before the day appointed, Ramsay
confessed in substance all that Lord Reay had laid to his charge, upon
which Charles I put a stop to the proceedings.

But in England, about this period, sterner disputes arose among men
than those mere individual matters which generate duels. The men of
the Commonwealth encouraged no practice of the kind, and the subdued
aristocracy carried their habits and prejudices elsewhere, and fought
their duels at foreign courts. Cromwell's Parliament, however,--although
the evil at that time was not so crying,--published an order, in 1654,
for the prevention of duels, and the punishment of all con cerned in
them. Charles II, on his restoration, also issued a proclamation upon
the subject. In his reign an infamous duel was fought--infamous, not
only from its own circumstances, but from the lenity that was shown to
the principal offenders.

The worthless Duke of Buckingham, having debauched the Countess of
Shrewsbury, was challenged by her husband to mortal combat, in January
1668. Charles II endeavoured to prevent the duel, not from any regard
to public morality, but from fear for the life of his favourite. He gave
commands to the Duke of Albemarle to confine Buckingham to his house,
or take some other measures to prevent him flora fighting. Albemarle
neglected the order, thinking that the King himself might prevent the
combat by some surer means. The meeting took place at Barn Elms, the
injured Shrewsbury being attended by Sir John Talbot, his relative,
and Lord Bernard Howard, son of the Earl of Arundel. Buckingham was
accompanied by two of his dependants, Captain Holmes and Sir John
Jenkins. According to the barbarous custom of the age, not only the
principals, but the seconds, engaged each other. Jenkins was pierced to
the heart, and left dead upon the field, and Sir John Talbot severely
wounded in both arms. Buckingham himself escaping with slight wounds,
ran his unfortunate antagonist through the body, and then left the field
with the wretched woman, the cause of all the mischief, who, in the
dress of a page, awaited the issue of the conflict in a neighbouring
wood, holding her paramour's horse to avoid suspicion. Great influence
was exerted to save the guilty parties from punishment, and the master,
as base as the favourite, made little difficulty in granting a free
pardon to all concerned. In a royal proclamation issued shortly
afterwards, Charles II formally pardoned the murderers, but declared his
intention never to extend, in future, any mercy to such offenders. It
would be hard after this to say who was the most infamous, the King, the
favourite, or the courtezan.

In the reign of Queen Anne, repeated complaints were made of the
prevalence of duelling. Addison, Swift, Steele, and other writers,
employed their powerful pens in reprobation of it. Steele especially,
in the "Tatler" and "Guardian," exposed its impiety and absurdity, and
endeavoured, both by argument and by ridicule, to bring his countrymen
to a right way of thinking. [See "Spectator," Nos. 84. 97, and 99; and
"Tatler," Nos. 25, 26, 29, 31, 38, and 39; and "Guardian," No. 20.] His
comedy of "The Conscious Lovers" contains an admirable exposure of the
abuse of the word honour, which led men into an error so lamentable.
Swift, writing upon the subject, remarked that he could see no harm in
rogues and fools shooting each other. Addison and Steele took higher
ground, and the latter, in the "Guardian," summed up nearly all that
could be said upon the subject in the following impressive words:--"A
Christian and a gentleman are made inconsistent appellations of the
same person. You are not to expect eternal life if you do not forgive
injuries, and your mortal life is rendered uncomfortable if you are not
ready to commit a murder in resentment of an affront; for good sense,
as well as religion, is so utterly banished the world that men glory in
their very passions, and pursue trifles with the utmost vengeance, so
little do they know that to forgive is the most arduous pitch human
nature can arrive at. A coward has often fought--a coward has often
conquered, but a coward never forgave." Steele also published a
pamphlet, in which he gave a detailed account of the edict of Louis XIV,
and the measures taken by that monarch to cure his subjects of their
murderous folly.

On the 8th of May, 1711, Sir Cholmely Deering, M.P. for the county of
Kent, was slain in a duel by Mr. Richard Thornhill, also a member of
the House of Commons. Three days afterwards, Sir Peter King brought
the subject under the notice of the Legislature, and after dwelling at
considerable length on the alarming increase of the practice, obtained
leave to bring in a bill for the prevention and punishment of duelling.
It was read a first time that day, and ordered for a second reading in
the ensuing week.

About the same time the attention of the Upper House of Parliament was
also drawn to the subject in the most painful manner. Two of its
most noted members would have fought, had it not been that Queen Anne
received notice of their intention, and exacted a pledge that they would
desist; while a few months afterwards, two other of its members lost
their lives in one of the most remarkable duels upon record. The first
affair, which happily terminated without a meeting, was between the Duke
of Marlborough and the Earl Pawlet. The latter, and fatal encounter, was
between the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Mohun.

The first arose out of a debate in the Lords upon the conduct of the
Duke of Ormond, in refusing to hazard a general engagement with the
enemy, in which Earl Pawlet remarked that nobody could doubt the courage
of the Duke of Ormond. "He was not like a certain general, who led
troops to the slaughter, to cause great numbers of officers to be
knocked on the head in a battle, or against stone walls, in order to
fill his pockets by disposing of their commissions." Every one felt that
the remark was aimed at the Duke of Marlborough, but he remained silent,
though evidently suffering in mind. Soon after the House broke up, the
Earl Pawlet received a visit from Lord Mohun, who told him that the Duke
of Marlborough was anxious to come to an explanation with him relative
to some expressions he had made use of in that day's debate, and
therefore prayed him to "go and take a little air in the country." Earl
Pawlet did not affect to misunderstand the hint, but asked him in plain
terms whether he brought a challenge from the Duke. Lord Mohun said his
message needed no explanation, and that he (Lord Mohun) would accompany
the Duke of Marlborough. He then took his leave, and Earl Pawlet
returned home and told his lady that he was going out to fight a duel
with the Duke of Marlborough. His lady, alarmed for her lord's safety,
gave notice of his intention to the Earl of Dartmouth, who immediately,
in the Queen's name, sent to the Duke of Marlborough, and commanded him
not to stir abroad. He also caused Earl Pawlet's house to be guarded by
two sentinels; and having taken these precautions, informed the Queen of
the whole affair. Her Majesty sent at once for the Duke, expressed her
abhorrence of the custom of duelling, and required his word of honour
that he would proceed no further. The Duke pledged his word accordingly,
and the affair terminated.

The lamentable duel between the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Mohun took
place in November 1712, and sprang from the following circumstances. A
lawsuit had been pending for eleven years between these two noblemen,
and they looked upon each other in consequence with a certain degree of
coldness. They met together on the 13th of November in the chambers of
Mr. Orlebar, a Master in Chancery, when, in the course of conversation,
the Duke of Hamilton reflected upon the conduct of one of the witnesses
in the cause, saying that he was a person who had neither truth nor
justice in him. Lord Mohun, somewhat nettled at this remark, applied
to a witness favourable to his side, made answer hastily, that Mr.
Whiteworth, the person alluded to, had quite as much truth and justice
in him as the Duke of Hamilton. The Duke made no reply, and no one
present imagined that he took offence at what was said; and when he went
out, of the room, he made a low and courteous salute to the Lord Mohun.
In the evening, General Macartney called twice upon the Duke with a
challenge from Lord Mohun, and failing in seeing him, sought him a third
time at a tavern, where he found him, and delivered his message. The
Duke accepted the challenge, and the day after the morrow, which was
Sunday, the 15th of November, at seven in the morning, was appointed for
the meeting.

At that hour they assembled in Hyde Park, the Duke being attended by
his relative, Colonel Hamilton, and the Lord Mohun by General Macartney.
They jumped over a ditch into a place called the Nursery, and prepared
for the combat. The Duke of Hamilton, turning to General Macartney,
said, "Sir, you are the cause of this, let the event be what it will."
Lord Mohun did not wish that the seconds should engage, but the Duke
insisted that "Macartney should have a share in the dance." All being
ready, the two principals took up their positions, and fought with
swords so desperately that, after a short time, they both fell down,
mortally wounded. The Lord Mohun expired upon the spot, and the Duke of
Hamilton in the arms of his servants as they were carrying him to his

This unhappy termination caused the greatest excitement, not only in the
metropolis, but all over the country. The Tories, grieved at the loss of
the Duke of Hamilton, charged the fatal combat on the Whig party, whose
leader, the Duke of Marlborough, had so recently set the example of
political duels. They called Lord Mohun the bully of the Whig faction,
(he had already killed three men in duels, and been twice tried for
murder), and asserted openly, that the quarrel was concocted between him
and General Macartney to rob the country of the services of the Duke of
Hamilton by murdering him. It was also asserted, that the wound of which
the Duke died was not inflicted by Lord Mohun, but by Macartney; and
every means was used to propagate this belief. Colonel Hamilton, against
whom and Macartney the coroner's jury had returned a verdict of wilful
murder, surrendered a few days afterwards, and was examined before a
privy council sitting at the house of Lord Dartmouth. He then deposed,
that seeing Lord Mohun fall, and the Duke upon him, he ran to the Duke's
assistance, and that he might with the more ease help him, he flung down
both their swords, and, as he was raising the Duke up, he saw Macartney,
make a push at him. Upon this deposition a royal proclamation was
immediately issued, offering a reward of 500 pounds for the apprehension
of Macartney, to which the Duchess of Hamilton afterwards added a reward
of 300 pounds.

Upon the further examination of Colonel Hamilton, it was found that
reliance could not be placed on all his statements, and that he
contradicted himself in several important particulars. He was arraigned
at the Old Bailey for the murder of Lord Mohun, the whole political
circles of London being in a fever of excitement for the result. All the
Tory party prayed for his acquittal, and a Tory mob surrounded the
doors and all the avenues leading to the court of justice for many hours
before the trial began. The examination of witnesses lasted seven hours.
The criminal still persisted in accusing General Macartney of the murder
of the Duke of Hamilton, but, in other respects, say the newspapers of
the day, prevaricated foully. He was found guilty of manslaughter. This
favourable verdict was received with universal applause, "not only from
the court and all the gentlemen present, but the common people showed a
mighty satisfaction, which they testified by loud and repeated huzzas."
["Post Boy," December l3th, 1712.]

As the popular delirium subsided, and men began to reason coolly upon
the subject, they disbelieved the assertions of Colonel Hamilton, that
Macartney had stabbed the Duke, although it was universally admitted
that he had been much too busy and presuming. Hamilton was shunned by
all his former companions, and his life rendered so irksome to him, that
he sold out of the Guards, and retired to private life, in which he died
heart-broken four years afterwards.

General Macartney surrendered about the same time, and was tried for
murder in the Court of King's Bench. He was, however, found guilty of
manslaughter only.

At the opening of the session of Parliament of 1713, the Queen made
pointed allusion in her speech to the frequency of duelling, and
recommended to the Legislature to devise some speedy and effectual
remedy for it. A bill to that effect was brought forward, but thrown
out on the second reading, to the very great regret of all the sensible
portion of the community.

A famous duel was fought in 1765 between Lord Byron and Mr. Chaworth.
The dispute arose at a club-dinner, and was relative to which of the two
had the largest quantity of game on his estates. Infuriated by wine and
passion, they retired instantly into an adjoining room, and fought with
swords across a table, by the feeble glimmer of a tallow-candle. Mr.
Chaworth, who was the more expert swordsman of the two, received a
mortal wound, and shortly afterwards expired. Lord Byron was brought
to trial for the murder before the House of Lords; and it appearing
clearly, that the duel was not premeditated, but fought at once, and
in the heat of passion, he was found guilty of manslaughter only, and
ordered to be discharged upon payment of his fees. This was a very bad
example for the country, and duelling of course fell into no disrepute
after such a verdict.

In France, more severity was exercised. In the year 1769, the Parliament
of Grenoble took cognizance of the delinquency of the Sieur Duchelas,
one of its members, who challenged and killed in a duel a captain of the
Flemish legion. The servant of Duchelas officiated as second, and was
arraigned with his master for the murder of the captain. They were both
found guilty. Duchelas was broken alive on the wheel, and the servant
condemned to the galleys for life.

A barbarous and fiercely-contested duel was fought in November 1778,
between two foreign adventurers, at Bath, named Count Rice and the
Vicomte du Barri. Some dispute arose relative to a gambling transaction,
in the course of which Du Barri contradicted an assertion of the other,
by saying, "That is not true!" Count Rice immediately asked him if he
knew the very disagreeable meaning of the words he had employed. Du
Barri said he was perfectly well aware of their meaning, and that Rice
might interpret them just as he pleased. A challenge was immediately
given and accepted. Seconds were sent for, who, arriving with but little
delay, the whole party, though it was not long after midnight, proceeded
to a place called Claverton Down, where they remained with a surgeon
until daylight. They then prepared for the encounter, each being armed
with two pistols and a sword. The ground having been marked out by the
seconds, Du Barri fired first, and wounded his opponent in the thigh.
Count Rice then levelled his pistol, and shot Du Barri mortally in the
breast. So angry were the combatants, that they refused to desist; both
stepped back a few paces, and then rushing forward, discharged their
second pistols at each other. Neither shot took effect, and both
throwing away their pistols, prepared to finish the sanguinary struggle
by the sword. They took their places, and were advancing towards each
other, when the Vicomte du Barri suddenly staggered, grew pale, and,
falling to the ground, exclaimed, "Je vous demande ma vie." His opponent
had but just time to answer, that he granted it, when the unfortunate
Du Barri turned upon the grass, and expired with a heavy groan. The
survivor of this savage conflict was then removed to his lodgings, where
he lay for some weeks in a dangerous state. The coroner's jury, in the
mean while, sat upon the body of Du Barri, and disgraced themselves by
returning a verdict of manslaughter only. Count Rice, upon his recovery,
was indicted for the murder notwithstanding this verdict. On his trial
he entered into a long defence of his conduct, pleading the fairness
of the duel, and its unpremeditated nature; and, at the same time,
expressing his deep regret for the unfortunate death of Du Barri,
with whom for many years he had been bound in ties of the strictest
friendship. These considerations appear to have weighed with the jury,
and this fierce duellist was again found guilty of manslaughter only,
and escaped with a merely nominal punishment.

A duel, less remarkable from its circumstances, but more so from the
rank of the parties, took place in 1789. The combatants on this occasion
were the Duke of York and Colonel Lenox, the nephew and heir of the Duke
of Richmond. The cause of offence was given by the Duke of York, who had
said, in presence of several officers of the Guards, that words had been
used to Colonel Lenox at Daubigny's to which no gentleman ought to have
submitted. Colonel Lenox went up to the Duke on parade, and asked
him publicly whether he had made such an assertion. The Duke of York,
without answering his question, coldly ordered him to his post. When
parade was over, he took an opportunity of saying publicly in the
orderly room before Colonel Lenox, that he desired no protection from
his rank as a prince and his station as commanding officer; adding
that, when he was off duty, he wore a plain brown coat like a private
gentleman, and was ready as such to give satisfaction. Colonel Lenox
desired nothing better than satisfaction; that is to say, to run the
chance of shooting the Duke through the body, or being himself shot.
He accordingly challenged his Royal Highness, and they met on Wimbledon
Common. Colonel Lenox fired first, and the ball whizzed past the head
of his opponent, so near to it as to graze his projecting curl. The
Duke refused to return the fire, and the seconds interfering, the affair

Colonel Lenox was very shortly afterwards engaged in another duel
arising out of this. A Mr. Swift wrote a pamphlet in reference to the
dispute between him and the Duke of York, at some expressions in which
he took so much offence, as to imagine that nothing but a shot at the
writer could atone for them. They met on the Uxbridge Road, but no
damage was done to either party.

The Irish were for a long time renowned for their love of duelling. The
slightest offence which it is possible to imagine that one man could
offer to another, was sufficient to provoke a challenge. Sir Jonah
Barrington relates, in his Memoirs, that, previous to the Union, during
the time of a disputed election in Dublin, it was no unusual thing for
three-and-twenty duels to be fought in a day. Even in times of less
excitement, they were so common as to be deemed unworthy of note by the
regular chroniclers of events, except in cases where one or both of the
combatants were killed.

In those days, in Ireland, it was not only the man of the military, but
of every profession, who had to work his way to eminence with the sword
or the pistol. Each political party had its regular corps of bullies, or
fire-eaters, as they were called, who qualified themselves for being the
pests of society by spending all their spare time in firing at targets.
They boasted that they could hit an opponent in any part of his body
they pleased, and made up their minds before the encounter began whether
they should kill him, disable, or disfigure him for life--lay him on a
bed of suffering for a twelve-month, or merely graze a limb.

The evil had reached an alarming height, when, in the year 1808, an
opportunity was afforded to King George III of showing in a striking
manner his detestation of the practice, and of setting an example to
the Irish that such murders were not to be committed with impunity. A
dispute arose, in the month of June 1807, between Major Campbell and
Captain Boyd, officers of the 21st regiment, stationed in Ireland, about
the proper manner of giving the word of command on parade. Hot words
ensued on this slight occasion, and the result was a challenge from
Campbell to Boyd. They retired into the mess-room shortly afterwards,
and each stationed himself at a corner, the distance obliquely being but
seven paces. Here, without friends or seconds being present, they fired
at each other, and Captain Boyd fell mortally wounded between the fourth
and fifth ribs. A surgeon who came in shortly, found him sitting in a
chair, vomiting and suffering great agony. He was led into another room,
Major Campbell following, in great distress and perturbation of mind.
Boyd survived but eighteen hours; and just before his death, said, in
reply to a question from his opponent, that the duel was not fair, and
added, "You hurried me, Campbell--you're a bad man."----"Good God!"
replied Campbell, "will you mention before these gentlemen, was not
everything fair? Did you not say that you were ready?" Boyd answered
faintly, "Oh, no! you know I wanted you to wait and have friends." On
being again asked whether all was fair, the dying man faintly murmured
"Yes:" but in a minute after, he said, "You're a bad man!" Campbell
was now in great agitation, and wringing his hands convulsively, he
exclaimed, "Oh, Boyd! you are the happiest man of the two! Do you
forgive me?" Boyd replied, "I forgive you--I feel for you, as I know you
do for me." He shortly afterwards expired, and Major Campbell made his
escape from Ireland, and lived for some months with his family under
an assumed name, in the neighbourhood of Chelsea. He was, however,
apprehended, and brought to trial at Armagh, in August 1808. He said
while in prison, that, if found guilty of murder, he should suffer as an
example to duellists in Ireland; but he endeavoured to buoy himself up,
with the hope that the jury would only convict him of manslaughter.
It was proved in evidence upon the trial, that the duel was not fought
immediately after the offence was given, but that Major Campbell went
home and drank tea with his family, before he sought Boyd for the fatal
encounter. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against him,
but recommended him to mercy on the ground that the duel had been a fair
one. He was condemned to die on the Monday following, but was afterwards
respited for a few days longer. In the mean time the greatest exertions
were made in his behalf. His unfortunate wife went upon her knees before
the Prince of Wales, to move him to use his influence with the King, in
favour of her unhappy husband. Everything a fond wife and a courageous
woman could do, she tried, to gain the royal clemency; but George III
was inflexible, in consequence of the representations of the Irish
Viceroy that an example was necessary. The law was therefore allowed
to take its course, and the victim of a false spirit of honour died the
death of a felon.

The most inveterate duellists of the present day are the students in the
Universities of Germany. They fight on the most frivolous pretences,
and settle with swords and pistols the schoolboy disputes which in other
countries are arranged by the more harmless medium of the fisticuffs. It
was at one time the custom among these savage youths to prefer the sword
combat, for the facility it gave them of cutting off the noses of their
opponents. To disfigure them in this manner was an object of ambition,
and the German duellists reckoned the number of these disgusting
trophies which they had borne away, with as much satisfaction as a
successful general the provinces he had reduced or the cities he had

But it would be wearisome to enter into the minute detail of all the
duels of modern times. If an examination were made into the general
causes which produced them, it would be found that in every case
they had been either of the most trivial or the most unworthy nature.
Parliamentary duels were at one time very common, and amongst the
names of those who have soiled a great reputation by conforming to the
practice, may be mentioned those of Warren Hastings, Sir Philip Francis,
Wilkes, Pitt, Fox, Grattan, Curran, Tierney, and Canning. So difficult
is it even for the superior mind to free itself from the trammels with
which foolish opinion has enswathed it--not one of these celebrated
persons who did not in his secret soul condemn the folly to which he
lent himself. The bonds of reason, though iron-strong, are easily burst
through; but those of folly, though lithe and frail as the rushes by a
stream, defy the stoutest heart to snap them asunder. Colonel Thomas,
an officer of the Guards, who was killed in a duel, added the following
clause to his will the night before he died:--"In the first place, I
commit my soul to Almighty God, in hope of his mercy and pardon for the
irreligious step I now (in compliance with the unwarrantable customs of
this wicked world) put myself under the necessity of taking." How many
have been in the same state of mind as this wise, foolish man! He knew
his error, and abhorred it, but could not resist it, for fear of the
opinion of the prejudiced and unthinking. No other could have blamed him
for refusing to fight a duel.

The list of duels that have sprung from the most degrading causes might
be stretched out to an almost indefinite extent. Sterne's father
fought a duel about a goose; and the great Raleigh about a tavern
bill. [Raleigh, at one period of his life, appeared to be an inveterate
duellist, and it was said of him that he had been engaged in more
encounters of the kind than any man of note among his contemporaries.
More than one fellow-creature he had deprived of life; but he lived
long enough to be convinced of the sinfulness of his conduct, and made
a solemn vow never to fight another duel. The following anecdote of his
forbearance is well known, but it will bear repetition:--

A dispute arose in a coffee-house between him and a young man on some
trivial point, and the latter, losing his temper, impertinently spat in
the face of the veteran. Sir Walter, instead of running him through
the body, as many would have done, or challenging him to mortal combat,
coolly took out his handkerchief, wiped his face, and said, "Young man,
if I could as easily wipe from my conscience the stain of killing you,
as I can this spittle from my face, you should not live another minute."
The young man immediately begged his pardon.] Scores of duels (many of
them fatal) have been fought from disputes at cards, or a place at a
theatre, while hundreds of challenges, given and accepted over-night, in
a fit of drunkenness, have been fought out the next morning to the death
of one or both of the antagonists.

Two of the most notorious duels of modern times had their origin in
causes no more worthy than the quarrel of a dog and the favour of a
prostitute: that between Macnamara and Montgomery arising from the
former; and that between Best and Lord Camelford, from the latter. The
dog of Montgomery attacked a dog belonging to Macnamara, and each master
interfering in behalf of his own animal, high words ensued. The result
was the giving and accepting a challenge to mortal combat. The parties
met on the following day, when Montgomery was shot dead, and his
antagonist severely wounded. This affair created a great sensation at
the time, and Heaviside, the surgeon who attended at the fatal field to
render his assistance, if necessary, was arrested as an accessory to the
murder, and committed to Newgate.

In the duel between Best and Lord Camelford, two pistols were used
which were considered to be the best in England. One of them was thought
slightly superior to the other, and it was agreed that the belligerents
should toss up a piece of money to decide the choice of weapons. Best
gained it, and, at the first discharge, Lord Camelford fell, mortally
wounded. But little sympathy was expressed for his fate; he was a
confirmed duellist, had been engaged in many meetings of the kind, and
the blood of more than one fellow-creature lay at his door. As he had
sowed, so did he reap; and the violent man met an appropriate death.

It now only remains to notice the means that have been taken to stay the
prevalence of this madness of false honour in the various countries
of the civilized world. The efforts of the governments of France and
England have already been mentioned, and their want of success is
but too well known. The same efforts have been attended with the same
results elsewhere. In despotic countries, where the will of the monarch
has been strongly expressed and vigorously supported, a diminution of
the evil has for a while resulted, but only to be increased again, when
death relaxed the iron grasp, and a successor appeared of less decided
opinions upon the subject. This was the case in Prussia under the great
Frederick, of whose aversion to duelling a popular anecdote is recorded.
It is stated of him that he permitted duelling in his army, but only
upon the condition that the combatants should fight in presence of a
whole battalion of infantry, drawn up on purpose, to see fair play. The
latter received strict orders, when one of the belligerents fell, to
shoot the other immediately. It is added, that the known determination
of the King effectually put a stop to the practice.

The Emperor Joseph II of Austria was as firm as Frederick, although the
measures he adopted were not so singular. The following letter explains
his views on the subject:--

"To GENERAL * * * * *


"You will immediately arrest the Count of K. and Captain W. The Count is
young, passionate, and influenced by wrong notions of birth and a false
spirit of honour. Captain W. is an old soldier, who will adjust every
dispute with the sword and pistol, and who has received the challenge of
the young Count with unbecoming warmth.

"I will suffer no duelling in my army. I despise the principles of
those who attempt to justify the practice, and who would run each other
through the body in cold blood.

"When I have officers who bravely expose themselves to every danger
in facing the enemy--who at all times exhibit courage, valour, and
resolution in attack and defence, I esteem them highly. The coolness
with which they meet death on such occasions is serviceable to their
country, and at the same time redounds to their own honour; but should
there be men amongst them who are ready to sacrifice everything to their
vengeance and hatred, I despise them. I consider such a man as no better
than a Roman gladiator.

"Order a court-martial to try the two officers. Investigate the subject
of their dispute with that impartiality which I demand from every judge;
and he that is guilty, let him be a sacrifice to his fate and the laws.

"Such a barbarous custom, which suits the age of the Tamerlanes and
Bajazets, and which has often had such melancholy effects on single
families, I will have suppressed and punished, even if it should deprive
me of one half of my officers. There are still men who know how to unite
the character of a hero with that of a good subject; and he only can be
so who respects the laws.


"August 1771."

[Vide the Letters of Joseph II to distinguished Princes and Statesmen,
published for the first time in England in "The Pamphleteer" for 1821.
They were originally published in Germany a few years previously, and
throw a great light upon the character of that monarch and the events of
his reign.]

In the United States of America the code varies considerably. In one or
two of the still wild and simple States of the Far West, where no duel
has yet been fought, there is no specific law upon the subject beyond
that in the Decalogue, which says, "Thou shalt do no murder." But
duelling everywhere follows the steps of modern civilization, and by the
time the backwoodsman is transformed into the citizen, he has imbibed
the false notions of honour which are prevalent in Europe, and around
him, and is ready, like his progenitors, to settle his differences
with the pistol. In the majority of the States the punishment for
challenging, fighting, or acting as second, is solitary imprisonment and
hard labour for any period less than a year, and disqualification for
serving any public office for twenty years. In Vermont the punishment
is total disqualification for office, deprivation of the rights of
citizenship, and a fine; in fatal cases, the same punishment as that of
murderers. In Rhode Island, the combatant, though death does not ensue,
is liable to be carted to the gallows, with a rope about his neck, and
to sit in this trim for an hour, exposed to the peltings of the mob. He
may be further imprisoned for a year, at the option of the magistrate.
In Connecticut the punishment is total disqualification for office or
employ, and a fine, varying from one hundred to a thousand dollars. The
laws of Illinois require certain officers of the state to make oath,
previous to their instalment, that they have never been, nor ever will
be, concerned in a duel. ["Encyclopedia Americana," art. Duelling.]

Amongst the edicts against duelling promulgated at various times in
Europe, may be mentioned that of Augustus King of Poland, in 1712, which
decreed the punishment of death against principals and seconds, and
minor punishments against the bearers of a challenge. An edict was also
published at Munich, in 1773, according to which both principals and
seconds, even in duels where no one was either killed or wounded, should
be hanged, and their bodies buried at the foot of the gallows. The King
of Naples issued an ordinance against duelling in 1838, in which the
punishment of death is decreed against all concerned in a fatal
duel. The bodies of those killed, and of those who may be executed in
consequence, are to be buried in unconsecrated ground, and without any
religious ceremony; nor is any monument to be erected on the spot. The
punishment for duels in which either, or both, are wounded, and for
those in which no damage whatever is done, varies according to the
case, and consists of fine, imprisonment, loss of rank and honours, and
incapacity for filling any public situation. Bearers of challenges may
also be punished with fine and imprisonment.

It might be imagined that enactments so severe all over the civilized
world would finally eradicate a custom, the prevalence of which every
wise and good man must deplore. But the frowns of the law never yet have
taught, and never will teach, men to desist from this practice, as long
as it is felt that the lawgiver sympathises with it in his heart. The
stern judge upon the bench may say to the unfortunate wight who has been
called a liar by some unmannerly opponent, "If you challenge him, you
meditate murder, and are guilty of murder!" but the same judge, divested
of his robes of state, and mixing in the world with other men, would
say, "If you do not challenge him, if you do not run the risk of making
yourself a murderer, you will be looked upon as a mean-spirited wretch,
unfit to associate with your fellows, and deserving nothing but their
scorn and their contempt!" It is society, and not the duellist, who is
to blame. Female influence, too, which is so powerful in leading men
either to good or to evil, takes, in this case, the evil part. Mere
animal bravery has, unfortunately, such charms in the female eye, that a
successful duellist is but too often regarded as a sort of hero; and
the man who refuses to fight, though of truer courage, is thought a
poltroon, who may be trampled on. Mr. Graves, a member of the American
Legislature, who, early in 1838, killed a Mr. Cilley in a duel, truly
and eloquently said, on the floor of the House of Representatives, when
lamenting the unfortunate issue of that encounter, that society was more
to blame than he was. "Public opinion," said the repentant orator, "is
practically the paramount law of the land. Every other law, both human
and divine, ceases to be observed; yea, withers and perishes in contact
with it. It was this paramount law of this nation, and of this House,
that forced me, under the penalty of dishonour, to subject myself to the
code, which impelled me unwillingly into this tragical affair. Upon the
heads of this nation, and at the doors of this House, rests the blood
with which my unfortunate hands have been stained!"

As long as society is in this mood; as long as it thinks that the man
who refuses to resent an insult, deserved that insult, and should be
scouted accordingly, so long, it is to be feared, will duelling exist,
however severe the laws may be. Men must have redress for injuries
inflicted, and when those injuries are of such a nature that no tribunal
will take cognizance of them, the injured will take the law into their
own hands, and right themselves in the opinion of their fellows, at
the hazard of their lives. Much as the sage may affect to despise the
opinion of the world, there are few who would not rather expose their
lives a hundred times than be condemned to live on, in society, but not
of it--a by-word of reproach to all who know their history, and a mark
for scorn to point his finger at.

The only practicable means for diminishing the force of a custom which
is the disgrace of civilization, seems to be the establishment of a
court of honour, which should take cognizance of all those delicate
and almost intangible offences which yet wound so deeply. The court
established by Louis XIV might be taken as a model. No man now fights a
duel when a fit apology has been offered, and it should be the duty of
this court to weigh dispassionately the complaint of every man injured
in his honour, either by word or deed, and to force the offender to make
a public apology. If he refused the apology, he would be the breaker of
a second law; an offender against a high court, as well as against the
man he had injured, and might be punished with fine and imprisonment,
the latter to last until he saw the error of his conduct, and made the
concession which the court demanded.

If, after the establishment of this tribunal, men should be found of
a nature so bloodthirsty as not to be satisfied with its peaceful
decisions, and should resort to the old and barbarous mode of an appeal
to the pistol, some means might be found of dealing with them. To hang
them as murderers would be of no avail; for to such men death would have
few terrors. Shame alone would bring them to reason. The following
code, it is humbly suggested to all future legislators upon the subject,
would, in conjunction with the establishment of a court of honour, do
much towards eradicating this blot from society. Every man who fought a
duel, even though he did not wound his opponent, should be tried, and,
upon proof of the fact, be sentenced to have his right hand cut off.
The world would then know his true character as long as he lived. If
his habits of duelling were so inveterate, and he should learn to fire
a pistol with his left hand, he should, upon conviction of a second
offence, lose that hand also. This law, which should allow no
commutation of the punishment, under any circumstances, would lend
strength and authority to the court of honour. In the course of a few
years duelling would be ranked amongst exploded follies, and men would
begin to wonder that a custom so barbarous and so impious had ever
existed amongst them.


"Well, son John," said the old woman, "and what wonderful things did you
meet with all the time you were at sea?"--"Oh! mother," replied John, "I
saw many strange things."--"Tell us all about them," replied his mother,
"for I long to hear your adventures."--"Well, then," said John, "as
we were sailing over the Line, what do you think we saw?"--"I can't
imagine," replied his mother.--"Well, we saw a fish rise out of the sea,
and fly over our ship!" "Oh! John! John! what a liar you are!" said his
mother, shaking her head, and smiling incredulously. "True as death?
said John; "and we saw still more wonderful things than that."--"Let
us hear them," said his mother, shaking her head again; "and tell
the truth, John, if you can."--"Believe it, or believe it not, as you
please," replied her son; "but as we were sailing up the Red Sea, our
captain thought he should like some fish for dinner; so he told us to
throw our nets, and catch some."--"Well," inquired his mother, seeing
that he paused in his story. "Well," rejoined her son, "we did throw
them, and, at the very first haul, we brought up a chariot-wheel,
made all of gold, and inlaid with diamonds!" "Lord bless us!" said his
mother, "and what did the captain say?"--"Why, he said it was one of
the wheels of Pharaoh's chariot, that had lain in the Red Sea ever since
that wicked King was drowned, with all his host, while pursuing the
Israelites."--"Well, well," said his mother, lifting up her hands in
admiration; "now, that's very possible, and I think the captain was a
very sensible man. Tell me such stories as that, and I'll believe you;
but never talk to me of such things as flying fish! No, no, John, such
stories won't go down with me, I can assure you!"

Such old women as the sailor's mother, in the above well-known anecdote,
are by no means rare in the world. Every age and country has produced
them. They have been found in high places, and have sat down among the
learned of the earth. Instances must be familiar to every reader in
which the same person was willing, with greedy credulity, to swallow
the most extravagant fiction, and yet refuse credence to a philosophical
fact. The same Greeks who believed readily that Jupiter wooed Leda in
the form of a swan, denied stoutly that there were any physical causes
for storms and thunder, and treated as impious those who attempted to
account for them on true philosophical principles.

The reasons that thus lead mankind to believe the marvellously false,
and to disbelieve the marvellously true, may be easily gathered. Of
all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and
familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most
of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder's welcome. We all pay an
involuntary homage to antiquity--a "blind homage," as Bacon calls it in
his "Novum Organum," which tends greatly to the obstruction of truth.
To the great majority of mortal eyes, Time sanctifies everything that
he does not destroy. The mere fact of anything being spared by the great
foe makes it a favourite with us, who are sure to fall his victims. To
call a prejudice "time-hallowed," is to open a way for it into hearts
where it never before penetrated. Some peculiar custom may disgrace the
people amongst whom it flourishes; yet men of a little wisdom refuse to
aid in its extirpation, merely because it is old. Thus it is with human
belief, and thus it is we bring shame upon our own intellect.

To this cause may be added another, also mentioned by Lord Bacon--a
misdirected zeal in matters of religion, which induces so many to decry
a newly-discovered truth, because the Divine records contain no allusion
to it, or because, at first sight, it appears to militate, not against
religion, but against some obscure passage which has never been fairly
interpreted. The old woman in the story could not believe that there was
such a creature as a flying-fish, because her Bible did not tell her
so, but she believed that her son had drawn up the golden and bejewelled
wheel from the Red Sea, because her Bible informed her that Pharaoh was
drowned there.

Upon a similar principle the monks of the inquisition believed that the
devil appeared visibly among men, that St. Anthony pulled his nose with
a pair of red-hot pincers, and that the relics of the saints worked
miracles; yet they would not believe Galileo, when he proved that the
earth turned round the sun.

Keppler, when he asserted the same fact, could gain no bread, and little
credence; but when he pretended to tell fortunes and cast nativities,
the whole town flocked to him, and paid him enormous fees for his

When Roger Bacon invented the telescope and the magic-lantern, no one
believed that the unaided ingenuity of man could have done it; but when
some wiseacres asserted that the devil had appeared to him, and given
him the knowledge which he turned to such account, no one was bold
enough to assert that it was improbable. His hint that saltpetre,
sulphur, and charcoal, mixed in certain proportions, would produce
effects similar to thunder and lightning, was disregarded or
disbelieved; but the legend of the brazen head which delivered oracles,
was credited for many ages.

[Godwin, in his "Lives of the Necromancers," gives the following version
of this legend. Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay entertained the project of
enclosing England with a wall, so as to render it inaccessible to any
invader. They accordingly raised the devil, as the person best able to
inform them how this was to be done. The devil advised them to make a
brazen head, with all the internal structure and organs of a human head.
The construction would cost them much time, and they must wait with
patience till the faculty of speech descended upon it. Finally, however,
it would become an oracle, and, if the question were propounded to it,
would teach them the solution of their problem. The friars spent seven
years in bringing the subject to perfection, and waited day after day
in expectation that it would utter articulate sounds. At length nature
became exhausted in them, and they lay down to sleep, having first given
it strictly in charge to a servant of theirs, clownish in nature, but of
strict fidelity, that he should awaken them the moment the image began
to speak. That period arrived. The head uttered sounds, but such as
the clown judged unworthy of notice. "Time is!" it said. No notice was
taken, and a long pause ensued. "Time was!"--a similar pause, and
no notice. "Time is passed!" The moment these words were uttered, a
tremendous storm ensued, with thunder and lightning, and the head was
shivered into a thousand pieces. Thus the experiment of Friar Bacon and
Friar Bungay came to nothing.]

Solomon De Cans, who, in the time of Cardinal Richelieu, conceived the
idea of a steam-engine, was shut up in the Bastille as a madman, because
the idea of such an extraordinary instrument was too preposterous for
the wise age that believed in all the absurdities of witchcraft.

When Harvey first proved the circulation of the blood, every tongue was
let loose against him. The thing was too obviously an imposition, and
an attempt to deceive that public who believed that a king's touch had
power to cure the scrofula. That a dead criminal's hand, rubbed against
a wen, would cure it, was reasonable enough; but that the blood flowed
through the veins was beyond all probability.

In our own day, a similar fate awaited the beneficent discovery of Dr.
Jenner. That vaccination could abate the virulence of, or preserve from,
the smallpox, was quite incredible; none but a cheat and a quack could
assert it: but that the introduction of the vaccine matter into the
human frame could endow men with the qualities of a cow, was quite
probable. Many of the poorer people actually dreaded that their children
would grow hairy and horned as cattle, if they suffered them to be

The Jesuit, Father Labat, the shrewd and learned traveller in South
America, relates an experiment which he made upon the credulity of some
native Peruvians. Holding a powerful lens in his hand, and concentrating
the rays of the sun upon the naked arm of an admiring savage, he soon
made him roar with pain. All the tribe looked on, first with wonder, and
then with indignation and wonder both combined. In vain the philosopher
attempted to explain the cause of the phenomenon--in vain he offered to
convince them that there was nothing devilish in the experiment--he was
thought to be in league with the infernal gods to draw down the fire
from Heaven, and was looked upon, himself, as an awful and supernatural
being. Many attempts were made to gain possession of the lens, with the
view of destroying it, and thereby robbing the Western stranger of the
means of bringing upon them the vengeance of his deities.

Very similar was the conduct of that inquiring Brahmin, which is
related by Forbes in his Oriental Memoirs. The Brahmin had a mind
better cultivated than his fellows; he was smitten with a love for the
knowledge of Europe--read English books--pored over the pages of the
Encyclopedia, and profited by various philosophical instruments; but on
religious questions the Brahmin was firm to the faith of his caste and
the doctrine of the Metempsychosis. Lest he might sacrilegiously devour
his progenitors, he abstained from all animal food; and thinking that he
ate nothing which enjoyed life, he supported himself, like his brethren,
upon fruits and vegetables. All the knowledge that did not run counter
to this belief, he sought after with avidity, and bade fair to become
the wisest of his race. In an evil hour, his English friend and
instructor exhibited a very powerful solar microscope, by means of
which he showed him that every drop of water that he drank teemed
with life--that every fruit was like a world, covered with innumerable
animalculae, each of which was fitted by its organization for the sphere
in which it moved, and had its wants, and the capability of supplying
them as completely as visible animals millions of times its bulk. The
English philosopher expected that his Hindoo friend would be enraptured
at the vast field of knowledge thus suddenly opened out to him, but
he was deceived. The Brahmin from that time became an altered
man--thoughtful, gloomy, reserved, and discontented. He applied
repeatedly to his friend that he would make him a present of the
microscope; but as it was the only one of its kind in India, and the
owner set a value upon it for other reasons, he constantly refused the
request, but offered him the loan of it for any period he might require.
But nothing short of an unconditional gift of the instrument would
satisfy the Brahmin, who became at last so importunate that the patience
of the Englishman was exhausted, and he gave it him. A gleam of joy
shot across the care-worn features of the Hindoo as he clutched it, and
bounding with an exulting leap into the garden, he seized a large stone,
and dashed the instrument into a thousand pieces. When called upon to
explain his extraordinary conduct, he said to his friend, "Oh that I had
remained in that happy state of ignorance wherein you first found me!
Yet will I confess that, as my knowledge increased, so did my pleasure,
until I beheld the last wonders of the microscope; from that moment
I have been tormented by doubt and perplexed by mystery: my mind,
overwhelmed by chaotic confusion, knows not where to rest, nor how to
extricate itself from such a maze. I am miserable, and must continue
to be so, until I enter on another stage of existence. I am a solitary
individual among fifty millions of people, all educated in the same
belief with myself--all happy in their ignorance! So may they ever
remain! I shall keep the secret within my own bosom, where it will
corrode my peace and break my rest. But I shall have some satisfaction
in knowing that I alone feel those pangs which, had I not destroyed
the instrument, might have been extensively communicated, and rendered
thousands miserable! Forgive me, my valuable friend! and oh, convey no
more implements of knowledge and destruction!"

Many a learned man may smile at the ignorance of the Peruvian and
the Hindoo, unconscious that he himself is just as ignorant and as
prejudiced. Who does not remember the outcry against the science of
geology, which has hardly yet subsided? Its professors were impiously
and absurdly accused of designing to "hurl the Creator from his throne."
They were charged with sapping the foundations of religion, and of
propping atheism by the aid of a pretended science.

The very same principle which leads to the rejection of the true, leads
to the encouragement of the false. Thus we may account for the success
which has attended great impostors, at times when the truth, though
not half so wondrous as their impositions, has been disregarded as
extravagant and preposterous. The man who wishes to cheat the people,
must needs found his operations upon some prejudice or belief that
already exists. Thus the philosophic pretenders who told fortunes by
the stars cured all diseases by one nostrum, and preserved from evil by
charms and amulets, ran with the current of popular belief. Errors
that were consecrated by time and long familiarity, they heightened and
embellished, and succeeded to their hearts' content; but the preacher of
truth had a foundation to make as well as a superstructure, a difficulty
which did not exist for the preacher of error. Columbus preached a new
world, but was met with distrust and incredulity; had he preached with
as much zeal and earnestness the discovery of some valley in the old
one, where diamonds hung upon the trees, or a herb grew that cured all
the ills incidental to humanity, he would have found a warm and hearty
welcome--might have sold dried cabbage leaves for his wonderful herb,
and made his fortune.

In fact, it will be found in the history of every generation and race of
men, that whenever a choice of belief between the "Wondrously False"
and the "Wondrously True" is given to ignorance or prejudice, that their
choice will be fixed upon the first, for the reason that it is most
akin to their own nature. The great majority of mankind, and even of
the wisest among us, are still in the condition of the sailor's
mother--believing and disbelieving on the same grounds that she
did--protesting against the flying fish, but cherishing the golden
wheels. Thousands there are amongst us, who, rather than pin their faith
in the one fish, would believe not only in the wheel of gold, but the
chariot--not only in the chariot, but in the horses and the driver.


     La faridondaine--la faridondon,
     Vive la faridondaine!


The popular humours of a great city are a never-failing source of
amusement to the man whose sympathies are hospitable enough to embrace
all his kind, and who, refined though he may be himself, will not sneer
at the humble wit or grotesque peculiarities of the boozing mechanic,
the squalid beggar, the vicious urchin, and all the motley group of
the idle, the reckless, and the imitative that swarm in the alleys and
broadways of a metropolis. He who walks through a great city to find
subjects for weeping, may, God knows, find plenty at every corner to
wring his heart; but let such a man walk on his course, and enjoy his
grief alone--we are not of those who would accompany him. The miseries
of us poor earth-dwellers gain no alleviation from the sympathy of
those who merely hunt them out to be pathetic over them. The weeping
philosopher too often impairs his eyesight by his woe, and becomes
unable from his tears to see the remedies for the evils which he
deplores. Thus it will often be found that the man of no tears is the
truest philanthropist, as he is the best physician who wears a cheerful
face, even in the worst of cases.

So many pens have been employed to point out the miseries, and so
many to condemn the crimes and vices, and more serious follies of the
multitude, that our's shall not increase the number, at least in this
chapter. Our present task shall be less ungracious, and wandering
through the busy haunts of great cities, we shall seek only for
amusement, and note as we pass a few of the harmless follies and
whimsies of the poor.

And, first of all, walk where we will, we cannot help hearing from every
side a phrase repeated with delight, and received with laughter, by
men with hard hands and dirty faces--by saucy butcher lads and
errand-boys--by loose women--by hackney coachmen, cabriolet drivers, and
idle fellows who loiter at the corners of streets. Not one utters this
phrase without producing a laugh from all within hearing. It seems
applicable to every circumstance, and is the universal answer to every
question; in short, it is the favourite slang phrase of the day, a
phrase that, while its brief season of popularity lasts, throws a dash
of fun and frolicsomeness over the existence of squalid poverty and
ill-requited labour, and gives them reason to laugh as well as their
more fortunate fellows in a higher stage of society.

London is peculiarly fertile in this sort of phrases, which spring
up suddenly, no one knows exactly in what spot, and pervade the
whole population in a few hours, no one knows how. Many years ago the
favourite phrase (for, though but a monosyllable, it was a phrase in
itself) was Quoz. This odd word took the fancy of the multitude in
an extraordinary degree, and very soon acquired an almost boundless
meaning. When vulgar wit wished to mark its incredulity and raise a
laugh at the same time, there was no resource so sure as this popular
piece of slang. When a man was asked a favour which he did not choose to
grant, he marked his sense of the suitor's unparalleled presumption by
exclaiming Quoz! When a mischievous urchin wished to annoy a passenger,
and create mirth for his chums, he looked him in the face, and cried out
Quoz! and the exclamation never failed in its object. When a disputant
was desirous of throwing a doubt upon the veracity of his opponent, and
getting summarily rid of an argument which he could not overturn,
he uttered the word Quoz, with a contemptuous curl of his lip and an
impatient shrug of his shoulders. The universal monosyllable conveyed
all his meaning, and not only told his opponent that he lied, but that
he erred egregiously if he thought that any one was such a nincompoop as
to believe him. Every alehouse resounded with Quoz; every street corner
was noisy with it, and every wall for miles around was chalked with it.

But, like all other earthly things, Quoz had its season, and passed away
as suddenly as it arose, never again to be the pet and the idol of the
populace. A new claimant drove it from its place, and held undisputed
sway till, in its turn, it was hurled from its pre-eminence, and a
successor appointed in its stead.

"What a shocking bad hat!" was the phrase that was next in vogue. No
sooner had it become universal, than thousands of idle but sharp eyes
were on the watch for the passenger whose hat showed any signs, however
slight, of ancient service. Immediately the cry arose, and, like the
what-whoop of the Indians, was repeated by a hundred discordant throats.
He was a wise man who, finding himself under these circumstances "the
observed of all observers," bore his honours meekly. He who showed
symptoms of ill-feeling at the imputations cast upon his hat, only
brought upon himself redoubled notice. The mob soon perceive whether a
man is irritable, and, if of their own class, they love to make sport of
him. When such a man, and with such a hat, passed in those days through
a crowded neighbourhood, he might think himself fortunate if his
annoyances were confined to the shouts and cries of the populace. The
obnoxious hat was often snatched from his head, and thrown into the
gutter by some practical joker, and then raised, covered with mud, upon
the end of a stick, for the admiration of the spectators, who held their
sides with laughter, and exclaimed in the pauses of their mirth, "Oh!
what a shocking bad hat!... What a shocking bad hat!" Many a nervous,
poor man, whose purse could but ill spare the outlay, doubtless
purchased a new hat before the time, in order to avoid exposure in this

The origin of this singular saying, which made fun for the metropolis
for months, is not involved in the same obscurity as that which shrouds
the origin of Quoz and some others. There had been a hotly-contested
election for the borough of Southwark, and one of the candidates was an
eminent hatter. This gentleman, in canvassing the electors, adopted
a somewhat professional mode of conciliating their good-will, and
of bribing them without letting them perceive that they were bribed.
Whenever he called upon or met a voter whose hat was not of the best
material, or, being so, had seen its best days, he invariably said,
"What a shocking bad hat you have got; call at my warehouse, and you
shall have a new one!" Upon the day of election this circumstance was
remembered, and his opponents made the most of it, by inciting the crowd
to keep up an incessant cry of "What a shocking bad hat!" all the time
the honourable candidate was addressing them. From Southwark the phrase
spread over all London, and reigned, for a time, the supreme slang of
the season.

Hookey Walker, derived from the chorus of a popular ballad, was also
high in favour at one time, and served, like its predecessor, Quoz, to
answer all questions. In the course of time the latter word alone became
the favourite, and was uttered with a peculiar drawl upon the first
syllable, and a sharp turn upon the last. If a lively servant girl was
importuned for a kiss by a fellow she did not care about, she cocked her
little nose, and cried "Walker!" If a dustman asked his friend for the
loan of a shilling, and his friend was either unable or unwilling to
accommodate him, the probable answer he would receive was "Walker!" If
a drunken man was reeling along the streets, and a boy pulled his
coat-tails, or a man knocked his hat over his eyes to make fun of him,
the joke was always accompanied by the same exclamation. This lasted for
two or three months, and "Walker!" walked off the stage, never more to
be revived for the entertainment of that or any future generation.

The next phrase was a most preposterous one. Who invented it, how it
arose, or where it was first heard, are alike unknown. Nothing about it
is certain, but that for months it was the slang par excellence of the
Londoners, and afforded them a vast gratification. "There he goes with
his eye out!" or "There she goes with her eye out!" as the sex of the
party alluded to might be, was in the mouth of everybody who knew the
town. The sober part of the community were as much puzzled by this
unaccountable saying as the vulgar were delighted with it. The wise
thought it very foolish, but the many thought it very funny, and the
idle amused themselves by chalking it upon walls, or scribbling it upon
monuments. But, "all that's bright must fade," even in slang. The people
grew tired of their hobby, and "There he goes with his eye out!" was
heard no more in its accustomed haunts.

Another very odd phrase came into repute in a brief space afterwards,
in the form of the impertinent and not universally apposite query,
"Has your mother sold her mangle?" But its popularity was not of that
boisterous and cordial kind which ensures a long continuance of favour.
What tended to impede its progress was, that it could not be well
applied to the older portions of society. It consequently ran but a
brief career, and then sank into oblivion. Its successor enjoyed a more
extended fame, and laid its foundations so deep, that years and changing
fashions have not sufficed to eradicate it. This phrase was "Flare up!"
and it is, even now, a colloquialism in common use. It took its rise in
the time of the Reform riots, when Bristol was nearly half burned by
the infuriated populace. The flames were said to have flared up in the
devoted city. Whether there was anything peculiarly captivating in the
sound, or in the idea of these words, is hard to say; but whatever was
the reason, it tickled the mob-fancy mightily, and drove all other slang
out of the field before it. Nothing was to be heard all over London but
"flare up!" It answered all questions, settled all disputes, was applied
to all persons, all things, and all circumstances, and became suddenly
the most comprehensive phrase in the English language. The man who had
overstepped the bounds of decorum in his speech was said to have flared
up; he who had paid visits too repeated to the gin-shop, and got damaged
in consequence, had flared up. To put one's-self into a passion; to
stroll out on a nocturnal frolic, and alarm a neighbourhood, or to
create a disturbance in any shape, was to flare up. A lovers' quarrel
was a fare up; so was a boxing-match between two blackguards in the
streets, and the preachers of sedition and revolution recommended the
English nation to flare up, like the French. So great a favourite
was the word, that people loved to repeat it for its very sound. They
delighted apparently in hearing their own organs articulate it; and
labouring men, when none who could respond to the call were within
hearing, would often startle the aristocratic echoes of the West by
the well-known slang phrase of the East. Even in the dead hours of the
night, the ears of those who watched late, or who could not sleep, were
saluted with the same sound. The drunkard reeling home showed that he
was still a man and a citizen, by calling "flare up" in the pauses of
his hiccough. Drink had deprived him of the power of arranging all other
ideas; his intellect was sunk to the level of the brute's; but he clung
to humanity by the one last link of the popular cry. While he could
vociferate that sound, he had rights as an Englishman, and would not
sleep in a gutter, like a dog! Onwards he went, disturbing quiet streets
and comfortable people by his whoop, till exhausted nature could support
him no more, and he rolled powerless into the road. When, in due time
afterwards, the policeman stumbled upon him as he lay, that guardian
of the peace turned the full light of his lantern on his face, and
exclaimed, "Here's a poor devil who's been flaring up!" Then came the
stretcher, on which the victim of deep potations was carried to the
watchhouse, and pitched into a dirty cell, among a score of wretches
about as far gone as himself, who saluted their new comrade by a loud,
long shout of flare up!

So universal was this phrase, and so enduring seemed its popularity,
that a speculator, who knew not the evanescence of slang, established a
weekly newspaper under its name. But he was like the man who built his
house upon the sand; his foundation gave way under him, and the phrase
and the newspaper were washed into the mighty sea of the things that
were. The people grew at last weary of the monotony, and "flare up"
became vulgar even among them. Gradually it was left to little boys
who did not know the world, and in process of time sank altogether into
neglect. It is now heard no more as a piece of popular slang; but the
words are still used to signify any sudden outburst either of fire,
disturbance, or ill-nature.

The next phrase that enjoyed the favour of the million was less concise,
and seems to have been originally aimed against precocious youths who
gave themselves the airs of manhood before their time. "Does your mother
know you're out?" was the provoking query addressed to young men of
more than reasonable swagger, who smoked cigars in the streets, and
wore false whiskers to look irresistible. We have seen many a conceited
fellow who could not suffer a woman to pass him without staring her out
of countenance, reduced at once into his natural insignificance by the
mere utterance of this phrase. Apprentice lads and shopmen in their
Sunday clothes held the words in abhorrence, and looked fierce when they
were applied to them. Altogether the phrase had a very salutary effect,
and in a thousand instances showed young Vanity, that it was not half so
pretty and engaging as it thought itself. What rendered it so provoking
was the doubt it implied as to the capability of self-guidance possessed
by the individual to whom it was addressed. "Does your mother know
you're out?" was a query of mock concern and solicitude, implying regret
and concern that one so young and inexperienced in the ways of a great
city should be allowed to wander abroad without the guidance of a
parent. Hence the great wrath of those who verged on manhood, but had
not reached it, whenever they were made the subject of it. Even older
heads did not like it; and the heir of a ducal house, and inheritor of a
warrior's name, to whom they were applied by a cabriolet driver, who was
ignorant of his rank, was so indignant at the affront, that he summoned
the offender before the magisterial bench. The fellow had wished to
impose upon his Lordship by asking double the fare he was entitled to,
and when his Lordship resisted the demand, he was insultingly asked "if
his mother knew he was out?" All the drivers on the stand joined in the
query, and his Lordship was fain to escape their laughter by walking
away with as much haste as his dignity would allow. The man pleaded
ignorance that his customer was a Lord, but offended justice fined him
for his mistake.

When this phrase had numbered its appointed days, it died away, like
its predecessors, and "Who are you?" reigned in its stead. This new
favourite, like a mushroom, seems to have sprung up in a night, or, like
a frog in Cheapside, to have come down in a sudden shower. One day it
was unheard, unknown, uninvented; the next it pervaded London; every
alley resounded with it; every highway was musical with it,

     "And street to street, and lane to lane flung back
     The one unvarying cry."

The phrase was uttered quickly, and with a sharp sound upon the first
and last words, leaving the middle one little more than an aspiration.
Like all its compeers which had been extensively popular, it was
applicable to almost every variety of circumstance. The lovers of a
plain answer to a plain question did not like it at all. Insolence made
use of it to give offence; ignorance, to avoid exposing itself; and
waggery, to create laughter. Every new comer into an alehouse tap-room
was asked unceremoniously, "Who are you?" and if he looked foolish,
scratched his head, and did not know what to reply, shouts of boisterous
merriment resounded on every side. An authoritative disputant was not
unfrequently put down, and presumption of every kind checked by the same
query. When its popularity was at its height, a gentleman, feeling the
hand of a thief in his pocket, turned suddenly round, and caught him
in the act, exclaiming, "Who are you?" The mob which gathered round
applauded to the very echo, and thought it the most capital joke they
had ever heard--the very acme of wit--the very essence of humour.
Another circumstance, of a similar kind, gave an additional fillip to
the phrase, and infused new life and vigour into it, just as it was
dying away. The scene occurred in the chief criminal court of the
kingdom. A prisoner stood at the bar; the offence with which he had been
charged was clearly proved against him; his counsel had been heard, not
in his defence, but in extenuation, insisting upon his previous good
life and character, as reasons for the lenity of the court. "And where
are your witnesses?" inquired the learned judge who presided. "Please
you, my Lord, I knows the prisoner at the bar, and a more honester
feller never breathed," said a rough voice in the gallery. The
officers of the court looked aghast, and the strangers tittered with
ill-suppressed laughter. "Who are you?" said the Judge, looking suddenly
up, but with imperturbable gravity. The court was convulsed; the titter
broke out into a laugh, and it was several minutes before silence
and decorum could be restored. When the Ushers recovered their
self-possession, they made diligent search for the profane transgressor;
but he was not to be found. Nobody knew him; nobody had seen him. After
a while the business of the court again proceeded. The next prisoner
brought up for trial augured favourably of his prospects when he learned
that the solemn lips of the representative of justice had uttered the
popular phrase as if he felt and appreciated it. There was no fear that
such a judge would use undue severity; his heart was with the people; he
understood their language and their manners, and would make allowances
for the temptations which drove them into crime. So thought many of
the prisoners, if we may infer it from the fact, that the learned judge
suddenly acquired an immense increase of popularity. The praise of
his wit was in every mouth, and "Who are you?" renewed its lease, and
remained in possession of public favour for another term in consequence.

But it must not be supposed that there were no interregni between the
dominion of one slang phrase and another. They did not arise in one
long line of unbroken succession, but shared with song the possession of
popular favour. Thus, when the people were in the mood for music, slang
advanced its claims to no purpose, and, when they were inclined for
slang, the sweet voice of music wooed them in vain. About twenty years
ago London resounded with one chorus, with the love of which everybody
seemed to be smitten. Girls and boys, young men and old, maidens and
wives, and widows, were all alike musical. There was an absolute mania
for singing, and the worst of it was, that, like good Father Philip,
in the romance of "The Monastery," they seemed utterly unable to change
their tune. "Cherry ripe!" "Cherry ripe!" was the universal cry of all
the idle in the town. Every unmelodious voice gave utterance to it;
every crazy fiddle, every cracked flute, every wheezy pipe, every street
organ was heard in the same strain, until studious and quiet men
stopped their ears in desperation, or fled miles away into the fields or
woodlands, to be at peace. This plague lasted for a twelvemonth, until
the very name of cherries became an abomination in the land. At last
the excitement wore itself away, and the tide of favour set in a new
direction. Whether it was another song or a slang phrase, is difficult
to determine at this distance of time; but certain it is, that very
shortly afterwards, people went mad upon a dramatic subject, and nothing
was to be heard of but "Tom and Jerry." Verbal wit had amused the
multitude long enough, and they became more practical in their
recreation. Every youth on the town was seized with the fierce desire of
distinguishing himself, by knocking down the "charlies," being locked
up all night in a watchhouse, or kicking up a row among loose women and
blackguard men in the low dens of St. Giles's. Imitative boys vied with
their elders in similar exploits, until this unworthy passion, for such
it was, had lasted, like other follies, its appointed time, and the town
became merry after another fashion. It was next thought the height of
vulgar wit to answer all questions by placing the point of the thumb
upon the tip of the nose, and twirling the fingers in the air. If one
man wished to insult or annoy another, he had only to make use of this
cabalistic sign in his face, and his object was accomplished. At every
street corner where a group was assembled, the spectator who was curious
enough to observe their movements, would be sure to see the fingers of
some of them at their noses, either as a mark of incredulity, surprise,
refusal, or mockery, before he had watched two minutes. There is some
remnant of this absurd custom to be seen to this day; but it is thought
low, even among the vulgar.

About six years ago, London became again most preposterously musical.
The vox populi wore itself hoarse by singing the praises of "The Sea,
the Sea!" If a stranger (and a philosopher) had walked through London,
and listened to the universal chorus, he might have constructed a very
pretty theory upon the love of the English for the sea-service, and our
acknowledged superiority over all other nations upon that element. "No
wonder," he might have said, "that this people is invincible upon the
ocean. The love of it mixes with their daily thoughts: they celebrate it
even in the market-place: their street-minstrels excite charity by it;
and high and low, young and old, male and female, chant Io paeans in
its praise. Love is not honoured in the national songs of this warlike
race--Bacchus is no god to them; they are men of sterner mould, and
think only of 'the Sea, the Sea!' and the means of conquering upon it."

Such would, doubtless, have been his impression if he had taken the
evidence only of his ears. Alas! in those days for the refined ears that
were musical! great was their torture when discord, with its thousand
diversities of tone, struck up this appalling anthem--there was no
escape from it. The migratory minstrels of Savoy caught the strain, and
pealed it down the long vistas of quiet streets, till their innermost
and snuggest apartments re-echoed with the sound. Men were obliged to
endure this crying evil for full six months, wearied to desperation, and
made sea-sick on the dry land.

Several other songs sprang up in due succession afterwards, but none of
them, with the exception of one, entitled "All round my Hat," enjoyed
any extraordinary share of favour, until an American actor introduced a
vile song called "Jim Crow." The singer sang his verses in appropriate
costume, with grotesque gesticulations, and a sudden whirl of his body
at the close of each verse. It took the taste of the town immediately,
and for months the ears of orderly people were stunned by the senseless

     "Turn about and wheel about,
     And do just so--
     Turn about and wheel about,
     And jump, Jim Crow!"

Street-minstrels blackened their faces in order to give proper effect to
the verses; and fatherless urchins, who had to choose between thieving
and singing for their livelihood, took the latter course, as likely to
be the more profitable, as long as the public taste remained in that
direction. The uncouth dance, its accompaniment, might be seen in its
full perfection on market nights in any great thoroughfare; and the
words of the song might be heard, piercing above all the din and buzz of
the ever-moving multitude. He, the calm observer, who during the hey-day
popularity of this doggrel,

     "Sate beside the public way,
     Thick strewn with summer dust, and saw the stream
     Of people there was hurrying to and fro,
     Numerous as gnats upon the evening gleam,"

might have exclaimed with Shelley, whose fine lines we quote, that

     "The million, with fierce song and maniac dance,
     Did rage around."

The philosophic theorist we have already supposed soliloquising upon the
English character, and forming his opinion of it from their exceeding
love for a sea-song, might, if he had again dropped suddenly into
London, have formed another very plausible theory to account for our
unremitting efforts for the abolition of the Slave Trade. "Benevolent
people!" he might have said, "how unbounded are your sympathies! Your
unhappy brethren of Africa, differing from you only in the colour of
their skins, are so dear to you, and you begrudge so little the twenty
millions you have paid on their behalf, that you love to have a memento
of them continually in your sight. Jim Crow is the representative of
that injured race, and as such is the idol of your populace! See how
they all sing his praises!--how they imitate his peculiarities!--how
they repeat his name in their moments of leisure and relaxation! They
even carve images of him to adorn their hearths, that his cause and
his sufferings may never be forgotten! Oh, philanthropic England!--oh,
vanguard of civilization!"

Such are a few of the peculiarities of the London multitude, when no
riot, no execution, no murder, no balloon, disturbs the even current of
their thoughts. These are the whimseys of the mass--the harmless follies
by which they unconsciously endeavour to lighten the load of care which
presses upon their existence. The wise man, even though he smile at
them, will not altogether withhold his sympathy, and will say, "Let them
enjoy their slang phrases and their choruses if they will; and if they
cannot be happy, at least let them be merry." To the Englishman, as well
as to the Frenchman of whom Beranger sings, there may be some comfort in
so small a thing as a song, and we may, own with him that

     "Au peuple attriste
     Ce qui rendra la gaite,
     C'est la GAUDRIOLE!
     O gue!
     C'est la GAUDRIOLE!"


     And these things bred a great combustion in the town.
     Wagstaffe's "Apparition of Mother Haggis."

The acrimonious warfare carried on for a length of time by the playgoers
of London against the proprietors of Covent-Garden Theatre, is one of
the most singular instances upon record of the small folly which will
sometimes pervade a multitude of intelligent men. Carried on at first
from mere obstinacy by a few, and afterwards for mingled obstinacy and
frolic by a greater number, it increased at last to such a height, that
the sober dwellers in the provinces held up their hands in astonishment,
and wondered that the people of London should be such fools. As much
firmness and perseverance displayed in a better cause, might have
achieved important triumphs; and we cannot but feel regret, in recording
this matter, that so much good and wholesome energy should have been
thrown away on so unworthy an object. But we will begin with the
beginning, and trace the O. P. mania from its source.

On the night of the 20th of September, 1808, the old theatre of
Covent-Garden was totally destroyed by fire. Preparations were
immediately made for the erection of a more splendid edifice, and the
managers, Harris and the celebrated John Philip Kemble, announced that
the new theatre should be without a rival in Europe. In less than
three months, the rubbish of the old building was cleared away, and the
foundation-stone of the new one laid with all due ceremony by the Duke
of Sussex. With so much celerity were the works carried on that, in nine
months more, the edifice was completed, both without and within. The
opening night was announced for the 18th of September 1809, within two
days of a twelvemonth since the destruction of the original building.

But the undertaking had proved more expensive than the Committee
anticipated. To render the pit entrance more commodious, it had been
deemed advisable to remove a low public-house that stood in the way.
This turned out a matter of no little difficulty, for the proprietor
was a man well skilled in driving a hard bargain. The more eager the
Committee showed themselves to come to terms with him for his miserable
pot-house, the more grasping he became in his demands for compensation.
They were ultimately obliged to pay him an exorbitant sum. Added to
this, the interior decorations were on the most costly scale; and Mrs.
Siddons, and other members of the Kemble family, together with the
celebrated Italian singer, Madame Catalani, had been engaged at very
high salaries. As the night of opening drew near, the Committee found
that they had gone a little beyond their means; and they issued a
notice, stating that, in consequence of the great expense they had been
at in building the theatre, and the large salaries they had agreed to
pay, to secure the services of the most eminent actors, they were under
the necessity of fixing the prices of admission at seven shillings to
the boxes and four shillings to the pit, instead of six shillings and
three and sixpence, as heretofore.

This announcement created the greatest dissatisfaction. The boxes might
have borne the oppression, but the dignity of the pit was wounded. A
war-cry was raised immediately. For some weeks previous to the opening,
a continual clatter was kept up in clubs and coffee-rooms, against
what was considered a most unconstitutional aggression on the rights of
play-going man. The newspapers assiduously kept up the excitement, and
represented, day after day, to the managers the impolicy of the proposed
advance. The bitter politics of the time were disregarded, and Kemble
and Covent-Garden became as great sources of interest as Napoleon and
France. Public attention was the more fixed upon the proceedings at
Covent-Garden, since it was the only patent theatre then in existence,
Drury-Lane theatre having also been destroyed by fire in the month of
February previous. But great as was the indignation of the lovers of
the drama at that time, no one could have anticipated the extraordinary
lengths to which opposition would be carried.

First Night, September 20th.--The performances announced were the
tragedy of "Macbeth" and the afterpiece of "The Quaker." The house was
excessively crowded (the pit especially) with persons who had gone
for no other purpose than to make a disturbance. They soon discovered
another grievance to add to the list. The whole of the lower, and
three-fourths of the upper tier of boxes, were let out for the season;
so that those who had paid at the door for a seat in the boxes, were
obliged to mount to a level with the gallery. Here they were stowed into
boxes which, from their size and shape, received the contemptuous, and
not inappropriate designation of pigeon-holes. This was considered in
the light of a new aggression upon established rights; and long before
the curtain drew up, the managers might have heard in their green-room
the indignant shouts of "Down with the pigeon-holes!"--"Old prices for
ever!" Amid this din the curtain rose, and Mr. Kemble stood forward to
deliver a poetical address in honour of the occasion. The riot now began
in earnest; not a word of the address was audible, from the stamping
and groaning of the people in the pit. This continued, almost without
intermission, through the five acts of the tragedy. Now and then, the
sublime acting of Mrs. Siddons, as "the awful woman," hushed the noisy
multitude into silence, in spite of themselves: but it was only for a
moment; the recollection of their fancied wrongs made them ashamed of
their admiration, and they shouted and hooted again more vigorously
than before. The comedy of Munden in the afterpiece met with no better
reception; not a word was listened to, and the curtain fell amid still
increasing uproar and shouts of "Old prices!" Some magistrates, who
happened to be present, zealously came to the rescue, and appeared on
the stage with copies of the Riot Act. This ill-judged proceeding made
the matter worse. The men of the pit were exasperated by the indignity,
and strained their lungs to express how deeply they felt it. Thus
remained the war till long after midnight, when the belligerents
withdrew from sheer exhaustion.

Second Night.--The crowd was not so great; all those who had gone on the
previous evening to listen to the performances, now stayed away, and the
rioters had it nearly all to themselves. With the latter, "the play was
not the thing," and Macheath and Polly sang in "The Beggar's Opera"
in vain. The actors and the public appeared to have changed sides--the
audience acted, and the actors listened. A new feature of this night's
proceedings was the introduction of placards. Several were displayed
from the pit and boxes, inscribed in large letters with the words, "Old
prices." With a view of striking terror, the constables who had been
plentifully introduced into the house, attacked the placard-bearers, and
succeeded, after several severe battles, in dragging off a few of them
to the neighbouring watch-house, in Bow Street. Confusion now became
worse and worse confounded. The pitites screamed themselves hoarse;
while, to increase the uproar, some mischievous frequenters of the upper
regions squeaked through dozens of cat-calls, till the combined noise
was enough to blister every tympanum in the house.

Third Night.--The appearance of several gentlemen in the morning at
the bar of the Bow Street police office, to answer for their riotous
conduct, had been indignantly commented upon during the day. All augured
ill for the quiet of the night. The performances announced were "Richard
the Third" and "The Poor Soldier," but the popularity of the tragedy
could not obtain it a hearing. The pitites seemed to be drawn into
closer union by the attacks made upon them, and to act more in concert
than on the previous nights. The placards were, also, more numerous; not
only the pit, but the boxes and galleries exhibited them. Among the most
conspicuous, was one inscribed, "John Bull against John Kemble.--Who'll
win?" Another bore "King George for ever! but no King Kemble." A third
was levelled against Madame Catalani, whose large salary was supposed
to be one of the causes of the increased prices, and was inscribed
"No foreigners to tax us--we're taxed enough already." This last was a
double-barrelled one, expressing both dramatic and political discontent,
and was received with loud cheers by the pitites.

The tragedy and afterpiece were concluded full two hours before their
regular time; and the cries for Mr. Kemble became so loud, that the
manager thought proper to obey the summons. Amid all these scenes of
uproar he preserved his equanimity, and was never once betrayed into
any expression of petulance or anger. With some difficulty he obtained
a hearing. He entered into a detail of the affairs of the theatre,
assuring the audience at the same time of the solicitude of the
proprietors to accommodate themselves to the public wish. This was
received with some applause, as it was thought at first to manifest a
willingness to come back to the old prices, and the pit eagerly waited
for the next sentence, that was to confirm their hopes. That sentence
was never uttered, for Mr. Kemble, folding his arms majestically, added,
in his deep tragic voice, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I wait here to know
what you want!" Immediately the uproar was renewed, and became so
tremendous and so deafening, that the manager, seeing the uselessness of
further parley, made his bow and retired.

A gentleman then rose in the boxes and requested a hearing. He obtained
it without difficulty. He began by inveighing in severe terms against
the pretended ignorance of Mr. Kemble, in asking them so offensively
what they wanted, and concluded by exhorting the people never to cease
their opposition until they brought down the prices to their old level.
The speaker, whose name was understood to be Leigh, then requested a
cheer for the actors, to show that no disrespect was intended them. The
cheer was given immediately.

A barrister of the name of Smythe then rose to crave another hearing for
Mr. Kemble. The manager stood forth again, calm, unmoved, and severe.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "I wait here to know your wishes." Mr.
Leigh, who took upon himself, "for that night only," the character of
popular leader, said, the only reply he could give was one in three
words, "the old prices." Hereat the shouts of applause again rose, till
the building rang. Still serene amid the storm, the manager endeavoured
to enter into explanations. The men of the pit would hear nothing of
the sort. They wanted entire and absolute acquiescence. Less would not
satisfy them; and, as Mr. Kemble only wished to explain, they would not
hear a word. He finally withdrew amid a noise to which Babel must have
been comparatively silent.

Fourth night.--The rioters were more obstinate than ever. The noises
were increased by the addition of whistles, bugle-horns, and watchmen's
rattles, sniffling, snorting, and clattering from all parts of the
house. Human lungs were taxed to the uttermost, and the stamping on the
floor raised such a dust as to render all objects but dimly visible. In
placards, too, there was greater variety. The loose wits of the town had
all day been straining their ingenuity to invent new ones. Among them
were, "Come forth, O Kemble! come forth and tremble!" "Foolish John
Kemble, we'll make you tremble!" and "No cats! no Catalani! English
actors for ever!"

Those who wish to oppose a mob successfully, should never lose their
temper. It is a proof of weakness which masses of people at once
perceive, and never fail to take advantage of. Thus, when the managers
unwisely resolved to fight the mob with their own weapons, it only
increased the opposition it was intended to allay. A dozen pugilists,
commanded by a notorious boxer of the day, were introduced into the
pit, to use the argumentum ad hominem to the rioters. Continual scuffles
ensued: but the invincible resolution of the playgoers would not allow
them to quail; it rather aroused them to renewed opposition, and a
determination never to submit or yield. It also strengthened their
cause, by affording them further ground of complaint against the

The performances announced on the bills were the opera of "Love in a
Village," and "Who wins?" but the bills had it all to themselves, for
neither actors nor public were much burthened with them. The latter,
indeed, afforded some sport. The title was too apt to the occasion to
escape notice, and shouts of "Who wins? who wins?" displaced for a time
the accustomed cry of old prices.

After the fall of the curtain, Mr. Leigh, with another gentleman, again
spoke, complaining bitterly of the introduction of the prize-fighters,
and exhorting the public never to give in. Mr. Kemble was again called
forward; but when he came, the full tide of discord ran so strongly
against him that, being totally unable to stem it, he withdrew. Each
man seemed to shout as if he had been a Stentor; and when his lungs were
wearied, took to his feet and stamped, till all the black coats in his
vicinity became grey with dust. At last the audience were tired out, and
the theatre was closed before eleven o'clock.

Fifth night.--The play was Coleman's amusing comedy of "John Bull."
There was no diminution of the uproar. Every note on the diapason of
discord was run through. The prize-fighters, or hitites as they were
called, mustered in considerable numbers, and the battles between them
and the pitites were fierce and many. It was now, for the first time,
that the letters O.P. came into general use as an abbreviation of
the accustomed watchword of old prices. Several placards were thus
inscribed; and, as brevity is so desirable in shouting, the mob adopted
the emendation. As usual, the manager was called for. After some delay
he came forward, and was listened to with considerable patience. He
repeated, in respectful terms, the great loss that would be occasioned
to the proprietors by a return to the old prices, and offered to submit
a statement of their accounts to the eminent lawyers, Sir Vicary Gibbs
and Sir Thomas Plumer; the eminent merchants, Sir Francis Baring and Mr.
Angerstein; and Mr. Whitmore, the Governor of the Bank of England. By
their decision as to the possibility of carrying on the theatre at the
old prices, he would consent to be governed, and he hoped the public
would do the same. This reasonable proposition was scouted immediately.
Not even the high and reputable names he had mentioned were thought to
afford any guarantee for impartiality. The pitites were too wrong-headed
to abate one iota of their pretensions; and they had been too much
insulted by the prize-fighters in the manager's pay, to show any
consideration for him, or agree to any terms he might propose. They
wanted full acquiescence, and nothing less. Thus the conference broke
off, and the manager retired amid a storm of hisses.

An Irish gentleman, named O'Reilly, then stood up in one of the boxes.
With true Irish gallantry, he came to the rescue of an ill-used lady.
He said he was disgusted at the attacks made upon Madame Catalani, the
finest singer in the world, and a lady inestimable in private life. It
was unjust, unmanly, and un-English to make the innocent suffer for the
guilty; and he hoped this blot would be no longer allowed to stain a
fair cause. As to the quarrel with the manager, he recommended them
to persevere. They were not only wronged by his increased prices, but
insulted by his boxers, and he hoped, that before they had done with
him, they would teach him a lesson he would not soon forget. The gallant
Hibernian soon became a favourite, and sat down amid loud cheers.

Sixth night.--No signs of a cessation of hostilities on the one side, or
of a return to the old prices on the other. The playgoers seemed to grow
more united as the managers grew more obstinate. The actors had by far
the best time of it; for they were spared nearly all the labour of their
parts, and merely strutted on the stage to see how matters went on,
and then strutted off again. Notwithstanding the remonstrance of Mr.
O'Reilly on the previous night, numerous placards reflecting upon Madame
Catalani were exhibited. One was inscribed with the following doggrel:--

     "Seventeen thousand a-year goes pat,
     To Kemble, his sister, and Madame Cat."

On another was displayed, in large letters, "No compromise, old prices,
and native talent!" Some of these were stuck against the front of the
boxes, and others were hoisted from the pit on long poles. The following
specimens will suffice to show the spirit of them; wit they had none,
or humour either, although when they were successively exhibited, they
elicited roars of laughter:--

     "John Kemble alone is the cause of this riot;
     When he lowers his prices, John Bull will be quiet."

     "John Kemble be damn'd,
     We will not be cramm'd."

     "Squire Kemble
     Begins to tremble."

The curtain fell as early as nine o'clock, when there being loud calls
for Mr. Kemble, he stood forward. He announced that Madame Catalani,
against whom so unjustifiable a prejudice had been excited, had thrown
up her engagement rather than stand in the way of any accommodation
of existing differences. This announcement was received with
great applause. Mr. Kemble then went on to vindicate himself and
co-proprietors from the charge of despising public opinion. No
assertion, he assured them, could be more unjust. They were sincerely
anxious to bring these unhappy differences to a close, and he thought he
had acted in the most fair and reasonable manner in offering to submit
the accounts to an impartial committee, whose decision, and the grounds
for it, should be fully promulgated. This speech was received with
cheering, but interrupted at the close by some individuals, who objected
to any committee of the manager's nomination. This led to a renewal of
the uproar, and it was some time before silence could be obtained. When,
at last, he was able to make himself heard, he gave notice, that until
the decision of the committee had been drawn up, the theatre should
remain closed. Immediately every person in the pit stood up, and a long
shout of triumph resounded through the house, which was heard at the
extremity of Bow Street. As if this result had been anticipated, a
placard was at the same moment hoisted, inscribed, "Here lies the body
of NEW PRICE, an ugly brat and base born, who expired on the 23rd of
September 1809, aged six days.--Requiescat in pace!"

Mr. Kemble then retired, and the pitites flung up their hats in the air,
or sprang over the benches, shouting and hallooing in the exuberance of
their joy; and thus ended the first act of this popular farce.

The committee ultimately chosen differed from that first named, Alderman
Sir Charles Price, Bart. and Mr. Silvester, the Recorder of London,
being substituted for Sir Francis Baring and Sir Vicary Gibbs. In a few
days they had examined the multitudinous documents of the theatre,
and agreed to a report which was published in all the newspapers,
and otherwise distributed. They stated the average profits of the six
preceding years at 6 and 3/8 per cent, being only 1 and 3/8 per cent.
beyond the legal interest of money, to recompense the proprietors for
all their care and enterprise. Under the new prices they would receive
3 and 1/2 per cent. profit; but if they returned to the old prices, they
would suffer a loss of fifteen shillings per cent. upon their capital.
Under these circumstances, they could do no other than recommend the
proprietors to continue the new prices.

This report gave no satisfaction. It certainly convinced the reasonable,
but they, unfortunately, were in a minority of one to ten. The managers,
disregarding the outcry that it excited, advertised the recommencement
of the performances for Wednesday the 4th of October following. They
endeavoured to pack the house with their friends, but the sturdy O.P.
men were on the alert, and congregated in the pit in great numbers.
The play was "The Beggar's Opera," but, as on former occasions, it
was wholly inaudible. The noises were systematically arranged, and
the actors, seeing how useless it was to struggle against the popular
feeling, hurried over their parts as quickly as they could, and the
curtain fell shortly after nine o'clock. Once more the manager essayed
the difficult task of convincing madness by appealing to reason. As soon
as the din of the rattles and post-horns would permit him to speak, he
said, he would throw himself on the fairness of the most enlightened
metropolis in the world. He was sure, however strongly they might
feel upon the subject, they would not be accessory to the ruin of
the theatre, by insisting upon a return to the former prices.
Notwithstanding the little sop he had thrown out to feed the vanity of
this roaring Cerberus, the only answer he received was a renewal of
the noise, intermingled with shouts of "Hoax! hoax! imposition!" Mr.
O'Reilly, the gallant friend of Madame Catalani, afterwards addressed
the pit, and said no reliance could be placed on the report of the
committee. The profits of the theatre were evidently great: they had
saved the heavy salary of Madame Catalani; and by shutting out the
public from all the boxes but the pigeon-holes, they made large
sums. The first and second tiers were let at high rents to notorious
courtesans, several of whom he then saw in the house; and it was clear
that the managers preferred a large revenue from this impure source to
the reasonable profits they would receive from respectable people. Loud
cheers greeted this speech; every eye was turned towards the boxes, and
the few ladies in them immediately withdrew. At the same moment, some
inveterate petite hoisted a large placard, on which was inscribed,

     "We lads of the pit
     Will never submit."

Several others were introduced. One of them was a caricature likeness of
Mr. Kemble, asking, "What do you want?" with a pitite replying, "The old
prices, and no pigeon-holes!" Others merely bore the drawing of a large
key, in allusion to a notorious house in the neighbourhood, the denizens
of which were said to be great frequenters of the private boxes. These
appeared to give the managers more annoyance than all the rest, and the
prize-fighters made vigorous attacks upon the holders of them. Several
persons were, on this night, and indeed nearly every night, taken
into custody, and locked up in the watchhouse. On their appearance the
following morning, they were generally held to bail in considerable sums
to keep the peace. This proceeding greatly augmented the animosity of
the pit.

It would be useless to detail the scenes of confusion which followed
night after night. For about three weeks the war continued with unabated
fury. Its characteristics were nearly always the same. Invention was
racked to discover new noises, and it was thought a happy idea when
one fellow got into the gallery with a dustman's bell, and rang it
furiously. Dogs were also brought into the boxes, to add their sweet
voices to the general uproar. The animals seemed to join in it con
amore, and one night a large mastiff growled and barked so loudly, as to
draw down upon his exertions three cheers from the gratified pitites.

So strong did the popular enthusiasm run in favour of the row, that
well-dressed ladies appeared in the boxes with the letters O. P. on
their bonnets. O. P. hats for the gentlemen were still more common,
and some were so zealous in the cause, as to sport waistcoats with an
O embroidered upon one flap and a P on the other. O.P. toothpicks were
also in fashion; and gentlemen and ladies carried O.P. handkerchiefs,
which they waved triumphantly whenever the row was unusually deafening.
The latter suggested the idea of O. P. flags, which were occasionally
unfurled from the gallery to the length of a dozen feet. Sometimes the
first part of the night's performances were listened to with comparative
patience, a majority of the manager's friends being in possession of the
house. But as soon as the half-price commenced, the row began again
in all its pristine glory. At the fall of the curtain it soon became
customary to sing "God save the King," the whole of the O.P.'s joining
in loyal chorus. Sometimes this was followed by "Rule Britannia;" and,
on two or three occasions, by a parody of the national anthem, which
excited great laughter. A verse may not be uninteresting as a specimen.

     "O Johnny Bull, be true,
     Confound the prices new,
     And make them fall!
     Curse Kemble's politics,
     Frustrate his knavish tricks,
     On thee our hopes we fix,
     T' upset them all!"

This done, they scrambled over the benches, got up sham fights in
the pit, or danced the famous O.P. dance. The latter may as well be
described here: half a dozen, or a dozen fellows formed in a ring, and
stamped alternately with the right and left foot, calling out at regular
intervals, O. P.--O. P. with a drawling and monotonous sound. This
uniformly lasted till the lights were put out, when the rioters
withdrew, generally in gangs of ten or twenty, to defend themselves from
sudden attacks on the part of the constables.

An idea seemed about this time to break in upon them, that
notwithstanding the annoyance they caused the manager, they were aiding
to fill his coffers. This was hinted at in some of the newspapers, and
the consequence was, that many stayed away to punish him, if possible,
under the silent system. But this did not last long. The love of
mischief was as great an incentive to many of them as enmity to the
new prices. Accidental circumstances also contributed to disturb the
temporary calm. At the Westminster quarter-sessions, on the 27th of
October, bills of indictment were preferred against forty-one persons
for creating a disturbance and interrupting the performances of the
theatre. The grand jury ignored twenty-seven of the bills, left two
undecided, and found true bills against twelve. The latter exercised
their right of traverse till the ensuing sessions. The preferment of
these bills had the effect of re-awakening the subsiding excitement.
Another circumstance about the same time gave a still greater impetus to
it, and furnished the rioters with a chief, round whom they were eager
to rally. Mr. Clifford, a barrister, appeared in the pit on the night of
the 31st of October, with the letters O. P. on his hat. Being a man of
some note, he was pounced upon by the constables, and led off to Bow
Street police office, where Brandon, the box-keeper, charged him with
riotous and disorderly conduct. This was exactly what Clifford wanted.
He told the presiding magistrate, a Mr. Read, that he had purposely
displayed the letters on his hat, in order that the question of right
might be determined before a competent tribunal. He denied that he
had committed any offence, and seemed to manifest so intimate an
acquaintance with the law upon the subject, that the magistrate,
convinced by his reasoning, ordered his immediate dismissal, and stated
that he had been taken into custody without the slightest grounds. The
result was made known in the theatre a few minutes afterwards, where
Mr. Clifford, on his appearance victorious, was received with reiterated
huzzas. On his leaving the house, he was greeted by a mob of five or
six hundred persons, who had congregated outside to do him honour as he
passed. From that night the riots may be said to have recommenced, and
"Clifford and O. P." became the rallying cry of the party. The officious
box-keeper became at the same time the object of the popular dislike,
and the contempt with which the genius and fine qualities of Mr. Kemble
would not permit them to regard him, was fastened upon his underling.
So much ill-feeling was directed towards the latter, that at this time a
return to the old prices, unaccompanied by his dismissal, would not have
made the manager's peace with the pitites.

In the course of the few succeeding weeks, during which the riots
continued with undiminished fury, O. P. medals were struck, and worn in
great numbers in the theatre. A few of the ultra-zealous even wore
them in the streets. A new fashion also came into favour for hats,
waistcoats, and handkerchiefs, on which the mark, instead of the
separate letters O and P, was a large O, with a small P in the middle of
it: thus,

     x       x
     x  xxx  x
     x  x x  x
     x  xxx  x
     x  x    x
     x  x    x
     x       x

The managers, seeing that Mr. Clifford was so identified with the
rioters, determined to make him responsible. An action was accordingly
brought against him and other defendants in the Court of King's Bench.
On the 20th of November, the Attorney-general moved, before Lord
Ellenborough, for a rule to show cause why a criminal information should
not be filed against Clifford for unlawfully conspiring with certain
others to intimidate the proprietors of Covent-Garden Theatre, and force
them, to their loss and detriment, to lower their prices of admission.
The rule was granted, and an early day fixed for the trial. In the mean
time, these proceedings kept up the acerbity of the O. P.s, and every
night at the fall of the curtain, three groans were given for John
Kemble and three cheers for John Bull.

It was during this year that the national Jubilee was celebrated, in
honour of the fiftieth year of the reign of George III. When the riots
had reached their fiftieth night, the O. P.s also determined to have a
jubilee. All their previous efforts in the way of roaring, great as they
were, were this night outdone, and would have continued long after "the
wee short hour," had not the managers wisely put the extinguisher upon
them and the lights about eleven o'clock.

Pending the criminal prosecution against himself, Mr. Clifford brought
an action for false imprisonment against Brandon. The cause was fixed
for trial in the Court of Common Pleas, on the 5th of December, before
Lord Chief-Justice Mansfield. From an early hour in the morning all the
avenues leading to the court were thronged with an eager multitude;
all London was in anxiety for the resuit. So dense was the crowd, that
counsel found the greatest difficulty in making their way into court.
Mr. Sergeant Best was retained on the part of the plaintiff, and Mr.
Sergeant Shepherd for the defence. The defendant put two pleas upon
the record; first, that he was not guilty, and secondly, that he was
justified. Sergeant Best, in stating the plaintiff's case, blamed the
managers for all the disturbances that had taken place, and contended
that his client, in affixing the letters O. P. to his hat, was not
guilty of any offence. Even if he had joined in the noises, which he had
not, his so doing would not subject him to the penalties for rioting.
Several witnesses were then called to prove the capture of Mr. Clifford,
the hearing of the case before the magistrate at Bow Street, and his
ultimate dismissal. Sergeant Shepherd was heard at great length on the
other side, and contended that his client was perfectly justified in
taking into custody a man who was inciting others to commit a breach of
the peace.

The Lord Chief-Justice summed up, with an evident bias in favour of the
defendant. He said an undue apprehension of the rights of an audience
had got abroad. Even supposing the object of the rioters to be fair and
legal, they were not authorized to carry it by unfair means. In order to
constitute a riot, it was not necessary that personal violence should be
committed, and it seemed to him that the defendant had not acted in an
improper manner in giving into custody a person who, by the display of a
symbol, was encouraging others to commit a riot.

The jury retired to consider their verdict. The crowd without and within
the court awaited the result in feverish suspense. Half an hour elapsed,
when the jury returned with a verdict for the plaintiff--Damages,
five pounds. The satisfaction of the spectators was evident upon their
countenances, that of the judge expressed the contrary feeling. Turning
to the foreman of the jury, his Lordship asked upon which of the two
points referred to them, namely, the broad question, whether a riot
had been committed, and, if committed, whether the plaintiff had
participated in it, they had found their verdict?

The foreman stated, that they were all of opinion generally that the
plaintiff had been illegally arrested. This vague answer did not satisfy
his Lordship, and he repeated his question. He could not, however,
obtain a more satisfactory reply. Evidently vexed at what he deemed the
obtuseness or partiality of the jury, he turned to the bar, and said,
that a spirit of a mischievous and destructive nature was abroad, which,
if not repressed, threatened awful consequences. The country would be
lost, he said, and the government overturned, if such a spirit were
encouraged; it was impossible it could end in good. Time, the destroyer
and fulfiller of predictions, has proved that his Lordship was a false
prophet. The harmless O. P. war has been productive of no such dire

It was to be expected that after this triumph, the war in the pit would
rage with redoubled acrimony. A riot beginning at half-price would
not satisfy the excited feelings of the O. P.s on the night of such
a victory. Long before the curtain drew up, the house was filled with
them, and several placards were exhibited, which the constables and
friends of the managers strove, as usual, to tear into shreds. One of
them, which met this fate, was inscribed, "Success to O.P.! A British
jury for ever!" It was soon replaced by another of a similar purport. It
is needless to detail the uproar that ensued; the jumping, the fighting,
the roaring, and the howling. For nine nights more the same system was
continued; but the end was at hand.

On the 14th a grand dinner was given at the Crown and Anchor tavern, to
celebrate the victory of Mr. Clifford. "The reprobators of managerial
insolence," as they called themselves, attended in considerable numbers;
and Mr. Clifford was voted to the chair. The cloth had been removed, and
a few speeches made, when the company were surprised by a message that
their arch-enemy himself solicited the honour of an audience. It was
some time ere they could believe that Mr. Kemble had ventured to such a
place. After some parley the manager was admitted, and a conference was
held. A treaty was ultimately signed and sealed, which put an end to the
long-contested wars of O.P., and restored peace to the drama.

All this time the disturbance proceeded at the theatre with its usual
spirit. It was now the sixty-sixth night of its continuance, and the
rioters were still untired--still determined to resist to the last.
In the midst of it a gentleman arrived from the Crown and Anchor, and
announced to the pit that Mr. Kemble had attended the dinner, and had
yielded at last to the demand of the public. He stated, that it had
been agreed upon between him and the Committee for defending the persons
under prosecution, that the boxes should remain at the advanced price;
that the pit should be reduced to three shillings and sixpence; that the
private boxes should be done away with; and that all prosecutions, on
both sides, should be immediately stayed. This announcement was received
with deafening cheers. As soon as the first burst of enthusiasm was
over, the O. P.s became anxious for a confirmation of the intelligence,
and commenced a loud call for Mr. Kemble. He had not then returned from
the Crown and Anchor; but of this the pitites were not aware, and for
nearly half an hour they kept up a most excruciating din. At length the
great actor made his appearance, in his walking dress, with his cane
in hand, as he had left the tavern. It was a long time before he
could obtain silence. He apologized in the most respectful terms for
appearing before them in such unbecoming costume, which was caused
solely by his ignorance that he should have to appear before them that
night. After announcing, as well as occasional interruptions would
allow, the terms that had been agreed upon, he added, "In order that
no trace or recollection of the past differences, which had unhappily
prevailed so long, should remain, he was instructed by the proprietors
to say, that they most sincerely lamented the course that had been
pursued, and engaged that, on their parts, all legal proceedings should
forthwith be put a stop to." The cheering which greeted this speech
was interrupted at the close by loud cries from the pit of
"Dismiss Brandon," while one or two exclaimed, "We want old prices
generally,--six shillings for the boxes." After an ineffectual attempt
to address them again upon this point, Mr. Kemble made respectful and
repeated obeisances, and withdrew. The noises still continued, until
Munden stood forward, leading by the hand the humbled box-keeper,
contrition in his looks, and in his hands a written apology, which he
endeavoured to read. The uproar was increased threefold by his presence,
and, amid cries of "We won't hear him!" "Where's his master?" he
was obliged to retire. Mr. Harris, the son of Kemble's co-manager,
afterwards endeavoured to propitiate the audience in his favour; but
it was of no avail; nothing less than his dismissal would satisfy the
offended majesty of the pit. Amid this uproar the curtain finally fell,
and the O. P. dance was danced for the last time within the walls of
Covent Garden.

On the following night it was announced that Brandon had resigned his
situation. This turned the tide of popular ill-will. The performances
were "The Wheel of Fortune," and an afterpiece. The house was crowded
to excess; a desire to be pleased was manifest on every countenance,
and when Mr. Kemble, who took his favourite character of Penruddock,
appeared upon the stage, he was greeted with the most vehement applause.
The noises ceased entirely, and the symbols of opposition disappeared.
The audience, hushed into attention, gave vent to no sounds but those of
admiration for the genius of the actor. When, in the course of his part,
he repeated the words, "So! I am in London again!" the aptness of the
expression to the circumstances of the night, was felt by all present,
and acknowledged by a round of boisterous and thrice repeated cheering.
It was a triumphant scene for Mr. Kemble after his long annoyances. He
had achieved a double victory. He had, not only as a manager, soothed
the obstinate opposition of the play-goers, but as an actor he had
forced from one of the largest audiences he had ever beheld, approbation
more cordial and unanimous than he had ever enjoyed before. The popular
favour not only turned towards him; it embraced everybody connected
with the theatre, except the poor victim, Brandon. Most of the favourite
actors were called before the curtain to make their bow, and receive
the acclamations of the pit. At the close of the performances, a few
individuals, implacable and stubborn, got up a feeble cry of "Old prices
for the boxes;" but they were quickly silenced by the reiterated cheers
of the majority, or by cries of "Turn them out!" A placard, the last
of its race, was at the same time exhibited in the front of the pit,
bearing, in large letters, the words "We are satisfied."

Thus ended the famous wars of O. P., which, for a period of nearly three
months, had kept the metropolis in an uproar. And after all, what was
the grand result? As if the whole proceeding had been a parody upon the
more destructive, but scarcely more sensible wars recorded in history,
it was commenced in injustice, carried on in bitterness of spirit, and
ended, like the labour of the mountain, in a mouse. The abatement of
sixpence in the price of admission to the pit, and the dismissal of an
unfortunate servant, whose only fault was too much zeal in the service
of his employers,--such were the grand victories of the O. P.'s.


     Orribili favelle--parole di dolor.--DANTE.

Among the black deeds which Superstition has imposed as duties upon
her wretched votaries, none are more horrible than the practices of the
murderers, who, under the name of Thugs, or Phansigars, have so long
been the scourge of India. For ages they have pursued their dark and
dreadful calling, moulding assassination into a science, or extolling it
as a virtue, worthy only to be practised by a race favoured of Heaven.
Of late years this atrocious delusion has excited much attention, both
in this country and in India; an attention which, it is to be hoped,
will speedily lead to the uprooting of a doctrine so revolting and
anti-human. Although the British Government has extended over Hindostan
for so long a period, it does not appear that Europeans even suspected
the existence of this mysterious sect until the commencement of the
present century. In the year 1807, a gang of Thugs, laden with the
plunder of murdered travellers, was accidentally discovered. The
inquiries then set on foot revealed to the astonished Government a
system of iniquity unparalleled in the history of man. Subsequent
investigation extended the knowledge; and by throwing light upon the
peculiar habits of the murderers, explained the reason why their crimes
had remained so long undiscovered. In the following pages will be found
an epitome of all the information which has reached Europe concerning
them, derived principally from Dr. Sherwood's treatise upon the subject,
published in 1816, and the still more valuable and more recent work of
Mr. Sleeman, entitled the "Ramaseeana; or, Vocabulary of the peculiar
Language of the Thugs."

The followers of this sect are called Thugs, or T'hugs, and their
profession Thuggee. In the south of India they are called Phansigars:
the former word signifying "a deceiver;" and the latter, "a strangler."
They are both singularly appropriate. The profession of Thuggee is
hereditary, and embraces, it is supposed, in every part of India, a
body of at least ten thousand individuals, trained to murder from their
childhood; carrying it on in secret and in silence, yet glorying in it,
and holding the practice of it higher than any earthly honour. During
the winter months, they usually follow some reputable calling, to elude
suspicion; and in the summer, they set out in gangs over all the roads
of India, to plunder and destroy. These gangs generally contain from ten
to forty Thugs, and sometimes as many as two hundred. Each strangler is
provided with a noose, to despatch the unfortunate victim, as the Thugs
make it a point never to cause death by any other means. When the gangs
are very large, they divide into smaller bodies; and each taking a
different route, they arrive at the same general place of rendezvous to
divide the spoil. They sometimes travel in the disguise of respectable
traders; sometimes as sepoys or native soldiers; and at others, as
government officers. If they chance to fall in with an unprotected
wayfarer, his fate is certain. One Thug approaches him from behind, and
throws the end of a sash round his neck; the other end is seized by a
second at the same instant, crossed behind the neck, and drawn tightly,
while with their other hand the two Thugs thrust his head forward to
expedite the strangulation: a third Thug seizes the traveller by the
legs at the same moment, and he is thrown to the ground, a corpse before
he reaches it.

But solitary travellers are not the prey they are anxious to seek. A
wealthy caravan of forty or fifty individuals has not unfrequently been
destroyed by them; not one soul being permitted to escape. Indeed, there
is hardly an instance upon record of any one's escape from their hands,
so surely are their measures taken, and so well do they calculate
beforehand all the risks and difficulties of the undertaking.
Each individual of the gang has his peculiar duty allotted to him.
Upon-approaching a town, or serai, two or three, known as the Soothaes,
or "inveiglers," are sent in advance to ascertain if any travellers are
there; to learn, if possible, the amount of money or merchandize they
carry with them, their hours of starting in the morning, or any
other particulars that may be of use. If they can, they enter into
conversation with them, pretend to be travelling to the same place, and
propose, for mutual security, to travel with them. This intelligence
is duly communicated to the remainder of the gang. The place usually
chosen for the murder is some lonely part of the road in the vicinity of
a jungle, and the time, just before dusk. At given signals, understood
only by themselves, the scouts of the party station themselves in the
front, in the rear, and on each side, to guard against surprise. A
strangler and assistant strangler, called Bhurtote and Shamshea, place
themselves, the one on the right, and the other on the left of the
victim, without exciting his suspicion. At another signal the noose
is twisted, drawn tightly by a strong hand at each extremity, and the
traveller, in a few seconds, hurried into eternity. Ten, twelve, twenty,
and in some instances, sixty persons have been thus despatched at the
same moment. Should any victim, by a rare chance, escape their hands, he
falls into those of the scouts who are stationed within hearing, who run
upon him and soon overpower him.

Their next care is to dispose of the bodies. So cautious are they to
prevent detection, that they usually break all the joints to hasten
decomposition. They then cut open the body to prevent it swelling in the
grave and causing fissures in the soil above, by which means the jackals
might be attracted to the spot, and thereby lead to discovery. When
obliged to bury the body in a frequented district, they kindle a fire
over the grave to obliterate the traces of the newly turned earth.
Sometimes the grave-diggers of the party, whose office, like that of
all the rest, is hereditary, are despatched to make the graves in the
morning at some distant spot, by which it is known the travellers will
pass. The stranglers, in the mean time, journey quietly with their
victims, conversing with them in the most friendly manner. Towards
nightfall they approach the spot selected for their murder; the signal
is given, and they fall into the graves that have been ready for them
since day-break. On one occasion, related by Captain Sleeman, a party
of fifty-nine people, consisting of fifty-two men and seven women, were
thus simultaneously strangled, and thrown into the graves prepared for
them in the morning. Some of these travellers were on horseback and well
armed, but the Thugs, who appear to have been upwards of two hundred
in a gang, had provided against all risk of failure. The only one left
alive of all that numerous party, was an infant four years old, who was
afterwards initiated into all the mysteries of Thuggee.

If they cannot find a convenient opportunity for disposing of the
bodies, they carry them for many miles, until they come to a spot
secure from intrusion, and to a soil adapted to receive them. If fear of
putrefaction admonishes them to use despatch, they set up a large screen
or tent, as other travellers do, and bury the body within the enclosure,
pretending, if inquiries are made, that their women are within. But this
only happens when they fall in with a victim unexpectedly. In murders
which they have planned previously, the finding of a place of sepulture
is never left to hazard.

Travellers who have the misfortune to lodge in the same choultry or
hostelry, as the Thugs, are often murdered during the night. It
is either against their creed to destroy a sleeper, or they find
a difficulty in placing the noose round the neck of a person in a
recumbent position. When this is the case, the slumberer is suddenly
aroused by the alarm of a snake or a scorpion. He starts to his feet,
and finds the fatal sash around his neck.--He never escapes.

In addition to these Thugs who frequent the highways, there are others,
who infest the rivers, and are called Pungoos. They do not differ in
creed, but only in a few of their customs, from their brethren on shore.
They go up and down the rivers in their own boats, pretending to be
travellers of consequence, or pilgrims, proceeding to, or returning from
Benares, Allahabad, or other sacred places. The boatmen, who are also
Thugs, are not different in appearance from the ordinary boatmen on
the river. The artifices used to entice victims on board are precisely
similar to those employed by the highway Thugs. They send out their
"inveiglers" to scrape acquaintance with travellers, and find out the
direction in which they are journeying. They always pretend to be bound
for the same place, and vaunt the superior accommodation of the boat by
which they are going. The travellers fall into the snare, are led to the
Thug captain, who very often, to allay suspicion, demurs to take them,
but eventually agrees for a moderate sum. The boat strikes off into the
middle of the stream; the victims are amused and kept in conversation
for hours by their insidious foes, until three taps are given on the
deck above. This is a signal from the Thugs on the look-out that
the coast is clear. In an instant the fatal noose is ready, and
the travellers are no more. The bodies are then thrown, warm and
palpitating, into the river, from a hole in the side of the boat,
contrived expressly for the purpose.

A river Thug, who was apprehended, turned approver, to save his own
life, and gave the following evidence relative to the practices of his
fraternity:--"We embarked at Rajmahul. The travellers sat on one side
of the boat, and the Thugs on the other; while we three (himself and two
"stranglers,") were placed in the stern, the Thugs on our left, and the
travellers on our right. Some of the Thugs, dressed as boatmen, were
above deck, and others walking along the bank of the river, and pulling
the boat by the joon, or rope, and all, at the same time, on the
look-out. We came up with a gentleman's pinnace and two baggage-boats,
and were obliged to stop, and let them go on. The travellers seemed
anxious; but were quieted by being told that the men at the rope were
tired, and must take some refreshment. They pulled out something, and
began to eat; and when the pinnace had got on a good way, they resumed
their work, and our boat proceeded. It was now afternoon; and, when
a signal was given above, that all was clear, the five Thugs who sat
opposite the travellers sprang in upon them, and, with the aid of
others, strangled them. Having done this, they broke their spinal bones,
and then threw them out of a hole made at the side, into the river, and
kept on their course; the boat being all this time pulled along by the
men on the bank."

That such atrocities as these should have been carried on for nearly
two centuries without exciting the attention of the British Government,
seems incredible. But our wonder will be diminished when we reflect upon
the extreme caution of the Thugs, and the ordinary dangers of travelling
in India. The Thugs never murder a man near his own home, and they never
dispose of their booty near the scene of the murder. They also pay, in
common with other and less atrocious robbers, a portion of their gains
to the Polygars, or native authorities of the districts in which they
reside, to secure protection. The friends and relatives of the victims,
perhaps a thousand miles off, never surmise their fate till a period
has elapsed when all inquiry would be fruitless, or, at least, extremely
difficult. They have no clue to the assassins, and very often impute to
the wild beasts of the jungles the slaughter committed by that wilder
beast, man.

There are several gradations through which every member of the
fraternity must regularly pass before he arrives at the high office of
a Bhurtote, or strangler. He is first employed as a scout--then as
a sexton--then as a Shumseea, or holder of hands, and lastly as a
Bhurtote. When a man who is not of Thug lineage, or who has not been
brought up from his infancy among them, wishes to become a strangler,
he solicits the oldest, and most pious and experienced Thug, to take him
under his protection and make him his disciple; and under his guidance
he is regularly initiated. When he has acquired sufficient experience
in the lower ranks of the profession, he applies to his Gooroo, or
preceptor, to give the finishing grace to his education, and make a
strangler of him. An opportunity is found when a solitary traveller is
to be murdered; and the tyro, with his preceptor, having seen that
the proposed victim is asleep, and in safe keeping till their
return, proceed to a neighbouring field and perform several religious
ceremonies, accompanied by three or four of the oldest and steadiest
members of the gang. The Gooroo first offers up a prayer to the goddess,
saying, "Oh, Kalee! Kun-kalee! Bhud-kalee! Oh, Kalee! Maha-kalee!
Calkutta Walee! if it seems fit to thee that the traveller now at our
lodging should die by the hands of this thy slave, vouchsafe us thy
good omen." They then sit down and watch for the good omen; and if
they receive it within half an hour, conclude that their goddess is
favourable to the claims of the new candidate for admission. If they
have a bad omen, or no omen at all, some other Thug must put the
traveller to death, and the aspirant must wait a more favourable
opportunity, purifying himself in the mean time by prayer and
humiliation for the favour of the goddess. If the good omen has
been obtained, they return to their quarters; and the Gooroo takes a
handkerchief and, turning his face to the west, ties a knot at one end
of it, inserting a rupee, or other piece of silver. This knot is called
the goor khat, or holy knot, and no man who has not been properly
ordained is allowed to tie it. The aspirant receives it reverently in
his right hand from his Gooroo, and stands over the sleeping victim,
with a Shumseea, or holder of hands, at his side. The traveller is
aroused, the handkerchief is passed around his neck, and, at a signal
from the Gooroo, is drawn tight till the victim is strangled; the
Shumseea holding his hands to prevent his making any resistance. The
work being now completed, the Bhurtote (no longer an aspirant, but an
admitted member) bows down reverently in the dust before his Gooroo, and
touches his feet with both his hands, and afterwards performs the same
respect to his relatives and friends who have assembled to witness the
solemn ceremony. He then waits for another favourable omen, when he
unties the knot and takes out the rupee, which he gives to his Gooroo,
with any other silver which he may have about him. The Gooroo adds
some of his own money, with which he purchases what they call goor, or
consecrated sugar, when a solemn sacrifice is performed, to which
all the gang are invited. The relationship between the Gooroo and his
disciple is accounted the most holy that can be formed, and subsists to
the latest period of life. A Thug may betray his father, but never his

Dark and forbidding as is the picture already drawn, it will become
still darker and more repulsive, when we consider the motives which
prompt these men to systematic murder. Horrible as their practices
would be, if love of plunder alone incited them, it is infinitely more
horrible to reflect that the idea of duty and religion is joined to the
hope of gain, in making them the scourges of their fellows. If plunder
were their sole object, there would be reason to hope, that when a
member of the brotherhood grew rich, he would rest from his infernal
toils; but the dismal superstition which he cherishes tells him never
to desist. He was sent into the world to be a slayer of men, and he
religiously works out his destiny. As religiously he educates his
children to pursue the same career, instilling into their minds, at the
earliest age, that Thuggee is the noblest profession a man can follow,
and that the dark goddess they worship will always provide rich
travellers for her zealous devotees.

The following is the wild and startling legend upon which the Thugs
found the divine origin of their sect. They believe that, in the
earliest ages of the world, a gigantic demon infested the earth, and
devoured mankind as soon as they were created. He was of so tall a
stature, that when he strode through the most unfathomable depths of the
great sea, the waves, even in tempest, could not reach above his middle.
His insatiable appetite for human flesh almost unpeopled the world,
until Bhawanee, Kalee, or Davee, the goddess of the Thugs, determined to
save mankind by the destruction of the monster. Nerving herself for the
encounter, she armed herself with an immense sword; and, meeting with
the demon, she ran him through the body. His blood flowed in torrents
as he fell dead at her feet; but from every drop there sprang up another
monster, as rapacious and as terrible as the first. Again the goddess
upraised her massive sword, and hewed down the hellish brood by
hundreds; but the more she slew, the more numerous they became. Every
drop of their blood generated a demon; and, although the goddess
endeavoured to lap up the blood ere it sprang into life, they increased
upon her so rapidly, that the labour of killing became too great for
endurance. The perspiration rolled down her arms in large drops, and she
was compelled to think of some other mode of exterminating them. In this
emergency, she created two men out of the perspiration of her body,
to whom she confided the holy task of delivering the earth from the
monsters. To each of the men she gave a handkerchief, and showed them
how to kill without shedding blood. From her they learned to tie the
fatal noose; and they became, under her tuition, such expert stranglers,
that, in a very short space of time, the race of demons became extinct.

When there were no more to slay, the two men sought the great goddess,
in order to return the handkerchiefs. The grateful Bhawanee desired that
they would retain them, as memorials of their heroic deeds; and in order
that they might never lose the dexterity that they had acquired in using
them, she commanded that, from thenceforward, they should strangle
men. These were the two first Thugs, and from them the whole race
have descended. To the early Thugs the goddess was more direct in her
favours, than she has been to their successors. At first, she undertook
to bury the bodies of all the men they slew and plundered, upon the
condition that they should never look back to see what she was doing.
The command was religiously observed for many ages, and the Thugs relied
with implicit faith upon the promise of Bhawanee; but as men became
more corrupt, the ungovernable curiosity of a young Thug offended the
goddess, and led to the withdrawal of a portion of her favour. This
youth, burning with a desire to see how she made her graves, looked
back, and beheld her in the act, not of burying, but of devouring, the
body of a man just strangled. Half of the still palpitating remains was
dangling over her lips. She was so highly displeased that she condemned
the Thugs, from that time forward, to bury their victims themselves.
Another account states that the goddess was merely tossing the body in
the air; and that, being naked, her anger was aggravated by the gaze
of mortal eyes upon her charms. Before taking a final leave of her
devotees, she presented them with one of her teeth for a pickaxe, one
of her ribs for a knife, and the hem of her garment for a noose. She has
not since appeared to human eyes.

The original tooth having been lost in the lapse of ages, new pickaxes
have been constructed, with great care and many ceremonies, by each
considerable gang of Thugs, to be used in making the graves of strangled
travellers. The pickaxe is looked upon with the utmost veneration by
the tribe. A short account of the process of making it, and the rites
performed, may be interesting, as showing still further their gloomy
superstition. In the first place, it is necessary to fix upon a lucky
day. The chief Thug then instructs a smith to forge the holy instrument:
no other eye is permitted to see the operation. The smith must engage
in no other occupation until it is completed, and the chief Thug never
quits his side during the process. When the instrument is formed, it
becomes necessary to consecrate it to the especial service of Bhawnee.
Another lucky day is chosen for this ceremony, care being had in the
mean time that the shadow of no earthly thing fall upon the pickaxe, as
its efficacy would be for ever destroyed. A learned Thug then sits down;
and turning his face to the west, receives the pickaxe in a brass
dish. After muttering some incantation, he throws it into a pit already
prepared for it, where it is washed in clear water. It is then taken
out, and washed again three times; the first time in sugar and water,
the second in sour milk, and the third in spirits. It is then dried,
and marked from the head to the point with seven red spots. This is the
first part of the ceremony: the second consists in its purification
by fire. The pickaxe is again placed upon the brass dish, along with a
cocoa-nut, some sugar, cloves, white sandal-wood, and other articles. A
fire of the mango tree, mixed with dried cow-dung, is then kindled;
and the officiating Thug, taking the pickaxe with both hands, passes it
seven times through the flames.

It now remains to be ascertained whether the goddess is favourable to
her followers. For this purpose, the cocoa-nut is taken from the
dish and placed upon the ground. The officiating Thug, turning to the
spectators, and holding the axe uplifted, asks, "Shall I strike?" Assent
being given, he strikes the nut with the but-end of the axe, exclaiming,
"All hail! mighty Davee! great mother of us all!" The spectators
respond, "All hail! mighty Davee! and prosper thy children, the Thugs!"

If the nut is severed at the first blow, the goddess is favourable;
if not, she is unpropitious: all their labour is thrown away, and the
ceremony must be repeated upon some more fitting occasion. But if the
sign be favourable, the axe is tied carefully in a white cloth and
turned towards the west, all the spectators prostrating themselves
before it. It is then buried in the earth, with its point turned in the
direction the gang wishes to take on their approaching expedition. If
the goddess desires to warn them that they will be unsuccessful, or that
they have not chosen the right track, the Thugs believe that the point
of the axe will veer round, and point to the better way. During an
expedition, it is entrusted to the most prudent and exemplary Thug of
the party: it is his care to hold it fast. If by any chance he should
let it fall, consternation spreads through the gang: the goddess is
thought to be offended; the enterprise is at once abandoned; and the
Thugs return home in humiliation and sorrow, to sacrifice to their
gloomy deity, and win back her estranged favour. So great is the
reverence in which they hold the sacred axe, that a Thug will never
break an oath that he has taken upon it. He fears that, should he
perjure himself, his neck would be so twisted by the offended Bhawanee
as to make his face turn to his back; and that, in the course of a few
days, he would expire in the most excruciating agonies.

The Thugs are diligent observers of signs and omens. No expedition
is ever undertaken before the auspices are solemnly taken. Upon this
subject Captain Sleeman says, "Even the most sensible approvers, who
have been with me for many years, as well Hindoos as Mussulmans, believe
that their good or ill success depended upon the skill with which the
omens were discovered and interpreted, and the strictness with which
they were observed and obeyed. One of the old Sindouse stock told me,
in presence of twelve others, from Hydrabad, Behar, the Dooah, Oude,
Rajpootana, and Bundelcund, that, had they not attended to these omens,
they never could have thrived as they did. In ordinary cases of murder,
other men seldom escaped punishment, while they and their families had,
for ten generations, thrived, although they had murdered hundreds of
people. 'This,' said the Thug,' could never have been the case had we
not attended to omens, and had not omens been intended for us. There
were always signs around us to guide us to rich booty, and warn us of
danger, had we been always wise enough to discern them and religious
enough to attend to them.' Every Thug present concurred with him from
his soul."

A Thug, of polished manners and great eloquence, being asked by a native
gentleman, in the presence of Captain Sleeman, whether he never felt
compunction in murdering innocent people, replied with a smile that he
did not. "Does any man," said he, "feel compunction in following his
trade? and are not all our trades assigned us by Providence?" He was
then asked how many people he had killed with his own hands in the
course of his life? "I have killed none," was the reply. "What! and
have you not been describing a number of murders in which you were
concerned?" "True; but do you suppose that I committed them? Is any man
killed by man's killing? Is it not the hand of God that kills, and are
we not the mere instruments in the hands of God?"

Upon another occasion, Sahib, an approver, being asked if he had never
felt any pity or compunction at murdering old men or young children,
or persons with whom he had sat and conversed, and who had told him,
perchance, of their private affairs--their hopes and their fears, their
wives and their little ones? replied unhesitatingly that he never did.
From the time that the omens were favourable, the Thugs considered all
the travellers they met as victims thrown into their hands by their
divinity to be killed. The Thugs were the mere instruments in the hands
of Bhawanee to destroy them. "If we did not kill them," said Sahib, "the
goddess would never again be propitious to us, and we and our families
would be involved in misery and want. If we see or hear a bad omen, it
is the order of the goddess not to kill the travellers we are in pursuit
of, and we dare not disobey."

As soon as an expedition has been planned, the goddess is consulted. On
the day chosen for starting, which is never during the unlucky months of
July, September, and December, nor on a Wednesday or Thursday; the chief
Thug of the party fills a brass jug with water, which he carries in
his right hand by his side. With his left, he holds upon his breast
the sacred pickaxe, wrapped carefully in a white cloth, along with five
knots of turmeric, two copper, and one silver coin. He then moves slowly
on, followed by the whole of the gang, to some field or retired place,
where halting, with his countenance turned in the direction they wish
to pursue, he lifts up his eyes to heaven, saying, "Great goddess!
universal mother! if this, our meditated expedition, be fitting in thy
sight, vouchsafe to help us, and give us the signs of thy approbation."
All the Thugs present solemnly repeat the prayer after their leader, and
wait in silence for the omen. If within half an hour they see Pilhaoo,
or good omen on the left, it signifies that the goddess has taken them
by the left hand to lead them on; if they see the Thibaoo, or omen on
the right, it signifies that she has taken them by the right hand also.
The leader then places the brazen pitcher on the ground and sits down
beside it, with his face turned in the same direction for seven hours,
during which time his followers make all the necessary preparations
for the journey. If, during this interval, no unfavourable signs are
observed, the expedition advances slowly, until it arrives at the bank
of the nearest stream, when they all sit down and eat of the goor, or
consecrated sugar. Any evil omens that are perceived after this ceremony
may be averted by sacrifices; but any evil omens before, would at once
put an end to the expedition.

Among the evil omens are the following:--If the brazen pitcher drops
from the hand of the Jemadar or leader, it threatens great evil either
to him or to the gang--sometimes to both. If they meet a funeral
procession, a blind man, a lame man, an oil-vender, a carpenter, a
potter, or a dancing-master, the expedition will be dangerous. In like
manner it is unlucky to sneeze, to meet a woman with an empty pail, a
couple of jackals, or a hare. The crossing of their path by the latter
is considered peculiarly inauspicious. Its cry at night on the left is
sometimes a good omen, but if they hear it on the right it is very bad;
a warning sent to them from Bhawanee that there is danger if they kill.
Should they disregard this warning, and led on by the hope of gain,
strangle any traveller, they would either find no booty on him, or such
booty as would eventually lead to the ruin and dispersion of the gang.
Bhawanee would be wroth with her children; and causing them to perish in
the jungle, would send the hares to drink water out of their skulls.

The good omens are quite as numerous as the evil. It promises a
fortunate expedition, if, on the first day, they pass through a village
where there is a fair. It is also deemed fortunate, if they hear wailing
for the dead in any village but their own. To meet a woman with a
pitcher full of water upon her head, bodes a prosperous journey and a
safe return. The omen is still more favourable if she be in a state of
pregnancy. It is said of the Thugs of the Jumaldehee and Lodaha tribes,
that they always make the youngest Thug of the party kick the body of
the first person they strangle, five times on the back, thinking that
it will bring them good luck. This practice, however, is not general. If
they hear an ass bray on the left at the commencement of an expedition,
and an another soon afterwards on the right, they believe that they
shall be supereminently successful, that they shall strangle a multitude
of travellers, and find great booty.

After every murder a solemn sacrifice, called the Tuponee, is performed
by all the gang. The goor, or consecrated sugar, is placed upon a large
cloth or blanket, which is spread upon the grass. Beside it is deposited
the sacred pickaxe, and a piece of silver for an offering. The Jemadar,
or chief of the party, together with all the oldest and most prudent
Thugs, take their places upon the cloth, and turn their faces to the
west. Those inferior Thugs who cannot find room upon the privileged
cloth, sit round as close to it as possible. A pit is then dug, into
which the Jemadar pours a small quantity of the goor, praying at
the same time that the goddess will always reward her followers with
abundant spoils. All the Thugs repeat the prayer after him. He then
sprinkles water upon the pickaxe, and puts a little of the goor upon
the head of every one who has obtained a seat beside him on the cloth.
A short pause ensues, when the signal for strangling is given, as if a
murder were actually about to be committed, and each Thug eats his
goor in solemn silence. So powerful is the impression made upon their
imagination by this ceremony, that it almost drives them frantic with
enthusiasm. Captain Sleeman relates, that when he reproached a Thug for
his share in a murder of great atrocity, and asked him whether he never
felt pity; the man replied, "We all feel pity sometimes; but the goor of
the Tuponee changes our nature; it would change the nature of a horse.
Let any man once taste of that goor, and he will be a Thug, though he
know all the trades and have all the wealth in the world. I never was in
want of food; my mother's family was opulent, and her relations high
in office. I have been high in office myself, and became so great a
favourite wherever I went that I was sure of promotion; yet I was always
miserable when absent from my gang, and obliged to return to Thuggee. My
father made me taste of that fatal goor, when I was yet a mere boy; and
if I were to live a thousand years I should never be able to follow any
other trade."

The possession of wealth, station in society, and the esteem of his
fellows, could not keep this man from murder. From his extraordinary
confession we may judge of the extreme difficulty of exterminating a
sect who are impelled to their horrid practises, not only by the motives
of self-interest which govern mankind in general, but by a fanaticism
which fills up the measure of their whole existence. Even severity
seems thrown away upon the followers of this brutalizing creed. To them,
punishment is no example; they have no sympathy for a brother Thug who
is hung at his own door by the British Government, nor have they any
dread of his fate. Their invariable idea is, that their goddess
only suffers those Thugs to fall into the hands of the law, who have
contravened the peculiar observances of Thuggee, and who have neglected
the omens she sent them for their guidance.

To their neglect of the warnings of the goddess they attribute all the
reverses which have of late years befallen their sect. It is expressly
forbidden, in the creed of the old Thugs, to murder women or cripples.
The modern Thugs have become unscrupulous upon this point, murdering
women, and even children, with unrelenting barbarity. Captain Sleeman
reports several conversations upon this subject, which he held at
different times with Thugs, who had been taken prisoners, or who had
turned approvers. One of them, named Zolfukar, said, in reply to the
Captain, who accused him of murdering women, "Yes, and was not the
greater part of Feringeea's and my gang seized, after we had murdered
the two women and the little girl, at Manora, in 1830? and were we not
ourselves both seized soon after? How could we survive things like that?
Our ancestors never did such things." Lalmun, another Thug, in reply to
a similar question, said, "Most of our misfortunes have come upon us for
the murder of women. We all knew that they would come upon us some day,
for this and other great sins. We were often admonished, but we did not
take warning; and we deserve our fates." In speaking of the supposed
protection which their goddess had extended to them in former times,
Zolfukar said:--"Ah! we had some regard for religion then! We have lost
it since. All kinds of men have been made Thugs, and all classes of
people murdered, without distinction; and little attention has been paid
to omens. How, after this, could we think to escape? * * * * Davee never
forsook us till we neglected her!"

It might be imagined that men who spoke in this manner of the anger of
the goddess, and who, even in custody, showed so much veneration for
their unhappy calling, would hesitate before they turned informers, and
laid bare the secrets and exposed the haunts of their fellows:--among
the more civilized ruffians of Europe, we often find the one chivalrous
trait of character, which makes them scorn a reward that must be earned
by the blood of their accomplices: but in India there is no honour among
thieves. When the approvers are asked, if they, who still believe in
the power of the terrible goddess Davee, are not afraid to incur her
displeasure by informing of their fellows, they reply, that Davee
has done her worst in abandoning them. She can inflict no severer
punishment, and therefore gives herself no further concern about her
degenerate children. This cowardly doctrine is, however, of advantage
to the Government that seeks to put an end to the sect, and has thrown
a light upon their practices, which could never have been obtained from
other sources.

Another branch of the Thug abomination has more recently been discovered
by the indefatigable Captain Sleeman. The followers of this sect are
called MEGPUNNAS, and they murder travellers, not to rob them of their
wealth, but of their children, whom they afterwards sell into slavery.
They entertain the same religious opinions as the Thugs, and have
carried on their hideous practices, and entertained their dismal
superstition, for about a dozen years with impunity. The report of
Captain Sleeman states, that the crime prevails almost exclusively
in Delhi and the native principalities, or Rajpootana of Ulwar and
Bhurtpore; and that it first spread extensively after the siege of
Bhurtpore in 1826.

The original Thugs never or rarely travel with their wives; but the
Megpunnas invariably take their families with them, the women and
children being used to inveigle the victims. Poor travellers are always
chosen by the Megpunnas as the objects of their murderous traffic. The
females and children are sent on in advance to make acquaintance with
emigrants or beggars on the road, travelling with their families, whom
they entice to pass the night in some secluded place, where they are
afterwards set upon by the men, and strangled. The women take care of
the children. Such of them as are beautiful are sold at a high price
to the brothels of Delhi, or other large cities; while the boys and
ill-favoured girls are sold for servants at a more moderate rate. These
murders are perpetrated perhaps five hundred miles from the homes of
the unfortunate victims; and the children thus obtained, deprived of all
their relatives, are never inquired after. Even should any of their kin
be alive, they are too far off and too poor to institute inquiries. One
of the members, on being questioned, said the Megpunnas made more money
than the other Thugs; it was more profitable to kill poor people for the
sake of their children, than rich people for their wealth. Megpunnaism
is supposed by its votaries to be, like Thuggee, under the immediate
protection of the great goddess Davee, or Kalee, whose favour is to be
obtained before the commencement of every expedition, and whose omens,
whether of good or evil, are to be diligently sought on all occasions.
The first apostle to whom she communicated her commands for the
formation of the new sect, and the rules and ordinances by which it was
to be guided, was called Kheama Jemadar. He was considered so holy a
man, that the Thugs and Megpunnas considered it an extreme felicity
to gaze upon and touch him. At the moment of his arrest by the British
authorities, a fire was raging in the village, and the inhabitants
gathered round him and implored him to intercede with his god, that
the flames might be extinguished. The Megpunna, says the tradition,
stretched forth his hand to heaven, prayed, and the fire ceased

There now only remain to be considered the exertions that have been made
to remove from the face of India this purulent and disgusting sore.
From the year 1807 until 1826, the proceedings against Thuggee were not
carried on with any extraordinary degree of vigour; but, in the
latter year, the Government seems to have begun to act upon a settled
determination to destroy it altogether. From 1826 to 1855, both
included, there were committed to prison, in the various Presidencies,
1562 persons accused of this crime. Of these, 328 were hanged; 999
transported; 77 imprisoned for life; 71 imprisoned for shorter periods;
21 held to bail; and only 21 acquitted. Of the remainder, 31 died in
prison, before they were brought to trial, 11 escaped, and 49 turned

One Feringeea, a Thug leader of great notoriety, was delivered up to
justice in the year 1830, in consequence of the reward of five hundred
rupees offered for his apprehension by the Government. He was brought
before Captain Sleeman, at Sangir, in the December of that year, and
offered, if his life were spared, to give such information as would
lead to the arrest of several extensive gangs which had carried on their
murderous practices undetected for several years. He mentioned the place
of rendezvous, for the following February, of some well organized gangs,
who were to proceed into Guzerat and Candeish. Captain Sleeman appeared
to doubt his information; but accompanied the Thug to a mango grove, two
stages from Sangir, on the road to Seronage. They reached this place in
the evening, and in the morning Feringeea pointed out three places in
which he and his gang had, at different intervals, buried the bodies of
three parties of travellers whom they had murdered. The sward had grown
over all the spots, and not the slightest traces were to be seen that
it had ever been disturbed. Under the sod of Captain Sleeman's tent were
found the bodies of the first party, consisting of a pundit and his six
attendants, murdered in 1818. Another party of five, murdered in 1824,
were under the ground at the place where the Captain's horses had been
tied up for the night; and four Brahmin carriers of the Ganges water,
with a woman, were buried under his sleeping tent. Before the ground
was moved, Captain Sleeman expressed some doubts; but Feringeea, after
looking at the position of some neighbouring trees, said he would risk
his life on the accuracy of his remembrance. The workmen dug five feet
without discovering the bodies; but they were at length found a little
beyond that depth, exactly as the Thug had described them. With this
proof of his knowledge of the haunts of his brethren, Feringeea was
promised his liberty and pardon if he would aid in bringing to justice
the many large gangs to which he had belonged, and which were still
prowling over the country. They were arrested in the February following,
at the place of rendezvous pointed out by the approver, and most of them
condemned and executed.

So far we learn from Captain Sleeman, who only brought down his tables
to the close of the year 1835. A writer in the "Foreign Quarterly
Review" furnishes an additional list of 241 persons, committed to
prison in 1836, for being concerned in the murder and robbery of 474
individuals. Of these criminals, 91 were sentenced to death, and 22 to
imprisonment for life, leaving 306, who were sentenced to transportation
for life, or shorter periods of imprisonment, or who turned approvers,
or died in gaol. Not one of the whole number was acquitted.

Great as is this amount of criminals who have been brought to justice,
it is to be feared that many years must elapse before an evil so deeply
rooted can be eradicated. The difficulty is increased by the utter
hopelessness of reformation as regards the survivors. Their numbers
are still calculated to amount to ten thousand persons, who, taking the
average of three murders annually for each, as calculated by Captain
Sleeman and other writers, murder every year thirty thousand of their
fellow creatures. This average is said to be under the mark; but even if
we were to take it at only a third of this calculation, what a frightful
list it would be! When religion teaches men to go astray, they go far
astray indeed!


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