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Title: Charles Bradlaugh: a Record of His Life and Work, Volume II (of 2) - With an Account of his Parliamentary Struggle, Politics and Teachings. Seventh Edition
Author: Robertson, J. M. (John Mackinnon), 1856-1933, Bonner, Hypatia Bradlaugh
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Charles Bradlaugh: a Record of His Life and Work, Volume II (of 2) - With an Account of his Parliamentary Struggle, Politics and Teachings. Seventh Edition" ***

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LIFE AND WORK, VOLUME II (OF 2)***


Transcriber's note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).



[Illustration: CHARLES BRADLAUGH Born Sept. 26, 1833 Died Jan. 30,
1891]


CHARLES BRADLAUGH

A Record of His Life and Work by His Daughter.

HYPATIA BRADLAUGH BONNER.

With an Account of his Parliamentary Struggle
Politics and Teachings by

JOHN M. ROBERTSON, M.P.

Seventh Edition

With Portraits and Appendices



T. Fisher Unwin
London               Leipsic
Adelphi Terrace      Inselstrasse 20
1908

All Rights Reserved



VOL. II.


  CHAPTER I.

  IN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN                                           1

  The _Parthia_--Mr J. Walter, M.P.--Sumner's opinion
  of Mr Bradlaugh's lecture--The Delaware Clionian Society--Milwaukee
  --Chicago--Intense cold--Mrs Lucretia Mott--A third
  lecturing tour--Dr Otis--The currency question--Religious
  animus--Death of Henry Wilson--In St Luke's Hospital, New
  York, with typhoid fever--Moncure D. Conway--Return.

  CHAPTER II.

  MRS BESANT                                                          12

  A friend lost--A friend gained--Mrs Besant and Mr Bradlaugh--"Ajax"--The
  Knowlton pamphlet--Advantages and disadvantages
  of a dual defence.

  CHAPTER III.

  THE PROSECUTION OF MR BRADLAUGH AND MRS BESANT 20

  Appointment to sell the pamphlet--Arrested on a warrant--At
  the Guildhall--Application for a writ of _certiorari_--The Lord
  Chief Justice--Who was the prosecutor?--The trial at Westminster--The
  witnesses--The jury--The verdict--The judgment--Execution
  of sentence stayed--The Court of Appeal quashes
  indictment--Expenses of defence paid by subscription--The City--Other
  proceedings--Mr Truelove's trial and sentence--Effect of
  the prosecutions.

  CHAPTER IV.

  AN UNIMPORTANT CHAPTER                                              30

  Side lights--"Man, whence and how?"--The Turberville legacy--From
  Turner Street to Circus Road--Selling the Knowlton
  pamphlet--The day of arrest--At Westminster--Mr G. J. Holyoake--The
  hearing of the sentence--A riding accident.

  CHAPTER V.

  MORE DEBATES                                                        39

  Rev. Brewin Grant--Rev. A. Mursell--Mr Walter R. Browne--Mr
  Robert Roberts, a Christadelphian--Mr William Simpson--Mr
  Gordon--Rev. John Lightfoot--Rev. R. A. Armstrong--Rev.
  W. M. Westerby.

  CHAPTER VI.

  SOME LATER LECTURES                                                 52

  At Oxford--The Suez Canal--Carrying "consolation"--At
  Congleton--At Newman Street, London--Edinburgh--Professor
  Flint--Scarborough.

  CHAPTER VII.

  LUNATICS                                                            59

  Letters--"A mission from God"--John Sladen and the Queen.

  CHAPTER VIII.

  THE "WATCH" STORY                                                   63

  The defiance of Deity an ancient idea--_The British Monarchy_--Abner
  Kneeland--Emma Martin--G. J. Holyoake--Charles
  Capper, M. P.--The _Razor_--Rev. P. R. Jones, M. A., Dr Harrison,
  and other clergymen--The _Christian_ and other journals--The
  Rev. Basil Wilberforce--Dr Parker--The _British Empire_--_Prosecution_
  of Edgecumbe--Reckless swearing--A bad plea,
  "embarrassing and unfair"--Edgecumbe missing--The reward
  of Mr Bradlaugh's forbearance.

  CHAPTER IX.

  OTHER FABLES                                                        76

  The "cob of coal"--The "old woman"--Story narrated by
  the Rev. H. W. Webb-Peploe--Personal slanders--The _World_--Action
  against Mr Laker--Poisoning the Prince of Wales--A
  "bagman"--A common accusation.

  CHAPTER X.

  PEACE DEMONSTRATIONS, 1878                                          82

  The "Jingo" fever--Meetings in favour of peace--Auberon
  Herbert and C. Bradlaugh in Hyde Park--Preparing for difficulties--The
  war party--The fight--Second Hyde Park meeting--Mr
  Bradlaugh injured--Ill and depressed.

  CHAPTER XI.

  THE NATIONAL SECULAR SOCIETY                                        86

  The first general association of Freethinkers--Objects of the
  Society--Its President--First secular almanac--The work of the
  Society--Mr Bradlaugh's resignation.

  CHAPTER XII.

  THE LAST CHAPTER                                                    91

  Six years of fighting--A record of injustice--Some who help to
  find the money to defend the right--Mr Bradlaugh's habits and
  surroundings--His commercial pursuits--Money difficulties--Death
  of Alice Bradlaugh--Mr Bradlaugh's illness--Plans for the
  future--India--Last illness--Memorials.


  Part II.

  BY JOHN M. ROBERTSON.

  CHAPTER I.

  PHILOSOPHY AND SECULAR PROPAGANDA.

  §1. Meaning of "Atheism"                                           115

  §2. Bradlaugh's statement of Atheism                               122

  §3. "Materialism" and its critics                                  127

  §4. Bradlaugh's popular propaganda                                 139

  §5. Secularist ethics                                              154


  CHAPTER II.

  POLITICAL DOCTRINE AND WORK.

   §1. The Republican movement                                       165

   §2. The Neo-Malthusian movement                                   169

   §3. Bradlaugh and the land laws                                   179

   §4. Bradlaugh and Socialism                                       185

   §5. The Irish question                                            191

   §6. Bradlaugh and India                                           198


  CHAPTER III.

  THE PARLIAMENTARY STRUGGLE.

  _Chronological Summary_                                            203

   §1. Northampton election of 1880                                  208

   §2. The raising of the oath question                              211

   §3. Bradlaugh's request to be let affirm; opposition of select
       committee                                                     216

   §4. His first attempt to take the oath; opposition of select
       committee                                                     224

   §5. The affirmation question again; opposition of the House       234

   §6. Bradlaugh insists on taking the oath; arrested and released; at
       length sits on affirmation                                    240

   §7. His action in the House; enmity outside                       248

   §8. The lawsuit of Clarke and Newdegate--Bradlaugh unseated and
       re-elected (1881)                                             259

   §9. Renewed conflict in Parliament                                265

  §10. Agitation and discussion in the country                       274

  §11. Bradlaugh's return litigation against Newdegate               277

  §12. Insisting on entering the House, is ejected by physical force
       (Aug. 1881)                                                   281

  §13. Further litigation and discussion                             289

  §14. Bradlaugh again at the table of the House--takes the oath--the
       seat again vacated (February 1882)                            293

  §15. The new election--fresh agitation                             301

  §16. Fresh litigation                                              305

  §17. Outside discussion--Bradlaugh and Manning                     307

  §18. The _Freethinker_ blasphemy prosecution                       316

  §19. Renewal of the constitutional struggle--fresh debating in the
       House                                                         334

  §20. Bradlaugh again takes the oath--again unseated, and again
       elected (1884)                                                343

  §21. Continued litigation--end of the struggle                     351

  §22. The effect of the struggle on parties                         362

  §23. Its constitutional importance                                 365


  CHAPTER IV.

  CLOSING YEARS.

  1886                                                               368

  1887                                                               374

  1888                                                               384

  1889                                                               404

  1890-1891                                                          410

  Conclusion--Bradlaugh's personality                                421


  INDEX                                                              445



CHARLES BRADLAUGH.



CHAPTER I.

IN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN.


Mr. Bradlaugh had agreed to make a second lecturing tour through the
States in the autumn of 1874, and he started on it under the most
inauspicious circumstances. We have just seen how he was obliged to
delay his journey--just as earlier in the year he had been obliged to
hasten his return--to contest the election at Northampton, where he
was once more defeated for the third and last time. He had originally
taken his passage by the White Star Line, in the _Republic_, leaving on
September 24th. At his request the owners obligingly transferred him
to the _Baltic_, leaving October 1st. Unable to get away by this boat,
he forfeited his passage, and leaving Northampton on the night of the
poll, he just caught the Cunard ship the _Parthia_ at Queenstown on the
7th. He started on his voyage despondent, utterly wearied, and with
"a tightish sensation about the heart," for he had hoped and believed
until the last half-hour that he was going to win the election. He
thought, too, that before he had left the town he had succeeded in
pacifying his disappointed and angry supporters in Northampton, but the
receipt of a telegram at Holyhead, telling him of the rioting there and
the calling out of the military, depressed him more than ever.

When he got on board the _Parthia_ a curious little incident happened.
As he was "standing gloomily, watching the last package carried on
board," he wrote, "I was approached by a man, a steerage passenger,
who, reverently touching his billycock hat, said, 'Father, do you go
with us to the other side?' For a moment I was puzzled; but seeing
that the man was serious, I answered, 'You are mistaken; I am not a
Father.' The man looked dubious, nervously scratched the deck with a
blackthorn held loosely in his left hand, and rejoined, 'No offence
meant; I ask your reverence's pardon, but anyhow, it will be a blessing
to have you with us on board, Father.' That I looked clerical I had
been told by the _Gaulois_, which described me in 1871, when attending
the Paris Courts Martial, as dressed like a bishop; but this man's
evidently earnest disbelief in my repudiation of priestly honours,
coupled with his quiet acquiescence, made me doubt whether I was really
the man who had been placarded a few hours before in Northampton as
'Bradlaugh the Blasphemer.'"

The journey began badly, and continued so until New Jersey was sighted.
The sea was rough, the _Parthia_ rolled, and the captain proved a
churl. The embarkation of the steerage passengers was managed with an
"uncouth harshness" which was painful to witness; to threaten "to put
a man 'in irons' for coming back to give a last wave of his hand to a
weeping sweetheart," commented my father, "was just a little too hard."
On the 17th the passengers on board the _Parthia_ had the mortification
of seeing the _Adriatic_ (White Star Line), which had left Liverpool
two days after them, pass them, and forge ahead with a speed which soon
left the _Parthia_ behind. Everything seemed combined to render his
journey unpleasant and vexatious.[1]

[Footnote 1: In reference to Mr Bradlaugh's voyage in the _Parthia_ I
append an extract from the _New York Herald_ for 7th September 1881,
which purports to be an account of an interview between the reporter of
that journal and Mr J. Walter, M.P., of the _Times_:--

"THE BRADLAUGH INCIDENT.

"'Don't you think Bradlaugh was harshly treated?' 'Oh dear, no,' was
Mr. Walter's eager response. 'That's all nonsense about his having
crysipelas, and having been so brutally treated. He's a perfect
ruffian. A fellow-passenger on the _Bothnia_ told me of Bradlaugh and
some of his comrades violently disturbing some religious services
held on board the _Parthia_, so that Captain Watson was compelled to
threaten him with putting him in irons before he would stop.'"

My father, of course, wrote to the _New York Herald_ and to Mr Walter,
contradicting this, saying that the statement was "monstrously untrue."
He made only the one voyage on the _Parthia_; he said: "No attempt
of any kind was made by any one to disturb religious services during
that voyage. There was a disagreement between Captain Watson and
the passengers as to the singing after dinner in the smoking-room,
but it had not the smallest connection with religious services. The
particulars were given in a letter signed by the passengers, and which
was published at the time in several of the American papers. I never
sang in my life, and was most certainly not even one of the singers."]

My father arrived in New York unfortunately too late for many of his
engagements. He was due to speak in Dartmouth College (New Hampshire)
on the 20th, and he had barely time to get there. On the way he
was delighted to meet Henry Wilson in the train. They chatted long
together, enjoying each other's company, and talking much of Charles
Sumner, a man reverenced and honoured by both, who had died since
Mr Bradlaugh's last visit to America. As it happened, too, Sumner's
opinion of my father's first lecture in Boston had only lately been
published in the Boston papers. It was given in a letter written
by Wendell Phillips in reply to some inquiries made of him by the
Secretary of a lecture committee at Winchester, Mass. The letter ran:--

 "DEAR SIR,--In reply to your note of October 1st would say: I
 heard Mr Bradlaugh the first time he spoke in Boston. What Mr Sumner,
 who sat near me, said of that lecture, will deservedly have more
 influence and weight than any opinion of mine. While Bradlaugh was
 speaking, Sumner looked to me and said, 'This is very fine.' At the
 close of the lecture he remarked, 'This is, I think, the most eloquent
 speech I have heard for some years.'

  WENDELL PHILLIPS."

  "BOSTON, _October 2, 1874_."

At Dartmouth Mr Bradlaugh lectured to the students in their church, and
the Rev. Dr Smith, President of the College, presided at his lecture.
Two days later he was speaking at Cambridge, having this time a fine
audience of over a thousand persons, including most of the Cambridge
professors and a strong force from Harvard College. At Philadelphia
on the 25th he won the sympathies of a crowded meeting, although here
he had been publicly preached against, and people had been warned not
to go to his lecture. At Charlestown (Mass.) he spoke in the Trinity
Methodist Episcopal Church, with the pastor, the Rev. Mark Trafton, as
president. In Boston he spoke in the Rev. James Freeman Clarke's Church
of Disciples, and at Winchester in the Unitarian Church--"and yet," he
said, "miracles are not believed in!" On the journey from Bangor to
Dexter my father, at the invitation of the engine-driver, rode part
way on the engine, and he relates how he found himself "perched on a
nice soft seat in a corner, with my toes near enough to the furnace to
make me forget that a sharp frosty wind was whistling; engine-driver
Chase turned out to be quite a philosopher, and I had a pleasant time."
Presently they had to slacken speed; "there are cattle on the track,
three oxen and three full-grown calves. They run on in front, sometimes
crossing the line; we ring the bell, whistle furiously, and puff-puff
vociferously, till at last engine-driver Chase gets angry and says, 'It
is no use, those cattle are as stupid as your House of Lords.' 'Yes,' I
answered, 'and will get run down like the Lords, if they do not get off
the track.'"

Senor Castelar stated after Mr Bradlaugh's death that he was shunned
by the ladies; but Senor Castelar's English was a little at fault.
When my father was at Delaware he was taken by the students to the
Female College, "where," he said, "the president introduced me to the
senior ladies' class, who sang to me the American national hymn. I was
asked to make them a speech, and am afraid I made myself supremely
ridiculous. It is no joke to be suddenly called on to say something to
twoscore of extremely good-looking young ladies.... They all looked
happy, and gave me a very pleasant greeting, one which made me think of
my own girls at home." The girls on their side were evidently equally
pleased with their visitor, for just before my father commenced his
lecture that evening he received the following note:--

 "The members of the Clionian Society, having made Mr Bradlaugh an
 honorary member of the same, desire, if he has no serious objection,
 to see him wear their badge this evening.

  ANNA C. LONG."

He did wear the badge in his button-hole, "and very pretty it looked,
and very pretty the donors looked too as they sat in the opera-house in
front of me," he said.

In continuing his journey west he lectured at Chicago, and this time
he was fortunately able to spend some hours with Hypatia Carlile and
her husband. At Milwaukee his visit created extraordinary enthusiasm.
"Nearly all the prominent lawyers, divines, newspaper men, merchants,
thinkers, and writers of the city, with their wives, heard his first
lecture; and they applauded at shorter intervals than any lecturer ever
was applauded here before. It is rare indeed that such an aggregate
of intellect is seen gathered together at one time in this city as
was the case on Thursday, and that one man receives such approval."[2]
The Milwaukee people urgently begged for a second lecture, which a
fortunately vacant date in the following week enabled him to give them.

[Footnote 2: _Chicago Tribune._]

Iowa was the furthest point west he reached on this visit, the whole
journey covering a distance of more than 4500 miles. When he went west
again in the following February he met with a terrific snowstorm,
generally described as the worst seen for many years. At Milwaukee
the cold was so severe that at his lecture the audience sat enveloped
in furs and rugs, although the janitor protested that he had used
three tons of coal in his endeavour to warm the Music Hall. "The next
time," commented my father, "I hope he will use thirty tons." The
cold grew more and more intense, until at Fond du Lac (Wisconsin)
which he reached on 10th February, the spirit thermometers registered
forty degrees below zero. On leaving Fond du Lac there was a wait of
ten hours at the station before any train came by which he could get
to Oshkosh, where he was due that evening; at which place--reached
only just in time--he found a fine audience awaiting him in spite of
the weather, if "weather" can be looked upon as an adequate term for
atmospheric conditions where one thermometer registers forty-five
degrees below zero and the others are congealed. The following day
he was due at Madison, but as traffic was suspended he remained for
a short time snow-bound at Oshkosh. Towards the end of February his
farewell lecture was given at Chicago to the largest audience he had
had that winter. "Every seat was filled, the stage was filled, the
aisles were filled, and even the staircases were alive with people."[3]
On this journey west he did a tremendous amount of travelling; in one
stretch of eight days he was only two nights in bed.

[Footnote 3: He spoke in M'Cormick's Hall to an audience of 3600
persons, of whom 3500 had paid for admission; the hall had never been
so full before, and the audience was as enthusiastic as it was large.]

In the Eastern States he had lectured at Salem (Mass.), with Dr Loring
once more for his host and chairman, and an audience who gave him a
glorious reception, although, apart from the warmth of their greeting,
nearly everything was in "a state of unmitigated freeziness." At Bangor
(Maine), where the snow was six feet deep in drifts, and was nowhere
less than two feet save on the most travelled roads, the intense cold
(twenty-three degrees) kept away the audience; but amongst those who
did "brave the elements" was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of
Maine, who warmly congratulated Mr Bradlaugh at the end of his lecture.
At Lynn (Mass.), where he gave one of his last lectures in New England,
in going from the railway station to the hall, he humorously relates:
"I sat down twice to reflect on the uncertainty of human progress. To
sit down in snow two or three feet deep is not dangerous, but is cold,
and most certainly is ridiculous, especially when the sitter is tall
and heavy. The second time I sat down I broke one of my ribs--that
is, one of my umbrella ribs, and I filled my gloves with snow. I was
reconciled to my fate when I learned that the gentleman sent out to
escort me, and whom I had missed, had sat down three times."

At Philadelphia he spoke before the Pennsylvania Peace Society, and was
delighted to find amongst his auditors Mrs Lucretia Mott. After the
lecture Mrs Mott, on the invitation of the chairman, stood up to speak,
and, said my father, "I felt reverence for the white-haired dame, which
was mingled with astonishment when, her voice losing the tremor of
age noticeable in the first few sentences, she spoke as clearly and
distinctly as though at least thirty years had been taken from the
count of her full-spent life. I valued highly the praise she gave me."

At Boston and at New York he was welcomed as heartily as ever. After
his first lecture this time at Boston it had been noted that "for once"
the great audience, who, it was said, seemed completely under his
control, remained to hear the last word; after the last it was agreed
that his lectures had been the greatest success of the season. His
headquarters had been this time in Boston, and whenever he returned
there from his lecturing journeys receptions were given to him, and
every one seemed eager to show him some kindness or courtesy. Not the
least valued mementoes of this visit were a complete and finely bound
edition of Sumner's works, a handsome memorial volume printed in honour
of Sumner, and three fine photographs of the dead statesman. All these
were brought him at different times by the Hon. Joshua B. Smith, who
idolised the great Abolitionist. He brought these tokens of Sumner to
my father because, as he once said, "Mr Bradlaugh was the friend of one
I loved."

Although he was comparatively little at New York, still while he was
there he met amongst others James Paxton, E. C. Stedman, the poet, and
Anna E. Dickinson, who greatly charmed him by her apparent sincerity,
her eloquence, and her clearness of thought.

My father returned at the end of February, with the satisfaction of
knowing that, despite its ominous commencement, his winter's work had
been a success in every way. The liabilities incurred by his sudden
departure from the United States the year before, and his delayed
arrival this year, had been met, and his indebtedness at home had been
cleared to the extent of £1000.

He came home by the _City of Brooklyn_, and met with a very stormy
passage. There was a furious gale, the waves sweeping the decks and
bursting the doors. The wheel became unmanageable; the wheelmen were
flung right and left. "For five hours and twenty minutes," wrote my
father a week later, "our engines were stopped; the sea played with
our helpless vessel as with a toy, and the whole of those on board
stood near death's gates. Captain J. S. Murray behaved in this terrible
emergency with a courage and self-possession for which no praise can be
too high. The _City of Brooklyn_, too, proved to be a good sea boat,
and the morning light saw us out of danger; but in that twenty-four
hours we only made ninety-one miles, and the log recorded a 'violent
hurricane with mountainous seas.'"

My father's departure for the United States for his third lecturing
tour, in the autumn of 1875, was very different from that of the year
before, or even that of 1873. Now, at last, Fortune seemed to smile
upon him, and everything was propitious. He set out in gay spirits
and high hopes; his successes of the last two winters had assured him
a welcome when he reached the States, and there was every prospect
that by the time he came home again he would be able to lighten that
terrible incubus of debt even more substantially than before.

He sailed in the _City of Berlin_, then one of the largest and most
perfectly fitted Atlantic Liners afloat. He felt quite at home in her,
for there were several familiar faces amongst the officers, and the
captain was so courteous that the passengers voted him a special vote
of thanks. It is rather curious that this resolution should have been
signed on behalf of their fellow-passengers by Dr Fessenden, N. Otis,
and Mr Bradlaugh, because a little later Dr Otis proved a friend in
need to my father. On the voyage all went well, the weather was good,
and the _Berlin_ made a record passage of seven days eighteen hours.

After two or three days spent in New York my father went on to Boston,
to find that city in the throes of an election for the office of
Governor of Massachusetts. He attended a "Republican rally" at the
old Faneuil Hall, and as he sat listening to the speeches of Henry
Wilson and others, the influence of the room seemed to grow upon him;
he remembered that it was there "that Otis pleaded against Lord North
and George III.; it was there that the Boston men gathered that very
December day on which the tea was thrown overboard in Boston harbour;
it was there that groans accompanied the reading of the Boston Ports
Bill." The meeting had the still further interest to him that it was
presided over by R. H. Dana, the man who had been counsel for Anthony
Burns.

Another question was also agitating, not merely Boston, but the whole
country, and dividing parties into hostile camps, and that was the
Currency question; and as upon this subject my father and Wendell
Phillips took opposite views, their relations were by no means so
friendly as heretofore.

The religious feeling which had been raised against Mr Bradlaugh every
time was renewed with special bitterness this winter, and created
quite a panic amongst the managers of lecture courses. It is much to
their credit that the Rev. Dr Miner and the Rev. Dr Lorrimer had the
courage to disregard the outcry, and invited him to lecture to their
congregations as before.

At the end of October he was feeling very unwell, but persisted in
continuing his work, and for a week or two seemed rather better. Since
the friendship which sprang up between them on board the _City of
Berlin_, Dr Otis and my father had not lost sight of one another, and
when he became worse again he consulted Dr Otis, who strongly advised
change of scene and climate, as preparation for the hard work and the
cold which would have to be faced on his Western tour. Hence, in the
middle of November, finding himself part way there, he went on to
Washington. At Washington he found that almost his only friend in the
city, Henry Wilson, the Vice-President of the United States, was lying
sick unto death in the Capitol. He called upon him, but finding him so
ill, simply left his card. Mr Wilson, on hearing of his visit, sent his
secretary with a note--the last, I believe, that he ever wrote--asking
him to come on the following morning, but my father never saw him
again. He returned to the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York, sad and ill. Dr
Otis saw him professionally and in the report he sent to England early
in December he said he had been suffering from "much work and little
rest" for several days; later he found him suffering from pleurisy and
some threatenings of typhoid. As the fever rapidly developed, Dr Otis
suggested that he should go to St Luke's Hospital, where he could have
the best care--professional and general--and on my father agreeing,
he took him there in his own carriage on 30th November. At St Luke's
Hospital Mr Bradlaugh felt that he owed his life "to the great skill
and generous kindness of Dr Leaming, to the unremitting attentions of
Dr Abbe, and to the patient and never-ceasing care of my nurse, William
Shaw." Even before he was allowed to leave his bed it was decided he
could do no more lecturing that season, and within four days from
leaving his sick-bed he was on board the _City of Richmond_ on his way
home. Friends said he was rash--that the journey would kill him. He was
so weak that he could scarcely stand, and he shed tears almost directly
a kind word was said to him; but if his body was weak, his will was
strong; he would go, and he was sure that he would grow stronger more
quickly moving on board ship than inactive in New York. A copy of
"Alice in Wonderland" had been accidentally left in his cabin; he was
so weak that it took him nearly the whole voyage to read this little
book; he laughed over it and delighted in it like a child. Afterwards,
he always remembered it with a certain enjoyment, and was ever ready to
quote from it such touching verses as "You are old, Father William,"
"'Tis the voice of the sluggard," or "Will you walk a little faster?"

Speaking of his sudden return a week or two later, Mr Bradlaugh said:
"I came back to England because I was advised that it would have been
suicide in my weak state to face the Western winter. I come back to
Europe reluctantly, for I went to the United States to earn enough
money to pay my debts, and I am compelled to return poorer than I
left. Indeed, I owe it to Mr Moncure D. Conway's assistance that I was
enabled, at the moment, to discharge the obligations my illness had
created in New York."

Mr Conway has since told me that when he went to see my father
while he lay ill in the St Luke's Hospital, my father begged him
to make inquiries of nurse and doctors whether he had said or done
anything during the time of his illness which could be construed into
an alteration of his opinions upon religious subjects. He wished
Mr Conway, in the event of his death, to bear testimony that his
convictions had remained unchanged. Mr Conway, whose own opinions were
by no means so heretical as Mr Bradlaugh's, was nevertheless anxious
to carry out the wishes of the sick man with the utmost exactitude,
and therefore made the most scrupulous inquiries. But he only learned
that Mr Bradlaugh had been a most docile, uncomplaining, and grateful
patient, and that he had not uttered a single word which could afford
the slightest justification for a suggestion of recantation. That my
father's dread of the usual "infidel deathbed" myth was well founded
we know by what has happened since 1891. Even as it was, although he
recovered from his illness in New York, and was alive to contradict
such fables, it was actually said that he had sent for a minister to
pray with him, and one clergyman was even reported to have specified
the "minister" as a Baptist! It was long before my father entirely
recovered from this illness, and although formerly a smoker, after this
he lost all desire for a cigar. It was not until a few years before his
death that he renewed the habit, and even then only in a very modest
way--a cigar in going to the House of Commons, a cigar in coming back
he enjoyed; at other times he smoked little.

It is worth noting that while Mr Bradlaugh was in the States,
whenever he had an evening to spare, wherever he might happen to be,
he generally devoted it to going to hear some lecture or sermon, or
attending some meeting. In this way he heard, amongst others, Parker
Pilsbury, Newman Hall, O. B. Frothingham, M. D. Conway, Horace Seaver,
and Dr Miner. He two or three times attended and spoke at Women's
Suffrage meetings, and was invited on at least two occasions to take
part in Masonic festivals.

Everywhere he went he made careful inquiries into the labour conditions
of the locality, and where possible, he visited mill and factory, and
talked with both workers and employers. He also specially studied the
workings of the liquor laws in the States where they obtained, and the
effect of his observations was to decide him against them. On each
visit he wrote home weekly letters for the _National Reformer_, which
were interesting for what they told about his own doings and about
persons, and invaluable to intending emigrants for the information
they gave concerning labour in the different States which he visited.
He afterwards published the result of his investigation into labour
questions in America as a little booklet entitled "Hints to Emigrants."



CHAPTER II.

MRS BESANT.


In 1874 Mr Bradlaugh lost a friend and gained one. Between himself and
the friend he lost the tie had endured through nearly five-and-twenty
years, of which the final fourteen had been passed in the closest
friendship and communion, tarnished neither by quarrel nor mistrust.
By the death of Austin Holyoake my father lost a trusty counsellor
and loyal co-worker, and the Freethought movement lost one who for
fully twenty years had served it with that earnest fidelity, high
moral courage, and unimpeachable integrity which were amongst his
most striking characteristics. In health and in sickness he toiled
incessantly to promote the interests of the cause he had at heart, and
at no time of his life did he shrink from duty or responsibility.

Austin Holyoake died in the spring of 1874, and was buried in Highgate
Cemetery in the presence of a great crowd of sorrowing friends. Just
before his death he dictated his "Sickroom Thoughts" to his wife,
uttering the last broken paragraph only a few hours before he died. For
three years he had known that death was near, and this final statement
of his opinions on death and immortality was purposely deferred until
the last moment he deemed it prudent, so that he might leave a record
of his last deliberate opinions, and as such these "Thoughts" provoked
very considerable comment.[4]

[Footnote 4: "My mind being free from any doubts on these bewildering
matters of speculation," he said, "I have experienced for twenty years
the most perfect mental repose; and now I find that the near approach
of death, the 'grim King of Terrors,' gives me not the slightest alarm.
I have suffered, and am suffering, most intensely both by night and
day; but this has not produced the least symptom of change of opinion.
No amount of bodily torture can alter a mental conviction."]

Austin Holyoake, like his friend, lived and died a poor man, and my
father pledged himself to him on his deathbed to raise a sum of £650 to
purchase the printing and publishing business hitherto conducted by Mr
Holyoake in the interests of Freethought literature. The money raised
was to benefit the widow and the two children, and the business was to
be handed over to Mr Charles Watts. A subscription which was started
realised rather less than £550, and the National Secular Society
determined to make up the balance out of a legacy left to the President
by a Dr Berwick. Unfortunately, however, Dr Berwick's trustee absconded
with the money, and consequently, as Mr Bradlaugh had promised his dead
friend that the sum of £650 should be raised, he paid the deficiency
out of his own pocket, by weekly instalments.

Austin Holyoake, the friend Mr Bradlaugh lost, was steadfast, loyal,
unassuming, and unswerving in his opinions; Mrs Annie Besant, the
friend he gained, was even more remarkable, though in a very different
way.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having enrolled herself a member of the National Secular Society in
August 1874, Mrs Besant sought Mr Bradlaugh's acquaintance. They were
mutually attracted; and a friendship sprang up between them of so close
a nature that had both been free it would undoubtedly have ended in
marriage. In their common labours, in the risks and responsibilities
jointly undertaken, their friendship grew and strengthened, and the
insult and calumny heaped upon them only served to cement the bond.

This lasted for many years until Mrs Besant's ceaseless activity
carried her into paths widely divergent from those so long trodden by
her colleague, paths which brought her into close association with
persons strongly inimical to Mr Bradlaugh and the aims to which he was
devoting his life. For some time before he died, he had, as Mrs Besant
herself has written in her recently published _Autobiography_,[5] lost
all confidence in her judgment; she had disappointed him, and it would
be unworthy of both not to recognise that the disappointment was very
bitter, though his desire to serve her and shield her always remained
unchanged. For thirteen years she had stood upon the same platform
with him; and when she one day said that for ten years she had been
dissatisfied with her own teaching, he felt it very keenly, but he
neither uttered a word of blame himself, nor would he allow any one
else to blame her in his hearing.

[Footnote 5: See page 322.]

Every movement, every cause, has its ebbs and flows; there seems to be
only a certain amount of activity possible to men in the mass, and now
it flows in one direction, now in another. The Freethought movement,
when Mrs Besant came into it, had for some years been slowly but surely
increasing in activity and prosperity. The National Secular Society,
although not so complete an organisation as it was soon to become,
was nevertheless to be found in all the great centres of population.
The _National Reformer_, the representative organ of Freethought, in
the five years which lay between 1867 and 1872 had nearly doubled its
circulation, and was read in almost all parts of the world. It was
sent to the three presidencies of India, the United States and Canada,
New Zealand, Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, the West Indies, Egypt,
France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Germany. On its staff there were
several very able writers, and if it was not exactly a profitable
property, it at least paid its way.

People have sometimes deliberately asserted that Mrs Besant's desertion
and Mr Bradlaugh's death inflicted an irremediable injury on the cause
of Freethought, but this is merely an assertion, and one which will not
bear a moment's investigation. Happily for the human race, the growth
of public opinion does not depend upon any single man or woman, however
able, however energetic, he or she may be. The loss of a leader amongst
men may for a moment check the onward movement, and it may be there is
even a temporary reaction--a swing back--but never in the history of
the world has the loss of one of its pioneers proved an "irremediable
injury" to the cause of progress.

If indeed it should be thought, and it is a proposition that I am
not in a position to deny, that this is a moment of ebb in the tide
of Freethought, the fact would only be in harmony with the general
tendency of the times, and would prove nothing against the ultimate
acceptance of the truths of Materialism. The growth of population
in our great cities has caused the evils of poverty to press more
closely upon general attention, and the public energy is directed
towards seeking a solution for these immediately important problems,
rather than for those more abstract theorems arising out of religious
speculation.

Mrs Besant was herself obeying this tendency when, in 1886 she thought
she had found in the optimistic dreams of Socialism a remedy for this
most bitter of human ills. This was the point upon which she first
diverged from Mr Bradlaugh, and once having separated her thought from
his, the breach swiftly widened. Socialism was, as it were, the fork
in the Y of their lives. Nothing, I think, will show how far these two
had drifted asunder more than that Mr Bradlaugh should first learn of
Mrs Besant's adhesion to the Theosophical Society through an article
written by her in a weekly paper, and not from her own lips.

Mrs Besant's first contribution to the _National Reformer_ appeared
in its issue for 30th August 1874, and with that she entered in good
earnest upon the work which was to engross her for many years to come.
Over the signature of "Ajax" she commenced a series of notes, entitled
"Daybreak," which were to mark "the rising of the sun of liberty ...
when men should dare to think for themselves in theology, and act for
themselves in politics," and these notes were continued weekly for
several years. From August 1874 to April 1891 Mrs Besant remained
connected with the _National Reformer_, first as contributor, and then
as sub-editor, becoming shortly afterwards co-editor and co-proprietor.
The co-editorship was resigned in October 1887 for reasons set forth
by Mrs Besant in her _Autobiography_,[6] and the co-proprietorship
ceased with the dissolution of the partnership between herself and Mr
Bradlaugh, in December 1890.

[Footnote 6: See p. 320.]

When my father heard Mrs Besant's first lecture in August 1874, in the
Co-operative Society's Hall, Castle Street, upon the "Political Status
of Women," it impressed him as "probably the best speech by a woman"
he had ever listened to. It was not until the following year, however,
that Mrs Besant started definitely as a lecturer upon the Freethought
platform, but from that time forward she was indefatigable. She was
very fluent, with a great command of language, and her voice carried
well; her throat, weak at first, rapidly gained in strength, until she
became a most forcible speaker. Tireless as a worker, she could both
write and study longer without rest and respite than any other person
I have known; and such was her power of concentration, that she could
work under circumstances which would have confounded almost every other
person. Though not an original thinker, she had a really wonderful
power of absorbing the thoughts of others, of blending them, and of
transmuting them into glowing language. Her industry her enthusiasm,
and her eloquence made of her a very powerful ally to whatever cause
she espoused.

Mrs Besant had been connected with the Freethought party for about two
and a half years when an incident occurred which was destined to have
considerable and lasting results. In the winter of 1876 a man, alleged
to have an unpleasant reputation as a seller of indecent literature,
was convicted at Bristol for selling a pamphlet, written by an American
physician of repute, Dr Charles Knowlton. This pamphlet, entitled
"Fruits of Philosophy: An Essay on the Population Question," had been
on sale in England for forty years, and this was the first time it had
been prosecuted. It had been openly sold by James Watson, a publisher
of the highest repute, who had been dead only a short time; by Mr G.
J. Holyoake; by Austin Holyoake up to the time of his death; and by
others both in England and America. Mr Charles Watts had bought the
plates of this and other works from the widow of James Watson, and,
acting upon Mr Bradlaugh's advice, Mr Watts went to Bristol, and
declared himself the responsible publisher of the book. He was himself
arrested on 8th January 1877, and on 12th January was committed for
trial at the Central Criminal Court. The trial was to be heard on 5th
February, but before that day arrived Mr Watts came to the conclusion
that the pamphlet was indefensible, and decided to withdraw his plea
of "not guilty," and to plead "guilty" instead. Upon learning this, Mr
Bradlaugh felt exceedingly angry. "If the pamphlet now prosecuted," he
said, "had been brought to me for publication, I should probably have
declined to publish it, not because of the subject-matter, but because
I do not like its style.[7] If I had once published it, I should have
defended it until the very last." He was strongly of opinion that the
matter ought to be fought right through; and differing so widely on a
matter of principle with Mr Watts, he determined to sever all business
connection with him. He gave his reasons for this course as follows:--

[Footnote 7: The late Mr Grote, however, thought sufficiently of this
pamphlet to preserve it in his own library. He, moreover, presented a
copy to the library of the London University, where it was at the time
of this prosecution.]

"The Knowlton pamphlet is either decent or indecent. If decent,
it ought to be defended; if indecent, it should never have been
published. To judge it indecent, is to condemn, with the most severe
condemnation, James Watson, whom I respected, and Austin Holyoake,
with whom I worked. I hold the work to be defensible, and I deny the
right of any one to interfere with the full and free discussion of
social questions affecting the happiness of the nation. The struggle
for a free press has been one of the marks of the Freethought party
throughout its history, and as long as the Party permits me to hold
its flag, I will never voluntarily lower it. I have no right and no
power to dictate to Mr Watts the course he should pursue, but I have
the right and the duty to refuse to associate my name with a submission
which is utterly repugnant to my nature and inconsistent with my whole
career."

When Mr Watts' case came on for trial he pleaded "guilty," and was
released, on his own recognisances of £500, to come up for judgment
when called upon. It was contended at the trial that it was unlawful to
publish such physiological details as were to be found in Dr Knowlton's
pamphlet, even for a good purpose. Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant (who
had now entered into a formal partnership under the style of "The
Freethought Publishing Company") determined to republish the pamphlet
to test the right of publication.

A great deal was said at the time by way of blaming Mr Bradlaugh for
allowing Mrs Besant to associate herself with him in this struggle,
and of lauding Mrs Besant for her great courage in this defence. Many
were the unworthy taunts cast at Mr Bradlaugh for "sheltering" himself
"behind a woman," though not one of those who sneered stayed to reflect
that even if this association had some advantages it also had distinct
disadvantages. The gain was both to the principles involved, and to my
father personally. To see a woman brave enough to stand by the side
of a man in defence of the free publication of unpopular doctrines,
was an incentive to the public to investigate those doctrines with
a view to forming an independent judgment upon them; it was also an
inspiration and a constant spur to the man--had he been the one to need
spur or inspiration in such a cause. Mrs Besant's unwearying industry
in working up the extra-legal side of the case, in hunting up in other
works statements of physiological fact exactly similar to or stronger
than those found in the prosecuted pamphlet, was invaluable. In the
week which intervened between the verdict and the sentence on their
own case, Mr Bradlaugh took the opportunity to express his appreciation
of Mrs Besant's work, and this despite the fact that her decision to
join in the defence was contrary to his wish and advice. He wrote:--

"I have often faced hard toil, but I have never had to encounter
persistent, wearying, anxious labour greater than that of the last
three months. And here--while my hand is yet free to pen these
lines--let me record my deep sense of gratitude to the woman who
has shared my fight, aided me by her help, encouraged me by her
steadfastness, and strengthened me by her counsel. It is not alone
the brilliant eloquence, patient endurance, and sustained effort
manifested for so many hours in the Court--qualities displayed by Mrs
Besant, which, coupled with her great tact, won repeated praise from
the Lord Chief Justice, and congratulations from almost the whole of
the barristers who crowded the Court--so much of Mrs Besant's work has
been recorded by most of the press in terms of the highest laudation.
The personal acknowledgment from myself is more due for the weeks of
unrecognised but most wearying and continued drudgery in analysing a
mass of scientific works, searching out authorities, and generally
preparing the huge body of materials required for use on the trial. Few
can appreciate the enormous labour involved in the careful analysis of
medical works, and their comparison, line by line, with the Knowlton
Pamphlet. Yet, without this labour, the defence would have been
impossible."

The disadvantages of the dual defence were considerable, but they were
known to very few, and were moreover purely personal. Upon Mr Bradlaugh
lay the whole responsibility of the defence; his was the mind that
planned it, and he had to conduct the fight, not merely for himself,
but for the woman beside him; he had to consider two briefs instead
of one, and as Mrs Besant was at that time totally unfamiliar with
the procedure of the Law Courts, he had to instruct her, not only in
the things it was desirable she should say, but also in those which
were better left unsaid. He was but too well aware that Mrs Besant
risked not alone imprisonment, but also the loss of her child; and in
the event of failure, and the imprisonment of both himself and his
colleague, the problem naturally presented itself, Who was to edit the
_National Reformer_, and to look after the new business? Mr Watts'
plea of "guilty," followed by Mr Bradlaugh's indignation, had for the
moment produced considerable division amongst former friends, and
there had been hardly time to reckon which were friends and which were
foes. Nothing could better mark the extent of my father's difficulty
than the fact that he had to hand over these onerous duties to us, his
daughters, two girls fresh from a dreary country life, and hardly out
of our teens. Hence, although he was justly proud that a woman whom he
held in such esteem should stand by him publicly at such a moment, it
increased his anxieties and his responsibilities enormously that Mrs
Besant's risks were so heavy, and there was thus no trusty colleague
free to undertake the burden of a weekly journal, and the drudgery of
the management of the new publishing business.

Some at least of these difficulties were pointed out to Mrs Besant;
friends besought her by every argument they could think of not to risk
the loss of her child; but she had chosen her course, and she adhered
to it in spite of all entreaties. And such is the irony of fate that
she lost the society of her daughter for ten years, and was subjected
to the grossest insult from Sir George Jessel, as Master of the Rolls,
for defending doctrines she now repudiates.



CHAPTER III.

PROSECUTION OF MR BRADLAUGH AND MRS BESANT.


On Friday, 23rd March, Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant went together to
the Guildhall, to deliver the earliest copy of the new edition of the
Knowlton pamphlet to Mr Martin, the Chief Clerk, with a notice that
they would personally attend, at a certain hour on the following day,
to sell the pamphlet. Similar notices were left at the chief office
of the Detective Department, and at the office of the City Solicitor.
On Saturday afternoon Stonecutter Street was thronged with a crowd of
persons anxious to purchase copies of the pamphlet from Mr Bradlaugh
or Mrs Besant, and amongst these purchasers detectives were easily
identified by Mr Bradlaugh's quick eye. A few days later the partners
were arrested on a warrant--not served with a summons--and marched off
to Bridewell, after a fruitless search for compromising literature had
been made on the Stonecutter Street premises. From the Police Court,
where Mrs Besant had to endure the indignity of being personally
searched, they were conveyed to the Guildhall. Mr Alderman Figgins
heard the charge, and remanded the case until the 17th of April.

A defence committee was formed, which soon included the names of many
well-known men and women, both in England and abroad, and a fund
was started to meet the expenses of the defence. The long lists of
subscribers which appeared week by week in the columns of the _National
Reformer_ give unmistakable proof of the widespread sympathy.

When the further hearing of the case came on at the Guildhall,
the prosecution was conducted by Mr Douglas Straight and Mr Mead,
instructed by Mr Nelson, the City Solicitor. Mr Figgins was again
the presiding magistrate, and there were several other aldermen
on the Bench. At this hearing--which lasted a couple of days--Mr
Straight offered to proceed against Mr Bradlaugh alone, letting the
charge against Mrs Besant drop but to this the latter would on no
account agree. At the conclusion they were liberated on their own
recognisances, to appear at the Central Criminal Court on 7th May.
The prospect of standing in the dock of the Old Bailey was not very
alluring to my father, so he went to the Court of Queen's Bench and
made an application to the Lord Chief Justice (Sir Alexander Cockburn)
and Mr Justice Mellor for a writ of _certiorari_ for the removal of
the case to that Court, to be heard before a judge and a special jury.
After some argument the Lord Chief Justice said:--

 "If, upon looking at it [the pamphlet], we think its object is the
 legitimate one of promoting knowledge in a matter of human interest,
 then lest there should be any miscarriage resulting from any undue
 prejudice, we might think it is a case for trial by a judge and a
 special jury. I do not say it is so, mark, but only put it so; that
 if, on the other hand, science and philosophy are merely made the
 pretence of publishing a book which is calculated to arouse the
 passions of those who peruse it, then it follows we must not allow
 the pretence to prevail, and treat the case otherwise than as one
 which may come before anybody to try. If we really think it is a
 fair question as to whether it is a scientific work or not, and its
 object is a just one, then we should be disposed to accede to your
 application, and allow it to be tried by a judge and special jury, and
 for that purpose allow the proceedings to be removed to this Court.
 But before we decide that, we must look into the book, and form our
 own judgment as to the real object of the work."

Their Lordships took the book to consider on its own merits, and
refused to read the evidence given at the Police Court. A few days
later the writ was granted in the following words:--

 "We," said the Lord Chief Justice, "have looked at the book which is
 the subject-matter of this indictment, and we think it really raises
 a fair question as to whether it is a scientific production for
 legitimate purposes, or whether it is what the indictment alleged it
 to be, an obscene publication. We think that is a question which will
 require to be decided by a judge, and, we think, by a special jury,
 and therefore there will be a writ of _certiorari_ granted."

Mr Bradlaugh's recognisances for £400 for the costs of the prosecution
were accepted. He regarded this granting of the writ by the judges,
going hand in hand, as it were, with the very plain language of the
Lord Chief Justice, as a most favourable sign; and on the matter of
the recognisances Mrs Besant wrote: "They become as we go on small by
degrees and beautifully less. We began by arrest on a warrant; from
a warrant we passed to liberation on bail, four sureties and our own
recognisances being required; from this we proceeded to liberation on
our own recognisances only, and now we are free on Mr Bradlaugh's sole
recognisance."

The name of the prosecutor had not yet transpired, though at the
outset it was assumed that the city authorities were responsible for
the proceedings, since at the first hearing before Mr Figgins the
name of the City Solicitor had been mentioned, while at the second
counsel appeared instructed by him. In May, however, the identity of
the prosecutor had sunk into still greater obscurity, for on the 4th
of that month Mr Nelson (the City Solicitor) declared in writing that
"the Corporation of London has nothing and never has had anything to
do with the prosecution." He further stated "in general terms" that
the prosecution was instituted by the Police. When, however, Colonel
James Fraser, the Commissioner of Police, was applied to, he evaded
any direct answer by referring my father to the sworn "information,"
which of course only gave the name of the detective, Wm. Simmonds,
who, as informer, had bought the pamphlet. Simmonds was formally asked
if he were the responsible prosecutor, but he merely acknowledged the
receipt of Mr Bradlaugh's letter. My father, on 11th May, applied to Mr
Justice Lush, at Chambers, for the name of the responsible prosecutor,
but while the judge expressed his opinion that he ought to know, he
regretted that he had no power to help him.

At this time the public excitement was further increased by the action
of the Government, which commenced to make seizures in the Post-Office
of literature sent out from the Freethought Publishing Company's
office. Not only were open book packets seized, but in some cases even
sealed parcels were suspected of being tampered with.

Not merely was Knowlton's "Fruits of Philosophy" confiscated, but
also copies of the "Freethinker's Text-book," and a pamphlet written
by Mr Bradlaugh entitled "Jesus, Shelley, and Malthus," as well as a
considerable number of copies of the _National Reformer_. Concurrently
with this a raid was made upon the shop of that brave old man, Mr
Edward Truelove, in High Holborn, and a large quantity of Robert Dale
Owen's "Moral Physiology," as well as another pamphlet "Individual,
Family, and National Poverty," were seized by persons representing
the Society for the Suppression of Vice, who immediately commenced a
prosecution against Mr Truelove.

In the last days of the month Mr Bradlaugh made an application to the
Court to take the case at an early day; it was fixed for the 18th June,
and shortly afterwards it became known that the Solicitor-General,
Sir Hardinge Giffard, Q.C., M.P. (now Lord Halsbury) was chosen the
leading counsel for the prosecutors--whoever they might be. Up to this
point--the eve of one of those great forensic contests which marked
various periods in Mr Bradlaugh's life--he felt that the press as a
whole had not been unfair, although indeed there had been some journals
coarse and foul in attack, usually on the ground of Mrs Besant's
association with himself. As regards the issue of the struggle, he
wrote that to predict the verdict would be worse than folly, though,
"should the deliverance be against us," he urgently begged his friends
to aid his daughters in keeping his journal afloat until he should
be free to edit it again. Mrs Besant's descriptive accounts of the
various preliminary legal proceedings are all written in a light, often
jesting, vein; indeed, I am inclined to think that she hardly realised
all the gravity of her situation; a true sense of the possibilities
involved was perhaps somewhat obscured by the atmosphere of excitement
and admiration in which she was living.

On the trial it was Mr Bradlaugh's object to show that the doctrine
of the limitation of the family was to be found in many other works
in general circulation dealing with economical questions; and that in
medical works, many published at popular prices, and some specially
intended for the use of young people, there were physiological
descriptions set forth in identical or even stronger language. Amongst
other witnesses Mr Bradlaugh subpoenaed Professor and Mrs Fawcett (to
formally prove certain statements in Prof. Fawcett's book), Charles
Darwin, the Rev. J. W. Horsley (Chaplain of the Clerkenwell House of
Detention), and the Rev. S. D. Headlam--the two latter to give evidence
as to overcrowding. Prof. Fawcett refused to take his subpoena, and
declared he would send Mrs Fawcett out of the country rather than that
she should appear as a witness in the case. A second attempt was made
to induce him to take the subpoena in a friendly way, but he again
refused, putting his hands behind his back so that the paper should
not be surreptitiously put into them--of which he need have had no
fear. Charles Darwin wrote his thanks for the courtesy of the notice,
saying:--

 "I have been for many years much out of health, and have been
 forced to give up all society or public meetings; and it would be
 great suffering to me to be a witness in Court. It is, indeed, not
 improbable that I may be unable to attend. Therefore, I hope that, if
 in your power, you will excuse my attendance.... If it is not asking
 too great a favour, I should be greatly obliged if you would inform me
 what you decide, as apprehension of the coming exertion would prevent
 the rest which I require doing me much good."

As Mr Darwin was going away from home, he gave addresses where he
might be found if he was wanted. But of course it was decided to
manage without his evidence. Mr Horsley and Mr Headlam were both
most courteous, and there was one volunteer witness whose help was
invaluable--Mr H. G. Bohn, the founder of the well-known Bohn's
Library. Dr Drysdale and Dr Alice Vickery also gave their assistance
with the utmost cheerfulness. The trial was heard before the Lord
Chief Justice, and extended over four days. The ability of the defence
excited universal comment, and the masterly summing-up of the Judge was
spoken of in the papers as being strongly in favour of Mr Bradlaugh and
Mrs Besant. But in spite of defence and summing-up the jury, after an
absence of an hour and a half, brought in the following verdict: "We
are unanimously of opinion that the book in question is calculated to
deprave public morals, but at the same time we entirely exonerate the
defendants from any corrupt motives in publishing it."

The Lord Chief Justice instructed the jury that this was a verdict of
guilty. The foreman bowed acquiescence. The Clerk asked if they found
the defendants guilty upon the indictment. The foreman again bowed,
and a verdict of guilty was recorded. Sentence was not pronounced
immediately; it was postponed for a week. The jury, however, were by
no means so decided at heart and so unanimous as the prompt bow of the
foreman led one to believe. One of these twelve "wise men and true"
applied to the Associate for £4, 4s. as payment for his attendance; two
others returned each their guinea fee to be put down to the defence;
one wrote that he did not agree with the verdict, subsequently stating
that six of the jury did not intend to assent to a verdict of guilty,
and that it had been arranged that if the Lord Chief Justice would
not accept their special verdict they should again retire and consult.
During the time they were locked in they discussed so loudly that they
were heard outside, and their discussion was found to be by no means
confined to the offence which they were supposed to be considering, as
it included amongst other things the heretical views of the defendants.

On the 28th June Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant attended the Court of
Queen's Bench to receive judgment from the Lord Chief Justice and
Mr Justice Mellor. My father had thought it likely that there might
be a heavy fine, but unlikely that there would be any sentence of
imprisonment. He drew £250 from the bank, and showed me the notes as
he put them in his pocket-book, bidding me, in the event of a sentence
of imprisonment, take the notes from him and pay them into the bank
again; and my sister and I accompanied him and Mrs Besant into Court.
The Solicitor-General opened by moving the Court for judgment; some
discussion arose on the absence of the _postea_, and then Mr Bradlaugh
submitted three propositions to the Court: (1) A motion to quash the
indictment; (2) a motion for arrest of judgment; and (3) a motion for
a new trial. But the Lord Chief Justice would neither consent to a new
trial nor to a rule for an arrest of judgment; he left the decision
as to quashing the indictment to the Court of Error, declining,
however, to stay execution until error was determined. The arguments
over these points took up the whole morning, and after luncheon the
Solicitor-General, in order to influence the Judge in his sentence,
brought forward two affidavits, one asserting that Mr Bradlaugh and
Mrs Besant had continued to sell the pamphlet since the verdict, and
the other stating that Mrs Besant, in a speech at the Hall of Science
on the previous Sunday, had represented the Lord Chief Justice as
being favourable to them, and the verdict as against his summing-up.
Sir Alexander Cockburn was greatly incensed at the alleged reference
to himself, and regarded the continued sale in the light of "a grave
and aggravated offence." My father offered that if the Lord Chief
Justice would stay proceedings until the writ of error was argued, he
would pledge himself that no sort of advantage would be taken of the
indulgence of the Court to continue the sale of the condemned book;
but as yet the Judge was obdurate. "I think we must pass sentence," he
said. "Have you anything to say in mitigation?"

"I respectfully submit myself to the sentence of the Court," my father
replied in his gravest tones. "I have nothing to say in mitigation of
punishment," added Mrs Besant.

The Judge then proceeded to sentence them to imprisonment for six
calendar months, to a fine of £200 each, and to enter into their own
recognisances for £500 each for two years.

The judgment was delivered towards the end of a long day of hard and
wearisome fighting, and my father, who, with Mrs Besant, had of course
received the sentence standing, was very white; his voice, however, was
quite firm when, the Lord Chief Justice having concluded, he quietly
and respectfully asked, "Would your lordship entertain an application
to stay execution of the sentence?"

"Certainly not," was the answer. Mr Bradlaugh bowed; the officer of
the Court moved forward to take him and Mrs Besant into custody; my
father gave me his pocket-book, and bade us follow him as far as we
were allowed. We had nearly reached the door when the Lord Chief
Justice spoke again. In milder tones he said: "On consideration, if you
will pledge yourselves unreservedly that there shall be no repetition
of the publication of the book, at all events until the Court of
Appeal shall have decided contrary to the verdict of the jury and our
judgment; if we can have that positive pledge, and you will enter into
your recognisances that you will not avail yourselves of the liberty
we extend to continue the publication of this book, which it is our
bounden duty to suppress, or do our utmost to suppress, we may stay
execution, but we can show no indulgence without such a pledge."

Mr Bradlaugh replied: "My lord, I meant to offer that pledge in the
fullest and most unreserved sense, because, although I have my own view
as to what is right, I also recognise that the law having pronounced
sentence, that is quite another matter so far as I, as a citizen, am
concerned. I do not wish to ask your lordship a favour without yielding
to the Court during the time that I take advantage of its indulgence."
My father added that he wished it to be quite clear that he only
pledged himself to stop the circulation of the book until the decision
of the Court of Error. The Judge was satisfied with this assurance,
although the Solicitor-General was not, and Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant
were liberated on their own recognisances of £100 each.

This "on consideration" of the Lord Chief Justice entirely changed the
course of events. In the following February (1878) the case was argued
in the Court of Appeal before the Lords Justices Bramwell, Brett, and
Cotton, who in a very elaborate judgment gave their decision in favour
of Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant; and the indictment was quashed on the
ground that the words relied upon by the prosecution as proving their
case ought to have been expressly set out. Two American cases brought
forward by the Solicitor-General before the Lord Chief Justice as
against Mr Bradlaugh's argument were regarded by the Lord Justices
of Appeal as of no weight; while any value they might have had was
absolutely in favour of the defendants.

The total amount disbursed in this defence and provided by public
subscriptions was £1065. The expenses of the prosecution must have
been enormous; but to the end the name of the prosecutor was refused.
In March 1878 Mr Bradlaugh wrote: "It is not the Government, we are
assured on the highest authority; it is not the Vice Society; and it
is positively stated that it is not the city authorities, and yet the
City Solicitor instructed counsel, and the proceedings are conducted
from the law offices of the Corporation." However, in spite of the
positive statement of the City Solicitor, the official report of the
Common Council mentioned that the prosecution was ordered by Alderman
Ellis; and later, at a meeting of the Common Council, presided over
by the Lord Mayor, the Solicitor, in answer to a question, said
the prosecution was instituted by the city police and carried on
by him under the direction of Alderman Ellis. The actual costs of
the prosecution would be, he thought, "about £700." As Mr Bradlaugh
commented: "This becomes embarrassing; on 4th May 1877 Mr T. J.
Nelson wrote that 'the Corporation of London has nothing and never
has had anything to do with the prosecution.' If so, why do the city
authorities pay even £700 towards the costs? And who pays the rest?
For with three counsel to fee all through, £700 will most certainly
not cover the bill.... Why, unless the Solicitor-General, as a labour
of love, worked half-price, his fees alone would spoil the £700."
And, as my father further asked, "Why did Alderman Ellis direct the
prosecution?" for he was not even the sitting magistrate.

In addition to the main proceedings in the Court of Queen's Bench and
the Court of Error there were a number of side issues which were heard
before other Courts; points were argued in _banco_; an application was
made to Mr Vaughan for the 650 copies of the Knowlton pamphlet seized
by the Vice Society at Mr Truelove's. An appeal was lodged at the
General Sessions against Mr Vaughan's order for their destruction, a
successful application was made to the Court of Queen's Bench to quash
Mr Vaughan's order, and a summons heard against Inspector Wood for
unlawfully detaining the pamphlets. Not a few were the comments in the
press when twice within six months Mr Bradlaugh succeeded in getting
quashed decisions given against himself (first, the indictment, and
with it the sentence of imprisonment and fine, and next the magisterial
order). One journal even suggested that "much loss of time might be
avoided" if Mr Bradlaugh were appointed "to consult with our legal
luminaries and revise their decisions."

In the meantime Mr Edward Truelove had been twice tried. At the first
trial the jury did not agree; but at the second, which took place in
May 1878, he was sentenced to four months' imprisonment and a £50 fine.
Scores of purses were eagerly opened to furnish the fine, but no one,
alas! could relieve this brave heart from the hardships of a prison.
Mr Truelove, suffering for his opinion's sake, was obliged to wear the
garb of common felons and to associate with them, and although nearly
seventy years of age, he was compelled to pick oakum and to sleep upon
a plank bed.

The immediate effect of these prosecutions was to draw public attention
to the teaching of Malthus and his disciples. Works upon the population
question were eagerly bought and read; and as the subsequent gradual
lowering of the birth-rate in England testifies, the idea of the
limitation of the family to the means has certainly, if slowly, made
some way. The Malthusian League, first started by Mr Bradlaugh in
the early sixties, was, in 1877, revived on a much larger scale; its
branches and its literature soon spread to all parts of the kingdom,
and enormous meetings were held everywhere. In November Mrs Besant
brought out a pamphlet to supersede the Knowlton essay, entitled "The
Law of Population: its Consequence and its Bearing upon Human Conduct
and Morals." It was dedicated to the poor, and was eagerly welcomed
by them. Mrs Besant in 1891 withdrew her pamphlet from circulation,
a step which matters the less as, since 1877, there have been other
books written by medical men dealing with the same subject and issued
at popular prices. But although there was this distinct gain to the
public, not only in the stand made for the free discussion of such a
question of vital economical importance, and in the sweeping away of
general indictments, the cost to the principals in the drama was heavy
indeed. Mr Truelove, a man of unimpeachable integrity, was, as I have
just said, cut off from his family, and made the associate of felons.
In April 1878 Mr Besant appealed to the law to give him the custody
of his daughter.[8] The litigation arising out of this lasted many
months; Mrs Besant lost her child, was grossly insulted by Sir George
Jessel, and at length, the strain proving too much even for her strong
constitution, her health gave way, and she was thrown upon a bed of
sickness.

[Footnote 8: One of the reasons given for withdrawing Mabel Besant from
her mother's charge was that while with her she was liable to come in
contact with Charles Bradlaugh.]

Nor was the position much less trying for Mr Bradlaugh. It must not
be lost sight of that the ultimate responsibility for the defence, in
every detail of these different law proceedings continuing over several
years, remained with him: his hand was in it all. He made a great
fight, but his days and often the greater part of his nights were spent
in constant work and anxiety.



CHAPTER IV.

AN UNIMPORTANT CHAPTER.


In the foregoing account of the prosecution of my father and Mrs Besant
I have thought it best not to burden the narrative with any side issues
not immediately important. As, however, it is my object in this book
to picture my father and his surroundings as clearly as possible, so
that from the picture a just judgment of his character may be derived,
I will now devote a few pages to passing details more or less directly
connected with this prosecution or arising out of it.

As soon as Mr Watts decided to plead "guilty," under the circumstances
which have already been mentioned, and it became known that Mr
Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant had determined to publish the prosecuted
pamphlet, it was found that there were would-be prosecutors eager for
the fray, and ready to commence on anything else, whilst awaiting the
new issue of Knowlton's essay.

One morning I was seated on the floor (chairs were a scarce commodity
at Turner Street) in my father's study sorting some pamphlets when a
knock was heard at the street door; the landlady opened it, and then
came to say that a man had called who particularly wished to see Mr
Bradlaugh. "Ask him in," said my father, and I began hurriedly to rise
from my lowly position, but a "Stay where you are" nailed me to the
floor. "What can I do for you?" asked Mr Bradlaugh pleasantly, as a
thick-set man of middle age, with a reddish beard, entered the room.
The man replied that he wished to buy a copy of a book written by my
father and entitled, "Man, whence and how." Rather to my surprise,
because as a rule he refused to sell any literature from his Turner
Street lodgings, and indeed kept none there for sale, my father hunted
up a copy of the Freethinker's Text-Book, Part I., entitled "Man,
whence and how? or Revealed and Real Science in Conflict," carefully
dusted it, and handed it to the man, asking suavely, "Is there
anything more I can do for you?" The man replied that that was all,
put the book in his pocket, paid for it, and went away. He was hardly
outside the door when my father began to laugh. "Did you see his boots,
Hypatia?" he asked. "His boots!" I repeated vaguely, wondering rather
what the joke was. "Yes; he actually came in the regulation boots," he
said. "That was a detective, and those who instructed him evidently
think that 'Man, whence and how?' is some book upon the population
question." Undoubtedly it is a book upon the population question, but
not exactly from the Malthusian point of view; and if it was bought
in that idea, the purchasers must have felt rather foolish when they
read the first lines referring to the Hebrew chronology and the alleged
creation of Adam and Eve!

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1876 my father was relieved from the pressure of those debts which
had been burdening him for so long. First of all a Liverpool friend
died, bequeathing to Mr Bradlaugh £100, less legacy duty. This is a
"new experience," said my father on receiving the money, adding, "I
owe £90 less than I owed last week." Then in August he received £2500
through a compromised will suit. Mr Henry Turberville, brother of Mr
R. D. Blackmore, had a very great admiration for my father; so much
so that the year before his death, when my father was about to go to
the United States, he felt so anxious not to lose sight of him that
he offered to pay the whole of his debts if only he would not go.
He made a will leaving the bulk of his property, valued at £15,000,
to Mr Bradlaugh, and to simplify matters he also made him his sole
executor. Not long after this Mr Turberville, while staying at Yeovil,
died suddenly, having a few hours before made his will in favour of
a daughter of a chemist of the neighbourhood. Mr Blackmore asked the
Court to pronounce for an intestacy, and he joined with Mr Bradlaugh
as against the propounders of the new will. At last a compromise was
agreed upon, by which Mr Bradlaugh received £2500 in addition to his
costs. Like the £90 legacy, the £2500 was immediately applied by my
father to the discharge of his liabilities. I was in Court with him
when the suits were compromised, and we went straight from the Court
to the office of his chief creditor. "That was only just in time, my
daughter," he said, as we turned towards home.

As one or other of us girls was now almost continuously with my father,
and his books were bursting all available bounds at Turner Street,
in February 1877 he decided to seek some more wholesome and more
commodious lodging. Turner Street left much to be desired from the
sanitary point of view. I remember one hot summer's evening a kindly,
enthusiastic gentleman, who lived in the west of London, came eastwards
to speak at one of the working-men's clubs. My father was to take
the chair for him, and he came to Turner Street before going to the
club. We all walked down together, and this gentleman, turning with
enthusiasm to my sister and me, said, "I think your father living here
is just the right man in the right place!" My sister and I looked at
one another; it had been so hot that day, yet we had not been able to
open our windows to let in the air because of the abundance of smells
which came in with it. If Turner Street was the "right" place, we, at
least, did not appreciate it.

At the end of February we removed to 10 Portland Place (as it was then
called), Circus Road, St John's Wood. It was a queerly-arranged house;
we had the top floor and the basement, with a bath-room on the first
floor, the ground floor and the rest of the first floor being occupied
by a firm of music-sellers. In the basement was a very large and dark
room, which we used for meals, and in which at first our tiny table and
four chairs looked very desolate. On the top floor was one large room
given over to my father's study, the other rooms being quite small. The
library again outgrowing its bounds, in 1880 it descended to the still
larger room on the first floor, whence the books were sold after the
death of their owner in 1891.

At Circus Road my sister and I started housekeeping for my father, with
one little servant much given to fainting. I was appointed head cook
to the establishment, and my father and sister uncomplainingly devoted
themselves to the task of swallowing my experiments in the culinary
art. Never once, either while I cooked for him myself, or later when we
ordered his dinners for him, do I remember my father grumbling at the
food we set before him. His meals had to be punctual to the moment, or,
if asked for at an unaccustomed hour, they had to be promptly served;
if that was done, he was content with whatever was given him.

We had been only a few weeks at Circus Road when the new edition of
the Knowlton pamphlet was printed. Mr Bradlaugh was away in Scotland,
and as Mrs Besant's mind was filled with the idea of the possibility
of a police raid and seizure of the stock, we hid parcels of the
pamphlet in every conceivable place. We buried some by night in her
garden, concealed some under the floor, and others behind the cistern.
When my father was informed of this cleverness he was by no means
pleased, and sent word immediately that there should be no more hiding;
and as soon as he came home again the process began of finding as
quickly as possible these well-hidden treasures--some indeed so well
hidden that they were not found till some time afterwards. He also
knew that a search was possible, but he had no wish to look supremely
ridiculous--to put it no more seriously--by parcels being found in all
these eccentric places.

When the Saturday came on which Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant attended at
Stonecutter Street to sell the new edition of the Knowlton pamphlet,
my sister and I went with them: not to sell the book--that my father
would not allow--but to help in the mechanical work of counting out
dozens or in giving change; for although there had been no other
advertisement than the one announcement in the _National Reformer_, the
crush of buyers in the little shop was enormous, and in the course of
twenty minutes over 500 copies changed hands, in single copies or in
small numbers. Several days elapsed between this formal sale and the
arrest, but my father had told me that in the event of such an arrest
I was immediately to go home and fetch his volumes of Russell "On
Crime and Misdemeanours," while my sister was to remain with them to
take any instructions at the moment. Mr Bradlaugh notified the police
headquarters that he and Mrs Besant would attend at 28 Stonecutter
Street from 10 to 11 A.M. for the convenience of the arrest.
The police accordingly made their appearance promptly at ten o'clock
one morning; I flew off to St John's Wood, collected the great books,
and caught the next train to the city. It was a warm morning, I was
hot with running, and anxious, for I rather think that I had some sort
of notion that "Russell" was a sort of golden key to unlock all legal
difficulties. City men in the train, going to their ordinary business,
looked at me rather curiously as I sat in the carriage closely hugging
those three bulky red volumes (which would slip about on one another,
for I had not stayed to tie them together) on criminal procedure, of
all things for a girl of nineteen to be carrying about with her on a
sunny April morning.

But my sister and I felt very, very lonely and very cold at heart as we
sat in the dreary Police Court at the Guildhall--I hardly know how we
got there--listening to cases of drunkenness or assault, and waiting,
with a shudder of horror and disgust at the thought, for our father
and Mrs Besant to come and take their places in that dock which we had
seen occupied by some of the lowest specimens of London low life. The
time came for people to snatch what lunch they could get; and a kindly
gentleman with a slightly foreign accent came to us and wanted to take
us to lunch. He knew us, for he was my father's very good friend, Mr
Joannes Swaagman, though we did not know him. However, he talked to
us of our father, and found the way to persuade us, so we went with
him; and I shall never forget the feeling of gratitude towards him,
and the sensation of comfort we felt in seeing his friendly face
and hearing his friendly voice. We attended the first day's hearing
at the Guildhall, but at our father's wish we were not afterwards
present during the trying of the case, either at the Guildhall or at
Westminster. After they were committed for trial Mr Bradlaugh proceeded
to make his arrangements for the conduct of his paper, and of his new
business in case of a hostile verdict. The course he then took proves,
as I have said, in a startling way how utterly alone he felt at that
moment--old ties were broken, new ones were not yet tested; to whom
could he turn to help him in this emergency? There was no one but his
daughters--girls with no experience, and in many ways young for their
years. But we might be ignorant, we might be stupid; still we loved him
so well that we could not help being absolutely faithful to any trust
he might confide to us. I was apt to be more forward than my sister;
she was nearly two years my elder, but she was needlessly distrustful
of herself, and so I was the one whom my father selected to instruct in
the possible editorial duties. I sat with him, note-book in hand, with
fainting heart at the frightful prospect, and meekly took note of all
his wishes. I was then taken into the bank, introduced to the manager,
and recorded my signature, for I was to be the financial agent also!

During the long hours of the four days' trial at Westminster, my sister
and I used to walk up and down the great hall, watching for any one
to come out with any news of how the case was going on. Melancholy
figures we must have looked, nearly always alone, dressed in black
gowns--for our mother had died suddenly in the midst of all this--and
very frightened at heart at what might happen. There was one person
who used invariably to step out of his way to speak to us as he passed
up the great hall to his place in the House of Commons, and that was
Joseph Biggar, the Member for Cavan. A little kindness at an hour such
as this makes an impression on the mind that nothing can efface, and my
sister and I never afterwards heard Mr Biggar's name mentioned without
recalling how he thus kindly went out of his way to say a pleasant word
to a couple of girls miserably walking up and down outside those Law
Courts at Westminster. On the fourth day we were summoned inside the
Court. The jury had retired, and every one was so sure of a verdict
for the defence, that my father thought we should like to hear it--for
in spite of all his worries and anxieties, he could yet think of us at
such a moment. When the verdict came it was a shock, the more so that
until a few minutes before, when an idea of the truth somehow reached
the Court, a favourable one had been anticipated.

On the first day (Monday) of the trial, in giving the history of the
Knowlton pamphlet, Mrs Besant, as a matter of course, mentioned that
it had been sold by Messrs Holyoake & Co., saying, "One of the firm is
Mr George Jacob Holyoake, whose name is probably well known to you.
The other is Austin Holyoake," and further, "from Mr Holyoake the book
went into the hands of a Mr C. Watts." On Wednesday, the third day,
a communication from Mr G. J. Holyoake appeared in the _Times_, in
which he attempted to explain away his connection with the pamphlet,
adding, moreover, that after the Bristol trial he advised Mr Watts to
discontinue its publication. As the only effect of this letter could
be to injure the defendants, it may be imagined that my father did not
take it as a very kindly act.[9] Indeed, Mrs Besant put it that the
letter was one "carefully calculated to prejudice the jury against
us, and sent to the very paper with which one of our jurymen[10] was
connected." As Mr Holyoake had been silent so long, "silent while he
sold it, silent while he profited by the sale, would it have been too
great an exercise of self-control," she asked, "if he had maintained
his silence for two days longer?"

[Footnote 9: From the time when Mr Holyoake refused to continue to
publish "The Bible: what it is," there were several instances of a want
of friendliness on his part towards Mr Bradlaugh, and sometimes--as
at this trial and in the Parliamentary struggle--these occurred at a
most critical moment in my father's career. Mr Bradlaugh, of course,
generally retaliated; but when his first vexation and anger had passed,
he always showed himself willing to forget and forgive. One of the very
first things he did on his return from America in 1875 was to join in
an effort to buy an annuity for Mr Holyoake, who had been so prostrated
by illness that at that time it was thought that he would not be
capable of continuous work again. Notwithstanding old differences, some
of which had been extremely and bitterly personal, my father joined in
the appeal with the utmost heartiness, and expressed his vexation that
the readers of the _National Reformer_ had not been permitted to be
amongst the earliest subscribers to the fund.]

[Footnote 10: Mr Arthur Walter, son of the principal proprietor of the
_Times_, was on the jury.]

The next week my sister and I were with my father and Mrs Besant all
day in Court when sentence was pronounced; but in spite of all our
vague fears, I do not think we altogether realised what imprisonment
could mean until the Judge pronounced the awful words. The whole Court
seemed to fade away as I listened, and it needed the knowledge that my
father relied upon me to do something for him to bring me to myself.
I took his pocket-book from him as he had bidden me, and was with my
sister mechanically following him from the Court when we were stopped
by the Lord Chief Justice, his mild tones forming a contrast to the
last sharply uttered words. It seemed, indeed, as though ages of agony
had been lived through in those few minutes.

Apparently Sir Alexander Cockburn had been told of our waiting outside,
and had noticed us in the Court, as afterwards some very kindly words
which he had said of Mr Bradlaugh and ourselves were repeated to my
father.

       *       *       *       *       *

When, later on, Mrs Besant was directed by order of Sir George Jessel
to give up her daughter, my father knew that Mr Besant's advisers would
not lose a moment in claiming her. By his instructions we drove at once
to Mrs Besant's house and carried off Mabel to Circus Road. We then
took her by road to Willesden Junction Station, and there gave her
into Mrs Besant's keeping as she was passing through, on her way to
fulfil a lecturing engagement at Manchester. Thus the poor mother was
able to take her farewell of her child in peace, instead of having her
torn from her arms at a moment's notice. Then when Mrs Besant's health
gave way we nursed her through her illness, and went with her to North
Wales, where she rapidly regained her strength.

Up to the time of Mrs Besant's illness she used to ride with us
regularly when time permitted, but after that she gave it up for a
while. I was never very strong, and one day the doctor had said to me,
"If you were a rich young lady, I should order you horse exercise," to
which my father, who was with me, replied, "She is not a rich young
lady, doctor, but we will see what can be done." And my riding, which
was purely the outcome of fatherly love and a desire for his daughter's
health, has been turned by some people into a sort of crime against Mr
Bradlaugh!

My sister cared very little about riding, so after Mrs Besant gave it
up I used to go out alone, riding a little mare, Kathleen, which Mrs
Besant then kept at livery stables. As Kathleen had several little
peculiarities of temper, and I was accustomed to ride quite alone, I
used to ride her in Regent's Park in the quiet of the morning. One
snowy morning in March she bolted with me, and after a considerable
run we fell together just within the Clarence Gate. I was carried
insensible to the nearest doctor, and my sister was summoned by a
passer-by who recognised me. Mr Bradlaugh had been lecturing in
Scotland, and was travelling all night so that he might reach London
in time to be in the Appeal Court at half-past ten, where Mrs Besant
was appealing against the decision of the Master of the Rolls. When he
was near home some one stopped my father's cab, and he came on at once,
to find me lying unconscious on the floor of the doctor's parlour.
Nothing had been done for me; the doctor could not even say whether
any bones were broken; his wife had indeed brought me a cup of tea,
but of that I knew nothing. To make up for any lack of attentions to
my poor body, they turned their thoughts to my sister's soul, and in
the afternoon the doctor's wife wrote to my sister that she would pray
to her "Heavenly Father" that "in this great affliction you may be led
to know Him as your Saviour and Comforter." If a Freethinker wrote to
a Christian who was sick or in trouble that hell was a delusion and
heaven a myth, it would justly be considered an outrage, but the zealot
has two codes of morality--one for those who differ from him, and
another for himself.

It must have been very hard for my father that day in Court; three
lectures the day before, travelling all night, and at home a daughter
who, for aught he had been able before leaving to learn to the
contrary, might be dying or permanently injured.



CHAPTER V.

MORE DEBATES.


In April 1874 the preliminaries for a six nights' discussion between
Mr Bradlaugh and the Rev. Brewin Grant, B.A., were arranged. It was
to be held in the Bow and Bromley Institute, and to commence on the
20th of May. It will be remembered that Mr Grant was no novice in
debate, and had in fact several times previously met Mr Bradlaugh on
the platform. These encounters had been so unpleasant that my father
quite shrank from any renewal of them, and the present debate was
brought about mainly through the mediation of the Rev. A. J. Harrison,
M.A. On the first three nights Mr Grant was to attack Secularism,
and Mr Bradlaugh to defend, and then Mr Bradlaugh was to assail
Christianity, and Mr Grant defend. On the first evening the chair
was taken by the Rev. Arthur Mursell, and Mr Grant as the opener had
the opportunity to set the course of the debate, but so little did
he realise his responsibilities that in his opening speech, almost
indeed in his opening words, he fell back upon his old tactics of
vulgar personalities, and this, of course, provoked some reply from Mr
Bradlaugh. On the second night the Rev. Brewin Grant was perhaps not
quite so bad, and my father for his part had resolved to try and endure
the taunts levelled against himself, and against those with whom he
worked. With the fourth night, when the chair was taken by the Rev. Mr
Driffield, Rector of Bow, came Mr Bradlaugh's opportunity, and he made
the most of it; this time he was the first speaker, and he opened the
debate in a careful and closely reasoned speech, but unfortunately Mr
Grant was not content to follow him. The _Eastern Post_, in an article
on the first four nights, remarked that if the Rev. Brewin Grant was
selected by the churchmen of the district, the choice did "no credit
to their judgment." The writer went on to point out that although
Mr Grant had the advantage of being able to prepare his speech for
the first three nights, he did not show himself capable of speaking
with any sequence or coherence, but instead he flung all sorts of
opprobrious charges at Mr Bradlaugh, and introduced the most trivial
personalities, which had not the remotest bearing upon the subject.
"Mr Bradlaugh in his first speech gave his definition of Secularism,
which ought to have furnished excellent material for criticism and
debate; but his reverend opponent adhered to the system of personal
disparagement, and at last Mr Bradlaugh retaliated.... Things improved
somewhat on the fourth night, but this was perhaps due to the fact that
the exponent of Secularism led the debate."[11] This, from the pen of
an outsider, will serve to show the impression produced upon those who
listened to the speeches. The chairman of the committee of the Bow and
Bromley Institute waited upon Mr Bradlaugh after the first night, and
told him in the presence of the Rev. Mr Schnadhorst (one of Mr Grant's
committee) that in consequence of Mr Grant's conduct they had received
a requisition, in which clergymen had joined, asking them to put an end
to the debate.

[Footnote 11: _Eastern Post._]

On the fifth night the North London Railway Company, to whom the
Institute belonged, stepped in and closed the hall just as the people
were assembling to go in. As there was no proper legal agreement for
the hire of the hall, there was no redress. There had been no notice
of the closing of the hall, hence Mr Bradlaugh and Mr Grant, the
chairman and the committees, were all in attendance at the Bow and
Bromley Institute, as well as the audience who had paid their money to
hear the debate. It was decided, on taking a vote of those present, to
adjourn to the nearest available place and finish the debate there.
The Clay Hall grounds were suggested, and there is an amusing account
of Mr Bradlaugh proceeding to this place followed by the audience,
who were considerably added to from the general public _en route_.
The proprietor was at first rather alarmed at the advent of such a
besieging party, but a reassurance from Mr Bradlaugh and a payment in
advance soon calmed his fears. Mr Grant, however, for reasons best
known to himself, did not come to Clay Hall, although the Revs. A.
Mursell, W. Schnadhorst, S. Bardsley, and W. Loveridge came, as well
as other friends of Mr Grant. Mr M. D. Conway, who was to have taken
the chair, also followed the party to the Clay Hall grounds, where
he presided at the informal meeting then held. The whole matter was
discussed, and the kindly words on both sides cleared away much of the
ill feeling which had grown up during the debate; and at the conclusion
of the meeting, in replying to the vote of thanks, Mr Conway said:--

 "GENTLEMEN,--I must say that I came to-night with a good
 deal of pain and apprehension. Though I accepted the invitation to
 preside at this discussion, I did so in the interests of truth, and
 from my desire to promote anything like honest discussion. When I
 read the debate as reported in the _National Reformer_ for the first
 time, I thought that Mr Bradlaugh seemed to resemble St Paul--that is,
 that he was fighting with beasts; and I came down with a great deal
 of apprehension that there might be scenes that were not decorous.
 I quite felicitate you and myself that instead of that, and instead
 of such recriminations, we happen to be in the presence of gentlemen
 on both sides who have indicated so much fairness and so much fine
 spirit. I will say for Christians, that if what has been levelled at
 Mr Bradlaugh, as it seems to me, has conveyed any impression against
 the Christian religion, as perhaps it has to some minds, the extremely
 gentlemanly discourse of some of the Christians we have had here
 to-night is calculated to recall that."

Mr Mursell spoke to Mr Bradlaugh as to fresh arrangements, but Mr
Bradlaugh had never wanted to meet Mr Grant, and now would only do so
if a dozen clergymen put him forward as their representative; "then,
and then only," he said, he would meet him, "not as Mr Grant, but as
the representative of those dozen clergymen." For his part, he would
be no party to doing anything voluntarily towards renewing such scenes
as they had just had. Strange as it must seem to any one who has read
the pages of these debates, Mr Grant found fifteen clergymen willing
to vouch for him as a fit and proper person to represent their views
on Christianity, and another (and happily, final) debate was arranged
for the following year. My father, in order to show that he did not
measure all clergymen by Mr Grant's inches, selected Mr Mursell to
represent him in the preliminary arrangements, just as on the previous
occasion he had consented to abide by the decision of the Rev. A. J.
Harrison. The debate was to be held on one night in each week for six
weeks,[12] and by securing South Place Chapel as the building in which
it should be held the Committee were ensured against the possibility
of intolerant proprietors closing the doors of the hall upon them in
the midst of the discussion. The subject to be argued as chosen by
the Committee was, "Is Atheism, or is Christianity, the true Secular
Gospel, as tending to the improvement and happiness of mankind in this
life, by human efforts, and material means?" Mr Grant was to lead on
the first three nights, with objections to show that Atheism was not
the true Secular Gospel. Mr Bradlaugh on the remaining three nights was
to show that Christianity was not the true Secular Gospel. As might
have been expected, this debate was only a modified repetition of
what took place on the previous occasion; Mr Grant was certainly less
free of speech, but with all that he could not keep clear of personal
accusations and epithets which at times provoked much unseemly uproar
and confusion.

[Footnote 12: June and July 1875.]

Much has been said at one time or another about Mr Bradlaugh's
adoption of the views of Spinoza, and to leave his position perfectly
clear on that head I will quote the words he himself used in answer
to his opponent on the third night of this debate. "It is perfectly
true," he said, "that the argument as to one existence was adopted
from Spinoza.... The precise distinction between the views of Spinoza
and myself is this: Spinoza contended for the infinite attributes
of extension and intelligence. I cannot conceive the possibility of
attributes, except as the characteristics of the thing conditioned,
the mode thought, and, therefore, cannot conceive infinite attributes
at all. Spinoza held one existence, which, to him having infinite
intelligence, made him a Pantheist; and I, not able to conceive that,
stand to Spinoza in the relation of Atheist, and that is just the
distinction between my thought and that of Spinoza."

On the fourth night the Rev. A. Mursell took the chair, and made kindly
acknowledgment of the uniform courtesy he had all through received
from Mr Bradlaugh. On this, and for the remaining nights, my father,
according to the arrangements, had the debate. On each occasion his
opening speech was carefully prepared, and was listened to with the
most profound attention; but although a man may "lead" a debate, he
cannot compel his antagonist to follow, and on the fifth night the Rev.
Brewin Grant actually brought a manuscript prepared beforehand, which,
unless by the merest coincidence, could obviously be no kind of reply
to the arguments Mr Bradlaugh was advancing. This MS. he read very
quickly, and often almost inaudibly, and again his conduct resulted in
uproar and confusion. At the conclusion of Mr Bradlaugh's final speech,
although there was still one to come from the Rev. Brewin Grant, the
audience had become so incensed with that gentleman that the majority
determined to leave. Mr Grant thereupon bent down to his own reporter,
and read to him from his MS. quickly and in a low tone of voice. As it
was impossible to argue upon propositions which he could not hear, Mr
Bradlaugh also rose and left the building. On the sixth and last night
Mr M. D. Conway occupied the chair. At the very outset considerable
confusion was caused by Mr Grant's demand that some rules should be
read from a book which Mr Bradlaugh objected to as incorrect and
unauthorised. At length the chairman settled the matter by saying to Mr
Grant, "If you can give me the Divine Authority for the infallibility
of this little volume, I will read it all." When Mr Bradlaugh sat
down after his last speech, he had so moved the audience that they
called for three cheers for him; but he begged them, if they thought
he deserved praise, to show it by remaining perfectly quiet during the
fifteen minutes that Mr Grant had still to address them. His hearers
responded to his appeal, and listened mutely to the end.

A few words from a speech delivered by the Rev. Arthur Mursell, in the
Free Trade Hall, Manchester, in the spring of the following year,[13]
give some insight into the impression Mr Bradlaugh's eloquence
produced, even under such difficult circumstances as those of a debate
with Mr Grant. Said Mr Mursell:--

[Footnote 13: April 23rd, 1876.]

 "I am indebted to one whom the world calls an Atheist, and who accepts
 the designation, but whom, in social intimacy, I would rather call my
 friend than thousands of the Christians whom I know; a man who, while
 casting doubt upon Him I call my Master, has shown more of His spirit
 in the practical intercourse of life, as far as I know it, than many a
 champion of orthodoxy; a man of honest, though religiously benighted
 creed, and eloquent tongue; to such a man I am indebted for a stimulus
 to fervour in the cause of what I deem the vital truth, which prompts
 me to attempt to press it home with emphasis upon you now. In public
 debate upon the principles of Christianity which he opposed, he closed
 a speech, smarting under what he deemed the too flippant satire of his
 antagonist, in words something like these:--'If I believed in a God,
 which I do not; if I believed in a hell to be escaped, which I do not;
 if I believed in a heaven to be won, which I do not; do you imagine I
 could allow myself to rack my brain in coining the paltry jests of a
 buffoon, and tickling the groundlings' ears with quips and quirks? No!
 I would exhaust the logic of my brain, and the passion of my heart, in
 seeking to convince and persuade mankind that they might shun the one
 and gain the other, and try to seal a testimony which should be worthy
 of my conscience and my creed.' I felt condemned at my own apathy, as
 the eloquent sceptic lifted before me the standard of fidelity."

The debate held ten months later with Mr Walter R. Browne, M.A.,
Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, is both pleasant and instructive
reading. The question discussed was, "Can miracles be proved possible?"
and the debate arose out of some lectures upon the subject of Miracles,
delivered a little while before by Mr Browne in Leeds. The discussion
was held in the Albert Hall, Leeds, on two evenings in April 1876. The
Mayor (Alderman Croft) presided at the request of the Vicar of Leeds,
and on both evenings there was a large audience of earnest and orderly
people, who gave the closest attention to the whole proceedings. The
report is pleasant reading, because one sees the undoubted intention
on the part of each disputant to make his position clear to the other
and to the audience; that he was influenced by no mere desire to catch
the other tripping for the sake of a moment's applause. The moods of
disputants and auditors seemed in complete harmony, and throughout
there was not the slightest sign of disturbance or disorder. Mr Browne
at the outset expressed his small confidence in the utility of public
debates as a means of arriving at truth, and thought they were of
little advantage either to the debaters or to the audience; but Mr
Bradlaugh met this by remarking that he thought "that every objection
which applies to a debate in public between two persons, applies with
equal, if not greater, force to an _ex parte_ statement made by one
person in public, and that the mere delivery of controversial lectures
upon such a subject necessitates that the person delivering the
controversial lecture should be prepared to recognise at least as much
utility in the clashing of his thought publicly with another man's,
disagreeing with him, as in the mere utterance of his own thought where
there is no one to check it at the moment."

The instructive character of the debate does not lie in any definite
conclusion which might be arrived at by a reader in doubt as to the
possibility or impossibility of miracles, but rather in a realisation
of the difficulty two capable men with different points of view may
have in settling upon a common meaning for certain words. In Mr
Browne's first speech he defined a miracle to be "a supernatural marvel
wrought by God," but this was a definition upon which they could not
agree, because Mr Browne would not accept Mr Bradlaugh's meaning for
"nature," as "the totality of all phenomena," and as equivalent to the
word "existence," or the word "universe," nor would he himself define
"God," for that, he said, was "beyond definition." The meaning of the
words "force" and "creation," the idea of "perception," the doctrine
of "free-will," and the existence of evil, all proved stumbling blocks
to the smooth course of the debate; but as Mr Browne truly said in his
concluding speech on the first evening, while it was true that they
had not at that time advanced very far in the argument, it was better
to make the ground sure as they went along than to attempt too much
before their conceptions were clear. Some of Mr Browne's arguments
were, for a trained speaker and debater, amazingly feeble. For example,
his objection to Mr Bradlaugh's definition of the word "nature" was
founded upon "the simple reason that such words as 'supernatural,'
'preternatural,' and 'unnatural,' are certainly used amongst us,"
and it did not seem to have occurred to him that these might be
merely instances of a popular misuse of words. He also thought that
the American War, which resulted in the abolition of slavery, showed
"conclusively that there was a God who governs the world;" in this
case his mind seemed to dwell only on the one fact of the abolition of
slavery, and to ignore the waste of human life and the horrors of the
war as well as the prior fact of the slavery itself.

Mr Bradlaugh has often been accused of talking about the "unknowable,"
but a passage from this debate will show in what sense he used the
word--if, indeed, he ever did use it. Referring to the allegation of
creation, he said: "To me creation is a word without meaning; I only
know creation in relation to change. I do not mean by it origination of
substance; I only mean change of condition. I do not mean the bringing
into being that which was not; I only mean the conditioning existence
by characteristics by which I had not hitherto conditioned it. I cannot
conceive the possibility of a period when existence was less than it
is now. I do not mean that because I cannot conceive it, therefore
it is not true. But I do mean that, as I cannot conceive it, you who
say you can are bound to give me your conception of it. Understand me
clearly, I do not put any such monstrous proposition in this debate
as that the inconceivable is therefore the untrue, or that because a
position is inconceivable to me, therefore I have a right to call on
all other men to reject it. But I do put it, that you have no right
to call upon me to accept any position which is inconceivable to me;
that you are bound to tell me how you conceive it before you have a
right to ask me to accept that it is possible." I do not remember to
have heard Mr Bradlaugh speak of the "unknowable;" and that he should
use such a term is quite contrary to the whole of my experience of his
careful methods of speech. In any case the above will serve to show
that he would not be likely to put "any such monstrous proposition," as
that the to him "unknowable" was therefore unknowable to men with wider
means of knowledge.

       *       *       *       *       *

In June of the same year Mr Bradlaugh held a debate with Mr Robert
Roberts, a leader of a sect called the Christadelphians. He had
challenged Mr Bradlaugh to the discussion, and the subject selected
was, "Are the Scriptures the Authentic and Reliable Records of Divine
Revelation?" The question was to be argued for six nights, two at
Leicester and four at Birmingham. After the two nights at Leicester
Mr Bradlaugh avowed his disappointment; he had hoped that at any
rate the discussion would bring out some new thought, but after
two evenings' experience, he doubted whether that result would be
attained. "He may be a good preacher," said my father; "he is most
certainly not a good disputant." At Leicester the audience were small;
at Birmingham they were larger, but the debate does not seem to have
been any more enlightening. Mr Roberts was described by one of the
Birmingham auditors as "a man of considerable fluency of speech, and
overflowing with religious enthusiasm," and also "in all respects a
courteous gentleman," but unfortunately those qualities did not make
him a debater. On each evening a quarter of an hour was occupied by
each disputant in questioning his antagonist according to the Socratic
method, and this feature of the proceedings seemed specially to attract
the audience, although indeed it must require considerable practice
and skill before it can be successfully carried out. Mr Roberts
challenged Mr Bradlaugh to further debate, but this the latter felt
obliged to respectfully decline on the ground of the challenger's
"utter incompetency."

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days later Mr Bradlaugh was at Liverpool discussing the necessity
for disestablishing and disendowing the State Church. His antagonist
was Mr William Simpson, the working men's candidate at Liverpool at the
general election of 1874. The Concert Hall, Lord Nelson Street, was
densely packed, and it was said that there were thousands unable to
obtain admission. The arguments were closely followed by those present,
and although there was no sort of disturbance, the audience were
sufficiently excited to give audible expression to their appreciation
or disapproval, and such interruptions were generally met by a sharp
repartee from the speaker of the moment.

Mr Simpson, while praised for his fluency, courage, and resource, was
not thought equal to his task,[14] and in reading the verbatim report
of the debate, one is drawn to the conclusion that he scored his
greatest successes when making his greatest jokes.

[Footnote 14: _Liverpool Post._]

       *       *       *       *       *

My father had an unusual number of debates this year, and a little
later in the summer was at Darlington discussing with a Mr J. H. Gordon
on the question of "Atheism, is it rational?" The proceeds, after
paying expenses, were given to the Darlington Hospital. There was
no shorthand report, but in an article very hostile to Mr Bradlaugh
which appeared in a local paper, there is a description of him well
worth reproducing. The writer professed to think that my father's
Atheism--which he said, with that calm assurance born of ignorance,
paid him well "in money and gratified vanity"--was not a matter of
conviction, but merely the result of a desire to be in opposition
to the majority. He further ventured to prophesy that in Parliament
he would be a failure.[15] The following portrait of Mr Bradlaugh
sketched by a pen so unfriendly, is a singular testimony to his power:--

[Footnote 15: "At the Bar he would be a bully, in the pulpit a passing
sensation, on the stage a passion-tearing Othello, in the Press a
competent American editor, in Parliament a failure."]

 "Mr Bradlaugh is a tall, muscular man, who stands firm on his legs,
 with broad shoulders, between which is a massive, square, powerful
 head. He dresses in plain black, relieved only by an ordinary
 display of linen, and a slender watch chain. He is closely shaven
 as a Roman priest. His features are large and open, his eyes are
 of a grayish hue, and his hair, which is fast turning gray, falls
 back from a brow on which intelligence, perception, and power are
 strongly marked. He has a face which can be very pleasing and very
 stern, but which conceals the emotion at will. As he sits listening
 to the denunciations of his opponent the smile of incredulity, the
 look of astonishment, the cloud of anger, pass quickly over his
 countenance. Rising from his seat, and resting one hand upon the
 table, he commences very quietly in a voice which, until the ear is
 accustomed to it, sounds unpleasant and harsh, but which, when it
 becomes stronger, loses much of its twang, and sounds almost musical.
 His enunciation is singularly distinct, not one word being lost by the
 audience. He addresses himself to all parts of the house--gallery as
 well as body. When warmed by his subject, he advances to the centre
 of the platform, and looking his audience full in the face, and with
 right hand emphasizing every important sentence, he expresses himself
 in tones so commanding and words so distinct that his hearers may
 be hostile or friendly, but cannot be indifferent. One may retire
 horrified at his sentiments, even disgusted at his irreverence and
 audacity--from a Christian's standpoint--but no one would go to sleep
 under him. He can be complimentary and humorous, but is more at home
 in sarcasm and denunciation. He is never ponderous; nevertheless, the
 grave suits him better than the gay. Cheering does not seem to affect
 him, though he is by no means indifferent to it; but he is quick to
 perceive disapproval, and is most powerful when most loudly hissed.
 With head erect, face coloured with a flush which has in it a little
 of defiance as well as earnestness, now emphasising with his right
 hand, now with folded arms, now joining the tips of his fingers as
 if to indicate the closeness of his reasoning, as he would have the
 audience believe it, he stands defying opposition, even going out of
 his way to increase it, and revelling in his Ishmaelism."

Then, comparing him with his opponent:--

 "Mr Bradlaugh has not much action, but what he has is dignified, which
 Mr Gordon's never is. He can be severe, even harsh, but never petulant
 and peevish, which Mr Gordon frequently is. Mr Bradlaugh may abuse
 his opponent, but it is boldly, not like a bad-tempered school-girl.
 He can be pleasant, but never assumes the grimaces and gestures of
 a Merry Andrew. His features are expressive, but he never pulls
 faces. He is essentially a strong man, strong in his language and his
 oratory, self-sustained, bold in the way he meets and even avoids the
 topic of dispute."[16]

[Footnote 16: From the _Darlington and Stockton Times_.]

There are, of course, some phrases in this description which I should
contravene, but apart from these, it is a most vivid and lifelike
picture of my father as a speaker. It is, however, a mistake to
suppose that Mr Bradlaugh wantonly went out of his way to increase
opposition, or revelled in his "Ishmaelism;" what is quite true is,
that if in pursuing the path he had marked out for himself he increased
opposition, he went on just the same, and did not turn away by so
much as a hair's-breadth to avoid it. At heart he might be bitterly
wounded, but that did not make him falter. To take, for example, one
of the latest cases: when his attitude on the Employers' Liability
Bill provoked such a storm of opposition from the very men for whom he
worked, he wrote pathetically to a friend: "It is a little saddening to
me to find that in the close of my life I am to be regarded as doing
disservice to the men whom I desire to serve." But although he felt
the men's distrust thus keenly, he did not hesitate nor turn from his
course.

Nor did he revel in his "Ishmaelism;" he had no pride in being an
outcast, neither had he any shame in it; the shame of his position was
not his, it was theirs who thrust him into it. It shows a complete lack
of appreciation of the facts to suggest that a man like Mr Bradlaugh
could delight in being regarded as a sort of moral leper by his
fellow-men, who indeed neglected no means to exclude him and his from
society.

I have noticed these two points because it has been a common error
to assume that because my father did not quail before opposition,
therefore he courted it, and that because he was not ashamed when
the law said, "You are an Atheist, and as such you are outside our
protection," therefore he rejoiced in being so distinguished. Both
assumptions are equally and entirely without foundation.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the same year also Mr Bradlaugh held a written discussion with
the Rev. John Lightfoot, of Wolverhampton, on the subject of
Eternal Torment. This controversy consisted of four letters from
each disputant, and was printed in the _National Reformer_; it was
afterwards issued in pamphlet form, and is still obtainable.

In 1877 he had too much work to allow him to indulge in public
discussions on theological subjects, but in 1878 he held a debate
with the Rev. R. A. Armstrong, a Unitarian minister much respected in
Nottingham. This encounter was the result of a lecture given by Mr
Bradlaugh in Nottingham in defence of Atheism, and as a reply to some
lectures delivered by Professor Max Müller under the Hibbert Trust.
Mr Armstrong offered some opposition at the close of Mr Bradlaugh's
address, and a debate was suggested. Nothing further was said at the
time, but the local Secular Society took the matter up, and pressed
Mr Armstrong in such "courteous and earnest terms," that after
consultation with his friends, he agreed to accept the challenge. The
subject selected for discussion was, "Is it reasonable to worship
God?" and the time appointed was the 5th and 6th of September. The
debate was a great success, not indeed as furnishing the audience
with a cut-and-dried answer "Yes" or "No" to the question argued by
the disputants--a result rarely, if ever, attained--but both sides
of the question were put forward with a calm and serious earnestness
which must have been very pleasant to listen to. Mr G. B. Rothera
made an admirably impartial chairman, and the audience, which crowded
every corner of the Co-operative Hall long before the hour fixed for
commencement, listened throughout with close and appreciative attention.

On the morning of the 5th Mr Bradlaugh had gone early to Coldbath
Fields Prison to attend the release of Edward Truelove from his six
months' imprisonment in defence of a free press. It had been a dull,
close morning, damp with the rain which had not long ceased falling;
inside the gaol the chaplain, not seeing my father and Mr Truelove's
son, had sneered at the crowd of Freethinkers waiting in the damp
and gloomy street without; had sneered, too, at the Freethinker, the
prisoner, within, whose age might have been his protection. This was
a sorry preparation for debate, but when the evening was over my
father said, "I left London in no mood for debating. Coldbath Fields
atmosphere hung about me all day, but the debate, as far as the first
night has gone, is the most pleasant one in which I have ever taken
part."

The discussion was afterwards republished as a pamphlet, to which Mr
Armstrong added, by invitation, a few prefatory words giving his
reasons for taking part in it, and suggesting books for study to those
who wished to learn more of the positive argument for Theism and
Worship.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last debate in which Mr Bradlaugh took part prior to 1880 was
one in the early part of March 1879, with the Rev. W. M. Westerby, a
Congregational minister of Burnley. The subject agreed upon, and worded
by Mr Westerby, was, "Has, or is, man a soul?" The chair was taken on
each of the two evenings by the Rev. R. Littlehales, Baptist minister,
and the audiences were large and orderly. "The Rev. R. Littlehales
was thoroughly impartial" said Mr Bradlaugh, "quite doing his duty,
but scarcely saying a word that was not absolutely necessary." Of his
opponent Mr Westerby, he spoke as "an able speaker, with considerable
tact and judgment, and showing the utmost courtesy." The proceeds were
given to the Blackburn and East Lancashire Infirmary, without any
deduction for the expenses of the disputants. That was all very well
as far as Mr Westerby was concerned, for the discussion took place in
his own town; but Mr Bradlaugh had to journey from London to Burnley at
his own cost, and pay his own hotel expenses. This heavy tax he rightly
regarded as unreasonable, and such as should not have been demanded of
him, nevertheless he thought the result was worth the sacrifice, and
was glad he had made it. Indeed, this debate is regarded by many as
one of the best in which Mr Bradlaugh ever took part. Amongst them,
the Burnley and Preston papers gave about thirty-five columns of
report; leading articles were written and sermons were preached upon
the subject, and in that part of Lancashire, at least, the arguments
were pretty thoroughly discussed. A verbatim report was published,[17]
and in that and in a little pamphlet[18] issued many years before this
discussion, Mr Bradlaugh's position on the question of the "soul" is
fully set out.

[Footnote 17: "Has, or is, Man a Soul?" Two nights' debate with Rev. W.
M. Westerby.]

[Footnote 18: "Has Man a Soul?" Theological Essays by C. Bradlaugh,
vol. i.]



CHAPTER VI.

SOME LATER LECTURES.


Mr Bradlaugh addressed an audience in Oxford for the first time early
in May 1875, when he spoke upon the subject of "Land and Labour."
Some difficulty had been made as to the use of the Town Hall, and a
smaller hall, known as the Holywell Music Room, was engaged. A number
of undergraduates put in an appearance, but as Mr A. R. Cluer, who was
also present, observed, it was evident that they had come "more with
the intention of attempting to interrupt than to listen quietly. But
after the first few sallies of undergraduate wit had been effectively
met and replied to by Mr Bradlaugh, in which encounters the laugh
always remained on his side, the audience was tolerably peaceful." The
Oxford papers gave their different versions of the lecture, but they
all joined in the announcement that the chairman was a sweep by trade,
whereat my father immediately wrote, "If Mr Hines is not ashamed to
again preside for me, I shall be glad to ask him to take the chair at
my next meeting." The "next meeting" followed close on the heels of the
first, for on the 26th Mr Bradlaugh was again in Oxford, speaking in a
room crowded to excess, upon the subject of "One Hundred Years of Tory
Rule." The majority of the audience was composed of undergraduates,
and the interruption kept up by these gentlemen in embryo was so
continuous that "a complete sentence was almost impossible." Appeals
to the good sense and decency of the audience were in vain; cigars and
pipes were lit and smoked; shouts, yells, hisses, and insulting remarks
were continued throughout the lecture. One of the most prominent of
the disturbers was said to be Lord Lymington, son of the Earl of
Portsmouth, who not only himself misbehaved, but also encouraged others
to do likewise. In January 1877 my father was once more in Oxford,
lecturing this time in the Town Hall. Again the undergraduates mustered
for a disturbance, and at one time, when a townsman was knocked down
by a gownsman, it seemed as though a general _melée_ was imminent.[19]
This time, however, firmness and good temper brought all things right,
and the lecture was allowed to come to a peaceful termination. It was
succeeded by a sharp fire of questions, enjoyed no less by the person
questioned than by the questioners.

[Footnote 19: Although the lecture was purely political, the subject
being "National Taxation," the _Oxford Times_ attempted to justify this
rowdyism by saying, "A man who identifies himself with a creed which
denies the doctrine of reward and punishment in the future life cannot
reasonably expect toleration here."]

       *       *       *       *       *

A subject which Mr Bradlaugh lectured upon very much in 1876,
especially during the early part of the year, was the Suez Canal.
He had only just returned from America when he learned privately of
the purchase by the English Government of the Viceroy of Egypt's
shares in the Suez Canal. Ill as he was--he was just convalescent
from typhoid fever--he at once gave a lecture protesting against the
purchase, a protest in which for some time he stood quite alone. He
wrote a stirring article asking, "Why should the people of England
pay £4,000,000 to the Viceroy of Egypt?" and he lectured against the
purchase week after week. About four or five weeks later others also
began to protest. Sir Geo. Campbell, M.P., in the _Fortnightly Review_,
was one of the first to take ground against the Government. Inspired
by Mr Bradlaugh, resolutions of protest were passed in different parts
of the country, and so thoroughly did public opinion change that by
the end of March the _Standard_ itself was corroborating statements my
father had made early in January.

       *       *       *       *       *

An amusing circumstance happened at Darwen when Mr Bradlaugh was
lecturing there in the summer of 1876. A foolish Christian challenged
him to pay a visit of consolation to an old bed-ridden woman named
Peggy Jepson, and offered him a sovereign if he would go. Amidst much
laughter and cheering, he took the sovereign, and carried it straight
to the old woman, who was of course surprised and delighted beyond
measure with the unexpected gift; this was a form of "consolation"
which met with her decided approval. Not so with the Christian
challenger, however. He was so irritated that he threatened Mr
Bradlaugh with County Court proceedings for the return of his pound.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the end of September in this year my father and Mrs Besant had been
invited to lecture at Congleton on two successive evenings, and to
be the guests of Mr and Mrs Wolstenholme Elmy, at Buglawton, during
their stay. The Town Hall having been refused for their lectures, the
Salford Mill, an old silk mill, was engaged. Mr Bradlaugh spoke the
first evening on "The right to speak and the right to think," but a
certain section of the inhabitants of Congleton thought so little of
these rights that they kept up a perpetual din outside the mill, and
smashed the windows by throwing stones. While the attention of those
on the platform was distracted by the removal of a little child out of
reach of the falling glass, some coward threw something at Mrs Besant,
striking her a severe blow on the back of her head. After the lecture
the little party had a mile and a half to walk to Buglawton, which they
did accompanied by a noisy crowd, which alternately used language of
opprobrium and sang "Safe in the arms of Jesus." When the escort got
too demonstrative Mr Bradlaugh and Mr Elmy turned about and faced them,
and then, like sheep, the crowd turned about too. A woman was struck
full in the face by a Methodist shoemaker, whom she had detected in the
act of throwing mud and had reproved. At the house the crowd remained
yelling outside until midnight. But if Monday (the first night) was
bad, Tuesday was worse, because the rioting was more organised. For
two hours before the lecture a crowd assembled in front of Mr Elmy's
gate, hooting impartially every one seen entering or leaving the house.
A cab had been engaged to drive to the mill where Mrs Besant was to
lecture, although she was still suffering from the hurt of the evening
before, and as they got into the vehicle a volley of stones was thrown,
but fortunately no one was hurt. During the lecture eight persons came
in together, and it was soon evident that a thorough disturbance was
planned. One of the new-comers shouted, "Put her out," and as this
seemed the signal for a fight, my father said sternly that the next
one who interrupted should be put out. A man named Burbery, a local
tradesman and well-known wrestler who boasted his prize cups, invited
Mr Bradlaugh to make the attempt upon him. My father saw that if the
lecture was to go on something must be done, and that quickly, so he
descended from the platform, and laying hands upon the champion, after
a short struggle ejected him, and handed him over to the charge of
the police outside. The audience inside cheered and hooted; the crowd
outside yelled and threw stones--one of which, striking Mrs Elmy, cut
her severely over the right eye. The excitement subsided in a few
minutes, however, and the lecture concluded, and discussion was held
in perfect quiet and order. An attempt was made at Mr Elmy's house to
repeat the scene of the night before, but my father and his host went
out, and at length succeeded in frightening the disturbers away.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was myself present on one occasion when Mr Bradlaugh had himself
to put some rufflers out of a hall in Newman Street, London. In June
1877 a meeting on the Population question was held at Cambridge Hall,
and was attended by a number of medical students from, I believe, the
Middlesex Hospital. There was a crowded meeting, and there were, in
addition to my father, several speakers, both men and women. Several
of the medical students got up to move amendments, and in the midst of
a very coarse speech by one of them, some of his friends at the side
commenced to flourish thick sticks, and emphasize their opinions by
bringing these same sticks into contact with the heads of the peaceful
members of the audience. A general fight seemed imminent, when Mr
Bradlaugh in commanding tones requested every one to keep his seat,
and himself going up to the ringleaders, seized three of them by their
collars--two in one hand and one in the other--and partly carrying,
partly pushing them down the hall, cast them out of the door amidst
cheers of delight from the audience.[20] The students who remained
ventured on no more disturbance, and the meeting proceeded in peace and
order.

[Footnote 20: Dr Nichols had an amusing article on this meeting in
the _Living Age_. "The juvenile sawbones," he said, "climbed upon the
platform and moved their amendments with admirable audacity. They had
not much to say, and they did not know how to say what they had thought
of saying; but they mounted the breach bravely enough for all that. And
the Malthusian majority behaved very well--much better than English
audiences usually do when there is opposition. In the sudden charge
that swept the forlorn hope out of the fortress, it looked for a few
moments as if there might be a case for the coroner, but Mr Bradlaugh's
disciples were mindful of his teachings."]

In the autumns of 1877 and 1878 Mr Bradlaugh took my sister and me with
him on a lecturing tour he was making in Scotland with Mrs Besant.
These tours were a sort of combination of work and holiday, in which
the work was to pay for the holiday, and they were both greatly enjoyed
by us all. We went as far north as Aberdeen, and came south as far
as Hawick. In several of the towns we visited--notably at Perth and
Edinburgh--we found kind and hearty friends equally eager to make the
holiday part of our visit as great a success as the work itself.

The arrangements were all well made, and it was not until the second
visit that any serious hitch arose, and that came unexpectedly at
Edinburgh. In 1877 Professor Flint had delivered a series of lectures
on "Theism," under the auspices of the Baird Trustees. My father wrote
some replies to them, and on sending the first to Professor Flint he
received this kindly letter in acknowledgment:--

 "Johnstone Lodge, Craigmillar Park,
 "Edinburgh, December 25th, 1877.

 "SIR,--I thank you kindly for sending me a copy of the
 _National Reformer_ for December 23rd. I shall read with interest any
 criticisms you may be pleased to make on my book on 'Theism,' and I
 shall endeavour to answer them in a note or notes to the volume on
 'Anti-theistic Theories,' a copy of which will be forwarded to you. I
 regret that my time will not allow me to do more than this.--Thanking
 you sincerely for your personal courtesy towards me, from whose
 views you so thoroughly dissent, I am, Sir, yours very truly, R.
 FLINT.

 "C. BRADLAUGH."

In the autumn of 1878 Mr Bradlaugh determined to take one of Professor
Flint's lectures, "Is belief in God reasonable?" and make some reply
to it from an Edinburgh platform. The Music Hall was duly engaged,
the lectures were advertised for the 26th and 27th of September, and
everything promised successful meetings both for himself and for Mrs
Besant. On the 23rd, however, the directors of the hall cancelled the
hiring. As Mrs Besant's subject was "Christianity: Immoral in Theory
and Demoralising in Practice," it was thought at the outset that the
refusal was on her account, but a special mention of the subject of Mr
Bradlaugh's lecture in the letter written by the directors contradicted
this impression. The Edinburgh Freethinkers were indignant; they
sought legal advice, but found they had no redress, Professor Flint's
lectures had been largely attended and fully reported in the Scotch
papers, but of course he had argued in the affirmative. The Committee
who had arranged the lectures for Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant then went
to the Artillery Hall, and explained all the circumstances; the hall
was then hired and paid for, but on the same afternoon the hall-keeper
returned the money, saying that the proprietors would not let it for
the purposes required, and further, that he was instructed to have the
place "guarded by police" on the Thursday and Friday evenings. Many
fruitless attempts were made to obtain a hall. On Thursday Mrs Besant's
lecture had to be abandoned, and we went to the theatre instead,
whilst a large number of persons, who had not seen the notices of
postponement, assembled at the Artillery Hall. The Society of Arts Hall
was obtained for Friday, and when this was known, much pressure was put
upon the proprietors to rescind their contract; they held out until the
afternoon, then they also gave way and refused the hall, and when the
audience came in the evening they found the doors locked and the place
under police protection. At last Mr Bradlaugh wrote to Professor Flint,
shortly stating the case, and appealing to his sense of fair play to
aid him in procuring a platform in Edinburgh where he might reply to
his arguments. To this letter he received the following reply:--

 "Edinburgh, September 30, 1878.

 "SIR,--It appears to me that you have very good reason to
 complain of the injustice of the persons who, after granting you the
 use of their halls, cancelled their contracts. I sincerely regret the
 treatment you have met with in Edinburgh in this respect. I have no
 influence, however, with the directors of public halls in this city,
 and therefore cannot do more than assure you that I cordially wish
 you the fullest liberty you can desire to discuss and criticise my
 lectures on Theism. The more freely the grounds of religious belief
 are examined from all points of view the better.--I am, etc. R.
 FLINT."

One immediate outcome of this exhibition of intolerance was an offer,
publicly made and advertised in the _Scotsman_, of a sum of £500
towards the building of a hall in which free discussion might be held.

Mr Bradlaugh lectured many times in Edinburgh both before and after
this date, but, as far as I am aware, this is the only time on which he
had any difficulty about obtaining a hall to speak in.

Many Scarborough people will recall the fuss made over Mr Bradlaugh's
lecture there in the Old Town Hall on "Eternal Hope and Eternal
Torment" in April 1879. A protest, signed by nearly every clergyman
in the borough, was sent to the Corporation. That Mr Bradlaugh should
lecture in a public building belonging to the town was, said these
intolerant clerics, "a public scandal," and "a most serious outrage
upon the convictions of the rate-payers." The Mayor moved that this
protest be entered upon the Minutes, but there were only five votes in
favour of his motion, and it was therefore rejected. My father lectured
in Scarborough in 1882 on "Perpetual Pensions," and was to have
lectured there again in 1889, but this engagement had to be cancelled
in consequence of his serious illness.



CHAPTER VII.

LUNATICS.


I suppose that all public men are more or less troubled with lunatic
correspondents and lunatic visitors, so that in this respect Mr
Bradlaugh was in no way singular; but perhaps they gave him more
trouble than most men because he was so easy of access. Any one who
wished to see him had only to knock at the door, to ask, and to be
admitted if my father were at home.

Letters from insane persons were of constant occurrence, but they were
soon disposed of--the wastepaper basket was large and was always at
hand. There was one man, however, who wrote my father daily for years;
indeed, sometimes he would write twice in a day. His letters were
without coherence, written on scraps of paper of all shapes and sizes,
and I do not remember that he ever gave either his name or his address.

But if there was the ever-hospitable wastepaper basket ready to receive
a lunatic's letters, a lunatic visitor needed to be treated more
discreetly. This was especially the case at Turner Street, where the
room was small, and there was not much space in which to move about.
When a visitor called he was usually requested to be seated at the side
of the writing-table opposite my father. The chairs were few, and if
the visitors were many, some had to sit on piles of books or pamphlets.

One day a man called at Turner Street, and was asked to sit down in the
customary way. My father inquired his business, and without going much
into detail the visitor explained, with a queer, uncertain look in his
eyes, that he had "a mission from God" to kill him; and thereupon he
drew out a formidable-looking knife. Mr Bradlaugh examined the man's
face, and saw that it was no foolish hoax being played upon him. There
was a quiet determination about his would-be murderer that was anything
but reassuring.

The chair in which my father always sat was an old-fashioned,
high-backed oaken chair, with arms, and from the back at the right
hand hung, suspended by a strap, his heavy Colt's revolver; between
himself and the lunatic was the small writing-table, 27 inches wide. My
father carefully felt behind him until he felt the revolver under his
fingers, and then he quietly asked the man if he was quite sure that
God had given him this mission. Yes, the man said; he was "quite sure."
"Have you consulted any one about it?" "No," was the reply. "Don't you
think it would be better to do so?" gently insinuated Mr Bradlaugh; "I
should be inclined to talk it over with some one--with the Archbishop
of Canterbury, for instance--were I in your place. You see it might
be rather awkward afterwards if there should happen to be any mistake
about the matter."

This apparently was a view of the case which had not previously
occurred to the lunatic, but he promptly accepted it, and announced
his determination to go to Lambeth Palace forthwith; and it was with
a perceptible feeling of relief that my father heard the street door
close upon his visitor. He knew that there was no danger to the
Archbishop, as there was no probability of such a man being allowed to
see him.

Mr Bradlaugh had had a case a little before this of which the
circumstances were rather peculiar. A man named John Sladen came
up from his home in Cheshire on Thursday, March 31st, 1870, and in
the evening he went to the New Hall of Science in Old Street, where
a social gathering was about to be held to commemorate the tenth
anniversary of the publication of the _National Reformer_. Before
the proceedings commenced, John Sladen made himself known to Mr
Austin Holyoake, to whom he was previously an entire stranger, and
asked him if he could speak with Mr Bradlaugh for a few minutes. Mr
Holyoake introduced him to Mr Bradlaugh, who took him into a private
room. In the course of conversation Sladen informed my father that he
had determined to kill the Queen, giving as his chief reason (if my
memory serves me) that she wanted to marry him. Mr Bradlaugh returned
to Mr Holyoake, and explained the state of affairs to him, and they
both agreed that the police ought to be informed, so my father went
to the police station and saw the inspector, who sent an officer in
plain clothes to the Hall. In order to avoid any disturbance amongst
the people present, Sladen was allowed to remain until ten o'clock,
when, as Mr Holyoake said, the police officer "very adroitly got him
away." Sladen was so sensible on most matters that at first the police
were disinclined to believe in his madness, but before the night was
out they had more than sufficient proof. On the following morning Mr
Bradlaugh telegraphed to Sladen's friends, and went himself to the
police station to see that he was properly cared for. Eventually he
was sent to Hanwell Asylum, and on the earliest opportunity he wrote
reproaching my father. Of course he did not think he was mad, and he
told Mr Bradlaugh that as he had been the means of putting him in the
Asylum, it was his duty to get him out, or at any rate to send him
papers to read. Later on my father communicated with Dr Bayley, the
physician to the Asylum, who assured him that Sladen was not fit to
be released, and that any political reading would be calculated to
excite him and retard his cure. But a few years later I believe he was
allowed to have the _National Reformer_. My father never lost sight of
him; he used to send to the Asylum to make enquiries, and Sladen also
wrote to him occasionally; he always felt Sladen's to be a sad case,
and was oppressed by a feeling of responsibility in the matter just
because he was the one to hand him over to the police. Of course there
was a small public sensation about the matter, which the newspapers did
their best to fan into a big one at Mr Bradlaugh's expense. The east
end of London was posted with large placards announcing "A Threat to
murder the Queen at the New Hall of Science."[21] An evening paper[22]
giving a report of the proceedings, told how Sladen "heard Mr Bradlaugh
lecture" at the Hall of Science, and _after the lecture_ told Mr
Bradlaugh of his determination to kill the Queen. The next morning
this report was repeated, but with additional embellishments. Now it
was said that Sladen "went to hear a lecture by Mr Bradlaugh, and soon
afterwards burst into threats of such violence towards Her Majesty that
he was taken into custody as a dangerous lunatic."[23] That there was
no lecture at the Hall that evening, that there was no bursting out
into threats of violence, that Sladen spoke to Mr Bradlaugh _before_,
and not _after_, the commencement of the evening's proceedings, were
of course matters of mere detail, without value when compared with the
opportunity of raising a prejudice against Mr Bradlaugh. Similarly,
when the lad O'Connor tried to frighten the Queen with an empty pistol,
it was said that probably a large "share of the mischief was caused
by the lad's attendance on the lectures of a notorious Infidel and
Republican lecturer, whose inflammatory discourses, falling on a weak,
excitable, untrained mind, produced the natural effect and goaded him
on to mischief."[24] That there was no evidence that the lad had ever
attended any such lectures was apparently of small importance.

[Footnote 21: This was done by the _Eastern Post_.]

[Footnote 22: The _Pall Mall Gazette_. Mr Austin Holyoake wrote a short
letter contradicting this report, and giving the simple facts of the
case, but his letter was not inserted.]

[Footnote 23: _Daily News._]

[Footnote 24: _City Press._]

       *       *       *       *       *

At Circus Road I can recall several mad visitors: one in shirt sleeves
and leather apron, who offered to reveal a secret to Mr Bradlaugh
whereby he might become possessed of millions; another, a little
old lady, who told with a mysterious air how she was "the Secret
History;" another, who was so noisy that he had to be put out, and who
then remained in the street below shouting out that Mr Bradlaugh had
ill-used him, till he brought out all the neighbours to their doors,
and the commotion he raised threatened to hinder the traffic. Then
there were some who claimed to be descendants of one or other of the
Brunswicks, and as such entitled to the Crown; but provided they were
quietly listened to, these gave little trouble save in the time they
wasted.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE "WATCH" STORY.


There have been some fictions so pertinaciously circulated about Mr
Bradlaugh that any story of his life would be incomplete without some
reference to them. Lies are so proverbially hard to kill, however,
that I dare not feel confident that even an exposure of them here will
altogether discredit these old favourites, but at least I hope that it
may have some little effect.

I think the most popular of all these is what has come to be known as
"the watch story," and for this reason I have taken the trouble to
trace back its history, not exactly to its origin, but for the last
hundred years or so. The defiance of Deity, which is really only the
converse of the prayer, is a very ancient idea, and the old stories
mostly ended in the punishment or death of the person who so rashly
defied the Omnipotent. The so-called Atheist who, in the time of the
French Revolution, defied God to prevent him drinking his cup of wine,
was struck dead to the ground, and the cup was dashed untasted from his
lips. Even during this century, as late as 1849 or 1850, the story was
told of a wicked soldier who rode out of the ranks, and turning his
horse's head, faced his companions, exclaiming, "If there be a God, let
Him now prove it by striking me dead before you." In a few minutes this
rash young man was a corpse--a victim to the wrath of an outraged Deity
and a solemn warning to his comrades.

When this fable is related, not of vague personalities such as the
"Atheist" or the "wicked soldier," but of actual living persons, the
termination has to be amended,[25] and the moral loses something of
its point. The first time that it was told of Mr Bradlaugh was, as far
as I can trace, in the year 1867. There was at that time a certain
Conservative journal called the _British Monarchy_, the editor of
which, desiring to damage the Reform League, expressed his opinion in
choice and elegant language that the meetings of the League gave

 "An opportunity to the roughs of the Metropolis to sack the shops,
 ... goaded on by the fool who says in his heart there is 'no God,'
 which reminds us," he went on, "of a fact related of a resigned
 leading member of the Reform League, and the supposed projector of
 the 'Good Friday meeting'[26] of this year. This would-be lawgiver
 and law-maker, travelling on the Great Eastern Railway, was as usual
 endeavouring to propagate his hateful opinions. He had the presumption
 to offer, it is said, as a proof of his assertion that 'there is no
 God,' the fact that if, on taking out his watch from his pocket, he
 held it in his hand for some minutes and was not struck dead, it would
 be conclusive evidence of the truth of his opinions. He was not struck
 dead because of God's long-suffering mercy. He reminds us of Pharaoh;
 may he escape his fate!"

[Footnote 25: As late as January 1884, however, Mr Bradlaugh noted
a case reported in several newspapers of a private in the Hampshire
Regiment, who cried, "God strike me blind!" and who thereupon "felt
drowsy, and stretched himself on his bed, but when he attempted to
open his eyes, he found he could not do so, and he has since been
wholly deprived of the use of his eyes. He was conveyed to the Haslar
Military Hospital, where he remains." As this was tolerably definite,
inquiries were made at the Hospital. In answer to these, the principal
wrote: "There is no truth whatever in the statement, and the lad who is
supposed to have sworn never swore at all. He has a weak right eye; it
was slightly inflamed--the result of a cold--but he is now quite well.
He is very indignant and hurt at the statement, and, if he did swear,
he is not blind."]

[Footnote 26: Mr Bradlaugh was neither the projector nor the advocate
of the Good Friday promenade.]

Mr Bradlaugh never by any chance sought to propagate his opinions in a
railway carriage, nor was he ever guilty of "such ridiculous folly," as
he contemptuously termed it, as that attributed to him by the _British
Monarchy_. Long before this story was attached to Mr Bradlaugh name it
was told of Abner Kneeland, the Pantheist and abolitionist in America;
indeed, the defiance of Deity in this particular manner is said to have
originated in a story told by an American of Abner Kneeland.[27] It was
ascribed to Mrs Emma Martin,[28] a Freethought speaker in England, who
was eulogised by Mr G. J. Holyoake as "beautiful in expression, quick
in wit, strong in will, eloquent in speech, coherent in connection, and
of a stainless character, she was incomparable among public women." It
was related again and again of Mr G. J. Holyoake, who wrote a denial of
it as early as January 1854. Many times also was the challenge ascribed
to Mrs Harriet Law, a lecturer on the Freethought platform thirty years
ago; and later, when Mrs Besant came into the movement, she was made
to play the part of heroine in this affecting drama, although, as she
herself pointed out, "there is one very queer thing about the story;
it never appears in any report given at the time of any lecture, and
no one speaks of having heard the challenge the day, week, or month,
or year after it was done. The pious Christian always heard it about
twenty years ago, and has kept it locked in his bosom ever since."[29]

[Footnote 27: Kneeland died in 1844. The tale was repeatedly
contradicted.]

[Footnote 28: Emma Martin died in 1857. In her case also it was
contradicted.]

[Footnote 29: _National Reformer_, June 6th, 1880.]

From 1867, when the _British Monarchy_ first associated this story
with Mr Bradlaugh's name, down to 1880, when my father commenced a
prosecution against a man named Edgcumbe, not a single year passed
without some repetition of it. Since this prosecution, although it
still occasionally shows signs of life, it is not nearly so vigorous.
The story was circulated, not merely by vulgar and irresponsible
purveyors of slander, but even by persons whose position gave an air of
unimpeachable veracity to anything they might choose to say.

The first person to relate the "watch" story orally of Mr Bradlaugh was
Mr Charles Capper, M.P., who, as it may be remembered, told it with
some detail at a public meeting at Sandwich during the general election
of 1868, giving the name of Mr Charles Gilpin as his authority.[30] My
father at once wrote to Mr Capper that he had read his speech "with
indignation, but without surprise, for no inventions on the part of
my enemies would now surprise me." He had, he said, "seen Mr Charles
Gilpin, and so far as he is concerned, I have his distinct authority to
entirely deny that he ever told you anything of the kind, and I have
therefore to apply to you for an immediate retraction of and apology
for your cowardly falsehood, which has been industriously circulated in
Northampton, and which could only have been uttered with the view of
doing me injury in my candidature in that borough. Permit me to add,
that I never in my life (either in Northampton or any other place)
have uttered any phrase affording a colour of justification for the
monstrous words you put in my mouth."

[Footnote 30: _Deal and Sandwich Mercury_, Sept. 26.]

But Mr Charles Capper would not retract, and would not apologise, so Mr
Bradlaugh, who felt all the more incensed about this, because of the
dragging in of Mr Gilpin's name as authority for the slander, brought
an action against him. Before it could be brought into Court, however,
Mr Capper died.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the December of the same year, during the hearing of the proceedings
in the _Razor_ libel case, the counsel for the defendant Brooks asked
Mr Bradlaugh, in cross-examination, "Did you not once at a public
lecture take out your watch and defy the Deity, if he had an existence,
to strike you dead in a certain number of minutes?" "Never. Such a
suggestion is utterly unjustifiable," was my father's indignant answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the winter of 1869, the Rev. P. R. Jones, M.A., of Trinity Church,
Huddersfield, added the weight of his authority to the slander.
The municipal elections were about to take place, and the cry of
"infidel" had been raised against one of the candidates for the West
Ward. Hence, on the Sunday immediately before the election, Mr Jones
preached a sermon against "infidels" and "infidelity," and, as an
"apt illustration of his subject," he charged Mr Bradlaugh with the
watch episode. When this came to the ears of the Huddersfield Secular
Society, they lost no time in writing to ask Mr Jones whether he had
indeed made such a statement concerning Mr Bradlaugh. This, said the
_Huddersfield Examiner_, the reverend gentleman had not "the manliness
to admit ... nor even the courtesy to acknowledge the receipt of the
secretary's letter." The Committee of the local Secular Society waited
for seven days, and then appointed a deputation to wait upon the Rev.
Mr Jones. The editor of the _Examiner_ observed that the explanation
then given by that gentleman was "not very satisfactory, and I do
not wonder he was so tardy about making it. He had heard the absurd
story some years ago, but the person who told it to him had left
Huddersfield; and on such slender authority as this he brought a charge
of using senseless and blasphemous words against Mr Bradlaugh." The
Rev. P. R. Jones, M.A., in the course of his duties must have preached
obedience to the ninth commandment, but he evidently did not always
enforce his teachings by a personal example.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just about the same time another clergyman, the Rev. Dr Harrison of St
James's Church, Latchford, in a sermon preached upon that favourite but
not very polite text, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no
God," was reported[31] to have told the story, with a slight variation,
of some unnamed person.

[Footnote 31: _Crewe Guardian._]

 "What did they think of a man at Manchester," he asked, "standing up
 at a public assembly and opening the Bible in the presence of the
 people, and saying if the Bible was true he hoped God would strike him
 dead? That was in the newspapers not long ago. A creature, a worm, a
 being dependent upon the Almighty, raising his puny arm against the
 Deity, asking God to strike him dead if the Bible were true. It would
 not have been a wonder if God had struck him dead; the wonder was that
 God should be so merciful as to let him live."

When the Rev. Dr Harrison was challenged as to the name of the man,
the time, and place of the occurrence, and the names of the newspapers
which reported it, he could of course give no satisfactory authority
for his statements.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the summer of 1870 the _Christian_, in a tirade against infidelity,
stated that "the well-known Atheist Bradlaugh, at a public meeting in
London, is reported to have taken out his watch, with these words, 'If
there be a God in heaven, I give Him five minutes to strike me dead.'"
Upon this being brought under his notice, my father said that he was
"really weary with contradicting this monstrous lie."

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Liverpool Porcupine_ in the same year gave a startling variation
on the ordinary version. A certain unnamed person--by implication,
Mr Bradlaugh--"called on the Almighty, if he had any existence, to
strike dead _some relative_, and thus prove his power." The _Porcupine_
forgot that it is the Christian creed which teaches the doctrine of
the scapegoat, and even the sacrifice of a relative. It forms no part
whatever of Atheistic teachings.

The Rev. R. S. Cathcart, agent to the Religious Tract Society, in
addressing a meeting in the Corn Exchange, Gloucester, in the autumn
of 1871, lamented the spread of infidelity in the north of England,
where, he said, it was encouraged by a "blatant orator, Bradlaugh,
from London." He added that there was even "one poor benighted woman"
who "had actually produced her watch and challenged God, if, she said,
there be one, to appear before them on the platform at a given time."
Mr Cathcart, on being asked as to the when, and where, and the woman,
failed to make reply.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next carrier of the slander was an important one. The _Financial
Reformer_ for the December of the same year (1871) described Mr
Bradlaugh as "the superenlightened gentleman who pulled out his watch
at an open-air meeting and challenged Almighty God to strike him
dead within five minutes, if God there were." My father was becoming
somewhat accustomed to having this accusation made by persons who
wished to make out a case against the "infidel," but to find it in
the _Financial Reformer_ was an unexpected blow. He wrote a courteous
letter to the editor, but the editor made no reply; he wrote to Mr
Robertson Gladstone, the president of the council publishing the
paper, but Mr Robertson Gladstone left the letter without notice. At
length, thoroughly angry, he wrote to the printers, threatening legal
proceedings. A proof of an "apology" already in type was sent him, but
it was not such as he felt he could accept, and he wrote to the printer
to that effect. The apology was then somewhat amended, and with the
copy of the _Financial Reformer_ containing it the editor sent a letter
to Mr Bradlaugh, conveying a frank and full expression of his regret.
Upon receiving this my father forgave not only the offence, but the
tardiness of the acknowledgment, and, moreover, expressed his sense of
indebtedness to the editor for his apology.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Stourbridge Observer_ of about the same date also repeated the
watch story of "Bradlaugh," and, with incredible coarseness, added
that "he has been known on another occasion to stop a lame man in the
streets, and tell him that he would spit upon such a God as his that
would allow him to remain in that deplorable condition." Mr Bradlaugh,
at the request of his Stourbridge friends, specifically contradicted
both these stories; but, he added, it was too much to expect him to
continually contradict every scandalous calumny to which the press gave
ready circulation against him.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the next places in which the story appeared was Dudley, where,
in the winter of 1873, during my father's absence in America, it was
related by the Rev. B. M. Kitson, who apparently introduced it into
a speech for the benefit of the Additional Curates' Aid Society. He
located the episode at the Hall of Science in Old Street, City Road.
As soon as Mr Bradlaugh could obtain the reverend gentleman's address
after his return to England, he wrote requesting Mr Kitson to retract,
or to furnish him with the name of his solicitor. Mr Kitson retracted
the statement, and expressed his regret for having made it.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the spring of 1874, the Rev. Mr Herring related the tale to some
school children at a school near Goswell Road, and in the following
August the Rev. Edgar N. Thwaites, of the Church Pastoral Aid Society,
carried it to Salisbury.

       *       *       *       *       *

A month later, the _Weekly News_, in referring to the Northampton
election, remarked that Northampton was specially prominent, "because
Mr Bradlaugh, the Radical orator who challenged the Almighty to
strike him dead, has appeared in person." Anything is fair in war or
elections, some people seem to think.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the following year the Rev. Mr Cripps, of the Primitive Methodist
Chapel, Thetford, started a new variation on the old theme. At the
end of one of Mr Bradlaugh's lectures, a smith "fresh from work,"
induced him to go down on one knee (the narrator was extremely precise
in unimportant details) and proposed that they should pray to God to
"strike him dead in five minutes." This proposal seems to have somewhat
disturbed Mr Bradlaugh, for according to Mr Cripps, he "jumped up,
picked up his hat, and rushed out of the building." The Rev. Mr Cripps,
on being challenged by Mr Bradlaugh, referred him to another minister
as his authority--the Rev. M. Normandale, of Downham Market, Norfolk;
and, moreover, refusing to accept Mr Bradlaugh's "unsupported denial,"
adhered to his statement.

The next person to repeat the watch story--but without naming the
"infidel"--was, I deeply regret to say, the Rev. Basil Wilberforce,
at Southampton. The local Freethinkers were justly indignant, and Mr
J. F. Rayner, the Secretary of the Southampton Secular Society, at
once flatly contradicted the tale. The only reparation Mr Wilberforce
thought it necessary to make was to say that he was "glad to hear
it was not true," and this offhand mode of disposing of the matter
did not do much to soothe the irritated feeling of the Southampton
Freethinkers. The liberality and kindly-heartedness of the late Rev.
C. E. Steward, Vicar of St Peter's, in great measure disarmed their
anger; and later on Canon Wilberforce himself learned to hold the
Freethinkers of the district, as well as Mr Bradlaugh, in respect, and
in consequence taught them in turn to respect him.

       *       *       *       *       *

A man at Longton in 1876, whose name I do not know, brought the story
to a finer point. Hitherto it had always been told on the authority of
some second person, but this man appears to have deliberately stated
that he _saw_ Mr Bradlaugh pull out his watch, and _heard_ him defy God
to strike him dead. This manner of telling the tale in the first person
soon found favour, for only a few months later a phrenologist, calling
himself Professor Pasquil, was reported to have said that he was
present at Huddersfield when Mr Bradlaugh went through the performance
before several hundred persons. He must have "the bump of falsehood
splendidly developed," commented Mr Bradlaugh. "No such event, or
anything to justify it, ever took place anywhere; it is a deliberate
untruth." The myth was repeated in the same year at Haughley by a Mr
Scarff, and in the following year at Bristol, where there seemed to be
some confusion as to whether it was Mr Bradlaugh or Mrs Besant who was
the chief actor; Mrs Besant's name being now introduced for the first
time. "This story is a deliberate lie," wrote my father in a state of
exasperation, "and has been formally contradicted at least one hundred
times."

       *       *       *       *       *

At length, in the spring of 1877, the Rev. Dr Parker, of the City
Temple, took the matter into his fostering charge. It left his lips,
if the report[32] of his sermon is to be believed, in a form the
coarseness of which quite equalled, if it did not transcend, all that
had gone before. Said he--

 "There is a woman going up and down the country lecturing, and may be
 in London city at this moment, and she proudly cries out that there
 is no God, and she takes out her watch and says, 'Now, if there be a
 God, I give him five minutes to strike me dead,' and she coolly stands
 watching the hand of her watch dial, and because she is not struck
 dead by the time she stipulates, she cries out that there is no God;
 and working men run after this woman, and pay for listening to this
 ginger-beer blasphemy, and the ravings of a half-drunken woman."

[Footnote 32: _Northern Ensign_, May 17.]

Mr Bradlaugh offered Dr Parker the use of the columns of the _National
Reformer_ in which to verify his statement, but, needless to say, Dr
Parker did not avail himself of this offer.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1878 the fable was told by "H. Clewarth, Esq.," at the Mile End
Assembly Hall, of Mrs Besant, and by a revivalist preacher named E. B.
Telford of Mrs Harriet Law. Mr Telford also indulged in the effective
first person, even mentioning the detail that the watch was a gold
one.[33]

[Footnote 33: This person was still telling this story in December
1883.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Now we come to a still further development. In June 1879, Mr Bradlaugh
was lecturing in Huddersfield. He spoke three times on the Sunday, and
at the conclusion of his afternoon discourse a man got up, and with the
utmost assurance pretended to my father's face that he had heard him
defy God to strike him dead in the Philosophical Hall of Huddersfield
itself. A Christian gentleman, understood to be the editor of the local
_Examiner_, rose and warmly repudiated any complicity in this audacious
falsehood. Almost at the same time the story, with variations, was
repeated by a preacher of Aberdeen named Marr. He gave as his authority
a certain unknown person, John Kinch, who, it was asserted, had been
actually present when Mr Bradlaugh thus defied God.

I have been able to note here only recorded instances of the telling
of this story, but they will serve to show the astounding vitality of
a slander, even when it is one so monstrously absurd as this. It will
be seen how people of all kinds lent themselves to its circulation, and
how reluctant they were to apologise when convicted of error. I am far
from asserting that they all uttered the calumny knowing it to be a
calumny; that, in the case of such a man as the Rev. Basil Wilberforce,
would be unthinkable; but I do say that they did not take reasonable
pains to satisfy themselves of the truth of a story which, on the face
of it, was in the highest degree improbable and absurd.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Mr Bradlaugh was elected to Parliament in 1880 the wildest tales
were told about him, and, of course, amongst others the old "watch"
story came up. A Leicester paper which published it retracted and
apologised; but another, the _British Empire_, was less ready; my
father, provoked beyond endurance, went to Bow Street and asked for a
summons against S. C. Lister, a director, and J. Edgcumbe (or Edgcome),
secretary to the _British Empire Company_. Edgcumbe was also the writer
of the paragraph in which the episode was dramatically described.
Mr Bradlaugh would have proceeded against the author only, but the
libel was repeated in the paper on a later date, and therefore he
felt that he could not excuse the directors. The summons was granted,
and when the case came before the magistrate, after Mr Bradlaugh had
made his opening statement, he went into the witness-box to declare
there was not a word of truth in the paragraph. In the course of the
cross-examination a rather amusing theological discussion arose between
magistrate, counsel, and witness, in which the two former seemed quite
unable to follow Mr Bradlaugh's reasoning. "One existence," Mr Vaughan
thought, must mean "supreme existence;" failing that, counsel asked
was it "mere actual physical existence"? My father was examined as
to a number of places where the "watch" episode was alleged to have
occurred, and about a man, John Field, then in court, who, induced by
Mr Bradlaugh, was supposed to have prayed on his knees to God to strike
him (Mr Bradlaugh) dead, whilst my father timed him, watch in hand.
When, however, John Field, who called himself a Baptist minister, was
in the witness-box, his replies were such that the magistrate said
that he had better be withdrawn, as he could not possibly receive his
evidence. A witness (Bridge) swore to having heard my father defy
God in the manner alleged at Tavistock in 1853; but at the adjourned
hearing, when he was wanted for cross-examination, he was not to be
found. Amongst the witnesses were three from Northampton, who all
swore they had heard my father make the challenge at various times
and places in Northampton. Two had travelled to London together,
having their tickets taken for them by a local missionary; but at
first they swore they knew nothing of each other, and the facts only
came out gradually under cross-examination. At the end of the second
day's hearing the defendants were committed for trial.[34] Mr Vaughan
suggested that the charge should be withdrawn against Lister, as he
was only a director. Mr Bradlaugh said, if Mr Lister would give his
assurance that he knew nothing of the first or subsequent publications
of the libel, he would be content to drop the charge against him. Mr
Lister protested that he knew nothing of the matter, and Mr Bradlaugh
was about to withdraw the charge when the defendants' counsel coolly
asked that it should be dismissed with costs. I imagine, however,
that at a later stage my father consented to withdraw the case
against Lister, for the name of Edgcumbe only figures in the further
proceedings.

[Footnote 34: The editor of the _Huddersfield Examiner_, commenting
on the evidence, said: "We do not believe it, as we do not think Mr
Bradlaugh such a fool as to make such a silly exhibition of himself;
and because we know that similar things have been affirmed of him in
Huddersfield. For instance, a person called at our office last week,
stating that he had heard Mr Bradlaugh utter such a challenge, and saw
him pull out his watch in the manner stated in the course of the debate
with the Rev. Mr M'Cann in Huddersfield. To our certain knowledge no
such occurrence ever took place, and yet the man making the statement
appeared to be fully convinced that he had heard and seen what he
described as having taken place, and he was prepared to give evidence
on the subject if called upon to do so.... Imagination and feeling play
a much larger part than reason in the mental operations of not a few
well-meaning persons and allowance must be made for this when we hear
such charges as that now made against Mr Bradlaugh. Strong dislike
is felt by many against both the man and his opinions on religious
subjects, and this exposes him to misrepresentation and injustice."]

The trial, which was removed by the defendants by _certiorari_ to the
Court of Queen's Bench, was expected to take place at the end of June,
and, since prosecutors in Crown cases cannot personally address the
jury or argue points of law, my father had to employ solicitors (Messrs
Lewis) and counsel (Mr Charles Russell, Q.C., M.P., and Mr Moloney);
Sir Hardinge Giffard was briefed to appear for Edgcumbe. After some
delays, Edgcumbe was ordered to deliver his pleas within a certain
time, so that the trial might come on in November. In these pleadings
the episode was alleged to have taken place at The Philosophical Hall,
Huddersfield, about 1860 or 1861; The Theatre, Northampton, 1860, 1862,
1863, 1865, or 1866; The Woolpack Inn, Northampton, 1859; The Corn
Exchange, Northampton, 1865 or 1866; The Hall of Science, London, 1879
or 1880; The Cleveland Hall, London, 1865 or 1866; The Nelson Street
Lecture Hall, Newcastle, 1875; Tavistock, 1853, 1854, or 1860; St
George's Hall, Southwark, 1862 or 1863; St James' Hall, Plymouth, 1870;
Duke of York Public House, Cardiff, 1868.

As the vagueness of these dates made it almost impossible to get
rebutting evidence, Mr Bradlaugh demurred to the plea on this ground,
and in March 1881 his demurrer was heard by Mr Justice Grove and Mr
Justice Lindley. Mr Moloney argued for Mr Bradlaugh that the plea
was not sufficiently particular: it was only necessary to prove one
occasion to justify the libel, hence evidence had to be brought to
negative every case, and Mr Justice Grove, intervening, said, "If this
plea is good, what is to prevent a party from pleading a volume of
instances all possibly untrue, and at all events putting it upon the
prosecutor to discover the particular instance really intended to be
relied upon?" Sir H. Giffard argued that the plea was sufficient, but
the Court did not agree with him. It held that the plea was bad, and Mr
Justice Lindley further said it was embarrassing and unfair. After some
discussion the Court gave the defendant leave to amend within three
weeks on payment of costs; otherwise judgment would be given for the
Crown.

Edgcumbe now gave a series of more or less specific dates on which he
alleged that Mr Bradlaugh had defied God. He also abandoned five of his
former cases and introduced new ones at Bristol, Keighley, Leeds, and
Stourbridge. He further stated that on two occasions, at the theatre at
Northampton, Mr Bradlaugh had cast a Bible upon the ground and stamped
upon it. My father was put to tremendous trouble in procuring witnesses
from the different places, but he received help which he greatly
appreciated from unexpected quarters--from Christians who had been
present on some of the alleged occasions.

When, however, the time came, the defendant did not proceed to trial,
as he was bound to under his recognisances. My father might have taken
proceedings to estreat the recognisances; but as the _British Empire_
had ceased to exist, and the editor had already been heavily fined by
having to pay the costs of the demurrer, he was advised to let the
matter rest. This course he was perhaps the more inclined to, as he was
himself so terribly harassed by the litigation and trouble arising out
of the Parliamentary struggle.

He was rewarded for his forbearance by having the "watch" story again
repeated of him--notably by Mr Grantham, Q.C., M.P.,[35]--with the
addition that he had "not dared to go on with his action."

[Footnote 35: At Selhurst, in June 1885.]

 [_Note._--Where exact references are not given in this chapter, the
 _National Reformer_ is cited.]



CHAPTER IX.

OTHER FABLES.


There are other fables told about my father which have enjoyed a
popularity almost equal to that of the famous watch episode. There
is the allegation--referred to elsewhere--that he compared God with
a monkey with three tails. This was started by the _Saturday Review_
in 1867, and was for years continually reappearing in all sorts of
unexpected quarters. Indeed, it was repeated as late as 1893 in a book
published by Messrs Macmillan.[36] Perhaps next in order should come
two, which have seen considerable service as arguments in favour of
Christianity. One, which I will call the "cob of coal" story, appeared
for the first time, as far as I am aware, in a Leeds paper in 1870 in
the following form:--

 "Some time ago I heard an amusing story about Mr Bradlaugh and one
 of his audience at Wigan. After concluding his lecture, Mr Bradlaugh
 called upon any of them to reply to any of his arguments. Lancashire
 produces a rare crop of shrewd, intelligent working men, and one
 of these, a collier, rose and spoke somewhat as follows: 'Maister
 Bradlaugh, me and my mate Jim were both Methodys till one of these
 infidel chaps cam' this way. Jim turned infidel, and used to badger me
 about attending class-meetings and prayer-meetings, but one day in the
 pit a large cob of coal came down on Jim's 'yead.' Jim thought he was
 killed, and ah! man, but he did holler.' Then turning to Mr Bradlaugh,
 with a very whimsical, knowing look, he said, 'Young man, there's
 nowt like cobs of coal for knocking infidelity out of a man.' We need
 hardly say that the collier carried the audience with him."

[Footnote 36: "National Life and Character," by C. H. Pearson.]

This was copied into some London papers, and in the course of a couple
of years found its way to Belfast; but the scene of action had now
become changed from Wigan to Manchester. Two years later still it
appeared at Hereford, under the auspices of the Rev. J. W. Bardsley.
The "some time ago" of 1870 had contracted to "recently" by 1874, and
there were other small alterations of detail. By 1882, my father said
he had contradicted this anecdote fifty times at least. It never had
the slightest foundation in fact; it is unadulterated fiction from
beginning to end; it is absurdly improbable; and yet there are people
so credulous that it has been repeated year after year, and even since
my father's death. Indeed, the more childish this class of story, the
better it has seemed to satisfy those to whom it was addressed--at
least, if we may judge of its success by the number of its repetitions.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next is the "old woman" anecdote, which I find first in the
_Christian Age_ for November 1871, put in this way:--

 "The other day Mr Bradlaugh was lecturing in a village in the north of
 England, and at the close he challenged discussion. Who should accept
 the challenge but an old, bent woman, in most antiquated attire, who
 went up to the lecturer and said, 'Sir, I have a question to put to
 you.' 'Well, my good woman, what is it?' 'Ten years ago,' she said,
 'I was left a widow with eight children utterly unprovided for, and
 nothing to call my own but this Bible. By its direction, and looking
 to God for strength, I have been enabled to feed myself and family.
 I am now tottering to the grave; but I am perfectly happy, because I
 look forward to a life of immortality with Jesus in heaven. That's
 what my religion has done for me: what has your way of thinking done
 for you?' 'Well, my good lady,' rejoined the lecturer, 'I don't
 want to disturb your comfort, but--' 'Oh! that's not the question,'
 interrupted the woman, 'keep to the point, sir; what has your way of
 thinking done for you?'

 "The infidel endeavoured to shirk the matter again; the feeling of the
 meeting gave vent to uproarious applause, and Mr Bradlaugh had to go
 away discomfited by an old woman."

This pious fiction is said to have originated with the Rev. Mr
Bradbury, of Openshaw, in the early part of 1871; but then it was Mr
Charles Watts who was the "discomfited infidel," and not Mr Bradlaugh.
From the _Christian Age_ the story was passed on, evidently without the
slightest examination or care for its accuracy. In 1872 it was repeated
in large type by the _Methodist Visitor_, word for word, "the other
day" included. Mr Bradlaugh contradicted this idiotic story again and
again; no such incident ever occurred at any of his lectures. In spite
of all contradiction, however, the "old woman" remained as lively as
ever, and my father was confronted with her year after year, until
I almost wonder he had patience left to write a civil denial of her
existence.

       *       *       *       *       *

An anecdote, reported[37] to have been told by the Rev. H. W.
Webb-Peploe at a meeting of the Bible Society at Stroud in 1875, has at
least the merit of being amusing, and certainly came as news to no one
more than to the persons chiefly concerned. It was said that Spurgeon
"went to Bradlaugh's Hall to reply to the Infidel," and to that end
"read two or three texts from the Scriptures.... This seems to have
astonished Bradlaugh, for he arose, and as he went out of the room, he
said, 'What the devil is to be done with that man? he is in earnest.'"
If the Rev. Charles Spurgeon ever, by any chance, _did_ go to
"Bradlaugh's Hall," he carefully concealed his visit from "Bradlaugh."

[Footnote 37: _Stroud News_, May 28.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Fictions concerning my father's treatment of various members of his
family have been very common. By a painful coincidence, my little
brother had only been a few days in his grave when my father was asked
to contradict a statement that he had "about twelve months ago deserted
his wife and children." Six months after, the story ran that he had
"caused his mother to die of a broken heart," had been "drummed out of
the army," and was "a man whose morality is of no higher stamp than
to suffer himself to be the father of an illegitimate child." It is
an interesting point in the study of the evolution of slanders, that
this most persistent one of Mr Bradlaugh having caused his mother to
die of a broken heart should have been started during his mother's
lifetime.[38] The allegation of deserting his children, and throwing
them upon the parish, was published by Mr Edmund Yates in the _World_
in 1875. A little later Mr Yates announced that Mr Bradlaugh had
written him contradicting this, and suggesting that if on inquiry Mr
Yates found his allegation untrue, he should contribute £5 to the
Masonic Boys' School. The editor of the _World_ formally expressed
his regret, "unreservedly" withdrew his accusation, and contributed
the £5. The suggestion was really the result of the intervention of a
mutual friend, as Mr Yates himself acknowledged in 1891, at the same
time admitting that the paragraph complained of would have afforded Mr
Bradlaugh "ample grounds for appealing to the law, with the likelihood
of recovering a large amount in damages."

[Footnote 38: Mrs Bradlaugh died in April 1871.]

But the slander thus floated by the _World_ could not be effaced from
the public mind, even by Mr Yates' "unreserved withdrawal," and later
in the same year it turned up in full vigour at Oxford. A Mr Bendall
went to the shop of a grocer and town councillor named Laker to make
some purchases, and in the course of conversation he mentioned that
he was going to London. Mr Laker asked if he was going to hear Moody
and Sankey, but Mr Bendall said that he was not; he was going to hear
Mr Bradlaugh. The man Laker then said, "Bradlaugh! he was had up for
neglecting his family, and leaving them chargeable to the Union. I read
it in the _Daily Telegraph_." Mr Bendall denied this, and bet Laker £50
to 5s. that it was not true. Laker took the bet, and Mr Bendall then
wrote out the statement, which they both signed. The paper was sent to
Mr Bradlaugh, who eventually brought an action against Mr Laker.[39]

[Footnote 39: Tried 25th April 1876 at Nisi Prius, before Mr Justice
Field and a special jury.]

The defendant pleaded "Not guilty," but did not attempt to justify his
statement or to offer any apology, although Mr Bradlaugh said that, if
during the course of the trial an apology had been offered, he should
have been quite content.

Mr Grantham, the counsel for the defence, was very coarse in his
remarks. He scouted the idea that "Bradlaugh" could be injured by
any slander, and told the jury that, if they did give him a verdict,
a farthing damages would be "far too much" at which to estimate the
damage "Bradlaugh" had sustained. As usual, an endeavour was made to
play upon the religious feelings of the jury, and when Mr Bendall was
in the witness-box he was questioned as to his belief in Christianity,
the Bible, and Jesus Christ, until Mr Justice Field, who heard the
case, interfered and reproved the counsel for importing these questions
into the case. Mr Grantham suggested the whole thing was a "plant,"
but this accusation, the judge later on pointed out, might rightfully
increase the damages awarded.

Mr Justice Field, in summing up, complimented Mr Bradlaugh on the
temperate manner in which he had stated his case, and warned the jury
not to allow their judgments to be warped by topics of prejudice which
had been introduced into the defendant's case. The jury returned a
verdict for Mr Bradlaugh, with £40 damages, which my father at once
handed over to a charity.

But even this did not quite kill the slander, and a few years later it
began again to show signs of life.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no limit of any kind to the fictions circulated about my
father, nothing was too vile, nothing too absurd, and nothing too
wildly impossible to say about him. As an example of the last, I think
it would be difficult to find anything to compare with one written by
the London correspondent of the _New York Herald_, during the illness
of the Prince of Wales from typhoid fever. I discovered an allusion to
this story in looking over a file of the _Newcastle Weekly Chronicle_
for 1872; reference was made to the _Pall Mall Gazette_, from which
I learned that the London correspondent of the _New York Herald_
professed that he had been informed by a mysterious person "well
posted" as to the doing of the different European Secret Societies,
that "a certain leader of the English Revolutionists whom he designated
'The English Delescluze,' has over and over again declared from public
platforms that the Prince should never sit on the throne, and that
lately, when Queen Victoria was seriously ill, the same man had said
in an interview with the reporter for a London paper, that although
the event of the Sovereign's death occurring just then would without
any doubt find the Society not quite prepared to act, yet that they
could never lose such an opportunity to advance their cause." "This,"
commented the _Pall Mall Gazette_, "is, of course, an atrocious libel
on Mr Bradlaugh." "The poison," continued the informant to his gaping
listener, the _Herald's_ London correspondent, "was a new and most
subtle one. How the Prince was actually dosed he did not pretend to
know. The emissary of the International charged with the execution of
the sentence of death was left to himself, and was simply bidden to
take as few innocent lives in carrying it out as possible; but it was
suggested to him to mix the poison with the contents of the Prince's
pocket flask, and this it was probable he had succeeded in doing."
This marvellous story was received in England with the condemnation
and ridicule it deserved, and I only give it here now to show to what
lengths prejudice and a disordered imagination will lead a man.

I suppose it is only in the natural course of things that an Irish
paper[40] should have the funniest story, and one too that seems really
original. This journal discovered that in the summer, when Republican
agitation was slack, Mr Bradlaugh took up "the more useful--if less
profitable--occupation of a bagman." Presumably this was intended to be
severely sarcastic; it was only ridiculous and untrue.

[Footnote 40: _Belfast Times_, April 8, 1872.]

At intervals throughout my father's career he has, of course, been
constantly accused of being in the pay of some one or other. This
kind of accusation is common to most public men, so it was not likely
that he would escape. In 1872, when it was asserted that "Bradlaugh
and Odger" were sold to "Gladstone and Morley," the _Saturday Review_
thought it no shame to suggest that "perhaps after all there is some
truth in the story."[41] A few months before, said my father, it was
"Bradlaugh was sold to the Tories, now it is the Whigs who have made
the purchase;" and he mockingly regretted "that neither party have
even paid a deposit." At other times he was charged with being in the
pay of the Prince Napoleon, of the Commune, of Sir Charles Dilke, of
the Carlists, and, last of all, in that of the Maharajah of Cashmere.
This was so much believed in, that a gentleman belonging to a prominent
Liberal Club actually told me that it was a good thing my father died
poor and in debt, as it, at least, discredited that rumour.

[Footnote 41: _Saturday Review_, September 14, 1872.]

I do not profess to have by any means exhausted the list of fables
associated with Mr Bradlaugh's name. I have merely taken a few of the
more persistent or more remarkable as examples of the whole.

       *       *       *       *       *

To expose the misstatements and the travesties of Mr Bradlaugh's
opinions would require a whole volume. What he thought and what he
taught on theological, political, and social questions will be found
in his own writings, and his own words must necessarily be the most
effective contradiction or confirmation of the "hearsays" of prejudice.



CHAPTER X.

PEACE DEMONSTRATIONS, 1878.


During the Russo-Turkish War great anxiety was shown by the Tories to
drag England into the struggle; war songs were sung in the music halls;
the old hatred of Russia was fanned into a blaze, and the new love of
Turkey nourished into some sort of enthusiasm. The "Jingo" fever ran
high, and the more peacefully-disposed seemed quite overwhelmed by the
noise and clamour of the war party. Some of the working men of London,
however, determined to make a public protest in favour of peace, and
against those who were seeking to increase the burdens of the nation
at a time when there were people dying of starvation in Wales, in
Sheffield, and in the Forest of Dean. A meeting was consequently held
on the afternoon of February 24th, in Hyde Park, in response to a
general appeal made by the Hon. Auberon Herbert, Mr Ackrill, and Mr
Bradlaugh on behalf of the working men's committee to the working men
of the metropolis to resist the effort then being made to drag the
country into an Eastern war.

There had been so much rowdyism at former meetings on this subject,
that it was resolved to enrol a special force to prevent this one from
being broken up by ruffianism. Mr Bradlaugh's special contingent was to
consist of fifty marshals and five hundred deputy marshals, who wore
his Northampton colours, and were furnished with "wands of office." It
was not thought right to ask unarmed men to confront the brutality of
the war-at-any-price men, who came armed with all manner of weapons;
yet it was not desired to provoke an attack by any show of force, so
after some deliberation it was decided that the marshals should be
armed with short staves similar to the constables' truncheon. These
the men were instructed to keep concealed, unless they were required
for purposes of defence. Mr Herbert's special adherents were similarly
armed, and wore a green favour.

Fearing a fight, my father would not allow us to go with him to the
meeting, and would not be happy about our going at all, until we had
promised not to get into the crowd. So we went to the Park early to
watch the great masses of men gathering quietly together, with neither
bands, banners, nor procession, unless the clubs coming up in bodies
could be called coming in procession. The mauve, white, and green
rosettes--which we with a committee of ladies had so lately made--were
soon conspicuous by their number; above them were smiling holiday
faces, while below lay the formidable staves which we had helped to
serve out that very morning, but of which not a sign could be seen,
although we, who knew they were there, looked attentively for them.
The platform was set up, surrounded by a ring of men with locked arms
three or four deep. By and by groups of young men passed us armed with
sticks, long and thick; these joined together in gangs, and amused
themselves by making a series of brutal rushes, after the stupid
aimless fashion of the "roughs" on Lord Mayor's Day. But these medical
students--for the hospitals had been whipped up to turn out in aid of
the Tory and the Turk--unlike their honoured exemplars, deliberately
intended to injure.

The meeting was tremendous, orderly and quiet at first, and the
applause which greeted Mr Herbert when he rose to preside showed that
the majority were favourable to peace. Every facility had been given
to the war-party to move an amendment; every courtesy had been shown
them, and everything possible done to avoid a pretext for disturbance.
But no pretext was necessary. Mr Herbert had barely begun to speak when
an attack was made simultaneously on three sides of the ring; sticks
flashed in the air, and staff replied to stick with such energy that
the attack on two sides was repelled; that at the back, however, was
successful, the ring was broken through, and the platform destroyed. In
spite of all this, Mr Bradlaugh succeeded in putting the resolution,
and all those within hearing voted for it; but the tumult was so great
that it was impossible to guess how much was heard or understood.

My sister and I stood by the water breathlessly watching a dense mass
of men with sticks in air struggling slowly towards the gate, feeling
sure that Mr Bradlaugh must be the centre of a great a display of
enmity; and people even cried to us, "Your father is there. He will be
killed! he will be killed!" And while we were watching, we ourselves
nearly became involved in a rush of the war-party from another
direction. Frantic cries of "Duck him! The water! Duck him!" made us
glance round, and we found we had only just time to escape. When we
had reached a place of safety, and were able to look round again, the
fighting mass was broken up; and learning from some one, whom my father
had told to seek us, that he was unhurt and had gone home, we also
hastened to make the best of our way back. We learned that none of our
own friends were seriously hurt; and the hearty and repeated bursts of
cheering at my father's appearance where he lectured that night marked
the relief felt at seeing him safe and unhurt.

Mr Bradlaugh had held many meetings in Hyde Park, but he had never had
one broken up. He had had a magnificent gathering in 1875 to protest
against the grant of £142,000 to the Prince of Wales for his journey to
India, but all had been quiet and orderly. Now, neither he nor those
with whom he was acting liked the idea of their demonstration for peace
ending in this way, so it was determined to make another attempt. The
war party, however, who stood at nothing, determined to break up this
meeting also. An assault upon the leaders of the Peace movement was
deliberately planned, and Mr Bradlaugh afterwards obtained the names
of certain Tories who had paid and instigated the assailants. On this
occasion--Sunday, the 10th of March--no attempt was made to set up a
proper platform, but there were human volunteers for a living one--no
light matter when it came to bearing a man of Mr Bradlaugh's inches.
Mr Herbert briefly stated the object of the meeting, and called upon
my father to move the resolution, and from the shoulders of his living
platform he moved "that the meeting declares in favour of peace,"
and the resolution was forthwith seconded, formally put, and voted
upon with but few dissentients. So far all was well, and the meeting
was dissolved. Upon this, however, there immediately began a series
of regularly-organised attacks by paid roughs, militia-men, medical
students, and "gentlemen." Armed with sticks, pieces of twisted
gas-piping, sharpened iron, loaded bludgeons, and other weapons,
they were a truly gallant company. Some of the defending staves were
ominously cut and dug into by the sharp and pointed instruments used
by the attacking party. For a few minutes the fighting was severe; my
father for an instant was taken off his feet in the struggle, and his
upraised arm caught the murderous rain of blows intended for his head.
Up again almost at once, and having the fight thus forced upon him, he
struck five blows in reply, which were said to have sent as many men
to St George's Hospital. Those were the only blows he struck that day,
the rest of the time he merely warded off any aimed at himself. One man
attacked his head with some sharp iron instrument fastened to a long
stick, which cut his silk hat through from crown to rim. A brave little
party of "swells" attacked him at the back, but these were attended to
by his working-men friends. This assault by the war party was as wanton
as it was vicious, because the meeting was over, and had already began
to quietly disperse.

A few weeks later stories were current that Mr Bradlaugh's staff was
taken from him by a young man "half his size;" and a couple of Scotch
papers seriously reported that he had had to pay £72, 11s. for breaking
the head of another young man. He never heard of any one who had
persuaded a court to value his broken head even at the odd 11s.; and
as for the staff, Mr Bradlaugh gave it to us after the meetings, and
I have it now, together with a number of torn Jingo flags and broken
Jingo sticks that were brought to us as trophies of the fight.

The blows showered down upon Mr Bradlaugh's arm had injured it very
severely; a dangerous attack of erysipelas set in; he was very ill, and
for sixteen days he was confined to the house. Even then he went to the
Old Bailey in Mr Truelove's case before he ought to have gone out. He
was ill and depressed; the nation seemed so eager for war; the wanton
ferocity exhibited and encouraged in Hyde Park in the cause of war made
him for the moment almost hopeless. He looked on "in sadness while the
people suffer a Tory Government to create the possibilities of debt,
dishonour, and disgraceful defeat, or still more disgraceful victory;"
and once more he raised his personal protest in favour of peace.
Although, as matters fell out, we did not go to war, we nevertheless
decided upon having the pleasure of paying for it. As it was aptly put,
the game as determined upon by Lord Beaconsfield was "Pay first; fight
next; afterwards, if you have time, you can fix upon the object to be
attained."



CHAPTER XI.

THE NATIONAL SECULAR SOCIETY.


I am now closely approaching the end of my task, and as yet I have
only mentioned the National Secular Society incidentally. To leave it
without further notice would be doing scant justice both to my father
and to the association with which he worked so actively, and with which
his name must ever remain connected, whatever its future history may be.

The National Secular Society has sometimes been confounded with the
London Secular Society, of which Mr George Jacob Holyoake and Mr
Bradlaugh were successively presidents; but that was merely a London
Society, and not a general association. Indeed, I believe there had
never been any general association of the Freethinkers of Great Britain
until 1866, when it was felt that some endeavour should be made to
organise them. There were local secular Societies all over the kingdom,
there were isolated Freethinkers to be found everywhere, but hitherto
there had been no attempt to unite them into one general federation.
Without organisation much propagandist work had been done: in a single
year, for instance, 250,000 tracts were distributed; with organisation
it was believed that much more might be accomplished. But propaganda
was by no means the only object to be gained by uniting Freethinkers
in one general society. In September a provisional programme for the
proposed National Secular Society was put forward. Mr Bradlaugh by
consent assumed the office of President of the Society until the first
Conference. In the programme it was stated that the objects of the
Society would be:--

 To form an Association for mutual help for all the Freethinkers of
 Great Britain.

 To conduct in the United Kingdom a more vigorous Freethought
 propaganda, especially in districts where Freethinkers are few, and
 Freethought lectures rare.

 To establish a fund for the assistance of aged or distressed
 Freethinkers.

 To promote Parliamentary and other action in order to remove all
 disabilities on account of religious opinions.

 To establish secular schools and adult instruction classes in
 connection with every local society having members enough to support
 such schools or classes.

The idea of a National Society was well taken up, and members were
enrolled in all directions. It was intended to hold a Conference early
in the following year, but this was postponed, partly on account of
Mr Bradlaugh's ill-health, and did not actually take place until the
end of November, when it was found that the Society had made a very
successful start in life--a success which was fully confirmed by
the time the Conference met again a year later. A special Lecturing
Fund was established in 1867, and by the aid of this the accredited
lecturers of the Society went into places where the Freethinkers
were too poor and too few to themselves bear the whole expenses of
a meeting; and in this way towns and villages were visited by a
Freethought lecturer where before Freethought was almost unheard of.
The provisional statement of the principles and objects of the Society
was very soon amended in some minor details, and ten or twelve years
later a Revision Committee was appointed and the rules newly stated.

In 1869 the Society brought out the first Secular almanack ever
published. It was edited by "Charles Bradlaugh and Austin Holyoake,"
and met with an immediate and complete success, transcending even the
hopes of its promoters, the first edition being sold out in one day.
This almanack has been continued without intermission until the present
time. At Mr Austin Holyoake's death, Mr Charles Watts became co-editor
with Mr Bradlaugh, and in 1878 he was superseded by Mrs Annie Besant.
When Mr Bradlaugh resigned his office as President of the National
Secular Society--in 1890, after his serious illness of the previous
winter--the new President, Mr G. W. Foote, became editor of the
almanack in conjunction with Mr J. M. Wheeler.

With the exception of the year 1872, when Mr Arthur Trevelyan, J.P.,
was elected President, Mr Bradlaugh held the chief office of the
Society from the time of its foundation until his resignation, and
it was always a source of immense pride to him that he was chosen
representative of the Freethinkers of Great Britain and Ireland. He
laboured untiringly for the Society; not merely for the organisation as
a whole, but for the separate branches and for the individuals which
comprised it. "During thirty years," he said on the day he resigned,
"I think I may say I have never refused any help to any branch that I
thought was justified in asking for help."

He never held any paid office, but on the contrary often paid money out
of his own pocket for the purposes of the Association. He estimated
that the sum he had earned and given in actual cash to the Society
and its branches during the time he was connected with it amounted to
£3000. The Society, on its side, released him and Mrs Besant from a
payment of £420[42] due to it at the time of his resignation.

[Footnote 42: At his death in 1879 Mr William Thomson of Montrose left
£1000 to Mr Bradlaugh as President of the National Secular Society,
which sum he was at liberty to invest in the Freethought Publishing
Company, on condition that he paid the Society £5 a month while it
lasted. This he did regularly from 1879 until February 1890, when the
Society generously released him from the remainder.]

His yearly Conference reports, although they make no pretence at
being detailed records, are yet landmarks, as it were, of the work
accomplished by the Society; his yearly Conference speeches[43]
often give the most vivid glimpses of himself, of his pride in work
accomplished, and his aspirations for work yet undone. Often, too,
their terse and moving language reveals the truest, most unstudied
eloquence.

[Footnote 43: See Speeches by Charles Bradlaugh.]

The National Secular Society proved itself an organisation of the
utmost value, not merely as a propagandist association, but in all
cases in any degree connected with the Freethought movement where
combined action was required. When Mrs Besant was deprived of her
child; at the time of Mr Bradlaugh's Parliamentary struggle, with
its countless phases; during the prosecutions for blasphemy, and on
many other occasions, meetings were held or petitions were got up
simultaneously all over the country. The members of the Society were
and are nearly all poor men and women; but what they have lacked in
riches they have made up in energy; what they could not contribute in
money, they have given eagerly and cheerfully in work.

Many people misconstrued Mr Bradlaugh's reason for resigning his office
as President of the National Secular Society. Some said he made a
choice between his Freethought and his Parliamentary work, and selected
the latter; others said he had long been gradually subordinating his
anti-theological work to his political work, with a view to dropping
the former; others, that his action was entirely due to a modification
in his heretical opinions; and others again said that he was not in
harmony with the members of the Society. The truth was so obvious
and so simple that all seemed loth to accept it, and searched for
complicated motives under the plain facts. At the special Conference
summoned to receive his resignation, Mr Bradlaugh gave his reasons in
a voice which was low and faltering, as much from the feelings which
overcame him as from his recent illness.

"With very slight break," he said, "I have led in this movement for
over thirty years--a fairly long period in any life. I have been
President of the Society, with the same slight break, since the Society
began, and I am very sorry, very sorry, to resign office this morning.
Unfortunately, while the work was never easy, it has become much harder
since 1880, with the Parliamentary struggle and the litigation in
which the struggle involved me. I have felt for the past three or four
years--and I think I have conveyed that feeling to you in my annual
speeches--that the pressure must sooner or later bring a breakdown.
Last October that breakdown came, and the wonder is that I am here to
tender you my resignation at all. I was then brought face to face with
the difficulty that I could no longer do all the work I had done....
No resource is then open to me but to resign. Some kind friends have
suggested that I might hold the office nominally.... But I could not do
that; I must be a real President or none. My fault has been that I have
sometimes been too real a one, but it is no easy matter to lead such a
voluntary movement as ours.... I don't want to leave you. I could not
take any other office in the Society after having been so long your
President; but if you thought it right to elect me a member for life, I
should be grateful to you for doing it."

       *       *       *       *       *

In this statement from Mr Bradlaugh's own lips is contained the whole
and sole reason for his resignation. To be a "real" President of the
National Secular Society involved the performance of a vast amount of
labour, the greater part of which was unrecognised and unseen. This he
felt had become beyond his powers; it was not in him to bear the name
and let others do the work; in giving up the duties of his position
he must also give up its honours. Only those who knew the pride he
had always felt in holding this office of President of the associated
Freethinkers of the nation knew the pain it cost him to lay that office
down.



CHAPTER XII.

THE LAST CHAPTER.


The year 1880 saw the last of the long struggle in Northampton and the
beginning of that in the House of Commons. For twelve years my father
fought prejudice and misrepresentation in Northampton, for six years
longer he had to fight prejudice and misrepresentation in the House of
Commons. But the shorter fight was the harder one; it was carried on
incessantly, without the slightest intermission. It was a terrible six
years. The litigation alone is something appalling; in that time eight
suits were begun and ended.

First there was the libel suit against Edgcumbe, which dragged on for
more than a year, and ended in nothing.

Second came Clarke _v._ Bradlaugh. This was an action for penalties
against Mr Bradlaugh for having sat and voted without taking the oath.
Commenced in July 1880, it came before the judges six times, and was
ultimately decided in favour of Mr Bradlaugh in April 1883.

Third--Bradlaugh _v._ Newdegate. An action for maintenance brought by
Mr Bradlaugh against Mr Newdegate, and decided in favour of the former
in April 1883.

Fourth--The Queen (Sir Henry Tyler) _v._ Bradlaugh, Foote, and Ramsey.
An action for blasphemy, decided in Mr Bradlaugh's favour in April
1883.[44]

[Footnote 44: In the case against Foote and Ramsey the jury disagreed.
The prosecution then entered a _nolle prosequi_.]

Fifth--Bradlaugh _v._ Erskine. An action against the
Deputy-Sergeant-at-Arms for assault, in removing Mr Bradlaugh from the
lobby of the House of Commons on August 3, 1881.[45] Commenced in
April 1882, this suit was decided against Mr Bradlaugh in January 1883.
In March the Government enforced their claim for costs against him.

[Footnote 45: Mr Bradlaugh applied for a summons against Inspector
Denning, but this application was refused.]

Sixth--Gurney _v._ Bradlaugh. A suit entered upon by Mr Gurney of
Northampton, to try the validity of the conduct of the majority of the
House in preventing Mr Bradlaugh from taking the oath and his seat in
the House. Mr Justice Mathew discharged the jury, refusing to hear the
case on the ground that it was a collusive action.

Seventh--Bradlaugh _v._ Gossett. In July 1883 Mr Bradlaugh applied for
an injunction to restrain the Sergeant-at-Arms from using physical
force to prevent him from entering the House. Decided against Mr
Bradlaugh in the February of the following year.

Eighth--Attorney-General _v._ Bradlaugh. An action for penalties
against Mr Bradlaugh for having sat and voted without having subscribed
the oath. This case was heard at bar, and judgment given for the
Attorney-General. This was appealed against, and the matter settled in
October 1880; Mr Bradlaugh paid his own costs, but nothing further.[46]

[Footnote 46: These proceedings--except the libel case, which has been
already noticed--will be found fully dealt with by Mr J. M. Robertson
in Part II., in his account of Mr Bradlaugh's Parliamentary struggle.]

All these lawsuits, each involving the discussion of points of the
greatest intricacy, and in which my father's brain was pitted against
those of some of the greatest lawyers in England, would have been
enough to tax the powers of any ordinary man, even if he had had
no other struggles. But in these six years there were many other
struggles; there were six elections, most of which were carried on
under extremely harassing conditions. It was one constant battle within
the walls of the House and without, and in the blind fury of their rage
his antagonists spared neither my father nor any one whose name was
associated with his. Sir Henry Tyler proceeded against Mr Foote and Mr
Ramsay for blasphemy, only because along with them he hoped to be able
to drag Mr Bradlaugh down. Sir Henry Tyler tried to deprive my sister
and myself, as well as Mrs Besant and Dr Aveling, of our right to teach
under the Science and Art Department, only because he hoped to wound
Mr Bradlaugh by an attack upon his daughters[47] and his friends. The
Somerville Club (at the instigation of Miss Eliza Orme) refused to
accept the daughters of Charles Bradlaugh as members.[48] University
College would not permit my sister Alice--a woman of stainless honour
and of the highest character--and Mrs Besant to study botany within
its walls;[49] the National Liberal Club, having actually invited Mr
Bradlaugh to become a member, insulted him by refusing to elect him.[50]

[Footnote 47: This attack upon Mr Bradlaugh through his daughters,
insignificant and inoffensive though we were, was no new idea. In 1877
an attempt was made to introduce female students into the classes of
the City of London College. At my father's suggestion my sister and
I, who at that time took little interest in the matter, joined Mr
Levy's Class on Political Economy. I went up for the examination at
the end of the term, and, to my surprise and my father's delight, I
took a second-class certificate. But the City of London College were
divided upon the subject of the admission of female students, and,
after much acrimonious discussion, Mr Armytage Bakewell, a member of
the Council, carried his intolerance so far as to turn the dispute upon
the admission of my sister and myself. He wrote to the _City Press_
that "though the ostensible subject of controversy has been whether
females should attend the young men's classes or not, there was well
known to be a wider divergence," and that was "best indicated by the
fact that Mr Bradlaugh's daughters attended Mr Levy's classes." It is
only just to the City of London College to add that the Council, while
repudiating any responsibility for Mr Bakewell's conduct, expressed
"their regret that any allusion had been made to Mr Bradlaugh's
daughters" in the letter alluded to. The City of London College decided
against the further admission of women, and within a few days of their
decision had to listen to Lord Houghton's congratulations upon their
liberality in admitting women when he presented me with my certificate!
He had not been informed that the College had just come to the contrary
resolution.]

[Footnote 48: March 1883.]

[Footnote 49: May 1883.]

[Footnote 50: 1884. Five years later the National Liberal Club
spontaneously elected Mr Bradlaugh, without his knowledge, a member
paying his first year's subscription.]

The country was flooded with literature making the most infamous
charges against him, and in the name of religion men went from town
to town to preach against him. Even Cardinal Manning, a prince of the
greatest Church in Christendom, was not too exalted to stoop to cast
his stone at the despised Atheist. Within the precincts of the great
Commons House itself he had to sit in silence, with no right of reply,
whilst he heard his character assailed, and those who worked with him
basely slandered. Within those same historic walls he was set upon and
terribly ill-used by officials, ordered to their work by gentlemen
claiming to represent the nation. I was at Westminster on the day which
witnessed this strange example of the boasted "English love of fair
play." I tremble as I recall it.

We went to Westminster by train, my sister and I, with Mrs Besant and
some friends of hers. The sight which met our eyes as we came out of
the station was one not to be readily forgotten; immense masses of
orderly men and women kept easily within certain limits by a thin
line of police. There was a quick recognition of us as we passed
along by friends from all parts of the country, who gave us grave and
serious greeting. At the gates of Palace Yard we were challenged by
the police, but allowed to pass on presenting our petition, and going
on to Westminster Hall we found it occupied by little groups of men
from all corners of England.[51] These groups grew and grew, until the
great hall seemed full, and voices were heard on all sides crying,
"Petition," "Petition." At the head of the steps near the door leading
to the lobby we took up our position. By-and-by an agonising rumour
flew through the Hall, "They are killing him; they are killing him!"
and swift on the heels of this came the angry cry, again and again
repeated, "To the House!" and with this, the surging forward of the
crowd. So few police had been spared to guard this entrance that they
would have been absolutely powerless to resist these men--not London
"roughs," but the pick of the London clubs, and, more formidable still,
men from many a Midland town, and from many a North country pit and
factory, whose hearts were bound up in my father, and who had come to
London that day to petition for justice. The police command, "Keep
back!" fell upon deaf ears. My sister and I involuntarily put ourselves
in front of the doors, facing the crowd. Mrs Besant sprang forward,
and in a few impassioned words she begged them to consider what Mr
Bradlaugh's wishes would be. The effect was instantaneous. The foremost
fell back, and kept others back till all were self-controlled once
more; but the white, set faces told of the struggle in their hearts.
"But we _can't_ stay here and know he is being murdered, and do nothing
to help him," said one in a choking voice. Some terrible minutes
passed, but there was no further attempt to pass through the doors.
By-and-by a message reached us from my father that he was gone to
Stonecutter Street, and that we were to join him there. At Stonecutter
Street we found him quite calm and self-possessed, but his coat hanging
in rents, his ashen face and still quivering flesh telling the tale of
the struggle he had just passed through.

[Footnote 51: Seven persons were allowed to enter with each petition.]

In a few days he fell very ill. The small muscles of both arms were
ruptured; erysipelas supervened, and the left arm was very bad indeed,
needing constant attention by day and night. All day long from early
morning to the small hours of the next day there were people calling,
some friendly and some very much otherwise, besides press men and
persons on business. My father had no rest, and one day the physician
said, "You will never get well, Mr Bradlaugh, if you don't get out of
this room."

"You wish me to go away?" asked my father.

"Yes."

"When?"

"At once."

"I will go to-day," was the characteristic reply.

I packed up the necessary baggage, a fly was ordered to take us to
the station, and at Mrs Besant's suggestion it was decided to go to
Eastbourne. I was nursing my father, so I went with him, while for a
day or so my sister remained behind to attend to things at home. Mrs
Besant accompanied us. On the way to the station my father, who was
feeling very ill and very depressed, said he did not care to go to
Eastbourne--it was too fashionable; so I took the map from the railway
guide and called over the names of places on the South Coast until he
stopped me at Worthing, and then we turned about to go to there instead
of to Eastbourne. My father had both arms in slings, and at the station
Mrs Besant and I had to walk one each side of him to protect them from
the impertinent and the unfeeling who crowded round to stare at him.
Arrived at Worthing, we got into a cab, asking the driver if he could
recommend us to a quiet hotel; he looked compassionately at the only
too evidently sick man, and said he thought West Worthing would suit
us best. Whilst he was getting the luggage, a clergyman whom we had
seen inside the station came out, and walking up to the open cab stared
rudely at my father, and as he turned away said loudly, for us to hear,
"That's Bradlaugh; I hope they'll make it warm for him yet."

West Worthing did suit us, as the cabman surmised; my father's health
daily improved, and indeed there is little doubt that his timely
removal to this quiet spot saved his life for the time. After a few
days my sister joined us, and we all felt the better for the change, as
much from the momentary respite as from the fresh air and sea breeze.

       *       *       *       *       *

The expenses of the litigation and the various elections were enormous,
both directly and indirectly. Although eventually Mr Newdegate had to
bear the whole of the costs in the suit which he brought against Mr
Bradlaugh, yet the latter had to find several hundred pounds--about
£725 in all--to pay into court at different times. These sums were
ultimately repaid to him, but liabilities had to be incurred to
produce them at the required moments. The shorthand notes in the three
days' appeal from the trial at bar alone cost him £50. In the case of
Bradlaugh _v._ Erskine, in which the House of Commons defended its
officer, the Government made Mr Bradlaugh pay the costs, under the
circumstances a very harsh and unusual proceeding. Very little time
was allowed to elapse before the claim was insisted upon, and to find
the money my father had to choose between more borrowing and selling
his library. Yet if the motion carried unanimously and "amid cheers"
on the 27th January 1891 means anything, it is an acknowledgment that
the House was in the wrong when it instructed its officer to prevent Mr
Bradlaugh by force from obeying the law. It was not merely the direct
cost, however; there were the indirect penalties also. For instance, in
February 1885, after the appeal from the trial at bar (which, with its
subsequent proceedings alone covered thirteen days), my father spoke
of the worry and uncertainty which had "for months arrested nearly
all my means of earning money." People were always subscribing in an
endeavour to pay for him the expenses they knew of, and many were the
sacrifices some of them made in their eager desire to help. One old
Yorkshire miner, who had been sorely troubled that times were so hard
with him that he could spare nothing, one day came triumphantly to his
friend saying, "I have made it all right; I will go without the half
pint for a week, and send it to the lad."[52] Many cut down their usual
allowance of tobacco, and some went altogether without. One poor man
sent his silver watch, the only thing of value which he possessed;
some people in London, touched at hearing of this sacrifice, offered
to join together to buy him a gold one in acknowledgment of it, but
he would not hear of it. Several times I have known a cabman refuse
to take his fare.[53] Many poor people sent their small subscriptions
weekly or monthly. But my father always worried about these funds;
he could not bear the thought of his poor friends denying themselves
their little luxuries, or even perhaps their necessaries, and he
always promptly closed a fund when it had been open some fixed time or
directly the specific sum was reached.

[Footnote 52: _National Reformer_, April 27, 1884.]

[Footnote 53: I have lately heard a touching story of a cabman who
drove Mr Bradlaugh several times. He greatly admired my father, but
was too shy to speak to him. Every time he took a fare from him he
gave it away to some charitable object. He said he could not spend Mr
Bradlaugh's money on himself, he felt that "he must do some good with
it."]

       *       *       *       *       *

A constant accusation brought against Mr Bradlaugh was that of living
in aristocratic style,[54] and of having a most enormous income.[55]
As a matter of fact, he had no income other than what he earned from
day to day, and his habits and mode of life at Circus Road were of the
simplest possible kind. His bedroom was very small, about 10 feet by 9
feet, with just room for his bedstead, chest of drawers, wash-stand,
and a couple of chairs. His library, on the first floor after 1880,
was a very large room with five windows to it; but spacious as it was,
it was by no means too large for his books. The room was shelved all
round to the very edges of the windows, except just over the fireplace;
and there were also three sets of movable shelves on the floor of the
room. The furniture was quite simple--just a desk, writing-tables,
cane-seated chairs, my father's two old oaken arm-chairs from
Tottenham, and an easy chair, which was bought specially for him one
time when he was not well. There was no other "easy" chair in the
house, and only one small sofa--really a bedroom lounge--which my
sister bought for me one morning when I was ailing. I doubt whether
the whole of my father's furniture would have fetched five-and-twenty
pounds at a sale. Our meals we had downstairs in a very dark basement
room under our landlord's music shop, and here the blue books were also
stored.

[Footnote 54: The _Plymouth and Exeter Gazette_ (April 1878) reproved
Mr Bradlaugh for the glaring inconsistency of his practice with his
democratic principles, "by living in the most aristocratic style."]

[Footnote 55: The _Leeds Daily News_ (July 1883) said his income was
£12,000 a year.]

My father's habits were as simple as his surroundings. He was an early
riser, and at whatever time he got home at night he was in his study
soon after seven in the morning, Even when he was not home from the
House of Commons till four o'clock in the morning, it was seldom he lay
in bed after eight. He had a cup of tea as soon as he was down, and
he worked at his desk until breakfast-time, which he liked punctually
at eight. If he was more than usually busy or worried, he asked for
his breakfast to be brought to his study, and he would take it as he
worked; but my sister and I always affected to be vexed if he did
this, because we liked to get him away from his work and into another
room for his meals. About the middle of 1877 his ever-increasing
correspondence obliged him to have regular clerical assistance, and his
secretary came at nine. He was in to callers until ten or half-past.
This was the time he saw people who wanted to consult him on legal or
private matters: he listened patiently to their troubles, and often
gave them most helpful advice how to get out of them. All sorts of
difficulties were confided to him--family troubles, dissensions between
husband and wife, between employer and employed; great troubles and
small were brought to him, and those who brought them were sure of a
sympathetic and patient listener, and a confidant to whom they could
unreservedly open their hearts.

If Mr Bradlaugh did not have to attend a Committee of the House he
would have his dinner (or "lunch," as it was indifferently called)
at half-past twelve, and this was followed by a cup of tea in his
library; if he were in all day, he had his afternoon tea (just a cup
of tea and a crust of bread and butter) at four, and his supper about
seven or half-past seven. At his dinner and supper he drank hock or
burgundy.[56] Often after supper there would be a little pleasant chat,
sometimes a game of chess, and, more rarely, whist with a dummy. If
my father was too tired or too worried for any of these, he would go
to bed as early as half-past eight or nine, lie and read for a while,
and then sleep soundly until morning. Of course it was not often he
could do this, for his evenings were usually spent in lecturing or at
the House of Commons.[57] The only time during the session which he
could rely upon for seeing callers, answering letters,[58] and earning
his living, was from seven A.M. until the time he left for
the House. Saturday evening and Sundays were generally employed in
lecturing. Until 1884 his holidays were of the rarest and the shortest.
In that year he first went fishing at Loch Long. At the suggestion
of some Scotch friends, a cottage was taken for a month that summer
at Portincaple, a lovely and secluded spot just opposite Loch Goil.
My sister and I and a Scotch lady, Miss Lees, stayed the whole time;
different friends came and went, and my father spent a week fishing.
The cottage belonged to Finlay M'Nab, fisherman and ferryman, and had
belonged to his father and grandfather before him. On nearly all Mr
Bradlaugh's fishing expeditions Finlay M'Nab was his boatman. They
would go off just after breakfast, or sometimes even earlier, get
dinner at Carrick Castle or Ardentinny, and come home at sunset with
a big bag of fish. After 1884 we went to Portincaple several summers
in succession, and then Mr Bradlaugh took to going there in the Easter
and Whitsun recess, and for a few days after Parliament rose. On these
occasions he went alone, but Mrs M'Nab attended to all his comforts
indoors as though he were at home, and outdoors her husband looked
after the bait and the boat--except on Sundays; then, my father had to
content himself with the dangerous amusement of fishing from the rocks,
whilst Finlay looked wistfully on.

[Footnote 56: He was frequently charged with drinking expensive wines,
but the hock he had straight from Bensheim at a cost of 1s. 3d. per
bottle (including carriage and duty); the burgundy came direct from
Beaune, and cost a trifle more.]

[Footnote 57: During the time he was not allowed to take his seat he
attended the House constantly, sitting under the gallery in a seat
technically outside the House.]

[Footnote 58: One year he calculated that he had written 1200 letters
of advice in the twelvemonth--this, of course, in addition to general
correspondence.]

Mr Bradlaugh was a very even-tempered man, and those who waited on him
usually served him eagerly. He never found fault unnecessarily, and
provided an attempt was well meant, it mattered little, as far as his
behaviour went, if the result was not equal to the intention. He was
most generous and tender-hearted, except to those who had wantonly
taken advantage of the confidence he reposed in them to deceive him.
Such persons called him hard and unrelenting, for even if he forgave
them they never again held quite the same place in his esteem. Some
critics have said he was a man of unrestrained passions; others have
said he was absolutely passionless. Neither is right. He was a man of
very strong feelings, but he had an iron will. At a critical moment in
his life, when he was greatly tempted to follow a certain course, a
friend urged upon him that if he did he would injure the work he had
at heart. My father replied by stretching out his arm, and closing
his fingers over an imagined object. "I have not a passion," he said,
"that I could not crush as easily as an egg within my hand if it were
necessary for the good of the cause I love." And he was true to his
word.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1877 when Mr Bradlaugh severed his business connection with Mr C.
Watts, he started, as I have said, a publishing business in connection
with Mrs Annie Besant, under the style of the Freethought Publishing
Company. The business premises were at Stonecutter Street, E.C., and
here, with small premises, a small staff, and a small rent, the Company
did fairly well. In 1882, however, my father was induced against his
better judgment to lease a shop at the corner of Fleet Street and
Bouverie Street (now occupied by the Black and White Company). Here
the premises were large and the rent heavy. To make matters worse,
about a couple of years later, owing to the financial difficulties of
his landlord, he was reluctantly obliged to take up the remainder of
the lease of the whole building, and thus he became saddled with the
rent and taxes--amounting to more than seven hundred per annum--and
the responsibility of a great house in the city. In order to raise the
capital required to meet these expenses, Mr Bradlaugh with Mrs Besant
issued debenture stock to the amount of four or five thousand pounds,
the interest on which was paid with unfailing regularity until my
father's death.

But as he had feared, the business at Fleet Street did not thrive
sufficiently to support so large an establishment; the greater part of
it had always been, and was then, a postal business, hence it could
be carried on as well in a little shop in a side street as in a large
corner shop in such a thoroughfare. The details of the managership of
the publishing department were in the hands of Mrs Besant and my sister
Alice, but as both were without the least experience in business, my
father was the final referee on all matters, and it was he of course
who had to provide for quarter-day with its heavy rent, taxes, and
debenture interest.

In 1884, unable to let the upper portion of the building, Mr Bradlaugh
decided to utilise it himself by setting up a printing-office, and
doing his own printing. This department was put under the control of
Mr Bonner, to whom I was then engaged to be married. As my husband
was already familiar with the management of a printing-office, Mr
Bradlaugh's only trouble with this branch of his business was in
finding the money, and this was not a great anxiety, as it paid for
itself from the very first. It is true the profits were never great,
for the prejudice against giving work to any establishment connected
with the name of Bradlaugh at first limited the work almost to the
printing of his own publications. My father was very glad to be saved
responsibility, even in this small matter for, as he often said, he
had never intended to become a publisher, and he had never intended
to become a printer; he had so many things on his hands that he had
time neither for one nor the other; he had, in fact, no inclination
for commercial pursuits: they had always been forced upon him by
circumstances.

       *       *       *       *       *

When it was known that I was going to attempt some story of my father's
life, there were many things I was told that I must not fail to
mention. Amongst others, one friend said: "You must not fail to notice
that Mr Bradlaugh was an essentially grateful man; he never forgot the
smallest favour or the smallest kindness that was shown him." That
is absolutely true; he could forget most injuries, "his heart was as
great as the world," but it was not large enough "to hold the memory
of a wrong;" a kindness he never forgot.[59] When John Bright pledged
himself in the House of Commons for my father, the latter was greatly
affected, and speaking to us in private about it was quite overcome.
He had disagreed often with John Bright, and had sometimes spoken his
disagreement with the utmost frankness; later on they were opposed upon
the subject of Home Rule, but after the day when that lion-hearted
old man so unexpectedly and so courageously spoke on his behalf,
Mr Bradlaugh never mentioned his name save with the most profound
respect and gratitude. And yet this trait of gratitude, so strong in
himself, he never seemed to expect in others; or at least he seldom
showed surprise at its absence. He once helped to Baltimore a Russian
prisoner, escaped from Siberia, who had come to him with letters from
Continental friends. The months rolled by, and nothing further was
heard of the man. A great deal had been done for him, and one day I
expressed myself very strongly on his ingratitude. My father stopped me
by quietly saying that I must learn to do a right thing just because
it was right, and not because I expected gratitude or any other reward
for what I did. I felt the rebuke keenly, but I had nothing to say, for
I instantly realised that he preached to me no more than he himself
practised.

[Footnote 59: The following extracts, taken at hazard from New Year's
addresses to his friends in the _National Reformer_, will show how
grateful he was to them for their help and what support he found in
their love and trust:--

"Women and men, I have great need of your strength to make me strong,
of your courage to make me brave. I am in a breach where I must fall
fighting or go through. I will not turn, but I could not win if I had
to fight alone" (1st January 1882).

"1883 has freed me from some troubles and cleared me of some peril,
but it leaves me in 1884 a legacy of unfinished fighting. I thank the
friends of the dead year, without whose help I, too, must have been
nearly as dead as the old year itself.... I have had more kindnesses
shown me than my deservings warrant, more love than I have yet earned,
and I open the gate of 1884 most hopefully because I know how many
hundred kindly hearts there are to cheer me if my uphill road should
prove even harder to climb than in the years of yesterday" (6th January
1884).

"The present greeting is first to our old friends; some poor folk who
early in 1860 took No. 1 [of the _National Reformer_], and have through
good and ill report kept steadily with us through the more than a
quarter of a century struggle for existence" (3rd January 1886).]

       *       *       *       *       *

It is remarkable how quickly Mr Bradlaugh made his personality felt
when once he was allowed to sit quietly in Parliament. Some persons had
sneeringly said that he would "soon find his level," or that he would
"soon sink into obscurity," but he rapidly proved that he at least did
not regard the House of Commons merely as "the best club in England."
His patience in mastering details, his perseverance and persistence in
what he undertook, and the work he accomplished, were all so notable
that he had sat in the House barely one year when the possibility of a
seat for him in the next Radical ministry began to be discussed.[60]
His constant attendance at the House and at Committees--and he was
rarely absent--interfered greatly with his lecturing in the provinces
during the session, although almost every available evening was
utilised for London and suburban lectures, many of which were given
away.[61] In consequence of this he was driven more and more to rely
upon his pen as a means of earning money. It was always easier to
him to speak than to write upon a subject. His style was terse and
direct; his thoughts and his words came so fast that a verbatim report
of an hour's speech filled several newspaper columns. His gestures,
his expression, the modulation of his voice, pointed and explained
his spoken words. But it nearly always irked him to write long upon
a subject; his letters were for the most part models of brevity, and
he tended to make his articles brief also. If a magazine editor asked
him to write an article of six thousand words, and he had said all he
wanted to say at that moment in four or five thousand, he hated to add
to it, and often, indeed, he would not.

[Footnote 60: _Bognor Observer_, February 1887.]

[Footnote 61: One at the Shoreditch Town Hall in May 1884, on behalf of
the Hackney United Radical Club, realised as much as £40. The hall was
packed in every corner, and hundreds were unable to gain admittance.]

By incessant labour my father earned a fair income, but he could not
keep pace with his heavy expenses, and the burden of his debts each
year weighed upon him more and more heavily. He would sigh regretfully
that he was not so young as he used to be, and these things troubled
him more than formerly. At the end of August 1888, writing his "Rough
Notes" in the _National Reformer_, he said: "Many folks write me as
though now Parliament stood adjourned, I could be easily taking holiday
and rest. I wish this were possible, but in truth I have to work very
hard to reduce my debts and live. I shall, I hope, have four and a half
days' fishing in Loch Long from mid-day on Monday, September 3rd, to
the morning of Saturday the 8th, but this short holiday is more than
counterbalanced by the heavy lecturing work of the recess. This week,
for example, I address seven meetings; next week eight. Many write to
me to give lectures in aid of branches, clubs, and associations, and I
do help very often, but surely it is not necessary for me to constantly
repeat that my only means are those I earn from day to day by tongue
and pen. My great trouble now is lest I should be unable to earn enough
to meet my many heavy obligations, in which case I should be most
reluctantly obliged to relinquish my Parliamentary career."

This "Note" had a most unexpected result; it was reproduced with
generous comments in the press, and a committee was formed to raise a
fund to clear off the balance of £1500 of debt still remaining from the
six years' Parliamentary struggle. This fund was only open one month,
until October 1st;[62] and in that short time £2490 was subscribed
in sums varying from 1d. to £200. Now at last my father seemed to be
getting into smooth waters; the only financial burdens left upon him
were in connection with his business, and these he hoped to gradually
lighten. But within a few weeks he had to face a new trouble. On the
16th November my sister Alice was taken very ill with typhoid fever at
Circus Road; for the sake of greater quiet, we moved her to my rooms at
19 Avenue Road, where, meningitis having supervened, she died on 2nd
December. She expressly asked that in the case of her death she should
be cremated, and we were most anxious to carry out her wishes, but the
Woking Crematorium was then undergoing structural alterations, and it
was not possible to do so. This short and unexpected illness, with
its fatal termination, was a great shock to Mr Bradlaugh, and I went
to him at Circus Road the next morning as soon as I could get away. I
found him terribly depressed, working in his room in a bad atmosphere,
with the gas alight and all the blinds down. Knowing how he ordinarily
shrank from any outward display of his feelings, and especially how
much he disliked mere form, I said, "Why, how is this? Why have you
pulled all the blinds down?" He said brokenly, "They [the servants]
did it; I thought it might be your wish." I put out the gas, drew up
the blinds, and opened a window for a few moments to let in a little
fresh air. He was himself out of health, and I did not like to see him
sitting there in that close and heated atmosphere. I asked if he was
going to the House? No; he did not think he should, he replied. I urged
him to go, believing it was the best thing he could do. He did go, but
he could not stay long; somehow an announcement of my sister's death
had got into the papers, and Members sympathised with him in his sorrow
in such kindly fashion that he was obliged to come away lest he should
break down. A night or two later he made his speech in reply to Mr
Broadhurst on the Employers' Liability Bill, and if his words had in
them somewhat more of acerbity than usual, I often think that it was in
a measure due to the biting pain of his own grief.

[Footnote 62: Mr Bradlaugh asked for it to be closed on 26th September.]

On the 5th my sister was buried at the Brookwood Necropolis, where
already some members of our family lay. Many who had known her, and
whose lives had been helped by hers, begged that there might be a
public funeral; but my father shrank from exposing his sorrow even to
the most sympathetic of friends, and we quietly and silently laid her
in her last resting-place, where, alas! she was so soon to be joined
by her stricken father. Her death was not allowed to pass without the
Christian commonplaces as to "the miserable barrenness of the sceptic's
theories" in the presence of domestic calamities; and Mr Bradlaugh
asked what would be thought of him if at a similar hour he should
obtrude upon some Christian some mocking word upon the horrors of the
theory that "many are called and few are chosen"?

My husband and I now went to live at Circus Road, and as my father was
suddenly without a secretary, I filled the post while he was seeking a
fresh one. I had given up the class teaching, in which I had been for
many years associated with my sister, having thus a certain amount of
leisure, and finding I could manage all that was wanted, I begged him
to let me continue his work. I liked to feel I was helping him, if only
in the mechanical way of writing at his dictation.

During the later years of his life, Mr Bradlaugh was often out of
health and suffered a great deal, especially in the arm so badly
injured on the 3rd August 1881. The strain--mental as well as
physical--of the six years 1880-85 had been tremendous.[63] But a week
at Loch Long with Finlay M'Nab and his rod and line seemed to restore
him to health again; we never thought of anything serious, he appeared
so big and strong. In October 1889, however, he fell ill--so ill that
for some time it seemed doubtful whether he would recover, but thanks
to the skill of his old physician Dr Ramskill, and the assiduous care
of his friend and colleague on the Vaccination Commission, Dr W. J.
Collins, he gradually struggled back to life once more. It was thought
that his health would be greatly benefited by a voyage to India, and
therefore he decided to attend the Fifth National Congress in Bombay.
Mr M'Ewan, M.P., who was then enjoying a holiday abroad, sent Mr
Bradlaugh a cheque for £200 so that money difficulties should not
hinder him from following the doctor's advice; and with the cheque, Mr
M'Ewan sent a most delicately worded letter, which touched the sick man
to the heart.

[Footnote 63: This I think has been recognised by most people. In
December 1884 the _Weekly Dispatch_ spoke of the "great strain" put
upon Mr Bradlaugh, "under which a man less vigorous in mind and body
would long ere this have broken down."]

The shadows of death lay very close to him, and he had a hard fight
back to the light again, but he longed ardently to live. There was so
much that he had put his hand to, which the position he had now won
in the House would enable him to do with comparative ease. As he lay
in his bed in his study[64] he turned over and over in his mind plans
by which he might economise his strength in the future. It was quite
clear that he must do less lecturing, and must depend more and more
on his pen. He resolved to try and sell the remainder of the Fleet
Street lease, and to give up his publishing business; he also planned
to gradually pay off the debenture-holders, and when it was free from
all money entanglements, to hand over the printing plant to my husband
to carry on the business in his own name and on his own responsibility.
One thing he felt he could do immediately. After he had been lying very
quiet for some time, he startled me one day by suddenly saying that
he had determined to resign the Presidency of the National Secular
Society, and he bade me get pen and paper, and take his instructions
for a letter to the Secretary. I tried to argue the matter with him and
begged him to reflect upon it, to do nothing hastily, and reminded him
that people would say if he resigned then, in his illness, that he had
recanted. His face, which all along had been set and stern, darkened
as I said this. People must think what they choose, he said, he could
no longer do everything; something must go; the Presidency entailed a
great deal of work, and he must give it up. I tried to say something
more, but he stopped me, saying sharply that he had made up his mind.
I was disconcerted by the tone and manner, so unusual from him to me,
and left the room a moment to recover my equanimity. I was back almost
immediately, and went to the desk to get the note-book to take down the
letter to Mr Forder (the Secretary). I heard my name spoken gently,
and turning, saw my father holding out his hand to me. I went to the
bedside. "Now, my daughter," he said affectionately, "I want you to
tell me what you were going to say just now." He listened patiently
whilst I urged upon him that, although he was strong enough to
despise the misrepresentation that would surely follow the abrupt and
unexplained announcement of his resignation, it was hardly fair to his
friends who would have to bear taunt and sneer, and would be unable to
quote a word out of his mouth in reply. He replied that the reason for
his immediate resignation was that he could not be a President in name
only, and, without himself taking part in the work, be held responsible
for the sayings and doings of others--with whom he might or might
not agree--on behalf of the Society. He thought, however, he might
leave his formal resignation until his return from India, although he
would at once intimate his intention. He added with a tender smile,
"I promise you that I will make a statement which shall not leave any
one in doubt as to my opinions." The religious question troubled him
so little that he had not even thought about it until I spoke of the
possibility of misconstruction. The severity and sternness of his
demeanour in making the announcement of his resolve was due solely to
the pain it had cost him to give up an office he valued so highly, and
which he had hoped to retain until the laws relating to Blasphemy were
erased from the Statute Book.

[Footnote 64: The doctors would not allow Mr Bradlaugh to remain
in his bedroom; one of them told him indignantly--albeit with some
exaggeration--that he would have better accommodation in the workhouse!]

It was generously offered to pay my passage to Brindisi so that I might
care for my father during the first days of his journey, but my own
health did not permit me to accept so delightful an offer. He seemed
really too ill to go alone, and the memory of his face, so haggard and
so grey, as I last saw it at the vessel's side, was an abiding pain. He
sent back a pencilled note by the pilot, and a letter from every port,
to tell how he was gaining strength each day. On board the steamer
every one was kind to him. At Bombay every one was more than kind;
all seemed to vie with each other in showing him attentions--Indians
and English residents alike. A house and attendants were put at the
disposal of himself and Sir William Wedderburn, President of the
Congress, and the latter made things easy for the invalid by many a
courteous act. Although it had been announced that Mr Bradlaugh could
not stay long enough in Bombay to receive addresses, yet a large number
were presented to him, of which about twenty were in caskets or cases
of worked silver, carved sandal wood, inlaid ivory, and other beautiful
specimens of native work. The duty alone on these amounted to about
£19, and was paid by the Congress Committee.

Mr Bradlaugh's interest in Indian affairs, and his comprehension of
the needs of the people, were recognised both at home and in India.
In India he was joyfully called the "Member for India," and at home
his views on Indian matters were listened to with growing respect.
Lord Dufferin sought an interview, and afterwards had considerable
correspondence with him, and before Lord Harris set out for Bombay
he also made a point of seeing the acknowledged representative in
Parliament of the Indian people.

Mr Bradlaugh returned from Bombay at the end of January (1890), much
better in health than we had dared to hope, and we now quite believed
that with care he would become thoroughly strong again. The birth of
my little son in the April of this year prevented me from attending
to my father's correspondence, and at my request, my place was filled
by a friend of mine and of my sister's, Mrs Mary Reed. My father soon
grew very fond of my little boy, and would now and then put aside his
writing and take him on his knee, protesting that he had never before
left his work to nurse a baby, and sometimes wondering whether, when
the boy grew up, he would go fishing with him.

The advent of the baby and all his paraphernalia made us feel more
crowded for space than ever, and as the music publishers had a room on
the first floor which they used as a stock-room, my husband arranged
to rent this, and we furnished it as a sitting-room. We made it
look as pretty as we could, and it was ready for us at the end of
September. On my father's birthday (the 26th) I persuaded him to take
us to the theatre, and we went to the Lyceum to see _Ravenswood_. On
coming home we had supper in the bright new room instead of the dark
place underground, and many were my father's jokes about the unwonted
splendour of his surroundings. Alas! it seemed that that room was
furnished only for him to die in three months later.

The winter of 1890 set in early and severely. In November it began to
snow, and snow and fog continued well into the new year. With the cold
weather my father began to feel ill again. He thought of going to Paris
to spend the New Year, but he could not afford it. I was sorry he could
not go, for he always came back the better for a few days in Paris. He
was a welcome visitor to the French capital; he had never been made
to feel himself an outcast from society there. Coming home with him
one fearfully foggy night in December[65] from a lecture he had been
delivering at the Hall of Science on behalf of a testimonial to Mr
Forder, the Secretary of the National Secular Society, the conversation
turned upon the value of his books, and he mentioned two or three which
he thought--erroneously, as it turned out--very valuable. I asked him
if he would not sell them; if he could get a holiday and health with
the money they would fetch, they would be well worth the exchange. "Ah,
my daughter, when I sell my books----" he began, and his unfinished
answer told all the sadness of his thought. Twice he would have had to
sell them if friends had not come to his aid--once, as I have said, to
pay the Government costs in Bradlaugh _v._ Erskine, and next in the
Peters and Kelly case. He loved his books; to part with them seemed
like parting with his heart's blood.

[Footnote 65: Wednesday, 10th December. This was the last lecture
Mr Bradlaugh ever delivered. The subject was "The Evidence for the
Gospels," in criticism of Dr Watkin's Bampton lectures.]

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 10th January my father went out in the afternoon; it was densely
foggy and bitterly cold. When he returned a few hours later I ran down
to him as usual, and was horrified to see his face--it was the same
face that I had seen in the worst of his sickness of the previous
winter. This was the first attack of the spasms of the heart, although
we did not then know it; it was comparatively slight,[66] and after
a little my father seemed himself again. The improvement, however,
was more apparent than real; in less than a week from that day he
was compelled to keep his bed, and in less than a month he lay in his
grave. He died on the 30th January, firm in the convictions in which he
had lived, and was buried on the 3rd of February, next my sister in the
Brookwood Necropolis. The funeral was a silent one, without speeches
and without display,[67] but people attended it from all parts of
England--one miner even came from Scotland. People of all sorts and all
conditions travelled to this remote spot to show their respect for the
man who had given his life in the service of his fellows.

[Footnote 66: A person writing in the _Swansea Journal_ for 7th
February 1891 said that some time previously Mr Bradlaugh _had told
him_ of his sufferings from _angina pectoris_. This is utterly untrue;
my father never suffered from this complaint, nor until his fatal
illness was he ever conscious that he had anything wrong with his
heart. In a private letter to a friend written on the 14th--almost
the last written with his own hand--he says distinctly, "I have never
suffered from heart or lungs before." The mania for invention is
extraordinary.]

[Footnote 67: This was exactly in accordance with Mr Bradlaugh's
wishes. In a will dated 1884 he said: "I direct that my body shall be
buried as cheaply as possible, and that no speeches be permitted at my
funeral." His last will, which consisted of a few lines only, contained
no directions on this matter.]

       *       *       *       *       *

At Mr Bradlaugh's death his assets were not nearly sufficient to
meet his liabilities, but amongst these liabilities there was not a
single personal item; they were every one in connection with the Fleet
Street business. Most of the creditors cheerfully agreed to accept a
composition of ten shillings in the pound; of this £1700 was raised
by public subscription, and the remainder was furnished by the sale
of the library,[68] Indian presents,[69] and the lease of 63 Fleet
Street. It was a wonderful testimony to the regard in which my father
was held that people should join together to help in paying his debts
after his death. Four other memorials to him have been projected, of
which three are now complete. The first to be finished was the monument
at Brookwood. It consists of a bronze bust of Mr Bradlaugh, by Mr F.
Verheyden, on a red granite pedestal. It was erected at a cost of
£225; and the money was subscribed absolutely spontaneously, without
a single appeal or one word of request. Then came the statue of Mr
Bradlaugh erected by his constituents in Abington Square, Northampton,
and unveiled on the 25th of June 1894, in the presence of the greatest
crowd ever assembled in that town. Lastly, there is the memorial which
was organised in the House of Commons, and energetically promoted by
the daughters of Richard Cobden, one of our country's noblest men. This
took the form of making some provision for myself, and to that end a
house has been bought with the money subscribed.

[Footnote 68: The library included some 7000 volumes, in addition to
about 3000 Blue Books, and a large number of unbound pamphlets. The
books were sold by post from the catalogue, and went to all parts of
the world. They realised £550 after all expenses were paid, and about
1000 volumes remained unsold.]

[Footnote 69: Through the generosity of "Edna Lyall," I was able to buy
these for myself.]

There is one other memorial which from its nature is not likely to be
completed for some years. It is a project to build a hall, to be called
the "Bradlaugh Memorial Hall," to be used for the purposes of promoting
the great causes with which Mr Bradlaugh was identified. It took close
upon a hundred years to build a Memorial Hall to Thomas Paine; it
remains to be seen how long it will take to erect one to the memory of
Charles Bradlaugh.



PART II.

BY

JOHN M. ROBERTSON.



CHAPTER I.

PHILOSOPHY AND SECULARIST PROPAGANDA.


It may here be well to give a general view of Bradlaugh's teaching on
the great open questions of opinion and action, taking separately the
old provinces of religion and politics. When he came most prominently
before his countrymen he had a very definite repute on both heads,
having spoken on them in nearly every town of any size in the country;
but neither then nor later could it be said that anything like the
majority of the public had a just or accurate idea of his position. The
obstacle was and is partly prejudice, partly incapacity.


§1

To begin with, even the distinct title of "Atheist" may mean any
number of things for any number of persons. Ill-informed and even
some well-informed people commonly describe an Atheist as one who
says "There is no God," and that "Things happen by chance." To say to
such persons--as has been said a thousand times--that for an Atheist
both phrases are meaningless, seems to give no help: we must begin at
the beginning, and show how the dispute arose. And it is useful to
keep in view that Bradlaugh's Atheism, in the evolution of English
Freethought, is only a generation removed from the Deism of Thomas
Paine, which is much the same as the Deism of Voltaire. Deism or
Theism is to-day reckoned a quite "religious" frame of mind; but it
was the frame of mind of men who in their day were hated and vilified
by Christians as much as Bradlaugh in his. Explicit Atheism is only
in our own day become at all a common opinion. The men so described
in former ages, so far as we know (if we set aside the remarkable
developments of the Italian Renaissance), have nearly always been
Deists or Pantheists, of whom the latter of course tend logically to
coalesce with Atheism, but who have in their own names alike professed
to repudiate Atheism. Thus Hobbes and Spinoza, who last century
were constantly called Atheists by Christians, always professed to
have a God-idea; and the Freethinkers who showed head in England in
the first half of the eighteenth century were all professing Deists.
Systematic Atheism began to arise among the more penetrating or more
trained thinkers of the latter half of the century. Thus Hume, after
professing Deism throughout his life, left for posthumous publication
his "Dialogues concerning Natural Religion," which amount to the
surrender of all forms of Theism. Of Voltaire in his latter years,
when he strongly attacked the Atheism of Holbach, it was said by the
more high-flying talkers of the Paris drawing-rooms: "Why, he is a
bigot; he is a Deist." But even Voltaire, as Mr Morley has shown, was
somewhat less of a Deist after the earthquake of Lisbon; and "Candide"
is not a good Theistic tract.[70] Diderot, again, reached explicit
Atheism; and his friend Holbach wrote, in the "Système de la Nature,"
the first systematic and straightforward Atheistic treatise of modern
times.[71] In England the movement was less rapid. Bolingbroke went
pretty far towards a Lucretian or Agnostic Theism; and the upper-class
Deism which on his lines held out against the opportunist orthodoxy
of Butler, necessarily tended to make its Deity a very remote and
inaccessible Power. But Freethought, to get any hold on the general
mind in the thickening populations of the latter half of last century
and the first half of this, had to begin again, and more effectively,
on the lines of the first Deists. The incredibility of the sacred
books had to be made clear before more abstract issues could be
settled. In this task Voltaire, the pupil of the English Deists, was
the great performer for all Europe. It was Paine however who first, in
the turmoil of the Revolution, brought home to thousands of English
artizans and other plain men the incredibility of what had so long
passed as divinely-revealed truth. He could do this the better because
of the power and fame of his work in politics, and because of his
constant profession of a devout belief in a beneficent God, on whom
he declared the Bible narratives to be a libel. It probably needed
this element of popular religion to keep up any continuous current of
popular Free-thinking in England throughout the great reaction which
followed on the French Revolution. But the argument of Butler held good
against Paine as against the earlier Deists. If the Bible stories were
irreconcilable with the idea of a "good," omnipotent God, equally so
are the operations of Nature. And though there are many people who can
be led by that argument to believe or make-believe in the Bible (though
it makes no more for the Bible than for the Koran), there were others
who felt bound to take the logical alternative, and decide that the
"good God" of popular half-faith is a dream.

[Footnote 70: This is all that can be pleaded in favour of the
deliberate representation of Voltaire as an Atheist by the late
Archbishop Thomson, at the Church Congress of 1881. But the ignorance
of the upper English clergy in general on such matters is amazing. In
January 1881, Archdeacon (then Canon) Farrar, preaching in Westminster
Abbey, represented Robespierre's Reign of Terror as a "reign of avowed
Atheism;" identified the Deistic cult of the "Supreme Being" with that
of the "goddess of Reason;" and accounted for the fall of Robespierre
by the statement that, "God _awoke once more_, and with one thunderclap
smote the sanhedrim of the insurrection, prostrated the apostate race."
This orator once expressed horror at the thought that Disestablishment
might enable Bradlaugh to speak in St Paul's. Bradlaugh might have
remarked on what the Establishment permitted at Westminster Abbey.]

[Footnote 71: The English translation, in the original issue, is in
parts completely perverted to the language of Theism, whether out
of fear or of Deistic prejudice on the part of the translator. Even
the edition prefaced by Bradlaugh--who did not think of checking the
text--preserves the perversions of the first translator.]

Such progress is a question of time. Atheism in a psychological sense
began with the beginning of physical science. Pure Theism, in its
early form of polytheism, saw in all natural movements and forces the
expression of a personal power or powers, analogous to man; and its
gods were and are simply magnified projections of humanity. Thus the
sun, moon, and planets, the winds, the thunder, the lightning, the
rivers, the fountains, the seas, were all figured as ruled and moved
by personal deities. As soon, however, as astronomy made certain
the perfectly regular movements of the sun and stars, Theism was to
that extent logically limited, and Atheism to that extent logically
possible. Astronomy was strictly godless in so far as it showed the
universe to move by undeviating law. Of course this perception is but
a small part of human consciousness and daily life; and the habit of
theising, so to speak, easily overrode the habit of atheising. But
every advance in exact knowledge of Nature, and in the capacity for
exact thought, tended to encourage the atheistic view, and to discredit
the theistic. Hence the spread of Atheism and Agnosticism among the
Greeks in their progressive and scientific period. It needed the
constant reform and modification of theistic doctrine, and later the
complete arrest of all scientific thought, to keep the theistic view of
things in power and place. And there had to be a revival of science and
exact thinking before there could again be talk of Atheism.

It follows, however, that all early Atheism, so-called, was only the
rejection of theistic ideas from some part of the business of life.
The Christians were "Atheists" for the Pagan multitude, because they
rejected the only God-ideas which the Pagan multitude harboured. In the
same way the Christians who later scouted the worship of images of God
(as Persians and Jews had done long before) were Atheists for those
Christians who could only conceive of an imaged God. Prejudice has its
own logic. When again medical men rested more and more on inductive
method and rational (even if mistaken) procedure, and less and less on
sorcery and invocation, they were naturally called Atheists, because
they excluded "God" from an important and perilous province of action.
Logically, the more a man is a Theist, the more of "God's" intervention
he sees in life. No man is a Theist in all things; but in the ages of
ignorance men were theistic in most matters. The kingdom of God, in
a practical sense, is a sphere in which man is confessedly ignorant
or impotent. "God's will" is the name for the forces which man cannot
control, and does not understand. It covers a storm, a pestilence, a
good or bad harvest, a stroke of luck, but not an indigestion, or the
breaking of coal when struck by a hammer. Thus it is that every new
advance of science, every new explanation of a body of facts in terms
of law and innate tendency, is at first denounced as Atheistic. After
the physicians came the physicists. The great Kepler, in keeping with
his idealistic method, was so steeped in Theism as to fancy that the
planets were kept up to time by guiding angels. Newton, however, was
flatly accused of Atheism for explaining the universe in terms of
the law of gravitation. He had driven God out of the world, it was
said; and so far as his physics went, it was true. Yet he himself
was an ardent Theist; and he even sought to make good his Theism by
the theory that "matter" was first without gravitation, and that God
added the attribute. With or without this safeguard, however, Newton's
generalisation was sufficiently abstract to leave popular religion
intact; and practical Theism even assimilated and gained by his
science. It was not till geologists began to explain the formation of
the earth in terms of law and tendency that the great shock came. God
had hitherto been generally conceived as shaping the earth, were it
only because there was no other explanation at hand; and, above all,
geology clashed with Genesis. Hence a much more serious resistance,
and a much more general imputation of Atheism; though the first
geologists were mostly Deists, and believers in the special creation
of animal life. The next and the most serious shock was that given by
Darwinism, which removed "the divine idea" from biology. Over this came
the loudest outcry of all; and the odium would have been overwhelming
were it not for the number of naturalists who took up the new doctrine
as a matter of special science. "God" is now for scientific people
practically removed from the sphere of all the "natural" sciences; and
the results attained in this connection by educated people are slowly
being attained by the ill-educated; the mass of the clergy having
gradually assimilated the conclusions of biology as their predecessors
did those of geology and physics.

The inevitable next step is the reduction to scientific order of the
lore of human affairs. This step was taken in a large part by Buckle,
somewhat out of the due order of time, just before Darwin issued the
"Origin of Species;" and Buckle has had on the whole more of religious
enmity than even Darwin, though, significantly enough, he expressly
insisted on Theism while Darwin kept it vaguely in the background.
Buckle's Theism so plainly leaves his Deity nothing to do in human
affairs that his belief, however fervid, could avail nothing to
propitiate the class whose function is to explain history in terms of
divine interference. Buckle, a professed Theist, is for all practical
purposes in the position of an Atheist, save in respect of his personal
and emotional belief in a future state. A God who in no way comes in
contact with men, for good or for ill, is too thin a conception to
count for much.

Atheism, then, is only a development of a process of thought that began
ages ago under Polytheism. It has been reached in the past by isolated
thinkers; there seem to have been Atheists at the time of composition
of parts of the Vedas; and each one of the great steps of scientific
generalisation has been anticipated by men who were not able to bring
the idea home to their own age. It is the giving the step its name
that creates the greatest shock. And when a reformer does not even
wait to have his position named for him, does not merely undermine
Theism by a new scientific treatment of a province of fact, but goes
to the logical root of the matter and declares that the latest Theism
is at bottom no more true than the oldest, though stripped of certain
crudities--then it is that the maximum of odium is evoked. The Atheist,
in reality, does but carry negation a step further than does the Theist
himself. As Bradlaugh used to point out, the modern Theist denies the
existence of any type of "God" save his own. Whatever he may see fit
to argue about the folly of denying the possibilities of the unknown,
he is quite confident that there is in the universe no Being even
remotely resembling the fabled Zeus, or Moloch, or Osiris, or Venus, or
Huitzlipochtli. He is sure that these are only imaginary existences.
Similarly, he begins in these days to be sure that the conception of
Jahweh is as purely a dream as that of Bacchus--the mere projection of
man's own image (however magnified or even idealised) on the background
of nescience. Nay, the latter-day Theist begins to repudiate the
conceptions of the "Deists" of last century: he will have no "Great
Artificer," no "Overruling Providence." The latest treatises expressly
reject the arguments of the earlier for proving the "existence of God."
Thus the Theist himself "denies the existence" of a thousand Gods.[72]
The Atheist, as Mr Bradlaugh put it, merely denies a thousand and
one.[73] He argues that the most advanced Theism (as distinguished
from mere Pantheism) is only a modified form of the oldest; merely a
civilised fancy instead of an uncivilised; it is always a male person
in the image of man, with passions, emotions, limitations, qualities;
loving, hating, planning, punishing, rewarding; always the "magnified
non-natural man" of the primeval worshipper: a conception flatly and
absurdly opposed to the first philosophic requirements of the very
doctrine which embodies it. The God of Theism must always be the
analogue of the Theist. Hume, passing out of Theism, concluded that the
"Power" of the universe could only have a faint and remote analogy to
human personality. Further reasoning forces the conclusion that it can
have no conceivable analogy.

[Footnote 72: This fact is entirely ignored by Professor Flint in his
defence of the old plea of Foster and Chalmers against Mr Holyoake in
"Anti-Theistic Theories," App. ii.]

[Footnote 73: John Mill, after stating that his father held that
"concerning the origin of things nothing whatever can be known,"
remarks that "Dogmatic Atheism he looked upon as absurd; as most
of those whom the world has considered Atheists have always done"
("Autobiography," p. 39). It is difficult to guess what is here meant
by "dogmatic Atheism;" but certainly no statement made above is more
"dogmatic" than the proposition cited from Mill, senior. It clearly
involves rejection of all Theism.]

This very conclusion has actually been reached by many professed
Theists and professed Christians. Professor Max Müller has collected
instances in his lectures on "Anthropological Religion." But those
thinkers, like Dr Müller himself, have always in practice relapsed
into the personal conception which they philosophically affect to
repudiate. As Dr Müller puts it, the abstract Theism which allows to
Deity no human attributes whatever is too "cold" for popularity; and Dr
Müller is not ashamed, after smoothing the way with a trivial fallacy,
to recur to the doctrine and terminology of the multitude, giving the
Deity male sex because "we" cannot think of "Him" otherwise than as
male. The Atheist simply stands honestly to the conclusions which such
Theists have avowedly come to and then feebly let go.

This is so obvious to steady-minded people that in all philosophic ages
there have been some who, shunning the name rather than the reality of
Atheism, have formulated the doctrine and name of Pantheism. Between
_logical_ Pantheism and Atheism, however, it cannot be too strongly
affirmed, there is no difference save in name. An Atheist believes
in a "going" and infinite universe, the totality of which he cannot
pretend to understand; and which he flatly refuses to pretend to
explain by the primitive hypothesis of a personal "Spirit." He calls
the universe "infinite" by way of avowing that he cannot conceive of
its coming to an end, in extension or in duration. This recognition of
endlessness represents for him the limit of thought: and he declines
to proceed to give further attributes to that, the very naming of
which leads him to the verge of the capacities of rational speech. He
declines to give to the going universe the name of "God," because that
name has always been associated by nearly all men with the primitive
conception of a Personal Being, and it is a mere verbal stratagem to
make it identical with Universe. So irresistible is the effect of the
immemorial association of the name that it serves to carry nearly every
professing Pantheist back chronically into mere Theism and Deism, even
if he so formulates his Pantheism to begin with as to make it answer
to the name. A logically consistent Pantheist, using the name, would
be hard to find. Hence the necessity, on all grounds, of repudiating
Pantheism as distinctly as Theism. The only consistent course is to use
the privative "_a_," and stand to the term which means "without Theos,
without God-idea."


§2.

This preamble, it is to be hoped, may make it easier to appreciate
the technicalities of Bradlaugh's doctrine. He was not the untrained
Atheist of the theistic imagination, who may be confounded with a
quotation from Kant by one of the personages of Mrs Ward's religious
vaudevilles. He knew that Kant, reduced to plain language, gives the
whole answer to Kant. Beginning as a boy to defend his Theism in
debate, he saw it demolished by one of those born debaters who are
found every now and then among the working class, men far superior in
native power and intellectual sincerity to those cultured acceptors
of other men obscurities who look down on them.[74] But he did
not trust to "mother-wit," his own or another's. He read all the
philosophic literature he could lay hands on; in particular he became
a close student of Spinoza. A clergyman of my acquaintance maintains
that to the end he was a Spinozist. It would be less misleading to
say that he employed much of the method of Spinoza to establish the
Atheism to which Spinoza's doctrine practically leads,[75] while
always scrupulously recognising that Spinoza formulated Pantheism and
professed only to modify the God-idea. Here are Bradlaugh's own words:--

[Footnote 74: One of the most capable metaphysicians I have personally
known was an inferior stone-mason.]

[Footnote 75: It was not merely the orthodoxy of past ages that saw
virtual Atheism in the position of Spinoza. Jacobi expressly and
constantly maintained that Spinozism and Atheism came to the same
thing. A God who is not outside the world, he argued, is as good as no
God. At the same time, he admitted that the understanding had no escape
from the logical demonstration of the impossibility of a personal God;
and that the Theist must throw himself "overhead into the depths of
faith." See Pünjer's "History of the Christian Philosophy of Religion,"
Eng. tr., p. 632.]

 "The logic of Spinoza was directed to the demonstration of one
 substance with infinite attributes, for which one substance with
 infinite attributes he had as equivalent the name of 'God.' Some who
 have since followed Spinoza, have agreed in his one substance, but
 have denied the possibility of infinite attributes. Attributes or
 qualities, they urge, are attributes of the finite or conditioned,
 and you cannot have attributes of substance except as attributes of
 its modes. You have in this distinction the division line between
 Spinozism and Atheism. Spinoza recognises infinite intelligence; but
 Atheism cannot conceive intelligence except in relation, as quality
 of the conditioned, and not as the essence of the absolute. Spinoza,
 however, denied the doctrine of freewill, as with him all phenomena
 are of God; so he rejects the ordinary notions of good and evil."[76]

[Footnote 76: Pamphlet on "Heresy: its Utility and Morality. A Plea and
a Justification," 3rd. ed. p. 35.]

The position here taken up is frequently met by an outcry against
the "denial of intelligence" to the highest power in the universe.
The protest is pure irrelevance. Atheism "denies intelligence" to an
infinite existence simply as it denies it whiskers and dyspepsia.
The point is that intelligence cannot be conceived save as a finite
attribute; every process of intelligence implying limitation and
ignorance.[77] Infinitude must transcend the state of "intelligence."
The "intelligence" of "omniscience" is a chimæra. And when the Atheist
is accused of making himself the highest thing in the universe, the
plain answer is that it is precisely the Theist, and nobody else, who
does so. That is to say, the Theist makes his own mind and personality
the type and analogue of an Infinite and Eternal Power. The Atheist
admits that he can form no conception whatever of Infinite and Eternal
Power. The Theist rushes in where the Atheist declines to tread. And
nothing is more remarkable in the modern history of religion than the
retreat of all theistic argument to some form of the sub-rational
position so laboriously formulated by Kant--that the God-idea is
established, not by any form of reasonable inference from knowledge,
but by the moral needs and constitution of human nature. That doctrine
is not only the formal bankruptcy of all philosophy, logical and
psychological, but is the stultification of every religious system
which adopts it, inasmuch as it is equally valid for each against
all the rest, besides being finally annihilated by the simple fact
of persistent scientific Atheism, which proves that human nature
does _not_ need the sustenance of a God-idea, whether in ethics, in
politics, or in natural science. The only resource of neo-Kantism
against the Atheist is the _argumentum ad hominem_ of imputing to him
"atrophy" of the "spiritual" sense; an argument which--not to employ
a simple _tu quoque_--may be sufficiently met either by the answer
that the "spiritual sense" which maintains Theism is merely the carnal
and self-excited appetite for mental opium, and that the Hindu and
the devout Catholic have it in a much higher degree than the mere
Theist; or by the reminder that even if there were special intellectual
defect behind Atheism, it is, on the Theistic hypothesis, a defect
foreordained by Theos, and is as much part of human nature as the
docility of the Theist.

[Footnote 77: It is unnecessary here to put the further argument that
if we infer intelligence behind the universe by human analogy, we
are bound in consistency to infer organism for the intelligence. Dr
Martineau in his "Modern Materialism," takes refuge from this argument
in declamation, treating the demand for consistency as if it had been a
substantive plea.]

All the psychological line of argument, as put by Kant and his
adaptors, is fully and patiently met by Bradlaugh in his section of the
"Freethinker's Text-Book," which deals in turn with all the main pleas
of orthodoxy. At the close of the examination of Kant he writes, with
great caution and moderation:--

 "We do not feel sure that we have either fairly stated Kant's position
 or efficiently replied to as much as we have stated. In condensing
 within the limits of this Text-Book the views of a writer so involved
 in his expressions as is Immanuel Kant, we may have failed both in
 exposition and answer, but have the consolation that we at any rate
 place before our readers the sources of completer knowledge."

But the modest deprecation was unnecessary, the main theses of Kant
having really been sufficiently stated and met; and the Text-Book goes
on to cite and answer the arguments of an able neo-Kantian Theist, who
had confessedly found Kant unsatisfying, but who offered in his turn
only the vague emotional plea as against Kant's moral plea, backing
it up with the old paralogism of the "spiritual sense." That is the
best that modern Theism can say for itself; and the argument will
never convince anybody who had needed convincing.[78] It is further
repudiated by the orthodox Theism which claims to stand on revelation,
and which in turn is dismissed as ill-founded by more philosophic
Theism.

[Footnote 78: See an examination of the positions of Knight, Davidson,
and Kaftan, in the _Free Review_, August, 1894.]

The orthodox Theism is in this country represented by Professor
Flint, who when challenged by Bradlaugh to defend his position
philosophically, took the line of answering that, "for a person
possessed of a typically English intellect, Mr Bradlaugh shows,
in dealing with Theism, a curious predilection for metaphysical
conundrums,"[79] and proceeded to meet the said "conundrums" in the
spirit of a joker dealing with a joke. The argument, "Unless it be
nonsense to affirm infinity and Mr Bradlaugh added to it, why should
it be nonsense to affirm infinity and the universe added to it?" is a
sample of the reasoning with which Dr Flint satisfies the pious, in
answer to the Atheistic doctrine that human beings are only forms of
the infinite existence. Another of the Professor's expedients is to say
that God has reason but does not reason. "No intelligent man thinks or
speaks of God as reasoning;" which is a severe attack, from a Scotch
Professor of Divinity, on the author of Isaiah i. 18. But more than
passing notice is here due to one of the Professor's remarks[80]:--

 "There is an impression in some quarters that Atheism is advocated
 in a weak and unskilful manner by the chiefs of Secularism. It is an
 impression which I do not share. Most of the writers who are striving
 to diffuse Atheism in literary circles are not to be compared in
 intellectual strength with either Mr Holyoake or Mr Bradlaugh."

[Footnote 79: "Anti-Theistic Theories," 4th ed. p. 517.]

[Footnote 80: _Id._, pp. 518, 519.]

Such a testimony, from such a source, counts for rather more than the
arguments emanating thence.

As to the assertion, again, that Atheists say "there is no God"--an
assertion made with surprising frequency by professed Agnostics--it
was constantly met by Bradlaugh with the answer that the phrase has no
meaning.

 "The initial difficulty is in defining the word 'God.' It is equally
 impossible to intelligently affirm or deny any proposition unless
 there is at least an understanding, on the part of the affirmer or
 denier, of the meaning of every word used in the proposition. To me
 the word 'God' standing alone is a word without meaning."[81]

[Footnote 81: Pamphlet, "Is there a God?" p. 1.]

It would have been more exact to say that it has too many meanings to
stand for any one in particular. Once defined, the alleged existence
can be rationally denied, as may the existence of a race of centaurs,
half men half horses, or of dragons who breathe fire, or of a being
answering to the description of Neptune, driving a chariot on the sea,
or of Apollo, driving the sun. All definitions of God which affirm
personality or human attributes are open to immediate stultification
by argument. "I have never yet heard," wrote Bradlaugh, "a definition
of God from any living man, nor have I read a definition by dead or
living man, that was not self-contradictory.... But the moment you tell
me you mean the God of the Bible, or the God of the Koran, or the God
of any particular Church, I am prepared to tell you that I deny that
God."[82] The person who says we have no right to deny the existence
of his imagined God until we have been all through the universe, has
on his own showing no right to deny the existence of such Gods as
are described in the stories of Saturn and Thor. The most paralytic
Agnosticism, however, like the most devout Theism, seems content to be
as sure that these are imaginary existences, as that Julius Cæesar was
never in America.

[Footnote 82: Second reply to Bishop Magee, p. 35.]

The relation of Atheism to Agnosticism is thus wholly misconceived by
most people who differentiate them. That is to say, the logical form
of Agnosticism--by which is not meant the self-styled Agnosticism
which resorts to the use of the name "God"--comes to the same thing as
Atheism, since it argues that the current God-idea is a mere reflex
of humanity, like those which preceded it. Bradlaugh sometimes grew
impatient (and small wonder) with people who wrote to him to point
out that Atheism was wrong, and Agnosticism right. They never took
the trouble to try to understand what he meant by Atheism; and it
must with regret be said that more competent Agnostics often make
the same omission. The simple-minded Agnostic who candidly remarks,
"I do not say there is no God, but I haven't seen any evidence for
one," is kept in countenance by the more learned Agnosticism which
excludes from its learning the literature of modern Atheism. Bradlaugh
had seen the new name readily adopted by men who not only shunned the
old but helped to heap on it an ignorant odium. He had seen Atheism
strangely misrepresented by Mr Spencer in "First Principles;"[83]
he pointed out that a mere avowal of ignorance is not worth making,
and that Agnosticism is not a philosophy at all, unless it says, not
merely, "I do not know of the thing you assert," but "you do not know
either"--which are just the statements of Atheism. He might have
added that while "Atheist," though a term much abused by Theists, is
a good word, and a real doctrine-name, "Agnostic" is a bad word, and
in itself no doctrine-name at all, since it says "Don't know," without
hinting what it is that is not known. The present writer has heard a
Christian Evidence lecturer, a Master of Arts, delight a Christian
audience by saying that the nearest English equivalent to "Agnostic" is
"Ignoramus." His strategy was characteristic of his cause, but he was
dialectically within his rights.

[Footnote 83: Mr Spencer (p. 31) represents the "Atheistic theory" as
professing to "conceive" an infinite and eternal universe, and thereby
to "explain" it, when the very essence of Atheism is to insist (as does
Mr Spencer) that infinity is only the negation of conceptions, and that
an infinite universe cannot be "explained."]

The best argument for the use of the name Agnostic is simply that the
word Atheist has been so long covered with all manner of ignorant
calumny that it is expedient to use a new term which, though in some
respects faulty, has a fair start, and will in time have a recognised
meaning. The case, so stated, is reasonable; but there is the _per
contra_ that, whatever the motive with which the name is used, it is
now tacked to half a dozen conflicting forms of doctrine, varying
loosely between Theism and Pantheism. The name of Atheist escapes
that drawback. Its unpopularity has saved it from half-hearted and
half-minded patronage.


§3.

Another obstinate misunderstanding arises over the word "Materialism."
Bradlaugh did not willingly or often resort to that name. He seems
to have preferred the more philosophic term "Monist," or the useful
word "Naturist," which latter, however, he did not seek to force into
common use.[84] But he was of course a "Materialist" in the sense
in which alone the word is used by those who so name themselves--a
sense sufficiently different from those put upon it by most of the
writers who assail them, rationalists and supernaturalists alike. The
former assailants, of course, do the more harm. Philosophy has in
England suffered peculiarly from the tendency of professed thinkers
to dissociate themselves anxiously from certain doctrine-names that
are ill spoken of, and to join in the vulgar outcry against them,
rather than try judicially to estimate their significance and value.
Of such bourgeois prudence we have examples in some of our leading
modern philosophers. And there is the other trouble that some men with
great powers of a certain sort lack the capacity to see or grasp all
the parts of a broad problem at once or in relation, and must needs
cramply lift and handle only one at a time. Rationalists of this kind
do immense harm to the cause of rationalism, as pietists of the same
stamp do to the cause of their creed, by elevating a small or verbal
difference into a sectarian issue, and representing other rationalists
as opposed to them when there is no fundamental difference in the
case. When this want of sense of proportion in an able man goes with
intellectual vacillation or discontinuity, it works the maximum of
frustration. We have a prominent instance in Professor Huxley, who
has given countenance to contradictory conclusions on half-a-dozen
main questions. He has gratuitously encouraged the enforced use of the
Bible in public schools, and he has wearied Freethinkers by tediously
strategic combats on worn-out topics with those who hold the very
beliefs that the Bible sets up in minds which reverence it. On the
question of Materialism he has reinforced reaction by contemptuous
language towards men whose teaching is identical with his own so
far as that is sound; and on the other hand he has obstructed the
spread of logical Materialism by stating crudely and without verbal
circumspection a strictly materialistic doctrine.[85] What is worse,
he has written on Materialism as did Lewes--without treating the term
historically; and he has at times condemned Materialists in general
without specifying any one man's teaching in detail. Another writer
in the same category, of whom better things might be expected, is
Professor Karl Pearson. That gentleman, after the fashion of Professor
Huxley, has at one time pooh-poohed the criticism of theology as an
attack on a ruin, and at another has furiously cannonaded the bones
of a dead theologian. And recently he has gone out of his way, in his
"Grammar of Science" so-called, to asperse Materialism, while teaching
practically nothing else of a positive nature. Mr Pearson's account
of the Materialism of Büchner and Bradlaugh, superciliously given in
a footnote, is in the circumstances the worst misrepresentation of
the matter now before the public. He speaks of "the Materialist" and
"modern Materialists" as substituting force for the will or spirit
of the Spiritists as a "cause" of motion, and goes on to confuse the
already much-confused question of "necessity" by playing the bull in
that philosophic china-shop.

[Footnote 84: "Naturalist" seems first to have been used in this sense
by Holbach.]

[Footnote 85: "What we call the operations of the mind are functions of
the brain and the _materials of consciousness_ are products of cerebral
activity" ("Hume," p. 80). Mr Huxley goes on, "It is hardly necessary
to point out that the doctrine just laid down is what is commonly
called Materialism."]

 "The idea of enforcement," he writes, "of some necessity in the order
 of a sequence, remains deeply rooted in men's minds, as a fossil from
 the spiritualistic explanation of will as the cause of motion. This
 idea is preserved in association with the scientific description
 of motion; and in the Materialist's notion of force as that which
 _necessitates_ certain changes or sequences of motion, we have the
 ghost of the old Spiritualism. The force of the Materialist is the
 will of the old Spiritualist separated from consciousness. Both carry
 us into the region beyond our sense-impressions; both are therefore
 _metaphysical_; but perhaps the inference of the old Spiritualist was,
 if illegitimate, less absurdly so than that of the modern Materialist,
 _for the Spiritualist did not infer will to exist beyond the sphere of
 consciousness with which he had always found will associated_."

This passage, fallacious from its first clause--being but an
empirical attack on empiricism--becomes in the last, with its "for,"
a mere misstatement. The Spiritualist did most emphatically infer
will outside the sphere of consciousness with which he had always
found will associated, since he expressly assumed a consciousness
without organisation--a thing he never met with. It is further quite
unjustifiable to assert that "modern Materialists" carry outside the
sphere of consciousness ideas either of "will" or of "enforcement,"
which they have always found associated with consciousness. Professor
Pearson is confused by words, which are apt to be even for wise men at
times what Hobbes said they were for fools. The task of philosophy is
a perpetual struggle with the mazes of language; and it is worse than
idle to discuss such problems as Mr Pearson here gratuitously raises,
without analysing the terms which commonly contain them. He uses the
word "necessitates" as if there were no ambiguity or obscurity about
its sense; just as he constantly speaks of our not knowing the "why"
of things, without making a single philosophical attempt to analyse
the psychological force of that profoundly important syllable. What
do we mean by "why," apart from matters of volition? It is the old
story of regarding the leaf as "a flat green object which we know all
about already." Professor Pearson goes about to analyse the leaves of
physics, but too often takes for granted the leaves of language. He
has needlessly approached his task in such a fashion that it becomes
much more a matter of psychology and logic than of physical science;
yet his psychology is little better than a hand-to-mouth criticism,
the mere business psychology of a physicist. His distinction between
philosophical and physicist doctrine (pp. 93, 94), to the effect that
one appeals to temperament but the other not, is a sample of amateur
psychology grievous to consider. And while discrediting certain
doctrines in physics, real or imaginary, on the bare ground that they
are metaphysical, he yet rounds the whole of his own doctrine to an
expressly metaphysical account of the nature of scientific knowledge.
There is, of course, no real dividing-line between metaphysics and
sense-knowledge; what the physicists rightly protest against is just
bad metaphysic, spiritist metaphysic. But when a physicist himself
plunges at every page of his book into more or less gratuitous
metaphysic, and yet assumes to dispose of other men's doctrine
(falsified at that) by calling it metaphysical, he goes beyond fallacy
into what has been considerately described, in a factious politician,
as "moral paradox."

As to the charge against the Materialists--whom Mr Pearson in another
passage typifies by Büchner and Bradlaugh--it is practically untrue
on one head, that of force being the "cause" of motion; and quite
inconclusive on another, that of "enforcement" and "necessity." Mr
Pearson is uncandid enough to cite no passage on either head, and I
know not whether the latter is not as inaccurate as the other. Even
if, however, a Materialist should talk of motion as a "necessity" of
matter, it would amount to nothing to impugn him without showing what
he conceives "necessity" to be. The word is a plexus of connotations;
and to identify it out-of-hand with the conceptions of spiritists is
a course more worthy of a theologian than of a man of science. Mr
Pearson's way of talking of "enforcement," as if the word conveyed any
fixed scientific sense whatever, is a commission of the very offence
he unjustly charges on the school of Büchner. But as to the statement
that Büchner and Bradlaugh are wont to speak of force as the "cause"
of motion, it is really not true. Büchner in his typical work, "Force
and Matter," does in one passage write somewhat unguardedly of the
"force inherent in matter"--_i.e._ in the "something" empirically
known "which we call matter"--as being the cause (_Ursache_) of the
activities which are the phenomena of the said matter;[86] but this
momentary verbal laxity is not at all the burden of his treatise. It
is in any case much more pardonable than the gross contradictions
which Mr Pearson quotes from the writings of Professors Thomson and
Tait, collaborators in special physics; it is paralleled by phrases
which he cites from Huxley, Nägeli, Spencer, and Weismann; and it is
much less serious than the inconsistencies and fallacies into which Mr
Pearson himself repeatedly falls. Even while repudiating the notion
above cited as to "cause" (which he does without reference to the
well-known discussions, from Hume onward, as to the force of the term),
he writes (p. 352): "... We still shall not find in 'force,' _as_
either the cause of motion, or the cause of change in motion, _anything
more_ than that routine of perceptions which ... is the scientific
definition of causation." With this account of causation Büchner and
Bradlaugh, and everybody else who has appreciated the effect of Hume's
reasoning, would agree, save in so far as the phrasing falls into the
very crudities of expression which mar Hume's pioneer argument. Mr
Pearson writes that we "sadly need separate terms for the routine of
sense-impressions," yet he never hesitates either to use a general term
loosely or to disparage an unpopular man for doing the same thing. He
says of material particles (p. 327): "All we can scientifically say
is, that the _cause_ of their motion is their relative position; but
this is no explanation of why they move in that position." This use
of "cause" is really looser than Büchner's, and is not "scientific"
at all. The use of "why"--as if we had a clear conception of physical
"why" as distinct from that of "cause"--is mere verbal bungling.

[Footnote 86: Section on "The Value of Matter" (_Werth des Stoffs_),
Eng. tr., p. 68.]

Again, in finally formulating the first general law of motion, Mr
Pearson writes (p. 342): "Every corpuscle, whether of ether or gross
'matter,' _influences the motion_ of the adjacent ether corpuscles."
Here the word "influences" raises (as he elsewhere admits by
implication) the same problem as the word "causes," so that his own
most deliberate phraseology incurs the objection he makes to another
man's incidental expression.

As to essentials, Mr Pearson says what Büchner does. He ostensibly
regards matter as "_that which moves_," confusing the definition,
however, by saying that we can conceive "forms of motion" as _also_
moving. This is really going far to set up a dualistic notion analogous
to that which he imputes to Materialists; and he will probably see on
reflection that his idea needs careful re-statement. The essential
thing is that the scientific conception of matter excludes the idea
of a primary dissociation between force (or life) and matter, and
their union at a point of time by a "spiritual" Creator's volition.
The old dualistic doctrine of _inertia_, which is so re-stated by Mr
Pearson (p. 344) as to entirely alter its meaning, is still commonly
cited as establishing the dualistic or spiritualistic position. The
dualistic doctrine as to matter is put and maintained by the Rev. Mr
Westerby in his debate with Bradlaugh (p. 27) thus: "_Force is always
external to the matter that is moved._" The effect of Mr Pearson's
account of Materialism is to assert that that is virtually the teaching
of Materialists so-called. But it certainly is not. The slipperiness
and elasticity of language are such that a single word may set up
a fallacious implication; and the word "cause" is as slippery and
elastic as any. But the obvious and avowed purpose of Büchner's book
is to repudiate and overthrow the dualistic notion of the universe. He
expressly and repeatedly affirms that matter and motion, matter and
force, are inseparable in thought. "The conception of dead matter,"
he writes, "is a mere abstraction." "The investigation of motion
is the peculiar task of modern science, and her province embraces
everything that can be traced back to motion. Matter in motion or
capable of motion is or must be her first and last word."[87] Further,
Büchner neither prefers to call himself a Materialist nor represents
science as propagandist. "Science," he writes, "is not idealistic, nor
spiritualistic, nor materialistic, but simply natural."[88] As to the
term "Materialist," he remarks that "since the first publication of
this book, the term has become to some extent current, and at every
fitting and unfitting opportunity the designation has been dragged in
neck and heels, _unsuited though it is to the defenders of a philosophy
which regards matter, force, and mind, not as separate entities, but
only as different sides or various phenomenal modes of the same primal
or basic principle_."[89] Similarly Bradlaugh invariably spoke of "one
existence, of which all phenomena are modes," expressly declaring that
we can only know phenomena; which was his way of saying that we can
never "know why" in the sense in which theologians claim to do so. At
no time did he speak of "force" as a separate entity "causing motion."

[Footnote 87: Section on "Motion," _end_.]

[Footnote 88: Section on the "Value of Matter" (_Werth des Stoffs_),
_end_.]

[Footnote 89: Section on the "Value of Matter" (_Werth des Stoffs_),
_end_.]

After speaking of Materialists as habitually calling force the "cause
of motion," Mr Pearson loosely represents Büchner and the followers
of Bradlaugh as finding "mechanical _laws_ inherent in the things
themselves;" and he declares that this materialism "collapses under
the slightest pressure of logical criticism." He has in reality passed
upon it no logical criticism whatever, his frequent lack of lucidity
becoming at this place sheer darkness. What he has said on the point
has been wholly metaphysical; but his metaphysic, ill done as it is,
perfectly justifies the doctrine he finally and irrelevantly contemns.
"In the necessarily limited verifiable correspondence of our perceptual
experience with our conceptual model," he writes (p. 353), "lies the
basis of our mechanical description of the universe." "A shorthand
_résumé_ of our conceptual experience" is repeatedly specified by him
as the gist or purpose of science; but when he wants to discredit
anybody else's doctrine, it suffices him to call it just such a
shorthand _résumé_ or dismiss it as metaphysical. And the arbitrariness
of his verdicts becomes apparent once for all when he writes: "It is
perhaps needless to add that the gifted lady who speaks of secularists
as holding the 'creed of Clifford and Charles Bradlaugh' has failed to
see the irreconcilable divergence between the inventor of 'mind-stuff'
and the follower of Büchner." That is to say, Mr Pearson applauds or
distinguishes Clifford for perhaps the loosest formula ever put forward
in the name of Materialism, but still a formula not contradictory
of Büchner's and Bradlaugh's monism, while disparaging Büchner and
Bradlaugh for their Materialism. It will be clear to a logical reader
that the conception of "mind-stuff" ("shorthand" with a vengeance!)
is only a random materialistic suggestion--not an infrequent thing
with Clifford--but still a suggestion quite reconcilable with
materialistic monism. Büchner writes that "all yet future forms,
including reasoning beings, potentially or in capacity, must have been
contained in that primal world-mist out of which our solar system was
gradually evolved."[90] Bradlaugh always defined his "one existence" as
including "all that is necessary for the happening of all phenomena."
Mr Huxley--whom Mr Pearson does not asperse as a "Materialist"--has
expressed himself in terms almost identical with Büchner's.[91] To
speak of "mind-stuff" as being part of the "primal world-mist" is
merely to suggest a hopeless "conceptual mode" of thought over and
above the most exact "shorthand" to which words can well reduce the
inferences of science as to cosmic history. That Clifford would have
approved of either the tone or the judgment of his successor in the
matter one may take leave to doubt. His "temperament" was different
from that of Mr Pearson, who supplies in his own person the disproof of
his own primitive doctrine that scientific opinions have nothing to do
with temperament.

[Footnote 90: Section on the "Value of Matter" (_Werth des Stoffs_),
_end_.]

[Footnote 91: See his "Critiques and Addresses," p. 306.]

The unpleasing fact is that personal interest and prejudice have
been the main factors in establishing the ill-repute of the term
"Materialist." It arose very much as the term "Freethinker" arose,
by way of broadly marking off a new tendency in active thought. The
Freethinkers, so-called, simply claimed to follow their reason freely,
where religious people were tied down to their traditional creed. The
Materialists simply emphasized the new and spreading conception--at
once Pantheistic and Atheistic--that the laws of things were to be
looked for in the constitution of things, and not in any "spiritual"
volition of a superior being or beings. They opposed the notion of
a primal distinction between matter and the energies and activities
thereof. Spiritism was for them the sum-total of all the guesses
and hallucinations of ignorance; and their contrasted Materialism
was imputed to them as a vileness by the types of mind which found
elevation in the doctrine of blood sacrifice and ritual theophagy.
Scientific disinterestedness was bracketed with grossness of life,
and this often by pietists as gross in life as in thought. Every
Spiritist who went a certain way in Materialism was libelled in turn;
but the semi-Materialist could always indemnify himself by libelling
those who went further.[92] Newton's theistic theory of matter is as
absurd a one as any man of science ever framed; but he has earned by
it the tenderness of later theists, while his fame secures the lenity
of later physicists. Thus some guarded rationalists who pounce like
weasels on every slip, real or fancied, of professed Freethinkers,
honey their voices to speak of halfway thinkers whose slips are gross,
open, palpable. They have their social reward. Bradlaugh and Büchner
have taken a different course. Finding the term "Materialism" in itself
unphilosophic, they have still looked to the essential point of its
broad historic significance. It marks on the side of physical science,
from La Mettrie onwards, the repudiation of theological methods; and
though they would not have coined the name for themselves, they have
not repudiated it, but have instead sought to free the doctrine behind
it from the laxities and crudities which belong to all new departures
of thought, and which abound in the writings alike of Idealists and
of some critical pragmatists in a greater degree than in those of the
pioneers they attack. Büchner and Bradlaugh knew that by accepting an
unpopular name they incurred the hostility alike of blockheads, of
zealots, and of the scientists who look anxiously to their status;
but they took their risks. Bradlaugh had constantly to explain that
by "matter"--if he used the term at all, which he preferred not to
do--he meant simply total existence: all that is necessary for the
happening of all phenomena. Yet men still speak of him as saying that
"dead matter" gives rise to life and mind. It will become clear to a
thoughtful reader, after a little reflection, that under Bradlaugh's
definition there is no assertion of the cosmic priority of any one
mode of existence. He merely insisted that there should be an end
of the fantasy of "mind" or "spirit" or "will", calling a tangible
universe into existence--a fantasy into which anti-Materialists are
always relapsing. Philosophically speaking, out-and-out Spiritism[93]
and strict Materialism come to exactly the same thing, since each
predicates a going, infinite universe, with one pervading infinite
energy; an energy which one side chooses to call by the primitive
name of spirit. As Büchner writes: "The whole struggle yet proceeding
between Materialism and Spiritualism, still more that between
Materialism and Idealism, must appear futile and groundless to him
who has once attained to the knowledge of the untenability of the
_dualistic_ theory which always underlies it." In the same way, as we
have seen, strict Pantheism--which is the inevitable end of rational
Theism--comes logically to the same thing as strict Atheism, the only
difference being the verbal one set up by the Pantheist's adherence to
the primitive name of Theos.

[Footnote 92: A refinement on the old simplicity is reached when we
find Mr Huxley sneering at Materialists whose teaching is really
more circumspect than his own, and Mr Harrison in turn execrating in
the name of "religion" the medical materialism of Mr Huxley, where
the latter is simply putting forward as an original speculation a
well-established pathological fact.]

[Footnote 93: This is, of course, a widely different doctrine from what
is commonly known as Spiritualism: the belief in the perpetuity of
human personalities, in a bodily form, without other bodily qualities.]

In this connection it is difficult to deal with the position taken
up by Mrs Besant, the valued friend of Bradlaugh and of the present
writer. Mrs Besant has greatly perplexed her old friends by professing
to repudiate the Materialism she formerly taught, on the score that
it gives "dead matter" as the source of life and mind. They can
only conclude that she has undergone a psychological change which
affects her knowledge of her former positions. We have seen that
Bradlaugh's and Büchner's teaching was fundamentally different from
what she represents materialism to be; and there is no other school
of Materialism in question. The strange thing is that Mrs Besant
herself translated from the German, carefully and well, Büchner's
"Force and Matter" (as also his "Mind in Animals"), in which the
doctrine is flatly contrary to her present account of it. Büchner even
uses unguarded language--as it is very difficult to avoid doing--in
insisting on the perpetual activity of matter. "Matter," he writes, "is
not dead, inanimate, or lifeless, but is in motion everywhere, and is
full of most active life." Bradlaugh more warily pointed to the danger
of giving ambiguity to the term "life," which is properly the name
for the broad classes of the phenomena of plants and animals. But he
never taught or fancied that certain of the mere forms of existence in
themselves originated other forms of existence. By "matter" he did not
mean to specialise rocks any more than protoplasm or ether.

A more defensible argument has been used by Mrs Besant and others
against Materialism: the argument, namely, that it is impossible
to think of a transition from physical action to the phenomenon of
thought. A number of physicists--among them Tyndall--can be quoted
as declaring that there is a "great gulf fixed" between molecular
motion and the state of consciousness. Tyndall once laid it down
that the demand for "logical continuity between molecular forces and
the phenomena of consciousness" is "a rock on which Materialism must
inevitably split whenever it pretends to be a complete philosophy
of the human mind." But this loud-sounding affirmation on analysis
resolves itself into the popular rhetoric to which Tyndall was too
much given. What is meant by a "complete philosophy of the human
mind"? If Materialism asserts that certain constant correlations
remain nevertheless "mysterious," it does not thereby cease to be
a complete philosophy of the human mind. The statement that our
whole knowledge of causation is just a knowledge of correlation is
_part_ of the complete philosophy of the human mind--that is, of the
systematic and exact statement of our tested knowledge. To say that
human faculty is strictly limited is not an avowal of incompleteness
in the philosophy which says it. And as a matter of fact, the
statement as to the "discontinuity" between "molecular forces" and
the "phenomena of consciousness" is a statement which, so far as
it has any meaning, stands to be made of all other correlations of
phenomena. When I strike a match on the box, I evoke the phenomena of
light and heat. In scientific terms, I set up by friction a chemical
action quite "discontinuous" with motion in mass, and this in turn
sets up a wave-motion in the hypothetical ether (of which I can form
no conception) representing light. Materialism no more "splits" on the
one "rock" than on the other.[94] The one special difficulty as to
consciousness is a difficulty that affects all philosophies alike: the
difficulty that it is consciousness that must analyse consciousness.
Neither by predicating "mind-stuff" nor by alleging "soul" is that
difficulty evaded. There still remains the admitted correlation
between brain-and-nerve action and thought; and that correlation is on
all-fours with those of physics so-called. As the case is put by Dr
John Drysdale (after reasonings to an apparently different effect),
"It may be held proved in physiology that for every feeling, every
thought, every volition, a correlative change takes place in the nerve
matter;" and it is scientific to say with him that the phenomena of
mind as a function "require no further explanation" than the conditions
of those changes. When Dr Ferrier writes that "no purely physiological
explanation can _explain_ the phenomena of consciousness," unless
he simply means that there a psychological or logical element (not
Spiritism) must enter into the explanation, he is merely stumbling
in the old way over the word "explain." What is "explanation"? As
Professor Pearson laboriously shows, and as Hume showed long ago,
all that takes place in our explanations of physical phenomena is
recognition of a routine of sense experience. The theological habit
has given men a pseudo-conception of "explanation;" and though they
have learned to dispense with that process in physics, they still
confusedly demand it in biology and psychology. But the very men who
at one time talk of "mystery" and "gulf" between matter and mind, at
other times recognise that the mystery is no more and no less in one
correlation than in another. Thus Tyndall, who elsewhere verbalises
against "Materialism," after describing the development of the human
organism from the egg, writes: "Matter I define as that mysterious
thing by which all that is accomplished." Well, that is "modern
Materialism" or nothing; the Materialism of Büchner and of Bradlaugh.
The mere doctrinal or pragmatic expressions of single physicists
count for nothing. As Bradlaugh put it in his debate with the Rev. Mr
Westerby, it is the cases of Ferrier that count, not his opinions. The
best observer is not the best formulator or thinker; and the art or
science of logical speech is not gratuitously thrown in with either
mathematical or artistic faculty. To turn the data of science into
philosophy is a specialist's work.

[Footnote 94: Tyndall answered to this argument that the flash of light
from the union of oxygen and hydrogen "is an affair of consciousness,
the objective counterpart of which is a vibration. It is a flash only
by our interpretation." But that is no answer at all. Tyndall never
went into the psychological problem fully.]

Any one who desires to obtain in a short time by dint of close
attention a notion of the difficulty and complexity of the argument as
between monism and dualism cannot do better than read the report of
the debate between Bradlaugh and the Rev. Mr Westerby on the notion
of Soul. Mr Westerby, though he wrote some of his papers in advance
instead of meeting his opponent's case, was decidedly the ablest of
the clerics with whom Bradlaugh debated; and in his hands the orthodox
cause suffered as little as might be. The reader may or may not in the
end decide to stand with Bradlaugh, but he will certainly have learned
to see the folly of the cheap journalistic dismissal of an undefined
"Materialism" as "exploded," and the error of the notion that Bradlaugh
was unqualified to handle philosophic and scientific issues, or that he
was a mere public speaker, unskilled in dialectic.

Finally, as to the meaningless expression that "things happen by
chance," he of course never used it. Of any person who puts this phrase
in the mouths of Atheists, it may be said at once that he is unfit
to discuss a philosophical question. He either does not understand
what he discusses, or is wilfully untruthful. The phrase "happens by
chance"--as was long ago recognised by Hume, after he had himself
fallen into the ordinary meaningless use of the term--only means either
"happens without our intending it," or "happens without our being able
to trace the cause." It is significant only for everyday purposes, and
in philosophy can only serve to set up a chimera. All events must be
conceived as having a "cause," in the ordinary sense of the term. The
Atheist certainly avows that he can only trace causation a small way
in the universe; but he does not for a moment suppose that he would be
giving an explanation of any event if he referred it to "Chance." His
doctrine is that the universe and its total energy must be conceived
as infinite and eternal; that in physics the question "Why?" resolves
itself into the question "How?" and that the business of science is
just to give the answer as fully as may be.


§4.

While Bradlaugh was thus an exact thinker and reasoner, he
distinguished himself above all the rationalists of his time by the
energy and persistence with which he sought to bring his philosophy
home to the popular mind. He was fundamentally a reformer, and he
could not consent, as so many do, to keep silence on errors of creed,
so called, and resist merely errors of action. For him, creed was
action, and action creed. He was so thoroughly a man of action that he
must needs act on his conviction in matters of opinion, so called, as
in anything else.

It was no doubt the record and the result of the French Revolution
that moved the majority of political reformers for two generations to
keep their own counsel on religious matters. Paine has been expressly
charged with hindering the cause of democratic politics by identifying
himself also with the cause of Freethinking. To a man like Bradlaugh
such an objection counted for nothing. It was not merely that he saw
how profoundly religion reacts on life, how creed shapes conduct, and
how the current religion must always tend to support old political
doctrine as against new. He took his course instinctively as well
as reasoningly. That a doctrine is false was to him a reason for
exposing it as such; and though as a utilitarian he held that truth
is the best policy, he did not wait for the demonstration before
choosing his course. He had in fact that love of truth for its own
sake which is the inspiration of all scientific progress; but he had
it without restriction, or at least with as little restriction as
can well be. No man can be equally interested in all inquiries; and
none can help thinking some unprofitable; but Bradlaugh was limited
only by his tastes, never by the common opinion that the spread of
truth is inexpedient. He would give facilities for all conscientious
truth-seeking whatever, barring only random disclosures of sensational
facts with no better motive than sensation, or with no likelihood of
edification to balance the likelihood of the reverse. As to the great
themes of belief and discussion in all ages, he simply could not think
that human welfare is promoted by maintaining beliefs known to be
false. He was a democrat in religion as in politics. If truth was good
for him, it must be equally good for the multitude, so far as it was
possible to enlighten them. They must needs be enlightened by language
within reach of their capacity; but while he would make matters plain
for them, he would in no wise consent to garble and conceal what he
held to be the truth. With the many people who either care nothing
whether current beliefs are false or true, or think it desirable that
they should be false, he had no sympathy. It seemed to him that if
anything was worth investigating, the most serious beliefs of the mass
of the human race must be; and the idea that the mass could be helped
or raised by keeping them deluded was to him morally repugnant and
sociologically false. "My object," he writes in his pamphlet on Heresy,
"is to show that the civilisation of the mass is in proportion to the
spread of heresy amongst them; that its effect is seen in an exhibition
of manly dignity and self-reliant effort which is utterly unattainable
amongst a superstitious people." And all acts of prayer and religious
propitiation were to him survivals of superstition.

 "My plea is," he went on, "that modern heresy, from Spinoza to
 Mill, has given brain-strength and dignity to every one it has
 permeated--that the popular propagandists of this heresy, from
 Bruno to Carlile, have been the true redeemers and saviours, the
 true educators of the people. The redemption is yet only at its
 commencement, the education only lately begun, but the change is
 traceable already; as witness the power to speak and write, and the
 ability to listen and read, which have grown amongst the masses during
 the last hundred years."

Against the popular thesis that "Christianity" has achieved these
things, he brought to bear in debate and journalism not only his
knowledge of Christian and Church history in general, but his constant
experience of the influence of orthodoxy in checking betterment in
England. The State Church has been an invaluable object-lesson for
Freethinkers. As regards the claim for Christian Nonconformity, the
answer might run: If a mainly ecclesiastical or sectarian Dissent
has had so much good political result, what political, social, and
intellectual results might not come of a thoroughgoing rationalist
Dissent? It would take too long to set forth even the gist of
Bradlaugh's polemic against the Christian claim that the Christian
creed has been a force for progress; but those who care to know his
method and his case may find it tersely set forth in the latter
sections of his "Notes on Christian Evidences" in criticism of "The
Oxford House Papers," his pamphlet on "Humanity's Gain from Unbelief,"
and his debate with the Rev. Marsden Gibson on that thesis. These are
late statements of the case he put forward during the whole of his
public life; and it was on the strength of such arguments, and of his
theoretic Atheism, that he was able to create in England an energetic
and intelligent party, the active adherents of which were and are
mostly working-men.

"Secularism" is the not inappropriate name, for general purposes,
of the general doctrine of Bradlaugh and his adherents. That name,
however, is attended by the drawback that the man who first employed
it, Mr George Jacob Holyoake, is wont so to define it as to deprive
it of specific meaning for the propagandists of Freethought, while
showing no reason why it should be adopted by anybody else. Mr
Holyoake--himself an Atheist--argues, in effect, that Secularism
properly consists in simply attending to secular things; and that it
is not committed to any hostile attitude towards theology. On that
view, every political club is a secular organisation and an exponent
of Secular_ism_. Bradlaugh always argued, and nearly all Secularists
have always held with him, that this use of the term reduces it to
nullity, since it makes every Christian a Secularist in so far as
he attends to secular affairs on "business principles." There is,
of course, an important truth implied in this way of speaking; but
it is a truth irrelevant to the issue. If we are merely to discuss
secular things, there is no need for any "Secular_ist_" organisation.
Secularists commonly act freely--or as freely as they are allowed
to--with their religious neighbours in political and other public
matters. But if a distinct doctrine of the uselessness of "sacred"
machinery and theory is to be maintained; if it is to be shown that
secular action is properly co-extensive with human affairs, then these
views must be upheld by showing that all theology is delusive. A man
who believes in the existence of a personal and governing God, broadly
speaking, cannot be induced to keep theological procedure out of his
life. There may be many Indifferentists who act as Secularists without
caring at all to discuss the religious question; and there may even
be a few of the "Lucretian Theists" assumed by Mr Holyoake; but none
of the Indifferentists and not many of the Lucretian Theists will be
induced to join in a Secularist propaganda, even on Mr Holyoake's
lines. Bradlaugh fully recognised that the formulated principles
of Secularism do not directly commit the subscriber to Atheism. "I
think," he avowed, "that the consequence of Secularism is Atheism, and
I have always said so"; but he added that "clearly all Secularists
are not Atheists."[95] The tendency has inevitably been, however,
to identify Secularism with Atheism. And as Mr Holyoake has himself
all along lectured on anti-theological lines, his definition has
commonly seemed to Secularists to be wholly in the air, though his
personal merits and practical services to Freethought are felt to
outweigh minor infirmities of reasoning and judgment. Whether the
name, thus capriciously defined by its framer, will continue to be
employed by those who repudiate that definition, remains to be seen.
It is not unlikely that new Freethought organisations, finding the
word "Secularism" defined in cyclopædias on the authority and in the
language of Mr Holyoake, will seek some other label. But the label in
itself was a good one; and the propaganda of Bradlaugh recommended it
to many thousands of his countrymen.

[Footnote 95: Debate with Dr M'Cann, p. 17.]

That his open adherents were chiefly working-men, was a result of
the economic situation, which determines so many of the phases of
culture-history. It is notorious that among the upper and middle
classes there is a great amount of disbelief in the current religion;
but among the upper and middle classes there is almost no organised
effort to discredit the creed of the Churches. The small societies
which muster under the banner of "Ethical Culture," little as they are
given to speaking out on matters of creed, receive little support.
It is often said, with idle malice, that Bradlaugh's adherents were
mostly working-men because he was not qualified to appeal to educated
people; but even if that were true, it would not explain how it
comes about that other and better-educated rationalists have not
set up an organisation of middle-class and upper-class people. The
explanation is mainly economic. As a matter of fact, Bradlaugh had
hundreds of "educated" admirers among the middle and even some among
the upper classes; and in France and elsewhere he was popular among
the "classes," as at home among the masses. But the open avowal of
"unbelief" in Great Britain has always meant, and will long mean, for
one thing, a certainty of pecuniary loss, and a certain measure of
ostracism to professional men and men of business. Let a merchant,
or doctor, or shopkeeper, declare himself an active Atheist, and he
will find it appreciably harder to get customers or clients. A man of
established position and personal popularity may fairly hold his own
while avowing scepticism in general intercourse; but even he will incur
calumny and loss if he takes trouble to spread his opinions. Men in
a small way of business are almost sure to suffer heavily; and it is
still no uncommon thing for clerks and others to lose their situations
on the simple ground of so-called "infidelity." In the more bigoted
districts the risk is overwhelming. A shopkeeper in Belfast told the
present writer that when he joined the Secularists there, his business,
formerly brisk, fell off so rapidly and so ruinously that in a short
time he had to give it up. Nothing, apparently, can make the majority
of Christians, who claim that theirs is a "religion of love," realise
that to seek to injure an Atheist for his opinions is an unworthy
course. Mere Nonconformity has incurred, and still incurs, a certain
measure of penalty. But Nonconformists seem none the less ready to
inflict it in turn on others. Obviously, the number of middle-class
people who can defy these risks is small. It is only among workmen,
employed in large numbers by capitalists who do not take the trouble to
inquire about their opinions, that the avowal of Secularism is safe.
Even workmen, of course, are sometimes made to suffer in pocket, and
often from slander in their own class; but they suffer less than the
trading and professional classes. Hence it is that straightforwardness
and sincerity abound more among them. It is not that "the poor" have
from birth any occult virtues denied to the rich, but that the economic
conditions make for sincerity and openness among wage-earners more than
among earners of fees and profits. It is difficult to guess what John
Mill meant when he said that the workers in this country, though they
esteemed truthfulness, are not as a body truthful. If he meant that
they are capable of garbling facts in their own interest in matters of
industry, he was only charging them with what may be charged equally
against shopkeepers, stockbrokers, commission agents, traders, doctors,
lawyers, politicians, and clergymen. It belongs to the nature of the
case that in the important matter of loyalty to conviction, the workers
are by reason of circumstances superior to the other classes. The upper
classes, though, like each of the others, they include candid and
sincere men and women, are as much coerced by social as are the middle
classes by commercial considerations. The fear of being charged with
"bad form," and of being cold-shouldered, does among the rich what fear
of money loss and calumny does elsewhere. Idle men and women, whose
main occupation is an artificial social intercourse, are little likely
to battle for heretical opinions, even if they have been thoughtful
enough to form any. Dissimulation and conformity are too much in the
way of their daily life.

The business of systematic Freethought propaganda has thus been mainly
left to the class with least leisure and least money; and the newspaper
press naturally reflects the balance of property and status. Newspapers
are produced in the way of business, and only "paying" doctrine is put
forward by them. It is notorious that the majority of journalists are
unbelievers; but capital buys pens as it buys hands and goods; and many
pressmen have disparaged Bradlaugh's opinions as "peculiar," or worse,
who themselves held these opinions, and privately regarded the current
orthodoxy as folly. Secularism in general has thus been boycotted, and
a common repute of vulgarity and illiteracy has been cast upon it,
often by people who ostentatiously applaud the Salvation Army, with its
incredible buffooneries and its reliance on the most abject ignorance.

Bradlaugh's artisan followers, as a matter of fact, have for the most
part been the pick of their class for intelligence and energy. That
their culture was not equal to their zeal and their sincerity was no
reproach to them. They did their honest best; and from Bradlaugh they
always had his. Himself a careful student of all the questions involved
in the general issue between rationalism and orthodoxy, he constantly
urged on his followers the necessity of keeping their minds open and
their judgment active. Mrs Besant has told in her "Autobiography"
how earnestly he impressed on her the need of the most thoroughgoing
and ever-renewed preparation for the great work of instructing the
people. But inasmuch as the people in the mass can only begin with the
main or fundamental questions of religion--those of "revelation" and
"inspiration," "God," "Providence," "prayer," "miracles," "morality,"
"atonement," and "immortality"--his platform work as a Freethinker
dealt mainly with these topics. And inasmuch as the mass of the people
are at once more sincere and more logical in their relation of opinion
to conduct than most of the specialists who occupy themselves with
the literary analysis of the Old and New Testaments, Bradlaugh's work
struck at the roots of orthodoxy wherever he went. He argued that if
the Old Testament be demonstrably false in its history and barbarous
in its morals, the idea of "inspiration" in the theological sense
disappears, and the Hebrew books become mere ancient literature, forged
or otherwise, and wholly disentitled to be made a textbook for mankind.
Though a good Hebrew scholar, he did not profess to rest his case on
the textual analysis of the "higher criticism." For him the "sacred
book" was discredited as such by its own contents, however composed;
and he made it his business to attack them as an imposition on human
ignorance and credulity. His standpoint was thus put by himself:--

 "There is no great honour or pleasure, although there is much
 wearisome toil, in gathering the materials for proving that Genesis
 nearly always blunders in its attempts at statements of fact; that
 it is repeatedly chronologically incorrect, and in the chronologies
 of its principal versions utterly irreconcilable; that copyists,
 through ignorance, carelessness, or design, have in many places
 incorrectly transcribed the text; that the translators, according to
 their respective creeds, vary in their interpretations of different
 momentous passages; that the Hebrew language itself has been altered
 by the addition of vowel points, by means of which a sense is often
 given entirely different from the original intention; and that the
 majority of the ancient versions contain different and contradictory
 readings of various important verses. But it is absolutely necessary
 to do all this in a form accessible to the general reader so long as
 the Church persists, under statutory sanction and indorsement, in its
 teaching to the people from their early childhood, that this Bible
 is God's Word, free from blemish. Genesis is forced upon the child's
 brain as God's Word by nurse and pedagogue, and the mode of thinking
 of the scholar is in consequence utterly warped in favour of the
 divinity of the book before his reason has opportunity to mature for
 its examination. If the book only had claimed for it that which may
 be claimed for all books--namely, in part or whole to represent the
 genius, education, and manners of the people and the times from whom
 and which it issued, then it might fairly be objected by supporters
 of the Bible that the tone of criticism here adopted is not of the
 highest order, and that the petty cavillings about misplaced names,
 misspelled words, incorrect dates and numbers, and geographical
 errors, etc., are hardly worthy the attention of a serious student.
 But as the Bible is declared to be the revelation and representative
 of perfect intelligence to the whole human family; as it is placed by
 the whole of its preachers immeasurably above all other books, with a
 claim to dominate, and if necessary to overturn, the teachings of all
 other books; as it is alleged that the Bible is free from the errors
 of thought and fact more or less found in every other book; and as
 it is by Act of Parliament declared to be a criminal offence in this
 country for any person to deny this book to be God's Holy Word, it is
 not only a right, but it becomes an unavoidable duty on the part of a
 Freethinking critic to present as plainly as possible to the notice of
 the people every weakness of the text, however trivial, that may serve
 to show that the Bible, or any portion of it, is fallible, that it is
 imperfect, that so far from being above all books, it is often below
 them as a mere literary production."[96]

[Footnote 96: Preface to "The Bible: What it is," 1865.]

To such a declaration as this all protests against "Bible-smashing"
are irrelevant, by whomsoever made. Made by literary humanists, they
ignore the practical situation. It is one thing to recognise that
the Bible is a profoundly interesting body of ancient literature,
illustrating for all time the manner of growth of a cult; it is another
thing to deal with the pretensions of that cult to retain to-day the
status secured for it by all manner of sinister means in bygone ages.
Coming from clergymen, the protest is worse than irrelevant. The most
advanced of them are still, from the rationalist point of view, in the
position of using the Bible as a fetish; and men who as public teachers
regularly resort to a primitive priestly literature for sanctions and
cues to current conduct have no right whatever to protest against
those who show the people what the sacrosanct literature really is.
Bible-smashing is the necessary checkmate to Bible-worship. When the
literary humanists get the clergy to stop cultivating and trading on
Bibliolatry, it will be time for them to object to the exposure of the
Bible. But by that time there will be no occasion for the objection.
Bradlaugh did not go about lecturing against witch-burning or the
Koran. He attacked an aggressive and endowed superstition; and to
asperse him as being himself aggressive is about as idle as to charge
Mr Gladstone with aggressiveness against Beaconsfield's foreign policy,
or to denounce Home Rulers for being aggressive against the Union.
It speaks volumes for the state of average English opinion that the
adjective "aggressive" is still held to be a damaging epithet against
Freethought; as if zeal were a good and great thing on one side of a
dispute, but wrong and vulgar on the other. Churchmen whose bells set
up pandemonium every Sunday count it an aggression to other people
to meet by summons of a handbill to discuss whether church-going is
reasonable. And they are kept in countenance, unluckily, by the mass
of easy-going or timid unbelievers, who, not caring or daring to act
on their own convictions, keep up their self-esteem by speaking ill of
those who do so.

In the mouths of some people, of course, "aggressive" means "rude" or
"offensive;" and it is still common to say that Bradlaugh was a coarse
assailant of other men's convictions. The charge was early brought
against him. Lecturing on Malthusianism in 1862, after alluding to the
abuse levelled at him in that connection by the Unitarian organ, he
said:--

 "I did not consider it necessary to make much justification when I
 was attacked some months ago by a person who is rather famous for the
 vehemence of his criticism than for the soundness of his logic; but
 ... it may be perhaps not out of place to notice the way in which that
 sort of criticism has been circulated throughout the country. I have
 taken up Irish journals; I have taken up Scotch journals; and I have
 found myself represented as the only advocate of this great party ...
 who uses in his oratory, who writes for his readers, disregarding all
 morality, coarse, brutal, and degrading phrases. Now I appeal to you
 who are here this morning, and there are some who have listened to me
 from my boyhood, whether in my attack on the theologies of the world
 I have permitted my tongue to utter any coarse phraseology, whether
 in attacking or destroying them? (Applause) ... I admit that I have
 been rough and rude in my attacks on what I consider to be wrong and
 injurious, but I have been always reverent and kindly to every one who
 has seemed to me to be striving for the benefit of humankind."

How true is this claim can be easily learned by reading his pamphlets,
or his book on "Genesis." That volume may be objected to as a dry
digest of much learning and discussion, but it certainly cannot be
accused either of violence or of flippancy. Its history is worth noting
here. In 1856 he issued a Freethinking commentary entitled, "The
Bible, What it is," which went as far as Isaiah. This being sold out
(it is now so scarce that the present writer has not been able to get
a copy),[97] he issued in 1865 a rewritten edition, covering only the
Pentateuch, but larger than the first; and this in turn was sold out.
In 1881-82, while fighting his great battle against Parliament, he set
himself the drudgery and discipline of beginning again with Genesis,
enlarging his commentary from his later reading to such an extent that
this, the largest volume of the three, only covers the first eleven
chapters of the first book of the Pentateuch. Some of his followers
humorously speculated as to what amount of ground would be covered by
a fourth revision, should he undertake it. Whatever may be thought
of the method, it is very evidently not that of a man aiming at a
popular success of ridicule or rhetoric. Compiled at a time when he was
the target for all the bigotry of the nation, the book is eminently
dispassionate and judicial. Where most men would have grown more
vehement, he grew more calm.

[Footnote 97: There is some reason to suspect that there has happened
in this country what Bibliophile Jacob, in his preface to his addition
of Cyrano de Bergerac, declares to have happened on a large scale
in France--a zealous destruction of Freethinking works by pious
purchasers. But it lies with these to supply the main evidence.]

As a lecturer, of course, he was vigorous to the highest degree. Many
of those who have heard him at the height of his powers will agree
to the verdict that he was by far the most powerful English orator
of his time. There was something overwhelming in his force of speech
when impassioned; it lifted an audience from its feet like a storm,
and raised their intellectual conviction to a white heat of enthusiasm
for the truth it conveyed. Other speakers of his day may have been
as thrillingly impressive at their best moments; but he had great
passages in nearly every speech, and rarely faced an audience without
electrifying it. The Rev. Mr Westerby, at the close of his debate
with Bradlaugh, testified with some chagrin to the extraordinary
effectiveness of his opponent's speaking, and this in a debate full of
close and difficult argument, as the verbatim report shows. "I only
wish," said the reverend gentleman, "that I, in power of speech, were
as powerful as he. Then I might have done honour to my cause.... Only
by the power of his speech, and by the marvellous energy with which
he can endow it, can I understand the impression he has produced upon
you." But the reader of the debate can understand it without hearing
the delivery. At its highest stress the energy is controlled and
intelligized; never is the argument confused or let slip; never does
vigour lapse to coarseness. He was certainly not an abusive or even a
harsh controversialist; he dealt much less in invective and imputation
than most men in his place would have felt justified in doing. One of
the strongest of his censures of antagonists in matters of argument
is passed on the late Bishop of Peterborough, Dr Magee, who was a
sufficiently reckless polemist. The passage occurs in the second of the
three (unwritten) lectures he delivered in Norwich, in reply to three
sermons by the Bishop:--

 "I have now to complain of something still worse than that the Bishop
 should have forgotten his Bible, entirely ignored the Thirty-Nine
 Articles, and occasionally in the hurry of rapid speech contradicted
 his previous sentences. All these are matters at which, in even an
 extraordinary man burdened with a bishop's dignity, we need not wonder
 at all; but when we find him blundering in metaphysics, when we find
 him making mistakes which a man versed in the merest rudiments of Mill
 or the Scotch and German metaphysicians would not make--when we find
 the Bishop so blundering, either wilfully or ignorantly, it puts me in
 a position of extreme difficulty."

This on Butler is also, for Bradlaugh, exceptionally severe:--

 "Bishop Butler's argument on the doctrine of necessity is that which
 one might expect from a hired _nisi prius_ advocate, but which is
 read with regret coming from a gentleman who ought to be striving to
 convince his erring brethren by the words of truth alone."[98]

[Footnote 98: Pamphlet on Heresy, p. 48.]

A writer, in whose anti-religious polemic such perfectly justifiable
severities are exceptional, is certainly not to be charged with
violence of speech on such matters. To his courtesy in debate there
are many testimonies. In his controversy, _e.g._, with the authors of
the "Oxford House Papers," one of them, Dr Paget, writes:--"I trust
that you will let me first acknowledge with gratitude and respect the
temperate and courteous character of your criticism. Believe me, I
sincerely appreciate it." It may not be out of place to remark that the
"Oxford House Papers" were in the opinion of some readers inexpressibly
poor stuff, respectful comment on which, in a busy world, was an
excess of consideration. And this careful courtesy was not at all, as
some have supposed, a late development in him. It is a complete error
to suppose that he began by being violent, and only acquired suavity
after much experience. It has been suggested on this head that he was
softened by the generosity with which some Christians, such as Bright,
latterly stood by him against the attacks of the bigots. But while
it is quite true that he greatly appreciated this, and while it is
further true that he found some of his very basest enemies in professed
Freethinkers of the "Agnostic" variety, it is not the fact that he
had required these experiences to make him a temperate and courteous
controversialist. That he was at all times; and he had early cause to
know that a Christian may be a gentleman and a Freethinker otherwise,
as well as _vice versa_.

Even when of set purpose ridiculing Scripture narratives in his lighter
lectures, Bradlaugh never descends from humour to coarseness; and his
jests--in such tracts as the New Lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David,
and Jonah--are as perfectly within the limits of rational good taste as
those of Mr Spencer, Mr Arnold, and Mr Huxley on more august themes;
not to cite Voltaire. An old slander has lately been very carelessly
revived by the late Mr C. H. Pearson, who in his book on "National
Character" speaks of Bradlaugh as having likened the Trinity to a
monkey with three tails. Bradlaugh never did any such thing. A more
elaborated figure of that sort appeared in a condensed account once
contributed to his journal of an old lecture by a deceased Freethinker,
who had satirised human anthropomorphism by making a monkey theologise
for monkeys, as Heine makes the bear do in "Atta Troll." In the context
the figure was fitting enough; but in any case it was not Bradlaugh's.
And in reply to those persons who affect to see vulgarity, or worse,
in every jest at Christian beliefs, it may be said once for all that
Christians have from the first century onwards put themselves out of
court on this head by jealously ridiculing the beliefs of all other
believers, as well as of rationalists; that they have not stopped
at ridicule, but have in all ages freely resorted to gross calumny;
and that they in turn are not very badly used when their beliefs are
merely subjected to the satire to which they are confessedly open.
Even sheer coarseness is just as reprehensible, no more and no less,
when directed against living persons, as when directed against dead or
imaginary beings, or particular beliefs concerning them; but those who
are readiest to impute the latter offence seem to make small account
of the other, when the object of attack is an unbeliever. Bradlaugh
was never coarse; yet he was abused with unspeakable scurrility
by thousands of Christian people. And if coarseness ever arose in
his movement, as it so easily may in a popular movement involving
controversy, that movement was in any case a hundred times more sinned
against than sinning. Mrs Humphrey Ward has been at pains in two of
her novels to represent "crews" of Secularists as either resorting to
physical violence against revivalists, or showing a disposition to
resent angrily the appearance of a well-behaved clergyman at their
meetings. Such slanders would call for very strong comment were they
not so nakedly absurd. In no town in England would avowed Secularists
dare as such to molest avowed pietists even if they were inclined to
do so; and it has always been their express aim to encourage clerical
opposition and debate in their meeting-places. This is a rule without
exception. And Bradlaugh, in particular, at all times urged upon his
followers--not to abstain from gratuitous violence towards revivalists
or clergymen: he never needed to say anything on that head--but to
be very careful to give opponents no reasonable pretext for making a
disturbance against them.[99] He counselled not only orderliness but
tact; and he sharply rebuked any of his followers who would not listen
patiently to even a stupid opponent's speech. Mrs Ward's account of
Secularist organisations is an unfortunate proof that the spirit of
religiosity does not change with mere modifications of dogma. Even if
it were really found that plain, unlettered men, facing a religion
they feel to be absurd, spoke out their feeling without due courtesy
or refinement, an instructed observer would see in their reaction the
measure and correlative of the crudity of the doctrines assailed.
But people of Mrs Ward's way of thinking look tenderly on the worst
buffooneries of popular faith, and on the most brutal propaganda
of hell and blood-redemption, while recoiling sentimentally from
the perfectly sincere derision of these things by men on whom they
are blatantly thrust. The right spirit, surely, is that which would
enlighten the deluded as individuals, neither patronising them nor
abusing them. That was the attitude of Bradlaugh as a publicist and
as a man. He never talked, in public or in private, with malice, and
seldom even with disgust, of fanatics as such. He explained them, and
respected their honesty. Of certain employees of the Christian Evidence
Society he would on occasion speak publicly in the strongest terms,
as "vile things who, in fields and open spaces, where we are not to
answer for ourselves, stab our reputation and our children's." But
towards honest bigots, however imbecile, he was incapable of feeling
the virulent animosity which Mrs Ward seems to feel for the Secularists
of her imagination. To speak of him, as some journalists have done, as
accounting for all religion by "priestcraft" in the early eighteenth
century manner, is to exhibit the ignorance the statement imputes. He
carefully studied the anthropological origins of religion, lectured
specially on anthropology, and always related his teaching to the
anthropological view. Towards priests, as such, he felt no malevolence.
In fine, from first to last, the essential manliness and geniality of
his nature gave his followers a lead to humanity and chivalry in their
warfare with bigotry. If any of them, seeing the kind of reward he
received for his self-restraint, have taken satisfaction in barbing
their arrows, and in humiliating as well as defeating the enemy, they
cannot cite his example.

[Footnote 99: Thus, when in July or August 1882 an open-air Freethought
meeting was attacked by riotous Salvationists, Bradlaugh strongly urged
avoidance of provocation, and that, "above all, Freethinkers must avoid
being drawn into physical conflict with Salvationists" (_National
Reformer_, August 13, 1882).]

Once in a long while a gross circumstantial lie would move him to
strike with the handle of the dog-whip, so to speak. A case of the
kind is set forth in his tract entitled "Lying for the Glory of God:
a Letter to the Rev. Canon Fergie, B.D., Vicar of Ince, near Wigan."
This dealt with one of the idiotic anecdotes by which the truth of
Christianity and the wickedness of Atheism are proved for so many
people--anecdotes of which the absurdity and the untruth seem equally
apparent, but which find instant credence with thousands of pious
persons. Such an anecdote is the "watch story" in its complete form,
in which the blasphemer is struck dead, a detail which has to be
regretfully withheld from the narrative when it is applied to living
sceptics. Such are the endless "infidel deathbed" stories, which still
do duty in religious tracts, among them being statements concerning
the deaths of Voltaire and Paine, which have been a hundred times
circumstantially refuted. Such is the venerable anecdote of the nurse
who would never again attend an infidel's deathbed--a story which is
told with religious impartiality of Rousseau, Voltaire, Paine, and
Hume, and will doubtless be told in due course of Bradlaugh. In recent
Christian propaganda, the growing humanity of the age is seen in a
disposition to convert the atheist rather than to send him to hell
shrieking. But all these anecdotes alike have one quality in common;
they are rigorously untrue, though they are never told in the same way
by two Christians running. One sample story of seventeen (more or less)
"leading Secularists," of whom fourteen came to bad ends, after signing
a blasphemous covenant with blood for ink, does not on investigation
yield even a grain of fact. In another narrative, sixteen "leaders" are
represented as having all re-embraced Christianity. Of the sixteen,
over a dozen are unknown to Secularism, and one known convert had been
reconverted to Freethought. It was partly the lawyer in Bradlaugh that
made him treat these anecdotes with seriousness and severity, finding
the lie circumstantial some degrees worse than the lie conventional
or sophistical. He specially detested downright fabrication of facts.
But he also had a chivalrous loathing of the tactic which stabbed a
doctrine in the back instead of meeting it in face; and for his own
part he never used the means he might to assail religion through
the scandals of its daily record. He would not stoop to collect the
stories of frightful "fidel" deathbeds, which surpass the contrary
sort as much in force as in truth; and he never would collect in his
journal the frequent stories of clerical misconduct which appear in the
ordinary press, though all his life he was being libelled by clerics.
He was indeed a dangerous enemy when provoked, but he had little
vindictiveness. His interests were too broad, his relation to life too
genial, to permit of his being satisfied with the triumphs of feud. He
claimed for himself with perfect truth: "I have attacked the Bible, but
never the letter alone; the Church, but never have I confined myself
to a mere assault on its practices. I have deemed that I attacked
theology best in asserting most the fulness of humanity. I have
regarded iconoclasticism as a means, not as an end. The work is weary,
but the end is well." And this may serve as a compendious answer to
the kind of criticism which disposes of Atheism by calling it "cold."
It would be much nearer to the truth to say that many Atheists have
recoiled from religion because of its very heartlessness and gloom; and
because the "warmth" of those who find joy in the evangelical doctrine
of salvation strikes a healthy mind as hardly less repulsive than
the "warmth" of alcoholism. The assumption that a man who puts aside
the doctrine of a future life is cold-hearted, was never more absurd
than when applied to the case of Bradlaugh. But its full absurdity is
perhaps made most clear by comparing the doctrine of Lessing and Kant
as to the nullity of Judaism as a religion, in respect of its lack of
an authoritative doctrine of heaven, with the common run of rhetoric
about the strength of the Semitic religious feeling.


§ 5.

It ought not to be necessary at this time of day to offer a
justification for Bradlaugh's doctrine on the ethical side, his
position being simply that of modern science. But just as the avowal
of Atheism and Materialism gives rise to endless misrepresentation
of those statements of opinion, so the avowal of Atheism and
Utilitarianism in morals gives rise to all sorts of moral imputations.
On the one hand there is the reasonable criticism which falls to be
passed on imperfect or exaggerated expression of the utilitarian
principle; on the other hand there are the imputations which ignorant,
confused, and other persons cast on any statement of Utilitarianism
whatever. Many orthodox people have in this matter the indestructible
advantage of being unable to understand the rationalist argument--as
may be very clearly seen in the debate between Mr Bradlaugh and
the Rev. Dr M'Cann on the morality and philosophy of Secularism.
Such opponents go on fervently affirming their consciousness of
the obligation to do what they feel to be "right," "irrespective
of consequences," and insisting that this is the negation of
utilitarianism. It is of course no such thing. The real ground of
strife between religious and rational morality lies, or lay, in the old
doctrine that the _standard_ of right is divinely "revealed," and that
we do right in virtue of divine command. That doctrine once abandoned,
supernaturalism in morals is a mere matter of words. To admit that we
have no certain light or unvarying strength of feeling as to what is
right in a given case, and merely to affirm that we have a "divine
call" from conscience to do what we think right when our minds are
made up, is to surrender the heart of the religious position. This is
what was done by Dr M'Cann and the Rev. Mr Armstrong in their debates
with Bradlaugh; both clergymen nevertheless supposing themselves to be
rebutting utilitarianism. The utilitarian position is of course (1)
that the instinct to do "what we feel to be right" is merely organic,
and often goes with conduct that is on rational grounds demonstrably
wrong; (2) that the business of ethics is to settle what conduct is
reasonably to be held right or wrong; and (3) that though the sense of
utility is not the primary or conscious motive of all actions, it is
the test by which disputed action is to be controlled. Of course it
will at times be fallaciously applied, as regarded from the point of
view of developed sympathy; but it can never be misapplied as grossly
as the religious standard has been, and it remains the final standard
of ethical appeal. Even the religionists who argue that utilitarianism
is a "pernicious" doctrine virtually admit this in their very choice
of epithet. The good of society is even for them the final criterion.
They never hesitate, further, to seek to influence the minds of the
young by the primitively utilitarian warning, "Be sure your sin will
find you out." Yet they constantly denounce the Secularist doctrine as
encouraging men to make primary self-interest the beginning and end of
moral principle, when on the face of the case it subjects self-interest
to public interest by its working formula of "the greatest good of the
greatest number." The religious argument against that formula always
ends in putting the fancy case of the starving man with a starving
family, who steals a loaf of bread from somebody who does not miss it.
The religious implication is that the whole family had better starve
than commit such a theft--a doctrine which may be left to the decision
of common-sense. It is only to be wished that Christian politics even
remotely approached the scrupulosity paraded in this controversy.

As for the point of disinterestedness, the history of Freethought in
general, and the life of Bradlaugh in particular, will serve to show
whether or not the recognition of utility as the final test of the
right or wrong of actions has led men to put the low utility above the
high, the near above the far. To do the former would be to abandon the
very avowal of the principle, since it always brings odium and injury
on the avowers. The very persistence of an unpopular movement is the
decisive proof that its promoters have sought higher ends than money
gain. What the utilitarian principle has done for Bradlaugh and those
like-minded is not to give them the primary impulse to fight for truth
and right as they see them, but to give them an enduring support in the
battle. The first impulse springs from veracity of character _plus_
knowledge; but it is sure to be opposed by bitter criticism, imputing
to the straightforward course all manner of evil results. When the
reformer is convinced that not only truth and justice but the highest
utility itself is on his side, he is thrice armed. And if with some
unbelievers the rejection of transcendental moral principles has meant
the return to a timid or a base conformity, they are at least no worse
guided than before, and the blame of their dissimulation must lie with
the religious system which not only counsels but enforces it, not with
the doctrine which classes social dissimulation as a vice. Certain it
is that under the auspices of the Christian creed England has lived
mainly for low and narrow utilities, and not for the high and broad;
the transcendental creed availing only to worsen matters by adding to
the forces of evil the element of persecuting bigotry. Rationalism
once for all excludes the last factor; and if it ever lends itself to
a popular disregard of the great utilities and a pursuit of the small,
which are the undoing of the great, it will assuredly not be in virtue
of following such a lead as Bradlaugh's.

Of his influence on his followers those can best speak who have
mixed with them. Personal and magnetic as it was, it depended for
its continuance on the unvarying nobility of his appeal to the best
instincts--to courage, honour, justice, and the love of truth. Hundreds
of men--men to whom the generality of pulpit sermons are either inane
commonplaces or maudlin nonsense--can testify to the fashion in which
he stirred them to high sympathies and generous determinations, making
life for all of them, however narrow their sphere, a vista of worthy
activities and abiding consolations.

It is part of the condemnation of modern orthodoxy that its warfare
with Atheism has run mainly to libel--not merely libel on individual
Atheists, but sweeping aspersion of the whole movement. The records
are embarrassing in the sheer multitude of the samples; and one
utterance may serve for a thousand. In the early part of Bradlaugh's
Parliamentary struggle an orthodox periodical named _Social Notes_, of
which the Marquis of Townshend was editorial director, made the typical
assertion:--

 "It is a well-known fact that there is no criminal so fearless in
 doing evil, so hopelessly bad and beyond chance of recovery, as the
 Atheist criminal is. Atheism and ignorance commonly create the first
 step to crime. As Atheism grows in the minds of the lower classes, so
 crime increases."

The statement can only have come from a writer of a partially criminal
type, since it states not merely a gross untruth, but one for which the
writer cannot possibly have believed he had any evidence. So far from
the fact being as he says, it is perfectly well established that there
are almost no Atheist criminals. Readers can satisfy themselves on this
head by reading the chapter on "Atheism in Prison" in the "Jottings
from Jail" of the Rev. J. W. Horsley,[100] a writer not at all disposed
to say any good of Atheism. But the folly of the statement cited will
probably be recognised by most people on simply reflecting that crime
was most abundant in the ages when Atheism was practically unknown;
that it is common now in countries where there is no anti-religious
propaganda whatever among the common people; that the professional
brigands of Greece and Italy are faithful children of the Church; and
that nearly every murderer executed in this country avows beforehand a
confident assurance of being welcomed in Paradise. Only one Secularist,
so far as the present writer is aware, has ever been convicted of
murder; and he was no typical criminal, but a man congenitally liable
to delirious fits of passion. When he knew of their approach he warned
the people about him not to thwart him; and only in one of these fits,
on intense provocation from a man who had wronged him, did he strike a
deadly blow with a chance weapon. He expressly forbade petitions for
commutation of his sentence, deliberately preferring to end a marred
and maimed life.

[Footnote 100: Fisher Unwin.]

Those who really suppose Atheism tends to promote crime know as
little of the nature of criminals as of the logic of Atheism. The
immense majority of criminals are unintelligent, and as such are
immeasurably more likely to be superstitious than to be atheistic.
A man of bad character may indeed be an Atheist in virtue of his
reasoning powers; but the same powers will tend to withhold him from
breach of the criminal law. The recent insinuations of the present
Bishop of Manchester as to the effects of secular education in the
colony of Victoria will impress no one who is conversant with criminal
statistics;[101] and are repudiated by those qualified to speak in the
colony itself. Of similar weight are the clerical assertions that the
Anarchist mania in France is a result of the "godless" teaching of the
public schools. It has been shown on the contrary that some of the most
prominent Anarchist miscreants have had a careful clerical training;
while the Anarchists themselves have never produced a criminal to
compare with the priest Bruneau. The organised _Libres-Penseurs_ of
France have made a speciality of ethics, publishing more matter on that
head than on any other.

[Footnote 101: The matter was dealt with at some length in the
_National Reformer_ of January 15, 1893.]

It is not necessary to answer again, but it is edifying to cite, one
of the many utterances in which Atheism has been held up to horror
as tending to universal bloodshed. Such an utterance was this of
Bishop Magee, delivered in his cathedral of Peterborough in June 1880,
and thus specially made to bear on the claim of Bradlaugh to sit in
Parliament:--

 "A nation of Atheists must be a nation of revolutionists; their
 history must be a history of revolution marked by intervals of
 grinding, cruel, pitiless, and unreproved slaughter, because for
 weakness there would be no appeal to the supreme power against present
 tyranny."

In the rhetoric of religion, folly and frenzy are thus sometimes so
mingled that together they make censure shade into derision, and
derision into melancholy. Neither reason nor experience can hinder
some men from putting the wildest figments in place of the plainest
teachings of history. Dr Magee had before him the history of his own
faith, which began in bitter and sanguinary schism, and within a few
hundred years had raised deadly civil war throughout the civilised
world; which has made more pretexts for war throughout its era than
could possibly have arisen without it; and which in our own country
was the inspiration of some of the worst strifes in our annals. He
had before him the judgment of Bacon, unwillingly following on an
unreasoned criticism, that "Atheism did never perturb states ...; but
superstition hath been the confusion of many states." And the Bishop's
rant, despicable in itself, was used to excite new Christian malice
against a man who had again and again met the verbal violence of
pro-revolutionaries with the strongest protests against revolutionary
methods; who loved peace and hated war; and who had time and again
resisted and denounced the unjust English wars to which the Bishop's
Church had given its blessing. Thus is Atheism impugned by piety. At
the very time when Dr Magee's rhetoric was being used to keep Bradlaugh
out of Parliament, the National Secular Society was on his prompting
petitioning strongly against the war waged by the English Government on
the Boers in South Africa.[102]

[Footnote 102: In October (?) 1882, the Quaker _Friend_ testified to
the "melancholy" fact that "with, of course, honourable exceptions,
the most inveterate opponents of militarism are to be found among
secularists and socialists." Soon afterwards Bishop Ellicott
regretfully avowed that unbelief had acquired new and dangerous
characteristics, in that it "now was very often found co-existent
with what they were bound to speak of as a moral and in many cases a
philanthropic life."]

The only form of the orthodox imputation which is even decently
plausible is the suggestion that the loss of religious belief may
leave some men more ready than before to venture on vice that is not
legally punishable. This is no doubt theoretically possible; and in
cases where boys have had such a religiously bad education that they
know of no rational veto on misconduct, harm may sometimes arise on
their finding that the religion taught them is incredible. But young
men who reason so far are likely to reason further; and in any case a
few plain considerations will serve to convince any candid mind that
there is no causal connection between scepticism and vice; though it
stands to reason that the habit of scepticism will promote the critical
discussion on the institution of marriage. On the one hand, the sexual
instinct has in all ages gone to the worst excess under the auspices
of religions which expressly glorified asceticism; and the facts of
the life of the ages of faith in Europe make it clear that, even on
the orthodox definition of vice, there cannot possibly be more of it
in the future than there has been in the past. On the other hand, the
utilitarian arguments against vice, properly so called, are much better
fitted to impress than the religious; and they leave no such loophole
as the others inevitably do in respect of the Christian doctrine of
pardon for sin, to say nothing of the iniquity of the Christian ethic
which holds one and the same act ruinous in a woman and venial in a
man. Of course, if the celibate life, and marriage without possibility
of divorce, be made the standard of virtue, rationalism is likely to
give piety plenty of occasion for outcry in matters of morals, as in
matters of opinion.

However that may be, it has to be noted that Bradlaugh was not at all
"advanced," as things go, on the subject of the marriage institution.
Constantly accused of endorsing "Free Love" doctrines, he as constantly
repudiated the charge. In 1881 we find him indignantly protesting that
not only bad men, but men of whose honesty in other things he was sure,
"constantly repeated, as though they were his, views on Socialism which
he did not hold, views on marriage which never had an equivalent in
his feelings, and declarations on prostitution which were abhorrent
to his thought."[103] The "Free Love" charge was commonly founded on
his alleged acceptance of the whole doctrine of the work entitled
"The Elements of Social Science." No such acceptance ever occurred.
He was the last man to vilify a benevolent and temperate writer for
doctrines with which he could not agree; but in the reprint of his
pamphlet on "Jesus, Shelley, and Malthus,"[104] he explicitly wrote of
the author in question: "His work well deserves careful study; there
are in it many matters of physiology on which I am incompetent to
express an opinion, and some points of ethics from which I expressly
and strongly dissent." Not only did he thus reject the "advanced"
doctrine of sexual freedom: he never committed himself to any such
proposition as that of Mill, that the institution of the family needs
"more fundamental alterations than remain to be made in any other great
social institution," or that of James Mill, cited without disapproval
by his son, as to the probable development of freedom in the sexual
relation.[105]

[Footnote 103: Address at the National Secular Society's Conference.]

[Footnote 104: Published in 1861. Reprinted 1883.]

[Footnote 105: J. S. Mill's Autobiography, pp. 107, 167. A still
more striking illustration of the way in which one rationalist may
"steal the horse" while another may not "look over the hedge," is the
following passage in Mill's book:--"On these grounds I was not only as
ardent as ever for democratic institutions, but earnestly hoped that
Owenite, St. Simonian, and all other anti-property doctrines might
spread widely among the poorer classes; _not that I thought these
doctrines true_, or desired that they should be acted on, but in order
that the higher classes _might be made to see that they had far more to
fear_ from the poor when uneducated than when educated."]

It was thus grossly unjust to cast upon the Secularist movement, as
did Bishop Fraser of Manchester in the worst stress of Bradlaugh's
parliamentary struggle, the imputation of promoting positive cruelty on
the part of men towards women. That episode was for many a melancholy
proof of the perverting power of bigotry in a naturally conscientious
man. The Bishop publicly put it as a natural deduction from Secularist
teaching that a man might put away his wife when she grew old and ugly,
or "sick, or otherwise disagreeable to him," simply because she thus
ceased to please him; and when a Secularist wrote him to point out the
injustice of this assertion, and the nature of the ordinary rationalist
view of marriage, his Grace disingenuously quoted the statement that
Secularists repudiated the "sacredness" of marriage, without adding the
explanation which his correspondent had given as to the proper force of
that term. The whole outburst was an angry and unscrupulous attempt to
put upon Secularist teaching the vice which admittedly flourished in
the Bishop's diocese among non-Secularists. All the while, the doctrine
he had put upon Secularism lay in his own Bible, and nowhere else:--

 "When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then shall it be, if she
 find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing
 in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in
 her hand, and send her out of his house" (Deut. xxiv. 1).

These and other doctrines had been made by Bradlaugh part of his
indictment of Bible morality. He saw that while women are dependent,
power of self-divorce cannot justly be allowed to husbands. He was
certainly in favour of greater facilities for divorce; but he took no
part in the discussion as to whether marriage is a failure; and he
always argued for a legal contract, in the interests of the woman and
children, as against informal unions; though, of course, he passed no
moral censure on women in a state of economic independence who chose
the latter. His own sad experience never made him decry marriage; and
he never would have subscribed to the doctrine of Professor Pearson,
that "love should have the privilege of his wings," save in so far
as he would give freedom of legal divorce. In short, he did not
realise the fancy picture of "modern Materialism" painted by religious
sentiment, any more than the fancy picture of the pragmatist. He was
not even a lover of "realism" in fiction. Like Büchner (whose favourite
author is Shakespeare), he could not enjoy Zola; and on Hugo's death
he eulogised that poet in express contrast to the new school which had
begun to write him down.

But he did not set up to be a literary critic, or an æsthetic person in
any sense. His own art was oratory, and of that he was master by dint
not of conscious study, but of sincerity, energy, and endless activity.
He spoke to persuade, to convince, to crush; and he never spoke save on
a conviction. It thus lay in his nature that he should be a politician
as earnestly as he was a Freethinker. His Atheism, his logic, his
utilitarianism, all combined to make him a strenuous reformer in the
field of government, and a full half of his whole activity--more than
half in the latter years--was turned to making life better and saner
than it had been under the regimen of religion. The absurd pretence
that Atheism makes men pessimistic and supine becomes peculiarly absurd
when tested by his career. He was no optimist: he had no delusions
about the speedy perfectibility of men, singly or in mass; but no man
was less inclined to the new pessimism, which turns its philosophy to
the account of commonplace conservatism all round. A clerical opponent,
debating with him, protested that Atheists ought to be in a state of
black despair at the evil of the world, which the reverend gentleman
on his part viewed with serenity, holding that the God who wrought
it must intend to put matters right hereafter. A lay study of the
problem, however, reveals the fact that hopeful and despairing frames
of mind are not as a rule determined by theoretic beliefs one way
or the other. Bradlaugh had the good fortune to combine the keenest
interest in ideas and the clearest insight into human character with
a boundless enthusiasm for action; and he perfectly recognised that a
similar temperament in the latter respect might go with what he held
to be delusion in philosophy. It is the fashion of conformists without
beliefs to speak of propagandist rationalism as "intolerant"--a use of
the term which, though it may be at times permissible in common talk,
is a complete perversion of its essential purport. Applied to action,
the word has no proper force save as implying the wish or attempt to
curtail freedom and inflict positive injury on the score of opinion.
No such charge can justly be made against Freethinkers in general,
or Bradlaugh in particular. The practice of boycotting for opinion's
sake he detested and denounced, and never in any way resorted to. He
even carried the spirit of "tolerance" to an extreme degree in his own
affairs, being careful, as his daughter testifies, to avoid giving
his children anything like specific anti-theological teaching, on the
ground that the opinions of the young ought not to be stereotyped for
them on points which they ought to reconsider for themselves when they
grow up. In intercourse with those about him he was equally scrupulous;
and all the contributors to his journal can tell how complete was the
freedom he gave them to express in its pages opinions from which he
dissented. In this he was far superior to many who have aspersed him
as overbearing. It was a point of honour with him to give a hearing
in his columns to all manner of opposition to his own views; and no
man was ever less apt to let his philosophical convictions bias him
in his practical or political relations with people of another way of
thinking. Hence he was able not only to follow, but to follow with
a chivalrous devotion, such a political leader as Mr Gladstone, of
whose latter writings on religious matters he found it difficult to
speak without a sense of humorous humiliation.[106] But his political
teaching must be separately considered.

[Footnote 106: His comment on Mr Gladstone's reply to Colonel Ingersoll
is, however, a model of respectful exposure of a very bad case.]



CHAPTER II.

POLITICAL DOCTRINE AND WORK.


§ 1.

In combining the propaganda of Freethought with that of Republican
Radicalism, Bradlaugh was carrying on the work begun in England by
Paine, and continued by Richard Carlile, men whose memory he honoured
for those qualities of courage, sincerity, and constancy which were the
pith of his own character. The bringing of reason to bear at once on
the things of Church and of State, of creed and of conduct, was for him
a matter of course, as it has been for the great majority of Atheists,
from Holbach onwards, and he held firmly to the old conviction that for
free and rational men the only right form of Government is a Republic.
He had all Paine's energetic disdain of the monarchic principle in
theory and in practice, and, coming to his work in the latter half of
the century, he could stand up for Republicanism without incurring the
extreme penalties which fell so heavily on the devoted head of Carlile
that his hold of his rationalist doctrine gave way under the strain of
his struggle, the mind seeking lethargic rest before the body found the
final repose. Still the great reaction against the French Revolution,
which had made the name of Paine a byword, and the life of Carlile a
series of imprisonments, was still far too strong in the fifties and
sixties to permit of an avowed Republican and Atheist being regarded
without horror by the middle and upper classes. The more famous
Carlyle, with all his loud esteem for sincerity and louder repudiation
of cant, never dreamt of saying a plain word against the monarchy
any more than against the current religion, though his political
theories were at all times as far asunder from current monarchism as
from democracy. He even went out of his way to speak smoothly of a
royalty which did nothing. For a generation to which Carlyle figured
as outspoken and veridical, therefore, anything so practical as
Republicanism was wildly revolutionary, and so Bradlaugh figured from
the first to the average imagination as a violent politician.

Strictly speaking, he was in a sense more violent in his politics than
in his anti-theology, because political strife is necessarily more a
matter of attack on living persons than is the doctrinal strife between
Atheism and Theism. As a republican he could not avoid discussing the
personalities of the Hanoverian dynasty, inasmuch as the practical
strength of royalism lies in the hereditary self-abasement of men
before the hereditary royal person as such, not in any common hold
on a monarchic theory of Government. To people who gloried in living
under the Guelphs, an exposure of the Guelphs was the only relevant
or intelligible answer. We may indeed say generally of monarchy what
Strauss said of dogma, that the true criticism of it is its history.
But the practical sanity which in Bradlaugh balanced the fieriest zeal,
showed him from the first that Republicanism could only advance by way
of culture and reason, never by way of violence. He "spoke" bullets
and bayonets, but he never for an instant countenanced their use in
English politics; and he had always a mixture of wrath and contempt
for those who blustered of carrying by force, or threats of force, any
reform in the Constitution. Even while he was delivering in lectures
his "Impeachment of the House of Brunswick," he constantly declared
that the mass of the people were not yet qualified to constitute a
republican state; and he declared as much when, in 1873, he spoke at
the banquet given by the then Republican leaders at Madrid in his
honour as delegate from the Republican Conference which had just been
held at Birmingham.

The almost entire subsidence of Republican agitation in England within
the last twenty years, after the considerable show of Republican
feeling which followed on the fall of the Empire in France, is an
interesting and instructive fact, worth a little explanation here.
It does not mean that the nation is less ready for a Republic; the
fact is quite the other way. Recent tests have shown that in the
average working-class Liberal and Radical Club, when the question
is plainly raised, there is virtually no feeling in favour of the
retention of Monarchy. The old devotion to the monarch as such has
almost completely passed away among the more intelligent workers, and
now subsists only among their weaker brethren, and in the middle and
upper classes. Political movements, however, are made and marred not
by pure reasoning but by special stresses of feeling, and there has
been little or nothing in the annals of the past twenty years to set
up a new stress of feeling against the monarchy in England, while
there has been much that has tended to put the republican ideal in the
background. It is hardly to the credit of the nation that it lays less
store by a great principle or ideal than by concrete points of lower
importance; but such is and must long be the fact. The movement which
led to the Republican Conference in 1873, to begin with, suffered from
the still vivid recollection of the horrors of the Commune. Next it was
found that among its adherents were many who were less concerned to set
up a British Republic than to further by that means the independence
of Ireland. Thus the movement was in itself weakened by want of unity
of motive and purpose, and could make little headway against the vast
forces of habit and prejudice which buttress the Throne. Even what
headway it did make was due largely to the then very common feeling
of personal hostility to the Prince of Wales, whose reputed character
offended many who would not of their own accord have been likely to
raise the question of Monarchy _versus_ Republic. Another ground for
hostility to the Crown was and is the sufficiently solid one of its
cost; but here again the spectacle of the financial corruption in
leading Republics has tended to damp down anti-monarchic feeling. It
is pretty clear that, barring any new and special cause for outcry
against the Throne, its abolition in this country will only result from
the slow accumulation of indifference and of educated aversion to the
snobbery which cherishes and is cherished by it. This certainly cannot
take place during the lifetime of the reigning sovereign, whose age and
popularity alike go to silence serious agitation. It may or may not
come about during the next generation.

Bradlaugh used to be quoted as saying that he intended that the heir
apparent should never come to the Throne. He never said anything so
idle, though in his youth he thought it possible that the Republic
might be attained in his lifetime. As years went on, his insight
into human nature led him to feel that agitation for an ideal form
of Government was less directly fruitful than agitation against the
abuses of class privilege; and in the last dozen years of his life,
his political work went mainly to reforms within the lines of the
Constitution. Apart from this partial change of tactic, his position
underwent no change from first to last. His political doctrine may be
broadly described as a demand for the fullest admission of the people
to the rights of self-government, and further, the application of the
powers thus acquired to the removal or reform of all laws framed in
the interest of the upper few. This was the ideal he had formed for
himself in his youth, and he declined to substitute for it the ideal
of Socialism, which had begun to be vaguely popular towards the end of
his life. The refusal rested on his experience, and on his character.
In his youth he had seen a great impression made by the teaching and
the achievement of Robert Owen, whose propaganda came so closely in
relation with that of Secularism that in several towns the old halls
of the Owenites have been till recent years, or are still, carried
on by the surviving followers of Owen, as Secularist meeting-places.
For Owen, whom he had met in youth, Bradlaugh had much esteem. "No
Socialist myself," he wrote in later life, "I yet cannot but concede
that [Owen's] movement had enormous value, if only as a protest
against that terrible and inhuman competitive struggle, in which the
strong were rewarded for their strength, and no mercy was shown to the
weakest."[107] But he was profoundly impressed by the extravagance of
Owen's estimate of the present possibilities of human nature; and the
later Socialism, like the earlier, represented for him the optimism
of unpractical men, with the difference that the later agitators had
at once much less gift for social organisation than Owen, and a far
more difficult programme to realise. Thus, where Owen set himself to
create a State within the State, Bradlaugh addressed himself to making
the political State truly democratic--a course the wisdom of which is
admitted by the action of the Socialists, who now adopt it. He was in
a general sense the successor of the Chartists; and in that connection
it is impossible not to feel that if such a one as he had been in
the place of Fergus O'Connor, the political advance of the past half
century would have been considerably quickened. As it was, his labours
have probably counted more than those of any other single man in his
day to rouse the workers in the towns to vigorous political action.
Before they had the vote, he not only helped to lead the agitation
for their enfranchisement, but appealed to them directly on the
issues which he wanted their suffrage to settle. It is the fashion of
the new Socialism to represent that the old Radicalism wrought for
political enfranchisement without any notion of what use the vote
was to be turned to. Common sense and common candour will put that
account of things aside without much trouble. Bradlaugh for one had
very definite notions of what he wanted the vote to do. His programme
was both positive and negative. He strongly supported the Radical
demand for retrenchment of an expenditure which was always tending
to benefit, not the many, but the few; and he detested the policy of
"safe" foreign aggression which, after being long associated with the
name of Palmerston, came to be identified with that of Beaconsfield.
The fact that this policy had the support of some who later figured as
Socialists, did not increase his esteem for their after-course. His
sympathy with the small and weak nationalities whom England selected
for attack was rooted in the intense sense of justice which inspired
his whole life. After working for struggling Italy and Poland, he
refused to stand by in silence while his own country unscrupulously
made war on Afghans, on Zulus, and on Egyptians, on pretexts which all
Englishmen would have execrated had they been put forward by Russians.
And as he never made popularity his guiding principle, he as instantly
and resolutely opposed the aggressions of Mr Gladstone's Government as
those of the Tories. In none of the sins of modern Liberalism, whether
in Africa or in Ireland, was he implicated. But he had a constructive
as well as a limitary ideal, a home policy as well as a foreign; and
whereas his course on the latter head will now be endorsed by most
Liberals, his social doctrine is still in need of exposition and
justification.

[Footnote 107: "Five Dead Men whom I knew," p. 6.]


§ 2.

A notable fact in the history of popular Freethought in England has
been its association with the social teaching of Malthus, which
first came before the world only a few years after Paine's attack on
orthodoxy. There is nothing to show that Paine ever realised what
a blow was struck at his optimistic Theism, by the essay which his
fellow-Theist Malthus wrote to rebut the optimist assumptions on
the "Political Justice" of Godwin, a Freethinker who held by the
revolutionary optimism in the sphere of politics, while tending away
from Deistic optimism in philosophy. Paine, who was certainly as much
bent on construction as on destruction, sketched a socio-political
system which will be found by many readers as impressive to-day as
it was found by Pitt. He proposed on the one hand a progressive
income-tax, which should yield new revenue and break up large estates,
and on the other hand a system of stipends to poor families; annuities
to decayed tradesmen and others over fifty, increasing after sixty;
provision for the education of the children of the poor; donations for
births, marriages, and some funerals; and "employment at all times
for the casual poor in the cities of London and Westminster." Save as
regards the old age pensions, which represent a great improvement on
pauper relief, and the education scheme, all of this plan comes under
the destructive criticism of Malthus, inasmuch as it does not recognise
the fatal tendency of an untaught population to multiply in excess of
the economic possibilities of maintenance. The plan of allowancing
poor families at so much per head would have quickened immensely the
progress towards national bankruptcy which was carried so far under the
old Poor Law. It would have bred paupers by the thousand.

The demonstration of Malthus naturally was not relished by the
Radicals, to whom it was first addressed; and Godwin in particular met
it with indecent acrimony, as did Coleridge, the Conservative. But
the next generation of Freethinkers assimilated the argument, and a
certain propaganda for the restriction of families was carried on by
Richard Carlile. It is a remarkable fact that two Christian priests
have laid two corner-stones of the structure of Atheistic polity for
modern England. Butler in confuting the Deists wrought as much for
Atheism as for orthodoxy; Malthus, in meeting the remaining Deists
on the ground of sociology, confuted their optimism on the practical
side. Freethought finally accepted both services, rectifying Malthus
as it rectified Butler; and under Bradlaugh it made for science all
round. Malthusianism in its original form certainly lent itself to
Toryism; and no amount of benevolence on the part of Malthus could
make his doctrine acceptable to democracy so long as it was tied down
to his Christian ethic. The step which reconciled the knowledge of
the law of population with energetic Radicalism in politics was taken
when rationalists laid it down that the prudential check need not mean
prolonged celibacy. Teaching as he did the all-importance of checking
the birth-rate, and knowing as he did the possibility of bringing
about the restraint, Bradlaugh had no further cause for misgiving as
to political progress than his recognition of the general capacity of
human nature to blunder.

He took up the neo-Malthusian position emphatically in his early
pamphlet on "Jesus, Shelley, and Malthus," published in 1861, a
somewhat youthfully rhetorical, but still a very notable presentment
of the three main influences successively brought to bear on the
problem of poverty--the spirit of religious submission, the spirit of
humanitarian revolt, and the spirit of science. He pleaded for the
last. "An acquaintance with political economy," he there declares,
"is as necessary to the working man as is a knowledge of navigation
to the master of a ship. It is the science of social life, the social
science." And he was able in those days of the "orthodox" economics to
cite in support of his definition, from the high priest of orthodoxy,
a deliverance which may surprise readers whose knowledge of the old
economics is not commensurate with their censure of it.

 "The object of political economy," says Mr M'Culloch, "is to point
 out the means by which the industry of man may be rendered most
 productive of those necessaries, comforts, and enjoyments which
 constitute wealth; to ascertain the circumstances most favourable for
 its accumulation, the proportion in which it is divided among the
 different classes of the community, and the mode in which it may be
 most advantageously consumed."

And in another early pamphlet on "Poverty and its Effect on the
Political Condition of the People," first published in 1863, he put as
one of his mottoes, after a more guarded sentence from John Mill, this
from Sir James Steuart:--

 "The object of political economy is to secure the means of subsistence
 to all the inhabitants, to obviate every circumstance which might
 render this precarious, to provide everything necessary for supplying
 the wants of society, and to employ the inhabitants so as to make
 their several interests accord with their supplying each other's
 wants."

But his application of the principle was democratic and Neo-Malthusian,
not Collectivist. "Unless," he wrote, "the _necessity_ of the
preventative or positive checks to population be perceived; unless it
be clearly seen that they must operate in one form if not in another,
and that, _though individuals may escape them, the race cannot_, human
society is a hopeless and insoluble riddle." And for years before this
he had persistently pressed the point in his lectures, steadily defying
the odium which his action brought upon him. As early as 1862 we find
him temperately replying to denunciation on this head in a lecture on
"Malthusianism and its connection with Civil and Religious Liberty,"
of which a partial report happened to be taken in shorthand. "It may
almost seem unwise," he remarked, "to be continually putting this
subject before you; but really I find myself so misrepresented, and so
liable to be misunderstood, in quarters where one would expect better
things, that you must not wonder if I seek to make it clear to you why
I persist in this advocacy." He here pressed the law of population as a
fundamental datum of political science.

 "I shall urge upon you this morning that there can be no permanent
 civil and religious liberty, no permanent and enduring freedom for
 humankind, no permanent and enduring equality amongst men and women,
 no permanent and enduring fraternity, until the subject which Malthus
 wrote upon is thoroughly examined, and until the working men make that
 of which Malthus was so able an exponent the science of their everyday
 life; until, in fact, they grapple with it, and understand that the
 poverty which they now have to contend against must always produce the
 present evils which oppress them."

Again:--

 "Poverty, so long as it exists, is in fact the impassable barrier
 between man and civil and religious liberty. You can never have true
 liberty so long as men are steeped in poverty. So long as men do not
 comprehend what liberty, what freedom really is, they will be ignorant
 how to attain it. Ignorance is the necessary sequence of their
 poverty. Are the people poor? For the poor there are no museums, no
 pictures, no elevating spheres of life, no grand music, no ennobling
 poetry. All these phases are closed to them; and why? Because their
 life is a constant struggle to live.... What is the use of preaching
 to the masses if the masses do not understand the language in which
 you talk to them? What is the use of your phrases to them when their
 education compels them not to comprehend the words you say, nay, makes
 them misunderstand you--for unfortunately _poverty has its education_,
 and is in this case worse than mere ignorance. There is a miseducation
 in poverty, which distorts the human mind, destroys self-reliant
 energy, and is a most effectual barrier in the way of religious
 liberty. Liberty, equality, fraternity, are words used very often
 about the Republican institutions of the world; but you can never have
 liberty, equality, and fraternity as long as there is poverty dividing
 one class from another."

These words have been echoed since by Socialists and others who
represent Bradlaugh as a "Manchester" politician; and who either evade
the question of the birth-rate, or deny that it is of any account.
Their argument takes two main forms: (1) That to urge prudence on
the poor is useless, since they will not listen; while the better
workers who do listen are "sterilised;" (2) that there would be
no over-population if only wealth were properly distributed. Both
arguments are fallacious; the first proceeding upon ignorance of the
facts, and the desire to shirk a troublesome question; the second
upon non-comprehension of the law of population. In the first case,
the objector first implies that it _might_ be good to limit families
if only people could be got to do so, and then proceeds to say that
the limiting of families is harmful when practised. Both of these
conflicting views are erroneous in fact. It is _not_ difficult to make
the majority of poor men and women listen to reason on the subject;
with those who say it is, the wish is father to the thought, in that
they do not want to try to give the requisite knowledge. Thousands of
poor women ignorantly use the most disastrous means to limit their
fecundity; and extreme poverty often hampers them even where they
have the knowledge. A little money spent by the charitable in helping
the very poor in this way would obviate the need for endless alms to
relieve the misery which ignorant instinct multiplies. Nor is there
the least need to fear the "sterilising" of the more prudent, as the
limitation of the family has been unwarrantably termed. Small families
do not necessarily mean lessened total population. A man who has only
three children and rears them all healthfully, maintains the species
more efficiently than a man who has eight, loses six, and perforce
rears the two survivors badly, because what might have nourished two
or three well was for years spent in merely keeping more alive. The
extreme case of France, over which there has been so much superficial
talk in France and elsewhere, is no such portent as it is made out,
but is in part explicable by the stress of the influenza plague, which
heavily affected even the English birth-rate, and is in part a useful
reminder to French statesmen that they are pressing too heavily on
their country's resources, and need to mend their methods. Withal, the
misery in France is far less grinding and pervasive than the misery in
England.

As to the argument that it is not over-breeding, but bad distribution
that causes poverty, the answer is that both causes operate, but
that over-breeding can work misery under any system of distribution
whatever, and is a main support to bad distribution at present.
Some Malthusians have supposed that with a proper proportionment of
population to the resources of the time being, poverty would wholly
disappear. This is over-sanguine; but the case of the United States in
the first half of the century, when resources were still far ahead of
labour supply, gives abundant support to a more moderate claim. On the
other hand, unless the lesson of prudential restraint be learned, the
most thorough socialistic system of distribution will simply incur the
most complete ruin. People reason that if only the resources of the
world were properly utilised, all could be fed and housed comfortably.
That is quite true; but they forget that if there be no restraint, the
population of the world, being better placed than ever, will double at
least every twenty-five years, and will thus soon upset any possible
system of housing and feeding, and reduce the general condition to
toil and poverty all round. This is so obvious when put, that the
optimists are fain to fall back on a theory that population slackens
spontaneously under conditions of comfort. Mr George moves nimbly
between this theory and one which absolutely negates it. But all such
pleas resolve themselves into either an admission that the race _must
and will learn to practise prudential restraint_, which is a surrender
to Malthusianism, or an assumption of a pre-ordained beneficent harmony
in Nature, the old optimism in a new dress, or rather an old dress
"turned."

We come back to the common plea of all the antagonists of
Neo-Malthusianism--that there is no need to check over-breeding _at
present_--a position so crudely unreasonable, so irreconcilable with
any knowledge of the great facts of the case, that it is a mystery
how it can be taken up by candid and well-informed men. No amount of
demonstration that the world _might_ feed all its inhabitants can do
away with the dreadful fact that myriads of babes _are_ actually born
into the world every year only to die of the troubles made by poverty;
that these babes had much better not have been born; that their birth
might have been prevented; and that the survivors suffered from their
birth. That men can shut their eyes to these overwhelming facts, and
go on arguing, on an "if," that there is no need to restrain the
birth-rate "in the meantime," is one of the darkest anomalies of
political science.

Between the obstinacy of the opposing fallacy and the brutality of the
resistance of prejudice, many men who recognise the truth have yet
been wearied into holding their peace, in a pessimistic conviction
that mankind in the mass cannot be enlightened on the matter. Of that
attitude Bradlaugh was to the last incapable, though he had more cause
than most men to know how tremendous were the odds in the struggle.
Later generations will find it hard to credit the facts. A policy which
on the face of the case could only be motived by public spirit and zeal
for the truth was met by the vilest aspersions, the most malignant
imputation of the most preposterously bad intentions. Personal vice was
freely charged in explanation of an action which no vicious man would
have had the self-denial to undertake. It is the bare truth to say
that for many years a main part of the work of the Christian Evidence
Society in England has been to employ hirelings to charge Secularism
with the promotion of sexual vice--this on the strength partly of
Bradlaugh's work for Neo-Malthusianism, and partly of the vogue of the
anonymous work entitled "The Elements of Social Science," in which
the arguments for family limitation are combined with a perfectly
well-intentioned argument for sexual freedom as against celibacy and
prostitution, the evils of which are not only exposed, but provided
against in the book by careful medical instruction. Of this book, as we
have seen, while honouring the moral courage and absolute benevolence
of the anonymous writer, Bradlaugh expressly disclaimed the more
advanced doctrines; but he has been saddled with them all the same, as
if his burden of unpopularity were not already heavy enough.

He had fit though few compensations. He lived to see the rightness of
his course more and more widely and openly admitted; and to see some
Freethinkers and others who had unworthily attacked him for it come
round and follow in his steps. And at his trial with Mrs Besant for
selling the Knowlton pamphlet in 1877 he was able to tell the jury of
higher sanctions than these. Mill in his "Autobiography," telling how
he was attacked for subscribing to Bradlaugh's election fund in 1868,
says of him:--

 "He had the support of the working-classes; having heard him speak, I
 knew him to be a man of ability, and he had proved that he was the
 reverse of a demagogue, by placing himself in strong opposition to
 the prevailing opinion of the democratic party on two such important
 subjects as Malthusianism and Personal Representation. Men of this
 sort, who, while sharing the democratic feelings of the working
 classes, judged political questions for themselves, and had courage to
 assert their individual convictions against popular opposition, were
 needed, as it seemed to me, in Parliament."

It may here be added that Grote, who was a regular reader of the
_National Reformer_ and a Neo-Malthusian also, approved even more
strongly. The further fact, now established, that Mill was in his youth
actually prosecuted for distributing Neo-Malthusian literature, should
serve to check the malice of those persons, clerical and other, who
still divide Freethinkers into two classes--one of "irreproachable
morals," following Mill, the other of "loose and dissolute character,"
following Bradlaugh.

Some Neo-Malthusians have been charged, despite their rejection of
the _non-possumus_ of Malthus, with excluding all other reforms in
their advocacy of family limitation. If this charge was even valid,
it certainly was not against Bradlaugh. He might much more reasonably
be criticised for not keeping the population question to the front
in every discussion of main reforms than for unduly obtruding it, or
using it to discourage reforms made in disregard of it. After he had
thoroughly forced it on the public attention, he trusted more to the
quiet dissemination of educative literature on the subject, and the
enlistment of individual self-interest in the reform, than to the
political handling of it on the platform, where the insistence on it
seems still to arouse the resentment of many Socialists and others,
who can see no need for any reform save those they themselves propose,
and are particularly wroth at the suggestion that working men can
be in any degree accountable for their own troubles. The defence of
the Knowlton pamphlet, as has been shown in the foregoing pages, was
forced on Bradlaugh; and it was the more trying for him in that he was
always personally averse to the detailed discussion of sexual topics.
At the same time, it was impossible for him to submit to the stupid
suppression by the authorities of the only cheap literature that
gave to the poor the necessary knowledge for the limitation of their
families. He was bound to resist that by every principle he professed;
by his doctrine of freedom for the press and his doctrine of prudence
in the family. So resisting, he identified himself once for all with
the Neo-Malthusian doctrine in politics, though the resulting special
notoriety of the topic was thus the work of the prosecutors themselves,
who probably did more by their hostile act for the spread of popular
knowledge than Bradlaugh had before been able to do by his years of
advocacy.

How important was his introduction of the principle into politics can
only be realised by those who know how much the principle means; and
it is still in the stage of being vilified by the pious and contemned
by the superficial, in which latter class may be included a good many
Socialists. The former heap upon avowed Neo-Malthusians an abuse which
they withhold from eminent politicians who confess opinions that
imply Neo-Malthusianism or nothing. Mr John Morley, for instance,
has expressed his regret that "we,"--that is, the Liberal party in
general--shirk the population question so much; and Mr Leonard Courtney
has laid it down that we may as well build a house in disregard of
the law of gravitation as hope to make a community prosper without
regard to the law of population. The late Lord Derby spoke to similar
effect. Either, then, such politicians mean to urge, with Malthus,
that working-men shall postpone marriage until they have saved a good
deal of money--that is, till middle or late life--or they approve of
early marriage with conjugal prudence. That is the whole matter; for
the nature of the prudence is a quite subsidiary question, on which no
wise man or doctor will narrowly dogmatise. But nobody, not even the
_Times_, denounces or insults Mr Courtney or Mr Morley or the late Lord
Derby for saying what each of them has said. As usual, the man who says
explicitly what other men say implicitly is singled out for attack, not
on the score of taste, but on the score of the plain doctrine, however
put.

On the whole, however, the tone of the discussion improves from year
to year. In the "Knowlton" trial, the then Solicitor-General, Sir
Hardinge Giffard (now Lord Halsbury), after hearing abundant evidence
to show that the details made known in the pamphlet were just such as
were made known in a number of other current works never prosecuted,
though freely circulated by prominent booksellers; and after himself
expressly avowing that "the book, I think it may be said, is carefully
guarded from any vulgarity of expression"--nevertheless persisted
in coarsely describing it as "dirty and filthy." Yet he himself
was so gratuitously indecent in his own language that in a number
of passages it had to be paraphrased or expunged in the report. And
though the puzzle-headed jury "entirely exonerated the defendants
from any corrupt motives in publishing," they were "unanimously of
opinion that the book in question is calculated to deprave public
morals," and allowed their foreman to present a verdict of guilty
under the indictment. Probably no metropolitan jury would now come
"unanimously" to the degrading conclusion that to spread specific
physiological knowledge is to deprave public morals, even if the
members were the "average sensual men" who habitually circulate and
gloat upon lewd anecdotes, to say nothing of their acts. It is true
that the abominable imputations packed into the indictment of Bradlaugh
and Mrs Besant were repeated in the miserable prosecution[108] which
took place at Newcastle in 1892; and that the Recorder who tried
that case, Judge Digby Seymour, displayed gross prejudice at every
stage of the trial, finally vilifying such a perfectly well-meant and
well-done treatise as Dr Allbutt's "Wife's Handbook," and the old
"Fruits of Philosophy," as "two of the filthiest works that could be
circulated to debauch and demoralise the minds of the people." Odious
aspersions of this kind represent merely the fanaticism of ignorant
custom, and take no heed of the enormous harm which physiological
ignorance breeds. The Solicitor-General in the Knowlton trial flatly
refused to deal with any such considerations; and Judge Seymour
similarly would listen to no rational argument. But a decisive current
of public opinion now begins to set the other way. Even a number of
clergymen now admit the frightful evils of over-breeding, and are thus
at least in part disentitled to cry out against rational prudence.
The Newcastle prosecution, moreover, was strongly condemned in the
local press; the accused was liberated; and at a public indignation
meeting one speaker declared, with applause, that "the verdict of
Judge Digby Seymour was an insult and a libel upon their English
manners." And though a Neo-Malthusian student was heavily fined[109]
in London in the previous year for circulating information in a
slightly irregular manner, the language of the counsel for the
Crown, who declared that "_the only check against immorality in this
country is the fear of pregnancy_," excited general indignation, as
did the conduct of the magistrate in ruling that decent language was
"obscene." This prosecution, too, was repented of; and the most direct
journalistic challenge afterwards failed to bring on any prosecution of
Neo-Malthusian doctrine as such.

[Footnote 108: Of Henry Loader, a professed Christian.]

[Footnote 109: He was fined £40, while two brothel-keepers were fined
only £5 each in the same week.]

Even the comparatively reasonable attitude of Sir Alexander Cockburn
in the "Knowlton" trial would not now recommend itself at all points
to educated people. In the hearing of the evidence he thought fit
to suggest that only "strong-minded ladies" could acquire medical
knowledge without becoming "less pure-minded." Nor would any thoughtful
people now agree with him and the Solicitor-General that "no better
tribunal can be found in the world to judge of such a question as this
than the average sound sense and enlightened judgment which is to be
found in English society." These flights of declamation on the Bench
are part of the general cant of English society, which can decorously
endorse the moral reflections of a judge whose own life is the subject
of chronic and much-relished scandal. But Cockburn at least put a
new obstacle in the way of legal molestation of honest propaganda
by expressing his agreement with the Malthusian doctrine as to
over-population; and the later judgment of Judge Windeyer in Victoria,
vindicating Mrs Besant's "Law of Population" when it was prosecuted
there, marks the turn of the legal tide.


§3.

The constructive policy which Bradlaugh joined with his Neo-Malthusian
doctrine had for its main item the radical reform of the land laws.
He was thus in practical harmony with those individualists who except
the land from the operation of the individualist principle, though he
did not declare like them for land nationalisation. Nationalisation he
considered too vast and difficult a transaction in the present state
of political evolution; but progressive interference with the land
monopoly he held to be as practicable as it is necessary. Property in
land, he held with Mill, "is only valid in so far as the proprietor
of the land is its improver; when private property in land is not
expedient it is unjust." And the control of the land, in his opinion,
must become the subject of a great and decisive struggle between the
people and the landowning class, who may or may not be aided by the
rest of the capitalist class. On this subject he felt no less strongly,
though he always spoke with more restraint, than do Socialists with
regard to capitalism pure and simple.

 "It is for the use of air, moisture, and heat," he puts it, "for the
 varied natural forces, that the cultivator pays; and the receiver
 talks of the rights of property. We shall have for the future to
 talk in this country of the rights of life--rights which must be
 recognised, even if the recognition involves the utter abolition of
 the present landed aristocracy."[110]

[Footnote 110: Pamphlet on "The Land, the People, and the Coming
Struggle," fourth ed., p. 8.]

And he could say of the landed class, what can hardly be said of the
labour-employing class in the main, that they had stood in the way of
every reform:

 "The great rent-takers have been the opponents of progress; they
 have hindered reform; they kept the taxes on knowledge; they passed
 combination laws; they enacted long Parliaments; they made the
 machinery of Parliamentary election costly and complicated, so as
 to bar out the people. They have prevented education, and then have
 sneered at the masses for their ignorance. All progress in the
 producing power of labour has added to the value of land; and yet the
 landowner, who has often stood worse than idly by while the land has
 increased in value, now talks of the labourer as of the lower herd
 which must be checked and restrained."

To carry out in legislation the principle of the common interest in
the land was accordingly one of his main aims; and at the time when
his illegal exclusion from Parliament forced him to concentrate all
his energies in the struggle for bare political life, he had gone
far to give effect to it. Early in 1880 he took the leading part in
establishing the Land Law Reform League, of which the formulated
objects were:--

 "1. In case of intestacies, the same law to govern the distribution of
 real and personal property. This would destroy primogeniture, but to
 be useful would need to be followed by some limitation of the power of
 devise, say as in France.

 "2. Abolition of the right to settle or entail for non-existing lives.
 It would be far better to abolish, all life estates ...

 "3. Transfer of land to be made as cheap and easy as the transfer
 of a ship. Security to be ensured by compulsory registration of all
 dealings with land ...

 "4. Abolition of all preferential rights of landlords over other
 creditors....

 "5. Abolition of the Game Laws.

 "6. Compulsory cultivation of all lands now uncultivated, and not
 devoted to public purposes, which are cultivable with profit. That is,
 make it a misdemeanour to hold cultivable lands in an uncultivated
 state. The penalty on conviction to be dispossession, but with payment
 to dispossessed landowners of say twenty years' purchase of the
 average annual value of the land for the seven years prior to the
 prosecution. The payment to be by bonds of the State bearing the same
 interest as the Consolidated Debt, and payable to bearer. The land to
 be State property, and to be let to actual tenant cultivators on terms
 of tenancy ... longer or shorter according to the improvement made in
 the estate. The amount paid as rent to the State to be applied to the
 payment of the interest and to form a sinking fund for the liquidation
 of the principal.

 "7. Security to the tenant-cultivator for improvements.

 "8. Re-valuation of lands for the more equitable imposition of the
 land-tax.

 "9. Land-tax to be levied on a scale so graduated as to press most
 heavily on excessively large holdings.

 "10. One and the same land law for Great Britain and Ireland."

Within a few months this League, numbering among its Vice-Presidents
four clergymen, two of them belonging to the State Church, had
established a number of strong branches, enrolled members, and
affiliated societies representing many thousands more, thus attracting
an amount of notice in the press which promised important results. An
illustration of the effect produced may be seen in a letter which Mr
Ruskin thought worthy of insertion in _Fors Clavigera_:--

 "May I take an advantage of this note, and call your attention to a
 fact of much importance to Englishmen? and it is this. On reference
 to some Freethought papers--notably the _National Reformer_--I find
 a movement on foot amongst the Atheists, vigorous and full of life,
 for the alteration of the Land Laws in our much-loved country. It is
 a movement of much moment, and likely to lead to great results. The
 first great move on the part of Charles Bradlaugh, the premier in the
 matter, is the calling of a conference to discuss the whole question.
 The meeting is to be attended by all the National Secular Society's
 branches throughout the empire; representatives of nearly every
 Reform Association in England, Scotland, and Ireland; deputations
 from banded bodies of workmen, colliers, etc.--such as the important
 band of Durham miners--Trade Unionists, and, in fact, a most mighty
 representative conference will be gathered together. I am, for many
 reasons, grieved and shocked to find the cry for Reform coming with
 _such a heading_ to the front. Where are our statesmen--_our clergy_?
 The terrible crying evils of our land system are coming to the front
 in our politics without the help of the so-called upper classes; nay,
 with a deadly hatred of any disturbance in that direction, our very
 clergy are taking up arms against the popular cry.

 "Only a week ago I was spending a few days with a farmer near Chester,
 and learned to my sorrow and dismay that the Dean and Chapter of
 that city, who own most of the farms, etc., in the district where
 my friend resides, refuse now--and only _now_--to accept other than
 _yearly_ tenants for these farms; have raised all the rents to an
 exorbitant pitch, and only allow the land to be sown with wheat, oats,
 or whatever else in seed, etc., on a personal inspection by their
 agent. The consequences of all this is that poverty is prevailing to
 an alarming extent; the workers all the bitter, hard toil; the clergy,
 one may say, _all_ the profits. It is terrible, heart-breaking; I
 never longed so much for heart-searching, vivid eloquence, so that I
 might move men with an irresistible tongue to do the right."

It is vain now to guess what the movement might have done if Bradlaugh,
who was its main force, had been left free to carry it on continuously.
But, on the one hand, his overwhelming contest with the House of
Commons forced him to put aside an undertaking which depended so much
on a seat in that House; and on the other hand, to say nothing of the
precedence inevitably given to the Irish land question in Parliament,
it cannot be questioned that the fall in agricultural land values
took much of the wind out of the sails of English land reformers. The
phenomenon of land going out of cultivation put a new face on the
dispute. When Bradlaugh at length got his seat, he at once showed his
continued grasp of the problem by introducing a Bill for the Compulsory
Cultivation of Waste Land, the principle of which was, that wherever
land of more than one hundred acres lay uncultivated, and not used for
public pleasure,[111] while cultivable with profit by a cultivator
paying no rent, or a smaller rent than the landlord held necessary
to make it worth his while to lease, the Commissioners of Woods and
Forests should be empowered to take possession of such land and offer
it for tenancy. The keeping of the land uncultivated was to be a
misdemeanour; but the dispossessed owner was to receive in compensation
an annual payment for twenty-five years of a sum representing the
average annual value of the land during the fourteen years prior
to his dispossession, whatever that might be. The justification
given by Bradlaugh for making it a misdemeanour to hold land idle
was that already it was a misdemeanour for a labourer to live as an
idle vagrant, and that the law insisted on his utilising his labour
power. If labour, then _a fortiori_ land. In introducing this measure
Bradlaugh emphatically maintained that if the land would not yield
the "three profits" of Lord Beaconsfield's formula, it ought not to
be allowed to be kept idle and useless by the landlord. So long as a
cultivator could make _his_ profit, the State was bound to give him
the opportunity. Needless to say, the Bill was violently denounced by
the Conservative press. The _Times_ talked of "downright plunder."
The _Spectator_ was especially indignant on the score that "great
properties in the home counties, _kept waste in the hope that London
will build on them_, would be confiscated"; and that and other journals
held it a sufficient objection that in cases where land had been worth
nothing the landlord would get nothing. Many Liberal members further
objected that a Bill of such importance ought not to be introduced
by a private member; and generally there was more hostility than
help. On its discussion in the House (April 1886) Bradlaugh agreed to
withdraw the Bill on the ground that its machinery was insufficient,
he having come to the opinion that provision should be made for the
lending of money to moneyless men to enable them to cultivate on
their own behalf. In 1887, still seeing no hope of carrying a Bill,
he took the course of moving a resolution on the motion for going
into Committee of Supply, reaffirming the principle that "the right
of ownership carries with it the duty of cultivation," and proposing
to empower the "local authorities" to act as in the Bill of 1886 he
had proposed to make the Commissioners of Woods and Forests act. This
time he had considerable support, his resolution getting 101 votes, to
175 against. Not one of the front bench Liberals voted; but the Irish
Home Rulers did so in considerable force, making some amends for
old hostility.[112] Again, in 1888, he moved a modified resolution,
proposing to empower local authorities to purchase compulsorily waste
lands at the "capital agricultural value." This time, some hours having
been lost by a Scotch motion for the adjournment of the House on a
point affecting crofters, the discussion came to nothing, the House
being counted out while it was in process. Those who were behind the
scenes may be able to give the explanation of the apathy of the Liberal
and Radical members generally. The passing of an Allotments Act by the
Conservative Government may have had something to do with it. Be that
as it may, Bradlaugh again in March 1889 gave notice of a resolution
on the subject, this time proposing to give local authorities power to
levy a "waste and vacant land rate," or in the alternative, to acquire
the land by payment either "for a limited term of an annual sum not
exceeding the then average net annual actual produce," or of a sum
representing the capital agricultural value. This resolution, however,
never came to discussion. He again put it down in 1890, immediately
after his return from India, but again it failed to reach discussion.
In 1891 his work was over.

[Footnote 111: This stipulation was often ignored, and he was accused
of wanting to parcel out Hyde Park in allotments.]

[Footnote 112: For the details of the case in favour of compulsory
cultivation of land, see Bradlaugh's pamphlet on the subject, published
1887.]

It will be seen that his land policy was more advanced than any that
has yet been put in force by the Liberal party, though the legislation
of 1894 has advanced considerably towards the adoption of his principle
of compulsion. To that principle later legislators must inevitably
come; and as regards land not utilised it has irresistible force. The
proper answer to the demands of landlords for protection against the
import of cheap corn from land paying no rent in America, is that when
land goes out of cultivation here owing to such competition making
it fail to yield its old rent, or three profits, the opportunity of
cultivating it should pass to the State, which may fitly try the
experiment of placing on such land the labourers who are driven to
swell the crowd of unemployed in the towns. But this answer has never
yet been effectively made in politics.[113] The doctrine of the
nation's ownership of its land needs apparently to be asserted to-day
more emphatically than ever.

[Footnote 113: It has lately been advanced by a "Unionist" politician,
Mr T. W. Russell, in the _New Review_.]

Asserting it as he did, Bradlaugh represented a midway position between
out-and-out Socialism and out-and-out Individualism. Time will show
whether it was on the line to be taken by progressive reform. What
is clear is that if energetically adopted it may soon lead to the
complete overthrow of that land system which is the foundation of the
reactionary party politics of this country. In his pamphlet on "The
Land, the People, and the Coming Struggle," Bradlaugh put very clearly
the social ideal he had in view. "The enormous estates of the few
landed proprietors," he declared, "must not only be prevented from
growing larger, they must be broken up. At their own instance, and
gradually, if they will meet us with even a semblance of fairness, for
the poor and hungry cannot well afford to fight; but at our instance,
and rapidly, if they obstinately refuse all legislation." To this
end he proposed, as we have seen, re-valuation of all lands, and a
graduated land-tax, to press most heavily on the largest holdings. The
Budget of 1894, although stopping short of graduation of the annual
taxes, has made the first step towards them by graduating the death
duties; and the further steps are probably not far off. The broad
political problem of the future is the control of wealth distribution,
to the end of making the rendering of services a condition of the
enjoyment of services for all able-bodied persons; and it seems fairly
clear that the easiest of the various possible main steps towards
that consummation are the restriction of private property in land and
the indirect or direct absorption of "economic rent" by the State,
such adaptations being to the socialisation of other means of wealth
production as the simple to the complex. And while Bradlaugh, as has
been said, stipulated for gradual action even in the regulation of the
land, he never refused to contemplate the nationalisation of its rent
as an ultimate ideal.


§ 4.

It may now be easily inferred how Bradlaugh came to feel for the
popular Socialism of the day a mixture of distrust and aversion. It
was for him a flying off at a tangent from the right spiral line of
progress. He had counted on seeing the slowly-won political power of
the mass of the people turned to the enforcement of fundamental reforms
in taxation and land-tenure, so as to better the life-conditions of
the people in the mass; and he had trusted to a gradual learning of
the lesson of family prudence, with the result of an immense saving
of friction, waste, and misery. When he had got to the front of the
political struggle, the needed reforms were still nearly all to
make; and the great lesson of conjugal prudence was only beginning
to be learned on a large scale. What was wanted, to his mind, was
a combination of energy with patience. He had no belief in the
possibility of raising the lot of vast masses of people to a high level
suddenly by violent legislation for the direct transfer of all property
from the "haves" to the "have-nots": he knew how enormously difficult
it was to effect even the modifying measures for which he was working.
But he believed that with persistent toil and good sense it might so be
carried out that the life of the people should in the next generation
be greatly improved, and the stress of their life materially lessened.
Just at this stage, however, he saw the struggling people suddenly and
vociferously appealed to by teachers who taught the uselessness of all
gradual action; the futility of all preceding parliamentary effort;
the impossibility of any improvement so long as private property
in any of the means of production subsisted; the limitation of the
alternatives to the whole loaf or no bread; the necessity of subjecting
all industrial action whatever to collective control at one sweep; in a
word, the absolute necessity of effecting at a stroke, by violence if
need be, such a social and moral revolution as the world had never yet
seen. Already the folly of all this is recognised by many even of those
who resent Bradlaugh's popular exposure of it. Within ten years there
has been developed in England a progressive Socialism which repudiates
violence, substitutes evolution for revolution, proposes to utilise
all the existing political machinery, is glad of gradual advance, is
content to urge forward Radicalism, and modifies mathematical politics
by biological conceptions. But Bradlaugh had to bear the brunt of the
anger not only of the heated crowd who had shouted for the impossible,
but of the new sentimental journalists who had patronised them.

First he had been constantly and violently abused, in the early days
of his Parliamentary struggle, as being himself a Socialist, by
people who knew nothing whatever about his life and doctrine; and his
alleged Socialism was one of the pretexts on which some opposed his
entry into the House of Commons. The nobleman who then represented the
historic name of Percy took that line. A fair sample of the current
tone on the subject among the ignorant rich is supplied by their
votes _vates sanctissima_, the lady novelist "Ouida," in a letter
to the _Fortnightly Review_,[114] in which she discussed the class
politics of Italy. "It is the towns," she explained, "which are the
centres of eagerness for unconsidered war, and the foolish credulity
of bombastic Radicalism;" and she went on in her best-informed manner
to particularise "the 'educated' cad of the Turin or Florence streets,
who has heard just enough of Fourier and Bradlaugh to think that
society ought to maintain at ease his ugly idleness." The idleness
which felt sure of its beauty was naturally resentful. All the while,
Bradlaugh was at sharp strife with the Socialists of the moment; and
he soon came to be applauded for his course in this matter by the
same precious upper-class opinion which had just imputed to him the
views he assailed, while new assailants vituperated him as a traitor
to principles he had never accepted. It is largely to his destructive
criticism that the undefined fashionable Socialism of the present hour
owes its comparative rationality;[115] but there is small thought of
acknowledging the service.

[Footnote 114: November 1881, p. 842.]

[Footnote 115: His longer criticisms of Socialism make a fair volume.
They are: (1) Socialism; For and Against: written debate with Mrs
Besant, 1887; (2) Will Socialism benefit the English People? debate
with Mr Hyndman, 1883; (3) Written debate with Mr Belfort Bax, under
same title; (4) "Socialism; its Fallacies and Dangers," article in
_North American Review_, January 1887, reprinted as a pamphlet;
Pamphlet, "Some objections to Socialism," 1884. See also his articles
and debate on the "Eight Hours Question," and his lecture on "Capital
and Labour."]

Certainly he had struck hard, and this not merely because he was
iniquitously and ferociously attacked by Socialists generally.[116]
He saw the new doctrine appealing to and applauded by, not the
clear-headed and self-controlled workers, but the neurotic, the noisy,
the passionate, the riotous. Instead of meetings of men at once
earnest and orderly, such as he had gathered and addressed for so many
years, meetings at which debate could go on without disorder, he saw
gatherings of wildly excited men, who could not listen to opposition,
who could not sit still in their seats when their view were countered,
and who turned a public debate into a public disturbance. Significantly
enough, the one town in which the Socialist party, even when pretty
numerous, can be trusted to give an opponent a fair hearing, is
Northampton, where for so many years he disciplined the workers to
orderly activity, and to self-control under extreme provocation. No
cause ever needed such discipline more than that of Socialism. It is
quite reasonable to plead for consideration for men whose life is hard,
and who see idlers at their ease; but extenuating circumstances do
not affect the stream of tendency; and no amount of sympathy with the
luckless can make up for want of judgment in those who undertake to
lead them. And to talk, as so many of the Socialist talkers did a dozen
or less years ago, of resorting to physical force, to revolutionise
society, was only to expose the luckless to new disaster.

[Footnote 116: I happened to be standing by when, at a Freethought
Conference, the late Dr Cæsar de Pæpe, a leading Belgian Socialist and
Freethinker, personally and fraternally remonstrated with Bradlaugh on
his opposition to Socialism. He vehemently answered that he had found
the English Socialists among the most unscrupulous of his enemies, they
having not only lied about him freely, but put in his mouth all sorts
of things he had never said or thought.]

Whether all Bradlaugh's argumentation against Socialist theory will
hold good is another question. It is probable that the extreme
statements of Socialist doctrine with which he had to deal led him
latterly to define his Individualism at times more sharply than before.
Not many years before his death he declined to dub himself either
Individualist or Socialist. He sought to legislate for an evolving
society, conditioned by all sorts of anomalous survivals; and he must
prescribe for each juncture or trouble in view of all the facts of the
case. As he put it in his pamphlet on "Parliament and the Poor":--

 "All progressive legislation in this country is necessarily
 compromise. It is not possible to legislate on hard and fast lines of
 principle alone. A state of things has grown up through generations
 which can only be gradually changed. The expedient has to be
 considered in all lawmaking. Legal interpretations of right have
 received judicial sanction, which have become so much part of our
 general political and social system that sudden reversal would be
 attended often with the gravest mischief. Temporary concessions have
 usually to be made on the one side, to win consent from the other, to
 a sure step in advance; but no compromise is final."

But the affirmation by Socialists of principles which seemed to make
an end of self-reliance and self-determination led him to offer
definitions of the sphere of Government; and while his concrete
decisions--as in the case of the Eight Hours movement--will probably
be found to be in all cases sagacious, it may be that political science
will yet endorse action which he declined to contemplate. His practical
justification is that his Socialist adversaries always argued the
case _in vacuo_, and demanded the nationalisation of all the means
of production, and, by consequence, the State determination of all
destinies, at a time when not only is the public in the terms of the
case still largely predatory and anti-social in instinct, but the
Socialists themselves are divided by incurable animosities. Mr Hyndman
chose to debate with him on the issue, "Will Socialism benefit the
English People?"--"if resorted to here and now" being implied. Only
when it is asked, "Can we evolve up to Socialism?" will Bradlaugh's
rebuttal be got rid of.

What may perhaps be urged against him, as against land nationalisers
from Mill onwards, is that the theory which makes land the main matter
is partly undermined by the economic evolution in which agricultural
land values in this country have receded, the food supply being more
and more derived from abroad, in return for exported goods. On this
head, however, it may here suffice to answer that that is in all
likelihood a temporary phase; that in any case, English industry rests
on the coal supply, which is a matter of land in the economic sense;
and that a Socialism which thinks to maintain a forever increasing
population, on the basis of a mere national workshop system, is much
more short-sighted than the doctrine which makes the land the fulcrum
of all industrial movement.

There is just one criticism of Bradlaugh's politics which the present
writer will not undertake to meet, since it raises a point on which he
was driven to differ from him. It is the objection to the optimistic
assumption that the mass of the people can surmount the trouble of
chronic trade-depression by means of thrift. This was perhaps the one
touch of uncritical optimism in Bradlaugh's political system. He argued
that the workers could acquire all necessary capital for themselves
by simple saving. "You can earn it," he tells them, at the close of
his lecture on "Capital and Labour,"--"the Rothschilds' wealth, the
Overstones' wealth, the Barings' wealth--you, the millions, if you
are only loyal to yourselves and to one another, may put all this
into your own Savings Banks, and your own friendly societies, and
your own trades unions, within a dozen years. You accumulate it for
others: you can do it for yourselves." The answer to this is that the
capital in question depends for its continuance on the continuance of
industrial production, and of the demand for the product; whereas, if
the workers were to stint their consumption to the extent of saving
great masses of capital from wages, they would to that extent check
their total production, unless, that is, the other classes increase
their consumption to a balancing extent; which, however, they could not
conceivably do. Even if the birth-rate be so checked as to lessen the
nett population, the increasing power of machinery would so far balance
the lessened supply of labour that the tactic of parsimony on a large
scale would defeat itself. At present the successful savers are so in
virtue of the ill-luck of other investors and the non-saving of the
mass. Saving all round would neutralise itself, since the saving could
only be profitably invested in production to meet increasing demand,
whereas in the terms of the case there would be decreasing demand. It
is spending that keeps the machine going, not saving.

But supposing this criticism to be valid--and there are still but
few who will endorse it--the final estimate of Bradlaugh, as of any
politician, must be in terms of comparison; and if he has erred on the
theory of thrift, so have all the statesmen of his time; while on other
great issues on which they were backward, he was alert and enlightened.
Even the Socialists who oppose him, and throw at him the ancient
epithet of "Manchester," have in many cases committed themselves to the
Manchester school's doctrine of saving, deriding those who contravene
it. And on the concrete issues on which they were opposed to him, it
is not difficult to show that Manchesterism had the right end of the
stick. On the Eight Hours' question, in particular, the Socialist
attack on him is not only subversive of other Socialist doctrine, but
is a _reductio ad absurdum_. He is accused of inconsistency, because he
wrought for State interference with the relations of labour and capital
in his Truck Act, but opposed State regulation of working hours. But,
on the one hand, the two cases are fundamentally different, since
working hours depend on the whole economic situation, while Truck is
an arbitrary arrangement of the masters, only possible in peculiar
local circumstances; and on the other hand, if the Truck Act logically
commits us to interference with working time, then a time law will
logically commit us to a wages law, which even the Socialist critic
admits to be folly.

That Bradlaugh was no pedantic individualist is shown, not only by his
Truck Act, but by his agitation for a Labour Bureau, which was the
origin of that institution, though the official Liberal press usually
gives all the credit to Mr Mundella, who merely acted on Bradlaugh's
urging. And while the latter held that the action of the trade unions
was in some cases mistaken, he never ceased to urge their attention to
political affairs all round.

 "Many of the great trades organisations and friendly societies,"
 he wrote in 1889, "have until recently prided themselves on being
 non-political. Some of the trades societies and nearly all the
 friendly societies still so pride themselves. This has been a serious
 blunder, especially in a country where much legislation has been
 the work of a very limited class for the conservation of their own
 privileges."[117]

[Footnote 117: "Parliament and the Poor."]

His limitary principle was one of sound common-sense, whether or not
he recognised the full force of the economic indictment of competitive
individualism.

 "A good working doctrine for legislatures should be to mould conduct
 rather by the development of sound public opinion than by the
 operation of penal laws. Especially should the legislature be careful
 not to profess to do that for the worker, which it is reasonably
 possible for him to do for himself without the aid of the law. A duty
 enforced by others is seldom so well performed as a duty affirmed by
 the doer."

And these principles, which perhaps serve even some professed Liberals
mainly as a ground for doing nothing, were with him a ground for
insisting on an act of justice and expediency which such Liberals have
been very loth to accede to. Bradlaugh's action in the great test case
of recent English politics is a decisive proof of his foresight.


§ 5.

As the story of his life has shown, Bradlaugh had had special
opportunities of studying the Irish question from the inside; and
from the day when his young blood boiled at the murderous cruelty of
an Irish eviction, he steadfastly supported the cause of the misruled
Irish people. He never ceased to love England with that touch of pride
and faith which is the whole stock-in-trade of the average patriot;
but, combining it as he did with an intense sense of justice, he could
never let that devotion blind him to the wrongs of other peoples at
England's hands. And in the first years of his political activity, when
he was pleading for rebel Poles and rebel Italians, he seems to have
so far recognised the right of Irishmen to use force against the force
of England, that he assisted the Fenian conspirators of 1867 to draw
up their Republican proclamation, so revising it as to exclude every
expression of race hatred and every appeal to religious feeling; "the
complete separation of Church and State" being one of its stipulations.
The full details of that connection will probably never now be known;
but what is quite clear is that Bradlaugh was not only then opposed to
the idea of an Irish Republic, but soon ceased to have the least faith
in the possibility of a successful or even a well-planned Irish rising;
while his invariable opposition to useless violence was emphatic in the
case of the Clerkenwell and other outrages. All the more earnestly did
he continue his propaganda for Irish reform. Holding as he did that
the land question was fundamental in English politics, he could not
but see that it was the very heart of the Irish trouble; and to the
agitation for Irish land law reform he gave energetic support. But he
was always far ahead of the slow movement of average English opinion;
and while English Liberals were hoping that the concessions carried
out by Gladstone would make Ireland a contented partner in the Union,
Bradlaugh had already given his assent to the claim for Home Rule;
always, however, flatly opposing the doctrine of separation. On this
he was explicit when, speaking in New York in 1873, he found otherwise
friendly Irish auditors disposed to be satisfied with nothing short
of absolute severance from England. Home Rule, however, he all along
considered to be not only just but inevitable. While those of us who
hoped for a real Union (with Irishmen admitted to perfect equality in
the Executive system) were urging that as a solution which escaped the
proved dangers of Federalism, he had made up his mind that Englishmen
could not and would not ever deal with Ireland as an integral part of
the State; and he had declared himself a Home Ruler long before Mr
Gladstone, who had frustrated the hope for a true Union by consistently
keeping Irishmen out of his cabinets. That, helping as he thus did
the Home Rule movement, he should yet have been treated with bigoted
hostility and injustice by the bulk of the Irish Nationalists in his
Parliamentary struggle, was so remarkable that explanations were
demanded; and the Nationalists offered several, to the effect that
Bradlaugh had turned against them. It is necessary to go into some
detail to show that this is untrue.

At the outset of his Parliamentary struggle Bradlaugh was not only not
regarded as an opponent by the Nationalists as a political party, but
was even defended by Parnell, although against the wish of most of that
leader's Catholic followers; and despite the quickly shown ill-will of
these, Bradlaugh continued to support their cause in the House during
the nine months of his conditional tenure of his seat, 1880-81. But as
he never hesitated to counter what he held to be wrong policy among
English democrats, so he condemned, albeit reluctantly, what he held to
be unjustifiable courses on the part of the Parnellites. This appears
in his "Parliamentary Jottings" in his journal under date 5th September
1880, where he says he "much regretted, during the long conflict of
Thursday-Friday, to find himself brought into collision with the Irish
members." Nineteen Irish members had spoken, with his entire sympathy,
against the Constabulary Vote; and after midnight they sought to
postpone the discussion, on the ground that "more Irish members wished
to speak," though not a penny of the estimates had been voted. There
were only twelve more Home Rulers present, and they could all have
spoken had they wished. They, however, appealed to the Radicals to help
them to delay business, on the score that the Constabulary Vote was
a "life and death question." As obstruction could only delay and not
stop the vote, Bradlaugh objected, and made a speech to that effect,
which was warmly cheered by the Liberals, and as warmly condemned by
Home Rulers; though, when it came to voting, only 27 of the 61 Home
Rulers went into the lobby. Obstruction he always condemned. This was
a pretext for Irish hostility, though there had been abundance of that
already. Some weeks later he writes:--

 "My personal position as to Ireland is by no means an easy one. I find
 English Radicals in general, and myself in particular the subject of
 constant abuse in Irish journals. I read words attributed to Irish
 members of the House of Commons full of the most intense hostility to
 everything English, and find speakers in their presence declaring
 that the land movement is only the cover for the disruption of the two
 countries."

And after quoting some of the frenzied sayings of Irish Americans, he
appeals to "Mr Parnell and his co-traversers," and other responsible
Nationalists, "not to check our desire to co-operate with them by
their open declarations of hostility to our race;" and "in the name
of humanity ... to check the tendency of the people whom they lead to
waste their energies in worse than useless force." At the same time,
he protested against the prosecution of Mr Parnell and his colleagues
by the Liberal Government, supported the fund for their defence, and
incurred new hostility in England in consequence. Correspondents wrote
him on both sides, and he answered:[118]--

[Footnote 118: _National Reformer_, Nov. 20, 1888.]

 "We must ask both sides to be a little patient. The agrarian crimes
 cannot be justified, nor does our contributing to the Parnell Defence
 justify these. We subscribe in order that he and others may have fair
 play: it is never easy to be defendant in a State trial.... Some
 remind us that three-fourths of the Irish M.P.'s voted against us,
 and nearly every Irish paper attacks us. That is so, but it does not
 alter our duty. Our duty is to work honestly for redress of Irish
 grievances, although even every Irishman should be personally unjust
 to us."

One form of the injustice is seen in an editorial sentence from the
Dublin _Freeman_ about the same time, _àpropos_ of the argument of the
Tory _St James's Gazette_[119] to the effect that over-population was
the cause of Irish distress. "Does the _St James's_ propose," asked
the _Freeman_, "the introduction of Bradlaughism into Ireland, when it
says that the 'rapid growth of population, which is checked in some
countries,' must be fatal to the prosperity of cotter families across
the Channel?" The Tory argument was really a sample of the method of
utilising the principle of population solely as a reason for not doing
justice, while vilifying those who not only see the trouble but point
out the remedy. Not a word of support did Bradlaugh ever get from a
Tory organ in his attempt to avert the evil of over-population. But as
regards Ireland, he not only recognised that over-population there was
positively fostered by the unjust land system, but he again and again
in the House denied that even wholesale emigration, if practicable,
would cure the evil while that system endured. In July 1880 he writes:--

[Footnote 119: Then edited by Mr Frederick Greenwood.]

 "I had to listen to the Hon. B. Fitzpatrick, sent by 118 votes for
 the borough of Portarlington, who, in the course of a wild display of
 imbecility, had the audacity to declare that wholesale emigration of
 the natives of Ireland was the 'only remedy' for Irish distress; and
 this was said by an Irishman."

On the 15th of the same month, in the debate on the second reading
of the Irish Tenants' Compensation Bill, he protested against the
irrelevance of the Tory opposition to the Bill.

 "There had been renewed the argument that Ireland was over-populated,
 and that the tenants who were distressed ought to find in some other
 country the relief they could not find in Ireland. Now, there was
 no colony in England, and there was no part of the United States of
 America, to which any poor man without means could go, hoping to
 benefit himself at the present time. Therefore, those who recommended
 emigration had either never taken the trouble to investigate the
 matter, or were simply talking against time to delay the measure going
 into committee."

Again, though in January 1881 he found himself "driven into the lobby,
for the first time this Session, against the Irish members, only to
vote that the business of the House was not to be absolutely stopped
by an utterly irregular discussion," he took a most active part in
opposing the Government's coercive measures. In the debate on the
address he "made one of eight English Radicals who alone had been
found to record their votes in favour of Mr Parnell's amendment,"
though feeling that the Irish methods of hindering business had kept
many English members out of the Nationalist lobby; and when Mr Forster
made his appeal for special powers, Bradlaugh made a strong speech
in support of one of the Irish amendments.[120] Yet again he felt
bound to vote for the suspension of Mr Biggar, doing it "with very
heavy heart," and grieving "that Irish members should so play into
the hands of their enemies, and so totally damage the cause of their
country." Of the later suspensions of Mr Dillon and the O'Gorman Mahon,
he wrote with much regret; but for others who had, outside, "boasted
that they wished to degrade Parliament," he confessed he had "little
pity." None the less, he moved the rejection of the Coercion Bill on
the second reading, in the never-explained absence of Mr Parnell, who
had suddenly gone to Paris. The Irish Anti-Coercion Committee, who
had just denounced him in one of their leaflets for his votes against
obstruction, felt constrained about this stage to send him a vote of
thanks. All the while, his journal had published numerous articles
sharply attacking the Government's coercion policy.

[Footnote 120: Those were "the days of all-night sittings," forced by
the policy of the Nationalists; and Bradlaugh missed voting on the
motion for leave to bring in the Coercion Bill, by reason of having
gone home to rest after having sat for twenty-six hours out of thirty,
the vote being suddenly taken in his absence on the decision of the
Speaker.]

A vote on the Arms Bill was the last act by which Bradlaugh ministered
to the wish of the Nationalists to have a case against him. He had
repeatedly protested against the advice given by Mr Dillon and others
to Irish peasants to buy rifles; and he held that the case of Ireland
was bad enough without adding to wrong and misery the freedom to seek
amends in murder. His vote on this point, like his votes against
obstruction, were held by the Parnellites to outweigh all his protests
against coercion and all his appeals for land law reform; his exclusion
from Parliament after the decision in the Law Courts in the spring
of 1881 was hailed by most of them with delight; and during his long
battle outside, they were among his worst enemies, the Irish press
and people fully abetting them. Still he never relaxed his advocacy
of the cause of the Irish peasantry, pleading for a merciful and
conciliatory treatment of them when they were hooting his name; and
when he at length obtained his seat in 1886 he gave his unhesitating
support to the Home Rule policy of Mr Gladstone. It was in that year
that a leading Irish Nationalist went up to him in the House with
the greeting, "Mr Bradlaugh, you have been the best Christian of us
all." Considering that only the influence of the Catholic priesthood
could account for the course taken by the Parnellite party, the
acknowledgment--in spirit if not in form--was suggestive of some moral
progress on the Christian side.

It may be questioned whether many Liberals could have thus borne the
test undergone by Bradlaugh on the Irish question. It is certain that
Bright, with all his chivalry and rectitude, was somewhat influenced in
his latter attitude on that question by the evil return which Irishmen
had made to him for all his efforts on their behalf. Bradlaugh
suffered far worse treatment at their hands, but was in no way turned
by it from his conviction of what was just. He was content to recognise
that the people were swayed by the priests, and that in any case it
is vain to look for the moral fruits of equality from a people to
whom equality has been for ages denied. He had been treated by Irish
Nationalists as he had been by English Conservatives; and though he
felt the ingratitude of the former, he would not admit that they had
shown any grosser unscrupulousness than the latter, who had denied
justice to an Englishman on motives of party strategy, reinforced by
religious malice. If there was any difference, it was that the Irishmen
had been more moved by religious malice and less by party strategy; and
it is usual to rate the latter motive the lower of the two.

Bradlaugh himself would never have claimed that he had shown any
special magnanimity in the case; but those who know how much personal
interest or pique counts for in political action will recognise the
singularity of his course. It belonged to his character, equally with
his avowal and advocacy of unpopular opinions. Later, when the question
of Woman Suffrage was being pressed on his constituency, he was told by
Mr Labouchere, as he had been told by others before, that if the women
of Northampton had a vote he would not be returned. His public answer
was:--

 "If I knew this to be true, it would not hinder me from casting my
 vote in favour of woman suffrage, even if my vote alone should be
 required to pass the Bill. I deeply value the representation of
 Northampton, but the grant of the right of woman to the suffrage
 cannot be determined by the fact that, if legalised, her exercise of
 that right according to her conscience would be personally hostile to
 myself."

It may be doubted whether Mr Labouchere gauged the situation aright.
When Bradlaugh stood for Northampton in 1868 and was beaten, the wives
and women-folk of his supporters subscribed their scanty pence, and
bought him a gold pencil-case. If after hearing the utterance above
cited the Northampton women of to-day were capable of voting in the
mass against a man so declaring himself, they would indeed give Mr
Labouchere a better case against their enfranchisement than he has yet
been able to make out. But would they?


§ 6.

In virtue of the qualities which made him a warm friend of Ireland,
Bradlaugh was all his life, and in his latter years still more warmly,
the friend of India. All his instincts of justice and sympathy
were moved by the spectacle of that vast congeries of immemorially
immature races, ruled by a bureaucracy of Englishmen, none of whom
would for a moment be trusted to exercise similar power over their
fellow-countrymen, but all of whom collectively are assumed by their
countrymen to need next to no supervision when ruling a "lower" race.
Again and again Bradlaugh protested, as other Englishmen had protested
before him, against the inveterate apathy with which the House of
Commons regards Indian questions, as shown by the scanty handful of
members who attend to hear them discussed once a year. The death of
Professor Fawcett, "the member for India," left Indian interests ill
cared for indeed, and immediately on gaining his seat Bradlaugh stepped
into the vacant place, although it was by itself work enough for one
man, and he had three men's work on hand besides.

His speech on India in 1883 to his constituents shows the broad and
systematic way in which he approached the problem. He studied it with
the minute care he bestowed on every subject he handled; and in a few
years he acquired by his work an amount of popularity among natives
such as had never before been earned by an Englishman outside India,
and by few Anglo-Indians. As this work was mostly done after his
Parliamentary struggle was over, the record of it belongs to the story
of his closing years; but it was only the consistent sequel to his
previous political life. He took up the cause of India as he had done
those of Italy, Poland, Ireland, of Boers, Zulus, and Egyptians, with
no thought or prospect of personal gain, out of sheer zeal for justice
and hatred of oppression. And inasmuch as Anglo-Indians of the school
of Mr Rudyard Kipling have consistently derided and denounced his
Indian policy, it may be fitting to note at this point the advantage
that policy has over such opposition in respect of its relation
to universal political principles. The doctrine of Mr Kipling's
school--who may be defined as barbaric sentimentalists--is that Asia in
general, and India in particular, are absolute exceptions to all the
principles of European politics. The East, they say, is unprogressive,
unchangeable, unimprovable. The most direct confutation of that
doctrine is supplied by the simple fact of the persistence of the
Congress movement, which at its outset the sentimentalists scouted as a
chimera. Whatever may be its outcome, they are for ever discredited, in
that they declared the thing itself, when broached, to be impossible.
And those whose sociology goes deeper and wider than a rule-of-thumb
acquaintance with part of the actual life of a race or a region are
aware that India can no more than any other land resist the laws of
social transmutation, given the transmuting forces and conditions.
It is extremely unfortunate that many Englishmen are ready to accept
as final the sweeping sociological dicta of Mr Kipling, on the score
merely of his first-hand knowledge of Indian life and his literary
genius. Foolish generalisations on social possibilities have been made
in every country in every age by men with first-hand knowledge of their
theme; and it must be regretfully said that foolish men of genius are
among the most eminent darkeners of counsel on such matters. When Mr
Kipling gives a particular account of a particular phase of Indian
life, Englishmen who in the terms of the case have no knowledge of
that life accept the account as a "revelation," when obviously their
estimate of it in that light has no critical value whatever. Strong
in the suffrages of such judges, Mr Kipling has been pleased to speak
of Bradlaugh as being prepared by defective education to take that
mistaken view of Indian life which Mr Kipling inexpensively imputes
to all inquiring Englishmen at home. The sufficient answer to that
criticism is that there are many kinds of defective education, and
that nobody can well be further wrong about India than Mr Kipling,
inasmuch as he has himself contradicted every one of his own numerous
generalisations by others. He first came forward with pictures of the
Indian Civil and Military Services, in which they appeared nearly as
corrupt as those of Russia are said to be: husbands getting promotion
on the score of their wives' adultery, and so forth. Later he saw fit
to represent the Indian Civil Service as embodying every virtue a
Civil Service can have. As a rule, he pictures the English in India
as the "Dominant Race," with impressive capitals, and the natives as
being universally cowards. When, however, a native officer can "play
like a lambent flame" on the polo-field, and can transgress every
law of hospitality by thrasonically declaring defiance to Russia in
the person of a Russian officer at a British mess-table, that native
becomes even as an Englishman in Mr Kipling's eyes. The simple canon of
Mr Kipling is the feeling that any race which thwarts his own must be
base. Thus every indiscreet Russian officer must needs be a blackguard,
and every disaffected Irishman a ruffian and a sneak; the evil
principle being so deep rooted that the Asiatic children of an Irishman
spontaneously take to cutting off cows' tails; though at the same time
the Irish soldier is a hero of heroes, if only he is duly devoted to
"the Queen, God bless her." It will be a bad business for English rule
in India when minds which sociologise in this fashion come to be the
guides of the British people in their political relations with their
dependency.

Bradlaugh, it may suffice to say, was under no delusions as to the
present political capacity of the Indian races. He perfectly recognised
their bias to rhetoric and their immaturity of character, as well as
the enormous difficulties in the way of their political amalgamation.
Hence his programme for them was an extremely gradual introduction
of the principle of self-rule. Nothing could be more judicious and
restrained than his brief address to the Congress on his brief visit
to India after his dangerous illness of 1889, within about a year of
his death. And the chances are that before a generation is over his
view of the case will be the accepted commonplace of Liberal politics;
while the notion of a perpetual domination of Englishmen in a country
where they cannot rear healthy children will be regarded as a crowning
flight of unscientific political sentiment. In any case, it implies no
great rashness to predict that an England which ignores the affairs of
its subjects as much as possible in Parliament will not long be able to
maintain a despotic rule over a people accessible to Western ideas. The
Home Rule principle, which was for Bradlaugh a principle of universal
virtue, however different the degree of its application to a given case
at a given moment, must in time be wrought out in India as elsewhere,
if only it goes forward in the West, and the West keeps up its growing
intercourse with the East. And it was one of his many political merits
to have been one of the first to see this not only abstractly but in
the concrete.

       *       *       *       *       *

Enough has now been said to convey a broad idea of the manner and
matter of Bradlaugh's philosophy of life, cosmical and political, as
it was developed and acted on by him at the time of his most memorable
appearance on the arena of British public life. At that time much
work, though not many years of life, remained to him, so that some who
then opposed him claimed afterwards that they could not have known his
capacities for good, as exhibited in his extraordinary Parliamentary
labours. But the foregoing account of his teaching and action will
probably suffice to show that his political career was all of a piece,
and that at the time of his ostracism he had given proof of all the
powers and opinions which were later admitted to do him honour.
Neither, as we shall see, did he in later life surrender any one of the
teachings of his earlier years. He laid more stress on some and less on
others; but he unsaid nothing, and for the most part he did but carry
on his youthful programme. Before 1880 he had been the ardent and yet
sagacious friend of oppressed nationalities, the advocate of Radical
land law reform, the defender of liberty of conscience, the exponent
of the claims of the poor against the rich, the preacher of unpopular
but all-important doctrines on personal conduct. In the brief period
of his first tenure of his seat he wrought vigorously against the
abuse of Perpetual Pensions, which he was later the means of removing,
though not in a fashion fully satisfying to himself. In the same
period he exhibited a constant concern for the remedying of all manner
of grievances. As early as 1863, too, he had taken what Mill rightly
calls the extremely undemagoguelike line of publishing a pamphlet in
favour of Proportional Representation, on the lines of Hare's scheme--a
"counsel of perfection" still too high for most democrats.

As for his general tone of feeling on the questions which turn in an
equal degree on feeling and judgment, it is well illustrated by the
last non-personal speech he made in the House in the period of his
conditional tenure of his seat. It was delivered on 28th March, and was
on the subject of flogging in the army:--

"Mr Bradlaugh said he wished to say a few words on this matter from
a different point of view than other members who had spoken. He had
been a private in the army during the time that flogging was permitted
for offences now described as trivial, and he heard the same argument
used, that it would cause a relaxation of discipline if flogging were
abolished. If hon. members opposite knew the feeling of the soldiers at
that time it would have much modified some of the speeches delivered
to-day (hear, hear); and the hon. member for Sunderland (Sir H.
Havelock-Allan) would be surprised to hear the number of letters
he had received from private soldiers, asking him to speak on this
subject to-day. There was a feeling of utter detestation against the
punishment, not simply on the part of the men who were likely to suffer
from it, but on the part of every one else. Private soldiers in England
occupied a position which no other private soldier in the whole of
Europe occupied, and he did not know any other country in the whole
world where it was a disgrace to wear the uniform of your country. He
remembered upon one occasion he went into an hotel in a great city
and ordered a cup of coffee, and was told that he could not be served
because he wore the uniform of his country. All punishments which
made soldiers seem less reputable than their fellow-citizens ought to
be abolished. He asked the Government to allow nothing whatever to
influence them in favour of this most degrading punishment. The men
who once felt the lash were not loyal to any command, and they felt a
bitterness and an abhorrence of every one connected with the ordering
of the punishment. If they flogged a man engaged on active service, he
was either a good man or a bad man, a man of some spirit or none at
all. If he were a man of any spirit, there were weapons in his hands,
and he might use them for purposes of revenge. The hon. and gallant
member for Wigton Burghs talked of men who preferred the lash. The army
would be far better without such men. (Mr Childers: Hear, hear.) He had
seen the lash applied, the man tied up, and stripped in the sight of
his comrades; he had seen the body blacken and the skin break; he had
heard the dull thud of the lash as it fell on the blood-soddened flesh,
and he was glad of having the opportunity of making his voice heard
against it to-day, and trusted that nothing would induce the Government
to retain under any conditions such a brutal punishment. (Cheers.)"

And it was with these matters in their knowledge that a majority of the
House of Commons subjected him for five years to an extremity of wanton
injustice of which it is still difficult to think without burning
anger. The story of that injustice must now be separately told.



CHAPTER III.

THE PARLIAMENTARY STRUGGLE.


_Chronological Summary._

 1880 April  2. Bradlaugh elected (with Mr Labouchere) for Northampton.
      May    3. Asked to be allowed to make affirmation of allegiance. A
                  Select Committee agreed to be appointed to consider his
                  claim.
            12. Committee of 17 appointed.
            20. Committee reported, by casting vote of Chairman, against
                  the claim to affirm.
                Bradlaugh announces his intention to take the oath.
            21. Presented himself at the table of the House to do so.
                  Motion made that he be not permitted. Amendment moved by
                  Mr Gladstone, that the claim to take the oath be
                  referred to a Select Committee, carried by 289 votes
                  to 214.
            28. Committee of 23 appointed.
       June  2. Bradlaugh examined by Committee.
            16. Committee reported that Bradlaugh could not properly take
                  the oath, and recommended that he be allowed to affirm
                  at his legal peril.
            21. Motion made by Mr Labouchere that he be allowed to affirm.
            22. Motion defeated by 275 votes to 230.
            23. Bradlaugh again presented himself, claiming to be sworn.
                  Made his _First Speech at the Bar_. Refusing to withdraw,
                  was finally taken into custody on motion of Sir Stafford
                  Northcote.
            24. Bradlaugh unconditionally released from custody.
       July  1. Mr Gladstone moved as a Standing Order that members-elect
                  be allowed at their choice to affirm, at their legal
                  peril. Motion carried by 303 votes to 249.
             2. Bradlaugh made affirmation of allegiance and took his seat.
                  On giving his first vote, was served with a writ suing
                  for penalty.
            14. Tory Bill introduced to incapacitate all Atheists for
                  membership (fell through).
 1881  Mar. 11. Judgment given against Bradlaugh in suit for penalty, he
                  being thus pronounced unqualified to make affirmation of
                  allegiance. Bradlaugh gave notice of appeal.
            31. Judgment given against him on appeal. Seat thus vacated.
 1881 April  9. Bradlaugh re-elected for Northampton, by 3437 votes to
                  3305.
            26. Presented himself to be sworn. Made his _Second Speech at
                  the Bar_. Motion made that he be not allowed to take the
                  oath, carried by 208 votes to 175, many Liberals and
                  Home Rulers abstaining. Bradlaugh again presented himself
                  to be sworn, and refused to withdraw. House
                  adjourned.
            27. Bradlaugh presented himself as before, and refused to
                  withdraw. After debate, withdrew on informal
                  understanding that Government should attempt to introduce
                  an Affirmation Bill.
            29. Government announced this intention.
        May  2. Attorney-General in Commons moved for leave to introduce
                  Bill. Debate adjourned.
                 Lords Justices of Appeal decided against Bradlaugh on the
                 separate issue of his affirmation being a sufficient
                 answer to the claim that he was liable in a penalty for
                 voting without being sworn.
             6. Debate in Commons again adjourned owing to Tory
                  obstruction.
            10. Government, owing to continued obstruction, postponed the
                  Bill. Resolution carried, on motion of Tory leader, that
                  Bradlaugh be prevented entering House.
            16-17.  Clarke's counsel moved before Lord Coleridge and Mr
                  Bowen for judgment. Bradlaugh moved to be heard
                  afresh on the point of the validity of the writ, the
                  issue of which he contended had been too soon for
                  legality.
            25. Bill of indemnity to Bradlaugh, introduced by Mr
                  Labouchere, blocked by Mr Newdegate, who had been
                  the private maintainer of the action for penalties.
       June 20-21. Plaintiff having amended statement as to date of
                  voting, and Bradlaugh demurring that writ was void as
                  being dated on the day of the voting sued upon, Justices
                  Denman and Watkin Williams decided against him on the
                  legal point. Bradlaugh appealed.
       July 19, 20, 22. The question of fact as to the actual hour of issue
                  of the writ came before Justice Grove and a special jury.
                  The jury, after declaring themselves unlikely to agree,
                  gave a majority verdict in favour of Clarke.
            27. Police summonses obtained on Bradlaugh's behalf against
                  Mr Newdegate and his solicitor for the criminal offence
                  of maintenance.
            28, and Aug. 1. Bradlaugh moved before Justices Grove and
                  Lindley for a new trial on the point of time of issue of
                  Clarke's writ, and argued the point. Decision delayed.
 1881 Aug.  3. Bradlaugh, on trying to enter the House, was seized by
                 officials; and he resisting, was forcibly ejected after a
                 struggle by four messengers and ten policemen. Immediately
                 afterwards he was formally resisted in a formal
                 attempt by Inspector Denning.
            5. Application by Bradlaugh for a summons against Inspector
                 Denning refused by Mr D'Eyncourt, police magistrate.
            8. Rule _nisi_ for a new trial granted by Justices Grove and
                 Lindley.
     Sept. 20. The summonses against Newdegate and his solicitor dismissed
                 by Mr Vaughan, magistrate.
      Nov. 12 and 14. Bradlaugh's appeal from the decision of Justices
                 Denman and Watkin Williams (as to validity of writ dated
                 on day of ground of action) heard by Lord Coleridge and
                 Lord Justices Baggallay and Brett. Decision again against
                 Bradlaugh.
      Dec. 2 and 3. Pleadings heard on the rule _nisi_ for a new trial on
                 the question of fact as to the hour of issue of the writ.
                 Rule made absolute in Bradlaugh's favour.
 1882 Feb.  7. On the reassembling of Parliament, Bradlaugh again presented
                 himself, the excluding order having expired with the
                 Session in which it was passed. Northcote moved that he
                 be not allowed to swear. Government moved the previous
                 question. Bradlaugh _heard at Bar for the Third Time_.
                 Northcote's motion carried by 286 votes to 228. Bradlaugh
                 again presented himself, but being ordered to withdraw
                 below the bar, did so.
           10. Mr Labouchere moved for a new writ for Northampton.
                 This refused by 307 votes to 18. Bradlaugh then advanced
                 to the table, administered the oath to himself, withdrew
                 below the bar on the Speaker's order, but returned and
                 took his seat. Churchill moved that the seat be declared
                 vacant. Debate adjourned.
           21. Northcote moved an amendment to exclude Bradlaugh from
                 the precincts of the House. On its being noticed that
                 Bradlaugh had again seated himself within the House (he
                 proposing to speak), the Speaker ordered him to withdraw,
                 and Northcote moved his complete expulsion. This
                 carried by 297 votes to 80, and a new writ was agreed to.
           21. Judgment given against Bradlaugh in Clarke's appeal against
                 rule for a new trial.
      Mar.  2. Bradlaugh once more elected for Northampton by 3796 votes
                 to 3688.
            6. Northcote again moved that Bradlaugh be not allowed to
                 take the oath should he again present himself. Mr
                 Marjoribanks moved amendment that it was desirable to
                 amend the law, making affirmation optional. Northcote's
                 motion carried by 259 votes to 244.
 1882 Mar. 29. "Judgment" given against Bradlaugh for £500 penalty.
                 Costs reserved.
      April.   Action brought by Bradlaugh against Mr Erskine, Deputy
                 Sergeant-at-Arms, for assault of 3rd August 1881.
       May  9. Bradlaugh moved before Lord Justices Brett and Cotton for
                 leave to appeal in Clarke case on point of costs. Appeal
                 dismissed: matter left to the House of Lords with the
                 main appeal.
           15. Justices Manisty and Watkin Williams declined to hear
                 friendly action by Gurney against Bradlaugh for not
                 taking his seat. Pleadings to be readjusted.
      July.    Affirmation Bill, introduced by Duke of Argyll in House of
                 Lords, defeated.
           11. Prosecution begun against Bradlaugh, Foote, and Ramsey
                 by Sir Henry Tyler, before Lord Mayor, for "publication
                 of blasphemous libels" in the _Freethinker_.
           21. Bradlaugh "committed for trial." Bail accepted.
      Nov. 10. Justice Mathew declined to hear Gurney's action on
                 readjusted pleadings, and discharged jury.
      Dec. 18. Bradlaugh's action against Mr Erskine dismissed by Justice
                 Field.
 1883 Feb.  2. Second _Freethinker_ prosecution begun, Bradlaugh not being
                 included.
           20. Government moved for leave to introduce an Affirmation Bill:
                 motion carried by 184 votes to 53.
      Mar.  5 and 6. Bradlaugh's appeal in the Clarke suit heard by the
                 House of Lords, he pleading in person.
            6. Foote, Ramsey, and Kemp sentenced to terms of imprisonment
                 in _Freethinker_ prosecution.
            9 and 17. Bradlaugh's action against Newdegate for
                "maintenance" heard by Lord Coleridge, Bradlaugh appearing
                 by counsel.
     April  9. House of Lords gave judgment for Bradlaugh in his appeal,
                 with costs.
           10. Bradlaugh separately tried on the first _Freethinker_
                 indictment before Lord Coleridge and a jury. Verdict of
                 acquittal.
           23. Lord Coleridge gave judgment for Bradlaugh against
                 Newdegate, with costs.
     April 24 and 25. Foote and Ramsey (now prisoners on conviction in
                 second prosecution) tried before Lord Coleridge and a
                 jury on the original indictment. After the judge's
                 summing up, the jury disagreeing, the Crown decided
                 to abandon this prosecution (prisoners already very
                 heavily sentenced).
           23-May 3. Debate on second reading of Affirmation Bill.
                 Bill rejected by a majority of 3--292 against and 289 for.
       May  4. Bradlaugh again presented himself to be sworn. Northcote
                 moved that he be not allowed to take the oath. Being
                  allowed to speak, Bradlaugh made his _Fourth Speech at
                  the Bar_. Mr Labouchere moved the "previous question,"
                  and was defeated by 271 votes to 165.
 1883  July 9.  Bradlaugh having notified his intention again to present
                  himself (by way of raising a testing action at law)
                  Northcote moved his exclusion. Carried by 232 votes to
                  65.
           19.  Bradlaugh began test action against the Sergeant-at-Arms
                  for resisting his entrance to the House.
       Dec. 7.  Bradlaugh _v._ Gossett heard before Lord Coleridge and
                  Justices Stephen and Mathew.
 1884  Feb. 9.  Judgment given against Bradlaugh.
           11.  Bradlaugh once more presented himself at the table of
                  the House, and administered the oath to himself. Motion
                  by Northcote that he had not really sworn, and that he
                  be not allowed to swear, carried by 258 votes to 161.
                  Motion by Northcote of complete exclusion, carried by
                  228 to 120.
           12.  New writ allowed for Northampton after Tory resistance.
           19.  Bradlaugh re-elected for Northampton by 4032 votes, to
                  3664 for Richards.
           21.  Though Bradlaugh undertook not to present himself till
                  the decision were given in the action to be brought
                  against him by the Government for his last oath-taking,
                  Northcote moved afresh his complete exclusion from the
                  precincts of the House. Carried by 226 to 173.
      June 13-18.  Government's action against Bradlaugh for illegally
                  taking the oath, heard before Lord Coleridge, Mr Baron
                  Huddleston, and Mr Justice Grove, "sitting at bar," and a
                  jury, five counsel acting for the Crown, Bradlaugh
                  pleading his own cause.
           30.  Lord Coleridge summed up. Jury gave answers for the
                  Crown. Bradlaugh asked for a stay to move for a new
                  trial.
       Dec. 6.  Motion for new trial heard by the same judges sitting "_in
                  banc_". Rule refused. Bradlaugh appealed.
           15.  Appeal heard by Lords Justices Brett, Cotton, and Lindley.
           18.  Judges of appeal gave rule _nisi_ on points of law only,
                  the appeal in arrest of judgment to be argued at the
                  same time.
 1885 Jan. 26.  Arguments heard on whole case.
           26.  Judgment given against Bradlaugh as incapable of taking
                  an oath in law. Notice of appeal given.
       July 6.  On the new (Conservative) ministry taking office, Bradlaugh
                  again presented himself to be sworn. Motion of exclusion
                  by Sir M. Hicks-Beach. Amendment moved by Mr
                  Hopwood (who had introduced an Affirmation Bill)
                  declaring that legislation was necessary, lost by 219
                  votes to 263.
 1885 Nov. 25. Bradlaugh again carried for Northampton at the general
                 election, the figures being--Labouchere 4845; Bradlaugh
                 4315; Richards 3890.
 1886 Jan. 13. The new Speaker (Mr Peel) permitted Bradlaugh to take the
                 oath, refusing to allow any interference.
               Affirmation Bill introduced by Mr Sergeant Simon, but never
                 brought to a second reading.
 1888 Aug.  9. Bradlaugh carried a general Affirmation Bill, which passed
                 the House of Lords and became law.
 1891 Jan. 27. While Bradlaugh lay dying, the House of Commons passed
                 a resolution, moved by Mr W. A. Hunter, expunging
                 from the Journals of the House the resolutions excluding
                 him in former years.


§ 1.

In the general election of 1880 Bradlaugh was at length elected member
for Northampton. He had fought the constituency for twelve years,
and had been defeated at three elections, at one of which he was
not present. As has been made plain from the story of his life thus
far, it was his way to carry out to the end any undertaking on which
he entered, unless he found it to be wholly impracticable; and he
was very slow to feel that an aim was impracticable because it took
long-continued effort to realise it. He seems first to have thought
of standing for Northampton about 1866. At that time Northampton was
already reckoned a likely Radical constituency, not so much on account
of its Parliamentary record as on the strength of the Radical element
in its population. The trouble was that for long the bulk of the
workers were not electors. His eloquence could win him a splendid show
of hands in the market-place, but the polls told a different tale. The
Whiggish middle classes were in the main intensely hostile to him, on
political as well as on religious grounds; and the influence of pastors
and masters alike was zealously used against him. After the passing of
the Household Suffrage Act of 1868, however, the constituency became
every year more democratic. The Freehold Land Society, some of whose
founders and leading members were among his most devoted and capable
followers, created year after year scores of freeholds, the property of
workers, in a fashion that has finally made Northampton almost unique
among our manufacturing towns. The electorate, which in 1874 had stood
at 6829, had in 1880 risen to 8189; and of these it was estimated that
2,500 had never before voted. Of the new voters, the majority were
pretty sure to be Radicals, and as Bradlaugh's hold on the constituency
had grown stronger with every struggle, it began to be apparent to many
of the "moderate Liberals" that a union between their party and his
must be accepted if the two seats were not to remain in Tory hands.
In the early spring, however, the confusion of candidatures seemed
hopeless. Mr (now Sir) Thomas Wright of Leicester stood as a Liberal
candidate at the request of a large body of the electors, and though
not combining with Bradlaugh, deprecated the running of a second and
hostile Liberal candidate. Other Liberals, however, brought forward
in succession three candidates, of whom the once well-known Mr Ayrton
was the most important. He, however, failed to gain ground, partly
by reason of the qualities which had made him a disastrous colleague
to Mr Gladstone's ministry, partly by reason of coming to grief in a
controversy with Bradlaugh as to the facts of the agitation for a free
press, and free right of meeting in Hyde Park, in regard to which Mr
Ayrton claimed official credit. His candidature finally fell through
when he met with an accident. A Mr Hughes was brought forward, only to
be removed from the contest by an attack of illness. Mr Jabez Spencer
Balfour, of recent notoriety, made a very favourable impression, but
could not persuade "moderates" enough that the Liberals ought to unite
with the Radicals. A little later Mr Labouchere was introduced, and
giving his voice at once for union, found so much support that Mr
Wright, with great generosity and public spirit, shortly withdrew,
giving his support to the joint candidature of Bradlaugh and
Labouchere, who stood pretty much alike in their Radicalism, though the
latter was described in the local Liberal press as the "nominee of the
moderate Liberals." As he explained in his own journal, a man who was a
moderate Liberal in Northampton would rank as a Radical anywhere else.
The joint candidature once agreed upon, victory was secure.

The Tory candidates were the former sitting members, Mr Phipps, the
leading local brewer, and Mr Merewether, a lawyer. Their platform
opposition was not formidable, and the greatest play on their
side was made by the clergy and the press, who sought to make the
contest turn as far as possible on Bradlaugh's atheism and on his
Neo-Malthusianism. Nearly all the Established Church clergy, and some
of the Nonconformists preached fervently against the "infidel." On
the Sunday before the election the vicar of St Giles' intimated that
"to those noble men who loved Christ more than party, Jesus would
say, 'Well done!'" and on the day before the poll many thousands of
theological circulars were showered upon the constituency. On the other
hand, the deep resentment of Lord Beaconsfield's foreign policy felt by
a great part of the nation led to unheard-of concessions on the part
of the Nonconformists. The late Mr Samuel Morley, a representative
Dissenter, wealthy and pious, being appealed to for an expression
of opinion on the Northampton situation, sent to Mr Labouchere a
telegram--soon repented of--"strongly urging necessity of united effort
in all sections of the Liberal party, and the sinking of minor and
personal questions, with many of which I deeply sympathise, in order to
prevent the return, in so pronounced a constituency as Northampton, of
even one Conservative." At the same time Mr Spurgeon was without the
slightest foundation described in the Tory press as having said, with
regard to the fight at Northampton, that "if the devil himself were a
Liberal candidate, he would vote for him;" and it was supposed that the
anecdote affected some votes.

But before any of these episodes had occurred, Bradlaugh was tolerably
well assured of victory. His organisation, then controlled by his
staunch supporter Councillor Thomas Adams, who lived to be Mayor of
Northampton, was perfect; and he knew his strength as nearly as a
candidate ever can who has not already been elected. The combination
of his forces with those of Mr Labouchere of course strengthened him;
yet such was still the strength of religious animosity that though the
joint candidature stood on the footing of a strict division of votes,
every elector having two, for the two seats, the Liberal press still
encouraged "plumping," and many then, as later, voted for Mr Labouchere
who would not vote for Bradlaugh, thus provoking a smaller number of
the latter's supporters to "plump" for their man in turn. The result
was that the election figures stood:--Labouchere (L.) 4518; Bradlaugh
(R.) 3827; Phipps (C.) 3152; Merewether (C.) 2826.

No sooner were the results known throughout the country than the
Northampton election became a theme of special comment, and of course
of special outcry from the defeated party. One journal, the _Sheffield
Telegraph_, which about the same time described the Scriptural
phrase about the dog and his vomit as a "popular, though somewhat
coarse saying," designated Bradlaugh as "the bellowing blasphemer of
Northampton." Mr Samuel Morley was hotly assailed, and promptly wrote
to the _Record_ a pitiful letter of recantation, which ended:--

 "No feeling of pride prevents my saying that I deeply regret the step
 I took, which was really the work of a moment; and I feel assured that
 no one who knows me will doubt that I view with intense repugnance
 the opinions which are held by Mr Bradlaugh on religious and social
 questions."

To which Mr Bradlaugh in his own journal replied that he had had no
part whatever in the appeal to Mr Samuel Morley, and that he would have
been elected all the same if Mr Morley had done nothing, adding the
following:--

 "We have no knowledge of the opinions of Mr Morley except that he
 is reputedly very rich, and therefore exceedingly good; but we must
 express in turn our intense repugnance to the conduct of Mr Morley,
 who having accidentally been betrayed into an act of kindness to a
 fellow-creature, regrets the act when pressure is brought to bear upon
 him by a pack of cowardly and anonymous bigots, and couples the public
 expression of his regret with a voluntary insult to one for whom Mr
 Morley publicly expressed great respect on the only occasion on which
 the two have yet come publicly in contact."

Mr Spurgeon, who had been quite falsely accused of avowing readiness to
welcome the devil as a Liberal candidate, had the manliness to declare,
while indignantly repudiating that latitudinarian doctrine, that Mr
Bradlaugh's claims to be returned to Parliament were not to be measured
by his piety or orthodoxy.


§ 2.

But the question was soon carried into a greater arena. The elections
were over in April; on 3rd May Parliament assembled, and Bradlaugh's
first problem was to choose his course in the matter of the oath of
allegiance, the taking of which by members of Parliament is still
made a condition of their taking their seats. It has long been felt
by the thoughtful few, even including Theists, that oath-taking, a
barbaric and primevally superstitious act under all circumstances,
is gratuitously absurd in the case of admission to Parliament, where
it serves to bring about the maximum of religious indecorum without
in any way affecting the action of anybody. Originally set up in the
reign of Elizabeth, the Parliamentary oath was maintained in the
interest of disputed dynasties, though it was notoriously taken by
hundreds of men who were perfectly ready to overthrow, if they could,
the dynasty to which they swore allegiance. Now that there is no
longer any question of rival dynasties, and that no instructed person
disputes the power of Parliament to abolish the Monarchy, the oath of
allegiance is maintained by the stolid unreason which supports the
monarchic tradition all round. State after State has abandoned the
practice as absurd; but Britain clings to it with hardly even a demur,
save from men of the chair. France since 1870 has had neither oath nor
affirmation, though, if oaths could be supposed to count for anything,
the Republic might fitly have exacted them. Since 1868 affirmation has
been substituted for the Parliamentary oath in Austria; and congressmen
and senators in the United States have their choice between swearing
and affirming. Neither oath nor affirmation is exacted in the German
Reichstag, though the members of the Prussian Diet, like those of the
States General of Holland, still swear. In Italy, the performance is
attenuated to the utterance of the one word "Giuro," "I swear." In
Spain, where it has never deterred rebellion, the oath, as might be
expected, remains mediævally elaborate.

Before Bradlaugh's time the oath in England had been adapted to
the requirements of Catholics, Quakers, and Jews successively, the
resistance increasing considerably in the last case. O'Connell's
refusal to take the Protestant oath of supremacy in 1829, when there
were three separate oaths--one of allegiance, one of supremacy, and one
of adjuration--led to the passing of an Act permitting Catholic members
to take the Catholic oath, already provided under the Catholic Relief
Act for use in Ireland. Protestant public opinion avowedly regarded
all Irish Catholics with distrust as being disaffected, but the Tory
leaders being committed to Catholic Emancipation, the resistance was
overpowered. The next extension took place under Whig auspices.

In 1833 the Quakers, who in the case of Archdale in 1699 had been held
incapable of sitting in Parliament by reason of their refusal to swear,
were allowed to affirm, first by resolution of the House, later by Act.
This was done at the instance of a Quaker member, Sir Joseph Pease, who
besides being rich enjoyed personally the respect latterly accorded to
his sect by those which formerly persecuted it.

Then came the case of the Jews, first raised in the person of
Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, in 1850. There was now a triple
Protestant oath, and an alternative Catholic oath, the theoretically
dangerous church being allowed to swear in its own way; but for the
small community of Jews there was no formula, and the Jewish banker
had to choose between exclusion and swearing "on the true faith of a
Christian." He omitted these words from his oath, and was accordingly
declared disentitled to sit, the House at the same time formally
resolving to take Jewish disabilities into its consideration at the
earliest opportunity in the next Session. In 1851, another Jew, David
Salomons, returned for Greenwich, refused to take the oath in the
Christian form, formally resisted the Speaker's ruling against him, was
formally removed, and was excluded from his seat. Not till 1858 was the
relief given. In that year a single (Christian) oath was substituted
for the triple asseveration of the past, and on the re-elected Baron
Lionel again refusing it, he was allowed, by resolution of the House,
to swear without the Christian formula. In 1859 he, with Baron Mayer
Amschel de Rothschild and Salomons, was again sworn theistically.
Finally, in 1866, by the Parliamentary Oaths Act, the oath was made
simply theistic for all, the familiar expletive "So help me God"
being held sufficient to associate the First Cause ethically with the
proceeding in hand.

This movement was doubtless due to a certain semi-rational perception
of the futility of oaths in general, as being a vain formality to
honest men, and a vain barrier to others. Sir William Hamilton,
a thinker so fervent in his instinctive Theism that he undid his
philosophy to accommodate it, had in his day created a strong
impression by his essays (1834-5), on the right of Dissenters to be
admitted into the English universities, in which he emphatically
reiterated the declaration of Bishop Berkeley--made when the oath
test was in fullest use--that there is "no nation under the sun where
solemn perjury is so common as in England." "If the perjury of England
stand pre-eminent in the world," said Hamilton, "the perjury of the
English Universities, and of Oxford in particular, stands pre-eminent
in England." Doctrine like this had made for an abolition of oaths
which could easily be classified as "unnecessary," and for the
simplification of those retained; but though the very step of reducing
the act of imprecation to a curt conventional form meant, if anything,
the belittling of the act of imprecation as such, the Parliamentary
formula had for half a generation remained unchallenged. John Mill
had in 1865 sworn "on the true faith of a Christian," and a good many
Agnostics and Positivists have since unmurmuringly invoked the unknown
God. It was left for Bradlaugh to attempt a departure from the course
of dissembling conformity. When he stood for Northampton in 1868 (as he
stated in answer to Mr Bright on the second select committee of 1880),
he had gravely considered the question of oath-taking, there being then
no possibility of affirmation. Believing now that he had the right to
affirm under the Act which permitted affirmation to witnesses, he felt
bound to exercise it.

As every step in his action has been and still is a subject of
obstinate misconception and wilful falsehood, the story must be here
told with some minuteness. The usual statement is that he "refused"
to take the oath of allegiance. He did no such thing. A professed
Atheist, he had been the means of bringing about the legal reform
which enabled unbelievers to give evidence on affirmation, albeit the
form of enactment was, to say the least, invidious. A great difficulty
is felt by many Christians in regard to the abolition of the oath,
in that they fear to open the way for false testimony by witnesses
who would fear to swear to a lie, but do not scruple to lie on mere
affirmation. It is for Christians to take the onus of asserting that
there are such people among their co-religionists; and they have
always asserted it in the House of Commons when there is any question
of dispensing with oaths. And it was on this plea that the first Act
framed to allow unbelievers to give evidence on affirmation was made
to provide that the judge should in each case satisfy himself that a
witness claiming to affirm was not a person on whom an oath would have
a binding effect. That is to say, he was to make sure that the witness
was not a knavish religionist trying to dodge the oath, in order to
lie with an easy mind. It was the duplicity of certain believers, and
not the duplicity of unbelievers, that was to be guarded against,
though, of course, the only security against the lying of believers
in answer to the judge was that a known conformist would be afraid
publicly to pretend that he had scruples against the oath. But the
main effect of the clause, framed to guard against pious knavery,
was to stigmatise unbelievers as persons on whom an oath would have
"no binding effect." An ill-conditioned judge was thus free to insult
Freethinking witnesses, and even a just judge was free to embarrass
them by an invidious question, since the bare wording of the Act
enabled and even encouraged the judge to ask them--not, as he ought to
have done, whether the oath was to them unmeaning in respect of the
words of adjuration, but--whether the oath as a whole would be "binding
on their conscience."[121] While recognising the invidiousness of such
a question, Bradlaugh always claimed to affirm in courts of law, though
to him, as to most professed rationalists, the repetition of an idle
expletive was only a vexation, and in no way an act of deception, when
made the inevitable preliminary to the fulfilment of any civic duty.
He had openly avowed his opinions, and if the oath was still exacted,
the responsibility lay with those who insisted on it. On his return
to Parliament he felt that not only would it be inconsistent for him
to take the oath if he could avoid it, but it would be gratuitously
indecorous, from the point of view of the believing Christian majority.
Sitting in the house before the "swearing-in," he remarked to Mr
Labouchere that he felt it would be unseemly for him to go through
that form when he believed he was legally entitled to affirm. And in
this belief, it must always be remembered, he had the support of the
former Liberal law officers of the Crown, who had privately given it as
their opinion[122] that he was empowered to affirm his allegiance under
the law relating to the affirmation of unbelievers. With that opinion
behind him, he was in the fullest degree entitled--nay, he was morally
bound as a conscientious rationalist--to take the course he did. Other
rationalists, real or reputed, were returned to the same Parliament.
Professor Bryce, as candidate for the Tower Hamlets, had been assailed
as an Atheist, and was yet returned at the head of the poll. Mr Firth
had been similarly attacked, but was nevertheless carried in Chelsea.
Neither of these gentlemen, however, made any public avowal, direct or
indirect, of heresy. Mr John Morley, who was justifiably regarded as a
Positivist or Agnostic on the strength of his writings, when elected
later made no demur to the oath; and Mr Ashton Dilke, who afterwards
avowed his heterodoxy in the House of Commons,[123] also took it
without comment. It was left to Bradlaugh to fight the battle of common
sense--I might say of common honesty, were it not that long usage has
in these matters wholly vitiated the moral standards of the community,
and honourable men are free to do, and do habitually, things which,
abstractly considered, are acts of dissimulation.

[Footnote 121: In the action of Richards _v._ Hough and Co., however,
in May 1882, Mr Justice Grove expressly remarked that some judges did
not think it necessary to enquire at all as to the belief of a witness
claiming to affirm. In the prosecution of Bradlaugh, Foote, and Ramsay
in 1883 for blasphemy, on the other hand, Lord Coleridge, a very
considerate judge, expressly asked Mr Foote, before letting him affirm,
whether the oath "would be binding on his conscience," though Mr Foote,
declaring himself an atheist, rightly objected to such a query. His
lordship after discussion agreed to modify the question, making it
apply only to the words of invocation; and he put the question with
still more modification to Mrs Besant, who, warned by what had been
done to her partner, declared in so many words that any promise she
made would be binding on her, whatever the form.]

[Footnote 122: Sir Henry James later avowed that they adhered to that
opinion all along.]

[Footnote 123: In the discussion on the Burials Bill, 1881.]


§ 3.

Bradlaugh's first formal step after obtaining the opinion of the last
Liberal law officers and privately consulting the officials of the
House, was to hand to the Clerk of the House of Commons, Sir Thomas
Erskine May, on May 3rd, a written paper in the following terms:--

 "_To the Right Honourable the Speaker of the House of Commons._

 "I, the undersigned Charles Bradlaugh, beg respectfully to claim to be
 allowed to affirm as a person for the time being by law permitted to
 make a solemn affirmation or declaration, instead of taking an oath."

He had already explained, in answer to the questions of the Clerk,
that he made his claim in virtue of the Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866,
the Evidence Amendment Act, 1869, and the Evidence Amendment Act,
1870, which "explains and amends" the Act of 1869. The Clerk formally
communicated these matters to the Speaker (Sir Henry Brand), who then
invited Bradlaugh to make a statement to the House with regard to his
claim. Bradlaugh replied:

 "Mr Speaker,--I have only now to submit that the Parliamentary Oaths
 Act, 1866, gives the right to affirm to every person for the time
 being permitted by law to make affirmation. I am such a person; and
 under the Evidence Amendment Act, 1869, and the Evidence Amendment
 Act 1870, I have repeatedly for nine years past affirmed in the
 highest Courts of Jurisdiction in this realm. I am ready to make the
 declaration or affirmation of allegiance."

The Speaker thereupon requested him to withdraw, and formally restated
the claim to the House, remarking that he had "grave doubts" on the
matter, and desired to refer it to the House's judgment. On behalf of
the Treasury bench, Lord Frederick Cavendish, remarking that the advice
of the new law officers of the Crown was not yet available, moved that
the point be referred to a Select Committee. Sir Stafford Northcote,
the Tory leader in the Commons, was at this stage not actively hostile.
A man of well-meaning and temperate though meagre quality, made up of
small doses of virtues and capacities, well fitted to be a country
gentleman, but of too thin stuff and too narrow calibre to be either
a very good or a very bad statesman, he was a Conservative by force
of tradition and mental limitation, and a partisan leader in respect
of his pliability to his associates. As his biographer puts it, he
was "not recalcitrant to compromise" in matters of party strategy and
leadership. Being personally willing to substitute affirmation for
oath,[124] he seconded the Liberal motion without any show of animus,
and only some of his minor followers, as Earl Percy and Mr Daniel
Onslow, sought to effect the adjournment of the debate. This attempt,
however, was not pressed to a division, and the Select Committee was
agreed to.

[Footnote 124: He wrote in his diary at the time: "It seems strange
to require an oath from a Christian, and _to dispense with it from an
Atheist_. Would it not be better to do away with the member's oath
altogether, and make the affirmation general?" (Mr Lang's "Life of
Northcote," ii. 154.)]

Only a few of the speeches in the House thus far had indicated a
desire among the Tory party to make Bradlaugh the victim of their feud
with the Liberals. But outside the House, Sir Henry Drummond Wolff,
member for Portsmouth, speaking at Christchurch, had already publicly
declared his intention to oppose Bradlaugh's entry: the broaching of
the oath question in legal and other journals before the assembling of
Parliament having given to such politicians their cue. Over and above
the purely factious motive of such men, and of the mass of the Tories,
there was the motive of genuine religious malice; and the two instincts
in combination wrought memorable results.

On 10th May Lord Richard Grosvenor, the Liberal Whip, announced to
the House the names of the proposed members of the Select Committee
whose appointment he should move next day:--Mr Whitbread, Sir J.
Holker, Mr John Bright, Lord Henry Lennox, Mr W. N. Massey, Mr Staveley
Hill, Sir Henry Jackson, the Attorney-General (Sir Henry James), the
Solicitor-General (Mr Farrer Herschell), Sir G. Goldney, Mr Grantham,
Mr Pemberton, Mr Watkin Williams, Mr Spencer H. Walpole, Mr Hopwood,
Mr Beresford Hope, Major Nolan, Mr Chaplin, and Mr Serjeant Simon.
Although the motion was not to come on till next day, Sir Henry
Drummond Wolff sought, in despite of the Speaker's opposition, to
raise at once a debate on the legitimacy of the Committee; and on the
following day he was able to do so. He moved "the previous question,"
and pronounced the course taken "inconvenient, unprecedented, and
irregular," although it had been agreed to by his nominal leader;
thus beginning the tactic of independent action which served to mark
him off with three colleagues,[125] as constituting a "fourth party"
in the House, the other three being the main bodies of Liberals and
Tories, and the Irish Home Rulers. The debate, once begun, was carried
on with great violence and recklessness, Mr Stanley Leighton alleging
that Bradlaugh had been pressed on the Northampton constituency by
the Liberal "whip," prompted by Mr Gladstone; and Sir R. Knightley
affirming that the election had been determined by the interference
of Mr Samuel Morley. A member known as F. H. O'Donnel, but originally
named Macdonald, an Irish Catholic, asserted that Bradlaugh had
"explained religion as a disease of the brain, and conscience as a
nervous contraction of the diaphragm." After more random discussion the
House divided, when there voted for the appointment of the Committee
171, against it, 74, giving a majority of 97 to the Government. Most of
the Conservative leaders walked out of the House before the division,
thus already showing a disposition to surrender to the irresponsibles
on their side.[126]

[Footnote 125: These were Mr Gorst, Lord Randolph Churchill, and Mr A.
J. Balfour. The latter took little oral part in the Bradlaugh struggle,
but always voted with his party.]

[Footnote 126: Northcote's diary, so far as published, naturally
offers no confession or explanation as to the change in his attitude.
Under date May 24, he simply records that "we agreed to stand firm for
Wolff's motion" (Mr Lang's "Life," ii. 159).]

Already, too, there began to be apparent what can now no longer be
disputed--the mismanagement of the Speaker. Only bad judgment or
partiality could account for his permission of such gross irrelevance
as filled the speeches of Mr Leighton and Mr F. H. O'Donnel, _alias_
Macdonald. On the language of the latter now forgotten personage Mr
Bradlaugh thus commented in the _National Reformer_:--

 "I remember, fourteen or fifteen years ago, when the countrymen of
 that member's constituents came to me for help and counsel. The
 honourable member professes to now represent those Irishmen who then
 sought and had my aid; and on Tuesday he in effect told the House that
 it ought to exclude from it one who did not believe in God, and had no
 standard of morality. But I see from the division list that the 'third
 party,' of which he pretended to be the spokesman at the election of
 the Speaker, went into the lobby opposed to that into which their
 leader went, so that the really Irish members did not forget old ties."

Unfortunately the latter tribute was not long to be deserved.

On 20th May the Select Committee presented its report. There had been
eight members in favour of the view that Bradlaugh was legally entitled
to affirm, and eight against; and the casting vote of the chairman, Mr
Spencer H. Walpole, was given for the Noes. It was said, and it was
believed by Mr Bradlaugh, that Sir John Holker had avowed a belief
that his claim was valid, but Sir John Holker on the Committee voted
with his party. Save for the fact that the Noes included Mr Hopwood,
the vote would stand as a purely party one, the rest of the Noes being
Conservatives, while the rest of the Liberals took the affirmative
side. And so general was the attitude of reckless prejudice that we
still find the Chairman's son giving a flatly misleading account of the
situation. Mr Spencer Walpole, in his work on "The Electorate and the
Legislature"[127] published in 1881, and re-issued in 1892, has made
(p. 75) this statement (italics ours):--

[Footnote 127: Macmillan & Co., "The English Citizen" series.]

 "In 1880 ... the legislature was suddenly confronted with a new
 dilemma. The borough of Northampton sent a representative to
 Parliament who _refused to take an oath_--not because he had any
 conscientious objection to be sworn, but because an appeal to a
 God--in whom he had no belief--seemed to him an idle formula which was
 not binding on his conscience."

Since Mr Walpole has chosen to print and reprint this maliciously
untrue statement, and takes no notice whatever of published protests
against it, I am obliged to say in so many words that he, a professed
historian, is here grossly perverting history. Much might indeed be
set down to his carelessness. Issuing in 1892 the second edition of
what should be an authoritative treatise, Mr Walpole inserts (p. 77)
a passage as to Parliamentary affirmation which is completely quashed
by the passing of Mr Bradlaugh's Affirmation Act of 1888. Of this Act,
in 1892, Mr Walpole does not seem to have any knowledge; but however
he may contrive to overlook such a fact as this, he cannot have been
unaware in 1880 that Mr Bradlaugh did _not_ refuse to take the oath,
and that he repudiated the expression that the oath would not be
binding on his conscience,[128] repeatedly declaring that any promise
he made would as such be binding on his conscience, whether or not an
idle formula should be appended to it. Bradlaugh's position on this
point was always explicit; for him a promise, however embellished,
was a promise which as an honourable man he was bound to keep. By
the majority of the British House of Commons it is still implicitly
ruled that a certain promise would not necessarily be binding on the
consciences of Christian members unless accompanied by the popular
imprecation "So help me God."

[Footnote 128: A technical assent to this ambiguous question was, as we
have seen, the condition attached to affirmation in the law courts. But
common decency usually gave the formula there a purely technical and
non-natural force.]

The decision of the first Select Committee, on the casting vote of
the chairman, at once carried the question to a new phase. Bradlaugh
immediately published a statement[129] of his position as to the oath,
the taking of which he now held to be forced upon him by the refusal of
the right to affirm.

[Footnote 129: Printed in _National Reformer_ of 30th May 1889, p. 338,
and in several London newspapers.]

It ran:--

 "When elected as one of the Burgesses to represent Northampton in
 the House of Commons, I believed that I had the legal right to make
 affirmation of allegiance in lieu of taking the oath, as provided by
 sec. 4 of the Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866. While I considered that
 I had this legal right, it was then clearly my moral duty to make the
 affirmation. The oath, although to me including words of idle and
 meaningless character, was and is regarded by a large number of my
 fellow-countrymen as an appeal to Deity to take cognizance of their
 swearing. It would have been an act of hypocrisy to voluntarily take
 this form if any other had been open to me, or to take it without
 protest, as though it meant in my mouth any such appeal. I therefore
 quietly and privately notified the Clerk of the House of my desire to
 affirm. His view of the law and practice differing from my own, and
 no similar case having theretofore arisen, it became necessary that I
 should tender myself to affirm in a more formal manner, and this I did
 at a season deemed convenient by those in charge of the business of
 the House. In tendering my affirmation I was careful, when called on
 by the Speaker to state my objection, to do nothing more than put, in
 the fewest possible words, my contention that the Parliamentary Oaths
 Act, 1866, gave the right to affirm in Parliament to every person for
 the time being by law permitted to make an affirmation in lieu of
 taking an oath, and that I was such a person, and therefore claimed to
 affirm. The Speaker, neither refusing nor accepting my affirmation,
 referred the matter to the House, which appointed a Select Committee
 to report whether persons entitled to affirm under the Evidence
 Amendment Acts, 1869 and 1870, were under sec. 4 of the Parliamentary
 Oaths Act, 1866, also entitled to affirm as Members of Parliament.
 This Committee, by the casting vote of its Chairman, has decided
 that I am not entitled to affirm. Two courses are open to me--one,
 of appeal to the House against the decision of the Committee; the
 other, of present compliance with the ceremony, while doing my best
 to prevent the further maintenance of a form which many other members
 of the House think as objectionable as I do, but which habit and the
 fear of exciting prejudice has induced them to submit to. To appeal to
 the House against the decision of the Committee would be ungracious,
 and would certainly involve great delay of public business. I was
 present at the deliberations of the Committee, and while, naturally, I
 cannot be expected to bow submissively to the statements and arguments
 of my opponents, I am bound to say that they were calmly and fairly
 urged. I think them unreasonable, but the fact that they included a
 legal argument from an earnest Liberal deprives them even of a purely
 party character. If I appealed to the House against the Committee,
 I, of course, might rely on the fact that the Attorney-General, the
 Solicitor-General, Sir Henry Jackson, Q.C., Mr Watkin Williams,
 Q.C., and Mr Sergeant Simon, are reported in the _Times_ to have
 interpreted the law as I do; and I might add that the Right Honourable
 John Bright and Mr Whitbread are in the same journal arrayed in favour
 of allowing me to affirm. But even then the decision of the House may
 endorse that of the Committee, and should it be in my favour, it could
 only--judging from what has already taken place--be after a bitter
 party debate, in which the Government specially, and the Liberals
 generally, would be sought to be burdened with my anti-theological
 views, and with promoting my return to Parliament. As a matter of
 fact, the Liberals of England have never in any way promoted my return
 to Parliament. The much-attacked action of Mr Adam had relation only
 to the second seat, and in no way related to the one for which I was
 fighting. In 1868 the only action of Mr Gladstone and of Mr Bright
 was to write letters in favour of my competitors, and since 1868 I do
 not believe that either of these gentlemen has directly or indirectly
 interfered in any way in connection with my parliamentary candidature.
 The majority of the electors of Northampton had determined to return
 me before the recent union in that borough, and while pleased to aid
 their fellow-Liberals in winning the two seats, my constituents would
 have at any rate returned me had no union taken place. My duty to my
 constituents is to fulfil the mandate they have given me, and if to do
 this I have to submit to a form less solemn to me than the affirmation
 I would have reverently made, so much the worse for those who force me
 to repeat words which I have scores of times declared are to me sounds
 conveying no clear and definite meaning. I am sorry for the earnest
 believers who see words sacred to them used as a meaningless addendum
 to a promise, but I cannot permit their less sincere co-religionists
 to use an idle form, in order to prevent me from doing my duty to
 those who have chosen me to speak for them in Parliament. I shall,
 taking the oath, regard myself as bound not by the letter of its
 words, but by the spirit which the affirmation would have conveyed had
 I been permitted to use it. So soon as I am able I shall take such
 steps as may be consistent with parliamentary business to put an end
 to the present doubtful and unfortunate state of the law and practice
 on oaths and affirmations. Only four cases have arisen of refusal to
 take the oath, except, of course, those cases purely political in
 their character. Two of those cases are those of the Quakers John
 Archdale and Joseph Pease. The religion of these men forbade them to
 swear at all, and they nobly refused. The sect to which they belonged
 was outlawed, insulted, and imprisoned. They were firm, and one of
 that sect sat on the very Committee, a member of Her Majesty's Privy
 Council and a member of the actual Cabinet. I thank him gratefully
 that, valuing right so highly, he cast his vote so nobly for one for
 whom I am afraid he has but scant sympathy. No such religious scruple
 prevents me from taking the oath as prevented John Archdale and Joseph
 Pease. In the cases of the Baron Rothschild and Alderman Salomons the
 words 'upon the true faith of Christian' were the obstacle. To-day
 the oath contains no such words. The Committee report that I may not
 affirm, and, protesting against a decision which seems to me alike
 against the letter of the law and the spirit of modern legislation, I
 comply with the forms of the House."

As might have been expected, this decision to take the oath evoked
fresh outcry, and this time some Freethinkers joined. The most
injurious attack of this kind came from Mr George Jacob Holyoake, who
had long been on strained terms with Bradlaugh, and avowedly regarded
him with disfavour as a too militant Atheist. Before the assembling
of Parliament Mr Holyoake, in answer to a correspondent who asked him
whether Mr Bradlaugh would take the oath, had written to the effect
that Mr Bradlaugh had taken the oath scores of times before, and would
doubtless do so now. This remark had reference to a long-standing
dispute as to the propriety of oath-taking by a Freethinker under any
circumstances. Before the reform of the law which permitted unbelievers
to affirm, Mr Bradlaugh had without hesitation taken the oath in
courts of law, holding the forced formality a much smaller matter than
the evil of a miscarriage of justice. Mr Holyoake condemned all such
oath-taking; but it was pointed out that while he was in business
partnership with his brother Austin, the latter, a highly esteemed
Freethinker, had taken the oath wherever it was necessary for the
purposes of the business. This, of course, would not altogether set
aside Mr G. J. Holyoake's argument, if put forward only as a statement
of his own position; but he was not content with that. After avowing
his expectation that Bradlaugh would take the oath, he expressed
surprise and reprobation when Bradlaugh proposed to do so. Needless to
say, such a deliverance was eagerly welcomed by Bradlaugh's enemies,
and zealously used against him; as it was when repeated by Mr Holyoake
in the following year, with expressions about Freethinkers being made
to hang their heads for shame by the action of their nominal leader.
Were there not reason to presume that Mr Holyoake would not now repeat
or defend his former language, it might be fitting to endorse here some
of the very emphatic comments made on it at the time by Mrs Besant and
others. It may suffice to say, however, that Mr Holyoake had never
before taken such an attitude against Freethinkers who took the oath;
that he had once himself expressed readiness to take it in court if it
were regarded as a civil act, and not as a confession of faith (exactly
Bradlaugh's case); and that he later seemed to other Freethinkers
to quash once for all his own case by justifying quite gratuitous
acts of conformity and co-operation with churches whose teaching he
held to be false. The common sense of nine hundred and ninety-nine
out of every thousand Freethinkers, including attached friends of Mr
Holyoake, decided that such an act of enforced ceremonial as official
oath-taking by an avowed Atheist surrenders no jot of principle or
self-respect, particularly when the Atheist is openly striving for the
abolition of all such compulsions. Of all Freethinkers who have taken
oaths in England, Bradlaugh was the very least open to the charge of
temporising; and the expressions used by Mr Holyoake at different times
in this connection as to "apostolic" conduct have been, to say the
least, unfortunate as coming from a professed Freethinker, not usually
acquiescent in orthodox phraseology.


§ 4.

The document above quoted, announcing Bradlaugh's intentions, was dated
20th May, the date of the Committee's report. On the following day
Bradlaugh went to the House to take the oath and his seat. Immediately
on his presenting himself, Sir Henry Drummond Wolff rose and objected
to the oath being administered, whereupon Mr Dillwyn protested
against the interruption. The Speaker now made the fatal mistake of
allowing the interruption to be carried out. It is established by the
highest possible authority--that of the present Speaker--that the
holder of the Chair as such had and has no right to permit any such
intervention between an elected member and the statutory oath. Sir
Henry Brand, intimidated by the action of men like Wolff, weakly stated
that he "was bound to say he knew of no instance" in which such an
intervention had taken place; but "at the same time" he would allow
Wolff so to intervene. That personage then made a speech, resting on
the two arguments that Atheists who had made affirmation in the law
courts thereby admitted that an oath "would not be binding on their
conscience," and that Bradlaugh had further, in his "Impeachment of the
House of Brunswick," affirmed that Parliament "has the undoubted right
to withhold the Crown from Albert Edward Prince of Wales." The hon.
baronet "could not see how a gentleman professing the views set forth
in that work could take the oath of allegiance." It was in the course
of this speech that the hon. baronet was understood by all his auditors
to say, of the sects permitted by law to affirm, that they "had a
common standard of morality, a conscience, and a general belief in some
divinity or other."[130]

[Footnote 130: Some years afterwards he stated in the House that what
he had really said was "one Deity or the other," meaning either the
Unitarian or the Trinitarian God. The explanation did not seem to be
credited.]

The Tory case against Bradlaugh's admission to Parliament was thus
at the outset a combination of a moral subterfuge and a notorious
political fallacy. All concerned knew perfectly well that the oath was
habitually taken by men to whom the adjuration was an idle form, and
that their consciences could only be "bound" by the simple promise.
It had further been ruled by the highest judicial authority, in the
cases of Miller _v._ Salomons, and the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway
Company _v._ Heaton, that the essence of the oath consisted in the
promise, and not in the words of imprecation. Yet further, Wolff had
before him, and in his speech quoted from, the statement above cited,
in which Bradlaugh expressly declared that he held himself bound, in
taking the oath, "not by the letter of its words, but by the spirit
which the affirmation would have conveyed had I been permitted to use
it." These words he suppressed. On the other hand, as regards the
point of allegiance, he was negating the whole established doctrine of
the British constitution. It is a commonplace of that doctrine that
Parliament can repeal, as Parliament passed, the Act of Settlement. The
contrary is now maintained by nobody, and was not really maintained
even by Burke, in his furious feint of disputing the constitutional
principle in his "Reflections." As the law stands, any member of
Parliament is entitled to move constitutionally for the abolition of
the Monarchy. The oath, framed though it be for the dynasty, and not
for the State, promises allegiance to the sovereign as by the law
established. If the law in future quashes sovereignty, there will be no
sovereign to whom to bear legal allegiance.[131]

[Footnote 131: It is worth noting that Mr Keir Hardie, a professed
Christian Socialist, when recently (28th June) protesting against
the foolish ceremony of congratulating the Queen on the birth of a
great-grandchild in the direct line, went the length of declaring, "I
owe no allegiance to any hereditary ruler"--this after he had sworn
allegiance to the Queen. Bradlaugh never stultified himself in this
fashion.]

But such protests as those of Wolff were perfectly fitted to serve the
turn of the Tory party in a campaign of faction. The cue of shocked
piety and the cue of "loyalty" came alike easily to the representatives
of the feudal and the capitalistic interests; and the "bag-baron" and
the "crag-baron" vied with each other in the display of sham godliness
and sincere zeal for the Throne. Never was there such a reek of cant in
St. Stephen's before. All the English gift for hypocrisy, unrivalled
in Europe, was brought to bear on the task. Alderman Fowler, a fitting
exponent of the cult of Mammon in His sacred city, followed up Wolff
with a petition emanating from bankers and merchants, all praying with
one consent that an unbeliever in their gods should not be allowed to
sit at Westminster. The honour of God was avowedly the one concern of
the Alderman and of the men, so many of them gross with fortuitous
gain, who made him their mouthpiece. And those strategists who knew the
imperfect efficacy of bogus religion as a means of keeping an Atheist
member out of his seat, took care to supply the additional weapons
needed.

Mr Gladstone met Sir Henry Wolff's motion with a counter motion for
the appointment of a fresh select committee to consider Bradlaugh's
competence to take the oath--a sufficiently unwise course, in view of
the action of the previous committee. At once, however, the official
Tories gave their full support to Wolff's motion, declaring that
the matter should not even go to a committee. Mr Gibson, formerly
Attorney-General for Ireland, argued that Bradlaugh had deserved all
that befell him for raising the question. "The hon. member might
have taken his seat without opposition, but he had chosen to obtrude
himself on the House and the country. He must therefore accept the
grave responsibility of thus thrusting his opinions on the House."
Observe the situation. Bradlaugh had acted not only as a scrupulous
man in his place was bound to do, but as a man careful of other
men's susceptibilities would do. Had he simply taken the oath, he
would certainly have been yelled at as a hypocrite, and further as
a blasphemer. The point had been publicly discussed in the press
beforehand, and his enemies were prepared. Trying to avoid at once
inconsistency and scandal, he quietly and circumspectly sought to make
affirmation. The right to affirm was denied him in committee by the
champions of the oath, joined by one conscientious Liberal. When he
then came to take the compelled oath, these men and their fellows
assailed him as one who "obtruded his opinions"; and Mr Gibson, their
spokesman, proceeded to allege in so many words that the member for
Northampton had "walked up the floor of the House with that oath and
Book before him and declined to take the oath." It was a falsehood; and
Mr Gibson himself had just before, in the same speech, admitted that
Bradlaugh had "claimed for himself, in careful and guarded language,
the right to make an affirmation."

There are many points in the story of this struggle at which it is
hardly possible to abstain from imputing wilful falsehood to some of
the actors. But on this point it seems right to conclude that one or
other form of prejudice or passion made men all round incapable of
realising when and how they grossly perverted a simple fact. It was not
merely the factious Tories who repeated the mis-statement, though they
naturally used it most industriously. Mr Chaplin, M.P., was reported
in two newspapers as having asserted that at a public meeting on 1st
June "Mr Bradlaugh announced his intention of refusing the oath,
and asked that he might affirm instead." Mr Chaplin, at the time of
speaking, was a member of the second select committee appointed to
sit on the oath question, and Bradlaugh indignantly protested to the
Chairman, who was again Mr Spencer Walpole. Mr Chaplin, after some
fencing, declared that the report was inaccurate. Baron Henry de Worms,
another of the champions of Omnipotence, publicly averred[132] that
"he was in the House when Mr Bradlaugh came to the Speaker and said he
could not and would not take an oath which in no way bound him, as he
did not acknowledge any God." Challenged as to this statement, Baron
Henry de Worms avowed that the words from "which" onwards were his
own comment, but could not see anything unwarrantable in the previous
statement as to the facts. Such were the notions of truth and honour
among English--and other--oath-taking gentlemen and noblemen with which
Bradlaugh had to contend. And he was only in part supported by the
remarks of Mr John Morley in the _Fortnightly Review_ for July 1880:--

[Footnote 132: Report in _Standard_ of 11th June 1880.]

 "There is no precedent for Mr Bradlaugh's case, for the simple reason
 that there is no precedent for the frank courage with which he has
 considered it desirable to publish his views as to the nature of an
 oath. That the oath is just as meaningless, so far as its divine
 appeal is concerned, to many past and present members of the House of
 Commons as Mr Bradlaugh protested it would be to him, no one doubts.
 Whether and how far he was justified in asking to be sworn, _after
 he had declined to be sworn_, is a different question. Whatever the
 answer to that may be, it cannot at least be said that the course
 adopted by Mr Bradlaugh involved the surrender of any principle."

The last clause is so candid that it is a pity Mr Morley should have
"considered it desirable" to fortify his own position by penning that
above italicised. He had previously spoken of Bradlaugh's "pertinacity"
in "parading" his views--a statement which obtrudes its inspiration.
When a leading Liberal publicist wrote so, the godly multitude
naturally asserted in chorus that Bradlaugh had first ostentatiously
refused to take the oath, and then insisted on taking it. Dean Boyd,
of Exeter, capped the record by asserting that when Bradlaugh first
"advanced to the table of the House," he "openly, boldly, and defiantly
affirmed that he believed there was no such being as a Deity."

In the frame of mind represented by a variety of such utterances as
these, the House of Commons deliberated on Mr Gladstone's motion that
the question of Bradlaugh's competence to swear should be referred
to a second special committee. On the second day of the debate, Sir
Stafford Northcote, the nominal leader of the Conservative party in
the House, accepted the position into which he had been ignominiously
forced by irresponsible and even semi-defiant adherents, and opposed
the appointment of the Committee. He is reported as saying:--

 "Without raising any question as to whether there is anything
 irreverent in the course which the hon. member proposes to take, it
 seems to me that we, in allowing him to take it, should be incurring a
 responsibility from which our better judgment ought to make us shrink"

--a fair sample of the hon. baronet's forcible-feeble oratory. Some
Tory speakers, as Earl Percy, admitted that "the hon. member, to do him
justice, had sought to avoid taking an oath to which he attached no
sacred character"; but these ingenuous combatants were concerned only
to prevent the House from "incurring the guilt of an act of hypocrisy,"
and had no anxiety about avoiding an act of iniquity. When John Bright
met the subterfuges of the Opposition with the retaliatory criticism
of which he was a master, the temperature naturally rose. If, he
asked, they set up the principle of a creed test, where were they going
to end? Would they next question members known to be unbelievers,
though not publicly professed ones? As certain Conservative members
were actually known by their comrades to be Gallios in these matters,
Bright's challenge created the appropriate resentment, as did his
emphatic avowal, "One thing I believe most profoundly, that there is
nothing amongst mankind that has done more to destroy truthfulness than
the forcing of men to take an oath." But the memorable part of his
speech was this:--

 "I have no right to speak of the member for Northampton. I think
 it never happened to me more than once to address to him a single
 sentence, or to hear any expression from him. I never saw him to
 my knowledge but once, before he appeared in this House; but he is
 returned here by a large constituency, to whom his religious opinions
 were as well known as they are now to us.... Now, I have no doubt
 whatever, though I have no authority to say so, that the oath as it
 stands is binding on the conscience of the member for Northampton, in
 the sense that an affirmation would be binding on his conscience--that
 the words of the oath, so far as they are a promise, are words which
 would be binding upon him, but that their binding character is not
 increased by the reference to the Supreme Being, of whose existence,
 unhappily as we all think--such is the constitution of his mind, and
 such has been the constitution of many eminent minds of whom we have
 all heard--he is not able to form that distinct opinion and belief
 which we, who I think are more happy, have been able to do. Therefore
 if he were to come to the table and to take the oath as it is, and as
 he proposes to take it, I have no doubt that it would be binding on
 his conscience as my simple affirmation is binding on mine; because in
 my affirmation there is no reference to the Deity. I make a promise.
 My word is as good, and is taken to be as good, as your oath. (Loud
 Ministerial cheers.) And that is declared by an irrevocable Act of
 Parliament. And if Mr Bradlaugh takes this oath, as he proposes to
 take it, I have no doubt that, though the last words of the oath
 have no binding effect upon him, yet his sense of honour and his
 conscience--(Opposition laughter, and cries of 'Hear, hear' from some
 Ministerialists)--his sense of honour and his conscience would make
 that declaration as binding on him as my affirmation is on me, and as
 your oath is on you."

Among those who joined in the brutal laughter of the gentlemen of
the Conservative party at these passages were men who had committed
bribery, unscrupulous stock-jobbers and company promoters, men about
town, topers, libellers, and liars. But some who thought it fitting to
laugh with these would be normally classed as chivalrous and well-bred
gentlemen.

The debate remained picturesque to the close. Lord Randolph Churchill,
who has within the present year proved afresh his capacity to create
a Parliamentary sensation, protested that "if the words 'so help me
God' were held to be a mere superstitious invocation, the idea or the
faith which had for centuries animated the House of Commons that its
proceedings were under the guidance of Providence would lose its force,
and would very soon have to be abandoned altogether." The better to
exemplify the energy of the divine supervision, the noble lord, after
quoting a somewhat strong passage from Bradlaugh's "Impeachment of
the House of Brunswick," threw the pamphlet violently on the floor of
the House, in parody of Burke's performance with the daggers. Baron
de Worms hazarded the proposition that "this was an irreligious, not
a religious question." The late Mr Thorold Rogers, an economist whose
incapacity for logical thought led to his not unsuccessful cultivation
of the department of historical detail, made a foolish and offensive
speech on the Liberal side, setting out with a statement of his sense
of intellectual superiority to Bradlaugh. "In his opinion, a person who
recognised no law beyond that of his own mind, and such scanty rules as
he thought fit to lay for his own guidance, very much weakened his own
character and lessened the value of his own life and acts." Further,
Mr Rogers had over and over again found "in the course of the study of
history" that Atheists were Conservatives; and he cited in proof the
names of Hobbes, a Theist; Hume, who till the latter part of his life
was an emphatic Deist; and Gibbon, who was one till his death. "He knew
something of the political views of educated sceptics; and when this
unhappy gentleman became a little better educated it would undoubtedly
be found that he was migrating towards the opposite benches." After
other remarks to similar effect, Mr Rogers provoked even the protest
of the much-tolerating Speaker by charging the Tories with being
indisposed to "act as generously as they did in their sports, and to
give a little law even to vermin." For this felicitous figure Mr Rogers
made a stumbling apology. On this being privately repeated, Bradlaugh,
with his usual magnanimity, later forgave the speech as a whole.

Where a professed Radical could be thus insolent, on the score of his
sense of superiority to opinions which he was incapable of discussing,
the language of the customary Tory may readily be imagined. The
revelations of ardent piety made by some eminent capitalists and
company-promoters were unexpectedly gratifying to the religious
feelings of the nation; and the unrelieved malignity of the personal
allusions of these and other Christians to a man precluded from turning
unto them there and then the other cheek, proved the injustice of the
charge that this is an age of lukewarm religious convictions.

After two days of largely irrelevant debate, Wolff's motion was
rejected by 289 votes to 214--a result not ungratifying to the Tories,
as showing that already certain Liberals had taken their side. A select
committee of twenty-three was duly appointed, the Tories being defeated
in an attempt to strengthen their representation on it. The members
were:--The Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, Messrs Bright,
Chaplin, Childers, Sir Richard Cross, Mr Gibson, Sir Gabriel Goldney,
Mr Grantham, Mr Staveley Hill, Sir John Holker, Mr Beresford Hope, Mr
Hopwood, Sir Henry Jackson, Lord Henry Lennox, Mr Massey, Major Nolan,
Messrs Pemberton, Simon, Trevelyan, Walpole, Whitbread, and Watkin
Williams. The Committee began by examining Sir Thomas Erskine May as
to precedents; and Mr Bradlaugh was allowed to put questions to him
likewise, bringing forward precedents Sir Thomas had not noted, among
them the important case of Sir Francis Bacon, who, as Attorney-General,
was challenged for breaking the law in making oath that he was duly
qualified to sit, when, as a practising barrister, he was legally
disqualified under an Act of Edward III. (It was in this case that the
House ruled: "Their oath their own consciences to look unto, not we to
examine it.") After Sir Thomas May, Bradlaugh was himself examined, and
conducted his case with the lawyer-like exactitude and the more than
lawyer-like concision and cogency which even his enemies admitted to
belong to all his legal pleadings.[133] He pointed out that if it were
competent to the House to interfere between a member and the oath, the
first forty members sworn in a Parliament might prevent the sitting
of any of the rest; and that if he were held legally incompetent to
make affirmation of allegiance, he stood legally bound, as an elected
member, to take the oath, no matter what his opinions were. He formally
stated--

[Footnote 133: See the report of the Committee's proceedings, reprinted
in his "True Story of my Parliamentary Struggle."]

 "That there is nothing in what I did when asking to affirm which in
 any way disqualifies me from taking the oath.

 "That all I did was--believing, as I then did, that I had the right to
 affirm--to claim to affirm, and that I was then absolutely silent as
 to the oath.

 "That I did not refuse to take it; nor have then or since expressed
 any mental reservation or stated that the appointed oath of allegiance
 would not be binding upon me.

 "That, on the contrary, I say and have said that the essential part
 of the oath is in the fullest and most complete degree binding
 upon my honour and conscience, and that the repeating the words of
 asseveration does not in the slightest degree weaken the binding
 effect of the oath of allegiance upon me."

These explicit statements he repeated again and again in answer to
questions, saying once:--

 "Any form that I went through, any oath that I took, I should regard
 as binding upon my conscience in the fullest degree. I would go
 through no form, I would take no oath, unless I meant it to be so
 binding."

This emphatic explanation was given in reply to a question on what is,
to my mind, the only obscure point in his examination. Asked: "Do you
draw any distinction between the binding effect upon your conscience
of the assertory oath, as it is called, and the promissory oath?" he
answered--

 "Most certainly I do. The testimony oath is not binding upon my
 conscience, because there is another form which the law has provided
 which I may take, which is more consonant with my feelings. The
 promissory oath is and will be binding upon my conscience if I take
 it, because the law, as interpreted by your Committee, says that it is
 the form which I am to take, and the statute requires me to take it."

There is here, I think, a momentary confusion among the terms
"assertory," "promissory," and "testimony"; and the phrase "not binding
on my conscience" is also used in a sense probably not intended by the
questioner, and not that intended by Bradlaugh in his next answer,
above quoted. The "because" is inconsequent. What he meant to convey
was simply that he expressly rejected the testimony oath because in
giving evidence he was free to affirm; whereas he was compelled to
take the oath of allegiance, there being no legal alternative in the
opinion of a Committee of the House. He had been forced to submit in
the law courts to the invidious formula that the oath was not binding
on his conscience, because it had been expressly ruled in law[134]
that if a witness simply said "I am an Atheist," the judge was bound
to infer that an oath did not "bind" him. But Bradlaugh's answers to
the Select Committee, taken together, made it superfluously clear
that in the natural sense of the words he held any formula of promise
he took to be binding on him, whether with or without an imprecatory
tag. And inasmuch as members of the Committee nevertheless thought fit
afterwards to allege that he had all along declared the contrary with
regard to the oath, we are driven to one of two conclusions. Either
(_a_) these gentlemen hold that a formal public promise is not fully
binding on _their_ consciences unless they add "so help me God," or
something of the sort, and that an Atheist cannot be more conscientious
than they; or (_b_) they deliberately chose to bear false witness for
party purposes. And it finally matters little which conclusion we draw;
for the acceptance of the first leaves open the chance of the second
being true also.

[Footnote 134: In a case not legally reported, however--that of _ex
parte_ Lennard _vs_ Woolrych, in the Court of Queen's Bench, in April
1875.]

The Committee, after a variety of votes, finally reported to the
effect that Bradlaugh, by simply stating [though in answer to official
question] that he had repeatedly affirmed under certain Acts in
courts of law, had brought it to the notice of the House that he was
a person as to whom judges had satisfied themselves that an oath was
"not binding on his conscience"; that, under the circumstances, an
oath taken by him would not be an oath "within the true meaning of the
statutes"; and that the House therefore could and ought to prevent him
from going through the form. They further suggested that he should be
allowed to affirm with a view to his right to do so being tested by
legal action, pointing to the nearly equal balance of votes in the
former committee as a reason for desiring a decisive legal solution.

For this report of course only those members are responsible who voted
for its main clauses. Under this reservation it falls to be said
that the use made of the mean technicality of an oath being held not
"binding on the conscience" of an Atheist was in itself profoundly
unconscientious. That formality was, to begin with, expressly intended
to prevent the evasion of the oath by religious knaves, and not at
all to imply that an Atheist who took the oath could not be believed.
What was more, Bradlaugh had only specified the Evidence Amendment
Acts in reply to the express challenge of the Clerk of the House of
Commons. To turn an accidental ambiguity to the account of an iniquity,
to decide that a man was untrustworthy under the pretext of a legal
subterfuge, was merely to show that the oath is less than no security
for right action, and that under its cover men can far outgo the
lengths of injustice that they are likely to venture on in the name of
simple law. In the words of Bright, who opposed the conclusion come
to as "absolutely untenable," "the course taken was one involving a
mean advantage over Mr Bradlaugh." What the proceeding proved against
Bradlaugh was simply this: that he had done wrong in ever accepting,
even as a technical phrase, the juridical formula that an oath as a
whole is not "binding on the conscience" of one to whom an imprecation
is an idle barbarism. He ought in the law courts to have repudiated
even the technical shadow of an implication that a rationalist's
word is worth less than a religionist's oath. Nothing but persistent
resistance will ever make tyrannous religion give way to justice;
and he, who was habitually accused of gratuitously defying religion,
had simply not defied it enough. And the lesson taught to other
rationalists by his struggle is this, that oath-taking must in future
be stigmatised and warred against as implying not a higher but a lower
moral standard than that of rational ethics. Men who must swear to be
believed are not to be believed.


§ 5.

On 21st June, a few days after the presentation of the Committee's
report to the House, Mr Labouchere moved a resolution to the effect
that Bradlaugh be allowed to make affirmation instead of taking the
oath--the course the Committee had recommended. He had previously given
notice of a general Affirmation Bill, but had postponed the discussion
of it, pending the report. He now moved his resolution, after
presenting a petition in support of Bradlaugh from some thousands of
the people of Northampton, on the heels of a large Tory petition, also
from Northampton, praying that Bradlaugh "might not be permitted to
take the holy name of God in vain." Mr Labouchere in an extremely able
and persuasive speech dwelt on the prime fact that the Parliamentary
Oaths Act of 1866 gave to all persons legally qualified to affirm in
courts of law the right to affirm in Parliament, and that by later Acts
Bradlaugh was entitled to affirm in courts of law. [The opposition
view presumably was that the Act of 1866 could only refer to persons
_then_ entitled to affirm; but no argument to that effect appears on
the reports consulted by the present writer.] He further warned the
enemy that if they carried their hostility to the point of unseating
Bradlaugh, he would simply be re-elected--a statement which evoked
confident "No's" from members whose faith in Deity was more deep than
philosophical; and remarked what was perfectly true--that there were
"exceedingly few persons in Northampton of Mr Bradlaugh's views" on
religious matters. Sir Hardinge Giffard (now Lord Halsbury) rang the
changes on the argument about obtrusion of views; and pietists like
Alderman Fowler and Mr Warton expressed afresh their corpulent horror
of Atheism. One Irish member, Mr Arthur O'Connor, took occasion to
protest--in a debate on a proposal to permit an affirmation--against
letting Bradlaugh take the oath; and the Speaker seems to have made
no objection. On the other side, Mr Hopwood, whose vote in the first
committee had possibly permitted all the trouble, made a powerful
speech against the "obtrusion" argument, which, as he justly said,
amounted to telling Bradlaugh, "If you had come to the table with a
lie on your lips, we would have allowed you to be sworn." But again
the great speech in the debate was Bright's. The remark, "There are
many members of this House who take the oath and greatly dislike it,"
was his first home-thrust; and soon, after a temperate and weighty
argument, he nobly repeated his declaration of belief in the honour
of the Atheist, whose opinions were probably as repugnant to Bright
as to any other man in the House. "I pretend," he said--and his voice
rose with his theme,--"I pretend to have no conscience and honour
superior to the conscience of Mr Bradlaugh. (Ironical cheers from the
Opposition.) It is no business of mine to set myself up--perhaps it
is no business of yours to set yourselves up--(cheers)--as having
conscience and honour superior to that which actuates Mr Bradlaugh."
He went on to protest that the course taken by the majority of the
committee was "one involving a mean advantage over Mr Bradlaugh."
The speech, however, mainly ran to perfectly judicial argument; and
it was the obvious determination of the Tories to give no ear to
argument that evoked the flashes of feeling which lit it up. Bright
having said that the oath was now made a theistic test, where before
it had been a Protestant and a Christian test, a "No," came from
Mr Spencer Walpole, the Chairman of the Committee. "Why," retorted
Bright, "the right hon. gentleman must have forgotten everything in
the committee; he cannot have been conscious of his own opinions. Why,
surely the object of this motion is to establish the test of theism."
There were again "No's" from the party which denies; and Bright,
after establishing his point, thrust afresh. "The theistic test," he
repeated, "is proposed by the member for Portsmouth--the front bench
opposite appears to have abdicated entirely--there is now only an
abject, a remarkable submission to gentlemen who sit in the lower
part of the House." A plain statement of the obvious fact that Wolff
was establishing a precedent for intervention elicited more blatant
"No's," and Bright began to warm up to his peroration. He reminded the
House that a Positivist or Comtist who had been concerned in the issue
of an anti-theistic pamphlet might quite as plausibly be challenged
as Mr Bradlaugh; going on to speak of certain Positivists as "some
men for whom I have the utmost respect in regard to everything but
their opinions on the question of religion, which I deplore, and in
connection with which I can only commiserate them. But," he went on,
correcting the touch of superciliousness,--

 "I know that many people have much greater power of belief than others
 have; and I am not one of those--having myself passed through many
 doubts--to condemn, without sympathy at any rate, those who are not
 able to adopt the views which I myself hold. (Hear, hear.) Now, sir,
 only one word more. There are members of this House of different
 Churches, but generally all, I trust, of one religion--of the religion
 which inculcates charity, and forbearance, and justice, and even
 generosity. There are those who belong to the Roman Catholic Church.
 I need not remind them of what they and their ancestors have gone
 through in Ireland--(hear)--for the last 200 or 300 years or more,
 or of how long a time they were kept out of this House, and by the
 very same class of arguments which the honourable and learned member
 for Surrey used. (Cheers.) He tells us that for a very long time past
 there has been a gradual relaxation. Yes, no doubt. Did he ever sit
 among those who have promoted those relaxations? I have been here
 for thirty-seven years, and I have heard these questions discussed
 over and over again; but I never found that the time had come when
 the party opposite, represented by gentlemen who now sit there, were
 willing to make these relaxations. They submitted not to argument,
 not to sentiments of generosity or of justice; they submitted only to
 a majority which sat on this side of the House. (Cheers.) Then there
 are the Nonconformists. I am told that there are some Nonconformists
 even--but I think it is rather in the nature of a mistake or a
 slander--who have great doubts as to how they should vote on this
 occasion. It is occasions like this that try men and try principles.
 (Hear, hear.) Do you suppose that in times past the Founder of
 Christianity has required an oath in this House to defend the religion
 which He founded? Or do you suppose now that the supreme Ruler of the
 world can be interested in the fact that one man comes to this table
 and takes His name--it may be often in vain--(murmurs)--and another is
 permitted to make an affirmation, reverently and honestly, in which
 His name is not included? But one thing is essential for us, the House
 of Commons representing the English people, which is, to maintain as
 far as we can the great principles of freedom--freedom of political
 action and freedom of conscience."

An allusion to the remark of Mr Labouchere that the Northampton
constituency in the mass had no sympathy with Bradlaugh's theological
opinions evoked another Conservative laugh, and Bright continued:--

 "Well, hon. gentlemen who know nothing about it laugh at that. I think
 it very possible that, finding that Mr Bradlaugh in his political
 opinions was in sympathy with them, those electors so little liked the
 political opinions of hon. gentlemen opposite that they preferred Mr
 Bradlaugh, with his political opinions, to some opposing candidates
 who have represented them, and whose religious views might have
 been entirely orthodox. (Hear, hear.) ... _To a large extent the
 working people of this country do not care any more for the dogmas
 of Christianity than the upper classes care for the practice of that
 religion._ (Cheers, and loud cries of 'Oh,' and 'Withdraw.') I wish
 from my heart that it were otherwise. (Cheers, and renewed cries of
 'Withdraw.')"

Despite the Tory wrath, there was no withdrawal.

This great speech was followed, after the adjournment, by one from
Gladstone, less powerful because less fired with moral feeling, but
eloquent, cogent, and unanswerable, save for the slip of the statement
that Bolingbroke, the Theist, was "without any religious belief at
all."[135] Yet the end of the debate--after a series of speeches,
including one by Sir Henry Tyler in which he brutally dragged the
name of Mrs Besant into his attack on Bradlaugh--was that only 230
voted for Mr Labouchere's motion, and 275 against. This was on 22nd
June. What Bright had thought could not be had taken place, though
the Nonconformists were not the bulk of the Liberals who enabled
the Tories to trample underfoot the first principles of Liberalism.
Thirty-six Liberals and thirty-one Home Rulers voted in the majority,
and doubtless joined in its exultant cheers.

[Footnote 135: On the other hand, Tory journalists went much further
astray in asserting that Bolingbroke believed in future rewards and
punishments.]

A number of Liberals, further, were absent without pairs. There were
found among the allies of tyranny representatives of nearly all of
the sects which had themselves suffered persecution, Catholics,
Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Jews, as well as members of the Established
Church. When, therefore, Mr John Tenniel in _Punch_ caused his weekly
contribution to the gaiety of his nation to take the shape of a cartoon
joyfully representing Bradlaugh as "kicked out," with a crumpled paper
in his hand bearing the legend "Atheism," he was more than usually in
touch with the social sentiment of which he is the leading artistic
exponent. Our "English love of fair play" was never more neatly
illustrated, even by that "primitive pencil."[136]

[Footnote 136: It should be noted that the "kicked-out" idea is a
favourite one with the cartoonist. He used it lately in the case of the
Irish Evicted Tenants Bill.]

The action of the Home Rulers is perhaps specially notable. Some of
them later pretended that their hostility to Mr Bradlaugh was due to
a single vote he gave on the Arms Bill. It will be seen that they
opposed him in great force before he had ever had a chance to vote
at all, and this on a simple claim that he should be allowed to make
affirmation. Mr Justin M'Carthy, in keeping with his general attitude
on religious questions, sought from the first to exclude the Atheist
from Parliament. The only other plea open to the majority was that
Bradlaugh had "forced his Atheism on the House." This was the line
taken, for instance, not only by Sir Hardinge Giffard, but by Sir
Walter Barttelot, a typical Tory squire and "English gentleman," who
just before Bradlaugh's death in 1891 won for himself some credit
by a frank tribute to his honesty of character. Were it not for the
countenance given by Mr John Morley at the time to a patently unjust
account of Bradlaugh's action--an account which Gladstone as well as
Bright then explicitly contradicted--one would be disposed to point to
the general repetition of the untruth by the Tory press and party as
proving how worthless a thing the "honour and conscience" of English
gentlemen is in matters of public action. It is a matter of simple
fact that Bradlaugh all along anxiously sought to keep his Atheism
out of cognisance of the susceptibilities of the House;[137] and it
is perfectly certain that had he come forward to take the oath at
the outset, he would not only have been afterwards vilified by the
Opposition as a blasphemous hypocrite, but would have been challenged
all the same by Wolff and the rest. The matter had been openly
discussed beforehand. There is thus no conclusion open save that the
majority in the vote on the affirmation motion did a gross injustice;
and though the really religious men in the House, as Gladstone and
Bright, were mostly on the other side, and the religiosity of the
aggressors was in many cases a nauseous farce, it must be assumed
that religion counted for much[138] in the matter. Parnell in the
next stage of the question avowed that he had been on Bradlaugh's
side from the first, but had found himself opposed on the point by
"the great majority of the Irish members." There would seem to be no
doubt that the Catholic priesthood--actively represented by Cardinal
Manning--determined the action of Parnell's followers, and later his
own. It is perhaps not unprofitable to reflect that most of the
"Liberal" wrongdoers have since paid some penalties. Some dozen lost
their seats at next election on the Bradlaugh issue. The Home Rulers
have felt to the full the power of fanaticism against themselves; and
Parnell, who later yielded to the bigotry of his party, lived to know
all the bitterness of religious injustice. A minor Scotch Liberal then
on the wrong side, Mr Maclagan, has lately been unseated by clerical
effort; and doubtless others could testify that they who draw the sword
of bigotry tend to perish by it. It would doubtless be giving an undue
air of moral regularity to the business to lay any stress on the final
political fate of Northcote, who in the Bradlaugh struggle made himself
the catspaw of the worst section of his followers. He certainly had his
due reward.

[Footnote 137: The Select Committee persistently examined him to get
avowals which he had not made, and had no wish to volunteer.]

[Footnote 138: The _Echo_ of 25th May 1880 has the passage: "Say what
we like, occupants of the Tory benches are penetrated with deep and
undying religious convictions. The very reference to an unbeliever,
unless it is in fierce denunciation of him, reddens their faces....
But strange to say, the very men who apparently were so jealous of
religious or semi-religious forms last evening will this evening
vote that Parliament shall not sit to-morrow because it will be the
Derby day. Now if there be one place on this wide earth which may be
denominated a pandemonium it is the Epsom Downs on a Derby day."]


§ 6.

Being thus expressly denied the right to affirm by a vote of the whole
House, Bradlaugh promptly reverted to his position that if he could
not affirm, he was legally bound to take the oath and his seat. A
committee had declared by a casting vote that he could not affirm, and
left him to swear. The House referred the point of his swearing to a
larger committee, which decided by a majority that he could not swear,
but recommended that after all he be allowed to affirm. The House
stood by the finding of both committees in so far as it was hostile,
and overruled that of the second in so far as it was favourable. It
remained to fight the whole House on the point of the oath.

On 23rd June, after the "prayers," which remain one of the institutions
of the House, Bradlaugh walked to the table amid some cries of "Order,"
and spoke to the Clerk. The Speaker then formally intimated to him the
decision of the House, and called upon him to withdraw. Amid roars of
"Withdraw" from the furious mob of Tory members, Bradlaugh contrived
to let the Speaker understand that he claimed to be heard. He had to
withdraw while the question was discussed, and when Mr Labouchere
sought to move that he be heard, the Speaker had to rise to secure
order. On grounds not easily inferred, the House, suddenly changing
its temper, with very little dissent agreed to let Bradlaugh be heard
at the "Bar," which was at once drawn across the bottom of the House,
and at which he proceeded to speak, as represented in the admirable
portrait done after his death by Mr Walter Sickert. This, his first
speech at the Bar of the House,[139] I have heard described as perfect
by some Liberals who thought less highly of the three others it was
his lot to make from the same place. It is perhaps the most vividly
impressive, but only, I think, because it was the first. Certainly it
is the most memorable address of challenge ever made to the House,
though it has all the straightforward, terse simplicity of Bradlaugh's
general speaking, which was never rehearsed. It was measured and
controlled throughout. The mean insult of a "Hear, hear" when he asked,
"Do you tell me I am unfit to sit amongst you?" did not discompose him.
"The more reason, then," he went on, "that this House should show the
generosity which judges show to a criminal, and allow every word he has
to say to be heard." Even in rebuking the most dastardly attack made
upon him in the House he was gravely dignified.

[Footnote 139: See the verbatim report reprinted in the volume of his
Speeches.]

 "I have to ask indulgence lest the memory of some hard words which
 have been spoken in my absence should seem to give to what I say a
 tone of defiance, which it is far from my wish should be there at all;
 and I am the more eased because although there were words spoken which
 I had always been taught English gentlemen never said in the absence
 of an antagonist without notice to him, yet there were also generous
 and brave words said for one who is at present, I am afraid, a source
 of trouble and discomfort and hindrance to business. I measure the
 generous words against the others, and I will only make one appeal
 through you, sir, which is, that if the reports be correct that the
 introduction of other names came with mine in the heat of passion
 and the warmth of debate, the gentleman[140] who used those words,
 if such there were, will remember that he was wanting in chivalry,
 because, while I can answer for myself, and am able to answer for
 myself, nothing justified the introduction of any other name beside my
 own to make a prejudice against me. (Cheers, 'Question,' and cries of
 'Order.')"

[Footnote 140: The reference was to the ever-offensive Sir Henry Tyler,
who had made a cowardly allusion to Mrs Besant.]

He went on to deal with the common objection to his action:--

 "It is said, 'You might have taken the oath as other members did.' I
 could not help, when I read that, sir, trying to put myself in the
 place of each member who said it. I imagined a member of some form of
 faith who found in the oath words which seemed to him to clash with
 his faith, but still words which he thought he might utter, but which
 he would prefer not to utter if there were any other form which the
 law provided him; and I asked myself whether each of those members
 would not then have taken the form which was most consonant with his
 honour and conscience. If I have not misread, some hon. members seem
 to think that I have neither honour nor conscience. Is there not some
 proof to the contrary in the fact that I did not go through the form,
 believing that there was another right open to me? ('Hear, hear' and
 'Order.') Is that not some proof that I have honour and conscience?"

The most searching thrusts were delivered with entire amenity.

 "It is said that you may deal with me because I am isolated. I could
 not help hearing the ring of that word in the lobby as I sat outside
 last night. But is that a reason--that because I stand alone, the
 House are to do against me what they would not do if I had 100,000
 men at my back? That is a bad argument, which provokes a reply
 inconsistent with the dignity of this House, and which I should be
 sorry to give."

And no less measured was the warning that the struggle would not end
with his exclusion:--

 "Do you mean that I am to go back to Northampton as to a court,
 to appeal against you? that I am to ask the constituency to array
 themselves against this House? I hope not. If it is to be, it must be.
 If this House arrays itself against an isolated man--its huge power
 against one citizen--if it must be, then the battle must be too. But
 it is not with the constituency of Northampton alone...."

The peroration was as austere as the rest of the speech:--

 "I beg your pardon, sir, and that of the House too, if in this warmth
 there seems to lack respect for its dignity; and as I shall have, if
 your decision be against me, to come to that table when your decision
 is given, I beg you, before the step is taken in which we may both
 lose our dignity--mine is not much, but yours is that of the Commons
 of England--I beg you before the gauntlet is fatally thrown down--I
 beg you, not in any sort of menace, not in any sort of boast, but as
 one man against six hundred, to give me that justice which on the
 other side of this wall the judges would give me were I pleading
 before them."

Then ensued a fresh debate. Northcote at some length expressed himself
to the effect that there was nothing to be said. Gladstone at similar
length agreed. The Speaker asked whether Bradlaugh should be called
in, and after some confused discussion Mr Labouchere was allowed
to move that yesterday's resolution be rescinded. Mr Gorst moved
the adjournment of the debate; but on an appeal from Gladstone, Mr
Labouchere withdrew his motion. The Speaker then recalled Bradlaugh
to the table, and informed him that the House had nothing to say
beyond calling upon him once more to withdraw. Bradlaugh replied: "I
beg respectfully to insist upon my right as a duly elected member for
Northampton. I ask you to have the oath administered to me, in order
that I may take my seat, and I respectfully refuse to withdraw." The
helpless Speaker "thought it right to point out to the hon. gentleman"
what he had pointed out before. Again Bradlaugh replied: "With respect,
I do refuse to obey the orders of the House, which are against the
law;" and the Speaker had to appeal to the House "to give authority
to the Chair to compel execution of its orders." Gladstone remained
silent, despite calls for him, and Northcote in his flabbiest manner
proceeded to move, "though I am not quite sure what the terms of
the motion should be, that Mr Speaker do take the necessary steps
for requiring and enforcing the withdrawal of the hon. member for
Northampton." The Speaker confusedly explained, to the perplexity of
the House, that according to "former precedents" the motion should
simply be "that the hon. member do now withdraw"--precisely what he
had already declared to be the resolution and order of the House. The
motion being challenged, there voted for it 326, and only 38 against,
the Government having chosen to give effect to the vote of the majority
of the day before. The scene now became still more exciting. On the
Speaker's again calling on Bradlaugh to withdraw, he answered: "With
submission to you, sir, the order of the House is against the law,
and I respectfully refuse to obey it." The Speaker then called on the
Sergeant-at-Arms to remove him, and that officer, coming up, touched
him on the shoulder and requested him to withdraw. He said, "I shall
submit to the Sergeant-at-Arms removing me below the bar, but I shall
immediately return to the table," and he did so, saying on his way back
towards the table, "I claim my right as a member of the House." Again
led back to the bar by the officer, he again walked up the floor of
the now tempestuous House, saying "in a voice rising high above the
din" (says a contemporary report), "I claim my right as a member of
this House. I admit the right of the House to imprison me, but I admit
no right on the part of the House to exclude me, and I refuse to be
excluded." Again led to the bar by the Sergeant-at-Arms, he awaited the
action of the House.

His action had been taken with a forethought. He was determined to
force the House to further steps, and to make its path a _cul de sac_.
The Speaker again appealed to the House for orders, and Northcote,
making an effort to get up a state of vigorous purpose in himself,
conscious the while that the moral right was all on the other side,
once more took action. He somewhat disappointed the followers who had
led him by remarking: "I am quite sure that none of us are disposed
to make any personal complaint of the conduct of the hon. member. We
know that he is in a position which calls for our consideration, and
that we must make all proper allowance for the course which he may
think it right to take." Complaining that the duty ought to have been
taken up by the leader of the House, Northcote proceeded to move that
Bradlaugh, having defied the House, be taken into the custody of the
Sergeant-at-Arms. Gladstone once more explained that he thought those
who had got the House into the trouble should get it out, and wordily
went on to indicate that he thought the Opposition were taking a
consistent course. But again a discussion arose. Mr Labouchere began
by remarking on the position of a citizen sent to prison for doing
what some high legal authorities thought he had a perfect right to do.
Mr Courtney suggested that the arrest be formally carried through to
permit of the legality of the House's course being tested on a writ of
habeas corpus. The appearance of a shorthand writer at the bar taking
notes led to a question of order; and the Speaker explained that he was
there by authority, reporting the proceedings, "not the debate, which
would clearly be out of order." A friendly motion for the adjournment
of the debate was made, discussed, and withdrawn. Another was made by
Mr Finigan, a friendly Irish member, and seconded by Mr Biggar; but
only five voted for it and 342 against. Mr Parnell then made the very
creditable speech in which he avowed his dissent from the majority of
the Home Rulers; and some of these in turn expressed their dissent from
him. At length Northcote's motion was carried by 274 votes to 7. The
result was received "without any manifestation of feeling," and members
laughed when the Speaker announced the resumption of "the private
business." Already the majority had begun to feel that its triumph was
a fiasco. In an hour the Sergeant-at-Arms, called upon by the Speaker
to report, announced to the House that "in pursuance of their order
and Mr Speaker's warrant, I have taken Mr Bradlaugh, the member for
Northampton, into custody."

He was in the "Clock Tower"--in a room, that is, on the second story of
that part of the House--whither he had gone with the slight requisite
show of formal resistance, passing first a short time in the Sergeant's
private room. There he was visited by Parnell, Mr O'Kelly, Mr O'Connor
Power, Mr Finigan, and Dr Commins, all of whom expressed their cordial
sympathy. The imprisonment was a farcical form. A constant stream
of friends visited him; and he went about the business of fighting
his battle in the country as he would do in his own rooms. On the
very evening of his arrest a Committee was formed to secure his
liberation, and an appeal drawn up in its name by Mrs Besant. This was
distributed by thousands next day; and a fresh petition for signature
was likewise framed and sent out broadcast at once. But the democracy
did not wait for petitions. The moment the news of the House's action
reached the public, a cry of indignation arose, loud enough to alarm
Beaconsfield,[141] on whose urgent advice (so it was said at the
time) Northcote on the next day moved for Bradlaugh's unconditional
release, which was hurriedly agreed to. The stultification of the
majority was now complete; and the course taken by Northcote thus far
may stand as a fair sample of modern Conservative statesmanship--the
policy of irrational resistance, on no better principle than that
of partisan habit, ending in ignominious collapse. Still the cry of
protest swelled in volume. In less than a week two hundred meetings
were held throughout the country to pass resolutions in Bradlaugh's
favour; Radical and Liberal clubs and societies of all kinds sent
their messages of protest and appeal; and Liberal members who had
voted on the Tory side were sharply called to account. Even before
matters had come to a crisis, abundant proof was given that a large and
earnest minority were dead against the policy of intolerance. In May
Mr Labouchere had given notice of a Bill to permit affirmation by any
member in place of the oath of allegiance; and by 6th July there had
been presented 462 petitions in favour of that measure, with 40,434
signatures, largely obtained through the organisation of the National
Secular Society. The effect of these and other displays of popular
feeling began to be seen in the House. Liberal members who had voted
on the Tory side out of fear of the bigots in their constituencies
began to hesitate. On 28th June leave was given to Mr Labouchere to
introduce his Affirmation Bill, which was read a first time. The
Government, however, took the view that Bradlaugh's rights ought to
be legally determined in respect of the state of the law at the time
of his election; and instead of supporting or giving facilities for
Mr Labouchere's Bill, they proposed the compromise of moving that the
excluded member be allowed to affirm pending the legal settlement of
his position. This was accepted; and, on 1st July, Mr Gladstone moved
as a standing order that members-elect be allowed, subject to any
liability by statute, to affirm at their choice.

[Footnote 141: This perhaps understates Beaconsfield's protest.
Bradlaugh heard that he condemned the whole proceedings, and called his
followers "fools" for their pains.]

This was of course the signal for a fresh storm. On Mr Gladstone's
preliminary motion that the Orders of the Day be postponed, Mr Gorst
pronounced the motion disorderly, and opposed the proposal in advance
as being to the effect that "the House should break the law, in order
to smuggle Mr Bradlaugh into the House." Gladstone, in moving his
order, was studiously moderate, giving as a reason for the Government's
not introducing a Bill the impossibility of having the question calmly
discussed in the then state of feeling, while urging the necessity of
preserving the dignity and decency of the House as a reason for doing
something. He went on to defend Bradlaugh fully and forcibly against
the charge of having "obtruded his Atheism" on the House, and wound up
with a calm contention that it was the duty of the House to further
the claim of any member to take his seat under a given law, leaving it
to be settled in the law courts whether his claim was valid. Northcote
opposed, arguing that there was no fear of a repetition of the scene of
last week, since the Speaker could give instructions that Mr Bradlaugh
be not allowed to enter the precincts. To accept the motion "would be
to some extent humiliating to the House."[142] No question of justice
or righteousness was raised by the Tory leader. One of his followers,
Lord Henry Scott, advanced the pious proposition that "the mere
affirmation of a person who did not believe in a Supreme Being could
not be regarded as a binding engagement upon him." Another ignoramus
named Smyth explained that the "test of Theism" "pervaded the whole
body of the Constitution, of which, like the soul of man, it was the
animating principle." "Let Atheists be admitted within its walls, and
there would be Atheistical legislation.... Such teaching it was that
led to the outbreak of the French Revolution." Thus were old lies made
to support new. An Irish Catholic named Corbet spoke of "Mr Bradlaugh's
Byzantine doctrines of morality," either forgetting that Byzantium
was the typical Christian State for a thousand years, or desiring to
asperse the Christian Church which had all along been the great rival
of his own. Mr A. M. Sullivan, another Catholic, made a rabid speech,
supporting the cause of religion with the plea, "Where was the class
that was oppressed now? It was nothing but an individual." He went on
to avow that he sought to keep Mr Bradlaugh out of Parliament on the
score that his Malthusianism, "taken in conjunction with his Atheistic
opinions, struck fatally at the foundation of civil society." The
Church of the confessional is naturally zealous for the sacredness of
the family; and the Church of the Inquisition for the "foundations
of civil society." Men who regard the hamstringing of cattle as at
most a pity are naturally warm on the subject of rational control
of human procreation. On the other hand, Parnell "wished, as an
Irish Protestant, with the utmost diffidence, to say a few words in
explanation of the vote he would give to-night." Already he seemed
shaken by the resistance of his followers; and he was at pains to say
"he regarded the religious tenets of Mr Bradlaugh and his doctrines
with reference to over-population as abominable"--a deliverance which
reads dramatically in connection with the close of his own career,
when an only less insensate and irrational ethic than his own gave the
sanction for similar vilification of himself. There was finally a ring
of anxious bravado in his avowal that "it was personally an odious
task for him to take the course he should on this occasion"--(this
after he had voluntarily gone to shake hands with Bradlaugh after the
arrest)--"but if he had to walk through the lobby alone, he should deem
himself a coward if he did not act up to his conviction."

[Footnote 142: Again he was surrendering his own convictions to the
partisanism of his colleagues. He had been personally willing to
support legislation for the settlement of the difficulty, but was
overruled as usual by his associates. See Mr Lang's "Life," ii. 172.]

Less self-regarding, and much more helpful, was the speech of Mr
Richard, the most impressive in the debate. Mr Richard was one of
the extremely few Christians who keep one set of gospel passages
so constantly in view as never to be led into imitating the rest.
He never echoed their words of execration. His very rebukes to his
fellow-Christians for their pious scurrility were gentle; and he must
have caused some searchings of heart when he observed that "no man who
watched what went on, on the first day of the present Parliament, when
hon. members were squeezing round the table, and scrambling for the New
Testaments amid laughter--('No, no,' and Ministerial cheers)--no man
could have watched that scene, and believed that the act had any of
the solemnity of a religious act about it." When the otherwise pious
Wolff followed, the altered balance of feeling was shown by impatient
interruption of his remarks. An exceptionally offensive Catholic, named
M'Coan, was called to order by the Speaker for the remark that "a more
offensive representative of Atheism never was seen" than Bradlaugh.
Finally, after General Burnaby had mentioned that "the Chief Rabbi,
although refusing to interfere with political questions, felt very
deeply on this subject," the vote was taken, and by 303 votes to 249
Gladstone's motion was carried.

Bradlaugh was now free to make affirmation, and did so next day. Almost
immediately on taking his seat he had occasion to vote, and immediately
thereafter he was served with a writ to recover a penalty of £500 for
illegal voting. The writ had apparently been prepared beforehand. The
suitor was one Henry Lewis Clarke, the tool of Mr Newdegate, M.P.,--the
latter, a man of the most restricted understanding, notorious as an old
opponent of the admission of Jews to Parliament and a rabid assailant
of Catholicism, but now eager to combine with Jews and Catholics
against the Atheist. A few days afterwards a similar writ was served
at the instance of one Cecil Barbour, of Nightingale Lane, Clapham;
and yet a third was given notice of; but the work was left to Mr
Newdegate's employee.[143] A new stage in the struggle had now been
reached.

[Footnote 143: A friendly action by Mr Swaagman, for all the remaining
penalties that might arise, served to forestall other speculative
suits.]


§ 7.

For nine months--that is, while Parliament sat in the period
July-March 1880-81[144]--Bradlaugh now sat in the House, doing his work
with intense and continuous application, though all the while there
hung over him the shadow of a ruinous litigation. He had taken the
risk. On 8th July the Government were asked by Mr Norwood, a hostile
Liberal, whether they would instruct the law officers of the Crown to
undertake his defence in any suit brought against him; but the answer
was, of course, in the negative; and Bradlaugh rose to explain that he
had had no communication with either Mr Norwood or the Government on
the subject. A fortnight later a Bill was zealously forced through both
the Houses to indemnify Lord Byron, who had sat and voted without being
sworn, against any action for penalties. Bradlaugh had the experience
of helping to safeguard the peer from the prosecution laid against
himself.

[Footnote 144: Mr Lang, in the page of random jottings in which he
"sketches" the Bradlaugh story, makes the misleading statement that
he only sat "for a few weeks under statutory liability" ("Life of
Northcote," ii. 137).]

His Parliamentary activity was many-sided, including as it did the
charge of the interests of endless correspondents in all parts of the
world who had grievances to redress and claims to put. But above all
he devoted himself to the interests of Ireland and of India, the one
still suffering from an imperfect realisation of her needs by English
Liberals; the other from the general neglect of Liberals and Tories
alike. The gratitude of the people of India has been freely given for
his service; that of the majority of the Irish members was naturally
not prompt. They had wronged him, and so could hardly forgive.

Such a frenzy of malevolence, further, as had been aroused among
bigots of all Churches by Bradlaugh's entrance into the House, was
slow to decline. Whether outside the House or inside, he was furiously
aspersed. A Bill to exclude Atheists was early introduced by Sir J.
Eardley Wilmot,[145] and petitions in support of this were largely
signed, though wholesale subscription by the children of Sunday Schools
was in many cases found to be necessary to fill the sheets. But
petitions for his exclusion were a small part of the storm of malice
that assailed him. It would fill a volume to recite or even cite the
hundreds of denunciations--often vile and grossly libellous, and nearly
all implying a religious motive--which were poured forth against him
week by week. Clergymen naturally formed the bulk of the assailants;
and of these the State Church furnished the largest contingent, all
grades of the hierarchy being represented; but the President of the
Wesleyan Conference, on behalf of the Conference Committee, presented
a hostile petition to Parliament; and the secretary to the same
Conference issued a circular calling upon the various Wesleyan bodies
to join in the general movement against the Atheist. Protestants vied
with Catholics in the foulness of their abuse, the ferocity of their
enmity.

[Footnote 145: The same member tried to raise the question on a vote in
supply.]

On the other hand, it must be put on record that in every church, in
varying numbers, there seem to have been lovers of freedom as well
as persecutors. Some of the most forcible and earnest letters sent
to the newspapers on Bradlaugh's behalf were written by clergymen of
the Church of England; and many Nonconformist clergymen spoke out
on his side ably and warmly. At a Church Conference, more than one
priest of the Establishment defended him bravely and well. Even from
within the pale of the Church of Rome there came voices of protest
against the intolerance of the majority. On 27th June 1880 the "Home
Government Association" of Glasgow sent to Bradlaugh a resolution of
the majority of its members to the effect "that this meeting of Irish
Roman Catholics ... most emphatically condemns the spirit of domination
and intolerance arrayed against you, and views with astonishment and
indignation the cowardly acquiescence, and in a few instances active
support, on the part of a large majority of the Irish Home Rule members
to the policy of oppression exercised against you." Bradlaugh was
peculiarly quick to appreciate such messages of sympathy and fairness
from religious opponents. The words of Bright on his behalf in the
House brought tears to his eyes; and he never forgot to be grateful for
them. In his own journal, immediately after his entrance to the House
on tentative affirmation, he printed the following appeal:--

 "Now that the fierce struggle is over, and that I am really in full
 enjoyment of the right and privilege which the people of Northampton
 gave me on the day of the poll, I beg my friends not to mar this
 triumph by any undue words of exultation or ungenerous boast. If
 bitter bigotry and Tory malice have been active against me personally,
 there has been also honest, earnest piety, in despite of the foulest
 and most persistent misrepresentations, enlisted in the grand array
 on behalf of right. If some clergymen have been cruel and unjust in
 language and conduct, there have also been preachers who have been
 most generous and kindly. Do not let our Freethinking friends remember
 so much what we as a party have done towards the result, as what has
 been done for us by religious men, notwithstanding the cry of heresy.
 If the heart of the great Nonconformist party had not been brave and
 just, the fight, instead of being so far over, would yet have to be
 fought. The speeches of religious men like William Ewart Gladstone,
 John Bright, Henry Richard, and Charles Stewart Parnell--each
 representing a varying shade of Christian belief, and each a most
 earnestly religious man--must more than outweigh, and cause our
 friends to pass by, the rabid, raving, fanatical outpourings and
 deliberate misrepresentations which have disfigured the Parliamentary
 discussions on this subject. When the reader remembers that the very
 vilest mis-statements and coarsest caricatures of my language and
 conduct have been circulated to every member of Parliament, ... it
 makes worthy of the strongest praise the high-minded conduct of those
 Nonconformists in the House of Commons who have declared for justice
 despite all."

But no good-feeling on his part or on that of the tolerant religious
minority could stay the torrent of libel and vituperation; and a
paragraph penned a month later shows how the majority bore themselves:--

 "Many of my good friends have--during the progress of the
 bye-elections which have taken place at Oxford, Scarborough, Berwick,
 Wigton, and other boroughs--written indignantly as to the exceedingly
 wanton and coarse personal slanders which, chiefly for electioneering
 purposes, have been circulated against me by the Conservatives in
 order to induce votes against supporters of the Government. It is
 a little difficult to know how properly to deal with these most
 indefensible and cowardly attacks. By the law as it stands no action
 can be maintained for any spoken words unless an indictable offence
 is charged in the slander, or unless actual special pecuniary damage
 can be shown to have resulted, which latter is of course not in
 question.... Thus, Sir John D. Hay--who in the Wigton election has
 descended to a lower depth of coarseness and falsehood than any other
 Parliamentary candidate[146]--could not be sued for damages.... The
 journals may of course be sued; but even if this is a wise course, the
 case is not easy. I am now proceeding against the _Yorkshire Post_
 for one very gross libel, and in the proceedings, which will be very
 costly, am actually required to answer voluminous interrogatories, not
 only as to all the doctrines I have taught and works I have published
 or written during the whole of my life, but also to works I happen
 to have referred to.... In the indictment against the editor of the
 _British Empire_[147] I shall probably have to bring a large number
 of witnesses from various parts of England to speak as to what has
 happened at lectures as far back as 1860. The fearful cost in this
 case (in which, being a criminal procedure, counsel must be employed)
 can only be fairly estimated by professional men.... I refrain from
 commenting on the infamous, most cowardly, and utterly uncalled-for
 attacks made on Mrs Besant by Sir John Hay and the _Glasgow News_, as
 these will in all probability be submitted to another tribunal."

[Footnote 146: "Language fit for a Yahoo," was the description given of
Hay's scurrility by the _Scotsman_.]

[Footnote 147: For publishing the "watch" libel.]

Some of these proceedings had to be abandoned, so enormous was the
burden.

A leading part had been early taken in the outcry against the Atheist
by the leading representative in England of the Church of Rome,
Cardinal Manning. In a highly declamatory and malevolent article
contributed to the _Nineteenth Century_, that ecclesiastic took the
line of appealing to the spirit of traditional national religiosity,
grounding his case not on any tolerable form of Christian doctrine,
but on the ignorant instinct that he knew to underlie the orthodoxy of
the Protestant Churches, as of his own. He lauded the English people,
regardless of its attitude to his own Church:--

 "It knows nothing," he declared, "of a race of sophists who,
 professing to know nothing about God, and law, and right and wrong,
 and conscience, and judgment to come, are incapable of giving to
 Christian or to reasonable men the pledges which bind their moral
 nature with the obligations necessary for the command of fleets and
 armies, and legislatures and commonwealths."

Of the historic fact that the English people had once brutally
persecuted the Quakers, but had latterly allowed them to dispense
with oath-taking, he disposed by saying that they were allowed to
affirm because they were known to be deeply religious, and therefore
trustworthy:--

 "But let no man tell me that this respectful confidence is to be
 claimed by our Agnostics; much less by those, if such there be, who,
 sinking by the inevitable law of the human mind below the shallowness
 and timidity of Agnosticism, plunge into the great deep of human
 pride, where the light of reason goes out, and the outer darkness
 hides God, His perfection, and His laws....

 "There still stands on our Statute book a law which says that to
 undermine the principles of moral obligation is punishable by
 forfeiture of all places of trust (9 and 10 Will. c. 32, Kerr's
 _Blackstone_, iv. 34, 35, note), but there is no law which says that
 a man who publicly denies the existence of God is a fit and proper
 person to sit in Parliament, or a man who denies the first laws of
 morals is eligible to make laws for the homes and domestic life of
 England, Scotland, and Ireland."

The whole article was in this strain, as far removed from political
science as from the charity which is conventionally associated with
the Christian name. And though all the while it was notorious that
the ignorant and superstitious of the Cardinal's own Church are
the least to be believed, whether on oath or without oath, of all
_quasi_-civilised men, the rancorous rhetoric of the Romish priest
counted for something with the class of Protestant bigots who, hating
Rome, hate reason so much more as to be ready to work with even Rome
against it. And yet Manning, in his work on "The Present Crisis of
the Holy See," had declared that "England has the melancholy and bad
pre-eminence of being the most anti-Catholic, _and therefore the most
anti-Christian_, power of the world." Thus can fanatics manoeuvre.

Among other libels, the ancient fable of the watch, the story of
which has been told in an earlier chapter, was at this time made to
do special duty, the flight of Edgcumbe being insufficient to set
up hesitation on the subject among the mass of the orthodox. Some
assailants, however, showed much discretion when challenged. Thus one
J. F. Duncan, a Wesleyan minister of Nottingham, who in his pulpit
described "that man from Northampton" as a "blot on the British
escutcheon," and as a "wretch" who gave his Maker five minutes to
strike him dead, was told that unless he apologised at once, criminal
proceedings would be taken against him. He instantly replied: "I am
this morning honoured with your communication, and have to say in reply
that I know nothing of newspaper reports of my sermons, but if any
remarks of mine have been offensive to you, you have my retractation
and apology _at once_." A line in the _Reformer_ tells how "J. H.
Martin Hastings, a professedly religious person, having grossly
libelled Mr Bradlaugh, now, under threat of criminal proceedings, sends
us his retractation and sincere apology."

Some persons, offered an opportunity for a much-needed apology, did not
avail themselves of it, the risk of criminal proceedings being absent.
The following correspondence sets forth one such case:--

  "To the Lord Norton,          June 25th, 1880.

 "MY LORD,--In the lobby of the House of Commons this
 afternoon your lordship said in my hearing, 'Mr Bradlaugh ought to be
 flogged in Trafalgar Square,' to which I at once replied to you that
 it was ungentlemanly and impertinent to offer me an insult at a moment
 when I could not return it.

 "I now beg to ask your lordship for some explanation, at the same time
 informing you that several members of the House of Commons whom I have
 consulted on the subject advise me that your lordship's carefulness
 in being ill-mannered and insulting three feet outside the House of
 Commons precludes me from submitting the matter to the Speaker, and
 I can therefore only place this letter before the public with such
 answer as your lordship may be pleased to send me.--I have the honour
 to be your lordship's obedient servant,

  CHARLES BRADLAUGH."

  "35 Eaton Place, June 26th, 1880.

 "SIR,--In reference to your letter just received, the facts
 are these:

 "I was yesterday in a crowd at the door of the House of Commons,
 waiting to get into the gallery for the Irish Compensation debate.
 You came out and passed into the lobby. Some one pointed you out to
 me. The observation was made, how much trouble one man's desire for
 notoriety could give. I added that a desire for notoriety might be
 gratified by a public flogging in Trafalgar Square. You seem to have
 imperfectly overheard the last words on returning to the House, and
 connected your name with them. I certainly had no idea of suggesting
 a mode and place of treatment for any particular case. You came up to
 me and said, 'You should not insult a man in his presence.' I replied
 that I had said nothing to you.--Obediently,

  "NORTON."

Bradlaugh's fingers must have itched to apply to Lord Norton's person
the chastisement which his lordship had prescribed for him. Less
well-bred people than his lordship expressed their sentiments to
Bradlaugh by letter, being denied the opportunity of insulting him in
his hearing. In the _Reformer_ of 12th September he writes:--

 "I was sorry that Mr Dillon thought it necessary to call the attention
 of the House to the threatening letters which had been sent to
 him. When I was fighting for my seat in the House, I received at
 least threescore letters threatening my life. I put them all in the
 waste-paper basket, although one or two of the communications were
 works of art, and decorated with skulls, cross-bones, bleeding hearts,
 and daggers. There is always a fair proportion of lunatics who in
 times of excitement write strange letters to public men."

His laugh over these things was entirely genial. At no period of his
struggle, and on no provocation, did he ever show a touch of that
general embitterment which so many men feel towards society on the
strength of an ill-usage either imaginary or trifling in comparison
with what he underwent. But the wrongers, as always, could not forgive.
There was no slackening in the output of Conservative defamation, the
device of saddling Bradlaugh's Atheism on the Gladstone Government
being too congenial to be abandoned. As Lord Henry Lennox had put
it in an inspired but unguarded moment, it was felt to be good Tory
policy to "put that damned Bradlaugh on them." Sir Hardinge Giffard
(now Lord Halsbury) publicly and falsely asserted in November that
before the election the Liberal whip, Mr Adam, had written to the
Northampton electors, asking them to return Bradlaugh; going on to
add that this step "had never been disavowed or disapproved by the
Liberal leaders"--an extremity of false witness memorable as coming
from a man who was soon to be made Lord Chancellor. Such a lead was of
course zealously followed. And the average upper-class Liberal, while
reluctantly voting with the Government in the matter, indemnified
himself by insolence to the man over whom the trouble had arisen.
There are always in the Liberal party men loyal to it as a faction,
while caring little for its principles in themselves, and bearing
small goodwill to those more advanced adherents who give pause to the
weaker brethren. This state of mind may account for the gratuitous
offensiveness, though hardly for the inaccuracy, of one utterance by Mr
Marjoribanks (now Lord Tweedmouth) in an address to his constituents at
Duns in November 1880:--

 "It was in his opinion a great pity that the electors of Northampton
 should have elected a man to be their representative whose views,
 moral, religious, and social, were such as were Mr Bradlaugh's
 specialty, and not only his specialty, but his means of subsisting.
 (Applause.) It was a pity, too, that when Mr Bradlaugh had been
 elected he had not followed the example of far greater men, such as
 Mill and Hume, who were to some extent sharers in his beliefs, or
 rather his disbeliefs, but who had quietly gone to the table and
 taken the oath, and said no more about it. Then, again, it was a pity
 that when Mr Bradlaugh claimed to affirm, he was not at once allowed
 to do so at his own risk. Of one thing, however, he was perfectly
 sure, and that was, that the House of Commons was perfectly right in
 the distinct and peremptory refusal which Mr Bradlaugh's demand to
 take the oath met when it was ultimately made."

It is not necessary here to go into Mr Marjoribanks' estimate of the
relative greatness of Bradlaugh and Joseph Hume, or of the merits of
Bradlaugh's views. It is not such judgments as his that determine a
man's standing with his generation, or with posterity. The remark
as to "means of subsisting," also, may be left to supply its own
commentary. More recently the same speaker has emphasized his objection
to some action of some journalists by remarking that it was done for a
livelihood; a judgment which strikes at the whole mass of the Christian
clergy, and which would seem to imply that a rich man is to be pardoned
for saying a false or a base thing where a hireling is to be doubly
denounced. A man who has never had occasion to do anything for a
livelihood presumably sees such things in a different light from those
who lack his pecuniary advantages; and though a professing Christian
is supposed to hold that the labourer is worthy of his hire, Lord
Tweedmouth doubtless remains satisfied with the ethics of his youth. Mr
Chamberlain has indicated similar views. Suffice it here to point to
Bradlaugh's whole career for the proof of the utter sincerity of his
propaganda. But to praise Mill and Joseph Hume for taking an oath "on
the true faith of a Christian," and to blame Bradlaugh for choosing
rather to affirm when he believed an affirmation was open to him, is
to set up an ethic which one would hardly expect any professed Liberal
to avow. As for the "distinct and peremptory refusal," no such thing
had taken place. What the House had distinctly refused was to allow the
affirmation; and in the division on that point Mr Marjoribanks _had
not voted for Mr Labouchere's motion_; whereas he had voted for Mr
Gladstone's motion referring the oath question to a select committee.
When a politician can thus deal with simple historical facts, his
opinion on weightier issues is apt to lose even the significance it
would normally have. Other Liberals added their quota. Lord Sherbrooke,
writing in the _Nineteenth Century_, spoke of the oath which Mr
Bradlaugh "at first refused and afterwards was ready to take." His
Lordship had once spoken of Disraeli as possessing a "slatternly and
inaccurate mind." No milder epithets could well be applied to himself
in the present case. But for all these endless insults and wanton
slanders Bradlaugh had seldom anything save a restrained and dignified
rebuke. When Mr Grantham, Q.C., M.P. (now Mr Justice Grantham), spoke
of him as gaining his livelihood "by the circulation of obscene
literature," he remarked in his journal that there was one homely Saxon
word that would meet the case. He might reasonably have said that there
were several, of varying length.

It was noticeable that all of these insults were uttered in Bradlaugh's
absence, or in periodicals where he was allowed no reply. From the
first he had been refused the right of reply in the _Nineteenth
Century_. Men did not now venture to attack him in the House; but
they were bold when among their constituents, especially in the rural
districts. On his own part he was scrupulous to give no just cause
for offence. One journalist recklessly represented him as having once
obtruded himself on the ceremony of prayers in the House, when in point
of fact he had been accidentally shut in, and had remained motionless
where he stood. We have seen how he besought all of his freethinking
followers to beware of seeming to presume on the vote in his favour.
During the autumn of 1880 there was much discussion of the question of
the Burials Bill, a test which served to show the amount of good-will
subsisting between bodies of citizens professing belief in the same
God and the same sacred books. Dissenters were fit to swear and sit
in the House of Commons, but from the Church point of view were not
fit to be buried "on their own recognisances," so to speak, in the
public churchyard. The Tories in their traditional fashion opposed
all concession, arguing that if dissenters were allowed to hold their
own services, Atheists and heathens would follow. One Conservative
member, named St Aubyn, pictured Atheists holding "indecent orgies
over the bodies of the dead." Considering that drunkenness at funerals
had been a reproach to Christendom for centuries; that it was common
in Presbyterian Scotland within the century; and that Irish wakes are
still customary, the suggestion may serve to measure the "honour
and conscience" of the speaker, who further signalised himself by
admitting, as a lawyer, that Bradlaugh had a legal right to sit in
the House, while he confessedly opposed his taking his seat. In view
of the general state of the Christian mind, Bradlaugh abstained from
speaking on the subject in the House, and the National Secular Society
decided to present no petitions in support of the Bill, lest they
should thereby injure its chances. They had their thanks in a speech
from Mr Osborne Morgan, who asked in Wales whether it was "reasonable
to keep four millions of Nonconformists knocking at the churchyard gate
for years because a handful of Secularists wanted to enter with them?"
Any suggestion, however indirect and unobtrusive, that Secularists were
entitled to the rights of other citizens, was sure in those days to
elicit some display of animosity from the majority of those who call
their creed a religion of love. Upright and scrupulous Nonconformists
there were in the House, such men as Richards and Illingworth, who were
faithful to the principle of equal liberty, and sought to carry it out;
but the feeling that Secularists were as much of a nuisance dead as
alive was the prevailing one.

Among the Irish members, finally, the full power of the Catholic
priesthood was exerted to the utmost. Bradlaugh did the Home Rulers
careful and continuous service in the House, besides publishing in
his journal many articles and paragraphs in support of the Parnell
movement. When the Chief-Justice of Ireland made a scandalous
exhibition of judicial prejudice in regard to the Parnell trial
before the case was heard, Bradlaugh denounced it as an "impudent
manifesto." At the same time, nothing would induce him to cater for
Irish or any other support at the expense of truth and fair play,
and he protested against Irish wrongdoing no less promptly, though
more gently, than against the wronging of Ireland. Any such display
of impartiality served the majority of the Catholic Home Rulers as a
political pretext for an antagonism motived either by religion or fear
of priestly influence; and when Bradlaugh protested against the Irish
tactics of obstruction and scurrility--tactics which he always refused
to employ--they deliberately represented him as supporting coercion,
though he not only spoke repeatedly against the Coercion Bill and
published in his journal a number of articles emphatically condemning
it,[148] but actually moved the rejection of the Bill on the second
reading, when Parnell had taken flight to avoid arrest. By this time
Parnell had given way to the pressure put upon him by his followers, by
the priests, and by the Irish press, and had joined them in aspersing
Bradlaugh as the enemy of Ireland. None the less did he continue his
Parliamentary labours in the Irish as in other causes. A reference to
Hansard shows that in the months July-March 1880-1 (in only five of
which, however, did Parliament sit) he was one of the most usefully
industrious members in the House; and so much was abundantly admitted
by his fellow-members, including even some opponents. Running over
the scanty reports of his work, we find him pleading for Maories and
Hindus, urging reform of the Criminal Code, asking the House to reject
the Lords' amendments on the Ground Game Bill, moving for a select
committee on perpetual pensions, challenging Indian finance, resisting
the prohibition of Sunday funerals, calling for returns of national
revenue and expenditure, working hard on the Employers' Liability Bill
of 1880, protesting against the plank bed for prisoners, protesting
against the flogging of soldiers,[149] besides putting questions on
behalf of aggrieved correspondents everywhere.

[Footnote 148: The _National Reformer_ of 16th January 1881 contains,
besides Bradlaugh's own protest, articles by two leading contributors
strongly condemning the measure and criticising its defenders,
including Bright.]

[Footnote 149: See above, p. 201.]

It was within this period that he came before the public in a new
light, through having been challenged to fight a duel by a wild French
_député_, M. Laisant, who declared in the Chamber, 27th December 1880,
that he had precise information proving Bradlaugh to be a Prussian spy.
Declining to go through the ceremony of the duel, Bradlaugh invited
M. Laisant to lay the matter before a jury of honour of six--three
to be English M.P.'s of whom M. Laisant should name one, and three
French Deputies of whom Bradlaugh should name one. The matter, like the
regulation French duel, came to nothing. But Bradlaugh had a very real
fight before him at home.


§8.

Meanwhile the litigation forced upon Bradlaugh by the policy of the
Government was proceeding, heaping up debt and preparing disaster.
After some distant skirmishing on points of form, the action of Clarke
came on in the Court of Queen's Bench on 7th March 1881, before Mr
Justice Mathew (a Roman Catholic) who, being newly appointed, was only
that morning "sworn in." When the case was called, the junior counsel
for the prosecution applied for an adjournment on the score that his
leader, Sir Hardinge Giffard, was absent, and he, the junior, did not
feel able to argue the case. Bradlaugh curtly explained that "Sir
Hardinge Giffard has on more than one occasion refused to consult my
convenience," and declined to agree to the adjournment. Giffard then
appeared. Stripped of minutiæ as to demurrers and cross-demurrers, the
arguments were:--

For the plaintiff: That the defendant was not in law entitled to make
affirmation of allegiance as he had done, the laws permitting such
affirmation having been "intended" to cover only persons holding
religious beliefs--_i.e._ beliefs as to a Deity and a future state.

For the defendant: That the Parliamentary Oaths Act of 1866 expressly
provided that every person "for the time being by law permitted to make
a solemn affirmation or declaration instead of taking an oath," should
be entitled to make affirmation in Parliamentary matters; that the
Evidence Amendment Act of 1869 enabled any unbeliever to give evidence
in any court of justice on the presiding judge being satisfied that an
oath would not be binding on his conscience; that the further amending
Act of 1870 defined the term "judge" as covering any persons legally
authorised to administer oaths for the taking of evidence; and that the
Speaker was so authorised. Therefore defendant was entitled to affirm
allegiance. "I contend," said Bradlaugh, "that all enabling clauses in
statutes must be interpreted liberally, not restrictively, in favour of
the person claiming the benefit, and not harshly against him."

The one technical weakness of the case was that nowhere had the
legislature explicitly said that persons with no religious belief
should be free to make affirmation of allegiance; though to found on
this omission would be to assume that the legislature, while thinking
the oath could advantageously (for that was avowed in the preambles)
be dispensed with in the taking of evidence, thought it could not be
dispensed with in the formality preceding entrance into Parliament.

On that point, however, Mr Justice Mathew founded his judgement,
which was delivered on 11th March. The Evidence Acts, he decided,
were clearly "intended to remove restrictions upon the admissibility
of witnesses with a view of promoting the discovery of the truth,"
and "had no other object." The Acts of 1866 and 1869-70 must not
be read together, because the legislature could not be supposed to
have "intended" them to be so read. To this argument--one of the two
mutually exclusive methods of interpretation of law which judges employ
at their choice--Mr Justice Mathew added a pointed comment on one
of the defendant's arguments. Bradlaugh, he said, had "attempted to
show that the privilege of sitting in either House of Parliament was
analogous to the 'privilege' of giving evidence in a court of justice."
On which his lordship absurdly remarked that "no one who was free to
choose his words and had a preference for accuracy of expression would
speak of the discharge of the all-important and anxious duty of a
witness as a privilege." It plainly follows on this, either that the
work of a member of Parliament is _not_ an "all-important and anxious
duty," or that it is not a privilege. The first alternative is absurd;
the other quashes the judge's argument. Further, it is the historical
fact that Bradlaugh and other Freethinkers _had_ regarded the power of
giving evidence in court as a privilege, and had so described it. It
may suffice to give these grounds, for the view of many of us is that
the decision was unjust. But neither at this nor at any other time was
Bradlaugh known even in private to question a judge's fairness. His
loyalty to the established system of "justice" was absolute.

Judgment being given for Clarke, Bradlaugh applied for a stay of
execution (as to the costs), with a view to an appeal; and the judge
assented. On 14th March, when Bradlaugh was rising in the House to
present a petition, Mr Gorst interposed with the objection that his
seat was now vacant, and took occasion to assert that to his knowledge
no notice of appeal had been given in the case. A discussion ensued,
in which Mr Labouchere read a letter from Mr Bradlaugh to him, telling
that he had instructed his solicitor to give the formal notice of
appeal, and would prosecute it without delay, and offering to vacate
his seat, if thought fit, to save time. Lord Randolph Churchill
suggested that they had "no security" that the appeal would be made
till nearly the end of the statutory twelve months. The point being
dropped, Bradlaugh on 23rd March moved the Court of Appeal to expedite
the hearing. As the appeal was "from an interlocutory order, and not
from a final decision,"[150] it could be taken promptly, and on 30th
March it was heard before Lords Justices Bramwell, Baggallay, and Lush.
Bradlaugh began by arguing that Clarke was not legally entitled to sue,
the Act founded on by him having been repealed by another which did
not re-enact permission to anybody to sue. Going over the other ground
afresh, he argued that the Act of 1866 made no exclusion of any class
of persons whatever; and that the legislature ought therefore to be
held as having desired to enable every class of citizens--an argument
much more cogent, to the lay sense, than the contrary inference drawn
by Justice Mathew. The arguments were long and intricate on both sides;
and one of Bradlaugh's remarks in his closing address shows to what
length of speculativeness they sometimes went: "The learned counsel
said the word 'solemnly' could not mean 'sincerely,' because there was
already the word 'sincerely' in the declaration. By the same process
of reasoning the word 'sincerely' cannot be construed to mean 'truly'
because there is also the word 'truly' in the affirmation. I think it
is better to confine ourselves to law, and not go into philology."
Towards the close, on a question as to whether their lordships'
judgment was to be judicial or extra-judicial on both points raised,
Bradlaugh remarked, "The House of Commons has been very generous in
its treatment of me, and I am anxious to reciprocate that generosity,"
adding a hope that their lordships would not think he was pressing
his point unduly. "If you will allow me to say so," replied Lord
Justice Lush, "you have argued the case with great propriety as well
as great force." But the judgment (delivered on 31st March) was again
hostile, being to the effect that Clarke was entitled to sue, and that
Bradlaugh was not entitled to make the Parliamentary affirmation.
The reason given by Lord Bramwell, the presiding judge, was that the
Parliamentary Oaths Act of 1866 would only permit affirmation to
persons _already entitled_, like the Quakers, to make affirmation
"not on particular occasions but on _all_ occasions when they would
otherwise have to take an oath." Unbelievers not being thus already
entitled (having only the right to affirm as witnesses), Bradlaugh was
not entitled to affirm by the Act of 1866, read in connection with
others which did not give a complete qualification. That is to say, as
I understand him, Lord Bramwell argued that the Act of 1866 was meant
to give the right of affirmation in a particular case to persons who
already had it in all possible cases. It sounds sufficiently absurd,
and I may have failed to follow the reasoning; but I can arrive at
no other interpretation of his words as published. Lords Justices
Baggallay and Lush concurred. The latter put it that the "every other
person" in the Act of 1866 "must mean every other person in a like
position with Quakers," that is, persons having "a perfect immunity
from taking the oath in all places and on all occasions." "Therefore
I feel no doubt whatever that the true construction of this sentence
is that Parliament never intended to allow every person whomsoever
when elected to appear before the House of Commons, and on stating
that he had a conscientious objection to the oath, being permitted to
make affirmation." Nobody, as it happened, had ever said so. But Lord
Justice Lush's confident conclusion as to the intentions of Parliament
involves this: That Parliament, knowing there were Atheist members,
_deliberately chose to have them take the oath, rather than let them
make affirmation_. To this outrageous conclusion all these judges are
shut up; for there is not a word in any of the Acts about excluding
Atheists; and if the "intentions" of the legislature are to be looked
for--thus argued Sir Hardinge Giffard in this very case--"the language
must be clear and unequivocal." So say we all. But the judges expressly
inferred exclusive intentions from the mere absence of special detail
in the inclusive language. They would not infer friendly intention
from friendly language; but they would infer hostile intention from no
language at all.

[Footnote 150: Bradlaugh put the technicalities thus to the Lord
Chancellor in the Court of Appeal on 27th March:--"There are issues of
fact untouched by the demurrer, and there is the first paragraph of the
statement of defence, on which I may possibly defeat the plaintiff even
should the allowance of the demurrer be maintained."]

Bradlaugh's seat was now vacant in law; and he at once stood for
re-election. All along the great majority of his constituents had
stood by him cordially and courageously. A series of crowded public
meetings, some addressed by himself and Mr Labouchere, some by leading
local politicians, protested against the injustice done to member and
constituency at each new stage of the process of exclusion, and now
that the constituency was called upon to express its feeling at the
polls it effectively responded. A certain number, of course, were
detached from Bradlaugh by the storm of obloquy which beat upon
him, and this the more readily because they had accepted the joint
candidature with reluctance; but the great majority stood staunch,
despite desperate efforts to turn them. As Bradlaugh told at the time,
the constituency was flooded with pamphlets containing

 "not only what I have said and what I have written, taken out of its
 context and distorted, but containing things I have never said and
 have never written, and never dreamt of saying or writing. Books that
 I have neither written nor published, but which were supposed to be
 obnoxious, have had extracts taken out from their medical parts and
 circulated, and the physiological part of the Knowlton pamphlet, for
 which I was indicted, was taken separately and sent by post to each of
 the electors. The vilest things have been said. Some of my foes have
 been more foul than even I had thought possible."

The dirty work was largely done by a person named Varley, known as
"a tradesman of Notting Hill." Further, a notice was served on the
electors assuring them that Bradlaugh had vacated his seat "as if he
were dead"; and on the comedy side of the contest the Conservative
candidate, whose name figured on his bills in the alliteration "Corbett
and Christianity," fortified his position in his electoral address by
the appeal: "I am intimately connected with a family in your own county
(that of Sir Charles Isham), which is well known to you, and members
of which have at former periods had the honour of representing their
native county in Parliament."

On the other side, a considerable amount of goodwill to Bradlaugh
was shown in the Liberal press. The _Christian Globe_, declaring
"unhesitatingly that the member for Northampton should be allowed to
affirm, if he desires it," remarked that "Mr Bradlaugh has his faults,
but he is a man of cleanly, decent, orderly life--a man of brains
and ability, and of sterling courage as well." The _Daily Chronicle_
testified that he had "made a decided and creditable mark in the House
of Commons by his ability, his moderation, and his general deportment."
Even the _Times_ bore witness:--"Mr Bradlaugh has his compensations.
It is something to have displayed forensic ability so conspicuous. It
is only fair to him to allow that many, whom the choice of Northampton
naturally did not content, have been conciliated by Mr Bradlaugh's
manly and moderate attitude." The more Radical _Weekly Dispatch_
declared that "no other new member of this new House of Commons has
so much distinguished himself for political integrity and shrewdness,
or given such evidence of statesmanlike qualities." Even in the House
itself, Sir John Holker had observed that Bradlaugh had shown himself
"a skillful debater, an eloquent man," whose "voice and tongue had an
influence on the debates." More solid than these testimonies were the
thousands of subscriptions, mostly small, but ranging from twopence to
£5, sent in to meet the election expenses. This help from the workers
was the kind of sympathy that always touched Bradlaugh to the quick.

The upshot of the fight (9th April 1881) was that Bradlaugh received
3437 votes, being 390 less than at the general election, while the
Conservative candidate got 3305, being 153 more than the former Tory
vote. Some 150 electors had turned round, while some 240 nominal
Liberals had abstained--not a very bad result under the circumstances.
The narrow majority of 132, however, gave sufficient encouragement
to the Tories in the House to stick to their policy of exclusion;
and anger at defeat did the rest. One journal, whose name it will be
charitable to suppress, deplored that the reluctance to fight a seat
against "a Yahoo like Bradlaugh," with whom even that "association"
would be "pollution," had prevented the advent of a better Tory
candidate than Mr Corbett.


§ 9.

Parliament being in recess, it was only on 26th April that Bradlaugh
was able to present himself once more on the field of battle. Sir
Stafford Northcote, courteously enough, as Bradlaugh acknowledged,
wrote him beforehand, intimating that he felt himself bound to object
as before to the oath-taking. This he did as Bradlaugh was about to be
sworn. The Speaker confessed that "undoubtedly a proceeding so regular
and formal" as the oath-taking "ought under ordinary circumstances
to be continued without interruption," but in view of the former
resolution of the House he felt bound to allow the intervention.
Bradlaugh interposed a request that he should be heard before the House
came to a decision; but it needed the special interposition of the
Speaker to get him a hearing for the bare request from the shouting
Tories. Northcote spoke on the customary lines. Bradlaugh had been
legally declared unentitled to affirm; but on the other hand, it
would be "profanation" for him to take the oath--albeit everybody knew
it had been taken by dozens of Atheists. And the old dishonourable
equivoque once more did duty: "it had been clearly shown that Mr
Bradlaugh did not regard the oath as having any binding effect on his
conscience." The mover of the amendment in Bradlaugh's favour, Mr
Davey, was much interrupted, as was Bright when he proceeded to support
it. Interrupting Bright was never profitable. His first allusion
to religious disability evoked the customary imbecile correction,
"irreligious disability." The answer was prompt:--

 "Hon. members say 'irreligious disability.' Well, you have objected
 before to the admission of the Roman Catholics. ('Hear, hear.') You
 objected to them because of their religion, which you deemed to be
 false--(loud cries of 'No' and 'Yes')--and the religion you deemed to
 be false you would now seem to consider much better than no religion
 at all. On the same ground you refused for many years the claims
 of the Jews to be admitted to this House, and you have now raised
 exactly the same question--('No' and 'Hear')--but in a more offensive
 form--('Oh' and cheers)--because you aim your shafts at a particular
 individual, who cannot be said to represent a class."

Once more Bright defended Bradlaugh from the impudent charge that
he had "obtruded his opinions on the House." His declaration that
Bradlaugh's ground for proposing to affirm "was a ground honourable
to himself--it was in point of fact a tenderness of conscience, as I
should call it," drew "loud laughter" from the conscientious gentlemen
of the Opposition. Bright pressed his point all the harder:

 "I think it a gross unfairness--it was then and is now--to bring
 forward the fact that he himself preferred to affirm rather than take
 the oath, and then upon that to assume that the oath would not be
 binding upon his conscience.... He states in the most distinct manner
 that the words of the oath are binding upon his conscience--binding
 upon his honour and conscience. If that be so, you have no right to
 assume that the oath is not binding upon his conscience. You might as
 well tell me that the oath is not binding upon my conscience."

Later in the speech came a shrewd thrust:--

 "If it be permitted to make these assumptions with regard to the hon.
 member for Northampton, why is it not equally right to make them with
 regard to other persons--I will mention no names--in this House or
 outside this House, who either publicly or privately have expressed
 the same opinions as are assumed to be held by Mr Bradlaugh? But
 nobody proposes to put any questions to them. (Cries of 'Name.') It
 is admitted now that if Mr Bradlaugh had come to the table and said
 nothing about the affirmation--I do not hesitate to say that it is to
 his credit that he did not take that course--and had offered to take
 the oath, no question would have been asked, but he would have been
 allowed to take the oath just as other members of the House."

Another reference to Bradlaugh's conscience brought out the cry, "What
is its value?" from a Conservative member, and Bright commented mildly
enough:--

 "I must express my regret at what I must call the almost violent
 temper with which some hon. gentlemen come to the consideration of
 this question. I can feel the greatest charity for a member of this
 House who in my opinion holds views on religious matters which appear
 to me so extraordinary and so unfortunate.... There has been no member
 of this House who has conducted himself with greater propriety and
 decorum--(cheers)--and he has brought to our discussions at least an
 average--perhaps more than an average--ability; and there is not a
 single word he has uttered, not a single act he has committed, which
 in the slightest degree ought to bar him from taking his place in this
 assembly of gentlemen. (Cheers.) I would ask hon. members to think
 for a moment whether it is in accordance with that Christianity which
 they presume so much to defend that they should now at this time,
 after many years, almost centuries, of discussion of questions of
 this nature, determine to raise up another barrier against the civil
 freedom which our constituencies believe they enjoy."

The use of the quotation:

               "Bigotry may swell
  The sail he sets for Heaven with blasts from Hell"

was perhaps the most resented item in the speech; and Mr Gorst, who
followed, thought it judicious to assert that on his side of the House
"there was no disposition to treat this question in the spirit of
intolerance and bigotry which the right hon. gentleman had done his
very best to stir up.... It ought to be treated purely as a question
of legality." But in a few minutes Mr Gorst arrived at the further
conclusion that "to say that this was a question for the courts of law
was absurd."

Bradlaugh then made his "Second Speech at the Bar." He first reminded
Mr Gorst, who had argued from his old answer to the Committee on
the point of the oath, that that answer was given unwillingly and
after objection to its being put. In another preliminary paragraph
he remarked: "My return is untainted. There is no charge of bribery,
no charge of corruption, nor of inducing men to come drunken to the
polling-booth." ("Hon." members who had done these things had had
no scruple about taking the oath, nor had the House ever shown much
resentment at contact with them.) Mr (now Sir) Edward Clarke had during
the debate spoken of Bradlaugh's "making an avowal of opinions to the
House" on a former occasion, and had contended that the dignity of the
House was now involved.

 "I have never," said Bradlaugh, "directly or indirectly, said one
 word about my opinions, and this House has no right to inquire what
 opinions I may hold outside its walls. The only right is that which
 the statute gives you; my opinions there is no right to inquire into.
 I shelter myself under the laws of my country. This is a political
 assembly, met to decide on the policy of the nation, and not on the
 religious opinions of the citizens."

He was accordingly meeting the Conservatives, as represented by Mr
Gorst, on their own ground. On the question of dignity, raised by Mr
Clarke, he asked:

 "Do you mean that I can injure the dignity of this House? this
 House which has stood unrivalled for centuries? this House, supreme
 among the assemblies of the world? this House, which represents the
 traditions of liberty? I should not have so libelled you."

The most direct thrust in the speech is perhaps the following:--

 "What will you inquire into? The right hon. baronet would inquire
 into my opinions. Will you inquire into my conduct, or is it only
 my opinions you will try here? The hon. member for Plymouth [Mr E.
 Clarke] frankly puts it--opinions. If opinions, why not conduct? Why
 not examine into members' conduct when they come to the table, and see
 if there be no members in whose way you can put a barrier? ('Hear,
 hear.') Are members, whose conduct may be obnoxious, to vote my
 exclusion because to them my opinions are obnoxious?"

Here again the tone is not deprecatory:--

 "The right hon. baronet has said there has been no word of
 recantation. You have no right to ask me for any recantation. Since
 the 9th April you have no right to ask me for anything. If you have
 a legal disqualification, petition, lay it before the judges. When
 you ask me to make a statement, you are guilty of impertinence to me,
 of treason to the traditions of this House, and of impeachment of the
 liberties of the people."

And the close--it cannot be called a peroration--makes no abatement of
emphasis:--

 "I ask you now, do not plunge me into a struggle I would shun. The law
 gives me no remedy if the House decides against me. Do not mock at the
 constituencies. If you place yourselves above the law, you leave me
 no course save lawless agitation, instead of reasonable pleading. It
 is easy to begin such a strife, but none knows how it would end....
 You think I am an obnoxious man, and that I have no one on my side.
 If that be so, then the more reason that this House, grand in the
 strength of its centuries of liberty, should have now that generosity
 in dealing with one who to-morrow may be forced into a struggle for
 public opinion against it."

Mr Gladstone followed with a carefully subdued speech, in which,
however, he remarked: "Mr Bradlaugh is upon his trial before the House;
but the House also, permit me to say it with great respect, is upon its
trial," and he proceeded to cite against the opposition the authority of

 "Sir George Grey, who was an ornament of the House for fully forty
 years, and who has not ceased to take a lively interest in its
 proceedings. I hold in my hand his written opinion, expressed in
 the most decisive terms, and he has the fullest conviction that the
 opposition to the taking of the oath by Mr Bradlaugh ought not to be
 permitted by the Chair."

He further bore laudatory witness to Bradlaugh's behaviour in the
House:--

 "Every man must in common fairness admit that Mr Bradlaugh is to be
 credited with the best and highest motives. He is under a _primâ
 facie_ and presumptive obligation and duty, having been elected by
 a constituency to present himself at the table as the only means of
 fulfilling his duty to them. On the other hand, I need not animadvert
 upon his conduct. It is generally admitted that his conduct while
 he sat on those benches was the conduct of a man of great ability,
 integrity, and honour."

Incidentally, the Premier mentioned that the authority of Sir John
Holker was with those who held that the House had no right to
interfere; and he put to the Opposition, at some length, the plain
logical outcome of their action, namely, that they were bound, in
every case in which a member's opinions were known from any source
to be irreligious, to refuse that member the oath. The argument was
unanswerable; but it was not argument that was to be met. After a
long debate the House divided, when 208 members voted for Northcote's
motion, and only 175 against.

Then came another "scene." Bradlaugh came to the table and made his
old protest: "The resolution of the House is against the law, and
I respectfully refuse to withdraw." The Speaker, as before, asked
for "instructions." Northcote asked Gladstone to propose something.
Gladstone "left it to the majority to carry out their own vote."
Northcote, after lecturing the Premier for dereliction of duty, moved
"that Mr Bradlaugh be ordered to withdraw." Gladstone warmly demanded
to know on what grounds he was lectured. Mr Labouchere interposed with
a warning, and proposed to divide, but at the request of Mr Bright
withdrew the motion. The Speaker again asked Bradlaugh to withdraw,
and Bradlaugh again refused. The Sergeant-at-Arms was then called on
to remove him, and did so in the former fashion, Bradlaugh returning
from the bar to the table as before, protesting against physical
force, and asking the House "not to put me to the indignity of a
physical struggle." Again the Speaker "threw himself upon the House for
instructions," and the House called for "Northcote" and "Gladstone";
but neither leader responded. A member asked whether Mr Bradlaugh had
not already been ordered out. The Speaker helplessly explained that
the order "only extended to the bar of the House and no further," on
which Bradlaugh moved back to the bar and stood there. Northcote rose
and feebly protested that he "was only prevented from moving that Mr
Bradlaugh should be committed by the feeling that Mr Bradlaugh was
encouraged by the Government in his resistance." Gladstone "entirely
repudiated and repelled the statement," considered the accusation
groundless and wanton, and called upon his right hon. antagonist to
"point to the facts on which he has made so grave a charge to the
House." Northcote suitably replied, and Gladstone again repudiated,
intimating that he "should not take any steps in this matter until the
time came when it appeared to him he could do it with advantage to the
House." Thereupon Mr Cowen moved the adjournment of the House, which
was eagerly agreed to. Only in that fashion was the House able for the
time to get out of the ignoble dilemma in which it had been landed by a
cowardly cabal of bigots and faction-fighters. Northcote did not dare
again to move Bradlaugh's committal, but did not dare to confess it;
and there was nothing to do but run away.

Next day, however, the trouble began afresh. Bradlaugh again presented
himself, and was once more removed to the bar, where he stood as
before. Mr Labouchere now asked whether the Government would give
facilities for the Affirmation Bill he had introduced last session; and
Gladstone in his lengthiest manner evolved the answer that it would
depend on whether the Bill was to be opposed. Mr Labouchere and others
passed on the appeal to Northcote as directly as the forms of the
House permitted; and Northcote, as lengthily as Gladstone, made answer
to the effect that "a measure of the kind" would have his "careful
consideration," but he could agree to nothing "in the nature of a
bargain." The truth was, of course, that Northcote could not answer
for his more unscrupulous followers, but dared not admit as much; so
the debate went on in the diffusest House-of-Commons manner. After
a long speech from Bright, Mr Hubbard, losing patience, and having
no judgment to lose, asked "What use were the police, or officers of
the House, if they could not protect the House from the intrusion of
people who had no business there?" No answer being vouchsafed from the
deaf heavens, Mr Walter pompously explained that in his opinion Mr
Bradlaugh ought to be allowed to affirm, but that no unbeliever ought
ever to be allowed to take the oath. "It was idle to say the House had
not official cognisance of the fact that the hon. gentleman belonged
to a sect which did not believe in the existence of God." Another
long speech from Gladstone left the situation unchanged. Mr Newdegate
intimated that if neither leader moved the arrest of Mr Bradlaugh, he
would, if necessary, do it himself. Still the debate rolled on. Mr
Chaplin admitted that Bradlaugh while in the House "had acted with
great ability and great moderation," but then he had "openly avowed,"
etc., so they could not stand by, etc. They commenced their proceedings
with prayer, and invoked the aid of the Supreme Being to guide them in
their labours. On the obvious efficacy of the appeal, Mr Chaplin did
not dwell. A dozen more speakers followed, some of them--as Alderman
Fowler and Mr Warton--declaring that they would oppose any bill; while
one Maciver intimated that he "intended on Thursday to ask the Prime
Minister whether he would introduce a short measure for the partial
disfranchisement of Northampton." At length, on no assurance from
Northcote, but simply on a favourable expression of feeling from Sir
Walter Barttelot, Mr Labouchere's motion for the adjournment of the
House, under cover of which the whole long-drawn discussion had taken
place, was by leave withdrawn; and Bradlaugh withdrew to await the
action of the Government.

On the 29th April Gladstone did announce the intention of the Ministry
to introduce an Affirmation Bill, whereupon Lord Randolph Churchill
announced his intention to oppose it; and the early stages of the
measure were systematically hampered. Bradlaugh published in his
journal an "Appeal to the People," in which he asked them to "speak
out clearly, distinctly, thoroughly, and at once on this issue;" and
he again held a great town's meeting at Northampton. After a long and
brilliant speech, ending with the words, "In this struggle some one
must recede, some one must bend, some one must break. This I do pledge
myself, that if health do keep, and life do hold, I will never give
way," there was a loud tempest of applause, at the close of which he
rose again and asked the audience, "Have you still confidence in me?"
and "Will you stand by me in this fight?" Every hand went up to both
questions with fresh storms of cheering, and Bradlaugh answered "Then
on my honour, if I live, we will win."

The House, however, did not mend its ways. On 2nd May Gladstone moved
that the other Orders of the Day be postponed for the Oaths Bill, and
Churchill opened the debate with a vulgar and violent harangue, which
ended with a hope that the Tories would "give no facilities for placing
in that House brazen Atheism and rampant disloyalty." Several followed
suit; and Northcote, seeing his followers leading him as usual, made
one of his flabby speeches in deprecation of anything like speedy
action in the matter. The measure must be discussed "upon its own
merits, and not with reference to the circumstances and position of any
given individual;" and there must be no "semblance of hurry for the
purpose of avoiding a scandalous scene." In fine, there should be no
alacrity. Gladstone extensively assented, agreeing to allow an interval
after the introduction of the Bill; but a number of Tories threw over
their leader, and one Lewis moved the adjournment of the debate. This
failing, the Home Rulers raised a dispute on procedure, whereafter the
Attorney-General, Sir Henry James, introduced the Bill. In the course
of his speech Sir Henry cited the admission of Northcote to the effect
that he did not object to Bradlaugh sitting in the House, but to his
taking the oath. The unhappy Northcote, pressed on all sides, made the
pitiful explanation that when he said so he only wanted to raise the
point of the oath; but he did not now wish to be understood as having
no objection to Bradlaugh's presence in the House.

Adjourned till Friday the 6th May, the debate was then proposed to be
postponed till the 10th, whereupon Mr A. J. Balfour--who now for the
first time interposed in the controversy within the House--objected
to the Government's course as being taken "not to give relief to any
large class of Her Majesty's subjects, but to deal with an individual."
Sir Richard Cross, who was reminded that he had admitted there was no
way out of the difficulty save by legislation, granted that he was of
that opinion, but avowed that he would all the same oppose any attempt
to give facilities for Bradlaugh's admission. On a division on the
amendment the Government had only a majority of 6 votes--128 to 122.
On their motion being put substantively, a new discussion arose, the
Tories moving the adjournment of the debate. Bright made an impressive
speech, in which he "ventured to say that if the Bill were passed
there were scores of members who would prefer to make an affirmation,"
but obstructive speaking went on, Mr T. P. O'Connor, among others,
ridiculing Bright's speech, and charging him with having "insulted the
religious feeling of the Irish people" earlier in the evening. After
hours of time had been spent, the Government, at three o'clock in
the morning, agreed to the adjournment; but on Tuesday morning, when
the question was raised after one A.M., the obstruction was
continued on precisely the same lines, and the ministry gave up their
plan of a "morning" (_i.e._ afternoon) sitting. Lord Henry Lennox's
principle of "putting that damned Bradlaugh on them" was now felt by
his party to be an inspiration worthy of the common cause. Bradlaugh's
admission stood indefinitely adjourned, so far as the Government were
concerned. But they had still to reckon with Bradlaugh himself.

Giving due notice, he presented himself at the House next day, and the
now customary scene was enacted. The Speaker made his usual appeal, and
Sir Stafford Northcote moved "that the Sergeant-at-Arms do remove Mr
Bradlaugh from the House until he shall engage not to further disturb
the proceedings of the House." On challenge, he explained that by this
he meant that Bradlaugh should "not come within the door kept by the
doorkeepers." To this motion Gladstone agreed, asking his followers to
do likewise. It "relieved the Government," as the journals noted at the
time, "of the necessity for pushing on the Parliamentary Oaths Bill."

Bradlaugh for his part decided not to renew his attempt until the
Irish Land Bill had got through the House. So much consideration he
thought the Government were entitled to, and no amount of injustice
from Irishmen could induce him to put in jeopardy a measure of justice
to Ireland. On this decision he promised the Sergeant-at-Arms not to
attempt any forcible entry of the House without giving him full notice.


§ 10.

Meanwhile the battle of opinion went on outside the House. It was
noticed at the time, as a significant fact, that in the newspaper war
on the subject nearly every attack on Bradlaugh was anonymous, or
signed with initials, while nearly every defence of him was signed.
His friends fought for him with his own spirit. A "League for the
Defence of Constitutional Rights" was founded in his support; and an
"anti-Atheistic Committee" was formed on the other side, with an office
in the Strand, and with the name of Sir Bartle Frere figuring in its
propaganda. On this Bradlaugh struck out as he seldom did. "At least
very shame," he said, "should have made Sir Bartle Frere hesitate
before he paraded his blood-and-shame-stained name in a crusade against
me." The "anti" Committee held a ticket meeting in Exeter Hall, at
which a Secularist who had a platform ticket learned from a member of
the Committee, a magistrate, that the Committee had engaged for the
evening six prize-fighters, with instructions to "stop the mouths of Mr
Bradlaugh's friends with their fists." The meeting was presided over
by Earl Percy, and among the speakers was the Varley before mentioned.
"Bradlaugh's friends" filled the street outside and carried counter
resolutions. Indoors the promoters had the services of the police in
tearing up the tickets of any comers who were pointed out to them
as Freethinkers, and in ejecting the presenters; while disorder was
created by the further ejection from the platform of a number of
Freethinkers who had gone thither with proper tickets.[151] No less
than two hundred policemen had been supplied by the Home Office. After
this naturally there was some disturbance. According to Canon Taylor,
one of the speakers, "for an hour and a half it was scarcely possible
for the different speakers to get a hearing, except a few sentences
at a time; and when 'God save the Queen' was sung the Atheists in
every possible way showed their disloyalty." The resolution of the
promoters was declared carried; but the Rev. Canon "was alarmed to
see such a large minority, extending from beneath the platform to the
other end of that large hall, composed of men and, he was grieved to
say, women." (The boys present, it may be inferred, belonged to the
Young Men's Christian Association.) And this alarmingly large minority,
when the "contrary" vote was taken, "rose with the greatest possible
manifestations of dissent, and with the waving of handkerchiefs." Quite
a number of similar meetings in the provinces failed more or less
badly. On the other hand, Bradlaugh in person held crowded meetings,
free to all, in many towns, getting an ovation everywhere, in addition
to which scores of resolutions and petitions in his favour were
sent to the House by Liberal and Radical clubs. A mass meeting held
at St James's Hall under the auspices of the Constitutional Rights
League, finally, was packed to the door. Among the speakers were three
clergymen, one belonging to the Church of England, Admiral Maxse, and
Mr Labouchere; and no dissentient vote was given on the resolutions
in Bradlaugh's favour. One of the Nonconformist ministers who spoke,
the Rev. Mr Sharman, told how Plymouth Liberals had sent to Northcote
the telegram: "We protest against your effort to deprive Northampton
of one-half of its representation as being revolution in the name of
Conservatism and robbery in the name of religion." The Rev. Stewart
Headlam said of Bradlaugh:--

[Footnote 151: In the House of Commons on 7th February 1882 Earl Percy
asserted that Bradlaugh's friends had fabricated tickets for the
meeting. The statement was absolutely false.]

 "I know the great work he has done in the east of London for the moral
 condition of the people. I know how he has got hold of hundreds of
 people whom we clergy have been utterly unable to reach; and ... I am
 certain that the work he has done in the east of London has been of
 the greatest moral use for the elevation of the people."

Bradlaugh, on his own part, paid one of his many tributes to Gladstone.

Of this meeting no report appeared in the leading Liberal paper, the
_Daily News_, then understood to be mainly owned by Mr Samuel Morley,
before mentioned. This was unhappily not the only instance of a
Liberal journal perverted by private motives to the side of bigotry
in Bradlaugh's case. Mr Joseph Cowen, M.P., owner of the _Newcastle
Daily Chronicle_, who had long been on friendly terms with him, and who
had volunteered the expression of approval of Bradlaugh's action when
he was imprisoned in the Clock Tower, now took the line of charging
him with inconsistency in proposing to take the oath, though it was
for trying to take the oath in the previous session that he had been
imprisoned. And Mr John Morley, then editing the _Pall Mall Gazette_,
not only gave prominence in that journal to utterances hostile to
Bradlaugh, such as that of Mr Holyoake, but suppressed letters in his
favour, even when sent by a literary man of good standing like Mr
Moncure Conway. Mr Morley, while of course condemning the Tory tactics,
now blamed Bradlaugh for proposing to take the oath at all, though he
had before spoken of him as "parading his views," and though, when he
previously accused him of first "declining" the oath and then asking to
take it, he had _not_ condemned oath-taking by an unbeliever. Bradlaugh
pointed out that voluntary abstention from taking the oath would have
made his seat void in law, to which the _Gazette_ editorially answered
by expressing its confidence that if Bradlangh had simply refused to
take the oath, the House would not have dreamt of unseating him on
that score. On the strength of that conviction the _Gazette_ editor
wrote:[152]--

[Footnote 152: April 27, 1881.]

 "We have not concealed our opinion that Mr Bradlaugh would have
 consulted his own dignity by refusing to take the oath, and fighting
 out an issue which could only have one end." And again:[153] "The
 national belief in the existence of a Deity will not be lessened by
 the fact that Mr Bradlaugh and men like him are no longer called upon
 to use a form which in their lips is an indecent piece of mockery."

[Footnote 153: May 6, 1881.]

When later elected himself, Mr Morley made no attempt to act on the
rule he had thus laid down or caused to be laid down for another man.

It is a curious and a melancholy illustration of the instability of
human character that while Mr Morley was partly playing into the hands
of the spirit of injustice, Mr Goldwin Smith, who now wears its livery,
was emphatic on the other side. He thus wrote in his Toronto journal,
the _Bystander_, in April 1881:--

 "To the shame of British civilisation and religion, the attack upon Mr
 Bradlaugh and upon the civil rights of his constituents goes on, and
 has been technically successful in a court of law. _The ringleaders
 are scamps_, putting forward religion as a pretext for political
 persecution. It is Sandwich over again denouncing Wilkes for impiety.
 Set a coronet on Mr Bradlaugh's head, give him a large fortune, make
 him a Tory in politics, and though he were the most offensive of
 Atheists, and the most profligate of debauchees to boot, he would have
 these crusaders at his feet.... If Parliament allows a fine to be
 levied on Mr Bradlaugh for taking the seat to which he had been duly
 elected it will undergo a far greater disgrace than any that can be
 inflicted upon it by obstruction."

Doubtless Mr Goldwin Smith, writing in Canada, did not feel the burden
which weighed on Liberal respectability at home, the more so as he had
never professed himself a rationalist.


§ 11.

The lawsuit raised by Clarke on behalf of Mr Newdegate still went on
its difficult way, Bradlaugh fighting it inch by inch and point by
point. On 2nd May 1881 he argued before the Lords Justices of Appeal a
point on which he had previously been stopped, and on which no judgment
had been given. This was as to the validity of the "replication," in
which Bradlaugh argued that, as he had actually made affirmation, he
could not properly be sued (as he had been) for sitting and voting
without taking the oath. The judges ruled that as he was not in their
opinion entitled to affirm, the fact of his affirming was not a valid
answer. Defeated here, Bradlaugh decided next to endeavour to overthrow
the action on what he described as a pure technicality, the argument
that, as the writ was dated 2nd July 1880, and the vote sued on had
been given on that day, the action had been brought too early, "for
that the writ must be held to have been tested at the earliest possible
moment of the 2nd of July, and therefore prior to the sitting and
voting for which the penalty is claimed." This point was raised on
16th and 17th May before Lord Chief Justice Coleridge and Mr Bowen,
on Clarke's counsel moving for judgment, and Bradlaugh advanced a
long and learned argument on the point. Judgment was delayed, and the
legal point was tried on 20th and 21st June, before Justice Denman
and Watkin Williams, on the plaintiff's amended statement, Bradlaugh
demurring. His demurrer was overruled, Justice Denman admitting
that the point raised was "true as a general rule of law," but not
applicable to this case; and his lordship gave this singular reason:
"For a legal fiction is for the purpose of doing justice, not for
defeating it." It was not suggested that justice was being done in the
case in hand; but if Bradlaugh's argument were to hold good, it might
be defeated in somebody else's case. "No rule of law," said Justice
Watkin Williams concurring, "compels us so to violate common sense
and plain understanding," another decision worth remembering in the
present connection. Bradlaugh drily wrote in his journal: "I think the
decision of Justices Denman and Watkin Williams is in accordance with
common sense, but I do not think it is consonant with common law." He
added: "I shall, of course, appeal against the decision. The next step
will probably be the trial at _Nisi Prius_"--that was, the trial of
the matter of fact as to the exact hour of issuing the writ, which had
still to be proved by oral evidence before a jury.

That trial took place before Mr Justice Grove and a special jury, in
the Queen's Bench Division, on 19th, 20th, and 22nd July; and the
cross-examination of witnesses by Bradlaugh elicited, for one thing,
that Newdegate was the financial backer of Clarke's action, and, for
the rest, that the evidence of Newdegate and his principal witnesses
on the question of the time of issue of the writ was rather worse than
worthless. Newdegate had a very bad time of it in the witness-box, and
the verbatim report of his cross-examination[154] may be recommended
to legal students as illustrating the value of the testimony of an
English gentleman and magistrate who believes devoutly in God, and
holds that no unbeliever can be believed. A worse appearance has seldom
been made in the witness-box by a man of standing; and in the case in
question it was only surpassed in importance by the exhibition made
by Newdegate's principal legal witness--a gentleman who was proved
to have expressed his surprise that another legal gentleman should
consent to give evidence for "a man like Bradlaugh." The whole report
is a singularly dramatic comment on the proposition that oaths secure
truthful evidence. Probably no competent and unbiassed person who now
reads it will have any difficulty in concluding that the writ had
actually been taken out at least an hour before Bradlaugh had given the
vote on which it proceeded, and that at least three witnesses swore to
falsehoods. Bradlaugh categorically asserted in Court that Newdegate
had lied; and Newdegate's evidence was hardly the worst.

[Footnote 154: Given in a special number of the _National Reformer_.]

The facts of the case may now be historically stated with tolerable
confidence. Newdegate had been afraid that a friendly action would
be brought against Bradlaugh, in which case Bradlaugh would not have
to meet the £500 penalty. Newdegate desired that Bradlaugh should be
mulcted; and he had actually been indecent enough to block the Bill
of Indemnity introduced on Bradlaugh's behalf by Mr Labouchere. Nay
more, in opposing the motion that Bradlaugh be permitted to sit on
affirmation, he had argued that it was beneath the dignity of the House
to lay a trap for a man and leave him to be caught in it by any one who
cared to prosecute. Yet after saying this, he gave a bond of indemnity
to Clarke, the common informer, for suing Bradlaugh; and he had
apparently selected Clarke--a nondescript person, sometimes called a
surveyor, sometimes an accountant, but professionally neither--because,
having little or no means, he could not be made to pay costs in case of
Bradlaugh winning the action.[155] Such a litigant would not stick at
trifles. In concert with his legal advisers, Newdegate, to forestall
the friendly action, had the writ ready for serving before Bradlaugh
had voted. This, at least, seems to be pretty clearly revealed by the
extraordinary prevarications of Newdegate and his witnesses.

[Footnote 155: Formally, Newdegate was bound to pay Bradlaugh's costs
if Bradlaugh won, but had the fact of the maintenance never come out,
it would have been an easy matter for Clarke to become bankrupt,
and leave Bradlaugh no redress, while he himself could be privately
reimbursed by Newdegate.]

The case ended oddly. The jury, after being locked up for nearly an
hour, intimated that they were not likely to agree; and the judge
asked whether a majority verdict would be accepted. Bradlaugh offered
to do so, but Newdegate's counsel declined. After nearly an hour
more, however, the jury agreed on their verdict; and it was for the
plaintiff, Clarke. It was understood that they had agreed to give their
verdict by majority. Bradlaugh tersely remarked in his journal: "The
ultimate verdict a little disappointed me: I had thought that I had
won." Certainly the judge's summing-up had seemed to be in his favour.

As usual, he appealed. Like Ben Bolt in the novel, he was "bad to
beat." He appealed for a new trial, on the ground that the verdict was
"against the weight of the evidence." But that was not all. Newdegate,
having confessed giving a bond of indemnity to Clarke, had laid
himself open to a return action, under a form of law, for the offence
of "maintenance;" so on 27th July Bradlaugh accompanied Mr (now Sir)
George Lewis, the famous solicitor, to Bow Street Police Court, where
Mr Lewis moved for a summons against Newdegate, and another against his
solicitor as accessory. The magistrate, Mr Flowers, was somewhat taken
aback. "Is it not rather----" he began. "Yes," said Mr Lewis promptly;
"and so is the action against Mr Bradlaugh. Mr Newdegate asks for
strict law against Mr Bradlaugh, who now asks in return that strict law
may also be enforced against Mr Newdegate." The summonses were granted.

Next day, 28th July, and on 1st August, Bradlaugh argued before
Justices Grove and Lindley his motion for a new trial on the question
of time in the Clarke case. Finally (8th August), after a request from
the Court for affidavits had been followed by an extremely improper
step on the part of Newdegate's solicitor, who actually sent some
affidavits privately to Mr Justice Grove's house, the Judges gave a
rule _nisi_ for a new trial on the ground urged. This rule could not be
argued till November, and if it were then made absolute the new trial
could not take place till after Christmas, so that Newdegate was once
more intercepted. The criminal summonses, on the other hand, did not
come on till 20th September, for reasons which will appear in the next
section, and when heard were dismissed by the magistrate, Mr Vaughan.

 "He was of opinion that complainant had not shown that the maintenance
 of which he complained came within the meaning of the statute. Though
 the statutes of Richard II. and Henry VIII. did undoubtedly refer to
 crimes and imprisonment for maintenance, still it was most singular
 that no indictment could be found for violation of these statutes.
 It seemed to him that the proceeding was an obsolete one, and that
 the criminal law ought not to have been invoked for a purpose of this
 description, when it was open to Mr Bradlaugh ... to apply to the
 common law courts.... Old statutes had been searched out in order
 that proceedings--which he could not help thinking had been taken to
 gratify a very unfriendly feeling on Mr Bradlaugh's part--might be
 instituted in the hope that Mr Newdegate would be committed for trial."

The licence of general criticism taken by our magistrates has seldom
been more strikingly exemplified; and no one but a prejudiced
magistrate, probably, would have had the assurance to condemn a
litigant for "unfriendly feeling" towards a declared enemy who had
wantonly and zealously sought to ruin him.[156] The deliberate setting
aside of the statutes as obsolete, too, while a civil action was
admitted to lie, was an act of lenity to Mr Newdegate, contrasting
favourably with the attitude of other judges towards Bradlaugh. But the
fact that a civil action remained open was sufficient for Bradlaugh's
purposes; and already Newdegate had begun to repent somewhat of his
zeal. His costs were accumulating, and still the hoped-for prey was
out of his reach. A circular was accordingly issued on his behalf by
Captain Bedford Pim, who felt "strongly that Mr Newdegate, M.P., should
not be allowed to suffer for his spirited and patriotic action against
Atheism, and that some steps should be taken to bear him harmless in
the struggle upon which he has so nobly entered."

[Footnote 156: Mr Vaughan had twice previously given decisions against
Bradlaugh, and both had been upset on appeal.]


§ 12

In the interval between the issuing and the hearing of the summonses
for maintenance, something more serious had occurred. When the
Government had in May decided to postpone their Oaths Bill, Bradlaugh,
while acquiescing perforce in the delay, had renewed his platform
agitation with redoubled energy, preparatory to forcing a fresh
contest on the House if need were. The situation grew worse instead
of better. Between 20th June and 4th July he had had a formal
correspondence with Mr Gladstone on the subject. "You are aware,"
wrote Mr Gladstone, declining the request for an interview, "to how
considerable an extent Liberal and public interests have been brought
into prejudice by untrue suppositions as to communication between you
and the Government." Bradlaugh answered by a detailed statement of
his action, which had been guided by a desire to avoid embarrassing
the Ministry; and Gladstone in reply acknowledged this; but later
(28th June) intimated that they proposed to try to close the Session
early in August, and they could not hope to carry any strongly
controversial measure after the Land Bill. This intimation was made
definite in a letter of 2nd July, and Bradlaugh was once more left to
his own devices. He chose his course at once. First he addressed to
the Speaker, under date 4th July, a formal letter, setting forth his
contention as to the illegality of the House's action on 10th May. He
was advised, among other things, that the excluding order of that date
did not authorise the Sergeant-at-Arms to use force, and that the use
of force to prevent his re-entry would be illegal.

 "I beg therefore, sir," he went on, "most respectfully to give notice
 that I claim to disregard the order of the House, ... and to treat
 the same as not requiring obedience from me, on the ground that such
 order is absolutely illegal.... In the name of the law, sir, and of
 my constituents, I also most respectfully give notice that I shall,
 in the manner and at the time provided by the standing orders of the
 House, again present myself at the table of the House, to complete the
 fulfilment of the duty imposed on me by law."

On this declaration he set about acting. He had had no encouragement
whatever to hope for justice save under pressure. Northcote, who had
no moral motive for his action, was open to no moral appeal. To him
Bradlaugh addressed a public letter (1st July 1881), which to-day needs
neither adding to nor taking from. After a recital of the facts, it
ran:--

 "At first, though I disagreed with you, I thought you honest, for you
 had the repute of an honourable man, and you said that it was not
 from any desire to prevent my taking my seat, but from a desire to
 prevent the profanation of the oath, that you were prompted to act
 as you did. You had been present in the House when John Stuart Mill
 took the oath, and you raised no objection. You have been present
 in the House when other members, whose heresy is matter of common
 repute, took the oath, and you have rested silent. Yet I counted you
 a fair English gentleman, and I believed your word in any case. But
 now, from your speeches outside the House, I find that you claim
 to hinder me from sitting in Parliament, whether by complying with
 the law as it now stands, or by means of any change which may be
 proposed to meet your objection. At Manchester you justified your
 action on the ground that there was a general feeling in the country
 against me personally[157]--a dangerous argument, even if it were
 well vouched. But how is this feeling to be tested? Nearly all the
 meetings called against me have been lamentable failures, despite the
 most ridiculous precautions. Almost every meeting called in my favour,
 and this whether or not I have been personally present, has been an
 enthusiastic success.

 [Footnote 157: The essential unveracity of Northcote's political
 character is shown by the fact that after thus using the "numbers"
 argument against Bradlaugh, he himself solemnly denounced the
 principle. Speaking at Edinburgh in 1884 (see Mr Lang's "Life," ii.
 218) he said: "I am afraid that the Government will take far too much
 to the numerical principle, and if you take to the principle of mere
 numbers, depend upon it you will be introducing the most dangerous
 change into the Constitution." Exactly what Bradlaugh had said to him.]

 "And yet the very vilest means have been resorted to to damage me
 in the public mind. In your presence at Manchester, and without one
 word of rebuke from you, one distinguished and noble member of your
 party repeated against me some of the utter falsehoods of the Varley
 pamphlet, although I had given you in writing my distinct assurance of
 the untruthfulness of much of that pamphlet.... To make a show against
 me, petitions have been sent round the country to hundreds of Sunday
 Schools, and little children by the score have been compelled to affix
 their signatures. Two petitions presented by yourself from Glasgow and
 York contain hundreds of signatures of lads and girls under twelve
 years of age. Orange Lodges, Roman Catholic organisations, and the
 machinery of the English Church Associations have been utilised to
 procure signatures."

Northcote replied:--

 "I cannot admit that there is any foundation for the charge of
 illegality which you make against the House of Commons. But I must
 decline to enter into controversy with you upon the general subject of
 your case. I can only say that I have acted from a sense of public
 duty, and from no personal motives; and that I see no reason for
 doubting the propriety of the course which I have pursued."

But even those Liberal members who had voted on his side were for
the most part quietly acquiescent in the injustice done, regarding
a wrong to one "unpopular" man as a small matter. The only member
who persistently protested was Mr Labouchere, for whose courage and
constancy throughout the whole struggle no words of praise could be
too high. In the circumstances there was nothing for it but to rouse
the country, and this Bradlaugh did as only he could. It is difficult
now to realise the enormous amount of energy he had to spend. While
his cases were pending in the higher courts, he was doing three men's
work outside. Thus in the week 18th to 24th July we find him spending
three days fighting his case in the hot and crowded Court; holding
three night meetings in London; attending a Freethinker's funeral
(where the sight of the grief of the widow and children made him quite
break down); speaking at a great demonstration of miners in the north;
giving three lectures in South Shields; and holding a huge gathering
in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. He knew he was drawing terribly
on a constitution which, though of a giant's strength, had for many
years been doing giant's work; but he never flinched in a battle while
he had any strength left. His plan was to evoke a clear expression of
feeling on behalf of his claim in all the large towns, to hold a mass
meeting in Trafalgar Square, and then again to present himself at the
House; and if the House had been capable of looking at the issue half
as reasonably as the constituencies did, it would have been promptly
settled. Wherever Bradlaugh went, he got unanimous votes in his favour.
At one stage he reckoned that out of a series of audiences amounting
in numbers to 75,000, only two hands had been held up against his
claim. It was wonderful to see how he swayed audiences against their
own prejudices. He must have been listened to by thousands of men
who disliked him and his opinions equally; but they simply could not
resist the appeal for a just judgment. I well remember how, when he
spoke in Edinburgh in 1881, he extorted a vote from a general audience
there. The body of the hall was filled with middle-class citizens, few
of whom had any sympathy with his propaganda, and many of whom must
have strongly resented his "notoriety;" in the gallery were a number
of Tory students, with the manners of their kind; and post-cards had
been freely circulated with a view to an organised opposition. At the
outset the students did their best, but Bradlaugh's voice rose easily
above their din; a quick repartee or two to their interruptions turned
the laugh against them, and soon he was quietly listened to.[158] At
the close he made the usual call for a show of hands on his claim.
As one of the promoters of the meeting, I was interested in watching
the manner of the response; and I can still see the respectable
church-going shopkeepers slowly and as it were compulsorily raising
their right hands at the call of the Atheist and Republican. Only some
dozen, as far as I remember, voted "on the contrary." This was in an
audience mainly unsympathetic. At Trafalgar Square, of course, he was
in a dense army of enthusiastic supporters, including many delegates
from provincial towns. The Dublin _Freeman_ then, owned by Mr E. D.
Gray, and the organ of Mr Parnell's party, intimated beforehand that
"no large assembly can take place within a mile of Westminster Palace
and the police will very summarily dispose of Mr Bradlaugh's ragged
followers." The police made no such attempt; and it was well they did
not, for the followers were neither ragged nor timorous, and their
blood was not just then very cool.

[Footnote 158: In this particular speech he used the phrase "that grand
old man" of Gladstone. It was probably he who set the fashion.]

This was on 2nd August; it was on the next day that Bradlaugh again
presented himself at the House; and then occurred the crowning episode
in the struggle--crowning alike in point of the dastardliness of the
tactic employed against him and the desperation to which it momentarily
moved him.

His unanswerable contention was that the House was bound to do
something to settle the case. It ought either to declare his seat
vacant or take some course to permit of his sitting. To keep an elected
member out of his seat without disputing the validity of his election
was a course which only a majority of professed lawbreakers could
consistently take; and the resolution excluding him from the House was
merely a puerile evasion by the majority of the legislative problem
they had raised. When, however, Bradlaugh presented himself afresh,
that puerile policy was adhered to, only in a fashion that developed
puerility into brutality. The Liberal Government acquiescing in the
vote of the majority, the matter was left to the police, who treated
it as a police question, some of them behaving with that exuberance of
insolence and ruffianism which they so often and so naturally bring
to their task. Their way of seizing him angered him in a way in which
he had never been angered before. A few extracts from the newspaper
accounts of the time will suffice to tell what happened:--

 "Mr Bradlaugh, after having waited till the Speaker had taken the
 chair, claimed admission to the House. He was in the first place
 opposed by the regular officials. 'I am here,' he said, 'in accordance
 with the orders of my constituents, the electors of Northampton; and
 any person who lays hands on me will do so at his peril!'" Attempting
 to enter the House, he was seized by the messengers, but their
 resistance being insufficient to overcome the force they roused him to
 use, the police were called upon. "It was said by Inspector Denning
 that four ordinary men certainly could not have expelled Mr Bradlaugh,
 and that the ten constables, all remarkable for strength and activity,
 who were engaged in forcing him down the lobby stairs, found their
 task far more arduous than they had expected." They had him by the
 throat, arms, and collar, and he had some of them in the same hold.
 "The strong, broad, heavy, powerful frame was hard to move, with its
 every nerve and muscle strained to resist.... The sight, little of
 it as was seen from the outside, soon became sickening.... An almost
 deathlike pallor had spread over Mr Bradlaugh's sternly-set features;
 he was gasping for breath, his body was bent, and he was in a state
 of exhaustion painful to see. His black frockcoat was much torn, his
 collar and shirt disarranged, and he himself in a condition of intense
 mental excitement and bodily prostration.... The Trafalgar Square
 phrase that this man might be broken but not bent occurred to minds
 apprehensive at the present appearance of him.... His face was deathly
 white, and there was about the mouth an expression of determination,
 which those who witnessed it cannot readily forget. Overborne by the
 desperate struggle, he fainted, but soon recovered when water was
 brought to him."

When Bradlaugh appeared at the door in the grasp of the police there
was a cry of wrath from the assembled crowd, which told of a source of
"force" that might conceivably be tapped. At another door Mrs Besant
stood, at the head of a mass of followers, who, hearing vaguely of
what was happening, were urgent in their demand to be let take the law
in their own hands. A word from her, a word from him, would have sent
the multitude headlong into the House. They were not a chance London
mob: they included thousands of staunch working men from all parts
of the country, who had attended the demonstration the day before.
They were wroth with the callous iniquity that had been and was being
worked by the majority inside. And Bradlaugh, standing bruised and
shaken and insulted on the steps, hardly able to breathe, but with the
fury of physical struggle still upon him, had a supreme temptation. In
his first anger, alluding to the brute force used against him, he had
said to Inspector Denning, "I shall come again with force enough to
overcome it;" but he did not carry out his threat, though he might have
done it on the instant. Had he but lifted his hand to beckon, the ten
policemen would have been tossed aside like chaff by the host of his
infuriated friends; the House could have been stormed, and his enemies
could have been kicked wholesale into the river. With a supreme effort,
he controlled himself, and forbade all outbreak; proceeding further
to go through the form of trying again to enter the House, so that
Inspector Denning should have to make a form of resistance, on which
he might found an action. It was well. But it is believed that there
are still some who, perfectly recognising the superiority of the course
actually taken, can never wholly stifle, on retrospect, an obscure and
unreasoned but haunting wish that the multitude had taken its own way,
sacked the House, and thrown, if not the Speaker and his wig, at least
Lord Randolph Churchill, and Sir Stafford Northcote, and Sir Henry
Wolff, comrades three, into the Thames, that ancient river and unclean.

The picture as it stands is memorable enough. I have been told that
James Thomson the poet, the estranged friend of Bradlaugh's youth,
was among those at the gates; that he turned pale at the sight of the
struggling group; and that his companions could hardly withhold him by
force from rushing to his old comrade's help.

English gentlemen in general, of course, did not feel about the matter
in that way. Bradlaugh told:--

 "On Wednesday last I saw more than 150 members of the House of Commons
 gathered to witness, for the first time in English history, the
 cowardly and shameful use of overwhelming brute force in order to
 prevent a duly-elected member of that House from complying with the
 law. Most of these members seemed to enjoy the scene; one, Montague
 Scott, climbed to the top of a pillar, so that he might have a good
 (and safe) view; another, Alderman Fowler, actually followed to the
 very bottom of the stairs, encouraging with voice and gesture those
 who were using force against law. A few, a very few members, protested
 against this conduct towards one of their fellow-members."

Fowler had shouted "Kick him out." He afterwards denied doing so.
Bradlaugh on this wrote:--

 "I see that Alderman Fowler in his place in the House of Commons
 denies my statement. I can only say that it is quite impossible I can
 be mistaken, for I saw Alderman Fowler stand, occasionally making
 jeering gestures, for nearly ten minutes after this, within four or
 five feet from me while I was recovering from the exhausting effects
 of the struggle."

Others saw the same. Concerning Fowler it is not necessary to
investigate: his denial may stand for what it is worth; but it is quite
certain that scores of members had looked on gleefully. Such creatures
can our "English gentlemen" become, under the inspiration of their
religion and their politics.

Inside the House the matter was at once raised by Mr Labouchere,
who moved as a matter of privilege that the resolution of 10th May
only excluded Bradlaugh from the outer doors of the Chamber, and not
from the lobbies, and that the officers of the House, in excluding
him completely, had acted without authority. The Speaker stated that
the officers had acted under his directions. Mr Gladstone lengthily
argued that there were "three distinct grounds" on which it was to
him "quite plain that the motion could not be sustained." Northcote
naturally approved altogether of the Speaker's action. Sir Wilfred
Lawson contrived, despite interruptions, to make a good fighting
speech on the main question, under cover of a proposed amendment,
which turned out to be a motion for the rescinding of the resolutions
of 26th April and 10th May. Mr Cowen invited the Government to say
whether they would reintroduce their Oaths Bill next session, but no
response was given; and the discussion drifted on in the usual wasteful
way. Mr Biggar observed that on personal grounds he was indisposed
to vote on Bradlaugh's side in the matter, because Bradlaugh had
voted for the expulsion of Irish members earlier in the year, but he
would vote against it as a bad precedent. The level of the debate was
raised by a dignified speech from Bright, who irregularly appealed
to the Opposition to think of what they were doing; whereupon Lord
John Manners' made the pragmatic reply that might have been expected
from that feudal personage. On the moving of an amendment approving
what had been done, Gladstone diffusely intimated that it would be
out of order for him to answer Mr Cowen's appeal. After much talk a
vote was taken, when 7 voted for Mr Labouchere's motion and 191 for
the amendment, a number of Radicals walking out to avoid voting. To
the amendment, put as a substantive resolution, Mr Ashton Dilke moved
a fresh amendment asserting the need for legislation, but this was
disallowed as irrelevant. Sir Wilfred Lawson tried another, which
fared no better. Mr Callan rose to explain that whereas Mr Bright had
described Bradlaugh as being reduced to a fainting condition, he had
put one of the officers in a far worse condition by his grip of that
officer's throat--a statement which, despite its source, was not wholly
untrue. Finally the resolution approving the course taken was allowed
to pass, whereupon Mr Labouchere gave notice that he would again raise
the main question on going into Committee of Supply.


§ 13.

Thus once more was the day of reckoning put off, the more decisively
because an early result of the scuffle for Bradlaugh was a dangerous
attack of erysipelas in the arm--the same arm which had suffered from
the Tory bludgeons in 1878. He was able, indeed, though sorely shaken,
to speak at the Hall of Science in the evening, when he appealed to
his followers to avoid all violence. He was able to attend the law
courts at Westminster on the 5th, when a House of Commons policeman,
seeing him, fled indoors to give warning. On the same day Bradlaugh
attended at the Westminster Police Court to apply to the magistrate,
Mr D'Eyncourt, for a summons against Inspector Denning for the assault
of the 3rd--not the ejection by the police, but the later formal
resistance to Bradlaugh's entrance. This was a purely formal action,
Bradlaugh having testified in his speech at the Hall of Science that Mr
Denning personally had managed his unpleasant task with all possible
consideration. The magistrate, laying significant stress on the action
of the Speaker and of the House, declined even to grant the summons.
One of his explanations was that "society has a right to protect itself
against intrusion," and his tone throughout showed sufficient animus.

Having thus done what he could, Bradlaugh had to own himself disabled,
and go to the seaside under medical treatment. On his arrival at
Worthing, when he had wearily taken his place in the fly, a clergyman
walked up, stared hard at him, and then said in a loud voice: "There's
Bradlaugh; I hope they'll make it warm for him yet." The enemy in
general behaved with their accustomed generosity. The _Irish Times_ led
the way with an intimation that he was malingering, stating further
that the Irish members had opposed him because he "supported the
Coercion Bill." The _North Star_ repeated the charge of malingering
with exuberant brutality. The _St James's Gazette_ spoke of Bradlaugh
as having behaved "like a drunken rough," further repeating the lie
that he had "originally refused" to take the oath. Others rated him for
his constant appearances in the law courts. The _Standard_, on being
courteously asked to insert a letter correcting a misrepresentation,
suppressed it. Liberals, professing to deprecate the course taken, yet
palliated it; and Professor Thorold Rogers, among others, declared that
nothing the House of Commons could do was illegal. The ministerial
journals, of course, condemned him, telling him he had "lost friends"
by his attempt. He was to sit still and wait till the Ministry should
have the courage to make an Affirmation Bill a Cabinet question--a
course which they refused from first to last to take, though it
would at once have compelled their deserters to return to their
allegiance. On this it may here suffice to say, once for all, that the
justification given for Gladstone's course in the matter simply serves
to show how low are the standards of our "Christian" statesmanship
down to the present day. The justification is that Gladstone was bound
to refrain from "compromising" his party by making the admission of
the Atheist a Cabinet question. The good of the party must override
the claims of justice. Mr Gladstone's memory is welcome to all the
credit which such an argument will gain him from a posterity probably
devoid of his sense of religious enlightenment. It will be a doubtful
certificate of the foundations he claims for his morality, that while
conscious of "bloodguiltiness" in the matter of the Transvaal, he
declined to incur for conscience' sake the trivial and transient odium
of having made justice to an Atheist a decisive demand as between
him and certain of his followers. I am not here putting the opinion
of Bradlaugh--whose chivalrous respect for Gladstone prevented him
from passing any such criticism, whatever he may have thought in his
heart--but laying down what seems to me the only doctrine worthy of
conscientious democrats.

It is satisfactory to be able to record that whilst the worst of the
Tory and clerical party exulted in Bradlaugh's physical ejection, many
religious men were moved by it to new sympathy with him. One esteemed
Churchman wrote as follows:--

 "After reading of the violence unjustly perpetrated on you yesterday
 by the order (or, at least, with the sanction) of a so-called Liberal
 majority, I desire, though an entire stranger to you, to offer you
 my sympathy. I never read anything which warmed me more than this
 account. If the present Cabinet does not secure your admission to
 the House in some way or other, I can only wish they may be turned
 out of office. The name of 'Christian' and the religion of 'Christ,'
 which _I_ venerate, they make odious. As if Christianity could ever be
 _less_ than common justice! I don't know what more I can do than say,
 'Go on!' and 'Go in!' And if others feel as I do, you will be pushed
 into your place by a whole nation, with a much more irresistible force
 than has been used by a contemptible clique to keep you out.--I am,
 very respectfully and heartily, your well-wisher,

  "E. D. GIRDLESTONE."

Needless to say, a number of Liberal journals, though less
emphatically, protested likewise. All along, indeed, there were more
voices for justice in the Liberal press than in the House, despite the
common sense of a need to disclaim sympathy with the wronged man's
"opinions." On the other hand, a number of pious persons, none giving
their names, but all stating that they were Christians, wrote to assure
the disabled man that he was going to hell. One promised to help him
thither by shooting him if he again tried to take his seat. Two wrote
that they prayed he might not recover, and many imbeciles sent tracts
and religious books.

Of another order was the enmity of Sir Henry Tyler, who, feeling now
safe in Bradlaugh's enforced absence, made an attack in the House of
Commons on the Hall of Science science-classes and their teachers--an
attack which he might have made while Bradlaugh sat, but did not.
The argument was that science classes taught by atheists should be
excluded from the South Kensington system. Of the teachers, three were
women, viz. Mrs Besant and the Misses Bradlaugh; and as even the pious
majority did not care to back up such an outrageous attack, it came
to nothing. Mr Mundella, the Minister concerned, even went out of his
way to vindicate the classes; and the press mostly supported him. As a
matter of course, the classes had been taught on strictly scientific
lines.

In a few weeks from the date of his injury Bradlaugh was about again,
lecturing, and speaking at demonstrations. His doctor advised him to go
abroad, but he had his law cases before him, and felt he must buckle
to work. At the beginning of September he published a fresh appeal
"to the people," and on the 5th of that month he spoke at a potters'
demonstration at Hanley, despite continued suffering in the arms. In
his own journal, too, he once more took up the cause of Ireland--which
indeed had all along been advocated in its columns--disregarding
entirely the treatment he had had at the Irish members' hands. But
stiffer work was before him, in the trial of his appeal against the
decision of Justices Denman and Watkin Williams, on the legal or
technical point, as to the validity of a writ dated on the day of
the ground of action. This appeal was argued before Lord Coleridge
and Lords Justices Baggallay and Brett, on 12th and 14th November,
partly on different lines from those gone upon in the first instance.
Bradlaugh was complimented by the judges on his "able and ingenious
argument;" and the discussion between him and them is indeed a very
pretty piece of high-class legal fencing. Sir Hardinge Giffard, who
throughout these cases makes no great show as a pleader, did not
attempt to deal with the most difficult point at all, and his junior
did still worse; but their lordships dealt with it fully and carefully;
and Bradlaugh handsomely acknowledged their rectitude, though they
decided against him. His first care was to make sure that the plaintiff
should not be allowed to tax his costs until final judgment on the
other appeals to the House of Lords; and this was granted. The wolves
were thus still kept at bay.

Next came on the pleading on the rule _nisi_ for a new trial on the
point of fact as to whether Clarke's writ (which specified no act
of voting) had not been issued before the act of voting on which
it was afterwards formally founded. This was heard on 2nd and 3rd
December by Justices Denman and Hawkins, who went into the details
with minute circumspection. Bradlaugh explained that his argument
involved a charge of wilful perjury against James Stuart, the clerk
employed by Newdegate's solicitor, who had been a principal witness
in the previous trial. He further pointed out that Newdegate's
secretary, Hobley, had given a hopeless set of contradictions in
cross-examination; and after the notes of that evidence had been read,
Mr Justice Denman observed: "I am bound to say that after the searching
cross-examination, which no counsel could have conducted more ably, it
is hardly wonderful that Mr Hobley was very confused." It required no
more than the reading of the rest of the evidence to satisfy the judges
that the case for a new trial was fully made out; and they stopped
Bradlaugh in his argument to say so. In regard to the special point
of the time of the division in which he voted, the actual evidence of
reporters was against Bradlaugh, making it earlier than he did; but
when the judges checked his calculations they could find nothing wrong
with them; and the evidence discrediting that of Stuart was too strong
to be dismissed. After a good deal of vacillation, Clarke and Newdegate
decided to appeal against the decision allowing a new trial, Newdegate
in particular having reason to avoid one if possible.


§ 14.

Northcote's excluding resolution of 10th May being only valid for
the session in which it was passed, Bradlaugh was free to enter the
House as before, on the first day of the new session. He announced his
intention to do so; and on the day of reassembling he kept his word.
In the interim an incessant discussion on the case had been going on
in the press and on the platform. Tory speakers, as a rule, alluded
to him with insult, sometimes of the basest description. One, Lord
Ebrington, described him as a person who, but for a legal quibble,
"would be in jail at this moment for publishing an obscene, indecent
book." Another, Mr Orr-Ewing, spoke of Bradlaugh as circulating "filthy
books, calculated to ... drag hundreds down as low as the brute beasts
that perish." Most of the Tory speakers dwelt either on his having
"first refused to take the oath" or "obtruded his views on the House,"
or "declared the oath would not bind his conscience;" and scarcely one
omitted to add untruth to insult. The "profanation of the oath" was
never alluded to without a shudder. On the Liberal side some members
altruistically urged upon Bradlaugh to stand aside "for a few years"
to let opinion ripen; and of the many who spoke in favour of his
admission nearly all thought it necessary to disclaim with "pity" or
"abhorrence" all sympathy with his opinions. Of all these disclamatory
gentlemen, there was not one whose name had then, or has now, the
slightest philosophic authority; but though one or two admitted that
they did not know the nature of the opinions which they all the same
disclaimed, none seems to have been moved to avow that the subject was
beyond his capacity.

Throughout the country, as all along, Liberal opinion was in advance
of the action of the majority in the House; but the _Times_ carefully
suppressed the reports of meetings held in Bradlaugh's favour, and even
of friendly allusions in members' speeches, and the _Daily News_ at
times exhibited equivalent traces of the ownership of Mr Samuel Morley.
On the other hand, the cause of justice had some unexpected adherents.
Lord Derby, speaking at the Liverpool Reform Club, frankly avowed that
he "utterly disbelieved in the value of political oaths," and expressed
a hope that no further attempt would be made to prevent Bradlaugh from
taking the oath if he wanted to. Some groups of dissenting clergy,
too--in particular the Unitarians--petitioned for the abolition of the
oath or the permission of affirmation. But as against the possible gain
from such declarations there was to be set the systematic and energetic
hostile action of the Church of England. One Diocesan Conference
passed a resolution calling on Churchmen in both Houses of Parliament
to resist any measure which would admit "professed infidels" into
Parliament. There was no objection to the admission of infidels who
were not "professed." Another interesting exhibition of Conservative
ethics came from Mr Gorst, Q.C., who, at a banquet at Chichester, in
presence of the Dean, avowed that "he was not a person who pretended to
have any great horror of the offence of bribery." Bradlaugh, who took a
different view, had earlier taken occasion to speak of another of his
assailants as a political scoundrel, in respect of being a convicted
briber.

On the 7th of February 1882, when Bradlaugh as before presented himself
at the table of the House, he was as before interrupted by Sir Stafford
Northcote, who made his customary motion. This time, however, it was
rested on the ground that Bradlaugh had admitted himself to be a person
of a class on whom the law declared an oath had "no binding effect."
Thus the Opposition stood explicitly on the nefarious application of
an ambiguous legal formula, which, as has been above shown, was not
at all framed to carry the meaning thus put upon it. On this occasion
nothing seems to have been said by the Tory leader in his opening
speech about "profanation."

Bradlaugh withdrew to the bar pending the discussion, and Sir William
Harcourt, in Gladstone's absence, briefly moved the previous question.
Newdegate followed with an imbecile speech, which supplied a useful
measure of the minds of those who had supported him throughout the
country. He pointed to the history of France, protested against the
proposed Channel Tunnel, and argued that to admit Bradlaugh would be
"to destroy the distinctions between the basis of government in the two
countries." Further,

 "let them compare the condition of the two countries. While the wealth
 and the population of France were stationary, and the prestige of her
 arms was gone, England's wealth had increased and her kingdom expanded
 into empire. The fundamental difference between the two countries
 was this--that in the coronation oath taken by the Sovereign, and in
 the oath taken by members of both Houses of Parliament, a Deity was
 recognised, and the people venerated the obligation. There was but one
 other country in the world besides England that had not been conquered
 or had not suffered from revolution, and that was Russia.... Both
 countries based the claim of their Government to the respect of their
 subjects upon the Word of God. The United States had not adopted that
 system, and they had seen a civil war and two Presidents murdered
 there."

Bradlaugh was then allowed to make his Third Speech at the Bar. He
struck briefly but sufficiently at the speech of Newdegate; and once
more nailed down the eternal misrepresentation as to his having
"paraded his opinions." When he reminded the House that his letter
of 20th May was outside the House, and that he had objected to the
Committee taking cognisance of it, the Opposition laughed. He reminded
them that judges give a silent hearing to a man pleading his case. "If
you are unfit to be judges, then do not judge." Again he put the plain
dilemma: "If what I did entitles the House not to receive me, why has
not the House had the courage of its opinions and vacated the seat?"
Then came a graver challenge:--

 "I have read within the last few days words spoken, not by members
 of no consequence, but by members occupying high positions in this
 House, which made me wonder if this is the House of Commons to which
 I aspired so much. I have read that one right hon. member, the member
 for Whitehaven[159]--(laughter from the Ministerial side)--was
 prompted to say to his constituents that I was kicked downstairs last
 session, and that he hoped I should be again. If it were true that I
 was kicked downstairs, I would ask the members of the House of Commons
 on whom the shame, on whom the disgrace, on whom the stigma? I dare
 not apply this, but history will when I have mouldered, and you too,
 and our passions are quite gone. But it is not quite true that I was
 kicked downstairs, and it is a dangerous thing to say that I was, for
 it means that hon. members who should rely on law rely on force. It
 is a dangerous provocation to conflict to throw to the people. If I
 had been as wicked in my thought as some members are reported to have
 been in their speech, this quarrel, not of my provoking, would assume
 a future to make us all ashamed."

[Footnote 159: Mr Cavendish Bentinck.]

As the speech went on, he came into more and more sharp conflict with
his antagonists.

 "Does the House," he asked, "mean that it is a party to each oath
 taken? ('Hear.') There was a time when most clearly it was not so
 a party. There was a time when the oath was not even taken in the
 presence of members at all. But does the House mean it is a party
 now? Was it a party the session before last? Was it a party when
 Mr Hall[160] walked up to that table, cheered by members on the
 other side who knew his seat was won by deliberate bribery?--(loud
 Opposition cries of 'Order')--bribery sought to be concealed by the
 most corrupt perjury. Did the House join in it? (Renewed cries of
 'Order.') If the House did not join in it, why did you cheer so that
 the words of the oath were drowned? Was the House a party when John
 Stuart Mill sat in this House?"

[Footnote 160: Elected for Oxford.]

After repeating his former explicit declaration that the words of
adjuration would in no way weaken the binding effect of the promise on
his honour and conscience, he was met by jeers, and he began: "Members
of the House who are ignorant of what is honour and conscience,"
meaning to add "in the case of a non-religionist" or words to that
effect. He was again interrupted by loud cries of "Order" and
"Withdraw" from the men who had just been insulting him _en masse_. He
asked to be allowed to finish his sentence, but was still interrupted
by the mob of hon. gentlemen on the Opposition benches. "These," he
cried, pointing at the rowdies, "these are my judges." There was a
silence, and he went on. His blood was up, and he spoke at greater
length than before, dwelling among other things on the scene of August,
and indignantly rebuking those who had exulted in it. In conclusion,
he offered to stand aside for four or five weeks if the House would
in that time discuss an Affirmation Bill. Nay, if they feared to make
it a Bradlaugh Relief Bill, he would resign his seat and stand for
re-election. The Liberals cheered at this, and he ended: "I have no
fear. If I am not fit for my constituents, they shall dismiss me, but
you never shall. The grave alone shall make me yield."

Mr Labouchere, speaking next, stated that he had had sent him over
750 fresh petitions, signed by about 170,000, in favour of Bradlaugh
being allowed to take his seat, and that other Liberal members had
received petitions signed by about 100,000 more. He proceeded to
challenge Northcote to abide by his own declaration of the previous
year, that the question should be legislated on by the Government;
and Northcote rose to make a second speech. He too, he averred, had
received many petitions, and among others one from Northampton, "signed
by 10,300 persons, giving their occupations and addresses"--a manifest
prevarication, inasmuch as many of the 10,000 must have been the wives
and children of the Tory electors.[161] On the Government amendment he
objected to "profanation of the oath;" and as to the obstruction of
the Oaths Bill last session, he reminded the Government that though
they had certainly been somewhat obstructed, they might at any later
time have put the Bill first on a Government night. As before, however,
the Tory leader declined to make any "bargain." Gladstone replied,
pointing out that it had been quite impossible for the Ministry to
push the Oaths Bill as suggested, and declining to promise that the
Government would give precedence to an Oaths Bill. They should let
Bradlaugh swear, and take his chances in the law courts as before. On
this theme he rang the changes, without much energy. After a number
of minor speeches the House divided, when there voted for Northcote's
resolution 286, and for the previous question only 228. Such a vote
served to dispose of the view which had been advanced by some Liberals,
that the minority of 26th April 1881 was due to the absence of many of
their party who were prolonging their holiday, while all the Tories
were in town for Beaconsfield's funeral. Some seventy "Liberals" had
now deliberately stayed away (among them being Mr Goschen, Sir John
Lubbock, Sir E. Reed, and Sir A. Gordon), while the whole Parnellite
members present voted with the Tories. Five Scotch, eight Irish, and
fifteen English Liberals did the same, among the latter being Mr Samuel
Morley and Sir Edward Watkin.

[Footnote 161: Bradlaugh noted later in his journal that the petition
was "alleged to be signed by 10,300 freemen of Northampton." This,
he remarked, "cannot possibly be true, as the freemen do not amount
to that number." They really numbered about 300! It turned out that
thousands of the signatures were those of school-children.]

Immediately on the vote being announced, and the question being put,
Bradlaugh presented himself afresh, refusing as formerly to obey the
resolution. The usual appeal from the Speaker elicited the usual
motion from Northcote, which being carried, Bradlaugh said: "It would
be undignified in me to indulge in any other kind of contest on the
floor. I respectfully obey the House, and withdraw below the bar." The
struggle was now apparently reduced to something like a recognised set
of moves, all of which had been made and might be in due course made
again; and Bradlaugh for the present was left to attend every meeting
of the House, sitting beyond the bar, but without the power of voting
or speaking.

Bradlaugh at once appealed to his constituents to choose whether or
not he should resign; and they promptly decided that he should not;
while some thirty indignation meetings were held throughout the country
within a week, all condemning the action of the House of Commons. The
law advisers of the Crown further formally declared on challenge that
the seat was not vacant; and Bradlaugh wrote Gladstone, formally asking
whether he was prepared to do anything. Gladstone on 18th February
formally replied that he was not. Bradlaugh then took a new step,
forcing the question on the House more determinedly than ever.

On Monday, 20th February, Mr Labouchere formally moved in the House
that a new writ be issued for Northampton, seeing that Bradlaugh had
been prevented from taking the oath and his seat. Churchill moved
to amend the motion by substituting a description of Bradlaugh as
"disqualified." The Attorney-General formally opposed, and the
perplexed Northcote did likewise, being guided by the sole fact that
the motion was proposed by Bradlaugh's friendly colleague. After a
debate, in which Northcote was dishonest enough to assert once more
that Bradlaugh had "claimed" to be "a person on whose conscience
the oath was not binding," the amendment was negatived, as was the
proposition that the words proposed to be left out should be left in.
The resolution was thus left at a stand at the word "who;" and on the
unfinished sentence the House proceeded to divide. When it seemed as
if the "Noes" would "have it" without a division, Bradlaugh moved from
his seat and stood at the bar; but on Mr Labouchere's challenging a
division he returned. On the vote being taken there were 307 "Noes" to
18 "Ayes." The House thus explicitly refused to decide that the seat
should be vacated, though they were all the while preventing it from
being taken.

Bradlaugh was once more at the bar when the tellers announced the
figures. Immediately he walked up the floor to the table, members
looking on without excitement, counting on a repetition of the old
scene. But this time "the scene was changed." While members waited
for the usual action of the Speaker, it suddenly dawned on them
that Bradlaugh had a book in his hand--it was the regulation "New
Testament"--and was taking the oath of his own accord! He had gone
through the whole mummery before the excited House could collect its
faculties, and he duly finished by subscribing a written oath on a
sheet of paper with a pocket pen. The Speaker was on his feet; the
Clerk had come half-way to meet Bradlaugh; and Northcote had risen to
speak, and sat down again, speechless. The Speaker mechanically called
on Bradlaugh, as usual, to withdraw below the bar. He did so, but in
doing it announced that he should return and take his seat, which he
did, seating himself on a back bench. The Speaker solemnly charged him
with disobedience, to which Bradlaugh blandly responded that he had
obeyed them, and had taken his seat in addition, having first taken the
oath. On the Speaker insisting, however, he once more withdrew beyond
the bar, sitting under the gallery as before. Churchill, collecting
himself more promptly than his leader, argued that Bradlaugh, having
taken his seat "without taking the oath," "was as dead," and moved
that the seat be declared vacant. The Attorney-General professionally
pointed out that to vacate the seat under the statute the offending
member must vote or sit during a debate. He suggested that the House
had better adjourn the discussion, which it did after much further
speech-making, in the course of which Churchill declared that Bradlaugh
had "deliberately insulted the House," not for the first time; other
members of similar dignity speaking to similar effect.

Next day the debate was resumed. Gladstone made a long and scrupulously
bland speech, in the course of which he endured much contradiction
of those who thought him insufficiently zealous for the honour of
Omnipotence, concluding by saying that he left it to the majority to
act for themselves. Northcote was laboriously indignant, and lengthily
led up to a motion "that the Sergeant-at-Arms be instructed to prevent
Bradlaugh from entering the precincts of the House," which motion,
on the correction of the Speaker, he converted into an amendment to
that of Churchill. A dispute arose on behalf of Dr Lyons, who had on
the previous night given notice of a more drastic motion, but had
not "caught the Speaker's eye" when he rose before Northcote. Then
the debate drifted on; some members drivelling, some ranting, some
platitudinising. At length Churchill's motion was negatived, whereupon
Dr Lyons proposed his declaring Bradlaugh incapable of sitting, as
an amendment to Northcote's. The pious Lyons was of opinion that
"behind the particular issue there lay a great moral question,"
which, however, he did not specify. Again the debate rolled on. At
length it was noticed that Bradlaugh had once more taken his seat
within the House. The Speaker challenged him, and Bradlaugh began to
explain that he proposed to "ask the indulgence of the House," when
his voice was drowned in yells of "Order." The Speaker then solemnly
charged him afresh with disobedience, and called "the attention of
the House to that circumstance." Gladstone rose in response to calls;
but the Speaker hastily interposed to call upon Bradlaugh to withdraw
beyond the bar, which he did, formally protesting. Gladstone blandly
observed that there was now no disobedience to deal with, and that it
was not incumbent on him to do anything. Northcote arose in a state
of ostensible but flabby indignation, and declared that "he must say
there was a limit" to his "very moderate line." He now proposed to
withdraw his amendment and substitute a motion of expulsion. Gladstone
suavely intimated that he should not object to the withdrawal of the
amendment, and Dr Lyons was induced to withdraw his likewise. The
motion for expulsion, on the ground that Bradlaugh had, "in contempt of
the authority of the House, irregularly and contumaciously pretended to
take the oath," was then put, and Gladstone intimated in a period that
he would not oppose. Mr Labouchere dropped the very apt remark that "he
had always found that when the House was exercising judicial functions
it got into an unjudicial frame of mind," and pointed out that
Bradlaugh's action had been taken to obtain a case for legal judgment,
and could not reasonably be termed "insulting." On a division, 291
voted for the amendment proposing expulsion and 83 against; some
Liberals salving their consciences with the formula that "the House
must maintain the authority of the chair."

A new point was raised by the intimation of one of the tellers that
Bradlaugh had voted in the division. He had thereby completed the
legal circumstances for a test case. The Speaker again asked for
instructions, but Northcote, rather than begin a fresh debate, let the
matter pass. Then arose the question, energetically put by Mr Storey,
whether Bradlaugh should not be heard afresh in his defence; but this
too had to be dropped. On the substantive motion being put, 297 voted
with Northcote, and 80 against; and a motion for a new writ was at once
agreed to by Mr Labouchere.


§ 15.

Not only his constituents, but the people generally, gave Bradlaugh
their instant and warm support. At a great Sunday meeting at
Manchester, to which hundreds of men had trudged many miles through
the rain in the early morning, over hills and moors, from the country
round, some of them only to find the hall full to the door, he had a
reception which brought tears to his eyes. At Northampton, of course,
the struggle was desperate. Mr Samuel Morley, bent on making reparation
to his Deity for his one act of rational tolerance, followed up his
many Tory votes by a letter to the Northampton Nonconformists, asking
them to vote for the Tory candidate as an "act of allegiance to God;"
but, on the other hand, the Radical Association of Bristol (the town
for which he sat), who had by this time, after twice hearing Bradlaugh,
determined to unseat their member, sent 3000 copies of an address
begging the Northampton electors to return Bradlaugh by an overwhelming
majority of votes. A meeting of delegates from some scores of workmen's
clubs in London sent down 10,000 copies of a similar appeal. When
Bradlaugh went down, thousands of people lined the streets to see him
pass to say a few words in the Market Square. Radicals came from other
towns to help in the canvassing, and Mr Labouchere gave his powerful
aid. The Tories, on their part, did their utmost, using, if possible,
viler weapons than before; and meantime they had been adding every
possible vote to the register. The insolence of the Tory candidate
to the workers was such that several of his meetings were broken up.
The outcome of desperate efforts was that Corbett, the Tory, received
rather more of the new votes than Bradlaugh, the figures being 3796 to
3688, a majority for Bradlaugh of 108 (2nd March 1882). In the fury
of despair, the Tories had demanded a re-count of the votes, but this
had only altered the majority by three. The betting fraternity, who
had mostly laid their money on the side of "religion," were naturally
enraged; and Corbett was reported to say on leaving, "I shan't come
back to your dirty town any more." When the news spread, the fury did.
One academic ruffian wrote in the _Saturday Review_:--

 "The average Northampton elector and the rascal who shot at the Queen,
 while the average Northampton elector was voting for Mr Bradlaugh,
 probably acted from motives not dissimilar in kind, though the acts to
 which those motives led differed in degree of heinousness."

Journals which had predicted that Bradlaugh would be defeated, now
propagated the lie that he had been carried by terrorism--their own
terrorism having failed. By the workers in general the news was
received with delight; in most towns it was waited for on the evening
of the election with intense excitement, and acclaimed with unbounded
enthusiasm. The House of Commons, however, was not to be turned from
its evil courses.

On 4th March Northcote notified Bradlaugh of his intention to take the
same course as formerly if he presented himself, and to make a motion
on the writ if he did not. Bradlaugh replied, saying he presumed the
motion would be one to promote the legislation which Northcote had
often said ought to take place. "I congratulate you," he concluded,
"on the return of at least yourself to some respect for the law, and
beg to assure you that I shall in such case do my best to help you
to avoid further embittering a conflict of which I am sure you must
feel heartily ashamed." On Monday, 6th March, Northcote asked the
Speaker whether the resolution of 7th February was still in force,
and was answered in the negative. He was proceeding to say he would
make a motion, when successive protests against the interruption were
made by Mr Labouchere and Mr Dillwyn. The Speaker overruled both, and
Northcote moved that Bradlaugh, should he present himself, be not
allowed to take the oath. On the Liberal side, Mr E. Marjoribanks
(now Lord Tweedmouth) moved as an amendment a resolution that it was
desirable so to alter the law as to permit any elected member to take
the oath or make affirmation, at his choice. With the worst of bad
taste, Mr Marjoribanks, who had before declared his preference for
decorous hypocrisy, went on to explain that he was "one of the very
large section of that House who regarded Mr Bradlaugh's conduct both
within and without that House with something very like disgust and
indignation," and to describe the recent oath-taking as an "unworthy
manoeuvre"--a display of class hatred which may serve to suggest the
nature of the feeling on the Tory side. Mr Labouchere, after defending
his colleague, undertook for him that if the amendment were carried
he would not present himself until a decision was come to. Gladstone
formally approved of the amendment; but after a long debate of the
usual kind, it received only 244 votes against 259, to the wild delight
of the Opposition. Twelve Liberals, including Mr S. Morley, Mr Torrens,
and Mr Walter; and twenty-six Home Rulers, including Mr McCarthy and Mr
Sexton, had voted with Northcote.

The Liberal press was now nearly unanimous for legislation and even
the _Pall Mall Gazette_ went so far as to say: "All that is wanted is
that the Government should pluck up a little more moral courage, and
recognise that even in practice honesty is the best policy." In the
foreign press, the general judgment was that the House of Commons was
systematically disgracing itself. The Government, however, proposed
nothing, leaving the Oaths Bill in the hands of the "disgusted" Mr
Marjoribanks; while in the Upper House Lord Redesdale had on 7th March
introduced a Bill providing that a declaration of Theism should be
compulsory on all members of Parliament and peers. This measure, he
explained, he introduced "from a deep sense of what was due to Almighty
God." A little later, on its discussion, his lordship withdrew it "in
deference to Lord Salisbury."

Bradlaugh, on his part, after consultation with his committee in
Northampton, and after publishing a telling "Address to the Majority"
for general circulation, decided that his future course must be one of
systematic agitation in the constituencies. The Constitutional Rights
League was reconstituted; an election fund was begun for the purpose
of contesting certain seats held by renegade Liberals; and in these
constituencies the Radicals quietly went about the work of making
them untenable. Already a Liberal candidate had been defeated on the
score of the insolence of his language towards Bradlaugh's supporters,
Mr Samuel Morley had been called upon by the Bristol Radical
Association to resign; other members had been sharply censured in their
constituencies; and it was plain that it only needed time to ensure the
unseating of most of the renegades. For the present nothing was to be
hoped for from the Government; and a fresh notice by Mr Labouchere of a
motion for leave to introduce an Affirmation Bill was blocked by Earl
Percy. Thus the men who shrieked against "profanation" resisted all the
while every attempt to make oath-taking by unbelievers unnecessary.
Finally, a petition by the Northampton electors to be heard at the bar
of the House was dismissed by the Speaker as unentitled to a hearing;
and a notice of motion on the subject by Mr Firth never got to a
hearing. There was clearly nothing for it but to carry war into the
renegades' country. On the subject of the Speaker's action generally,
Bradlaugh contented himself with penning a very temperate but very
weighty paragraph:[162]--

[Footnote 162: _National Reformer_, April 2, 1882.]

 "I am just a little troubled how to decide one or two points. The
 Speaker of the House of Commons is the first commoner in England,
 and his judgment on the various points from time to time submitted
 to him is practically without appeal. It is impossible to suspect
 him of intentional unfairness; he is a clear-sighted and courteous
 gentleman. Yet some of his decisions seem so conflicting that I
 fail in understanding how he reconciles them to himself. On the
 21st February he held that Mr Labouchere was entitled, under the
 then circumstances, as of privilege, to move for a new writ for
 Northampton. On the 24th March, under precisely similar circumstances,
 Mr Speaker ruled that such a motion could not be made as one of
 privilege. On the 6th March, without any reason given whatever,
 except that I might come some time or other, the Speaker allowed Sir
 S. Northcote to raise the question of my right to my seat as one of
 privilege; but the Speaker now refuses to allow Mr Labouchere to raise
 as one of privilege the fact that one of the seats for Northampton is
 now in fact unfilled. On the 15th February the Speaker held that the
 resolution of the 7th February, which is directly in the teeth of the
 Standing Order of 30th April 1866, does not conflict with that order.
 On the 9th day of March he held that the resolution of the 6th March,
 which does not say one word about my coming to the table to take
 my seat, does so prevent my coming to the table, and that the same
 resolution, which does not mention my introducers or in any way forbid
 them introducing me, does in point of fact so act as a prohibition
 that he will hold any attempt to introduce me as disorderly and
 irregular. When my constituents wrote him, the Speaker answered that
 they must approach the House by petition. When they do approach by
 petition, he rules that their application has no privilege."

The dilemma, as between imputing to Sir Henry Brand unfairness, and
pronouncing him to have failed in his duty, must be left here as
Bradlaugh left it.


§ 16.

All the while the manifold litigation set up by the action of the House
was moving on its slow way. The appeal of Clarke against the judgment
of Justices Denman and Hawkins allowing a new trial had been heard on
21st February by Lords Justices Brett, Cotton, and Holker (the latter
newly appointed), and these judges ruled that no new trial could take
place, thus reversing the decision appealed against.

An independent comment on this judgment, which appeared in the _Pall
Mall Gazette_ at the time, may be here cited:--

 "The Court of Appeal holds that they [the Judges of the Queen's
 Bench Division] ought to have closed their eyes to everything but
 the partial evidence given at the trial, some of which at all events
 both the Court of Appeal and the Court below pronounced to be
 unsatisfactory. Nor does it seem perfectly fair to make so much as
 Lord Justice Brett does of the imputation of perjury to one of Mr
 Newdegate's witnesses. The Lord Justice himself admits that there were
 blemishes in his testimony, and that he 'somewhat prevaricated and
 coloured his evidence, etc.' We fail to see 'the enormous difference'
 between evidence of this character and perjury, at least for the
 purpose of such an action. If a man is to be condemned in a penal
 action he has a right to insist that it shall be on perfectly honest
 and straightforward evidence only."

The curious reader who cares to form his own opinion on the subject of
the evidence referred to will do well to turn to the verbatim report
preserved in the _National Reformer_.

The Clarke-Newdegate combination seemed now to see their way partly
clear to their great end of making Bradlaugh bankrupt. On 29th March
they moved before Justice Grove and Baron Huddleston for judgment--that
is, for power to compel Bradlaugh to pay the penalty sued for and the
costs. Bradlaugh admitted that at that stage he could not resist a
judgment for the penalty, but resisted the motion so far as it claimed
costs. To this the judges agreed; and on 30th March they gave judgment
for the penalty, but reserved the costs pending the appeal to the House
of Lords. Bradlaugh had thus to pay £500 into Court within fourteen
days. Already, too, he had had to give securities for £500 on the
appeal to the House of Lords, in addition to the £200 he had paid down
according to rule. For these heavy payments he had to go into debt, his
normal means of earning his livelihood being in part suspended by the
very lawsuits themselves.

In course of the arguments on the plaintiff's appeal it was noticeable
that Justice Grove pointed to the possibility of an action against
Newdegate for maintenance, and, on Bradlaugh mentioning that the
magistrate had dismissed the summonses against Newdegate and his
solicitor on the ground that the law was obsolete, observed, "But it is
by no means obsolete. I set aside an agreement for maintenance only a
little while ago."

Another item was added to the imbroglio of litigation by the friendly
action of Alderman Gurney of Northampton, on behalf of the Liberal
and Radical Union there, against Bradlaugh for not taking his seat--a
step taken by way of getting a legal deliverance. Bradlaugh formally
demurred that he had been illegally hindered by the House of Commons.
When the case came on before Justices Manisty and Watkin Williams on
15th May 1882, the judges warily declined to give any judgment, on the
score that the action was friendly, that the pleadings had been drawn
so as to compel a decision in Bradlaugh's favour, and did not disclose
all the facts of the case. Yet they excluded no material fact; and a
friendly action for a precisely similar penalty had been heard and
decided before in the historic case of Miller _v._ Salomons, while, as
a solicitor wrote to Bradlaugh, "it is a matter of everyday occurrence
in the Chancery Division for friendly actions to be brought to get a
judicial decision on questions arising out of settlements, etc." In
the present case it seemed pretty clear that the judges were simply
very much concerned not to come in conflict with the legislature. The
pleadings were however readjusted, and the case stood for re-hearing
before a jury.

Still another complication was perforce set up by an action brought
by Bradlaugh in April against Mr Erskine, the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms
of the House of Commons, for the assault of 3rd August--a step made
necessary by the police magistrate's refusal of a summons against
Inspector Denning for his formal assault; and by the risk, which was
soon realised, that the Gurney action would be denied a hearing.
The matter being brought before the House on 8th and 9th May, the
Attorney-General was directed to defend Mr Erskine, Sir Hardinge
Giffard suggesting that those who assisted in bringing such an action
should be prosecuted according to old precedents for breach of
privilege. Such a prosecution, if laid, would have struck at Messrs
Lewis & Lewis, Bradlaugh's solicitors in the matter, and at the
committee of the Constitutional Rights League, who had also instructed
them.

And yet one more step in this bewildering litigation was taken on 9th
May, when Bradlaugh moved before Lords Justices Brett and Cotton for
leave to appeal against so much of the three orders of the Court of
Appeal, dated 31st March 1881, 14th November 1881, and 23rd February
1882, as awarded costs. The application was of a highly technical
character, and was dismissed, everything being now left to the House of
Lords when it should hear the appeal.


§17.

The agitation in the constituencies was carried on throughout the
spring and summer with an energy worthy of the cause. In addition to
the crowded meetings which he held in dozens of the larger provincial
towns, the Constitutional Rights League arranged for three more great
demonstrations in London--two on 10th May, and one on Sunday, 14th
May. On the 10th was held, first, an immense mass meeting in Trafalgar
Square, attended by delegates from over a hundred towns, and addressed
by, among other speakers, the Rev. Mr Freeston of Stalybridge, Mr
Ashton Dilke, Mr Labouchere, and Mr Broadhurst; and in the evening a
second audience packed St James's Hall to the doors. On the Sunday an
enormous mass meeting took place in Hyde Park, the attendance being
estimated at 70,000 or 80,000. At all of these meetings Bradlaugh's
claim was affirmed with the greatest enthusiasm. The attitude of the
Tory press may be gathered from a reference in the _Evening Standard_ to

 "that section of the people which holds Mr Bradlaugh's coat-tails in
 veneration. They would get to Westminster, see the fun, shout out
 encouragement, and possibly pick up something to pay the expenses of
 the expedition."

An earlier demonstration, held in the Shoreditch Town Hall on 8th
May, presided over by Mr Broadhurst and addressed by Bradlaugh and
Labouchere, received no notice in the leading morning papers, though
the crowd which sought admittance would have sufficed to fill the hall
thrice over. It was necessary for such journals to ignore such matters
as much as possible, since the main plea on the Tory side had now come
to be that the public feeling was "universally" against Bradlaugh. To
suppress the facts, and then to deny that the facts existed, was a
natural tactic.

Naturally the Tories on their own part were not idle, either in
the House or out of it. In the House they were safe from answer
by Bradlaugh; and accordingly Sir Henry Tyler, who had already
distinguished himself by a dastardly attack on the ladies of
"the Bradlaugh family" and Mrs Besant as being unfit teachers of
Science,[163] was foolish enough to call upon the Home Secretary,
during May, to prosecute the _National Reformer_ for blasphemy, on the
score, not of any editorial utterances, but of certain articles by an
outside contributor, controverting, as too favourable, an estimate
of the Gospel Jesus by a member of the staff. Sir Henry was no less
zealous for Jesus than he had been for "God;" and he was backed by
Mr Healy, who asked whether the paper could not be seized. The Home
Secretary deprecated the attempt in the name of the interests of
orthodoxy, as he had previously done an attempt to secure a prosecution
of the _Freethinker_. But Tyler and those of his kidney, baffled here,
only looked about for another means of gaining their point.

[Footnote 163: A question put to Mr Mundella on 18th June in the
House elicited the fact that the Hall of Science classes had been
established, and received grants, under the late Tory administration.
On this Lord George Hamilton was petty enough to put the blame on his
subordinates. Mr Mundella answered that for his part he was responsible
for anything done by his subordinates.]

Among the most prominent of the attacks made on Bradlaugh about this
time were the (second and third) articles contributed by Cardinal
Manning to the _Nineteenth Century_, one under the title "An
Englishman's Protest." The second was in time for the election in
March, and much was hoped from it. Later, after illegally visiting
Northampton in prelatic state, to turn the Irish voters against
the Atheist, he contributed yet a third article to the _Nineteenth
Century_ of September 1882; and still the editor denied Bradlaugh all
right of reply. It is probable that at no time in the long strife
were Freethinkers more roused to wrath, more moved to smite arrogant
insolence upon its blatant mouth, than by this manifesto from a prince
of the Church of Rome, the murderous organism which had eaten out the
mind of Spain and barely missed destroying Italy. Certain it is that
from these malevolent outbreaks of the unsleeping Romish spirit of
persecution may be dated a new birth of enmity towards Rome on the
part of English rationalists, who had before been disposed to class
the bloody-mindedness of Catholicism with the kindred rancours of
Protestantism. It was left to Manning to put his Church in the worst
light of all; to show once for all that the fundamental mission of
priestly Rome is not _parcere subjectis et debellare superbos_, but to
fight the ignoble battle of the million against one. And it is to his
action that his co-religionists owe most of the measure of acceptation
found among Freethinkers by the fierce verse in which Mr Swinburne
has named the Church of Rome "Grey spouse of Satan, church of name
abhorred," and taunted the "withered harlot" with the shame of her
defeat on the Field of Flowers.

But Bradlaugh met the priest's attack with a prose that suffered no
weakening from hysteria. In his journal it met a detailed and judicial
criticism: he himself, roused as he had never been roused before,
published his tract, "A Cardinal's Broken Oath," one of the hardest
blows ever struck in written controversy.

 "Three times," it begins, "your Eminence has--through the pages
 of the _Nineteenth Century_--personally and publicly interfered
 and used the weight of your ecclesiastical position against me in
 the Parliamentary struggle in which I am engaged, although you are
 neither voter in the borough for which I am returned to sit, nor even
 co-citizen in the State to which I belong. Your personal position
 is that of a law-breaker, one who has deserted his sworn allegiance
 and thus forfeited his citizenship, one who is tolerated by English
 forbearance, but is liable to indictment for misdemeanour as 'member
 of a society of the Church of Rome.' More than once when the question
 of my admission to the House of Commons has been under discussion in
 that House, have I seen you busy in the lobby, closely attended by
 the devout and sober Philip Callan, or some other equally appropriate
 Parliamentary henchman."

After telling the Cardinal how he had "blundered alike in his law
and his history," making absurd mis-statements concerning the French
Revolution and the case of Horne Tooke, the pamphlet takes up the point
of persecution, in regard to Manning's advice that Bradlaugh should be
indicted for blasphemy:--

 "When I was in Paris some time since, and was challenged to express an
 opinion as to the enforcement of the law against the religious orders
 of France, I, not to the pleasure of many of my friends, spoke out
 very freely that in matters of religion I would use the law against
 none; but your persecuting spirit may provoke intemperate men even
 farther than you dream. In this country, by the 10th George IV., cap.
 7, secs. 28 and 29, 31, 32, and 34, you are criminally indictable,
 Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. You only reside here without
 police challenge by the merciful forbearance of the community. And yet
 you parade in political contest your illegal position as 'a member of
 a religious order of the Church of Rome,' and have the audacity to
 invoke outlawry and legal penalty against me."

And then came a hail of blows at the Cardinal Archbishop's own
personality, so rashly put in the way of retaliation:--

 "In the current number of the _Nineteenth Century_ you fire your
 last shot, and are coarse in Latin as well as in the vulgar tongue.
 Perhaps the frequenting Philip Callan has spoiled your manners. It
 also seems impossible that one who was once a cultured scholar and a
 refined gentleman could confuse with legitimate argument the abuse
 of his opponents as 'cattle.' But who are you, Henry Edward Manning,
 that you should throw stones at me, and should so parade your desire
 to protect the House of Commons from contamination? At least, first
 take out of it the drunkard and the dissolute of your own Church. You
 know them well enough. Is it the oath alone which stirs you? Your
 tenderness on swearing comes very late in life. When you took orders
 as a deacon of the English Church, in presence of your bishop, you
 swore 'so help me God,' that you did from your 'heart abhor, detest,
 and abjure,' and with your hand on the 'Holy Gospels' you declared
 'that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate hath,
 or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence,
 or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.' You
 may now well write of men 'whom no oath can bind.' The oath you took
 you have broken; and yet it was because you had, in the very church
 itself, taken this oath, that you for many years held more than one
 profitable preferment in the Established Church of England. You
 indulge in innuendoes against my character in order to do me mischief,
 and viciously insinuate as though my life had in it justification
 for good men's abhorrence. In this you are very cowardly as well as
 very false. Then, to move the timid, you suggest 'the fear of eternal
 punishment' as associated with a broken oath. Have you any such fear?
 or have you been personally conveniently absolved from the 'eternal'
 consequences of your perjury? Have you since sworn another oath before
 another bishop of another church, or made some solemn vow to Rome, in
 lieu of, and in contradiction to, the one you so took in presence of
 your bishop, when, 'in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,'
 that bishop of the Church by law established in this country accepted
 your oath, and gave you authority as a deacon in the Church you have
 since forsaken. I do not blame you so much that you are forsworn;
 there are, as you truly say, 'some men whom no oath can bind;' and
 it has often been the habit of the cardinals of your Church to take
 an oath and break it when profit came with the breach; but your
 remembrance of your own perjury might at least keep you reticent in
 very shame. Instead of this, you thrust yourself impudently into a
 purely political contest, and shout as if the oath were to you the
 most sacred institution possible. You say 'there are happily some
 men who believe in God and fear Him.' Do you do either? You, who
 declared, 'so help me God,' that no foreign 'prelate ... ought to
 have any jurisdiction or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within
 this realm'? And you who, in spite of your declaration on oath,
 have courted and won, intrigued for and obtained, the archbishop's
 authority and the cardinal's hat from the Pope of Rome--you rebuke
 Lord Sherbrooke for using the words 'sin and shame' in connection with
 oath-taking: do you hold now that there was no sin and no shame in
 your broken oath? None in the rash taking or the wilful breaking? Have
 you no personal shame that you have broken your oath? Or do the pride
 and pomp of your ecclesiastical position outbribe your conscience? You
 talk of the people understanding the words 'so help me God.' How do
 you understand them of your broken oath? Do they mean to you: 'May God
 desert and forsake me as I deserted and forsook the Queen's supremacy,
 to which I so solemnly swore allegiance'? You speak of men being kept
 to their allegiance by the oath 'which binds them to their sovereign.'
 You say such men may be tempted by ambition or covetousness unless
 they are bound by 'the higher and more sacred responsibility' involved
 in the 'recognition of the law-giver in the oath.' Was the Rector of
 Lavington and Graffham covetous of an archbishopric that he broke his
 oath? Was the Archdeacon of Chichester ambitious of the Cardinal's hat
 that he became so readily forsworn?"

The eight small but pregnant pages of this concentrated diatribe were
carefully translated into Italian by or for a certain Monsignor, once
resident in England, who was understood to owe no goodwill to Manning;
the translation was no less carefully circulated among the higher Roman
clergy; and if anything had been needed to thwart Manning's ambition
of becoming Pope, this little tractate, it was believed, would have
served not a little to that end. At all events, Manning never again
ventured to attack Bradlaugh publicly. He had had enough. And not only
had he failed to destroy Bradlaugh, he had evoked furious Protestant
protests against his action at Northampton, and this even from journals
like the _Rock_, which hated Bradlaugh as much as he did. His alliance
was rejected with insult. And even in his own Church the far more
highly esteemed Newman, answering a correspondent on the subject of the
Affirmation Bill of 1883, expressly declared that he thought "nothing
would be lost to religion by its passing and nothing gained by its
being rejected."[164]

[Footnote 164: Letter of 8th May 1883.]

It would be superfluous to load this already over-burdened narrative
with any detailed account of the stream of insults, imbecilities,
brutalities, and falsehoods which was cast forth continuously at this
period against Bradlaugh in the press and on the platform. From the
fatuity of Viscount Folkestone--who argued that an Atheist, being
guilty of treason to God, who gave the Queen her power, should be
treated like one guilty of treason to the Queen--to the brutish
licence of the Tory journals who likened Bradlaugh's sympathisers to
thieves and assassins, there was, as Mr Moncure Conway wrote at the
time, "no circumstance of heartlessness, injustice, hypocrisy, and
falsehood[165] wanting to this last carnival of theological[166] hatred
and ferocity." It was not, of course, theological hate alone. Bradlaugh
had just been leading a popular movement for land law reform; and he
had set in motion a second movement for the abolition of perpetual
pensions, which went on wheels, and the petitions in support of which
were signed by the hundred thousand.[167] There are few resentments
more bitter than that of a menaced interest. But malice once aroused
in men of a low type stops at nothing; and as we have seen, everybody
associated with Bradlaugh was included in the hatred bestowed on him.
One Tory journal, the _Manchester Courier_, went the length of saying
that Bradlaugh's success in Northampton was due to an exceptionally bad
state of education there; the pretext being that one Northamptonshire
village was in such a state. The Government inspector testified that
as regarded the town he had often paid tribute to the heartiness of
the people of Northampton, and especially of the working-classes, in
carrying out the Education Act, and that it would be hard to find
anywhere a more active School Board, a higher average of regular
attendance, or a higher general standard of proficiency.

[Footnote 165: If further samples are needed of the general
untruthfulness, they can be given by the dozen. Even men of good
standing spoke with a disregard of scruple which put them outside
courteous correction. Bradlaugh was driven to characterise Sir Edward
Watkin as "an exceedingly and wantonly untruthful person." In November
1882 he represented to his Folkestone constituents that he would not
have stood in the way of Bradlaugh either swearing or affirming, but
that he resisted when Bradlaugh "distinctly outraged all that they held
sacred." This presumably referred to the self-administered oath of
1882. But Sir E. Watkin had voted against Bradlaugh being allowed to
swear on 27th April 1881. The Hon. Mr Stansfeld, speaking at Halifax
in October 1882, actually represented that the oath was "on the true
faith of a Christian;" and repeated the untruth that Bradlaugh had
"said that the oath had no binding effect on his conscience." The Rev.
Canon Gascoigne Weldon, of Rothesay, asserted in writing that Bradlaugh
"boasted publicly that he sought entrance into the House of Commons to
insult its members and all its past glorious history, and level it, if
possible, with its sister House, to the ground."]

[Footnote 166: Mr Samuel Morley, speaking at Bristol in November 1882,
admitted to his constituents that "while Mr Bradlaugh was in the House
of Commons, nothing could exceed the propriety of his conduct;" but
declared he would oppose his re-entrance because Bradlaugh continued
"his system of violent, offensive, and disgusting attacks on the faith
which he (Mr Morley) in common with the great bulk of the English
people, held." To men like Mr Morley, all rationalist propaganda was
"violent, offensive, and disgusting;" but they had no scruples about
violent, offensive, and disgusting attacks on rationalists. Soon
afterwards Mr Morley grossly misrepresented Bradlaugh's action, and on
being challenged admitted the fact and made a correction. Soon again,
however, Mr Morley spoke of Bradlaugh as writing in the _Freethinker_,
and on being challenged, made neither admission nor correction. The
champions of the oath, generally speaking, exhibited a constitutional
incapacity for accuracy.]

[Footnote 167: In the summer of 1882 the total of petitions had mounted
to over 100, and the signatures numbered over 250,000.]

Of course such a testimony did little to check the scurrility of Tory
tongues. At a meeting of the Bible Society at Exeter Hall, in May 1882,
with Mr Samuel Morley in the chair, a Herefordshire vicar, the Rev.
H. W. Webb Peploe, alleged that to his knowledge "the first condition
imposed upon one whom he knew when he had joined an association under
the leadership of a notorious infidel was that he should burn his
Bible;" and that he had further "been told that two nights ago, at
a meeting of a notorious infidel, the things said were so grossly
immodest that a member of the press had said that they did not dare
to report what had been spoken, however, in the presence of young
women." On being challenged, the rev. gentleman declined to attempt
any substantiation of his statements, only pleading that he had not
meant to specify Bradlaugh. Of these cretinous calumnies, there were
hundreds afloat for years on end. It is a comfort to be able to say
that some score or more of single clergymen in different places, of
different sects, spoke out bravely and generously from time to time in
repudiation of the whole policy of persecution and slander. But a few
voices, of course, could not avail to hinder that for thoughtful men
the effect of the persecution was to identify religion with injustice.
Freethinkers reasoned that the Christians who stood for justice
and tolerance did but do what Freethinkers themselves did, without
accepting the Christian creed; while the army of bigots did their
evil deeds in virtue of a religious motive. And the effect of it all
was to multiply Freethought as it had never been multiplied before. A
barrister, who had no personal sympathy with Bradlaugh, wrote that "One
consequence has been that the cause of Freethought has made surprising
progress.... I do not think that at any time Freethought literature has
been so widely read, and the Freethought propaganda so actively and
intelligently carried on." Active members of the Secular Society were
enrolled by hundreds; and the sale of Bradlaugh's journal rose to its
highest figure. Men who had before been unquestioningly orthodox became
newly critical. One wrote to an editor:--

 "That 'Mr Bradlaugh had brought his troubles on himself' I fully
 admit. So did Jesus Christ. In the latter case the ultimate result was
 a judicial execution as a blasphemer. But I am not aware that he is
 any the worse thought of by his followers on that account."

Even among Conservatives there were searchings of heart. One wrote
a pamphlet in his favour. Another sent an open letter of merciless
criticism to Sir Stafford Northcote, saying, "I am a Conservative, and
my father before me. But there is something I put before party. That is
self-respect." The letter concluded:--

 "If you wish an outlet for your zeal against 'profanation,' why do
 you ignore in the Church the presence of numerous Broad Churchmen,
 including the father-in-law of your own son, Canon Farrar, who
 swear loyalty to the Thirty-Nine Articles, and follow the late Dean
 Stanley in rejecting many of them? Why should you have reserved your
 fervent indignation against apparent insincerity in sacred things to
 be expended upon a man whose admission to the House as silently as
 possible, so as not to promote his notoriety, justice and expediency
 would alike have suggested: the whole stupidity, duplicity, and
 inhumanity of Conservative tactics in this matter are patent to all
 straightforward minds. You are responsible for giving Mr Bradlaugh a
 name and a place in the history of this country which will survive
 long after those of the present Conservative leaders are consigned to
 oblivion."

The harvest was not immediate; but the seed was abundantly sown, and
inevitably bore its due fruit. That this was not unrecognised in high
places was sufficiently proved by the introduction of an Affirmation
Bill in the House of Lords by the Duke of Argyll, then already sundered
from official Liberalism. The Duke, on moving the second reading
of his Bill, took occasion to scold Bradlaugh after his manner for
"violence and scurrility," denying by implication that the violence
and scurrility were on the other side. But this prudent tactic did not
avail. The Earl of Carnarvon told the usual untruth about the "binding
effect" of the oath on Bradlaugh, by way of showing that he deserved
no relief; and the Archbishop of Canterbury opposed the Bill in the
name not only of the English Church, but of the Romish, the Wesleyan,
and the Scotch Presbyterian. It was accordingly rejected (July) by 138
votes to 62.


§ 18.

On 11th July 1882 a new Tory battery was opened. The _Freethinker_, a
penny weekly journal of a more popular character than the _National
Reformer_, edited by Mr G. W. Foote and then owned by Mr W. J.
Ramsey, was sold at the shop of the Freethought Publishing Company,
28 Stonecutter Street, of which Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant, the
partners of the Company, were the lessees. For a short time after
its first issue it had been published by them, but soon they decided
not to take that responsibility; and thenceforward it had been sold
independently by Mr Ramsey, their manager, who, in the terms of his
engagement with them, was free to do other trading on his own account.
Sir Henry Tyler, supposing Bradlaugh to be the publisher all along,
had bethought himself of prosecuting the _Freethinker_ for blasphemy,
and so striking a possibly decisive political blow at Bradlaugh--a
course which he was enabled to take by a readily granted "fiat" from
the Director of Public Prosecutions. It had been made clear by his
references to the _National Reformer_ in the House of Commons that
he had hoped to convict Bradlaugh of blasphemy on something he had
either written or published; but that hope he had had to abandon. There
remained the hope of connecting Bradlaugh with the _Freethinker_;
and Tyler's solicitors coolly wrote Bradlaugh on 8th July, asking
whether he would personally sell the paper, so as to prevent the
prosecution either of a subordinate of his, or of the editor and
printer. He replied by sending the printed catalogue of all the things
he published, and offering personally to sell any of these. As it did
not include the _Freethinker_, the prosecution was begun against Messrs
Foote and Ramsey and their printer, Mr Whittle, on 11th July, before
the Lord Mayor (Sir John Whittaker Ellis), at the Mansion House; and
after evidence had been led, the prosecutor's counsel applied to have
Bradlaugh's name added as a defendant. The case was then adjourned, the
Lord Mayor stating that he would hear the application against Bradlaugh
in private--a proceeding for which the reasons will afterwards appear.
It having appeared that the selling of the _Free-thinker_ in the
Freethought Publishing Company's shop tended to implicate the partners
of that company, Mr Ramsey at once decided to suspend its sale for
some weeks till he could arrange for its publication in a distinct
office, thus partly safeguarding Bradlaugh from the attempt to identify
him with it. The danger was serious; for if Bradlaugh were convicted
of blasphemy under the statute, he would become legally incapable
of further defending himself in Clarke's or any other suit for
Parliamentary penalties. This was fully recognised on the Tory side,
and the _Whitehall Review_, in an indecent article, pressed the point.
Tyler's move was, in fact, a new attempt to cause the ruin aimed at by
Newdegate, and hitherto warded off; and Newdegate's junior counsel (and
private friend) duly attended the prosecution at the Mansion House. At
the same time, Bradlaugh was defending a Freethinker prosecuted for
blasphemy at the Maidstone Assizes, and after attending the adjourned
hearing before the Lord Mayor on Monday, 17th July, he had to travel to
Maidstone on the following day.

Before the Lord Mayor Bradlaugh led the prosecutor's counsel a
grievous dance. He appealed to have the cases taken separately, and
counsel was confused enough to say that this was "a most unusual
and unheard-of application," which drew from Bradlaugh the comment,
"There are several decided cases upon it, although it may be unheard
of and unusual in your experience, Mr Moloney." Then ensued hours of
fencing as to whether the case was or should be under common law or
statute, and what the Lord Mayor ought to do. His lordship was at times
somewhat rashly dogmatic on points of law and procedure, and had to be
corrected. He finally decided to refuse to ask the prosecutor to choose
whether he would proceed under common law or statute; and Bradlaugh
then demanded that the case should begin _de novo_, putting every
possible technical obstacle in the way of his cowardly enemies. Their
evil way, he determined, should be made hard for them; and it was.
As the proceedings went on, and the prosecution, who had previously
succeeded in obtaining from the Lord Mayor a warrant to inspect
Bradlaugh's banking account, took the dishonourable course of producing
on subpoena the manager of the bank used by Bradlaugh, and his very
passbook, his indignation mounted. What was intended was evidently a
fishing investigation into his financial affairs, for the production
of cheques at that stage was wholly irrelevant to the points proposed
to be made out in evidence, and needing to be so proved. Fighting the
case with all his force and acuteness, point by point, and with no
mincing of matters, Bradlaugh commented on Tyler's tactics in language
of which the libel law prevented the republication. Tyler's counsel
protested that he "did not quite see what these observations were
intended for." "They are intended," replied Bradlaugh, "to do the same
mischief to your client that he is trying to do to me;" and counsel
said no more on that head, though he tried unsuccessfully to retaliate
on others.

The case was adjourned to the 21st; and though the passbook was left
in the Lord Mayor's hands for inspection, the prosecuting counsel so
mismanaged matters that he closed his case without having applied to
see it. Bradlaugh's account, however, had been personally ransacked
on Tyler's behalf, in gross abuse of the order of the Court. The Lord
Mayor finally committed Bradlaugh for trial on the singularly scanty
evidence offered as to his connection with the prosecuted paper, the
incriminated numbers of which were all dated after the time when
Bradlaugh ceased to be concerned in publishing it; and in committing
Messrs Foote and Ramsey (the charge against the printer had been
withdrawn), his lordship refused to allow Mr Foote to make a statement
in his defence, though the law clearly gave the defendant that right.
His lordship repeatedly gave the extraordinary ruling that "the charge"
against Mr Foote was "that he was the editor of the _Freethinker_"--as
if that could possibly be a "charge"--and on this pretext declined
to hear anything on the actual charge, which was one of "blasphemous
libel." He similarly tried to prevent Bradlaugh from reading a formal
statement, but after disallowing it he gave way on consultation with
the Clerk of Court. The statement was a terse and telling account of
Tyler's tactics from the time of Bradlaugh's election.

In the press the prosecution was sharply condemned, even the _Times_
censuring it; and one journal took occasion to point out that Tyler
represented "one of the smallest and most corrupt constituencies in
England."[168] Bradlaugh, being "committed" for blasphemy, at once
put himself in the hands of his constituents, who unanimously voted
their unabated confidence in him. He immediately (27th July) applied
to a judge (Justice Stephen) in chambers for leave to issue a summons
calling on Tyler to show cause why a writ of _certiorari_ should not
issue to remove the proceedings to the Queen's Bench division; and on
the 29th the _certiorari_ itself was directed to issue by the judge.
Tyler's counsel at this stage insisted on Bradlaugh's giving two
sureties for £300 in addition to his own recognisances of £300 ordered
by the Lord Mayor. They also asked for an order to expedite the trial,
but the judge curtly refused. Another typical detail was the charging
of the grand jury on the point of "returning a true bill" on the
indictment. The Recorder for the City, Sir Thomas Chambers, was one of
Bradlaugh's bitterest enemies in Parliament, and he gave his direction
to the grand jury to return a true bill, not only without putting it to
them to decide whether they were satisfied with the evidence against
Bradlaugh, but with expressions of gross prejudice, appealing to their
feelings as "Christian men."

[Footnote 168: He sat for Harwich.]

Not content with his prosecution of Bradlaugh, Tyler in the House of
Commons (10th August) at length brought forward an express motion which
he had had on the paper for twelve months, to the effect that the
Hall of Science was not a proper place, and the teachers not proper
persons, to teach science in connection with the Science and Art
Department. The argument was that persons who had expressed themselves
in print to the effect that science undermined religion should be held
to have taught the same thing in their science classes. Mr Mundella
in reply pointed out that no fewer than thirty-five clergymen of all
denominations were science teachers under the department; and that the
reports on the teaching given in the Hall of Science classes, even by a
religious visitor who made surprise visits, were highly satisfactory.
He concluded by sharply censuring Tyler, as Mr Labouchere had already
done, for his malice; and, the Tory members having all left the House,
the matter was ignominiously dropped. Even the editor of the _St
James's Gazette_ snubbed Tyler, while himself proceeding to repeat
Tyler's contention in a gratuitously insulting statement as to the
teaching of the Misses Bradlaugh. In the outside public one immediate
effect of Tyler's malicious action was to set on foot a movement and an
association for the repeal of the blasphemy laws, the lead being ably
taken by the Rev. Mr Sharman (Unitarian) of Plymouth, who had already
done admirable service in the constitutional struggle.

The blasphemy prosecution not being "expedited," went on slowly
enough. Intermediate technical proceedings arose, partly out of
irregularities on the part of the prosecution; and in one of
Bradlaugh's visits to the Courts with his sureties, the driver of
a four-wheeler who conveyed the party declined to accept any fare,
declaring that it should be his contribution towards fighting Tyler.
At length, on 6th November, Bradlaugh made an _ex parte_ motion before
Justices Field and Stephen, to have the indictment against him quashed,
mainly on the score that he ought to have been definitely sued under
the statute 9 and 10 William III., and that the provisions of that
statute had not been observed in the indictment. The pleadings were
extremely interesting as a matter of pure law, the judges debating the
points courteously but closely all along, and both commenting finally
on the "candour" and "propriety" with which he had argued his case.
Their decision was for the most part hostile; and this was one of his
very few cases in which there can be little difficulty in taking the
judge's view against him. The main point decided was that the statute
had not abrogated the common law in the case in hand. They gave him
a rule _nisi_ on only two counts in the indictment, on the ground
of irregular procedure on the part of the prosecution; but Justice
Stephen's judgment supplied a very useful conspectus of the history
of the blasphemy laws, and incidentally declared that the statutory
penalties could not be inflicted under a verdict on the indictment laid.

Very different must be the comments passed on the treatment of the
friendly action, Gurney _v._ Bradlaugh, which came on afresh before
Mr Justice Mathew and a common jury on 10th November. Everything
had been done that could be done to meet the criticisms formerly
passed by Justices Manisty and Watkin Williams; and indeed the whole
pleadings had from the first been drawn from the journals of the House
of Commons, which were put in evidence. But Justice Mathew summarily
decided not to hear the case, and discharged the jury, on the old
ground that the action was collusive. Now Bradlaugh, in swearing
himself in, had in law done exactly what Alderman Salomons did in 1851;
and the action of Miller _v._ Salomons was notoriously collusive, yet
it was fully heard and carefully decided. We can only do now what
Bradlaugh did then--leave the judge's action to the judgment of the
instructed public. The _Law Times_ of that time (November 1882) took
the unusual step of declaring:--

 "It is plain that it should be possible to try a friendly action to
 establish a constitutional right; and we regard the action of the
 judge as very questionable on constitutional grounds, and as being an
 arbitrary interference with a suitor's right to the verdict of a jury."

What a law journal thus describes, plain men may well call by a plainer
name.

One of Bradlaugh's five contemporary lawsuits was thus quashed, but the
remaining four kept his hands sufficiently full. The civil suit against
Newdegate for maintenance came on before Justice Field on 2nd December,
on a preliminary "demurrer," when, on the advice of the judge, both
aides agreed to let the demurrer stand over till after the trial. A day
or two afterwards Newdegate, speaking at the London Sheriffs' banquet,
at which six judges were guests, had the indecency to comment before
them on the maintenance case, and to denounce Bradlaugh. On the 5th the
action against Mr Erskine, the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, came on before
Justice Field. It was a long pleading on both sides; the case was
adjourned till the 18th; and after the Attorney-General had spoken two
hours and a half, and Bradlaugh had replied for an hour and a quarter,
the judge reserved his decision. He finally gave it (15th January)
against Bradlaugh, on the general ground that the House of Commons was
the judge as to how it might exercise its privileges, of which the
power to expel a member was one. On the point of legality he ruled that
"it is not to be presumed that any Court, whether it be the High Court
of Judicature or this Court, will do that which in itself is flagrantly
wrong." The decision was one which might very reasonably have been
appealed against. As the _Legal Advertiser Supplement_ remarked at the
time, Justice Field's ruling would cover a case in which the House
of Commons might, say, confiscate the goods and chattels of a member
expelled or suspended for obstruction. Bradlaugh, however, decided not
to appeal. He had only commenced the action reluctantly because of the
likelihood that the Gurney suit would be denied a hearing; and the
judge had in this case at least listened to his arguments. He contented
himself with a letter to the _Times_, pointing out the constitutional
effect of the decision.

Thus far he had endured defeat after defeat in the law courts as
in Parliament; and it may be that discouragement and debt counted
for something in his surrender of the suit against the Deputy
Sergeant-at-Arms. But he was now within a short distance of three
signal successes which more than counterbalanced all his previous
legal defeats. On 9th and 17th March his action against Newdegate for
maintenance was argued for him before Lord Coleridge [169] by Mr Crump
and Mr W. A. Hunter, he himself giving evidence on his own behalf. The
broad ground of action was that Newdegate had maliciously "maintained"
Clarke, having himself no interest in the ground of action, which
was the penalty sued for, and being desirous only to make Bradlaugh
bankrupt. There was no question of principle, as Bradlaugh was already
unseated, and was held disentitled to sit either on oath or on
affirmation. Bradlaugh incidentally gave testimony that already he had
had to spend on the action two legacies, and in addition £1100 he had
borrowed; while Clarke testified that the total costs on his side were
estimated at about £2000.

[Footnote 169: A jury had been sworn in, but it was agreed all round
that there was no question of fact for them, and they were discharged
on the 9th, Lord Coleridge trying the case as one of law.]

Lord Coleridge reserved his decision; and before he gave it, the
appeal by Bradlaugh against Clarke's action had been heard and decided
in the House of Lords. It was argued on 5th and 6th March, before
the Lord Chancellor (Selborne), and Lords Blackburn, Watson, and
Fitzgerald--Bradlaugh, as usual, pleading his own cause. His main
argument was, as before, that only the Crown could recover penalties
against him when the statute did not specify that some or any one else
could; and the discussion turned on this point, on which Lord Justice
Bramwell, the senior judge in the Court of Appeal, had expressed some
doubt. Bradlaugh, however, cited on the disputed point as to the
Crown's prerogative two fresh cases--the King _v._ Hymen[170] and the
King _v._ Clarke; and a good deal of argument turned on the point as
to whether a common informer could ever have costs allowed him. As for
the case of the respondent, Bradlaugh pointed out that Sir Hardinge
Giffard's argument was now directed against the very reasons on which
the intermediate court had based its judgment in his favour, thus
asking their lordships to support the judgment of the Court of Appeal
for new and contrary reasons.

[Footnote 170: This had been cited in the Court of Appeal for another
purpose.]

On 9th April their lordships delivered judgment. The Lord Chancellor
in an elaborate and lucid judgment showed that the penalty really
was suable for by action of the Crown in any of the superior courts,
and that, as no permission had been given by the statute to the
common informer to sue, he was not entitled to do so. Lord Blackburn
dissented, but not strongly, arguing very judicially that there were
good and mutually neutralising arguments on both sides, and pronouncing
himself only "on the whole" in favour of the view that the common
informer could sue under the statute. Lords Watson and Fitzgerald,
however, agreed with the Lord Chancellor. The eccentric Lord Denman,
who was not a law lord, chose to take part in the proceedings (the
first time a lay peer had done so, it is said, since the decision of
the writ of error in Daniel O'Connoll's case), and declared himself in
agreement with Lord Blackburn. Even if he were counted, however, the
majority was for the appellant, who accordingly won the appeal with
costs.

This judgment, of course, would have affected the suit for maintenance,
had that been brought later. Giving judgment on 23rd April, Lord
Coleridge remarked that as the House of Lords had decided that Clarke
had no right to sue, it "seemed to follow" that Newdegate had no right
to do so either. But he went on to decide in the appellant's favour on
the merits of the case, giving a long and interesting judgment. Unless
maintenance were to be struck out of the law-books, said the Lord
Chief Justice, Newdegate's procedure must be called maintenance; and
if maintenance were to be struck out of the books, he added, "it must
be done by some higher authority, and I have not the power to do it,
nor, if I had the power, have I the wish to abolish an action which may
in some cases be the only remedy for a very cruel wrong." Delivering
himself later on the moral or political merits of the case, he said:--

 "It may be my ill fortune to have to support such an action in a case
 in which the defendant is a man whose character is entitled to every
 respect, and the plaintiff is a man with whose views, openly avowed, I
 have no sort of sympathy. But I will not call it my 'ill fortune,' for
 many of the most precious judgments given by the Courts in Westminster
 Hall were given in favour of men who, if English justice could ever be
 warped by personal feeling, would certainly have failed. It is indeed
 an ill fortune of the case that in the minds of many the cause of
 religion should seem to be connected with the success or failure of a
 particular person, whose defeat or success is really to the cause of
 religion a matter of supreme indifference, but as to whom (speaking
 only of what has been proved before me), a course has been taken
 and proceedings have been pressed which, in the case of any other,
 would be strongly and universally condemned, and by which certainly
 the cause of religion has not been advanced. But my duty is simply
 to decide the cause according to the best opinion I can form of the
 law--a duty which the rules of Christian teaching make quite clear."

As to costs, Lord Coleridge remarked that the decision of the House of
Lords, though giving costs on the appeal, left Bradlaugh mulcted in
a considerable sum of costs which were not recoverable from Clarke.
For the recoverable costs he assumed Newdegate would now hold himself
responsible; but further,

 "for the residue of the costs and the expenses which Mr Bradlaugh has
 been put to as between attorney and client, and the various expenses
 he has had to bear--for all these Mr Newdegate is responsible in
 damages. I think that Mr Bradlaugh is entitled to an indemnity for
 every loss which Mr Newdegate's maintenance has caused him, and
 if this cannot be agreed on between the parties it must go to the
 official referee to ascertain the amount, and when he has reported to
 me I will give judgment for the amount he finds to be due, applying
 the principles I have thus laid down."

Newdegate's counsel gave notice of an appeal, but after six months'
delay abandoned it. Thus by two concurrent successes Bradlaugh
inflicted a crushing and final defeat on one of the men who had
sought to ruin his political career out of hate for his opinions. He
could not have, in addition to the solace of triumph, the "stern joy
which warriors feel in foemen worthy of their steel;" but he had the
satisfaction, such as it was, of knowing that his victory was a source
of intense chagrin to thousands of bigots who had reckoned on, betted
on, and generally predicted his defeat and bankruptcy.

And his victory on the points of civil law was effectually secured by
his acquittal in the action for blasphemy. A new excitement had been
added to that issue by the commencement, on 2nd February, of a new
prosecution of Mr Foote (now owner as well as editor) and Mr Ramsey
(now publisher only), with Ramsey's shopman, Henry Arthur Kemp, for
the publication of a special "Christmas number" of the _Freethinker_,
in which there occurred certain woodcuts, ridiculing the Hebrew Deity
and the Jesus of the Gospels. In this case there could be no pretence
of implicating Bradlaugh, as the incriminated number had not even been
sold on the Freethought Publishing Company's premises. Whether Tyler
saw the necessity of putting a better colour of religious zeal on his
ill-conditioned action against Bradlaugh, or whether the recent strife
had stirred up smouldering bigotry independently of personal animus
against Bradlaugh, this prosecution was undertaken by "the City of
London." The new trial, which took place at the Central Criminal Court
on 1st March 1883, before Mr Justice North and a jury, is likely to be
long remembered in respect of the extraordinary display of mediæval
prejudice by the judge. He repeatedly and angrily interrupted Mr Foote
in his defence, declining to allow him to quote current printed matter
which would show at once how much "permitted blasphemy" went on among
Salvationists, and how perfectly in keeping was his freethinking
blasphemy with the popular religion which it attacked. The jury, after
two hours' discussion, could not agree, and the judge discharged them,
arranging for a fresh trial on the 6th with a fresh jury, and refusing
in the harshest and most peremptory manner to let the prisoners out on
bail, though in law they were perfectly entitled to it. Applications
made next day to other judges fell through on the score, not of being
wrong in law, but of "want of jurisdiction" on the part of the judges
applied to. The second trial was even more disgraceful to the judge
than the first. At the outset, Mr Foote objected to one of the jurors
as having expressed animus, and the judge, in suggesting the juryman's
withdrawal, declared that "he should be sorry to have a gentleman upon
the jury who had expressed himself as prejudiced." His own summing-up
to the jury, however, was again scandalously prejudiced; and when the
jury promptly returned a verdict of guilty, he addressed Mr Foote as
follows:--

 "You have been found guilty by the jury of publishing these
 blasphemous libels. This trial has been to me a very painful one, as I
 regard it as extremely sad to find that a person to whom God has given
 such evident intelligence and ability should have chosen to prostitute
 his talents to the work of the devil in the way it has been done
 (_sic_) under your auspices."

The sentence was a year's imprisonment. The announcement called forth
a display of indignation among the audience such as has perhaps never
been seen in modern times; and the judge had to sit for some minutes in
a storm of hisses and outcries, the epithets "Jeffries" and "Scroggs"
expressing the prevailing sentiment. Mr Foote's words: "My lord, I
thank you: it is worthy of your creed," were followed by a renewal of
the tumult, and it was with difficulty that the Court was cleared.
Then the judge sentenced Ramsey and Kemp to nine and three months'
imprisonment respectively. The same judge, it is recorded, had let off
with three months' imprisonment a ruffian who had killed a coffee-stall
keeper with a kick on the face when he was refused a second cup of
coffee till the first had been paid for.

The impression made among thoughtful people by the judge's action
was one of general displeasure. Canon Shuttleworth pronounced the
sentence "a calamity." Mr Foote's methods had been widely and strongly
disapproved of among cultured Freethinkers, including Bradlaugh; and Mr
John Morley, in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, had gone to the indefensible
length of justifying the prosecution, on the very inadequate ground
that the _Freethinker_ had been "thrust on" the public, it having been
exhibited in the publisher's window in a side street. But the infamous
sentence at once turned feeling the other way, though protests like
Canon Shuttleworth's were needed to teach Mr Morley and other Liberal
journalists that renunciation of Liberal principles is not really
necessary, even in cases of persecution, to propitiate the public.
Bradlaugh, on his part, took the--for him--unprecedented course of
addressing a public letter to the judge, reprobating his conduct. "My
lord," he wrote,

 "I pen this public letter with considerable regret and much pain.
 I have always in my public utterances tried to teach respect for
 the judicial bench. I have never, I hope, allowed hostile decisions
 against myself personally to tempt me to undue language when
 exercising my journalistic right to criticise judgments delivered.
 My own experience of the judges of our land has, with slight
 exception, been that they always listened with great patience, and
 when disagreeing, have expressed their disagreement in a dignified
 manner. When I read the report of the first trial of Messrs Foote,
 Ramsey, and Kemp, I was inexpressibly shocked. The character of some
 of the evidence you admitted alarmed me, and your refusal to reserve
 the objection taken to the admissibility of such evidence for the
 consideration of the Court of Crown Cases Reserved seemed to me so
 extraordinary that I even now hardly dare trust myself to characterise
 it.... But the point that most afflicts me is the fashion in which you
 over and over again interrupted the defendant Foote in his defence....
 There are plenty of precedents showing that prisoners have been
 permitted in defence the indulgence so peremptorily denied by your
 lordship to Mr Foote.... That you should have held the defendants in
 custody after the jury had disagreed, and when you had determined to
 again try them four days later, was mischievously and wantonly cruel.
 They had duly surrendered to their bail, which had been small in
 amount. There was no suggestion or supposition that they would try to
 avoid justice, nor did the prosecution ask for their detention. I am
 afraid, my lord, that you sent them to Newgate because they had been
 over-bold in their defence.... If you had meant the three defendants
 to have no chance of escape, if you had been prosecutor instead of
 impartial judge, you could hardly have done more to embarrass their
 defence than by sending them to this sudden and unexpected close
 confinement."

The letter concluded:

 "When you sat as judge in these blasphemy trials your lordship was
 practically omnipotent. There is yet no court of criminal appeal....
 The very knowledge of your uncontrollable authority in the conduct of
 the trial ... should have prompted your lordship to hold the judicial
 balance with a steady hand, its inclining, if at all, being to the
 side of mercy. But your lordship, in the spirit of the old inquisitor,
 threw into the scale your own prejudices against the heresy for which
 the defendants were reputed, your own dislike of the manner in which
 they had made their heresies known.... I ask your lordship what would
 be the outcry through the civilised world if, either in Switzerland
 or in Hindostan, those Salvation Army propagandists who thrust their
 blasphemies furiously in all men's faces were so hardly dealt with as
 you have dealt with George William Foote, William James Ramsey, and
 Henry Kemp?"

Presumably the scandal caused by Justice North tended to procure
a fairer hearing for the original action, still unheard, in which
Bradlaugh was indicted. It came on before the Lord Chief Justice
and a jury on 10th April--Bradlaugh, as usual, defending himself,
while Messrs Foote and Ramsey were represented by counsel. Bradlaugh
was permitted by Lord Coleridge, in spite of the opposition of the
prosecuting counsel (Giffard), to have the charge against him tried
separately from that of his co-defendants, whose testimony might be
important to him; and he was thus enabled to put his defence solely on
the question of his responsibility, saying nothing as to the papers
prosecuted being blasphemous or otherwise. His case was a clear and
detailed proof, made good at every point, that he had ceased to be in
any way concerned even in the selling of the _Freethinker_ before the
issue of any of the incriminated numbers, he and Mrs Besant having
decided to drop the publication on account of a change early made in
the character of the paper;[171] and that this abandonment of the
publication--which was the only sort of connection he had ever had with
the paper at all--was made independently of any outside pressure or
threat. For the rest, the malevolent tactics of Sir Henry Tyler were
once more made the subject of a stinging invective; and the procedure
of the prosecution in regard to the bank account came in for very
severe handling. This was one of the most striking details in the
trial. It came out, to the amazement of the legal part of the audience,
that not only had Bradlaugh's banking account been ransacked and his
cheques gone over to see if any had been dishonoured, but the junior
counsel for Tyler, Mr Moloney, had actually attended the inquisition
in person. Bradlaugh naturally did not spare him, declaring that he
had "done work generally left to some private detective or inquiry
agent, and never done by any one having the dignity of the bar to
guard." And all the while, the search had been made in a bank branch
in St John's Wood, N.W., in the county of Middlesex, on a warrant
from the Lord Mayor, whose jurisdiction was limited to the City. On
this head the Lord Chief Justice indicated a very strong feeling that
the Lord Mayor's warrant for such a purpose ought not to be valid
anywhere. "Vile in its inception and dishonourable in its conduct," was
Bradlaugh's account of the prosecution generally, and he even had a
suspicion, based on an awkward statement by one of the legal witnesses,
that the examination of the bank account had been made some days before
the summons against him was issued.

[Footnote 171: The introduction as a regular feature of "Comic Bible
Sketches," of a kind which Mr Bradlaugh and Mrs Besant were not
prepared to defend.]

Sir Hardinge Giffard, now prosecuting for the Crown, fought the case
as he might have done it for Tyler, declaring in his opening speech
that he would call witnesses to prove certain things, and afterwards
carefully omitting to call them, seeing that that course would help
Bradlaugh to clear himself. In replying, he did not attempt to rebut
the criticisms passed on his client and on his conduct of the case,
professing to take the attitude of dignified disregard. His main line
of argument was that one or two isolated woodcuts had been published
in the _Freethinker_ during the few months in which the Freethought
Company published it, that Bradlaugh was an original promoter, and
that the change made in the registration was only a stratagem,
Bradlaugh remaining the real publisher. As regarded the blasphemy
charged, Sir Hardinge did not take the customary line of distinguishing
between vulgar and refined blasphemy, describing the contents of the
_Freethinker_ as deadly "poison to men's soul"--an expression which
could not be supposed to apply to the mere element of vulgarity. He
spoke with horror of a cartoon which exhibited Ignorance, Money, and
Fear as "the true Trinity," and would doubtless have spoken similarly
of the account of the Trinity as "three Lord Shaftesburys," given by
Lord Coleridge's esteemed personal friend, Mr Matthew Arnold. The
blasphemous matter on which the learned counsel expressed himself
most strongly in detail, however, was a vulgar travesty of the
extremely silly and artistically worthless religious picture known as
"The Calling of Samuel." "You have that picture," he told the jury,
"represented as a startled child, roused from his slumber by two cats
on the tiles. And this is the sort of thing which is to be scattered
broadcast over the land--!"

Lord Coleridge, on his part, summed up with great literary skill and
dignity, carefully guarding against theological prejudice on the part
of the jury by the avowal that he himself, despite his years and
comparative detachment from the world, found it difficult to clear
his mind of it. Incidentally he remarked that it was to Bradlaugh's
credit that he did not disavow a general sympathy with the opinions
of his co-defendants, while clearing himself of all complicity in the
publications indicted. But on the point of the blasphemy charge he also
incidentally expressed an opinion, which is worth citing as showing how
little even an exceptionally considerate judge with strong religious
feelings can get rid of the vulgar notion that irreverence to his--the
popular--religious opinions is immeasurably more reprehensible than
irreverence towards other less popular opinions, or vilification of
unpopular men's characters. His objection to blasphemy prosecutions was
mainly that they injured the cause of religion:--

 "I say not how far the institution of a prosecution of this kind
 wounds the most sacred feelings and does injury to the holiest
 convictions. Some persons may think that this is not so; some may
 think that by such prosecutions the most sacred truths are pierced
 through the sides of those who are their enemies. With all that we
 have nothing to do. We may dislike, we may--I do not hesitate to
 say, we may loathe--the expressions made use of in these libels. We
 may think the persons who can speak in this way of things which they
 themselves may disapprove of and disbelieve, which they themselves
 may possibly think superstitious and mischievous, but which they must
 know have been the life and the soul of the virtue, the morality, the
 self-denial, the civilisation of hundreds, and thousands, and millions
 of people in all ages, are persons who forget--I will not say what
 is due to God, for they do not believe in Him, but to man, for they
 are men--what is due to themselves, and to the community of which
 they form a part, and for whom they ought to have some consideration.
 All that may be perfectly true, but it has nothing to do with the
 question."

Here the judge assumes that there is no dispute whatever as to the
claim that the Christian religion is the essence of morality and
modern civilisation, and proceeds to express disgust for a line of
polemic which was zealously followed by the early Christians for
centuries, which is invariably followed in the Old Testament when
there is any question of alien religions, which is endorsed by Paul,
which is commonly followed by Christian missionaries and by Protestant
assailants of Catholicism, and which was even then being followed by
the Christian multitude in the very case of Bradlaugh. The Christian
position is that it is right to ridicule and asperse Freethinkers,
materialists, and polytheists; and the Protestant position is that
it is right to deride the Catholic worship of saints, images, and
relics; but Christians in the mass hold it abominable for unbelievers
and "heathen" in turn to deride _their_ opinions, these being "holy"
and "dear." And all the while, in the case under notice, the people
who thus felt the most intense animal resentment towards a handful
of men for speaking irreverently of a supposed Infinite, which by no
possibility could human folly or contumely disturb or hurt, were as
often as not zealous accomplices in casting the vilest personal insults
against a representative Atheist who confessedly could not be shown
to have attacked their opinions in such a way as to lay him open to
a successful prosecution for blasphemy. The Christian plea is that
unbelievers should not be free to cause Christians pain. Yet the whole
of Bradlaugh's life was and is in evidence to show that the first
instinct of the average Christian is to cause not merely endless mental
pain but material ruin to every man who ventures, however decorously,
to pronounce the Christian creed untrue. Perhaps the profoundest
impeachment of the religious instinct in general is this very fact
that the express conviction of the absolute supremacy of a personal
power over all things human never by any chance enables the believer to
regard with serenity and compassion the human denials which that power
in the terms of the case is alleged to permit.

Some approach to the recognition of all this must have taken place
in connection with the trial of Bradlaugh on the score of the
_Freethinker_, although of course it was on the point of non-complicity
that the jury gave their verdict of acquittal. They deliberated for
an hour and ten minutes, calling for several of the documents in the
case. The foreman's pronouncement of "Not Guilty" was received with
loud cheers, which the judge indignantly rebuked, with the customary
remark that "this is not a place of entertainment;" but a Conservative
journal, endowed with the regulation horror of Atheism, commented that
the cheer expressed a sentiment not at all confined to Atheists. In
general, the press rejoiced with the acquitted man, who had now won
in rapid succession three decisive successes in his long battle. It
was noted, too, that he had won them against one leading counsel, Sir
Hardinge Giffard. Asked later how it was that he had so often and so
signally defeated this counsel, Bradlaugh remarked that he believed
it was because Giffard despised him as an antagonist, and neglected
precautions against him, while he, Bradlaugh, was careful at all times
to do his utmost, and never to undervalue the enemy's strength. The
moral is an old one.

In addition to the discredit put upon the prosecution in Court,
it happened that Sir Henry Tyler about this time figured rather
dubiously before the public in his capacity of company-promoter.
His treatment of the financial affairs of the Anglo-American Brush
Electric Light Corporation, in which he was deeply concerned, gave such
dissatisfaction to most of the shareholders that they took the unusual
course of presenting a memorial insisting on his resignation, after
he had been hissed and hooted at a shareholders meeting.[172] It may
have been a sense of the unfitness of such a personage to represent the
cause of religion that led to the foundation of a "Society for the
Suppression of Blasphemous Literature," the secretary of which wrote to
the newspapers[173] as follows:--

[Footnote 172: 23rd January 1883.]

[Footnote 173: March 1883.]

 "We propose to get up cases, as our funds will allow, against
 Professor Huxley, Dr Tyndall, Herbert Spencer, Swinburne, the author
 of 'Supernatural Religion,' the publishers of Mill's works, the
 publishers of Strauss's works, Leslie Stephen, John Morley, the editor
 of the _Jewish World_, Dr Martineau, and others, who by their writings
 have sown widespread unbelief, and in some cases rank Atheism, in
 cultivated families."

That goodly project, however, came to nothing, though in the view of
Justice Stephen most if not all of the writers and publishers named
were certainly open to conviction for blasphemy under the existing law.
It would appear that the spiritual interests of "cultivated families"
arouse less solicitude than do those of the poor, in matters religious
as well as Malthusian. Above all, none of the writers threatened, save
Mr John Morley, was likely to give the Tory party any chance of turning
his heresy to political advantage, and Mr Morley was already safe in
his seat, having taken the oath without demur and without opposition,
after editorially criticising Mr Bradlaugh for his willingness to take
it. Mr Morley had perhaps put himself right with the religious party by
applauding the prosecution of Foote and Ramsey--he who had expressly
justified the polemic of Voltaire.[174] A clergyman of the Church of
England, the Rev. Stewart Headlam, whose championship of the principle
of religious equality has all along been above all praise, wrote to Mr
Morley in his editorial capacity, protesting "as a Christian priest"
against a policy which made it "almost impossible for Christians to
meet Atheists on equal terms." "It seems," Mr Headlam began, "as
though you were one of those who say, 'There is no God, but it's a
family secret.'" The letter was suppressed. It is bare justice to cite
it here[175] as being perhaps the most telling protest made against
the blasphemy prosecutions, albeit written by a sincerely orthodox
clergyman.

[Footnote 174: To do Mr Morley justice, it should be acknowledged that
he unsaid his vindication in the same book.]

[Footnote 175: It was printed in the _National Reformer_ of 1st April
1883.]

The original case against Bradlaugh's co-defendants, Messrs Foote and
Ramsey, who had been already sentenced to imprisonment on the second
prosecution by Mr Justice North, came on before Lord Coleridge and
a special jury on 24th April. The judge treated the prisoners with
signal consideration and courtesy; and when the prosecuting counsel,
Mr Moloney, persisted in putting a question to which Lord Coleridge
had objected, his lordship indignantly asked, "Why cannot this case
be conducted like any other case? It seems all of a piece with the
learned counsel inspecting a man's bank-book." The accused defended
themselves, Mr Foote making a particularly able speech, on which the
judge, in his summing-up, repeatedly complimented him. That summing-up
(delivered on the 25th) was in its way a masterly performance, marking
the judge as the most admirably persuasive of pleaders. Deeply averse
to all punishment of opinion, he showed the jury that the blasphemy
law, as interpreted by past judges, was not nearly so outrageous as had
been supposed; and the definition of "the late Mr Starkie," of which
a scanty quotation had been given by the prosecution, he showed to be
much less illiberal than it had been understood to be, though nothing
could make it out to be a precise or practical formulation of law. As
in the previous trial, he demolished the absurd plea that "Christianity
is part of the law of the land," by the _reductio ad absurdum_ that
the marriage law and the monarchy are part of the law of the land, but
are yet open to being argued against--at least in all modern opinion.
As, however, no interpretation could do away with the hard facts of
the blasphemy laws, and the accused had unfortunately put their heresy
at times with extreme pictorial crudeness, his lordship could not
definitely charge the jury that no blasphemy had been committed in law.
He admitted that the objection against their practice on the score of
violence would apply to some passages read by Mr Foote from prominent
modern writers, which were new to him; but while the law stood as it
was, that was no defence for Mr Foote, as the writers in question
would be equally open to indictment. The jury, thus unavoidably left
in doubt, disagreed. The prosecution, acting judiciously for the first
time, took the course of entering a _nolle prosequi_, and the case
dropped, but not without the Lord Chief Justice having to point out
that the petition grossly misrepresented him as having pronounced the
prosecution "unadvisable," which he had carefully abstained from doing.
Unluckily, the dropping of this case did not affect the sentence
passed by Justice North, and the then Home Secretary, Sir William
Harcourt, declined to mitigate the punishment, on the score of the
offensiveness of one of the incriminated woodcuts, which he called "an
obscene libel," though the charge was one of blasphemy. Some Liberal
journals indignantly protested; but the Liberal leaders felt they
must show no consideration to blasphemy, though even the _Spectator_
censured them for their timidity.


§19.

While the decisive trials were yet in the future, Bradlaugh had
never slackened his energetic action on the political side of the
fight. The last move in the House had been taken on 18th July 1882,
when Mr Labouchere moved that Bradlaugh be appointed a member of the
Committee to consider the Agricultural Tenants' Compensation Bills.
The right of a member in Bradlaugh's position to serve on committees
had been established by the precedents of Alderman Salomons and Baron
Rothschild. The point was a curious one, and could not be got over
argumentatively, but of course the House could outvote the motion,
which it did by 120 to 35. Not till the next year was the campaign
indoors reopened.

On 15th February 1883, the day of the reassembling of Parliament,
a great demonstration was held in Trafalgar Square in support of
Bradlaugh's and Northampton's claim, about a thousand delegates
attending from some four hundred Radical associations of provincial
towns. At first some of the railway companies were understood to be
willing to run cheap excursion trains, but that concession was of
course violently opposed, and at a meeting of representatives of
the companies held in the Railway Clearing House on 29th January
a resolution was carried by a majority of votes, binding all the
companies to give no special facilities whatever. An attempt to get the
use of the Floral Hall, Covent Garden, for the meeting was defeated
by the veto of the Duke of Bedford's agent, though the Directors
were willing to grant it; and no other sufficiently large hall was
available for the date. The meeting, which would have been several
times larger had the railway companies given the desired special
trains, was nevertheless a great success, the square being densely
packed, despite bad weather; and despite some attempts at rioting by
hired roughs, there was almost perfect order throughout. The _Pall
Mall Gazette_ had deprecated the meeting as held in an illegal place,
though for a perfectly legal purpose. This was a misconstruction of
the Act 57th Geo. III. cap. 19, sec. 23, which prohibited meetings
within a mile of Parliament House for the purpose of petitioning the
Crown or Parliament "for alteration of matters in Church or State." As
there was no petition under consideration, the meeting was perfectly
legal. Other papers went further, the _Daily Telegraph_ applauding
the railway companies for refusing to "start trains in order to bring
up country roughs;" and generally it must be recorded that some of
the leading Liberal journals discouraged the whole procedure. The
_Daily News_ and _Daily Chronicle_ even suppressed resolutions sent
them in support of Bradlaugh's claim from provincial clubs before the
demonstration--such resolutions being part of the manifold machinery
of preparation for a great public demonstration; and the Tory papers
as a rule suppressed all reports tending to show the support given
to Bradlaugh in the country. Other forms of boycotting were freely
employed. In the cathedral town of Peterborough a debating society set
up by the local Young Men's Christian Association was deprived of the
use of the Association's rooms because it carried a motion in favour
of Bradlaugh's right to sit and vote. This episode typified hundreds.
The most skilful device employed, perhaps, was the issue of a forged
circular, purporting to come from Bradlaugh, calling on "all Atheists,
as well as Socialists," to "assemble in their thousands round the House
of Commons," and show that "the Atheists of this country have a right
to be represented" in Parliament.[176] Newspapers which had no space
for genuine news about Bradlaugh gave prominence to this.

[Footnote 176: Cited in _National Reformer_, 18th February, p. 101.]


As the meeting of Parliament drew near, expectation naturally rose high
on both sides. The sentiment of many Tories may be presumed to have
been expressed by Lord Newark, son of Earl Manvers, when at the annual
dinner of the Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society he was ruffianly
enough to say:

 "He supposed that Mr Bradlaugh meant to make himself objectionable as
 usual. He heard from an honourable member who sat near him[177] that
 he thought of going with a big stick, and he (Lord Newark) hoped that
 if he came within reach of Mr Bradlaugh he would make use of it."

[Footnote 177: The hon. members were: Lord Galway, Messrs Foljambe and
Nicholson, and Colonel Seely.]

The stick, however, was not on exhibition at the House of Commons.
Bradlaugh's course was to send to the Speaker a letter stating the
then position of matters, in view of the action of the law courts; and
stating that he proposed to present himself as before. This letter
was read to the House before any other business was taken. On Mr
Labouchere asking the Government what course they meant to take, Lord
Hartington at once answered that on the following night they would move
for leave to bring in an Affirmation Bill. Sir Richard Cross, on the
Conservative side, at once announced that he would oppose the Bill, and
his statement was loudly cheered. At this stage Inspector Denning asked
Bradlaugh to leave the House and reassure the multitude outside, who
were beginning to fancy they might be "ill-using him inside."

On 20th February the motion for leave was made, when Sir Henry Drummond
Wolff was understood to express himself with ironical approbation,
while Mr Chaplin opposed, and Northcote explained that he should vote
against the second reading. The motion was carried by 184 votes to 53,
most of the Irish party voting in the minority. Not till 23d April did
the Bill reach its second reading; and in the meantime a desperate
effort was made by the entire Tory party to arouse feeling against the
Bill. In the previous session the petitions in Bradlaugh's favour had
been signed by 275,000 persons, and those against him by only 65,000,
many of these being children. The leeway was now made up. The machinery
of the Anglican and Catholic Churches was worked to the utmost to beat
up petitions; schools were swept wholesale for signatures, not only
in England but abroad;[178] and large employers of labour were got to
procure the signatures of employees _en masse_, reluctant workers being
not obscurely threatened with the consequences of refusal. By these
means half a million signatures were got up by the 23rd of April, the
great majority being those of school-children and coerced employees.
_Tantum religio_----. The Tory press likewise put its best foot
foremost. In the _St James's Gazette_ of 22nd February, Mr Greenwood
made an abominable attack on Bradlaugh, the foulest of many foul
blows, describing him as "a preacher of certain theories of the sexual
relation which, in the opinion of the great majority of Englishmen, are
not only immoral but filthy," going on to speak of him as having long
been known as the publisher of an obscene tract, and representing him
as an advocate of "Free Love, and sundry other doctrines and practices
which benefit greatly by the impossibility of referring to them
distinctly among decent people." The pamphlet formerly put together by
Varley, largely consisting of matter Bradlaugh never wrote, falsified
even at that, and partly of passages from him, wrested from their
context and falsified in application, was circulated more widely than
ever. Many members of Parliament repeated the palpable falsehood that
Bradlaugh had been "declared by the House of Commons and the courts of
law incapable of sitting in Parliament;" and Mr H. S. Northcote, son of
Sir Stafford, in addition to making this statement to his constituents
at Exeter, told them that "when Mr Bradlaugh led a mob of unwashed
ruffians down to Parliament Yard" the Government introduced their Bill.

[Footnote 178: A barrister wrote to Bradlaugh enclosing a letter from
his daughter, aged fifteen, at school at Frankfort, telling how the
English chaplain there called and asked all the English girls at the
school to sign a petition against the Affirmation Bill (_National
Reformer_, 15th April 1883).]

On the second reading, Sir Richard Cross opened the opposition, and
began by making the statement that "it was a former Government whip,
Mr Adam, who first invited Mr Bradlaugh to go to Northampton"--the
grossest form ever given to that particular untruth. He was seconded
by Mr M'Cullagh Torrens, a nominal Liberal, who in his work on
"Empire in Asia" had affected a high esteem for the principle of
religious toleration--in other countries. The Bill, he said, tended
"to begin the abjuring of all responsibilities to heaven." Mr W.
E. Baxter, following, declared that "not only had Atheists been
members of Parliament, but they had sat on the Treasury Bench"--and a
member called out "And sit!" Giffard, seeking his revenge at once on
Bradlaugh and Lord Coleridge, "repeated without the smallest fear of
contradiction that Christianity was a part of the common law of the
kingdom." Mr Illingworth happening to speak of "recreant members of the
Jewish community," Baron de Worms rose to order, and the Speaker ruled
the term "out of order." None of the epithets directed at the Atheist
had struck him in that light.

The debate was thrice adjourned. On 26th April Sir H. D. Wolff took
it upon him to accuse Lord Chancellor Selborne of using his position
to help his political party; and Lord R. Churchill, in a later speech,
said the same thing of Lord Coleridge. On the Liberal side, Gladstone
made the greatest speech delivered by him during the whole controversy.
At first he was elaborate and deprecatory, but gradually he rose to
warmth and cogency. "Do you suppose," he asked--

 "Do you suppose that we are ignorant that in every contested election
 which has happened since the case of Mr Bradlaugh came up you have
 gained votes and we have lost them? (Opposition cheers and counter
 cheers.) _You_ are perfectly aware of it. We are not less aware of
 it. But if you are perfectly aware of it, is not some credit to be
 given to us--we giving you the same under circumstances rather more
 difficult--for presumptive integrity and purity of motive?"

It was a naïve and a vain appeal, but the speech was none the less
fine. The most powerful part of its argument was the demonstration that
those who consented to drop the Christian element from the oath and
held by the Theistic were treating Christianity, as such, as a thing
that could be dispensed with.

 "I am not willing, sir, that Christianity--if the appeal is to be made
 to us as a Christian legislature--shall stand in any rank lower than
 that which is indispensable." He would not accept bare Theism as the
 main thing. "The adoption of such a proposition as that--and it is at
 the very root of your contention--seems to me in the highest degree
 disparaging to the Christian faith."

And then, contending that a bare belief in a remote and abstract Deity
could exist with a complete disbelief in that Deity's having any
relation with men, he rolled out "the noble and majestic lines, for
such they are, of the Latin poet:"--

  "Omnis enim per se divom natura necesse'st
  Immortali aevo summa cum pace fruatur
  Semota ab nostris rebus sejunctaque longe;
  Nam privata dolore omni, private periclis,
  Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nil indiga nostri
  Nec bene promeritis capitur neque tangitur ira."[179]

[Footnote 179: Lucretius, ii. 646-651. It was thought notable that
the orator did not allude to the kindred passage in his beloved Homer
(_Odyssey_, vi. 41), splendidly rendered by Lucretius (iii. 18-22),
and choicely paraphrased by Tennyson in his poem "Lucretius." The
best expression in English verse of the idea in the passage quoted by
Gladstone is again Tennyson's--the great passage a the close of the
"Lotos Eaters."]

There was no one to follow him up with a citation of the lines which
follow on these where they used to stand misplaced in the first book of
Lucretius' poem:--

  "Humana ante oculos foede cum vita jaceret
  In terris oppressa gravi sub religione;"

but some listeners there must have been who bethought them how
perfectly this long controversy had answered to the Roman's picture
of "life crushed to the earth under the weight of religion;" and they
may fitly have murmured "primum Graius homo" of the man whose long
battle was even then visibly tending to relieve them one day of the old
hypocrisy of adjuring the unknown God.

Touching his mother earth of classic verse, Gladstone drew new strength
of eloquence.

 "The Deity exists, as those I must say magnificent words set forth,
 in the remote, inaccessible recesses of which we know nothing,
 but with us it has no dealing, with us it has no relation. I have
 purposely gone back to ancient times, but I do not hesitate to say
 that the specific evil or specific form of irreligion with which
 in the educated society of this country you have to contend, and
 with respect to which you ought to be on your guard, is not blank
 Atheism. That is a rare opinion that is seldom met with; but what is
 frequently met with are those forms of opinion which say that whatever
 is beyond the visible scene, whatever there be beyond this short span
 of life, you know, and can know, nothing of it. It is a visionary and
 bootless undertaking to try to fathom it. That, sir, is the specific
 mischief of the age; but that mischief of the age you do not attempt
 to touch.... Whom do you seek to admit? You seek to admit Voltaire.
 You would admit Voltaire, and that is a specimen of your liberality.
 Voltaire was no taciturn unbeliever. He was the author of that phrase
 which goes to the heart of every Christian, and of many a professor of
 religion who is not a Christian--'_Ecrasez l'Infâme._' Voltaire would
 not have had the slightest difficulty in taking your oath; and yet
 that is the state of the law for which you are working up the country
 to madness." (Loud ministerial cheers.)

Speeches followed varying between imbecility and commonplace; and
on the debate being again adjourned, it was re-opened (1st May) by
Churchill in a speech of characteristic scurrility.

 "The personal supporters of the representative of Atheism," said
 the noble Lord, "were the residuum, and the rabble, and the scum of
 the population. The bulk of them were men to whom all restraint,
 religious, moral, or legal, was odious and intolerable."

An effective reply to other parts of the speech was made by Mr
Labouchere, who incidentally made the startling revelation that to his
knowledge there were several members who had never taken the oath at
all, having signed the roll, but missed swearing in the scramble for
the Testaments. At length, on a third adjournment, the question came to
the vote. Northcote made an ignominious speech, in which he defended
himself on the point of having formerly urged that special legislation
was the right course for the Government to take. He admitted that
he had said so, but contended that saying so did not commit him to
voting for that course when taken. The positive part of the argument
was worthy of the negative. But bad as the pleading on the Tory side
was, it had with it a majority of votes. On the division there voted
only 289 for the second reading, and 292 against. Irish and renegade
Liberal votes had just turned the scale; and it was noted that in
the majority there voted several members too drunk to walk straight
without support.[180] The result was received with a positive frenzy of
delight by the Tories and their Home Rule allies, all alike shouting
that they had "beaten Bradlaugh." "The Irish have beaten Bradlaugh,"
was the cry of Mr Sexton. The Liberals who voted with the majority were
the three Hon. Fitzwilliams of Yorkshire, Sir Edward Watkin,[181] Dr
Lyons, Messrs Guest, Nicholson, and Torrens, and Mr Jerningham, a Roman
Catholic, who had owed his recent election for Berwick mainly to his
having promised to support Bradlaugh's claim to sit, and who all along
broke his word in the House.[182]

[Footnote 180: Bradlaugh later publicly specified Newdegate as having
been tipsy, "not for the first time;" and Newdegate, though denying the
charge, did not bring an action for libel.]

[Footnote 181: It should be said that Sir Edward Watkin is understood
to regret his action.]

[Footnote 182: Mr Jerningham defended himself by asserting that
Bradlaugh had written a "Comic History of Christ," which was one lie
more. On being corrected, he told another, saying that Bradlaugh
admitted having written the Introduction.]

Bradlaugh without hesitation took his usual course, with a difference.
He sent a letter to the Speaker, asking to be called to the table in
the usual way to take the oath, and, in the case of that course being
declined, to be heard at the bar. On 4th May he duly re-presented
himself at the bar, and the letter was read by the Speaker. Northcote
moved as usual that Bradlaugh be not allowed to swear; and Mr
Labouchere moved that he be heard at the bar, which being allowed, he
made his Fourth Speech at the Bar. It was comparatively brief, tersely
repeating the old pleas, and the old protest--

 "I submit that any hindrance which is not prescribed by law is an act
 which in itself is flagrantly wrong, whoever may commit it, and that
 the mere fact that a majority of voices in one Chamber may prevent a
 citizen from appealing to the law in no sense lessens the iniquity of
 the illegal act, and that history will so judge it, whatever to-day
 you may think it your right and your duty to do."

After disposing of the old falsehood that the late Liberal whip had
recommended him to the Northampton electors, he remarked:--

 "I have always regarded the Liberal party as standing in the way of my
 election, rather than as in any way helping my return. This, however,
 I submit, was matter unworthy of this House. No such consideration has
 ever entered at any time into the discussion of any other candidature.
 I submit that a great House, which claims the powers of one of the
 highest courts of these realms, should try to be judicial."

Again he exposed the persistent lie that he had "paraded his views,"
pointing out that even when, at official request, he named the statutes
under which he claimed to affirm, he did not in law profess Atheism,
since a Theist was legally incompetent to swear if he did not believe
in future rewards and punishments, and such Theists were only entitled
to affirm under the Acts under which he claimed. Again he protested
that he had never uttered his opinions in the House.

 "Under great temptation I have refrained from saying a word which
 could wound the feelings of the most religious, although I have heard
 within these walls, within but a few hours, language used by one who
 had declared his religion which I should have felt ashamed to use in
 any decent assembly."

This referred to an exhibition by Callan, the Catholic henchman of
Cardinal Manning, who had repeatedly appeared in the House drunk, and
who, in the division of the 3rd, had used such "filthy and blasphemous"
language towards another Irish member who proposed to vote for
Bradlaugh, that he had to make a formal apology to prevent the matter
being raised. On 30th April, in the adjourned debate, another Irish
member, M'Coan, had read some of the false quotations compiled by
Varley, and, on being challenged, impudently asserted that Bradlaugh
had never repudiated them. A third Irish member, Mr O'Brien, had
observed that he "did not believe that any greater number of persons
favoured Mr Bradlaugh than would be content to go naked through the
streets." Yet another religious member, an English Tory, Mr Ritchie,
had declared that the Affirmation Bill would be "the triumph of Atheism
and Socialism," and further quoted to the House, as words used by
Bradlaugh, words which he had never used, and which were described in
the very document quoted as taken from a report for which he was not
responsible. The "filthy book," too, had been mentioned; and on this
Bradlaugh read the words of Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, hereinbefore
printed, with the exculpatory words of the jury. "But all these
things," he added, "although they were as true as they are false, give
you no right to stand between me and my seat." His peroration was
perfect:--

 "I heard a strange phrase from a noble lord, that both sides had gone
 too far to recede. The House honours me too much in putting me on
 one side and itself on the other. The House, being strong, should be
 generous. The strong can recede, the generous can give way; but the
 constituents have a right to more than generosity--they have a right
 to justice. (Cheers.) The law gives me my seat. In the name of the law
 I ask for it. I regret that my personality overshadows the principles
 involved in this great struggle; but I would ask those who have
 touched my life, not knowing it, who have found for me vices which I
 do not remember in the memory of my life, I would ask them whether all
 can afford to cast the first stone--(cheers)--or whether, condemning
 me for my unworthiness, they will as just judges vacate their own
 seats, having deprived my constituents of their right here to mine."
 (Loud cheers.)

It remained to discuss the closing step, as usual. Mr Labouchere moved
the previous question in a speech which pointedly raised the issue of
the actual presence of other Atheists in the House.

 "Since Mr Bradlaugh has been re-elected--since you refused to allow
 him to take the oath--it is well known by every member of this House
 that a gentleman has been elected who is of great position in the
 literary world; and every man who knows anything of English literature
 knows perfectly well that that gentleman has avowed himself to be an
 unbeliever in a superintending Providence as clearly as Professor
 Huxley himself. ('Hear, hear.') I ask, is it not monstrous hypocrisy
 to allow that hon. member to take the oath, and prevent Mr Bradlaugh
 from taking it, because you assert that three years ago he had stated
 within the precincts of this House that he was an Atheist?"

The member referred to was Mr John Morley, who, destined to be Mr
Gladstone's most trusted lieutenant, had listened to the Premier's
account of "the mischief of the age," but had taken no part in the
debate. His Atheism, or non-Theism, was as notorious as Bradlaugh's.
It had been zealously used against him by the Tories in his recent
election at Newcastle. The fact that he had "spelt 'God' with a small
'g'" through a whole book was known to the whole newspaper-reading
public; and the Tories would certainly have been glad enough to exclude
him if they could. But they knew all along that there were Atheists
on their own side; and Mr Morley's case could not be raised without
raising these. So the "profanation of the oath" was permitted without a
murmur by the party which had declared itself incapable of tolerating
such a thing; and the flagitious persecution of the avowed Atheist was
recommenced all the same.

To Mr Labouchere's charge of "monstrous hypocrisy" no answer was
attempted. Gladstone and Northcote with one consent ignored it. On a
division, though Gladstone supported Mr Labouchere's motion (which if
carried would have enabled Bradlaugh to take the oath), only 165 voted
for it, and 271 against.


§ 20.

Three years had now passed since Bradlaugh first sought to take the
seat to which he was alike morally and legally entitled--three years
of manifold exhausting and sorely burdensome strife, of iniquitous and
vile calumny, of lawless and shameful persecution, in part brutally
fanatical, in part dishonest and hypocritical in the lowest degree.
It had been made to embrace all who were closely connected with him.
First Mrs Besant was insultingly refused leave to use the garden of
the Royal Botanic Society for her studies, on the score that the
daughters of the Curator used it. Later (1883) the Misses Bradlaugh
were denied membership of the "Somerville" (Women's) Club on the score
that their names were sufficient objection. Yet later (2nd May 1883)
Mrs Besant and Miss Bradlaugh were refused admittance to the practical
Botany Class at University College, London. On applying by letter,
they were requested to present themselves, and then they were told in
person by the secretary and the "lady superintendent" that they could
not be admitted, because there was "some prejudice" against them. It
seemed as if nothing short of the personal insult would suffice the
officials concerned; but the Council[183] endorsed their action at its
meeting of 7th May, though the very purpose for which the College had
been founded was to dispense with religious qualifications. A memorial
requesting the Council to summon an extraordinary general meeting to
consider this action was signed by, among others, Professors Huxley,
Bain, and Frankland, and Dr E. B. Tylor; but on the meeting being held,
the medical graduates came in large numbers to support the action of
the Council, greatly outvoting the others. Only nine voted against. The
University College was thus committed to a course of ethical rivalry
with the House of Commons, outdoing that body, however, in declining
to assign any reason for its action. At the meeting Mr Justice Denman
took an active part in justifying the action of the Council, and it
went from him to the country that the excluded ladies had "refused
to comply with the rules of the College." This was pure fiction. Mrs
Besant described it at the time as a "cruel and malignant falsehood,
for we complied with every condition laid down to us." Informed of his
mis-statement, Mr Justice Denman made no correction. Later in the year
an attempt was made to deprive of his chair a Professor of Mathematics
in the South Wales University, Mr Lloyd Tanner, who was a member of the
National Secular Society, and had helped the movement in support of
Bradlaugh's claim. It was, however, defeated by a majority of votes.

[Footnote 183: The President was Lord Kimberley; the Treasurer Sir
Julian Goldsmid; and the Council included Lord Belper, Sir B. N. Ellis,
Sir A. Hobhouse, Lord Reay, and Sir George Young. I cannot ascertain
who were present, save that Sir A. Hobhouse was one.]

These endless acts of persecution, parodied as they were in a thousand
acts of less publicity, only roused the persecuted party to more
energetic action. The Freethought propaganda was carried further
than ever, and naturally did not grow more gentle. On the political
side, Bradlaugh set himself afresh to rouse the constituencies,
bating no jot of heart or hope. To his own constituents he offered
his resignation if they wished it, and once more they emphatically
refused. He accordingly issued one more "Appeal to the People,"
organised a series of addresses and demonstrations in the large towns,
and in particular took fresh steps for overthrowing the Liberals who
had helped to throw out the Affirmation Bill. Previous menaces had
reduced the number of these renegades in the last trial of strength;
and Torrens in particular now received hundreds of letters warning
him that he need not again stand for Finsbury. In the course of a
few months, Bradlaugh had addressed audiences numbering in all over
300,000, and nearly all were unanimously in his favour, while at none
did the malcontents number above two per cent. In some towns, as at
Halifax and Leeds, he had enormous open-air demonstrations, the numbers
coming to some fifty thousand. A densely packed meeting took place in
St James's Hall in July; and another Trafalgar Square demonstration
was held in August, attended by some thirty thousand men, of whom
hundreds came as delegates from the provinces; and concurrently with
these "constitutional" gatherings there was carried on the work of the
Association for the Repeal of the Blasphemy Laws, largely conducted
by advanced Unitarian clergymen, who worked with a disinterested zeal
worthy of the very highest praise, considering how little of personal
sympathy they could have had with the imprisoned Freethinkers.

In the way of more direct action, Bradlaugh on 5th July notified
Gladstone that he proposed again to present himself to take the oath,
and on the 9th Northcote interrogated the Premier on the subject. Left
to do as he would, Northcote once more moved that Bradlaugh be excluded
from the House until he should engage not to disturb its proceedings;
and on a division 232 voted for the motion and only 65 against,
Gladstone deprecating any division at all. On the next day, on receipt
of the order of exclusion, Bradlaugh notified Captain Gossett, the
Sergeant-at-Arms, that if Captain Gossett would say he interpreted the
order to involve the use of physical force to resist Bradlaugh's entry,
he would take legal proceedings to obtain a restraining injunction from
the High Court of Justice against such resistance. In this way the
legal question might be raised and settled without a fresh scuffle. In
the House the Speaker declined to let this letter be made ground of
discussion as a matter of "privilege," though he allowed the letter
to Gladstone to be so treated. The Sergeant-at-Arms, however, made
the requisite answer, and the action was duly begun (19th July). The
Treasury defended, and on Bradlaugh's appeal the case was tried by
a "full Court." It came on before Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, Mr
Justice Stephen, and Mr Justice Mathew, on 7th December, the defence
arguing by Demurrer to the Statement of Claim. Bradlaugh's pleading was
one long argument with the judges, who followed him with great care;
and on 9th February 1884 they gave their judgment, not unexpectedly,
against him. The view taken was, broadly, that "if injustice has been
done, it is an injustice for which the courts of law afford no remedy,"
which had been the contention of the Attorney-General. Mr Justice
Stephen, while concurring with Lord Coleridge to the above effect,
delivered a separate and very careful judgment. They could not, he said
in effect, assume that the House intentionally defied the law. It must
have supposed it was within the law. Then the Court could not pronounce
its action illegal without hearing its reasons. But the House could
not without loss of dignity give the Court its reasons, or allow the
Court to overrule them. Therefore the plaintiff, right or wrong, had no
legal redress. If wronged, he must go to the constituencies. In fine,
the breaking of any law by the House in its own procedure would not be
illegal, or, if it were, the illegality could not be redressed by the
law courts. The House of Commons might be restrained in the case of an
illegal order against a stranger, but not in the case of an illegal
order against one of its own members. If it erred or did injustice, it
was in the position of an erring or unjust judge, from whose decision
there was no appeal. The rights of the constituency of Northampton and
their member were strictly legal rights; but it lay with the House to
override them if it would.

Expecting this decision, Bradlaugh had already laid the new situation
before his constituents, in order to have their assent to his action on
the re-opening of Parliament, and once more they declared their entire
confidence in him. He had also arranged with the Tories, through his
colleague, to take no action in the House before 11th February, if
they would take none. His course now was to go to the House on 11th
February, go up to the table with Mr Labouchere and Mr Burt as his
introducers, and once more administer the oath to himself.

The Speaker gave the customary order to withdraw, and Northcote,
after stating that Bradlaugh had not taken the oath according to the
statute, absurdly moved that he "be not allowed to go through the form
of repeating the words of the oath prescribed by the statutes." Then
ensued the customary miscellaneous debate. Gladstone at much length
suggested that there should be no division. Mr Labouchere offered to
agree if Northcote would limit his motion to the time within which
it would be possible to obtain a legal decision on the legality of
Bradlaugh's latest act of self-swearing; but Northcote would not agree,
and Mr Labouchere proceeded forcibly to argue the point, not only
declaring the act to be in his opinion legal, but adding:--

 "I confess that, for my part, I do regard these words of the oath
 [which Bradlaugh had called an unmeaning form] as an utterly unmeaning
 form--(Opposition cries of 'Oh, oh')--utterly and absolutely
 an unmeaning form. To me they are just the same superstitious
 incantation--('Hear, hear,' laughter, 'Oh, oh,' and 'Order')--as the
 trash of any Mumbo-Jumbo among African savages. (Renewed laughter,
 cries of 'Oh, oh,' and 'Order.') Why do hon. gentlemen say 'Oh, oh'?
 Are they aware that there are many in this House who regard these
 words as a blasphemous form? ('Hear, hear.') I say I regard them as an
 unmeaning form."

From this point at least, if not before, the proceedings against
Bradlaugh in the House may without fear of contradiction be described
as an indecent farce. His colleague had in the most aggressive
fashion, and within the House, declared the oath to be in his opinion
a superstitious, barbarous, and senseless incantation. Mr John Morley,
as Positivist, had taken the oath without contradiction. And before
either of these episodes Mr Ashton Dilke, whose vacated seat for
Newcastle Mr Morley obtained, had declared in the House, in course of
debate, that he was without belief in the reigning religion. Bradlaugh,
who heard the avowal, remarked on the stilled surprise with which it
was received. But no one ever sought to challenge the right of Mr
Dilke, Mr Morley, or Mr Labouchere to sit in virtue of having taken an
unbelieving oath. The Tory talk in the House of "profanation" is thus
stamped once for all as a tissue of the worst hypocrisy; and the Tory
leader and all his men stand convicted of a course of dissimulation
as cowardly as it was shameless. They would attack the "unpopular"
man; they would not obstruct Mr Morley, since that would bring up the
question of Tory Atheism; they would not proceed against Mr Labouchere,
since he was likely to publish in his journal the names of some of the
Tory Atheists.

Gross as it had become, the farce went on. Forster, who now spoke on
the subject for the first time, gave a touch of dignity to the debate
by protesting against Mr Labouchere's remarks on the oath (though
without proposing to have him proceeded against), and saying, as
Gladstone and others had said before, that the opposition to Bradlaugh
was one of the greatest blows against the cause of religion that had
been struck for many years. Northcote, making no comment whatever on Mr
Labouchere's hardy avowal, briefly explained the force of his motion;
and after this irregularity the debate grew more and more confused. It
was known that Bradlaugh meant as before to vote in the division; and
the Speaker was repeatedly appealed to to prevent it. He declared he
had not the power; and Mr Healy--in one of a series of grossly insolent
speeches, in which he spoke of "the Government, Bradlaugh & Co."--moved
immediately after the division, before the numbers were announced, that
the vote be expunged. After much squabbling, the House divided on this
point, when there voted 258 Ayes and 161 Noes. Bradlaugh's vote with
the Noes was thus "disallowed;" but after the voting on the original
motion had been stated--280 Ayes and 167 Noes--Mr Labouchere announced
that Bradlaugh had voted with the Noes on the motion to expunge his
previous vote. The farce was thus pretty complete.

Northcote then made his usual motion to exclude Bradlaugh "from the
precincts of the House until he shall engage not further to disturb the
proceedings of the House." Again the debate broke out. Mr Labouchere
offered to undertake that if the motion was withdrawn Bradlaugh should
not disturb the proceedings until he had obtained a legal decision
on this last oath-taking; and Gladstone and Bright pointed out the
hardship and indignity of excluding Bradlaugh from the very library
and lobbies of the House; but Northcote, swayed as usual by the worst
of his followers, pressed his motion, disregarding Mr Burt's final
repetition of the undertaking that Bradlaugh should not disturb the
proceedings till his law case was settled. On a division, 228 voted
for the final indignity, and only 120 against. The farce had become
as ignoble as meanness could make it; and Northcote was admitted by
most people to have fully realised the character in which he was more
than once presented by the caricaturists--of pantaloon to Churchill's
clown in the Tory pantomime. Churchill took the lead on the following
evening when, Bradlaugh having "applied for the Chiltern Hundreds,"
Mr Labouchere moved that a new writ be issued for Northampton.[184]
The hereditarily noble lord saw that if Bradlaugh were re-elected
they would be no further forward; and his object was to exclude him
permanently. He had lately given notice of a motion that Bradlaugh be
declared incapable in perpetuity of sitting, but had dropped it as
hopeless. He now "moved the adjournment of the debate." A straggling
and noisy debate ensued, in which Mr Healy was pronounced disorderly by
the Speaker for his interruptions of Northcote, whose ally he had been.
On a division, only 145 voted for the adjournment, and 203 against.
Then more discussion as to whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had
the right to grant the Chiltern Hundreds, the motion for the new writ
being finally agreed to.

[Footnote 184: In this case the Government arranged to sue Bradlaugh
in the Courts for the penalties that would be incurred if his last
oath-taking and voting were pronounced illegal by the Courts. It was
accordingly left to Bradlaugh to vacate his seat by his own act.]

Unseated for the third time since his perfectly valid return in 1880,
Bradlaugh appealed to his constituents to elect him for the fourth
time, and was received by them with if possible greater enthusiasm than
ever. A new Tory candidate, Mr H. C. Richards, had been for some time
in the field, and the seat was fought in the old fashion; but whether
owing to the feebleness of the candidate, whom Bradlaugh generally
treated with humorous contempt, or a sense of shame among some of
the local Tories, the opposition vote now fell away. The forces of
bigotry had squeezed the last possible vote out of the borough, and
after a short and strenuous struggle the poll (19th February 1884)
ran: Bradlaugh, 4032; Richards, 3664. Bradlaugh had clearly "touched
bottom," and begun to rise again. At the general election he had polled
3827, and been 695 above the highest Tory; in 1881 he had only polled
3437, a majority of only 132; in 1882, polling 3796, he was only
108 above his opponent with 3688; now he had reached a higher figure
than ever, polling 368 more than the Tory, who was 24 below the last
Tory vote. The Tory game was now hopeless so far as Northampton was
concerned.

The badgered Northcote, goaded by his lawless following, now proposed
to take the step of preventing Bradlaugh from entering the House on
his new return. Learning this, Bradlaugh on the 20th wrote a letter of
protest to the Speaker and the Premier, and the anticipatory course was
prevented. But when on the 21st the Speaker read to the House a second
letter in which Bradlaugh formally undertook (as his introducers had
undertaken for him before) not to present himself at the table until
judgment should be given in the test action to be laid against him by
the Government. All the same, Northcote moved, amid cries of "Shame,"
his old resolution of exclusion "from the precincts." The Tory army had
to be solaced somehow for Bradlaugh's decisive victory at the poll.
Gladstone opposed, and yet again there was a miscellaneous debate,
in the course of which Churchill made the worthy suggestion that the
Government meant that Mr Bradlaugh was to be allowed once more to
appeal to the mob, in order that not only the House of Commons might
be prejudiced, but that even the courts of law might be biased by the
demonstration in his favour. On a division, 226 voted for Northcote's
motion and only 173 against. Bradlaugh was now denied the use of the
House's library for the lawsuit pending against him on the House's
behalf. He addressed to Northcote, and printed in his journal, an open
letter touched with indignant contempt.

The critical part of the letter, and perhaps the special sting of some
of the phrases--as, "You wear knightly orders. You should be above
a knave's spitefulness"--moved Northcote to send a long defensive
reply, repeating the "profanation" formula, and concluding: "The
inconveniences of which you complain are inconveniences which you
might, if you chose, put an end to to-morrow"--which meant that
Bradlaugh might have the use of the House if only he would undertake
never again under any circumstances to try to take his seat. To
this "knightly" suggestion[185] Bradlaugh replied with perhaps too
scrupulous courtesy of form, but with sufficient emphasis, and turned
himself once more to the struggle outside.

[Footnote 185: The harping on the "chivalry" of Northcote by Mr Lang
and others is an interesting light on the nature of their ideals.
Northcote was certainly more of a gentleman than were his accomplices
in the Bradlaugh struggle, but barring his comparative moderation,
there was not a gleam of "chivalry" in his whole conduct of the
business. As for the mass of his followers, they had, as Sir George
Trevelyan has said of the Tories who ostracised Wilkes, "as much
chivalry in them as a pack of prairie wolves round a wounded buffalo."
Mr Lang ("Life," ii. 136) writes that "an acute and well-informed
critic has singled out Sir Stafford Northcote's treatment of the
questions raised by Mr Bradlaugh as the best example of Sir Stafford
Northcote's tact and adroitness." The "adroitness" need not be
disputed. But Mr Lang, on his own part, holds that "it would throw no
light on Sir Stafford Northcote's leadership to follow the details of
this tedious and protracted struggle." For "light" and "leadership,"
read "credit" and "character," and the proposition would be quite
valid.]


§ 21.

From this point forward it is difficult to record the course of the
Parliamentary struggle with the serious patience hitherto spent on
the narrative. On the side of the House it had become a revolting
hypocrisy, since Bradlaugh was being ostracised for what other men
were allowed to do freely; and the form of legality put on in the
resort to the law courts was only a new simulation. The law courts had
declared that they could have no possible jurisdiction over the House
in such matters however it might break the law, and still the House was
formally proceeding to obtain from the law courts penalties against
Bradlaugh for trying to fulfil the law when the House hindered him.
The House knew quite well that if it had even declared him entitled to
affirm under the existing law, no court would have decided otherwise.
The hostile decision was here a foregone conclusion; for _a fortiori_
the courts, after their last emphatic decision, would not prevent the
House from interpreting the law as to swearing in its own way. Only the
strenuous energy of Bradlaugh, joined with his chivalrous belief in the
ideal rectitude and jurisdiction of the judges, could have set any man
in his position on a fresh legal adventure.

Begun in March 1884, the lawsuit at the instance of the Government
came on before Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, Mr Justice Grove, Mr
Baron Huddleston, "sitting at bar," and a special jury, on 13th,
15th, 17th, and 18th June. Against Bradlaugh were arrayed five
counsel,--the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, Sir Hardinge
Giffard, Mr Danckwertz, and Mr R. S. Wright, and the case was argued at
enormous length on a multitude of minutiæ as to Bradlaugh's original
evidence before the first Select Committee, the practice of the House,
the position of the Speaker on 11th February, the law as to what
constituted the oath, the force of an oath taken by an atheist, and
so on. After two delays, caused by the illness of Lord Coleridge, his
summing-up, which was proportionately long and elaborate, was given
on 30th June. It advised the jury that the weight of evidence was to
show that Bradlaugh was all along an unbeliever in a Supreme Being--a
point which Bradlaugh argued should not have been raised--that in law a
person on whose conscience an oath would have "no binding effect" was
a person who could not legally take a oath; and that Bradlaugh had not
taken the oath in accordance with the practice of Parliament. The other
judges concurred; but Lord Coleridge having spoken of inquisitorial
questions on belief in general (not those in the Bradlaugh case in
particular) as "hateful" and "disgusting," Mr Baron Huddleston desired
to express dissent on that head, while Mr Justice Grove said he
would call them, "to use a mild term, extremely objectionable." The
Lord Chief Justice, remarking that he felt strongly on the matter,
gracefully agreed that his words should be "discounted" on that score.

Formally, there went to the jury eight questions, to this effect: (1)
Was the Speaker sitting when Bradlaugh took the oath on 11th February?
(2) Was he sitting to prepare notes for use in addressing Bradlaugh?
(3) Had he resumed his seat to let Bradlaugh swear? (4) Was Bradlaugh
then without belief in a Supreme Being? (5) Was he a person on whose
conscience an oath, _as an oath_, had no binding force? (6) Had the
House full cognisance of these matters through Bradlaugh's avowal?
(7) Did he take the oath according to Parliamentary practice? (8)
Generally, did he take and subscribe the oath?

The jury's answers were, in brief:--(1) Sitting; (2) Sitting to prepare
notes as stated; (3) No; (4) He had no such belief; (5) Yes; (6) Yes;
(7) Not according to the "full" practice; (8) Not as an oath.

Bradlaugh at once asked for a stay of judgment in order to enable him
"to move for a new trial to move to enter judgment for the defendant
_non-obstante veredicto_, and to move for arrest of judgment."
Outsiders had supposed that the jury trial ended the matter, but it was
not so. Bradlaugh wrote in his journal undauntedly: "If my constituents
still give me their confidence, nothing can defeat me;" and when
friends wrote that they could see no hope of good from the "wearisome
and disappointing litigation," he characteristically answered:--

 "There are only two weapons to defend the right with: Law and Force.
 As yet I try the law; and so long as I believe, as I do believe,
 the law to be on my side, it is to the law and to public opinion I
 ought to appeal. My opponents rely on force and trick. If the law was
 actually against me they would take away my seat by law. This they do
 not even try to do. They hope to weary my constituents, and to tire
 and ruin me in this contest. Hampden, resisting ship-money, fought
 more than three years in the law courts; but his wearisome litigation
 was not quite in vain. Wilkes, backed by Earl Temple with purse and
 power, struggled with the Commons through several weary years, and at
 last Middlesex gave him victory."

The appeal was, on the face of it, a better case than Bradlaugh had
had in defending the action of the Crown. It came on, on 6th December,
before the same judges, sitting "_in banc_," who had tried the action
"at bar," Bradlaugh turning out to be right in his theory of the
proper procedure, whereas the judges had all been avowedly in doubt.
But the greater apparent force of the case as now put did not avail.
Bradlaugh cogently argued that no Act of Parliament gave the least
countenance to the notion that Atheists were to be disabled from
swearing. The Parliamentary Oaths Act of 1866, cap. xix., enjoins on
members of Parliament, with the exception only of those qualified to
affirm, the taking of an oath of allegiance of uniform phrasing, thus
admitting of no disability, and making an end of any disability which
may be supposed to have previously existed. Yet again, an Act of 1867
expressly provided that any subject of Her Majesty, _without reference
to his religious belief_, should take the oath of allegiance on taking
office. But Lord Coleridge had in the previous trial fully made up his
mind that "oath" must mean "adjuration made by one believing in the
Deity adjured," and he early indicated that this conviction overthrew
all arguments from the mere wording of statutes. On the Act of 1867
he remarked (with a discourtesy which for him was unusual, and which
disappears in the report) that "a little common sense and a little
knowledge of history" would have made the appellant aware that that
Act was passed on behalf of a Roman Catholic judge. Bradlaugh knew
the facts well enough, and capped the Lord Chief Justice's history
with some more, all going to show that the wish of the legislature
had then been to sweep away all religious disabilities whatever. It
was all to no purpose. Lord Coleridge was rather a man of strong
sentiments than a strong lawyer. He hated all persecution on behalf of
religion; and on behalf of Messrs Foote and Ramsey he stated the law
of blasphemy in the mildest possible way--a way to which Mr Justice
Stephen, albeit a rationalist, declared he could not subscribe. But
Lord Coleridge was also an emotional Christian; and though his admired
friend Arnold would readily have taken the oath without any belief in
the Deity adjured, his Lordship was strongly averse to having it taken
by an "aggressive" Atheist; and though he must have known perfectly
well that in Parliament there had for generations been known holders
of atheistic views, and that nobody proposed their exclusion, he yet
chose to assume that all laws as to oath-taking were meant to exclude
oath-taking by Atheists. One or two notable passages took place between
him and the appellant. Lord Coleridge, in his nervous irritation at
being persistently argued against, once so far forgot himself as to say
Bradlaugh was wasting time. The charge was too bad: Bradlaugh was one
of the closest and concisest of pleaders, as many judges had admitted;
and at a later stage in this trial the Lord Chief Justice took back his
words. At another point he somewhat impatiently deprecated a particular
line of argument, and Bradlaugh quietly answered, "My Lord, I must
fight with what weapons I can." Once or twice more his lordship was
rather idly petulant,[186] but this was transient; and he was very
genial when, on his remarking, "It may be, of course, that you are
right and we are all wrong," the appellant answered, "With the utmost
respect, my lord, that is practically what I am going to contend."

[Footnote 186: I was present at this trial, and took notes for an
article.]

Justice Grove, an amiable and fair though unsubtle judge, argued very
courteously (while incidentally avowing that his sympathies were on the
side of minimising oaths) that the legislature could not be held to
have enacted an oath in the tolerant expectation that it would be taken
by some men for whom the adjuration had no meaning. That was no doubt a
perfectly reasonable point for a judge to put; but, on the other hand,
nothing is more common than the plea of judges--it was made by Justice
Grove himself--that they have only to do with the law as it stands;
and if in this case they were to look into the probable state of mind
of the legislature, it was plainly their business to take into account
all the well-known facts of the case, including the notorious fact that
members known to their fellow-members to be Atheists or "Lucretian"
Theists had repeatedly sat in the House.

Their lordships, of course, repeated their former decision--Lord
Coleridge giving the very inaccurate reason that no "new point" or "new
argument" had been raised--and the rule for a new trial was refused.
Immediately Bradlaugh appealed; and the case was heard (on the motion
for a new trial, and, secondarily for seven days' time to move for
arrest of judgment after the first motion should have been adjudged
upon) in the Court of Appeal on 15th December by Lords Justices Brett
(Master of the Rolls), Cotton, and Lindley. These judges heard the
appeal with great patience, and on the 18th gave judgment to the effect
that they could not grant a rule for a new trial on the ground that
the verdict was against the evidence. But on "many other questions
in the case which it is not improbable might all be raised upon the
appeal by way of arrest of judgment," they thought it right to grant
"a rule _nisi_ to show cause upon all the other points taken by the
defendant, upon condition that the appeal in arrest of judgment is
brought on at the same time." The argument on this rule was taken on
26th January 1885, when the Attorney-General and Sir Hardinge Giffard
argued (a point which had been left open before) that no appeal lay,
the case being technically a criminal one. This plea, after voluminous
argument, was overruled--the point being settled by Bradlaugh's
references to portions of the Crown Suits Act which the other side had
not dealt with. Then came the argument on the main issue. To a lay
listener Lord Justice Brett seemed to give a more strictly judicial
attention to the problem than did any of the judges who had dealt with
it hitherto, and never was the subject more fully illuminated. In a
previous trial Justice Grove had noticed the anomaly that whereas an
oath or affirmation was set up as a means of securing true answers,
the judge had to satisfy himself beforehand on a witness's bare word as
to the nominally all-important point whether an oath would be "binding
on his conscience." Bradlaugh now brought out another no less precious
anomaly, namely, that the Speaker, at the opening of Parliament, must
of necessity administer the oath to himself; and that the first forty
members _must positively break the law_, seeing that they swear while
there is not a "full House" sitting. Another curious issue was raised
by the Court. An unbeliever could certainly be punished for perjury;
how, then, could his oath be "no oath," when perjury expressly meant
false testimony given on oath? Sir Hardinge Giffard's answer was that
no man may "take profit from his own wrong." It might have been more
dramatically put that the Christian law says to the Atheist, "Heads, we
win; tails, you lose."

Despite the fairness of the hearing given, it soon became apparent that
the Master of the Rolls held that "religious test" could only mean
test as between different forms of religion, and that to exclude an
Atheist from civic rights is not to impose a religious test. Now, the
English tests of last century were as between sects, not as between
religions; that is, they were denominational; that is, political.
Still, they were always known as religious tests. It would surely
follow that "religious test" meant any test connected with religious
matters. In that case Lord Justice Brett's distinction was completely
arbitrary and fallacious. But on grounds such as these, among others,
the judgment was given (28th January) against the appellant. It was
certainly an able judgment--as able as it was lengthy. It raised,
among other things, the exquisitely complicated anomaly that Bradlaugh
could satisfy a judge on his bare statement that he was an Atheist,
and yet, after affirming on that ground, could be solemnly examined
as to whether he was an Atheist. And the judge very explicitly laid
it down that if a non-believer in a falsehood-punishing Deity were to
take the oath unopposed, with all the customary formalities, he could
on proof be sued for the penalty of £500 for every vote he had given.
This meant, if anything, that the Atheists or Agnostics then sitting in
Parliament were all so liable.

Lord Justice Cotton, with much simplicity, laid it down that the law of
England "undoubtedly" was that if a person in the "unhappy position" of
not believing in a lie-avenging Deity took the oath, it was not a real
oath. And Lord Justice Lindley, with a certain cynical candour, dealt
with Bradlaugh's main argument, that it was absurd to hold that a man
is by law incapable of doing that which the law requires him to do. "I
agree in the absurdity," said his lordship, "but not in the argument
adduced from it." He held that the only solution would be that the
defendant "could not be properly elected."

 "It is a mistake to suppose," said Lord Justice Lindley further,
 "and I think it is as well the mistake should be known, that persons
 who do not believe in a Supreme Being are in the state in which it
 is now supposed they are. There are old Acts of Parliament still
 unrepealed by which such people can be cruelly persecuted. Whether
 that is a state of law which ought to remain or not is not for me to
 express an opinion upon; but having regard to the fact that these
 Acts of Parliament still remain unrepealed, I do not see my way to
 hold judicially that this oath was not kept alive by Parliament _for
 the very purpose, amongst others, of keeping such people out of
 Parliament_."

This last deliverance is memorable on several grounds--memorable as
showing the need, from the point of view of one more judge, for a
repeal of the brutal laws of the past against heresy; and further
memorable as showing once more how ready are judges to rest alternately
on mutually exclusive principles of interpretation. On the point as to
whether the case was one in which an appeal lay, Lord Justice Lindley
grounded his opinion on the fact that there was not to be found in
the Judicature Act "the slightest indication of any intention on
the part of the legislature" to prevent appeals in cases which were
"previously made civil proceedings for the purposes of appeals." On
the same principle, he ought to have looked whether there were the
"slightest indication of any intention on the part of the legislature"
in modern acts to exclude all Atheists from oath-taking. There is no
such indication. Not a word is said of excluding unbelievers. On the
contrary, it was only with difficulty that the legislature could be
got to meet the fact that there _were_ many Atheists who at times had
to give testimony in courts of law. Had the legislature really desired
to exclude all Atheists from oath-taking it would surely have said so,
knowing as it must have done how common unbelieving oath-taking had
been. And all the judges, as individuals, must have known perfectly
well that privately known Atheists had sat in every Parliament for
generations. Such are the conditions of legal judgment on questions of
legal principle.

Bradlaugh at once gave notice of appeal to the House of Lords; and,
all things considered, he had as good chances of success as ever he
had. But this litigation had now reached its climax, and the appeal
did not come off. The struggle had gone far towards completing
its fifth year, and relief was almost within sight. It was not to
come from legislation. Mr Hopwood had undertaken to introduce an
affirmation Bill grappling with the whole position, which was not
merely an affair of the admission of Atheists, but of providing
also for certain religionists who, not being Quakers, Moravians, or
Separatists, were not entitled to affirm, though strongly objecting
to the oath. And there were yet further matters to be dealt with, as
the position of freethinking jurors. But the saving credit of passing
such a measure was not in store for the "Liberal" Parliament. At the
Liberal Conference on Reform in 1884, presided over by Mr John Morley,
a resolution had been unanimously carried in favour of Northampton's
right; and at the Conference of the National Liberal Federation in
1885, Mr Hopwood's Bill was unanimously approved of; but though this
action was backed up by countless resolutions of Liberal and Radical
Clubs, and hundreds of petitions,[187]

[Footnote 187: By August, 655 petitions had been presented, with 77,639
signatures.]

the Anglican and Roman Churches set to work as zealously as ever
to oppose, the Liberal Government would make no attempt to grant
facilities in the House, the Bill was blocked, and nothing was done
while that Government remained in office. But when, on their being
defeated at their own wish on the Budget, a Conservative Ministry took
office, Bradlaugh at once presented himself (6th July) to be sworn. He
might have presented himself before the re-elected Tory ministers, in
which case they could not have taken part in the proceedings against
him, but he treated them with the chivalry they never showed to him,
and allowed the ministers first to be sworn in. The new Chancellor
of the Exchequer, Sir Michael Hicks Beach, took up the matter on the
lines of Northcote, who was now made a peer, and moved that Bradlaugh
be as before excluded from the precincts. Mr Parnell and Mr Healy went
further, appealing to the Speaker to have Bradlaugh (who was standing
below the bar) wholly excluded from the House at once, before the
motion was debated. To this stretch of malice the Speaker could not
accede, and the debate proceeded in the usual way. Mr Hopwood moved an
amendment declaring legislation to be necessary "on wider grounds than
the interests of a constituency." Gladstone, though deprecating any
general legislation on the subject, supported the amendment. Only 219
voted for it, however, and 263 against, the majority again including
many Home Rulers and a number of Liberals, while many more Liberals
had absented themselves. Against most of these, vigorous measures were
taken in the constituencies, which now had before them the imminent
prospect of a fresh general election. In this election it had been
arranged that Bradlaugh should stand for the new borough of East
Finsbury, London, as well as for Northampton, on the understanding that
if elected for both he should sit for Northampton. This was a generous
attempt on the part of the Finsbury Radicals to strengthen his case;
but other Radical candidates being less generous, he finally withdrew
from the Finsbury candidature to avoid a split in the Radical camp.
In Northampton the fight had little excitement in it, the conclusion
being foregone. Mr Richards at one of his meetings claimed credit
for avoiding personalities, and mentioned that he had in his pockets
letters from several persons offering to flood Northampton with
slanderous tracts. He did not add that that device had been played out,
and had become just a little unsafe besides. Towards the election day
virulent placards were resorted to, from force of habit. Bradlaugh did
not post a single bill. The poll (25th November) stood:--Labouchere,
4845; Bradlaugh, 4315; Richards, 3890; Bradlaugh thus standing higher
than ever before. The difference between him and his colleague was
represented by 366 plumpers for Mr Labouchere, and 300 votes split with
the Tory, less 126 plumpers for Bradlaugh, and 10 split for him and the
Tory. The news was received everywhere with special enthusiasm. But
still more significant was the havoc wrought among those pseudo-Liberal
members who had turned the scale against Bradlaugh in the House. Mr
Samuel Morley had been forced to retire from Bristol, Mr M'Cullagh
Torrens from Finsbury, the Hon. H. W. Fitzwilliam from Dewsbury, Mr
Jerningham from Berwick, and then later from Blackpool, the selection
being cancelled before the election; Mr George Courtauld, Unitarian,
from Maldon, Sir Alexander Gordon from Aberdeenshire, Sir Thomas
Chambers from Marylebone, and Baron de Ferrières from Cheltenham.
These were all opposed by former supporters on the express ground of
their votes in the Northampton question. Others who went to the poll,
again, were defeated on the same score. Mr Norwood at Hull was defeated
by the running of a special Radical candidate in protest against
his anti-Bradlaugh action in the House. Mr A. P. Vivian, a frequent
absentee on the question, was defeated in North-west Cornwall, and Sir
W. Charley at Ipswich. Mr B. Whitworth, formerly of Drogheda, chosen
and then dismissed at Hackney, was defeated at Lewisham. Prominent
Tory and other enemies suffered in a hardly less degree. Newdegate,
after beginning his candidature, withdrew rather than meet certain
defeat; Sir Henry Drummond Wolff was defeated, so was Earl Percy, so
was Sir J. E. Wilmot, so was Mr Warton, so was "O'Donnell." Dr Lyons
collapsed at nomination in Dublin. M'Coan was thrown out at Lancaster,
Mr Nicholson at Petersfield, and Mr Denzil Onslow at Poplar. Of new
Tory candidates who had been specially offensive in their hostility,
Mr Hammond was beaten at Newcastle, Mr Bruce Wentworth at Barnsley,
Mr Holloway at Stroud, and Mr Edwardes-Moss at Southport. There was
no mistaking the "Bradlaugh element" in these cases; and though some
Radicals who had stood by him were also defeated, as Mr Hopwood and Mr
Hugh Mason, that was solely owing to the hostility of the Irish vote,
then being manoeuvred by Parnell to weaken the Liberals. Much of the
work of destroying the renegade Liberals had been done by Bradlaugh in
person in his lecturing tours. "I think I have settled a round dozen of
them," he remarked some time before the election. One former Liberal
member, who had been his persistent enemy in the House, finding defeat
staring him in the face through Bradlaugh's action, came to him in his
hotel when he was lecturing in the constituency concerned, and humbled
himself to ask for mercy. Bradlaugh gravely refused. "You are very
hard," whined the petitioner, who had thought fit to work iniquity with
the majority for five long years, with as little thought of justice as
of generosity.

The tables thus turned, it is probable that in the first Parliament
which assembled in 1886, an Affirmation Bill could have been carried
in the teeth of the Tory minority, seeing that even some Tory members
had had to pledge themselves to support such a Bill; and Mr Serjeant
Simon had arranged to re-introduce Mr Hopwood's. But the settlement
was precipitated in an unexpected way. Bradlaugh wrote Sir Michael
Beach asking how the Government would treat the Bill if introduced,
and received a non-committal answer. Soon afterwards it was announced
that communications had passed on the subject between Sir Michael and
the new Speaker-elect, Mr Peel; and Bradlaugh wrote to ask Sir Michael
what they were, but was refused the information, whereupon he strongly
protested. The mystery was only cleared up when the new Parliament
assembled on 13th January 1886.[188] The new Speaker had determined
to reverse the policy of his predecessor in the Bradlaugh case, and
the Tory Cabinet in vain sought to dissuade him. On the opening day,
before any members were sworn, he informed the House that he had had
two communications--one from Sir Michael Hicks Beach, and one from two
other members, Mr Raikes and Sir John Kennaway, appealing to him not
to let Bradlaugh take the oath. To these requests he flatly declined
to accede. In the former Parliament, he pointed out, the Speaker had
taken no independent authority on himself, but had always acted on the
instructions of the House. "We are assembled," he went on,

[Footnote 188: This Parliament is alluded to as "of 1885" by Mr
Walpole, Mr Lang, and others. It was elected in 1885, but did not
assemble till 1886.]

 "in a new Parliament. I know nothing of the resolutions of the past.
 (Cheers.) They have lapsed; they are void; they are of no effect
 in reference to this case. (Renewed cheers.) It is the right, the
 legal, statutable obligation of members, when returned to this
 House, to come to the table and take the oath prescribed by statute.
 ('Hear, hear.') I have no authority, I have no right, original or
 delegated, to stand between an hon. member and his taking of the oath.
 ('Hear, hear.') I have been further asked whether, when the House
 is completed, and after a quorum has been constituted, it would be
 competent for a motion to be made intervening between the hon. member
 for Northampton and his taking of the oath. I have come clearly and
 without hesitation to the conclusion that it would neither be my duty
 to prohibit the hon. gentleman from coming, nor to permit a motion to
 be made standing between him and his taking of the oath. (Opposition
 cheers.) The hon. member takes that oath under whatever risks may
 attach to him in a court of law. ('Hear, hear.') But it is not for
 me--I respectfully say it is not for the House--to enter into any
 inquisition--(cheers)--as to what may be the opinions of a member when
 he comes to the table to take the oath. I am bound, and the House is
 bound, by the forms of this House, and by the legal obligations and
 rights of members. If a member comes to this table and offers to take
 the oath, I know of no right whatever to intervene between him and the
 form, of legal and statutable obligation. (Cheers.)"

The Chancellor of the Exchequer in vain sought to make a declaration:
he was called to order. Bradlaugh was duly sworn, with a Tory Ministry
in nominal command of the House. The protesters against "profanation"
had to stand by and see what they had defined as profanation
"solemnly"--as the law courts defined solemnity--authorised by the
supreme authority of the House. They had refused to permit affirmation;
their oath was now, on their own declaration, outraged and trampled
upon. At the same time, the whole past procedure of the House, the
whole course of the last Speaker, was overruled and impeached as
unwarrantable. The House had drunk its cup to the dregs.


§ 22.

The Tory press naturally solaced itself by repeating the well-tried
falsehood that Bradlaugh had originally refused to take the oath,
and declaring that he had now eaten his words. On 26th January,
dissatisfied with that unsubstantial comfort, Mr Raikes asked the
Government if they would prevent Bradlaugh from sitting and voting
until he had proved his capacity to take the oath, or until the
judgment of the Court of Appeal was reversed by a higher tribunal.
Sir M. Hicks Beach formally replied that he was not prepared to take
action, and no action of the kind was ever taken. Soon the Tories,
being in the minority in the House, were turned out and the Liberals
installed in their places. Appealed to to enter a _stet processus_ in
the action in which Bradlaugh had appealed, they timorously declined,
dreading Tory comment. But when the Tories later in the year were
returned to power by the election following on Mr Gladstone's defeat on
his first Home Rule Bill, and Lord Randolph Churchill became leader of
the House of Commons, that versatile personage, desirous of placating
if possible so formidable and so avowed an enemy as Bradlaugh, gave
the relief which the Liberals had refused. Bradlaugh was thus finally
secured in his seat by the capitulation of one of the most unscrupulous
and offensive of his old enemies. Churchill's allusion in the House
to Bradlaugh's supporters as the "scum and dregs of the nation" had
elicited from Bradlaugh, in connection with his agitation against
perpetual pensions, a short tractate on the manner of the founding of
the Churchill family, which struck his lordship in a fashion he had not
been used to at the hands of Gladstone, or even of Mr Chamberlain; and
he desired to make peace. He did not obtain it.

But not only did the Tory party, as represented by its new leader in
the Commons, thus give up all it had contended for: it was finally to
make personal submission to the man it had wronged. The Affirmation
Bill introduced by Mr Serjeant Simon never reached a debate; and it was
left to Bradlaugh to carry one on his own initiative in 1888, by the
votes of the men, Tory and Parnellite, who had defeated former Bills.
Last of all, it was in the same Tory House of Commons, while Bradlaugh
lay dying, that there was carried the resolution he had repeatedly put
down, expunging from the journals of the House the old votes for his
exclusion, even as the resolutions against Wilkes had been expunged.
If the act was one of repentance, it the more certainly implied an
infamous wrong done.

There were certainly many reasons why the Tory party should repent.
They had "struck for themselves an evil blow," though the sudden
rising of the Home Rule issue served to obscure the consequences of
their course in the Northampton struggle. It was impossible that as a
party they could have gained in credit by it either among the masses
or among thoughtful and earnest men. Nothing was more notorious than
that nine-tenths of the leading Bradlaugh-baiters were the least worthy
men in the House. Wolff, described by Bradlaugh as a noted retailer of
_choses grivoises_; Churchill, the noisy and reckless charlatan of the
new Toryism, "the Demosthenes of bad taste and vulgar vehemence;"[189]
Tyler, the company-promoter, hooted by the shareholders he had
impoverished; "O'Donnell," the turncoat; Callan, the drunken;
Newdegate, besotted with more fumes than those of fanaticism; Fowler
and Warton, the gross and blatant; Healy, the ever-rowdy--these could
not gain good repute from alliance with types like Mr Samuel Morley,
and could not be made respectable by the leadership of Northcote, whom
they hustled and humiliated. It is not possible to say with entire
certainty what had been the general view of Beaconsfield on the case
while he lived; but it is difficult to believe that he could have
taken any satisfaction in seeing the most prominent function of the
new Toryism made out to be the rowdy resistance to the sitting of a
freethinking member, and the insolent refusal of a constituency's
rights.

[Footnote 189: Byron's description of a better man.]

There can be no doubt, I think, that one effect of the whole episode
was to create a new and widespread intensity of antagonism to the
prevailing religion and to the Conservative cause. Men who had before
regarded Christianity with indifference or disfavour or contempt, as a
delusion, began to detest it as a living fountain of injustice; and men
who had seen in recent Conservatism a policy of diverting the people's
attention from home needs by foreign adventure, now saw in it a great
machinery for working iniquity within the State. The party which had
been seen making gun-wadding of the decalogue in its wars of aggression
had now made a crass Semitic Theism the pretext for a dastardly effort
to crush one man, partly by way of embarrassing the opposite side; and
the party which denounced "disloyalty" took sides with the disloyalists
to the same end. Of course, the heat of the immediate struggle did
not last on one side any more than on the other; above all, it did
not last with Bradlaugh himself; but it is certain that thousands of
Freethinkers date their conversion from the time of Bradlaugh's fight
with the bigots; and I fancy there are still many who preserve the
impression they then gained of what Voltaire meant by "the infamous,"
and the purpose they then formed to make war on it throughout their
lives. As regards Toryism, too, though "each day brings its petty
dust, our soon-choked souls to fill," the adherents of that cause may
rely on it that for many a citizen, for many a day to come, their
declarations of concern for justice and right, in any case whatever,
are made derisory by memories of their five-year-long course of gleeful
injustice to the Atheist. Time brings its revenges. If Liberals in
mass have deserved ten years of frustration, in an effort to do right,
by their former treatment of Ireland, Tories in turn have wrought for
the cup of defeat they have tasted, and are yet to drain to the dregs.
And the Irishmen who, claiming freedom for themselves, shamelessly
withheld from another even the rights they already enjoyed--they, too,
have paid and are paying for their misdeeds, despite their avowed
repentance.

As for the Conservative party, despite its practical recantation, it
would be too much to say that there is any real concern among the
mass of its members for the five years' carnival of injustice over
Bradlaugh. I have gone through Mr Lang's "Life of Northcote" without
finding one word of regret for the whole shameful business, though
he quotes a passage in which Northcote expressed in his diary a mild
deprecation of the ruffianism of some of his followers in the matter.
But, indeed, the capacity to do the thing as it was done excludes the
capacity to be ashamed of it. Toryism is transmuted, but does not
repent. At best, new Tories may at times deprecate the action of their
predecessors.


§ 23.

Whatever be the sympathies with which the matter is looked at, there
is no gainsaying the historical fact that Bradlaugh's struggle is a
decisive episode in constitutional history. It will always rank in
English annals with the partially parallel case of Wilkes, dating a
hundred and twenty years earlier; and it will be a very bold or a
very blind majority which ever again attempts to exclude from the
House of Commons a duly-elected member against whom no legal objection
lies. Of Wilkes, Mr Gladstone has declared that whether we choose it
or not, his name must be enrolled among those of the great champions
of English freedom. If that be so, Bradlaugh's name must stand still
higher, in that it represents not only the principle of the rights of
constituencies, but the principle of freedom of conscience in the last
and most serious issue. And in every moral respect, Bradlaugh's case
stands above that of Wilkes. The point in which they best compare is
their courage; but even the undoubted courage with which Wilkes faced
an unpopular king and unpopular ministers was a less rare thing than
the fortitude which faced the hate and the slander of half of the more
articulate part of the nation. For the rest, though he had the merit
of geniality, Wilkes was a poor creature enough in many ways--a rascal
towards his wife, a leader of ribald orgies, a prurient poetaster,
a briber of constituencies, while professing to be uncorrupting and
incorruptible. He was a blasphemer in the strict and really bad sense
of a man deriding a Deity in whom he did not profess to disbelieve;
he wrote and privately printed indecent verse for the indecency's
sake. And if he is to be remembered for courage in that he resisted an
unpopular Ministry with a great and aristocratic party to support and
salary him, much more so is Bradlaugh, who was scouted and insulted by
many even of the Liberals that felt constrained at times to vote on his
behalf, and who had little save poor men's help in his long and costly
fight. It is significant of the worth of common opinion that Wilkes
was much more readily forgiven for real and ill-meant and undisputed
obscenity than was Bradlaugh for the earnest and scrupulous defence of
true doctrines infamously miscalled obscene. On the point of politics,
Wilkes is hardly more justly notable than on the point of character.
He had no higher mission than to attack an autocratic and unpopular
minister; his very animus was partly the evil and vulgar spirit of
racial animosity; he had no high purpose of political reform. After
unwilling drudgery in a public office of dignity, he found his chosen
reward in a semi-sinecure. Bradlaugh stood for great causes in the
world of thought as well as in the world of action: he was a thinker
and a high-minded reformer where Wilkes was at best a high-spirited
adventurer.

And as Wilkes was the worse man, so he had the worse case. When elected
in 1768, he was legally an outlaw--albeit under an unjust sentence;
and his supporters signalised his success by a riot, breaking windows
wholesale, mobbing and insulting leading opponents. Afterwards he was
elected while a prisoner. Certainly Parliament, in his case, took a
more courageously illegal course than it did in Bradlaugh's, not only
refusing to admit him, but declaring him disqualified, voiding his
seat, and declaring Luttrell member when elected by the minority. The
jugglers of 1880-85 kept a member out of his seat without daring to
declare the seat therefore vacant, though the law courts hinted not
obscurely that an Atheist was _hors la loi_ in respect of the chief
civic rights. Certainly in the case of Wilkes the King was known to
be the main mover in the breaking of the law, and so was more openly
putting the liberties of the whole people in jeopardy. But the fact
that in Bradlaugh's case the tyrants were bigots and partisans,
representing masses of electors, and the wronged man a heretic,
only made the danger the more profound. The final triumph of the
law-breakers would in his case have been a worse blow to freedom than
it could have been in that of Wilkes, just because so many hundreds
of thousands of bigots would have rejoiced in it. It would have been
more dangerous to democracy, because undermining democracy from
within, whereas the ostracism of Wilkes was an ostentatious blow from
without. The "many-headed tyranny of an unscrupulous senate" is a more
sinister thing when it rests on the fanaticism of thousands than when
it is the mere subservience of time-servers to the sovereign; for if
the principle were to be practically established that a man may be
politically ostracised for theological heresy, the axe would be laid
to the root of a greater thing than political privilege. What the
Inquisition did for Spain, brainless bigotry might have begun to do for
England. It had become clear that the law courts would not give any
decision which struck at the freedom of the House of Commons to act as
it pleased, our constitution being thus seen to lack the safeguard set
up in the Supreme Court of the United States; though the House went
through the form of arguing its case before the judges. The value of
their decisions was seen when, after Bradlaugh took the oath before
Mr Speaker Peel, he was allowed to sit in peace though he had been
declared legally incapable of taking an oath. Evidently the principle
of legality had little remaining validity. It may be, nevertheless,
that the time is not yet come for the majority of Englishmen to realise
fully how much was saved to their heritage by Bradlaugh's long stand
against nefarious faith. The language of sincere conviction still
blends with the language of cant in calling his opinions "peculiar" or
worse; and half of those who stood beside him on the political issue
were anxious in avowing their repudiation of his doctrines and his
personality. But even in the few years between his struggle and his
death there was a change; and to say that he has not yet had his full
share of honour is only to say that his fame will be at its clearest in
the larger air of a more enlightened day.



CHAPTER IV.

CLOSING YEABS.

1886.


Admitted at last to the seat for which he had fought so long and so
hard, Bradlaugh set himself strenuously to work to make up for lost
time. With nearly every quality that goes to make a good legislator,
and with the most abundant political experience from his youth up,
he had reached his fifty-third year before he sat in his place
in Parliament by secure tenure. He had fought for that place, in
all, eighteen years--chronically during twelve of them, against
constitutional opposition; continuously through six of them, against
gross injustice. And in these last six years, unhappily, his life went
very much quicker than the years. Those who had lived by him through it
all recognised that it had made him an old man. A certain aging effect
seems to have come from the terrible attack of typhoid fever in New
York in 1875; but still in 1880 his portraits show him in his prime,
the face mature without being furrowed. In 1886 he looked far more than
ten years older. The long battle had left its dire marks.

No private member in his prime, however, went to work in the
Parliaments of 1886 with such energy. Before January was out he had
obtained leave to bring in his Land Cultivation Bill,[190] which was
backed by Mr Joseph Arch, Mr Thomas Burt, and Mr Labouchere; and he
was extorting from the officials exact details as to the Perpetual
Pensions, against which he had already for years agitated outside. In
March he obtained from the new Liberal Ministry the appointment of
a Select Committee on the subject. The debate on Mr Jesse Collings'
amendment to the Address, calling for labourers' allotments--the
amendment on which the Tory Ministry were thrown out--gave him his
first opportunity of striking a blow at the party which for him was
identified as much with tyranny in general as with tyranny towards
himself. In February he gave the first notice of his intention to raise
a question which he later pushed far--that of market rights and tolls;
his first move being to call for a return giving minute particulars
as to the state of the case in each municipal borough in England and
Wales. And in the same month he was vigorously pressing his proposal
for a Labour Bureau on the lines of that of Massachusetts--a proposal
to which the Government promptly acceded. In March he took a step
abundantly justifiable on public grounds, in moving the reduction
of the monstrous vote of £12,000 to Sir H. D. Wolff for six months'
unprofitable service abroad, and £3000 more for telegrams in connection
with his mission. And he was further able to connect another enemy,
Sir Henry Tyler, with systematic breaches of the Truck Act on the part
of the Rhymney Iron Company, of which he was a director. Bradlaugh
characterised the action of the Company as part of "an infamous system
by which poor men are defrauded of part of their earnings." The
result was a Government prosecution and the infliction of the fullest
statutory penalty. In the way of direct service to labour, he was
in the same month appointed a member of the Select Committee on the
Employers' Liability Bill, on which he worked hard and carefully. In
April came the epoch-marking Home Rule Bill, in the debate on which he
made a powerful speech in support, loudly cheered by the Home Rulers
who had so long helped to exclude him. He was emphatic against the
exclusion of the Irish members, but urged that such points should be
left for discussion in committee; and he did his best outside for the
second reading by organising a great mass meeting in St James's Hall,
presided over by Mr Labouchere, which was in its way a great success, a
multitude coming sufficient to fill the hall twice over. His own Land
Cultivation Bill came to its second reading; and his speech upon it was
well received, though he saw fit not to try to press it to a division.
Again in June, shortly before the decisive division, he delivered a
second and longer speech in support of the Home Rule Bill, to listen
to which to the end Mr Gladstone delayed his dinner; and on the
dissolution he issued an "Appeal to the Electors: Mr Gladstone or Lord
Salisbury: Which?" He had done more than justice by the people whose
representatives had most zealously done him injustice. Readers of his
journal had written to urge this on him as one reason for opposing Home
Rule. He answered: "If I cannot try to do justice to my political and
religious enemies, I am unfit to be a legislator." On the merits of the
reform he tersely observed: "Home Rule is no four-leaved shamrock, but
it is the beginning of justice."

[Footnote 190: Described in a previous chapter, p. 182.]

In the new General Election, a new excitement was given to the contest
in Northampton by the candidature of a Liberal Unionist, Mr Turner,
a leading local manufacturer, in coalition with a Conservative. His
supporters were extremely confident; but when the vote was counted the
figures stood: Labouchere, 4570; Bradlaugh, 4353; Turner, 3850; Lees,
3456. On the declaration of the poll, Mr Turner, being shouted down
by the crowd, addressed to the reporters the intimation that he "came
forward for the first time to wrest the representation of the town from
the greatest and most mischievous demagogue of the present century."
But by this time the old obloquy had considerably quieted down. At
the beginning of the year the Bishop of Peterborough, Dr Magee, had
published a review article in which, while making hostile allusion to
Bradlaugh--doubtless in recollection of old criticisms--as an Atheist
"whose name certainly neither softens nor sweetens any controversy with
which it is connected," he declared forcibly against the Parliamentary
Oath altogether. As he truly observed,

 "Whatever else our present Parliamentary Oath was designed to
 effect, it was never designed to keep Atheists out of Parliament. It
 was, and is, strictly a political test, and for a purpose happily
 quite remote from modern English politics. It is dynastic.... It
 does not even ... exclude Republicans; for, should the Parliament
 which imposes it decide at any time upon the ultimate abolition of
 monarchy, there would then be no 'successors according to law' to
 whom to be faithful.... As a political test, it is practically all
 but obsolete.... It does not even incidentally and indirectly act as
 a religious test, for no Atheist that we know of has ever refused to
 take it."

Oddly enough, while arguing for the abolition of the Parliamentary
Oath, the Bishop proposed to "retain" the oath in courts of justice,
being apparently unaware that there it was already to some extent
optional. His opinion on the other point, however, counted for
something; and though an appeal was made to the Liberal ministry,
as it had been made to their predecessors, to prosecute Bradlaugh
afresh for sitting and voting, the ministry refused, and the matter
dropped once for all. There was also, of course, a cessation of the
attacks on him by Conservative members. One, a Mr E. H. Llewellyn, at
a Primrose League meeting early in the year, scurrilously spoke of him
as having "seemed more as if he spat upon than kissed" the Testament
in taking the oath; but for this congenial indulgence Mr Llewellyn
had to make a public apology to Bradlaugh and to the House of Commons
alike. Bradlaugh was an excessively inconvenient enemy to have at close
quarters.

No one knew this better than Lord Randolph Churchill, who was now
promoted to the leadership of the House of Commons over the head of
Sir Michael Hicks Beach. "The most bitter enemy of the Tory party,"
wrote Bradlaugh, "could hardly have planned for it greater degradation
than this leadership." One Tory journalist attributed to him, quite
falsely, a proposal to hiss Churchill on his first rising to address
the House. That was not his way of fighting. The "new leader," on his
part, was extraordinarily conciliatory. When the new Parliament met in
August, Churchill made not even a sign of wish to stand again between
Bradlaugh and the oath; and when Bradlaugh made his important motion
that the House do not assent to the usual Sessional Order prohibiting
the interference of peers in elections, his lordship actually offered
him a committee for the following year to frame another Order instead,
admitting that the existing one was habitually ignored. Bradlaugh,
however, pressed the matter to a division, when 126 members supported
him, the Liberal leaders voting with the Tory majority against him.
His object had been, as the vigilant Newdegate noted, to take the
"first step to getting rid of the House of Lords." By allowing peers
to interfere freely in elections, he proposed to strike at their
hereditary privilege. But the time for such a measure was not yet.

It was understood to be on Churchill's urging, again, that two months
afterwards the Tory Attorney-General entered a _stet processus_ in
the still outstanding appeal to the House of Lords, thus ending an
action which the Gladstone Ministry had declined to end at Bradlaugh's
request. But Bradlaugh in no way slackened his hostility on this score.
On 19th September, in a discussion on the committal of Father Fahy
for using threatening language towards magistrates, he reminded the
House how its leader had once declared in the House that the Crown
could procure the decisions it wanted from certain judges. Churchill,
entering the House later, and learning what had been stated, assured
Bradlaugh that he had been entirely mistaken, and gave the statement
an unqualified denial. On Bradlaugh saying he thought he was right,
Churchill made the curious answer: "I am sure he cannot find anywhere
a record of my having said such a thing." Bradlaugh immediately went
to consult Hansard, and not finding the passage he had expected, came
back and frankly confessed the fact to the House. But on turning
back he found that he had made an equivalent statement in his letter
to Northcote on 1st March 1884, and that Northcote, while disputing
in his reply certain of Bradlaugh's assertions, lest he should be
taken to admit them, did not dispute this. A more leisurely search
in the newspaper files cleared up part of the mystery. Churchill
had repeatedly said in effect what Bradlaugh had attributed to him.
In at least three speeches (30th April 1883; 21st February 1884;
12th June 1884) he had directly and indirectly insinuated that the
Government could get the decisions they wanted in a collusive action
against Bradlaugh by bringing it before judges who had been Liberal
Attorneys-General. What had apparently happened was that the noble
lord had struck at least one passage out of the Hansard report when,
according to custom, the proofs of his speeches were sent to him as
to other members for correction afterwards. Having done this, he felt
safe in saying that Bradlaugh "could not find anywhere a record" of
such a statement on his part. It was a mistaken confidence; and besides
publishing the newspaper extracts at the time, Bradlaugh later found an
opportunity to pay off his score with interest.

In the October of 1886, meantime, he addressed to the noble lord
an open letter of scathing comment on his policy, his tactics, his
speeches, and his character. It contained the sentence--referring to
"old English gentlemen"--"These belong to a class to which I, as well
as yourself, am a stranger--I from birth, and you from habit;" and in
reference to his lordship's language (outside) towards Mr Gladstone,
it had the passage: "He has often been generous to you--the great can
be generous. You might, in taking a leader's place, at least have for
the moment aped a leader's dignity. _Noblesse oblige_; but no such
obligation weighs on you; _où il n'y a rien le roi perd ses droits_."
Yet even after this Churchill sought to make his personal acquaintance
and disarm his resentment making repeated attempts to be introduced,
and on one occasion actually intervening with a broad compliment in a
conversation between Bradlaugh and another member in the smoking-room.
Bradlaugh bowed with the old-fashioned ceremony which he adhered to in
such cases, but would not further accept the obtruded friendship. He
had, however, passed beyond his former disposition to square accounts
with the lordling who had called his supporters the "mob, scum, and
dregs." I once heard him remark that it was pitiful to see Churchill,
with his fidgety, lawyer's-clerk manner and tactics, trying to rise to
the dignity of the leadership of the House, trying not to twist his
moustache all the time, and to listen to opponents like a statesman.
And some story he heard of an act of generosity on Churchill's part
helped further to disarm his never very vindictive hostility.

Nothing, indeed, could well surpass the magnanimity with which he put
away from him all rancour for the endless insults he had received. New
Tory members, expecting perhaps to see in him a truculent demagogue,
were disarmed on finding a genial gentleman and comrade, who bore
no malice, was excellent company, and played chess as sociably as
skilfully. As the years went on, there actually arose a sort of
enthusiasm for him among the younger Tories, more than one of whom
assured him that they deplored the treatment he had met with at
the hands of their party. Of course they did not suffer from the
embarrassment of the Liberals at the prospect that the irrepressible
Atheist, with his extraordinary gift for legislation, would possibly
have to be included in the next Liberal administration.

This feeling began to arise very rapidly among the Radicals outside.
His prompt success in securing the Labour Bureau, and in checking
the practice of truck in Scotland and England, brought him immediate
votes of thanks from labour organizations, though the press at this
stage practised against him such a boycott that at a time when he was
constantly speaking on the estimates, correspondents wrote deploring
his silence in the House. The old tactic of ostracism was not easily
unlearned; and the official Liberal journals, as the _Daily News_, for
years on end sought to suppress the fact that it was he who had brought
about the Labour Bureau. So anxious were such journals to keep him out
of sight, that when the important return moved for by him as to market
rights and tolls was issued, and had to be discussed, the _News_ dealt
with it elaborately without mentioning that it was Bradlaugh who had
obtained it.

No conspiracy, however, could suppress general knowledge of such a mass
of work as he got through, outside the House as well as inside. When it
was not sitting, he was on lecturing tours, and I find that in the last
three months of 1886, Parliament being in recess, he addressed nearly
sixty political meetings in all parts of the country, in addition to
his Secularist lecturing, which he never abandoned, though he devoted
a larger proportion of his lectures to politics than formerly. In the
House, besides working specially at his questions of truck and land
cultivation and perpetual pensions, and serving on the committee to
consider the effects of the Employers' Liability Act, he was one of
the most generally industrious of legislators. All this strain was not
for nothing, and at the end of the year we find him suffering from
erysipelas and neuritis.


1887.

In the session of 1887, however, he went to work with unslackened
energy. In a long speech delivered to a full house in the debate on
the address, he attacked the Government on their permission of illegal
truck practices, on their Egyptian policy, on their Burmese policy, and
on their Irish policy. On the resignation of Lord Randolph Churchill,
the new Commons leader, Mr W. H. Smith, continued the Tory policy of
concession to the former victim of the party; and he was granted a
Select Committee on Perpetual Pensions, himself being a member. The
point raised by him last year as to peers' interference in elections
was made the subject of investigation for another committee (of seven),
moved for by the Government, and on this too he sat. The majority
of the committee, of course, soon reported in favour of leaving the
Sessional Order unaltered, Bradlaugh and Mr Whitbread dissenting.
Meanwhile, he was continuing his attacks on the practice of truck, and
got down for discussion a Truck Act Amendment Bill in addition to the
Affirmation Bill which he had introduced when Sir John (formerly Mr
Sergeant) Simon's came to nothing. In March, too, he took an active
part with Mr Howell and Mr Labouchere in the attack on certain members
of the Corporation of London, including, and specially, his own old
enemy, Alderman Sir R. N. Fowler, for corrupt expenditure. In Fowler's
presence Bradlaugh on his part "undertook to specifically connect
the hon. baronet with the issue of City funds under conditions which
compelled the knowledge on his part that they were corruptly used for
the purpose of influencing the decisions of that House. He would prove
that up to the hilt." And again he renewed his energetic action against
the huge expenditure on Sir H. D. Wolff's mission to Cairo, a mission
which, he declared, amid Radical cheers, to be a gross Conservative
"job;" and he had the support of 146 members to his motion to quash the
vote.

The charges against the Corporation were formally heard before a Select
Committee of the House of Commons, Bradlaugh acting as prosecutor.
Fowler, without really denying the charges in the House, had described
them as "anonymous tittle-tattle;" and on the insufficiency of
this disclaimer being pointed out, one of the ministers, Lord G.
Hamilton, formally denied the charges on Fowler's behalf. Before
the Committee--consisting of Lord Hartington, Sir Joseph Bailey, Mr
Dillwyn, Mr Houldsworth, and Mr Stevenson--the statements made as to
expenditure were proved,[191] as Bradlaugh had promised, "up to the
hilt." Fourteen witnesses were examined by him; the City accounts for
five years and other documents were closely gone into; and when the
alleged payments could no longer be disputed, the defence (conducted
by Mr J. Compton Lawrence, Q.C.) took the line of arguing that the
challenged payments were within the right of the Corporation. They had
been made during a number of years by way of resisting the popular
movement for the reform of the municipal government of London. In the
words of Bradlaugh:--

[Footnote 191: See the Blue-Book, "Report London Corporation (Charges
of Malversation)," together with the Proceedings of the Committee,
Minutes of Evidence, and Appendix, Parliamentary Paper, 161, 1887. A
brief account of the matter was written by Bradlaugh for _Our Corner_,
July and August 1887, under the title, "How the City Fathers Fight."]

 "£19,550, 10s. 10d. was proved to have been expended in financing
 Associations such as the Metropolitan Ratepayers' Association,
 Metropolitan Local Self-Government Association, Anti-One-Municipality
 League, and South London Municipal Association, described by Mr
 Howell as 'bogus' Associations, which were mostly started by paid
 agents employed by City officials, under the direction of, and with
 the knowledge of, the Special Committee; and which Associations were
 used as a means of creating a fraudulent, unfair, and collusive
 opposition to the proposed legislation for London municipal reform.
 Improper use and malversation of funds were also shown in promoting
 and carrying on collusive and fictitious charter movements in Lambeth,
 Woolwich, Greenwich, and other places in the metropolis, with the
 view of representing these to Parliament and to the Privy Council as
 spontaneous and _bona-fide_ movements, when they were really only
 intended as opposition to the Government Bill. (The fictitious nature
 of the charter movement is especially illustrated by Mr Stoneham's
 answer: 'When the London Government Bill was dropped, the charter
 movements were let fall through by the City to a great extent.')
 Improper use was further shown in paying men to attend in very large
 numbers for the purpose of opposing, sometimes with violence, the
 meetings in favour of the reform of the Corporation; in paying for
 sham deputations, sham meetings in favour of the City, and for unfair
 reports which were published in the press; in procuring signatures to
 petitions," etc.

The most extraordinary thing of all was the fact that in the case of
one municipal reform meeting in 1883, at least 2000 forged tickets
had been issued, and their distribution was not obscurely traced to
Corporation officials. In regard to this matter, Fowler was shown
to have helped to evade inquiry when it was challenged at the time;
and in regard to the improper expenditure, he was shown to have
been officially cognisant; and though the Committee let off their
fellow-member as lightly as they could, he had a very bad quarter
of an hour under Bradlaugh's examination. One by one, the champions
of the religiosity of the legislature against the Atheist had been
shown to do their cause small credit in their persons. About the same
time Bradlaugh took a leading part in exposing in the House a gross
and systematic fraud in the preparation of a certain petition from
Haggerston, signatures having been forged and invented wholesale, to
the extent even of putting names of infant children and racehorses;
and this again was done for payment made by City officials. But on
Bradlaugh's side there was no subordination of the public to his
private interest; and when, in April 1887, Newdegate died in the odour
of sanctity, he displayed no vindictiveness in his comments on the
local obituary biography, which of course dealt freely with his own
name. "I am credibly informed," he wrote, "that, apart from his bigotry
against Catholics and heretics, Mr Newdegate was a kindly country
gentleman, well liked by those who knew him. I regret to learn from
his biographer that he treated the six years' harassing anxiety and
cost to myself, which he did so much to continue, as a subject for
merriment."

In respect of his legislative work he was as successful as he was
industrious. By the end of April he had got his Truck Bill into the
Committee stage; and he secured from the Government, without a blow,
the Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls for which he moved
in a speech of an hour's length.[192] The manner of this success was
singular. In the words of one Tory journal: "It was no secret that
the Government intended at first to oppose Mr Bradlaugh's motion,
but it gave way on receiving an intimation from a large number of
Conservative members sitting below the gangway that, if a division
took place, they would be compelled to vote with the junior member for
Northampton." So oddly had the tables been turned. Yet he had in no
way slackened his opposition to Tory policy. On the Coercion Bill he
had made three forcible speeches, and he was always pursuing ministers
with awkward questions. His success with the enemy was due simply to
the irresistible impression he created of honesty and industry and
single-mindedness. And when in May he made a merciless exposure of
Churchill on the point above alluded to, of his old imputations on
the integrity of Liberal judges, it did not appear that Conservatives
failed to enjoy the proceedings. It was in the course of the privilege
debate on the _Times'_ articles on "Parnellism and Crime." Bradlaugh
first elicited from Churchill a repudiation of one of his former
utterances, and then proceeded to quote in full the passage from
Hansard, with the now verified reference. Another challenge elicited
another denial, and yet another quotation, with the reference. They
were all ready for this occasion. "I am not responsible for Hansard,"
cried the noble lord, in much agitation; whereupon Bradlaugh added new
and sharper punishment, going on to quote yet more of the damnatory
passages from Hansard. "The noble lord," he went on, "was of opinion
in 1884 that the courts of law were not fair tribunals," whereupon
Churchill again indicated dissent. "It was perhaps," admitted
Bradlaugh, "not quite correct to say that the noble lord was of that
opinion--he only said it." And still the castigation went on, the
House punctuating it with laughter, till Churchill rose and protested
that in regard to his recent speeches on the _Times_ question he had
been utterly misrepresented. Whereupon "Mr Bradlaugh said he was not
dealing with the noble lord's views--he did not know what they were.
(Opposition cheers and laughter.) He was only giving the noble lord's
words." At the close of the speech, which as a whole was unanswerable,
Churchill rose to offer a "personal explanation" on the Hansard
business. Delivered with anxious prolixity, it was primarily to the
effect that in 1884 his speeches were "greatly compressed" in Hansard,
"as is invariably the case with ordinary members," and that the
compressed reports could not be taken as true and faithful. This gave
Bradlaugh his final opportunity.

[Footnote 192: Circulated as a pamphlet in immense numbers by the
Cobden Club, and reprinted among his speeches.]

 "I accept the explanation of the noble lord [on the bearing of his
 words on the _Times_ case], and I can corroborate his statements as to
 the compression of his speeches, because I used at one time to hear
 from him expressions which, having unguardedly repeated them without
 verification, I could not find in Hansard when I went to look for
 them. (Loud laughter and cheers.) The only mental difficulty I have is
 to imagine how any process of compression could put words on record
 which were never spoken. (Loud laughter and cheers.)"

It was as sufficient and artistic a piece of punishment as the House
had witnessed for a long time; and Bradlaugh thenceforth considered
his accounts with his former vilifier reasonably squared. Besides, in
his anxiety to propitiate his powerful opponent, Churchill immediately
afterwards declared in a letter to the _Times_ that he did not see
how Bradlaugh's Oaths Bill could with propriety be opposed by the
Conservative party, whose duty it was, by supporting and passing it, to
"secure that the Parliamentary oath in future will in all probability
only be taken by those who believe in and revere its effective
solemnity." This was written in anticipation of the action of a few
Conservatives who, rebelling against their own leaders, obstructed
the measure when it came on for discussion after other matters about
five o'clock in the morning. Sir Edward Clarke, who had zealously
resisted all previous bills of the kind, gave his support to this.
Twice over, in a House of 300, Bradlaugh had large majorities--of 91
and 104--against adjournment, but still the motions went on. At length,
having sat in the House for eleven hours, he gave way, an act for which
some outsiders thought fit to blame him. Some journals, however, took
the opportunity to speak of him, on the merits of the question, with
a civility they had never before seen occasion to show him. Others
made use of the occasion to point out how fully it proved the utter
dishonesty of most of the previous Tory opposition to Bradlaugh. Some
of the details in the debate gave dramatic corroboration to this view.
Colonel Hughes had stood forward as one of the representatives of
religion; on which Mr Healy--himself once in that galley--observed that
"it was to be hoped Christianity would not be defended by a gentleman
who had been scheduled for bribery."

While the Oaths Bill was thus delayed, Bradlaugh contrived by
incessant vigilance to get the Truck Bill through Committee in July.
He confessed that if he had known beforehand the enormous labour such
a Bill involved--"the receiving deputations, the large explanatory
correspondence, the huge mass of suggested amendments, the objections
from various interests to each amendment, and the utter impossibility
of conciliating or satisfying the various sections, some friendly, some
hostile, some well-meaning but impracticable"--he might have shrunk
from the task. For twenty-seven nights he had watched till the morning
hours on the chance of his Bill being reached, and when all was done
it seemed for a time as if the Upper House, in its customary manner,
would wreck everything. Their lordships' first "amendments" were
insufferable, and were sent back to them, the House of Commons backing
up Bradlaugh with vigour. Finally their lordships agreed to limit their
amendments to a few which, while of course doing harm, did not affect
the main work of the Bill, and though some Irish and other members
desired to reject it on the score of these, the measure was at length
passed.

He had thus in one session carried an important Act, made considerable
progress with another, and obtained a Select Committee on Perpetual
Pensions and a Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, apart from
the Committee appointed by the Government on his former initiative to
discuss the action of peers in elections. In the Committee on Pensions
his report was unanimously adopted, barring the clauses which dealt
with certain payments to the Duchy of Cornwall--in other words, to
the Prince of Wales. He had further prosecuted the Corporation of
London before yet another Select Committee of the House, effectively
damaging one of his enemies in the process, as he had in the previous
year secured the prosecution of another for breach of the law in
his capacity of a company director. He had seen yet another enemy,
Churchill, deposed from his place of pride, and had incidentally
overthrown him in debate. All the while he was doing hard work on the
Employers' Liability Committee besides speaking often on the Estimates
and on the Coercion Bill, putting an ever-increasing number of solid
questions to ministers on grievances submitted to him, many of which
were redressed, and in particular pertinaciously pursuing the Indian
Office as to certain underhand dealings in the matter of the ruby mines
of Burmah. No other member's work could compare with it all; and the
press decided that "Bradlaugh's Session" was the proper summary of the
Parliamentary season. But, of course, such success evoked jealousy
no less than tribute. In the carrying of the Truck Act he had not a
little experience of the jealousy of labour leaders and others; and
while the official Liberal press still partly boycotted him, the
Socialist press made a point of belittling or perverting everything
he did. Despite his continuous attacks on Tory policy, his Truck Bill
was declared to owe its success to Government adoption. The Socialist
_Reynolds_ declared that he did little or nothing in Parliament; while
the Tory _England_ protested that he spoke far too often. As a matter
of fact, he had made some sixty-five speeches up to Whitsuntide,
thirteen of them against Coercion. But the circumstance which made
his Parliamentary industry absolutely unique was that it was carried
on alongside of a continuous course of Sunday lecturing, with special
attendances at week-day demonstrations thrown in. When the Sunday
lectures were in London the strain was comparatively light, as only
two were given in the day at the Hall of Science; but in the provinces
it is the Secularist practice to have three discourses on the Sunday
when a London lecturer comes, and the physical strain of this, it need
not be said, is heavy. Thus for Bradlaugh the two days of the week
which other members of Parliament could give to rest and recreation
were oftenest simply days of travelling and extra speaking. Now and
then he could get a Saturday's pike-fishing on the Lea or on a Thames
backwater; once or twice in the year he could even run down to Loch
Long for two or three days of the very much more bracing fishing there.
Even the holiday became a source of fresh work, for he took up with
his usual energy the case of the pollution of Loch Long by Glasgow
sewage; and it was due to his persistent pressure that the nuisance
was at length stopped. He thus made a rich return for the measure of
rest and strength gained from his days of fishing--a gain which was at
times wonderful. But though his powers of recuperation were great, the
rest-days were far too few; the balance was always heavily on the side
of overwork; and so his intimates now saw him year after year showing
ever heavier traces of the overwhelming strain of his life. Whether he
got to bed early or in the late morning hours, he was always up and at
work before eight, attacking his great pile of correspondence, which
alone would have seemed to many men to supply a good day's work. Every
day's post brought him on an average a round dozen of grievances to
be submitted to Parliament, and in every case which he thought worth
attention he made careful investigation, always declining to trouble
Ministers without good grounds. Then there were the continual letters
from poor men of all denominations asking for legal advice gratis--a
kind of request he never refused. Yet with it all he found time to
write for his journal; and his articles and speeches at this time are
as pregnant and efficient as any he ever penned or spoke. Among other
things he wrote a weighty little pamphlet: "The Channel Tunnel: Ought
the Democracy to Oppose or Support it?" which was widely circulated
as the strongest possible popular plea for the undertaking. When next
the public is effectively challenged for a vote on that question, it
will probably be found that there has been a great transformation of
opinion; and not a little of the credit will be due to his pleading.
Of the extent of his influence in this and other ways the average
metropolitan reader never had any accurate idea, between the grossly
unjust attacks of Socialists on the one hand, and the boycotting of the
Liberal press on the other. Thus we find him delivering in Birmingham,
in October 1887, a great fighting speech on the party situation, of
which no report whatever appears in the London papers. It dealt with
the question raised by Mr Chamberlain, "Is a National Party possible?"
and the answer it gave was a determined and uncompromising attack
on the Unionist coalition, this at a time when Liberals and some
Radicals were insinuating that he was ingratiating himself in the Tory
counsels. This was a type of dozens of provincial addresses delivered
by him every year, some of them at immense open-air demonstrations of
miners, who always invited him to their great gatherings. Of all this
activity the London press revealed hardly a trace, any more than of
his hundreds of Sunday lectures every year, of which one or two out of
every three were devoted to politics. It is safe to say that no other
English politician of his time spoke publicly to such numbers of his
fellow-countrymen in the course of each year.

A striking illustration of the new animus against him among "advanced"
propagandists came up on the occasion of the deplorable Trafalgar
Square episode of 13th November 1887. The Socialist press and some
Radical journals sedulously circulated the intimation that "somehow or
other Mr Bradlaugh was very conspicuous by his absence," while pointing
to his old proceedings in similar crises. He was actually lecturing at
the time at West Hartlepool, in fulfilment of an engagement made months
before; and next day he was at Hull. On his return he contributed to
the _Pall Mall Gazette_ a careful statement of the law on the point of
the use of Trafalgar Square, criticising and condemning the action of
the authorities, and he followed this up with further protests, while
advising the Radical M.P.'s concerned to fight out the case at law,
and begging those who trusted him to await such legal settlement. Yet
several times since his death it has been stated in the press that he
exhumed a forgotten law which entitled the Home Secretary to prevent
meetings in the Square. The laws he cited were all to the contrary
effect, and were well enough known to those officially concerned;
the point having been raised, as above mentioned, over one of his
own Trafalgar Square demonstrations a few years before. And when Mr
Cunninghame Graham and Mr Burns were prosecuted, he gave evidence on
their behalf, making a hasty and difficult journey across the country
from Leek to London on a telegraphic summons to arrive in time when
they were tried at the Old Bailey.

A paragraph which he published in his journal in this connection
will serve to mark the degree of political severance which, with no
diminution of mutual regard, had arisen between him and his long-tried
colleague and partner, Mrs Besant. It ran:--

 "As I have on most serious matters of principle recently differed
 very widely from my brave and loyal co-worker, and as that difference
 has been regrettably emphasized by her resignation of her editorial
 functions on this journal, it is the more necessary that I should
 say how thoroughly I approve, and how grateful I am to her for, her
 conduct in not only obtaining bail and providing legal assistance for
 the helpless unfortunates in the hands of the police, but also for her
 daily personal attendance and wise conduct at the police-stations and
 police-courts, where she has done so much to abate harsh treatment
 on the one hand and rash folly on the other. While I should not have
 marked this out as fitting woman's work, especially in the recent very
 inclement weather, I desire to record my view that it has been bravely
 done, well done, and most usefully done; and I wish to mark this the
 more emphatically as my views and those of Mrs Besant seem more wide
 apart than I could have deemed possible on many of the points of
 principle underlying what is every day growing into a more serious
 struggle."

The severance spoken of had arisen over Mrs Besant's adoption of
Socialist principles, a change of attitude on her part which began
about 1885, and soon went the length of a somewhat extreme propaganda,
afterwards modified in common with the general tone of the Fabian
Society, of which she had speedily become the most active member. The
joint editorship had now become a practical difficulty as well as a
source of complaint among readers; and in October 1887 it was amicably
ended, Mrs Besant continuing to act as sub-editor and contributor. She
had fought beside Bradlaugh and for him loyally and well, and though
the suddenness and vehemence of her new departure had startled and
troubled him, his friendship, as the above paragraph shows, had in no
way weakened. He was not the man to break a tie for even a serious
difference in opinion; though he was also the last man to do what
some Socialists contemptibly accused him of doing--arrange that his
colleague should take one line and he another in order to promote the
circulation of his journal. He did for Socialists what he did for
everybody who got into legal trouble on political grounds, and he
gave Mrs Besant ample assistance in fighting the case of those who
were arrested by the police for open-air propaganda. The most serious
change of position on Mrs Besant's part, her conversion to Madame
Blavatsky's "Theosophy," was soon to come. Even when that came, in
the following year, he neither withdrew his friendship nor asked her
to cease contributing to the _Reformer_; but, coming after political
differences, the new and deep division of opinion undoubtedly pained
and depressed him. He was to find, as so many have found, that when
success comes something is sure to go which leaves success a different
thing from what was dreamt of.


1888.

The first important task of Bradlaugh on the re-assembling of
Parliament was to fight this cause of the right of public meeting
in Trafalgar Square. It had been badly enough managed by others. In
January he wrote:--

 "The conviction of Messrs Cunninghame Graham and Burns for unlawful
 assembly is, I fear, in great part due to the foolishly boastful
 evidence of Mr Hyndman and Mr Tims. If the first had been a Crown
 witness, his evidence on cross-examination could not have been more
 mischievous to the accused, on the count on which a verdict was found
 against them; and the incautious replies of Mr Tims to the counsel for
 the Crown were almost as fatal."

The Government on their part had carried adroitness to the point of
cowardice, refusing to arrest Mrs Besant when she sought to have a
legal trial on the merits of the right of meeting. The effect of it all
was that not only the Liberal leaders, but such journals as the _Daily
Chronicle_ and the _Daily News_, took the line of deprecating any
further public meetings in the Square. Bradlaugh, standing firmly to
the claim of right, commented gravely on the promoters of the meeting
for "bringing together a huge mass of people whom nobody was prepared
to lead or to control;" and he expressed his regret that Mr Saunders, a
prosecution against whom was laid and then departed from, should have
let the legal question drop. Before the assembling of the House certain
metropolitan members, learning that Bradlaugh was determined to raise
the question by an amendment on the Address, took the unworthy line of
protesting that, as a metropolitan matter, it was no business of his.
He offered to leave it to Sir Charles Russell, as the most capable of
dealing with it. Sir Charles promptly replied that no one could handle
it better than Bradlaugh, but undertook the moving of the leading
amendment. In addition to such difficulties Bradlaugh had the trouble
of opposing the action of Mrs Besant on the newly-founded Law and
Liberty League, promoted by herself and Mr Stead, with its "Ironside
Circles," and other risky arrangements for meeting force with force.

When the House met, Bradlaugh took occasion, before the debates began,
to make a personal statement on a matter that had of late frequently
come before the public. In February of 1886 he had offered in the
House to show that large sums of money, excessive for such a purpose,
had been supplied by leading Conservatives of both Houses of Parliament
for the promotion of a Trafalgar Square demonstration for "Fair Trade,"
organised by a Tory agitator named Peters, which had culminated in a
riot. Peters had at the time blusterously denied this, but had declined
Bradlaugh's challenge to a formal investigation before an arbitrator
as at _nisi prius_. In the recent prosecution of Messrs Burns and
Cunninghame Graham at Bow Street, Bradlaugh had been pressed by the
Crown Counsel on this point, had reaffirmed his statement, and had
added that one of the cheques, which he had seen and was prepared to
trace, was from Lord Salisbury. This statement was first denied by
Lord Salisbury in a letter to the _Times_ (2nd December), and was
afterwards characterised as wilful perjury in a published letter from
his secretary to one Kelly, a colleague of Peters. On the first denial
Bradlaugh promptly offered to have the matter investigated before a
Committee of the House of Commons. This offer Lord Salisbury neither
accepted nor declined. Bradlaugh now asked the Government to agree to
a Select Committee of Investigation, pointing out that he lay under
an imputation of perjury from the Prime Minister on a statement which
he had made in Parliament. An action for libel, however, had been
already begun against Bradlaugh by Peters; and the Ministry, after
waiting a few days, answered that the matter was not a proper one
for a Select Committee, especially as a lawsuit on it was pending.
Bradlaugh, however, pointed out that the action in question could
not raise the real issue, and offered to raise it if Lord Salisbury
would acknowledge the publication of the letter to Kelly, signed by
his secretary. This acknowledgment he sought to obtain by letter, but
after delay the noble lord took the singular course of declining to
accept legal responsibility for the publication of the letter, as he
had not consented to it. When, however, Bradlaugh read this letter
of disclaimer in the House, Lord Salisbury sent him a secretarial
letter (22nd February) referring to the original letter to the _Times_
over his lordship's own signature (in which the truth of Bradlaugh's
statement had been denied without charging perjury), and admitting his
lordship's legal responsibility for that. That letter, however, was
not actionable, and Bradlaugh had replied to it at the time, as he now
pointed out. Lord Salisbury then wrote (25th February), repeating that
he could accept no responsibility for his letter to Kelly, concerning
whom he made the curious statement that he, too, was affected by
Bradlaugh's false and injurious charges, though Bradlaugh had never
mentioned Kelly's name in the matter. His lordship, however, professed
his readiness to facilitate a legal investigation of Bradlaugh's
statements, which his lordship inaccurately professed to reproduce.
Bradlaugh, protesting against his lordship's tolerating the publication
of the charge of perjury, and never once apologising for it, answered
that he preferred to have the charge stated in the words in which he
made it, and in none other. No reply was offered, and the matter was
left to be settled by Peters' action for libel.

The debate on the Trafalgar Square question did not come on for a week
or two, and in the meantime one notable episode occurred over a remark
made by Bradlaugh in the discussion on an amendment to the Address
concerning the Scotch Crofters. The report runs:--

 "Mr Bradlaugh said he understood the Chief Secretary to say that
 the cause of the evil they had to deal with in the Highlands was
 over-population, and that the sole remedy for this difficulty was
 emigration. He also understood the right hon. gentleman to denounce
 the reckless increase of population in that district during the last
 forty or fifty years. He felt some astonishment that the right hon.
 gentleman should put forward such an argument, when he remembered
 that the right hon. gentleman, and those who sat around him, tried
 before all England to make him appear as one of the most immoral men
 alive, because he had tried to teach the people for the last quarter
 of a century these very evils of over-population, and these very
 difficulties of their condition connected with reckless increase. It
 was astounding to hear from the other side such a doctrine put forward
 to be supported, because, when urged by him in olden times, it had
 made him the mark for some of the most wicked language that one man
 could use against another.

 "Mr A. J. Balfour: I never in my life used any such language against
 the hon. gentleman; never, never. (Cheers.)

 "Mr Bradlaugh said that, at any rate, the important party of which the
 right hon. gentleman was then a prominent member, flooded the country
 with literature containing such attacks, without then one word of
 repudiation from the right hon. gentleman. But he would not discuss
 the personal position of the matter further. The sole remedy for the
 existing distress, according to hon. members opposite, was emigration.
 But how were they going to apply it? Was the State to undertake the
 emigration? Were the people to be sent away by force, and to what
 lands were they to go? In every case they would have to struggle for
 existence against hostile life-conditions, extremes of heat and cold,
 hard for starving men to hear. Everywhere they would be confronted
 with the labour struggle, for we were no longer the sole, or even the
 principal, colonising people; masses of Germans and other thrifty
 colonising races were now found in every distant land. Of course,
 emigration resulted in a few successes, and of these much was heard;
 but nothing was said about the many miserable failures. Medical men in
 America and Canada could tell many heart-rending stories of madness
 supervening on the home-sickness that embittered the emigrant's life.
 There was no country where pauper emigration would be welcomed. State
 emigration, if at all, must include on a large scale other distressed
 subjects. This was impracticable. Emigration of charity was mockery
 save to the veriest few. No; emigration ought not to be thought of as
 a remedy until other means had been tried, until the unjust conditions
 which hampered the poor, and which had been artificially created by
 the class to which the hon. gentlemen opposite belonged, had been
 swept away. ('Hear. hear.')"

Thus again did Bradlaugh prove that his Neo-Malthusianism was anything
but an argument against the political improvement of the lot of the
people. The emphatic declaration of Mr Balfour may be held to class him
with Mr John Morley, Mr Leonard Courtney, and the late Lord Derby, as a
believer in the importance of restriction of population; but it is not
on record that he, any more than they, has sought to communicate his
belief to the public or his party; and it is certain that, as Bradlaugh
remarked, he never said a word in deprecation of the attacks of his
fellow-Tories on Bradlaugh as a Neo-Malthusian at a time when such
attacks were a main means of keeping him out of his seat.

When at length the Trafalgar Square question was reached (1st March),
being raised in a masterly speech by Sir Charles Russell, Bradlaugh
followed with one perhaps not less effective, which, lasting till
midnight, had to be continued on the following evening. It included a
sharp indictment of the conduct of the police, and a broad suggestion
that the authorities seemed to have made use of _agents provocateurs_;
and it made short work of the official pretence that the Square was
Crown property, as having been constituted out of the King's Mews--a
statement on a par with Mr Burdett Coutts' citation of the old Act
against certain meetings near Parliament without the all-essential
clause specifying the kind of meetings forbidden. The King's Mews,
Bradlaugh pointed out, had formed only a very small part of the ground,
while the rest had been bought and paid for with public money. He
challenged an investigation of the conduct of the police, and wound
up with an earnest appeal to "those who were elected as Liberals" to
resist the tyrannous policy of the Government. The Home Secretary
was stung into promising an investigation of the charges against
the police; but it is matter of history that the Liberal leaders
homologated the action of the Tory Ministry.

A few weeks afterwards (21st March) came the decisive struggle on
Bradlaugh's Affirmation Bill (otherwise "Oaths Bill"), which he had
failed to force through in the previous session. He moved the second
reading in a tersely argued and conciliatory speech; and though some
Conservatives, as Mr Stanley Leighton and Mr De Lisle (Catholic), made
foolish speeches against it, the great majority of the House was with
him. One member, Mr Gedge, made a success of absurdity by arguing
that the promoters of the Bill had defined an Atheist as one "_on
whom conscience had no binding effect_," and this nonsensical phrase
he repeated again and again without recognising its nature, entirely
failing at the same time to see the point that the "definition" he
meant to quote was that given by a court of law, and not by the
promoters of the Bill at all. At length, the second reading was carried
over the amendment (which proposed a Royal Commission) by 247 votes
to 137. On the substantive motion being put that the Bill be read a
second time, obstruction was attempted, which Bradlaugh met by moving
the closure. On this he had 334 votes to 50; and the second reading was
then formally carried by 250 votes to 100, a majority which surpassed
his most sanguine expectations.

To secure the passage of the measure, however, he had to meet the old
Christian plea that the permission to affirm--which his Bill gave alike
to witnesses, jurors, officials, and members of Parliament, in Scotland
and Ireland as well as England--should not be given to believing
Christians who, having no conscientious objections to swearing, might
seek to evade it because they felt freer to lie on affirmation than on
oath. This was urged on the Conservative side as a concession essential
to acceptance of the Bill, and Bradlaugh consented to make the
provision in Committee. No Liberal opposed; but trouble was to arise
later in the matter.

Months after Bradlaugh's undertaking had been given, and after he had
put down the promised amendment, some leading Liberal members, who
had not before made any protest, raised a strong objection to the
concession made, inasmuch as it placed upon every one desiring to
affirm the necessity of avowing whether he objected to the oath on
religious grounds, or as having no religious opinion. There ought,
these members argued, to be no questioning whatever as to reasons.
This was a perfectly reasonable objection to make on principle; but
it ignored the fact that only by making concessions to the Christian
side, to meet the case of superstitious and dishonest Christians, could
any relieving measure be carried at all; and it was brought forward
surprisingly late in the day. It is not clear, further, that the
objectors realised what the amendment actually did, for they protested
that while it was all right for Freethinkers, it put a stigma on those
who were not prepared to say they had no religious beliefs. The plain
answer to this was that such persons, if they objected to an oath, had
only to say it was inconsistent with their religious belief. Although
the objectors included such able heads as Mr E. Robertson and Dr W.
A. Hunter, it must be said that their opposition was not justified by
their arguments. It was less difficult to follow the complaint of Mr
J. A. Picton, who said he would have no relief from the Bill, inasmuch
as he was not without religious belief, but "regarded oath-taking as
a humiliating and barbarous custom." In that case, however, Mr Picton
might with perfect propriety say that oath-taking was inconsistent with
his religious belief. Further, though it is quite fair for Agnostics,
Theists, and others to protest that they ought not to be asked for
any account of their opinions in a court of justice, it was less than
fair for them to propose to leave without any relief whatever the
Freethinking jurors who were liable to much worse odium and annoyance
than is involved in saying that the oath is inconsistent with one's
religious belief; the witnesses who in Scotland could not affirm on
any condition whatever, and in England could only affirm on answering
a grossly invidious question; and the members of Parliament who had to
take the oath while very much disliking it. With the single exception
of Dr Hunter, none of the Liberal objectors to the added clause had
made any fight against oaths; the whole brunt of the battle had been
left to the Freethinkers. Yet some of those objectors, who had not
specially moved a finger for any reform whatever, were now prepared to
throw over the measure. Mr John Morley, who had voted for the second
reading after hearing Bradlaugh's undertaking to insert the qualifying
clause, now made some heated remarks against it, which Bradlaugh dryly
characterised as "not very philosophic." They certainly came ill from
the editor who had deprecated Bradlaugh's willingness to take any oath.
By dint of more forcible remonstrances with other members in the lobby,
Bradlaugh secured a majority of 87 votes for the third reading, the
figures being 147 to 60. Many of the Liberal objectors, recognising
that to vote with the Noes, who were mostly bigots, would be to put
themselves in a false position, abstained from voting; and of the 147
in the majority, 92 were Liberals.

The trouble, however, was not yet over. The "Liberal and Radical Union"
of Northampton passed by a majority a resolution complaining that the
value of the Bill was taken away by the amendment; and some Liberal
journals accused Bradlaugh of giving away the principle of religious
equality by agreeing to the imposition of "a new test." He met these
criticisms in a very temperate letter "To Liberal Editors in general,
and the Editor of the _South Wales Daily News_ in particular," the
latter journal having been one of those which had been most just to
him throughout his struggle. The editor replied, acknowledging the
courtesy of the criticism, and making his own less extravagant, but
making the extraordinary blunder of alleging that even then any member
of Parliament could affirm on the ground that oath-taking was contrary
to his religious belief--this while avowing that he only dealt with the
measure as regarded the Parliamentary oath. His main argument was that
there were many people who detested the oath, but could not say it was
condemned by their religious belief; and on the score of his measure
not relieving such persons, Bradlaugh was pronounced "ungenerous." The
truth was that he had done his best to make affirmation absolutely
unconditional, but could only carry his Bill at all by making it
conditional on the giving of a reason. He had done all he could for
all classes of objectors, and he rightly thought it better to relieve
those who suffered most than to secure no relief at all. The further
relief claimed by believers should be demanded by them from their
fellow-believers. The rational course, clearly, is to abolish oaths
altogether, and this Bradlaugh would gladly have done; but it is
neither rational nor candid to talk as if this or even a somewhat
less measure of reform could possibly be secured by him within two
years of his admission to Parliament after a desperate struggle with a
majority who stood for the grossest irrationality and injustice. Those
who condemned him ought in consistency and decency to have begun an
agitation either for making affirmation unconditional--a course which
would still leave some people open to annoyance--or for the entire
abolition of oaths. Yet, after six years have elapsed, there is still
no word of any such movement. It is the old story of the half-way
people leaving all the stress of the fighting to the more advanced.
These may be permitted to say that it is a little too much to put
on avowed Freethinkers, fighting for bare rights under all sorts of
calumny and ostracism, the burden of securing an effortless immunity
for those who all along stood at best in the rear-guard, if they did
anything in the matter at all.

Close on the heels of the second reading of the Affirmation Bill
(March) came the debate on the report of the Perpetual Pensions
Committee, on which he moved a resolution that steps should be taken
by the Government to give effect to the Committee's recommendations.
He had a Tory seconder, Mr Louis Jennings; and the debate included a
friendly speech, with an acceptable amendment, from Mr W. H. Smith,
and a very interesting speech from Gladstone; whereafter the amendment
(amended) was incorporated, and the Government stood pledged to
"determine" all hereditary pensions with due regard to justice and
economy, and to revise the pension system in general. In May, Bradlaugh
again (as told in the chapter above, on his "Political Doctrine and
Work") pressed his resolution as to the expediency of Compulsory
Cultivation of Waste Lands, only to see the House counted out after
his seconder (Mr Munro Ferguson) and the mover of an amendment had
spoken. He was not to succeed alike in everything. Later in May he
had an unpleasant experience in respect of the Government's breach of
faith over his motion of a new Rule, to the effect that on a new member
presenting himself in due form, the Speaker should forthwith call him
to the table. Mr Smith agreed to accept the motion as an "amendment
to going into Supply," on its being amended by the clause "unless the
House otherwise resolve," which Bradlaugh was advised was a harmless
provision; but when, on the pressure of Sir Henry James (who in the
Courts had argued for the House's right to "resolve" to an extent to
which Bradlaugh's clause would not allow) and others, he withdrew the
clause, the Government threw over the whole motion, though nobody
objected to the withdrawal, and the Unionists who had urged the
withdrawal of the clause left the House without voting on the motion.
It was accordingly rejected by 180 votes to 152.

His main undertaking for 1888, however, succeeded finally, to a marvel.
In the House of Lords, the Affirmation Bill might have been held to
run considerable risk; but singularly enough, though amendments were
talked of, none were pushed, and the Bill passed its third reading
(December 1888) absolutely unchanged. In the absence of Lord Herschell,
it was taken charge of by Earl Spencer and Lord Coleridge; but what
was no less important, it was endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury
as a desirable measure. As usual, the Church took credit for lending
itself to a reform which it had violently resisted. Outsiders were
left asking which policy had been the more insincere--the old outcry
against all Affirmation Bills or the new pretence of welcoming one. The
Lord Chancellor, who, as Sir Hardinge Giffard, had so often opposed
Bradlaugh and all his works, was more true to his antecedents, and
confessed his jealousy and dislike of the measure, while grudgingly
abstaining from trying to defeat it. To Lord Esher, who as a judge had
always administered the law as to oaths dead against him, but who now
helped the Affirmation Bill through the Upper House, Bradlaugh tendered
grave and chivalrous thanks in his journal, adding that none were
necessary in the case of the Lord Chancellor.

While the Affirmation Bill was on its way the libel action by Peters
was heard and decided. Before it came on, the editor of the _St
Stephen's Review_ (Mr Allison), who had made a libellous attack on
Bradlaugh in respect of the case, was on Bradlaugh's suit tried before
Justices Manisty and Hawkins, and submitting himself apologetically to
the Court (March 22nd), was let off with a fine of £20 and full costs
for his contempt of Court, Mr Justice Hawkins observing that he "very
much doubted whether such a fine was an adequate punishment for so
gross a contempt. He did not think he had ever seen a worse attempt to
affect the administration of justice." The judge added some no less
forcible remarks on Mr Allison's explanation that he had made his
attack "to advance the interests of the Conservative cause." But that
principle was destined to have a still more remarkable illustration
within the law courts themselves, when the libel suit was tried
(April 18th) before Mr Baron Huddleston and a special jury. If the
action of Peters for libel, in inception and upshot, be not the most
extraordinary libel case of modern times, it is only because the judge
who tried it gave a no less extraordinary turn to another libel case
which came before him eighteen months later. Peters' contention was,
in brief, that Bradlaugh had libelled him by stating that he got money
from leading Conservatives, including Lord Salisbury, for the promotion
of a "Fair Trade" demonstration in Trafalgar Square. His counsel, Mr
Lockwood, argued that "if Mr Peters was doing what Mr Bradlaugh accused
him of, then Mr Peters was doing a very corrupt thing"--a plea only
intelligible as resting on the fact that Peters was the secretary of
the "Workmen's National Association for the Abolition of Foreign Sugar
Bounties," and as implying that it would be corruption on the part
of such a Society to take money from a lord. The evidence led was to
the effect that Lord Salisbury had given money, not to Peters, but to
Kelly, who was the _fidus Achates_ of Peters, but was also secretary to
the "Riverside Labourers' Association." Both had for years been known
to Lord Salisbury in connection with the sugar protection movement.
Kelly had gone down to Hatfield and seen Mr Gunton, the secretary, and
in consequence of that interview had sent a letter to Lord Salisbury
explaining that money was wanted to give a piece of beef each to 120
of "our best men at Christmas." The said best men were "all fathers
of families," and "had never been in receipt of parochial relief."
Lord Salisbury, who gave evidence, remembered getting this letter
and sending Kelly a cheque for £25; but had no recollection of any
talk with Mr Gunton as to Kelly's previous visit to Hatfield, in
consequence of which the letter was sent. He thought it unlikely that
Kelly would have seen Mr Gunton in that way, but confessed his error
when shown that Kelly's letter to him actually mentioned the interview.
The landlord of a temperance hotel, which was the headquarters of
Peters' and Kelly's activities, testified to having spent this money
on provisions, which he distributed to "needy working men," all save
a small balance, which was otherwise distributed. He kept no books.
Peters was on the committee of distribution.

Now, granting that the money had been honestly spent in the way
alleged, there was clearly no libel on Peters in saying that the money
had been sent him to promote the Trafalgar Square demonstration.
There would be no wrongdoing in getting money from any one for such
a purpose. He declared in his evidence that Lord Salisbury had never
given him anything--"nothing, only his friendship." The buffoonery
of the plaintiff's evidence, which kept the audience in chronic
laughter, was not more remarkable than the bluster of his statements
as to his accounts. Never was a demonstration apparently got up with
a more enthusiastic zeal by working-men promoters, or with a more
simple-minded financial reliance on Providence. Only £4 had been spent
on the demonstration--"to obtain bands and banners." What the placards
had cost witness could not say; he could not even say whether they had
been paid for. The evidence of his colleague, Kelly, was hardly less
edifying. He had been one of those who had received Corporation money
to get up meetings against municipal reform.

Bradlaugh's defence was that even on the evidence there was no libel.
When Baron Huddleston interrupted him to suggest that he should
apologise, he answered that he was ready to do so as regarded Lord
Salisbury, but he could not deal with the rest of the case on those
lines. On the evidence led he was bound to admit that he had been
inaccurate as regarded Lord Salisbury's cheque; but his statement had
been wider than that, and neither in general nor in particular had it
been of the nature of a libel. Further, he had spoken in good faith
and on distinct evidence. Peters had on pressure admitted receiving
subscriptions from persons outside his Association; and Peters had
refused the investigation originally invited in 1886, when the other
facts could have been better traced. And Bradlaugh had led evidence as
to the receipt by Peters of such cheques, two of which had been shown
to him.

In pleading his case, Bradlaugh perhaps made the mistake of being too
concise in putting to the jury the point that on any view of the facts
no libel had been committed. Baron Huddleston was more circumspect.
He turned affably to the jury, and in the most intimate manner laid
before them his view that Bradlaugh had directly or indirectly accused
Peters of getting up "bogus" meetings--a statement which Bradlaugh had
distinctly repudiated, and which was entirely wide of the facts and
the evidence. The whole drift of Bradlaugh's charge, as he stated, was
"that the Conservative party were playing with edged tools in assisting
any such meetings." As the summing-up went on, indeed, it became clear
that Baron Huddleston felt this also, and that in his view there had
been a "libellous" statement against Lord Salisbury, who, however,
was not the suitor in the action. On the point of law he made no
intelligible attempt to rebut Bradlaugh's plea that the statement sued
on was in no sense a libel; but he thoughtfully suggested to the jury,
with regard to the evidence of a witness called by Bradlaugh, that
they could consider what value should be put on the evidence of a man
who objected to take the oath. He further took much pains to impress
on the jury that "a man could never be allowed to say things against a
man, and then, when he found that they were false, to say he was very
sorry, but he honestly believed them true. Such a thing would never
do." On this instruction the jury found a verdict for Peters, with £300
damages. And yet in the following year (November 1889), when Mrs Besant
sued the Rev. Mr Hoskyns for libelling her, during her School Board
candidature, in a circular which had the statement: "A Freethinker thus
describes the practical outcome of her teaching: 'Chastity is a crime;
unbridled sensuality is a virtue,'" the same judge hardily instructed
the jury that "the question was not whether Mrs Besant's books were
obscene," but as to "the defendant's honesty of belief at the time he
had published the handbills." He himself became conscious as he went on
of the iniquity of this instruction, and proceeded to cite and vilify
passages from Mrs Besant's works, thus doing everything in his power to
prejudice the jury on the real issue. But in the end, while professing
to put to them the separate issues of publication, libel, and truth
in fact, he added the issue: "If untrue, _then did the defendant when
he published it honestly and reasonably believe it to be true_, and
that it was his duty to publish it, and did he do so without malice?"
And yet again he urged that even if the libel were found untrue, "they
would have to say whether the defendant had been guilty of _mala fides_
in the sense he had explained." His own obtruded opinion was that a
priest might justifiably issue such a circular to his parishioners.
Thus he laid down for the trial of Mrs Besant's action against a
priest the exactly opposite principle to that which he laid down in
Peters' action against Bradlaugh. The priest was now adjudged free
to do what the judge had said "would never do." The priest confessed
in the witness-box that he had not read any of Mrs Besant's books
when he issued his circular. He had availed himself of the libel of
a pseudonymous scoundrel, making no attempt to ascertain its truth
Bradlaugh in his statement as to the Fair Trade demonstration had
spoken on the actual evidence of cheques which he saw, and on his
knowledge of the habitual co-operation of Peters and Kelly. But the
Conservative judge contrived to find the priest right and Bradlaugh
wrong. And it is on the strength of a verdict thus procured that
Bradlaugh has since been spoken of as "a convicted libeller."

The view taken of the case by Bradlaugh's fellow-members of Parliament
was shown by their instantly getting up a subscription to pay the
damages and costs in which he had been mulcted; and the view taken by
the legal profession may be gathered from the following verses, which
appeared in the _Star_:--



  "HALVES.

  (AN HISTORICAL POEM.)

  DECEMBER, 1885.

  Take this cheque, my gentle Kelly,
  Fill our starving London's belly:
  Hie thee down with dearest Peters
  To the lowly primrose eaters;
  Tell the unemployed refiners
  Cecil sends them of his shiners;
  Let each toilworn Tory striver
  Batten on this twenty-fiver.
        Spread my bounty
        Through the county;
  But my right hand must not know
  What my left hand doth; and so,
  If thou value my attention,
  Full details must thou not mention.

  FEBRUARY, 1886.

  Riots! whew! too bad of Kelly.
  I must ask him what the---- Well, he
  Can't at least pretend that I
  Had any finger in this pie.

  APRIL, 1888.

  Halves, Peters, halves! Honour 'mongst _us_, my sonny;
    Had I but tipt the wink a year ago,
  _You_ might have gone and whistled for your money,
    And _my_ straightforwardness been spared a blow.

  I was ashamed of giving you the cash:
    You were ashamed of getting it from me
  Three hundred is the value of that splash
    On our fair fame, unspotted previouslee.

  Remember, sonny, when your freethought flesher
    Showed Charles your name and mine upon that cheque,
  Had I owned up, I think you must confess your
    Foot would not now have been on Charles's neck.

  So halves, my Peters:--nay, I crave not coin:
    To touch the brass would not befit my station:
  I only ask that Kelly you'll rejoin,
    And pay your debt in Tory agitation."

This, unfortunately, was not the only libel suit forced upon Bradlaugh
during the year. He had himself to raise another, against a gang of
enemies who had laid their heads together to produce a so-called
"Life" of him, which was but a tissue of the most malignant libel from
beginning to end. It attacked his daughters as well as himself, and was
so flagrantly malicious that no legal defence was possible. The nominal
author was one Charles R. Mackay, and the nominal publisher was one
Gunn--a name which was afterwards admitted by Mackay to be fictitious.
Believing that the real author or promoter of the work was Mr Stewart
Ross, editor of the _Agnostic Journal_ (then the _Secular Review_), one
of his most persistent and scurrilous assailants, Bradlaugh set about
bringing him to account, and soon procured adequate evidence of his
complicity. A friend had accidentally discovered for him that the book
was printed by the Edinburgh house of Colston & Co.; and on proceeding
against that firm in the Court of Session, he obtained from them an
apology, costs, and payment of £25 to his usual beneficiary, the
Masonic Boys' School. But the most effective assistance was supplied
by those concerned in issuing the book, who were soon flying at each
other's throats. In August 1888 Mr Stewart Ross prosecuted Mackay, with
a solicitor named Harvey and his clerk named Major, for conspiracy "to
obtain from him £225 with intent to defraud." Mackay had previously
brought two actions against Ross, one for slander, and one to recover
£500, which actions were settled on the basis that Mackay withdrew "all
claim against the defendant for writing the 'Life of Charles Bradlaugh,
M.P.,'" the plaintiff admitting the claim to be "based on an erroneous
conception," while Mr Ross was to pay Mackay "in respect of the other
claims" the sum of £225, besides writing Mackay a letter "denying
the slanders alleged," and opening his columns for subscriptions
to a Defence Fund on Mackay's behalf. Mr Ross now alleged, in his
prosecution for "conspiracy," that Major (whose employer was Mackay's
solicitor) had called on him and alleged that he had seen some pages
in Ross's handwriting in the MS. of the Mackay "Life," and "that he
(Ross) who had denied all share in the authorship of that work, would
be prosecuted for perjury unless he recovered possession of those
pages." Ross admittedly agreed to pay £250 (afterwards reduced to
£225) to recover the pages. In Court he would not admit that he had
written any part of the "Life," but explained that he thought some
unpublished MS. of his might have been got hold of for it. The promised
MS., he stated, was not returned, and he stopped the cheques he had
given towards the promised payment. In cross-examination he confessed
to having supplied Mackay with books and "materials" to help him in
writing the "Life," and had seen the proofs of it. Another of Ross's
coadjutors fiercely quarrelled with him, and handed over to Bradlaugh's
solicitor further evidence of his concern in the publication. Mackay,
who became bankrupt, did likewise, expressing to Bradlaugh his regret
for having been led into the publication by Ross. Bradlaugh was
advised, however, that he had evidence enough without their testimony;
and at length, after various delays, Mr Ross, through his solicitor,
begged Bradlaugh's solicitors to intercede with their client to let
him make a voluntary settlement. This being acceded to by Bradlaugh,
Mr Ross agreed in Court (15th February 1889, before the Hon. Robert
Butler, Master in Chambers) to account for and destroy within four days
all copies of the book which had "come into his possession or control,"
to pay £50 to the Masonic Boys' School, and to pay all Bradlaugh's
costs as between solicitor and client. Soon afterwards Mr Ross wrote
to the _Star:_ "I am not and never was the publisher of the 'Life,'
and I cannot 'destroy all the copies of the work' for the reason that
I never possessed more than one copy." Bradlaugh commented that he was
still willing to have the case tried in court; and that he had evidence
of Ross's sending out a large number of copies of the book for review,
and once having close on 200 bound copies on his premises. Mr Ross is
understood since to protest that he had been victimized in the matter,
and at Bradlaugh's death he penned a remorseful and eulogistic article.
Copies of the book are still believed to be on sale in underhand ways;
and Mrs Bonner has recently had to take legal proceedings against one
London bookseller who announced it in his catalogue, knowing it to be a
libel, and not legally saleable.

In connection with the same matter Bradlaugh in 1888-89 brought an
action against the _Warrington Observer_ for a libellous article
founded on the "Life;" and the proprietors, after undertaking to
justify, finally withdrew the plea, apologised, and paid the costs
and a sum of £25 to the Masonic Boys' School. A Scotch journal, the
_Dumfries Standard_, had previously apologised with promptitude,
paying costs and £10 to the Masonic Boys' School, which institution
thus netted £110 in all from the proceedings in this one matter.
Yet further, Bradlaugh sued the _Warrington Observer_ for another
libel, consisting in the publication of a malicious report of a silly
proceeding in which a man who had been subpoenaed by him in the Peters'
case applied to a London police magistrate to know whether he could
recover "costs" for a day's attendance at the court. The man had
actually been paid 10s., and Bradlaugh had refused to pay more. This
case was tried (April 1889) before Justice Manisty and a special jury,
who awarded Bradlaugh £25 damages--another windfall for the Masonic
Boys' School.

As against the manifold annoyance of libels, Bradlaugh had in 1888 one
great and solacing relief from a strain which had sorely tried him. His
various lawsuits over the Oath question, despite the success of those
against Newdegate, and the saving of outlay through his pleading his
own cases, had left him saddled with a special debt of between £2000
and £3000, on which interest was always running. And, even as the
lawsuits themselves helped to cripple his power of earning while they
were going on, his intense application to his Parliamentary work had
limited his earnings in the years following on his admission. His whole
sources of income were his lectures, his journal, and his publishing
business. But he could no longer give proper personal attention to
the pushing of the business; the lecturing was curtailed; and the
journal fell off in circulation just when it might have helped him
most. Thousands of miners had been among its subscribers, despite its
non-democratic price of twopence; but prolonged distress among the
miners caused many of these subscribers to emigrate, while many more
could no longer buy it. In villages where forty or fifty copies had
been bought, one or two had to do duty for all the remaining readers.
All the while the borrowed capital on which the Freethought Publishing
Company had opened business in Fleet Street had to bear interest,
whereas, in the ordinary course of things, it had been hoped that the
principal would have been repaid in the years that, as the event came
about, had to be devoted to a desperate struggle against political
injustice. Freethinking friends, who knew how he was worried by the
fresh debts incurred in the struggle, started a fund in 1886 to meet
the more pressing burden of £750, which then had to be repaid, and
over £500 was then collected. But in August of 1888 his embarrassments
became so serious that, answering correspondents who urged a holiday
on him, he wrote: "My great trouble now is lest I should be unable
to earn enough to meet my many heavy obligations, in which case I
should be most reluctantly obliged to relinquish my Parliamentary
career." He was then addressing seven and eight meetings a week, while
other members were recruiting on the moors and on the Continent. The
avowal, through no action of his, got into the newspapers, and was the
means of setting agoing a general public subscription, the credit for
starting which is due to Mr W. T. Stead, then the editor of the _Pall
Mall Gazette_, whose action in the matter was chivalrous and generous
in the highest degree. Another fund was opened in the columns of the
_Star_, another at Northampton, another in the _Halifax Courier_,
and the upshot was that in a month's time there had been subscribed
close upon £2500. There were over 6000 separate donations, and the
subscribers' names indicated a remarkable range of recognition. In
addition to Freethinkers and Northampton friends who had helped nobly
before and now helped again, there were remittances from sympathisers
whose goodwill had not before been known to the subject. Sir T. H.
Farrer, Lady Ripon, Mr D. F. Schloss, Lord Hobhouse (in "acknowledgment
of gallant service done for mankind"), Mr Stansfeld, Mr T. B. Potter,
Mr M'Ewan, M.P., Admiral Maxse, W. M. Rossetti, Auberon Herbert, Mrs
Ernestine Rose, Mr Labouchere, Lord Rosebery, Mr Newnes, Lord J.
Hervey, Mr Munro Ferguson, are a few of the best-known names that catch
the eye in the long lists, which include thousands of signatures. A
number of Churchmen and Conservatives subscribed as such, some of them
largely; £200 was given by one Freethinker over an initial, and £100
"from Melbourne;" groups of workers and clerks made up sums among them;
clubs collected goodly totals; widows gave their mites; and hundreds of
scattered toilers gave yet again of their scanty pence to the man they
believed in. At his wish, the funds were closed, as far as possible, on
his birthday, 26th September, when he counted fifty-six years, _bien
sonnés_. Had he allowed the subscription to continue, the amount would
probably have been doubled. As it was, he paid off all his outstanding
law debts, and had a clear £1000 to put towards the others; and he
turned with new cheerfulness and courage to his tasks, his holiday,
as usual, being of the shortest. But hard upon the great relief came
a great blow, of the kind that turns good fortune to ashes. On 2nd
December his daughter Alice died of typhoid fever, after sixteen days'
illness, aged thirty-two. She was her father's daughter in her high
spirit, in her generosity, in her energy, and in the thoroughness of
her work as a student and teacher of biology, though for all her years
of ungrudging service in the latter capacity there is only left to
show, apart from the gain and the gratitude of those she taught, her
little tract on "Mind considered as a Bodily Function." It had been
her wish that her body should be cremated; but the crematorium just
then chanced to be out of order, and she had to be buried. Briefly
acknowledging condolences, and replying to the request of many friends
to be permitted to attend the funeral, her father wrote, to appear
after it was over, the lines: "Any public funeral would have been
painful to me; and I trust I offend none in not acceding. The funeral,
private and silent, will have taken place at Woking Cemetery. The
funeral wreaths and flowers sent are reverently laid on the grave."

       *       *       *       *       *

The year thus grievously closed had been for Bradlaugh as full as
the preceding ones of political work, which involved strife over and
above that of the lawsuits, and over the Oaths Bill. On two issues he
came in conflict with sections of the democracy. The first was Sir
John Lubbock's Early Closing Bill, one of those measures in which
legislatures go about to remove, as it were, tumours and swellings by
applying a vice to them. Declaring himself strongly in favour of the
shortening of hours by voluntary effort, Bradlaugh vigorously attacked
the Bill as an arbitrary and capricious application of force on wrong
principles, pointing out that it would close shops irrespectively of
the length of the shifts worked in them by the assistants, and that it
left untouched public-houses and tobacco-shops, which were kept open
latest. It had the further demerit of renewing the old Sunday Trading
Act of Charles II. and increasing the penalties. On a vote (May) it
was rejected by 278 to 95. This was one of several points at which
Bradlaugh came in conflict with the policy of empirical regulation
in which some Socialists go hand in hand with some Conservatives. He
was blamed, as before mentioned, for rejecting State interference in
some cases, while urging it in others, as that of truck. The criticism
failed to note that he opposed truck as a form of fraud, not at all
necessarily arising out of the economic situation, whereas hours of
labour are determined by the whole economic situation. While offending
some Radicals as well as Socialists by opposing time-laws, he offended
the extreme Individualists by supporting Public Libraries, which he
justified as he had justified State education, and as being a rather
more defensible form of public expenditure than much of the outlay on
armaments, to which so few individualists strongly demur, on principle
or in practice.

But his sharpest conflict with men usually on his own side was over
the Employers' Liability Bill, to which he had given constant and
laborious attention as a member of the Committee appointed to consider
the subject in 1886. He had then and afterwards taken every possible
pains to get at the views of the workers, had spoken on the subject
before many thousands of them, and had done all he could to make the
Bill as strong a measure as could be carried. He did not like it in
every respect; he objected to the retention in any form of the doctrine
of common employment, and of the principle of contracting-out, both
of which he had sought to restrict by his action as far as possible;
but the measure was in several respects an improvement on the Trade
Unions Bill of 1886, then introduced by Mr Broadhurst, Mr Burt, and
others, to amend the Liberal Act of 1880. That Bill had been referred
to a Select Committee under the Gladstone Government, which Committee
duly reported. The Bill now (1888) under discussion was, save for one
or two points, either the re-enactment of the Act of 1880, or the
formulation of the suggestions of the Select Committee of 1886. It
was, however, strongly opposed by the labour leaders, especially by Mr
Broadhurst, who denounced it as "a sham, misleading, mischievous--the
worst Bill ever introduced to the House," and moved its rejection
on the second reading (December), after it had been amended by the
Standing Committee on Law. On this, Bradlaugh had a sharp brush with
him, pointing out that with two exceptions all the complaints urged
against the 1888 Bill struck equally at Mr Broadhurst's own Bill of
1886. The hon. gentleman denounced the new Bill as protecting the
London and North Western Railway Company, whereas it did exactly, in
that regard, what his own Bill had done; and an amendment which he had
moved, as expressing his latest wishes, would equally have legalised
that Company's arrangement with its employees. Bradlaugh's criticism
was perhaps the sharper, inasmuch as he believed that the Liberal
labour leaders were mainly concerned to throw out the Bill because it
was introduced by a Conservative Government, who would in due course
have claimed the credit if it had passed. Bradlaugh knew well enough
that the Conservative party systematically facilitated certain popular
measures which the same party would have strongly resisted when
introduced by Liberals; but that was for him no reason for refusing to
pass the measures so facilitated. He took all he could get, and fought
for the return of a Liberal Government all the same. Mr Broadhurst, it
is believed, afterwards regretted in some respects the attitude he took
up, as did Sir William Harcourt, who hastily supported Mr Broadhurst
by accusing Bradlaugh of attacking the trade unions in general--a
charge which Bradlaugh instantly and warmly repudiated. However that
may be, Bradlaugh's case may be read by those who care in his letter to
his friend, Thomas Burt, M.P., published as a pamphlet. Mr Burt sent
a reply, to which Bradlaugh gave prominence in his journal, in which
one of his phrases, as to "setting the employed against the employer,"
was objected to; and on this point Bradlaugh explained the precise
limit within which he applied it. He always opposed those workers who
sought to make it illegal for masters to insure themselves against loss
through accidents to their men; and on that point Mr Burt fully agreed
with him.

A less prominent but important part of his dealings with labour
problems was his service on the Committee which investigated the
subject of the immigration of destitute aliens, and on that which
investigated the working of Friendly Societies and Industrial Assurance
Societies. As to the destitute immigrants, he was satisfied that they
were not then numerous enough to justify any legislative action.

While to some extent in conflict, as we have seen, with some of his
fellow Radicals, he was able to co-operate actively with the Irish
party. On the Bill for the Commission to investigate the charges
against the Irish members, he made what he confessed he believed to
have been one of his best parliamentary speeches, but found it either
ignored or "cut down to nothing" in the press. Recognition was forced,
on the other hand, by his ever-increasing work on behalf of India,
which in the course of the remaining two years of his life was to
make his name known to every Indian interested in the affairs of the
dependency.


1889.

Though already showing sad signs of failing health, Bradlaugh seemed
to begin the session of 1889 with even extra energy. He laid down
for himself at once a resolution dissenting from the Government's
rate of commutation for perpetual pensions; a motion to expunge from
the journals of the House the old resolutions excluding him; a fresh
resolution on the utilisation of waste lands; a repetition of his
motion for a new Rule as to the calling of members to the table; and a
motion for a Royal Commission to consider the grievances of the native
population of India; and he further introduced his Bill for the repeal
of the Blasphemy Laws, and a Bill for abolishing political pensions.
On the first paragraph of the address he made a strong speech in
opposition, criticising the foreign, Indian, and colonial policy of the
Government; and in regard to Ireland he made another of still greater
vigour, setting out and ending with a telling attack on Mr Chamberlain,
and vehemently impeaching the whole drift of Mr Balfour's policy in
Ireland. Yet, again, he spoke on the Trafalgar Square question.

The first reached of his motions was that for the expunging of the
resolutions excluding him in 1880, on which (8th March) he made an
extremely temperate speech, assuring the House, however, that on behalf
of his constituents he would certainly go on making his motion until
it should be carried. The Government strongly opposed, through Sir
Michael Hicks Beach and Sir Edward Clarke, who were however answered by
Sir Henry James and Sir William Harcourt, and Bradlaugh had 79 votes
to 122. He certainly did little about this time to propitiate the
Government, making repeated attacks on their Irish policy and their
colonial administration, besides keeping up such a fire of questions
on grievances of every description, submitted to him from all parts of
the world--miscarriages of justice, official misdeeds and tyrannies,
breaches of the Truck Act, jobs domestic and foreign, misdirection and
ruin of emigrants, fleecing of workers in Government employ, waste of
money on royal palaces, Irish oppression, and a score of things which
cannot even be catalogued. Probably no non-official member had such a
budget of daily business; and certainly none was more in earnest. At
the beginning of April we find him writing:--

 "I confess that I left the House about 1 A.M. on Tuesday,
 after a long sitting, in a very bad temper. All our front bench voted
 in favour of the Government resolution to spend £21,500,000 on the
 Navy, and to raise £10,000,000 of this by increasing the National
 Debt."

Of State finance he was the most vigilant of critics; and he caused
much Tory resentment by habitually impugning the claim that the old
purchase of Suez Canal shares had been a good investment. At least ten
millions, he pointed out, had been spent in Egypt in pursuit of the
policy of looking after the shares in question.

There was thus small sign of Conservative complaisance towards his Bill
for the Abolition of the Blasphemy Laws. As always on such measures,
he spoke with extreme concision and moderation, packing his argument
with authoritative deliverances, and making only a quiet and simple
appeal to good feeling. Similar bills had been introduced by Professor
Courtney Kenny and other Nonconformists in the two preceding years,
but had come to nothing. At first the promoters had inserted what
is known as the "Indian clause," an extraordinary form of enactment
which provides that any use of language "likely" to hurt religious
feelings and cause disturbance, with the "intention" of so hurting
feelings, should remain punishable. This clause had been unanimously
rejected by Freethinkers as making fully a worse law than the old, the
vague expressions as to "intention" and "feeling" being capable of a
construction such as bigots had not ventured to put on the blasphemy
laws, and the principle being plainly destructive of that of free
discussion. Even one or two religious bodies petitioned against the
Bill on the latter score. The dissatisfaction with the clause was so
great that it was dropped, but even then it was not till Bradlaugh
took up the Bill that it reached a second reading (12th April). It
was now opposed not only by Tories, but by pious Liberals, Mr Samuel
Smith and Mr Waddy in particular taking pains to get up a panic about
the possibility of having impious caricatures distributed at the
doors of churches and Sunday schools, and children's minds blasted by
blasphemous placards. Finally there voted only 46 for and 141 against
the second reading. Most of the Liberal leaders were conspicuous by
their absence.

He was better supported in the following month in his motion to dissent
from the Government's system of commuting perpetual pensions. It was
seconded by Mr Hanbury; and after a debate, in which Mr Gladstone
spoke at some length in support of the resolution, the closure was
carried on Bradlaugh's motion by 359 votes to 96, and the resolution
was only rejected by 264 votes to 205. The moving of the closure in
the midst of a speech by Dr Clark--a step which Bradlaugh declared to
be fully justified by all the circumstances--gave some offence among
Liberals; and just before, Bradlaugh had been made the subject of a
furious newspaper attack by Mr John Burns, who pronounced him "the
greatest enemy of labour in the House of Commons," and an opponent
of "Employers' Liability Bills and other measures affecting the real
interests of the people;" described him as shirking the Trafalgar
Square question; and attacked him for having resisted a motion
to reduce the Lord Chancellor's salary. The last step would have
struck most people as one of peculiar chivalry, seeing that the Lord
Chancellor had been one of Bradlaugh's most persistent and embittered
personal enemies; but as the other items show, Mr Burns was not much
concerned as to the validity of his charges. He even chose to speak of
Bradlaugh as having sought an interview with him, when the fact was
that Mrs Besant had introduced him to Bradlaugh to get the benefit of
his legal advice. A more offensive attack was made on Bradlaugh shortly
afterwards by Mr F. C. Philips in a serial in the magazine _Time_. The
novelist made one of his characters allude to "a ruffian in the United
States--a colonel, I believe--who is a kind of Yankee Bradlaugh, only
that he has the courage of his convictions, which Bradlaugh has not."
This was by far the least offensive part of the passage; and Bradlaugh,
after expressing his surprise that any editor or publisher should
permit such a wanton attack, added:--

 "F. C. Philips is right in saying, at any rate so far as he is
 concerned, that I have not the courage of my opinions, for my opinion
 is that I ought to horsewhip him. As I will not do that, I reprint his
 words."

The publishers promptly and cordially apologised for the outrage, which
had taken place entirely without their knowledge, and which was really
a piece of gratuitous literary ruffianism, not easily to be matched in
modern times.

Much more troublous than any scurrilities or injustices from without
was the shock which now came upon him from Mrs Besant's definite avowal
of her conversion to the so-called "Theosophy" of Madame Blavatsky. No
persistence of personal regard could countervail the complete sense
of intellectual sundering from the friend and colleague of so many
years which this involved for him; and the change was the more felt
by him for that his physique was now fast giving way. But he held on
his course with unchanging fortitude, adding fresh Freethought work
to the ever-growing bulk of his work for India, and adding to his
earnings as he could by articles for the reviews which were now open
to him. An article on "Humanity's Gain from Unbelief," contributed in
the spring to the _North American Review_, elicited an invitation to
debate the point with the Rev. Mr Marsden Gibson, M.A., a Newcastle
clergyman. This was accepted, and the debate took place at Newcastle in
September, before densely packed audiences, on two successive nights.
It was conducted with good feeling on both sides, the nearest approach
to personalities being in respect of Mr Gibson's using the argument
that Bradlaugh "stood alone," since "at least eleven apostles of the
Secularist party" had left it within twenty years, Mrs Besant's being
the only name given. Bradlaugh drily replied that he doubted whether
the assertion was material to the question, but that if it were he
could remind Mr Gibson "that eleven apostles deserted _his_ founder
in the sorest hour of his need." One bystander, not a Secularist,
summed up the debate as a matter of Bradlaugh launching cannon-balls
while his opponent spun cobwebs, a criticism partly justified by the
rev. gentleman's defining "unbelief" as a state of mental indecision,
whereas Bradlaugh, of course, used the term to signify the critical
and challenging spirit. But the open-minded reader can judge for
himself on the published verbatim report. It elicited a number of
sermons, some decent and courteous, others otherwise.

If Bradlaugh could have spent his autumns on Loch Long (where at
last he had secured for the dwellers and health-seekers an almost
complete stoppage of the pollution of the waters by the discharge of
Clyde dredgings and other horrors) instead of in the usual round of
lecturing, he might still have been among us. But he could never have
the rest needed to build up his strength after the session's long drain
on it; his vascular system was fast running down, and in October 1889
he was at length prostrated by a dangerous illness, a manifestation
of the Bright's disease which was soon afterwards to destroy him. A
surprising and touching proof of the change in public feeling towards
him was given in the offering up of prayers in many churches for his
recovery--a display of goodwill not undone by shoals of religious
tracts, or even by the already started legend that he was "altering
his opinions." One clergyman, the Rev. F. E. Millson of Halifax,
generously gave a lecture specially to make a collection to help the
sick man financially, which realised £10; and Mr M'Ewan, M.P., with
characteristic munificence, sent him a cheque for £200 to enable him
to take a health voyage to Bombay, as advised by the doctors. After
weeks of extreme danger, he began slowly to regain ground. The great
frame was not to be overthrown by one attack. But the seizure had been
a terrible one: he had looked as close on death, he told us, as a
man could look and live; and it was with heavy hearts that those who
loved him saw him set sail in cold November for India. Before going,
he penned a few notes, calmly contradicting the absurd story of his
change of opinions, and other legends. "It would be ill-becoming to
boast," he wrote, "but I may say that my convictions and teachings
have not been with me subjects of doubt or uncertainty." One of the
legends, circulated by the _British Weekly_, was to the effect that "on
one occasion he said that he had almost been persuaded by a sermon of
the Rev. Arthur Mursell." On this he remarked that the story was pure
fiction; that though he had had friendly services from him, he had only
heard Mr Mursell preach once in his life; and that all he remembered
of it was the concluding intimation: "My subject next Sunday will be
'Beware of the Dog.'" The reverend editor of the _British Weekly_ had
thought fit to add to his tale the judgment: "He (Mr Bradlaugh) has
the earthliest of minds, is without a touch of poetry, imagination, or
yearning"--a Christian characterisation which the patient treated with
the charity it so eminently lacked.

There was a pathetic fitness in the advice which sent the sorely shaken
man to India to recover, if it might be, health wherewith to work. It
was just after delivering a lecture on India that he felt the first
grasp of his illness. What strength he had had, he had indeed freely
spent for India. In 1888 he had handled more Indian matters than in any
previous year; and in particular had made (27th August) an important
speech (reprinted under the title: "The Story of a Famine Insurance
Fund and what was done with it") by way of protest, in the discussion
on the Indian Budget, against the mismanagement of Indian affairs.
Early in the session he had obtained a first place for his notice of
motion on Indian grievances, but the Government took away the time; and
he now made his criticism none the less forcible. None of his preserved
speeches will better show the peculiar energy of his grasp of Indian
questions, and of his pressure on the Indian Government; few indeed
will better show one of the great characteristics of his speaking--the
intense and constant pressure of his argument, the continuance of the
highest stress of thought and feeling without a moment's lapse into
incoherence or verbiage. It was in particular a crushing indictment of
the action of Lord Lytton--the most destructive ever brought against
him, Anglo-Indians say; and the ultimate effect of it was that the
misapplied famine insurance fund was at length restored to its proper
and solemnly pledged purpose.

It was a very different pulse and note that marked the short and grave
address delivered by the stricken orator to the Indian Congress of
December 1889. On board the _Ballarat_, jotting down a voyager's "log"
for the friendly readers of his journal, he declared on the third day:
"My health is coming back very fast; my hopes are rising even more
rapidly;" but a man does not come back in a week or two to health from
the door of death; the recovery slackened; and when he reached Bombay
on the 23rd he was still far from convalescence. His reception would
have electrified him into strength again if enthusiasm could. In the
Congress Building, for the occasion of his coming, there were added
to the 2000 delegates 3000 spectators, and the whole multitude rose
to their feet in mass to cheer him as he appeared on the platform.
Hundreds of addresses for presentation had been sent to him from all
parts of India, some of them in rich cases, or accompanied by beautiful
gifts in gold and silver and ivory and sandalwood. The address prepared
by the Congress itself was read in lieu of all by the chairman, Sir
William Wedderburn, and then the guest made his speech, a grave
oration, touched with the tremour of recent suffering and restrained
by the sense of broken strength, but full of greatness and dignity--a
speech worthy of the man and of the occasion, weighty and wise in its
counsels, urging patience, and disclaiming praise. It is impossible to
read it without catching the vibration of its deep emotion, and as it
were the breath of the listening host. The sight of the living mass,
and the hearing of the actual proceedings at the Congress, gave him a
new and illuminating knowledge of the great forces he had been dealing
with; but he had nothing to unsay or unthink. Of the vitality of the
Congress movement he was well assured, and he could gather for himself
how much of sympathy among English civil servants had as yet to be
concealed.

He had no time to give to seeing the regions and the peoples which
the Congress represented; and in any case it was the voyage that was
to restore him if anything would. So on 3rd January he set sail from
Bombay for home, receiving a tremendous ovation at the Apollo Bunder,
where the carriage could scarcely get through the crowds that rained
flowers on him and Sir William Wedderburn. The end of January found him
once more at his library table and at his work, "marvellously better,"
indeed, but not restored. There was to be no restoration.


1890-1891.

Before sailing for India Bradlaugh had issued a summons to an
extraordinary and special general meeting of the members of the
National Secular Society, to be held after his return on 16th February,
to receive from him a special statement, and his resignation of the
Presidentship, and to elect a successor. This last was a step he had
hoped to postpone until he had carried a Bill repealing the blasphemy
laws. Freethought and Freethinkers would in that event stand free
and equal before the law; and, with endless tasks before him as a
legislator, he felt he might fitly withdraw from the more militant
and organising work of Secularism, of which he had done so much. But
looking to his defeat on his Bill in 1889, and to the desperate illness
he had just gone through, he felt he must needs lighten his burdens
forthwith as best he could.

The scene of his resignation was a touching one. From all parts of
England came men who had fought with and for him, some of them for a
good thirty years listening to his teaching and spreading it around,
criticising him at times, but always admiring him, standing by him
in battle and rejoicing with him in victory; and when he rose to lay
down his leadership, and the cheers of welcome on his recovery rang
warmer and warmer, it was some time before he could command himself
to speak. A few moving periods told of the necessity he lay under of
giving up a task which he was no longer fulfilling as he held it ought
to be fulfilled. The party would have rejoiced to have him hold the
office nominally, letting another do the work. But he "must be a real
President or none. My fault," he went on, "has sometimes been that I
have been too real a one (laughter), but it is no easy matter to lead
such a voluntary movement as ours. I think I am entitled to say that
the movement is stronger when I am giving up this badge of office
(holding up Richard Carlile's chairman's hammer) than when I first took
the presidential chair." And a thunderous cheer endorsed the claim.

The office had no emoluments whatever. The little wooden hammer and its
memories had been the prize for a generation of work involving much
spending. He calculated that during thirty years he had given to the
Society and its branches, as proceeds of benefit lectures, some £3000;
and the members on their part gladly relieved him of certain money
obligations of considerably less amount. He ended:--

 "I do not say, 'We part friends,' because this is not parting. The
 movement is still as much to me as ever, as much as it has been during
 my life. For more than forty years I have been a speaker among you.
 Now I lay down the wand of office, and the right to give command, but
 I hope always to remain with you a trusted counsellor. And to you, I
 hope unstained--to you, I hope untarnished, I give back the trust you
 gave."

When the cheering and the addresses and resolutions had been got
through, he proposed as his successor in the Presidentship Mr G. W.
Foote, the able editor of the _Freethinker_ and the leading lecturer in
the movement; and on Mr Foote's being unanimously elected, he handed
over to the new President the hammer of office, with the words: "I give
it to you, George William Foote; and I trust that when it becomes your
painful duty to resign, as I do now, the progress that has been made in
the cause while you have held it will be such as to compensate for the
pain."

In dismissing the meeting he gave it some grave words of counsel:--

 "The battle of Freethought in this country is not over. There are
 signs, not far off, of possible strife, and there will be needed
 wise heads, cool heads, and firm hearts. There is a tendency to
 renew the anti-Jewish cry; and you may easily, in connection with
 the lower phases of the Salvation Army, get excitement and tension
 that need a greater self-command than is always shown among us, if
 personal conflict is to be avoided. The forthcoming report on sweating
 may bring about an attempt to raise the anti-Jewish cry; and it is
 impossible to have strife between religions without the possibility of
 the various religions turning on the one party that is outside all.
 One element of danger in Europe is the approach of the Roman Catholic
 Church towards meddling in political life.... Beware when that great
 Church, whose power none can deny, the capacity of whose leading men
 is marked, tries to use the democracy as its weapon. There is danger
 to freedom of thought, to freedom of speech, to freedom of action. The
 great struggle in this country will not be between Freethought and the
 Church of England, nor between Freethought and Dissent, but--as I have
 long taught, and now repeat--between Freethought and Rome."

To his political work he turned with all the strength he could
command. At Northampton his constituents welcomed him back with joyful
enthusiasm, and an address from the Liberal and Radical Association
formally expressed their felicitations. When he addressed them, he had
to stand for several minutes on end before the cheering and singing
would subside. The speech had some pregnant passages:--

 "I, personally, am not so hopeful as my colleague of a democratic
 Parliament in England. And why? Because a democratic Parliament in
 England can only come when you pay each servant there for the work
 and the service he renders you--(cheers)--and when the worry and the
 wear-and-tear of earning a livelihood beside his work do not"--he
 ended the sentence shortly--"sometimes break the man down."

On points of policy he went on to express himself firmly and
uncompromisingly as to the Eight Hours' movement, against which he had
already written and spoken as being utterly fallacious on the side of
practice and pernicious in point of principle; and taking the demand
for a time-law as the prelude to a demand for a wage-law, he assailed
the entire movement as illustrating the practical application of
Socialist theory to practice, both democratic and despotic:--

 "As you all know well, I have always been in favour of Trade Unions;
 as you know also, I have spoken for them, and I have worked with them.
 (Cheers.) But I say here, I am utterly against--and though it should
 cost me my seat in Parliament to-morrow, I would be against--the
 doctrine and opinion that Parliament could thus add one farthing to a
 man's wage, or one jot to a man's comfort. (Cheers.) What Parliament
 can do is, remove restrictions; what Parliament can do is, reduce
 expenditure; and what the Emperor of Germany had better do, instead
 of summoning a conference of the nations of the world, is to disarm
 twenty regiments (great cheering), and send back to the plough and
 to the machine a huge number of men who now live upon the labour of
 others, and lessen the wage of others, by being soldiers instead of
 working men. (Loud cheers.) I speak most strongly on this, because
 I feel most strongly on it ('Hear hear.') I am not one of those,
 as you will know, who have ever yet, and I have passed too close
 to the end of my life to have any thought at anyrate to become one
 now--I am not one of those who have ever flattered the people, or
 striven to win their favour by telling them that from the Crown or
 from the Parliament that could be got which could not be got from
 themselves, by themselves. (Cheers.) I would impress upon you this.
 What the State gives to you, the State takes from you first; it
 further charges you with the cost of collection, and with the cost of
 distribution. ('Hear, hear.') Better by far for you that you should
 save for yourselves and spend for yourselves, than put into the purse
 of the State your earnings, of which only part can at best come back.
 (Cheers)."

Just after the Northampton meeting came the death of the man who had
been his right hand in all his struggles there from the first--Thomas
Adams, now ex-Mayor. Mr Adams had been a valued friend as well as a
trusted agent, and his death came as another of the thickening blows
of fate upon the rapidly aging man. In Parliament, all the same, he
stuck sternly to his tasks. At the opening he had set down for himself
important amendments to the Indian Councils Amendment Bill and to the
Criminal Law Practice Amendment Bill; a repetition of his motions as
to waste lands and the expunging of the old resolutions excluding him;
and a motion on behalf of the financial Reform Association, calling for
the abolition of the gold and silver duties and compulsory hallmarking;
and he introduced besides an India Bill of his preparation. He at once
resumed work, too, on the Royal Commission on Vaccination, on which he
had done careful work in the previous year, charging himself as he did
to watch over the case for the anti-vaccinators, though not committing
himself definitely to their view of the facts. He had been left out of
the previous Royal Commission (moved for by himself) on Market Rights
and Tolls--partly, it was thought, because Her Majesty could hardly
be asked to include the Republican and Atheist in a list of "trusty
and well-beloved" counsellors; but in the Vaccination Commission the
difficulty was somehow overridden.

In the House, his first long speech was in opposition to the motion of
Mr Cunninghame Graham on the Address with regard to the restriction of
adult hours of labour by international legislation, and the sending
of a delegate to the "Berlin Conference" to support such proposals
there. The speech was a very vigorous one, and besides exposing some
bad blunders in Mr Graham's figures, argued strongly against the policy
of a time-law as a crude and superficial treatment of a far-reaching
economic problem. During the course of the year he developed this
criticism in various review articles and otherwise; and a systematic
treatment of it was to have made a large part of the book on "Labour
and Law" on which he was engaged at his death. Among his other
Parliamentary discussions he fought his colleague's battle on the
occasion on which Mr Labouchere was suspended for persisting in the
declaration: "I do not believe Lord Salisbury"--in connection with the
escape of Lord Arthur Somerset from a criminal prosecution.

He continued to incur a fair share of the personal abuse of which he
had had such ample experience. The _Observer_ told him that he was
an object of "loathing" to Hindoos on account of his religious and
Malthusian views; Mr Hyndman described him and Mr Burt as "friends of
the plundering classes;" Mr William Morris's _Commonweal_ dubbed him
a "renegade;" and Mr Cunninghame Graham, by way of retaliation for
punishment, declared his work to have consisted mainly in fighting
about the oath and the existence of a Deity. The _Lady's Pictorial
Journal_ more subtly described him as "no longer the rough, rugged,
carelessly-dressed man of the people, who once vainly sought admission
to the popular Chamber, but a grave, dignified, and well-groomed
senator;" and this legend of his "transformation" did duty with many
as an exculpation of their own past brutalities. It almost seems
heartless, as against such self-absolved penitents, to record the fact
that in his costume he had always been the most conservative of men,
and that he dressed in 1890 exactly as he had dressed in 1880 and 1870.
The clerical stories of "awful examples" of ruined infidels, tacked
on somehow to his name, and the more obviously knavish stories of his
having been "shown up" or "confounded" on the platform, continued
to have their customary circulation; and during his illness and his
absence the libellous "Life," of which the surplus copies had _not_
been destroyed, was more actively circulated.

Accustomed as he was to the steadfast repetition of religious fictions
against him after all manner of refutation and contradiction, he
was somewhat astonished at the length to which some of the labour
leaders had contrived to mislead their followers as to his action in
the House. At a Labour Electoral Congress at Hanley, in April, one
speaker, who declared himself otherwise friendly, actually moved a
resolution "That this Congress regrets the determined opposition of
Mr Charles Bradlaugh to the Employers' Liability Bill, as the working
men of this country desire it to be passed, and refuses to recognise
him as a labour representative." As has been above told, he had been
the strongest supporter of the Bill, whereas its rejection had been
moved by Mr Broadhurst. The mover may have been under a hallucination
in which the roles of Mr Broadhurst and Bradlaugh were reversed; but
the extent to which working men can go astray under such hallucinations
was shown by the fact that the resolution was actually carried. The
irrational hostility thus shown was of course not lessened when, in
the debate on Mr Bartley's motion for an inquiry into profit-sharing,
Bradlaugh administered another unsparing correction to Mr Cuninghame
Graham, who in his excitement became so "interruptious" as nearly to
get himself suspended. "The hon. member," said Bradlaugh among other
things, "charged Liberals and Nationalists with having done nothing to
prevent the starvation of one man whose terrible death he had brought
before the House; but what did he do himself except promote a strike
in the district, one result of which was that many men were now without
employment who had theretofore at least been kept from starving?" Mr
Graham, with his youth and health, was no match for Bradlaugh, out of
health.

While politics were thus growing increasingly contentious for him, he
paradoxically found calm in new resorts to the theological controversy.
A series of serenely trenchant papers on the question "Are the
Hebrew Scriptures Impregnable?" in criticism of the treatise of Mr
Gladstone--a criticism to which the right hon. gentleman offered no
reply--were among his writings during the session. He had increasing
satisfaction, too, in his work for India; and on the occasion of a
reception at Northampton to the delegates of the Indian Congress, he
delivered a most eloquent speech, full of his old fire, though towards
the end he was fain to express the wish that he had the force and fire
of the old years. In the House, in the course of the session, besides
constantly pressing Indian needs on the Secretary of State, he made
an important speech on the case of the Maharaja of Kashmir, whose
high-handed deposition by the Indian Government, on the scantiest
justification, had seemed to him as worthy of reprobation as wrongs
to common folk. Republican as he was, he would never admit that an
Imperial Government, which itself professed to rest on hereditary
monarchy, had the right to tread underfoot at pleasure the titles of
Indian princes; and he saw at once what the Imperialists are so slow to
see, that a brutal disregard of the established titles of such princes
is the surest way to breed disaffection to British rule, which has
the least satisfactory title of all. The official Liberal press, of
course, lectured him for his failure to see that the official course
was the right one, and charged him with championing a corrupt native
despot. The sufficient answer to such deliverances was and is that
within three years the Maharaja of Kashmir was restored, just as the
famine fund was restored on Bradlaugh's previous pressure. From such
eloquent facts we may infer what he might have done for the reform of
Indian administration had he lived, and what a loss to the cause was
his death, just as his most important plans were coming within sight of
effective discussion. In his last enfeebled years he did for India what
some men might have reckoned good work for a lifetime.

Weakened as he was, he entered on one undertaking during the summer,
which, in the state of his health, was anything but prudent. Mr John
Burns, in a public speech, spoke vaguely of challenging him to a
debate in some very large hall on the Eight Hours question; but on
being asked to come to business, declared that nothing would meet his
wishes short of an open-air debate which could be "heard" by 200,000
persons, who were to vote on the issue--a farcical proposition which
made an end of the matter so far as Mr Burns was concerned. Mr Hyndman,
however, who from endorsing Mr Burns' denunciations of Mr Bradlaugh
had in due course passed to denouncing Mr Burns, wrote to Bradlaugh
challenging him in Mr Burns' place. "I observe," he put it, "that John
Burns imposes such terms in relation to his debate with you, that
he obviously does not wish it to come off." After some contentious
preliminaries, a debate on the Eight Hours question came off between
Mr Hyndman and Bradlaugh in St James's Hall on the evening of 23rd
July. It was, like most of the debates on Socialism held in London, a
noisy scene, many of the Socialists present being disorderly in the
extreme; and it was grievous to some of us to think that Bradlaugh,
with his failing health and slackening nerves, should have the strain
of such a meeting for such a grossly inconsiderate audience as made up
the following of his opponent. The published report will serve to show
whether the advocacy on the other side made the debate worth holding.

Twice in this year did Bradlaugh seek fresh strength on his fishing
ground of Loch Long, far from the madding crowd. Failing still to
build himself up to anything like his old standard of health, he
grew more and more anxious about his money matters, the successful
management of which depended so much on his keeping up his personal
earnings. Physically unable to lecture so much as formerly, he sought
by writing review articles to keep up a sufficient income to meet all
his obligations. But on the other hand, he found himself at length
obliged to close the Freethought Publishing Company's shop in Fleet
Street, which meant too burdensome a cost for a bookselling business,
even were that business not one-half boycotted by "the trade," and
catering for only a section of the reading public. Appealing to that
section to help him in the way of clearance sales, he wrote: "There are
some folk who repeatedly say that I am rich. I should be a very happy
man if to-morrow I could assign all my assets, except my library,
which I should not like to lose, to any one who would discharge my
liabilities." The closing of the shop was made the occasion of another
painful step--the dissolution (December 1890) of the partnership which
had for so many years subsisted between him and Mrs Besant. They had
diverged too far in thought to permit of the old community of interest,
though to the last Mrs Besant continued to write for the _National
Reformer_, and there was no cessation of friendly intercourse.

Hardly was the dissolution accomplished when once more the overwrought
man was struck down by the malady which had barely let him go a year
before, and which this time was not to be fought off. On the 10th of
January 1891 he came home very ill indeed, hypertrophy of the heart
having followed on the old Bright's disease. After the first seizure
was over, he went to see his physician, who diagnosed the trouble.
Still he did not take to bed, and about midnight on the 13th an attack
of spasm of the heart, as he wrote in the last notes he penned or
dictated, "nearly finished my chequered life." It was soon to end
indeed. He rose to work as usual the next morning, and was unwilling
even to have the doctor called in again; but on the day after he was
persuaded to take to bed, though he went reluctantly, not dreaming
at first that the end was so near. He had the best of doctoring and
nursing; being attended by his old friend, Dr Ramskill, and by his near
neighbour, Dr Bell; while he had in his daughter a nurse for whom the
doctors had nothing but praise; but the case was past cure. He faced
the end, as he had done twice before, with perfect tranquillity, sorry
to close his work, but calm with the calmness of a perfectly brave and
sane man. Coming from Scotland to see him a little before the end, I
found him in the perfect possession of his judgment, occupying himself
among other things by auditing the peculiar accounts of the Salvation
Army, which he had mastered much more thoroughly than their framers
liked; and at that time, though they had no hope, the doctors thought
his illness would be a long one. He himself, I saw, was prepared for
the worst. The one regret he expressed was that he probably should not
be able to move once more the motion he had put down yet again at the
beginning of the winter session, for the expunging from the journals of
the House of the old resolutions excluding him. He had set his heart
on carrying that motion, even as a similar one had been carried after
the lapse of years in the case of Wilkes. And, happily, across the very
shades of death there came for him a light of comfort on this his last
desire. Dr W. A. Hunter, M.P., on being appealed to without the dying
man's knowledge, instantly and kindly consented to move the resolution
on his behalf on 27th January, when its turn came; and Bradlaugh, when
told of what had been arranged, declared that that was the very choice
he should have made, and turned contentedly to his rest, though he did
not suppose the motion would even now be carried.

Dr Hunter's success, however, was complete. The motion was opposed at
great length by the Solicitor-General, Sir Edward Clarke; but after
Gladstone had delivered a conciliatory speech, the front bench agreed
to accept the motion on condition that the words characterising the
resolutions to be expunged "as subversive of the rights of the whole
body of electors of the kingdom" should be dropped. These words had
been copied from the motion in the Wilkes case, so as to follow
precedent; but of course the essential thing was the consent to the
expunging of the resolutions, which very sufficiently implied all
that was said in the withdrawn words. So, after Sir Edward Clarke
had protested against a deletion, which he admitted to be "a mark of
ignominy," Mr W. H. Smith agreed to the motion; and although Mr De
Lisle made a foolish speech in opposition, even he expressed his "deep
regret at the illness of Mr Bradlaugh," while Sir Walter Barttelot not
only deplored that there should be any lack of unanimity, but expressed
his admiration of the straightforwardness Mr Bradlaugh had shown in the
discharge of his duties as a member. "God grant that the junior member
for Northampton might recover; but whatever happened, hon. members
would feel that, by accepting this motion, they had done a generous
act towards a man who had endeavoured to do his duty." So the motion
was finally carried without dissent, amid cheers, and the wrongful
resolutions were formally expunged.

Alas, when the news of the triumph was telegraphed by Dr Hunter, it was
too late to tell the dying man. Day by day he had grown weaker, albeit
cheerful and even sanguine when he drowsily talked of himself; and
now he had sunk so low that his daughter dared not rouse him with so
exciting a message. He never fully regained consciousness; and those
about him learned how bitter a thing it could be

  "To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost
      Which blamed the living man."

The end came on the morning of 30th January 1891. He was fifty-seven
years and four months old.

As in his previous illness, prayers had been offered up for him in many
churches; and many were the tributes of those who had been opposed
to him in religion and in politics; still more, of course, of those
more in agreement with him. But his daughter had been driven to take
the precaution of procuring signed testimony, from those who had been
attending him, that during his illness he was never heard to utter
one word "either directly or indirectly bearing upon religion or any
religious subject." The eternal pretence of a "recantation" was already
current afresh, as it had been after he resigned his presidentship of
the National Secular Society, even while he was writing his arguments
against Mr Gladstone's book, and re-stating his Atheism as explicitly
as ever in his "Doubts in Dialogue." One of the last non-political
lectures he had given, in November, had been a manifesto on "My Heresy
now and Thirty-six Years ago;" and in December he had discoursed on
"Life, Death, and Immortality" with no faltering in his doctrine.

The funeral was on 3rd February, at Brookwood Cemetery. He had never
troubled himself as to how his body should be dealt with, so his
daughter chose that it should be in the "earth to earth" fashion.
At his express wish, written in a will dated some years before, the
burial was perfectly silent--an arrangement which caused some regret
among friends, and some characteristic phrases about "being buried
like a dog" from others, who could not feel the pathos and solemnity
of the silent sepulture, amid the uncovered multitude who had come to
pay their last tribute at the grave of the man they had honoured and
loved. As he had always disliked the shows of mourning and the badges
of grief, those who knew his tastes wore none. But the grief of the
thousands who filled the trains from London to the burial-place was
such as needed no other attestation. They were of both sexes and all
classes, from costermongers to right honourables; they came from all
parts of England; and soldiers' red coats and the bronzed faces of
hundreds of Hindus gave a wide significance of aspect to the throng.
Hundreds, many of them from Northampton, had brought the little
tri-coloured rosettes they used to wear in the old fighting days; and
many threw these in the grave, some saying as they did so that their
work too was done, now that he was gone.

Over an hour after the coffin had been laid in the earth, when it was
thought that the multitude had passed away, the immediate friends and
mourners of the dead went back to take a last look, and they found that
a lingering band of devoted men had got the shovels from the workmen,
and were one by one obtaining the last sad privilege of casting their
handful of earth into the grave.


CONCLUSION.

If the foreg