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Title: William Cobbett - A Biography in Two Volumes, Vol. 2 (of 2)
Author: Smith, E. E. (Edward Elmer)
Language: English
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number 49844.

                           WILLIAM COBBETT.

                             A BIOGRAPHY.

                               VOL. II.

                          ST. JOHN’S SQUARE.

                           WILLIAM COBBETT:

                            _A BIOGRAPHY_.

                           BY EDWARD SMITH.

                            IN TWO VOLUMES.

                               VOL. II.

                  CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET.


                       [_All rights reserved._]



                             CHAPTER XIV.


    AND FLOWERS TO GROW”                                             1

                              CHAPTER XV.


    ROBBERY BEING PERCEIVED”                                        24

                             CHAPTER XVI.


    “THEY NATURALLY HATE ME”                                        45

                             CHAPTER XVII.


    “THE OUTCRY AGAINST ME IS LOUDER THAN EVER”                     63

                            CHAPTER XVIII.


    TRIFLE”                                                         88

                             CHAPTER XIX.


    TOO FAR”                                                       114

                              CHAPTER XX.



                             CHAPTER XXI.



                             CHAPTER XXII.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.


    HOLD IS NOT ONE”                                               198

                             CHAPTER XXIV.



                             CHAPTER XXV.


    NOW SEE THAT CAUSE TRIUMPH”                                    249

                             CHAPTER XXVI.


    “I NOW BELONG TO THE PEOPLE OF OLDHAM”                         275

                            CHAPTER XXVII.



    PUBLICATIONS                                                   305

    INDEX                                                          321




The summer of 1805 finds Mr. Cobbett again at Botley with his family.
A letter to Wright, dated 5th July, says, “I have found here a most
delightful house and a more delightful garden.” Preparations are being
made for a prolonged stay, and for the occasional entertainment of his
correspondent: “I have given you a deal of trouble, and hope that you
will find hereafter some compensation during the time you will spend at
Botley.” The carpets are to be taken up (in Duke Street), and all the
bedding, &c., to be “removed upstairs, packed in mats or something.” On
the 28th of July Cobbett writes--

    “I am glad that you are like to close your labours so soon,
    for I really wish very much to see you here, and so do all the
    children and their mother, all of whom have delightful health;
    and Mrs. Cobbett is more attached to Botley than I am--one
    cause of which is, she has made her servants humble, and she
    bakes good bread. I shall have made it a delightful place
    before you will have finished your volume.”[1]

There is a good deal about Botley and its neighbourhood to charm the
tastes of men like Cobbett. A fine open country, which was then to a
great extent unenclosed--it was a genuine agricultural and sporting
district, of which the little town was the centre. It was quiet enough,
not being on the road to anywhere; and the people were as quiet as the

    “… Two doctors, one parson. No trade, except that carried on
    by two or three persons, who bring coals from the Southampton
    water, and who send down timber. All the rest are farmers,
    farmers’ men, millers, millers’ men, millwrights, publicans who
    sell beer to the farmers’ men and the farmers; copse-cutters,
    tree-strippers, bark-shavers, farmers’ wheelwrights, farmers’
    blacksmiths, shopkeepers, a schoolmistress; and, in short,
    nothing but persons belonging to agriculture, to which, indeed,
    the two doctors and the parson belong as much as the rest.”

As Cobbett himself described them a few years later. The creek of the
little river Hamble touches the end of the principal street; and here
was a tiny wharf, and a miller’s house. On the farther side of the
creek stood the “delightful house and more delightful garden,” which
promised such bliss. Here is one of the first resulting joys:--

    “Now, I am going to give you a commission that you must do us
    the favour to execute with the least possible delay. It is
    to find out where fishing-nets are sold, and to buy us a net
    called a Flue or Trammel net. It must be five feet deep, and
    fifteen yards long; with plenty of linnet, and not too coarse.
    We have a river full of fish sweeping round the one side of
    our little lot of land; but for want of such a net, we catch
    comparatively but few. It will not cost above three or four
    pounds, and we shall gain that in fish in a month. But the
    salmon-peel are now coming up with the spring tides, and we
    hope you will be able to send us the net by the Southampton
    night coach of Monday, to be left at the coach-office till
    called for. If you should miss that coach pray get it off by
    the next after; for this is a subject with regard to which
    none of us have any patience. The net is for jack, trout, and
    salmon-peel, &c.”

    “… The net is excellent. Plenty of fish. Nobody has such an one
    in this place!”

    “… Since last Saturday morning we have caught nearly as many
    fish as would sell in London for as much as the net cost you.
    We have, indeed, famous sport; and I wish to know if Mr.
    Windham be in town, that I may send him some of this excellent
    fish. When you come yourself we will show you what we can do;
    and I really hope that you will be able to get here soon.”

Now, quiet Botley began to rub its eyes. Here was a new neighbour who
kept the wheels of life well greased. Visitors came to and fro; and
the coach, or the waggon, had more parcels to carry. The precious
scribblings from Botley House augmented the weight of the post-bag.

As autumn drew nigh, the bucolic pulses were quickened by the rumoured
revival of English rustic sports. So, quiet Botley was awakening into
something like fame.

One of Mr. Windham’s well-known fancies was the noble art of
self-defence. Cobbett was entirely with him there; and it so happened,
about this time, that a fatal case of pugilism had brought the matter
before the public. Mr. Cobbett defended Boxing in the _Register_, and
resolved to promote all kindred manly exercises.

Accordingly, a festive gathering was prepared, for this very first
autumn. Here is a copy of the handbill:--


    “On Friday, the 11th of October, 1805, being Old Michaelmas
    Day, will be played in the village of Botley, a grand match at
    single-stick. The prizes will be as follows:--

        “1st prize, Fifteen guineas and a gold-laced hat.
        “2nd   “    Six guineas and a silver-laced hat.
        “3rd   “    Four guineas.
        “4th   “    Two guineas.

    “The terms, as to playing the ties, &c., will be announced upon
    the spot. Those who have played for and lost the first prize,
    will be allowed to play for the second; those who have lost the
    second will be allowed to play for the third; and those who
    have lost the third will be allowed to play for the fourth. The
    playing will begin at eleven o’clock in the morning; and, if
    possible, all the prizes are to be played for on the same day.
    For any further information that may be required, application
    may be made, either in person or by letter, to Mr. RICHARD
    SMITH, of Botley.

    “Gentlemen coming from a distance will find excellent
    accommodation of every kind at and in the neighbourhood of
    Botley, which is situated at only about five miles from
    Southampton, and at less than four miles from Bishops Waltham.
    The distance from London, through Farnham, Alton, and Bishops
    Waltham, is a short day’s journey, being barely sixty-eight

                                    “_Botley_, _23rd September, 1805_.”

This announcement, scattered over Hampshire and Wiltshire, brought a
good company together, and was the precursor of future successes of the
same character. As a matter of course, however, Envy made of it another
nail for the coffin of Mr. Cobbett’s reputation;--these things were
_so_ demoralizing.

The revels being over, preparations for extensive planting were made,
the month of October being largely taken up with the transfer of
apples, pears, rose-trees, &c., to the newly cleared ground. A letter
of the 4th November says,--

    “I have almost got my trees planted, and shall have done
    completely in one week from this day. Excuse all this gardening
    plague, and look forward to the time when you are to find a
    compensation in the fruit.”

The following, dated Botley, 1st December, 1805, throws much
interesting light on then current prospects:--

    “DEAR SIR,--On the other side you will find letters for William
    and Nancy, which you will be so good as to cut asunder and give
    to them respectively.

    “Mrs. Cobbett and I have now fixed upon our plan and scale
    of living, and we mean to carry it into effect directly.
    We intend to live here from the 1st of May to the Queen’s
    birthday in every year; to take a lodging in town for the
    three winter months; to put three of the children to school
    almost immediately; and, of course, to get rid of the house
    and furniture in Duke Street, as soon as I can get to town and
    put up the curtains, so as to make the house look neat and
    handsome. Of this you are to speak to nobody. I tell it you for
    your own information, and that you may be thinking of a place
    for a store-house. Suppose a winter lodging for thirteen weeks
    to cost us three guineas a week--that is 40_l._ Suppose my
    coach-hire to cost 20_l._ a year (ten trips between London and
    Alton)--that makes 60_l._ Suppose 20_l._ a year for store-room
    (it will not be above half that)--that makes 80_l._ a year.
    Very well: the house-rent, the taxes, the water-duty, and the
    interest of money upon goods and wear and tear of goods in Duke
    Street (besides the interest upon what I paid for the lease),
    amounts to more than 240_l._ a year. The garden-stuff here is
    worth 25_l._ a year, exclusive of fruit of all sorts. The milk
    will not cost us above a third part of what it costs in town;
    bread is one-ninth cheaper (an immense sum in the year); the
    meat about an eighth cheaper. In short, I am fully convinced
    that exclusive of the consideration of health, and taking into
    the account postage, &c., &c., attendant upon this distant
    situation, that the saving would be at least 300_l._ a year.
    Fuel at Botley is little more than half the price of fuel in
    London. So much for that.

    “Now, as to the present, my intention is to go to town as
    soon as this job shall be safely over. Then to let the house,
    and settle all about that matter. In the meanwhile, pray go
    on with your preparations. I like the type very well indeed;
    and, having now done with my improvements and planting (which
    has been most fortunately finished) I shall set myself about
    the prospectus, and shall, in short, make every preparation
    for most strenuous exertions. The post of to-day is not yet
    come in: it may bring me something. My present intention is to
    _fill_ the next sheet with an address to the people of England,
    calculated to make a deep and lasting impression upon them. I
    shall endeavour to show them what has been the cause of all
    their present dangers; and shall tell them that, in a future
    sheet, I will endeavour to convince them that such and such are
    the means of salvation. The time is most favourable for making
    such an impression; and, please God, I will not let it slip.
    The crisis, which I have always foreseen, is approaching, fast
    approaching; and it will require all our vigilance and all our
    courage to save our country, and at the same time to maintain
    the throne of our beloved and gracious old king.…

    “… The post is come. Thank you for your attention. The
    Bulletins may be set up for another number; but I shall, if I
    live and am well, _fill_ the next in the manner I tell you.
    Adieu. Thank you very kindly for the hare. Watch the papers
    well. Pray take care of the children. Thank you for William.

                                                           “WM. C.”

The newly projected great work is “The Parliamentary History,” which
is to contain a full report of all the recorded proceedings, from the
earliest times to 1803, when “The Debates” were commenced. A prospectus
appeared in the ensuing February. This valuable collection was
completed in sixteen volumes, and has long since been an indispensable
adjunct to a respectable library. Yet the name of its projector has,
unaccountably, become dissociated from it.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is reason to believe that these enterprizes were entailing
pecuniary embarrassment. The increasing sale of the _Register_ was
producing a splendid income; but so much new printing--a greater
part of which would require time for it to fructify--along with the
settlement and extensive improvements at Botley, could not but exhaust
Cobbett’s resources for the time. In fact a purchase of premises at
Droxford (a few miles from Botley), about this time, was made with
borrowed money. Another scheme, early in 1805, had been a downright
failure: this was “Cobbett’s Spirit of the Public Journals for 1804,”
being letters, essays, &c., taken from the English, American, and
French journals; a work of inestimable value to the student of history
and politics, but unattractive to the general reader. The following
extract from a letter to Mr. Wright, dated October 16th, 1805, makes
ominous reference to the money question:--

    “… I have this one caution to give you, which I beg you will
    observe; and that is, never speak nor hint, in the presence of
    Mrs. Cobbett, anything relative to my pecuniary concerns, or
    concerns in trade, of any sort or kind. She has her own ideas
    about such matters, which cannot be altered.

    “I have never mentioned the Spirit of the Public Journals to
    her; and there is no occasion for it. She knows I have lost so
    much by printing, &c., that she is fearful of everything of the
    kind. I cannot blame her anxiety; but as I cannot remove it, it
    is better not to awaken it. Always reserve these matters for
    _tête-à-tête_ opportunities.”

And, on the 29th December, in a letter to Mr. Wright, thanking him for
his editorial labours, and expressing pleasure at having been the means
of giving him another lift in the world, there is some sensitiveness
upon money-matters:--

    “My wishes, my wants too, and your own taste, turn of mind,
    and talents, have all conspired towards placing you beyond the
    reach of anxiety. But you should now look further. You should
    economize as much as possible.… A horse, a cow, a house, is
    soon gone in even trifling things, which we give into from mere
    want of thought, and not from our love of things themselves.”

A more interesting message occurs a day or two later:--

    “Mind the twelfth-cake. A good large one!”

The plan proposed, of spending three months of the year in London
lodgings, does not appear to have been carried out. During the spring
of 1806, Cobbett was living for a short time at Parson’s Green, Fulham;
and in June he returned to Botley, permanently, only going up to London
when occasion needed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The year 1806 was pregnant with importance concerning the future of
this country. The accession of “All the Talents” to power, after the
death of Pitt, marked its commencement; and the nation was alive with
hopes. Another abortive attempt was made to negotiate peace with
Napoleon. The affairs of India, Military Reform, Lord Melville’s
Impeachment, filled the public mind. But one matter, above all, which
now came to the front: and which, after many years of lagging, now had
a fair start,--was that of Parliamentary Reform.

And that which, at length, furnished the motive power to the wheels
of Parliamentary Reform, was no other than the invincible _Weekly
Political Register_ of Mr. William Cobbett. Fitful had hitherto been
the progress made. Few persons of position had been in earnest about
it. Very few had dared to give definiteness to their opinions; and
the number of those who could be called advocates of Reform, could
be counted on the fingers. The most prominent of these was Major

So, upon Mr. Cobbett’s wit and energy being devoted to the discussion
of public abuses, and the only real remedy for them, he found himself
surrounded by a new class of friends. Cartwright, Burdett, Bosville,
and others, no longer singly held their cry, but rejoiced in their
new exponent. Here was a man who had been learning all his lifetime,
and who could manfully confess his political errors, not only in
mere general terms, but to points of detail;--a man who had acquired
the high privilege of being maligned, misrepresented, and threatened
for the odious crime of speaking the truth in clear and unfaltering,
although sarcastic, terms:--one “to whom the public eye turned for
light and information.” That was the view, at least, taken by many of
the correspondents of the _Register_. So, if Mr. Cobbett was heaping up
wrath in one quarter, his name and his talents were being recognized in
another. The people were looking to him,--not the “swinish multitude”
of Mr. Burke, nor the “lower orders” of Mr. Wilberforce, but the people
who paid the taxes and wanted to see where the money went to.

There was a Mr. Robson, M.P. for Honiton, who particularly “wanted to
know,” and insisted on knowing, the truth about certain abuses in the
Barrack Department. The truth came out, with a story very much akin
to a dead-and-buried affair, in which a former Serjeant to the 54th
regiment was concerned. Mr. Cobbett took it up, and even assisted,
by interviews with the parties concerned, in helping to expose the
matter. The incident is chiefly noticeable, in this history, as being
the occasion, alas! of a divergence of sentiment between himself and
Windham; who, as Secretary at War, had not met Robson’s motions for
inquiry in a spirit according with the professions of his out-of-office
days. “Surely there is something in the air of the offices that lowers
the minds of men!” was the exclamation of Cobbett; “it was with still
better reason than I thought, that I recommended a clean sweeping and a
fumigation of the haunts of the Pitts and the Roses!”

At this juncture, Mr. Cavendish Bradshaw, the second member for
Honiton, accepted an office which required him to vacate his seat. Upon
seeking re-election he found an unexpected opponent in the person of
Mr. Cobbett, who hastily issued an address to the electors, offering
his services, in the event of no other public-spirited man coming
forward. At the last moment, Lord COCHRANE appeared, having in the
meantime read Cobbett’s letter to the electors; and the latter withdrew
in Lord Cochrane’s favour.[3] Mr. Cobbett, however, made a long speech
at the hustings, in temperate but most eloquent terms; ridiculing the
claims of a sinecure-placeman upon the constituency. Mr. Bradshaw’s
remarks were short; but they included the instructive information
that the last speaker was a “convicted libeller.” Well, the people of
Honiton couldn’t afford to throw away their two-guineas-a-head; so, Mr.
Bradshaw was re-elected.

A dissolution of parliament was now imminent, and the new forces
promised themselves a glorious time of it. The following letter, dated
Botley, 7th July, points to the increasing prominence of Mr. Cobbett’s
share in the campaign:--

    “… As to Mr. Robson’s re-election, I verily believe he would
    carry it for Westminster; and I would go up and aid him with
    all my might if he would stand upon my principle. He would
    surely carry it. Let me know when the dissolution is to take
    place. Give me, in your next letter, the very best intelligence
    you can get upon the subject, for I must begin without loss of
    time, to address the electors all over the kingdom.

    “Between you and me, my opinion is, that _I should not come
    forward now_, unless some body of electors were to call me
    forward.[4] Most men like me have been ruined in reputation by
    their haste to get forward. If the great objects which I have
    at heart could be accomplished without my being in parliament,
    I should greatly prefer it. I should first attend to my own
    family. I am perfectly sincere in all my public professions.
    But I will flinch from nothing that may tend to effect the
    great purpose of saving the country, which is now, every day,
    in more and more danger.… I wrote to Mr. Paull yesterday. I
    highly approve of his activity and zeal; but he is, be assured,
    too fond of the Bond Street set--has too great a desire to
    live amongst _the great_, to aim at the only objects that can
    save the throne and the liberties of the people.

    “P.S.--We have at last got some rain, which was wanted to
    prevent my trees from being totally burnt up.”

And, on the 17th:--

    “… I hope Mr. Robson will come down here this summer, and he
    and I will then settle upon a general scheme for an examination
    into the public expenditure. We will leave no branch untouched.
    Pray give my best respects to him, and tell him to take care of
    his health. Tell him that if he intends to stand for Honiton,
    he shall have my aid in preference to all other men upon earth
    and my aid is something, after all. I think him the most
    valuable man in parliament, and I hold it my duty to assist him
    in all his endeavours.”

The following extracts from letters of July-October, will illustrate
several incidents and opinions:--

    “… You opened my nephew’s letter, which I have before told
    you I have an objection to. This is what you would not like;
    and, in short, it is what I must say that I cannot permit.…
    You opened a letter from Mrs. Cobbett’s brother to her; and I
    did hope that my remark at the time would save me the pain of
    making a direct injunction like this. I am in no anger, and I
    wish to have no answer. The thing is now gone from my mind, and
    there, I hope, it never will return.”

    “… I greatly approve of what you are about to do with respect
    to Mr. Finnerty, to whom I beg you to present my best
    respects. As to Westminster, I hope Fox will live long yet;
    for I am always afraid, that if he were dead, tyranny, sheer
    unmixed _tyranny_, would be let loose upon the land. I am in
    no haste to become anything but what I am; and never will
    I be anything else by the usual base means resorted to by
    candidates. The time must come, when either such principles as
    mine will prevail, or when no principles at all will be of any

    “… Last Friday, I caught a very bad cold indeed, a-fishing,
    which I have not yet got rid of, though I rode ten miles this

    “Lauderdale is off, I hear, but I do not believe there will
    be any peace. It is not the least consequence, however, to
    anybody. Our affairs in this country will march on steadily
    towards the great point at which, sooner or later, they must

    “I want to know, by return of post, whether Mr. Robson intends
    to stand for Honiton; for if he does not, another person has
    asked me to write thither in _his_ favour. This is of great
    importance; for, I have told the person that I will so write,
    if Mr. Robson does not stand; but, if he does, I am decidedly
    for him in preference to any other man. Pray get me the
    necessary information upon this head.

    “Lord and Lady H. Stuart come here to-morrow; Mr. Paull will
    come on Friday and stay till Sunday most likely; and on Sunday
    comes another person for two days; so that you had better
    come on the 12th or 13th [August] instant; for we shall have
    no leisure at all if anybody is here.… Your pain in your side
    should be taken care of. I am sure country exercise is the
    thing. I speak from experience. A jolting upon the coach-box is

    “… I am particularly interested by what you say about Mr.
    Robson’s views with regard to the next parliament; and I
    think with you, that for him to be safely returned is an
    object of the very first consequence.… But, proportioned to my
    anxiety for his election, is my hope that what I have heard
    suggested is not true, viz., that he has an understanding
    with Bradshaw. That were disgrace, indeed! Disgraceful in
    all manner of ways; for how could he raise his voice against
    pensions and sinecures, after having acted in conjunction with
    a sinecure-placeman? This would be so shamefully bad, that I
    cannot think of it without shuddering. Surely Lord Cochrane and
    he could carry it for Honiton:[5] but then, Mr. Robson must,
    and without loss of time, make his declaration both to the
    borough and to Lord Cochrane, or else, he may depend that the
    whole force of the Cochranes will be brought to bear against

    “… I have put off what I intended to write until to-morrow. To
    this I have been moved, in part by a desire to see the _Morning
    Post_ before I begin; but, in truth, much more by a desire to
    go and see a new pointer of Farmer Hoad’s hunt. This, viewed in
    the abstract, is very bad; but, when it is considered that this
    exercise gives me health and nerves, and that these produce
    _Registers_, the time is not thrown away.…”

    “… The _Morning Post_ man labours hard.[6] But it will nought
    avail him. He must give us a good reason _why_ the Princess
    does not publish the report and evidence, or he had better hold
    his tongue.

    “I had forgotten the HATS. Get them from the same man:--


         [Illustration: Single-stick prize, won at Botley, 8th
                     September, 1806. 20 guineas.]

    And one silver-laced, the same words, only 10 guineas in the
    centre. The city of Salisbury has advertised that a match will
    take place there on the 17th instant, ‘similar to that at
    Botley.’ The hats must be here on Saturday at farthest. They
    need not be very good. A hat at a guinea will do very well; and
    as to the lace, I am sure that it need not cost more than about
    a guinea-and-a-half. However, do the best you can.

    “Lord Cochrane is here, hard at work a-shooting, but Mr.
    Johnstone is not yet arrived.”

    “We shall be in town to-morrow night, and I wish you could come
    to me about 10 o’clock at Col. Johnstone’s in Harley Street.

    “A glorious match have we had! A fine day, and a company of
    people not less than six thousand in number. The whole of the
    village was full. Stages, in the form of amphitheatres, were
    erected against the houses, and, perhaps, seats let to the
    amount of thirty or fifty pounds! Every gentleman round the
    country was here. The subscription pays the whole of all the
    expenses, without throwing any more than my single guinea and
    the price of my dinner upon me. The city of Salisbury will
    not equal this, take my word for it. There were twenty-three
    players. The first prize went to Somersetshire, and the second
    to Wiltshire. But the great contest was between the former
    county and Hampshire.”

    “… The little mare went off on Friday. Keep her well, use her
    regularly and gently, and I hope she will prove of use. William
    followed her with his eyes as long as he could get a glimpse of
    her; and the poor dear fellow could not speak a word all the
    evening after she went off. He was made somewhat more happy by
    my assuring him that she was not sold, and that she was gone to
    you. Fit her well with saddle and bridle, and have a curb, for
    she is apt to run off, though _your weight_ will be a tolerably
    good curb. The main thing is to see her well fed upon good hay
    and oats.”

    “… The little dogs came very safe; and they are both (having
    been new named Tipler and Daisy) at Steeple Court Farm, there
    to be reared up to dog-hood. I was yesterday at Meon Stoke,
    where we had some very fine coursing. We found five hares. Two
    stole off; three we coursed, and killed two. There was one
    large greyhound dog; but my little bitches beat him hollow.
    They go like the wind.… Lord Northesk, who lives at Rose
    Hill, near Winchester, has been here again to invite me there
    a-coursing; and I shall go next Saturday, if I am alive and

    “… As to your coming down, when you do come, I wish you to stay
    a week or ten days. You must go with us a-coursing; and I will
    take care to have a good field for sport provided.… If you
    never saw any coursing, you have a great pleasure to come; and
    you will see William ride his pony and leap over the ditches.”

Amongst new acquaintances of this year was no less a person than Dr.
Mitford, probably introduced to Cobbett by Sir William Elford, who was
a vigorous Windhamite. The Doctor’s passion for coursing consolidated a
friendship which lasted for several years; and we find Cobbett visiting
him in December, 1806, at Bertram House, near Reading, from which place
several articles in the _Register_ are dated. Miss Mitford has several
pleasing recollections of Cobbett, for whom she had considerable

But, of all his Hampshire friends, there was none so staunch as
Viscount Folkestone,[8] a rising whig politician of the day; a man
who endeavoured to carry the principles of his pretentious Party into
practice, and honestly believed that Mr. Cobbett was, with all his
untamable vigour, one of the best exponents of the current political
aspirations. Although the time came when, in 1834, their opinions
diverged on the Poor Law question, their mutual regard lasted to the
very end.


[1] The Parliamentary Debates.

[2] John Cartwright (1740-1823) was the boldest and the bravest
champion of free speech, for forty years or more, during the reign of
George the Third. Indeed, he was not unjustly styled “the Father of
Reform.” In early life he was in the navy, but left it after a short
period of service, and became an officer in the militia. He produced a
number of pamphlets, advocating all those ideas of popular rights which
have since his time been generally accepted in England, the first one
being in support of American Independence, published in 1774. But his
writings were heavy in style, and could not live beyond his own times
and the occasions which they served.

Major Cartwright’s personal character was lofty and amiable, and
Cobbett appears to have regarded him with peculiar affection. On one
occasion of the Westminster Anniversary Dinner, in 1816, an opportunity
occurred, under the following circumstances, of entering upon a
protest, against the Major being overlooked among the new men who
were finding it worth their while to pin their faith to the cause of
Reform:--After the two members were toasted, as usual, there appeared
the name of Brougham! Mr. Cobbett’s wonder at this was changed into
indignation upon finding Major Cartwright’s name at the bottom of the
list; and he declared he would not sit any longer at the table unless
an alteration was made. So Brougham’s name was taken out, and the
Major’s put in its place.

[3] “When I went as a candidate to Honiton, in the year 1806, I
began by posting up a bill, having at the top of it this passage of
Scripture, ‘Fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.’ After
this I addressed myself to the people of the place, telling them how
wicked and detestable it was to take bribes. Most of the corrupt
villains laughed in my face, but some of the women actually cried out
against me in the streets, as a man that had come to rob them of their
_blessing_!” (_Register_, xlviii. 500.)

[4] The following advertisement, to the Electors of Westminster, was
addressed to them in September, and appears in the _Morning Post_ of
the 19th:--

“Gentlemen,--Having, some time ago, publicly stated that, at the
General Election then looked for, and in the case then supposed, it
appeared to me that I ought to offer myself to you as a candidate;
having now been informed that, in consequence of that statement, a very
general expectation has been entertained that, upon this accidental
occasion, I should so offer myself; and having, by many individuals
of your respectable body, been pressingly urged to fulfil that
expectation; thus situated, I think it my duty, _first_, explicitly
to declare that, for the present, I relinquish the honour intended
me, and for this sole reason, that at this time I find it would be
next to impossible for me to devote myself wholly and exclusively to
the discharge of the great duties which, by your suffrages, would
necessarily be imposed; and, _secondly_, to warn you against the
calamity, the shame, the deep disgrace, that await you and your country
if, yielding to the venal solicitations of the stewards and butlers of
noblemen, you condescend to become the menials of menials, the laquies
of laquies,--and suffer the popular, the industrious, the enlightened
and public-spirited city of Westminster, hitherto considered as the
ever-burning lamp of the liberties of England, to be handed to-and-fro
like a family borough. Confidently trusting that you will, with
indignation, resent any project for thus extinguishing the fame of your
city and degrading the character of her electors; confidently trusting
that, when you consider that it is to you all other free cities and
boroughs look for an example, you will tear in rags the gaudy livery
now tendered for your backs; confidently trusting that, when the
question is _freedom_ or _bondage_, you will suspend all animosities
and differences, and act with a degree of energy and unanimity that
shall at once and for ever blast the hopes of all those who would make
you the instruments of your country’s ruin; thus trusting, and with a
mind full of gratitude for the goodwill which many of you have taken
occasion to express towards myself,--I remain, &c., WILLIAM COBBETT.”

Oddly enough, this advertisement precedes a highly abusive paragraph on
“this low-bred man.” The _Post_ was a good hater of the lower orders.

[5] In the end, Bradshaw and Cochrane were elected, and Mr. Robson
found a seat as representative for Oakhampton.

[6] This is with reference to a glorious newspaper squabble, especially
entertaining on account alike of the circumstances which aroused
it and of the combatants engaged. The first attempt to defame the
Princess of Wales had just been made, and the _Morning Post_ took up
the illustrious lady and the “infamous calumny” into its protecting
breast. The fulsome style, and the dark insinuations conveyed, aroused
Mr. Cobbett, and he, while asserting his indifference to the question
until there was really some charge, on one side or the other, upon
which to comment, wanted to know what the _Post_ meant by stating that
the Princess had been guilty of _no levities, but such as no woman in
the land was free from_. Ever the champion of the sex, he begged for an
explanation. Week after week the question was put, and reiterated with
new zest. There was no answer; but only column after column of abuse
upon the head of the “gross and abominable writer,” “this low-bred
man,” this “modern Jack Cade,” &c. “This gross and abominable writer
is exposed to the merited detestation of all classes, especially
the more elevated, whom this writer has, in his revolutionary cant,
described as the well-dressed rabble of the readers of the _Morning
Post_. _We hope the Attorney-General will look to this._” A very
silly and abusive pamphlet followed, under the wing of the _Post_:
“Strictures on Cobbett’s Unmanly Observations relative to the Delicate
Investigation; and a Reply to the Answer to an Admonitory Letter to
H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, containing an Account of the True Cause why
the Commissioners’ Report has not yet been Published, and many other
Additional Facts, &c.” (London, 1806). Here is one of the additional
facts:--“Vain, contemptible slanderer! where in all thy calumnious
pages is one unanswerable argument.”

[7] Among other references to Cobbett, Miss Mitford records a visit to
Botley (“Recollections of a Literary Life,” chap. xvii.):--

“Sporting, not politics, had brought about our present visit and
subsequent intimacy.… He had at that time a large house at Botley, with
a lawn and gardens sweeping down to the Bursledon river.… His house,
large, high, massive, red, and square, and perched on a considerable
eminence, always struck me as being not unlike its proprietor. It was
filled at that time almost to overflowing. Lord Cochrane was there,
then in the very height of his warlike fame, and as unlike the common
notion of a warrior as could be--a gentle, quiet, mild young man.…

“There was a large fluctuating series of guests for the hour or guests
for the day, of almost all ranks and descriptions, from the earl and
his countess to the farmer and his dame. The house had room for all,
and the hearts of the owners would have had room for three times the
number. I never saw hospitality more genuine, more simple, or more
thoroughly successful in the great end of hospitality--the putting
everybody completely at ease. There was not the slightest attempt at
finery, or display, or gentility. They called it a farmhouse, and
everything was in accordance with the largest idea of a great English
yeoman of the old time. Everything was excellent, everything abundant,
all served with the greatest nicety by trim waiting-damsels; and
everything went on with such quiet regularity that of the large circle
of guests not one could find himself in the way. I need not say a word
more in praise of the good wife, … to whom this admirable order was
mainly due. She was a sweet motherly woman.…

“At this time William Cobbett was at the height of his political
reputation; but of politics we heard little, and should, I think,
have heard nothing, but for an occasional red-hot patriot, who would
introduce the subject, which our host would fain put aside, and
got rid of as speedily as possible. There was something of _Dandie
Dinmont_ about him, with his unfailing good-humour and good spirits,
his heartiness, his love of field sports, and his liking for a foray.
He was a tall, stout man, fair and sunburnt, with a bright smile, and
an air compounded of the soldier and the farmer, to which his habit of
wearing an eternal red waistcoat contributed not a little.…

“Few persons excelled him in the management of vegetables, fruit, and
flowers. His green Indian corn, his Carolina beans, his water-melons,
could hardly have been exceeded at New York. His wall-fruit was
equally splendid; and, much as flowers have been studied since that
day, I never saw a more glowing or a more fragrant autumn garden than
that at Botley, with its pyramids of hollyhocks, and its masses of
china-asters, of cloves, of mignonette, and of variegated geranium.
The chances of life soon parted us, as, without grave faults on either
side, people do lose sight of one another; but I shall always look back
with pleasure and regret to that visit.”

[8] Afterwards 3rd Earl Radnor. He died in 1869, at a very advanced
age, after a life of real usefulness. Had there been more such men
as he, the domestic history of England, in our century, would be a
different tale.



In September, 1806, Mr. Charles James Fox died, and left one of the
seats for Westminster at the disposal of the Whigs. For several
years there had been a truce between the Whigs and the Tories, over
this celebrated constituency, and each party was represented there.
Accordingly, Earl Percy was quietly suffered to succeed to Mr. Fox.

The Whig nominee was no sooner elected, however, than a dissolution,
which had been for some time imminent, took place, and the two
factions, in their mutual consent, put up Mr. Sheridan and Admiral
Hood, Lord Percy having declined to come forward again. Sheridan was
a man who was for the winning side, whichever it might be, and he now
laid claim to the mantle of Mr. Fox, whose name and whose party had
been steadily growing into favour.

During the summer and autumn, Mr. Cobbett had been lecturing the
electors of Westminster upon their duties. He pointed out that, with
such traditions as theirs, there was less excuse for “base conduct”
than in any other body of electors; yet, that the constituency was
sinking to the level of a nomination-borough. _Base conduct_ meant:
clamouring against “peculators and depredators,” and then being led
by the nose by men who not only “clamoured,” but pledged their word
to reform, and to inquire into abuses; and who, immediately they got
a snug office, found ready excuses for the non-fulfilment of their
promises. The case in point was that of Mr. Sheridan, who, now that
he was treasurer to the navy, declined to bring forward charges which
he had threatened, “lest he should thereby create divisions in the
ministry, that is to say, lest he should lose his place.” Mr. Cobbett
was requested by a small section to come forward himself; but he
refused. The advertisement in the _Morning Post_ of 19th September,
announces his determination (vide note, p. 14). But he was actually
proposed, on the hustings, by a Mr. Hewlings.

Mr. Cobbett’s candidate was James Paull:--

    “A Scotchman who had been in India, who had been in Parliament
    during two sessions, who had brought articles of charge against
    the elder Wellesley for his conduct while Governor-General of
    India, who was a little man in point of size, who talked pretty
    well, who wrote better than half of the 658, who was perfectly
    honest and disinterested, and who was brave to the backbone,
    and persevering beyond any man. The Whigs had all along been
    deceiving this Mr. Paull, as they always have done every one
    else who has trusted in them. They, by leading him to believe
    that they would support his charge against old Wellesley,
    induced him to go on with the charges until they themselves got
    into power, and _then they turned against him_, and set all
    their whispering myrmidons to work to spread about that he had
    been a tailor, and that he was only accusing Lord Wellesley in
    order to get some money from him. I became acquainted with Mr.
    Paull, from his having been introduced to me by Mr. Windham,
    who strongly urged me to render him any assistance in my power
    in his undertaking against Wellesley; and I can truly say, that
    a more disinterested and honourable man I never knew in my life.

    “At this election, therefore, Mr. Paull was fixed upon for us
    to put forward, in order to break up the infamous combination
    of these two factions, and to rescue Westminster from the
    disgrace of submitting to them any longer. This was _my
    work_:[1] it was my own project: I paved the way to it by my
    addresses to the people of Westminster.… Hood was the Tory
    candidate; Sheridan the Whig candidate, having Whitbread and
    Peter Moore for his bottle-holders. They beat the people, but
    it was such a beat as pronounced their doom for the future, as
    far as Westminster was concerned. At the close of the election,
    Hood and the base Sheridan slipped away from the hustings into
    the Church of St. Paul, Covent Garden, just opposite the porch
    of which the hustings stood, and there they were locked up
    nearly all the night, with constables and policeman to guard
    the church.… Being in November, there was a plentiful supply
    of mud, with which the honourable representatives were covered
    all over from the forehead down to their shoes. I never shall
    forget them. They looked just like a couple of rats, raked
    up from the bottom of a sewer; and the High Bailiff, and his
    books, and his clerks, and his beadles, were all covered over
    in the same manner.”

Mr. Paull had started at the top of the poll. But as the days wore on,
the others gained slowly upon him, until, at the close, he was left
in a small minority. It was found, however, upon an analysis of the
voting, that Paull had polled 3077 plumpers, against Sheridan’s 955,
and Sir Samuel Hood’s 1033, whilst the coalition of the two latter had
given them each 3240 split votes. Paull’s total was 4481. These figures
were solemnly put upon record by the friends of reform (as they now
called themselves), in order to show “the manner in which Mr. Paull had
been defeated.”

An interesting conflict ensued, between Cobbett and Sheridan, which
must not go unnoticed. When the former was attacked by Sheridan in
parliament, in August, 1803 (as before related), it was a wilful and
unnecessary throwing down of the gauntlet. Mr. Sheridan was not the
man who should find fault with another’s popularity-hunting, much
less another’s inconsistency; and Mr. Cobbett proceeded to give him
the inevitable “Series of Letters,”[2] with which he usually favoured
the objects of his animadversion. Mr. Sheridan, now crowing on the
Westminster hustings, imputes _low birth_ to his opponents; Mr. Paull’s
father was only a tailor, and, as for his bottle-holder, why all the
world knows his story. And all the world (except Mr. Sheridan) might
have guessed what would have come of that. “Whence came the Sheridans?
From a play-actor! from a member of that profession, the followers of
which are, in our wise laws, considered and denominated _vagabonds_.”
And Mr. Cobbett proceeds further, and wants to know what are the public
services of these persons, Sheridan and his son Thomas, that they
should be receiving between seven and eight thousand pounds of the
public money? So Tom Sheridan offers to fight, according to a speech of
his own at a Sheridan dinner:--

    “This man, for his roughness and vulgarity towards my father
    (whom I think I may fairly describe as the person in whom
    eloquence may be said to preside), I had intended to thrash,
    and for that purpose I went down to his house with a cane, but
    he was not at home. I afterwards thought it best to offer him a
    pistol, and wrote to him for the purpose, but this valiant Mr.
    Cobbett answered me by saying that he never fought duels.”

Of course, the only utility of this sort of thing, was to provide
material for satire; and Cobbett, on his part, never failed to remind
Sheridan of his foibles, nor ceased to look upon his “statesmanship”
with the contempt it deserved.

       *       *       *       *       *

The result of this general election was promising enough, to the
increasing band of reformers. But, another dissolution, in the
following spring, gave a still greater impulse to the popular
feeling. Sir Francis Burdett and Lord Cochrane headed the poll at
Westminster, leaving Elliott (a Windhamite), Sheridan, and Paull out
in the cold. It was as early as this that Mr. Cobbett began to suspect
Burdett’s sincerity concerning Reform; and he refused, on account
of Sir Francis declining to act with Paull,[3] to interfere in this
election, although Lord Cochrane begged him to do so. But the powerful
_Register_ was as active as ever in the contest of principles which was
being waged.

       *       *       *       *       *

We may now glance at some of the correspondence of this winter, 1806-7.

    “… This last expression puts me in mind of what I thought to
    mention to you in my last; and that is, my intention to _insure
    my life_. A small sum annually will be well laid out this way;
    and I feel that I ought to do it. My family is now large, and
    it is my bounden duty to do all I am able to provide for them
    in the manner that least exposes them to chance. Pray inquire
    about this, and let me know the result of your inquiries in a
    few days.

    “We send you by the waggon of to-night a fine hamper of garden
    things, two fowls, and a chine included, which we think will
    be acceptable. Pray send us back the hamper by the waggon, and
    also a hamper from Mr. Paull’s. There is a box at Mr. Paull’s
    with flower-roots in it. You may as well send it too.

    “Ellen is to be christened on Thursday. Mrs. Cobbett begs you
    will send off by to-morrow night’s mail-coach a good lusty
    twelfth-cake for the christening.… Your letters are very
    cheerful, and, I can assure you, they come to a very healthy
    and happy house.

    “I propose, in future, to write to you only upon Fridays, and
    that you shall write to me only upon Tuesdays, except upon
    particular occasions.… In order that I may profit as much as
    possible from your correspondence you should begin a sheet and
    fill it up as thoughts or facts occur.”

A chronic complaint of Cobbett’s, throughout his life, was being
exposed to the payment of unfranked letters. A renewed notice to
friends and correspondents appears in January, 1807, informing them
that he will not take in such letters. A message to Mr. Wright, about
this time, gives him directions on the subject, and mentions that
12_s._ a week would not pay the postage of letters, of no use at all,
and many of them sent merely for persecution.

    “… The whole world united would not shake my resolution to
    _reside in the country_. The opinions of ‘friends,’ experience
    has taught me not to prefer, upon all occasions, to my own;
    and you know as well as I do, that those ‘friends’ generally
    speak as convenience or interest dictate. As I know you are
    perfectly sincere in the regret that you express at not having
    an opportunity of seeing me and mine oftener, so you may be
    assured that the loss of the pleasure of frequently seeing
    you, my Lord Folkestone, Sir Francis Burdett, and one or two
    more, is the greatest, and indeed the only, drawback from
    the stock of comfort and of pleasure which this domestic and
    rural life affords me. It will be very convenient to us for
    you and Mr. Murphy to come at any time. We have had no company
    since my return from town, and we expect none; but I am sure
    that none that could come would render your and Mr. Murphy’s
    company at all inconvenient. The time you mention will be as
    good as any. The sooner the better; but you must stay a whole
    week. And bring good boots with you, for we shall make you
    ride a-coursing. The children talk of you every day of their
    lives. William has been out with us this morning, and we have
    had a course worth all the balls and routs and operas that the
    whole town ever saw. Hares are hard to find. We sometimes go
    out without seeing one; but, when we do find, upon these lofty
    hills and open commons, you can have no idea of the beauty of
    the course. It lasts but a minute or two or three; but in one
    minute these beautiful animals go more than a mile.

    “… We intend putting William to a school at Salisbury; but I
    am resolved he shall waste none of his precious time upon the
    ‘learned languages.’[4] He reads and writes very tolerably
    well now; and, if I live so long, I hope to see him able to
    do something in the way of usefulness, in the space of five
    years from this. He has learnt to course already. To-day again
    (for we catch every fine open day) we had a course surpassing
    anything I ever saw in all my life. We were hardly upon the
    common when we found a hare _sitting_ (a very rare thing upon
    heath). All the rest, namely William, Frederick, and my man,
    took their stations in such places as enabled them to follow
    the dogs, and to see the course, whichever way she might take.
    I then went and started her. We had a course of thirty turns
    at least, and, after a very long and most beautiful course, we
    had the pleasure to see her save her life by darting to the
    copse with Princess not twelve feet behind her. The dogs were
    terribly cut and strained, but they will be well again before
    you and Mr. Murphy come.”

There is a great importation of American trees early this year, which
gives Mr. Wright some trouble to attend to, out of his ordinary line;
in return for which he is to have a farm some day, and American trees
to beautify it with. He is expected at Botley again in March, and is
to bring, amongst other matters, “two quarto blank books, with a good
stiff cover, for Nancy to copy her grammar lessons in. I am teaching
her; she learns very fast,” &c. And, they “all go to church of a

An impending duel between Mr. Elliott and Mr. Paull is alluded to in
the following:--

    “… The third is an article about Paull and Elliott. Leave
    out the words _manly_ and _excellent_ as applied to Paull’s
    letter; and, observe, soften every phrase that I have used in
    commendation of him or his conduct, if any such you find; for I
    now see that he has been challenging; and I will have nothing
    more to do with him, until I see a total change of conduct in
    this respect.”

    “… I am glad Mr. Paull is exposed to no prosecution. I trust
    he will take great care. I have a hundred times warned him of
    his danger. They would imprison him as sure as he is alive.… I
    shall always defend Mr. Paull and his cause; but you know how
    I abhor anything covert; and, upon my word, I cannot say that
    a man who would consent to be sent to a hiding-place, ought to
    be believed upon his oath. Those that are used to such devices
    may look upon them calmly; but this is not, and I hope in God
    it never will be, the case with, yours, &c.”

A petition against Sheridan’s return for Westminster, on the part of
Paull, now provided matter for discussion; and this, along with the
unceasing campaign against sinecures, and the sudden dispersion of
the _lost sheep_ (as “All the Talents” were now called), kept the
ready writer going merrily. Too merrily, indeed; a little cloud was
gathering. Lord Grenville confided to somebody, that Cobbett was
destroying the characters of all public men. Lord Howick[5] became
unfavourably impressed with his vehemence, and threatened prosecution.
Above all, the anonymous press had no mercy upon him, although it
prudently avoided fair discussion. In March, Wright is asked for his
opinion as to men’s feelings, in town.

    “As to the result, I fear nothing. And the way to fear nothing,
    is to act always fairly and honestly.”

Only let him have open ground to go upon, and a good sight at the enemy.

Early in April, Mr. Cobbett writes:--

    “What you told me about Mitford’s report has given me some
    uneasiness, on account of the trouble that prosecutions would
    give me; but as to the House, the d---- House, I set it at
    defiance, if it will only confine its vengeance to its own
    villainous powers. It is not, however, worth while to make
    any inquiries. It would be a good jest for the Whigs to begin
    to prosecute now. I’ll assure you, I was most cursedly afraid
    of them before. Howick is a perfect Bashaw; and apostates are
    proverbially persecutors. God knows I need say no harm of
    either party. They furnish me with ample quantities of good
    and true censure of one another. I am deeply impressed with
    the necessity of caution; but if they are resolved to plague,
    plague they may. Should anything of this sort happen, I am
    determined to plead my own cause, be the consequence what it
    may.… This talk of prosecution has exasperated me against them
    beyond measure; and my own safety shall be the only standard of
    my vengeance. Villains! They profess liberty; they set their
    hired scoundrels to write me and truth out of countenance; and
    the moment they feel the weight of my lash, they talk of the
    law, that law against which they have so much enveighed, which
    they know to be so unjust, and the administration of which they
    know to be so basely partial.

    “Cultivate Lord C[ochrane] and Colonel J[ohnstone]. They are
    good and true friends to us, and, what is more, to their

    “Pray send the _Chronicle_, when there is any violent or
    severe attack upon ministers or Parliament. Green[6] has been
    complaining to Reeves. The mean dog! Reeves begs me to spare
    him. I shall tell Reeves the provocation. If the rascal thus
    smarts at a parenthesis, what would he do at a sentence such
    as I could treat him with? As to the line of politics, _safe_
    is the word.… I hear that my friend Finnerty’s 100_l._ is
    coming out. Oh what a d---- thing this writing for hire is! The
    motion[7] has cost me more labour than I thought for, wishing
    to work in many interesting facts.…”

The new elections are coming on in April, and Mr. Cobbett is determined
not to interfere, unless positively compelled. As soon as the election
is over, he will “set about writing sober essays of _exposure_: quote
from official documents, state the bare facts, and lament, as I most
sincerely do, the inevitable consequences.” He foresees the inutility
of Mr. Paull contesting Westminster again, and the event proves that
he is right. But he continues his unasked-for advice to the electors.
And he does keep to facts, facts which all who have eyes may see.
Seats in Parliament are being openly advertised for sale in the daily
papers,[8]--in _Whig_ papers; and this villainous scribbler presses for
an explanation, particularly from that party which is always flaunting
the flag of 1688, and which yet rails at him, and abuses him, and
calls him nicknames, for trying to hold them to their principles.

As for his own writings, conscious though he be of their power and
clearness, and of the admiration excited by them in the minds of all
who are not the recipients of his lashing, he will be more than ever
guarded in expression:--

    “… I see the fangs of the law open to grasp me, and I feel the
    necessity of leaving no hold for them, and even no ground for
    silly cavillers, upon the score of coarseness or violence. I
    am armed with undeniable facts, and my reasoning (at least in
    my own opinion of it) shall be as undeniably conclusive. The
    times are auspicious to us, and we have nothing to fear but the
    effects of ungovernable indignation.”

    “… As to the ‘large pamphlet that is coming out against us
    all,’ the larger it is, the better it will be for the author;
    for the fewer people will read it, and the fewer the readers,
    the fewer those who will despise him. That any creature upon
    two legs should be so foolish!”

In the early part of this history, allusion was made to the growing
impoverishment of the labouring classes. A quarter of a century was now
elapsed, since the Hereditary Pauper started into being; and his race
was now numbered by the million. The parishes were raising six millions
sterling, for purposes of relief; and the recipients were going
steadily down, down, down. They were becoming practically enslaved. The
average rural labourer was now feeding upon bread, vegetables, and
water. His children were uneducated; his wife was in rags; his dwelling
was either a ruin or a hovel.

And, it is very curious matter for reflection, to note how ready the
comfortable classes were to acquiesce in tolerating this state of
things. Schemes of amelioration were broached by a few, but they were
generally based upon a total ignorance of first-cause. Your social
tinker,--amiable, bland, and very serious,--caught a glimpse of the
poor wretches so far beneath him; and, straightway recollecting the
words of Scripture, that the poor should “never cease out of the land,”
opened his purse-strings, exhorted his friends to do the like,--and
left matters worse than before.[9] Your local authority, and your
parson-pluralist, deeply impressed with the need of preserving the
“indispensable gradations of society,” in their full integrity,
refused a cow to the cottager, lest he should be thereby rendered too
independent! absolutely ignorant of the fact, that forty or fifty
years previously, the rural labourer not only had his cow,--but his
pigs, his geese, his beer, and his bacon, and a tolerable share of
the comforts of life: his outward condition, in point of fact, being
scarcely inferior to that of the farmers, and even the clergy, around

Now, in this year of grace 1807, there was no man living who was a
better authority on this topic, than the hero of these pages. And, what
is more, there was no living being, who had a tenderer sympathy with
the wants and the wailings of the meanest fellow-creature; be it a
skylark, or be it a ploughboy.

And the tinkers, and the tailors, solemnly going to work with new
patches, the only end of which must be the further enslavement and
degradation of the poor; and the end of which could not possibly be the
healing of their stomachs, or the mending of their breeches and their
gowns; he now bursts out,--

    “I, for my part, should not be at all surprised, if some one
    were to propose the selling of the poor, or the mortgaging
    of them to the fund-holders. Ay! you may wince; you may cry
    Jacobin and Leveller as long as you please. I WISH TO SEE THE

Mr. Whitbread’s Poor Law Bills[10] of 1807 were the present occasion
of the subject being before the public.

The income-tax was ten per cent., and the quartern loaf averaged
eleven-pence, at this period; whilst the wages of the rural labourer
were so low, that the parish universally supplemented them in the form
of relief. This practice, indeed, had become such an abuse, that the
farmer would refuse to employ men at fair wages--throw them upon the
workhouse,--and then take their labour upon the reduced scale paid
out of the rates; thus entailing upon his neighbours a share of the
expenses of his own establishment. In many parishes _every_ labourer
was a pauper.

At the same time, capitalists and stock-jobbers were amassing wealth,
in an unprecedented degree; whilst more than a million sterling,
annually, was diverted from the public resources, into the pockets
of sinecurists. All the idleness and luxury, thus created, helped
to augment the price of the necessaries of life; and the inevitable
consequences of unproductive expenditure ensued, in a continued
diminution of the resources of those persons who earned their living.

And what was the _bolus_, proposed to be applied for the cure of this
alarming cancer? _Educate the children of the poor!_ Positively! As
though the children of the poor (at least, of the rural poor) did not
pick up their education day by day, from the moment that they could
crawl out into the fields to scare away the rooks; as though ploughing,
mowing, threshing, and reaping,--loading a waggon, and guiding a
team, could not be better acquired, on the old lines, than by having
the unreceptive bucolic brain first gorged with reading, writing,
and arithmetic! And this new reforming agency, mark you, was to be a
further expense to the rate-payers; already at their wits’ end to know
how, themselves, to keep the wolf from the door. Is it any wonder,
then, that persons who, like Mr. Cobbett, not only knew the real wants
and temptations, and difficulties of the labourer, raised their voices

That it should be imputed to the poor, that it was their IGNORANCE and
VICE which had brought them low: that any other cause, but the increase
of luxurious idlers, and the draining of the national resources
by exorbitant taxation, could lie at the root of the evil: that a
generation of plutocrats should have grown up, who looked upon the
“lower orders” as of less consequence than their horses, their dogs,
and their poultry, was not to be borne in silence, whilst the pen of a
ready writer was at hand to defy such thoughtless misrepresentation.

From this time, then, until the period of his death, Cobbett’s voice
was raised on behalf of the suffering Labouring Classes of England.
An adequate return for their labour, and some respect toward them as
fellow-creatures, he was determined to get; and he would suffer no
opposition, no ignominy, to hinder his endeavours.

       *       *       *       *       *

But, what was his own practice; and what was the condition of the
labourers in his own service?

Precisely that, which could alone render them independent and
prosperous. He would have no paupers; and, although they were,
generally, married men with families, no one was allowed to remain in
his service who required parish assistance. As he gave high wages, and
provided them with a free dwelling, the need of this stipulation is
obvious. But, they had to work for it all: Mr. Cobbett would have a
day’s work for a day’s pay; and so have no obligation left, on either
side, when they came to eventide. Men might be independent, and they
might be saucy, too; but better these, a thousand times, than cringing
hypocrisy,--than the enslavement of idleness at starvation-pay.

Not only this: Mr. Cobbett’s was a measure full and running over;--

    “My house was always open to give them victuals and drink
    whenever they happened to come to it, and to supply them with
    little things necessary to them in case of illness; and in case
    of illness their wages always went on just as if they had been

Seventy years will pass away, and carry off with them most direct
evidence, leaving little beyond shadowy traditions. But there are,
yet living at Botley, aged persons who were long in Mr. Cobbett’s
service, as gardeners and farm-labourers. And these persons, one and
all, represent his days at Botley as a time of exceptional comfort
and well-being; and his service as one of well-paid, hard-working
earnestness. Hated and envied by some of his neighbours, he was
maligned, and abused, and misrepresented, as earnest people always
are;[11] but there were a far greater number, who welcomed the current
of joy, and freedom, to which he had given rise. And the recollection
of his name will still restore a transient smile to the withered
features of a man, whose lengthened span of life may be due, in great
measure, to the habits of industry and thrift and independence acquired
in the service of William Cobbett.


[1] All this sketch (in Cobbett’s own words, written in 1832) is as
faithful as it is graphic. The event provided ample resource for the
witlings of the day. See, for example, “A History of the Westminster
Election in November, 1806,” with its coloured picture of the hustings;
also, “The Rising Sun; a Serio-comic Satiric Romance,” vol. ii., in
which Paull’s bottle-holder appears as _Mr. Cobwell_, a man of great
talents and strength of mind,” &c.

[2] Afterwards collected into a volume, under the title of “The
Political Proteus: a view of the Character and Conduct of R. B.
Sheridan, Esq.,” &c., and published by Budd and others. Sheridan’s
“dramatic loyalty” (as it was happily expressed), was a constant
theme of the caricaturists of the day. Cobbett makes a note, in one
of his “summaries,” of twenty-five public pledges which Sheridan had
abandoned, and promises that they shall be “detailed one of these days.”

[3] The misunderstanding between Burdett and Paull culminated in a
duel, in which both were wounded. The affair was a rather silly one,
and brought out some wit. Mr. Paull was a little, fiery man, or he
would have succeeded better as a politician. Mr. Horne Tooke said to
him one day, “You are a bold man, and I am certain you’ll succeed;
only, as Cobbett says, _keep yourself cool_.”

[4] “The Learned Languages” was the title of a controversy which arose
in the _Register_ early in 1807. Mr. Cobbett was out of his sphere on
this topic, and his correspondents (who were at all humorous) saw a
ready application of the fable concerning a fox who had lost his tail.
Others were more serious, and thought that the knowledge of the Latin
and Greek classics “kept together the higher orders of society, and
separate from the lower orders.”

[5] Afterwards Earl Grey, who carried the Reform Bill of 1832.

[6] Otherwise John Gifford. Cobbett had made an allusion to his change
of name, parenthetically adding, “for cogent reasons, no doubt.”

[7] Mr. Robson’s renewed motion on the Barrack-office. Cobbett prepared
and wrote out these motions for him.

[8] “Seat in a Certain Assembly.--Any gentleman having the disposal of
a close one may apply,” &c., &c.--_Morning Post_, May 1, 1807.

“A Certain Great Assembly.--Fourteen hundred guineas per annum will be
given for a seat in the above Assembly. Letters addressed to,” &c.,
&c.--_Morning Chronicle_, May 21, 1807.

[9] Even Mr. Wilberforce, busied with the wrongs of distant races,
had remarkably low and narrow views concerning the _lower orders_ of
his own country, as he called them. In 1801, he “nearly resolves” to
move in Parliament for a grant of one million for their relief! At
another time he thinks Government should relieve, privately, some of
the distress, “and afterwards allege that they did not do so publicly
for fear of producing a mischievous effect abroad.” And one’s patience
is almost exhausted at hearing him call the people “tainted” with
disaffection, when everybody knows they are starving. _Vide_ his “Life,
&c.,” iii., 3, 6, 13.

[10] Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815) had entered Parliament in 1790, and
became an adherent of Mr. Fox, after whose death he was one of the
principal leaders of opposition. A genuine philanthropist, guided by
deep religious impressions, he spent a large portion of his wealth in
endeavouring to ameliorate the condition of the poor, in and around his
Bedfordshire estates.

[11] On one occasion, in the summer of 1809, there was a grand
field-day over “Cobbett, the Oppressor of the Poor,” &c., &c. A boy in
his service had absconded, after having received his wages beforehand;
and, being brought before the magistrates at Winchester, was sent to
prison for a week. But, through some informality on the part of the
constable who arrested him, the relatives of the boy were induced to
bring an action against Cobbett, the constable, and another local
officer, the damages being laid at one thousand pounds! The papers
were, instantly, full of the affair; several columns appeared in the
_Post_, to the exclusion of important war news; Gillray had a picture
of the oppressor thrashing the naked boy tied to a post; women of
fashion came to see the poor creature in prison. The three defendants
had to pay ten pounds between them; and the fact of _a conviction_
was sufficient for exulting detractors. The boy afterwards admitted,
however, that he ran away from Mr. Cobbett’s because he had to get up
as early as his master.

“In private life Mr. Cobbett is an exceedingly pleasant companion,
and an excellent husband and father. It has been asserted that he is
harsh to those who are in his service, but this appears to me to be
a calumny. That he expects his labourers to perform their duty is
certain, and in this he is truly their friend. Industrious himself, he
hates idleness in others. But he is willing to pay them liberally, and
to contribute to their happiness. I have been more than once at Botley,
and must say that I have never anywhere seen such excellent cottages,
gardens, and other comforts appropriated to the labouring class as
those which he erected and laid out on his estate.”--(From “Public
Characters of All Nations,” Sir R. Phillips, Lond., 1823).

Alexander Somerville once met with a former Botley servant of
Cobbett’s, who declared that he “would never wish to serve a better
master.” (“The Whistler at the Plough,” p. 263, Lond., 1852).



There was a Mr. Homan, M.P., a friend of Sheridan’s, and a defender of
his reputation, who came down to the House of Commons, one day in the
Session of 1807, and announced that a friend of his had just called
upon Mr. Cobbett, at Botley; and found him living in a “pig-stye.”
Now, this gentle sally, on the part of a jocular senator, may be
selected (out of many, more or less serious) in order to indicate the
prominent place now occupied by Cobbett in men’s minds. Addressing
with familiarity the leading characters of the day, (always in the
first-person-singular, be it remembered), he is herding with, and
advocating the cause of, the lowest of the low. Occupied with such
vulgar pursuits as gardening and planting, and tending dogs and pigs,
he is actually daring to instruct and to lead the successors of Burke
and of Pitt. One of the “swinish multitude” is here, having poked his
nose through the crowd, strutting along cheek-by-jowl with cabinet
ministers, and positively claiming a share of the foot-way!

The worst of it all is, that this presumptuous fellow is not in the
wrong. Nobody can convict him of a misstatement of facts; no one can
answer his arguments; no one can match his brilliant language. Yet,
people won’t leave him alone: they will put their pop-guns into range;
they will throw dirt, unmindful of the consequences of handling dirt.
And, these failing,--as the passionate schoolboy, unable to wreak his
vengeance openly, for just castigation, sneaks;--they sneak. They watch
his footsteps, if so he can be tripped-up.

But the intended victim learns wariness as he proceeds. Who should
be tripped-up, that plants one foot securely before the other is
raised? that gives chapter-and-verse for his facts? that dreads no
bogy whatsoever? and who still wants to know so many interesting
little secrets, which he has a perfect right to know, and which he is
determined to know?

       *       *       *       *       *

Several opposition papers had already been tried, previously to this
date. The Addington ministry set up _The Pilot_, and the _Royal
Standard_; but these soon died

    “Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung,”

and are, probably, only rescued from utter oblivion by this
sternly-truthful page. An imitation _Register_, edited by Mr. REDHEAD
YORKE,[1] had a longer lease of life;--known as _Yorke’s Weekly
Political Review_, the first number appeared in November, 1805, and ran
to several volumes. But it never attained to any authority. _Flower’s
Political Review and Monthly Register_, printed at Harlow, lasted
several years. This journal gave a mild sort of support to reform,
without extravagance of tone; and reprinted, from time to time, such
works as “Locke on Government,” and Bolingbroke’s “Patriot King.”

Later on, appeared the _National Register_, with the openly-avowed
object of producing “candid, but intrepid strictures” upon Mr. Cobbett
and the political pamphleteers. And in 1809, a very grand show was
made, in the prospectus of BLAGDON’S _Weekly Political Register_:--

    “This new political paper will be printed in the same manner as

    “In every number will be inserted an exposition of the daring
    libels and audacious falsehoods promulgated by COBBETT.

    “All who are acquainted with the paper of COBBETT, may
    perfectly understand the nature of the one here proposed, &c.,

    “The history of the political life and writings of WILLIAM
    COBBETT will be commenced in the first number, and continued
    every week, till concluded.”

Such a very funny prospectus: such a marvel of self-sufficiency,
ignorance, and malignity: really should have been supported better.
But, no! people didn’t want to be told afresh, that misgovernment ought
to be hushed up for the sake of great reputations; and Mr. Blagdon
disappeared, along with all the other political dolphins, that must
need display their back-fins for one transient moment, with no other
end than to whet curiosity or excite wonder.

Some of the pamphlets fared better. But then, they were freely
distributed by the agents of Government. The story of the
Court-Martial, published in 1809, was understood to be an open effort,
on the part of ministers and their adherents, to damage the honour
of Mr. Cobbett: indeed, it could not have been otherwise, seeing the
amount of official matter which the thing contained.[2] Besides a
half-crown edition, it was issued in a cheap form for distribution.

Then there was “Cobbett Convicted, and the Revolutionist Exposed:”
a task of no great difficulty, of course,--seeing that it was
“The Parliamentary Reformer” brought face to face with old “Peter
Porcupine,” the hater of demagogues and the denouncer of revolution.
A kindred publication was “Elements of Reform,” sold at sixpence, and
largely distributed amongst the people; so that they might see for
themselves how excessively wrong, how truly inconsistent, it was, for
any person to change his opinions when he got older and wiser.

One of the most curious evidences of the spirit of persecution, which
was abroad among ministerialists, is furnished by Lord Colchester,
under date May 7th, 1809.[3] He was at that time “Mr. Speaker,” and was
walking home after church with Mr. Perceval. The latter, communicating
his thoughts on various topics, at last comes to Cobbett:--

    “He thought Cobbett had at last committed himself in his
    paper upon the House of Commons’ vote (for rejecting Lord
    Folkestone’s motion for a Committee to inquire into the sale
    of all places in the State, &c.), but, when he showed me the
    paper, it did not so strike me that the libel was more violent
    than what all the opposition papers contained every day; nor
    was it such as could usefully be proceeded upon.”

What Mr. Cobbett had said, you will find in the _Register_ of the
previous day. And, if you think that the word “libellous” applies to
his remarks, you have leave to bring a charge of assault and battery
against that man, who has violated the sanctity of your mouth, in
withdrawing therefrom the tooth which distressed you, and which
embittered your existence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The foregoing notes, somewhat anticipatory in point of time, will
enable the reader to understand the danger which was now attending Mr.
Cobbett’s footsteps. He was running the gauntlet of all those who had
anything to fear from too much light; and they naturally hated him. Not
that he was alone: the Reformists were increasing in number. But Mr.
Cobbett was the most daring of the lot; inspiring all the rest with
pluck and animation. Even in the House of Commons, the division lists
showed how a feeling of shame was growing upon a greater number of its
members. As early as 1807, a Reversion Bill passed the Commons, the
object of which was to prevent the future granting of sinecure places
_two or three deep_; this was, however, thrown out in the Lords.

       *       *       *       *       *

And all this did not interrupt the joys down in Hampshire:--

    “… I have the finest melons, Indian corn, and Carolina beans
    that ever were seen.”

    “We are just setting out to meet Mr. Bagshaw,[4] and as a proof
    of our having anticipated your hopes about amusing him, we have
    made all the preparations for taking him with us to Morn Hill
    Fair to-morrow, which is upon the heights above Winchester,
    and which is the greatest fair, for one day, that is known in
    England. There are several scores of acres of ground covered
    over with bacon, cheese, hops, leather, &c. About Wednesday he
    will go to Portsmouth.”

    “I hope soon to send hares to everybody. I have killed some,
    and have, as usual, given them away. I take my young bitch
    to Everley, where she is to run a match that Dr. Mitford has
    made; but I shall leave betting and matches to others, though I
    cannot say but I should like to see my dogs win.”[5]

    “Hares and post-offices do not congregate together, I find.
    There is none of the latter nearer to Everley than this place
    [Andover, November, 1807].… I am now starting for Everley with
    Nancy, Mrs. Cobbett having declined the trip. She will go to
    Dr. Mitford’s. I saw William at Winchester, who is grown very
    much, and who behaved just as a son of mine ought to behave. So
    cleanly, so orderly, so attentive, so punctual, and so manly,
    just as I was at his age; I hope the qualities will be more
    durable with him.”

    “… Almost all the money I draw is expended in preparations for
    planting, and in making a new footpath along the side of my
    farm, in order to stop up the one that passes through it, and
    which is an injury to the estate. These pecuniary pinches give
    me great uneasiness, at times; but they will cease before it
    be long; and if it please God to preserve my life, they will
    cease much about the time that my grand planting scheme will
    be actually completed. There is here a little coppice, which I
    think will be to be sold; and which I intend you shall have.…
    I am very desirous that you should have an inch of land that
    you might set your foot upon, and say, ‘this is mine.’ But pray
    never talk to any one about these matters.”

Mr. Wright is particularly requested not to lend the little mare, but
to make use of it himself:--

    “I hope you ride a good deal. I wish to God you would rise
    early. It is the finest thing in the world for health. I am in
    my coppice by six o’clock in the morning; but then, I am in bed
    by ten at latest.”

The following occurs, as a postscript, on the back of a letter to

    “My dear little James,--your little dog is very well, and the
    rabbits are in their new house. God bless you.--Wm. C.”

An old acquaintance turns up, one day in the spring of 1808:--

    “This day the most wonderful thing, which I have met with in
    my whole wonderful life, has happened to me. A gentleman came
    to me this morning from London, to show me, and to consult
    me upon, the publication of a work upon _Metaphysicks_. He
    appeared to be a very learned and very accomplished man, and
    so I find him, upon some hours of conversation; and, would
    you believe it, he then discovered himself to me; and I found
    him to be the same whom I left in England, twenty-three years
    ago, a fifer, in the recruiting party that I belonged to! This
    has occupied me the whole day. He was about two years younger
    than myself, and I have thought and talked of him ten thousand
    times, having had a most affectionate regard for him.… You
    shall see my old acquaintance when I get to town.”

The letters of this period are filled with cautions, that every means
be taken to avoid occasion of real offence. “Copy” for the _Register_
is to be carefully scanned, and communications from sympathizing
correspondents are to be softened in their tone, before committal to
the printer. Some of these latter are far too plain-spoken. An awakened
public opinion, too liable to rush to extremes, must be kept within
proper limits, as regards its expression. There is no disposition to
go to jail for the sake of brilliant periods and caustic paragraphs.
The “villains” could be lashed vigorously enough without any need of
departing from facts.

Questions of libel were by no means infrequent, during these years.
And, with Lord Ellenborough’s severe opinions on that topic, there was
plenty of reason to fear any conflict with authority. An action brought
by an offended author against Messrs. Hood and Sharpe, in July 1808,
for a skit upon a certain book of travels, brought Mr. Cobbett forward,
in several letters upon the subject of libel law; in which he pointed
out very clearly, that principles had retrograded since the days of
Pope and Swift, who certainly had no idea that to write and publish
truth was any crime:--

    “The whole tenor of their works proves, that, so long as they
    confined themselves to the stating of what was _true_, they
    entertained no apprehensions as to the consequences.… They
    were afraid of no constructive libels; nor, if they chose
    to express their disapprobation of the conduct of kings and
    princes, did they fear the accusation of _disloyalty_. And
    what would they have said, had they been told that, in their
    country, it would become a crime to wound men’s feelings by
    holding them up to ridicule? Ridicule is a thing that will not
    attach _where it ought not_,” &c., &c.

His own idea (which, however, he did not always put into practice)
was to live it down; and, as for calumny, he had advised Mr. Paull,
and he had so advised others, to let falsehood come to the inevitable
over-reaching of itself.

As for caricatures,--

    “Caricatures are things to laugh at. They break no bones.
    I, for instance, have been represented as a bulldog, as a
    porcupine, as a wolf, as a sans-culotte, as a nightman, as
    a bear, as a kite, as a cur; and, in America, as hanging
    upon a gallows. Yet, here I am, just as sound as if no
    misrepresentation of me had ever been made.”

This was no idle boast. The Anti-Cobbett squibs and caricatures were
a standing source of amusement, even with the little boys and girls,
at Botley house. The articles, above alluded to, had produced a fresh
crop. He writes to Mr. Wright upon “our friends the satirists:”--

    “They seem half-distracted. How angry they are, that I did not
    take notice of what they said of myself! All those who know
    anything of me, know their assertions or insinuations to be
    false; and, as to those who know nothing of me, they are of no
    consequence to me, or to anybody else.”

But, the jealousy of the press was beyond everything.[6] Unfairness
and malignity marked all references to Cobbett, who was really doing
them better service than any one individual, beside, could be credited
with. It is true, he never spared his cotemporaries, when in fight;
but let them be for a moment in trouble, and his shield was at once
raised, by his proclamation of the Liberty of the Press; and of his
doctrine that there was nothing so mean, “nor so truly detestable,” as
that of seeking, through the law, vengeance for a literary defeat. No
such generosity, however, could be remembered in the midst of party
fights; and, even where there was real ability and talent, as with the
_Morning Chronicle_ under James Perry, newspaper polemics of that day
were marked by misrepresentation and abuse.

       *       *       *       *       *

The inquiry into the conduct of the Duke of York, brought about by the
discovery of corrupt influence in the disposal of promotions, &c., kept
society amused for several months, during the year 1809; and, indeed,
threw everything else into the shade, not excepting the new tide of
affairs in the Peninsula. Mr. Cobbett was in the front, as might have
been expected.

The circumstances were these. The Duke of York had now been the
Commander-in-Chief for several years, to the great benefit of the
service. It was generally acknowledged that increased efficiency and
discipline had been introduced into the army since his appointment.
Yet, whispers had begun to be circulated, conveying grave insinuations
against his Royal Highness; and there were those who openly predicted
his speedy dismissal.

All this was, however, treated by “the loyal” as wicked conspiracy,
libel, Jacobinism, and so forth. And the Duke might have escaped
exposure, had it not been for a brave Irishman, who ventured upon
publishing his grievances,[7] and risking the inevitable dangers. As it
happened, Major Hogan’s pamphlet came just in the nick of time, gave
the Duke’s enemies an opportunity, and the Reformists a grievance. Here
is Mr. Cobbett’s first short reference, directing public attention to

    “This, I scruple not to say, is the most interesting
    publication that has appeared in England for many years. It
    should be read by every individual in the nation. Oh, what a
    story does this gentleman tell! What a picture does he exhibit!
    What facts does he unfold! If _this_ produce no effect upon the
    public, why, then, we are so base and rascally a crew, that it
    is no matter what becomes of us. We are unworthy of the name of
    men, and are beneath the beasts that perish.”

The facts being, in short, that Major Hogan found he could get the
promotion he wanted by paying 500_l._ to the Duke’s mistress, Mrs.
Clarke; after he had waited long and hopelessly for it, on direct
application to the Duke himself.

There was some hesitation in accepting Major Hogan’s statement;
meanwhile, Finnerty, who had edited the pamphlet, and the publisher,
Bagshaw, were prosecuted. Mr. Cobbett, himself, thought the story
far too gross to be true,--that a “peculating pimp,” (as he called
her), had gone round to the major’s hotel with hush-money: had been
refused: and that such doubtful personage could be no other than the
artful mistress of the Prince. However, light came upon the matter from
another quarter, which laid the whole thing before the public gaze;
and, in the end, caused the temporary retirement of the Duke from his

Mr. Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle[8] was the agent of inquiry. He brought the
matter before the House of Commons, in January, 1809, supported by
several clear instances; in which it was shown that Mrs. Clarke was
having a large share in the patronage of the War Office, and was
making a good deal of money over it; besides, that several clergymen
owed their advancement to her. So, there was a Committee of the whole
House; many witnesses were examined,--

    “Thaïs led the way,--”

and the faithful Commons could attend to nothing whilst this was going
on. Corunna faded into insignificance, and became a mocking sound; and
no one seemed to think that the war was of any consequence, until this
interesting affair was disposed of.[9]

The upshot of all was, that the Duke of York was exculpated from any
guilty participation in these malpractices; but he at once resigned the
office of commander-in-chief, and dismissed the author of his troubles.

Colonel Wardle was publicly thanked for his disinterested service, in
all the principal towns in the kingdom. He did not escape malignity
however; and his popularity on the one hand was balanced by persecution
on the other, headed by Mrs. Clarke herself. After the lapse of a year
or so, she produced a very naughty, brazen-faced book, under the title
of “The Rival Princes;”[10] in which most of the gentlemen who had
aided in exposing her were more or less libelled. It was a book that
could only have been produced by a courtesan, and it, probably, did not
do any harm either to Colonel Wardle, or to any of those whose names
were involved. Mr. Cobbett’s name appears in it, as having been incited
to anger against the Duke, on account of the latter having thought it
prudent not to receive Cobbett at dinner, as an opposition writer.
Mr. Cobbett thereupon informed his public that he had been introduced
to Mrs. Clarke, and was invited to dine with her; but that his wife
disapproved of any such questionable acquaintance, and he didn’t go.[11]

It is exceedingly probable that the Royal Family were getting offended
with Mr. Cobbett, in spite of his professions of loyalty to the
constitution, and his really affectionate references to the king; and
it would surprise no one, at this distance of time, to learn that the
Prince of Wales and Mr. Perceval were putting their heads together
with a view to silencing him. That which brought Mr. Cobbett into the
one great trouble of his life happened soon after the above-mentioned


[1] Mr. H. Redhead Yorke was a barrister with a love for politics and
some ability in political disquisition. He had been imprisoned in York
Castle, on account of his writings, in 1794; but had now, in maturer
years, become more “loyal.”

[2] Brougham, in his partial way, thought the business “much against
him,” and insinuated that the story might have been made to look worse.
_Vide_ “Memoirs,” i. 437.

The _British Critic_, doing penance for its former sins, says, “This is
merely a report of certain facts, which it has appeared useful to bring
forward at this time,” &c.

[3] “Diary and Correspondence,” ii. 183.

[4] The well-known newsman of Bow Street, Covent Garden. He had been
the publisher of the _Register_ since its commencement.

[5] Here are reminiscences of Everley, written nearly twenty years

“Not far above Amesbury is a little village called Netheravon, where I
once saw _an acre of hares_. We were coursing at Everley, a few miles
off, and one of the party happening to say that he had seen _an acre
of hares_ at Mr. Hicks-Beach’s at Netheravon, we who wanted to see
the same, or to detect our informant, sent a messenger to beg a day’s
coursing, which being granted, we went over the next day. Mr. Beach
received us very politely. He took us into a wheat stubble close to his
paddock; his son took a gallop round, cracking his whip at the same
time; the hares (which were very thickly in sight before) started all
over the field, ran into a flock like sheep, and we all agreed that the
flock did cover an acre of ground.”

“This is the most famous place in all England for coursing. I was here,
at this very inn, with a party eighteen years ago; and the landlord,
who is still the same, recognized me as soon as he saw me. There were
forty brace of greyhounds taken out into the field on one of the days,
and every brace had one course, and some of them _two_. The ground is
the finest in the world: from two to three miles for the hare to run to
cover, and not a stone, nor a bush, nor a hillock. It was here proved
to me that the hare is by far the swiftest of all English animals; for
I saw three hares in one day _run away_ from the dogs. To give dog and
hare a fair trial, there should be but _one_ dog; then, if that dog
got so close as to compel the hare _to turn_, that would be a proof
that the dog ran fastest. When the dog, or dogs, never get near enough
to the hare to induce her to turn, she is said, and very justly, to
run away from them; and, as I saw three hares do this in one day, I
conclude that the hare is the swifter animal of the two.”

[6] The first genuine piece of criticism upon Cobbett’s writings,
which had any real talent, was an article by Francis Jeffery in the
_Edinburgh Review_ for July, 1807. But it had the same conspicuous
failure which attended all partisan writers, and Whigs above all, in
their efforts to define political consistency.

This article furnished the material out of which all subsequent attacks
upon Cobbett’s alleged “tergiversation” would seem to have been
founded. While, however, there was abundant material for comparison,
there was no impugning the justness of his reasons for a change of
views; nor, indeed, was any attempt made to do so. Both Jeffery and
his copiers studiously avoided arguing out Cobbett’s conclusions. It
was all-sufficient, in the eye of a party writer, to wreck a man’s
reputation who had once openly forsaken a cause.

And yet, the reviewer, near the opening of his article, says the
_Register_ “can only be acceptable to men of some vigour of intellect,
and some independence of principle.” That was the very root of the
matter. Imagine the _Edinburgh_ of that day being acceptable to men
of any independence of principle! The very number in question has
an article on Catholic Relief, which not only contains sentiments
differing from Jeffery’s, but the very opposite to those enunciated by
the same review only three years before.

But there was one leading difference between the Whig writer and
Mr. Cobbett--they were place-hunters and he was not, and no awkward
“comparisons” could wipe out this notorious fact.

[7] “An Appeal to the Public and a Farewell Address to the British
Army, by Brevet-Major Hogan, who Resigned his Commission in consequence
of the Treatment he experienced from the Duke of York, and of the
System that prevails in the Army respecting Promotion” (London, 1808).

[8] Mr. Wardle was a man of fortune, a native of Cheshire, who had
served in Ireland during the rebellion; he entered Parliament, as
Member for Oakhampton, in the year 1807. This affair of the Duke of
York brought him vast popularity.

Francis Place says that Colonel Wardle was a weak and timid man,
without the capacity to estimate either his own powers or resources,
and that, had he foreseen the trouble and vexation his motion would
have occasioned him, he would not have made it. Mr. Brooks (another
Westminster politician) raised a subscription of 4000_l._ for Wardle.
See Place MSS. in the British Museum (Addl. 27,850).

[9] The details of this inquiry are accessible, in the _Annual
Register_ of the year; and Lord Colchester’s Diary, vol. ii., gives
some outline of the plans of Ministers concerning the Duke’s defence.
Cobbett’s _Register_ was, of course, very entertaining over the matter.

[10] “The Rival Princes; or, A Faithful Narrative of Facts relating to
Mrs. M. A. Clarke’s Political Acquaintance with Colonel Wardle, Major
Dodd, &c., &c., who were concerned in the Charges against the Duke of
York.” 2 vols., London, 1810.

[11] This book brought out a good deal of humour and some imitations.
One which will interest us is, “The Rival Impostors; or, Two Political
Epistles to two Political Cheats. The first addressed to G. L.
Wardle, Esq., M.P.; and the second to William Cobbett, &c., &c.” The
latter’s share was an “Analysis” of the Court Martial. The argument is
worthless, and the language fearfully gross. Here is a mild specimen:--

“Now blush, thou unparalleled liar![A] if not at thy wickedness,”
&c., &c.

[A] “Gentle reader, pardon this coarse expression; none other in the
English language is sufficiently strong to express my horror and
contempt of the miscreant to whom it is applied.”



The little estate, which was being formed on the banks of the Hamble,
was now beginning to wear a face of its own, in the spring of 1808.
The consolidation of two or three small farms, and the replanting of
a large portion of the ground, with oak, thorn, ash, acacia, &c., was
the outline of a plan, which now showed some promise of a return. Mr.
Cobbett’s favourite notion had been, that a fair provision for his
family might be thus made. And now, after three full seasons, the new
plantations had entirely fulfilled the expectation.[1] They were
flourishing and healthy, and a large supply of material for the London
stick-makers appears as part of this year’s cropping. In May, there is
another large parcel of land added, containing sixty-seven acres of
wood, besides arable land and water-meadow.

All this makes the need of any visit to London still more irksome; and
Mr. Wright has to do the honours for his leader. There is talk of a
grand demonstration at Westminster, to celebrate the anniversary of
Burdett’s election; but Mr. Cobbett doesn’t care to be dragged away
from his beloved fields into “the cursed smoke,” as he calls it:--

    “… Go to the committee by all means. Let us suffer no little
    slights to interfere with our public duty. That is the way with
    those only who are actuated by selfish motives. I shall be in
    town on Thursday night next, or on Saturday night.… If I find
    all to be good men and true, we will make such a stir as has
    not for sometime been made. All the gentlemen whom I meet with,
    are loud in Sir Francis Burdett’s praise. The motion about the
    cashiering of offices has gained him thousands of valuable
    friends. So bent was I upon calling for a purgation of that
    d---- House, that I was resolved to petition alone, if any one
    would have presented my petition. The nation is heart-sick of
    it. It is impossible for both factions united to calumniate
    our motives, if we proceed as we ought, and do not mix with
    men of bad character. There is one Hunt,[2] the Bristol man.
    Beware of him. He rides about the country with a * * the wife
    of another man, having deserted his own. A sad fellow! Nothing
    to do with him.

    “P.S.--I will write to Sir J. Astley. I am very sorry for his
    misfortune indeed. I want very much to see some man who has
    planted upon a large scale. Cutting upon a large scale is the
    order of the day here.”

       *       *       *       *       *

    “… Now, as to the dinner, it is dreadfully distressing for
    me to go; for, the season being so backward, has thrown the
    oak-cutting into this week and the two succeeding ones, and
    you will easily guess how necessary my personal attendance is,
    while it lasts. Yet I will go, if alive and well; but I must go
    up on the Sunday, and come back on the Tuesday, for I cannot
    be longer absent. I have many reasons for going as well as for
    staying; but the former prevail.

    “I have not sold my second lot of timber that I had marked
    while I was in London. When I come to see it again, and to
    consider that the 300 that would have sold for a thousand
    pounds were gaining in growth above 150_l._ a year, I could
    not bring myself to commit such flagrant murder of property.
    The new purchase has upon it about 6000 trees, that now cost
    me from a shilling to two-and-sixpence apiece, and that in
    twenty years’ time will be worth 3_l._ apiece, at the very
    least. This, I think, is the best way of insuring a fortune for

    “Only the day before yesterday, I was bent upon going to town
    for the 23rd, and had written to Mr. H---- of Fontington, to
    meet me there about the farm. But now I find that it cannot
    be, without an inconvenience and risk which, I am sure, no
    friend would wish me to incur, especially as my journey would
    produce little more than my own gratification at witnessing the
    assemblage of so many public-spirited men. You know very well
    that this is my harvest, and that this year I have a tenfold
    harvest. I allude to the oak-tree cutting, which must be done
    while the sap is in the flood of its spring, or not at all;
    and the bark, you will observe, is of the little thinners that
    I am cutting upon my own account, worth three times as much
    as the timber. In the average of years, this sap season lasts
    a good month; but the very extraordinary backwardness of this
    spring, and the very rare hot weather that has come on after
    it, has made the season last only three weeks, a fortnight of
    which has already passed. Owing to this, I, who waited till the
    several companies of fellers had finished the great timber, am
    obliged to fall to work on Saturday, instead of waiting till
    next Tuesday. I am compelled to set sixty men on at once, and
    as mine is a work of thinning, it will require my constant
    attendance from the time the men begin till they leave off.
    I must be with them to mark the trees; to see the effect of
    taking out some, before we take out others; and, in short,
    the health and growth, as well as the future beauty, of 100
    acres of the finest woods in England depend upon my personal
    attendance between Saturday and Wednesday next. Nothing ever
    was more pointedly perverse; but I trust that all those who
    wished me to attend the dinner will be convinced that I ought
    not to leave home at this time.

    “I am of opinion, too (and I should like to hear what the Major
    says of the matter), that I am of most weight as a _spectator_
    and _comment-maker_. This way my word and opinion pass for a
    good deal; but I am not clear that whatever good I could do as
    an _agitator_, would not be more than counterbalanced by the
    loss of weight in the other character. I know it is the opinion
    of Sir Francis, that to put me in parliament would be to lessen
    my weight; and, really, I think that the same reasoning will
    apply to the other case. In fact, we cannot _act_ and _write_
    too, with so much advantage. The way in which I am most able to
    aid the cause of the country is to sit quietly here, and give
    my sincere and unbiased opinions upon all that passes which
    appears worthy of particular notice.

    “In the copy last sent you, there is the phrase ‘_old_ G.
    Rose.’ Upon second thoughts, it may as well be left out. It is,
    perhaps, right to cease to use that, and the like phrases. One
    puts them down under the influence of indignant feelings, but
    they probably do more harm than good.”

Although he does not go up to the festival at the “Crown and Anchor,”
Mr. Cobbett does justice to the opportunity as a “comment-maker.” In
supporting Burdett’s views, as expressed at the meeting, he remarks:--

    “I am persuaded that if the nation were polled, leaving out
    those who have an interest in corruption, there would appear
    a majority of a thousand to one in favour of the reform,
    which he recommends, and which, in their better days, had
    been recommended by Mr. Pitt and Mr. Wilberforce.… A minister
    may desire to do that which is for the good of the country;
    he may have an anxious desire to promote its happiness (and,
    his errors aside, I do think that Mr. Perceval is such a
    man); but, before he can stir an inch, he has the feelings
    and interests of the borough-mongers to consult; he has party
    to counteract, and faction to mollify. How much more at his
    ease must such a man feel: what a load would be removed from
    his mind, if he could step into a House of Commons freely
    chosen, and having no object in view but that of agreeing to
    what they thought good, and opposing what they thought bad! A
    House of Commons in which there would be no strife for office
    or emolument, and in which, nine times out of ten, truth would

There is an excursion to Cornwall, in August, on occasion of the
trial of Sir Christopher Hawkins and others, at Penrhyn, for corrupt
practices at a past election. The electors of Westminster are forthwith
treated to a new lecture, upon the prevalence of the “vile traffic”
in seats; and Mr. Wright is favoured with an account of the aspect of
things and people as they appear from behind the scenes. One remark is
interesting: “Notwithstanding all I have said about the lawyers lately,
the whole of them have treated me with distinguished civility.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The following, dated 17th September, 1808, is worth preserving, as
upon a subject concerning which Mr. Cobbett had some real practical

    “The essay upon planting, which you sent me some time ago, is
    very well done, and is particularly interesting to me. It
    establishes, from experience, what I had before made up my mind
    to, in theory. Certainly, there is no way in which the very
    best lands are to be employed to so much ultimate advantage.
    If your friend should be actually about planting himself, my
    experiments, in a year or two, may be of great use to him. Of
    two things, however, I can now speak with positive certainty;
    viz., that to obtain quick produce, the trees planted should
    be small; deciduous trees from the seed-bed, and firs not
    above a foot or eighteen inches high. And, that all deciduous
    trees, of whatever size, should be, after planting, cut down
    to the ground. Last year (March, 1807), I planted ten planes,
    about eight feet high. Some of them shot very well, others not,
    their tops dying, and the new shoots breaking out some distance
    from the branches. One of them, in the month of May, 1807, we
    thought was dead; but my man, thinking that there was some life
    in the root, cut it off within two inches of the ground.… This
    tree is now twelve feet high, a beautiful straight stem, with
    proper side-branches, while the highest of the others (with
    heads too large for their bodies) is not more than ten feet
    high. I have proved the same with all sorts of deciduous trees.
    Those who want, quickly, fine plantations about their houses,
    should plant and cut down to the ground; and of course those
    should do it who plant for profit. If this were done, you would
    not see so many acres of poor, sickly, dead-topped things,
    called shrubberies, about new-built houses. A tree planted
    large, and its head left on, is a continual eyesore, until it
    be rooted up. I transplanted some American walnuts last March;
    they were three feet high in the seed-bed. Some I cut down
    before I planted them, the rest not; and the former are now as
    high as the latter, with fine straight stems, while the others
    are top-heavy, and must be cut down at last, in order to make
    them grow freely.…

    “The rascals in Portugal have made a pretty mess of it! To be
    sure, one cannot say how they have been criminal; but to me
    it appears that both our admiral and our general ought to be

This last paragraph refers to the convention at Cintra, by which the
French army was permitted to retire from Portugal in British ships.
This advantage, granted to the ubiquitous enemy, caused a great popular
outcry in England. The Hampshire people had a grand demonstration at
Winchester, in November; in which occasion Mr. Cobbett took a prominent

Another useful scheme is now in preparation. In his reading,
necessitated by the production of the “Parliamentary History,” Mr.
Cobbett had found the need of an accessible edition of the State
Trials; and he resolved to supply the want by reproducing them, with
additional matter, in the belief that other students of history would
find it of advantage. Mr. Wright entered warmly into the notion,
and procured the services of a gentleman to act as editor. This was
Thomas Bayly Howell, whose name has sometimes been associated with the
work.[3] But there seems to have early arisen some dissatisfaction
with him, and the engagement went very near to be cancelled. The
following has the first of several references to this matter:--

    “Enclosed is a letter for you to read, and then send. I cannot
    consent to a partnership. Upon reading my letter, you will
    see what difficulties it must lead to. Only think of having
    another person invested with a right, a legal right, to make us
    account,--_us_, whose accounts the devil himself would never
    unravel. I would not take such a weight upon my mind for all
    the profits of all the books in the universe. No, no: you and
    I were never made to have our accounts examined by anybody but
    ourselves. Besides, you know what _all_ authors are. They are
    all impatient for sale. But I need say no more. My letter will
    adjust everything, I am certain.…

    “… I thank you for the caricature. One would suppose that I
    had given the hint myself, and, indeed, I am afraid the town
    will say so. But, d---- the town! I care not what it says or
    thinks of me.… We shall have, I think, a blazing meeting at
    Winchester, and I have written to Finnerty to come down. Mind
    Deverell. Never say anything to him that you do not wish the
    world to know. He is a trading politician,--a mere party agent.
    I have several letters from very respectable men in the county
    intimating their wish to join me; particularly from Mr. Lowth
    (a son of Bishop Lowth), a man of great property, and not less

    “… William writes me a letter every week, copies a page of the
    history of England every day, reads my part of the _Register_
    every week, and is to get as far as the Rule of Three,
    complete, by Christmas. He rode from school to Weyhill Fair,
    and back, in a day; and he frequently rides to Winchester by
    himself, puts his horse up at the inn, and, when he has done
    his business, goes off home again. He is not yet ten years
    old. What a base thing it would be to put such a boy to have
    outlandish words flogged into him by an old dotard in a big
    white wig! Why, if you were to put one of these * * * upon a
    horse, he would fall off into the dirt! I will, if I live,
    teach William to shave himself, and that will be much more
    useful to him than Latin and Greek. I think of sending Nancy
    for a year to the nuns at Winchester, where they teach people
    to talk French and make puddings.”

    “… We have had a good meeting, and Mr. Finnerty[4] will be
    with you with the account of it, some time early to-morrow. I
    missed by a mere hair carrying a petition, upon independent
    grounds, against both parties … the Whigs, with their lords and
    baronets, had been a week preparing their address; mine was
    done in Finnerty’s room, while he was getting his breakfast;
    and in I went to the hall without knowing any soul on my side
    but Mr. Smith, Farmer Mears, about ten other yeomen who went to
    dine with me, and Mr. Baker, who very boldly and well seconded
    my motions.”

    “… I have had letters from all parts of the country beseeching
    me to persevere.…”

Concerning the forthcoming “State Trials:”--

    “I must confess that I am less pleased with this thing than I
    should have been, if it had remained solely in your hands. I
    very much question whether Mr. H.’s taste is so good as your
    own; and I am quite sure that we shall derive no comfort from
    any connexion with an author.

    “But it is too late to reflect; we will go on as well as we
    can. Only mind to be always upon your guard against letting
    him assume anything like a dictatorial tone. Keep up your
    own consequence; for I know that your modest merit is not
    very well calculated to resist the encroachments of conceited
    importance.… Be sure to tell him none of our political secrets.
    Suffer no inquiries into our affairs. Let him see no copy of
    mine, or my correspondents. Tell him of none of our intentions
    about anything. I know how easy it is for any one to worm
    himself into your unsuspecting breast; and, therefore, I give
    these cautions. I think I perceive, in his letters, a rather
    consequential air. But I am resolved to have no partner, nor
    any one to give me advice, except yourself. We have gone on so
    happily, and so advantageously, by ourselves, that I am really
    in a state of alarm at the prospect of admitting anything like
    an associate. It must not be.…”

A vacancy in the representation of Hampshire brings another county
assemblage at Winchester; on which occasion Mr. Cobbett requires each
candidate to take a pledge, that, if elected, he would never accept
the public money as long as he lived; and would, moreover, use every
endeavour to obtain redress of the public grievances, especially that
trying one of having their money “voted away by those, amongst whom
there are many who receive part of that money.”

    “… The meeting at Winchester was very large, and consisted of
    almost the whole of the people of considerable property. Rose
    and his son were deterred from appearing at the castle. The
    speech was infinitely better than the _report_. I made use
    of no notes, except as far as related to the sums. Not the
    smallest hesitation from beginning to end; and, owing to the
    strength of my voice and the clearness of my articulation,
    every word I said was heard by the man the most distant from
    me. The effect was very great. I spoke three-quarters of an
    hour with very little interruption indeed, notwithstanding I
    spoke to a party assembly, hostile to me, as far as party could
    influence men. I wish you could have seen how _little_ the
    _great_ looked after the speech had been made! They went up to
    the castle swaggering, and in crowds; they came sneaking back
    in ones and twos. Many of them had the meanness to compliment
    me upon my speech. I was invited to dinner by several; but I
    went to my inn and dined with Mr. Baker, another neighbouring
    clergyman, and Dr. Mitford, and then set off home.

    “No, be in no alarm about my hazarding my reputation and
    happiness by standing as a candidate for this county, or
    for any other place. That I never will be. If any body of
    electors, anywhere, have a mind to choose me, without giving
    me any trouble, I will serve; but at this time, I have not the
    least desire for that; on my own account, I should wish not;
    but I am, in such a case, not to consider myself only. I feel
    that I should have power to serve with great effect; and I
    shall never, I hope, be backward to make any useful sacrifice.
    But I never will ask anybody to elect me.

    “The boys have met me at Winchester sometimes; and it is no
    bad school for them. While I was speaking, I saw in the crowd
    several persons from Farnham, whom I had never seen before,
    since I was their playmate. I saw many to whom I used, when
    a boy, to make a very low bow. Lord Temple came and shook
    hands, even after the speech. And I must say that I think
    Mr. Herbert[5] a very modest young man. In one part of my
    speech, an attorney of the Rose party, who stood just under
    the window, made an attempt to excite a clamour; but I fixed
    my eye upon him, and, pointing my hand downright, and making a
    sort of chastising motion, said, ‘Peace, babbling slave!’ which
    produced such terror amongst others, that I met with no more

That Mr. Cobbett was unwilling to join in a cry against a public
character, without reason or justice, was often manifest. His entire
freedom from party bias, as such, accounts for the frequent distrust
which he inspired, at the same time that it helped to keep away from
him the temptation to hunt a man down merely because he was an
opponent. For example, he did not readily give ear to the charge made
against the Duke of York on the part of Major Hogan, although he was,
at the very time, raising the question of the Duke’s exorbitant income.
Mr. Cobbett could be just, and loyal too. This story of Hogan’s might
suit the tribe of malignant, unreasoning scribblers; but he has no idea
of weakening his own writings by an appeal to what looks uncommonly
like an invention. The _Register_ holds out several warnings to the
Major; and Cobbett tells Mr. Wright more plainly that he believes
“Major Hogan has certainly told a d---- lie, and ought to be exposed.…
As for Hague,[6] he really seems to have courted a jail.”

He presently adds:--

    “They are fools, however, for touching him. But thus they will
    go on to the end of the chapter. _Force_, _force_, that is all
    their reliance. How much better to do as I do--let slander work
    itself dead!

    “… Bagshaw’s way is to be very quiet: when any one mentions
    the matter to him, to say that he did as others do, sold the
    book because it was called for. This prosecution is the very
    foolishest thing that the Duke of York ever was advised to
    do. Had he not begun this, Hogan would have gone nearly to
    whitewash him.… Poor Finnerty! what the devil did he suffer
    himself to be so provoked for? I hope he will not incur a
    prosecution for Hogan.…

    “As to Howell, I always was afraid of him. I know that he is
    what the French call ‘_un homme à grandes pretensions_;’ as,
    indeed, all your authors are.… They think that every book that
    is printed is so much money coined. They take the price, the
    full retail price, of a volume, say a guinea-and-a-half, then
    they take the number of copies, and hence they reckon that the
    bookseller has so many guineas and halves in his drawer, the
    moment the book is printed. You cannot beat this out of their
    brains. They will have it so. Then they are full of their
    college conceit, which is so intolerable.… With such people,
    a partnership would be, for you and me, a most uncomfortable
    thing. I greatly approve of the scheme of a ‘fag;’ and as to
    expense, four guineas a week would be cheap. But he must work
    and be obedient.… I would sooner give an additional guinea
    a week on the score of _obedience_, than on the score of
    _talent_: though there must be considerable talent too. If you
    can get rid of H., I shall be very happy. I know what your
    college gentlemen are. They always have, and will have, the
    insolence to think themselves our betters; and our superior
    talents, and industry, and power, and weight, only excite their
    envy. I am heartily sorry we ever had anything to do with H.
    All this may blow off; but I shall never have confidence in

    “I will write to the major,[7] and to Holt White, upon the
    subject of the Trials. Two better men there are not in all
    England. The major is the very best writer that I know, though
    he has scarcely a drop of blood in his veins. Oh, that my mind,
    at his age, may be like his!

    “Be sure to send off _Register_ to Lord Cochrane, up to this
    time. He is not come home. And no one can tell when he will.
    Pray do not neglect this a day. I should like him to see that I
    did justice to him in this country. He, after all, is the best
    member for Westminster.

    “Nancy will copy the manuscript of which you spoke lately. She
    copied the whole of the Winchester proceedings, with only three

The dissatisfaction with Mr. Howell would appear to have arisen
partly from an extreme slackness in providing “copy;” and, with
this, a disposition to consider his own remuneration as of the first
importance. The difficulty, however, did blow over.

The following refers to a letter of Major Cartwright’s on the affairs
of Spain:--

    “… Now, as to the major’s letter. Room I am ready to spare him
    for four or five columns. But, if you have the smallest doubt
    upon the libel subject, do not put it in. Mark well every
    word relating to the Parliament. Ferdinand, mind, must not be
    libelled; and _anything is a libel_. If you can, by leaving
    out, or altering, or adding, or qualifying, make it quite safe,
    put the letter in; but not else.…”

This one appeared in the _Register_, but with reference to a succeeding

    “… Upon looking at the major’s last letter, page 944, I am
    induced now to tell you not to put in his letter, if there be
    the smallest thing doubtful in it. It may suit him to accuse
    the judges, and the Attorney-General: _me_ it does not. I
    should be more afraid of that letter than of anything I ever
    published in my life. They would never touch a hair of _his_
    head. Therefore, mind!”

The fatal news of Corunna came, and routed up the nation once more, in
the course of January. Two of Mrs. Cobbett’s brothers were with the
forces there, and no tidings had come from them:--

    “Mrs. Cobbett and all of us join in best thanks to you for
    your kindness and anxiety, in which you are never wanting, and
    which, at this horrible hour, are so peculiarly acceptable and
    grateful.… Poor Palmer! I can easily conceive what he must
    feel, having myself held a dying son in my arms. Mrs. Cobbett
    and Ellen, both of whom love their brothers very dearly, are
    almost bursting with grief and apprehension. Indeed, I feel
    most sensibly myself. The whole nation will be in mourning.”

The two brothers, Tom and Frederick Reid, are safe, however. Little
Nancy writes thus to Mr. Wright:--

    “DEAR SIR,--My papa being very busy, he has desired me to write
    to you and thank you for the trouble you have respecting my
    uncles, and to tell you he went yesterday afternoon in a great
    hurry to Portsmouth, thinking they might be there, where he met
    with Colonel Harding, commander of the artillery; who told him
    that they were gone to Plymouth, and that they were both well
    at Corunna when he came away, and that they were not in the
    action, neither have they been much engaged in active service,
    as some have. And, indeed, mama and papa feel very much
    surprised and indignant at not having heard from them at all,
    knowing that they have been at Corunna almost all the time,
    and having had so many opportunities (which they must have
    had) of writing either to papa or mama. Papa is so much vexed,
    that he says now, if he had known they had been at Corunna all
    this time, he would not have gone to Portsmouth after them as
    he did. The colonel, he said, told him, if they came there,
    he would send them over to Botley directly. While papa was
    there, he found out some officers of the 10th dragoons: he went
    directly, and sent in his name by a waiter, and begged to know
    whether Major Palmer was there, or whether he was safe. Upon
    hearing their major’s name, two or three came to him and told
    him he was safe at Plymouth, which was good hearing. Mama will
    be very much obliged to you if you will have the goodness to
    send her down a box of the biscuits you have gotten several
    times; they are to be got at the corner of Bond Street, in
    Piccadilly. She is quite ashamed to trouble you; but a lady,
    one of the Miss Boxalls, is coming here to stay some time next
    week, and she never eats bread, always those biscuits; and
    there are none to be got in Southampton. Mama and papa desire
    to be very kindly remembered to you. Excuse haste. I remain,

                                                    “ANNE COBBETT.”

The very interesting inquiry into the private affairs of the Duke
of York was perilous to editors and pamphleteers. Mr. Wright
sends word down to Botley of his increasing fears lest his chief
should be compromised; and not without reason. The exasperation of
ministerialists was at its height. Their writers brought forth wild
imputations against the opposition scribblers, and twisted and tortured
their language and their meaning. In vain, however; facts could not be
gainsaid, and upon facts alone they relied. The _Examiner_ which was
then young, got into trouble over Major Hogan; the _Morning Chronicle_
was in danger. But nothing could stop the ball which Colonel Wardle had
set rolling.

And, just as Mr. Cobbett had hesitated over Major Hogan, he is still
as cautious as ever concerning Wardle; and wants to know, first, his
correspondent’s opinion as to Wardle’s capability to bring forward
proof of his charges, before entering the lists himself. Yet, the game
being started, he laughs away fear; and, acknowledging the kindness
of Mr. Wright’s expressions of anxiety, he says he “must stand the
brunt. No flinching would either be honourable or politic.” He will
defy prosecution, rather than give up the fight, much as he “loves his
fields and woods.”

One singular incident of this period is the case of Miss Taylor; a
lady who had, unfortunately for herself, to give evidence of her
acquaintanceship with Mrs. Clarke. She, with her sister, had kept a
school, and the two were earning a respectable livelihood. There was
not the slightest ground for tainting her character; but, having to
admit, upon a very unnecessary and malicious cross-examination, that
she was not born in wedlock, the fathers and mothers of that moral,
that highly-toned age, could not brook the notion of their children
being educated by a ----, whatever name offended society chose to give
her. Her appearance in the inquiry was the prelude to immediate ruin,
for her pupils suddenly vanished; and, as the affair got into the
papers, it was felt by some of the new “patriots” that, to some extent,
she was a martyr to the cause. So they got up a subscription:[8] Mr.
Cobbett leading the way; and she was eventually provided for. They
should get husbands, he says in one of his letters, “in spite of the
_Morning Post_.” But with his characteristic pertinacity, he will have
the money invested in no treacherous “Scrip.” Lord Folkestone suggests
India Bonds as a mode of investment; but Cobbett’s answer is that not
one farthing of money, the disposal of which lies with him, shall ever
be laid out, for one hour, in any India or Government security.

    “I am fixed as a rock never to have any hand in doing
    anything that shall tend to keep the Funds and the Nabobs in
    countenance. It would be a pretty thing indeed for me to
    appeal to the compassion of the public, in order to raise the
    means of supporting these infernal impostures. No, I will do no
    such thing, and besides, I do not believe that the money would
    be secure.”

       *       *       *       *       *

    “… From the article which appeared in the _Courier_ of
    Saturday, it is beyond a doubt that one of two things must have
    taken place; either a copy of the Register, or of proofs, must
    have been gotten out of Mr. Hansard’s office; or my ‘copy’ must
    have been read and copied at the post-office, previously to its
    going to you. This latter would not at all surprise me; and,
    indeed, I believe it to have been so. But I wish you to speak
    of it to Hansard, and ask him for answer, positively, whether,
    to his knowledge or belief, my copy did prematurely get out of
    the printing-office. Because, this is a thing to state. It is
    another striking instance of the desperateness of our opponents.

    “The news from the continent[9] is not quite so good as
    we thought it. That rogue, Boney, will certainly put an
    extinguisher upon another venerable order of things, and we
    shall (Lord have mercy upon us!) have another gang of kings
    and princes to keep. It is odd enough that we never get a
    queen here. We may have the Queen of Naples anon, perhaps.
    ‘The Archduke Charles and George Rose’ is, I hear, a toast
    at Southampton, which really does make me hesitate before I
    decidedly pray for the archduke’s further ‘success,’ and before
    I draw out my handkerchief again to weep for the capture of
    Vienna. If George Rose wishes success to the Austrians, it
    is, I think, a pretty good proof that their success does not
    tend to _our_ good. The sheep must necessarily have wishes
    in opposition to those of the wolf. I must confess that this
    toasting of old Rose along with the archduke has tended to
    make me somewhat more reconciled to the fate of the continent.
    What is good for the wolf must be bad for the sheep; and _vice
    versa_, as the learned say, what is good for George Rose must
    be bad for us. No matter what it is: if it be good for George
    Rose, it must be bad for us. Whatever makes the public-robbers
    weep ought to make us laugh; and it does make me laugh. Every
    blow that aims at their execrable power is a blow to be
    applauded by us, and by the king too, who is as badly treated
    as we are.

    “I have a fine jackass, some pointers, and some beautiful
    merino sheep, sent me from Spain; and they are safely arrived.
    As I am very desirous of stinging the robbers, I wish it to be
    said in some of the newspapers that Mr. Cobbett has received a
    present ‘from Seville, of a jackass of the real royal blood,
    two brace of Andalusian pointers, and some merino sheep; the
    whole of which are said to be the most perfect of their kind of
    any that have ever been seen in this country.’ I should like
    very much to have this inserted in a paper or two, merely to
    enrage the rascals.

    “The ass and the pointers I must send to London, for they were
    carried round by mistake. The sheep I have here, and most
    beautiful little things they are. I intend to breed from them.”

The “rascals” were now at work over the Court-Martial. As related in
an early chapter of this history (vol. i. p. 63), a garbled account of
the affair was being circulated broadcast over the country. Thousands
of copies were sent into Hampshire; and bales of them were brought
down by people from London, in their carriages, and tossed out to the

For once in a while, then, Mr. Cobbett thinks it proper to notice the
current calumny. Although it is obvious that the object of the attack
is to discredit him, and thus endeavour to destroy the effect of his
weekly writings, the story can be told in a different way when it is
discovered that part of it has been suppressed; whilst the motive can,
at the same time, be exposed and expounded. Here are Mr. Perceval and
Lord Castlereagh conniving at the sale of seats in Parliament,[10]
and being exposed to the world: is it any wonder that they should
retaliate? Is it any wonder that they also find a story to tell?

But the _Weekly Political Register_ having devoted twenty columns to a
version of the story, which has truth and manliness in every sentence,
and which throws still more light upon the meanness of its opponents:
the thing drops out of sight and hearing! If anybody does bring it up
again, it is only the exulting accused himself, who has found one more
opportunity, at their own hands, of disconcerting his antagonists.

He is urged to pursue the matter; but he protests his unwillingness to
take up his time, and that of his readers, with personal matters. He
has only done it now because it gives him an opportunity of showing
up the “incomparable baseness” of Corruption; and the futility of her
resistance to the impending Reform: the blind and passionate course
which she is taking, in order to stifle inquiry.

One letter from Botley, referring to this matter, is worth quoting:--

    “… As to the twenty-two letters, I have full copies of all
    the principal ones, and memorandum copies of all the others.
    But, is it not evident, internally evident, that letters were
    suppressed? Does the thing begin with my charge? No, I cannot
    take your advice in keeping the thing up. Those who like the
    fun of seeing me on my defence, have either very little regard
    for my reputation, or very little taste. It is useless to write
    any more about it. What! do you really think I would condescend
    to answer any one, who should call upon me to _produce_
    letters, from which I make extracts, and which I say I have
    before me? Why, don’t you see that even already the _Post_
    calls my extract from my letter to Pitt a ‘fabrication’? What
    nonsense is it, then, to talk of producing the letters! Would
    not they be called fabrications too? Oh, no! there may be just
    a sentence or two; but there must be no more _defences_, take
    my word for that.… I will, at any time, show Finnerty, Power,
    or any friend, the original letters from the Secretary-at-War
    to me, and mine to him; and also my letter to Pitt, and all
    the charges. But I cannot condescend to do this to the public;
    indeed, it is impossible. They must believe me, or let it


    “As to the public-robbers, one _must lose_ by a continuation of
    the warfare with them. It is impossible to answer fellows who,
    in their very signature, call ‘_Scoundrel_.’ Seriously to sit
    down to answer such fellows would be to degrade oneself in an
    obvious manner. That will never do. Besides, the thieves are

Lose: indeed! the day had come, at last. On the very morrow of these
swaggering lines being penned, the _Political Register_ had committed

As, when the heated pursuer, sure of his game as far as will, and
equipment, are concerned, is brought to the ground by some mean and
unconsidered obstacle: so this eager one, at the very heels of his
adversaries, finds himself suddenly prostrate. And the now-exulting foe
stands over him; while cries of _Habet! Habet!_ sound upon his ears.


[1] This enterprise attracted the notice of the Surveyor to the Board
of Agriculture:--“Mr. Cobbett has been most particularly fortunate in
raising, chiefly from seed, a vast nursery of almost all the different
sorts of forest trees known on the Atlantic side of the middle states
of North America. The vast variety of strong and flourishing plants
which his seed-bed of oaks exhibited in the course of the last summer
bids fair to render his success on this occasion of much importance
to our country,” &c., &c. _Vide_ Vancouver’s “Agricultural Survey of
Hampshire,” 1808.

[2] _I.e._ Henry Hunt, who had recently entered into public life, with
an address to the electors of Wilts. This note (dated 10th April) got
Mr. Cobbett into trouble many years after, when he had long forgotten
this his first impression of Hunt, and dreamed not of the possibility
of such old confidences ever seeing the light of day.

[3] Mr. Howell was a barrister, and a very fair lawyer, but had no
taste for practice at the bar. He pursued this task with the State
Trials until his death in 1817, after which date it was carried on to
completion by his son. It eventually reached thirty-four volumes in
royal 8vo. The enterprise passed into the hands of Hansard, about the
year 1810.

[4] Peter Finnerty, whose name occurs several times in these pages, was
an Irishman, and had been brought up as a printer. In consequence of
a press prosecution in Dublin, he came and settled in London, when he
became Parliamentary reporter on the _Morning Chronicle_, and a popular
character in the journalistic world. He died in 1816, aged fifty-six,
some time after the close of a term of imprisonment for “libel” in
Lincoln jail.

[5] The Hon. William Herbert, one of the candidates. He afterwards
“took the pledge,” as far as regarded pensions and sinecures, but would
not bind himself to decline the offer of _a place_.

[6] Author of another attack on the Duke.

[7] Cartwright.

[8] The inevitable pamphlet appeared--a very funny one in this case.
For the information of the curious, the title is, “Caution against
Future Subscriptions for Prostitutes and their Associates, with Free
Animadversions on several Political Gentlemen who have been Prominently
Active in Promoting Subscriptions for Miss Taylor; with Particulars of
the Duke of York and Mrs. Clarke” (London, 1809).

[9] The Austrians had just suffered two serious defeats.

[10] Mr. Madocks had brought forward distinct charges of corruption
against these two ministers, but the House negatived his motion for
inquiry. This case of “stifling” was one of the most bare-faced of even
that dark age, the debate going off on the dangers of Parliamentary
reform, and the “blessings we derive from the present order of things.”
One thing is certain, that not a soul in that House doubted Madocks’s
case. The “factious” minority numbered eighty-five, of whom Sir Samuel
Romilly was one. He thought it impolitic of the ministry, on their own
account, to try and screen themselves, and justly concluded that the
debate and decision would powerfully act upon the cause of Reform.
(_Vide_ his “Life,” ii. 116.)



If there is one thing, more than another, characteristic of the British
soldier, it is his attachment to home. Home, that is to say, in the
hearts of his countrymen, as well upon the hearth of his parents. You
cannot make a hireling of him; nor is he a mere worshipper of glory.
The links that bind him to his comrades are the same with those, which
remain unsevered between him and the civilian-class whence he sprang.
This is obvious enough, when we consider the general demeanour of
the people toward his profession. You may see it, plainly, when the
soldier is “in trouble;” or, when two red-coats are quarrelling in the
street;--but, specially, on that supreme occasion when the band is
playing “_The girl I left behind me!_”

But there have been times where there was danger of these affections
being sundered. Notably, during the later days of the Regency, when
army-legislation went far to make the soldiery a distinct class, with
interests hostile to those of “the mob.” And, during the great war, the
employment of German mercenaries for purposes of home defence (whilst
the English forces were shedding their blood on the soil whence those
had been deported) was naturally productive of some ill-feeling toward
the military profession.

Of the popular sentiment, concerning this topic, there was never
a better exponent than Mr. William Cobbett, late of the 54th. His
constant boast was, that he had been a soldier, and knew soldiers “as
well as any man that ever breathed.” His appeals on their behalf,
whether addressed to the legislature or to the people, breathe
unfaltering affection toward them. He would defend them, would support
them, would animate and would advise them, as his brethren. And, while
inculcating a spirit of respect and affection toward them, on the part
of the people, he constantly objected to everything likely to tend to
the degradation of the military character and calling. Did a company
pass through Botley, he would superintend the billeting; and could not
rest until men and officers were suitably entertained. His army plan,
published in 1806, was entirely upon these lines: that the military
should be bound to their country by the same ties with the rest of
the nation. His anecdotes of soldier-life would, alone, fill a large
volume; and, throughout his long life, there was no source from which
he could so readily draw a pointed illustration of virtue, of energy,
or of loyalty.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the year 1809, his Majesty’s ministers had much to harass them;
and not the least of their anxieties was the conduct of the liberal
part of the newspaper press, concerning Flogging in the Army and Navy.
They were all condemning the tortures of the lash: the abuse, itself,
being then as bad as it could be. Such was the outcry against it, that
it became evident that there would have to be a struggle over the
matter; and, in the fight which did ensue, may be traced some of those
elements which eventually gave greater freedom to the press of this
country. It was known, at this period, that newspaper-writers had been
warned, and that a severe example would be made of the first offender.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Attorney-General, then, is on the watch; and woe betide the wretch
who defies Sir Vicary Gibbs!

And who is to be the victim? Shall it be James Perry or Redhead Yorke?
or those daring young brothers, whose _Examiner_ is slashing away at
everything and everybody they choose to disagree with, and who have
just had such a narrow escape over Major Hogan? or one or other of
those provincial editors, who would cut off a little finger for the
sake of publicity and a wider circulation? Perhaps one of these. But
there is game that must be brought down, if possible: the “must” being
so urgent, that the game shall be started by our very best dogs. No
inefficient pointing here, if you please.

Accordingly, ministerial newspapers make ostentation of flogging-cases.
The interests of the country demand: and so on. The exigencies of
the nation require: and so forth. The naval and military forces are
hot-beds of sedition, and nothing was ever known to cure that, but the
cat-o’-nine-tails. And we shall lie at the mercy of the enemy, if the
entire nation is not sound on the subject of mutiny: let us not, then,
be mealy-mouthed in the stern path of duty!

And the _Courier_, in its stern path, records (24th June, 1809):--

    “The mutiny amongst the local militia, which broke out at Ely,
    was fortunately suppressed on Wednesday, by the arrival of four
    squadrons of the German Legion cavalry from Bury, under the
    command of General Auckland. Five of the ringleaders were tried
    by a Court-Martial, and sentenced to receive 500 lashes each,
    part of which punishment they received on Wednesday, and a part
    was remitted. A stoppage for their knapsacks was the ground of
    complaint that excited this mutinous spirit, which occasioned
    the men to surround their officers, and demand what they deemed
    their arrears.”

Now, first, what is flogging--rather, what _was_ it?[1] Let us have a
few of Mr. Cobbett’s reminiscences before we proceed:--

    “At the flogging of a man, I have frequently seen seven or
    eight men fall slap upon the ground, unable to endure the
    sight, and to hear the cries, without swooning away. We used
    to lift them back a little way, take off their stocks, and
    unbutton their shirt collars, and they came to after a little
    while. These were as stout, hardy, and bold men as anywhere to
    be found.”

    “I, who was eight years in the army, who was a sergeant-major
    six years of the time, have seen men receive their flogging at
    _twice_, at _thrice_, and I remember a man, named Valentine
    Hickey, who received his flogging at _four_ instalments.”

    “… In addition to the pain of the flogging, the flogged man has
    to pay the drum-major for the use of the cats!”

    “The whip-cord may be large or small. Ours used to be as thick
    as the very thickest twine made use of to tie up stout and
    heavy parcels. The knots were about the size, as nearly as I
    can recollect, of a dwarf marrow-fat pea; and the length of
    the lash was, I think, about fifteen or sixteen inches.… The
    drummers used to do the flogging; they were always stripped
    for the work, and each, by turns, laid on his twenty-five
    lashes, and then another came.”

Just so.

       *       *       *       *       *

On Saturday, the 1st of July, the _Weekly Political Register_ takes for
its motto the above paragraph from the _Courier_, and begins with the
following comments:--

    “LOCAL MILITIA AND GERMAN LEGION.--See the motto, English
    reader! See the motto, and then do pray recollect all that
    has been said about the way in which Buonaparte raises his
    soldiers. Well done, Lord Castlereagh! This is just what it
    was thought your plan would produce. Well said, Mr. Huskisson!
    It really was not without reason that you dwelt, with so much
    earnestness, upon the great utility of the foreign troops,
    whom Mr. Wardle appeared to think of no utility at all. Poor
    gentleman! he little imagined how a great genius might find
    useful employment for such troops. He little imagined that they
    might be made the means of compelling Englishmen to submit
    to that sort of _discipline_, which is so conducive to the
    producing in them a disposition to defend the country at the
    risk of their lives. Let Mr. Wardle look at my motto, and then
    say whether the German soldiers are of _no use_. _Five hundred
    lashes each!_ Aye, that is right! Flog them! flog them! flog
    them! They deserve it, and a great deal more. They deserve
    a flogging at every meal-time. ‘Lash them daily! lash them
    duly!’ What! shall the rascals dare to _mutiny_? and that,
    too, when the German Legion is so near at hand? Lash them!
    lash them! lash them! They deserve it. Oh, yes! they merit a
    double-tailed cat! Base dogs! What! mutiny for the _price of a
    knapsack_? Lash them! flog them! Base rascals! Mutiny for the
    price of a goat’s-skin; and then, upon the appearance of the
    German soldiers, they take a flogging as quietly as so many
    trunks of trees! I do not know what sort of a place Ely is; but
    I really should like to know how the inhabitants looked one
    another in the face while this scene was exhibiting in their
    town. I should like to have been able to see their faces, and
    to hear their observations to each other, at the time. This
    occurrence at home will, one would hope, teach _the loyal_ a
    little caution in speaking of the means which Napoleon employs
    (or rather, which they say he employs) in order to get together
    and to discipline his conscripts. There is scarcely any one
    of these loyal persons who has not, at various times, cited
    the hand-cuffings, and other means of force, said to be used
    in drawing out the young men of France; there is scarcely
    one of the loyal who has not cited these means as a proof,
    a complete proof, that the people of France _hate Napoleon
    and his Government_, assist _with reluctance in his wars_,
    and would fain _see another revolution_. I hope, I say, that
    the loyal will, hereafter, be more cautious in drawing such
    conclusions, now that they see that our ‘gallant defenders’ not
    only require physical restraint, in certain cases, but even a
    little blood drawn from their backs, and that, too, with the
    aid and assistance of _German_ troops. Yes; I hope the loyal
    will be a little more upon their guard in drawing conclusions
    against Napoleon’s popularity. At any rate, every time they
    do, in future, burst out in execrations against the French
    for suffering themselves to be ‘chained together and forced,
    at the point of the bayonet, to do military duty,’ I shall
    just republish the passage, which I have taken for a motto
    to the present sheet. I have _heard_ of some other pretty
    little things of the sort; but I rather choose to take my
    instance (and a very complete one it is) from a public print,
    notoriously under the sway of the ministry.”

So much for your “comment-maker.”

       *       *       *       *       *

What personage had the distinction of walking home from church with Mr.
Perceval, on the following day, history does not record: his comments,
then, remain in oblivion. No matter that, however. In about three weeks
after the above publication, Mr. Cobbett has news from London, which he
thus retails:--

    “… I have a most serious business to impart to you, and that
    is, that I hear from Mr. White, that the miscreants are about
    to prosecute me for the article about the flogging of the local
    militia. What I wish you to do is to go to Mr. White and ask

    “1. Whether the thing be _certain_?

    “2. What is to be done in it by me, in the first instance?

    “3. At what time it will be required for me to be in town to
    give bail?

    “4. When the trial will take place?

    “5. Of what nature is the bail that I must give?

    “It is quite useless to fret and stew about this. I must meet
    it. They may probably confine me for two years; but that does
    not kill a man; and may, besides, produce even good effects, in
    more ways than one.

    “But the main thing is to be prepared. There is a _possibility_
    of acquittal, though they push their malice to its full
    extent. Let us, therefore, be prepared; let us take all
    proper precautions; and then wait the chapter of accidents.
    Your better way will be to show this part of my letter to Mr.
    White, and pray thank him most heartily, in my name, for his
    kindness in giving me the information.… What I would do, in
    case of imprisonment, is this. I would make F. Reid come and
    take charge of my lands, &c. I will, even _now_, cut off all
    expenses of horses, dogs, &c., so as to make up for the loss;
    and I would have such a plan of economy as should enable me to
    have my family near me, if possible. Thus, you see, my mind is
    made up to the thing. I care for nothing that they can do. I
    would certainly defend myself.…

    “… Let me alone; if they will but leave me the use of the
    press, I’ll beat them all, I warrant you.”

Mr. Reeves appears to have been sounded, by Mr. Wright, upon the
possibility of escape from prosecution. Cobbett expresses some
displeasure, however, on hearing of this, and adds:--

    “… I am fully prepared for the worst, and therefore am no
    longer under any anxiety. I would rather be gibbeted, than owe
    my life to the intercession such as you speak of, and such
    as I am afraid you half-solicited. I told you to keep very
    quiet. Say nothing at all about the matter to any one. Ask no
    questions; and only be sure to tell me precisely what you hear.
    I am not afraid of them. Times are coming on when we shall all
    have enough to do; but, in the meanwhile, I shall not worry
    myself to death with apprehension.…”

Instead of any fear of the future, the look-out is rather toward the
welfare and increase of his estate. Some plots of land have just been
purchased, with the object of making freeholders of Wright, Finnerty,
and others. The prospects of harvest are very bad, for the rains have
been so incessant, that wheat is growing in the ear; but the trees are
coming on “delightfully.” Lord Cochrane arrives home, and comes to see
Botley with the tale of his grievances.

Mr. Cobbett pays his occasional visit to Lord Folkestone, at Coleshill;
and horses and puppies, and hares and pheasants, reappear in their
order, not at all as though the threatened danger would be anything
beyond a scare.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among Mr. Cobbett’s friends was one who had become peculiarly bound up
in his affairs, through circumstances which must now be noticed.

Mr. John Swann, of Wolvercot and Ensham, in Oxfordshire, was an eminent
paper-maker of that day; his mills being the chief sources of supply
for the University of Oxford. He had supplied also the paper for the
_Register_ from a very early period; and it would appear that a strong
attachment existed between him and the Cobbetts. As far back as
September, 1805, when purchases of land were being made in Hampshire,
somewhat beyond Mr. Cobbett’s command of ready money, Mr. Swann had
assisted him by discounting accommodation bills. At the death of the
latter, in January, 1807, his brother James succeeded both to the
paper-mills and to the accommodation paper; and to the friendship thus
continued into another family, we are indebted to some further glimpses
of Cobbett’s happy domestic life. Mr. Swann is initiated into the
mysteries of planting: eels from the sluggish Oxford streams grace the
table at Botley, and game from Hampshire that of Ensham. And, as time
fled on, the perilous accumulation of “credit” seemed only to add new
links of love.

The following selection from correspondence belongs to the later months
of 1808:--

                      JAMES SWANN to JOHN WRIGHT.

    “I am not at all surprised at the increased sale of the
    _Register_; every one who reads it is astonished at the
    wonderful extent of Mr. Cobbett’s abilities. God grant him
    a long life, for the country’s sake!… Mr. Barwis has lately
    been with Mr. and Mrs. Cobbett at Botley; they have kindly
    promised to be sponsors to a son Mrs. Swann presented me with a
    fortnight ago, whom I shall have named William.”

                            WM. C. to J. S.

    “Mr. Barwis has communicated to me your wish respecting my
    being godfather to your son, and I assure you, with perfect
    sincerity, that I shall look upon it as doing me honour. I
    never was yet a godfather to any child but one of my own, who
    was born in a heathen country; and there are very few persons,
    to a child of whom I would stand godfather; but one of yours I
    shall with great pleasure. I hear it is to be after Christmas,
    which will suit me best, as I have a great deal to do here
    before, in the planting way, which I cannot possibly trust in
    any hands but my own.…

    “I have now a favour, in the sporting way, to ask of you. I
    have had most lamentable luck with dogs, having lost almost the
    whole of a fine and rare collection of spaniel and greyhound
    puppies. Of the latter I shall not take much pains to get any
    more, the places for coursing being at such a great distance
    from me; but of the former I want many, because we live amongst
    such covers as nothing can be moved out of without a plenty of
    good spaniels. The sort we want is the short-legged, rather
    coarse-haired, long-eared, and feathered down the legs to the
    very tips of the nails. This is the most strong, true, and
    resolute race. None other will do in endless covers like ours,
    where the stuff is so very thick, and there are such quantities
    of matted thorns as sharp as pins. Now, if you should happen to
    know of a famous breed--some gentleman whose breed is famous
    all over the country--I should like to have a brace; which may,
    perhaps, be obtained by speaking time enough beforehand. But
    there is another condition (for, when one is begging, one may
    as well go the whole length), I wish not to have them till
    they are at least four months old. Young puppies, if of a high
    breed, will not live.…

    “There is, I am told, a fine breed called the Woodstock or
    Blenheim breed; but, if you will inquire, you will easily find
    out a fine breed. _Every one’s dogs are the best in England_;
    but there are some gentlemen and noblemen (a very few) of
    standing reputation for their breed of spaniels, and a brace of
    this sort it is that I want. Spaniels should have no spice of
    _the hound_ in them. Tan colour over the eyes is, therefore, a
    sure mark of reprobation. Such will hunt hares; and, when they
    have moved one in a large thick cover, the sportsman may go
    a-shooting by himself.

    “After all, if the thing be attended with much trouble, pray do
    not take it, for your time is too valuable to be wasted in the
    gratification of my whims.”

                            J. S. to J. W.

    “I duly received yours this morning. I was much amused with
    the caricature, it is certainly a good one. I heard from Mr.
    Cobbett a few days ago, and am endeavouring to procure him
    some good spaniels. I do not expect our christening will be
    till about or after Christmas, when I shall be glad to see you
    here. I have another son to go through the ceremony besides
    William, whom we shall name _John_, and shall beg you to be his

This excursion did not come off till May, 1809, for some reason or
other. Mr. Wright was very nearly being entrapped into matrimony on the
occasion, with an interesting widow who was one of the visitors.

                            WM. C. to J. S.

    “We got home in very good time; but had the mortification to
    see the road drier and drier, as we advanced, till, when we
    came to Botley, the dust flew, and we have not had one drop of
    rain since. Nevertheless, all my plantations go on exceedingly
    well. I am satisfied that, with some people’s planting,
    half the trees would now have been dead. Get the books I
    recommended, and in the _Profitable Planter_ see the articles
    ‘Willow’ and ‘Black Italian Poplar.’ The aspen is good, and I
    prefer it. But be sure not to plant Lombardy poplar. It is not
    fit even to burn.”

An important outward change came over the _Register_ at the beginning
of the year 1809. Mr. Cobbett had for some time been dissatisfied
with the printing of Messrs. Cox and Baylis; and it was therefore
transferred to Mr. T. C. Hansard. An improvement was manifest at once,
and the _Register_ took the position of those publications which were
discarding the antiquated types of the past. Some little notion of
the extent of the enterprise that was going on may be gathered by an
estimate furnished to Swann of the probable _monthly_ supply of paper
that would be required:--

    “Register           60 reams.
    State Trials        96   “
    Parl. History       50   “
    Parl. Debates       50   “
                Total  256 reams.”

As the _Register_ was in 16 pages 8vo, with occasional supplements, the
weekly circulation must have been nearly six thousand at this period.
Very soon after this change, the price was raised to 1_s._ from 10_d._,
at which figure it had stood since its commencement. The price of paper
had risen from 24_s._ to 43_s._ a ream, and the newspaper stamp from a
halfpenny to 3½_d._; besides that, other expenses had proportionally
augmented. Great must have been the hold which Cobbett had obtained,
over a large number of readers, for his journal to have been able to
keep its place under such circumstances.

       *       *       *       *       *

The threatened prosecution hung so long over Mr. Cobbett’s head, that
some of his friends began to hope that nothing would come of it. He
probably thought, for his own part, that the Government were not
unmindful of the sort of antagonist he would make, when driven to bay;
and that they would think twice before going into the contest without
the minutest preparation, and the best possible opportunity. In a
letter to Mr. Swann, dated 28th November, he says,--

    “You have, I suppose, heard of the dead set which the
    Attorney-General is making upon us. My opinion is that it will
    come to nothing at all. But, if it does, we must beat them, if
    there be either spirit or honesty left in England.”

There will be no lack of preparation, however:--

                         WM. C. to J. WRIGHT.

    “Dear Sir,--As I am to have the pleasure of seeing you on
    Wednesday, I shall say the less here. But, as to the now most
    interesting subject, I cannot help saying a few words, as they
    may be usefully communicated to Mr. Bagshaw and Mr. Hansard,
    _in confidence_. My resolution is to plead my own cause, if I
    am well in health. Nothing upon earth, illness excepted, shall
    make me forego this resolution. I am also resolved to defend;
    that is, to _justify_; and to render the affair a great public
    question. The sooner we begin, the sooner we shall be well
    prepared, and the more likely to secure a favourable issue. You
    will know how and where to get me the authorities, or facts,
    for showing,--

    “1. That the ministers, or their partisans, have been employed
    for more than six months in publishing libels against me;
    atrocious falsehoods (such as the 4000_l._ story) for the
    purpose of exciting, in the public mind, an evil opinion of me;
    and thus pave the way for this state prosecution.

    “2. That the ministers themselves (or, at least, Canning, &c.)
    have written libels, if these be libels; and, upon this point,
    to get together all the _accusations_, and all the _nicknames_,
    used by the Anti-Jacobins against Moira, Nichol, &c.

    “3. That there were _caricatures_ prepared under the eye of
    Canning, &c., and of whom, and how they were to be represented
    as traitors.

    “4. That there are writers hired, or paid, by the Government.

    “5. To get a good historical view of the state prosecutions
    for libel, and show how they have originated with bad
    Governments and wicked lawyers; and to show, in short, that the
    Stuarts suffered more from this cause than from any other.

    “6. To get collected, all the best speeches and strong sayings
    of eminent men against an army of foreigners in England. You
    will easily get me some good matter upon this subject, by
    looking back into the _Parliamentary History_.

    “7. Think of any of the poets who have written against
    mercenary foreign armies.

    “8. Have not the Swiss and Walloon Guards, in Spain, now joined

    “9. I must have, from good authority, the particulars of the
    contract made with the German Legion, about not being sent out
    of Europe.

    “It will be time enough to set about any part of this, after
    you have been here; but you will turn your mind to the several
    points in the meanwhile.

    “Be particular in attending, now, to any publication whatever,
    wherein mention is made of this prosecution, and especially if
    it has for its object the prejudicing of the public against me.
    When I get hold of such a thing, I shall begin my operations.

    “Do as you please about mentioning my intention to defend
    myself, to Hansard, or any of them; but be sure to tell them
    from me, that I hold the thing in contempt; that I am no more
    afraid of the rascals than I could be of so many mice. And,
    really, if we have an _honest jury_, it will be a famous thing

    “I thank you very kindly for your news about my wife. I am a
    great deal more anxious about her than about the prosecution.”

He continues to remind his correspondent that it will answer no purpose
to soothe his anxiety by flattering him with hopes of escape. At the
end of the year, there is, however, still no prospect of the trial
coming on. The following is dated 31st December:--

    “What I want information about, relative to the approaching
    trial, is, in the first place, a reference to all the debates
    which you know anything of, against foreign troops.… You said
    that Mr. Bosville had a list of instances of those countries
    who had fallen under a defence by foreign troops. Can you get
    it from him? It would do for a mere enumeration in a speech.
    Arguments against a mercenary army apply equally well to
    foreign troops. I shall think of other matter in my next. I
    will prepare everything here against the 23rd, and, as soon
    as we find that the cause _is_ to come on, I will set off for
    London, and continue there till the cause be over. In the
    meanwhile, I will arrange a defence in my own way. If we have
    an honest, I mean an _impartial_ jury, I am no more afraid of
    Vicary than I am of a fly.”

On the 8th January, he writes:--

    “… I have read the trial of Tooke all through, and also his
    other trial, in the case of Fox’s action against him.… What
    villains he had to deal with! His life is a history of the
    hypocritical tyrannies of this jubilee[2] reign. I shall
    profit a good deal from this reading; but mine must be a
    defence of a different sort; less of law knowledge, and more of
    a plain story, and an appeal to the _good sense_ and _justice_
    of my hearers.

    “I do not know that I mentioned the following things to you

    “1. That number of the _Courier_ which contained the article
    that I took for a motto to the flogging article.

    “2. Those numbers of the _Post_ and _Courier_ which, as you
    told me, contained an exhortation to prosecute me.

    “Indeed, we should have files of those papers for the last
    eight months; for I must dwell upon the endeavours to excite
    prejudice against me.”

The same letter proceeds to mention his plans for arranging his
pecuniary affairs--a matter of hardly-inferior importance, considering
their tangled condition. As soon as possible, he will then go up to
London to await events.

    “… I do not know whether they have given a notice of trial,
    formally; but I think they will.… They feel the deep wounds I
    have given them; and they lose sight of everything but revenge.
    I really do not know which I ought to wish for--a trial or a
    _nolle prosequi_. My character and fame call for the former;
    but then, my health and my dearly-beloved family call for the
    latter, or for anything which shall preclude the chance of a
    villainous sentence. However, I am rather indifferent about the

    “… God send us good luck; but if not, good _heart_, which I
    trust I, at least, shall not want. My intention is to meet my
    accusers in a manner worthy of the advocate of truth.”

Mr. James Perry was in trouble again, early in 1810. The
Attorney-General had filed information against the _Morning Chronicle_
and the _Examiner_, for a paragraph in which the Whig hopes of the day
were embodied. These hopes were to be fulfilled when the Prince of
Wales succeeded to the throne, and the obnoxious paragraph ended with
these words:--

    “Of all monarchs, indeed, since the Revolution, the successor
    of George the Third will have the finest opportunity of
    becoming nobly popular.”

The interpretation put upon this by the “friends of order”[3] was, that
the life of George III. stood between his people and the blessings
in store for them! Mr. Perry conducted his own defence, and was
acquitted; and the record as against the _Examiner_ was forthwith
withdrawn. This occurrence was a subject of rejoicing to the whole
tribe of scribblers,--at least, of those who were not subsidized; and
the failure of the prosecution correspondingly inflamed the minds of
the administration. Peter Finnerty was another victim of this year.
And, after some further halting, it was determined to bring forward
the record against Mr. Cobbett, after his friends had begun to be
tranquilized with the hope that he would not be molested.

It is highly probable, but for the urging to prosecution, on the part
of the ministerial press, that he might have been let alone. But they
would not be true to the common cause. Bound in the fetters of party,
or of pence, the press was, as yet, ignorant of the latent force which
has since made of it a Fourth Estate. And, with respect to Mr. Cobbett,
it is impossible to withhold the conviction that the envy and the
injustice of his rivals had more to do with moulding his fortunes than
all other causes put together.

                            WM. C. to J. W.

    “Your letter, this day got, contained the best and most
    agreeable news.… We have all, I and my wife, six children, and
    every soul in the house, drunk Mr. Perry’s health. I made even
    little Susan lisp out the words. Pray give my kindest and most
    respectful compliments to him; and tell him that I do not only
    most heartily rejoice at his success (which, by the bye, does
    not surprise me), but beg leave to present my sincere thanks;
    in which, I trust, I only participate with the rest of the
    gentlemen connected with the press. Nothing but the necessity
    of attending to my concerns here this week would have prevented
    me from returning to town immediately, in order to endeavour
    to urge in person, what I request you to urge for me; namely,
    a public dinner at the Crown and Anchor, of ‘the Friends of
    the Liberty of the Press,’ at which we ought to pass a vote of
    thanks to Mr. Perry, and to proclaim some principles that may
    be of the utmost importance in future. Now is the time for us
    to assert our rights, and the respectability of our profession
    and character.[4]… Mr. Perry has done more good than any man of
    his time, and it is for us to profit by it.…”

Another public incident, of this period, was the celebrated conflict
of Sir Francis Burdett with “Mr. Speaker.” Mr. Gale Jones had been
imprisoned by the House of Commons; and Burdett took occasion to
address his constituents,--by means of a long letter in Cobbett’s
_Register_--denying the power of the House to imprison any but its own
members. The letter was composed by Cobbett himself.

Mr. Speaker walked home from church[5] with Mr. Perceval on the
following day. The latter proposed to move the House to commit Burdett
to the Tower, and order the attendance of Cobbett. And so, as every
one knows, the metropolis was upset, for the space of two or three
months, by an indecent squabble, which brought the House into great
disrespect, and made Burdett the idol of the populace. In the end, it
required 50,000 soldiers and militia to get him into the Tower; but
not all the king’s horses, nor all the king’s men, could rend away
the mantle of ridicule which the action of ministers had brought upon

Mr. Cobbett was not ordered to attend the bar of the House. More the
pity: Cobbett in Newgate, illegally imprisoned by order of the House of
Commons, would have been a very different affair to Cobbett in Newgate
_ex_ The Attorney-General! Yet he was not forgotten.

                            WM. C. to J. W.

    “So, then, the honourable House have, at last, resolved to have
    the _Register_ read to them. That is one sign of amendment, and
    if they do but follow it up by a similar motion every week, it
    cannot fail to do them a great deal of good, if anything in
    this world can do them good. If they call me before them, I
    shall say that, as the Speaker himself sent me his speech to
    publish, I, of course, thought it right to publish the speech
    of any member of the House, especially when he put his name to

    “But what I am, at this moment, anxious about, is that Mr.
    Madocks should again bring forward his last year’s motion.
    You will perceive that the worry now making is about breaches
    of privilege, tending to degrade and vilify the House. Now,
    what can have so clear and strong a tendency this way, as the
    having _sold seats in the House_, and the having turned out a
    member for not being willing to vote against his conscience?
    Why not punish those who were guilty of such offences? This
    is the ground whereon to proceed; and what a fine, what a
    striking, what a glorious effect it would have now, to renew
    Mr. Madocks’s motion! What could they do? What could they
    _say_? Good God! what an exhibition they would make before the

    “… So far so good! I am delighted with what has taken place,
    and especially with the conduct of Lord Folkestone,[6] who,
    as I always told you, is the truest man in all England. Don’t
    you remember the eulogium that we pronounced upon him, at your
    house, on Friday? That is the good of him: you may always
    depend upon him for more than he promises you. Who would have
    thought, some years ago, that he would have been the man to
    answer the minister? And to beat him, too! His speech, even
    as reported, is a master-piece; and there was no time for
    preparation. I always told him what he was able to do, if he
    could but muster up courage.…”

    “… The decision upon the Walcheren affair is what was to be
    desired, I think, looking to the only object which we ought
    to have in view, a Reform of the Parliament. Now, then, what
    will the Edinburgh Reviewers say? I shall now quote their own
    words against themselves. Will they now openly join us, as they
    said they would, or will they again shuffle? At any rate, the
    honourable House, so far from agreeing with the country, have
    approved of what the country has most unequivocally condemned.
    This cannot fail to tell. Will the Whigs _now_ join the people?
    They have no other rational course left, but will they not
    rather sink into eternal oblivion?”

In the middle of May, the Attorney-General had made up his mind; and
Mr. Cobbett came up to London to the “naming” of the jury.

Upon his return to Botley, his hands are fuller than ever. Money has
to be provided, so that there shall be no tradesmen in Hampshire left
unpaid. “Since last January we have paid for everything, the butcher
excepted, as we have had it. No bills of any sort; and I must leave
here none at all, if I can help it, when I go up to the trial.”

Copy for the _Register_ goes up to London in undiminished quantity; and
there is, besides, the preparation for his defence. Friends furnish
hints, and supply him with books:--

    “To-day has been devoted wholly (since seven o’clock) to the
    reading of the volumes sent me by the coach. That sent by Mr.
    Holt White is full of most excellent matter. In short, if those
    who are to decide are not _baseness itself_, I am safe.”

Those who were to decide were, at length, brought together, and they
took two minutes over it.


[1] “In after-life he [‘my father’] described the ‘Hydra’ as a hell
upon the waters, and the brutal flogging of the sailors for the most
trivial offences as something too horrible for contemplation. ‘Often,’
he used to say, ‘have I wondered that men, who were treated as if they
had neither hearts nor souls, should yet, in the hour of danger and of
duty, forget their wrongs and indignities, act like true heroes, and
pour out their heart’s blood with sublime unselfishness for a country
that treated them so detestably.’--Charles Mackay, “Forty Years’
Recollections,” i. p. 13.

[2] On the previous 25th of October, the occasion of the King’s
entering the fiftieth year of his reign, there had been great
“rejoicings.” The Parliamentary Reformists, however, did not approve of
it, holding that _the prosperity of the country_ was a hypocritical and
delusive cry. Mr. Cobbett boasted of his refusal to subscribe toward
giving the twelve hundred thousand paupers “that rarity, that luxury,
a bellyful,” and gave very good reasons for it. The Whig papers, too,
heaped much derision upon the affair. One of the incidents of the day
was a fellow sticking up a placard at Charing Cross, in these terms:
“May God disperse the votaries of Cobbett, as the clouds of this day!”

[3] The _friends of order_ were fairly proficient in the language
of the fish-market; e.g., “To the indignation and execration of the
British nation do we therefore consign this damning specimen of the
abominable and infamous sentiments by which the base faction are
impelled in their most unprincipled and diabolical pursuits,” was the
remark of the _Post_, at the close of its comments upon the wicked

[4] The “profession and character” of the fraternity had just been
roughly assailed in Parliament by Mr. Windham. The question of
excluding reporters from the gallery of the House of Commons was one
which would come up at intervals, and it was one upon which most
public men changed their opinions, from time to time, according to
circumstances. Mr. Windham was now for shutting the gallery; and he
described the publishers of the Debates as bankrupts, lottery-office
keepers, footmen, and decayed tradesmen, and he had heard “that they
were a sort of men who would give into corrupt misrepresentations
of opposite sides.” As Mr. Wright was the only person among the
parliamentary reporters who could be put under the head of “bankrupts,”
the _Political Register_ gave Mr. Windham a castigation.

The venal writers of the day, of course, called this black treachery
and ingratitude. But then such writers had no interest in upholding
the craft--rather the other way. Of this class was the _Satirist,
or Monthly Meteor_, one of the foulest pieces of rubbish that ever
disgraced the periodical press. This paper recommended that Cobbett’s
article (which was in extremely temperate terms) should be framed and
glazed by every public man, as a warning never to trust this wretch, &c.

The _Satirist_ was one long-drawn libel. The editor must have been
utterly insusceptible of shame, or else must have been in the habit of
deadening his moral feelings by artificial means. Even the good and
patriotic Whitbread was represented as one who delighted in practising,
upon his own estate, that tyranny against which he declaimed in the
House of Commons. As for Finnerty, he is always “the miscreant,” and
Mr. Wardle, “the l----r.” Wright is described as “the poor devil who
now corrects Cobbett’s bad English, edits his Parliamentary History,
brushes his coat, puffs him in coffee-houses and debating-shops, and
does all his other dirty work,” &c.

It is very difficult to please everybody. The _Examiner_ presently
began to write down Mr. Windham, supporting itself with this affair
of the reporters, and howled at Mr. Cobbett for not doing the same.
The fact being that Cobbett was especially careful to avoid needless
animadversions upon his old friend.

[5] Lord Colchester’s “Diary and Correspondence,” ii. 240.

[6] Lord Folkestone had reminded the House, on the 26th March, that it
had been the practice of Andrew Marvel to write a full account of the
proceedings of the House of Commons to his constituents every week.



On the 15th June, 1810, the Court of King’s Bench was at last prepared
to hear the Attorney-General’s story. Mr. Cobbett, Mr. Budd, Mr.
Bagshaw, and Mr. Hansard accordingly appeared, to answer the charge
of writing, printing, and publishing a seditious “libel.” Stern
Ellenborough presided within, and a deeply-interested public waited
without, the Court.

Withal,--Mr. Attorney-General, Lord Ellenborough, and the expectant
public, each and every one knew, in his heart, that Mr. Cobbett was
about to be tried for exposing the king’s ministers; for his sarcasms
over the Duke of Clarence and “Mother Jordan;” for showing up Mrs.
Clarke; for his discoveries in political corruption; aye, and for
quarrelling with the _Morning Post_.

Mr. Attorney-General’s story, however, dealt with none of these topics.
The burden of his tale was, that the defendant charged the Government
with cruelty, and suggested to the wicked mutineers the cruelty and
injustice of their punishment. That certain brave and honourable
men had been driven from their own land, and had “sought shelter in
ours;” and had offered their blood for the glory and safety of their
adopted country. That the defendant’s paper was a libel on the brave
and honourable men; while its obvious tendency was to deter the common
people from entering the militia.

The speech of the defendant was temperate, even to tameness. The
opportunity of accumulating fire and passion, in support of unwelcome
truth, was thrown away. But there is little doubt that Cobbett had some
faith left in the honesty of a jury; besides a fallacious belief that
the ostensible cause of the prosecution was the real one, and that the
matter would be decided upon its merits. Had he, rather, boldly scorned
the adversary, and dared him to disprove that the present was an
episode in political warfare, which gave undue advantage (for the time)
to the cause of might against right: at the same time, reiterating his
wish to excite the public indignation against amateur tyranny, had kept
up an attitude of defiance,--the foe would have been cowed, although,
perhaps, not made more relenting. There was no mercy in Vicary Gibbs,
nor in Lord Ellenborough, toward the champions of the press; and Mr.
Cobbett, as champion for the day, should have recollected that the
cause itself was again on its trial. The day would be certain to go
against him; it was notoriously a personal attack; but, had he chosen
to disregard his own personality, and to hurl back in the Attorney’s
face the persecuting character which that worthy had given to his
office,--he would have dealt that stroke at licensed hypocrisy which
was left for the task of William Hone.

       *       *       *       *       *

One grave error was committed by Mr. Cobbett in his defence: it was
very weak for him to say that the words were written _in haste_.[1]
Otherwise, the general burden of his speech was: how atrociously he
had been calumniated, from his first appearance as an independent
writer, to the present moment, with the Attorney’s unjust imputations
on his loyalty and honesty; and how the Government was known to be
influencing the propagation of such calumny. That he had done good to
his neighbours and to his country, according to his measure. That the
Attorney’s forced construction of his words could not be borne out.
That his attachment to the British soldier could not be questioned.
That the so-called Hanoverian legion was composed, to a great extent,
of persons of no country; and that they were a nuisance, from their
general bad behaviour, in whatever part of England they happened to be

This last was, of course, a fresh libel, of which the Attorney-General
did not fail to make a new point. And he had the meanness to try
and prove that the delay in the prosecution was the defendant’s own
doing.[3] He thought, too, that the defendant had better consulted his
character and fame, by going along with the three other culprits, in
suffering judgment to go by default.

Lord Ellenborough went through the libel _seriatim_, making his own
comments; and concluded, after asking the jury whether its tendency was
not to injure the military service,--

    “It is for you to say whether these be words escaped in haste
    from a man, otherwise writing temperately, but whose zeal
    overshot his discretion; or whether they are the words of a man
    who wished to dissolve the union of the military, upon which,
    at all times, but now especially at this time, the safety of
    the kingdom depends. If this latter be the case, surely the
    defendant will meritedly fall under the character of that
    seditious person, which the information charges him with being.
    In cases like the present, the law requires me to state my
    opinion to the jury; and, where I have held a different opinion
    to that which I have of the present case, I have not withheld
    it from the jury. I do pronounce this to be a most infamous and
    seditious libel.”

It was now midnight, and the jury had nothing in the shape of a doubt
in their minds. Why should they have? They had no doubts when they
took their seats in the morning. Juries were juries in those days; why
should they have doubts, at the end of a drama, for the particular
conclusion of which they were particularly brought together?

So they “consulted” for about two minutes, and returned their verdict
of “_Guilty_.”

                        J. SWANN to J. WRIGHT.

    “I learned the unfortunate result of the trial about two
    o’clock on Friday, and immediately hastened to the hotel,
    Covent Garden, to see if Mr. Cobbett would require any bail,
    but I found he had left town. I need not tell you how much I am
    concerned at the verdict.…”

                            WM. C. to J. W.

    “I found Mrs. Cobbett very well, and quite prepared for what
    had happened. She bears the thing with her usual fortitude;
    and takes hourly occasion to assure me that she thinks I have
    done what I ought to do. In this she is excellent. She is the
    only wife that I ever saw, who, in such circumstances, did not
    express _sorrow_, at least, for what the husband had done; and,
    in such cases, sorrow is only another word for _blame_. Nancy
    was a good deal affected, but she soon got over it. If I had
    but about three weeks for preparation I should like it better;
    but I must settle things here as well as I can. Dr. Mitford
    will tell you _what has been suggested to me_, and what (if
    anything) will be done in consequence of it.

    “Send me by the coach to-morrow … Mother Clarke’s book, for I
    must notice the contents of it this week. You will have, in
    my writing, twenty-four columns, the greater part of it by
    to-morrow’s and next day’s posts. The rest of the double-number
    I should like to have made up of proceedings about reform,
    such as have appeared in the _Times_ and other daily papers;
    but, at present, the more harmless the things are the better.
    I shall write as boldly as ever, but I will take care of my
    subjects. The proofs of approaching scarcity can be no longer
    disguised. It will be very great and complete indeed. I shall
    be disappointed if the quartern loaf be not half-a-crown before
    Christmas. I wonder whether it be true that Buonaparte has
    stopped the exportation of corn from his dominions? If it be,
    you will soon see the effect of it. You see, that no rascal of
    a newspaper has touched upon the subject. It will come upon us
    by-and-bye with a vengeance.”

_What had been suggested?_

The reader will recollect [_ante_, p. 96] that the notion of any
intercession on his behalf was warmly deprecated by Mr. Cobbett from
the very first; and no sign of a craven spirit had appeared during
all these twelve tantalizing months. His mind was made up. The
long-deferred prospect of a term in prison had been getting still more
remote, and its accompanying terrors would be unheeded. But, back
again among his beloved fields and woods, and surrounded by a little
family which could but dimly appreciate the situation; struck with
anxious cares that must result from his predicament, he listens to a

The form and the terms of that suggestion are unknown, and will
probably remain unknown; that is of little consequence, however.
Suffice it to say, that before a week was out, negotiations were going
on, through Mr. John Reeves, for some measure of indulgence, by which,
at least, the Attorney-General was to hold his hand, and not move the
Court for judgment. At the same time, a farewell article was prepared
for the _Political Register_; for Mr. Cobbett foresaw that he could not
continue it without softening his tone, if he were to be indulged; and
softening his tone was out of the question. Preparations were made for
disposing of the remaining sets of the work, and for renouncing his
profession of political writer, “until better days.”

This weakness did not last long. There would seem to have been a
suspicion that the Government were enticing him into making the
sacrifice before letting the law come down in all its force.

                            WM. C. to J. W.

    “I will not sacrifice fortune without securing freedom in
    return. It would be both baseness and folly. Your threat to
    R[eeves] was good, and spoke my sentiment exactly. I have not
    time for telling you my plan now; but let it suffice that,
    really, from the bottom of my soul, I would RATHER be called up
    than put down the _Register_.”

On the following day, Peter Finnerty posted up to London with full
powers to stop negotiation, and to see that the farewell article was
cancelled. Need it be said that the affair got wind? It was intended to
get it in the wind. No one can doubt that this was a final effort to
add to the discomfiture, and tarnish the reputation, of a really brave
man, by exposing him to the charge of having sold himself at last.

And the effort was, to some extent, successful. Absurd versions
of the story were circulated for years afterwards, and ridiculous
misrepresentations are still afloat: all of which have the merit
of being consistent, on one point, viz., in the exhibition of an
unquenchable hatred toward one of the bravest and faithfulest souls
that ever breathed.

After Finnerty’s departure, the spirits of the little household arose
once more. “Indignation and resentment took place of grief and alarm;”
Mrs. Cobbett and her little Nancy got their courage back again; and the
master wrote up to London--“The best way is to be as calm as possible,
and to wait with patience for better days.” Even Mr. Wright, inspired
with returning pluck, thinks there ought to be “something powerful”
sent up for next week’s paper.

On the 5th of July, the four defendants answered to their bail, while
the Attorney-General prayed the judgment of the Court. Fresh hypocrisy
was uttered, of course:--

    “The army, against whom this libel is in a peculiar manner
    directed, calls on the Court for judgment against its
    traducer.… The Government calls for confirmation of its legal
    powers.… The country calls for protection against the numerous
    evils which the propagation of such publications was calculated
    to engender.… Justice is called for; and justice, to be sure,
    will be tempered with mercy. But the Court will not forget that
    mercy is due to the public, as well as to the defendant at the

The defendants were forthwith committed to the King’s Bench prison,
with directions that they be brought up on the following Monday to
receive sentence.

The _Register_, meanwhile, had been for two consecutive weeks without
any contribution to the topics of the day, on the part of the editor;
and now, again, he is compelled to apologize, for the third time,
for a similar omission.[4] He had not nearly completed his domestic
arrangements, before it was necessary to leave Botley for the last
time. And, as for sitting down to write for the information or the
amusement of the public, every one must feel the impossibility of his
being able so to divert his mind from the circumstances in which he was
now placed. He could not banish the thought, that exactly ten years ago
to the very day, he landed in England, “after having lost a fortune in
America solely for the sake of that same England;” yet his reflections,
he added, were “in some measure driven out by the contempt which I feel
for the venal slaves who have seized upon this (as they regard it)
moment of my depression, to misrepresent and insult me.”

Westminster Hall was crowded on the following Monday. Strangers were
ordered to be removed from the lower part of the Court; but the
order had to be disregarded, for fear of adding to the confusion.
Ellenborough, with three other judges, occupied the bench, of whom Mr.
Justice Grose was the one selected to pass sentence. After judgment had
been prayed, in the usual form, the judge proceeded to remark upon the
enormity of the offence:--

    The libel was a work which no well-disposed mind could doubt to
    have been framed for the most pernicious objects. Looking at
    the time at which it was written--looking at the circumstances
    of the world--there could be no doubt of the evil intentions
    of the paper. The whole tendency of it was, in so many words,
    to excite unwillingness and dislike to the service of the
    country, amongst those who are to be its defence, and to
    insult those foreigners who are in our service, to deprive
    the country of their honourable assistance, and to paralyze
    the energies of the State. The objects of the libel were too
    palpable for doubt, &c.… “The jury found you, William Cobbett,
    guilty, upon the fullest and most satisfactory evidence. If
    it were to be allowed, that your object was not to enfeeble
    and embarrass the operations of Government, there can be no
    ground for exculpating you from the guilt of libelling, for the
    base and degrading object of making a stipend by your crime.
    If there had been no other imputation upon you, the Court, as
    protecting the purity and peace of the public mind, would have
    felt itself called on to punish you severely. It is strange
    that a man who mixes so much in general and private life, as
    you do, should not see that such acts, as those for which you
    have been tried, are only productive of mischief to every mind
    that is influenced by them; and that they necessarily terminate
    in punishment on the guilty authors. It is strange that
    experience should not have taught you, and that you should be
    only advancing in a continual progress of malignity. What were
    the circumstances which you distorted in your libel? the whole
    intention of which was to throw disgrace on the Government, and
    to disgust and alienate the army. If you had anything to offer
    in extenuation, you might have offered it; the Court would
    have received it; and, at all events, impartial justice would
    have been dealt to you. I now pass the sentence of the Court
    upon you, William Cobbett, as the principal criminal amongst
    those who now stand before the Court: the Court do accordingly
    adjudge that you, William Cobbett, pay to our Lord the King
    a fine of 1000_l._; that you be imprisoned in His Majesty’s
    gaol of Newgate for the space of two years, and that at the
    expiration of that time, you enter into a recognizance to keep
    the peace for seven years--yourself in the sum of 3000_l._, and
    two good and sufficient sureties in the sum of 1000_l._ each;
    and further, that you be imprisoned till that recognizance be
    entered into, and that fine paid.”

Mr. Hansard was then sentenced to three months’ imprisonment in the
King’s Bench, and to enter into recognizances for three years. Mr. Budd
and Mr. Bagshaw were each sent to the same prison for a period of two

A smile[5] arose on Cobbett’s face as the terms of this dread sentence
were unfolded,--a sentence which must needs either crush its victim
into irrevocable ruin, or so press down upon an unknown and unsuspected
buoyancy, as to bring upon its authors a recoil from the effects of
which they would never escape.

From that hour, the sword which had been so near laying by to rust, had
its blade new tempered, whilst the scabbard was clean cast away for


[1] Augustus de Morgan gives a story which he had from Francis Place.
Place was, with others, advising Cobbett as to the proper line of
defence. “Said Place, ‘You must put in the letters you have received
from Ministers, Members of the Commons, from the Speaker downwards,
about your _Register_, and their wish to have subjects noted. You must
then ask the jury whether a person so addressed must be considered
as a common sower of sedition, &c. You will be acquitted; nay, if
your intention should get about, very likely they will manage to stop
proceedings.’ Cobbett was too much disturbed to listen; he walked about
the room, ejaculating, ‘D---- the prison!’ and the like. He had not
the sense to follow the advice, and was convicted.” _Vide_ “Budget of
Paradoxes,” p. 119.

[2] Robert Huish, who is by no means favourably disposed towards
Cobbett, says upon this point, “The truth was on Cobbett’s side, as
every one can substantiate who had ever the misfortune to reside in the
place where the German mercenaries were quartered.”

[3] “The use which Sir Vicary Gibbs generally made of his power of
issuing _ex officio_ informations was to lay an information against the
offending writers, but not to proceed to trial, exacting a promise from
them that, if he did not pursue it, they would write nothing offensive
to the Government, and thus holding it _in terrorem_ over their
heads.”--Andrews’s “British Journalism,” ii. 57.

[4] This omitting to write for two or three weeks, together with the
rumoured dropping of the _Register_, created tremendous sensation
among the scribbling fraternity. The _Morning Chronicle_ returned to
Cobbett all the warm feelings which Perry had received from him. The
_Examiner_, on the other hand, was mercilessly unjust. That vigorous
paper was then in its early priggish days, and could brook no rivalry.
Leigh Hunt looked with contempt upon all the set of Cobbetts and
Cochranes, as not Reformists after his sort, and he now proceeded to
attack Cobbett violently for his timidity, and for his whining about
being torn from his home, &c.; adding that politicians must be prepared
to endanger individual freedom for the sake of the general good. But
then the “spirit of martyrdom had been inculcated” in the Hunts from
the very cradle.

The readers of the _Examiner_, however, were not at one with their
editor upon this point. One correspondent thought it ill-befitting a
Reformist to overlook all the merits of a fellow-labourer, just at the
moment of his being down, and “to dwell with a malignant ecstasy on
all the failings that industrious malice could scrape together from
years of bold and zealous service.” It was also pointed out, with
much justice, that Mr. Cobbett was singular in this: that he not only
confessed his errors when he had found them out, but argued clearly and
decisively against them. Of course, the _Examiner_ was so clever that
it had no errors to retract.

Leigh Hunt appears to have discovered, in after-years, that he often
made extravagant demands upon other people’s virtue; and the allusion,
in his autobiography, to some want of charity toward other people’s
opinions, points to this period, when intolerance could animate the
Radical quite as easily as the privileged mind.

Mr. Redhead Yorke had long been converted from Radicalism, and had no
sympathy for the delinquent. But he was, now, on the other side.

[5] _Times_, July 10th.



So the patriot was down. Down, among the felons. To keep company, for
a period of two years, “with swindlers, and with persons convicted of
the most detestable crimes,” was he set down; unless he should ransom
himself away from their immediate society. There he was, torn away
from home, subjected to untold difficulties, financial and other, and
deprived of liberty--in the cause of humanity and of national justice.

The absurdity of this outrageous sentence was soon manifest. The whole
country cried “Shame!” Even the toad-eating ministerial newspapers were
silent. Save mutilation, it was going back two hundred years.

Not that this was a solitary affair: there were other sufferers in
durance vile, or with the prospect of it over their heads; and the
existing generation had not forgotten the victims of 1792-4. But
this was so notorious: here was a man whose writings were patriotic,
manly, eloquent;--and so far unsurpassed by those of any of his
cotemporaries--bundled into jail for speaking the plain truth about
public affairs, and proving it as he went along.

Exactly a year ago it had been openly declared that they were
determined to crush him! And now the blow had fallen:--

    “They thought that this savage sentence would break my heart,
    or at least silence me for ever. It was, indeed, a bloody stab.
    They thought they had got rid of me. Just after the verdict of
    _guilty_ was found, Perceval met his brother-in-law Redesdale,
    at the portal of Westminster Hall. They shook hands, and gave
    each other joy!… Curtis[1] met Tierney in the Hall: ‘Ah! ah!
    we have got him at last,’ said Curtis. ‘Poor Cobbett! let him
    be bold now!’ The old place-hunter answered, ‘D--n him! I hope
    they’ll squeeze him!’ They did squeeze indeed; but their claws,
    hard as they were, did not squeeze hard enough.… The ruffians
    put me into prison in lucky time for me--put me into prison,
    and tied me to the stake of politics.”

But let that pass. A prison is a prison. A convicted libeller is a
convicted libeller. And, a convicted libeller having made his bed, let
him lie upon it! The wretch should have taken into the account, when
he made his stab at a merciful but just executive, that he ran the risk
of being thrown into the enforced companionship of other villains. He
had made his choice: it was not for him to complain that the logic
of events had left him in jail, and that folks outside were laughing
at him. Yes, let that pass, it is no concern of ours. That which it
behoves us to consider--that which is infinitely more interesting to
us--is this question, _What came of it all_?

In the first place, before Mr. Cobbett was released, flogging had
become so discredited as to be nearly in desuetude, as regards the
British army. Secondly, the degrading practice was totally abolished in
the United States army, by Act of Congress of April 10th, 1812.

As was observed in a previous chapter, this topic was now uppermost in
the public mind. And, as though sufficient warning had not been derived
from the fate of Cobbett, a reckless provincial editor must needs court
a similar martyrdom. This was Mr. Drakard, of the _Stamford News_,
who admitted into his paper, of the 24th August, a bitter paragraph
concerning “ONE THOUSAND LASHES;” a paragraph “of a nature so infamous,
so seditious, and so dangerous, that no good man who heard it read
could restrain his resentment,” &c. Of course. So, as Mr. Drakard had
made his bed, he might lie upon it; which he did, for the space of
eighteen months in Lincoln jail,[2]--for the sake of dear good men, who
could not “restrain their resentment” at being told, that punishment
and merciless barbarity were not convertible terms.

Those were, indeed, good old times. If there is anything, more than
another, which stamps mediocrity upon the governing men of that day
(not excepting the “first gent.” himself), it is their persistent
disregard of the affections of the people, as displayed in the measures
entertained by the Legislature;[3] the callosity of heart and mind with
which they faced any appeal to the better feelings of human nature, on
behalf of the unnumbered and unwashed.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last, however, flogging was being deprecated. And it is due to Sir
Francis Burdett, to record, that he was instrumental in bringing the
attention of Parliament to the matter. He had moved, in 1808, without
effect, that a return of floggings be presented to the House. Again, in
1811, he revived the subject, with the result that a clause found its
way into the Mutiny Bill, having for its tendency the “lessening the
quantity of flogging in the army.” In the following Session, Burdett
insisted upon the necessity of abolishing the practice altogether:
vainly, however; although his action produced an unmistakable change in
the tone of Government and its supporters.

During this discussion, in March, 1812, Mr. Brougham brought Cobbett’s
name into the proceedings, to the infinite disgust of some ministerial
toad-eaters. They protested: they “felt extremely hurt that the
indiscreet language of the learned gentleman should go out to the
public, as bidding the army look up to Mr. Cobbett for redress, instead
of to their own officers.”

They had done better to leave Mr. Cobbett to his own native
insignificance; and not rouse him, with his whip-cord in hand:--

    “Here is, even from the mouths of the Government themselves, an
    acknowledgment that it is a good thing to make the practice of
    flogging less general. This they have now distinctly avowed,
    that it is desirable to narrow this practice; and they boast
    of having, in some degree, succeeded by the means of a clause
    in the last year’s Mutiny Act. Now then, said Mr. Brougham, if
    this be the case, or as far as the good has gone, it is to be
    attributed to the press; and that, while those who were honest
    and bold enough to begin this battle in the cause of humanity;
    while those who fought the good fight and won an inestimable
    victory in that great cause; while Mr. Drakard and I were shut
    up in a prison, the Government were boasting of the success
    of a measure founded upon our principles. He added, that ‘the
    legislature had been obliged, with respect to this question,
    to act upon the very principles of Mr. Cobbett, who was now in
    jail for his unseasonable declaration of them.’ This seems to
    have given great offence to several members of the honourable
    House, who observed that the soldiers ought to be taught to
    THANK THEIR OFFICERS for the measure, and NOT MR. COBBETT! Oh,
    dear, no! That would be a sad thing! It would be a sad thing if
    the soldiers were to look to ME for redress; especially after
    my being sent to a felon’s jail, which, of course, was to mark
    me out for a man to be shunned, rather than looked up to. The
    truth is, that this merit of having been the beginner of the
    battle in the cause of the soldiers does not belong to me. It
    belongs to Sir Francis Burdett.…

    “Sir George Warrender describes Mr. Brougham as bidding the
    army look to me for redress instead of looking to their own
    officers. Why, really, I do not see why this should hurt the
    gentleman’s feelings so much. What harm could it do? What
    could the public or the soldiers learn from any speech of Mr.
    Brougham more about me than they know already? They all know
    very well what I am in jail for.… The newspapers were kept full
    of me and my _crime_ for the best part of a month; from the
    newspapers I and my crime got into the caricature shops; and,
    in short, while in jail myself, all those (and very numerous
    they were), who were in hopes that I was gone to my last home,
    used every means in their power to blacken my character.…

    “Surely Sir George Warrender might have trusted, in such a
    case, to the _understanding_ of the army! He might surely have
    confided in their _taste_ not to look up to me instead of their
    officers, especially after the repeated assurances of Sir
    Vicary Gibbs, that the army _despised_ such writings as mine,
    and held their authors in abhorrence. After this, I think Sir
    George Warrender might have spared any expression of the wound
    given to his feelings at hearing language that tended to induce
    the army to _look up to me_ instead of looking up to their
    own officers for redress. ‘_Indiscreet language!_’ As if the
    subject had been all _tinder_: as if there had been imminent
    danger in even warning me, lest the soldiers should hear, or
    see, my name! Really, though sitting here in a jail, I can
    hardly help laughing at the idea.”

       *       *       *       *       *

    “When it was known in America, that so heavy, so dreadful a
    sentence, had been passed upon me, a sentence which no man
    could regard as much short of death; a sentence surpassing in
    severity those for nineteen-twentieths of the _felonies_; when
    this sentence was heard of in America, where every creature was
    well acquainted with what I had there suffered from my devotion
    to my country, every one naturally felt eager to know _what I
    could have done_ to merit such a sentence? And, when the people
    of that country came to see what it was; when they came to read
    the article, for the writing of which I was to be so heavily
    punished; when they came to consider the subject-matter of that
    publication, and to reflect on how they themselves might become
    interested in it, there naturally came forth through the press
    an expression of some sentiments which have finally had their
    effect in producing the Act of Congress above inserted; and
    thus has the hateful practice of flogging men been abolished by
    law in a great and rising, and wonderfully-increasing nation. I
    do not pretend to say that the American Government would have
    had any desire to continue the practice of flogging, though the
    discussions on the subject had never taken place in England.
    On the contrary, I am of opinion that that Government was glad
    of an opportunity of getting rid of it; but I am of opinion
    that the thing would not have been thought of, had it not been
    for the discussions in England. Sir Vicary Gibbs was little
    apprehensive of these effects when he was prosecuting me; he
    could scarcely have hoped that his labours would be productive
    of consequences so important, so beneficial, and honourable to
    mankind; he hardly, I dare say, flattered himself that he was
    ensuring the extension of his renown through a whole continent
    of readers.”

It was, then, no idle boast, that imprisonment need not kill, nor even
seriously injure, a man: that a jail was “as good a place for study as
any other.” But, really, although the temporary loss of liberty is an
unpleasant thing, considered in the abstract, there can be no possible
objection to a man putting as good a face as he can on the matter. Life
itself is nothing but a life-long struggle of a kindred character: to
try and get an optimist view of bad circumstances. And, if one must
needs take his daily exercise upon the leads of Newgate prison, instead
of through his coppices and cornfields: if he must get his “violets
and primroses, and cowslips and harebells,” sent up by the carrier,
because of their extreme rarity in the street below; let him thank a
propitious Heaven for so much!

In point of fact, few prisoners were ever so blessed as Cobbett. The
reader is familiar enough (from the pages of “Advice,” &c.) with
the current of domestic joy that kept flowing. But, besides having
one or other of his family continually with him, there were always
sympathizing visitors: personal friends, business acquaintances,
deputations from clubs and societies all over the kingdom. And, what
was of no little importance, Matthew Wood was sheriff, who attended, in
every possible way, to the comfort of his prisoner. Baron Maseres[4]
came frequently, and “always in his wig and gown, in order, as he said,
to show his abhorrence of the sentence.”

    “I was hardly arrived when the brave old Major Cartwright
    came.… You [PETER WALKER, of Worth, Sussex] were the next to
    arrive; and when, by dint of money, I had obtained the favour
    to be put into a room by myself, you hurried home, and brought
    me bedstead, chairs, tables, bedding, and everything; and
    I think I see you now, stripped in your shirt, putting the
    bedstead together and making up my bed. During the whole of
    the two years you never suffered me to be lonely; and your
    kindness was such, that when you found me engaged--when any
    one arrived--you instantly departed, unless pressed to stay.
    Thus proving that your visits arose solely from your desire to
    alleviate the sufferings of confinement. And, at the close of
    the period, though the sum was so enormous, and the period so
    long, you, with my excellent friend BROWN, voluntarily became
    my bail, and spoke of it, as he did, as an honour done to

And, as to his health, Cobbett would boast in after years that he
never had even a headache for a moment; never enjoyed better health or
spirits; never had hopes more lively, or thoughts more gay, than in
that prison.

But that which, above all other matters, appeared to be the great
solace of his prison-life, was the production of his famous work on
the Currency, under the title of “Paper against Gold.”[5] The tricks
and contrivances by which paper-money had been, along with the funding
system, made the means of placing unwieldy fortunes in the hands of
speculators, was his utter abhorrence. The glory was departed from
England, in his eyes, if public credit were to hang upon the prosperity
of the few, as against the multitude. And, regarding a fictitious
currency, shifting in value from day to day, sometimes even from hour
to hour, as a leading cause of the debt which was accumulating to such
a terrible figure,--he resolved to devote a part of his newly-found
leisure to the systematizing of his thought upon the subject.

Accordingly, upon the 1st of September, he commenced a series of
papers, founded upon the recent report of the Bullion Committee;
tracing the history of the National Debt, and of the schemes for
raising money which had been in vogue during the war.

Here is his story (told in 1822) of the first conception of the plan,
and his notion of its value:--

    “The next day after Gibbs, Ellenborough, and their associates,
    had got me safe in Newgate, an American friend of mine, who
    had the clearest and soundest head of almost any man I ever
    knew in my life, and for whom I had and still have a very great
    personal regard, came to see me in a very miserable hole,
    though better than that to which I had been sentenced, and from
    which I finally ransomed myself at the expense, for _lodging_
    alone, of 1200_l._ Being seated, one of us on each side of a
    little bit of a table, he said, looking up into my face, with
    his arms folded upon the edge of the table, ‘Well! they have
    _got you_ at last. And now, what will you do?’ After a moment
    or two I answered, ‘What do you think I ought to do?’ He then
    gave me his opinion, and entered pretty much into a sort of
    plan of proceedings. I heard him out, and then I spoke to
    him in much about these words: ‘No, Dickins, that will never
    do. This nation is drunk, it is mad as a March hare, and mad
    it will be till this beastly frolic (_the war_) is over. The
    only mode of proceeding, to get satisfaction, requires great
    patience. The nation must suffer at last, and greatly and
    dreadfully suffer, and in that suffering it will come to its
    reason, and to that justice of sentiment, which are now wholly
    banished. I shall make no immediate impression by tracing the
    paper-system to its deadly root. The common people will stare
    at me, and the rich ruffians will swear; but the time must come
    when all will listen; and my plan is to write that _now_ which
    I can hold up to the teeth of my insolent enemies, and taunt
    them with in the hour of their distress.…’ I then described to
    him the outline of what I intended to do with regard to the
    paper-system; and after passing a very pleasant afternoon,
    during which we selected and rejected several titles, we at
    last fixed upon that of _Paper against Gold_, which I began
    to write and to publish in a few weeks afterwards, and which,
    at the end of thirteen years, I hold up to the noses of the
    insolent foes who then exulted over me, and tell them, ‘This is
    what you got by my having been sentenced to Newgate: this was
    the produce of that deed by which it was hoped and believed,
    that I was pressed down never to be able to stir again.…’ This
    was a new epoch in the progress of my mind. I now bent my
    whole force to one object, regarding everything else as of no
    consequence at all. The pursuits of agriculture and gardening
    filled up the moments of mere leisure and relaxation. Other
    topics than that of paper-money came now and then to make a
    variety; but this was the main thing. I never had any hope in
    anything else; and nothing else was an object of my care.”

So the attempt to crush him was a failure. Rather, they read defiance
in every page; and, as time wore on, it was seen that the silence
of defeat was on the side of Mr. Cobbett’s foes. The Press ignored
him; that Press which had, from envy at his superior talents and his
unexampled success, ransacked the vocabulary of Billingsgate in order
to abuse a man they could not answer; which had so goaded and inflamed
the persecuting spirit of the time, that none dared speak or write who
were not sheltered by privilege, or who had not bartered independence
for the favour of those in power. Not for several years after this date
was there much desire shown, on the part of a ministerial writer, to
attract the glance of this rampant lion.

And they might well be quiet. If this imprisonment had neither killed
nor cured him, Mr. Cobbett came out of Newgate an altered man. He was
now fifty years of age, and a few grey hairs were just appearing.
The enormous expenses which he had been put to (amounting, from
first to last, to more than six thousand pounds), and the discovery
that his business affairs were hopelessly involved, made up a bundle
of difficulties which began to tell upon his temper. Good-natured
sarcasms made place for bitter ones; and an air of spitefulness would
come over his writings when there was more than ordinary cause for
resentment. His essays were, albeit brilliant as ever, sometimes marred
by the introduction of coarse epithets; and, during the remainder of
his career, this cause alone sufficed to estrange many of his friends,
and to put a stone into the hand of opponents.

Mr. Cobbett’s writing must be considered as at its very best during the
years 1810-12. He probably gave some time to revision; a point which he
had been inclined to neglect, and a matter concerning which he seemed
utterly heedless in later years; the exclusive devotion to his pen, now
so far removed from rural distractions, necessarily produced better

But it cannot be said that there was any deterioration in Cobbett’s
literary style, beyond the warmth of expression engendered by fiercer
animosity. The best known works of William Cobbett belong to the last
twenty years of his life; and if they are painfully full of personal
hatreds, it must be recollected that those were, indeed, times to
try men’s souls; the oppressor and the oppressed had seldom been, in
England, in such close conflict; and a leader and guider of men, on
the side of the latter, had need to be fierce and uncompromising. The
soldier, foremost of your storming-party, has little time to spare
for consideration of the personal merits of the foe, whose gunstock is
swinging o’er his head.

       *       *       *       *       *

The more serious result, personally, of the sentence pronounced upon
Mr. Cobbett, was the utter collapse of his pecuniary fortunes. The
enormous profit derived from the publication of the _Register_ might
have been sufficient to cover even the profuse expenditure of Botley
House, with its hospitality and its planting experiments, but Mr.
Cobbett was eminently a person who (as the Hebrew poet has it) earned
money to put it into a bag with holes.

This matter, however, might be passed over with light notice, but for
its interference with Cobbett’s public services. His is not a solitary
instance of a useful life being marred, and its efficiency hindered, by
an ignorance of the value of money; and there could hardly be a more
decisive evidence of the disastrous results of such ignorance than is
presented by this man’s career. PLUTUS is the most exacting of deities;
his votaries must be whole-hearted; let FORTUNA come and cast off her
shoes as she may.…

It was never Cobbett’s aim to get rich. He had, indeed, hoped to
provide a snug competence for his children; but for plans of amassing
wealth he had supreme contempt. To earn by labour, and to circulate
the proceeds, was his economy; and it cannot be denied that, with
proper prudence, that is the right economy. The greatest enemy to
national prosperity is the plutocrat; and the next greatest is he who
can afford, in the prime of life, to live without labour, through the
mistaken munificence or benevolence of another.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would appear, then, that upon accounts being looked into, in the
autumn of 1810, money affairs were found to be almost hopelessly
entangled. The three great serial works,--the “Debates,” “Parliamentary
History,” and “State Trials,” were being produced at a ruinous loss;
while the accommodation-paper, chiefly in the hands of Mr. Swann,
amounted to thousands of pounds. Cobbett had not looked at his balance
for six years! His practice was to ask Mr. Wright to send him ten,
twenty, or forty pounds as he wanted it; and to leave the rest of the
matter implicitly to him. Wright was, himself, not very clever in the
management of money; and, between the two, there came at last the
profoundest muddle. It ended in an arbitration, held in the prison; the
result being a heavy award against Wright, and a total and irremediable
rupture of their friendship. Mr. Budd bought up a large portion of the
publications in stock; while Mr. Hansard took into his own hands the
three serials which he had been printing for Cobbett.

The quarrel with Mr. Wright is the most painful episode in Cobbett’s
life. There can be no doubt that Wright had been a reckless agent, and
had been trusted far too much; and his conduct, some years after, in
producing an old, long-forgotten, private letter of Cobbett’s, to serve
electioneering purposes, was so infamous a breach of confidence, that
it may well be believed that his employer’s imputation of dishonesty
had foundation in actual fact. Of this matter we shall unhappily
hear more in the sequel.[6] The following letter to Mr. Swann (dated
Newgate, January 26, 1811) may be selected as best illustrating the
existing condition of affairs:--

    “I find, from Mr. Bagshaw, that one of the notes, given by him
    to you, or at least accepted by him, at our settlement and
    renewal of bills, under the auspices of Wright, is coming due
    on Tuesday (I believe it is), and we have no money to pay it.
    You remember that he told me that all these notes were given
    for books bought by Budd and Bagshaw. As it happens, the former
    was nearly true; but, as to the latter, not a shilling was due
    on that account. The whole was a fraud upon me, in order to
    make me believe that the works had sold to this extent; and
    his view was to get an assignment of the stock, and leave me
    to pay myself as I could. I have now an abundance of _bonâ
    fide_ notes, but no money; every sixpence being swallowed by
    the notes left unpaid and unrenewed at the time you were here.
    A series of such unprincipled conduct I never either knew or
    heard of; but I am aware that my having been a dupe is no
    justification for me with you. Within these five weeks I have
    not had an hour’s peace; but I have obtained forbearance from
    those whom I could not pay, and have avoided, except with you,
    putting my name to any new bill. My wife knows all about the
    matter; and plenty of vexation it has given her. I imagine I
    can pay this first note in about a fortnight; but I am sure the
    others will come too fast upon me. If you could come to town in
    ten days, I think we could so settle the matter, as for it not
    to be at all, or at least but very little inconvenient to you,
    and to relieve my mind from a load of vexation and anxiety that
    is really intolerable.

    “The works are all going on well. I have made a revolution
    here at any rate. I have not seen Wright this fortnight; but I
    make him send every word of copy to _me_. I have dismissed his
    journeyman-authors and bottle-companions, and have set him to
    work for his bread. And work he shall, or I will dismiss him.
    Considerable as my property is, I had been well-nigh ruined,
    if I had not come to jail. Let me have a line from you. Mrs.
    Cobbett joins me in kindest regards to Mrs. Swann and your
    dear children. We thank you very much for the pig; but I thank
    you still more for your last kind and affectionate letter, the
    words of which, and the whole of your conduct, have made an
    impression upon my heart that never will be effaced. Amongst
    the other acts of this man was an attempt to put an end to
    _our_ connexion, when once he had got you to take the notes;
    but he was silenced by an indignant rejection of the hint on
    my part. The best way will be to say little about the matter
    anywhere; for the shame of being so duped is mine.

    “God bless you, and give you health, and the like to your

It was all too late, however. Years of prosperity, with concurrent
retrenchment, might have staved off ruin. But, as the ensuing period in
the history of England was one of continued disaster to most persons
who were not paid out of the taxes, Mr. Cobbett shared the fate of all
persons who were not prepared for the storm; and his pecuniary affairs
only got from bad to worse. As for the 6500_l._ due from Wright under
the arbitration, there was not the ghost of a chance of that ever being

Under the circumstances, then, it is not surprising to learn that
he had already accepted the proffered assistance of his political
friends. Colonel Bosville gave him 1000_l._ as a set-off against some
electioneering expenses he had been put to over Mr. Paull; Burdett
advanced a large sum chiefly for the purpose of settling with Mr.
Swann; and, at last, when the fine had to be paid, it would appear that
Cobbett owed the ability to do so to the generosity of another. This
disposition to support him and his cause showed itself, however, from
the very first, and from all quarters. Even his opponents could not
fail to admit the severity of the sentence;[7] while his friends not
only offered their sympathy, but proposed a public subscription on his
behalf--a proposal, however, which Cobbett declined, at the same time
suggesting that those who wished to assist him could not do better than
buy the _Register_.

The end came at last. In compliment to Mr. Cobbett’s untiring industry,
and the abundant material provided for its exercise, Old Time had worn
his fleetest pair of wings. And on the 8th July, 1812, his last paper
in Newgate announced that he had “just paid a thousand pounds to the
king: and much good may it do his majesty!”

On the following day, being released, a grand dinner was given at the
“Crown and Anchor,” in order to celebrate the occasion; and, as though
Fate were determined that he should have no interval of peace, as soon
as he had regained his liberty, the opportunity must needs be taken to
remind Mr. Cobbett that his opinions had changed from time to time.
Burdett took the chair, presiding over some six hundred guests, and the
thing was fairly successful, notwithstanding an attempt made to create
discord between Cobbett and the chairman of the evening. There was no
blinking the fact, however, that Cobbett had lost some friends over the
vacillation which he had displayed while within the grasp of Vicary
Gibbs; but the ungenerous mortal, who brought the matter forward at the
dinner, had no support from his audience; and, indeed, all the leaders
among the Reformists[8] had condoned the momentary weakness.

Mr. Cobbett’s release was celebrated, in several places in England, by
a public meeting of one kind or other. And as he journeyed homeward,
his reception was well-calculated to add to the felicities of the day.
At Alton, the bells were set ringing; at Winchester he was stopped to
be again entertained at dinner; and, on nearing home, he found the
people of Botley had come out in goodly assemblage to meet him, and to
listen to his story.


[1] Alderman Sir William Curtis, Member for the City of London. He
had amassed great wealth as a war contractor, and was now a staunch
supporter of the ministry.

[2] The _Examiner_ copied this paragraph, and the proprietors were
prosecuted, but the jury acquitted them.

[3] Take, as a specimen, the following proposal:--The Spilsby Poor Bill
was a measure brought before Parliament, early in 1811, for the purpose
of enabling the directors of the union to compel the poor, whether
asking relief or not, to go into the workhouse. They were to be allowed
to enter houses at their discretion to search for vagrants. They might
commit to solitary imprisonment, without limit, the poor whom they
collected, and _administer moderate correction_ for misbehaviour!
(_Vide_ Parliamentary Debates, March 26, 1811.) This brutal idea was
soon snuffed out, at the instance of Sir Samuel Romilly; but what a
picture does it not present, of the combination of imbecility and
cruelty which could rule the minds of some of the potential classes of

[4] Francis Maseres (1731-1824), Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer,
came of a Huguenot family, and was a man of high cultivation, being
especially distinguished for his mathematical attainments and his
knowledge of English constitutional history. Although his name is now
almost forgotten, he produced a number of short essays and treatises
on his favourite subjects, many of which, however, are buried away in
the newspapers of his time, Cobbett’s _Porcupine_ being one to which
he contributed. Maseres was a moderate Reformer, and what opinions
he had were rather allowed to filtrate through his own select circle
of friends than pushed forward into naked notoriety. He pursued a
quiet, intellectual life, and devoted a large portion of his means
to charitable and liberal purposes. Cobbett never mentions his name
without affectionate reverence.

[5] This work was begun shortly after Cobbett’s arrival in Newgate.
His contention was that the Bank could never again pay in specie
or in paper at par, unless the interest on the Funds was reduced.
The loans having been contracted to a large extent in paper, this
seemed reasonable enough; and the idea was generally accepted among
the classes who suffered so severely from monetary pressure during
subsequent years, although others thought it was “sapping the
foundations of public morality,” and so on.

The first letter appeared in the _Register_ of Sept. 1, 1810, under the
title of “Paper against Gold; being an Examination of the Report of the
Bullion Committee; in a Series of Letters to the Tradesmen and Farmers
in and near Salisbury.” It was afterwards reprinted in full, with
additions, under the title of “Paper against Gold, and Glory against
Prosperity” (retail price, twenty shillings, in paper money).

During the remainder of Cobbett’s life, he was always at battledore
and shuttlecock over the Currency question. A passage from one of his
American _Registers_ was one that he was especially fond of sending up,
in which he declared that it would be impossible to carry Peel’s Bill
of 1819 into full effect, and wound up with an offer to Castlereagh to
have leave “to lay me on a gridiron and broil me alive, while Sidmouth
may stir the coals, and Canning stand by and laugh at my groans.” The
Bill did take effect, after a fashion, but with tremendous difficulties
in its train; and the feast of the gridiron came off at last, on the
9th of April, 1826, not in the style that was originally proposed, but
in the shape of a dinner at the London Tavern. For a full account of it
see the _Morning Herald_ of the following day.

Another bit of humour was an attempt in verse:--

    “Of paper coin how vast the pow’r!
    It breaks or makes us in an hour.
    And thus, perhaps, a beggar’s shirt,
    When finely ground and clear’d of dirt,
    Then recompress’d by hand or hopper,
    And printed on by sheet of copper,
    May raise ten beggars to renown,
    And tumble fifty nobles down!”

When Cobbett took the house at 183, Fleet Street, he prepared a big
gridiron as a shop-sign, and also headed his journal with a woodcut of
that utensil.

[6] Mr. Wright employed his later years in miscellaneous literary work,
and died in the year 1844. For a notice of him, _vide Gentleman’s
Magazine_ of that year.

[7] “You will readily imagine that the sentence of our friend was
very grievous indeed to me. Everybody that I have seen, even Mr.
C.’s enemies, declare it to be too severe. I hope and trust it will
not, however, damp his ardour.… I was very glad to see, by the last
_Register_, that Mr. Cobbett’s spirit is by no means cowed.”--J. Swann
to J. Wright, July 13 and 20, 1810.

[8] Excepting Mr. Leigh Hunt. The _Examiner_ again took up its tale
about Mr. Cobbett’s “dastardly spirit,” which, it was quite clear,
still existed, for the latter had not dared to whisper a syllable
against the pernicious habits of the Prince of Wales, nor against
the reappointment of the Duke of York. Cobbett was at the same time
charged, by the same writer, with “almost holding up the murderer of
Perceval to applause and imitation”--a statement which was the _exact
opposite_ to the truth. A further insinuation, that Lord Cochrane held
guineas up to the electors, was of similar malignity and worthlessness.
A pamphlet appeared, about this time, upbraiding those who had been
latterly seizing upon the opportunity to vilify Cobbett’s character:
“An Examination of the Attacks upon the Political Character of Mr.
Cobbett,” by George Buckler (London, 1812).



There is reason to believe that Mr. Cobbett now began seriously to
entertain the idea of getting into Parliament. Beyond, however, an
address to the electors of Hampshire, in the autumn of 1812, no active
step was yet taken. Mr. George Rose was all-powerful in the county,
the constituency being thus practically in ministerial hands. One
appearance on the nomination-day was enough to satisfy Mr. Cobbett of
the hopelessness of a contest.

His return to Botley revealed one great change in sentiment; the
parsons were dead against him. This was undeserved, as Cobbett had
always been a good, quiet churchman; had written vigorously in support
of tithes, and the prior claim to them of the clergy and the poor, as
against the Howards, the Russells, and the Greys; and had had many
friends amongst the clergy. This new alienation may, however, be due to
a circumstance which occurred just before Cobbett’s release;--it was
certainly so in one case.

Mr. Daniel Eaton, a small bookseller, and an old offender against
established opinion, had recently stood in the pillory for an
hour,--that being part of his punishment for selling Paine’s “Age of
Reason.” There was much public sympathy with him, the populace actually
trying to serve him with “refreshments.” Cobbett had formed pretty
strong opinions concerning this degrading punishment, but very much
stronger ones concerning the Attorney-General as a prosecutor; and
that learned gentleman having foreboded the “consequences, dreadful
in the extreme,” which must follow if Paine’s religious principles
were suffered to take root, Mr. Cobbett suggested that there would be
no better way of averting these consequences than by an answer to the
book. “And have we 20,000 clergymen, and will no one of them attempt
to give us this answer?” he said. He would call upon his own spiritual
pastor, the Rector of Botley, the Rev. Richard Baker.

Mr. Baker consented to undertake the task, but almost immediately
withdrew the offer; upon which, Mr. Cobbett reminded him of his
ordination vows, and generally played with him, in his own manner,
making the poor parson look rather ridiculous.

So, upon his return home, Mr. Cobbett was not welcomed by his spiritual
adviser; who even went so far as to refuse the keys of the belfry to
those persons who, just then, were so desirous of adding all they could
to the clamour of rejoicing.

The Rev. Mr. Baker is a character, in his way. There are some sad
stories of him in Cobbett’s _Register_, which the reader may discover,
if his tastes lie in that direction. How he was horsewhipped in the
public street,--how he actually professed disbelief in Revelation,
while declining to meet the consequences of a public admission of the
same,--how he cheated at market, and so on.[1]

There were many such characters in the Church in those deadened days,
who, when they entered into the lively election contests of the time,
would lead the way of violence. Your political parson could be a famous
“rough,” when opportunity served.

So Mr. Cobbett had made another set of enemies--the very set, too, who,
if they had given themselves a moment’s opportunity for consideration,
would have discovered that he, of all public men, was the one who
could serve their cause the best. Instead of that, numbers of the
clergy started up as anti-Cobbettites, writing useless tracts on
“disaffection,” or meeting him at public gatherings, and trying to
shout him down. And this sort of thing lasted as long as Cobbett lived;
the clergy never made friends with him again; there were far too many
idle shepherds, who thought their interest must suffer if a misguided
populace had all that it asked; and who, consequently, resisted Reform
with all their might and main.

       *       *       *       *       *

The country squires were dreading, too, the possible effects of Mr.
Cobbett’s vigorous writings.

His influence amongst the middle-classes was increasing; and the
artisans and labourers were beginning to club together to buy the
_Register_; readers were more numerous than ever.[2] But the landed
interest could not, or would not, understand him. The farmer could not
see the identity of interest which properly existed between himself
and his labourers; and the man who preached this theme was, of course,
not to be trusted when dealing with other topics. He told them that
ruin was impending; that, immediately upon a cessation of the war,
prices would go down, and the consequences would be disastrous. There
was no chance of escape, but by immediate Reform, by which means
there should be a searching reduction in the public expenditure. The
poor-rates were now nearly eight millions. Government annuitants were
swelling their numbers with every year of war; dignitaries of state
had higher salaries, and courtiers larger pensions; army-contractors
and stock-jobbers were swallowing up the wealth of the country, and
elbowing out the squires.

So, when the Corn Bill was proposed, Mr. Cobbett was standing alone
again, or very nearly alone.[3] In vain did he point out that it would
tend to keep up the high price of food, which was already driving the
able-bodied out of the country; that the principal reason for keeping
up high prices was, that the land might continue to pay the exorbitant
taxes, and so continue to support a multitude of idlers. The Corn Bill
became law; peace was signed, but plenty came not along with it; and
the farmers straightway fell to pieces, dragging all the industry of
the country along with them.

During these three or four years (1812-1816), there was more revolution
in personal property in England, than there had been seen, in the same
space of time, since the Restoration. The terrible load which weighed
upon the people may be judged of by the fact that Cobbett was paying,
the year after the war, several hundred pounds in direct and indirect
taxes. It is not difficult, then, to understand how intolerable would
be the burden upon the land, for people whose only resource was the
land; and all the more so, that inflated prosperity had engendered
improvidence. Tea, coffee, wine, spirits, and other exciseable articles
had taken the place of beer on the tables of the farmers; their wives
and daughters had found sofas, carpets, and parlour-bells necessary
to existence. A generation had grown up which must needs _send_ its
butter and eggs to market, instead of carrying them; silk stockings
had usurped those of worsted; the fashions were finding their way into
the farm-houses. So, in a little while, the poor farmers were breaking
stones on the highway by hundreds.

But, if the LAND did not, as yet, understand Mr. Cobbett, the WORKSHOP
did. Very soon after he came out of prison, he drew the attention of
his readers to the ominous disturbance at Nottingham, on the part of
the Luddites. The change which had come over the people--that they
should break machinery, disturb the peace, and refuse to sing “God save
the King”--was ominous indeed. But how did this come to pass? Not all
at once: these things (he pointed out) had been growing up by degrees.
Disloyalty and misgovernment ever went hand in hand. The people were
beginning to see that the governing classes were occupied, as much as
any traders, in looking exclusively after their own interests, and the
interests of their adherents.

For an effectual remedy, then, there could only be a reform in
the Representation of the people. No innovation: but Reform. No
republicanism: but the ancient Constitution. “The nation never can be
itself again without a Reform,” was Cobbett’s repeated cry,--echoed, at
last, by millions of people.[4]

The brave, the undaunted Lord Cochrane was one of Mr. Cobbett’s
coadjutors. They had been near neighbours for many years past; and
when the gallant sailor was ashore, many had been the sports which
they had seen together. Cochrane’s candidature for Westminster always
had the valuable support of the _Register_; and, when the foul charge
was got up against him (purely from political motives) which hung like
a nightmare over the rest of his long life, there was no support of
his cause equal to the pages of that intrepid journal. So the two men
kept together--had long and earnest conferences over the miserable
and degraded condition of their country; and worked and waited for
the day that must surely come after all this suffering. The nation
was now entering upon the most disgraceful period of its history:
with a disreputable “first gent” in the chief seat; the pretenders to
statesmanship divided into two rival factions, concerning which it can
only be said that one was in place and had control over the country’s
resources, and the other was out of place; and the mass of the people
in a condition, comparable only to that presented by the inhabitants
of a hive of bees, in autumn, when their winter store passes into the
hands of other than the providers.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day, in September, 1816, after a spring and summer of much trial,
during which the country was kept alarmed by acts of violence; mills,
frames, and threshing-machines being destroyed, and ricks of corn laid
hands on, either by fire or thieves; Cobbett had been talking to his
neighbour on these burning topics. They both agreed that, if the people
could but be enabled to see the matter in its true light, there would
be “an end to all such acts of violence, at once; and of course, to
the ignominious deaths of fathers and sons, and the miseries of wives,
children, and parents, produced in the end by these acts of violence.”
Lord Cochrane’s suggestion was, that it was in the power of Mr. Cobbett
to effect this purpose, by writing an essay upon the subject; and,
if the price of the _Register_ could for that occasion be reduced to
twopence, the desired object would be obtained.

    “I said, before we parted, that this should be done. But, as
    it was impossible for me to prove to the people what was _not_
    the cause of their misery, without proving to them what _was_
    the cause … without pointing out the _remedy_: as the remedy,
    at last, came to a Reform of Parliament; and, as I still feared
    that the best time was not come for urging on this great
    question, I delayed, from time to time, the fulfilment of my
    promise to my neighbour, who, on his part, never saw me without
    pressing me hard upon the subject; and on the 2nd of November,
    I wrote the No. 18, being an ‘Address to the Journeymen and
    Labourers’ on the aforementioned subjects.”

There were misgivings as to the probable success of this effort: that
there would be serious loss in its production, and that it would be
premature; irresolution went so far as to countermand the instructions
to the printer. Futile misgivings these! Before the end of the month,
forty-four thousand copies had been sold of the first cheap _Register_.

And, reader, if you glance at some portions of this splendid essay,
you will not wonder at the uproar that ensued; the enthusiastic
reception on the part of the “lower orders;” the terror on the part
of officialism and prescription; the renewed malignity of the envious
press. The effect of this popularizing of the _Political Register_ was
prodigious, as we shall see; and as you will understand, if all the
numbers were anything like this first one.

    AND IRELAND, on the cause of their present miseries; on the
    measures which have produced that cause; on the remedies which
    some foolish and some cruel and insolent men have proposed; and
    on the line of conduct which journeymen and labourers ought
    to pursue, in order to obtain effectual relief, and to assist
    in promoting the tranquillity, and restoring the happiness of
    their country.

    “Friends and Fellow-Countrymen,--

    “Whatever the pride of rank, of riches, or of scholarship, may
    have induced some men to believe, or to affect to believe,
    the real strength and all the resources of a country ever
    have sprung, and ever must spring, from the _labour_ of its
    people, and hence it is, that this nation, which is so small
    in numbers, and so poor in climate and soil compared with many
    others, has, for many ages, been the most powerful nation in
    the world: it is the most industrious, the most laborious,
    and, therefore, the most powerful. Elegant dresses, superb
    furniture, stately buildings, fine roads and canals, fleet
    horses and carriages, numerous and stout ships, warehouses
    teeming with goods; all these, and many other objects that
    fall under our view, are so many works of national wealth
    and resources. But all these spring from _labour_. Without
    the journeyman and the labourer none of them could exist;
    without the assistance of their hands, the country would be a
    wilderness, hardly worth the notice of an invader.

    “As it is the labour of those who toil which makes a country
    abound in resources, so it is the same class of men who must,
    by their arms, secure its safety, and uphold its fame. Titles
    and immense sums of money have been bestowed upon numerous
    naval and military commanders. Without calling the justice
    of these in question, we may assert that the victories were
    obtained by you and your fathers, and brothers and sons, in
    co-operation with those commanders, who, with _your_ aid, have
    done great and wonderful things; but who, without that aid,
    would have been as impotent as children at the breast.

    “With this correct idea of your own worth in your minds, with
    what indignation must you hear yourselves called the populace,
    the rabble, the mob, the swinish multitude; and with what
    greater indignation, if possible, must you hear the projects
    of these cool, and cruel, and insolent men, who, now that you
    have been, without any fault of yours, brought into a state
    of misery, propose to narrow the limits of parish relief, to
    prevent you from marrying in the days of your youth, or to
    thrust you out to seek your bread in foreign lands, never
    more to behold your parents or friends? But, suppress your
    indignation, until we return to this topic, after we have
    considered the _cause_ of your present misery, and the measures
    which have produced that cause.

    “The times in which we live are full of peril. The nation,
    as described by the very creatures of the Government, is
    fast advancing to that period when an important change must
    take place. It is the lot of mankind, that some shall labour
    with their limbs, and others with their minds; and, on all
    occasions, more especially on an occasion like the present,
    it is the duty of the latter to come to the assistance of
    the former. We are all equally interested in the peace
    and happiness of our common country. It is of the utmost
    importance, that in the seeking to obtain those objects, our
    endeavours should be uniform, and tend all to the same point.
    Such an uniformity cannot exist without an uniformity of
    sentiment as to public matters, and to produce this uniformity
    is the object of this address.

    “As to the cause of our present miseries, it is _the enormous
    amount of the taxes_, which the Government compels us to pay
    for the support of its army, its placemen, its pensioners, &c.,
    and for the payment of the interest of its debt. That this is
    the real cause has been a thousand times proved; and it is now
    so acknowledged by the creatures of the Government themselves.
    Two hundred and five of the correspondents of the Board of
    Agriculture ascribe the ruin of the country to _taxation_.
    Numerous writers, formerly the friends of the Pitt system, now
    declare, that taxation has been the cause of our distress.
    Indeed, when we compare our present state to the state of
    the country previous to the wars against France, we must see
    that our present misery is owing to no other cause. The taxes
    then annually raised amounted to about fifteen millions: they
    amounted last year to seventy millions. The nation was then
    happy: it is now miserable.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “It has been attempted to puzzle you with this sort of
    question: ‘If taxes be the cause of the people’s misery, how
    comes it that they were not so miserable before the taxes were
    reduced as they are now?’ Here is a fallacy, which you will be
    careful to detect. I know that the taxes have been reduced,
    that is to say, _nominally_ reduced, but not so in fact; on the
    contrary, they have in reality been greatly augmented. This has
    been done by _the sleight of hand_ of paper-money. Suppose,
    for instance, that four years ago I had 100 pounds to pay in
    taxes, then 130 bushels of wheat would have paid my share. If I
    have _now_ seventy-five pounds to pay in taxes, it will require
    190 bushels of wheat to pay my share of taxes. Consequently,
    though my taxes are nominally reduced, they are, in reality,
    greatly augmented. This has been done by the legerdemain of
    paper-money. In 1812, the pound note was worth only thirteen
    shillings in silver. It is now worth twenty shillings.
    Therefore, when we now pay a pound note to the tax-gatherer,
    we really pay him twenty shillings, where we before paid him
    thirteen shillings; and the fund-holders who lent pound notes
    worth thirteen shillings each, are now paid their interest in
    pounds worth twenty shillings each. And the thing is come to
    what Sir Francis Burdett told the parliament it would come to.
    He told them, in 1811, that if they ever attempted to pay the
    interest of their debt in gold and silver, or in paper-money
    equal in value to gold and silver, the farmers and tradesmen
    must be ruined, and the journeymen and labourers reduced to the
    last stage of misery.

    “Thus, then, it is clear that it is the weight of the taxes,
    under which you are sinking, which has already pressed so many
    of you down into the state of paupers, and which now threatens
    to deprive many of you of your existence. We next come to
    consider what have been _the causes_ of this weight of taxes.
    Here we must go back a little in our history; and you will soon
    see that this intolerable weight has all proceeded from _the
    want of a parliamentary Reform_.

    “In the year 1764, soon after the present king came to the
    throne, the annual interest of the debt amounted to about five
    millions, and the whole of the taxes to about nine millions.
    But, soon after this, a war was entered on to compel the
    Americans to submit to be taxed by the parliament, _without
    being represented in that parliament_. The Americans triumphed,
    and, after the war was over, the annual interest of the debt
    amounted to about nine millions, and the whole of the taxes to
    about fifteen millions. This was our situation when the French
    people began their Revolution. The French people had so long
    been the slaves of a despotic Government, that the friends of
    freedom in England rejoiced at their emancipation. The cause
    of _reform_, which had never ceased to have supporters in
    England for a great many years, now acquired new life, and the
    Reformers urged the parliament to _grant reform_, instead of
    going to war against the people of France. The Reformers said:
    ‘Give the nation _reform_, and you need fear no _revolution_.’
    The parliament, instead of listening to the Reformers, crushed
    them, and went to war against the people of France; and the
    consequence of these wars is, that the annual interest of the
    debt now amounts to forty-five millions, and the whole of
    the taxes, during each of the last several years, to seventy
    millions. So that these wars have added thirty-six millions a
    year to the interest of the debt, and fifty-five millions a
    year to the amount of the whole of the taxes! This is the price
    that we have paid for having checked (for it is only _checked_)
    the progress of liberty in France; for having forced upon that
    people the family of Bourbon, and for having enabled another
    branch of that same family to restore the bloody Inquisition
    which Napoleon had put down.”

After a graphic sketch of the oppressions and the struggles, which
obtained in France, and which produced the great Revolution, the writer

    “It seems, at first sight, very strange that the Government
    should not have taken warning in time. But it had so long
    been in the habit of _despising the people_, that its mind
    was incapable of entertaining any notion of danger from the
    oppressions heaped upon them. It was surrounded with panders
    and parasites, who told it nothing but flattering falsehoods;
    and it saw itself supported by 250,000 bayonets, which it
    thought irresistible.… And if you ask me how the ministers, and
    the noblesse, and the priesthood, who generally know pretty
    well how to take care of themselves; if you ask me how it came
    to pass that they did not _take warning in time_, I answer,
    that they _did_ take warning, but that, seeing that the change
    which was coming would deprive them of a great part of their
    power and emoluments, they resolved to _resist the change_, and
    to destroy the country, if possible, rather than not have all
    its wealth and power to themselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “You have been represented by the _Times_ newspaper, by the
    _Courier_, by the _Morning Post_, by the _Morning Herald_,
    and others, as the Scum of Society. They say that you have no
    business at public meetings; that you are rabble, and that you
    pay no taxes. These insolent hirelings, who wallow in wealth,
    would not be able to put their abuse of you in print, were
    it not for your labour. You create all that is an object of
    taxation; for, even the land itself would be good for nothing
    without your labour. But are you _not_ taxed? Do you pay no
    taxes? One of the correspondents of the Board of Agriculture
    has said that care has been taken to lay as little tax as
    possible on the articles used by you. One would wonder how a
    man could be found impudent enough to put an assertion like
    this upon paper. But the people of this country have so long
    been insulted by such men, that the insolence of the latter
    knows no bounds.

    “The tax-gatherers do not, indeed, come to you and demand
    money of you; but there are few articles which you use, in the
    purchase of which you do not pay a tax. On your shoes, salt,
    beer, malt, hops, tea, sugar, candles, soap, paper, coffee,
    spirits, glass of your windows, bricks and tiles, tobacco. On
    all these, and many other articles, you pay a tax, and even on
    your loaf you pay a tax, because everything is taxed from which
    the loaf proceeds. In several cases the tax amounts to more
    than one-half of what you pay for the article itself; these
    taxes go, in part, to support sinecure placemen and pensioners;
    and the ruffians of the hired press call you the Scum of
    Society, and deny that you have any right to show your faces at
    any public meeting to petition for a Reform, or for the removal
    of any abuse whatever! Mr. Preston, whom I quoted before, and
    who is a member of parliament, and has a large estate, says
    upon this subject, ‘Every family, even of the poorest labourer,
    consisting of five persons, may be considered as paying in
    indirect taxes, at least ten pounds a year, or more than half
    his wages at seven shillings a week!’ And yet the insolent
    hirelings call you the _mob_, the _rabble_, the _scum_, the
    _swinish multitude_, and say that your voice is nothing; that
    you have no business at public meetings; and that you are, and
    ought to be, considered as nothing in the body politic! Shall
    we never see the day when these men will change their tone?
    Will they never cease to look upon you as brutes? I trust they
    will change their tone, and that the day of the change is _at
    no great distance_!

       *       *       *       *       *

    “With what feelings must you look upon the condition of your
    country, where the increase of the people is now looked upon as
    a curse! Thus, however, has it always been, in all countries,
    where taxes have produced excessive misery. Our countryman, Mr.
    Gibbon, in his history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
    Empire, has the following passage:--

    “‘The horrid practice of murdering their new-born infants
    was become every day more frequent in the provinces. It was
    the effect of _distress_, and the distress was principally
    occasioned by the intolerable burden of taxes, and by the
    vexations as well as cruel prosecutions of the officers of the
    Revenue against their insolvent debtors. The less opulent or
    less industrious part of mankind, instead of rejoicing at an
    increase of family, deemed it an act of paternal tenderness
    to release the children from the impending miseries of a life
    which they themselves were unable to support.’

    “But that which took place under the base Emperor Constantine,
    will not take place in England. You will not murder your
    new-born infants, nor will you, to please the corrupt and the
    insolent, debar yourselves from enjoyments to which you are
    invited by the very first of nature’s laws. It is, however,
    a disgrace to the country, that men should be found in it,
    capable of putting ideas so insolent upon paper. So, then,
    a young man arm-in-arm with a rosy-cheeked girl, must be a
    spectacle of evil omen! What! and do they imagine that you are
    thus to be _extinguished_, because some of you are now (without
    any fault of yours) unable to find work? As far as you were
    wanted to labour, to fight, or to pay taxes, you were welcome,
    and they boasted of your numbers; but now that your country has
    been brought into a state of misery, these corrupt and insolent
    men are busied with schemes for getting rid of you. Just as if
    you had not as good a right to live, and to love, and to marry
    as they have! They do not purpose--far from it--to check the
    breeding of sinecure placemen and pensioners, who are supported
    in part by the taxes which you help to pay. They say not a word
    about the _whole families_ who are upon the pension list. In
    many cases, there are sums granted in trust for the children of
    such a lord or such a lady. And while labourers and journeymen,
    who have large families too, are actually paying taxes for the
    support of these lords’ and ladies’ children, these cruel and
    insolent men propose that they shall have no relief, and their
    having children ought to be _checked_! To such a subject no
    words can do justice. You will feel as you ought to feel; and
    to the effect of your feelings I leave these cruel and insolent

The following paragraph is against the republicans, of which there were
many advocates, born of the troublous times:--

    “I know of no enemy of reform, and of the happiness of the
    country, so great as that man who would persuade you that we
    possess _nothing good_, and that all must be torn to pieces.
    There is no principle, no precedent, no regulation (except
    as to mere matter of detail), favourable to freedom, which
    is not to be found in the laws of England or in the example
    of our ancestors. Therefore, I say, we may ask for, and we
    want, _nothing new_. We have great constitutional laws and
    principles, to which we are immovably attached. We want great
    _alteration_, but we want nothing new. Alteration, modification
    to suit the times and circumstances; but the great principles
    ought to be, and must be, the same, or else confusion will
    follow. It was the misfortune of the French people, that they
    had no great and settled principles to refer to in their laws
    or history. They sallied forth and inflicted vengeance on their
    oppressors; but, for want of settled principles to which to
    refer, they fell into confusion; they massacred each other;
    they next flew to a military chief to protect them even against
    themselves; and the result has been what we too well know.
    Let us, therefore, congratulate ourselves, that we have great
    constitutional principles and laws, to which we can refer, and
    to which we are attached.

       *       *       *       *       *

    When journeymen find their wages reduced, they should take
    time to _reflect on the real cause_ before they fly upon their
    employers, who are, in many cases, in as great, or greater,
    distress than themselves. How many of these employers have, of
    late, gone to jail for debt, and left helpless families behind
    them! The employer’s trade falls off. His goods are reduced in
    price. His stock loses the half of its value. He owes money. He
    is ruined; and how can he continue to pay high wages? The cause
    of his ruin is the _weight of the taxes_, which presses so
    heavily on us all, that we lose the power of purchasing goods.
    But it is certain that a great many, a very large portion,
    of the farmers, tradesmen, and manufacturers, have, by their
    supineness and want of public spirit, contributed towards the
    bringing of this ruin upon themselves and upon you. They have
    _skulked_ from their public duty. They have kept aloof from, or
    opposed, all measures for a redress of grievances; and, indeed,
    they still skulk, though ruin and destruction stare them in
    the face.… Instead of coming forward to apply for a reduction
    of those taxes which are pressing them as well as you to the
    earth, what are they doing? Why, they are applying to the
    Government to add to their receipts by passing _Corn Bills_;
    by preventing _foreign wool_ from being imported; and many
    other such silly schemes. Instead of asking for a reduction of
    taxes, they are asking for the _means of paying taxes_! Instead
    of asking for the abolition of sinecure places and pensions,
    they pray to be enabled to continue to pay the amount of those
    places and pensions! They know very well that the salaries of
    the judges and of many other persons were greatly raised, some
    years ago, on the ground of the rise in the price of labour and
    provisions; why, then, do they not ask to have those salaries
    _reduced_ now that _labour_ is reduced? Why do they not apply
    to the case of the judges and others, the arguments which they
    apply to you? They can talk boldly enough to you; but they are
    too great cowards to talk to the Government, even in the way of

       *       *       *       *       *

    I have no room, nor have I any desire, to appeal to your
    passions upon this occasion. I have laid before you, with all
    the clearness I am master of, the causes of our misery, the
    measures which have led to those causes, and I have pointed out
    what appears to me to be the only remedy--namely, a reform of
    the Commons’, or people’s, House of Parliament. I exhort you
    to proceed in a peaceable and lawful manner; but, at the same
    time, to proceed with zeal and resolution in the attainment of
    this object. If the skulkers will not join you, if the ‘decent
    fire-side’ gentry still keep aloof, proceed by yourselves.
    Any man can draw up a petition, and any man can carry it up
    to London, with instructions to deliver it into trusty hands,
    to be presented whenever the House shall meet. Some further
    information as to this matter in a future number. In the
    meanwhile, I remain, your friend, WM. COBBETT.”

Such, then, was the clarion, which was to awaken the working-classes
of England; to systematize their thoughts, and to give definiteness to
their aims.

And such was, also, the stuff which was to terrify, for a little while
longer, our dear old friends “Law and Order.” While the hundreds of
thousands were welcoming this new gospel, were learning a practicable
path for their bewildered feet: the partisans of Government were
absolutely dazed, blinded, with terror; and their horror at the
growth of liberal opinions (otherwise, “the floodgates of sedition”)
completely disabled them from discussing domestic politics with any
semblance of calmness. As for the mediocrities in power,--they had
succeeded in keeping out the shifty Whigs; but here was a third party
coming to the front, with claims as good as their own, and promising
to acquire a force which they might withstand in vain. Ministers, in
short, were alarmed; and they announced their resolve, in the words of
Lord Liverpool, to pursue the “Stern path of Duty!” Lord Sidmouth (now
Home Secretary), whose qualities for statesmanship no person, other
than his royal patron, had been able to discover since he left the
Speaker’s chair in 1802,--was at his wits’ end. And minor lights, as
Mr. Wilberforce, sighed and groaned over so much blasphemy as was rife,
Cobbett’s being “the most pernicious of all.”

The course of the Stern Path, as regards the subject of these pages,
must be described in another chapter. Meanwhile, the immediate
consequences of the publication of the first cheap _Register_ remain to
be noted.

All sorts of means were taken to hinder the circulation of the now
ubiquitous journal. Booksellers who sold the _Register_ were threatened
with loss of custom; publicans were threatened with the withdrawal of
their licences; hawkers and pedlars were threatened with the police.

Cheap opposition pamphlets were started.[5] The newspapers, which had
been pretty quiet concerning Mr. Cobbett’s merits, ever since 1812,
now began again:[6] the _New Times_ coming out with a specially grand
affair, headed “COBBETT against COBBETT,” which was subsequently issued
as a broadside.

And a very serious charge did they bring against this “_convicted
libeller_,” this “_firebrand_,” this “_brutal ruffian_,” this
“_convicted incendiary_,” this “_hoary miscreant_,” and his “_ferocious
journal_.”[7] In what, then, had he manifested this brutality,--this
ferocity? By lacerating the naked back of another of his labourers?
Running off with another man’s wife? Setting fire to barns and ricks?
Defrauding the stock-exchange?

None, none of these things. The criminal was proved, by overwhelming
evidence,--“out of his own mouth” indeed--to have formerly denounced
Reform!!! Sad fellow!


[1] This reverend gentleman’s memory is still green, down at Botley.
T---- (_æt._) 81 will tell you of his being horsewhipped by the parish
doctor; and of his being called by Mr. Cobbett an abominable liar, at
which the assembled villagers cheered. Baker wanted the parish clerk
to thrash his wife for not going to church, and showed him the size of
stick with which he might legally do it. He was forthwith told to try
it on Mrs. Baker first. H---- (_æt._) 78 will call to mind the doctor
and the parson “having sparring-bouts together in the vestry.” This
man tells a good story about Cobbett, who wanted his people to work,
on some special occasion, on a Sunday, agreeing beforehand to pay them
double. The day’s work being done, a grand dinner was provided, during
which C. went round the table and put everybody’s money in front of
him. This being done, he said, “Now, if you do go to h---- for working
on a Sunday, don’t go and say you ben’t paid!”

[2] News from the provinces, in February, 1814:--

“Hampshire.--Mr. Cobbett continues to write his celebrated _Political
Register_ from his estate at Botley, in this county, uniting in his
own person, in their completest sense, the character of agriculturist,
patriot, and man of letters. Some of his late numbers, on the novel
positions and pretensions of the belligerent powers, are distinguished
above all his former writings for their masculine eloquence, power of
reasoning, and courageous delineation of truth.”--_Monthly Magazine_,
xxxvii. 93.

[3] Cobbett got up a requisition for a county meeting, but the High
Sheriff refused to entertain the plan. Being thus foiled, he actually
sent up a petition to the House of Lords, praying them not to pass any
law to prohibit or restrain the importation of corn. Earl Stanhope was
prepared to present the petition, but received it too late.

[4] “At this time [1816] the writings of William Cobbett suddenly
became of great authority; they were read on nearly every cottage
hearth in the manufacturing districts of South Lancashire, in those
of Leicester, Derby, and Nottingham; also in many of the Scotch
manufacturing towns. Their influence was speedily visible; he directed
his readers to the true cause of their sufferings--misgovernment; and
to its proper corrective--Parliamentary reform. Riots soon became
scarce, and from that time they have never obtained their ancient vogue
with the labourers of this country.… Instead of riots and destruction
of property, Hampden clubs were now established in many of our large
towns and the villages and districts around them. Cobbett’s books were
printed in a cheap form; the labourers read them, and thenceforward
became deliberate and systematic in their proceedings.”--Samuel
Bamford: “Passages in the Life of a Radical” (London, 1844).

[5] _E.g._, “The Friend of the People,” price threepence,
“occasionally” (Chapple, Pall Mall). Of this there were five

“Anti-Cobbett; or, The Weekly Patriotic Register” (from the _New
Times_), which appeared about eight times.

“The Detector; an Occasional Paper” (Hatchard). We cannot “detect” the
existence of more than four such papers.

These were all on similar lines: extracts from, and references to, the
days of Porcupine, spiced with transparent falsehood.

[6] “We believe it is now some five or six years since the _Times_
journal put down the work entitled _Cobbett’s Weekly Register_,
and sunk its author into obscurity and contempt.… Since that time
we had thought that his journal had wholly dropped to the ground,
some other writers, such as those of the _Independent Whig_ and
_Examiner_, who were more virulent and impudent than himself, having
sprung up. We learned, however, lately, that Cobbett’s _Register_
was still in existence, having crept on in obscurity for a series of
years.”--_Times_, Nov. 14, 1816.

[7] For the context, whence these choice epithets are extracted, _vide_
_Quarterly Review_, 1816-17, _passim_.



When your wife, or your nurse, or your mother-in-law, utters that
reproach of hers, “Ah, I told you how it would be!”--the spirit within
you is not apt to be tinged with a pervading gratefulness.

Similarly, “a man is not likely to be thanked who calls attention
to the vast discrepancies between the theory and practice of the
Constitution” (as one of our later philosophers remarks). What with the
impertinence of the thing--the implied assertion of superiority--the
further implication of failure and muddle on the part of the
prescriptive interpreters of the Constitution: the counsel offered
by outsiders is rejected with disdain, or put down to anything but
disinterested motives.

The shortsightedness and illiberality of the Eldon and Sidmouth type
of statesmanship was constantly displayed in this way. Let there be a
Reform petition offered to Parliament, and they would refuse to receive
it, if, by any means, some technical objection could be raised. Given a
civic state dinner, and the ministers would absent themselves if they
disagreed with the Lord Mayor’s politics. Let a Sunday paper advocate
the correction of financial abuses, and the suspicion is at once raised
that the grievance really lies in not having a share of the spoil.
Genuine men like Whitbread and Romilly, Roebuck and Cobden, have not
always escaped similar imputation, from which their known characters
should yet have shielded them.

The ministers of the Regent might, however, have done better justice
to themselves, and to their opportunities, but for their contemptible
master. The difficulty of conciliating that man was immensely enhanced
by his disreputable domestic circumstances, and the daily need of
avoiding exposure, by keeping watch[1] upon the _Examiners_ and the
_Registers_ of the day. Animadversions upon the conduct of the
Irreclaimable are pretty generally wasted; and when the Irreclaimable
is in sovereign power, discussion on his personal demerits is apt to be
mixed up, somehow or other, with such meaner questions as the welfare
of his subjects, and the stability of the Throne. At this stage, “I
told you so” becomes sedition; and the next thought is of sabres, and
bayonets, and dungeons.

So the Liverpool ministry had their hands full, between this selfish
prince and starving people. Throughout the year 1816, there was a
determined outcry for Parliamentary Reform and reduction of public
expenditure. And being demanded as _rights_, the end of granting these
things was looked upon as something too awful to contemplate.

       *       *       *       *       *

One leading difficulty with the Reformers was as to the mode: Reformers
of that day must be divided into classes and sub-classes, when their
history comes to be written. There were avowed Republicans at one end
of the scale, and advocates of a purified Constitution at the other.
Their common opponents, however, not only refused to make distinction,
but took hold of minor differences and threw them in the Reformers’
teeth; thus discrediting the entire principle.

For example: Mr. Watson, surgeon, is found to have a number of prepared
pike-heads in his house. He is ready to employ force, if it comes to
the point. Mr. William Cobbett, editor, takes the liberty of telling
the nation that it will never be itself again without a reform. He
abhors violence of any sort or kind. Yet both of these persons, along
with all those of intermediate shades of opinion, are decried as
subverters of the Constitution.

This trick had been kept up for twenty-five years past. And now that
“the most powerful and effective public writer that ever appeared,”
the “closest political reasoner of his time” (as described by
cotemporaries), was the leading writer and reasoner upon Reform in
Parliament: the best thing to do was to impute unworthy and wicked
motives, and to follow that up by an endeavour to curtail his liberty.

Accordingly, the principal London newspapers were full of COBBETT,
from the middle of November, 1816, until the opening of Parliament;
the _Courier_,[2] the _Times_, and the _Morning Post_, making it their
special business to misrepresent him.[3] And, as the popular ferment
had reached a high point, nothing could be easier. Henry Hunt was
holding forth to eager multitudes, whose conduct (partly by incitement
of Government spies) led to measures being taken for preserving the
peace. When the Regent went to open Parliament, a stone was thrown,
which broke the window of his carriage. Then the Government tried a
raid upon the Hampden Clubs, by hauling up their leading members before
a Secret Committee. But, beyond a few scatter-brained individuals who
really hoped there was going to be a revolution, there was nothing
to fear. As the _Times_ (Feb. 5th) said, “Of anything like plot or
conspiracy, in the general and national sense of those words, no
symptoms have yet appeared.”

Yet, because people were clamouring for Reform and remission of public
burdens, the Home Secretary and his friends were frightened out of
their lives. And, because Mr. Cobbett was the leader and guider, upon
these topics, he was charged with exciting the labourers and journeymen
to “burnings, and plunderings, and devastations, and shedding of
blood.” The law officers of the Crown were forthwith instructed to
examine the “blasphemous and seditious” pamphlets of the day; but,
as Lord Sidmouth was “sorry to say,” they were “unable to find out
anything which they could prosecute with any chance of success!”

The Fears gained the day, however; and, to the dismay of the
parliamentary opposition, headed by Earl Grey and Sir Samuel Romilly;
and under a protest of the Lords, led by the Duke of Sussex, the
ministry succeeded in passing a Bill for the Suspension of Habeas

       *       *       *       *       *

The astonishing success of the cheap edition of the _Register_ caused
a change in Cobbett’s domestic arrangements. The woods and the fields
had to be relinquished; and he came up to London, so as to be in the
thick of the fight. Accordingly, we find Wm. Cobbett, jun., installed
as publisher, at 8, Catherine Street, Strand. The _Register_ is now
entered at Stationers’ Hall, on account of the garbled editions
that have been printed by others; yet the proprietor “gladly” gives
permission to reprint his writings “in any regular newspaper.” A cheap
edition of “Paper against Gold” is being issued in weekly numbers;
and preparations are made for a new serial, under the title of “The
Parliamentary Register.”

With all this writing, and printing and publishing, it must have been
hot and exciting work in London. As the day for opening parliament
approached, the houses of Burdett, and Cartwright, and Cobbett became
the daily resort of Reformers. At this time, Burdett was getting cool
over the great question, and the principal labours fell upon the hands
of Mr. Cobbett and of Lord Cochrane; the latter, by the way, having
charge of a monster petition. Besides this, there were two public
appearances in Hampshire: one, on the occasion of a grand meeting upon
Portsdown hill, and the other at Winchester. One evidence of the state
of popular feeling upon the questions of Reform and of the threatened
invasions of the liberty of the people, is shown in the presentation of
six hundred petitions to the Commons on the 5th of March alone.

And well might the nation be alarmed. As soon as the preliminaries
of the session had been completed, the ministry introduced their
Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill, and passed also an Act for preventing
“seditious meetings and assemblies.” The public voice was thus
completely enthralled. And, amid all the hubbub, it was known that the
leading object in view was to silence Mr. Cobbett.[4]

The Government might as well have taken up the broom of Mrs.
Partington, in order to dispose of Mr. Cobbett. The only effect, upon
him, was to provide new and beautiful topics for his readers:--

    “I will first explain clearly what the Habeas Corpus Act is,

    “Suffer me to say a word or two about the Hawkers’ and Pedlars’

and so forth; with full exposition of all previous futile attempts upon
the progress of liberty and intelligence. The papers in the _Register_
of this period ought to have convinced Ministers of the error of
their ways: of the utterly false position in which they had placed
themselves. So clear in description; so cogent in their reasoning; so
temperate. And withal, so full of the writer’s own humour:--

    “… irreligious, immoral, or seditious TENDENCY. Only think
    of the extent of this word _tendency!_ only think of the
    boundless extent of such a word, and of such a word being left
    to the interpretation of thousands of men! Suppose the editor
    of a newspaper to insert an article, which article recommended
    the reduction of the salt-tax: what does this _tend_ to? Why,
    to be sure, a magistrate might think, to make the people
    discontented with the salt-tax; to make them discontented
    with the salt-tax would be, he might think, to make them
    discontented with those who compel the people to pay it; those
    who compel the people to pay it are Kings, Lords, and Commons;
    and, therefore, here is an article which _tends_ to make the
    people discontented with Kings, Lords, and Commons, and which,
    of course, _tends_ to produce hatred of them, and to bring
    about insurrection, treason, revolution, and blood and carnage!”

Clear, and temperate, and lively as they were, however, there was no
mincing of matters; even to the pointing out to Lord Sidmouth, at last,
that he was the real revolutionist,[5] and that all his efforts were
“unavailing as to the work of stifling.”


But, if this was resolution and not mere swagger, how was it to be
done? Any one of his neighbours, maliciously disposed, could have Mr.
Cobbett brought before a magistrate, and thrown into jail without
warning, for any word with a tendency. What is more, they meant to do

There was only one way:--

    “A few years ago, being at Barnet Fair, I saw a battle going
    on, arising out of some sudden quarrel, between a butcher and
    the servant of a West-country grazier. The butcher, though
    vastly superior in point of size, finding that he was getting
    the worst of it, recoiled a step or two, and drew out his
    knife. Upon the sight of this weapon, the grazier turned about
    and ran off, till he came up to a Scotchman who was guarding
    his herd, and out of whose hand the former snatched a good
    ash-stick, about four feet long. Having thus got what he called
    _a long arm_, he returned to the combat, and, in a very short
    time, he gave the butcher a blow upon the wrist, which brought
    his knife to the ground. The grazier then fell to work with
    his stick in such a style as I never before witnessed. The
    butcher fell down, and rolled and kicked; but he seemed only
    to change his position in order to insure to every part of his
    carcase a due share of the penalty of his baseness. After the
    grazier had, apparently, tired himself, he was coming away,
    when, happening to cast his eye upon the _knife_, he ran back
    and renewed the basting, exclaiming every now and then, as he
    caught his breath: ‘_Dra’ thy knife, wo’t?_’ He came away a
    second time, and a second time returned, and set on upon the
    caitiff again; and this he repeated several times, exclaiming
    always when he recommenced the drubbing: ‘Dra’ thy knife,
    wo’t?’--till, at last, the butcher was so bruised, that he was
    actually unable to stand or even to get up; and yet, such,
    amongst Englishmen, is the abhorrence of foul fighting, that
    not a soul attempted to interfere, and nobody seemed to pity a
    man thus unmercifully beaten.

    “It is my intention to imitate the conduct of this grazier;
    to resort to _a long arm_, and to combat Corruption, while I
    keep myself out of the reach of her _knife_. Nobody called
    the grazier a coward, because he did not stay to oppose his
    fists to a pointed and cutting instrument. My choice, as I
    said before (leaving all considerations of personal safety
    out of the question), lies between silence and retreat. If I
    remain _here_, all other means will be first used to reduce
    me to silence; and if all these means fail, then will come
    the dungeon. Therefore, that I may still be able to write,
    and to write with freedom too, I shall write, if I live, from

This resolve appears to have been in Mr. Cobbett’s mind since the
middle of February, shortly after the introduction of the Gagging
Bills, as they were called. It was now the end of March, and the
campaign against the popular press was in victorious advance. People
could almost hear the prison doors creaking open. When, lo! the
persecutors wake up one morning, and find that the wretch has flown!

Have you ever watched, reader, the gyrations of pussy’s face--the
involuntary muscular contortions of her jaws, at sight of a
dickey-bird, when that gentle creature is on the wrong (but safe)
side of a window-pane? Such was the aspect of Authority, when she
found that Mr. Cobbett had slipped through her fingers. And such, the
impotent anger of his rivals.[6] The explosion of wrath, which took
place upon the discovery that he was out of harm’s way, really appears
laughable, to look back upon it from this distance of time. He had
eloped from his creditors, had been diddling the Stamp Office, had
escaped imprisonment for life: he had deserted his family, deserted
the cause, deserted his country: and, as for his pretended patriotism,
what did his friends think of the brave Cobbett now? Even the
Reformists, themselves, felt a shudder of dismay pass over them; whilst
the _Examiner_ class of scribblers fell upon the caitiff with their
envious sneers, retailing the lies and imputations invented and cast
about by their own enemies! But, perhaps the unkindest cut of all was
on the part of the _Chronicle_, when that great bulwark of whiggism,
and mock-Reformist, informed its readers that Cobbett had gone off to
America because the circulation of the _Register_ had fallen so low,
through the operations of Sidmouth’s acts.

The fact of the matter being that, in spite of all that could be said,
Mr. Cobbett’s flight to America in 1817, was one of the cleverest
and most spirited acts of his life. The decision of character, the
singleness of purpose, and confidence in his own resources, displayed
on this occasion, are almost unexampled. Hundreds of writers had
expatriated themselves, before now; but where was the man to be found,
who had done so with a view to a better fighting-ground? Political
refugees were swarming throughout the Union, but they were beginning
life anew; and who amongst them but had cast the dust of their native
country from off their shoes--who but this one proclaimed, “England is
my country, and to England I shall return,”--and lived to return and
see his work accomplished?

       *       *       *       *       *

The world, then, was looking for its weekly oracle (or weekly trash, or
weekly venom, according to the point of view), upon Saturday, the 5th
of April, 1817. Rumours had been afloat for several days that Cobbett
was in Liverpool, on his way to America; and, upon the world going,
with its twopences, to Catherine Street, Strand, rumour developed into
certainty. The intending purchaser of a _Register_ received instead,--


As one more specimen of what Cobbett could say, when his heart was more
than usually full of tender and earnest feeling, the reader will like
to have presented here some portions:--

    “My Beloved Countrymen,--Soon after this reaches your eyes,
    those of the writer will, possibly, have taken the last glimpse
    of the land that gave him birth, the land in which his parents
    lie buried, the land of which he has always been so proud; the
    land in which he leaves a people whom he shall, to his last
    breath, love and esteem beyond all the rest of mankind.

    “Every one, if he can do it without wrong to another, has a
    right to pursue the path to his own happiness; as my happiness,
    however, has long been inseparable from the hope of assisting
    in restoring the rights and liberties of my country, nothing
    could have induced me to quit that country, while there
    remained the smallest chance of my being able, by remaining,
    to continue to aid her cause. No such chance is now left. The
    laws which have just been passed, especially if we take into
    view the real objects of those laws, forbid us to entertain the
    idea, that it would be possible to write on political subjects
    according to the dictates of truth and reason, without drawing
    down upon our heads certain and swift destruction. It was well
    observed by Mr. Brougham, in a late debate, that every writer
    who opposes the present measures, ‘must now feel that he sits
    down to write with a halter about his neck,’ an observation the
    justice of which must be obvious to all the world.

    “Leaving, therefore, all considerations of personal interest,
    personal feeling, and personal safety; leaving even the peace
    of mind of a numerous and most affectionate family wholly out
    of view, I have reasoned thus with myself: What is now left
    to be done? We have urged our claims with so much truth; we
    have established them so clearly on the ground of both law and
    reason, that there is no answer to us to be found other than
    that of a suspension of our personal safety. If I still write
    in support of those claims, I must be blind not to see that
    a dungeon is my doom. If I write at all, and do not write in
    support of those claims, I not only degrade myself, but I do
    a great injury to the rights of the nation by appearing to
    abandon them. If I remain here, I must, therefore, _cease to
    write_, either from compulsion, or from a sense of duty to my
    countrymen; therefore it is impossible to do any good to the
    cause of my country by remaining in it; but, if I remove to a
    country where I can write with perfect freedom, it is not only
    _possible_, but very _probable_, that I shall, sooner or later,
    be able to render that cause important and lasting services.

    “Upon this conclusion it is, that I have made my determination;
    for, though life would be scarcely worth preserving, with the
    consciousness that I walked about my fields or slept in my bed
    merely at the mercy of a Secretary of State; though, under such
    circumstances, neither the song of the birds in spring, nor the
    well-strawed homestead in winter could make me forget that I
    and my rising family were slaves, still there is something so
    powerful in the thought of country and neighbourhood, and home
    and friends, there is something so strong in the numerous and
    united ties with which these and endless other objects fasten
    the mind to a long-inhabited spot, that to tear oneself away
    nearly approaches to the separating the soul from the body.
    But then, on the other hand, I asked myself: ‘What! shall I
    submit in silence? Shall I be as dumb as one of my horses?
    Shall that indignation which burns within me be quenched? Shall
    I make no effort to preserve even the _chance_ of assisting to
    better the lot of my unhappy country? Shall that mind, which
    has communicated its light and warmth to millions of other
    minds, now be extinguished for ever; and shall those who, with
    thousands of pens at their command, still saw the tide of
    opinion rolling more and more heavily against them, now be ever
    secure from that pen, by the efforts of which they feared being
    overwhelmed? Shall truth never again be uttered? Shall her
    voice never be heard, even from a distant shore?’

    “Thus was the balance turned; and, my countrymen, be you well
    assured that, though I shall, if I live, be at a distance
    from you; though the ocean will roll between us, not all
    the barriers that nature as well as art can raise, shall be
    sufficient to prevent you from reading some part, at least,
    of what I write; and, notwithstanding all the wrongs of which
    I justly complain; notwithstanding all the indignation that
    I feel; notwithstanding all the provocations that I have
    received, or that I may receive, never shall there drop from my
    pen anything which, according to the law of the land, I might
    not safely write and publish in England. Those who have felt
    themselves supported by power, have practised towards me foul
    play without measure; but though I shall have the means of
    retaliation in my hands, never will I follow their base example.

    “Though I quit my country, far be it from me to look upon her
    cause as desperate, and still farther be it from me to wish to
    infuse despondency into your minds. _I can serve that cause no
    longer by remaining here_; but the cause itself is so good,
    so just, so manifestly right and virtuous, and it has been
    combated by means so unusual, so unnatural, and so violent,
    that it _must triumph_ in the end. Besides, the circumstances
    of the country all tend to favour the cause of Reform. Not a
    tenth part of the evils of the system are yet in existence.
    The country gentlemen who have now been amongst our most
    decided adversaries, will very soon be compelled, for their
    own preservation, to become our friends and fellow-labourers.
    Not a fragment of their property will be left, if they do not
    speedily bestir themselves. They have been induced to believe
    that a Reform of the Parliament would expose them to plunder or
    degradation; but they will very soon find, that it will afford
    them the only chance of escaping both. The wonder is that they
    do not see this already, or rather that they have not seen it
    for years past. But they have been blinded by their foolish
    pride; that pride, which has nothing of mind belonging to
    it, and which, accompanied with a consciousness of a want of
    any natural superiority over the labouring classes, seeks to
    indulge itself in a species of vindictive exercise of power.
    There has come into the heads of these people, I cannot very
    well tell how, a notion that it is proper to consider the
    labouring classes as a distinct _caste_.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “The writings of Malthus, who considers men as mere animals,
    may have had influence in the producing of this change;
    and we now frequently hear the working classes called _the
    population_, just as we call the animals upon a farm _the
    stock_. It is curious, too, that this contumely towards the
    great mass of the people should have grown into vogue amongst
    the country gentlemen and their families, at a time when they
    themselves are daily and hourly losing the estates descended
    to them from their forefathers. They see themselves stripped
    of the means of keeping that hospitality, for which England
    was once so famed, and of which there remains nothing now but
    the _word_ in the dictionary: they see themselves reduced to
    close up their windows, live in a corner of their houses, sneak
    away to London, crib their servants in their wages, and hardly
    able to keep up a little tawdry show; and it would seem, that
    for the contempt which they feel that their meanness must
    necessarily excite in the common people, they endeavour to
    avenge themselves, and at the same time to disguise their own
    humiliation, by their haughty and insolent deportment towards
    the latter: thus exhibiting that mixture of poverty and pride,
    which has ever been deemed better calculated than any other
    union of qualities to draw down upon the possessors the most
    unfriendly of human feelings.

    “It is curious, also, that this fit of novel and ridiculous
    pride should have afflicted the minds of these persons at
    the very time that the working classes are become singularly
    enlightened. Not enlightened in the manner that the sons of
    Cant and Corruption would wish them to be. The conceited
    creatures in what is called high life, and who always judge
    of men by their clothes, imagine that the working classes of
    the people have their minds quite sufficiently occupied by
    the reading of what are called ‘religious and moral tracts.’
    Simple, insipid dialogues and stories, calculated for the minds
    of children seven or eight years old, or for those of savages
    just beginning to be civilized. These conceited persons have
    no idea that the minds of the working classes ever presume to
    rise above their infantine level.… The working classes of the
    people understand well what they read; they dive into all
    matters connected with politics; they have a relish not only
    for interesting statement, for argument, for discussion; but
    the powers of _eloquence_ are by no means lost upon them.… In
    the report of the Secret Committee of the House of Lords, it
    is observed that, since the people have betaken themselves to
    this reading and this discussing, ‘their character seems to be
    wholly changed.’ I believe it is indeed! For it is the natural
    effect of enlightening the mind to change the character. But
    is not this change for the better? If it be not, why have we
    heard so much about the efforts for instructing the children of
    the poor?… Has it been intended that these people, when taught
    to read, should read nothing but Hannah More’s _Sinful Sally_,
    and Mrs. Trimmer’s Dialogues? Faith! The working classes of
    the people have a relish for no such trash. They are not to be
    amused by a recital of the manifold blessings of a state of
    things, in which they have not half enough to eat, nor half
    enough to cover their nakedness by day, and to keep them from
    perishing by night. They are not to be amused by the pretty
    stories about ‘the bounty of providence in making brambles
    for the purpose of tearing off pieces of the sheep’s wool, in
    order that the little birds may come and get it to line their
    nests with to keep their young ones warm!’ Stories like these
    are not sufficient to fill the minds of the working classes
    of the people. They want something more solid. They have had
    something more solid. Their minds, like a sheet of paper,
    have received the lasting impressions of undeniable fact and
    unanswerable argument; and it will always be a source of the
    greatest satisfaction to me to reflect that I have been mainly
    instrumental in giving those impressions, which I am very
    certain will never be effaced from the minds of the people of
    this country.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “I shall be as careful as I have been, not to write anything
    that even a special jury would pronounce to be a _Libel_. I
    have no desire to write libels. I have written none here. Lord
    Sidmouth was ‘sorry to say’ that I had not written anything
    that the law officers could prosecute with any chance of
    success. I do not remove for the purpose of writing libels, but
    for the purpose of being able to write what is _not_ libellous.
    I do not retire from a combat with the Attorney-General,
    but from a combat with a dungeon, deprived of pen, ink, and
    paper. A combat with the Attorney-General is quite unequal
    enough. That, however, I would have encountered. I know too
    well what a trial by Special Jury is. Yet that, or any sort
    of _trial_, I would have stayed to face. So that I could have
    been sure of a trial, of whatever sort, I would have run
    the risk. But, against the absolute power of imprisonment,
    without even a hearing, for time unlimited, in any jail in the
    kingdom, without the use of pen, ink, and paper, and without
    any communication with any soul but the keepers; against such
    a power it would have been worse than madness to attempt to
    strive. Indeed, there could be no striving, in such a case;
    where I should have been as much at the disposal of the
    Secretary of State as are the shoes which he has upon his feet.
    No! I will go, where I shall not be as the shoes upon Lord
    Sidmouth’s and Lord Castlereagh’s feet. I will go where I can
    make sure of the use of pen, ink, and paper; and these two
    lords may be equally sure that, in spite of everything they can
    do, unless they openly enact or proclaim a censorship on the
    press, or cut off all commercial connexion with America, you,
    my good and faithful countrymen, shall be able to read what I

       *       *       *       *       *

    “And now, my countrymen, before I set off, let me caution
    you against giving the smallest credit to anything that
    Corruption’s Press may assert of me. You have seen what
    atrocious falsehoods it has put forth in my presence; what,
    then, will it not do in my absence? I have written thousands of
    letters to various persons in all parts of the kingdom. I give
    any one leave to make public any letter of mine, accompanied by
    the certificate of any respectable friend of mine, that it is
    in my handwriting. I challenge all those, whom I ever conversed
    with, to say, that I ever uttered a wish to see overthrown any
    one of the Constitutional establishments of the kingdom; and, I
    most solemnly declare that I never associated with any man who
    professed, even in private, to entertain any such wish; but, on
    the contrary, all those with whom I have ever been intimate in
    politics, have always had in view the preservation of all the
    establishments and orders of the kingdom, as one of the objects
    of a timely reform of the Parliament.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “A mutual affection, a powerful impulse, equal to that out of
    which this wonderful sagacity arises, will, I hope, always
    exist between me and my hard-used countrymen; an affection
    which my heart assures me, no time, no distance, no new
    connexions, no new association of ideas however enchanting,
    can ever destroy, or in any degree enfeeble or impair.… Never
    will I own as my friend him who is not a friend of the people
    of England. I will never become a Subject or a Citizen in any
    other State, and will always be a foreigner in every country
    but England. Any foible that may belong to your character,
    I shall always willingly allow to belong to my own. All the
    celebrity which my writings have obtained, and which they will
    preserve long and long after Lords Liverpool, and Sidmouth,
    and Castlereagh are rotten and forgotten, I owe less to my
    own talents than to that discernment, and that noble spirit
    in you, which have at once instructed my mind and warmed my
    heart: and, my beloved countrymen, be you well assured that the
    last beatings of that heart will be, love for the people, for
    the happiness, and the renown of England; and hatred of their
    corrupt, hypocritical, dastardly, and merciless foes.”

A postscript adds that the weekly political pamphlet would be revived
in about three months’ time. And his readers are assured further that--

    “If I have life for only a year or two at farthest, I shall
    be back with them again. The beautiful country through which
    I have so lately travelled, bearing, upon every inch of it,
    such striking marks of the industry and skill of the people,
    never can be destined to be inhabited by slaves. To suppose
    such a thing possible would be at once to libel the nation
    and to blaspheme against Providence. Let my readers not fear
    my finding out the means of communicating to them whatever
    I write. They will see the political pamphlet revive and be
    continued, until the day when they will find me again dating my
    addresses to them from London or from Botley.

                                                      “WM. COBBETT.

    “_Liverpool, 28th March, 1817._”

The suspension of the _Register_ lasted for about three months. On
the 12th of July it was resumed, with a letter dated from Cobbett’s
residence, May 8th, and the journal was kept up without further
interruption. Only on one or two occasions did a number appear in which
there was not a communication from the exiled editor.

But his place in the journalistic world was not left utterly vacant.
William Hone led the way, with his _Reformists’ Register_, among
a series of similar publications.[7] Indeed, it was understood
that Hone’s Register occupied the position which Mr. Cobbett had
temporarily abdicated. Hone had been a staunch supporter, since the
_Political Register_ had become popularized; besides making a depôt
for that journal at his little shop in the Old Bailey, he had recently
reproduced the American autobiography of Peter Porcupine in a cheap

In the course of the summer of this year, an exposure of the spy
system was made in the House of Commons; and it was proved, over and
over again, that nearly all the serious riots had been instigated by
these wretches, actually in the employ of Government. The result was a
public condemnation of the infamous system, and its immediate disuse
on the part of ministers. And, as a matter of course, all the signs
of turbulence in the country ceased; the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act
being repealed soon after the next meeting of Parliament. In fact,
every day proved, more and more clearly, that it was nothing but fear
which had magnified a few local discontents--by means of that powerful
lens, Anti-Reform--into designs upon the fabric of the Constitution.

But the mischief done to the temper of the people was irreparable.
Those persons (of whom there must be some proportion, even among
such a phlegmatic race as the English) whose reforming zeal was
easily raised to fever heat, got into trouble; and several suffered
the capital penalty for treason, during the years 1817-19. Their
imprudence, however, could not delay, for long, the imminent Reform;
the violence done to popular feeling, by a combination of cruelty and
weakness, was bearing its fruit; and this is how, in spite of its
natural claims upon the patriotism of Englishmen, Toryism came to bear
undeserved opprobrium. We, who are of no party but that of Progress
and Enlightenment, and who have long ceased to believe in traditional
politics, whether Whig or Tory, will not fail to take to heart again
the lesson: that violence, impatience, and selfish prescription are as
much out of place in the political as in the moral world. We have had
ample opportunities of noting this, during the last half-century; and
if there is anything upon which we may congratulate ourselves, it is
that we have had Melbournes and Peels, Russells and Palmerstons, during
a period of European revolution, instead of such men as the favourites
of George the Third.


[1] _Keeping watch_, in the times of which we are speaking, was not
exclusively from the constable’s point of view. The hand of intrigue
was always prepared, in order to purchase silence, as it had been for a
century past. When the Hunts were about to enter prison on account of
their libel upon the Regent, they had the opportunity of refusing an
immunity from punishment if they would consent to hold their tongues
for the future. And an offer was sent to Cobbett to remit the 1000_l._
fine, just before his release in 1812, if he would promise not to
support the cause of the Princess of Wales.

[2] The _Courier_ was generally suspected of being a subsidized paper.
The _Edinburgh Review_ characterized it thus:--“A paper of shifts and
expedients, of base assertions and thoughtless impudence. It denies
facts on the word of a minister, and dogmatizes by authority.”

[3] One likes to hear both sides, when there is a trifling difference
of opinion:--

  “If Cobbett and Hunt were really honest men, and really wished
  well to the cause of Reform, they would abstain from meddling
  with it.… If a man wants to repair his mansion, and an adviser
  comes and tells him that he will do no good except he pull it
  altogether down and rebuild it, the owner immediately begins to
  think it better that he should continue to live in the old house
  as it is rather than run such risks.”--_Times_, Jan. 28, 1817.

  “Mr. Cobbett, whose sincerity in the cause of the country can no
  longer be questioned by any party,” &c., &c.

  “He has increased his circulation to _forty_ and _fifty thousand_
  per week; and thus his work tends to counteract the unprincipled
  sophistry of certain of the daily newspapers and of their
  satellites through the country. As Mr. C. gives no quarter to
  the partisans of war and corruption, and to the sinecurists
  and peculators who devour the substance of the people, and as
  he is the able advocate of the vital question of Parliamentary
  Reform, we conceive it to be our duty to recommend his _Register_
  to the favourable attention of our liberal and enlightened
  readers.”--_Monthly Magazine_, January, 1817.

[4] It appears from a memorandum, printed in Mr. Yonge’s “Life and
Administration of Lord Liverpool” (vol. ii. 298), that Robert Southey
recommended, if he did not primarily suggest, these severities. He
names “Cobbett, Hone, and the _Examiner_, &c.,” as the writers who are
to be stopped, and thinks that their imprisonment should be “such as
will prevent them from carrying on their journals.”

[5] “Not he who demands rights, but he who abjures them, is an
anarchist.”--_J. Horne Tooke._

[6] “As might be expected, falsehoods out of number, and in every garb,
have been circulated in regard to a man who never compromised with his
convictions.”--_Monthly Magazine_, May, 1817.

There were many, it must be said, who looked at the matter in its
proper light, and fairly pointed out that Cobbett had been driven away.

[7] “Hone’s Reformist’s Register,” “Sherwin’s Political Register,” “The
Republican,” edited by Carlile; “The Black Dwarf” of T. J. Wooler;
“The Yellow Dwarf,” &c. “The Black Dwarf” was a somewhat remarkable
fellow. He dealt fiercely with the prevailing political hypocrisies
and abuses in Church and State. Wooler was very angry over Cobbett’s
flight to America, but soon condoned the matter. “The Yellow Dwarf”
had some severe articles upon the spy system, and the libel laws, and
the unfortunate State prisoners. William Hazlitt appears among the

“Shadgett’s Weekly Review” was an opposition affair, started with
the object of trying to put down these irrepressibles. Some sketches
from this journal were collected and republished under the title
of “The Political Quixote; or, The Adventures of the Renowned Don
Blackibo Dwarfino and his Trusty Squire, Seditiono; a Romance, in
which are introduced many Popular and Celebrated Political Characters
of the Present Day” (London, 1820). One of the “characters” is Pietro

The _Ulster Register_ printed at Belfast (“for the proprietor, John
Lawless, Esq.”), was a partial reprint of Cobbett’s.

[8] With his incurable propensity for parody, Hone closed up this
pamphlet thus:--“Now the rest of the acts and life of this author, are
they not written in the volumes of his _Political Register_ and other



Among the topics which, of recent years, had been current matter for
discussion, our relations with the United States were not the least
important. The dispute, arising from repeated violations of neutrality
on the part of England, which ultimately led to the war of 1812, was
the fruit of purely administrative errors; and had nothing to do with
the popular sentiment of this country. The two nations had become
reconciled, for fifteen years past; and, had it not been for the
arbitrary assumptions put forth by the British Government, on the basis
of our alleged naval supremacy, every aspect gave promise of close
international friendship.

It may be said, however, that the contest had its beneficial side.
The peace, which ensued, has never since been broken: quite as much,
perhaps, because conciliation has since become the ruling idea in
English foreign politics, as on account of any fanciful beliefs in the
abstract inutility of war. The last lingering traditions, as to the
possibility of the Yankees being coerced, were banished from the minds
of English statesmen by the events of this naval war; and, such point
gained, the fogs of many minor prejudices naturally disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of those persons who, with pen in hand, aided in the solution of the
questions in dispute with, and in the enlightenment of the people
concerning, the United States of America, there is none whose services
can be compared with those of the subject of these pages. Whilst the
London press was encouraging the Government, besides misleading the
people as to the real nature and prospects of the conflict, Mr. Cobbett
was declaring, as he had been declaring from the first: that the points
in dispute would have to be given up, or the war would last for years.
Mr. Cobbett’s patriotism, and Mr. Cobbett’s decency were, as usual,
called in question; but the “points” were unreservedly relinquished,
and Mr. Cobbett was right, once more.

So, it came to pass that another reconciliation ensued besides that
between the two peoples. The Republicans of New York and Philadelphia
discovered that Peter Porcupine was not such a vile wretch after all.
They read his _Register_, and reprinted portions of it.[1] They sent
him newspapers. And one effusive committee, of Albany, New York, sent
him a suit of clothes (“made of cloth manufactured in this State, from
wool grown within it.”)[2]

There followed, of course, effusiveness on the part of Mr. Cobbett.
Theirs was a free country, where the truth might be spoken and written,
without fear of an Attorney-general; there were still many political
evils rampant there, but the mass of the people were enlightened; they
would produce their own wool, in spite of the Yorkshire clothiers;
they would soon have a fleet, have manufactures, take the lead in
agriculture, and set an example to the world of civil and religious
liberty. And, he expressed his great pleasure, nay pride, that his
weekly essays were thought worthy of being moulded into pamphlets and
books, for the use of the free American nation.

All this led, at last, to closer intercourse, and, upon repeated
difficulties occurring with the Post Office, Mr. Cobbett resolved
to attempt an American edition of the _Political Register_, with
the twofold object of cementing these pleasant relations, and of
allowing a little more freedom in the handling of certain delicate
matters. Accordingly, an office was opened in New York, early in 1816,
(under the care of one Oldfield, and a nephew, Henry Cobbett), for
the purposes of this republication. This was not, however, an affair
of long continuance; its failure being partly due to post-office
vigilance, by means of which a good deal of the MS. despatched to
America found its way into the office of Lord Castlereagh.

It will be understood, then, that there were plenty of inducements
for a short visit to the United States. And, upon landing at New York,
early in May, 1817, Mr. Cobbett found that he had rightly judged the
temper of the Americans; for he was immediately surrounded with new
friends; while old ones from Pennsylvania turned up from time to time.

His first step, the day after his arrival, was to cross into Long
Island and look about for a farm: an object of no very great
difficulty. The next was to begin writing to his “beloved countrymen.”
And the next may be guessed from the fact, that, on the day that his
countrymen once more read the _Register_ in the middle of July, a crop
of peas was gathered which he had himself sown.

The farm in Long Island soon became the house of call for emigrants
from England. Farmers who had “escaped from the tax-gatherer,”
and had brought out the remnant of their fortunes; journeymen and
labourers, “escaping from tyranny;” countrymen, fleeing from ruin and
starvation--even tradesmen, in despair, were flocking over; besides
numbers of people who, from their previous training or occupations,
were unfit for emigration. And the people of England, in consequence,
knew more about life in America than they ever knew before.[3]
Intermingled with the usual comments and warnings on current politics,
Mr. Cobbett gave his readers minute and graphic details of his mode
of life, and of the happiness and comfort around him: with no taxes,
tithes, nor game-laws; no excisemen, spies, nor packed juries; no
Castlereaghs, Eldons, Ellenboroughs, nor Sidmouths; labourers with
plenty to eat and drink;--a fine climate, good neighbours, and a
wide-spreading scene of general comfort and well-being; for everybody
who came out resolved to work with honesty and spirit.

Of course, all these glowing accounts would sometimes bring out the
wrong sort of men. Not only the lazy, who had estimated the prospects
of emigration without including the important factor of hard work:
but agents, and land-jobbers, and superficial gallopers through the
country; many of these were induced to come, and went home again to
tell of their disgust, at not finding the riches of the country flow
into their open mouths.[4]

Upon the whole, Mr. Cobbett must be considered to have greatly
benefited his fellow-countrymen by his short settlement in Long Island;
not only by truthful and painstaking accounts of the modes of life,
and the resources of the country, but by his oft-repeated inculcation
of industry, perseverance, and the moral virtues. But this is not all.
This period saw the commencement of what is, in some respects, the
most useful part of Mr. Cobbett’s career; that part, namely, during
which he served the cause of sound popular education.

His purpose, to this end, is first announced in a letter to Mr. Benbow,
one of the recently imprisoned printers under the “Gagging” Act:--

    “I now proceed to develope my plan for assisting in the
    acquirement of book-learning all those against whom the
    Borough-mongers have, in a great degree, closed the door to
    such learning, and whom they have the insolence to denominate
    the ‘Lower Orders.’ To effect this object it is my intention
    to publish, at a very cheap rate (though the word _cheap_ may
    shake the nerves of Sidmouth and Canning to jelly)--at a very
    cheap rate it is my intention to publish--First, ‘An English
    Grammar for the use of apprentices, plough-boys, soldiers,
    and sailors.’ Second, ‘A History of the Laws and Constitution
    of England,’ for the use of the same description of persons.
    Third, ‘A History of the Church and of Religion in England,
    in which will be seen the origin of the present _claims_ of
    the clergy, and in which their _duties_ will also be shown,’
    for the use of the same description of persons. Fourth, ‘A
    view of the present state of the Income, Debt, and Expenses
    of the Kingdom; its Population and Paupers; its causes of
    Embarrassment and Misery, and the means of Restoration to ease
    and happiness,’ for the use of the same description of persons.”

The plan was not carried out in its entirety; although much of the
material was furnished, in one form or other, in the pages of the
_Register_ during the ensuing years of its course. The idea, at any
rate, was pursued in the numerous essays on history and political
economy presented to his readers from time to time. As for the Grammar,
that was put in hand at once, and was published in London in December,

The success of the “English Grammar” was what might have been expected.
Ten thousand copies were sold in a few weeks; a third edition being
called for before the end of February. And it holds its own to this
day--not as a class-book, for which it is unfit from its verbosity
and its odd mixture of politics and humour; but for the purpose of
self-education, for which it is of unrivalled value.

The Grammar had been preceded, in London, by “A Year’s Residence
in America,” which purported to give current information as to the
condition and prospects of the country, besides a journal of his own
proceedings. Mr. Cobbett’s hands were, therefore, full of work as ever;
and his mind full as ever of thoughts concerning his own country. He
tells Major Cartwright (who had written to inform Cobbett that he might
safely return home) that he has begun several works, which, if he does
not finish them now, he is sure he never shall. A little later, he
writes to Henry Hunt, that he shall move the moment he thinks that he
can do more good that way than by remaining; feeling quite certain as
to the final issue of the great cause.

And he tells his readers that he has, in no sense, abandoned England:
that the farther he is distant from England the stronger he always
finds his attachment toward her. A year’s absence had cooled his
resentment; while it had, if possible, added to his feelings of
affection toward his countrymen. “All the good that he had left behind
was constantly in his thoughts, while the bad gradually became less and
less frequently thought of.”

Not that, however, the warfare upon Corruption was to cease. He was
there “to uphold the honour of England,” and to “aim deadly blows
against her tyrants.” And no better proof of the need of his lash could
be found, than is furnished by the continued attacks upon his character.

But he had the ear of millions of people, who were suffering, more or
less undeservedly, from the tyranny and misgovernment of irresponsible
persons; and what was it, that the supporters of the Irresponsible
classes continued their falsehoods and malignity? So the _Register_
pursued its wonderful course, “skimming over the face of the Atlantic
like the dove, of the innocence of which it partook;” and still finding
its way into thousands of English cottage homes.

The governing principle of Mr. Cobbett’s political leanings was,
still, his hatred of a paper-currency. And, in the year 1819, upon
hearing that Parliament was preparing to authorize an early resumption
of cash payment on the part of the Bank of England, he foresaw the
inevitable panic and distress which must further ensue, before the
country could again tread the path of prosperity. Hence, he thought,
the opportunity for the Parliamentary Reformers: the certainty that the
cause would be nearer of attainment; and he at once prepared for his
return home. There was little to keep him in Long Island, separated
from the bulk of his family: a farm was easily disposed of; and an
accidental fire upon the premises--which caused him to seek shelter
in a tent, “the walls of which were made of _Morning Chronicles_ and
_Couriers_, pasted upon laths that were a foot asunder,”--only gave
occasion for expediting his departure.

There was, however, another “duty” (as he deemed it) to perform before
leaving the soil of America. That self-imposed task was one of the most
difficult, one of the most delicate, to which a man might lend himself:
the attempt to do honour to a name which the world had chosen to scorn.
The severest test, which Mr. Cobbett had ever yet applied to public
opinion, was now to be outdone; for the name in question was that of

Chalmers’s life of Paine, written in 1792, had merits of its own, which
suited the violent and depraved taste of the times. It speedily ran
through many editions; and no one contributed more to its circulation
than Peter Porcupine, who reprinted it in his _Censor_ of September,
1796, “interspersed with remarks and reflections.” But a neophyte
writer, ardent in cotemporary loyalism, reading and greedily sucking-in
the venomous plausibilities of Chalmers, is one thing: the same person
coming to read, in his days of maturity, Paine’s eloquent pleadings
against oppression and misrule, is another; especially if maturity
of strength and wisdom has brought with it a full admission of old
weaknesses: renunciation of ignorance and folly. So Mr. Cobbett
found that Thomas Paine was not such a blackguard: not so deserving
of the abuse which he had helped to pour upon him; and proceeded,
accordingly, to make reparation, by extolling Paine’s merits as a
writer (whilst, however, condemning his theology), and recommending the
writings to his friends, whenever opportunity served. That which had
led him to study Paine for himself was “The Decline and Fall of the
English System of Finance,” a pamphlet in which Paine had distinctly
foretold the bursting of the paper-money bubble; and the reader will
understand Cobbett’s great enthusiasm, upon the discovery that Paine’s
elucidations furnished him with a key to what he considered the leading
peril of the nation.

All this, however, might have casually passed into the catalogue of Mr.
Cobbett’s “inconsistencies,” without attracting special notice, but for
the following circumstances:--

Paine had wished to be buried in the Quaker burial-ground of New York;
but the request was denied--the principal alleged reason being that
many persons had already accused the sect of Deism, and that, if they
allowed this interment, the accusation would have a circumstance to
rest upon. Mr. Paine was, therefore, buried in the corner of one of his
own fields.

In September or October, 1819, the land having been previously sold,
with a reservation of that particular spot, the person, whose business
it was to take care of that little corner, was so sensible of the risk
of disturbance to Paine’s ashes that he commenced a negotiation for the
purpose of having them transferred to a New York churchyard. The utmost
that could be obtained was “leave to put them in the ground in a refuse
place, where strangers and soldiers and other friendless persons were
usually buried.”

Under these circumstances, Mr. Cobbett (whose farm lay only a few miles
off from New Rochelle) resolved that Paine’s bones should “really have
honourable burial!”

    “Paine lies in a little hole under the grass and weeds of an
    obscure farm in America. There, however, he shall not lie,
    unnoticed, much longer. He belongs to England. His fame is the
    property of England; and if no other people will show that they
    value that fame, the people of England will. Yes, amongst the
    pleasures that I promise myself, is that of seeing the name of
    Paine honoured in every part of England; where base corruption
    caused him, while alive, to be burnt in effigy.”

Now this, be it observed in passing, was quite in accord with Cobbett’s
habitual notions as to the reverent treatment of the dead; as any
industrious reader of him well knows.[6]

He now proceeded to keep the subject alive by frequent references; and,
at last, announced that the coffin had been taken up, and would be sent
off to England in the same condition as it was found.

    “We will honour his name,” he says, “his remains and his
    memory, in all sorts of ways. While the dead Borough-mongers,
    and the base slaves who have been their tools, moulder away
    under unnoticed masses of marble and brass, the tomb of this
    ‘Noble of Nature’ will be an object of pilgrimage with the
    people.… Let this be considered the act of the Reformers of
    England, Scotland, and Ireland. In their name we opened the
    grave, and in their name will the tomb be raised. We do not
    look upon ourselves as adopting _all_ Paine’s opinions upon
    all subjects. He was a great man, an Englishman, a friend of
    freedom, and the first and greatest enemy of the Borough and
    Paper System. This is enough for us.”

So, with this unusual piece of luggage in his possession, Mr. Cobbett
returned to England, reaching Liverpool at the end of November, 1819,
in company with his son William.

       *       *       *       *       *

The conspiracy panic had well-nigh died away. But, in August, 1819,
the memorable occurrence, known as the Manchester massacre, was the
means of reanimating the fears of ministers, through the spirit of
indignation which it had roused throughout the land. Parliament was
called together in November, for the purpose of fresh repressive
legislation; the product of which was the celebrated series, known as
the _Six Acts_.[7]

It was at this juncture that Mr. Cobbett met his friends again at
Liverpool: to the dismay of some, who told him that he was “jumping
into the lion’s mouth:” to the joy of the great body of Reformers, who
hastened to testify their gratification by every means in their power.
From the towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire, especially, the Reformers
crowded forward with addresses of welcome: in spite of the revived
opposition of authority--opposition which was displayed in an unusual
manner; as, when a poor fellow was put into jail, for going round
the town of Bolton with the crier’s bell, in order to announce Mr.
Cobbett’s safe return. Into jail, for ten weeks![8]

There was no need for violence on either side. As for Mr. Cobbett,
he was constantly urging that “our cause” was “too good for any
violence:” that he would have nothing to do with Reformers who called
themselves Republicans. His first essays, after his return, are models
of temperateness and wisdom: advice to the prime minister upon the
condition of the country, and advice to the Reformers on sobriety and
frugality: writings which would have raised a new man to immediate fame
and fortune. But, they came from an old offender, whose unasked advice
had too long been a terror. Violence, on the part of Mr. Cobbett’s
opponents, did not cease--and he had, unfortunately, by his own
imprudence, placed the means of violence in their hands. In the first
place, the incident of Paine’s bones, coming at the time it did, was
enough to damn any man’s reputation for discretion as to the fitness
of things--nothing could have been more inopportune. In America, it
was true, people were beginning to understand Paine, and republish
his works. But in England, he was known only by his theology; and was
branded as an Atheist, by the hirelings who could not, or dare not
try to, refute him. No name on earth was buried beneath such a weight
of obloquy. So, nothing could be easier, nothing so effective, as to
couple the two names. And any fool who chose to call Mr. Cobbett an
atheist, upon the word of some “constitutional” pamphleteer, could
do so. As for the unfortunate bones, there never was such a joke! An
ephemeral literature actually sprung up, on the topic[9]--whilst, from
the custom house officers at Liverpool, startled at the unexpected
importation,--to the man who now has them in his possession: from the
man who recorded the arrival of the “bone-grubber,” to our very latest
historical sketcher: the affair has been a laughing-stock.

And it cannot be said that this derision is altogether unmerited. Mr.
Cobbett ought to have known his countrymen well enough, to remember
that “relics” of this sort are thrown away upon them. He should have
known that such a freak as his could only be safely performed, by
an organized and influential public movement; and then, only, with
a certainty of having to face disagreeable controversy. That the
bones will be wanted, some day, may be safely predicted; knowing
what we do of THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME. But the business of raising a
monument, recording the wisdom and political virtues of Thomas Paine,
will scarcely be within the scope of that man’s powers who “stands

Again, a subject which had greatly disturbed the minds of Mr. Cobbett’s
friends was his relation with Sir Francis Burdett. The latter had
advanced money to Cobbett (or to Wright for him), and there appeared
little probability of its being repaid. Mr. Cobbett had acknowledged
the debt (with some sort of protest, however), and promised to repay
it, after he was enabled to provide for his family again.

Sir Francis Burdett had already inspired suspicion, in the breasts
of the Reformers, as not being in earnest. He had called upon the
people, for several years past, to “rally” and to “come forward,”
and so on; but would back out of it at a critical juncture. He was
still “Westminster’s pride and England’s glory,” in the hands of
a Westminster clique; but, when the troubles of 1816-1817 began,
he seemed to shrink from the cause of Reform. Perhaps he dreaded
Republicanism, or had some other good reason for his backwardness.
Certain it is, that, just before the opening of parliament in 1817,
when all the leaders were wanted at their posts, Burdett was not there.
And, upon Lord Cochrane proposing an amendment to the Address, which
would have at least produced debate, Sir Francis allowed the motion
to drop without a seconder. Now, this was so much like all the Whig
popularity-hunting; and this end so much like the end of that,--that
Cartwright and all the hearty Reformers ceased to put great faith
in Burdett; and Mr. Cobbett only spoke the feelings of all, when he
indignantly pointed out what was very like a betrayal of the cause. The
only explanation that appears to have been obtained from Burdett was a
protest against “being used as a puppet.”

Among the newspaper anecdotes which synchronized with Cobbett’s
departure for America, was one concerning the debt of 3000_l._ to Sir
Francis. This was the first the public heard of it. And, upon Mr.
Cobbett proceeding to castigate Burdett for his lukewarmness, people
called it “ingratitude” and “inconsistency.” This, however, might
have been treated with contempt, but for the publication of some
correspondence in the _Examiner_, which made it appear that Mr. Cobbett
meant to repudiate the debt; a construction which it was quite possible
to form, without knowing all the circumstances, and by the easy process
of reading “extracts.”[11]

So, after Cobbett’s return from America, almost till the last year of
his life, his money-affairs with Burdett were repeatedly cropping up,
both in the newspapers and in the _Political Register_. The matter is
not creditable to either of the parties. And when, after Cobbett’s
death, upon a proposal to raise some kind of memorial, Sir Francis sent
the 3000_l._ bond to the committee, telling them that they could take
his subscription out of that; it looked a very unworthy proceeding on
the part of a man, who had really owed a vast deal of his popularity
and distinction to Mr. Cobbett’s zealous advocacy. Burdett’s vanity
was at least equal to Cobbett’s egotism; and neither could forgive the
other, after their special weaknesses had been shown up at each other’s
hands. Several endeavours at reconciliation were made, on the part of
mutual friends, but they ended in nothing.

Another episode, of this period, gave still more trouble to Mr.
Cobbett. There was an influential batch of politicians in Westminster,
of which Francis Place was one of the leaders. Their liberalism went
in the line of electoral purity, and verged toward Republicanism; and
their favourites were Burdett and Hobhouse. At the election of June,
1818, Henry Hunt stood as a candidate, and this clique (known as the
Rump Committee) opposed him with all their might. The secretary and
agent was one Thomas Cleary, who had given much aid as promoter of
Hampden clubs throughout the country, and was studying as a barrister.
Mr. John Wright was connected with this set; and, being in possession
of several hundred of Cobbett’s old letters,[12] found one among them
which reflected strongly upon Hunt’s private character. We have already
perused it, as the reader will recollect.[13] Wright showed this to
Francis Place, and Place showed it to Cleary, who read it out to the
electors, on the first opportunity: adding, “In the language of Mr.
Cobbett, I have only to say, ‘He’s a sad fellow, beware of him.’” So
electoral purity draws the line at some point or other: in this case,
at the point outside of which lies a detestable breach of confidence.

The consequences may be imagined. Mr. Cobbett first heard of it through
the medium of a New York paper, and lost his temper over it. Both
Cobbett and Burdett had associated with Mr. Hunt, of late years: had
gone sporting with him, and had even been under the same roof with “the
lady.” This was stronger in Mr. Cobbett’s recollection than the memory
of his first scanty acquaintance with Hunt; and a hasty note, written
more than ten years ago, had entirely faded from his memory. So he, in
his first outburst of anger, charged Cleary with forging the letter;
and, afterward, on several occasions, represented Wright as a rogue,
“unparalleled in the annals of infamy;” giving his readers a graphic
story of how the latter had falsified accounts; and how his little son
had been a witness (in Newgate) of the “big drops of sweat standing
upon the caitiff’s brow,” upon the occasion of his detection.

Now, this was quite indefensible. And the only excuse that can be made
is that Mr. Cobbett had been gradually losing his habitual coolness
and calmness in the face of calumny. Instead of his old habit of
treating it with contempt, he had begun the practice of answering
misrepresentation: the very thing that your scandal-monger likes. And,
in this case, three thousand miles away, with at least three months’
interval between a calumny and the possibility of a retort; and with
a growing habit of nursing political and personal grievances: it is
no wonder that he flew into a passion; and, in the end, so exposed
Mr. Cleary that many of the latter’s friends refused to have any
more dealings with him, or even to hold discourse with him. So, upon
Cobbett’s return to England, Cleary challenged him to fight; of course
to no purpose. He then brought an action, laying the damages at two
thousand pounds. The jury showed what they thought of the matter, by
awarding him forty shillings.[14]

A few days afterward, the case of _Wright_ v. _Cobbett_ was heard.

This was a more serious affair. The imputations against Wright were
quite needless, even if they could be justified. And the defendant, at
the last moment, withdrew his plea of justification from the record,
and based his defence upon the fact that his son (and not himself) was
the present proprietor of the _Register_: that his sons were in the
habit of altering his manuscript at their discretion. These technical
pretences, so commonly resorted to, might have answered very well in
the hands of a practised lawyer; but, with the “defendant in person,”
it was like a child playing with edged tools. And against Scarlett,
too, one of the cleverest counsel of the day; a man who hated the
Reform set; and who had, in the House of Commons, alluded to Cobbett
as a “contemptible scribbler,” and, on the present occasion, could go
out of his way to say how much he approved of Cobbett’s early estimate
of Paine, and his former writings generally. He maintained that the
letter which Cleary read, and which had caused all the trouble, was
one intended for publication, although the judge (at the former
trial) had very strongly reprobated Cleary’s conduct. Whilst he, of
course, enjoyed a complete triumph over the withdrawal of the plea of
justification, and the clumsy efforts of the defendant to make his sons

The folly and conceit of appearing “in person” was never more signally
exemplified; especially as Mr. Cobbett had, just then, his hands full
over the poor Queen,[15] and over his own chaotic pecuniary affairs;
and it was sufficiently punished by the result. The jury deliberated
for nearly two hours, and brought in a verdict of 1000_l._ damages.

       *       *       *       *       *

These things were “much against him,” as Lord Brougham would say. The
press got into the way of saying that Cobbett had lost all character,
and all respect, and so on. New pamphlets came out: the patriot was
really down, this time; and his fate squared so neatly with all that
had been predicted of him, and of every subverter of the constitution.

But, there are reputations, and reputations:

    “Pygmies are pygmies still, though perch’d on alps,
    And pyramids are pyramids in vales!”

And, whilst a good name is not to be thought lightly of, it is not
every one’s esteem that can be considered man’s best and highest
reward. The hollow, specious, moral judgments of mankind, when under
the dominion of prejudice, are not the standards by which to judge the
men of life and earnestness: the men whose convictions, and not whose
personal interests, mark their path. And, in the case in point: the
moral judgment of all the toad-eaters and the place-hunters of the day
could hardly be a desirable standard, wherewith to gauge the character
of a man whose faults lay just upon the surface; whose faults could, by
no possible twist or distortion of idea, be shown to proceed from bad

What “interests” Mr. Cobbett had, were now unmistakably identified with
those of the labouring classes of England; and, at last, he had got a
good hearing from those classes. The distinction of classes, wantonly
and unnecessarily proclaimed for twenty years past, was now confirmed;
and the ten years of George the Fourth’s reign mark the period of
conflict which was partly the result of this forced distinction. The
end of this conflict, and the ultimate triumph of the popular cause,
is matter of history: the bloodless reformation of 1832 has saved
the British Constitution, instead of destroying it. That triumph of
principles was the work of neither Whig nor Tory. It came from the
provoked and suffering people themselves. The greater the provocation,
the deeper the suffering,--the more certain was to be the end: and
from them, alone, it came. And, as more light is thrown, from time to
time, upon these stirring days, the better can we see who were the real
leaders and guiders in Reform; and who was the greatest of them all.
For, until this SAMSON arose, the progress of the cause had been little
better than a series of ridiculous evasions and desertions.


[1] _Niles’s Register_, published at Baltimore, a weekly journal of
extended influence, had begun by abusing Cobbett, but speedily found it
was better worth while to reprint his writings concerning America. Some
of the independent republications were,--

“Porcupine Revived; or, An Old Thing Made New. Being (1) An Argument
against the Expediency of a War with England; (2) An Exposition of the
Absurdity of sending Albert Gallatin to treat with the British. By
William Cobbett, Esq.” (New York, 1813.) The editor is a Federalist,
and thinks it surprising that Cobbett should have described so
accurately seventeen years ago the _present_ condition of the States.

“Letters on the Late War between the United States and Great Britain,
&c., &c., by William Cobbett, Esq.” (New York, 1815). The preface is
highly eulogistic, and forgives all Cobbett’s former wickedness.

“The Pride of Britannia Humbled; or, The Queen of the Ocean Unqueen’d
by the American Cock-boats, &c., &c. Illustrated and demonstrated
by four Letters to Lord Liverpool, by William Cobbett, Esq.”
(Philadelphia, 1815). This editor is also very magnanimous.

It was a marked characteristic of the estimates formed by Cobbett’s
cotemporaries that the party, or the set, which he for the time being
appeared to support, readily overlooked his former opinions and
so-called “inconsistencies.” This applies to London, as well as to
Philadelphia. Never was a man so readily forgiven. Envy alone was his
enduring enemy, as it always is to great abilities and to superior
personal character.

[2] We get a glimpse of home over this incident:--“The youngest asked
where Albany was. He ran to the map. And then the little pamphlet from
Boston; they looked into it; they saw the same thing which they had,
one or the other of them, written at my dictation only a few months
before. Who would barter such pleasures for all the wealth and all the
titles in the world?”

[3] That cruel urgency, _want of space_, forbids the insertion here of
many a smart illustrative extract from Cobbett’s American writings.
The following must suffice, being parts of a letter “to the people of
Botley,” dated 10th November, 1818:--

“My old Neighbours,--Great as the distance between you and me is, I
very often think of you, and especially when I buy _salt_, which our
neighbour Warner used to sell us for 19_s._ a bushel, and which I buy
here for 2_s._ 6_d._ This salt is made, you know, down somewhere by
Hamble. This very salt, when brought here from England, has all the
charges of freight, insurance, wharfage, steerage to pay. It pays,
besides, one third of its value in duty to the American Government
before it be landed here. Then, you will observe, there is the profit
of the American salt merchant; and then that of the shopkeeper who
sells me the salt. And, after all this, I buy that very Hampshire salt
for 2_s._ 6_d._ a bushel, English measure. What a Government, then,
must that of the borough-mongers be! The salt is a gift of God. It is
thrown on the shore. And yet these tyrants will not suffer us to use it
until we have paid them 15_s._ a bushel for liberty to use it.…

“You are compelled to pay the borough-mongers a heavy tax on your
_candles_ and _soap_. You dare not _make_ candles and soap, though
you have the fat and the ashes in abundance. If you attempt to do
this, you are taken up and imprisoned; and if you resist, soldiers are
brought to shoot you. This is _freedom_, is it? Now we, here, make our
own candles and soap. Farmers sometimes _sell_ soap and candles, but
they never _buy_ any. A labouring man, or a mechanic, buys a sheep
now and then. Three or four days’ work will buy a labourer a sheep to
weigh sixty pounds, with seven or eight pounds of loose fat. The meat
keeps very well, in winter, for a long time. The wool makes stockings,
and the loose fat is made into candles and soap. The year before I
left Hampshire, a poor woman at Holly Hill had dipped some rushes in
grease to use instead of candles. An exciseman found it out, went and
ransacked her house, and told her that, if the rushes had had _another
dip_, they would have been _candles_, and she must have gone to gaol!
Why, my friends, if such a thing were told here, nobody would believe

“I have had living with me an English labourer. He smokes tobacco,
and he tells me that he can buy as much tobacco here for three cents,
that is about three English half-pence, as he could buy in England for
three shillings. The leather has no tax on it here; so that, though the
shoemaker is paid a high price for his labour, the labouring man gets
his shoes very cheap. In short, there is no excise here, no property
tax, no assessed taxes. We have no such men as Chiddel and Billy Tovey
to come and take our money from us; no window-peepers; no spies to keep
a look out as to our carriages, and horses, and dogs.… We may wear
hair-powder if we like, without paying for it, and a boy in our houses
may whet our knives without our paying 2_l._ a year for it.”

“I have talked to several farmers here about the tithes in England,
and _they laugh_. They sometimes almost make me angry, for they seem,
at last, not to believe what I say when I tell them that the English
farmer gives, and is compelled to give, the parson a tenth part of
his whole crop, and of his fruit, and milk, and eggs, and calves, and
lambs, and pigs, and wool, and honey. They cannot believe this. They
treat it as a sort of _romance_.…

“To another of my neighbours … I was telling the story about the poor
woman at Holly Hill, who had nearly dipped her rushes once too often.
He is a very grave and religious man. He looked very seriously at me,
and said that falsehood was falsehood, whether in jest or earnest.”

[4] There was a good deal of controversy concerning land-jobbing in
America about this time. Mr. Morris Birkbeck, a prosperous farmer at
Wanborough, in Surrey, left England with some highly coloured notions
in his mind concerning the western territories of the United States,
and produced two separate accounts, with the object of inducing British
emigrants to follow him (“Notes on a Journey in America, from the
Coast of Virginia to the Territory of Illinois,” and “Letters from
Illinois”). Cobbett gave him a letter or two, under the impression
that Birkbeck’s expectations were too fascinating. Mr. Birkbeck
was unfortunately soon afterwards drowned in crossing a river. Mr.
Henry Bradshaw Fearon, surgeon, went out under the auspices of some
emigration committee. His was a somewhat “evil report,” and amongst
other matters recorded a visit to Cobbett’s house in Long Island,
which, he said, was mouldering to decay, that the fences were in
ruins, and that the scene produced thoughts of melancholy (“Sketches
of America: a Narrative of a Journey of 5000 Miles through the
Eastern and Western States of America; with Remarks on Mr. Birkbeck’s
‘Notes’ and ‘Letters’”). The same candid pen which had endeavoured to
check Birkbeck’s too great enthusiasm now had the duty to perform of
chastising the author of these misrepresentations, and of Fearon’s
general bad account of the Americans. Mr. Benjamin Flower also
travelled westward, and sent home “Letters from the Illinois” (London,
1822). See, besides these, Faux’s “Memorable days in America” (London

[5] Mr. Paine has been variously described as a traitor, an apostate,
a seducer, an infidel, a rogue, an outcast, and--“one of the most
enlightened and benevolent men that ever lived.” The reconciling of
these things must be left to his biographer; meanwhile, the following
facts are all that are necessary to be at present noted:--Paine had
been an exciseman, and discovered that he could write by the production
of an eloquent pamphlet upon some grievance of the excise-officers.
He had written poems, and enjoyed the friendship of Oliver Goldsmith.
Being introduced to Dr. Franklin, he was induced to visit Philadelphia;
and there he wrote a pamphlet under the title of “Common Sense,” which
is generally asserted to have been a leading factor in producing the
Declaration of Independence, being read and reprinted by hundreds of
thousands. Honours came upon him; he was made Secretary to Congress
for Foreign Affairs, and remained in America some dozen years. At
the outbreak of the French Revolution, Paine was in London again,
enjoying the friendship of Edmund Burke, whom, from the part the
latter took concerning the American Revolution, Paine “naturally
considered a friend to mankind.” Mr. Burke’s celebrated “Reflections
on the Revolution in France” was, however, the means of sundering this
friendship; and the tract was answered by Paine in “The Rights of
Man,” a pamphlet which produced even more delight among the advanced
liberals of the day than Burke’s had with the terrified aristocracy.
The “answer” to Paine was his “Life,” “by Francis Oldys, A.M.” (one
of the most horrible collections of abuse which even that venal
day produced), written by George Chalmers, a Government clerk and
pamphleteer, who, by the way, did much better work as an antiquarian
and historical compiler. A second part of “The Rights of Man” followed
this, and a Government prosecution succeeded that. A verdict of guilty,
however, found the culprit a Member of the French National Convention;
for no less than four constituencies had elected him, on his reputation
alone. He sat for Calais; was near losing his head, for his vote on
the side of humanity, when Louis XVI. was arraigned; wrote “The Age
of Reason” in prison; eventually returned to America, and died (1809)
in his seventy-third year, at his farm at New Rochelle, Long Island;
which farm had been the gift of the nation about a quarter of a century

[6] As, for example, under the head “Peterborough,” in the
“Geographical Dictionary,” where Cobbett enters into a lament that to
“the infamy” of Henry VIII., “and the shame of after-ages, there is no
monument to record” the virtues and sufferings of Catherine of Arragon,
who lies beneath the floor of the Cathedral; that the remains of Mary
Queen of Scots had been taken thence to Westminster Abbey, while those
of the _virtuous_ queen were suffered to remain unhonoured, &c.

[7] To Prevent the Training of Persons to the Use of Arms.

For the more effectual Prevention and Punishment of Blasphemous and
Seditious Libels.

To Authorize the Seizure and Detention of Arms on the part of Justices
of the Peace.

To Subject certain Publications to the Newspaper-Stamp Duty.

For more effectually Preventing Seditious Meetings and Assemblies.

To Prevent Delay in the Administration of Justice in Cases of

[8] “Authority” must have been in a terrible fright, if we may judge
from the following (from the _Statesman_ [London] newspaper, Dec. 2,

“Manchester, Nov. 29.--Expected arrival of Mr. Cobbett.--Though the
morning was very rainy, the expectation of Mr. Cobbett’s arrival in
this town attracted great numbers of persons from different parts of
the country. The local authorities were on the alert, and military
arrangements were made, which were as formidable as those of the 16th
of August. Several pieces of cannon were brought into the town last
night, but the yeomanry cavalry had received no orders, nor did they
make their appearance to-day. Hussars were stationed on different parts
of the Liverpool road, in order to give immediate information of Mr.
C.’s movements.”

The Borough reeves and constables placarded the town, recommending the
people to keep within doors, and also addressed Mr. Cobbett, informing
him that if he made a public entry into Manchester, it would be their
“indispensable duty immediately to interfere.”

The Reformers met this with a counter-placard:--“No procession.--In
consequence of a placard posted this morning (joined with military
arrangements, similar to those which preceded the fatal 16th of August
last), … the _real friends_ of peace (the principal Reformers of
Manchester) request the public not to give the fiends of St. Peter’s
another opportunity of shedding innocent blood, but to stay at home,
and thus disappoint them of their prey.”

[9] “Ode on the Bones of the Immortal Thomas Paine, newly transferred
from America to England, by the no less immortal William Cobbett, Esq.”

“Sketches of the Life of Billy Cobb and the Death of Tommy Pain,
compiled from Original Documents obtained in an Original Manner.”

“The Real or Constitutional House that Jack Built,” has a cut of
Cobbett shouldering a coffin. The character of this pamphlet may be
judged by the following, addressed to the “first gent:”--

    “This is the prince of a generous mind,
    The friend of his country and all mankind,
    Who, lending his ear to the dictates of truth,” &c.

As for the newspaper rhymesters, the episode of “Cobbett and Paine”
was quite a godsend to them. And the reader who knows anything of
election-squibbing will recall his own delights, when he thinks of the
fun the Preston and Coventry people came to have over these poor bones.

[10] Oddly enough, there was another case of “bone-grubbing,” just
after this escapade of Cobbett’s. The remains of Major André were
exhumed and brought to England; and, considering that that unlucky
officer met with the usual fate of a detected spy, the circumstance
afforded Mr. Cobbett a fair opportunity of returning some of the
pleasantries. As André’s name has not yet been dropped from the
biographical dictionaries, his story will be found in “Chambers’s
Encyclopædia,” and elsewhere.

[11] _Vide_ “Correspondence between Mr. Cobbett, Mr. Tipper, and
Sir Francis Burdett.” “A Letter to the Friends of Liberty, on the
Correspondence, &c., by Thomas Dolby.” “A Defence of Mr. Cobbett,
against the Intrigues of Sir Francis Burdett and his partisans.”

[12] Which letters, preserved in two quarto volumes, have happily
become the property of the nation.

[13] _Vide_ page 65.

[14] Brougham was Cleary’s counsel. Cobbett very ably defended himself,
and produced one of his best jokes on this occasion. Referring to
the plaintiff’s diminished prospects at the bar, alleged to be in
consequence of these events, he added, “It was held to be a crime, even
by poachers, to destroy young birds; and how criminal, then, must he
(the defendant) be, if he really had _crushed a lawyer in the egg_!”

[15] Cobbett’s action with reference to Queen Caroline is another of
those matters which caused unmitigable hatred on the part of the “first
gent” and his ministers. He had contributed, during the year 1811, to
the republication of the notorious “Book,” the entire impression of
which was supposed, till then, to have been destroyed. On the Queen’s
return to England, in 1820, the Reformers took up her cause with great
zeal, under some impression that their own was identified therewith.
Whilst Brougham, and Denman, and the leading Whigs patronized her in
public; Dr. Parr, Alderman Wood, and Mr. Cobbett were at her elbow
behind the scenes. The celebrated letter from the Queen to the King
(which was returned unopened, but read with eager delight by all the
nation) was from Cobbett’s pen.

The whole story is graphically told by Cobbett, in the “History of the
Regency and Reign of George IV.,” and his cotemporary articles will be
found in the _Registers_ of 1820.

[16] Among the anti-Cobbett literature of this period which has not
utterly perished, may be named,--

“The Political Death of Mr. William Cobbett” (Edinburgh, 1820), a short
collection of slanders, intermingled with just sufficient truth to
float it.

“The Book of Wonders” (London, 1821), an occasional publication. The
second number was a _verbatim_ report of the trial in Wright _v._
Cobbett, illustrated with notes.

“Cobbett’s Gridiron: written to warn Farmers of their Danger, and to
put Landowners, Mortgagees, Lenders, Borrowers, the Labouring, and
indeed all Classes of the Community on their Guard” (London, 1822).

“The True Patriot,” No. 1, May 15, 1824,--should have been entitled
“The Truthful Hypocrite.”

“Cobbett’s Reflections on Religion,” and “Cobbett’s Reflections on
Politics” (Sunderland, _circa_ 1820-1), were “loyal” selections from
his early writings.

“The Gridiron; or, Cook’s Weekly Register.” First number, March 23,
1822. Here are specimens of it:--

[“Our present intention is, principally, to exterminate Cobbett from
the political world. The time required to effect this, of course,
cannot be distinctly defined.…

“In our immediate attacks upon Cobbett, we request our readers to
excuse the coarseness of the language adopted.”

“Farmers’ wives.--It is now but a few years since that an old
shameless, wicked fellow rose up from his bed to pray for your
husbands’ destruction. This wicked fellow’s name is no other than
Cobbett,” &c.]

No. 2 speaks of the increasing demand for the first number. No. 3
is reduced to sixpence, for the purpose of affording a more general
circulation. No. 4, ?????

All this anonymous rubbish did more good than harm, as obvious
hypocrisy always will, under similar circumstances. A more respectable
opponent was Henry White, a well-known Whig writer of the day. People
said he was jealous of Cobbett. He was a very able man, and had himself
been well abused by the _Times_ and other papers, on account of his
strict partisanship. After many years of animadversion, he produced
“A Calm Appeal to the Friends of Freedom and Reform, on the Double
Dealings of Mr. Cobbett, and the baneful tendency of his Writings. With
a vindication of the Whigs, and the Patriots of Westminster and the
Borough of Southwark, against his Scurrilous and Malignant Aspersions.
By Henry White, late editor of the _Independent Whig_, the _Charles
James Fox_, the _Independent Observer_, the _Sunday Times_, the _Public
Cause_, &c., &c.” (London, 1823). Referring to his own party, White
says, “What virtue, what wisdom, what real patriotism there is in the
country, he knows _they_ possess.”



The ruin which was overtaking all the agricultural interest during
the last years of the Regency, put a finishing stroke to the little
estate at Botley. It had been heavily mortgaged for some years past;
and upon Mr. Cobbett’s return from America, he found himself stripped
of everything in the shape of realizable property. The profits from
the _Register_ were comparatively smaller than of old; for, although
the circulation was prodigious, the expense of its distribution was
also very great. The establishment of another daily paper[1] probably
added to his pecuniary difficulties. At last there was no resource
but bankruptcy, which took place in the course of 1820. The creditors
were few, and acted very generously; and Mr. Cobbett afterwards refers
to them with the kindliest feelings. One of them, indeed (Mr. George
Rogers, of Southampton), went further; and paid the damages and costs
in Wright’s action, which followed very soon after the certificate in
bankruptcy was issued. The low ebb at which his fortunes now stood, are
best described in Cobbett’s own words:--

    “In January, 1821, my family, after having for years been
    scattered about like a covey of partridges that had been sprung
    and shot at, got once more together, in a hired lodging at
    Brompton; and our delight, and our mutual caresses, and our
    tears of joy, experienced no abatement at our actually finding
    ourselves with only _three shillings_ in the whole world; and
    at my having to borrow from a friend the money to pay for the
    paper and print off the then next Saturday’s _Register_!”

To live in London, however, or even near it without “fruits and
flowers,” was out of the question. Accordingly, we find Mr. Cobbett
soon settled at Kensington, cultivating a plot of land as a seed-farm;
and his politics and his satire are, thenceforth, mingled with the
mysteries of trees and turnips, corn and apples. Unable to resume the
practice of planting, for himself, upon a large scale, Mr. Cobbett
gave a great impulse to the formation of plantations, on the part of
gentlemen who could afford to do it. His old friend, Lord Folkestone,
was especially encouraged to improve the grounds at Coleshill by
further plantings, and covered many acres with his favourite acacia,
then better known under its American name of locust-tree. So great,
indeed, became the rage for this particular tree, that more applicants
came to Kensington for the seeds than could be served with those
imported from America; and Cobbett actually had to purchase them
sometimes from the London nurserymen, in whose shops they were lying
neglected under another name.

The story of Cobbett’s planting and seed-farming would make an
interesting volume. It became the fashion, after his death, to decry
his successes,[2] and to minimize his qualities as a farmer; and
perhaps with some justice, as regards this latter part of his life, as
his hands were always too full of more stirring matters. But he did
unquestionable service to the art of planting; and in promoting the
restoration of woods and coppices, which had so fatally suffered from
the felling and clearing brought about by the war, and by the efforts
made by so many persons to save their property by the sacrifice of its
timber. And, besides this practical part of the business: ever ready
to put his notions into print, he must needs produce more books, in
order to popularize his plans; books, however, which have met with
comparative neglect, of late years, on account of their special nature.
Rural economy and domestic economy are matters which, treated as social
arts, get so modified by the rapidly-changing currents of our time,
that the mode of one generation is lost amid the fads of the next. But
the peculiar merit of Cobbett’s books was their readableness; and,
whilst such matters as the Currency and the Corn Laws could be rendered
entertaining by his facile pen, it was natural that rural affairs, in
which he delighted, and amongst which he heartily believed that the
highest domestic felicity was to be found, should derive from that pen
the highest charms. There never lived, probably, a writer to equal
Cobbett in rural description: one who could, in the midst of some angry
polemic, so readily turn off for a moment and present his reader with a
country picture; perfectly life-like, glowing with colour and realism:
who could make a mere gardening book entertaining.

Whilst in Long Island, Mr. Cobbett had prepared an “American Gardener,”
which he published, soon after his return to England; dedicating it to
one of his neighbours out there. The “English Gardener,” published a
few years later, was a reproduction of this, adapted to the differing
conditions of his own country. “The Woodlands,” published early in
1825; a new edition of Tull’s old book on “Horse-hoeing Husbandry,”
in 1822; and a guide for the cultivation of Indian corn, completed
a useful series of books on rural affairs. All these are marked by
sufficient egotism; but they are far more practical than the general
run of such works. There is so much painstaking description, and so
much lively illustration, that the reader is forced to take an interest
in what he is reading. It is almost impossible for one to take in hand
the “Woodlands,” without wishing to become a planter.

The “Cottage Economy” was a small work, exclusively for the use of
cottagers, with the aim of bringing them back to the habits and ways of
their grandparents; in reviving the arts of making bread and brewing
beer at home; of keeping cows, poultry, and bees; and, generally,
showing the way to become independent of shopkeepers and tax-gatherers.
All this Cobbett had seen in his youth, and he was determined to revive
these things, if it was to be done. And the immediate popularity of
these rural books, coming, as they did, at a period when people were
making most desperate efforts to keep the wolf from the door, showed
forth an unquestionable fact,--that the people wanted sympathy and
guidance, and the means of self-improvement, and were well satisfied
to get so much from the man who was fighting their battles for them in
another way.

As one example of the amount of influence Cobbett obtained over people,
in minor domestic matters, the following may be given:--From a farmer’s
daughter in Connecticut, who had sent over to the Society of Arts a
straw-bonnet of her own making, he obtained some particulars as to the
mode of preparation. Having published the matter in the _Register_,
an importer of Italian straw applied to Mr. Cobbett, requesting to
know whether he could undertake to get some American straw imported.
Upon seeing some samples of the straw from which the Leghorn hats were
made, and looking at it “with the eyes of a farmer,” he perceived
that it consisted of dry oat, wheat, and rye stalks, mixed with those
of certain common grass plants. This discovery made it clear to him
that there was no need of importation; and, proceeding in his usual
energetic way, he soon had straw hats and bonnets prepared from English
grasses. This opened up a new industry, not only in the homes of the
labourers, but on the part of some manufacturers; and its success was
so far recognizable, that the Society of Arts, in the year 1823, gave
Mr. Cobbett their silver medal, as a token of their approbation. ENVY
caught sight of this, of course, and asserted itself as usual, with
newspaper paragraphs headed, “The Society of Arts humbugged at last!”
and so on; but what was that, to disturb the well-earned delight of the
man who could ride about the country, and see and hear for himself
many a poor cottager at work, otherwise unable to earn a livelihood:
who could print letters of grateful thanks from every quarter of the

The attempt to naturalize the maize plant was another singular effort
of Mr. Cobbett’s; the complete success of which, however, was too much
to expect from the English climate. But, by the application of a good
deal of zealous labour and attention, many persons did succeed in
producing good crops; and there was not only bread made from “Cobbett’s
corn,” but paper was made from the stalks.

A most particular aversion of Mr. Cobbett’s was the potato.

    “This root is become a favourite because it is the suitable
    companion of misery and filth. It can be seized hold of before
    it be half ripe, it can be raked out of the ground with the
    paws, and without the help of any utensils except, perhaps,
    a stick to rake it from the fire, can be conveyed into the
    stomach, in the space of an hour. We have but one step farther
    to go, and that is, to eat it raw, side by side with our
    bristly fellow-creatures, who, by-the-bye, reject it as long
    as they can get at any species of grain, or at any other
    vegetable. I can remember when the first acre of potatoes was
    planted in a field, in the neighbourhood of the place where I
    was born; and I very well remember that even the poorest of
    the people would not eat them. They called them hog-potatoes;
    but now they are become a considerable portion of the diet of
    those who raise the bread for others to eat.”

This passage is from a Botley _Register_, of 1813; but it will
represent Cobbett’s notions and feelings on the matter during all his
life--from the scarcity-period at the beginning of the century (when
bills were introduced in Parliament to “encourage” the growth of
potatoes; and Ministers of State, at their grand dinners, used fried
potato-cakes, as a substitute for bread), to the time when he came to
predict a disastrous Irish famine. And it would be hard to deny the
force of his arguments; the burden of which was, that in order to keep
a people in a condition of semi-barbarism, little else was necessary
than to cause potatoes to be the general food of the country. A knife
(he pointed out) which even savages rarely dispense with, is not
required by the feeder on potatoes. No forethought, and only a minimum
of industrious attention, are needed. The love of ease, so natural to
mankind, soon prevails, in the absence of incitement to labour--a safe
commonplace; but one of vital importance to be borne in mind, when the
thoughtless, and the ignorant, and the purse-proud are content to see a
whole class of their fellow-beings ranked just above the swine.

Some curious notions used to get afloat, concerning cheap food for the
poor. There was the Duke of Richmond’s celebrated discovery of the
nourishing qualities of curry-powder; and the recipe of another clever
fellow, for making _flint-soup_. Milk, produced by animals fed upon
stewed straw, was discovered to have great fattening properties.…

Yet, with all this considerate device, the ungrateful wretches still
whined for their beer and bread and bacon, the dietary of their
forefathers. And the editor of a certain “diabolical” publication
persisted in telling them that they ought to have it, and they could
have it; for, at the time that the ordinary Wiltshire fare was _1¼
pound of bread and a halfpenny_ per day, he was giving to his own
labourers, at Barn Elm, 1 lb. of meat or bacon, 1½ lb. of flour,
besides cheese and beer, per day; and three shillings a week in money.

And there was so much wanton cruelty and insolence, under the
poor-relief system of those days. Gangs of labourers would be set to
work, the leader having a bell round his neck; men were set to _draw_
carts, like so many convicts, instead of using wheel-barrows; and,
when there was no immediate work on hand, you might see one carrying a
heavy stone up and down; or digging a hole in the ground one day, and
filling it up again the next. How all this went on, in England, for ten
or twelve years, scarce half a century ago, is past comprehending. It
is, however, a fact, that people could not only permit it, but permit
it without shame; and could venture to call those persons “diabolical
villains,” who blushed for the country which proclaimed itself “the
envy of surrounding nations.”

Those who blushed for their country: those who spent their lives in
the endeavour to arrest the hand of her oppressors: justly scorned the
pleas of submission and contentment, put forth by many well-meaning
persons in the shape of “religious” tracts. The man before us (one of
that class who practise a good deal more than they preach; who act
righteously before they inculcate righteousness on the part of others)
could only see, in these precious handbills, inducements to submit to
social degradation. But, in truth, acute suffering on the part of the
labouring-classes was teaching them as much as Mr. Cobbett, or any one
else, could do. To see the name of some fat pluralist on the title-page
of a tract against “repining;” to listen to advice and exhortation,
based on the comforting prospects of another and better world, on the
part of men who were themselves making sure of this one; to see the
names of the committees and promoters of this officious piety, and find
that they were, in many instances, the names of those who had given
a helping-hand to repression; and who continued to inculcate passive
obedience, and the extreme naughtiness of the poor wretches in wanting
to know something about the real causes of their misery, was too much
for millions of the unprivileged and unendowed. They could see, plainly
enough, who were the real Sowers of the Wind. And, perhaps, the Church
of England has come to see, for herself, how we have reaped a whirlwind
of religious indifference; in spite of “revivals,” and “restorations,”
and “extensions,” and “functions,” and potterings without number.[3]

       *       *       *       *       *

Not the least important contribution to the cause of the people, on
the part of Mr. Cobbett, was his “History of the Reformation.” A
curiosity in literature; a clumsy, hastily-drawn indictment; the sport
of Protestant controversialists; the work yet served a noble purpose.
The scale of misrepresentation and calumny had been too long on one
side, and there wanted a thumping weight to restore the balance. And
when the world discovered that the story of the Reformation in England
had its very dark as well as its very bright side: when people learned
what utterly selfish ends it had promoted: the world took a long step
forward; stepped up to scrutinize it closely. And if the world found
that the rough rude hand of this literary pre-raphaelite had brought
some features into disgusting prominence, it was no more than was to be
expected, sooner or later. The mere controversy, concerning the mutual
recriminations of Papists and Protestants, and concerning their cutting
of each other’s throats, is nothing. All that will be going on when the
New Zealander comes. But the political nature of that great convulsion,
and its important social results, particularly with regard to the
shameless transfer of property into the hands of court-favourites, had
need to be shown up with a relentless hand.

The occasion, of this “History of the Reformation” being projected, was
the rapidly-growing feeling on the subject of Emancipation. Mr. Cobbett
had long proclaimed equality of political rights for the Catholic,
the Unitarian, and the Jew; and regarded them as oppressed people,
as long as their theological disabilities remained.[4] We laugh
now-a-days, at such fears as then existed concerning the removal of
these disabilities; but we are out of the wood; and the few persons of
superior mental stature who, in those times, persisted in declaring to
the cowards beneath them, that there was more safety in moving on, than
in standing still, had to make their voices heard above a fearful din,
of incrimination, and calumny, and petty party strifes.

So, by the time that the cause of Emancipation had taken hold of the
public mind: when the press, at last, took it up warmly, and O’Connell
was leading the agitation in Ireland: Cobbett had lashed himself into
a perfect fury, toward the opponents of religious equality, and toward
the inheritors of the Church domains. The ease-loving character of
the parsons of his day, the growth of a plutocracy, and the debased
condition of the poor: spake too ominously of national decadence. The
increasing perils of the country, with all parties trying, at last, to
propitiate the Parliamentary Reformers at the same time that they had
mortal dread of them, kept his mind at fever-heat; and Mr. Cobbett was
less than ever disposed to stay his voice or his pen, when conviction
had once seized him. He had nothing to gain, and nothing to lose, by
expressing his convictions. Given a fight, he was certain to be seen in
the thickest of it.

The urgency of the matter, and the readiness of the public mind to
accept a broader view of the Reformation story, were shown, by the
immediate success of the History. Published weekly, at a low price,
the early numbers reached a sale of upwards of forty thousand; and
very little time elapsed, before the work had flown all over Europe
and America. The fanatics did not like it, and they don’t like it
now.[5] There are persons about us, in these latter days, who consider
Emancipation as one of our great national sins, on account of which we
shall yet be heavily scourged. “LET THEM CURSE, BUT BLESS THOU!”

The thing did not aim at proselytism; the writer had no intention, nor
any expectation, of that. He did expect, however, to see thousands
and thousands of converts to the cause of tolerance; and there can
be no doubt whatever, that Cobbett’s “History of the Reformation”
gave immense impulse to that cause. And, if the book had only been
called “The History of the Great Spoliation,” the fanatics would have
been disarmed, and perhaps joined with the author in his passionate
denunciations; instead of wilfully and wickedly misconstruing his
motives, and distorting his arguments.

But the prejudice with which we go through the world is quite as gross
as the ignorance with which we enter it; and when we have stuck up such
a word as _Reformation_, and fallen down and worshipped it for a time,
we soon become incapable of forming just judgments.

       *       *       *       *       *

The list of Mr. Cobbett’s books, which were directly intended to help
the cause to which his life was devoted, is complemented by adding to
the above-named, “The Poor Man’s Friend;” “Twelve Sermons;” and “The
Emigrant’s Guide.” The first of these he called the most learned work
that he had ever written. It consisted principally of short papers on
the rights and duties of the poor; which were published monthly, and
addressed to the working-people of Preston, after his unsuccessful
contest at the election. But the Sermons are better deserving of the
palm of superiority. The reader cannot open a page of this volume,
without being powerfully struck with Cobbett’s ability to handle any
subject illustrating man’s duty to his neighbour. Of course, there is a
little touch of politics underlying it all, although only perceptible
to one familiar with his political writings; but it is not one whit too
much to say, that this volume of sermons would do honour to any Divine,
in any Christian Church.

The “Sermons” had a tremendous popularity, for several years. As
monthly tracts, they had been originally published in avowed rivalry
to the vapid productions of religious doctrinaires, and of the
preachers of contentment and resignation under conditions of obvious
misgovernment. Some of the clergy had the good sense to use Cobbett’s
sermons in their own pulpits; it is to be hoped without generally
avowing the source of their inspiration. One reflection persists in
intruding itself upon the reader of these tracts; that when men come
to enter the ministry, after having been buffeted about the world a
bit, and having learned something of human nature, instead of being
delivered from a cloister (as from some manufactory), they will
understand their business better, and soon have less cause to whine
about the “spread” of infidelity and immorality. Until then, things
will go on as they do now.

       *       *       *       *       *

That racy volume, “Rural Rides,” came forth to the world in a
sufficiently unpretending manner. It was a mere reprint of articles
from the _Register_, which had been generally written at the close of
a day’s journey, and without any special object but current reports
upon the condition of the people and the country. But none of Cobbett’s
writings have been so much quoted as the “Rural Rides,” a fact which
is easily understood, considering the circumstance that what would
deter most people from literary drudgery, was the very reverse to Mr.
Cobbett. A day’s exercise would impart fresh vigour to his mind, and
wings to his pen; and the result is, in this case, one of the very
liveliest books in the English language.

It was in the autumn of 1821 that the first journal was undertaken.
Cobbett’s own affairs were getting more comfortable; he lived quietly
at Kensington, not often troubling himself with the publishing-office;
and the experiment, of going round to see the farmers for himself,
was just in his vein. Agricultural distress was nearly at its worst,
and the troubles of the farmers formed the leading topic of the day.
Beef and mutton fetched an average of 4½_d._ per lb., in the month of
November; and all rural produce was at a similarly reduced figure. So
Mr. Cobbett started off, on horseback, through Berkshire and Wiltshire
to Gloucester and Hereford, returning by Oxford to Kensington; with
such satisfaction, that he spent much of the winter in similar journeys
through parts of southern England. All his intense interest in rural
affairs, and the welfare of the country folk: his close observations
on soil, and climate, and produce, and his sarcastic reflections on
domestic politics, were here served up for his readers in better style
than ever. And, at last, having employed a part of the ensuing four
or five years in the same manner, and reprinting the journals into a
volume, the result was a picture of the cotemporary domestic affairs of
England which it would be vain to seek elsewhere. In short, given an
inquiry into the condition of the people, at this troublesome period,
there could not, possibly, be better means of enlightenment than that
of taking Cobbett’s “Rural Rides;” and, making it the basis of such
inquiry, to group around it the necessary information and statistics
furnished by official reports. While, to the value of Cobbett’s
accurate and vivid descriptions of rural scenery, the use made of
the “Rural Rides,” on the part of guide-book makers, is sufficient

The more important result, personally, of these rural journeys, was the
frequent opportunity afforded to Mr. Cobbett of meeting the farmers
at their market dinners and county meetings. This added immensely to
his influence; his opinions, especially on the currency, began to take
hold upon men, who had hitherto read his writings with some degree of
dislike and dread; and a very short time elapsed, before there were
found more Cobbettites in the country towns, than in the larger centres
of population.

Another series of rural rides was commenced in 1829. These were more
distinctively political tours; and extended to more distant parts,
including the manufacturing towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire. The
reception Mr. Cobbett met with, and the overflowing attendances upon
his lectures, showed, in a surprising degree, the hold he had obtained
upon the minds of the working-people. Parliamentary Reform was, at
last, no longer to be delayed; and while the Russells and the Greys
were getting a due share of credit, for their endeavours to force on
the Great Plunge, there was no questioning to whom principally belonged
the distinction of having made it inevitable.


[1] _Cobbett’s Evening Post_ (Wm. C., Jun., printer and publisher,
269, Strand) was started on the 29th January, 1820, and ran for about
two months. The early numbers are largely devoted to the Coventry
election. On the 28th March a notice is given that the paper will be
discontinued, with a remark that, “at the time when this undertaking
was resolved on, it was uncertain what one could do, and could not
do, in the state of slavery in which the new laws placed the press.”
The _Register_ was missed on one or two occasions, and it was found
that the attempt to carry on both would be “to make both indifferent;”
besides, people both preferred the _Weekly Register_ and found that
Cobbett could, in that, do better justice to his powers.

[2] _Vide_ Loudon; also Donaldson’s “Agricultural Biography.”

[3] One of Cobbett’s bits of “verse” is upon the wickedness of

    Come, little children, list’ to me
      While I describe your duty,
    And kindly lead your eyes to see
      Of lowliness the beauty.

    ’Tis true your bony backs are bare,
      Your lips too dry for spittle,
    Your eyes as dead as whitings’ are,
      Your bellies growl for vict’al;

    But, dearest children, oh! believe,
      Believe not treach’rous senses!
    ’Tis they your infant hearts deceive,
      And lead into offences.

    When frost assails your joints by day,
      And lice by night torment ye,
    ’Tis to remind you oft to pray,
      And of your sins repent ye.

    At parching lips when you repine,
      And when your belly hungers,
    You covet what, by right Divine,
      Belongs to Borough-mongers.

    Let dungeons, gags, and hangman’s noose,
      Make you content and humble,
    Your heav’nly crown you’ll surely lose
      If here on earth you grumble.

[4] “When I hear the Dissenters complaining of persecution, I cannot
help reflecting on the behaviour of some of them towards the Catholics,
with respect to whom common decency ought to teach them better
behaviour. But, whether I hear in a Churchman or a Dissenter abuse of
the Catholics, I am equally indignant; when I hear men, no two of whom
can agree in any one point of religion, and who are continually dooming
each other to perdition; when I hear them join in endeavouring to shut
the Catholic out from political liberty on account of his religious
tenets, which they call idolatrous and damnable, I really cannot feel
any compassion for either of them, let what will befall them. There
is, too, something so impudent, such cool impudence, in their affected
contempt of the understanding of the Catholics, that one cannot endure
it with any degree of patience. You hear them all boasting of their
_ancestors_; you hear them talking of the English Constitution as
the pride of the world; you hear them bragging of the deeds of the
Edwards and the Henrys; and of their wise and virtuous and brave
forefathers; and, in their next breath, perhaps, you hear them speak
of the Catholics as the vilest and most stupid of creatures, and as
wretches doomed to perdition; when they ought to reflect that all these
wise and virtuous and brave forefathers of theirs were Catholics, that
they lived and died in the Catholic faith, and that, notwithstanding
their Catholic faith, they did not neglect whatever was necessary to
the freedom and greatness of England. It is really very stupid, as well
as very insolent, to talk in this way of the Catholics, to represent
them as doomed to perdition who compose five-sixths of the population
of Europe; to represent as beastly ignorant those amongst whom the
brightest geniuses and the most learned men in the world have been and
are to be found; but still, the most shocking part of our conduct is to
affect to consider as a sort of outcasts of God as well as man those
who have, through all sorts of persecution, adhered to the religion
of _their_ and _our_ forefathers. There is something so unnatural, so
monstrous, in a line of conduct in which we say that our forefathers
are all in hell, that no one but a brutish bigot can hear of it with
patience.”--_Register_, xix. 1286.

[5] An unusual number of “answers” to Cobbett’s book have been
produced, some of which are named below. Out of the whole lot there
is not one that does not, once again, manifest the inability of your
controversialist, blinded with dogmatic solicitude, to escape from his
mental prison-house. The reader may be tempted to look at the last on
the list, as being a production of recent times; but the chances are
against his cutting open any pages beyond the introductory chapter.
To say no more than this argues great forbearance on the part of the
present writer.

“Catholic Miracles; illustrated by George Cruikshank; to which is added
a Reply to Cobbett’s Defence of the Reformation.”

“A True History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland;
showing how that event has Enriched and Elevated the Main Body of
the People in those Countries; in a Series of Letters addressed to
all sensible and just Englishmen. In Reply to William Cobbett. By a
Protestant.” (In threepenny numbers, 1 to 5 only published. London,

“The Protestant Vindicator; or, A Refutation of the Calumnies contained
in Cobbett’s History of the Reformation; including Remarks on the
Principal Topics of the Popish Controversy. By Robert Oxlad.” (Serial. ?
14 numbers. London, 1826.)

“The Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp.… With an Appendix, containing
Notes, in which the Leading Arguments of Mr. Cobbett’s History are
refuted.…” (1827.)

“A Brief History of the Protestant Reformation; in a Series of Letters
addressed to William Cobbett.… By the Author of ‘The Protestant.’”
(1826; new ed., Glasgow, 1831.)

“The Social Effects of the Reformation.… By a Fellow of the Statistical
Society.” (“From a Series of Letters which appeared … during the years
1824 and 1825.” London, 1852.)

“A Reply to Cobbett’s ‘History of the Protestant Reformation in England
and Ireland.’ Compiled and Edited by Charles Hastings Collette.”
(London, 1869.)



The disinclination on the part of Mr. Cobbett to become a member
of Parliament, which had long characterized his taste as a public
character, was now changed into an earnest determination the other
way. At any time since 1803 he could have done so, either by the good
offices of Mr. Windham, or of Viscount Folkestone. But a close borough
was his abomination; and his dislike for late hours and London smoke,
and his general feeling of contempt for the character of the existing
representation, rendered a seat in the House of Commons anything but an
object of ambition. Besides, he held, for a long time, the notion, that
he could render better services to his country as a representative of
the press.

The daring outrages on the popular liberties, however, which had begun
under the Regency, changed all this. The character of the House
was still pretty much the same, even with the accession of lucky
war-contractors and stock-jobbers; and the type of ministerialists was
still that of the Perceval set, which had existed since 1807. But now,
under Habeas Corpus Suspension, the outlook has changed:--

    “The _press_ is a very powerful engine. Corruption trembles at
    the very thought of it. The press has done wonderful things.
    But, great as I know its power to be, I know it to be a mere
    trifle compared to _a seat in Parliament_, filled by an able,
    a sober, an industrious, an active, a vigilant, a resolute, an
    experienced, and an incorruptible man, who would devote his
    time and his mind to the service of the country. To be sure,
    _one_ man could do comparatively little, without the aid of at
    least _another_.… One man, such as I have described, would soon
    make _other men_. A knot of such men would, in a short time,
    grow together; and against such a knot, corruption would not
    live a year.”

It is the midst of the “repression” period, in the winter of 1817-18,
when the news reaches him at Long Island, of men suffering severe
penalties for acts of violence. He thus addresses the electors of
Coventry, begging them to have “but a little _patience_.” … “Let us
bear in mind, that a _people_ never dies; and let us also bear in mind
the final success which, in all their struggles, crowned the patience,
the perseverance, the public spirit and the valour of our forefathers,
who never set to work against oppression without subduing it in the
end.” … But:--“I am against all desperate means. I am for trying all
the _gentle means_ that remain; and, as I have just said, the putting
of proper men into Parliament appears to me to be amongst the most
efficient of those means.”

Some few weeks after Cobbett’s return to England, George the Third
died. A general election shortly ensued, and the opportunity of
contesting one of the seats for Coventry then occurred. The voters
resident in London had been for some time preparing, by public
meetings, to advance Cobbett’s claims on the constituency; and he now
presented himself in the city, being received with acclamations on the
part of many thousands of people.

But the acclamations of the “lower orders,” as they drew Mr. Cobbett’s
vehicle into and around the town, were not voting-power. The election
was like elections ordinarily were in those days. Fighting, stabbing,
spitting; swearing, and slandering: little hired regiments of roughs
prevented anything like fair play; and, although Cobbett headed the
poll on the first day, his ultimate failure was complete. Indeed, upon
the second day, it was impossible for his supporters to get near the
polling-booth, without the risk of being stabbed.[1]

The constituency of Coventry was a very fair one of which to make
trial; being a populous manufacturing place, containing a good body of
reformers, and electors numbering about 2500. But the corporation was
dead against the popular candidate, actively supporting his opponents
(Edward Ellice, merchant, and Peter Moore, nabob); and a cartload of
money was spent in treating and ruffianism. Mr. Cobbett’s expenses were
defrayed partly by a small subscription.

It was six years before another opportunity occurred of meeting a
popular constituency, with any prospect of success. But the question
was kept alive, of a seat in Parliament. Reformers were sanguine that
the franchise was on the eve of being broadened; and the yeomanry were
beginning to join them,--a circumstance which brought into being a more
influential class of adherents to Mr. Cobbett and his views. One of the
more zealous and active of these new friends was Sir Thomas Beevor,
a young baronet of Norfolk. He had read the _Register_ for the first
time, during the American exile; and his admiration for the courageous
writer so grew upon him, that he at last publicly declared himself a
Cobbettite and raised a reform camp in his own county. A proposal was
at length made,[2] to hold a meeting in London in support of Cobbett’s
claims to a seat in Parliament; but it was relinquished, for the
present, upon Cobbett’s suggestion that they might properly wait until
there was a certain prospect of a dissolution.

Meanwhile, all the matters upon which the moderate reformers had set
their hearts were canvassed in the _Political Register_ from time
to time: the Game laws and iniquities, Catholic emancipation, the
freedom of public speech, the continued distress of the Agricultural
interest; along with minor topics, from the hypocrisies in Parliament,
to the extortions of the toll-farmers. Much of Mr. Cobbett’s influence
had been imperilled by his last American trip, and some of its
consequences. But his espousal of the cause of Queen Caroline appears
to have completely restored him to his place in the popular mind; and,
from that period onward, not all the base slanders which were still
showered upon him, nor even his own extravagant vehemence, could rob
him of his power.

In the beginning of the year 1826, a renewed effort was made, led by
Sir Thomas Beevor, to bring Mr. Cobbett before some constituency.
A meeting was held in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, of a very enthusiastic
character; and, in a few weeks, several hundred pounds were subscribed.
Cobbett, on his part, was determined to make a good fight this time;
and he announced that, if elected at all, he must be chosen by persons
who chose him for the good of the country, and not for their own
profit: that if returned at all, it must be by no corrupt or infamous
means; and must be for a place “where some considerable number of the
people have something to say in the matter.”

Westminster was thought of, and so was Middlesex; both constituencies
in the hands of a narrow clique. It was, however, decided to fix upon
Preston, as a town affording the desirable element of a very wide
suffrage.[3] Accordingly, the prorogation of Parliament, on the 31st
of May, found Mr. Cobbett canvassing the electors. A famous contest
ensued: the other candidates being the Hon. E. G. Stanley (afterwards
14th Earl Derby), John Wood, merchant, and Captain Barrie, R.N.; the
two first being elected. The numbers were, Stanley 3041, Wood 1982,
Barrie 1657, Cobbett 995. There was comparatively little ruffianism,
but sufficient impediment to fair voting.[4] Mr. Cobbett talked, for
some time afterward, of a petition against the return, but the idea was
relinquished. Indeed, he took this defeat in remarkably good humour;
and proceeded to console himself and his friends, by recounting those
triumphs which he could boast of.

Those were not mean triumphs, although principally at the hands of the
“lower orders.” Flags and music: shouting, exulting, and shaking of
hands, attended his progress through Blackburn, Bolton, and Manchester,
on his way homeward.[5]

It was now quite obvious that popular candidates stood little or no
chance, even in the most popular boroughs, in the existing state of
the representation. But the prospect of any reform seemed more distant
than ever. In Parliament, the question was practically shelved. Lord
John Russell seemed, for the time, to have a persuasion that there was
little encouragement to press the matter; and Mr. Canning, soon after
becoming premier in 1827, declared that he would oppose parliamentary
reform to the end of his life, under whatever shape it might appear.
Burdett said that “putting aside all the great questions, including
among the rest that of Parliamentary Reform,”[6] he saw sufficient
reason to support Canning’s administration. And Brougham did not
consider that “the late opposition” stood pledged in favour of the

Is it any wonder that Whiggism is dead and buried? Call not the
Russells and the Greys _Whigs_: they had deserted the practices
(considered apart from the professions) of their party before
becoming reformers. If Whiggism had been anything besides profession,
parliamentary reform would have been undertaken twenty years before;
and the Whigs, as a party, had nothing more to do with it, when it was
at last undertaken, than to be the vehicle of the country’s earnest

This is how it came to pass. The French and Belgian revolutions, in
the year 1830, powerfully moved all the populations of Europe; and the
news of that double convulsion reached the people of England at one of
the saddest periods of their history. To quote Mr. Molesworth,[7] “they
were going mad with misery.” Machine-breaking and rick-burning kept the
country alive with alarm, and sent some poor wretches to banishment or
to death. People in the towns began to growl again, as they had growled
ten or twelve years before. And the leaders of reform took fresh heart;
for they saw that the question could no longer be stifled, with the
country in a greater state of degradation than under the Tories of 1817.

So, in the midst of all this trouble, a Reform Bill was introduced.
And, looking at the subsequent history of the struggle, and its
consequences, it is impossible to avoid this conclusion: that the same
prosperity and public confidence, which ensued upon the Act of 1832,
might have been the guerdon of the Tories, at the beginning of the

       *       *       *       *       *

The writings of Mr. Cobbett had been very severe upon the Whigs. There
does not appear any time, in his whole political life, when he had not
more or less distrusted them. And, now that the leaders of the party
were in power, the individuals themselves were not spared. Cobbett
hit off with accuracy, and with bitterest irony, their waverings and
inconsistencies. No sooner had George the Fourth shuffled off this
mortal coil, than he announced a “History of the Regency and the late
Reign;” and, as the successive numbers of the work appeared, the Whigs
had the felicity of seeing their old place-hunting fully exposed.
Upon the appointment of Earl Grey’s ministry, he declared his belief
that they would keep on talking, and speechifying, as of old, without
any regard to the promises they had been holding out to the people.
Putting a list of twenty-six questions, referring to reform, taxation,
tyrannous restraints on liberty, pensions, the six Acts, reduction of
the forces, poor laws and game laws, he gave his opinion that none of
these things would be touched. And Mr. Cobbett was right; none of these
matters were dealt with, except on pressure from without, or on the
part of sturdy and independent men of the class of Joseph Hume.

All this told upon the party newly raised to power. Very naturally.
But they must have felt a certain insecurity of tenure, to resort to
the same mode of retaliation which their political adversaries had
exercised, twenty years before. So soon does a lease of power translate
itself into a mere parade of force. The Government had not been many
weeks in office, before they had the abominable folly to charge Cobbett
with being the instigator of the incendiary fires which were then
devastating the agricultural districts of England!

This was the basest attempt to destroy Mr. Cobbett that had yet been
tried. The end of it was one of the greatest triumphs of his life; and
a lesson on political prosecutions, which the other side took much to

The circumstances are these:--The _Political Register_ had been, for
several years past, sold at the high price of sevenpence (and sometimes
one shilling for a double number), on account of the restrictive
stamp laws; and it was believed that the circulation was not of
that character which would bring the journal into the hands of the
labouring classes, to the extent desired. Mr. Cobbett was determined,
however, that he would continue, in some way or other, to instruct the
labouring-classes in the elements of political and social economy.
This became urgent, during the growing excitement of 1830; and the
difficulty was met by reprinting portions in a cheap form, and making
a monthly publication thereof. The scornful name which Canning had
given to the early cheap _Registers_ was the one adopted; and thus, on
the 1st of July, came into the world the first number of “Cobbett’s
Twopenny Trash, or Politics for the Poor.” The success of 1816 was
repeated, and “Twopenny Trash” flew all over the kingdom: to the very
particular horror of the yet undiminished number of pensioners and
sinecurists, and of non-resident parsons.[8]

As the winter drew near, the accounts of the rural war were appalling.
Incendiary fires, and threatening letters, were sending the farmers
out of their wits; and fire-engines and man-traps became part of
the farming implements. The labourers, in their ignorance, rendered
desperate with hunger, proceeded from outrage to outrage, recklessly
destroying food and property; quite unable to understand why anybody
else could want anything to eat, if they, the producers, were to do

In the midst of all this, Mr. Cobbett came amongst them, both on paper
and in person; endeavouring to cheer them with hopes of early relief,
and to warn them against violence: “Poverty” (he said), “even in its
extreme state, gives no man a right to view his rich neighbour with an
evil eye, much less to do him mischief on account of his riches.”

But he also told the “King’s Ministers” how to put a stop to the fires,
and that they had better do something, for the poor ignorant rural
labourer “would not lay down and die;” endeavoured to palliate the
conduct of the labourers, in that they could not live any longer on
potatoes and salt; ridiculed the idea that more soldiers were wanted
(as had been proposed) in order to keep the country quiet; taunted the
Government with their apparent helplessness after so much trumpeting of
“glorious” principles and good intentions.

The storm began by a motion, on the part of Mr. Trevor, member for New
Romney, aimed at “the publication entitled Cobbett’s Register, of the
11th of December;” which he said contained a malicious libel on “the
authorities of the State,” and a gross and unwarrantable attack on “the
members of the Church by law established.” The motion was opposed on
the ground that a prosecution, such as was aimed at, would be both
impolitic and ill-timed; and that the proper corrective was an improved
state of the public mind, by the diffusion of sound knowledge and
useful instruction. It was ultimately agreed to leave the matter to the
discretion of Ministers.[9]

About the same time, one Thomas Goodman, a Sussex labourer, was
sentenced to death for arson; and there appeared in the newspapers a
short “confession,” which had been wrung from him by a Sussex parson.
A few days after, a longer confession appeared; and after that a
third, still longer. Mr. Thomas Goodman was eventually respited, and
never heard of more; and his escape could only be accounted for, by
any rational mind, in his having inculpated Cobbett as the wicked
instigator of his crime.[10]

The animus of the clergy was especially shewn toward Mr. Cobbett, on
account of his attacks on the tithes: which he continued to maintain
were (originally) in part intended for the use of the poor. The “gross
and unwarrantable attack” alluded to by Mr. Trevor, was the showing-up
of a Suffolk parson; who had made an infamous and lying attack upon
Cobbett. Now, some of the more sensible parsons were endeavouring to
meet the sad necessities of the day; one worthy Norfolk clergyman, for
example, on being petitioned for a reduction of his tithes, sent answer
that he “should be satisfied with whatever they might send him.” But
the fat pluralists, and the numerous lazy class of that day, were too
blind with selfish rage to listen to any reason. The present sufferer
from Cobbett’s lash was one of these.[11]

So, with idle shepherds cursing, and newspapers inventing new
calumnies, the Government thought they had a case; and an indictment
was preferred against Mr. Cobbett, for “a libel, with the intent to
raise discontent in the minds of the labourers in husbandry, and to
incite them to acts of violence, and to destroy corn-stacks, machinery,
and other property.” After some delays, the affair was at last heard in
the Court of King’s Bench, on the 7th July, 1831; Lord Tenterden being
judge on the occasion, and Sir Thomas Denman, as Attorney-General,
conducting the prosecution. The principal Cabinet Ministers were on
the bench, (having been subpœnaed by the defendant); as also was his
old friend, the Earl of Radnor, who had voluntarily determined to give
Cobbett an opportunity of calling him as a witness, if he chose. The
defendant appeared in person.

From beginning to end of this trial, it was a manifest error. Denman
began with the ridiculous statement that “he understood” that the
defendant had “entered the court at the head of a large number of
persons whom he had called together by notice;” and proceeded to exhort
the jury “to yield to nothing like menace or intimidation, which
conduct so improper is calculated and probably intended in some degree
to produce.” And his whole speech was one long, groundless imputation,
unsupported by a shred of evidence; and based on the fact (which nobody
denied, for it was indisputable) which the defendant had clearly
pointed out: the close connexion between the reckless conduct of the
labourers, on the one hand, and the cause of that conduct; and its
results (such as the cheapening of food, and the sudden reduction of
the tithes) on the other.

The “extract” from the offending number of the _Register_, which formed
the basis of the indictment, did not include those parts of the essay,
which said that the acts of the labourers were unlawful; which quoted
the current newspaper stories about the Suffolk clergy who could not
get in their tithes: which reminded the Whigs how their praises had
been derived from yet-unfulfilled promises: which hit at the newspapers
and the borough-mongers; which quoted Bacon and Blackstone; which
advocated honesty and freedom of election; which proclaimed, “I am for
a Government of King, Lords, and Commons; but, let what else will come,
I am for the freedom, the happiness and greatness of England; and,
above all things, for the good feeding and clothing of those who raise
all the food, and make all the clothing!” No: these would have been
the remainder of his argument, and would have enabled a jury not only
to understand its whole drift and tenour, but to pronounce the writer a
truly wise and patriotic man.

Some of the jury did, evidently, consider the matter a gross absurdity;
for, being locked up all night, the twelve were unable to agree to a
verdict, and they were forthwith discharged.[12]

Mr. Cobbett’s long speech, in his defence, must have made some of
his audience feel grievously uncomfortable. No one was spared; not a
soul, whose delinquencies could possibly illustrate the case. There
were the Cabinet Ministers sitting in a row before him (including
the Chancellor, Brougham), being scolded for their perfidy toward
the people; there was the Attorney-General himself, whose promotion
in his profession had actually been retarded, on account of his firm
adherence to the Whig cause--now prosecuting the press with greater
zeal than his Tory predecessor; there were the magistrates who had
extorted or invented Goodman’s confession; and there were the party
newspapers, with their transparent falsehoods, weather-cock principles,
and questionable motives: all scolded anew. All who had contributed, in
any degree, to the climax which ended in this trial, were covered with
deserved ridicule.

The speech occupied several hours, and it would take nearly fifty of
our pages to reproduce it. The points relied on for the defence were,
that the indictment contained only garbled extracts from an article
which had, as a whole, the exact opposite of the tendency imputed to
it; that the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (of which
society Brougham and Denman were both leading members!) had recently
asked Cobbett’s permission to reprint his celebrated Letter to the
Luddites against machine-breaking and other violence, with the same
objects in view that he had himself; that Mr. Goodman, labourer and
incendiary, had been pardoned, or had unaccountably disappeared, since
his “confession,” and that there was a letter (which Cobbett produced,
and read) written by Goodman himself, totally different in style and
spelling; that the _Times_ newspaper had recently libelled the judges,
and called the close-borough members “the hired lacqueys of public
delinquents,” and yet was unmolested as long as it continued to puff
the Ministry; that a declaration from the tradesmen and labourers in
and around Battle (who had heard Cobbett’s lectures), made it clear
that the persons who had produced the three confessions were.… No, Mr.
Cobbett did not apply to their conduct the terms that it deserved, but
contented himself with reading the declaration; and, the notorious
fact that he had spent the best part of his life in the endeavour to
instruct the labouring classes, in the arts of happiness and goodness.

The speech of the defendant was occasionally interrupted by applause;
and once by the judge, on the score of irrelevancy; an objection,
however, which was not sustained. And a stray joke or two shone out,
as when Cobbett spoke of Mr. Gurney (junior counsel) as “a mere
truffle-hunter; he neither sees nor smells anything but the immediate
object of his search,” in allusion to his special search of the
_Register_ for indictable matter; or in his sarcastic reference to the
“open, fair, and candid,” professions of the Attorney-General, which he
said were traceable not to the wig on his head, but to the whig in his
heart; and in such a passage as this, his humour would prevail:--

    “Such are the odious and foul calumnies which have been heaped
    upon me, that I dare say you expected to see me hoofed and
    horned, a pair of horns on my head and hoofs up to my knees,
    terminating with a cloven foot.”

Upon the whole, this speech was a wonderful performance for a man in
his seventieth year. Mr. Cobbett had far too often relied upon his own
powers in legal defence; yet his failures as an advocate were failures
which any member of the bar might have been proud of. And, in the
present case, the charge of sedition was so utterly base and trumpery,
that the cause of the prosecution really gave power to his own, by
furnishing him with a handle for the bitterest expressions of contempt.
He certainly lashed into the Whigs most unmercifully, from time to
time; as opportunity brought them again to his mind. For example:--

    “The noble marquis (Blandford) informed me in a letter, that
    it had been currently reported in the House of Commons and the
    Club Houses, that I had been connected with some of the fires
    and had run away! Run away, indeed! Who was I to run from?
    What! I run from the Greys, the Lambs, the Russells, and the
    Broughams? I! Gentlemen, contempt comes to my aid, or I should
    suffocate with indignation at the thought! No, I have not run
    away; that base faction has brought me here, and I thank them
    for it; because it enables me to clear myself from the false
    and scandalous calumnies which they have been circulating
    against me.”

And, having reviewed the whole charge, and its collaterals, Mr. Cobbett
wound up his address as follows--in terms which form a strikingly
truthful sketch, not only of the position in which he then stood, but
of the position which he occupies (with all his faults) in the hearts
and minds of his fellow-countrymen--a brave, earnest, upright, and
patriotic man.

    “The fact is, that I am the watchman, the man on the tower, who
    can be neither coaxed, nor wheedled, nor bullied; and I have
    expressed my determination never to quit my post until I obtain
    a cheap government for the country, and by doing away with
    places and pensions, prevent the people’s pockets from being
    picked. These men know that if I were to get into the House of
    Commons under a reformed parliament, I should speedily effect
    that object, and therefore they are resolved to get rid of me
    by some means or other; but, thank God, gentlemen, you will not
    let them effect it on the present occasion.

    “I have little else to add, except to state what evidence I
    shall lay before you. The first witness I shall call will
    be the Lord Chancellor, and I will put in the letter to
    the Luddites, and which by delivery to Lord Brougham for
    publication, I, in point of law, republished at the very time
    when I was said to be endeavouring to stir up the labourers
    to sedition and outrage. I will then call his Lordship to
    prove the fact respecting the application for it, and he will
    tell you that I stipulated no terms, but that the whole of
    the letter should be published. I shall then call the Earl of
    Radnor, who knows me and all my sentiments well, and he will
    tell you whether I am a likely man to design and endeavour to
    do that which this ‘false, scandalous, and malicious’ Whig
    indictment charges me with wishing to do. I shall also call
    several persons of the highest respectability from Kent,
    Sussex, and other parts of the country, to prove that I have
    not done anything to stir up disturbance, but that I have done
    a great deal to prevent it and to restore quiet. I shall then
    call Lord Melbourne to prove that the sentence on Goodman was
    not executed, but that he was sent out of the country, whereas
    Cook was put to death. When the jury shall have heard all this,
    and shall have read over the various publications, I have not
    the slightest doubt but that they will dismiss with scorn and
    contempt this groundless charge of the Whig Attorney-General.
    This is the second time in my life that I have been prosecuted
    by an Attorney-General, and brought before this court. I have
    been writing for thirty years, and only twice out of that
    long period have I been brought before this court. The first
    time was by an apostate Whig. What, indeed, of evil have the
    Whigs not done? Since then, although there have been six
    Attorneys-General, all Tories, and although, were I a crown
    lawyer, I might pick out plenty of libels from my writings, if
    this be a libel, yet I have never for twenty-one years been
    prosecuted until this Whig government came in. But the Whigs
    were always a most tyrannical faction; they always tried to
    make tyranny double tyranny; they were always the most severe,
    the most grasping, the most greedy, the most tyrannical faction
    whose proceedings are recorded in history. It was they who
    seized what remained of the Crown lands; it was they who took
    to themselves the last portion of Church property; it was they
    who passed the monstrous Riot Act; it was they also who passed
    the Septennial Bill. The Government are now acquiring great
    credit for doing away with the rotten boroughs; but if they
    deserve credit for doing them away, let it be borne in mind
    that the Whigs created them. They established an interest in
    the regulation, and gave consistency and value to corruption.
    Then came the excise laws, which were brought in by the Whigs;
    and from them, too, emanated that offensive statute by which
    Irish men and Irish women may be transported without judge or
    jury. There is, indeed, no faction so severe and cruel; they do
    everything by force and violence: the Whigs are the Rehoboam of
    England; the Tories ruled us with rods, but the Whigs scourge
    us with scorpions!

    The last time I was brought before this court, I was sent
    out of it to two years’ imprisonment among felons, and was
    condemned to pay, at the expiration of the two years, a fine of
    1000_l._ to the King, which the King took and kept. But this
    was not all; I was bound, too, in a penalty of 5000_l._ myself,
    and obliged to procure two sureties in 2500_l._ each, to keep
    the peace for seven years.… I was carried seventy miles from my
    family, and shut up in a jail, doubtless with the hope that I
    should expire from stench and mortification of mind. It pleased
    God, however, to bless me with health, and, though deprived of
    liberty, by dint of sobriety and temperance, I outlived the
    base attempt to destroy me. What crime had I committed? For
    what was it that I was condemned to this horrible punishment?
    Simply for writing a paragraph in which I expressed the
    indignation I felt at an English local militiaman having been
    flogged under a guard of German bayonets! I only expressed the
    indignation I felt, and I should have been a base creature
    indeed, if I had not expressed it. But now, military flogging
    excites universal indignation. If there be at present any of
    the jury alive who found me guilty and sentenced me to that
    punishment, what remorse must they not feel for their conduct
    when they perceive that every writer in every periodical of the
    present day, even including the favourite publication of the
    Whig Attorney-General, are now unanimous in deprecating the
    system of military flogging altogether! Yes, for expressing my
    disapprobation of that system, I was tossed into a dungeon like
    Daniel into the lions’ den. But why am I now tossed down before
    this court by the Attorney-General? What are my sins? I have
    called on the Government to respect the law; I have cautioned
    them that hard-hearted proceedings are driving the labourers
    to despair; that is my crime. If the Government really wish to
    avoid disturbances in the country, let them give us back the
    old laws; let them give the people the old game law, and repeal
    the new law; and let them do away with the other grinding laws
    that oppress the poor. I have read with horror which I cannot
    describe, of a magistrate being accused to the Lord Chancellor
    of subornation of perjury; I have read of that magistrate being
    reinstated, and I have shuddered with horror at supposing
    that a poor starving labourer may be brought before such a
    man, and in conjunction with another such magistrate, may be
    doomed to seven years’ transportation for being out at night,
    and such a magistrate may be himself a game-preserver! This
    is a monstrous power, and certainly ought to be abolished.
    The ministry, however, will perhaps adopt the measures I have
    recommended, and then prosecute me for recommending them. Just
    so it is with parliamentary reform, a measure which I have
    been foremost in recommending for twenty years. I have pointed
    out and insisted upon, the sort of reform that we must have;
    and they are compelled already to adopt a large part of my
    suggestions, and avowedly against their will. They hate me
    for this; they look upon it as I do, that they are married to
    Reform, and that I am the man who has furnished the halter in
    which they are led to church. For supplying that halter they
    have made this attack on me through the Attorney-General, and
    will slay me if they can. The Whigs know that my intention was
    not bad. This is a mere pretence to inflict pecuniary ruin on
    me, or cause me to die of sickness in a jail; so that they may
    get rid of me, because they can neither buy nor silence me. It
    is their fears which make them attack me, and it is my death
    they intend. In that object they will be defeated; for, thank
    heaven, you stand between me and destruction. If, however, your
    verdict should be--which I do not anticipate--one that will
    consign me to death, by sending me to a loathsome dungeon, I
    will with my last breath pray to God to bless my country and
    curse the Whigs; and I bequeath my revenge to my children and
    the labourers of England.”

The result of this trial was hailed with great satisfaction by nearly
all the newspapers. And the chief significance of the episode lies in
this: that from that month of July, 1831, the press of this kingdom has
been free from political persecution. There can be no doubt whatever,
that this trial settled the question as to whether the press was to be
gagged or not. The newspapers were good enough to admit so much.


[1] Mr. Wooler had come to see his error in having joined the howl
against Cobbett’s “flight” to America, and now warmly advocated his
claims upon the electors of Coventry. The “Black Dwarf” gives a
lively account of this contest; and Wooler, recording its disgraceful
incidents, remarks that “the consequences to be apprehended from Mr.
Cobbett’s appearance in the House of Commons seem to have awakened the
most infernal determination to destroy him.” See vol. iv. _passim_.

[2] It appeared as an advertisement in the _Morning Chronicle_, in
these terms:--“To the public.--After communicating with several
gentlemen upon the subject, I, in consequence of our unanimous
decision, and for the purpose of obtaining the concurrence and
co-operation of others, hereby give an invitation to all such gentlemen
as wish to see Mr. Cobbett placed in the House of Commons, to meet me
at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in the Strand, London, on Tuesday, the
2nd of March next, in order to devise effectual means for accomplishing
that purpose, which, in the present critical situation of the country,
I deem to be of the greatest importance to the welfare of that
country.--Thomas B. Beevor, Hargham, near Attleborough, Norfolk, Dec.
26, 1823.

[3] According to “A Peep at the Commons” (Lond., 1820), the suffrage at
Preston was nearly universal. “Nearly the whole of the inhabitants are
Reformers, but, for want of the ballot at elections, undue influence
has prevailed, and they have never been enabled to throw off the yoke
of slavery. This town, however, is not without numbers who dare, in
despite of power, to exercise their political rights.”

[4] “The general election of 1826 was a severe struggle for the popular
candidates, as the most strenuous exertions were made in nearly all the
constituencies to get rid of them.” _Vide_ “Life and Correspondence of
T. S. Duncombe,” i. 86.

A very complete account of this election will be found in the _Morning
Herald_ for June, 1826, _passim_. And the curious in such matters
may consult “A Collection of Addresses, Squibs, Songs, &c.; together
with the Political Mountebank, showing the changeable opinions of
Mr. Cobbett, published during the contested election for the Borough
of Preston, which commenced June 9th, and ended June 26th, 1826”
(Blackburn, 1826).

[5] Sir Thomas Beevor presently showed a balance-sheet of the expenses,
by which it appeared the cost was 1843_l._ 9_s._ 5_d._, whilst 1701_l._
4_s._ 6_d._ had been received, leaving a small deficiency for Cobbett
to make up. Some of the “subscribers’ names” are suggestive:--

A poor disciple of twenty years’ standing, 10_s._

Cobbett, don’t be brow-beaten, 20_s._

Nicodemus, for fear of the Jews, 25_l._

To assist in getting the country out of its difficulties, so that
property may become secure, 10_l._

Pro bono publico, 2_s._ 6_d._

[6] “A laugh” here, according to the reporters.

[7] “History of England from the year 1830,” _Introductory Chapter_.

[8] A shoal of pamphlets appeared about this time, on the Reform
question, some of them being avowedly anti-Cobbett. Such were, “The
Real Character and Tendency of the Proposed Reform;” “Lectures to the
Labouring Classes and their Employers in the County of Sussex and
elsewhere. Not by a Follower of William Cobbett”; “Imposture Unmasked;
in a Letter to the Labourers and Working People of England, on the
Schemes of the Church Robbers and Revolutionists with Regard to the
Church. By a True Englishman” (with woodcut Vignette of Wm. C., and
a “fire” in the distance); “Cobbett’s Penny Trash,” for Feb., Mar.,
April, 1831, “price reduced for general distribution,”--afterwards
reprinted as “Cobbett’s Genuine Twopenny Trash,” and having as motto,
“Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee,”--was on the now well-worn

[9] The puerile notions that got afloat in some minds, when in front
of difficulty, are very astonishing. Immediately after Trevor’s motion
was withdrawn, a Member rose to give notice of a motion, praying his
Majesty would be graciously pleased to appoint a day for a _general
fast_ throughout the kingdom! Roars of laughter saluted this new
proposal for relieving starvation.

[10] One has only to read these confessions once in order to detect the
clumsiness of the forgery. Here is the second one:--

“I Thomas Goodman once heard of one Mr. Cobbit going A bout gaving out
lactures at length he came to Battel and gave one their and their was
a gret number of peopel came to hear him and I went he had verrey long
conversation concerning the state of the country and tilling them that
they was verry much impose upon and he said he would show them the way
to gain their rights and liberals [liberties] and he said it would be
verry Proper for every man to keep gun in his house espesely young men
and that they might prepare themselves in readiness to go with him when
he called on them and he would show them which way to go on and he said
that peopel might expect firs their as well as others places. This is
the truth and nothing But the truth of A deying man.”

[11] “An Address to those whom it may concern, but principally the
Poor, containing an Account of the late Trials and Executions which
have taken place, with a Brief Statement of the Causes that, directly
or indirectly, occasioned those Acts of Insubordination which have
disgraced the Annals of our Country. By the Rev. Charles Day, LL.B.”
(Ipswich, 1831.) This was intended as an “antidote” to the writings
of men who had “no regard for _you_, they want _rebellion_,” &c.,
&c. Here is a bit of Mr. Day’s logic:--“Cobbett positively asserts
that he everywhere did his best to put a stop to the fires, &c.; he
nevertheless informs us that he did exhort the farmers to call the
people together in their several parishes, to explain the matter to
them, and to call upon them all to join in a petition to Parliament
for a reduction of taxes and tithes! Now, who is there, even among the
poor, that cannot see what all this means? It amounts to this: let the
employer make common cause with the employed, and go hand in hand in
denouncing the Government of the country, and the clergy of the Church
of England, and this will be quite as revolutionary as any Republican
can wish: down with the Constitution! down with the Church!”

[12] An intimate friend of Mr. Cobbett’s, still living, has furnished
the writer of these pages with some reminiscences of this affair. Mr.
Seeley, the well-known bookseller, a bitter opponent of Cobbett’s,
was on the jury; but the foreman, a Mr. Wilkinson, was a vigorous
Cobbettite; and these two led the parties in the struggle. Cobbett
begged his friend to attend him in court, for then “he should have
confidence.” As a matter of fact, Denman’s insinuation about a mob was
utterly baseless, for Cobbett only had two or three friends with him.
The people waited in court all night, and the cheering and uproar were
tremendous when the result was announced.



The progress of the Reform Bill is the foremost topic of the day;
and the near prospect of Mr. Cobbett’s election, by some popular
constituency, is now more obvious.[1] In the course of September, 1831,
there appears his first address to the electors of Manchester, in
response to an invitation conveyed to him from a committee formed with
the object of endeavouring to secure his return.

The objects which Cobbett now professed to have in view were
considerably in advance of those of some years previously; and their
publication, in this address, shows distinctly the rapid growth of
opinion amongst the mass of the people. Not only the abolition of
sinecures, and of all pensions the merit of which could not be readily
granted; abolition of tithes; reduction of the standing army; and an
equitable adjustment of the currency, were recapitulated, as reforms
urgently called for; but he now declared that the National Debt ought
to be wiped out, by the sale of ecclesiastical estates, the misapplied
portion of the property of corporate bodies, and all the Crown lands;
and so to reduce taxation, and the cost of its collection, as to give
some hopes of greater prosperity and happiness to “this industrious

Of course, these things were “revolutionary” for that age. Every great
change is revolutionary; but the bad odour attaching to an epithet,
in some minds, is no index to the value of the ideas represented.
Important changes in the mode of government, particularly as to a
greatly-lessened waste of public money, naturally appeared monstrous
and wicked to the governing classes, and to their adherents; at a
period when bishops died worth half-a-million. And it came just as
naturally to the minds of the reformers, the longer the question was
delayed, that, by whatever name their proposals might be designated,
there could be nothing so monstrous and wicked as to persist in a
system which made the rich richer and the poor poorer.

The events of the past fifteen years had made a wonderful difference
in the minds of the labouring classes. The power of a cheap serial,
first exemplified in the publication of Cobbett’s twopenny _Register_,
had become fully recognized. The _Penny Magazine_, _Chambers’
Edinburgh Journal_, and similar publications were now beginning their
respective careers with astonishing success; along with a host of
political sheets. A new sort of education was spreading: that sort of
education which made men think for themselves; and, for the first time
in history, the “lower orders” were beginning to take an interest in
the affairs of other nations beside their own. Well might statesmen be
affrighted at the progress of revolution in France and Belgium, and
at the growing importance of the American Republic! The knowledge of
political good and evil, fresh from those democratic sources, might
well alarm them; for it was sinking deep into minds, the fertility of
which had been produced by their own haughty failures.

So Mr. Cobbett’s address to the electors of Manchester was denounced
as utterly subversive of the institutions of the country. However, he
went down to Manchester in the course of the winter, and delivered
several lectures, with the object of showing that his principles, on
the contrary, would tend to conserve, instead of destroy. Lord Radnor
had previously written a letter to one of the Manchester papers[2]
warmly supporting him, and offering his aid, in case of a subscription
being made. And Cobbett now found, upon visiting Manchester, that he
had already won his way into the hearts and minds of the people there.
Before he left, a dinner was given in his honour, at which Mr. John
Fielden, manufacturer, of Todmorden, presided.

The following will give an example of his general reception in
Lancashire. Most of Cobbett’s “egotism” was displayed in answer to
personal attacks, and we owe a good deal of biographical matter to
those occasions on which he chose to answer. One evening in the House
of Lords, the Earl of Falmouth, in passing a sneer over to Lord Radnor,
concerning the latter’s nomination-borough of Downton, insinuated that
the loss of that borough would be “a bad thing for Cobbett, whom the
people would scarcely elect, if left to themselves.” Lord Falmouth
had a taste of Mr. Cobbett’s lash, as a reward for his temerity; and
Cobbett concluded his paper thus:--

    “I have been lecturing on politics--I have been maintaining my
    _Manchester propositions_, in every great town in the north, as
    far as the northern confines of Yorkshire, with the exception,
    I believe, of Liverpool and Bradford; and I have everywhere
    maintained that, unless those propositions be acted upon to
    the full extent, a reform of the Parliament will be a delusion
    and a mockery. Everywhere I have been received with every mark
    of approbation.… Two or three words with my name, written by
    myself, have been begged as a valuable present by more than
    a hundred persons. No mark of disapprobation have I received
    during the whole of half-a-hundred lectures that I have given.…
    The people of England will have the sense to perceive that it
    is not title and fortune that they want to represent them; but
    talent, knowledge, and courage; a love of the honour of their
    country; men who see in every labourer their countryman, and
    who take to themselves a share of the disgrace of seeing him
    robbed of the fruit of his toil. Experience has now taught the
    people of England that, to be restored to their liberties and
    happiness, they must rely upon one another; and though you
    do not know it, the country everywhere teems with clever and
    well-educated young men. During my last tour, scores--and I
    might say many hundreds of young men, sometimes twenty at a
    time--have crowded round me as I have been going out of the
    lecturing-places; one saying, as he shook my hand, ‘That is
    the hand that wrote the “Grammar;”’ another, ‘That is the hand
    that wrote the “Protestant Reformation;”’ another, ‘That is
    the hand that wrote the “Advice to Young Men.”’ This was the
    case, more or less, at every place where I was.… Nor was this
    confined to the buoyant spirits of Lancashire and Yorkshire,
    where the heart seems always upon the lips; but I found it the
    same everywhere.”

The month of June saw the triumph of the Parliamentary Reformers,
and eager preparations were made for canvass. Expectation ran high:
the newly-enfranchised took the matter into their own hands; and
amongst these were the people of Lancashire. Manchester had sent a
member to Parliament in some long past age, but had been for centuries
unrepresented, and was now to have two members. Oldham, with a
population of over 50,000, was, likewise, to elect two.

Early in July, 1832, Mr. Cobbett received a letter from an Oldham
friend, informing him that it was determined to put him in nomination;
and that two strangers having unexpectedly commenced a canvass,
his friends had at once announced his name, along with that of Mr.
John Fielden; the latter having consented to the proposal, with the
understanding that Cobbett should be his colleague, if not elected for
some other place. Several other constituencies had been thought of; but
this unmistakable earnestness on the part of Lancashire decided the
matter; and when, in the course of December, the elections came off,
Fielden and Cobbett were at the top of the poll for Oldham. The people
of Manchester had also put Mr. Cobbett in nomination, but, the result
of the contest at Oldham being made known there on the first day of the
poll, the votes intended for him were transferred to other candidates.

Meanwhile, another lecturing tour had been undertaken during the
autumn, extending into Scotland; and, if one may judge from the
reception he met with, Mr. Cobbett was now enjoying greater popularity
than at any other period of his life.[3]

The notions which Mr. Cobbett had acquired, concerning the duties
belonging to the position in which he was now placed, were quite at
variance with any known principles.

Until the æra of the Reformed Parliament it was accounted a
preposterous thing for any member to be professedly without a party;
and any one entering the House with a popular grievance at his back,
as Paull and Burdett and Wardle had done in a previous generation--and
as O’Connell and Hume in recent times--to a great extent stood alone.
They might get supporters from time to time; but such men were not
of the sort which could coalesce with the patrician nominees and the
plutocrats, who had hitherto pretended to represent the Commons of

Had Mr. Cobbett entered Parliament a quarter of a century previously,
when it was within his power to do so through aristocratic influence,
he would have been the means of forming a party earnestly devoted to
the objects of Reform; and it must be regarded as a serious error
on his part, arising though it did from a sturdy regard for his own
independence, that he should refuse to do so; and expect to sway the
House of Commons, in the smallest degree, from the outside. For it was
looked upon, in those days, as something bordering on the seditious,
for any one outside the walls of Parliament to pretend to discuss
domestic politics; and an affectation of contempt was the only answer
to the cleverest and most liberal of amateur statesmanship. As for
earnestness, in the consideration of any popular question, it was not
there at all; the House of Commons of 1831-2 would never have passed
a Reform Bill, only that the clamour of the Unrepresented made the
question vital to the existence of the Whig party; and the fiercest
opponents to the popular candidates, at the elections which followed,
were the ministerialists themselves. To the very last the spectacle
was seen of the exclusive classes clinging to what they deemed a
prescriptive right to govern.

Such men, then, as Cobbett, and Silk Buckingham, and Roebuck,
coming into Parliament for the first time, found themselves there
under circumstances favourable only for the exercise of particular
individuality; and, unless the possessor of special talents, the event
proved that the individual influence of each was very small. The
old members would not even listen to them; and the general feeling
concerning the new men was that they were astonishingly harmless.

The opening scene has been often enough described. “Some very bad
characters have been returned,” says Mr. Greville.[4] Among these
“bad characters” is placed the new member for Oldham; who at once
establishes his claim to such epithet, by seating himself on the front
bench (usually occupied by ministers), and by commencing his first
speech with these words:--

    “It appears to me, that, since I have been sitting here, I have
    heard a great deal of vain and unprofitable conversation.”

But, really, there was nothing to be frightened at. Excepting that Mr.
Cobbett seemed to think that a Reformer should be chosen Speaker of
a Reformed Parliament, and that some disregard might be paid to the
established rules of the House, there was nothing whatever to reward
the expectations of those who had trembled at the bare thought of
this “diabolical villain” treading the floor of that sacred chamber.
There sat, night after night, one of the meekest, most inoffensive
of men. When he got up to speak, there stood a fine, tall, hale old
fellow, with a face sparkling with humour, and a voice of surprising
gentleness; only roused to vehemence when the efforts to cough him down
were somewhat too overpowering.

Cobbett’s short career in Parliament has, sometimes, been stigmatized
as a failure. It was not a failure. He was a very regular attendant
while his health lasted; and he never lost an opportunity of
reminding the House what he had been sent there for. And the numerous
interruptions and contradictions to which he at first became subject,
rather manifested “failure” elsewhere: viz. on the part of many
members to understand the awful exigencies of the time, and the
responsibility which they ought to have attached to their own position.
But their sensibilities were far too keen, to bear with patience Mr.
Cobbett’s frequent references to the burdens under which the people
still laboured; one member, at last, expressing an opinion that “the
constant complaints respecting the distresses of the people were of
the most injurious tendency: they were calculated to make all classes
politicians”! In short, the first reformed Parliament was, itself, a
great failure; and was rightly sent back to the country at the end of
two unproductive sessions.

It must be said, however, that the first two or three months of Mr.
Cobbett’s attendance in Parliament were not calculated to impress the
House in his favour. Although he put up with malicious references to
Tom Paine, and to agricultural incendiarism, with remarkable good
temper, there was an amount of indiscretion about his mode of bringing
up his own special topics, which mightily offended the taste of less
self-assertive people. And, upon one occasion, his mode of procedure
was so absurd, that he covered both himself and his cause with
overwhelming contempt. The circumstances were these:--

A number of gentlemen, led by Mr. Attwood, the member for Birmingham,
conceived it to be only just and proper that an inquiry should be made
into the state of the country, and the prevailing distress.[5] Lord
Althorp considered any such inquiry unadvisable, “because it might lead
to an investigation of the consequences produced by the changes in the
currency;”--he was willing to consider the subject when it came fairly
before the House, but objected to the proposed mode of entertaining
it. The motion was lost, by a narrow majority; and it was renewed,
about a month afterwards, in another form, only to fail again. Thus,
the Whig ministry set their faces against the very Reformers which they
had themselves called up.

But Mr. Cobbett wants, above all things, the very thing that Lord
Althorp deprecates: “an investigation of the consequences produced by
the changes in the currency,” and he is resolved to have it, one way
or another. And he can think of no surer means than that of fixing the
_onus_ of the public distresses upon the author of those changes in the
currency, which he had always considered to be a leading cause of the

Sir Robert Peel was, at this time, leader of the opposition, and the
most distinguished man on the Tory side,--admired alike by friend and
foe. The hopes of the Tory party were centred in Peel, for no man who
had pretended to lead them, since the days of Pitt, could boast a tenth
part of the talents which he possessed. His first important part in
public affairs had been the carrying through Parliament, in 1819, the
bill for the resumption of cash payments; a measure which Mr. Cobbett
had treated with ridicule, as one certain to be productive of prolonged
disaster to the country. Cobbett’s predictions were, to a great
extent, verified by events; and he considered himself, thenceforward,
an authority upon that abstruse topic. And he now brought forward a
resolution, to the effect that Peel’s “want of knowledge,” displayed
in his repeated failures to adjust the currency, since the year 1819,
merited his ignominious dismissal from the Privy Council.

No scheme could have been invented, better than this, in order to
show Cobbett’s headstrong ineptitude on certain occasions. To go no
farther,--the inconsistency of protesting that there was no imputation
on Peel’s honour, while proposing what would have been (for him) the
very deepest disgrace, was typical of much that explains Cobbett’s
frequent failure to impress men of cultivation and refinement; and he
gave, in this instance, a signal example of his neglect to consider
the fitness of things. Most of what he said was perfectly true, and
could not be answered, and was not answered; but the outrageous method
of bringing the question forward not only spoilt it all, but brought
down upon his head deserved derision. Fielden, and Attwood, and three
others, manfully supported him; while the rest laughed and jeered, to
their heart’s content.

It was nearly a month after this episode, before Cobbett’s voice was
again heard. At length, however, he seems to have learned the temper
of the House; and we soon find him thanking “hon. members for the
attention with which, &c.” He generally had something to say upon any
topic connected with taxation and the well-being of the people, and on
several occasions delivered long and effective speeches; as on the Poor
Laws, suppression of disturbances in Ireland, and the proposed Factory
regulations. On this last question Mr. Fielden was in the front rank
as an agitator; and was intensely gratified with the support of his
colleague, especially when Cobbett, speaking of the factory children,
alluded to “three hundred thousand of the most helpless creatures in
the world holding up their hands for mercy.” And one matter appears on
the journals of the House, upon Mr. Cobbett’s motion, which resulted in
a Select Committee.[6]

In the spring of the following year, ominous signs appeared, which
proved that the change in his habits, necessitated by his parliamentary
attendance, was telling upon Cobbett’s vigorous constitution; and he
was absent from his post for two whole months. The period which elapsed
after the dissolution, and before the meeting of the new Parliament in
1835, was not sufficient for thorough restoration to health, and he
resumed his duties with a bad cough clinging to him. On the 10th of
March, he attempted to speak upon the motion of the Marquess of Chandos
to abolish the malt-tax; but he found his voice so hoarse, that he
could not make the gentlemen immediately in front hear him; and was
obliged to sit down. He still valiantly attended, however, and spoke on
several occasions; the last being on the 25th May, in a discussion on
agricultural distress.

But his time was come: his place in the House of Commons knew him no
more; and, when the House assembled on the evening of the 19th June, a
whisper circulated upon the benches to the effect that the member for
Oldham was dead.


[1] According to a private letter, addressed to his friend Thomas
Mellersh of Godalming, there were proposals to elect him at Manchester,
at Glasgow, at Oldham, at Preston, and at Dudley.

[2] “With respect to the measures which ought to be adopted, I have no
hesitation in saying that my decided opinion is that, for the safety
of the State, the eternal peace of the country, the well-being of the
people, the preservation of property, and the maintenance of anything
like liberty, measures must be adopted to the full extent of any that
have ever as far as I recollect been proposed by Mr. Cobbett. I am
persuaded that he has all these objects sincerely at heart. I wholly
acquit him of any personal ambition, except probably that anxious
desire for fame, and that wish to live in the grateful recollection
of his countrymen, which are the signs of an exalted and of a noble
spirit. Sordid views of interest he certainly has none--no petty
ambition. The good of the people is what he seeks; his fame--the mere
fact of his being thought of to represent Manchester--is the assurance
that he has the means of promoting it.”

This extract is of no mean value, as testimony from a man who had known
him personally for thirty years. The Committee at once printed the
letter in broadside.

[3] Tait’s _Edinburgh Magazine_ (Nov. 1832) describes Cobbett’s
reception in Edinburgh in very generous terms, declaring that Pasta,
Paganini, nor Fanny Kemble created half such sensation. “He presented
himself before an impatient house, filled from floor to ceiling, which
rose to greet him in a tumultuous rapture. His appearance is highly
favourable; his ease, tact, and self-possession are unrivaled. He was
neither overpowered nor taken by surprise with these demonstrations of
the modern Athenians.”

“Mr. Cobbett is still of stately stature, and must in youth have been
tall. He must then, in physiognomy, person, and bearing, have been a
fine specimen of the true Saxon breed;--

    “The eyes of azure, and the locks of brown,
    And the blunt speech, that bursts without a pause,
    And free-born thoughts, which league the soldier with the laws.”

… His thin, white hairs and high forehead, the humour lurking in the
eye, and playing about the lips, betokened something more than the
squire in his gala suit; still, the altogether was of this respectable
and responsible kind. His voice is low-toned, clear, and flexible, and
so skilfully modulated, that not an aspiration was lost of his nervous,
fluent, unhesitating, and perfectly correct discourse. There was no
embarrassment, no flutter, no picking of words; nor was the speaker
once at fault, or in the smallest degree disturbed, by those petty
accidents and annoyances which must have moved almost any other man.…
He is, indeed, a first-rate comic actor, possessed of that flexible,
penetrative power of imitation which extends to mind and character, as
well as to their outward signs. His genius is, besides, essentially
dramatic. We have often read his lively characteristic dialogues with
pleasure and amusement, but to see him act them, and personate Lord
Althorp, pommelled and posed by the future Member for Oldham, was a
degree beyond this. He was in nothing vehement or obstreperous, though
everybody had anticipated something of this kind; and his subdued tone
and excellent discretion gave double point to his best hits.… The
humour of his solemn irony, his blistering sarcasm, but especially his
sly hits and unexpected or random strokes and pokes on the sore or weak
sides of the Whigs, told with full effect. To oratory, in the highest
sense of the term, Mr. Cobbett never once rises, but he is ever a wily,
clear, and most effective speaker.”

“Mr. Cobbett expressed himself highly gratified with his reception in
Edinburgh. In Glasgow, and other parts of the country, he has been,
if that were possible, still more popular. And at this we rejoice,
as evidence of affection for the cause to which, whatever fastidious
persons may think, Cobbett has been a useful, rough pioneer, and most
powerful auxiliary.”

The Rev. George Gilfillan gives (“Gallery of Literary Portraits,” 2nd
Ser.) an animated account of Cobbett’s appearance in Edinburgh, and is
very fair, albeit shrewd enough, in his entire estimate of Cobbett’s

[4] “Memoirs,” ii. 335.

[5] _Vide_ the _Courier_ newspaper, March, 1833.

[6] It appeared, from a petition presented to the House of Commons
by Mr. Cobbett, that a policeman, one William Popay, had been acting
the part of an amateur spy, by joining several political unions of
the time, and had even urged their members to the adoption of violent
courses. This discovery, and the debate thereon, produced great
excitement at the time; and Popay was, in consequence of the report of
the Committee, dismissed from the police force.



So this long fight was over.

For forty years past, Cobbett had waged incessant warfare against
political hypocrisy and corruption; here represented by revolutionary
theorists; there by political adventures; now, by venal courtiers;
again, by uncompromising partisanship in the press. Heedless
of personal danger, and proud of his native soil and of his
fellow-countrymen, he had never flinched from the pursuit of those
whom he regarded as the enemies of his country’s welfare. Often blindly
passionate, but always honest, and dominated by the convictions of the
hour, he had presented the unexampled phenomenon of a man who could
face, single-handed, the world in arms; insusceptible alike to the arts
of intrigue, and to the cozening of partisanship.

The character of the London newspaper press, in the earlier years
of the present century, bears no comparison with its now-existing
posterity, either in character, ability, or influence. Our leading
journal, indeed, should scarcely know its own grandfather: appealing,
as it does, to the taste of the most highly-cultivated minds of the
age; and quite indifferent to anything but the task of representing
the best public opinion of the day. As for a “government organ,” there
is no such thing; your newspaper now gets upon the wings of the day,
or what it supposes the wings of the day, and there catches the best
breeze that it can. There is no space for mutual recriminations, with
ostentation of “private wire,” and elaborate political and literary
reviews, if even the taste for dirt-throwing had not vanished. The
doctrine of the survival of the fittest is found to hold good, in
journalism as in everything else; and there cannot, possibly, be any
better token of the improvement of the age, in taste and morals, than
the elevated tone of the more successful leaders of public opinion in
our own days.

When the History of the newspaper-press comes to be properly written,
it will not be a mere record of the struggles and strifes of
proprietors; the successes of the few, and the failures of the many;
nor even the extraordinary wealth of anecdote furnished by personal
history. Along with these matters will have to be introduced critical
studies, derived from close examination of the journals; discovering
the amount of prescience with which each may be credited, and the
growth and decay of their influence; tracing motives of particular
partisanship to their source; and estimating their relative places, in
the grand temple of the Fourth Estate.

The task of that historian will find its best reward, in the endeavour
to comprehend the first quarter of the nineteenth century. He will
see the press first enslaved, then reckless, then persecuted; then
partially enslaved again; then gradually presenting a prospect that it
will, one day or other, become purified into something like dignity
and respectability. For all this long while, it has been strangely
unable to endure rivalry and opposition; and its members have vied
with one another, as to which could employ the foulest epithets,
impute the wickedest motives to opponents, or fawn the most gracefully
upon “patrons.” There was no place for independence, in those days;
for independent principles were considered to hide the wolf of
Jacobinism. The alteration in tone, consequent upon a change of
proprietorship, went under the favourite stigma of “profligacy.”[2] As
for party-spirit, there never was a truer dictum than that laid down
by Mr. Cobbett, in one of the later numbers of the London _Porcupine_:
“The press is as much shackled and restrained by the spirit of party,
as it could be by the most restrictive laws.”

From the day of the first appearance of the _Political Register_, a
new æra dawned for journalism. Its originality in plan, and the power
with which it was written, awakened envy; its plain English, and rapid
acquisition of independence in opinion, provoked opposition. And the
success, with which its early career was marked, brought imitators into
the field. But that which soon characterized it, more particularly,
was an inflexible hostility to such newspapers, and such persons, who
endeavoured to extenuate or explain away the misuse of public money.
People sadly wanted educating upon this point. The principles of
Walpole and Newcastle had borne fruit. The Treasury was surrounded by
hungry adventurers; and there were hundreds of men, as late as William
Pitt’s time, who had sucked-in these principles, as it were, with their
mothers’ milk. And if we consider that, when Cobbett began the fight,
and for some time after, there was no one else had the courage, or
was in the mind, to expose it all, we shall understand the singular
position in which he stood. For an anonymous writer to sit down, and
write off a malicious paragraph or two with insinuations of venality,
was one thing; but, for a man, well-known in the flesh, renouncing the
editorial “we,” and affecting the first-person-singular, proceeding
to tell a plain story, fearless of the consequences, was a phenomenon
which startled Society; the effect produced being similar to that which
occurs upon poking your walking-stick into an ants’ nest.

Decent Society never forgave Mr. Cobbett. No matter! Upon that man’s
memory lies the credit of having been chiefly instrumental in restoring
political purity to the nation. The whole domestic history of England,
between 1800 and 1835, is distinguished by the struggles of the nation
to emancipate itself from corruption in Church and State. The pioneer
was William Cobbett; and no history of those struggles, which does not
place him high among the “leaders and guiders” of men, will be worthy
of the name.

As to how far Mr. Cobbett’s ideas and predictions have been accepted,
is not the purpose of the present work; if, even, its limits did not
forbid such an essay. It is certain that he was largely pirated, during
his lifetime, both in speeches and in newspaper articles. But he lost
so much weight, in the minds of dispassionate men, by such unbounded
extravagance as was displayed in his “History of the Reformation;” and
his cotemporaries were so cruelly lashed and scolded, when the advocacy
of their own views exceeded the truth, that the significance of his
career could not be properly understood by his generation. It is almost
surprising that more bad institutions did not fall before his trenchant
blows; yet, with respect to those that remain,[3] and are doomed, it
may safely be recommended to ransack the _Political Register_ for the
best arguments and illustrations, with which to defy their supporters.
On many great questions Cobbett was far in advance of his time; perhaps
on nothing more so than in the foresight with which he contemplated the
development of popular ideas. To us, in Liberal-Conservative times,
the following passage (May, 1833) seems a commonplace; but, to the
privileged classes of his own days, the words were as the words of
Micaiah in the ears of Ahab:--

    “It is not by harshly and rudely resisting the claims of the
    people, that you put a stop to the progress of democracy.
    It is by yielding in time; by yielding to what is manifestly
    just in the people’s demands; by removing expenses so clearly
    unjust towards the people, and so clearly unnecessary to the
    support of good and efficient government; it is by taking from
    their backs burdens which they cannot bear without ruin; and
    which they ought not to bear at all. It is by means like these;
    by doing these things, which satisfy all reasonable men, and
    putting them on your side; it is by these that you check, and
    put a stop to, the progress of democracy; and not by acts which
    plainly tell the people that they are to expect no redress of
    their grievances as long as the present order of things shall

The grave was literally his last enemy. The announcement of Cobbett’s
death was the close of a strife, in which had been displayed the
singular spectacle of the Champion of the Press arrayed against its own
licentiousness; in which the dangers attendant upon the conjuring up of
new foes had been counted as nothing, while there was a principle to be
maintained, or a touch of cant to be exposed. And, now that he was gone
for ever, the whole fraternity acknowledged his genius and his talents;
and confessed that a good, and great, and honest heart had departed
from among them. Throughout the land, with almost unanimity, the
newspapers teemed with his praises; and those were not few, who, having
not long since boasted of their hatred, now frankly declared that Mr.
Cobbett was a man of whom his countrymen might justly be proud, as one
of the greatest that England had ever produced.

The last years of Mr. Cobbett’s domestic life were of singular
tranquillity. Surrounded as he was by a family, the individual members
of which had “never caused him a day’s anxiety,” his hearth was a
complete antithesis to the stormy scenes outside. And he had that
felicity, the first wish of every good man’s heart, of seeing his sons
and daughters bear the fruits of his own example, in a correct estimate
of the duties and the discipline of life. Not only that. Age never came
upon him in crabbed form. There was a soft, genial nature about Mr.
Cobbett, which no surface vehemence could exorcise. Even, when dealing
his heaviest blows upon the heads of the poor “borough-mongers,” or
when pouring his most terrible sarcasms around, his energy was the
energy of warmth; as though heated with his own heart’s blood. It would
be difficult to find any one essay among his writings, which, fairly
analyzed, did not betray honest, impetuous affection for the cause
immediately on hand. You cannot fail, as you read, to recognize the
unpaid advocate. That he was ridiculously vain of his success in life,
is no more than could be expected of a half-educated man, who had held,
for more than a generation, such extraordinary power with the lower and
middle classes; but such vanity, fostered sometimes by individuals and
sometimes by the crowd, was not of that sort typified by the Napoleons
and the Masaniellos of life. No: the sword laid down, and the helm
removed from the brow, left this warrior a homely citizen, resting with
the children, and the birds, the fruits and flowers, and the sweetest

So, old age brought nothing to Mr. Cobbett, of the burthen. “Always
at work or sleep,” the work he did at seventy years of age was not
excelled in quality by that of any previous period of his life; and,
had it not been for the enforced change of habits brought about by his
attendance in parliament, he might have lived another decade or so. He
had, even, inured himself to noisy Fleet Street. Speaking, somewhere,
of his upper room in Bolt Court, he says,--

“The birds sing better, and sing louder, and more, and stronger in a
cage, than they do when at large;” adding that “the best pastorals
have been written in smoky garrets.” Naturally enough, if a man hath a
garden in his own heart.

But, in truth, much of Cobbett’s wonderful staying-power lay in his
splendid mental and physical health. An active and temperate existence,
in which nothing was allowed to run to waste, warded-off the approaches
of senility. Excepting only a tumour which gave some trouble for a few
months[4] during 1824, he had known nothing of illness; beyond those
trifling matters to which even the best constitutions are liable under
given circumstances. After reaching his threescore-and-ten, he could
still boast of riding over the country with the youngest; or doing a
day’s work against any one of his labourers.

This was an astonishingly active, fully-worked life; in which nothing
of the morbid could possibly find entrance. An early riser, and no
lingerer at meals, Cobbett never confessed to having any leisure time.
Social pleasures, as such, would seem to have been almost unheeded, if
not despised. Yet his hospitality was unbounded, and overflowing with
good nature; and he was always at the service of persons who applied to
him for advice, or, even, of those nondescript individuals who would
claim the privileges of half-acquaintanceship, and call upon him to
indulge a sort of curiosity.

And, of all this vigour, and heartiness, and true daily purpose,
nothing failed, in the green old age of William Cobbett.

       *       *       *       *       *

Very difficult as it is to point to a date, at which Cobbett’s
name will be forgotten--it is easy to understand why the popular
estimate of the man, at the period of his death, still holds good,
in the Anglo-Saxon breast: why his character, falling so far short
of perfection, is still counted worthy of the lasting honour of
Englishmen. For, his faults were the faults of his race: so often
virtues in disguise. Coming from the pure Saxon peasant stock, he
caused a healthful infusion of fresh blood into the spirit of his age,
and so brought his fellow-countrymen to see, once more, the native
energy, and pugnacity, and honesty of purpose, which had so often won
the battle of freedom, now brought to bear upon new conditions and new
circumstances. Thus it is, that the thoughtful and unbiased student
looks upon Cobbett’s character and career. Full of faults, it is no
incoherent jumble of a character, without principles and without light;
but one having brave and high aims. A special lot in life; which must,
by its very nature, bring upon the man some measure of contumely: in
which a false step or two would count against him a thousandfold. A
special career; pursued with a single eye, an honest purpose, and a
persevering heart. A life, that needs no Apologist: but presenting a
consistent story; worthy of all that has given us renown, and enabled
us to dictate the principles of freedom to the whole world.

The last uneventful years of Mr. Cobbett’s domestic life were spent,
at least as far as the public demands upon his time would allow,
among the scenes and the occupations which he loved so well: those
of his earliest recollections. The garden at Kensington becoming too
small for his ambitious seed-farming experiments, the well-known
manor-farm of Barn Elm was occupied for three or four years. But, in
the summer of 1832, this was relinquished; and Mr. Cobbett retired
farther into Surrey, to a locality not many miles from his birthplace,
in the adjoining parish of Ash. Normandy farm (contiguous to that of
Wanborough, whence Mr. Birkbeck had departed for the golden west) lies
in a lonely, unfrequented district, with a poor, wet soil; and it was
one that required a great deal of money expended upon it. But it suited
Cobbett’s seed-farming tastes:--

    “I took a farm,” he says, in his characteristic way, “for
    several purposes: 1. To please myself, and to live at the
    end of my days, in those scenes in which I began them; 2.
    To make the life as long as nature, unthwarted by smoke and
    confinement, would let it be; 3. To make a complete Tullian
    farm; 4. To make a Locust coppice; 5. To raise garden seeds in
    the best possible manner.”

But nothing could ward off the perils incident to late hours in London.
After his first parliamentary session, there were evident signs of his
constitution failing him; and, although revived somewhat in summer,
each new winter brought back a cough, which forbade rest at night, and
gradually helped to bring the end nearer. A visit to Ireland, in 1834,
seemed to be undertaken with all his old powers; his writing and his
humour were as good as ever. But the following winter proved to be the
last, and the early months of the year 1835 were a constant struggle to
keep up to the post at which he meant to die.

Not that he meant to die, yet. There were new plans, only a month
before Cobbett’s death, which exhibited anything but the lapse of
mental or physical power. There was to be a new _Cobbett’s Evening
Journal_, a special feature of which was the full publication of
important discussions in parliament, which were not elsewhere
faithfully reported: those affairs, viz., in which Hume, and the other
economists beside himself, had the leading share.

Also, the _Register_ was to be dropped, “in full blaze,” on his next
birthday, the 9th of March, 1836:--

    “Then, putting out the _Register_, at the end of the 91st
    volume, I shall … have time to write a history of MY OWN LIFE,
    showing the progress of a ploughboy to a seat in parliament;
    beginning his career by driving the rooks and magpies from his
    father’s pea-fields and his mother’s chicken-yard; and ending,
    by endeavouring to drive the tithe and tax devourers from the
    fruits of the labour of his industrious countrymen.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in the month of June, 1835, that Cobbett had his first, and
last, serious illness.

He still dictated material for the _Political Register_, and continued
personally to inspect his little farm, at the last by being carried
in a chair. On the 16th his eldest son (writing to a friend) speaks
confidently of his being in a fair way of getting strength again; and
there was no very great alarm until the following day. A sudden change,
however, occurred on that morning; his strength gradually wasted; and
on the 18th of June, at a few minutes after one p.m., he passed away,
as gently as a child would fall asleep.


[1] “Cobbett was not only an example of self-instruction, but of public
teaching. He said, on some occasion, many years ago, “It is certain
that I have been the great enlightener of the people of England;” and
so he was. The newspapers have not, that we are aware, adverted to
our deepest obligation to him. He was the inventor of Twopenny Trash.
Let the title be inscribed on his monument. The infamous Six Acts,
although they suspended the machinery for awhile, of cheap political
publications, could not undo what had been done, nor avert its great
immediate, and far greater eventual utility. If only for that good
work, honoured be the memory of old Cobbett.”--(Mr. W. J. Fox, in the
_Monthly Repository_, for 1835, p. 487.)

[2] _Profligate_, by the way, is difficult to define, as a word much
used by the Bowleses and the Giffords and the other Anti-Jacobins.
It may be safely recommended, as a preliminary study, to the coming
historian. _Scurrilous_ is another word, which would appear to mean
_beating your opponent hollow_.

[3] As, for example, the Game Law. This inscrutably-absurd relic
of feudalism still survives among us; although certain so-called
“Liberals” boast that they ruled us for thirty years, and although this
was a cry that helped to bring about the Reform Bill!

Some very pathetic articles upon this topic will be found in the
_Register_ during 1824, and subsequent years.

[4] “For these nine months the late Mr. Cline attended me, coming to
Kensington twice or thrice in every week. When I had got well, I had
got a purse of gold, and was about to give it him; but he, putting my
hand away with his left, and patting me on the head with his right
hand, said, ‘No, no! I _owe_ a great deal to that head!’”



1. THE SOLDIER’S FRIEND: or considerations on the late pretended
augmentation of the subsistence of the private soldiers. “Laws grind
the poor, and rich men rule the laws.”--GOLDSMITH. Written by a
Subaltern. London: Ridgway, 1792, 8vo. 6_d._; reprinted in 1793,
without printer’s or publisher’s name. Price 2_d._, or 100 copies
10_s._ 6_d._, pp. 15.

    [This tract is evidently the work of more than one hand. The
    style is that of Cobbett; but some of the subject-matter comes
    from a person well acquainted with the political intrigues of
    the day.]

2. [_Translation._] THE LAW OF NATIONS: being the science of national
law, covenants, power, &c., founded upon the treaties and customs of
modern nations in Europe. By G. F. von Martens, Professor of Public
Law in the University of Gottingen. Translated from the French, by
William Cobbett. To which is added, a list of the principal treaties,
declarations, and other public papers, from the year 1731 to 1738, by
the author. Philadelphia, 1794.

London edition, 1802, dedicated to John Penn, Esq. Fourth edition,
London, 1829, with the treaties, &c., continued by the translator down
to Nov. 1815, 8vo, pp. xxxii.-468.

3. LE TUTEUR ANGLAIS, ou Grammaire regulière de la langue anglaise,
en deux parties. Par William Cobbett. A Philadelphie: chez Thomas
Bradford, 1795, 8vo, pp. x.-340.

    [This book has been reproduced many times in France and
    Belgium, under the title of “Maître d’Anglais,” and has much
    increased in bulk from time to time. It is still held, in those
    countries, to be superior to any other book of its kind.]

4. [_Translation._] A topographical and political description of the
Spanish port of Saint Domingo, containing general observations on the
climate, population, and productions; on the character and manners
of the inhabitants; with an account of the several branches of the
government. By M[édéric] L[ouis] E[lie] Moreau-de-Saint-Méry, Member
of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, &c. Translated from
the French by William Cobbett. Philadelphia: printed and sold by the
Author, Printer, and Bookseller, No. 84, South Front Street, 1796. 2
vols. 8vo.

5. [_Appendix_ only.] The HISTORY OF JACOBINISM.… By William Playfair.
With an Appendix by Peter Porcupine, showing the close connexion which
has ever subsisted between the Jacobins at Paris and the Democrats in
the United States of America. Philadelphia, 1796. 2 vols. 8vo.

OF A FARMER’S BULL. [_Anonymous._] Philadelphia, 1794. pp. 88.

7. A BONE TO GNAW FOR THE DEMOCRATS. By Peter Porcupine. Philadelphia,
Jan. 1795. pp. vi.-66.

8. A KICK FOR A BITE. By Peter Porcupine. Philadelphia, Feb. 1795.

9. A BONE TO GNAW FOR THE DEMOCRATS. Part 2. By Peter Porcupine.
Philadelphia, Mar. 1795. pp. vii.-66.

    Sect. 1. Observations on a patriotic pamphlet, entitled
    “Proceedings of the United Irishmen.”

    Sect. 2. Democratic principles illustrated by example.

    Sect. 3. Democratic memoirs; or an account of some recent feats
    performed by the Frenchified citizens of the United States of

    [London Edition of [7] and [9] printed for J. Wright, opposite
    Old Bond Street, Piccadilly, 1797: A Bone to Gnaw for the
    Democrats. By Peter Porcupine, author of the Bloody Buoy,
    &c., &c. To which is prefixed A Rod for the Backs of the
    Critics; containing an historical sketch of the present state
    of political criticism in Great Britain; as exemplified in the
    conduct of the Monthly, Critical, and Analytical Reviews, &c.,
    &c. Interspersed with Anecdotes. By Humphrey Hedgehog. 12mo.
    pp. xcv.-175.]

10. A LITTLE PLAIN ENGLISH, addressed to the people of the United
States, on the Treaty, and on the conduct of the President relative
thereto, in answer to “The Letters of Franklin.” By Peter Porcupine.
Philadelphia, August, 1795. pp. viii.-102.

11. A NEW YEAR’S GIFT TO THE DEMOCRATS; or observations on a pamphlet
entitled, “A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation.” Philadelphia,
Jan. 1796. pp. 71.

12. The CENSOR, No. 1; or a Review of Political Occurrences relative to
the United States of America. Philadelphia, Jan. 1796.

    [“This number of the ‘Censor’ was originally called ‘The
    Prospect from the Congress Gallery;’ and as such it has been
    sometimes referred to.”--_Note in collected works._]

13. The BLOODY BUOY, thrown out as a Warning to the Political Pilots of
all Nations; or, a faithful relation of a multitude of acts of horrid
barbarity, such as the eye never witnessed, the tongue expressed,
or the imagination conceived, until the commencement of the French
Revolution. To which is added, an instructive Essay, tracing these
dreadful effects to their real causes. Philadelphia, 1796.

    [Among reprints in England, there is one at Cambridge,
    entitled, “Annals of Blood; or an Authentic Relation,” &c.]

14. The CENSOR, No. 2. Philadelphia, March, 1796.

15. The CENSOR, No. 3. Philadelphia, April, 1796.

16. The CENSOR, No. 4. Philadelphia, May, 1796.

17. The SCARE-CROW; being an infamous letter sent to Mr. John Oldden,
threatening destruction to his house, and violence to the person of his
tenant, William Cobbett. With remarks on the same. Philadelphia: “From
the Free Press of William Cobbett, July 22, 1796.”

18. The LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF PETER PORCUPINE, with a full and fair
account of all his authoring transactions; being a sure and infallible
guide for all enterprising young men who wish to make a fortune by
writing pamphlets.--“Now you lying varlets, you shall see how a plain
tale will put you down.”--SHAKESPEARE. Philadelphia, Aug. 1796.

19. The CENSOR, No. 5. Philadelphia, Sept. 1796.

    [Contents:--Life of Thomas Paine, interspersed with remarks and
    reflections. Remarks on the pamphlets lately published against
    Peter Porcupine.]

20. The GROS MOUSQUETON DIPLOMATIQUE; or diplomatic blunderbuss.
Containing Citizen Adet’s notes to the Secretary of State; as also his
cockade proclamation, with a preface. Philadelphia, Oct. 1796.

    [A compilation, with short preface, to pave the way for the
    next Censor.]

21. The CENSOR, No. 6. Philadelphia, Nov. 1796.

    [Remarks on the Blunderbuss.]

22. The CENSOR, No. 7. Philadelphia, Dec. 1796.

    [Contents:--Remarks on the debates in Congress.--A letter to
    the infamous Tom Paine, in answer to his letter to General

23. The CENSOR, No. 8. Philadelphia, Jan. 1797.

24. PORCUPINE’S GAZETTE: daily newspaper. Philadelphia, March 4,
1797--Dec. 1799. A farewell number was issued to the subscribers, from
New York, in Jan. 1800.

25. The REPUBLICAN JUDGE; or, the American liberty of the press, as
exhibited, explained, and exposed, in the base and partial prosecution
of William Cobbett, for a pretended libel against the King of Spain
and his ambassador, before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. With an
Address to the people of England. Philadelphia, Nov. 1797.

evident intention of aiding the tyrants of France in subverting the
Government of the United States of America. Philadelphia, May, 1798.

27. [_Abridgment._] The CANNIBAL’S PROGRESS; or the dreadful horrors
of French invasion, as displayed by the Republican officers and
soldiers, in their perfidy, rapacity, ferociousness, and brutality,
exercised towards the innocent inhabitants of Germany. Abridged from
the translation of Anthony Aufrere, Esq. Philadelphia, June, 1798.

    [Introductory Address, by the Editor.]

28. REMARKS ON THE EXPLANATION, lately published by Dr. Priestley,
respecting the intercepted letters of his friend and disciple, John H.
Stone. To which is added, a Certificate of Civism for Joseph Priestley,
jun. By Peter Porcupine. Philadelphia, 1799. 8vo. pp. 52.

29. The TRIAL OF REPUBLICANISM; or a series of political papers,
proving the injurious and debasing consequences of Republican
Government, and written Constitutions. With an introductory address to
the Hon. Thomas Erskine, Esq. Philadelphia, June, 1799.

ITALY, IN THE YEAR 1799. Philadelphia, Jan. 1800.

31. The RUSHLIGHT; by the help of which wayward and disaffected Britons
may see a complete specimen of the baseness, dishonesty, ingratitude,
and perfidy of Republicans, and of the profligacy, injustice, and
tyranny of Republican Governments. By Peter Porcupine. Five numbers.
New York, Feb.-April, 1800. pp. 258.

The RUSHLIGHT, No. 6. London and New York, August, 1800. pp. 51.

    [An Address to the People of England.

    To the People of the United States of America.]

32. The PORCUPINE; daily newspaper. London, Oct. 30, 1800…(?) Nov.

33. PORCUPINE’S WORKS; containing various writings and selections,
exhibiting a faithful picture of the United States of America; of their
governments, laws, politics and resources; of the characters of their
presidents, governors, legislators, magistrates, and military men;
and of the customs, manners, morals, religion, virtues, and vices of
the people; comprising also a complete series of historical documents
and remarks, from the end of the war, in 1783, to the election of the
president, in March, 1801. By William Cobbett. In twelve volumes.
London, 1801. 8vo.

    [The contents of the first eleven volumes include those of the
    above-enumerated publications under articles 6-31, with the
    addition of complementary matter:--

    A summary view of the politics of the United States from the
    close of the war to the year 1794.

    Account of the insurrection in the western counties of
    Pennsylvania, in 1794.

    A summary of the proceedings in Congress, during the session
    which commenced on the 4th of November, 1794.

    Proceedings relative to the British treaty.

    An analysis of Randolph’s Vindication.

    Miscellaneous State Papers [French depredations; Washington’s
    retirement; impeachment of Wm. Blount, &c.]

    Miscellaneous Anecdotes.

    Selections from _Porcupine’s Gazette_.

    The twelfth volume contains a series of historical documents
    and remarks, from Dec. 1799 to March 1801; some of which are
    extracted from the London _Porcupine_.]

WITH BONAPARTE, chiefly extracted from the _Porcupine_, and including
Mr. Cobbett’s letters to Lord Hawkesbury. To which is added, an
appendix, containing the divers conventions, treaties, state-papers,
and despatches connected with the subject; together with extracts from
the speeches of Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, and Lord Hawkesbury, respecting
Bonaparte and a peace with France. By William Cobbett. London, Nov. 2,
1801. 8vo. pp. 231-lxiii.

His Majesty’s Exchequer, on the fatal effects of the peace with
Buonaparte, particularly with respect to the colonies, the commerce,
the manufactures, and the constitution of the United Kingdom. By
William Cobbett. London, January, 1802. 8vo.

    [These two articles [34, 35] were reproduced, in part, under
    the following title: “Letters to the Right Honourable Lord
    Hawkesbury, and to the Right Honourable Henry Addington, on
    the peace with Buonaparte, to which is added an appendix,
    containing a collection (now greatly enlarged) of all the
    conventions, treaties, speeches, and other documents connected
    with the subject. By William Cobbett. Second Edition. London,
    January, 1802.]

36. COBBETT’S WEEKLY POLITICAL REGISTER. London, January, 1803-June,

    [Fortnightly in Jan. 1803, afterwards weekly, except April 12
    to July 5, 1817; Mar. 21, May 2, June 27, Aug. 15, Oct. 17,
    24, 31, Nov. 7, 14, 1818; Aug. 21, Oct. 16, Nov. 20, 27, 1819;
    Feb. 26, Mar. 4, 11, 18, 1820--all of which were missed. Price
    10_d._, occasionally 1_s._, until October, 1816, thence 2_d._
    till Jan. 6, 1820 (July to October, 1816, reprinted in cheap
    form); 6_d._ from Jan. 15, 1820 to Dec. 1827; 7_d._ from Jan.
    1828; 1_s._ from Oct. 30, 1830; 1_s._ 2_d._ from Jan. 8, 1831.]

The first four vols. (_Cobbett’s Annual Register_ on title) published
with supplements of state papers, &c.

_Cobbett’s Weekly Political Pamphlet_, on and after Feb. 15, 1817;
again called _Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register_ in the following

_Cobbett’s Weekly Register_ in April, 1821.

_Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register_, during and after 1828.

Many articles were reprinted from the _Register_, and published
separately. The most important were:--

RURAL RIDES in the counties of Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire,
Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire,
Somersetshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and
Hertfordshire; with economical and political observations relative to
matters applicable to, and illustrated by the state of those counties
respectively. London, 1830. 12mo. pp. 668.

COBBETT’S TOUR IN SCOTLAND, and in the four northern counties of
England: in the autumn of the year 1832. London, 1833. 12mo. pp. 264.

    [The _Register_ was continued, at intervals, after Cobbett’s
    death. It appeared as late as September, 1836.]

37. [_Translation._] The Empire of Germany divided into departments,
under the prefecture of the Elector of ----. To which is prefixed, a
memoir on the political and military state of the continent, written
by the same author. Translated from the French by William Cobbett.
_Preface_ by the translator. London, Jan. 1803.

    [Also printed in the Supplement to vol. 2 of the _Register_.]


    [In the year 1812 this work passed into the hands of Mr. T.
    C. Hansard, and new titles were given to all volumes from
    the commencement issued after that date:--“The Parliamentary
    Debates from the year 1803 to the present time; forming a
    continuation of the work entitled, ‘The Parliamentary History
    of England from the earliest period to the present time.’”
    An advertisement, inserted in reprints of the first volume,
    explained the alteration to the public:--“London, Oct. 1812.
    Mr. Cobbett having disposed of his interest in this work, it
    is now continued under the general title of ‘The Parliamentary
    Debates;’” and proceeded to state that the general conduct of
    the work was not in any respect affected by the alteration.]

39. The POLITICAL PROTEUS. A view of the public character and conduct
of R. B. Sheridan, Esq., as exhibited in, I. Ten letters to him; II.
Selections from his parliamentary speeches from the commencement of the
French Revolution; III. Selections from his speeches at the Whig club,
and at other public meetings. By William Cobbett. London, Jan. 1804.
8vo. pp. 388.

    [The letters had previously appeared in the _Register_.]

40. [_Compilation._] COBBETT’S SPIRIT OF THE PUBLIC JOURNALS for the
Year 1804. London, Jan. 1805. pp. xx.-1219.

    [“Letters, Essays, &c., taken from the English, American, and
    French journals for the year 1804, the subjects being all of
    that nature which render them interesting to the politician.”]

Conquest, in 1066, to the year 1803, from which last-mentioned epoch it
is continued downwards in the work entitled, “Cobbett’s Parliamentary
Debates.” London Oct. 1806.

    [The tenth and succeeding volumes are called, “The
    Parliamentary History of England.”]

High Treason and other Crimes and Misdemeanors from the Earliest Period
to the Present Time. London, 1809, &c.

    [After the tenth volume, when Cobbett’s interest in the
    publication had been transferred, the title ran:--“A complete
    collection … to the present time. With notes and other
    illustrations. Compiled by T. B. Howell, Esq., F.R.S. F.S.A.”

    Vols. XXII.-XXXIII.:--” … and continued from the year 1783
    to the present time. By Thomas Jones Howell Esq.” Vol.
    XXXIV:--“General index to … By David Jardine, Esq., of the
    Middle Temple, Barrister-at-law.”]

43. [_Preface_, &c.] AN ESSAY ON SHEEP, intended chiefly to promote the
introduction and propagation of merinos in the United States of America
… By R. R. Livingston. Printed by order of the Legislature of the State
of New York. London, reprinted: with a preface and explanatory notes by
William Cobbett. 1811.

of the rise, progress, extent, and present state of the funds and of
the paper-money of Great Britain; and also of the situation of that
country as to its debt and other expenses; its navigation, commerce
and manufactures; its taxes, population, and paupers; drawn from
authentic documents, and brought down to the end of the year 1814.
In two volumes. By William Cobbett. London, 1815. pp. viii.-523, and

    [The title slightly altered, in a later issue, with an
    Introduction, dated 1817:--

PAPER AGAINST GOLD; or the History and Mystery of the Bank of England,
of the Debt, of the Stocks, of the Sinking Fund, and of all the other
tricks and contrivances, carried on by the means of Paper Money. 8vo.
Columns viii.-470; and 12mo. pp. xviii.-332.

    “A Preliminary part of Paper against Gold,” consisting of
    essays written between 1803 and 1806, was published in 1821.]

the face of the country, the climate, the soil, the products, the
mode of cultivating the land, the prices of lands, of labour, of
food, of raiment; of the expenses of housekeeping, and of the usual
manner of living; of the manners and customs of the people; and of the
institutions of the country, civil, political, and religious. In three
parts. By William Cobbett; London, 1818. 8vo. pp. viii.-610; also 12mo,
pp. 370.

46. A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, in a series of letters.
Intended for the use of schools and of young persons in general; but,
more especially for the use of soldiers, sailors, apprentices, and
plough-boys. By William Cobbett. London, 1818. pp. iv.-186.

47. COBBETT’S EVENING POST. Daily newspaper; London, January 29,-April
1, 1820.

48. The AMERICAN GARDENER; or a treatise on the situation, soil,
fencing, and laying-out of gardens; on the making and managing of
hot-beds and green-houses; and on the propagation and cultivation of
the several sorts of table vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers.
London, 1821. Par. 391 (not paged).

49. COBBETT’S MONTHLY RELIGIOUS TRACTS. London, 1821-22; afterwards,
TWELVE SERMONS ON, 1. Hypocrisy and Cruelty; 2. Drunkenness; 3.
Bribery; 4. The Rights of the Poor; 5. Unjust Judges; 6. The Sluggard;
7. Murder; 8. Gaming; 9. Public robbery; 10. The Unnatural Mother; 11.
Forbidding marriage; 12. Parsons and Tithes. By William Cobbett. 12mo.
pp. 295; a later edition, pp. 240.

To these was subsequently added:

    Good Friday, or the murder of Jesus Christ by the Jews, pp. 24.

50. COTTAGE ECONOMY: containing information relative to the brewing
of beer, making of bread, keeping of cows, pigs, bees, ewes, goats,
poultry, and rabbits, and relative to other matters deemed useful in
the conducting of the affairs of a labourer’s family; to which are
added, instructions relative to the selecting, the cutting, and the
bleaching of the plants of English grass and grain, for the purpose of
making hats and bonnets; and also instructions for erecting and using
ice-houses, after the Virginian manner. By William Cobbett. London,
1821. Par. 265 (not paged).

51. COBBETT’S COLLECTIVE COMMENTARIES: or, remarks on the proceedings
in the collective wisdom of the nation, during the session which began
on the 5th of February, and ended on the 6th of August, in the 3rd
year of the reign of King George the Fourth, and in the year of our
Lord, 1822; being the third session of the first parliament of that
king. To which are subjoined, a complete list of the acts passed during
the session, with elucidations; and other notes and matters; forming,
altogether, a short, but clear history of the collective wisdom for the
year. London, 1822. pp. 320.

    [Mostly from daily contributions to the _Statesman_ newspaper.]

52. [_Preface_, &c.] The HORSE-HOEING HUSBANDRY: or, a treatise on the
principles of tillage and vegetation, wherein is taught a method of
introducing a sort of vineyard culture into the cornfields, in order
to increase their product and diminish the common expenses. By Jethro
Tull, of Shalborne in the County of Berks.

To which is prefixed, an introduction, explanatory of some
circumstances connected with the history and division of the work; and
containing an account of certain experiments of recent date. By William
Cobbett. London, 1822. 8vo. pp. xix.-332.

53. COBBETT’S FRENCH GRAMMAR; or plain instructions for the learning of
French. London, 1823.

    [A book of exercises was added (1834), by James P. Cobbett.]

showing how that event has impoverished and degraded the main body of
the people in those countries. In a series of letters, addressed to
all sensible and just Englishmen. By William Cobbett. London, 1824-25.
12mo, 478 par.; and 8vo.

    A second Part; containing a list of the abbeys, priories,
    nunneries, hospitals, and other religious foundations, in
    England and Wales, and in Ireland, confiscated, seized on,
    or alienated, by the Protestant “Reformation” Sovereigns and
    Parliaments. London, 1827.

55. THE WOODLANDS: or, a treatise on the preparing of ground for
planting; on the planting; on the cultivating; on the pruning; and on
the cutting down of forest trees and underwoods; describing the usual
growth and size, and the uses of each sort of tree, the seed of each,
the season and manner of collecting the seed, the manner of preserving
and of sowing it, and also the manner of managing the young plants
until fit to plant out; the trees being arranged in alphabetical order,
and the list of them, including those of America as well as those of
England, and the English, French, and Latin name being prefixed to the
directions relative to each tree respectively. By William Cobbett.
London, 1825. 8vo. Par. 601 (not paged).

56. COBBETT’S POOR MAN’S FRIEND; or a defence of the rights of those
who do the work and fight the battles. London, 1826. 12mo. pp. 72.

57. THE ENGLISH GARDENER; a treatise on the kitchen garden, the flower
garden, the shrubbery, and the orchard. With a calendar, giving
instructions relative to the sowings, plantings, prunings, and other
labours, to be performed in the gardens, in each month of the year. By
William Cobbett. London, 1827. 8vo and 12mo. pp. 405.

    [An enlargement of “The American Gardener,” with certain parts
    adapted to the English climate].

58. A TREATISE ON COBBETT’S CORN, containing instructions for
propagating and cultivating the plant, and for harvesting and
preserving the crop; and also an account of the several uses to which
the produce is applied, with minute directions relative to each mode of
application. By William Cobbett. London, 1828. 12mo. Par. 203.

    [The title-page and “contents” were printed on paper made from
    the corn.]

59. [_Translation._] ELEMENTS OF THE ROMAN HISTORY, in English and
French, from the foundation of Rome to the battle of Actium, selected
from the best authors, ancient and modern, with a series of questions
at the end of each chapter. For the use of schools and young persons in
general. The English by William Cobbett; the French by J. H. Sievrac.
London, 1828. 12mo. pp. ix.-265.

60. The EMIGRANTS’ GUIDE; in ten letters addressed to the tax-payers of
England; containing information of every kind, necessary to persons who
are about to emigrate; including several authentic and most interesting
letters from English emigrants, now in America, to their friends in
England; and an account of the prices of house and land, recently,
obtained from America by Mr. Cobbett. By William Cobbett. London, 1828.
12mo. pp. 168.

61. ADVICE TO YOUNG MEN, and (incidentally) to young women, in the
middle and higher ranks of life: in a series of letters addressed to
a youth, a bachelor, a lover, a husband, a father, a citizen, or a
subject. By William Cobbett. London, 1830. 12mo. Par. 355.

62. A SPELLING-BOOK, with appropriate lessons in reading, and with a
stepping-stone to English grammar. By William Cobbett. London, 1831.
12mo. pp. iv.-185.

borough-mongering, delivered in the theatre of the Rotunda, Blackfriars
Bridge. By William Cobbett, with a portrait. London, 1830. 8vo.

64. COBBETT’S PLAN OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM, addressed to the young men
of England. London, 1830.

65. COBBETT’S MANCHESTER LECTURES, in support of his fourteen reform

To which is subjoined, a letter to Mr. O’Connell, on his speech, made
in Dublin, on the 4th Jan. 1832, against the proposition for the
establishing of poor laws in Ireland. London, 1832. 12mo. pp. xii.-179.

names, in alphabetical order, of all the counties, with their several
subdivisions into hundreds, lathes, rapes, wapentakes, wards, or
divisions; and an account of the distribution of the counties into
circuits, dioceses, and parliamentary divisions. Also, the names (under
that of each county respectively) in alphabetical order, of all the
cities, boroughs, market towns, villages, hamlets, and tithings, with
the distance of each from London, or from the nearest market town, and
with the population, and other interesting particulars relative to
each; besides which there are maps; first, one of the whole country,
showing the local situation of the counties relatively to each other;
and, then, each county is also preceded by a map, showing, in the same
manner, the local situations of the cities, boroughs, and market towns.
Four tables are added; first, a statistical table of all the counties,
and then three tables, showing the new divisions and distributions
enacted by the reform-law of 4th June, 1832. By William Cobbett.
London, 1832. 8vo. pp. lxxxiv.-547.

67. [_Preface._] The CURSE OF PAPER-MONEY AND BANKING: By Wm. Gouge, of
Philadelphia, 1833. London, reprinted, 1833, with an introduction (pp.
xxii.) by William Cobbett.

William Cobbett. London, 1830-1834. 2 vols. 12mo.

STATES OF AMERICA. Abridged and compiled by William Cobbett, M.P. for
Oldham. London, 1834. 12mo. pp. x.-142.

70. A NEW FRENCH AND ENGLISH DICTIONARY. In two parts. Part I. French
and English; Part II. English and French. By William Cobbett, M.P. for
Oldham. London, 1834. 8vo. pp. xiv.-408-418.

71. SURPLUS POPULATION, AND POOR-LAW BILL; a comedy in three acts. By
William Cobbett, M.P. London, 1835.

72. COBBETT’S LEGACY TO LABOURERS; or, what is the right which the
lords, baronets, and squires, have to possess the lands, or to make
the laws? In six letters, addressed to the working people of the whole
kingdom. With a dedication to Sir Robert Peel. London, 1835. 16mo. p.

73. COBBETT’S LEGACY TO PEEL; or, an inquiry with respect to what the
right honourable baronet will now do with the House of Commons, with
Ireland, with the English Church and the Dissenters, with the swarms of
pensioners, &c., with the crown lands and the army, with the currency
and the debt. In six letters. London, 1835. 18mo.

74. COBBETT’S LEGACY TO PARSONS; or, have the clergy of the established
church an equitable right to the tithes, or to any other thing called
church property, greater than the dissenters have to the same? And,
ought there, or ought there not, to be a separation of the Church from
the State? In six letters, addressed to the church-parsons in general,
including the cathedral and college clergy and the bishops. With a
dedication to Blomfield, Bishop of London. London, 1835. 16mo. pp.


  Abbot (Charles, 1st Baron Colchester)--his conferences, “after
      church,” with Mr. Perceval, ii. 49, 110.

  Abercrombie (Rev. James), of Philadelphia, i. 194.

  Adam (William)--C.’s counsel on first Government prosecution, i. 307.

  Adams (John), President of U. S.--C. supports his administration, i. 187.

  Addington (Henry, 1st Viscount Sidmouth) becomes Premier, i. 271;
    C.’s letters to him on the peace, 279;
    his incapacity as a statesman, 302;
    bestows a sinecure upon his son, 327;
    other references, ii. 170, 178.

  Adet (Pierre A.), French envoy to America, i. 181.

  Agricultural interest--its troubles, ii. 153, 154, 259.

  America--The War of Independence, i. 16;
    Raynal and other writers invoke interest in Europe concerning the
        country, 96;
    current political condition in the United States, 121;
    rise of the two great parties, 122;
    treaty with England, 127, 138;
    flogging abolished in the States, ii. 133;
    the war of 1812 and its effects, 198;
    C.’s writings again attract notice in America, 200.

  André (Major)--exhumation of his remains, ii. 218.

  Andrews’s “British Journalism” quoted, ii. 117.

  Anti-Cobbett literature, i. 136, 172, 174, 177, 189, 303; ii. 43,
      46, 47, 48, 55, 56, 110, 123, 171, 217, 226, 243, 260.

  Anti-Gallicanism in London, i. 287.

  Anti-Jacobinism, i. 131, 241, 252, 263.

  Astley (Sir J.), ii. 65.

  Attwood (Thomas), M.P. for Birmingham, ii. 286.

  Bache (Benjamin F.)--his Philadelphia newspaper, i. 139, &c.;
    notice of his family, 151;
    his editorial virulence, 204.

  Bagshaw (Richard), newsman, ii. 59, 76, 114, 126.

  Baker (Rev. Richard), the “Botley parson,” ii. 74, 150, 151.

  Bamford (Samuel)--his “Recollections” quoted, ii. 156.

  Beevor (Sir Thomas) supports C.’s candidature for parliament, ii. 252.

  Beloe (Rev. Wm.), i. 237, 251, 289.

  Benbow (Wm.) a sufferer under the Press Laws, ii. 206.

  Bentham (Jeremy) quoted, i. 197, 306;
    contributes to the London _Porcupine_, 276.

  Berkeley (Admiral Sir George), i. 23.

  Bibliography, ii. 305.

  Birkbeck (Morris)--his emigration scheme, ii. 205.

  Blagdon (F. W.)--his _Weekly Political Register_, ii. 47.

  Blount (Wm.), Governor of Tennessee, i. 207.

  Booksellers and Authors, i. 117, 150; ii. 77.

  Bosville (Colonel), parliamentary reformer, ii. 11, 146.

  Botley, Hants--C. visits there, i. 316;
    settles there, ii. 1;
    its situation, 2;
    rural sports, &c., 5, 20.

  Bouverie (William Pleydell, 3rd Earl of Radnor)--his close
      friendship with C., ii. 23;
    notice of him, _ib._;
    Commons motion for inquiry into Corruption, 49;
    his plantings at Coleshill, 231;
    attends on behalf of C. at his trial, 264;
    his letter in support of C.’s candidature at Manchester, 277;
    other references, 97, 112.

  Bowles (John), Anti-Jacobin writer, i. 241, 263.

  Bradford (Thomas), bookseller and printer, of Philadelphia--notice
      of family, i. 101;
    his business relations with C., 116, 139, 146, 175.

  Brand (Rev. John), i. 263.

  Brissot de Warville (Jean Pierre)--his American Travels quoted,
      i. 97, 98.

  _British Critic_, introduces C.’s American writings to the English
      public, i. 233;
    recants, 291.

  Brougham (Henry, 1st Lord), ii. 48, 132, 223, 267.

  Budd (John) succeeds to C.’s book-shop in Pall Mall, i. 308;
    is prosecuted with C., ii. 114, 126.

  Buonaparte (Napoleon)--alternations of public feeling concerning
      him, i. 290.

  Burdett (Sir Francis), i. 312;
    C. begins to support him, 320;
    elected M.P. for Westminster, ii. 29;
    his popularity, 64;
    is sent to the Tower, 110, 111;
    his endeavours against military flogging, 130;
    advances money to C., 146, 218;
    his half-heartedness in the Reform cause, 179, 256.

  Callender (James Thomson)--notice of him, i. 131.

  Canning (George)--his anti-Jacobin services, i. 240, 241, 252;
    his opposition to parliamentary reform, ii. 256.

  Carey (Matthew)--notice of him, i. 116, 189.

  Carleton (Guy, 1st Baron Dorchester), i. 52, 76.

  Caroline, Queen of George IV.--the first delicate investigation, ii. 18;
    C.’s advocacy of her cause, ii. 224.

  Cartwright (Major John)--his advocacy of parliamentary reform;
      notice of him, ii. 11;
    other references, 77, 78, 207.

  Catholic Emancipation, ii. 224.

  Chatham, co. Kent--C.’s life there as a recruit, i. 35.

  Cintra, convention of--outcry against it in England, ii. 70.

  Clarke (Mary Ann), the Duke of York’s mistress, ii. 58, 60.

  Cleary (Thomas), ii. 221.

  Clergy of the English Church--their antipathy to reform, ii. 152,
      239, 263.

  Cliffton (William), American poet, i. 189.

  Cobbett (Ann, _born_ Reid), i. 54, 57; ii. 119, 122.

  Cobbett (Anne), ii. 72, 78, 79, 122.

  COBBETT (William)--his birthplace, i. 1;
    parents, 5;
    early years, 7-21;
    his employment in London, 26;
    enlists, 28;
    his life as a recruit, 35, 41;
    his studies, 43;
    discharge, 54;
    his sweetheart, 55;
    marriage, 58;
    his first attacks on “corruption,” 60, 62;
    the Soldiers’ Friend, 79, 88;
    goes to France, 85;
    to Philadelphia, 100;
    teaches English and compiles “Le Tuteur Anglais,” 102;
    translates for the booksellers, 103;
    opposes himself to attacks on England, 109;
    “Observations on Dr. Priestley’s Emigration,” 113;
    his anti-Jacobinism, 131;
    his political pamphlets, 133, 134;
    sudden notoriety, 135;
    “A little plain English,” 139;
    his popularity as a partisan-writer, 145, 184;
    quarrel with his publisher, 147, 150;
    “Political Censor,” 148;
    becomes a bookseller, 161;
    publishes his “Life and Adventures,” 165;
    anti-Cobbett literature, 177;
    starts _Porcupine’s Gazette_, 185;
    is prosecuted for “libel,” 202;
    lampoons Dr. Rush, 211;
    is sued by him, 215;
    removes to New York, 218;
    returns to England, 229;
    what they had said of him in England, 232, _et seq._;
    Government offers, 245;
    voyage home, 247;
    influential visitors, 250;
    dines with the ministers of state, 253;
    his subsequent reflections, 256, 258;
    more Government offers, 260;
    resolves on “independence,” 261;
    will support Mr. Pitt, 267;
    starts the _Porcupine_ newspaper, 268;
    close of its career, 278;
    his book-shop, 279;
    heads the new opposition under Mr. Windham, 280;
    the _Political Register_, 283;
    his fixed principles, 286;
    anti-Gallicanism, 288, 289;
    excites envy, 292;
    deserves a “statue of gold,” 293;
    his anti-Gallican appeal to the nation, 295;
    begins to study finance, 301;
    first Government prosecution, 304;
    success of the _Register_, 308;
    relinquishes the book-shop, _ib._;
    miscellaneous publications, 309;
    “Parliamentary Debates,” 310;
    must live in the country, 311;
    visits Botley, 316;
    his determined war upon corruption in Church and State, 322, 327;
    his reasons for deserting Mr. Pitt, 324;
    altered attitude of people toward him in consequence, 328.

    At Botley, ii. 1;
    his pursuits and tastes, 4, 5;
    determines to settle at Botley, 6;
    “Parliamentary History,” and other projects, 8;
    his advocacy of parliamentary reform, 10;
    enemies thus raised up, 12;
    at Honiton election, 13;
    address to electors of Westminster, 14;
    bitter hostility of the _Morning Post_, 19;
    his home, &c., described by Miss Mitford, 22;
    new friends, 21, 23;
    is asked to contest Westminster, 25;
    quarrel with Sheridan, 27;
    he cannot live in London, 31;
    threats of further prosecution, 35;
    his devotion to the interests of the Labouring Poor, 39;
    his high qualities as an employer, 42;
    calumnies, 43;
    increasing animosity toward him, 45;
    anti-Cobbett literature of the period, 46, 48;
    leads the Reformists, 50;
    his usual pursuits, sports, &c., 51;
    pecuniary pinches, 52;
    supports inquiry into the affairs of the Duke of York, 58;
    his plantings, &c., 63, 65, 68;
    disinclination to enter parliament, 67;
    his sphere as a comment maker, _ib._;
    “State Trials,” 70;
    his children, 72;
    speaks in public, 74;
    independence of Party, 75;
    defiance, 81, 82;
    answers the court-martial story, 85;
    his attachment to soldiers, 89;
    reminiscences of flogging, 92;
    the flogging “libel,” 93;
    the Messrs. Swann, 98;
    prosecution, 114;
    verdict of the jury, 118;
    sentence, 126;
    in Newgate, 127;
    renewed protests against flogging, 131;
    life in prison, 135;
    “Paper against Gold,” 136;
    growing acrimony, 140;
    pecuniary difficulties, 142;
    his quarrel with Mr. Wright, 143;
    release from Newgate, 147;
    growing antipathy of the clergy, 149;
    opposes the proposed Corn Law, 153;
    hostility of the landed interest, _ib._;
    renewed urging of Reform, 155;
    the first cheap _Register_, 158;
    his abhorrence of violent measures, 176;
    is again threatened, 181;
    will go to America, 183;
    his farewell, 185;
    admirers in the United States, 199;
    his settlement near New York, 202;
    new works projected, 206;
    “English Grammar,” and “Year’s Residence,” 207;
    proposes to return, 209;
    exhumes the bones of T. Paine, 212;
    his arrival in England, 215;
    quarrel with Burdett, 219;
    actions brought against him by Cleary and Wright, 223;
    his advocacy of Queen Caroline’s cause, 224;
    is “in disgrace” over Paine and Burdett and Wright, 225;
    _Cobbett’s Evening Post_, 229;
    bankruptcy, 230;
    his seed-farm at Kensington, 231;
    books on rural and domestic affairs, 233;
    is awarded the Society of Arts’ silver medal, 234;
    aversion to the potato, 235;
    “History of the Protestant Reformation,” 239;
    other publications, 244;
    “Rural Rides,” 246;
    resolves upon entering parliament, 249;
    contests Coventry, 251, and Preston, 255;
    is prosecuted for “sedition,” 259;
    his triumph, 266;
    address to the Manchester electors, 275;
    his reception in Lancashire, 279, and in Scotland, 281;
    election for Oldham, _ib._;
    in parliament, 283;
    his work is done, 291;
    death, 304;
    _v._ also Anti-Cobbett.

  Cobbett (William, junior) at school, i. 312;
    his early promise, ii. 32, 52, 72;
    publisher of the _Register_, 178;
    return from America with his father, 214.

  Cochrane (Thomas, 10th Earl of Dundonald)--his candidature at the
      Honiton election, ii. 13, 18;
    visits C. at Botley, 20;
    M.P. for Westminster, 30;
    a zealous Reformer, 156, 157;
    other references, 78, 148, 179.

  Colchester (Baron)--_v._ Abbot.

  Commons (House of)--its corrupt state, ii. 36, 68;
    its conservative habits, 284.

  Corruption in Church and State--its prevalence, i. 57, 61, 321,
      326, 327; ii. 36.

  Coventry election of 1821, ii. 251.

  Cox and Baylis (Messrs.), printers of the _Register_, ii. 101.

  Currency, C.’s writings, ii. 137.

  Currie (William), M.D., of Philadelphia, i. 210.

  Curtis (Sir Wm.), M.P., ii. 128.

  Dallas (Alex. J.), American politician, i. 129, 139.

  Davies (Benjamin), bookseller, of Philadelphia, i. 148.

  Day (Rev. Charles)--his attack upon C., ii. 263.

  Debbieg (Colonel), i. 36.

  Democracy--its progress, ii. 296.

  De Morgan (Augustus) quoted, ii. 116.

  Denman (Thomas, 1st Lord), counsel to Queen Caroline, ii. 224;
    prosecutes C. for “sedition,” 264.

  Dennie (J.), American man of letters, i. 122.

  Drakard (--), Lincolnshire editor, sent to jail in the cause of
      humanity, ii. 129.

  Droxford, co. Hants, ii. 8.

  Duane (William), democratic writer, i. 189, 217.

  Duncombe (Thos. Slingsby)--his memoirs quoted, ii. 255.

  Dundas (Henry, Lord Melville), i. 78, 319, 325, 327.

  Dundonald (Earl of)--_v._ Cochrane.

  D’Yrujo (Chevalier), Spanish envoy to the American Republic, i. 201.

  Eaton (Daniel), bookseller, stands in the pillory, ii. 150.

  _Edinburgh Review_--its attack upon C., ii. 56.

  Ellenborough (Lord)--_v._ Law.

  Elliot (Gilbert, 1st Earl of Minto) testifies to C.’s loyalty, i. 306.

  Elliott (William), M.P., ii. 29, 33.

  Ellis (George), i. 241, 253.

  Emigration to America, ii. 205.

  Everley, co. Wilts, a famous place for coursing, ii. 51.

  Ewing (William), barrister, of Philadelphia--anecdote of him, i. 192.

  _Examiner_ newspaper is persecuted, ii. 108, 130;
    persecutes C., 110, 123, 148.

  Farnham, co. Surrey--its situation and its people 100 years ago, i. 1.

  Fauchet (J. A. J.), French envoy to America, i. 141.

  Fearon (Henry B.), surgeon--his visit to America, ii. 205.

  Fenno (John), newspaper editor, i. 166, 171.

  Fenno (J. W.), son of the above, i. 189, 212, 223.

  Fielden (John), M.P. for Oldham, ii. 278.

  Finnerty (Peter)--notice of him, ii. 72;
    other references, 16, 36, 59, 76, 108, 121.

  Fitzgerald (Lord Edward), i. 54.

  Flogging in the army--animadversions of the press, ii. 90;
    case of, at Ely, and C.’s comments thereon, 91, 93;
    gets into discredit, 129, 134.

  Flogging of the poor--measure suggested in Parliament, ii. 130.

  Flower (Benjamin)--his political review, ii. 47;
    visits the United States, 205.

  Folkestone (Viscount)--_v._ Bouverie.

  Fox (Charles James), i. 82, 323; ii. 24.

  French refugees in America, i. 104, 105.

  French Republic--its relations with that of America, i. 181, 183.

  Freneau (Philip)--his democratic poems, i. 189.

  Frere (John Hookham), i. 241, 252.

  Garlike (Benjamin), diplomatist, an early friend of C., i. 33.

  Genest (Edmond Charles), French diplomatist--notice of him, i. 125.

  Gibbs (Sir Vicary), Attorney-General in the Perceval
      administration, ii. 90, 102, 114;
    his antipathy to the press, 115, 117.

  Gifford (John), anti-Jacobin writer, republishes C.’s American
      pamphlets, i. 236;
    notice of him, 240;
    other references, 263, 264, 278; ii. 35.

  Gifford (William), i. 181, 248, 263, 265.

  Gilfillan (Rev. George)--his recollections of C., ii. 282.

  Glasse (Rev. G. H.), i. 251.

  Goodman (Thomas), agricultural labourer, convicted of
      incendiarism, ii. 262.

  Gould (Sir Charles), Judge-Advocate-General in 1792, i. 62.

  Grenville--_v._ Wyndham.

  Grey (Charles, 2nd Earl Grey), ii. 34.

  Grose (Sir N.) passes sentence upon C., ii. 124.

  Hague (Thomas)--his pamphlet against the Duke of York, ii. 76.

  Hamilton (Alexander), i. 122.

  Hamlin (--)--his case of attempting to corrupt Mr. Addington, i. 327.

  Hammond (George), Under-Secretary of State, i. 252, 260.

  Hansard (T. C.) becomes the printer of the _Register_, ii. 101;
    is prosecuted along with C., 114, 126;
    takes over the “Parliamentary Debates,” i. 310; ii. 143.

  Harding (J.) succeeds to Cobbett and Morgan’s book-shop, i. 308.

  Hardwicke (Earl of)--_v._ Yorke.

  Hawkesbury (Lord)--_v._ Jenkinson.

  Hazlitt (William), ii. 195.

  Heriot (John)--notice of him, i. 242;
    quarrel with C., 294.

  Hewlings (Abraham), a Westminster politician, ii. 25.

  Hogan (Major D.)--his exposure of the Duke of York’s mistress, ii. 58.

  Hone (William), ii. 116, 195.

  Honiton, co Devon, election, ii. 13.

  Howell (Thomas B.), editor of C.’s “State Trials,” ii. 70, 77, 78.

  Howick (Lord)--_v._ Grey.

  Huish (Robert)--his “memoirs of Cobbett” quoted, ii. 117.

  Hunt (Henry), ii. 65, 177, 221.

  Hunt (J. H. Leigh), ii. 123, 148.

  Ireland (William), Dean of Westminster, i. 251, 263.

  Irish affairs in 1804, i. 304.

  Irishmen (The United)--political association, i. 136.

  Jay (John), American statesman--his mission to England, i. 128;
    notice of him, 129;
    democratic feeling against him, 138.

  Jefferson (Thomas), American statesman--his “Writings” quoted, i. 123.

  Jeffery (Francis) attacks C. in the _Edinburgh Review_, ii. 56.

  Jenkinson (Robt. B., 2nd Lord Liverpool), i. 278; ii. 170.

  Johnson (Robert), Irish judge--his animadversions on the Irish
      administration, i. 304.

  Johnstone (Col. Cochrane), ii. 20.

  Juverna, pseudonym of Judge Johnson, i. 304.

  Kent (H.R.H. Edward, Duke of) meets C. at Halifax, i. 52, 76.

  Kew, co. Surrey--C.’s employment there as a boy, i. 15.

  Laurence (Dr. French), i. 252, 283.

  Lauriston (Jacques A.), French envoy to England, i. 276.

  Law (Edward, 1st Baron Ellenborough) presides at C.’s trials for
      “libel,” i. 306; ii. 114;
    his antipathy to a free press, 115, 117.

  Lawless (John) reprints C.’s _Register_ in Ireland, ii. 195.

  Libel: What is it? i. 197;
    prosecutions of C. for, i. 201, 213, 306; ii. 114--_v._ also Bagshaw,
    Finnerty, Law, Drakard, _Examiner_, &c.

  Liston (Robert), English diplomatist--his attentions to C. in
      America, i. 191, 245;
    testifies to C.’s loyalty, 306.

  Liverpool (Earl of)--_v._ Jenkinson.

  London--“sedition” in 1792, i. 58, 59, 84.

  Mackay (Charles)--his “Recollections” quoted, concerning flogging
      in the navy, ii. 92.

  M’Kean (Thomas), Pennsylvanian politician, i. 199, 201, 214.

  Madison (James), American statesman, i. 122.

  Madocks (W. A.), M.P.--his motion against corruption in the
      State, ii. 85.

  Malone (Edmond), i. 252.

  Marsh (Herbert), Bishop of Peterborough, i. 263.

  Marvel (Andrew)--anecdote of him as M.P., ii. 112.

  Maseres (Francis, Cursitor Baron), visits C. on his arrival in
      London, i. 250, and in Newgate, ii. 135;
    notice of him, _ib._

  Mathias (Thomas J.) corresponds with C., i. 244;
    “Pursuits of Literature” quoted, 249.

  Melville (Viscount)--_v._ Dundas.

  Mifflin (George), Governor of Pennsylvania, i. 204.

  Minto (Earl of)--_v._ Elliot.

  Mitford (John, 1st Baron Redesdale), i. 76, 305; ii. 128.

  Mitford (Dr.), ii. 21, 22, 51, 74, 119.

  Mitford (Mary Russell) visits C. at Botley, ii. 22.

  Moreau de St. Méry (M. E.), French _émigré_ at
      Philadelphia--notice of him, i. 103.

  Morgan (John), i. 220, 224, 279, 308.

  Morrice (Captain Thomas), i. 81.

  Nares (Archdeacon), i. 237.

  Newspaper Press of London--its hostility to C., ii. _passim_;
    its great advance in character, 292;
    forgives C. when he is gone for ever, 297.

  Nova Scotia--C.’s life there as a soldier, i. 42.

  Oldden (John), of Philadelphia, i. 164.

  Paine (Thomas)--influence of his political writings, i. 99;
    on the currency, 302;
    notice of him, ii. 209;
    C. recommends his writings on the currency, 211;
    his remains exhumed and brought to England, 214, 217.

  Parliamentary Reform--impulse given to the cause by support of
      C.’s _Register_, ii. 10;
    and again in 1817, 197;
    its progress not served by Party, 227;
    how it came, at last, 257, 280.

  Parr (Samuel, D.D.)--his support of Queen Caroline, ii. 224.

  Paull (James)--his candidature for Westminster, ii. 15;
    C.’s account of him, 25;
    other references, 29, 33.

  Peace of Amiens, i. 277.

  Peel (Sir Robert)--C.’s motion concerning him, ii. 287.

  Penn (John), i. 251.

  Perceval (Spencer) prosecutes C. for “libel,” i. 306;
    his antipathy to C., ii. 49;
    inquiry into his alleged corruption is stifled, 85;
    his gratification at C.’s conviction, 128.

  Perry (James), editor of the _Morning Chronicle_, ii. 107, 109.

  Philadelphia, U. S., described, i. 94;
    strong party spirit there, 107, 131, 176;
    anti-British feeling, 180;
    yellow fever, 208;
    the newspapers, 217.

  Pitt (William)--his pamphleteers, i. 237, 241, 242;
    C. dines with him, 253;
    C.’s reasons for ceasing to support him, 324;
    other references, i. 124, 130, 314, 317.

  Place (Francis) quoted, ii. 59;
    anecdote, 116;
    his electoral purity, 221.

  Planting, ii. 65, 69, 233.

  Plunkett (William C., 1st Baron)--suit against C., i. 307.

  Political Partisanship--its penalties, &c., i. 206.

  Poor, Labouring, of England--their prosperous condition in the
      middle of the 18th century, i. 5;
    their increasing poverty, 17;
    growth of pauperism, ii. 37, 38;
    proposals to flog them, 130;
    their miserable condition after the peace, ii. 237, &c.

  Potato--C.’s aversion to the, ii. 236.

  Press, Liberty of the, i. 197;
    its position at the close of the 18th century, 231;
    prosecutions, 304, ii. 107, 115, &c.;
    cessation of political prosecutions, ii. 274.

  Preston election of 1826, ii. 254.

  Priestley (Joseph, LL.D.)--his emigration to the U.S., i. 108;
    notice of him, 110;
    in retirement, 217.

  “Pursuits of Literature”--_v._ Mathias.

  Quakers in Pennsylvania, i. 95, 97;
    their troubles at the period of Independence, 200.

  Radnor (Earl of)--_v._ Bouverie.

  Randolph (Edmund), American politician, i. 142.

  Raynal (G. T., Abbé)--influence of his writings, i. 85, 96.

  Redesdale (Lord)--_v._ Mitford.

  Reeves (John), i. 263, 265, 295, 306, 319; ii. 96, 120.

  Reviews, as organs of public opinion, i. 231.

  Ridgway (James), bookseller, i. 80, 81, 133.

  Robson (R. B.) associated with C. concerning barrack abuses, ii.
      12, 16, 17.

  Rogers (George), of Southampton, ii. 230.

  Romilly (Sir Samuel), ii. 85, 130, 178.

  Rose (Rt. Hon. George), i. 249; ii. 74, 83, 84.

  Rowley (Wm., M.D.) quoted, i. 209.

  Rowson (Mrs.), actress and novelist, i. 136.

  Rush (Benjamin, M. D.)--his celebrity, i. 209;
    his phlebotomy, 210;
    his politics, _ib._;
    suffers from C.’s lash, 211;
    obtains a verdict with damages against him, 217.

  Scarlett (James, 1st Lord Abinger)--his antipathy to C. and the
      Reformers, ii. 224.

  Scipion (L. H. Comte du Roure) edits C.’s “Maître d’Anglais,” i. 102.

  _Shadgett’s Weekly Review_, ii. 195.

  Sheridan (R. B.) succeeds Fox as M.P. for Westminster, ii. 24, 27;
    other references, i. 292; ii. 28.

  Sidmouth (Viscount)--_v._ Addington.

  Six Acts--their purport, ii. 214.

  Soldiers--anecdotes, i. 38, and _v._ Flogging.

  Somerville (Alexander) quoted, ii. 44.

  Spies employed by Government, ii. 196.

  Sports--fishing, ii. 3;
    single-stick, 4;
    coursing, 21, 51;
    dogs, 99.

  Stuart (Lord Henry) with the English embassy at Philadelphia, i. 191;
    testifies to C.’s loyalty, 306;
    interchange of visits, 312; ii. 17.

  Swann (James), celebrated paper-maker, an attached friend of
      C.’s, ii. 98;
    correspondence, 99 _et seq._

  Symonds (H. D.), bookseller, in Newgate, i. 133.

  _Tait’s Magazine_ quoted on C.’s reception in Scotland, ii. 281.

  Talleyrand--his exile in America, i. 104;
    introduces himself to C., 158.

  Taylor (Miss)--case of, ii. 81.

  Thelwall (John)--his “memoirs” quoted, i. 58, 85.

  Thornton (William)--his proposed American language, i. 160.

  Tilghman (Edward), lawyer of Philadelphia, C.’s counsel in Rush
      _v._ Cobbett, i. 215, 224.

  Tooke (J. Horne) quoted, ii. 29, 181.

  Toryism--its narrow-minded fears, ii. 170, 196.

  Twyford, co. Hants--celebrated school there, i. 312, 316.

  Upcott (W.), i. 241.

  Vansittart (Nicholas, 1st Lord Bexley), i. 263.

  Walker (Peter), ii. 136.

  Wardle (Colonel G. L.)--his exposure of the Duke of York, ii. 59, 60.

  Washington (George), American President, i. 122, 126, 183, 203;
    his death, 218.

  Watson (Richard), surgeon, violent Reformist, ii. 175.

  Webster (Noah)--his proposed improvement in orthography, i. 160.

  Weld (Isaac)-his account of Philadelphia, i. 97.

  Westminster politics, ii. 15, 24, 26, 59, 64.

  Whiggism--its fine profession, ii. 256, 258, 271.

  Whitbread (Samuel)--notice of him, ii. 39;
    calumniated, 110.

  White (Henry), Whig writer, ii. 227.

  White (Holt), C.’s solicitor, ii. 77, 95, 113.

  Wilberforce (William)--his horror of “disaffection,” ii. 38, and
      of C.’s advocacy of Reform, 171.

  Windham (Right Hon. William) notices C. on his return to England,
      i. 251, 253;
    his strong anti-Gallicanism, 255;
    his new opposition party, 281;
    gets up a subscription to start C.’s _Register_, 283;
    defends C. in the House of Commons, 292;
    testifies to his loyalty, 306;
    his taste for pugilism, ii. 4;
    coolness between him and C., 13;
    attacks the parliamentary reporters, 109.

  Wolcott (Oliver), American politician, i. 154, 182, 200, 201.

  Wooler (T. J.), ii. 195, 251.

  Wright (John), bookseller in Piccadilly, i. 226, 229, 241;
    becomes C.’s man of business, 310;
    correspondence with C., 314 _et seq._;
    rupture of their friendship, ii. 143, 144;
    his suit against C., 223.

  Wyndham (William, Baron Grenville) i. 276, ii. 34.

  Yellow-fever in Philadelphia, i. 209.

  Yonge (Sir George), Secretary-at-War, i. 68.

  York (H.R.H. Frederick, Duke of)--his troubles over Mrs. Clarke,
  ii. 57, 60.

  Yorke (Philip, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke), i. 305.

  Yorke (Right Hon. Charles) testifies to C.’s loyalty, i. 306.

  Yorke (Henry Redhead)--notice of him, ii. 47;
    his opposition to C., 47, 123.



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