HENRY HUNT, ESQ.
Written by Himself,
IN HIS MAJESTY'S JAIL AT ILCHESTER,
IN THE COUNTY OF SOMERSET.
"Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In every work regard the Writer's end, Since none can compass more than they intend; And if the means be just, the conduct true, Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due." POPE.
MEMOIRS OF HENRY HUNT.
This wanton outrage was perpetrated in the presence of those, who will, perhaps, blush when they read this. I do not say that this was done by the Magistrate; but it was done by the gang that surrounded him, and I know the villain who did it. The poor thing lay senseless for some time; no one of the numerous spectators daring to go to her assistance. When she came to her senses, she was covered from head to foot with blood, that had flowed from the wound, which was on the scalp, and was four inches in length. In this state she came running to me, and made her way up to the front of the procession:—we halted, horror-struck at her appearance. The blood was streaming down her snowy bosom, and her white gown was nearly covered with the crimson gore; her cap and bonnet and clothes had been torn to rags; her fine black hair reached her waist; and, in this state, she indignantly recounted her wrongs. O God, what I felt! There were from four to five thousand brave Bristolians present, who heard this tale, and with one accord they burst forth in exclamations of revenge; every man of them was worked up to such a pitch of excitement by the cruelty of the atrocious act, that they would have instantly sacrificed their lives, to have executed summary justice upon the cowardly authors of it. I own that I never was so near compromising my public duty, by giving way to my own feelings, as I was at this moment. Burning with indignation, I half turned my horse's head; but, recovering my reason, I took the fair sufferer by the hand, and led her forward, admonishing my friends not to be seduced into the trap, that had been so inhumanly set for them. In this state we proceeded through the streets of Bristol; the poor girl streaming with blood. I took her to my inn, sent for a surgeon, and had the wound dressed and the scalp sewed up. She never failed to attend the election every day afterwards, and she displayed as genuine a specimen of female heroism, as ever I met with in my life.
I could relate a hundred such instances of the manly conduct of my loyal opponents during the election, if I chose; but, in spite of their baseness, we continued steadily and resolutely to attend the poll, from nine till four, for fifteen days; our enemies writhing with the expense that was daily incurred, and groaning under the lash of my daily exposures.
The above-named Mr. Goldney was, in his private character, esteemed a very worthy man; but when he gave way to the baleful system of factious politics, he became as great a tool, and as blind a bigot to the over-ruling power of intimidation, as any one of the execrable gang that composed the Members of the White Lion Club. "But list! O list!" Amiable as Mr. Goldney is, he could not resist the temptation of coming to Ilchester, out of his own County of Gloucester, forty miles, to have a peep at the captive in his cage. I, however, felt just as much superior to him, when I saw him here, as I did when he was running about with Burn's Justice in his hand, exclaiming, "Stop, and hear the Riot Act read!" If he meant to gratify himself, by having a peep at him, whom the Courier calls a fallen leader of the rabble, he never was more disappointed in his life; for he came just at the time that I had substantiated before the Commissioners all my charges against the Gaoler and the Magisstrates.
Every evening, after coming from the hustings, I went to the public Exchange, and delivered an oration to the assembled multitude, who always came there at that time to hear an account of the transactions of the day; for the Guildhall was not capable of containing a fiftieth part of the inhabitants who were interested in the election. It will be recollected, and let it never be forgotten, that not only the whole press of Bristol, but the whole press of England was employed in traducing and vilifying me; for I was daily exposing the two factions who had united against me: in fact, that has been always the case, both the factions have always united against every friend of the people, whether in or out of Parliament. Mr. Oldfield, in his History of the Boroughs, gives this short account of this election: "Henry Hunt, Esq. of Middleton Cottage, in Hampshire, offered himself as a candidate, upon the old constitutional system, of incurring no expenses, nor canvassing votes. He was received with every demonstration of popular enthusiasm, though the newspapers were hired to traduce him, and every measure was resorted to, that the ingenuity of his opponents could devise, to injure him in the public opinion."
This is a brief, but a true, history of the case; this election was, perhaps, one of the most severe and expensive contests that the White Lion Club, or Tory Faction, ever had to encounter; and, for the purpose of shortening it, every art, trick, and manoeuvre was resorted to, in the vain hope of drawing me off from the main point, that of being always present upon the hustings, and keeping open the poll. They flattered themselves, too, with the idea, that it would be physically impossible for me to hold out. I was, indeed, very ill, for I had caught a cold, and laboured under an irritation of the lungs, which bordered closely on inflammation, and was aggravated by daily speaking. The papers announced, that I was suffering under a very severe fit of illness, although I never quitted the hustings. This reached my family at Rowfant, in Sussex, and they began to grow uneasy upon the subject. Fortunately, they set off to Bristol the very day before one of the most diabolical acts of malice and cowardice, that ever disgraced the character of a human being, was put into execution by my despicable opponents. One of the cowardly wretches wrote into Sussex, a letter to one of my family (it was to a female too!) in the name of the Chairman of my Committee, to say, that I had fallen a sacrifice to the fury of the mob, whose rage had been turned against me by some circumstance. The caitiff described, in very pathetic language, the distress of my friends, and requested instructions for the funeral of the mangled corpse. This letter was written in the most plausible manner; the hand-writing and name of the Chairman of my Committee was forged, and every thing was admirably calculated to give the impression, that it was genuine truth. But, fortunately, this fiendish scheme failed of its purpose; for, as my family had left Rowfant before the letter arrived, the letter was never opened till we returned together after the election was over.
The day subsequent to the closing of the election, Mr. Davis was to be chaired; he having been returned by a very large majority, only Two Hundred and Thirty-five freemen having voted for me. I left Bristol on that day for Bath, as I by no means wished to interrupt the ceremony of chairing Mr. Davis, who was so very unpopular, that half the city were sworn in as special constables on the occasion, and all the avenues were barricaded and blockaded with three-inch deal planks, to prevent the populace from making any sudden rush upon the procession. He was chaired amidst the hisses, groans, and hootings of an immense majority of the population. I had promised to return to dine with my friends the day following.
The White Lion Club immediately printed and posted up a large placard, containing the names, trades, and places of abode, of all those persons who voted for me. This was done to injure them in their business, by pointing them out to the malice and the vengeance of my opponents. But I will now publish a list for a very different purpose, to hand their names down to posterity, as follows:
Bristol. July 22, 1812. A LIST OF THE PERSONS WHO VOTED FOR MR. HUNT AT THE LATE ELECTION.
Those marked fr. are Freeholders, and voted as such.
Attwood John, cabinet-maker, Castle Precincts. Atkins George, tiler and plasterer, St. Mary, Redcliff. Allen William, shipwright, St. Mary Redcliff. Anderson George, gentleman, St. James (fr. St. James). Barnett S. A. carpenter, St. Philip and Jacob. Baker Thomas, cordwainer, St. Paul. Baker John, cordwainer, St. Paul. Baker Joseph, cordwainer, St. Paul. Brown Charles, sailcloth-maker, St. Philip. Burge Samuel, cooper, St. Paul. Bartlett Robert, cordwainer, St. Philip. Belcher Joseph, tailor, Castle Precincts. Bright Newman, brickmaker, St. Philip (out). Brown George, brightsmith, St. Philip. Brewer Richard, ironfounder, St. Philip, Ballard John, tobacco-pipe-maker, St. Philip. Broad William, freestone mason, St. Philip (fr. St. Paul). Bansill John, brazier, St. James. Buffory Mark, tyler and plasterer, St. Augustine. Brownjohn William, peruke-maker, Castle Precincts. Biddell John, printer, Temple. Bright William, cutler, St. Philip. Bennett Elisha, labourer, St. Philip. Briton William, house-carpenter, St. John. Bush Peter, turner, Kingswood. Bright William, brightsmith, St. Paul. Beale John, glasscutter, St. Mary Redcliff. Brookes Samuel, mason, Bitton, Gloucestershire. Bowles Peter, cordwainer, Temple. Blacker Henry, carpenter, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul.) Bennett Francis, brazier, Temple. Beckett Charles, cooper, St. Paul. Bower William, tailor, St. James. Clark W. N. carpenter, St. James (fr. St. James). Cardwell Thomas, gentleman, St. Philip (fr. St. Michael). Codrington John, corkcutter, St. Mary Redclif. Cole Joseph, butcher, St. James. Coles John, upholsterer, St. Paul. Cork John, victualler, St. Augustine. Coombs John, brightsmith, St. Philip. Coombs John, baker, St. James. Crew Solomon, coal-miner, Bitton, Gloucestershire. Cunningham B. B., cordwainer, St. Mary Redcliff. Coddington Richard, corkcutter, Bath. Clark John, toymaker, St. Philip. Dolman Charles, brightsmith, Christ Church. Duffett John, brushmaker, St. Philip. Daniel Samuel, barber-surgeon, St. Philip. Duffy Jonathan, labourer, St. Paul. Davis James, miller, St. George. Daniel Thomas, painter, St. James. Davis David, mason, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul). Davis William, victualler, Castle Precincts. Duffett Daniel, brushmaker, St. Philip. Docksey Thomas, peruke-maker, St. James. Ellis John, cordwainer, St. Philip. Edmonds Richards, barber-surgeon, St. James. Elliott Alexander, tailor, Temple (fr. Temple). Emers James, mason, St. Paul. Ellis James, brightsmith, St. James. Eagle William, tailor, St. Philip. Francis James, cooper, St. Michael. Foot John, cordwainer, St. Philip. Fudge George, mason, Temple (fr. St. Philip). Fenley John, bookseller, St. James (fr. St. James). Ferris John, tailor, Bath. Godwin John, wire-worker, St. Thomas. Griffin John, shipwright, St. Michael. Grimes John, silk-weaver, St. James. George John, stone-cutter, St. James. Green William, mariner, Bedminster. Hughes Benjamin, blacksmith, St. Philip. Hobbs James, mason. St. James. Hobbs William, mason, St. Philip. Haycock William, tailor, St. Philip. Harding John, gentleman, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul). Hewlins Moses, currier, St. Philip. Hopwood William, labourer, St. Philip. Hunt James, cordwainer, Temple. Hole James, shoemaker, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul). Hughes Joshua, cordwainer, St. Paul (fr. St. Michael) Hurst Joseph, mason, St. James. Hope John, labourer, St. Michael. Hardwick Robert, waterman, Hanham. Hone James, tailor, St. James. Haskins Samuel, plasterer, St. Michael (fr. St. Michael.) Hemmings James, maltster, Castle Precincts. Hunt William, hooper, Clifton. Autchinson, John, currier, Temple (fr. Temple). Jones Richard, joiner, St. John. James Thomas, brewer, St. James. Jewell William, smith, St. Mary Redcliff. Jeremiah Edmond, wheelwright, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul.) Jennings Benjamin, carpenter, St. Mary, Redcliff. James John, tailor, St. James (fr. St. James.) James Philip, pin-maker, St. George. Jennings James, tailor, St. Thomas. Jones Isaac, plumber, Temple. James John, shipwright, St. Augustine. Kennecott Nicholas, tobacco-pipe-maker, Bedminster. Knight William, labourer, St. James. Knight Joseph, broker, St. Thomas (fr. St. Thomas.) Lovett John, waterman, St. Philip. Liscombe Robert, carpenter and joiner, St. James (fr. St. James.) Lewis John, mason, St. James. Lansdown William, hooper, St. Philip. Lewis Matthew, mason, St. James. Leonard William, pork-butcher, St. James (fr. St. James.) Lewis Edward, plumber, Redeliff. Languell Thomas, mason, St. James. Lawful Francis, sawyer, St. Philip. Lancaster James, cordwainer, St. James. Lewis John, joiner, Bridgewater. Liddiard James, turner, Temple. Martin John, rope-maker, Temple. Morgan William, carpenter, Redcliff (fr. St. Mary, Redcliff.) Meredith James, confectioner, St. Stephen. Morgan William, glazier, St. Philip. Milton Francis, printer, St. James. Mittens Thomas, cabinet-maker, St. Paul. Mountain Abraham, blacksmith, St. Philip. Mutter Joshua, carpenter, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul.) Moore Joseph, crate-maker, St. Mary, Redcliffe. Mitchell James, sawyer, St. Paul. Melsom William, cheese-factor, St. James (fr. St. Paul.) Norris John, tobacconist, St. Peter. Oliver George, victualler, St. Mary, Redcliff (fr. St. Paul.) Owens Lewis, tailor and mercer, St. Michael. Owen Robert, tiler and plasterer, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul.) Pymm Thomas, currier, Christchurch. Phelps James, gardener, St Philip. Perry James, jun. Cooper, St. Peter. Parker William, yeoman, St. Paul. Primm Jacob, cordwainer, St. Michael. Prescott William, carpenter, St. Philip. Palmer William, hat-maker, St. Philip. Pymm William, tailor, Christchurch. Parfitt Thomas, cabinet-maker, St. Thomas. Perry Charles, labourer, Frenebay. Pearce Joseph, cordwainer, St. Paul, (fr. St. James.) Perrins John, potter, Temple. Parker James, carver and gilder, St. James. Phillips Samuel, glass-maker, St. Philip. Parker Edward, grocer, St. James (fr. St. James.) Philips Christopher, victualler, St. Nicholas. Prigg Francis, iron-founder, St. Philip. Poole William, tailor, St. Michael. Phillips William, plasterer, St. Phillip. Price William, tiler and plasterer, St. Philip (fr. St. Paul.) Pollard William, blacksmith, St. Nicholas. Penny Thomas, painter, Castle Precincts. Phillips Thomas, saddler, Bath. Perrin Robert, painter, St. Michael (fr. St. Michael.) Perrin William, jun. Cooper, St. Paul. Philips James, turner, St. James. Palmer William, brass-founder, Bedminster. Price James, shopkeeper, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul.) Roberts John, baker, St. Philip. Rate John, shoemaker, St. Paul. Rowland Thomas, carver, St. Stephen (fr. St. Stephen.) Rosser John, turner, St. James. Rogers Churchman, yeoman, St. James. Rumley Benjamin, labourer, Temple. Ravenhill Robert, bellows-maker, St. Philip. Rivers James, potter, Temple. Rees David, stationer, Christchurch (fr. St. Paul.) Rogers John, cooper, St. Mary, Redclif. Robins Charles, cabinet-maker, St. James. Reynolds John, wheelwright, Castle Precincts (fr. Castle Precincts.) Reed William, cordwainer, St. James. Radford Joseph, brass-founder, Temple. Rawle William, cordwainer, St. Philip. Stanmore Samuel, shipwright, Temple. Sexton, Daniel, trunk-maker, Temple. Sheppard John, brazier, Temple. Stinchcomb William, cabinet-maker, St. James. Simms Thomas, glass-cutter, Nailsea. Sheppard William, hatter, St. Philip. Stringer Thomas, confectioner, St. Philip (fr. St. Philip.) Sheppard Benjamin, clothier, Frome. Skone William, grocer, St. Paul. Smith John, pewterer, St. Michael. Slocombe John, glazier, St. James. Sayce Thomas, carpenter, St. Paul. Smith Thomas, shopkeeper, Temple. Stephens James, carpenter, St. Augustine. Stokes John, joiner, St. Paul. Stretton William, cooper, St. Nicholas. Sweet Thomas, potter, St. Philip. Stokes Henry, cordwainer, Chepstow (fr. Temple.) Simms William, glassman, Wraxall. Sims James, glass-maker, Nailsea. Skammell R. V. tiler and plasterer, St. James. Searle Benjamin, plasterer, St. Philip. Simpkins George, cordwainer, St. Paul. Smith William, ironmonger, St. Mary, Redcliff (fr. St. Mary, Redcliff.) Snig William, box-maker, St. James. Shackell Robert, cordwainer, Frampton (fr. St. James.) Thomas Timothy, tallow-chandler, St. Stephen (fr. St. Stephen.) Taylor James, brushmaker, St. Mary, Redcliff Thomas John, brushmaker, St. Mary, Redcliff Tilly John, block-maker, St. Stephen. Tippet James, shipwright, St. Augustine. Tilley William, crate-maker, Temple. Thomas Thomas, carpenter, St. Paul. Tiler William, gentleman, Bedminster (fr. St. James.) Taylor Thomas, glazier, St. Peter. Underaise James, merchant tailor, St. James. Vaughan John, gentleman, St. Paul (fr. Temple,) Walker Richard, accomptant, St. Michael (fr. St. Michael.) Westcott James, cabinet-maker, St. Michael (fr. St. Michael.) Wood William, twine-spinner, St. Philip. Whittington Thomas, carpenter and joiner, Temple. Williams Isaac, carpenter, Mangotsfield. Weetch Robert, undertaker, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul.) White John, mariner, Temple. Welsh John, butcher, St. Philip. Williams Robert, cordwainer, St. Augustine. Watts William, cordwainer, St. Paul. Watts Thomas, cordwainer, St. Philip. Wilmot W. W. glass-cutter, Temple. White William, carpenter, St. Paul. Wipperman Christopher, baker, St. Augustine (fr. St. Paul.) Wells Robert, wheelwright, Bath. Wilson William, Accomptant, St. Paul. Ware George, cordwainer, St. Paul (fr. St. Paul.) Webb George, carver and gilder, St. Michael. Woodland William, turner, St. Philip (fr. St. Philip.) Welch James, brickmaker, Binegar. Waters Benjamin, wine-hooper, St. Philip. Wood John, clerk, Newton St. Loe. Young George, cutler, St. Philip. Yearbury R. A. cordwainer, Frome.
I have recorded the names of these brave men, for the purpose of handing them down to posterity, as a specimen of genuine patriotism and disinterested love of Liberty. Men who, in the nineteenth century, regardless of every personal consideration, and anxious only to perform conscientiously what they considered to be a sacred duty to their country, had the courage and the honesty to give their votes agreeable to the dictates of their hearts, in spite of the terror and threats of lawless power; in defiance of the corrupt influence of the corporation, the clergy, and the merchants of Bristol, and all the bribes that were held out to seduce them from giving me their support. Men such as these deserve to be remembered with honour. I am bound to declare that, during the election, I witnessed as great a degree of enthusiasm as was ever exhibited by the people upon any occasion; and I beheld such daily individual acts of heroism as would have done honour to the character of the most revered Roman or Spartan patriot. My worthy friends Williams, Cranidge, Brownjohn, William Pimm, and many others, were incessant in their labours to assist me, and most cheerfully braved the anger and the ungovernable rage of our opponents. We had daily to encounter the most artful and unprincipled manoeuvres, which were put in practice to entrap and mislead us. There was no mean and despicable art, nothing which was likely to irritate and inflame, that was not tried, for the purpose of throwing me off my guard; and all those who chose to try these experiments upon my patience and my temper, let them commit any atrocity however glaring, were sure to be shielded by the authorities. There was no law, no protection for me or my friends; and we had only to rely upon the goodness of our cause, our general forbearance, or our prompt and courageous resistance to lawless violence. One day, towards the latter end of the contest, a person introduced himself into my room (for any one who asked was instantly admitted), and, after behaving in a very improper manner, he placed himself in a boxing attitude, and commanded me to defend myself, or he should floor me. I had no inclination to have a set-to with a perfect stranger, and was about to request his immediate departure, when he struck me a smart blow upon the chin, and then affected to apologise for the insult, or rather assault, by saying, that it arose entirely from the want of my keeping a proper guard. I, however, instantly spoiled his harangue, by retaliating in a way that he little expected: I seized the gentleman, and, having sprung with him out of the door, I gave him, in spite of the most determined resistance, a cross-buttock, and pitched him a neat somerset over the banisters, into the landing-place of the ground-floor, before my friend Davenport had scarcely left his seat. This being witnessed by some of my friends, who were standing at the bottom of the stairs, and saw the fellow come flying over the banisters, with part of my coat in his hand, which he had seized hold of, and held fast in the struggle; they, without farther ceremony, began "to serve him out" in proper stile, as he was immediately recognized to be a sheriff's officer, and a notorious bruiser, belonging to the White Lion faction; and if Mr. Davenport had not rushed to his assistance, and secured him by consigning him to the custody of two constables, he would have paid very dearly for his insolent frolic; and, as it was, he came off very roughly, with several bruises and a dislocated shoulder.
I had given my word to my friends, that on the day after the chairing of Mr. Davis, I would return from Bath, and dine with them. I kept my word, and I was met at Totterdown, about a mile from the entrance of the city, and conducted through the streets in the most triumphant manner. I was taken to the Exchange, where I protested against the illegal manner in which the election had been carried by the lawless introduction of the military force, and I pledged myself to petition Parliament against the return of Mr. Davis; this pledge was received with every demonstration of applause, and promises of pecuniary support were reiterated from every quarter. I dined with a very large party of my friends, and thus ended a contest as severe as ever was maintained at any election upon record.
From this contest there resulted one benefit, which amply paid me for my toils. During fifteen days, the people of Bristol had an opportunity of hearing more bold political truths, than they had ever heard before; both the factions of Whigs and Tories were exposed, and their united and unprincipled efforts to deceive and cajole the people were freely canvassed, and rendered incontrovertible.—There had always been in Bristol two factions, nearly equally divided between the Whigs and Tories; and the whole of the politics of the people consisted in supporting these two factions, which were designated the high and the low party. The opposition, or Whigs, had always contrived to make the people believe that they were their friends, and that the Government, or Tory faction, were their enemies; that the Whigs were every thing that was pure and honourable, and disinterested and patriotic; but that the Tories, or Blues, were every thing that is the reverse. During these fifteen days, this delusion was dispelled, and the actions of the Whigs were as rigidly discussed as those of the other faction; in fact, more so, for the people all well understood the practice as well as the principles of the Tories, but they had not till now been enlightened upon the subject of the Whigs, so as plainly to see and understand their situation. The task of enlightening them on this head, I made it my business to accomplish, and, aided by the Whigs themselves, I did accomplish it effectually. At the appearance of such an antagonist as I was, all the leading Whigs, united with those whom they had heretofore made the people believe to be their greatest enemies, their chiefs of the low party, now left that party, and joined the high party, though hitherto it had been the constant study and care of both these factions, to make the people give credit to the sincerity and purity of the opposition. To banish this delusion was my grand object, in which I flatter myself, that I succeeded to a miracle. I not only recounted the famous acts of the Whig administration, and dilated upon the sinecures, pensions, and places of profit, that the Whigs enjoyed out of the earnings of the people; but I also caused the list of them to be published and placarded. There were the sinecures of Lord Grenville and his family, the Marquis of Buckingham and others, placed side by side with those of Lord Arden and the Marquis Camden; Whigs and Tories were blended together; and when this light was thrown upon the business, the people soon saw through the mist of faction, by which they had been kept in utter darkness. This mode of proceeding, of course, drew down upon me the maledictions of both factions; nor was this all, for they joined heartily in misrepresenting me, and fabricating every species of calumny against me. There was no falsehood too gross to serve their turn. They seem to have acted on the old rascally maxim, of throwing as much dirt as possible, in the presumption that some of it will stick. Perhaps, since the invention of printing, no man had ever been so grossly attacked and belied as I was, by the whole of the public press; with the exception of Mr. Cobbett, who stood manfully by me. I do not know a single public newspaper in the kingdom that did not vilify me, and labour in all ways to sully my character, and to depreciate my exertions. The liberal and enlightened editor of the Examiner, took the lead in making these attacks upon me, and professed to be desperately alarmed, lest the public should imagine that he was the vulgar candidate for Bristol, of the name of Hunt. He not only disclaimed all connection with me, or even knowledge of me, but he professed to lament, as a misfortune, that his name was "Hunt." This being the subject of conversation one night, when Sir Francis Burdett and some other friends were spending the evening with Mr. Cobbett, in Newgate; the Baronet, speaking of this foul abuse from Mr. Leigh Hunt, said "that the editor of the Examiner was not worthy to wipe the shoes of his friend Hunt." This was what I was afterwards told by those who were present. Nothing, indeed, could be more unfair than the conduct of Mr. Leigh Hunt upon this occasion, because he was not writing from his own knowledge, nor from the knowledge of any one that he could rely upon; but all his information must have been derived from the venal press; and to be sure, I was bespattered and misrepresented as much by the opposition press, as I was by that of the ministerial hacks. I freely forgive Mr. Hunt, however, as I have no doubt that he was imposed upon, in fact, he has long, long since, honourably done me ample justice, and made amends for his former attacks and mis-statements.
After the election was over, I returned by the way of Botley, in Hampshire, on purpose to pay a visit to my friend Cobbett, who had just been liberated from Newgate, after having been imprisoned there for two years, if it might be called imprisonment, though I can scarcely call it imprisonment, when compared to my incarceration in this infamous bastile. I do not hesitate to say, that one month's imprisonment in this gaol, is a greater punishment than one year's imprisonment in Newgate; and that I have suffered many more privations during the FORTY DAYS Of my solitary confinement here, than Mr. Cobbett suffered during the whole of the two years that he was in Newgate. As I have before said, his sentence was not much more than living two years in London in lodgings. To be sure, he paid dear for that accommodation, but actually little more than he would have paid for ready furnished lodgings, of equal goodness, in any other part of London. He would have paid just as much for good lodgings upon Ludgate-Hill; and his lodgings in Mr. Newman's house were equal, if not superior, to any on Ludgate-Hill. All his friends had free access to him, from eight o'clock in the morning till ten at night, and his family remained with him night and day. As I visited him a great deal, I know how well he was at all times accommodated. When I knocked at Mr. Newman's door, and asked for Mr. Cobbett, I was received with attention by the servant, and introduced immediately; in fact, the reception given by Mr. Newman's servants to Mr. Cobbett's visitors, was much more respectful, and more attentive and accommodating, than they ever experienced from the servants of Mr. Cobbett at his own house; at least it always struck me so, as my friend Cobbett's servants were not always the best mannered in the world, I mean his domestic servants, those who were not under his management altogether, but under the direction and management of the female part of his family. In truth, I do not remember ever going to Mr. Cobbett's house twice following, without seeing new faces, or rather new maid servants. Mrs. Cobbett was, what was called amongst the gossips, very unfortunate in getting maid servants; they seldom suited long together. But not so with Mr. Cobbett; it was quite the reverse with him: his servants about his farms always lived as long with him as they conducted themselves with propriety; he was, indeed, what is called very lucky the choice of his servants. For years and years, and years together, when I went to visit him, I found the same faces, the same well-known names. The same tenant occupied the same cottage; the same carter drove the same team; the same ploughman held the same plough; the same thrasher occupied the same barn; and the same shepherd attended the flock. The names of Dean, Jurd, Coward, and Hurcot, and many others, were for a number of years, as familiar to me as the names of my own servants. The editors of the venal hireling press, and the enemies of Mr. Cobbett's political writings, have always represented him as a bad master, and as being capricious, cruel, and tyrannical amongst his servants and poorer neighbours; and by means of as foul a conspiracy against him as ever disgraced the age in which we live, or as ever disgraced the courts of justice in any country. The calumny about Jesse Burgess was propagated from one end of the land to the other, by the whole venal press of the kingdom, sanctioned by the dastardly conduct of the hireling barristers of the day, particularly by the infamous conduct of Mr. Counsellor, now Judge Burrough. The whole of this was a base, fraudulent, and infamous transaction. Mr. Cobbett has behaved very ill to me ever since his return from America; his desertion of me at a time of danger and difficulty, and his neglecting to aid me with his pen, in the herculean task which I have had to perform in this bastile, must to every liberal mind appear unpardonable. Such a struggle, and made by a prisoner under such circumstances too, to detect, expose, and punish fraud, cruelty, tyranny, and lust, perpetrated within the walls of an English gaol, surely deserved the assistance of every enemy of oppression.—Mr. Cobbett having failed to render me the slightest assistance, and by his silence having even done every thing that lay in his power to counteract my exertions, and to encourage my cowardly and vindictive enemies to destroy me, it will not be imagined that I shall write with any degree of undue partiality towards him, or that I can be prejudiced so much in his favour as to exceed the bounds of truth. But I have a duty to perform to myself, and a duty to perform to the public, and no feeling of personal irritation on my part, arising from neglect on his, shall induce me to withhold the truth. I most unequivocally and most solemnly declare, from my own personal knowledge, that Mr. Cobbett was one of the kindest, the best, and the most considerate masters, that I ever knew in my life. His servants were indeed obliged to work for their wages, as it was their duty to do; but they always had an example of industry and sobriety set them by their master; they were always treated with the greatest kindness by him; they were well paid and well treated in every respect; and the best proof, if any were wanting, after what I have said, that they were well satisfied with their employer, is, that they all lived with him for very long periods, and that those who left his service did so not in consequence of any dislike to their MASTER, and were always anxious to return to him.
While on the subject of servants, I may be allowed to say a word respecting myself: I was never accused, even by the venal hirelings of the press, of being a bad master; but, on the contrary, I was always proverbial for being a good one. The fact that I was so, is abundantly proved by one circumstance. When I left my farm in Wiltshire, and went to reside at Rowfant, in Sussex, my old servants followed me there, a distance of nearly one hundred miles, so that in Sussex I had the same servants, the whole time I remained there, that had lived with me and my father for, from ten to thirty years before; they all followed me into Sussex at their own risk, and they remained with me as long as I lived in that county; and when I left it to go into Hampshire, they also all left it, and accompanied me. This is the best evidence that can be given of my being a good master; yet I have no hesitation in saying, that there never was a better master living than Mr. Cobbett. I was, however, more fortunate than he was in my domestic servants; for in twenty years I have only had three cooks, three housemaids, and three men servants, each of them having lived seven years, and none of them having left us till they married and settled; and, thank God, it is a great satisfaction they have all done well, improved their situation in life, and got up in the world. The man servant and two maid servants, whom I have now remaining with me, to take care of my cottage, have lived with me, I think it is now nearly eight years.
During the whole time that Mr. Cobbett was in Newgate, I was in the constant habit of visiting him; there was never a month, and seldom a fortnight passed, that I did not go to London to see him. Up to this period I had always received from Mrs. Cobbett the greatest civility and attention, in return for my attention to her husband. I was never an evening in London but I passed it with my friend who was in prison, and very delightful and rational parties we used to have in Mr. Cobbett's apartments; these parties consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Cobbett, Sir Francis Burdett, Col. Wardle, Major Cartwright, Major Worthington, Mr. Peter Walker, Mr. Samuel Millar, and a few other select friends, all staunch assertors of the cause of Liberty. I will relate two circumstances which occurred at these meetings, because I have always considered them to have had a very important share in creating the political hostility that has since existed between Sir F. Burdett and myself, and to have ultimately led to that coolness which has been so visible in the conduct of Mr. Cobbett towards me, during the last two years. There is no breach of confidence in my mentioning them, and the narrative will shew by what trifles important results may be produced. One evening, Sir Francis and Mr. Cobbett were speaking in very warm terms of my exertions in procuring a Requisition which led to the first County Meeting held at Wells, in Somersetshire; and the former was giving me great credit for having roused such a large, long, dormant county, and for having made such a favourable impression upon the Free-holders, in the cause of Reform. With the intention of putting an end to such overwhelming praise bestowed on me to my face, I replied, that I was a zealous and devoted political disciple of the Baronet, that I would continue to follow his praiseworthy example, and never would desert the cause in which we were embarked. "But," said I, "remember, Sir Francis, that at the same time that I promise you never to withdraw my zealous and faithful support to those principles which you advocate, and of the partizans of which principles you are deservedly the leader; yet, if ever you should stand still, so far from promising you, that I also shall halt, I assure you that nothing shall deter me from proceeding; then, and only then, shall I leave you." What induced me to utter this speech, I cannot tell; I certainly had not the slightest opinion or suspicion that the Baronet would ever stand still. It was the farthest thing in the world from my intention to say any thing to create surmises, or to give the slightest offence. My words were merely a sort of involuntary, random-shot effusion of the heart, meant only to evince my sincerity, and to silence the praises which were bestowed upon me to my face. It certainly had the latter effect; it immediately put a stop to the conversation altogether. I saw that I had unintentionally committed a blunder; I saw, or thought that I saw, Mr. Cobbett look at me with a most inquiring eye, endeavouring to discover whether my words were meant to convey an impression that I really suspected that the Baronet would ever stand still. God is my witness, I had not at the time the slightest idea of the sort; for Sir Francis Burdett, in his professions and conversation, if not in his actions, always appeared to desire for the people the full extent of that liberty for which I was contending, namely, the representation of the whole of them in the House of Commons. Sir Francis Burdett drew up instantly, and I perceived that I had, without meaning it, cast a damp upon the cheerfulness that had previously prevailed. There was, however, no room for explanation. I looked grave myself, and my mind was occupied with such thoughts as had never obtruded themselves before; not created by what I had said, but by the impression which it appeared to have made upon my hearers. Whether it was imagination, or whether there was any just ground for it, I do not know, but I always fancied, from that time forward, that the Baronet was not so familiar as he was before; and, although we continued upon the best of terms, that he manifested a degree of reserve that I had never previously observed.
The other blunder which I made was as follows:—one evening, when there was a large party, and Mr. Cobbett had been keeping us in a roar of laughter by his wit and vivacity, the very life and soul of the company, which he always was when he chose, all at once, in the midst of our mirth, he exclaimed, addressing himself to me, "Hunt, I have a particular favour to ask of you; will you promise to grant it me?" This was said with great earnestness, and with peculiar emphasis. I replied, "if it is any thing in reason and within my power, I will; but let me know what it is, and I have no doubt that I shall gratify your wish." He urged me again and again to promise him before-hand—all eyes were fixed upon me, and Mrs. Cobbett appeared by her looks to desire that I should comply with her husband's request, evidently indeed shewing that she anticipated what it was he wished me to promise him. This earnestness made me press him to explain, and at the same time I repeated my assurance that I would comply with his wish, if within my power. I own I expected that he was about to get me to promise him, in the presence of our mutual friends, that I would accomplish something of importance; as he knew if I once gave my word, that nothing would deter me from endeavouring to carry my promise into effect. Expectation was upon the tiptoe, every one seeming anxious to know what was the object of such a serious and almost solemn request. "Well," said he, "promise me then that you will never wear white breeches again!" Every one appeared thunder-struck, that the mountain had brought forth such a mouse. I had on a clean pair of white cord breeches, and a neat pair of top boots, a fashionable, and a favourite dress of mine at that time. There was a general laugh, and as soon as this subsided, all were curious to hear my answer. It was briefly this: "I certainly will, upon one condition." "What is that?"—"Why, that you will promise me never to wear dirty breeches again." Cobbett at the time had on a remarkably dirty pair of old drab kerseymere breeches. The laugh was now turned against my friend, and I instantly felt sorry for the repartee. I saw that my friend was hurt. He thought it unkind, and dropped his under lip. Mrs. Cobbett's eyes flashed the fire of indignation, and she was never civil to one afterwards. Nothing could be farther from my intention than to hurt the feelings of my friend; it was an ill-natured and thoughtless, although a just retaliation. At all events I was very sorry for it, and it called to my recollection an old saying, which was very commonly used by my father, "a fool's bolt is soon shot."
In consequence of Mr. Cobbett having given me the support of his able pen previous to the Bristol election, every exertion was made to induce him not to write upon that occasion in my favour. On the day that I was going down to Bristol, I was sitting with Mr. Cobbett, in his room in Mr. Newman's house, in Newgate, and consulting with him about the best plan of operation, when a gentleman was introduced; he was a stranger to me, and Mr. Cobbett rose hastily, and said, "walk this way, my Lord," and instantly took him into the next room. After having remained with him some time, and then sent him down the back stairs. He returned to me, laughing, and informed me that it was Lord F——c, who had been endeavouring to prevail upon him not to support me for Bristol, but to give his aid to Sir Samuel Romilly. The reader will, however, have seen by the letter, and the observations published in my last two numbers, selected from Mr. Cobbett's Register at that period, how little weight those attempts to injure me in his opinion had upon him. But my enemies took a more effectual course to injure me with Mr. Cobbett, by whispering calumny to those who were more ready to listen to it than he was; they assailed Mrs. Cobbett, and endeavoured to injure me in the estimation of my friend, by poisoning the ear of his wife. I may, perhaps, relate a few instances of this sort hereafter. But there was one act of baseness that ought to be, and shall be recorded, to enable the world to form a proper judgment of the villain who could be guilty of it. It occurred at the latter end of the year 1811 or at the beginning of the year 1812, at the time when there was such a desperate attempt made to impose upon the public, by endeavouring to persuade them that a one pound note and a shilling, were equivalent to a guinea, although the latter was selling in the market at the time for twenty-seven shillings.
As I have alluded to the paper system, I may as well, before I proceed to my promised story, mention one circumstance connected with it. To expose that system was always a favourite scheme with Mr. Cobbett, and he was now anxious to try the question with a country banker, to shew that, notwithstanding the Bank of England was protected against paying in specie, yet the country banks were liable to pay in gold. If you carried 50l. to the Bank of England of their notes, scribbled over with the lying formula "I promise to pay," instead of giving cash for them, they only give you other paper of "I promise to pay," in exchange. If you carried 50l. of country notes to the bank which had issued them, instead of giving you cash, they gave you Bank of England notes in exchange. Mr. Cobbett very much wished to have this question tried, and, at his request, I promised him that the first time I went into the country I would do it. Being at Bath soon afterwards, and having received, in payment of rent, some of Sir Benjamin Hobhouse's bank notes, I took my tenant with me to the Bank, and tendered twenty-six pounds worth of their notes, for which I demanded cash in payment. They refused to give it, and tendered in return twenty-six pounds in Bank of England paper. This I declined to receive, and persisted in my demand for cash. One of the partners was called; and, upon my peremptorily demanding payment in coin, he as peremptorily refused to pay it, and once more offered me Bank of England paper. This I again declined to take, assuring him, that if he did not pay me the amount in cash, I would bring an action against him for the debt, and compel him to do so. This then he treated with great levity, and I left his shop and the twenty-six pounds of bank notes together. I immediately went to an attorney in Bath, and instructed him to bring an action against the firm of Hobhouse and Co. for a debt of twenty-six pounds, to which I offered to make an affidavit. When I explained the circumstance, the Bath attorney declared that he would not act. I then applied to my own attorney in London, who politely declined the honour of conducting such a suit, as he very honestly said, that if he did conduct it, he must never expect to have another bill discounted, or any accommodation from one of these formidable country bankers. At length, after some difficulty, Mr. Cobbett procured me an attorney in London, who commenced an action against the firm of Hobhouse and Co.
I will now proceed to my story, which is, indeed, connected in some degree with what I have just related. While I was in the country, at Glastonbury, I let several little odd lots of land by auction, specifying that those who might become tenants should find security for payment of the rent. Mr. John Haine, a perfect stranger to me, took the manor-house, orchard, and the fishery within the manor, for thirty-six pounds a-year, for three years. The next morning, when he came to sign and complete his contract, I told him, that, as he was a stranger to me, and as I had great trouble in collecting my rents, I must require him to give security for the payment of the rent. Mr. Haine, who was a man of considerable property, felt very indignant at this proposition, and certainly expressed his indignation in no very equivocal terms. In the course of some rather warm conversation, I told him, that I should expect he would pay the rent in cash, if he were called upon to do so. He contended that I could not compel him to do that; however, to shew me that he was a man of property, and to get rid of all difficulty about finding security for the payment of the rent, he pulled out of his pocket several hundred pounds in bank notes, and offered to pay me down the three years' rent, amounting to one hundred and eight pounds, which money he tendered to me upon the table, saying, that it was no difference to him, and that it would at once save trouble and the expense of drawing up any agreement or lease, as I should have nothing to do but to give him a receipt. At first I declined to do this, but a person who was with me suggested, that, if I allowed Mr. Haine five per cent. for the money, nothing could be more equitable on both sides. This was at once assented to; I threw my tenant back five per cent. and gave him a receipt for the three years' rent; we had, therefore, no occasion for any settlement till the three years were expired, when we renewed the agreement, and never had a word of dispute as to the rent afterward.
This, however, led to the following misrepresentation, by one of those persons who had been very pressing to induce Mr. Cobbett not to write in my favour on my becoming a candidate for Bristol, but to support the cause of Sir Samuel Romilly. This man, one William Adams, a currier, of Drury Lane, one of the pillars of the Westminster Rump, had frequently been traducing me to Mr. Cobbett, who always dared him to the proof of any of the calumnies that he urged against me; and, in order to get rid of the fellow's impudent and malignant representations, told him plainly, that he should not be prejudiced against me without proof. "But," added he, "Adams, I promise you, that if you will bring me proof that Mr. Hunt has ever been guilty of a dishonest or dishonourable act, I will give him up instantly, and will have no more to do with him: but, till you do this, I beg you will refrain from all your little tittle-tattle about his wife, of whom you appear to know nothing."
Adams took his departure, but called again some time after, saying, that he had been to Bristol fair, and he now could substantiate, upon unquestionable authority, that I had been guilty of a most flagrant act of dishonesty to all my tenants at Glastonbury. "Well," said Cobbett, "let us hear what it is." Adams proceeded as follows:—"Mr. Hunt went down to Glastonbury, and under a threat of compelling all his tenants to pay their rent in specie, he induced them to advance him three years' rent, for which he gave them receipts. But, no sooner had they paid him their rent, than the mortgagee came, and made them all pay it over again, so that all his tenants were paying double rents." "Well," said Cobbett, "if this be true, it is a very dishonourable act; but, as I have ascertained that the last story you told me, about his having turned his wife out of doors to starve, without making her any allowance, is a fiction, or, to speak plainly, I have ascertained it to be a most scandalous and wicked falsehood, you must excuse me if I do not believe one word of this affair, about his tenants, till you bring me some better proof than your bare assertion." At length, Adams confessed that he was only told so by a person with whom he met at Bristol fair. The fact was, that Mr. Haine had related the circumstance at Bristol amongst his friends, just as it happened; Adams heard of it, and out of such slender materials, he manufactured as base and as unfounded a lie as ever defiled the lips of an inhabitant of Drury-Lane or St. Giles's. Mr. Cobbett saw at once through the villainy of this Mr. Currier Adams, and he always afterwards treated him; as he deserved, with merited contempt. This Adams is the person who, in the Court of King's Bench, upon the trial of "Wright versus Cobbett," for a libel, (if Wright's and the other reports are true,) swore that he had several times assisted in turning Hunt out of the room at public meetings. This is a most bare-faced falsehood as ever was stated in a court of justice; and Mr. Cobbett, who knew that it was false, should have indicted the fellow for perjury. No human being ever laid hands upon me in the whole course of my life, to turn me out of a room, either public or private, with the exception of the ruffians who endeavoured to drive me and my friends out of the theatre at Manchester, in the year 1818. The very idea of Mr. Currier Adams ever attempting to do any such thing, is absolutely ludicrous. If the ruffian had said that he had often been hired to assail me at the Crown and Anchor meetings, for the purpose of preventing the truths that I delivered being heard there, he might have told the truth; but to swear that he or any of his gang had ever dared to lay hands on me, either at a public or a private meeting, is as arrant a falsehood as ever was uttered at the Old Bailey.
As I observed before, when the election was over at Bristol I returned to Rowfant, in Sussex, by the way of Botley, in Hampshire, to congratulate my friend upon his release from Newgate, and to talk over the election at Bristol. When I arrived there with my friend Davenport, Mr. Cobbett received us with that hearty welcome which he was accustomed to give; but the other part of the family behaved in the most rude, unhandsome, and disgusting manner, both to Mr. Davenport and myself. I shall not descend to particulars; but I am sure my friend Davenport will never forget it, as long as he lives. There is, however, no accounting for the conduct of some women. Mr. Cobbett was always, as far as I was capable of seeing, a kind and indulgent husband, as well as a most fond father, and this he carried even to a fault; and it now appeared very evident that he began to feel his error. But perhaps Socrates would never have proved himself so great a philosopher, if he had not been blessed with the little ripplings of Xantippe.
I returned to Rowfant, where every thing had gone on pretty well in my absence, under the care of my brother and my old Wiltshire servants. The hay was all made, and the harvest was near at hand. I soon recovered from the excessive exertion which I had undergone at Bristol, an exertion, such as few men ever overcome, and in consequence of which, my family always said, I was seven years older. It is a fact, that my hair turned grey during the three weeks that I was at Bristol, and I have no doubt but it was occasioned by excessive mental and corporeal efforts. On our arrival at Rowfant we found the infamous letter, which was written from Bristol to my family, giving a detailed and sanctimonious account of my death. I have met with a great number of base scoundrels during my political life, but it was reserved for the gentlemen of Bristol to find among them a monster in human form, capable of committing so detestable and cowardly an act as that. The people of Bristol are proverbial for their bravery; witness the Belchers, Pierce, Neate, &c. but what is called the gentry of Bristol, with a very few exceptions, are the most mean, dastardly, selfish, and cowardly of their species. Burke's definition of a Bristol merchant is truly characteristic. "He has no church but the Exchange; no Bible but his ledger; and no God but his gold!!!" Burke stood a contested election for Bristol, and represented that city many years in Parliament, and he well knew the character of the dominant classes. I believe that this race of Bristolians are greatly degenerated since Burke's time. The people, the populace, are brave, generous, and humane; but the merchants and gentry, as they are called, are the most selfish, the most corrupt, the most vulgar, the most ignorant, the most illiberal, and the most time-serving race that are to be found in Europe. It is said that a Bristol man is known all over the world for his underhanded, tricking, overreaching, sharper-like dealing; he is described to be exactly the reverse of a Liverpool merchant; and it is added, (and the sarcasm is not too bitter) that you may know a Bristol merchant, by his always sleeping with one eye open. There are, of course, some very honourable exceptions, though I am compelled to say, that I met with very few instances of liberality, Christian charity, or even common honesty amongst them, while I was there. The Corporation is the richest in the world, perhaps, except London; while the freemen, whose property goes to enrich the said Corporation, are the very poorest freemen in the world. Queen Anne granted a charter to the city, by which the daughters of a freeman confer upon their husbands the right of voting at an election. Tradition says, that the Queen, when at Bristol, took notice that the women were so remarkably plain, that she conferred this boon upon them as a sort of dower; so that whoever marries the daughter of a freeman, is himself immediately entitled to the freedom of the city. So that the freedom of Bristol may be gained by birth, by marriage, or by servitude. While, however, I relate this circumstance, I do not mean to concur in the assertion, that the women of Bristol are proverbially ugly; on the contrary, some of them are very pretty; and I recollect that, when I was a young man, Bristol justly boasted of having given birth to one of the handsomest women of the age. Miss Clementina Atwood, who was a native of Bristol, was, at the period when I knew her, universally esteemed, and in my estimation was the most beautiful, elegant, and accomplished female in the British dominions. I remember riding from Enford to Bristol and back again, a distance of ninety-two miles, on the same day, only for the chance of passing a few hours in her society; and the worst of it was, that I was disappointed at last, as she had left Bristol for a few days, with her friend Miss Rigg, whose mother was just deceased. But I passed the day with her cousins, and returned home in the evening.
I now directed my attention towards the management of my farm, with as much zeal as I had recently directed it to the concerns of the election. My natural disposition, my taste, and my habits, all led me to the enjoyment of domestic comforts, in a rural sphere. I was always doatingly fond of the country, country pursuits, and a country life. The sports of the field—hunting, shooting, &c., to me afforded the most captivating delight. The pleasures of cultivating the soil, and attending to the growth and progress of the crops, can only be known to, and can only be estimated by, one who has a perfect knowledge of agricultural pursuits. Then, the domestic felicity enjoyed in a quiet, cheerful country house, surrounded by one's own family, and every now and then a good neighbour and sincere friend dropping in, has always been to me that sort of exquisite enjoyment which I could never find in any other situation, or in any other occupation. My natural taste is so domestic, that I should not wish, on my own account, ever to mingle in the busy haunts of man. I could freely remain in the country, and never enter a city or a town again. Nothing but a sense of public duty should ever induce me to sacrifice myself by residing in a town; and if I could once see my country free, and the people happy, and honestly represented, the greatest blessing I could wish for, would be, to pass uninterrupted, a tranquil old age in the country, far away from the harassing turmoil, danger, and misery of boisterous, unprofitable politics. But the man who would immolate the interest, the honour, the freedom, and the happiness of his country, to gratify his own love of ease and comfort, is unworthy the name of patriot. I can scarcely hope to be permitted to enjoy such unmixed bliss, such delightful tranquillity, during the remainder of that short race which I have to run in this sublunary world; neither shall I sigh and pine after that, which it appears fate has forbidden.
In the early part of this year 1812, there had been great riots in the North; great mischief was done at and near Nottingham, by the Luddites destroying knitting frames. On the 9th of January, a number of those Luddites were taken up at Nottingham, for breaking frames, and they showed a spirit of resistance, and had several skirmishes with the military. On the 16th of March, the Spanish constitution was settled by the Cortes, which Cortes abolished the Inquisition in Spain, on the 20th of June. On the 9th of May, Napoleon left Paris for Poland, and entered upon that fatal campaign which ended in his ruin. The Senate met in Paris, and decreed extraordinary levies of soldiers, and an immense army was formed, to attempt the subjugation of Russia. Both Prussia and Austria had now signed treaties of alliance with France. A negotiation was entered into between France and Russia, but without success; and the latter power concluded treaties with England and Sweden. Having passed the Vistula, Napoleon declared war against Russia on the 22nd of June. The French then advanced, and entered Wilna on the 28th of June; upon which the Russians formed a plan of a gradual retreat, and the invaders pursued them towards the Russian frontiers. Many partial actions took place, and on the 17th of August, the Moscovites sustained a severe defeat at Smolensko, which city they set on fire before it was entered by the French. A second battle was fought at Viasma; but that at Borodino, on the 7th of September, was most decisive in favour of the French; when the Russians, having been completely routed, left open the road to Moscow, into which city Buonaparte entered on the 14th; Rostophin, the Russian Governor, having taken the dreadful resolution to have it set on fire in various quarters, previous to the entry of the French army. He accomplished his purpose by means of criminals, whom he employed under the promise of having their lives saved. It is said, that 30,000 Russians were burnt in this city, whose wounds rendered them incapable of escaping from this terrible conflagration. Half the city was destroyed before Napoleon and his troops entered, and the work of ruin was nearly completed before a stop could be put to the flames. Napoleon ordered the execution of all those that were detected in spreading and increasing the fire. This city being mostly built of wood, nothing could equal the dreadful ravages which the flames committed.
Calculating too confidently upon the character of the Emperor Alexander alone, which he knew well to be timid and indecisive, and anticipating that the moment he approached his capital, the Russian sovereign would sue for peace, in which case the French troops might take up their winter quarters in Moscow with perfect safety, Napoleon had pushed on to Moscow so late as the 14th of September, the time when a Russian winter was already approaching. In thus calculating upon the fears of his enemy, Napoleon was perfectly correct, and it was well known that Alexander would come himself, with open arms, as he had before done, to ask for terms of peace from Napoleon, the moment after the decisive battle of Brorodino, if he had not been prevented by his nobles. It was by his not taking the nobles into the account that the French Emperor failed in his calculations. It is confidently said, and I can readily believe the fact, that Alexander was threatened with sharing a similar fate to that which was inflicted upon his Father Paul, if he offered to make any terms with Napoleon; these nobles having determined to burn riot only Moscow, but, if necessary, Petersburgh itself, and three-fourths of the inhabitants, in order to harass and destroy the French army by the frost, as they well knew that they could not conquer it by arms.
I will now leave Napoleon amidst the ruins of Moscow, and return to what was passing in the southern parts of Europe; and if I dwell a considerable time on the events of this year, my readers must recollect that it was the most interesting period in the history of the world, and that more important events occurred in this year than in any other that I have recorded.
In England, the manufacturing population began to suffer the greatest distresses, and consequently rioting and Ludditism were the order of the day. Great and destructive riots occurred at Macclesfield, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, and various towns in the North: the people were ignorant of the cause of their distresses, and they wreaked their vengeance upon the knitting frames, machinery in general, and destroyed the property of their employers. These excesses they were, no doubt, led to in consequence of the delusions and deception practised upon them by the venal hirelings of the public press, under the influence and controul of the Government. Every particle of the real liberty of the press was nearly destroyed; almost every liberal writer in the kingdom had been prosecuted by the ex-officio informations of the vindictive and remorseless tyrant, Sir Vicary Gibbs, the Attorney-General, encouraged by the equally cruel and remorseless Chancellor of the Exchequer, Spencer Perceval. Mr. Cobbett, Messrs. Hunts, of the Examiner, Mr. Drakard, of the Stamford News, Mr. Peter Finnerty, and other literary characters, were incarcerated in the dungeons of the borough-mongers. Under this system eight persons were executed at Manchester for rioting, and many others suffered death in various parts of the country.
While Napoleon in person had been successful in every battle that he fought, and had penetrated even to the Russian capital, his Generals in the south had been much less successful, probably in consequence of the main energies of the empire being directed to the great object of subduing the powerful Autocrat. The French armies in Spain sustained several signal defeats. Ballasteros defeated the French, and the grand combined army, under Wellington, stormed Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajos. This army also took Salamanca on the 16th of June. On the 1st of July it was ascertained that the number of prisoners of war in England was 54,517. Another battle was fought at Salamanca, on the 23d of July, when the French were again defeated by Wellington's army. On the 11th of August, Lord Wellington entered Madrid, and on the following day the French evacuated Bilboa. On the 19th of August, Soult abandoned the siege of Cadiz, and on the 27th Seville was taken by the combined army of English and Spaniards. It is necessary to record the fact, that during the whole of the war in Spain, whenever the French obtained possession of a place, the inquisition was abolished; whenever the English got possession, the inquisition was restored with all its terrors, until at length the Cortes formally caused it to be abolished, in the latter end of June, in this year. While these things were going on abroad, an event occurred at home that caused a great political sensation throughout the whole kingdom. On the 11th of May, Mr. Spencer Perceval, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons, by Mr. John Bellingham. It is an extraordinary coincidence, that Mr. Perceval should thus come by his death, at the threshold of the House of Commons, on the anniversary of the ever-memorable day on which Mr. Maddocks made his motion, in the House of Commons, charging him and Lord Castlereagh with having been concerned in trafficking for the seat of Mr. Quintin Dick, in Parliament, into the grounds of which motion the Honourable House refused to inquire. Bellingham never attempted to make his escape, which he might easily have done in the confusion which the event created. After the consternation had a little subsided, some one present, who had been brought out of the House by the report of the pistol, inquired who was the murderer? Bellingham replied, "I am the man that killed Mr. Perceval;" upon which he was seized and searched, and another pistol loaded was found in his pocket. He was then taken into the House of Commons, and being examined, he admitted the fact, adding, "I have been denied the redress of my grievances by Government; I have been ill-treated, I sought redress in vain, and I feel sufficient justification for what I have done." The fact was, that Mr. Bellingham was a merchant of Liverpool, and had, while in Russia, been wrongfully accused and thrown into prison by the Governor-General. He applied to the English Consul, Lord Leveson Gower, for redress, but his application was fruitless. He had suffered great pecuniary losses in consequence, and when he returned to England, he laid his case before the Government, who at first treated his application with neglect, and ultimately refused to grant him any redress, or to inquire into the cause of his complaint. He was then induced to draw up a petition to be presented to Parliament; but he was informed, that it was necessary to obtain the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before his petition could be received, as it prayed for pecuniary remuneration. He applied in vain; and, in his own words upon his trial, "he was bandied about from one Minister to another," till he became desperate. He then wrote a letter to the Magistrates at Bow-street, to inform them, that unless his case was inquired into, "he should feel justified in executing justice himself." "Justice, and justice only," said he, "was my object, which Government had uniformly denied me, and the distress it reduced me to, drove me to despair. In consequence, and purely for the purpose of having this affair legally investigated, I gave notice at the Public-Office, at Bow-street, requesting the Magistrates to acquaint his Majesty's Ministers, that, if they persisted in refusing justice, or even to permit me to bring my just petition into Parliament for redress, I should be under the imperious necessity of executing justice myself? At length I was told, by a Mr. Hill, at the Treasury, that he thought it would be useless for me to make further application to the Government, and that I was at full liberty to take what measures I thought proper for redress. Mr. Beckett, the Under Secretary of State, confirmed the same, adding, that Mr. Percecal had been consulted, and could not allow my petition to come forward. Thus a direct refusal of justice, with a carte blanche to act in whatever manner I thought proper, were the sole causes of the fatal catastrophe; and they have now to reflect upon their own impure conduct for what has happened." Mr. Bellingham was found guilty and sentenced to death, and was executed in the front of Newgate, on the Monday following. Previously to his being taken upon the scaffold, one of the Sheriffs put some very impertinent and unfeeling questions to him, which he answered with great coolness and dignity. In fact, from the time of his committing the deed, he conducted himself with the greatest calmness and courage; he made a most eloquent defence, always acknowledged the fact, but vindicated it to the very last moment of his existence. No man was treated with greater neglect, no one endeavoured more to gain a hearing and a fair inquiry into his case; but, alas! justice was denied him; and injustice will drive the soundest mind to acts of desperation. His answer to a most unfeeling and impertinent question of one of the Sheriffs was,—"I bore no resentment to Mr. Perceval as a man—and as a man I am sorry for his fate. I was referred from Minister to Minister, from office to office, and at length refused all redress for my grievances. It was my own sufferings that caused the melancholy event; and I hope it will be a warning to future Ministers to attend to the applications and prayers of those who suffer from oppression. Had my petition been brought into Parliament, this catastrophe would not have happened." SHERIFF—"I hope you feel deep contrition for the deed?" Upon which the prisoner drew up, and said, with a severe firmness, "I hope, Sir, I feel as a man ought to feel." After the cap had been drawn over his face, at the moment when he was going out of the world, his ears were saluted with "God bless you! God Almighty bless you!" issuing from the lips of thousands. He met his fate with the greatest fortitude and resignation, and left the world apparently with an unchangeable impression that he had only committed an imperious act of necessity, an act of justice. I am one of those who will never assent to the justice of taking away the life of man in cold blood, upon any other principle than that of law, and laws made, too, by universal consent. A man put to death in cold blood, deliberately executed, in pursuance of any law that is not made by common consent, that is, by the assent of the whole community, I shall always hold to be murdered; this consideration alone is quite sufficient to justify the demand for universal suffrage. If the laws had been made by persons chosen by the whole people, Mr. Perceval would not have been shot; it was the want of an honest House of Commons that made Mr. Perceval a tyrant; it was the protection that he was sure of receiving, from a corrupt majority of a corrupt and packed House of Commons, that induced him to persevere in denying justice to Mr. Bellingham; and if ever a man received the reward of his own injustice, it was Mr. Perceval. I repeat, that I by no means defend assassination; but in examining an act we must be careful to inquire whether some palliation of it may not be found in the motive by which it is prompted. This was an extreme case; Bellingham had been grievously oppressed, he could not obtain justice from the Government; he could not even make his case known in any way except by means of a petition to Parliament; and, as he had asked for remuneration for his losses, his petition could not, according to a rule of the House, be presented without the consent of the Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the end of eighteen months of hope and fear and agony, Mr. Bellingham found that the consent of Mr. Perceval was positively refused; he was driven to despair, and he shot him. It may not be amiss to say a few words here respecting Mr. Perceval. He had become, most unexpectedly, Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was a lawyer, and had been hired as the advocate of the Princess of Wales. During the "delicate investigation," he had not only made himself master of all her secrets, but, it is said, had also obtained the knowledge of all the private history of the Royal Family, particularly of the Prince of Wales. When the "delicate investigation" was closed, and the Commissioners had acquitted the Princess of all the charges brought against her, the Morning Post announced that two gentlemen of the Bar had been employed by the Princess, to draw up a report of the matter, which would speedily be published. The fact is, that Mr. Perceval did print this book, but he suppressed it, and became Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Lord of the Treasury. If he did not betray his mistress, the Princess of Wales, which is doubtful, there can be no doubt that he at least deserted her for place and power. All his family and political connections, of course, lamented his death; but it cannot be disguised that the people were far differently affected by it, and, in many parts of the kingdom, they openly testified their feeling by acts of public rejoicing. There was a woeful howling set up by the writers of the Ministerial press, about the great loss of Mr. Perceval, on account of his being such an excellent husband. According to the statement of these hirelings, there was not such another husband in the kingdom; and a very large pension was in consequence settled upon his wife; it being urged in the House of Commons, that, as the loss sustained by Mrs. Perceval was not only irreparable, but beyond all precedent, that loss ought to be made up to her in the magnitude of her pension—-an argument worthy of the sound sense and honourable principles of those by whom it was urged. The best answer, however, to these hypocritical pleadings, was given by Mrs. Perceval herself; for, in a very few months after the decease of that best of all possible husbands, that nonpareil of married males; yes, in a few short months after her irreparable loss, his disconsolate widow concealed herself in the arms of another and a younger husband!
I had not long returned from Bristol before I repaired to London, and formally presented a petition to the House of Commons, against the return of Richard Hart Davis, Esq., as Member for Bristol. The petition charged him with bribery, intimidation, and the introduction of a military force during the election, contrary to the statute law of the land. I also entered into the proper recognizances, and gave security for trying the merits of the election, before a committee of the House of Commons.
In the mean time Mr. Cobbett published a second letter, as follows:— TO THE INDEPENDENT ELECTORS OF BRISTOL.
Gentlemen,—If I have not to congratulate you upon the return of Mr. Hunt as your representative, I may well congratulate you upon the spirit which you have shown during the election, and upon the prospect of final success from the exertion of a similar spirit. That another contest will take place in a few months, there can be no doubt; for, the law allows of no exceptions with regard to the use of soldiers. The ancient common law of England forbade not only the use, but the very show of force of any kind, at elections; and, the Act of Parliament, made in the reign of King George the Second, is quite positive as to a case like yours. That Act, after stating the principle of the Common Law as to soldiers in an election town, says, that, when an election is about to take place in any city or borough, wherein there are any soldiers stationed or quartered, the soldiers shall be removed out of the said city or borough; that they shall go out one day, at least, before the poll begins; that they shall not return till one day, at least, after the poll has closed; that the distance to which they shall be removed, shall be two miles at least. There are a few exceptions, such as Westminster or any other place where the Royal Family may be, who are to have their guards about them whether there be an election going on or not; and also, in case of fortified towns, where, though there be an election going on, soldiers are to remain in sufficient number to take care of the works.
Now, then, as Bristol is neither a place of residence of the Royal Family, nor a fortified town, it is clear, that, if soldiers have been suffered to remain in, or to return to, your city within the periods above described, the election must be void; or, there is, at once, an end to the abovementioned Act of Parliament, and also to the ancient common law of England in this respect, and the very show of freedom of election is gone. It has not only been stated to me from the best authority; but, it has been stated in print by your well-known enemies, that soldiers were not only brought within the precincts of your city, during the time that the poll was open, but that they actually were stationed, with bayonets fixed, in the very Guildhall; and, in short, after the first or second day of the election, the city was, under the control of military armed men.
This being the case, there can be no doubt of the election being declared void; or, if it be not, there will, at any rate, be no disguise; it will become openly declared, that soldiers, under the command of men appointed by the King, and removeable at his sole will, can be, at any time, brought into a place where an election is going on, and can be stationed in the very building where the poll is taken. Whether, amongst the other strange things of our day, we are doomed to witness this, is more than I can say; but, at the least, it will be something decisive; something that will speak a plain language; something that will tend to fashion men's minds to what is to come. But, I have heard it asked: "would you, then, in no case, have soldiers called in during an election? Would you rather see a city burnt down?" Aye would I, and to the very ground; and, rather than belong to a city where soldiers were to be brought in to assist at elections, I would expire myself in the midst of the flames, or, at least, it would be my duty so to do, though I might fail in the courage to perform it. But, why should a city be burnt down, unless protected by soldiers? Why suppose any such case? Really, to hear some men talk now-a-days, one would be almost tempted to think that they look upon soldiers as necessary to our very existence; or, at the least, that they are necessary to keep us in order, and that the people of England, so famed for their good sense, for their public spirit, and their obedience to the laws, are now a set of brutes, to be governed only by force. If there are men who think thus of the people of England, let them speak out; and then we shall know them. But, Gentlemen, it is curious enough, that the very persons, who, upon all occasions, are speaking of the people of England as being so happy, so contented, so much attached to their government, are the persons who represent soldiers as absolutely necessary to keep this same people in order!
To hear these men talk, one would suppose, that soldiers, as the means of keeping the peace, had always made a part of our government; and, that, as to elections, there always may have been cases when the calling in of soldiers was necessary. But, the fact is, that soldiers were wholly unknown to the ancient law of England; and, that, as to an army, there never was any thing of an army established in England till within a hundred years. How was the peace kept then? How were riots suppressed in those times? We do not hear of any cities having been burnt at elections in those days. I will not cite the example of America, where there are elections going on every year, and where every man who pays a sixpence tax has a vote, and yet where there is not a single soldier in the space of hundreds and thousands of miles; I will not ask how the peace is kept in that country; I will not send our opponents across the Atlantic; I will confine myself to England; and, again I ask, how the peace was kept in the times when there were no soldiers in England? I put this questien to the friends of Corruption; I put this question to Mr. Mills, of the Bristol Gazette, whose paper applauds the act of introducing the troops, This is my question: how was the peace kept at elections, how were towns and cities preserved, how was the city of Bristol saved from destruction, in those days when there were no soldiers in England? I put this question to the apostles of tyranny and despotic sway; and, Gentlemen, we may wait long enough, I believe, before they will venture upon an answer.
I have heard it asked: "What! would you, then, make an election void, because soldiers were introduced, though one of the candidates would have been killed, perhaps, without the protection of the bayonet? Would you thus set an election aside, when it might be evident, that, without the aid of soldiers, the man who has been elected, would not, and could not, have been elected, on account of the violence exercised against him? If that be the case, there is nothing to do but to excite great popular violence against a man; for, that being done, you either drive him and his supporters from the polling place, or, if he call in soldiers, you make his election void." This has a little plausibility in it; but, as you will see, it will not stand the test of examination. Here is a talk about exciting of violent proceedings; here is a talk about burning the city: but, who, Gentlemen, were to be guilty of these violent proceedings? who were to burn the city? Not the horses or dogs of Bristol; not any banditti from a foreign land; not any pirates who had chanced to land upon the coast. No, no; but "the rabble, the mob;" and what were they? Were they a species of monsters, unknown to our ancient laws and to the Act of George the Second? Or were they men and women? If the latter, they were, in fact, people of Bristol; and, the truth is, that if the people of Bristol abhorred a man to such a degree that it was unsafe for him or his advocates to appear on the hustings, or in the streets; if this was the case, it was improper that that man should be elected, since it must be clear, that, if elected, he must owe his election to undue, if not corrupt, influence. What! and do the advocates of corruption suppose, that our law-makers had not this in their view? Is it to be imagined, that they did not foresee, and, indeed, that they had not frequently seen, that elections produced fierce and bloody battles? They knew it well, and so did the legislators in America; but, still they allowed of no use of soldiers. They reasoned thus, or, at least, thus they would have reasoned, if any one had talked to them of soldiers: 'No; we will have no soldiers. The magistrate has full power to keep the peace at all times, not excepting times of election, when assaults and slanders are no more permitted by law than at any other time. The magistrate has all the constables and other inferior peace officers at his command: he can, if he find it necessary, add to the number of these at his pleasure; and, if the emergency be such as not to allow time for this, he can, by his sole authority, and by virtue of his commission, which is at all times effective, call upon the whole of the people to aid and assist him in the execution of his duty, and for refusing to do which any man is liable to punishment. Having endued the magistrate with these powers; having given him a chosen band of sworn officers, armed with staves; having given him unlimited power to add to that band; having given him, in case of emergency, the power of commanding every man, of whatever age or degree, to aid and assist him in the execution of his duty; having thus armed the magistrate, how can we suppose him to stand in need of the aid of soldiers, without first supposing the country in a state of rebellion, in which case it is nonsense to talk about elections. To tell us about the popular prejudices excited against a candidate, is to tell us of an insufficient cause even for the calling out of the posse; but, if this prejudice be so very strong, so very general, and so deeply rooted, that the magistrate, with all his ordinary and special constables, and his power to call upon the whole of the people to aid and assist, is unable to protect him from violence, or, is unable to preserve the city against the rage excited by his presence and pretensions; if there be a prejudice like this against a candidate, we are sure that it would be an insult to the common sense of mankind to call such a man, if elected, the representative of that city; and, therefore, we will make no new law for favouring the election of such a man.' Such, Gentlemen, would have been the reasoning of our ancestors, such would have been the reasoning of the legislators of America, if they had been called upon to make a law for the introduction of soldiers at an election; which, let the circumstances of the case be what they may, and let the sophistry of the advocates of corruption be what it may, is, after all, neither more nor less than the forcing of the people to suffer one candidate to be elected and another to be set aside. The soldiers do, in fact, decide the contest, and cause the return of the sitting member; unless it be acknowledged, that his election could have been effected without them; and, then, where is the justification for calling them in? I have heard of nobody who has attempted to anticipate any other decision than that of a void election; and, indeed, who will dare to anticipate any other? For, if the return be allowed to stand good in favour of Hart Davis, does any man pretend that there can ever exist a case in which soldiers may not be brought in? They are brought in under the pretence of quelling a riot; under the pretence of their being necessary to preserve the peace, and where is the place where this pretence may not be hatched? It is in any body's power to make a row and a fight during an election at Westminster, for instance; and, of course, according to the Bristol doctrine, it is in any body's power to give the magistrate cause for calling in soldiers, and for posting them even upon the very hustings of Covent Garden. In short, if Hart Davis, his return being petitioned against, be allowed to sit, we can never again expect to see a candidate of that description unsupported by soldiers; and, then, I repeat it, the very show, the mere semblance, of freedom of election will not exist.
It being, for these reasons, my opinion, that the return of Hart Davis will be set aside, and, of course, that another election for your city is at no great distance, I shall now take the liberty to offer you my advice as to the measures which you then ought to pursue; first adding to what I said in my last a few observations relative to Mr. Hunt.
At the close of my last letter I observed to you, that it was owing to this gentleman, and to him alone, that you had an election. You now know this well, You have now seen what it is to have at your head a man of principle and courage. With all the purses of almost all those in Bristol who have grown rich out of the taxes; with all the influence of all the corrupt; with all the Bristol newspapers and almost all the London newspapers; with all the Corporation of the City; with all the bigoted Clergy and all their next a-kin, the pettifogging Attorneys; with all the bigots, and all the hypocrites, and all alarmist fools; with all these against him, and with hundreds of bludgeon-men to boot; opposed to all this, and to thirty or forty hired barristers and attorneys, Mr. Hunt stood the poll for the thirteen days, in the face of horse and foot soldiers, and that, too, without the aid of advocate or attorney, and with no other assistance than what was rendered him by one single friend, who, at my suggestion, went down to him on the sixth or seventh day of the election. Gentlemen, this is, as I verily believe, what no other man in England, whom I know, would have done. There may be others capable of the same exertions; and, let us hope, that England does contain some other men able to undergo what he underwent; but, it falls to the lot of no country to produce many such men. At any rate, he has proved himself to be the man for you; he has done for you what none of the milk-sop, miawling orators at Sir Samuel Romilly's meetings would have dared even to think of. They talk of freeing the city from the trammels of corruption; they talk of giving you freedom of election; they talk of making a stand for your rights. What stand have they made? What have you had from them but talk? They saw the enemy within your walls; they saw him offer himself for the choice of the people of Bristol; they saw preparations making for chairing him as your representative on the first day of the election; and what did they do to rescue you from the disgrace of seeing him triumph over you, while you were silent? Nothing. They did, in fact, sell you to him upon the implied condition, that he, as far as he was able, should sell his followers to them when the time came. You have been saved from that disgrace; you have had 14 days of your lives wherein to tell your enemies and the enemies of your country your minds; you have had 14 days, during which corruption trembled under your bitter but just reproaches; you have had 14 days of political instruction and inquiry; you have had those who affect to listen to your voice 14 days before you, and in the hearing of that voice; there have been, in your city, 14 days of terror to the guilty part of it. This is a great deal, and for this you are indebted to Mr. Hunt and to him alone. Your own public virtues, your zeal, activity and courage, and your hatred of your country's enemies did, indeed, enable Mr. Hunt to make the stand; but, still there wanted such a man as Mr. Hunt; without such a man the stand could not have been made; without such a man you could not have had an opportunity of giving utterance to the hatred which you so justly feel against the supporters of that corruption, the consequences of which you so sorely feel.