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Summonses were issued against Ashton and others: yet he could not pay. The amount was now trebled by the necessary cost of justice. Ashton's goods were seized to pay the rate of three shillings, and expenses: and the poor old man was compelled to quit the bare walls of the home of his fathers, and reluctantly seek an asylum in the poor-house, where in a few weeks he died of a broken heart.
It may be said, this is an extreme case: what then? this is poor consolation to those who are the exceptions to the good rule. Be content, most miserable Pauper! few are so ill-used as thou art.
The reverend vicar demanded and received, eighteen pence for burying him-just half the amount of church-rate for which the pauper had been thus worried to death. My readers may like to know how this rate was applied. The items were much as follows:-£40 for the organist's yearly salary (Ashton was deaf): £20 for the pew-opener; and £10 for lining to the pews, cushions, &c. (Ashton always sate in the free seats): £15 for coals (which did not warm the gallery, and neither labourer nor tradesman was allowed to sit in the body of the church): £10 for bread and wine for the sacrament (whereat the poor man was always served last: the Lord's table is always laid first for the gentlefolk): with sundry other items as little to be complained of.
The Honourable Mr. Euston is now a Viscount with a pension of £5000 a year, his wife having been, with his consent, one of the king's mistresses. He has never done a real day's work in his life. His hardest work has been legislating-I mean picking the pockets of industrious folk and endeavouring to demoralize the people: the last I am sure is easy to him. Now I don't like to differ from the world, but this is what I should call a pauper: I may be wrong, for they say a pauper is one who lives on charity, and the noble Viscount lives by robbery. I am a rough plain man-some say I am as stiff and hard-hearted as one of my own steel pokers-yet I do wish for a somewhat better distribution of property, (to be made in a spirit of good-will, on the live-and-let-live system,) so as to prevent all kinds of pauperism, which must be very unpleasant (to say the least of it) even to a Viscount.
Law as it is.-Scarce any man has the means of knowing a twentieth part of the laws he is bound by. Both sorts of law are kept most happily and carefully from the knowledge of the people: statute law by its shape and bulk; common law by its very essence. It is the Judges that make the common law :-do you know how they make it? Just as a man makes laws for his dog. When your dog does anything you want to break him of, you wait till he does it, and then beat him for it. This is the way you make laws for your dog and this is the way the Judges make laws for you and me. They won't tell a man beforehand what it is he should not do, they won't so much as allow of his being told: they lie by till he has done something which they say he should not have done, and then they hang him for it. What way, then, has any man of coming at this dog-law? Only by watching their proceedings; by observing in what cases they have hanged a man, in what cases they have sent him to jail, in what cases they have seized his goods, and so forth. These proceedings they won't publish themselves; and if anybody else publishes them, it is what they call a contempt of court, and a man may be sent to jail for it.
-The finer sort of law they call equity, a distinction as unheard of out of England, as it is useless here to every purpose but that of delaying justice, and plundering those who sue for it.-Jeremy Bentham.
OUR POLITICAL CREED.
Universal suffrage: No property qualification: Freedom of opinion: Injustice of Oaths; Tithes and Church-rates; Corn-laws and Poor-laws: Necessity of sustained exertion; and Certainty of continual improve
WE assert the equal rights of humanity: we believe in the perfectibility of Man. We have sure faith in the beneficence of Truth and Justice, which, in their full and unconventional meaning, are but other names for the great benefactor, Love. We have no faith in Falsehood, or Injustice, or Immorality, even though apparent in the respectable guise of Expediency.
We assert the natural equality of mankind: the universal equality of natural need and merit. We see no essential dissimilarity, at the time of their birth, between the child of the beggar and the child of the monarch: let them be changed in their cradle; their after-conduct will never betray their origin. Therefore we see no reason why the one should inherit dominion, and the other be the doomed slave of poverty and shame. It is gross injustice on the part of the community-or of that power which is suffered by the community to dictate its conduct to deny to one member of the society those aids and advantages which are given to another. Is it my fault that I was born in poverty? Why then does society punish that which is no crime, with neglect and disadvantage?-Was it in consequence of any desert in me that I was the child of affluence? What title then have I to extraordinary care?-One man can have no right to infringe the rights of another; to compel the sacrifice of another's interest, for his own benefit: We denounce the injustice of that tyranny which deprives any of the right of their humanity— the right of an independent existence, of personal freedom, and power of conscientious action. Tell us not that we are free: We are not free! Is it an independent existence, when the Many are worn heart-bare with the longministering of their incessant toil to the selfishness and folly of the Few? Is there personal freedom, when a king may murder thousands and tens of thousands with impunity; when a priest may imprison a starving peasant, because the peasant is too poor to pay for the religious merchandize which he cannot use? Is there power of conscientious action, when sectarian forms, and conventional prejudices, and menaces of the Law, and fair-masked sophistries of interest, are all arrayed against the principled and pure-conscienced? -Ay, there is power-of dying in the truth. This is hardly enough. We would live, and yet be just.
We claim for every member of the community the right of freely thinking and freely stating his thoughts. We demand that neither merit nor demerit shall be attached to mere opinion; that men shall no longer be excluded from a participation in the management of their own affairs because they have not obtained property at the expense of their probity, or because they have been too weak to prevent the spoliation of their birthright.
We demand that men shall no more be compelled to forswear themselves before they shall be considered eligible to serve in the government of their country.
We are of opinion that man is not justified in dictating to God what homage he may receive, or in inflicting fines on those who even choose to worship the Universal Spirit without the intervention of a third party: nay, more, we denounce the blasphemous arrogance of those, who dare take upon themselves to punish the unbelieving or unworshipping, as if the Unknown needed them to be his purveyors or procurers.
We demand the overthrow of all monopolies: that the energies and talents of every individual shall be rendered to their utmost extent available for the general benefit of the community; and that the community shall impartially share the good thereby produced. More especially and immediately we require, that while the earth produces a sufficiency for all, none shall be destitute
of food. The mis-government of political and social errors deprives a certain portion of the community of the power of obtaining food by their own exertions; and society then punishes their misfortune with starvation, or grants them food, as a gift, on certain arbitrary conditions. In other words, one part of the community is allowed to rob the other part, of their share in the inheritance of the earth, and then to claim merit and gratitude for restoring to their victims a bare sufficiency to support muscular strength for the offices of their slavery. We seek, and we hold firm faith that we shall accomplish, the complete destruction of this slavery; and of all other oppression. We desire not to injure any: we would not even force from the Capitalist and Land-owner a restitution of their ill-gotten property;-ill-gotten, for is not all trade competition, which is over-reaching and fraud and selfishness; and were not the first proprietors of land the robber-chiefs of the old feudality, the violent appropriators of the common property?-We would not in anything imitate the tyranny that we condemn. By such means we will not take even our own. But we look with hope and confidence to the advent of that experience which shall convince all-ay, even the selfish monopolizer-that a fair division of the world's all-sufficient wealth, effected and continued in a spirit of love and sincerity-which is ever confident, which universal and impartial the reverse of sectarian-education shall secure, will more conduce to the happiness of the world's children, than the prolongation of the miserable dissensions that have disgraced our desolated home since the common heritage was wrongfully entailed upon certain favourites of the family.
It is in this spirit of brotherhood that we expostulate with the evil doers :we will not, in justice to our own hearts' truth we cannot, longer endure your injustice. For your own sakes, as well as our's, make restitution as far as possible. Let by-gones be by-gones. Let us forget the squabbles of our infancy, and, as brothers, unite in the great work of human advancement.
But, if the rulers of the world, the monopolizers of the earth's produce, will not hearken to reason, what, shall the slave and the destitute do? There is but one thing needful: UNITED EXERTION. To be free, we have but to will it. The power of ignorant opinion has enthroned and consecrated our oppressors: the mightier power of enlightened and reasonable opinion shall unmask the falsehood of their pretensions; and if they will not march onward in the ranks of the advancing multitude-let them stay behind! We can do without them. We cannot wait their pleasure.
Finally, we believe in the all-sufficing power of the unenfranchised-if united and earnest-to achieve their own redemption. We have too much faith in their good sense and the healthfulness of their feelings, either to doubt the uncompromising and steady continuance of their aspirations for knowledge and freedom and equal happiness, or to fear that they can abuse their power, as power has been abused by their "superiors." We have confidence in the necessary progression of knowledge; and we wait in the serenity of a far-looking hope for the abdication of all public government, prohibitory and protective; when edicts shall become null and void, and precaution useless; when the one great Commonwealth of Man shall live happily and securely, beneath the equal sway of the all-controlling and absolute Love.
Right of Individual Opinion.-It was at last permitted to proclaim aloud this long unacknowledged right, of submitting all opinions to our own reason, that is to say, of employing, for the attainment of truth, the only instrument that has been given us wherewith to discover it. Every man learnt, with a kind of pride, that nature had not absolutely destined him to believe on the word of another.- Condorcet.
REVELATIONS OF TRUTH.
WHEREFORE have ye such a multitude of laws? what end answer they save to entrap the unwary and innocent; to leave room for the guilty to escape? Were they few in number, clear, simple and intelligible, so that all might know and understand them; were they based on justice and for the good of all, the righteous would live fearlessly and evil could no longer evade correction. Such was the train of thought that passed through my mind, as I lay upon my couch in the first watch of the night and whilst I thus communed with myself sleep stole unperceived to my side; and leaning over me, his calm breath weighed down my eyelids; and my thoughts became confused; and the mantle of oblivion dropped from his shadowy hand upon my spell-bound
Nevertheless my soul slumbered not, neither was it wholly awake, but the scattered particles of thought blended and united together, unaided by the power of the will to order their arrangement.
And methought I stood upon the steps of a vast temple whose appearance bore testimony that it had been the work of many ages: every style of architecture had been employed in its erection; and while some parts were but newly built, others were fast crumbling to decay.
And I beheld crowds of every rank and condition in life hastening towards the temple; others were slowly returning: and discontent sate upon the brows of these last, and their garments of rich materials were much soiled and worn, and many were in very rags.
And entering, I beheld within the temple many altars; and on every one of them was inscribed the name of a country.
And fire was burning upon the altars; and from the flame thereof arose a dense and foul smoke, filling the edifice and dimming the light of day which burst through the crevices worn by the breath of Time: and this was the sole light that disclosed the mysteries of the temple.
And innumerable volumes lay scattered around the altars; and many were the priests that officiated; and as the followers of this strange religion approached to worship, and made their offerings of gold and silver, and some even of the raiment which they wore, the priest took a book as it were by chance from the heap that lay before him, and read a few words from it; and these words were oracles: and the worshippers bowed and went out: but few seemed satisfied.
And I demanded what this could mean and one of the priests answered me, These books are the laws of the nations: every man who imagineth that he hath aught to complain of cometh unto us and maketh known his grievance; and we decide his cause, and prescribe a remedy for his ills from these books.
Then I asked, Understand they that which ye read unto them? and as I spake a loud laugh resounded through the temple; and they replied, They need not do so; even we who have made these laws understand them not: If we find not that we want, it is but to wrest the sense of another, or to frame a new one at our will: Were they such that the people could understand them our craft would be no more; their interests indeed would be advanced, but our gains must cease.
And I said, Can this be justice?
At the utterance of that holy word the temple shook to its foundations; a whirlwind swept through the dome, and blew the fire of the altars upon the books that lay piled around them, which ignited and were consumed; and the altars were destroyed; and the priests were driven before the blast, I knew not whither.
And a throne arose in the midst of the temple; and upon the throne sate a beautiful woman of a severe yet holy countenance: the gaze of her haughty
eyes filled my heart with awe; but O the sweetness of that gentle smile!—my fear was converted to Love.
A crown of light encircled her head; a glory shone around her brows, illuming the temple which seemed to wear a new form.
And a trumpet sounded; and the voice of a herald proclaimed, Justice, the law-giver of the Nations!
O ye numberless,
Whom foul Oppression's ruffian gluttony
Drives from life's plenteous feast! O thou poor wretch,
Roamest for prey, yea thy unnatural hand
Dost lift to deeds of blood! O pale-eyed Form,
Cause of Social Evil.-Since the evils of society flow from Ignorance and Inordinate Desire, men will never cease to be tormented till they shall become intelligent and wise; till they shall practise the art of justice, founded on a knowledge of the various relations in which they stand, and the laws of their own organization.-Volney's Ruins.
Government. Some writers have so confounded Society with Government, as to leave little or no distinction between them: whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and Government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively, by uniting our affections; the latter negatively, by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.-Paine's Common Sense.
Jan. 12, 1839.