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THIS Volume consists of Lectures and Addresses delivered by the late Rev. Frederick W. Robertson before the members of the Working Man's Institute, or of the Athenæum at Brighton, to which have been added some Speeches delivered on occasions of public interest.
It may be fitting, by way of Preface to these Addresses, some of which have been published before in separate forms, to give a brief account of the circumstances attending their delivery. A few letters have been added as bearing directly on the subjects.
The first was the opening address of the Working Man's Institute at Brighton, in 1848. This Institution mainly owed its origin to the late Mr. Holtham, who, having always felt a warm interest in the progress of the working classes, elaborated, during a severe illness, a plan of a Literary Institute, which was to be governed entirely by the
working men. They were to owe no part of their management to the patronage or assistance of their richer neighbours, although they were willing that such should contribute to the funds of the Institution, and even become honorary members.
The Committee were very desirous that Mr. Robertson should open the Institute with an Address, and accordingly Mr. Holtham, the President, wrote to him on the subject. In reply he says:
"I do not think I am at all the man that should be selected. They should have some one of standing and influence in the town, and I am almost a stranger; and my taking so prominent a position might fairly be construed into assumption. Again, I am much afraid that my name might do them harm rather than good. They wish not to be identified at all with party politics and party religion; and I fear that in the minds of very many of the more influential inhabitants of the town, my name being made conspicuous, would be a suspicious circumstance. It is my conviction that an address from me would damage their cause. For though the Institution is intended to be self-supporting, yet there is no reason why it should wilfully throw away its chances of assistance from the richer classes, and I am quite sure that of these very many, whether reasonably or unreasonably, are prejudiced against me; and perhaps the professedly religious portion of society most strongly so. Now I do think this is a point for very serious consideration, and I think it ought to be distinctly suggested to the Committee before I can be in a position to comply with or decline complying with their request.