Puslapio vaizdai

state of relationship between class and class, which is at this day the worst evil in our social life-the repulsion of the classes of society from each other at all points except one, so as to leave them touching at the single point of pecuniary interest. And thus the cementing principle of society is declared to be the spirit of selfishnessthe only spirit which is essentially destructive. A fatal blunder!

When it is reckoned the duty of one class to give money, and the duty of another to suspect motives, the cordial sympathy of classes which really depend on another, cannot long continue. Not by mutual independence, but by mutual and trustful dependence, can men live together and society exist. As might have been expected, contributions fell off, and the more active and turbulent, unbalanced by a salutary check, became leaders in the Society.

An attempt was made by a numerous minority to introduce into the library works of skeptical and socialist principles. The secretary resisted the attempt. A general meeting of the members was dissolved without coming to a decision. In this emergency the following Address was made, with the intention of meeting that attempt, if possible, by a candid and pacific examination of the principles of the question.

An Address delivered to the Members of the Working Man's Institute, at the Town Hall, Brighton, on Thursday, April 18, 1850, on the Question of the Introduction of Skeptical Publications into their Library.


Two years have passed since I addressed you in this place. On that occasion I was here by your invitation; on the present, you are here by mine. I have to explain the unprecedented step of summoning you to meet me here this evening. My account of it is this: I am personally compromised before the public by your proceedings. Unexpectedly on my part, you honoured me with a request that I would deliver the opening address to your society. It was at a period when events which had recently taken place upon the Continent, caused every large movement to be looked upon with suspicious eyes; yet I did not think it right to hesitate for one moment in complying with your request. Such influence

as my name could command, I gladly gave you. I have not the vanity to say that that influence was great, or that my name had weight with many: but it did weigh with some; and support was given you by them in reliance upon my representations. To them, and to the public generally, I stand pledged for the character of your society. For good or evil, my name is inseparably linked with yours. Your success is my success, and your failure is my shame. This is my claim to be heard, or rather the ground on which rests my duty to address you; and I ask your calm attention, not promising that every word I say will be acceptable to all; but I think I may promise, that not a word shall drop from me, which on mature reflection you will be able justly to call illiberal.

It may require, too, to be explained why this address is a public one, instead of being confined to the members of the Institute. Great publicity has been given to your late meetings by your own hand-bills, and by the press. I cannot disguise from you the fact, that much pain has been felt in Brighton in consequence of those proceedings. I cannot hide from you that much attention has been directed towards you, and that our meeting of this evening is looked to with great anxiety. I cannot conceal from you, that sym

[ocr errors]

pathy has been much chilled, that the cause of the education of the working classes has received a shock, and that the question of the desirableness of free institutions has become a matter with many of serious doubt. Therefore, as the scandal was public, I felt that the vindication must be public too. You asked me to stand by you at the hopeful beginning of your institution-I could not desert you in the moment of danger, and the hour of your unpopularity. I am here once more to say publicly, that whatever errors there may have been in the working out of the details, I remain unaltered in the conviction that the broad principle on which your society commenced, was a true one. I am here to identify myself in public again with you-to say that your cause is my cause, and your failure my failure. I am here to profess my unabated trust in the sound-heartedness and right feeling of the great majority of the working men of the Brighton Institute.

One more thing remains to be accounted for. You will ask me why this meeting differs in form so evidently from your usual meetings. The chairman is not your president, not your vicepresident, not even a member of your society. This is my reason. I am here to-night in a position quite peculiar; a position of peculiar delicacy,

difficulty, and independence. I am not the organ or spokesman of any party. I do not mix myself with any of the personalities of the question. I have taken counsel of no one of either party; nor, indeed, have I asked any one's advice upon the matter. I am anxious that neither the president, nor any section of the Institute, should be pledged to my views. I asked no one to share the responsibility of summoning this meeting, or that of its result. Let all the blame, if blame there be, rest on me. On my single responsibility, all is done. To make this evident to the public, with the entire and friendly concurrence of your president, Mr. Ricardo, I asked one to preside over us to-night, whose firmness, impartiality, and uprightness, are so well known to his fellow townsmen, as to determine beforehand what the tone and character of this meeting are to be. This is not a lecture, but an address.

It is painful to be obliged to say any thing of self; yet, for several reasons, I feel compelled to say a few words respecting the spirit in which I desire to address you.

I do not pretend to dictate, nor shall I assume the tone of insulting condescension. I know that many whom I address to-night, have minds of a strength and hardness originally greater than mine, though my advantages of education may

« AnkstesnisTęsti »