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things as they are, which I had not before suspected in its full extent. And people go on saying, 'Peace, peace, when there is no peace!'
The address was delivered and created a great sensation amongst all classes. It was marked by extraordinary oratorical power, and evinced a faculty for addressing a popular assembly greater even than had been expected.
The original plan of the Working Man's Institute failed: doubtless because it was based on a selfish policy of class isolation, rather than on the broad principle of union one with another. Some of the elements of its weakness may be traced in the second address which Mr. Robertson delivered to the members of this body. The result of that address was a determination by the majority to construct an association on wiser principles, and during the progress of this work, the success of which was very much owing to the zeal and energy of the Secretary and the Committee, Mr. Robertson was ever ready with wise counsel and efficient help. His heart was deeply with the workingmen, and plans and efforts for their elevation occupied much of his thought. The following extracts from letters written at this period will show that he gave them no half-hearted or formal assistance.
"I will pledge myself, if your society is formed, and contains in it the elements of vitality, to give either an opening address, or a lecture before the close of this year.
"But it seems to me a matter of great importance that public attention should not be ostentatiously called again so soon to your efforts at self-restoration, so long as they are only efforts. If the Institute is needed, really craved and earnestly desired by the working men, they will enrol themselves in sufficient numbers to ensure its existence without the excitement of an address. If they would not without this, then I am sure that to attempt to secure their adhesion by such means would be very dangerous.
"On the former occasion nearly 700, in a fit of transient enthusiasm, joined themselves, I believe, and (out of about 1,300) withdrew directly after. If artificial means are necessary to preserve its existence, then the society will soon die a natural death; and we should be again covered with the shame of an abortive attempt. The cause of the working men cannot afford this. Better fail silently than make another public confession of incapacity.
"Now an address at present would draw the attention of the town. It would perhaps induce waverers to join, as all public excitement does; and it might secure immediate ready money. But these are trifles compared with the risk of the withdrawal of many soon after. And suppose that enough to support the society did not join?
"Let me propose therefore: Begin your society as soon and as quietly as possible; that is, as quietly as is consistent with that publicity which is necessary to acquaint
the working men with the fact of a new association being in process of formation. If sufficient members do not present themselves, then the thing quietly dies away till a better opportunity; and be sure that no artificial excitement could have given it permanence, though it might have caused a premature abortive birth.
"After some months, if the association lives with internal strength, then we may try external aids. I, for my part, pledge myself as I have said. But the great lesson for us all in these days of puffing advertisements, is to learn to work silently and truly, and to leave self-advertisement and self-puffing to people who are on the verge of bankruptcy."
The Committee were anxious that Mr. Robertson should be the President of the New Association, and in answer to their application on this subject, he writes:
"In reply to your letter of this day, I may briefly say that the idea of my accepting the Presidentship of the Institute is quite out of the question. I do not consider myself competent for such an office, nor am I sure that it would be to the advantage of the society. * * * I believe I could assist the members more truly, at all events more independently, in a subordinate position. Prominence and power are things for which I have no taste.
"I am very anxious that there should be no second failure, but I think that the greatest wisdom and experience are needful to prevent it. * * The working men have shown that even a rightminded
majority is unable to protect itself against a turbulent minority, without the introduction of other elements of society to support them-to support, not dictate; for I should be very sorry to see a majority of gentlemen on the committee. But they want some, of weight and wisdom, to fall back upon. And, indeed, this is the only true democratic principle to my mind-not an oligarchy of the poorest; but a fusion of ranks, with such weight allowed, under checks, as is due to superior means of acquiring information.
"What grieves me to the heart is to see distrust in the minds of working men of those wealthier than themselves; and nothing is more mischievous or unChristian than to gain popularity with them by fostering these feelings, and insinuating that the clergy and the religious and the rich are their enemies, or only espouse their cause for an end.
"I must not accept any high office; I am their friend, but I want nothing from them—not even influence nor their praise. If I can do them even a little good, well; but for their sakes I must not take anything which could leave on one of their minds the shadow of a shade of a suspicion of my motives."
Some months after, very urgent representations were made to Mr. Robertson as to the benefit the struggling Institution would receive by his assistance in a Lecture, and he then wrote as follows to the Secretary:
"In reply to your communication of the 21st, which I only had last night after an absence from Brighton, I beg to say that after much consideration, I have come
to the conclusion that it is my duty not to refuse the request made to me.
"I am very unfit at present for the excitement of addressing numbers; but knowing that the insufficiency will be pardoned, and feeling deep interest in the success of the working men, I shall not allow this to stand in the way.
"I was not aware that the name of the Institution was to be changed. Is not this virtually acknowledging that the former attempt was a failure, instead of the society being, as I believe it is, the old one purified by experience? Not knowing the reasons for the change, which perhaps are valid, at first sight I am inclined to regret it. There is much in names, especially when they are associated with recollections which can be appealed to, and when they adhere to a society through many shocks and changes. Besides, 'Working Man' is a noble title for any human being: a human being's right title. 'Mechanic' is a poor class title, like Agriculturist, Botanist, Sailor, &c., &c. Besides it is not true as a designation for your society: a schoolmaster is not a mechanic, nor a retail dealer of any kind, yet many such are in the society. Ought you not, like good soldiers in a great cause, to stand to your colours?"
That Society is now working admirably and efficiently under the name of the Brighton Mechanics' Institute, on principles which Mr. Robertson considered to be more in accordance with sound views of social and political economy. The "Two Lectures on the Influence of Poetry"