Page images

fect of this sort with careless readers, who regard principally the juxtaposition of things, and conclude, that a murder being found in the company of documents relating to the Radical schemes, it must have had something to do with those schemes. The evidence relating to Cheshire, however, is worthy of notice from two circumstances. The first of these is the change admitted to have taken place after the 16th of August. The Foreman of the Grand Jury transmits to the Secretary of State, together with public Resolutions of that body, a statement (dated 3d September), which he terms. a private communication ' (p. 30) from them; and the principal information contained in it is, that within the last fourteen days, the danger, from ac* tive measures of terror and intimidation employed, had assum' ed a more formidable character.' The other particular deserving of attention, is the statement respecting attempts made to poison the minds of the rising generation, by inculcating pernicious principles at the schools. We believe no one of the assertions so rashly hazarded in the course of these discussions, produced, and very naturally, half as much alarm and even hórror as this; and the history of the tale affords so remarkable a specimen of the progress of all such reports from nothing to maturity, that we must be excused if we trace it minutely.

Its origin, at least the earliest mention of it, is to be found in a Resolution passed at the Cheshire Quarter-sessions, Au. gust 9th, in the very heat of the alarm, which had indeed then attained its height. A month before, the same Magistrates had passed a resolution, expressing their abhorrence of the attempts made to disturb the peace of the county, and had incidentally made mention of blasphemous and seditious doctrines' as circulating among the ignorant and unwary. But the latter resolution makes a far more definite charge. Resolved, That it is • the opinion of this Court, that meetings are held in this and

the neighbouring counties, for the purpose of training to arms

and seditious purposes; and also, that there are schools consisting of some thousands of young persons, in which principles

of a most dangerous tendency to the community at large are in"dustriously disseminated; which facts can be verified on oath. "And it is the decided opinion of this Court, that these meetings

and schools ought to be suppressed; and if the existing laws are o not sufficient for that purpose, that other laws should be im• mediately framed for their prevention.' (p. 23.) Now, under such circumstances, could any thing be more obvious than the duty of those Magistrates to pursue an instantaneous and rigorous inquiry into these alarming particulars ?-except perhaps the facility of performing satisfactorily so urgent a duty! The meet

ings to drill may have been secret; and spying out such plots might be attended with danger; but schools where some thousands of young persons' were taught, whatever the lessons were, never could in the nature of things be concealed: This must have been an operation carried on in the face of day; and the more dangerous' the principles thus inculcated, the more impossible was it to teach them in secrecy. Yet what do these active Magistrates ? They content themselves with saying, or rather with • Resolving,' that this most appalling fact can be verified on oath : ' But they call no witnesses to make oath; they give no particulars; they avoid the subject as soon as they broach it; and the Secretary of State directs no further investigation of the matter to be made. Yet the Papers are full of anonymous affidavits about training and arms, while any one of the Magistrates could, in half an hour, have satisfied himself openly as to the lessons taught at the schools. He had only to knock at the door:--If he was refused admittance, there was a case of

grave suspicion; and he had only to confirm it or remove it, by conversing with any of the children, if the teachers refused to communicate with him. If he was allowed access, he must either have seen what lessons were taught, or something must have been hastily put out of the way, and the lessons changed. We ask any reasonable man, what possibility is there of such things being concealed, when the whole plot, concealment and all, must be known to thousands of children'? Now, as the proof by witnesses of such facts as are here only generally alleged, would have been most essentially useful to the cause of the Alarmists who prepared these documents, we are entitled to conclude that no such proof could be procured; and that is only saying, in oiher words, that no such facts existed. But again, the resolution of August 9th says nothing whatever of blasphemy; it only mentions dangerous principles;' and there can be no doubt that the authors of it had political doctrines alone in their eye, otherwise they who, at their last meeting, had generally mentioned blasphemy,' would have been too happy to furnish so remarkable an instance of the pains taken to spread it.

After the 16th, when men's minds on both sides were ripe for believing any thing, we find another body, the Grand Jury, only four of whoin had been at the Quarter-sessions, declaring their disgust and horror at the odious and blasphemous publica

tions poured forth throughout the country, in which the Holy " Scriptures are held up to derision, reviled and scoffed at, and

audaciously denounced as false.' And they add, that they contemplate with the most serious and peculiar anxiety and - detestation, the unremitting exertions to poison the minds of

[ocr errors]

- the rising generation with the same horrid and detestable doctrines.' (p. 31.) Now, we believe no one who reads this will doubt for an instant, that the Grand Jury, without having any new evidence before them, merely intended, in this one resolution, to embody the two statements of the Magistrates at Sessions; the first mentioning the prevalence of blasphemous as well as seditious publications generally; the second, a month after, asserting that principles of a dangerous tendency (without an iota of blasphemy) were taught in the schools. Four of the Magistrates being on the Grand Jury, had communicated, from an indistinct recollection, the two statements; and thus, in the eager credulity of the moment to swallow any thing alarming, a new statement very different from either of the former was produced, charging the schools at once with teaching the most pernicious blasphemy. But this is not the end of the progress which the tale was fated to make. Both Magistrates and Grand Jury keep entirely to the safe generalities already mentioned. But Mr Plunket, whose Speech will be read by thousands who can never see the evidence, thinks fit, in the fervour of his eloquence, to say that blasphemies have been fashioned by mis& creants into Primers for the education of children--to inoculate,

with this pestilence, those helpless beings, while receiving the • first elements of knowledge !! Now, is there any one who reads this, without knowing the actual amount of the evidence by which it is supported, who would not imagine that it had been proved, that little bocks had actually been composed and printed, in which the elements of Atheism were set forth in short words and large characters, and infidelity accommodated to the most tender capacities, in the way of question and answer, or by short apologues and fables ?' And yet the only evidence on which this rhetorical statement has to rest, is that which has just been abstracted from the · Resolutions of the Justices and Grand Jury of Cheshire.

With regard to the state of the North of England, and of the county of Northumberland especially, we do not know if any one item in this strange tale of terror, and of the panic to which it gave rise, was half so operative, for the short time that it lasted, as the memorable statement of a Noble Lord who has the particular charge of that district, when he asserted, in his place in Parliament, that he had positive information that

100,000 men were actually in arms against the Government, « between the Wear and the Tyne.' This, it must be confessed, was a truly alarming communication : and the terror which it naturally excited was such as not to be immediately allayed by the consolatory reflection, that the whole population of the district alluded to could not possibly afford any thing like that

number of men of a military age. The correctness of the state. ment, indeed, is no longer defended in any quarter; and the ad. vocates of the noble person alluded to have been obliged to contend, that his words must have been mistaken; and that, in his statement, he could only have alluded to the strength of the supposed conspirators all over the country. That there must have been a mistake somewhere, we are very ready to allow;—and also, that, if it existed on the part of that illustrious person, it must have been an innocent and casual mistake. But it is matter of notoriety, that it was given as we have stated it, in all the newspapers of the day-and made the subject of many terrifying comments, for weeks together, in the Ministerial or Alarmist journals, by means of which it contributed mainly to increase the general alarm, and predisposed the public to sacrifice the safeguard of their liberties to their protection from dangers so great and so imminent. It is most important however to remark, that not only is there nothing whatever to warrant or account for such a statement, in the evidence laid before Parliament, but that the scanty documents with which we are there presented, as to the state of this part of the country, concur with the whole of the rest in proving, that the danger of actual violence was altogether chimerical.

There appears to have been a large meeting held on Newcastle Moor on the 11th of October ;-which is proved, from the letter of Lord Darlington, (p. 41), to have quietly dispersed.' On the 17th of that month, however, the worship ful Mayor of Newcastle, whose nerves appear to have been somewhat shaken by an alarming riot among the keelmen, that had occurred in the interim at Shields, and in which his person seems to have been in some hazard, writes to Lord Sidmouth, that it is impossible to contemplate the meeting of the 11th without awe-more especially, if my

information is correct, that 700 of them were prepared with arms (concealed) to resist the civil power. Those men came from a village about three miles from this town ; and there is strong reason to suspect that arms are manufactured there: they are chiefly forgemen. I have given my information to the Magistrates • of Durham, it being within their jurisdiction.' (p. 43.)

Now, this is the whole of the evidence as to the armaments and preparations for resistance in the counties of Northumberland and Durham. And it is worth while to make one or two observations upon it. In the first place, the particulars or the general nature of the Mayor's information, is nowhere given; there are no examinations or depositions transmitted-and not even an anonymous voucher produced for such extraordinary intelligence. In the second place, 700 men are said to have


If the o

come in arms from one village within three miles of Newcastle. We should like to know what village could have furnished such a contingent. If its whole population were Radicals, it must have contained at least 5 or 6000 inhabitants, to have sent out in one day such a number of men fit to bear arms. pinions of the people were at all divided, it must have contained 8 or 10,000. In the third place, those arms, the existence of which neither A. B. nor X. Y. can be brought to speak to, were confessedly concealed; and therefore could not be seen by any body, on the only occasion on which it is alleged that they were mustered ; it is certain they were neither used nor displayed at the meeting. In the last place, though the letter of the Mayor substantially expresses nothing more than suspicion, and bears that he had communicated all his informations to the Magistrates of Durham, there is neither any information from those Magistrates, nor any traces of the result of the inquiry which must have been instituted on that information-although it appears to have been given immediately after the 11th of October, and the Parliamentary Papers are brought down to the 18th or 20th of November. It is impossible, therefore, to doubt that the information turned out to be erroneous; and that the result of the inquiry was to ascertain, that the suspicions of the Mayor were groundless; and that neither arms, nor armed men, had gone forth from this Vulcanian village. There is some anonymous evidence as to a few pikes being made in Lancashire; and we do not mean to deny, that there is ground to believe that a small number of such implements were provided in that district, after the fatal transactions at Manchester. But the direct evidence, such as it is, does not prove

the existence of a dozen; and all the researches that have since been made, have not brought to light much more than that number. It is downright insanity to say, that the evidence before Parliament affords the slightest reason to believe, that there was any thing like a general arming going on amongst the disaffected, or any concert or preparation for a warlike insurrection.

A considerable portion of the Papers relates to Scotland, where there can be no doubt that the distress was in some districts the greatest, and where, as might naturally be expected, the discontent was the most marked, the more especially as these happened to be the most populous towns in the country, and contained a very considerable number of Irish labourers, who, when the bad times came, were of course turned out of employment, in order to retain the native workmen. The first Glasgow Meeting was held the 21st of August; and by the Provost's Report (p. 34.) o ended without any breach of the peace, or even disturbance.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »