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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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to copyright, be the inconveniences of copyright what they may.
Those inconveniences, in truth, are neither few nor small.
Copyright is monopoly, and produces all the effects which the
general voice of mankind attributes to monopoly. My honourable
and learned friend talks very contemptuously of those who are led
away by the theory that monopoly makes things dear. That
monopoly makes things dear is certainly a theory, as all the
great truths which have been established by the experience of all
ages and nations, and which are taken for granted in all
reasonings, may be said to be theories. It is a theory in the
same sense in which it is a theory that day and night follow each
other, that lead is heavier than water, that bread nourishes,
that arsenic poisons, that alcohol intoxicates. If, as my
honourable and learned friend seems to think, the whole world is
in the wrong on this point, if the real effect of monopoly is to
make articles good and cheap, why does he stop short in his
career of change? Why does he limit the operation of so salutary
a principle to sixty years? Why does he consent to anything
short of a perpetuity? He told us that in consenting to anything
short of a perpetuity he was making a compromise between extreme
right and expediency. But if his opinion about monopoly be
correct, extreme right and expediency would coincide. Or rather,
why should we not restore the monopoly of the East India trade to
the East India Company? Why should we not revive all those old
monopolies which, in Elizabeth's reign, galled our fathers so
severely that, maddened by intolerable wrong, they opposed to
their sovereign a resistance before which her haughty spirit
quailed for the first and for the last time? Was it the
cheapness and excellence of commodities that then so violently
stirred the indignation of the English people? I believe, Sir,
that I may with safety take it for granted that the effect of
monopoly generally is to make articles scarce, to make them dear,
and to make them bad. And I may with equal safety challenge my
honourable friend to find out any distinction between copyright
and other privileges of the same kind; any reason why a monopoly
of books should produce an effect directly the reverse of that
which was produced by the East India Company's monopoly of tea,
or by Lord Essex's monopoly of sweet wines. Thus, then, stands
the case. It is good that authors should be remunerated; and the
least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly.
Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit
to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is
necessary for the purpose of securing the good.

Now, I will not affirm that the existing law is perfect, that it
exactly hits the point at which the monopoly ought to cease; but
this I confidently say, that the existing law is very much nearer
that point than the law proposed by my honourable and learned
friend. For consider this; the evil effects of the monopoly are
proportioned to the length of its duration. But the good effects
for the sake of which we bear with the evil effects are by no
means proportioned to the length of its duration. A monopoly of
sixty years produces twice as much evil as a monopoly of thirty
years, and thrice as much evil as a monopoly of twenty years.
But it is by no means the fact that a posthumous monopoly of
sixty years gives to an author thrice as much pleasure and thrice
as strong a motive as a posthumous monopoly of twenty years. On
the contrary, the difference is so small as to be hardly
perceptible. We all know how faintly we are affected by the
prospect of very distant advantages, even when they are
advantages which we may reasonably hope that we shall ourselves
enjoy. But an advantage that is to be enjoyed more than half a
century after we are dead, by somebody, we know not by whom,
perhaps by somebody unborn, by somebody utterly unconnected with
us, is really no motive at all to action. It is very probable
that in the course of some generations land in the unexplored and
unmapped heart of the Australasian continent will be very
valuable. But there is none of us who would lay down five pounds
for a whole province in the heart of the Australasian continent.
We know, that neither we, nor anybody for whom we care, will ever
receive a farthing of rent from such a province. And a man is
very little moved by the thought that in the year 2000 or 2100,
somebody who claims through him will employ more shepherds than
Prince Esterhazy, and will have the finest house and gallery of
pictures at Victoria or Sydney. Now, this is the sort of boon
which my honourable and learned friend holds out to authors.
Considered as a boon to them, it is a mere nullity, but
considered as an impost on the public, it is no nullity, but a
very serious and pernicious reality. I will take an example. Dr
Johnson died fifty-six years ago. If the law were what my
honourable and learned friend wishes to make it, somebody would
now have the monopoly of Dr Johnson's works. Who that somebody
would be it is impossible to say; but we may venture to guess. I
guess, then, that it would have been some bookseller, who was the
assign of another bookseller, who was the grandson of a third
bookseller, who had bought the copyright from Black Frank, the
doctor's servant and residuary legatee, in 1785 or 1786. Now,
would the knowledge that this copyright would exist in 1841 have
been a source of gratification to Johnson? Would it have
stimulated his exertions? Would it have once drawn him out of
his bed before noon? Would it have once cheered him under a fit
of the spleen? Would it have induced him to give us one more
allegory, one more life of a poet, one more imitation of Juvenal?
I firmly believe not. I firmly believe that a hundred years ago,
when he was writing our debates for the Gentleman's Magazine, he
would very much rather have had twopence to buy a plate of shin
of beef at a cook's shop underground. Considered as a reward to
him, the difference between a twenty years' and sixty years' term
of posthumous copyright would have been nothing or next to
nothing. But is the difference nothing to us? I can buy
Rasselas for sixpence; I might have had to give five shillings
for it. I can buy the Dictionary, the entire genuine Dictionary,
for two guineas, perhaps for less; I might have had to give five
or six guineas for it. Do I grudge this to a man like Dr
Johnson? Not at all. Show me that the prospect of this boon
roused him to any vigorous effort, or sustained his spirits under
depressing circumstances, and I am quite willing to pay the price
of such an object, heavy as that price is. But what I do
complain of is that my circumstances are to be worse, and
Johnson's none the better; that I am to give five pounds for what
to him was not worth a farthing.

The principle of copyright is this. It is a tax on readers for
the purpose of giving a bounty to writers. The tax is an
exceedingly bad one; it is a tax on one of the most innocent and
most salutary of human pleasures; and never let us forget, that a
tax on innocent pleasures is a premium on vicious pleasures. I
admit, however, the necessity of giving a bounty to genius and
learning. In order to give such a bounty, I willingly submit
even to this severe and burdensome tax. Nay, I am ready to
increase the tax, if it can be shown that by so doing I should
proportionally increase the bounty. My complaint is, that my
honourable and learned friend doubles, triples, quadruples, the
tax, and makes scarcely any perceptible addition to the bounty.
Why, Sir, what is the additional amount of taxation which would
have been levied on the public for Dr Johnson's works alone, if
my honourable and learned friend's bill had been the law of the
land? I have not data sufficient to form an opinion. But I am
confident that the taxation on his Dictionary alone would have
amounted to many thousands of pounds. In reckoning the whole
additional sum which the holders of his copyrights would have
taken out of the pockets of the public during the last half
century at twenty thousand pounds, I feel satisfied that I very
greatly underrate it. Now, I again say that I think it but fair
that we should pay twenty thousand pounds in consideration of
twenty thousand pounds' worth of pleasure and encouragement
received by Dr Johnson. But I think it very hard that we should
pay twenty thousand pounds for what he would not have valued at
five shillings.

My honourable and learned friend dwells on the claims of the
posterity of great writers. Undoubtedly, Sir, it would be very
pleasing to see a descendant of Shakespeare living in opulence on
the fruits of his great ancestor's genius. A house maintained in
splendour by such a patrimony would be a more interesting and
striking object than Blenheim is to us, or than Strathfieldsaye
will be to our children. But, unhappily, it is scarcely possible
that, under any system, such a thing can come to pass. My
honourable and learned friend does not propose that copyright
shall descend to the eldest son, or shall be bound up by
irrecoverable entail. It is to be merely personal property. It
is therefore highly improbable that it will descend during sixty
years or half that term from parent to child. The chance is that
more people than one will have an interest in it. They will in
all probability sell it and divide the proceeds. The price which
a bookseller will give for it will bear no proportion to the sum
which he will afterwards draw from the public, if his speculation
proves successful. He will give little, if anything, more for a
term of sixty years than for a term of thirty or five and twenty.
The present value of a distant advantage is always small; but
when there is great room to doubt whether a distant advantage
will be any advantage at all, the present value sink to almost
nothing. Such is the inconstancy of the public taste that no
sensible man will venture to pronounce, with confidence, what the
sale of any book published in our days will be in the years
between 1890 and 1900. The whole fashion of thinking and writing
has often undergone a change in a much shorter period than that
to which my honourable and learned friend would extend posthumous
copyright. What would have been considered the best literary
property in the earlier part of Charles the Second's reign? I
imagine Cowley's Poems. Overleap sixty years, and you are in the
generation of which Pope asked, "Who now reads Cowley?" What
works were ever expected with more impatience by the public than
those of Lord Bolingbroke, which appeared, I think, in 1754? In
1814, no bookseller would have thanked you for the copyright of
them all, if you had offered it to him for nothing. What would
Paternoster Row give now for the copyright of Hayley's Triumphs
of Temper, so much admired within the memory of many people still
living? I say, therefore, that, from the very nature of literary
property, it will almost always pass away from an author's
family; and I say, that the price given for it to the family will
bear a very small proportion to the tax which the purchaser, if
his speculation turns out well, will in the course of a long
series of years levy on the public.

If, Sir, I wished to find a strong and perfect illustration of
the effects which I anticipate from long copyright, I should
select,--my honourable and learned friend will be surprised,--I
should select the case of Milton's granddaughter. As often as
this bill has been under discussion, the fate of Milton's
granddaughter has been brought forward by the advocates of
monopoly. My honourable and learned friend has repeatedly told
the story with great eloquence and effect. He has dilated on the
sufferings, on the abject poverty, of this ill-fated woman, the
last of an illustrious race. He tells us that, in the extremity
of her distress, Garrick gave her a benefit, that Johnson wrote a
prologue, and that the public contributed some hundreds of
pounds. Was it fit, he asks, that she should receive, in this
eleemosynary form, a small portion of what was in truth a debt?
Why, he asks, instead of obtaining a pittance from charity, did
she not live in comfort and luxury on the proceeds of the sale of
her ancestor's works? But, Sir, will my honourable and learned
friend tell me that this event, which he has so often and so
pathetically described, was caused by the shortness of the term
of copyright? Why, at that time, the duration of copyright was
longer than even he, at present, proposes to make it. The
monopoly lasted, not sixty years, but for ever. At the time at
which Milton's granddaughter asked charity, Milton's works were
the exclusive property of a bookseller. Within a few months of
the day on which the benefit was given at Garrick's theatre, the
holder of the copyright of Paradise Lost,--I think it was
Tonson,--applied to the Court of Chancery for an injunction
against a bookseller who had published a cheap edition of the
great epic poem, and obtained the injunction. The representation
of Comus was, if I remember rightly, in 1750; the injunction in
1752. Here, then, is a perfect illustration of the effect of
long copyright. Milton's works are the property of a single
publisher. Everybody who wants them must buy them at Tonson's
shop, and at Tonson's price. Whoever attempts to undersell
Tonson is harassed with legal proceedings. Thousands who would
gladly possess a copy of Paradise Lost, must forego that great
enjoyment. And what, in the meantime, is the situation of the
only person for whom we can suppose that the author, protected at
such a cost to the public, was at all interested? She is reduced
to utter destitution. Milton's works are under a monopoly.
Milton's granddaughter is starving. The reader is pillaged; but
the writer's family is not enriched. Society is taxed doubly.
It has to give an exorbitant price for the poems; and it has at
the same time to give alms to the only surviving descendant of
the poet.

But this is not all. I think it right, Sir, to call the
attention of the House to an evil, which is perhaps more to be
apprehended when an author's copyright remains in the hands of
his family, than when it is transferred to booksellers. I
seriously fear that, if such a measure as this should be adopted,
many valuable works will be either totally suppressed or
grievously mutilated. I can prove that this danger is not
chimerical; and I am quite certain that, if the danger be real,
the safeguards which my honourable and learned friend has devised
are altogether nugatory. That the danger is not chimerical may
easily be shown. Most of us, I am sure, have known persons who,
very erroneously as I think, but from the best motives, would not
choose to reprint Fielding's novels, or Gibbon's History of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Some gentlemen may perhaps
be of opinion that it would be as well if Tom Jones and Gibbon's
History were never reprinted. I will not, then, dwell on these
or similar cases. I will take cases respecting which it is not
likely that there will be any difference of opinion here; cases,
too, in which the danger of which I now speak is not matter of
supposition, but matter of fact. Take Richardson's novels.
Whatever I may, on the present occasion, think of my honourable
and learned friend's judgment as a legislator, I must always
respect his judgment as a critic. He will, I am sure, say that
Richardson's novels are among the most valuable, among the most
original works in our language. No writings have done more to
raise the fame of English genius in foreign countries. No
writings are more deeply pathetic. No writings, those of
Shakspeare excepted, show more profound knowledge of the human
heart. As to their moral tendency, I can cite the most
respectable testimony. Dr Johnson describes Richardson as one
who had taught the passions to move at the command of virtue. My
dear and honoured friend, Mr Wilberforce, in his celebrated
religious treatise, when speaking of the unchristian tendency of
the fashionable novels of the eighteenth century, distinctly
excepts Richardson from the censure. Another excellent person,
whom I can never mention without respect and kindness, Mrs Hannah
More, often declared in conversation, and has declared in one of
her published poems, that she first learned from the writings of
Richardson those principles of piety by which her life was
guided. I may safely say that books celebrated as works of art
through the whole civilised world, and praised for their moral
tendency by Dr Johnson, by Mr Wilberforce, by Mrs Hannah More,
ought not to be suppressed. Sir, it is my firm belief, that if
the law had been what my honourable and learned friend proposes
to make it, they would have been suppressed. I remember
Richardson's grandson well; he was a clergyman in the city of
London; he was a most upright and excellent man; but he had
conceived a strong prejudice against works of fiction. He
thought all novel-reading not only frivolous but sinful. He
said,--this I state on the authority of one of his clerical
brethren who is now a bishop,--he said that he had never thought
it right to read one of his grandfather's books. Suppose, Sir,
that the law had been what my honourable and learned friend would
make it. Suppose that the copyright of Richardson's novels had
descended, as might well have been the case, to this gentleman.
I firmly believe, that he would have thought it sinful to give
them a wide circulation. I firmly believe, that he would not for
a hundred thousand pounds have deliberately done what he thought
sinful. He would not have reprinted them. And what protection
does my honourable and learned friend give to the public in such
a case? Why, Sir, what he proposes is this: if a book is not
reprinted during five years, any person who wishes to reprint it
may give notice in the London Gazette: the advertisement must be
repeated three times: a year must elapse; and then, if the
proprietor of the copyright does not put forth a new edition, he
loses his exclusive privilege. Now, what protection is this to
the public? What is a new edition? Does the law define the
number of copies that make an edition? Does it limit the price
of a copy? Are twelve copies on large paper, charged at thirty
guineas each, an edition? It has been usual, when monopolies
have been granted, to prescribe numbers and to limit prices. But
I did not find the my honourable and learned friend proposes to
do so in the present case. And, without some such provision, the
security which he offers is manifestly illusory. It is my
conviction that, under such a system as that which he recommends
to us, a copy of Clarissa would have been as rare as an Aldus or
a Caxton.

I will give another instance. One of the most instructive,
interesting, and delightful books in our language is Boswell's
Life of Johnson. Now it is well known that Boswell's eldest son
considered this book, considered the whole relation of Boswell to
Johnson, as a blot in the escutcheon of the family. He thought,
not perhaps altogether without reason, that his father had
exhibited himself in a ludicrous and degrading light. And thus
he became so sore and irritable that at last he could not bear to
hear the Life of Johnson mentioned. Suppose that the law had
been what my honourable and learned friend wishes to make it.
Suppose that the copyright of Boswell's Life of Johnson had
belonged, as it well might, during sixty years, to Boswell's
eldest son. What would have been the consequence? An
unadulterated copy of the finest biographical work in the world
would have been as scarce as the first edition of Camden's

These are strong cases. I have shown you that, if the law had
been what you are now going to make it, the finest prose work of
fiction in the language, the finest biographical work in the
language, would very probably have been suppressed. But I have
stated my case weakly. The books which I have mentioned are
singularly inoffensive books, books not touching on any of those
questions which drive even wise men beyond the bounds of wisdom.
There are books of a very different kind, books which are the
rallying points of great political and religious parties. What
is likely to happen if the copyright of one of the these books
should by descent or transfer come into the possession of some
hostile zealot? I will take a single instance. It is only fifty
years since John Wesley died; and all his works, if the law had
been what my honourable and learned friend wishes to make it,
would now have been the property of some person or other. The
sect founded by Wesley is the most numerous, the wealthiest, the
most powerful, the most zealous of sects. In every parliamentary
election it is a matter of the greatest importance to obtain the
support of the Wesleyan Methodists. Their numerical strength is
reckoned by hundreds of thousands. They hold the memory of their
founder in the greatest reverence; and not without reason, for he
was unquestionably a great and a good man. To his authority they
constantly appeal. His works are in their eyes of the highest
value. His doctrinal writings they regard as containing the best
system of theology ever deduced from Scripture. His journals,
interesting even to the common reader, are peculiarly interesting
to the Methodist: for they contain the whole history of that
singular polity which, weak and despised in its beginning, is
now, after the lapse of a century, so strong, so flourishing, and
so formidable. The hymns to which he gave his imprimatur are a
most important part of the public worship of his followers. Now,
suppose that the copyright of these works should belong to some
person who holds the memory of Wesley and the doctrines and
discipline of the Methodists in abhorrence. There are many such
persons. The Ecclesiastical Courts are at this very time sitting
on the case of a clergyman of the Established Church who refused
Christian burial to a child baptized by a Methodist preacher. I
took up the other day a work which is considered as among the
most respectable organs of a large and growing party in the
Church of England, and there I saw John Wesley designated as a
forsworn priest. Suppose that the works of Wesley were
suppressed. Why, Sir, such a grievance would be enough to shake
the foundations of Government. Let gentlemen who are attached to
the Church reflect for a moment what their feelings would be if
the Book of Common Prayer were not to be reprinted for thirty or
forty years, if the price of a Book of Common Prayer were run up
to five or ten guineas. And then let them determine whether they
will pass a law under which it is possible, under which it is
probable, that so intolerable a wrong may be done to some sect
consisting perhaps of half a million of persons.

I am so sensible, Sir, of the kindness with which the House has
listened to me, that I will not detain you longer. I will only
say this, that if the measure before us should pass, and should
produce one-tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to
produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon
be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the
absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually
repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have
been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be
virtually repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the
holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those
who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread
out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to
see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their
ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything
to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and
that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present
race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable
monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in
the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade
legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot. On
which side indeed should the public sympathy be when the question
is whether some book as popular as Robinson Crusoe, or the
Pilgrim's Progress, shall be in every cottage, or whether it
shall be confined to the libraries of the rich for the advantage
of the great-grandson of a bookseller who, a hundred years
before, drove a hard bargain for the copyright with the author
when in great distress? Remember too that, when once it ceases
to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary
property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The
public seldom makes nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright
which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new
copyright which you are about to create. And you will find that,
in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting
of the works of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled
those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and
defrauding the living. If I saw, Sir, any probability that this
bill could be so amended in the Committee that my objections
might be removed, I would not divide the House in this stage.
But I am so fully convinced that no alteration which would not
seem insupportable to my honourable and learned friend, could
render his measure supportable to me, that I must move, though
with regret, that this bill be read a second time this day six



6TH OF APRIL 1842.

On the third of March 1842, Lord Mahon obtained permission to
bring in a bill to amend the Law of Copyright. This bill
extended the term of Copyright in a book to twenty-five years,
reckoned from the death of the author.

On the sixth of April the House went into Committee on the bill,
and Mr Greene took the Chair. Several divisions took place, of
which the result was that the plan suggested in the following
Speech was, with some modifications, adopted.

Mr Greene,--I have been amused and gratified by the remarks which
my noble friend (Lord Mahon.) has made on the arguments by which
I prevailed on the last House of Commons to reject the bill
introduced by a very able and accomplished man, Mr Serjeant
Talfourd. My noble friend has done me a high and rare honour.
For this is, I believe, the first occasion on which a speech made
in one Parliament has been answered in another. I should not
find it difficult to vindicate the soundness of the reasons which
I formerly urged, to set them in a clearer light, and to fortify
them by additional facts. But it seems to me that we had better
discuss the bill which is now on our table than the bill which
was there fourteen months ago. Glad I am to find that there is a
very wide difference between the two bills, and that my noble
friend, though he has tried to refute my arguments, has acted as
if he had been convinced by them. I objected to the term of
sixty years as far too long. My noble friend has cut that term
down to twenty-five years. I warned the House that, under the
provisions of Mr Serjeant Talfourd's bill, valuable works might
not improbably be suppressed by the representatives of authors.
My noble friend has prepared a clause which, as he thinks, will
guard against that danger. I will not, therefore, waste the time
of the Committee by debating points which he has conceded, but
will proceed at once to the proper business of this evening.

Sir, I have no objection to the principle of my noble friend's
bill. Indeed, I had no objection to the principle of the bill of
last year. I have long thought that the term of copyright ought
to be extended. When Mr Serjeant Talfourd moved for leave to
bring in his bill, I did not oppose the motion. Indeed I meant
to vote for the second reading, and to reserve what I had to say
for the Committee. But the learned Serjeant left me no choice.
He, in strong language, begged that nobody who was disposed to
reduce the term of sixty years would divide with him. "Do not,"
he said, "give me your support, if all that you mean to grant to
men of letters is a miserable addition of fourteen or fifteen
years to the present term. I do not wish for such support. I
despise it." Not wishing to obtrude on the learned Serjeant a
support which he despised, I had no course left but to take the
sense of the House on the second reading. The circumstances are
now different. My noble friend's bill is not at present a good
bill; but it may be improved into a very good bill; nor will he,
I am persuaded, withdraw it if it should be so improved. He and
I have the same object in view; but we differ as to the best mode
of attaining that object. We are equally desirous to extend the
protection now enjoyed by writers. In what way it may be
extended with most benefit to them and with least inconvenience
to the public, is the question.

The present state of the law is this. The author of a work has a
certain copyright in that work for a term of twenty-eight years.
If he should live more than twenty-eight years after the
publication of the work, he retains the copyright to the end of
his life.

My noble friend does not propose to make any addition to the term
of twenty-eight years. But he proposes that the copyright shall
last twenty-five years after the author's death. Thus my noble
friend makes no addition to that term which is certain, but makes
a very large addition to that term which is uncertain.

My plan is different. I would made no addition to the uncertain
term; but I would make a large addition to the certain term. I
propose to add fourteen years to the twenty-eight years which the
law now allows to an author. His copyright will, in this way,
last till his death, or till the expiration of forty-two years,
whichever shall first happen. And I think that I shall be able
to prove to the satisfaction of the Committee that my plan will
be more beneficial to literature and to literary men than the
plan of my noble friend.

It must surely, Sir, be admitted that the protection which we
give to books ought to be distributed as evenly as possible, that
every book should have a fair share of that protection, and no
book more than a fair share. It would evidently be absurd to put
tickets into a wheel, with different numbers marked upon them,
and to make writers draw, one a term of twenty-eight years,
another a term of fifty, another a term of ninety. And yet this
sort of lottery is what my noble friend proposes to establish. I
know that we cannot altogether exclude chance. You have two
terms of copyright; one certain, the other uncertain; and we
cannot, I admit, get rid of the uncertain term. It is proper, no
doubt, that an author's copyright should last during his life.
But, Sir, though we cannot altogether exclude chance, we can very
much diminish the share which chance must have in distributing
the recompense which we wish to give to genius and learning. By
every addition which we make to the certain term we diminish the
influence of chance; by every addition which we make to the
uncertain term we increase the influence of chance. I shall make
myself best understood by putting cases. Take two eminent female
writers, who died within our own memory, Madame D'Arblay and Miss
Austen. As the law now stands, Miss Austen's charming novels
would have only from twenty-eight to thirty-three years of
copyright. For that extraordinary woman died young: she died
before her genius was fully appreciated by the world. Madame
D'Arblay outlived the whole generation to which she belonged.
The copyright of her celebrated novel, Evelina, lasted, under the
present law, sixty-two years. Surely this inequality is
sufficiently great--sixty-two years of copyright for Evelina,
only twenty-eight for Persuasion. But to my noble friend this
inequality seems not great enough. He proposes to add twenty-
five years to Madame D'Arblay's term, and not a single day to
Miss Austen's term. He would give to Persuasion a copyright of
only twenty-eight years, as at present, and to Evelina a
copyright more than three times as long, a copyright of eighty-
seven years. Now, is this reasonable? See, on the other hand,
the operation of my plan. I make no addition at all to Madame
D'Arblay's term of sixty-two years, which is, in my opinion,
quite long enough; but I extend Miss Austen's term to forty-two
years, which is, in my opinion, not too much. You see, Sir, that
at present chance has too much sway in this matter: that at
present the protection which the State gives to letters is very
unequally given. You see that if my noble friend's plan be
adopted, more will be left to chance than under the present
system, and you will have such inequalities as are unknown under
the present system. You see also that, under the system which I
recommend, we shall have, not perfect certainty, not perfect
equality, but much less uncertainty and inequality than at

But this is not all. My noble friend's plan is not merely to
institute a lottery in which some writers will draw prizes and
some will draw blanks. It is much worse than this. His lottery
is so contrived that, in the vast majority of cases, the blanks
will fall to the best books, and the prizes to books of inferior

Take Shakspeare. My noble friend gives a longer protection than
I should give to Love's Labour's Lost, and Pericles, Prince of
Tyre; but he gives a shorter protection than I should give to
Othello and Macbeth.

Take Milton. Milton died in 1674. The copyrights of Milton's
great works would, according to my noble friend's plan, expire in
1699. Comus appeared in 1634, the Paradise Lost in 1668. To
Comus, then, my noble friend would give sixty-five years of
copyright, and to the Paradise Lost only thirty-one years. Is
that reasonable? Comus is a noble poem: but who would rank it
with the Paradise Lost? My plan would give forty-two years both
to the Paradise Lost and to Comus.

Let us pass on from Milton to Dryden. My noble friend would give
more than sixty years of copyright to Dryden's worst works; to
the encomiastic verses on Oliver Cromwell, to the Wild Gallant,
to the Rival Ladies, to other wretched pieces as bad as anything
written by Flecknoe or Settle: but for Theodore and Honoria, for
Tancred and Sigismunda, for Cimon and Iphigenia, for Palamon and
Arcite, for Alexander's Feast, my noble friend thinks a copyright
of twenty-eight years sufficient. Of all Pope's works, that to
which my noble friend would give the largest measure of
protection is the volume of Pastorals, remarkable only as the
production of a boy. Johnson's first work was a Translation of a
Book of Travels in Abyssinia, published in 1735. It was so
poorly executed that in his later years he did not like to hear
it mentioned. Boswell once picked up a copy of it, and told his
friend that he had done so. "Do not talk about it," said
Johnson: "it is a thing to be forgotten." To this performance
my noble friend would give protection during the enormous term of
seventy-five years. To the Lives of the Poets he would give
protection during about thirty years. Well; take Henry Fielding;
it matters not whom I take, but take Fielding. His early works
are read only by the curious, and would not be read even by the
curious, but for the fame which he acquired in the latter part of
his life by works of a very different kind. What is the value of
the Temple Beau, of the Intriguing Chambermaid, of half a dozen
other plays of which few gentlemen have even heard the names?
Yet to these worthless pieces my noble friend would give a term
of copyright longer by more than twenty years than that which he
would give to Tom Jones and Amelia.

Go on to Burke. His little tract, entitled the Vindication of
Natural Society is certainly not without merit; but it would not
be remembered in our days if it did not bear the name of Burke.
To this tract my noble friend would give a copyright of near
seventy years. But to the great work on the French Revolution,
to the Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs, to the letters on
the Regicide Peace, he would give a copyright of thirty years or
little more.

And, Sir observe that I am not selecting here and there
extraordinary instances in order to make up the semblance of a
case. I am taking the greatest names of our literature in
chronological order. Go to other nations; go to remote ages; you
will still find the general rule the same. There was no
copyright at Athens or Rome; but the history of the Greek and
Latin literature illustrates my argument quite as well as if
copyright had existed in ancient times. Of all the plays of
Sophocles, the one to which the plan of my noble friend would
have given the most scanty recompense would have been that
wonderful masterpiece, the Oedipus at Colonos. Who would class
together the Speech of Demosthenes against his Guardians, and the
Speech for the Crown? My noble friend, indeed, would not class
them together. For to the Speech against the Guardians he would
give a copyright of near seventy years, and to the incomparable
Speech for the Crown a copyright of less than half that length.
Go to Rome. My noble friend would give more than twice as long a
term to Cicero's juvenile declamation in defence of Roscius
Amerinus as to the Second Philippic. Go to France. My noble
friend would give a far longer term to Racine's Freres Ennemis
than to Athalie, and to Moliere's Etourdi than to Tartuffe. Go
to Spain. My noble friend would give a longer term to forgotten
works of Cervantes, works which nobody now reads, than to Don
Quixote. Go to Germany. According to my noble friend's plan, of
all the works of Schiller the Robbers would be the most favoured:
of all the works of Goethe, the Sorrows of Werter would be the
most favoured. I thank the Committee for listening so kindly to
this long enumeration. Gentlemen will perceive, I am sure, that
it is not from pedantry that I mention the names of so many books
and authors. But just as, in our debates on civil affairs, we
constantly draw illustrations from civil history, we must, in a
debate about literary property, draw our illustrations from
literary history. Now, Sir, I have, I think, shown from literary
history that the effect of my noble friend's plan would be to
give to crude and imperfect works, to third-rate and fourth-rate
works, a great advantage over the highest productions of genius.
It is impossible to account for the facts which I have laid
before you by attributing them to mere accident. Their number is
too great, their character too uniform. We must seek for some
other explanation; and we shall easily find one.

It is the law of our nature that the mind shall attain its full
power by slow degrees; and this is especially true of the most
vigorous minds. Young men, no doubt, have often produced works
of great merit; but it would be impossible to name any writer of
the first order whose juvenile performances were his best. That
all the most valuable books of history, of philology, of physical
and metaphysical science, of divinity, of political economy, have
been produced by men of mature years will hardly be disputed.
The case may not be quite so clear as respects works of the
imagination. And yet I know no work of the imagination of the
very highest class that was ever, in any age or country, produced
by a man under thirty-five. Whatever powers a youth may have
received from nature, it is impossible that his taste and
judgment can be ripe, that his mind can be richly stored with
images, that he can have observed the vicissitudes of life, that
he can have studied the nicer shades of character. How, as
Marmontel very sensibly said, is a person to paint portraits who
has never seen faces? On the whole, I believe that I may,
without fear of contradiction, affirm this, that of the good
books now extant in the world more than nineteen-twentieths were
published after the writers had attained the age of forty. If
this be so, it is evident that the plan of my noble friend is
framed on a vicious principle. For, while he gives to juvenile
productions a very much larger protection than they now enjoy, he
does comparatively little for the works of men in the full
maturity of their powers, and absolutely nothing for any work
which is published during the last three years of the life of the
writer. For, by the existing law, the copyright of such a work
lasts twenty-eight years from the publication; and my noble
friend gives only twenty-five years, to be reckoned from the
writer's death.

What I recommend is that the certain term, reckoned from the date
of publication, shall be forty-two years instead of twenty-eight
years. In this arrangement there is no uncertainty, no
inequality. The advantage which I propose to give will be the
same to every book. No work will have so long a copyright as my
noble friend gives to some books, or so short a copyright as he
gives to others. No copyright will last ninety years. No
copyright will end in twenty-eight years. To every book
published in the course of the last seventeen years of a writer's
life I give a longer term of copyright than my noble friend
gives; and I am confident that no person versed in literary
history will deny this,--that in general the most valuable works
of an author are published in the course of the last seventeen
years of his life. I will rapidly enumerate a few, and but a
few, of the great works of English writers to which my plan is
more favourable than my noble friend's plan. To Lear, to
Macbeth, to Othello, to the Fairy Queen, to the Paradise Lost, to
Bacon's Novum Organum and De Augmentis, to Locke's Essay on the
Human Understanding, to Clarendon's History, to Hume's History,
to Gibbon's History, to Smith's Wealth of Nations, to Addison's
Spectators, to almost all the great works of Burke, to Clarissa
and Sir Charles Grandison, to Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones and
Amelia, and, with the single exception of Waverley, to all the
novels of Sir Walter Scott, I give a longer term of copyright
than my noble friend gives. Can he match that list? Does not
that list contain what England has produced greatest in many
various ways--poetry, philosophy, history, eloquence, wit,
skilful portraiture of life and manners? I confidently therefore
call on the Committee to take my plan in preference to the plan
of my noble friend. I have shown that the protection which he
proposes to give to letters is unequal, and unequal in the worst
way. I have shown that his plan is to give protection to books
in inverse proportion to their merit. I shall move when we come
to the third clause of the bill to omit the words "twenty-five
years," and in a subsequent part of the same clause I shall move
to substitute for the words "twenty-eight years" the words
"forty-two years." I earnestly hope that the Committee will
adopt these amendments; and I feel the firmest conviction that my
noble friend's bill, so amended, will confer a great boon on men
of letters with the smallest possible inconvenience to the




On the second of May 1842, Mr Thomas Duncombe, Member for
Finsbury, presented a petition, very numerously signed, of which
the prayer was as follows:

"Your petitioners, therefore, exercising their just
constitutional right, demand that your Honourable House, to
remedy the many gross and manifest evils of which your
petitioners complain, do immediately, without alteration,
deduction, or addition, pass into a law the document entitled the
People's Charter."

On the following day Mr Thomas Duncombe moved that the
petitioners should be heard by themselves or their Counsel at the
Bar of the House. The following Speech was made in opposition to
the motion.

The motion was rejected by 287 votes to 49.

Mr Speaker,--I was particularly desirous to catch your eye this
evening, because, when the motion of the honourable Member of
Rochdale (Mr Sharman Crawford.) was under discussion, I was
unable to be in my place. I understand that, on that occasion,
the absence of some members of the late Government was noticed in
severe terms, and was attributed to discreditable motives. As
for myself, Sir, I was prevented from coming down to the House by
illness: a noble friend of mine, to whom particular allusion was
made, was detained elsewhere by pure accident; and I am convinced
that no member of the late administration was withheld by any
unworthy feeling from avowing his opinions. My own opinions I
could have no motive for disguising. They have been frequently
avowed, and avowed before audiences which were not likely to
regard them with much favour.

I should wish, Sir, to say what I have to say in the temperate
tone which has with so much propriety been preserved by the right
honourable Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department (Sir
James Graham.); but, if I should use any warm expression, I trust
that the House will attribute it to the strength of my
convictions and to my solicitude for the public interests. No
person who knows me will, I am quite sure, suspect me of
regarding the hundreds of thousands who have signed the petition
which we are now considering, with any other feeling than cordial

Sir, I cannot conscientiously assent to this motion. And yet I
must admit that the honourable Member for Finsbury (Mr Thomas
Duncombe.) has framed it with considerable skill. He has done
his best to obtain the support of all those timid and interested
politicians who think much more about the security of their seats
than about the security of their country. It would be very
convenient to me to give a silent vote with him. I should then
have it in my power to say to the Chartists of Edinburgh, "When
your petition was before the House I was on your side: I was for
giving you a full hearing." I should at the same time be able to
assure my Conservative constituents that I never had supported
and never would support the Charter. But, Sir, though this
course would be very convenient, it is one which my sense of duty
will not suffer me to take. When questions of private right are
before us, we hear, and we ought to hear, the arguments of the
parties interested in those questions. But it has never been,
and surely it ought not to be, our practice to grant a hearing to
persons who petition for or against a law in which they have no
other interest than that which is common between them and the
whole nation. Of the many who petitioned against slavery,
against the Roman Catholic claims, against the corn laws, none
was suffered to harangue us at the bar in support of his views.
If in the present case we depart from a general rule which
everybody must admit to be a very wholesome one, what inference
can reasonably be drawn from our conduct, except this, that we
think the petition which we are now considering entitled to
extraordinary respect, and that we have not fully made up our
minds to refuse what the petitioners ask? Now, Sir, I have fully
made up my mind to resist to the last the change which they urge
us to make in the constitution of the kingdom. I therefore think
that I should act disingenuously if I gave my voice for calling
in orators whose eloquence, I am certain, will make no alteration
in my opinion. I think too that if, after voting for hearing the
petitioners, I should then vote against granting their prayer, I
should give them just ground for accusing me of having first
encouraged and then deserted them. That accusation, at least,
they shall never bring against me.

The honourable Member for Westminster (Mr Leader.) has expressed
a hope that the language of the petition will not be subjected to
severe criticism. If he means literary criticism, I entirely
agree with him. The style of this composition is safe from any
censure of mine; but the substance it is absolutely necessary
that we should closely examine. What the petitioners demand is
this, that we do forthwith pass what is called the People's
Charter into a law without alteration, diminution, or addition.
This is the prayer in support of which the honourable Member for
Finsbury would have us hear an argument at the bar. Is it then
reasonable to say, as some gentlemen have said, that, in voting
for the honourable Member's motion, they mean to vote merely for
an inquiry into the causes of the public distress? If any
gentleman thinks that an inquiry into the causes of the public
distress would be useful, let him move for such an inquiry. I
will not oppose it. But this petition does not tell us to
inquire. It tells us that we are not to inquire. It directs us
to pass a certain law word for word, and to pass it without the
smallest delay.

I shall, Sir, notwithstanding the request or command of the
petitioners, venture to exercise my right of free speech on the
subject of the People's Charter. There is, among the six points
of the Charter, one for which I have voted. There is another of
which I decidedly approve. There are others as to which, though
I do not agree with the petitioners, I could go some way to meet
them. In fact, there is only one of the six points on which I am
diametrically opposed to them: but unfortunately that point
happens to be infinitely the most important of the six.

One of the six points is the ballot. I have voted for the
ballot; and I have seen no reason to change my opinion on that

Another point is the abolition of the pecuniary qualification for
members of this House. On that point I cordially agree with the
petitioners. You have established a sufficient pecuniary
qualification for the elector; and it therefore seems to me quite
superfluous to require a pecuniary qualification from the
representative. Everybody knows that many English members have
only fictitious qualifications, and that the members for Scotch
cities and boroughs are not required to have any qualification at
all. It is surely absurd to admit the representatives of
Edinburgh and Glasgow without any qualification, and at the same
time to require the representative of Finsbury or Marylebone to
possess a qualification or the semblance of one. If the
qualification really be a security for respectability, let that
security be demanded from us who sit here for Scotch towns. If,
as I believe, the qualification is no security at all, why should
we require it from anybody? It is no part of the old
constitution of the realm. It was first established in the reign
of Anne. It was established by a bad parliament for a bad
purpose. It was, in fact, part of a course of legislation which,
if it had not been happily interrupted, would have ended in the
repeal of the Toleration Act and of the Act of Settlement.

The Chartists demand annual parliaments. There, certainly, I
differ from them; but I might, perhaps, be willing to consent to
some compromise. I differ from them also as to the expediency of
paying the representatives of the people, and of dividing the
country into electoral districts. But I do not consider these
matters as vital. The kingdom might, I acknowledge, be free,
great, and happy, though the members of this house received
salaries, and though the present boundaries of counties and
boroughs were superseded by new lines of demarcation. These,
Sir, are subordinate questions. I do not of course mean that
they are not important. But they are subordinate when compared
with that question which still remains to be considered. The
essence of the Charter is universal suffrage. If you withhold
that, it matters not very much what else you grant. If you grant
that, it matters not at all what else you withhold. If you grant
that, the country is lost.

I have no blind attachment to ancient usages. I altogether
disclaim what has been nicknamed the doctrine of finality. I
have said enough to-night to show that I do not consider the
settlement made by the Reform Bill as one which can last for
ever. I certainly do think that an extensive change in the
polity of a nation must be attended with serious evils. Still
those evils may be overbalanced by advantages: and I am
perfectly ready, in every case, to weigh the evils against the
advantages, and to judge as well as I can which scale
preponderates. I am bound by no tie to oppose any reform which I
think likely to promote the public good. I will go so far as to
say that I do not quite agree with those who think that they have
proved the People's Charter to be absurd when they have proved
that it is incompatible with the existence of the throne and of
the peerage. For, though I am a faithful and loyal subject of
Her Majesty, and though I sincerely wish to see the House of
Lords powerful and respected, I cannot consider either monarchy
or aristocracy as the ends of government. They are only means.
Nations have flourished without hereditary sovereigns or
assemblies of nobles; and, though I should be very sorry to see
England a republic, I do not doubt that she might, as a republic,
enjoy prosperity, tranquillity, and high consideration. The
dread and aversion with which I regard universal suffrage would
be greatly diminished, if I could believe that the worst effect
which it would produce would be to give us an elective first
magistrate and a senate instead of a Queen and a House of Peers.
My firm conviction is that, in our country, universal suffrage is
incompatible, not with this or that form of government, but with
all forms of government, and with everything for the sake of
which forms of government exist; that it is incompatible with
property, and that it is consequently incompatible with

It is not necessary for me in this place to go through the
arguments which prove beyond dispute that on the security of
property civilisation depends; that, where property is insecure,
no climate however delicious, no soil however fertile, no
conveniences for trade and navigation, no natural endowments of
body or of mind, can prevent a nation from sinking into
barbarism; that where, on the other hand, men are protected in
the enjoyment of what has been created by their industry and laid
up by their self-denial, society will advance in arts and in
wealth notwithstanding the sterility of the earth and the
inclemency of the air, notwithstanding heavy taxes and
destructive wars. Those persons who say that England has been
greatly misgoverned, that her legislation is defective, that her
wealth has been squandered in unjust and impolitic contests with
America and with France, do in fact bear the strongest testimony
to the truth of my doctrine. For that our country has made and
is making great progress in all that contributes to the material
comfort of man is indisputable. If that progress cannot be
ascribed to the wisdom of the Government, to what can we ascribe
it but to the diligence, the energy, the thrift of individuals?
And to what can we ascribe that diligence, that energy, that
thrift, except to the security which property has during many
generations enjoyed here? Such is the power of this great
principle that, even in the last war, the most costly war, beyond
all comparison, that ever was waged in this world, the Government
could not lavish wealth so fast as the productive classes created

If it be admitted that on the institution of property the well-
being of society depends, it follows surely that it would be
madness to give supreme power in the state to a class which would
not be likely to respect that institution. And, if this be
conceded, it seems to me to follow that it would be madness to
grant the prayer of this petition. I entertain no hope that, if
we place the government of the kingdom in the hands of the
majority of the males of one-and-twenty told by the head, the
institution of property will be respected. If I am asked why I
entertain no such hope, I answer, because the hundreds of
thousands of males of twenty-one who have signed this petition
tell me to entertain no such hope; because they tell me that, if
I trust them with power, the first use which they will make of it
will be to plunder every man in the kingdom who has a good coat
on his back and a good roof over his head. God forbid that I
should put an unfair construction on their language! I will read
their own words. This petition, be it remembered, is an
authoritative declaration of the wishes of those who, if the
Charter ever becomes law, will return the great majority of the
House of Commons; and these are their words: "Your petitioners
complain, that they are enormously taxed to pay the interest of
what is called the national debt, a debt amounting at present to
eight hundred millions, being only a portion of the enormous
amount expended in cruel and expensive wars for the suppression
of all liberty by men not authorised by the people, and who
consequently had no right to tax posterity for the outrages
committed by them upon mankind." If these words mean anything,
they mean that the present generation is not bound to pay the
public debt incurred by our rulers in past times, and that a
national bankruptcy would be both just and politic. For my part,
I believe it to be impossible to make any distinction between the
right of a fundholder to his dividends and the right of a
landowner to his rents. And, to do the petitioners justice, I
must say that they seem to be much of the same mind. They are
for dealing with fundholder and landowner alike. They tell us
that nothing will "unshackle labour from its misery, until the
people possess that power under which all monopoly and oppression
must cease; and your petitioners respectfully mention the
existing monopolies of the suffrage, of paper money, of
machinery, of land, of the public press, of religion, of the
means of travelling and transit, and a host of other evils too
numerous to mention, all arising from class legislation." Absurd
as this hubbub of words is, part of it is intelligible enough.
What can the monopoly of land mean, except property in land? The
only monopoly of land which exists in England is this, that
nobody can sell an acre of land which does not belong to him.
And what can the monopoly of machinery mean but property in
machinery? Another monopoly which is to cease is the monopoly of
the means of travelling. In other words all the canal property
and railway property in the kingdom is to be confiscated. What
other sense do the words bear? And these are only specimens of
the reforms which, in the language of the petition, are to
unshackle labour from its misery. There remains, it seems, a
host of similar monopolies too numerous to mention; the monopoly
I presume, which a draper has of his own stock of cloth; the
monopoly which a hatter has of his own stock of hats; the
monopoly which we all have of our furniture, bedding, and
clothes. In short, the petitioners ask you to give them power in
order that they may not leave a man of a hundred a year in the

I am far from wishing to throw any blame on the ignorant crowds
which have flocked to the tables where this petition was
exhibited. Nothing is more natural than that the labouring
people should be deceived by the arts of such men as the author
of this absurd and wicked composition. We ourselves, with all
our advantages of education, are often very credulous, very
impatient, very shortsighted, when we are tried by pecuniary
distress or bodily pain. We often resort to means of immediate
relief which, as Reason tells us, if we would listen to her, are
certain to aggravate our sufferings. Men of great abilities and
knowledge have ruined their estates and their constitutions in
this way. How then can we wonder that men less instructed than
ourselves, and tried by privations such as we have never known,
should be easily misled by mountebanks who promise
impossibilities? Imagine a well-meaning laborious mechanic,
fondly attached to his wife and children. Bad times come. He
sees the wife whom he loves grow thinner and paler every day.
His little ones cry for bread, and he has none to give them.
Then come the professional agitators, the tempters, and tell him
that there is enough and more than enough for everybody, and that
he has too little only because landed gentlemen, fundholders,
bankers, manufacturers, railway proprietors, shopkeepers have too
much. Is it strange that the poor man should be deluded, and
should eagerly sign such a petition as this? The inequality with
which wealth is distributed forces itself on everybody's notice.
It is at once perceived by the eye. The reasons which
irrefragably prove this inequality to be necessary to the well-
being of all classes are not equally obvious. Our honest working
man has not received such an education as enables him to
understand that the utmost distress that he has ever known is
prosperity when compared with the distress which he would have to
endure if there were a single month of general anarchy and
plunder. But you say, it is not the fault of the labourer that
he is not well educated. Most true. It is not his fault. But,
though he has no share in the fault, he will, if you are foolish
enough to give him supreme power in the state, have a very large
share of the punishment. You say that, if the Government had not
culpably omitted to establish a good system of public
instruction, the petitioners would have been fit for the elective
franchise. But is that a reason for giving them the franchise
when their own petition proves that they are not fit for it; when
they give us fair notice that, if we let them have it, they will
use it to our ruin and their own? It is not necessary now to
inquire whether, with universal education, we could safely have
universal suffrage. What we are asked to do is to give universal
suffrage before there is universal education. Have I any unkind
feeling towards these poor people? No more than I have to a sick
friend who implores me to give him a glass of iced water which
the physician has forbidden. No more than a humane collector in
India has to those poor peasants who in a season of scarcity
crowd round the granaries and beg with tears and piteous gestures
that the doors may be opened and the rice distributed. I would
not give the draught of water, because I know that it would be
poison. I would not give up the keys of the granary, because I
know that, by doing so, I should turn a scarcity into a famine.
And in the same way I would not yield to the importunity of
multitudes who, exasperated by suffering and blinded by
ignorance, demand with wild vehemence the liberty to destroy

But it is said, You must not attach so much importance to this
petition. It is very foolish, no doubt, and disgraceful to the
author, be he who he may. But you must not suppose that those
who signed it approve of it. They have merely put their names or
their marks without weighing the sense of the document which they
subscribed. Surely, Sir, of all reasons that ever were given for
receiving a petition with peculiar honours, the strangest is that
it expresses sentiments diametrically opposed to the real
sentiments of those who have signed it. And it is a not less
strange reason for giving men supreme power in a state that they
sign political manifestoes of the highest importance without
taking the trouble to know what the contents are. But how is it
possible for us to believe that, if the petitioners had the power
which they demand, they would not use it as they threaten?
During a long course of years, numerous speakers and writers,
some of them ignorant, others dishonest, have been constantly
representing the Government as able to do, and bound to do,
things which no Government can, without great injury to the
country, attempt to do. Every man of sense knows that the people
support the Government. But the doctrine of the Chartist
philosophers is that it is the business of the Government to
support the people. It is supposed by many that our rulers
possess, somewhere or other, an inexhaustible storehouse of all
the necessaries and conveniences of life, and, from mere
hardheartedness, refuse to distribute the contents of this
magazine among the poor. We have all of us read speeches and
tracts in which it seemed to be taken for granted that we who sit
here have the power of working miracles, of sending a shower of
manna on the West Riding, of striking the earth and furnishing
all the towns of Lancashire with abundance of pure water, of
feeding all the cotton-spinners and weavers who are out of work
with five loaves and two fishes. There is not a working man who
has not heard harangues and read newspapers in which these
follies are taught. And do you believe that as soon as you give
the working men absolute and irresistible power they will forget
all this? Yes, Sir, absolute and irresistible power. The
Charter would give them no less. In every constituent body
throughout the empire the working men will, if we grant the
prayer of this petition, be an irresistible majority. In every
constituent body capital will be placed at the feet of labour;
knowledge will be borne down by ignorance; and is it possible to
doubt what the result must be? The honourable Member for Bath
and the honourable Member for Rochdale are now considered as very
democratic members of Parliament. They would occupy a very
different position in a House of Commons elected by universal
suffrage, if they succeeded in obtaining seats. They would, I
believe, honestly oppose every attempt to rob the public
creditor. They would manfully say, "Justice and the public good
require that this sum of thirty millions a year should be paid;"
and they would immediately be reviled as aristocrats,
monopolists, oppressors of the poor, defenders of old abuses.
And as to land, is it possible to believe that the millions who
have been so long and loudly told that the land is their estate,
and is wrongfully kept from them, should not, when they have
supreme power, use that power to enforce what they think their
rights? What could follow but one vast spoliation? One vast
spoliation! That would be bad enough. That would be the
greatest calamity that ever fell on our country. Yet would that
a single vast spoliation were the worst! No, Sir; in the lowest
deep there would be a lower deep. The first spoliation would not
be the last. How could it? All the causes which had produced
the first spoliation would still operate. They would operate
more powerfully than before. The distress would be far greater
than before. The fences which now protect property would all
have been broken through, levelled, swept away. The new
proprietors would have no title to show to anything that they
held except recent robbery. With what face then could they
complain of being robbed? What would be the end of these things?
Our experience, God be praised, does not enable us to predict it
with certainty. We can only guess. My guess is that we should
see something more horrible than can be imagined--something like
the siege of Jerusalem on a far larger scale. There would be
many millions of human beings, crowded in a narrow space,
deprived of all those resources which alone had made it possible
for them to exist in so narrow a space; trade gone; manufactures
gone; credit gone. What could they do but fight for the mere
sustenance of nature, and tear each other to pieces till famine,
and pestilence following in the train of famine, came to turn the
terrible commotion into a more terrible repose? The best event,
the very best event, that I can anticipate,--and what must the
state of things be, if an Englishman and a Whig calls such an
event the very best?--the very best event, I say, that I can
anticipate is that out of the confusion a strong military
despotism may arise, and that the sword, firmly grasped by some
rough hand, may give a sort of protection to the miserable wreck
of all that immense prosperity and glory. But, as to the noble
institutions under which our country has made such progress in
liberty, in wealth, in knowledge, in arts, do not deceive
yourselves into the belief that we should ever see them again.
We should never see them again. We should not deserve to see
them. All those nations which envy our greatness would insult
our downfall, a downfall which would be all our own work; and the
history of our calamities would be told thus: England had
institutions which, though imperfect, yet contained within
themselves the means of remedying every imperfection; those
institutions her legislators wantonly and madly threw away; nor
could they urge in their excuse even the wretched plea that they
were deceived by false promises; for, in the very petition with
the prayer of which they were weak enough to comply, they were
told, in the plainest terms, that public ruin would be the effect
of their compliance.

Thinking thus, Sir, I will oppose, with every faculty which God
has given me, every motion which directly or indirectly tends to
the granting of universal suffrage. This motion I think, tends
that way. If any gentleman here is prepared to vote for
universal suffrage with a full view of all the consequences of
universal suffrage as they are set forth in this petition, he
acts with perfect consistency in voting for this motion. But, I
must say, I heard with some surprise the honourable baronet the
Member for Leicester (Sir John Easthope.) say that, though he
utterly disapproves of the petition, though he thinks of it just
as I do, he wishes the petitioners to be heard at the bar in
explanation of their opinions. I conceive that their opinions
are quite sufficiently explained already; and to such opinions I
am not disposed to pay any extraordinary mark of respect. I
shall give a clear and conscientious vote against the motion of
the honourable Member for Finsbury; and I conceive that the
petitioners will have much less reason to complain of my open
hostility than of the conduct of the honourable Member, who tries
to propitiate them by consenting to hear their oratory, but has
fully made up his mind not to comply with their demands.




On the ninth of March 1843, Mr Vernon Smith, Member for
Northampton, made the following motion:

"That this House, having regard to the high and important
functions of the Governor General of India, the mixed character
of the native population, and the recent measures of the Court of
Directors for discontinuing any seeming sanction to idolatry in
India, is of opinion that the conduct of Lord Ellenborough in
issuing the General Orders of the sixteenth of November 1842, and
in addressing the letter of the same date to all the chiefs,
princes, and people of India, respecting the restoration of the
gates of a temple to Somnauth, is unwise, indecorous, and

Mr Emerson Tennent, Secretary of the Board of Control, opposed
the motion. In reply to him the following Speech was made.

The motion was rejected by 242 votes to 157.

Mr Speaker,--If the practice of the honourable gentleman, the
Secretary of the Board of Control, had been in accordance with
his precepts, if he had not, after exhorting us to confine
ourselves strictly to the subject before us, rambled far from
that subject, I should have refrained from all digression. For
and truth there is abundance to be said touching both the
substance and the style of this Proclamation. I cannot, however,
leave the honourable gentleman's peroration entirely unnoticed.
But I assure him that I do not mean to wander from the question
before us to any great distance or for any long time.

I cannot but wonder, Sir, that he who has, on this, as on former
occasions, exhibited so much ability and acuteness, should have
gravely represented it as a ground of complaint, that my right
honourable friend the Member for Northampton has made this motion
in the Governor General's absence. Does the honourable gentleman
mean that this House is to be interdicted from ever considering
in what manner Her Majesty's Asiatic subjects, a hundred millions
in number, are governed? And how can we consider how they are
governed without considering the conduct of him who is governing
them? And how can we consider the conduct of him who is
governing them, except in his absence? For my own part, I can
say for myself, and I may, I doubt not, say for my right
honourable friend the Member for Northampton, that we both of us
wish, with all our hearts and souls, that we were discussing this
question in the presence of Lord Ellenborough. Would to heaven,
Sir, for the sake of the credit of England, and of the interests
of India, that the noble lord were at this moment under our
gallery! But, Sir, if there be any Governor who has no right to
complain of remarks made on him in his absence, it is that
Governor who, forgetting all official decorum, forgetting how
important it is that, while the individuals who serve the State
are changed, the State should preserve its identity, inserted in
a public proclamation reflections on his predecessor, a
predecessor of whom, on the present occasion, I will only say
that his conduct had deserved a very different return. I am
confident that no enemy of Lord Auckland, if Lord Auckland has an
enemy in the House, will deny that, whatever faults he may have
committed, he was faultless with respect to Lord Ellenborough.
No brother could have laboured more assiduously for the interests
and the honour of a brother than Lord Auckland laboured to
facilitate Lord Ellenborough's arduous task, to prepare for Lord
Ellenborough the means of obtaining success and glory. And what
was the requital? A proclamation by Lord Ellenborough,
stigmatising the conduct of Lord Auckland. And, Sir, since the
honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control has
thought fit to divert the debate from its proper course, I will
venture to request that he, or the honourable director who sits
behind him (Sir James Hogg.), will vouchsafe to give us some
explanations on an important point to which allusion has been
made. Lord Ellenborough has been accused of having publicly
announced that our troops were about to evacuate Afghanistan
before he had ascertained that our captive countrymen and
countrywomen had been restored to liberty. This accusation,
which is certainly a serious one, the honourable gentleman, the
Secretary of the Board of Control, pronounces to be a mere
calumny. Now, Sir, the proclamation which announces the
withdrawing of the troops bears date the first of October 1842.
What I wish to know is, whether any member of the Government, or
of the Court of Directors, will venture to affirm that on the
first of October 1842, the Governor General knew that the
prisoners had been set at liberty? I believe that no member
either of the Government or of the Court of Directors will
venture to affirm any such thing. It seems certain that on the
first of October the Governor General could not know that the
prisoners were safe. Nevertheless, the honourable gentleman the
Secretary of the Board of Control assures us that, when the
proclamation was drawn up, the Governor General did know that the
prisoners were safe. What is the inevitable consequence? It is
this, that the date is a false date, that the proclamation was
written after the first of October, and antedated? And for what
reason was it antedated? I am almost ashamed to tell the House
what I believe to have been the reason. I believe that Lord
Ellenborough affixed the false date of the first of October to
his proclamation because Lord Auckland's manifesto against
Afghanistan was dated on the first of October. I believe that
Lord Ellenborough wished to make the contrast between his own
success and his predecessor's failure more striking, and that for
the sake of this paltry, this childish, triumph, he antedated his
proclamation, and made it appear to all Europe and all Asia that
the English Government was indifferent to the fate of Englishmen
and Englishwomen who were in a miserable captivity. If this be
so, and I shall be surprised to hear any person deny that it is
so, I must say that by this single act, by writing those words,
the first of October, the Governor General proved himself to be a
man of an ill-regulated mind, a man unfit for high public trust.

I might, Sir, if I chose to follow the example of the honourable
gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control, advert to many
other matters. I might call the attention of the House to the
systematic manner in which the Governor General has exerted
himself to lower the character and to break the spirit of that
civil service on the respectability and efficiency of which
chiefly depends the happiness of a hundred millions of human
beings. I might say much about the financial committee which he
appointed in the hope of finding out blunders of his predecessor,
but which at last found out no blunders except his own. But the
question before us demands our attention. That question has two
sides, a serious and a ludicrous side. Let us look first at the
serious side. Sir, I disclaim in the strongest manner all
intention of raising any fanatical outcry or of lending aid to
any fanatical project. I would very much rather be the victim of
fanaticism than its tool. If Lord Ellenborough were called in
question for having given an impartial protection to the
professors of different religions, or for restraining
unjustifiable excesses into which Christian missionaries might
have been hurried by their zeal, I would, widely as I have always
differed from him in politics, have stood up in his defence,
though I had stood up alone. But the charge against Lord
Ellenborough is that he has insulted the religion of his own
country and the religion of millions of the Queen's Asiatic
subjects in order to pay honour to an idol. And this the right
honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control calls
a trivial charge. Sir, I think it a very grave charge. Her
Majesty is the ruler of a larger heathen population than the
world ever saw collected under the sceptre of a Christian
sovereign since the days of the Emperor Theodosius. What the
conduct of rulers in such circumstances ought to be is one of the
most important moral questions, one of the most important
political questions, that it is possible to conceive. There are
subject to the British rule in Asia a hundred millions of people
who do not profess the Christian faith. The Mahometans are a
minority: but their importance is much more than proportioned to
their number: for they are an united, a zealous, an ambitious, a
warlike class. The great majority of the population of India
consists of idolaters, blindly attached to doctrines and rites
which, considered merely with reference to the temporal interests
of mankind, are in the highest degree pernicious. In no part of
the world has a religion ever existed more unfavourable to the
moral and intellectual health of our race. The Brahminical
mythology is so absurd that it necessarily debases every mind
which receives it as truth; and with this absurd mythology is
bound up an absurd system of physics, an absurd geography, an
absurd astronomy. Nor is this form of Paganism more favourable
to art than to science. Through the whole Hindoo Pantheon you
will look in vain for anything resembling those beautiful and
majestic forms which stood in the shrines of ancient Greece. All
is hideous, and grotesque, and ignoble. As this superstition is
of all superstitions the most irrational, and of all
superstitions the most inelegant, so is it of all superstitions
the most immoral. Emblems of vice are objects of public worship.
Acts of vice are acts of public worship. The courtesans are as
much a part of the establishment of the temple, as much ministers
of the god, as the priests. Crimes against life, crimes against
property, are not only permitted but enjoined by this odious
theology. But for our interference human victims would still be
offered to the Ganges, and the widow would still be laid on the
pile with the corpse of her husband, and burned alive by her own
children. It is by the command and under the especial protection
of one of the most powerful goddesses that the Thugs join
themselves to the unsuspecting traveller, make friends with him,
slip the noose round his neck, plunge their knives in his eyes,
hide him in the earth, and divide his money and baggage. I have
read many examinations of Thugs; and I particularly remember an
altercation which took place between two of those wretches in the
presence of an English officer. One Thug reproached the other
for having been so irreligious as to spare the life of a
traveller when the omens indicated that their patroness required
a victim. "How could you let him go? How can you expect the
goddess to protect us if you disobey her commands? That is one
of your North country heresies." Now, Sir, it is a difficult
matter to determine in what way Christian rulers ought to deal
with such superstitions as these. We might have acted as the
Spaniards acted in the New World. We might have attempted to
introduce our own religion by force. We might have sent
missionaries among the natives at the public charge. We might
have held out hopes of public employment to converts, and have
imposed civil disabilities on Mahometans and Pagans. But we did
none of these things; and herein we judged wisely. Our duty, as
rulers, was to preserve strict neutrality on all questions merely
religious: and I am not aware that we have ever swerved from
strict neutrality for the purpose of making proselytes to our own
faith. But we have, I am sorry to say, sometimes deviated from
the right path in the opposite direction. Some Englishmen, who
have held high office in India, seem to have thought that the
only religion which was not entitled to toleration and to respect
was Christianity. They regarded every Christian missionary with
extreme jealousy and disdain; and they suffered the most
atrocious crimes, if enjoined by the Hindoo superstition, to be
perpetrated in open day. It is lamentable to think how long
after our power was firmly established in Bengal, we, grossly
neglecting the first and plainest duty of the civil magistrate,
suffered the practices of infanticide and Suttee to continue
unchecked. We decorated the temples of the false gods. We
provided the dancing girls. We gilded and painted the images to
which our ignorant subjects bowed down. We repaired and
embellished the car under the wheels of which crazy devotees
flung themselves at every festival to be crushed to death. We
sent guards of honour to escort pilgrims to the places of
worship. We actually made oblations at the shrines of idols.
All this was considered, and is still considered, by some
prejudiced Anglo-Indians of the old school, as profound policy.
I believe that there never was so shallow, so senseless a policy.
We gained nothing by it. We lowered ourselves in the eyes of
those whom we meant to flatter. We led them to believe that we
attached no importance to the difference between Christianity and
heathenism. Yet how vast that difference is! I altogether
abstain from alluding to topics which belong to divines. I speak
merely as a politician anxious for the morality and the temporal
well-being of society. And, so speaking, I say that to
countenance the Brahminical idolatry, and to discountenance that
religion which has done so much to promote justice, and mercy,
and freedom, and arts, and sciences, and good government, and
domestic happiness, which has struck off the chains of the slave,
which has mitigated the horrors of war, which has raised women
from servants and playthings into companions and friends, is to
commit high treason against humanity and civilisation.

Gradually a better system was introduced. A great man whom we
have lately lost, Lord Wellesley, led the way. He prohibited the
immolation of female children; and this was the most
unquestionable of all his titles to the gratitude of his country.
In the year 1813 Parliament gave new facilities to persons who
were desirous to proceed to India as missionaries. Lord William
Bentinck abolished the Suttee. Shortly afterwards the Home
Government sent out to Calcutta the important and valuable
despatch to which reference has been repeatedly made in the
course of this discussion. That despatch Lord Glenelg wrote,--I
was then at the Board of Control, and can attest the fact,--with
his own hand. One paragraph, the sixty-second, is of the highest
moment. I know that paragraph so well that I could repeat it
word for word. It contains in short compass an entire code of
regulations for the guidance of British functionaries in matters
relating to the idolatry of India. The orders of the Home
Government were express, that the arrangements of the temples
should be left entirely to the natives. A certain discretion was
of course left to the local authorities as to the time and manner
of dissolving that connection which had long existed between the
English Government and the Brahminical superstition. But the
principle was laid down in the clearest manner. This was in
February 1833. In the year 1838 another despatch was sent, which
referred to the sixty-second paragraph in Lord Glenelg's
despatch, and enjoined the Indian Government to observe the rules
contained in that paragraph. Again, in the year 1841, precise
orders were sent out on the same subject, orders which Lord
Ellenborough seems to me to have studied carefully for the
express purpose of disobeying them point by point, and in the
most direct manner. You murmur: but only look at the orders of
the Directors and at the proclamation of the Governor General.
The orders are, distinctly and positively, that the British
authorities in India shall have nothing to do with the temples of
the natives, shall make no presents to those temples, shall not
decorate those temples, shall not pay any military honour to
those temples. Now, Sir, the first charge which I bring against
Lord Ellenborough is, that he has been guilty of an act of gross
disobedience, that he has done that which was forbidden in the
strongest terms by those from whom his power is derived. The
Home Government says, Do not interfere in the concerns of heathen
temples. Is it denied that Lord Ellenborough has interfered in
the concerns of a heathen temple? The Home Government says, Make
no presents to heathen temples. Is it denied that Lord
Ellenborough has proclaimed to all the world his intention to
make a present to a heathen temple? The Home Government says, Do
not decorate heathen temples. Is it denied that Lord
Ellenborough has proclaimed to all the world his intention to
decorate a heathen temple? The Home Government says, Do not send
troops to do honour to heathen temples. Is it denied that Lord
Ellenborough sent a body of troops to escort these gates to a
heathen temple? To be sure, the honourable gentleman the
Secretary of the Board of Control tries to get rid of this part
of the case in rather a whimsical manner. He says that it is
impossible to believe that, by sending troops to escort the
gates, Lord Ellenborough can have meant to pay any mark of
respect to an idol. And why? Because, says the honourable
gentleman, the Court of Directors had given positive orders that
troops should not be employed to pay marks of respect to idols.
Why, Sir, undoubtedly, if it is to be taken for granted that Lord
Ellenborough is a perfect man, if all our reasonings are to
proceed on the supposition that he cannot do wrong, then I admit
the force of the honourable gentleman's argument. But it seems
to me a strange and dangerous thing to infer a man's innocence
merely from the flagrancy of his guilt. It is certain that the
Home authorities ordered the Governor General not to employ the
troops in the service of a temple. It is certain that Lord
Ellenborough employed the troops to escort a trophy, an oblation,
which he sent to the restored temple of Somnauth. Yes, the
restored temple of Somnauth. Those are his lordship's words.
They have given rise to some discussion, and seem not to be
understood by everybody in the same sense. We all know that this
temple is an ruins. I am confident that Lord Ellenborough knew
it to be in ruins, and that his intention was to rebuild it at
the public charge. That is the obvious meaning of his words.
But, as this meaning is so monstrous that nobody here can venture
to defend it, his friends pretend that he believed the temple to
have been already restored, and that he had no thought of being
himself the restorer. How can I believe this? How can I believe
that, when he issued this proclamation, he knew nothing about the
state of the temple to which he proposed to make an offering of
such importance? He evidently knew that it had once been in
ruins; or he would not have called it the restored temple. Why
am I to suppose that he imagined it to have been rebuilt? He had
people about him who knew it well, and who could have told him
that it was in ruins still. To say that he was not aware that it
was in ruins is to say that he put forth his proclamation without
taking the trouble to ask a single question of those who were
close at hand and were perfectly competent to give him
information. Why, Sir, this defence is itself an accusation. I
defy the honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of
Control, I defy all human ingenuity, to get his lordship clear
off from both the horns of this dilemma. Either way, he richly
deserves a parliamentary censure. Either he published this
proclamation in the recklessness of utter ignorance without
making the smallest inquiry; or else he, an English and a
Christian Governor, meant to build a temple to a heathen god at
the public charge, in direct defiance of the commands of his
official superiors. Turn and twist the matter which way you
will, you can make nothing else of it. The stain is like the
stain of Blue Beard's key, in the nursery tale. As soon as you
have scoured one side clean, the spot comes out on the other.

So much for the first charge, the charge of disobedience. It is
fully made out: but it is not the heaviest charge which I bring
against Lord Ellenborough. I charge him with having done that
which, even if it had not been, as it was, strictly forbidden by
the Home authorities, it would still have been a high crime to
do. He ought to have known, without any instructions from home,
that it was his duty not to take part in disputes among the false
religions of the East; that it was his duty, in his official
character, to show no marked preference for any of those
religions, and to offer no marked insult to any. But, Sir, he
has paid unseemly homage to one of those religions; he has
grossly insulted another; and he has selected as the object of
his homage the very worst and most degrading of those religions,
and as the object of his insults the best and purest of them.
The homage was paid to Lingamism. The insult was offered to
Mahometanism. Lingamism is not merely idolatry, but idolatry in
its most pernicious form. The honourable gentleman the Secretary
of the Board of Control seemed to think that he had achieved a
great victory when he had made out that his lordship's devotions
had been paid, not to Vishnu, but to Siva. Sir, Vishnu is the
preserving Deity of the Hindoo Mythology; Siva is the destroying
Deity; and, as far as I have any preference for one of your
Governor General's gods over another, I confess that my own
tastes would lead me to prefer the preserving to the destroying
power. Yes, Sir; the temple of Somnauth was sacred to Siva; and
the honourable gentleman cannot but know by what emblem Siva is
represented, and with what rites he is adored. I will say no
more. The Governor General, Sir, is in some degree protected by
the very magnitude of his offence. I am ashamed to name those
things to which he is not ashamed to pay public reverence. This
god of destruction, whose images and whose worship it would be a
violation of decency to describe, is selected as the object of
homage. As the object of insult is selected a religion which has
borrowed much of its theology and much of its morality from
Christianity, a religion which in the midst of Polytheism teaches
the unity of God, and, in the midst of idolatry, strictly
proscribes the worship of images. The duty of our Government is,
as I said, to take no part in the disputes between Mahometans and
idolaters. But, if our Government does take a part, there cannot
be a doubt that Mahometanism is entitled to the preference. Lord
Ellenborough is of a different opinion. He takes away the gates
from a Mahometan mosque, and solemnly offers them as a gift to a
Pagan temple. Morally, this is a crime. Politically, it is a
blunder. Nobody who knows anything of the Mahometans of India
can doubt that this affront to their faith will excite their
fiercest indignation. Their susceptibility on such points is
extreme. Some of the most serious disasters that have ever
befallen us in India have been caused by that susceptibility.
Remember what happened at Vellore in 1806, and more recently at
Bangalore. The mutiny of Vellore was caused by a slight shown to
the Mahometan turban; the mutiny of Bangalore, by disrespect said
to have been shown to a Mahometan place of worship. If a
Governor General had been induced by his zeal for Christianity to
offer any affront to a mosque held in high veneration by
Mussulmans, I should think that he had been guilty of
indiscretion such as proved him to be unfit for his post. But to
affront a mosque of peculiar dignity, not from zeal for
Christianity, but for the sake of this loathsome god of
destruction, is nothing short of madness. Some temporary
popularity Lord Ellenborough may no doubt gain in some quarters.
I hear, and I can well believe, that some bigoted Hindoos have
hailed this proclamation with delight, and have begun to
entertain a hope that the British Government is about to take
their worship under its peculiar protection. But how long will
that hope last? I presume that the right honourable Baronet the
First Lord of the Treasury does not mean to suffer India to be
governed on Brahminical principles. I presume that he will not
allow the public revenue to be expended in rebuilding temples,
adorning idols, and hiring courtesans. I have no doubt that
there is already on the way to India such an admonition as will
prevent Lord Ellenborough from persisting in the course on which
he has entered. The consequence will be that the exultation of
the Brahmins will end in mortification and anger. See then of
what a complication of faults the Governor General is guilty. In
order to curry favour with the Hindoos he has offered an
inexpiable insult to the Mahometans; and now, in order to quiet
the English, he is forced to disappoint and disgust the Hindoos.
But, apart from the irritating effect which these transactions
must produce on every part of the native population, is it no
evil to have this continual wavering and changing? This is not
the only case in which Lord Ellenborough has, with great pomp,
announced intentions which he has not been able to carry into
effect. It is his Lordship's habit. He put forth a notification
that his Durbar was to be honoured by the presence of Dost
Mahomed. Then came a notification that Dost Mahomed would not
make his appearance there. In the proclamation which we are now
considering his lordship announced to all the princes of India
his resolution to set up these gates at Somnauth. The gates, it
is now universally admitted, will not be set up there. All India
will see that the Governor General has changed his mind. The
change may be imputed to mere fickleness and levity. It may be
imputed to the disapprobation with which his conduct has been
regarded here. In either case he appears in a light in which it
is much to be deplored that a Governor General should appear.

So much for the serious side of this business; and now for the
ludicrous side. Even in our mirth, however, there is sadness;
for it is no light thing that he who represents the British
nation in India should be a jest to the people of India. We have
sometimes sent them governors whom they loved, and sometimes
governors whom they feared; but they never before had a governor
at whom they laughed. Now, however, they laugh; and how can we
blame them for laughing, when all Europe and all America are
laughing too? You see, Sir, that the gentlemen opposite cannot
keep their countenances. And no wonder. Was such a State paper
ever seen in our language before? And what is the plea set up
for all this bombast? Why, the honourable gentleman the
Secretary of the Board of Control brings down to the House some
translations of Persian letters from native princes. Such
letters, as everybody knows, are written in a most absurd and
turgid style. The honourable gentleman forces us to hear a good
deal of this detestable rhetoric; and then he asks why, if the
secretaries of the Nizam and the King of Oude use all these
tropes and hyperboles, Lord Ellenborough should not indulge in
the same sort of eloquence? The honourable gentleman might as
well ask why Lord Ellenborough should not sit cross-legged, why
he should not let his beard grow to his waist, why he should not
wear a turban, why he should not hang trinkets all about his
person, why he should not ride about Calcutta on a horse jingling
with bells and glittering with false pearls. The native princes
do these things; and why should not he? Why, Sir, simply because
he is not a native prince, but an English Governor General. When
the people of India see a Nabob or a Rajah in all his gaudy
finery, they bow to him with a certain respect. They know that
the splendour of his garb indicates superior rank and wealth.
But if Sir Charles Metcalfe had so bedizened himself, they would
have thought that he was out of his wits. They are not such
fools as the honourable gentleman takes them for. Simplicity is
not their fashion. But they understand and respect the
simplicity of our fashions. Our plain clothing commands far more
reverence than all the jewels which the most tawdry Zemindar
wears; and our plain language carries with it far more weight
than the florid diction of the most ingenious Persian scribe.
The plain language and the plain clothing are inseparably
associated in the minds of our subjects with superior knowledge,
with superior energy, with superior veracity, with all the high
and commanding qualities which erected, and which still uphold,
our empire. Sir, if, as the speech of the honourable gentleman
the Secretary of the Board of Control seems to indicate, Lord
Ellenborough has adopted this style on principle, if it be his
lordship's deliberate intention to mimic, in his State papers,
the Asiatic modes of thought and expression, that alone would be
a reason for recalling him. But the honourable gentlemen is
mistaken in thinking that this proclamation is in the Oriental
taste. It bears no resemblance to the very bad Oriental
compositions which he has read to us, nor to any other Oriental
compositions that I ever saw. It is neither English nor Indian.
It is not original, however; and I will tell the House where the
Governor General found his models. He has apparently been
studying the rants of the French Jacobins during the period of
their ascendency, the Carmagnoles of the Convention, the
proclamations issued by the Directory and its Proconsuls: and he
has been seized with a desire to imitate those compositions. The
pattern which he seems to have especially proposed to himself is
the rhodomontade in which it was announced that the modern Gauls
were marching to Rome in order to avenge the fate of Dumnorix and
Vercingetorex. Everybody remembers those lines in which
revolutionary justice is described by Mr Canning:--

"Not she in British courts who takes her stand,
The dawdling balance dangling in her hand;
But firm, erect, with keen reverted glance,
The avenging angel of regenerate France,
Who visits ancient sins on modern times,
And punishes the Pope for Caesar's crimes."

In the same spirit and in the same style our Governor General has
proclaimed his intention to retaliate on the Mussulmans beyond
the mountains the insults which their ancestors, eight hundred
years ago, offered to the idolatry of the Hindoos. To do justice
to the Jacobins, however, I must say that they had an excuse
which was wanting to the noble lord. The revolution had made
almost as great a change in literary tastes as in political
institutions. The old masters of French eloquence had shared the
fate of the old states and of the old parliaments. The highest
posts in the administration were filled by persons who had no
experience of affairs, who in the general confusion had raised
themselves by audacity and quickness of natural parts, uneducated
men, or half educated men, who had no notion that the style in
which they had heard the heroes and villains of tragedies declaim
on the stage was not the style of real warriors and statesmen.
But was it for an English gentleman, a man of distinguished
abilities and cultivated mind, a man who had sate many years in
parliament, and filled some of the highest posts in the State, to
copy the productions of such a school?

But, it is said, what does it matter if the noble lord has
written a foolish rhapsody which is neither prose nor verse? Is
affected phraseology a subject for parliamentary censure? What
great ruler can be named who has not committed errors much more
serious than the penning of a few sentences of turgid nonsense?
This, I admit, sounds plausible. It is quite true that very
eminent men, Lord Somers, for example, Sir Robert Walpole, Lord
Chatham and his son, all committed faults which did much more
harm than any fault of style can do. But I beg the House to
observe this, that an error which produces the most serious
consequences may not necessarily prove that the man who has
committed it is not a very wise man; and that, on the other hand,
an error which directly produces no important consequences may
prove the man who has committed it to be quite unfit for public
trust. Walpole committed a ruinous error when he yielded to the
public cry for war with Spain. But, notwithstanding that error,
he was an eminently wise man. Caligula, on the other hand, when
he marched his soldiers to the beach, made them fill their
helmets with cockle-shells, and sent the shells to be placed in
the Capitol as trophies of his conquests, did no great harm to
anybody; but he surely proved that he was quite incapable of
governing an empire. Mr Pitt's expedition to Quiberon was most
ill judged, and ended in defeat and disgrace. Yet Mr Pitt was a
statesman of a very high order. On the other hand, such ukases
as those by which the Emperor Paul used to regulate the dress of
the people of Petersburg, though they caused much less misery
than the slaughter at Quiberon, proved that the Emperor Paul
could not safely be trusted with power over his fellow-creatures.
One day he forbade the wearing of pantaloons. Another day he
forbade his subjects to comb their hair over their foreheads.
Then he proscribed round hats. A young Englishman, the son of a
merchant, thought to evade this decree by going about the city in
a hunting cap. Then came out an edict which made it penal to
wear on the head a round thing such as the English merchant's son
wore. Now, Sir, I say that, when I examine the substance of Lord
Ellenborough's proclamation, and consider all the consequences
which that paper is likely to produce, I am forced to say that he
has committed a grave moral and political offence. When I
examine the style, I see that he has committed an act of
eccentric folly, much of the same kind with Caligula's campaign
against the cockles, and with the Emperor Paul's ukase against
round hats. Consider what an extravagant selfconfidence, what a
disdain for the examples of his great predecessors and for the
opinions of the ablest and most experienced men who are now to be
found in the Indian services, this strange document indicates.
Surely it might have occurred to Lord Ellenborough that, if this
kind of eloquence had been likely to produce a favourable
impression on the minds of Asiatics, such Governors as Warren
Hastings, Mr Elphinstone, Sir Thomas Munro, and Sir Charles
Metcalfe, men who were as familiar with the language and manners
of the native population of India as any man here can be with the
language and manners of the French, would not have left the
discovery to be made by a new comer who did not know any Eastern
tongue. Surely, too, it might have occurred to the noble lord
that, before he put forth such a proclamation, he would do well
to ask some person who knew India intimately what the effect both
on the Mahometans and Hindoos was likely to be. I firmly believe
that the Governor General either did not ask advice or acted in
direct opposition to advice. Mr Maddock was with his lordship as
acting Secretary. Now I know enough of Mr Maddock to be quite
certain that he never counselled the Governor General to publish
such a paper. I will pawn my life that he either was never
called upon to give an opinion, or that he gave an opinion
adverse to the course which has been taken. No Governor General
who was on good terms with the civil service would have been, I
may say, permitted to expose himself thus. Lord William Bentinck
and Lord Auckland were, to be sure, the last men in the world to
think of doing such a thing as this. But if either of those
noble lords, at some unlucky moment when he was not quite
himself, when his mind was thrown off the balance by the pride
and delight of an extraordinary success, had proposed to put
forth such a proclamation, he would have been saved from
committing so great a mistake by the respectful but earnest
remonstrances of those in whom he placed confidence, and who were
solicitous for his honour. From the appearance of this
proclamation, therefore, I infer that the terms on which Lord
Ellenborough is with the civil servants of the Company are such
that those servants could not venture to offer him counsel when
he most needed it.

For these reasons, Sir, I think the noble lord unfit for high
public trust. Let us, then, consider the nature of the public
trust which is now reposed in him. Are gentlemen aware that,
even when he is at Calcutta, surrounded by his councillors, his
single voice can carry any resolution concerning the executive
administration against them all? They can object: they can
protest: they can record their opinions in writing, and can
require him to give in writing his reasons for persisting in his
own course: but they must then submit. On the most important
questions, on the question whether a war shall be declared, on
the question whether a treaty shall be concluded, on the question
whether the whole system of land revenue established in a great
province shall be changed, his single vote weighs down the votes
of all who sit at the Board with him. The right honourable
Baronet opposite is a powerful minister, a more powerful minister
than any that we have seen during many years. But I will venture
to say that his power over the people of England is nothing when
compared with the power which the Governor General possesses over
the people of India. Such is Lord Ellenborough's power when he
is with his council, and is to some extent held in check. But
where is he now? He has given his council the slip. He is
alone. He has near him no person who is entitled and bound to
offer advice, asked or unasked: he asks no advice: and you
cannot expect men to outstep the strict line of their official
duty by obtruding advice on a superior by whom it would be
ungraciously received. The danger of having a rash and flighty
Governor General is sufficiently serious at the very best. But
the danger of having such a Governor General up the country,
eight or nine hundred miles from any person who has a right to
remonstrate with him, is fearful indeed. Interests so vast, that
the most sober language in which they can be described sounds
hyperbolical, are entrusted to a single man; to a man who,
whatever his parts may be, and they are doubtless considerable,
has shown an indiscretion and temerity almost beyond belief; to a
man who has been only a few months in India; to a man who takes
no counsel with those who are well acquainted with India.

I cannot sit down without addressing myself to those Directors of
the East India Company who are present. I exhort them to
consider the heavy responsibility which rests on them. They have
the power to recall Lord Ellenborough; and I trust that they will
not hesitate to exercise that power. This is the advice of one
who has been their servant, who has served them loyally, and who
is still sincerely anxious for their credit and for the welfare
of the empire of which they are the guardians. But if, from
whatever cause, they are unwilling to recall the noble lord, then
I implore them to take care that he be immediately ordered to
return to Calcutta. Who can say what new freak we may hear of by
the next mail? I am quite confident that neither the Court of
Directors nor Her Majesty's Ministers can look forward to the
arrival of that mail without great uneasiness. Therefore I say,
send Lord Ellenborough back to Calcutta. There at least he will
find persons who have a right to advise him and to expostulate
with him, and who will, I doubt not, have also the spirit to do
so. It is something that he will be forced to record his reasons
for what he does. It is something that he will be forced to hear
reasons against his propositions. It is something that a delay,
though only of twenty-four hours, will be interposed between the
first conception of a wild scheme and the execution. I am afraid
that these checks will not be sufficient to prevent much evil:
but they are not absolutely nugatory. I entreat the Directors to
consider in what a position they will stand if, in consequence of
their neglect, some serious calamity should befall the country
which is confided to their care. I will only say, in conclusion,
that, if there be any use in having a Council of India, if it be
not meant that the members of Council should draw large salaries
for doing nothing, if they are really appointed for the purpose
of assisting and restraining the Governor, it is to the last
degree absurd that their powers should be in abeyance when there
is a Governor who, of all the Governors that ever England sent to
the East, stands most in need both of assistance and of




On the thirteenth of February 1844, Lord John Russell moved for a
Committee of the whole House to take into consideration the state
of Ireland. After a discussion of nine nights the motion was
rejected by 324 votes to 225. On the fifth night of the debate
the following Speech was made.

I cannot refrain, Sir, from congratulating you and the House that
I did not catch your eye when I rose before. I should have been
extremely sorry to have prevented any Irish member from
addressing the House on a question so interesting to Ireland, but
peculiarly sorry to have stood in the way of the honourable
gentleman who to-night pleaded the cause of his country with so
much force and eloquence. (Mr J. O'Brien.)

I am sorry to say that I cannot reconcile it to my conscience to
follow the advice which has been just given me by my honourable
friend the Member for Pomfret (Mr R. Milnes.), with all the
authority which, as he has reminded us, belongs to his venerable
youth. I cannot at all agree with him in thinking that the
wisest thing that we can do is to suffer Her Majesty's Ministers
to go on in their own way, seeing that the way in which they have
long been going on is an exceedingly bad one. I support the
motion of my noble friend for these plain reasons.

First, I hold that Ireland is in a most unsatisfactory, indeed in
a most dangerous, state.

Secondly, I hold that for the state in which Ireland is Her
Majesty's Ministers are in a great measure accountable, and that
they have not shown, either as legislators, or as administrators,
that they are capable of remedying the evils which they have

Now, Sir, if I make out these two propositions, it will follow
that it is the constitutional right and duty of the
representatives of the nation to interfere; and I conceive that
my noble friend, by moving for a Committee of the whole House,
has proposed a mode of interference which is both parliamentary
and convenient.

My first proposition, Sir, will scarcely be disputed. Both sides
of the House are fully agreed in thinking that the condition of
Ireland may well excite great anxiety and apprehension. That
island, in extent about one fourth of the United Kingdom, in
population more than one-fourth, superior probably in natural
fertility to any area of equal size in Europe, possessed of
natural facilities for trade such as can nowhere else be found in
an equal extent of coast, an inexhaustible nursery of gallant
soldiers, a country far more important to the prosperity, the
strength, the dignity of this great empire than all our distant
dependencies together, than the Canadas and the West Indies added
to Southern Africa, to Australasia, to Ceylon, and to the vast
dominions of the Moguls, that island, Sir, is acknowledged by all
to be so ill affected and so turbulent that it must, in any
estimate of our power, be not added but deducted. You admit that
you govern that island, not as you govern England and Scotland,
but as you govern your new conquests in Scinde; not by means of
the respect which the people feel for the laws, but by means of
bayonets, of artillery, of entrenched camps.

My first proposition, then, I take to be conceded. Ireland is in
a dangerous state. The question which remains to be considered
is, whether for the state in which Ireland is Her Majesty's
Ministers are to be held accountable.

Now, Sir, I at once admit that the distempers of Ireland must in
part be attributed to causes for which neither Her Majesty's
present Ministers nor any public men now living can justly be
held accountable. I will not trouble the House with a long
dissertation on those causes. But it is necessary, I think, to
take at least a rapid glance at them: and in order to do so,
Sir, we must go back to a period not only anterior to the birth
of the statesmen who are now arrayed against each other on the
right and left of your chair, but anterior to the birth even of
the great parties of which those statesmen are the leaders;
anterior to the days when the names of Tory and Whig, of court
party and country party, of cavalier and roundhead, came into
use; anterior to the existence of those Puritans to whom the
honourable Member for Shrewsbury (Mr Disraeli.), in a very
ingenious speech, ascribed all the calamities of Ireland.

The primary cause is, no doubt, the manner in which Ireland
became subject to the English crown. The annexation was effected
by conquest, and by conquest of a peculiar kind. It was not a
conquest such as we have been accustomed to see in modern Europe.
It was not a conquest like that which united Artois and Franche
Comte to France, or Silesia to Prussia. It was the conquest of a
race by a race, such a conquest as that which established the
dominion of the Spaniard over the American Indian, or of the
Mahratta over the peasant of Guzerat or Tanjore. Of all forms of
tyranny, I believe that the worst is that of a nation over a
nation. Populations separated by seas and mountain ridges may
call each other natural enemies, may wage long wars with each
other, may recount with pride the victories which they have
gained over each other, and point to the flags, the guns, the
ships which they have won from each other. But no enmity that
ever existed between such populations approaches in bitterness
the mutual enmity felt by populations which are locally
intermingled, but which have never morally and politically
amalgamated; and such were the Englishry and the Irishry. Yet it
might have been hoped that the lapse of time and the progress of
civilisation would have effaced the distinction between the
oppressors and the oppressed. Our island had suffered cruelly
from the same evil. Here the Saxon had trampled on the Celt, the
Dane on the Saxon, the Norman on Celt, Saxon, and Dane. Yet in
the course of ages all the four races had been fused together to
form the great English people. A similar fusion would probably
have taken place in Ireland, but for the Reformation. The
English settlers adopted the Protestant doctrines which were
received in England. The Aborigines alone, among all the nations
of the north of Europe, adhered to the ancient faith. Thus the
line of demarcation between the two populations was deepened and
widened. The old enmity was reinforced by a new enmity stronger
still. Then came those events to which the honourable Member for
Shrewsbury referred. The spirit of liberty in England was

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