Essential Writings Volume 4 - William Cobbett - ebook
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William Cobbett was an English journalist and member of parliament, who was born in Farnham, Surrey. He believed that reforming Parliament and abolishing the rotten boroughs would help to end the poverty of farm labourers, and he attacked the borough-mongers, sinecurists and "tax-eaters" relentlessly. Through the seeming contradictions in Cobbett's life, his opposition to authority stayed constant. He wrote many polemics, on subjects from political reform to religion. This is volume four out of four of his most essential writings, covering works for the weekly newspaper "Political Register" from the years 1811 to 1816.

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Essential Writings

 

Volume 4

 

WILLIAM COBBETT

 

 

 

 

Essential Writings 4, W. Cobbett

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9

Deutschland

 

ISBN: 9783849651794

 

www.jazzybee-verlag.de

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS:

KING’S ILLNESS.—THE REGENCY. (continued.)1

KING’S ILLNESS.—THE REGENCY.—Continued.7

KING’S ILLNESS.—THE REGENCY.—Continued.20

KING’S ILNESS.—THE REGENCY.—Concluded.26

DISSENTERS.34

THE DISSENTERS.—Continued.39

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE  WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.46

LETTER II.54

LETTER III.59

LETTER IV.66

LETTER V.74

LETTER VI.79

LETTER VII.83

LETTER VIII.90

LETTER IX.96

LETTER X.102

AMERICAN WAR.108

AMERICAN STATES.112

THE LUDDITES.120

NO. I.120

NO. II.129

NO. III.131

TO THE THINKING PEOPLE OF ENGLAND,  ON THE AFFAIRS OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY.133

LETTER I.133

LETTER II.139

TO JAMES PAUL, Of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County, in the State of Pennsylvania; ON MATTERS RELATING TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS OF WALES.145

LETTER I.145

LETTER II.151

LETTER III.162

LETTER IV.172

LETTER V.181

LETTER VI.191

LETTER VII.202

GENERAL ENCLOSURE BILL.206

PRICE OF BREAD.212

PRICE OF BREAD.—Continued.217

TO MR. ALDERMAN WOOD, ON THE SUBJECT  OF TEACHING THE CHILDREN OF THE POOR TO READ.223

LETTER I.223

LETTER II.228

ANSWER TO MR. CANNING’S LIVERPOOL SPEECH.231

CORN LAWS.244

TO THE PEOPLE OF SOUTHAMPTON, ON THE CORN BILL.247

TO MR. COKE, ON THE DISPUTE ABOUT CORN.258

CORN BILL.261

CORN BILL.264

CORN BILL.267

CORN BILL.271

CORN BILL.276

TO THE PEOPLE OF HAMPSHIRE.276

CORN BILL.278

CORN BILL.280

LETTER TO A CORRESPONDENT IN AMERICA, ON THE EXPENSES, THE TAXES, &c., OF GREAT BRITAIN, COMPARED WITH THOSE OF AMERICA.282

FIVE LETTERS TO LORD SHEFFIELD, ON HIS  SPEECH AT LEWES WOOL FAIR, JULY 26, 1815.292

LETTER. I.292

LETTER II.295

LETTER III.298

LETTER IV.300

LETTER V.303

TO THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER. Ref. 013311

LETTER I.311

LETTER II.314

LETTER III.319

LETTER IV.327

LETTER V.332

LETTER VI.335

LETTER VII.349

LETTER VIII.351

LETTER IX.354

TO SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, BART., ON THE DISTRESSES OF THE COUNTRY, AND ON THE MEASURES TO BE ADOPTED TO PREVENT CONFUSION AND DEVASTATION.360

TO SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, BART., ON THE  BOOK OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE.373

TO SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, BART., ON THE REMEDIES PROPOSED BY THE CORRESPONDENTS OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE.385

TO SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, BART. WHAT GOOD WOULD A REFORM OF PARLIAMENT NOW DO? AND IN WHAT MANNER CAN IT TAKE PLACE WITHOUT CREATING CONFUSION?. 398

TO SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, BART. IN WHAT MANNER CAN A REFORM OF PARLIAMENT TAKE PLACE, WITHOUT CREATING CONFUSION?. 410

FOOTNOTES:421

KING’S ILLNESS.—THE REGENCY. (continued.)

(Political Register, February, 1811.)

 

“The hope of the HYPOCRITES shall perish.”

I repeat my motto; and the denunciation I have no fear of seeing completely verified. The hypocritical editor of the Courier and the crew of hypocrites who approve of his efforts, all this base, canting crew, now driven to their resource, crocodile tears, will not find, any longer, a cloak sufficiently thick to disguise them.

Gulls as the people of this country have long been, they are not any longer to be cheated by this hypocrite and his like. It is hypocrisy that has, for years, been the bane of England; but, I do trust, that it will now, by being unmasked, be deprived of its power to do us further mischief.

In my last, I exposed an attempt, on the part of the Editor of the Courier and his brother hypocrites, to make the people believe, that all those, who were for using extreme caution in again imposing upon the King the functions of royalty, meant to dethrone him. I exposed this attempt pretty well; and showed how base and wicked were the motives from which it had manifestly proceeded. I showed, that the assertions of the hypocrites were false; and that, as a last resource, they had resorted to cant and crying with a view to calumnious insinuations against the Prince of Wales, calculated to excite the foulest suspicions against him, and to render him odious in the eyes of the people. The gist of what they were, and still are, endeavouring to inculcate, is this: That the “new men,” as they call them, have discovered a disposition, nay, and a resolution, to dethrone the King; because they have recommended great caution to be observed in calling upon him again to exercise the kingly office. This is the point, at which they are incessantly labouring; with efforts directed to this point, they fill column after column; and, it is easy to see, that they do, and must include the Prince amongst the “new men.”

That there is ground for great caution no one will, I think, deny, after what has recently come to light. Nevertheless, this same hypocritical writer and his brother hypocrites, who furnish matter for his paper, are still endeavouring to prevail upon the public to consider as an act of hostility to the King, every effort that is made to provide against a premature resumption of the royal authority on the part of the King.

I shall, in the present Number, notice, in a particular manner, and, I trust, fully expose, another of these attempts to cajole the people; and, when I have done that, I shall examine into the truth of these venal men’s assertions respecting the Charges of Lord Grey against the Lord Chancellor. They assert these charges to be groundless; and, it, therefore, becomes us to refer to dates, and to compare them and the Evidence of the Physicians with the statements of Lord Grey. For, though the speech of his lordship was plain and full, as to all points, still it was impossible for any man (especially under a prohibition to take any speech in short hand) to give it perfectly correct even as to the substance; much less to give it in detail.

With the whole of the Evidence before me, and with the history of the times referred to, also before me, I shall, I trust, be able to give a more full and clear statement of the matter, than has yet reached the public eye.

But, I must first notice the article, above alluded to, in the Courier of the 30th of January; because in this article the reader will have a view of another of the tricks, which the hypocrites are playing off for the purpose of keeping up their deceptions a little longer. They are hard put to it. They know not what to be at; and, though as cunning as Old Satan himself, they do, I verily believe, begin to despair of gulling and cheating the public any longer. The dullest of the people now begin to see them in their true colours. The exposures have been so often repeated, that, at last, they begin to have effect.

The trick which I am now about to notice is an attempt at alarm; an attempt to cajole the people into a belief, that those who protest against using the King’s name before he is restored to a perfectly sound mind, wish to set him aside; wish to do some violent act of injustice towards him.

“The attempts,” says this venal hypocrite, who really appears to me to be pretty nearly a match for an old North-of-England political acquaintance of mine, whom I have, for many years, called Hypocrisy Personified, and who, to a Lazarus-like look given him by nature, has added all that art can afford, and who is, even in this age, certainly the most consummate hypocrite in existence. Talk of the Saints of the Long-Parliament! There was not one of them fit “to hold a candle to him.”—Yet, this creature, the most perfect of his kind, and who has duped nearly as many people as were duped by Mahomet, or any other of the lucky impostors that have lived in the world; even this hypocrite is not far out-done by these venal men, these MEAN, MERCENARY and MALIGNANT men, upon the writings of one of whom I am now about to comment.

“The attempts,” says he, “daily making to prepare the public mind for setting the King aside, altogether, cannot fail of exciting alarm. The design was scouted with indignation by both Houses of Parliament, on the first day of its meeting, but it has ever since been disclosing itself, and certainly is acting upon. We have already given very striking proofs of this from the Journals. Men startled at these things at first, but silence and impunity make them bold. The Weekly Register, and others of the same character, deprecate the return of the King to power till he is quite well, by which they mean something better than at his age he is ever likely to be, allowing him to be as well in mind as ever. Out of mere kindness to the King they would not allow him to return to the fatigues of business. One member of the House of Commons asserts, that a man subject to hurries never can be fit to reign, and Sir F. Burdett last week roundly affirmed, the King could never be fit to govern at his age; with his blindness, and liable as he is to derangement. Thus the design proceeds.”

What design? What design have we? What do we mean, or what can we mean, more than we say? We “deprecate the return of the King to power till he is QUITE WELL.” And what, then? To be sure we deprecate it; and are we not right in so doing? Ought he, in mere common mercy to himself, to be permitted to resume his authority before he is quite well? Are we not right to express our opinions, that he ought not to be called upon to resume his authority; to exercise the powers of life and death; to make war and peace: are we not right in deprecating the idea of his being called upon to resume such powers until he be quite well? Aye, and was I not right, when, about a fortnight ago, I took timely opportunity to suggest the propriety of some measure to prevent him from being so called upon, until there had been some months, or weeks, at least, of probation, after complete recovery? Was not this right? Will any man now deny, that the suggestion was proper? Indeed, it arose out of a perusal of the very evidence upon which Lord Grey has made his late statements, in the House of Lords, and upon which Lord King founded his motion for erasing the name of Lord Eldon from the list of the Queen’s Council.

But, this venal man says, that, by the words quite well, we mean “something better than the King, at his age, is ever likely to be.” His age! Age does not naturally deprive men of the use of their senses. The age of the King is not very great. There is Mr. Baron Maseres at the age of eighty, writing with as much clearness and strength as he did at the age of forty. We say nothing about the age of the King. His is by no means an age to produce mental feebleness. But, we see, in the evidence upon oath, that he is in a state of mental derangement; that he has been in that state now three times within eleven years; and, we also read in that evidence, that he was in that state while his assent was given to many acts of parliament, some of them granting away crown lands and imposing penalties of death; this we see, and seeing this, are we to be accused of designs to set him aside; because we wish, that there should be clear proof produced of his being quite well, before he is again called upon to exercise the Royal Authority?

All this is equally false with the former. Mr. Wood gave no preference

“Another most unconstitutional doctrine,” continues this venal writer, “advanced in many quarters, but particularly in the Common Council by Mr. Alderman Wood, is, the preference given to the Prince of Wales as our Chief Magistrate in consequence of its being known, that he will adopt measures different from those of his father, that he will grant Catholic emancipation, conciliate Ireland, &c. For these and similar reasons they express a wish that his Royal Highness should wield the Sovereign authority instead of his Majesty. To proceed on such principles is to do neither more nor less than to elect a King. The Prince is to be chosen in preference to George the Third, because he will do better things. If such atrocious doctrines as these are to be listened to, there is an end of our Constitution! It may be discovered that Sir Francis Burdett would do better things still than the Prince of Wales, and, upon the same principles, propositions might be entertained of vesting him with the sovereign authority. Such language tends to bring upon us the evil of an elective monarchy like that of Poland, which no doubt would speedily involve us in a similar destruction with that which has annihilated Poland as a nation. All this erroneous view of things arises from the very false grounds upon which the restrictions on the Regency have been debated by the Opposition, they wishing to act as if they were appointing a King, instead of appointing a deputy for a King during a temporary indisposition, as if the Throne were vacant, not as it really is, full. Such doctrines are truly alarming. They tend strongly and rapidly to a Revolution, to scenes of confusion and anarchy long unknown in this happy land.”

to the son before the father. He imputed no wrong to the King; but he censured the measures of his ministers; and he expressed his hope, that such men would be chosen to succeed them, as would adopt better measures. It is false, therefore, to say, that the Prince was set up in preference to the King. But, let the reader bear with me while I once more remark, that this is the constant practice of those hypocrites who call themselves “the King’s friends.” Every thing you say against the measures of the government, they immediately apply it to the King; and it cannot be forgotten, that they have invariably acted thus.

As to what this hypocrite says about the dangers of making this an elective monarchy, what a fine slap in the face he gives here to all those, and to himself amongst the rest, who have contended for restrictions, and have denied the right of the Prince to be sole Regent! This charge, if due to any body, belongs to them. If there really be any danger in the notion of an elective monarchy, on their heads be the consequences, and not on ours, who have all along, contended, that the whole of the Royal powers and prerogatives, without any dividing, chipping away, or reserving, ought to have been, at once, and without any delay, given to the Prince, who is the undoubted heir to the throne and to every thing attached to it.

But, the truth is, that the hypocrites know not what to say; they are at the last gasp; even lying and crying begin to fail them; and it is little wonder, that they forget what they are about. The wonder, and, to the country, the shame, is, that they should not, before now, have been sunk quite into the earth; that they should still dare to show their faces above ground; much less to send forth their verbose columns of cant, in various shapes, and under various names, as they have yet the assurance to do.

We now come to the other subject of which I proposed to treat; namely, the state of the King in the years 1801 and 1804, at times when several very important acts were performed in his name, and, apparently, with his approbation and authority.

The public need not be told what has recently passed upon this subject in the House of Lords; for, certainly, never was there any thing that attracted more general observation, or that excited a more general or higher interest. It has, since it took place, been the great topic of conversation with every body.

In my last, I inserted the speeches of Lords Grey and Eldon and the motion of Lord King. These were all less full than was to be desired; but, I took the fullest reports I could find, and the substance was pretty nearly, in all probability, preserved.

Nevertheless, it is possible to put the matter in a plainer light than it there appears; and, this it shall now be my endeavour to do.

But, I have first to observe, that in another part of this Number, I have inserted the whole of the Evidence of Drs. Willis and Heberden, as given upon oath before the Lords’ Committee a few weeks ago. These two persons attended the King upon the former occasions of his mental derangement.

This Evidence should be carefully read, particularly that of Dr. Heberden, upon which the charges of Lord Grey were founded. Ref. 002

I have also inserted, in this Number, a Protest of certain Lords, upon the subject of the motion for erasing Lord Eldon’s name, in which Protest the charges against him are distinctly stated. This also should be read with care; and I have thought it right not to lose a moment in giving it as wide a circulation as it is in my power to give it; because it appears to me, that the matter is of the greatest importance to us all; or, at least, to all those who wish to see the English constitution not totally annihilated.

From the same motive it is, that I am now induced to add some observations of my own, by which I hope to make the matter so plain as not to leave the smallest chance of being misunderstood.

There were two occasions mentioned by Lord Grey, and some confusion of dates and other circumstances has been made for want of a sort of history of each. The first was in 1801, at the time Mr. Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) became Prime Minister; the second was in 1804, he being still Prime Minister. The transactions, connected with the former we will treat of hereafter; for, if possible, they are even more important than those connected with the latter. But, at present, we will confine ourselves to the latter epoch; and, it will be useful, here, to give a list of the Ministry, as it then stood, namely, in February, March, and April, 1804, when the King was afflicted, as will be seen by Dr. Heberden’s evidence, with the very same malady that he now is afflicted with.

Cabinet Ministers. Duke of Portland President of the Council. Lord Eldon Lord High Chancellor. Lord Westmoreland Lord Privy Seal. Right Hon. Henry Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) { First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. (Prime Minister.) Earl St. Vincent First Lord of the Admiralty. Earl of Chatham Master-General of the Ordnance. Right Hon. Charles Yorke Sec. of State for the Home Department. Lord Hawkesbury (now Earl of Liverpool) { Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Lord Hobart (now Earl of Buckinghamshire) { Secretary of State for the Department of War and the Colonies. Lord Viscount Castlereagh { President for the Board of Control for the Affairs of India. Law Officers. Mr. Spencer Perceval Attorney-General. Sir Thomas Manners Sutton Solicitor-General.

Thus was the ministry composed. Here we have them all before us. This is of great use, because the people are apt to forget. They have confused ideas of who and who were together.

Well, now to the point. Dr. Heberden, being upon his oath before the Lords’ Committee, on the 18th of December last, gave the following evidence:—

“Will Dr. Heberden state to the Committee what was the whole duration of his Majesty’s illness in 1804?—I was first called upon to attend his Majesty on the 12th of February 1804; and I believe his Majesty presided at Council on the 23rd of April following; I should consider the interval between those periods as constituting the duration of his disease at that time.

At what time did Dr. Heberden’s attendance on his Majesty cease?—After the period when his Majesty was so far recovered as to be able to transact business at any period of any day: he still retained such marks of indisposition about him, as made it expedient that some one of his physicians should be about his person for some months afterwards. In this situation I was in attendance upon his Majesty so late as to the end of October.

Between the 12th of February and the 23rd of April did not the appearances of disorder continue more or less?—I believe that for some days previous to the 23rd of April they had so far ceased as to make his Majesty’s physicians conceive him competent to exercise all the usual functions of his high office.”

Thus, then, quibble to eternity, if you will, one of these two things must be; either the King was in a state of mental derangement (for that is the term now given to the malady) from the 12th of February to within some days of the 23rd of April, or Dr. Heberden has taken a false oath, which latter is not to be believed, especially as, in the reports of the speeches of Lord Eldon, in answer to Lord Grey’s charge, no insinuation of the kind was thrown out, and, as Dr. Heberden gave his evidence in the presence of Lord Eldon and Lord Sidmouth, and most of the rest of the ministry of 1804, who might, if they had chosen, have contradicted or cross-examined him.

The public must well remember, that, in 1804, Dr. Simmons of St. Luke’s Hospital, and his men, attended the King; and Lord Grey asserted, and challenged contradiction, that these persons remained with him until the 10th of June of that year! Nobody accepted Lord Grey’s challenge. Nobody attempted to contradict him. But, I will, if the reader chooses, leave this circumstance wholly out of consideration; and stick to the facts stated upon oath by Dr. Heberden, according to whom the King’s malady continued from the 12th of February to within some days of the 23rd of April.

Now, then, what can have been meant by the words “some days?” The hypocrite, who writes in the Courier, says it may mean any time: any length of time; that it may mean “a fortnight, at least.” But, is this the interpretation that sound sense and a love of truth and justice will allow of?

No: it is clear, that Dr. Heberden meant a few days; some number within a week: but, even in those days, his words by no means admit, that the King was perfectly recovered; and, after all, we find that the Doctor, or another physician, had to remain constantly about him even to the month of October afterwards, on account of the still remaining appearances of indisposition.

Leaving out of the question, therefore, Earl Grey’s uncontradicted assertion as to the attendance of Dr. Simmons and his men, until the 10th of June, Dr. Heberden’s evidence is full as to the point, that the malady continued from the 12th of February to the 23rd of April.

What, then, was done during this time, in the name of the King, and as by his express authority? Whether any commissions may have been granted, any leases of crown-lands let or renewed, any titles or honours bestowed, any sentences of death confirmed, during that time, are particulars that I have not, at hand, the means of ascertaining; but, I have the means of ascertaining in what cases the very highest functions of royalty, the giving assent to Acts of Parliament, the making of laws, affecting the property, liberty, and lives of fifteen millions of people, were exercised, and these I shall accurately state.

Remember, that the space of time mentioned by Dr. Heberden, was, from the 12th of February to the 23rd of April, 1804.

On the 9th of March of that year, the King’s assent was given by Commission under his hand, and signed with the great seal, to seven public Acts of Parliament, being the Acts from Chapter 19 to Chapter 25 of the 44th year of George III.

On the 23rd of March, the King’s assent was, by a like Commission, given to six public Acts of Parliament, being the Acts from Chapter 26 to Chapter 31.

This was still very far from the 23rd of April. It was more than some days. It was more than the fortnight which the hypocrite of the Courier contends for. It was, in fact, a full Calendar month.

The Acts thus assented to were some of them of a nature peculiarly important. Some of them contained penalties of death; others imposed taxes; others authorised the raising of soldiers; one was a continuation of the Bank Restriction; Chapter 25 granted away from the Crown the fee for ever of certain manors, lands, and houses; and Chapter 30 was a bill of indemnity, relative to acts done without law, in pursuance of certain Orders of Council.

All this was done in the King’s name, and as by his express authority, at a time when, according to the evidence now given upon oath by a physician who attended him, the King was in the same state of incapacity that he is now.

Nay, on the 26th of March, that is to say, twenty-eight days before the 23rd of April, Mr. Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) brought down to the House of Commons A MESSAGE from the King! It related to a measure of great importance, namely, the bringing of the Irish militia into England. It had the royal signature to it, and began in these words: “His Majesty thinks proper to acquaint the House of Commons, &c. &c.”

This, even this, was done on the 26th of March, that is, twenty-eight days before the 23rd of April.

And yet, with these facts before us; with all this before us, we are not to be allowed to express our opinion, that great caution ought to be used in the resumption of the royal authority by the King; we are not to be allowed to say, that care ought to be taken to prove that he is quite well first; we are not to do this, upon pain of being marked out by the impudent and venal editor of the Courier, as men who wish to dethrone the King, to throw him into a corner, to pluck the crown from his head and to bind it with thorns! But these are the last struggles of knavery and hypocrisy combined; and they will not succeed.

Thus stands the case up to the 23rd of April. I beg the reader to bear the dates in his mind. Thus stands the case up to the 23rd of April; but, as the reader may attach great importance to the assertion of Lord Grey respecting the attendance of Dr. Simmons and his men till the 10th of June, it is proper to inform him, that, between the 23rd of April and the 10th of June, 24 public Acts of Parliament received the King’s assent by Commission, as in the former cases. And, by the 30th of July, 36 more public Acts; thus making the number 91 Acts, receiving the King’s assent, by Commission, after the 12th of February in that year; and, July, the reader will bear in mind, was still long before the month of October.

There are still some circumstances to notice, in order to make the history of these transactions complete. A change of ministry took place between the 23rd of April and the 10th of June.

Mr. Addington, Lord St. Vincent, Mr. Yorke, and Lord Hobart, went out of the cabinet; and Mr. Pitt, Lord Melville, Lord Harrowby, Lord Camden, and Lord Mulgrave came into it. The others remained; and the law-officers also remained. This change was completed on the 18th of May: so that Lords Eldon, Castlereagh, Hawkesbury, Westmorland, and Chatham were in both cabinets.

Nothing more need be said. The thing is so plain; the chain of facts so complete; the statement so incontrovertible, that it sets all pettifogging at defiance. There are, however, two points, upon which I shall just say a word or two; namely, the declaration of Mr. Addington (now Lord Sidmouth), during the King’s malady in 1804; and the individual responsibility of Lord Eldon

As to the former, it was called forth by a question, and afterwards a motion, of Sir Robert Lawley, in the House of Commons, on the 27th of February, 1804. Sir Robert Lawley asked the minister for an explicit statement as to the state of the King. To this Mr. Addington answered, that no such statement was necessary in the opinion of his Majesty’s confidential servants. Whereupon Sir Robert Lawley moved an adjournment of the House. This produced a long debate, which was very interesting at that time, and certainly not less so now. In this debate Mr. Addington spoke no less than five times. He made explanation upon explanation; and at last it came to these words:

“The hon. Gentleman has stated, that I have set up my own opinion in opposition to that of his Majesty’s Physicians. All I can say on this part of the accusation against me is, that I have stated nothing as matter of speculation, or opinion, of my own, but upon authority of the physicians. I wish to be distinctly understood here to re-state, that there is not, at this time,” [27th of February mind] “any necessary suspension of such royal functions as it may be necessary for his Majesty to discharge at the present moment.”

He was pressed further by Mr. Grey, and he then said: “I meant distinctly to state, that there is not at this time, any necessary suspension of the royal authority for any act which may be necessary to be done.”

This was what Lord Grey alluded to the other night; and, if it had any meaning at all, it meant one of these three things: that it was not necessary that the King should be deranged in mind; or, that it was not, at that time, necessary for him to have the use of his senses; or, that his faculties were not so much impaired as to render him unfit for business.

The two former it cannot be supposed that any man could mean; and, therefore, we must take the latter; and, then, all we have to do, is, to compare it with the Evidence of Dr. Heberden.

I should now enter upon the subject of individual or collective responsibility; but as my space is so narrow, and as I see, that the subject will demand room, I must defer it till my next.

WM. COBBETT.

State Prison, Newgate, Friday,

February 1, 1811.

KING’S ILLNESS.—THE REGENCY.—Continued.

(Political Register, February, 1811.)

 

This subject is now drawing towards a close; but, like most other pieces of the kind, it grows more and more interesting, or, at least, more and more curious. The people, in general, appear to be resolved to be merely spectators; but, at any rate, let us hope, that they will well observe, and bear in mind what passes. The scenes now exhibiting are wholly without an equal. They have the decided merit of originality; though, it must be confessed, that they are not calculated to excite surprise in the reflecting mind, seeing that they are the natural produce of the system that has existed for the last 26 years.

I shall, in this article, begin again with some observations upon the writings of the venal man of the Courier, who, in the passage that I am about to quote, has actually verified the soundness of the opinion expressed by me, in a previous article, respecting praises of the King, brought forward in support of an argument against his son, and, indeed, against the rights and liberties of the people.

I there observed, that it was base in the extreme, and that it was always so, to introduce, in the way of argument, praises of those whom no man dared attack; and, on the praises of whom no man dared put a negative.

And what answer does the venal man give to this? How does he attempt to refute me? You shall hear:

“Restrictions on Calumny.—The Weekly Register, of Wednesday, contains a passage plainly avowing how much it would contradict all the praises of the King, and hold him up to execration upon a review of his conduct, if it dared, if it was not restrained by the fear of the law. This passage is written too no doubt by the Editor of the Weekly Register, who two years ago publicly and personally at a County Meeting at Winchester, praised the King to the skies on account of his amiable qualities, whether viewed as a man or as a king. Most honest and consistent Editor of the Weekly Register!”

Now, what an answer is this! Thus, you see, that I was either to admit his argument, founded on praises of the King; I was to admit it, expressly or tacitly; or, I was to be charged with a wish to hold the King up to public execration; and that I was only restrained from so doing by a dread of the law. This is the way, in which this venal man answers an argument. His language, and that of the whole of the hypocritical tribe, to which he belongs, is, in fact, this: “We rest our conclusions upon the assertion of the virtues of the King; we say, that this or that ought to be done, or not to be done, because the King has such and such virtues; if you contradict us, you are calumniators of the King; and if you refuse to assent to our assertions upon which our conclusions are grounded by waving the discussion, you prove, that you would hold the King up to public execration if you dared.” This is, in fact their language; so that there is no escaping them. They have their net so set for you, that to escape it is absolutely impossible. You must either yield to their argument; you must admit their conclusions; or, according to them, you are, either in act or wish, a calumniator of the King.

As to the words imputed to me, as having been spoken at Winchester, they are by no means a correct representation of what I then said; but, what if they were? How does it show any inconsistency in me? It was not to the praise that I objected; but to the use that was made of it. I objected to its being brought forward in the way of argument; to its being made a ground in a controversy; because, as I said before, no one who was on the other side in the controversy, would if he could, dare, contradict it; and, for this reason, to bring it forward, in such a way, was, I said, extremely base; an opinion, of the correctness of which, if there could have been any doubt, this venal man has now, by his own act completely confirmed.

But, the great objection that I have to the using of the King’s name in this way, is, that it is part of a system of making the King a screen for his ministers. The doctrine of the Constitution is, that the King can do no wrong; and, if he is to be blamed for nothing, is it not base to put forward assertions as to his good qualities in defence of any measures that have been adopted? Is not this, in fact, making him responsible, instead of his ministers, as far as it is possible for a public writer to make him responsible? However, this is the course, that the whole of that venal and corrupt and hypocritical crew, who call themselves “King’s friends” have pursued for many years past; and in spite of all the exposures of them, this is the course, that they will still pursue. But the imposture has, daily, less and less success. The powers of cant daily diminish; and when one considers how long the nation has been humbugged; when one considers what a regular system of cheatery these venal men have pursued; when one considers what complete masters of their art these our English hypocrites are; when one considers that hypocrisy has been studied and taught by them with as much labour and pain as Newton pursued his discoveries; when one considers how numerous are the teachers and practisers of this art; when one considers all these things, one can hardly expect the cloak to be completely pulled off in a day, however resolute the hand that attempts it. But, imposture has, as I said before, less success than it had. Scarcely a day passes without stripping it of some part of its garments; and, events, events, those powerful co-operators of truth, are steadily at work to destroy this bane of the country. There are no tricks that will finally keep up the imposture. They will serve for awhile; they may defer the complete destruction of it; but destroyed it must and will be; and we shall at no great distance hence, hear thousands of people, who are at this moment the dupes of the venal men, expressing their surprise that they ever could have been so duped, and venting their just resentment against the cheats. They will then be just as much distinguished by their resentments as they now are by their credulity; they will flock round the venal imposture like the dupes in the play, each one heaving his blow.

This is an object of interesting observation with the philosophical mind. The man of sense will not be disturbed by the tricks of these venal men and the cullibility of their readers. He will coolly look on, and see the thing work; being quite sure, that, in the end, truth and justice will prevail, and that he shall see hypocrisy receive its reward. All that such a man has to do, is, to lend a helping hand in the way of exposure, whenever occasion serves, and according to the best of his means; and without feeling any great degree of anxiety, wait the natural effect of time. But he ought to miss no such occasions; miss no occasion of sowing the seeds of truth; having done that, he may be sure the harvest will come; and, he has only to guard against the indulgence of impatience. He must not stop to see the actual effects of one truth, before he inculcates another. He must like the provident and steady cultivator, prepare for a second sowing the moment the first is in the ground. His calculations of produce ought to embrace years. Truths, like trees, are of various speed in their progress; and it not unfrequently happens, that the slower the progress, the more durable and more valuable the result.

I never liked your despairing gentry; your gentry that throw up in disgust; which, to say nothing else of it, is sure to bring somewhat of ridicule upon those who fall into such a course of proceeding; for, the world wags on without them; and, if they cannot change the world, why, they must still take it as it is.

The way to succeed in any thing where success merits praise, is, to keep steadily on as long as it is possible; and, if the endeavours thus made have truth on their side, it is very seldom that they will fail of success.

So with respect to the imposture of these venal writers, what has been for years and years growing together is not to be destroyed in a moment. But, dropping, incessant dropping, will wear away the marble; and if one once makes a fair opening into this hollow, rotten, vile imposture, away it goes into a million pieces. Within the last six months; since I have been in this jail, see what has been done; See what a change! See the many many things, which the people behold in their true light, and with regard to which they were before wholly in the dark, or rather under the grossest deception. Only reflect for a moment; look for six months and see the progress that truth has made; and then despair if you can.

My attention is now called from these venal men and their hypocritical cant by a measure, which has excited more surprise in the public, I find, than it has in me; I mean, His Royal Highness the Prince having chosen Mr. Perceval and his colleagues for his ministers. More than four persons; or, four, at least, could now produce letters from me, foretelling, nearly a month ago, that such would be the case.

And, says the reader, how did you, shut up in a jail, come to know it? Why, a jail only shuts up the body. It leaves the mind at liberty; it leaves reason at large; and, reason told me, that in this way the struggle would end.

Upon what grounds my opinion was founded I will by-and-by state; but, we will first hear what has been said of this measure by the prints of the contending parties. This is a most curious affair altogether. It will make a great figure in the history of these times. It behoves us, therefore, to put upon record what the leading advocates of the two parties say upon the subject.

Yesterday (Monday, the 4th of February) was the day, when the public were, through the press, to have the matter broken to them. Till Saturday the public were full in the expectation of a change of ministry; a total change. After what had passed; after the manner in which the Prince had received the proposition of Mr. Perceval; after his declining to see him; after the Protest of his Brothers; after the speeches of Mr. Sheridan; after the Answer of the Prince to the Deputation from the two Houses; after all this, and especially after the charges of Lord Grey against Lord Eldon, the public could not believe it possible, that the present men would be retained by the Prince. Alas! those who thought thus, knew little of the matter. They did not reflect at all upon the motives of action in such a case. They did not see into the nature of the Prince’s situation. They knew that it required only a word to dismiss the ministers, and another word to choose others; but, they did not consider any further; they did not take into their consideration the difficulties that would attend the pronouncing of these two words, or, rather, that would instantly grow out of the pronouncing of them.

Therefore, the news, when it came out, produced universal astonishment.

The Morning Chronicle, which may be regarded as speaking officially, the sentiments, and uttering the assertions, of the OUT party, who expected to come in, endeavours to put a good face upon the matter. It represents the Prince as having taken this unexpected step from motives of filial affection, and the persons kept out as having highly approved of his conduct.

But, we must read this most curious article, before we make any further remarks upon it. The reader must, and will, regard it as the Official Declaration of the OUTS, especially of those persons, who were embodying themselves under Lords Grenville and Grey, who have been aptly enough termed the Twins of the Political Zodiac. I beg the reader to mark well the contents of this article, which is matter for history; and the substance of which must have a prominent place in the historian’s account of this matchless intrigue.

“The reports made to the Prince of Wales of the progressive amendment in the King’s health, and the hope that the Physicians give of his re-establishment, have made a deep impression on the breast of his Royal Highness, whose feelings of affection and reverence for his Father and Sovereign are necessarily combined with the sense of obligation which he owes to the public. He had thought it his duty, in the contemplation of having the affairs of the Realm committed to his charge for a length of time, and in a way which might have enabled him to exercise his judgment in the administration of the Royal Authority for the honour of his Majesty’s Crown, and the best interests of the people, to lay his commands on Lord Grenville and Lord Grey, to make an arrangement for a Council that should possess his entire confidence; and it is known that these noble Lords undertook the task; fully sensible of the irksome and arduous labour they had to fulfil, but feeling that it was only left for them to meet the awful and accumulated difficulties of the crisis, with a confident expectation that their exertions, under the restraints which had been imposed on the Regent, would be duly appreciated by the country; and at the same time with an earnest hope, that the prospect of a speedy return of his Majesty to the personal exercise of his Royal functions would make their services unnecessary.

It had accordingly been their uniform advice to his Royal Highness (and in which he most cordially concurred) that when the time should come for his being called on to take upon himself the duties of the Regal Office, in the name of the King, he should examine the Physicians to satisfy his own mind, and be governed accordingly, in the full conviction that there might be more detriment to the public interests in a temporary change of system, than even in the continuance for a short time of an erroneous system. This examination has actually taken place at Carlton House. The physicians have been severally and successively examined by the Prince’s Chancellor, in the presence of his Royal Highness; and we understand, that the result of that inquiry is, that though they cannot speak with any greater degree of certainty than at their examinations before the two Houses, as to the precise time when it may be expected that his Majesty could safely return to the exercise of his Royal functions, whether it is probable that he should be able to return at the end of two months or of three months, yet they all concur in expressing their confident belief in his ultimate recovery.

In consequence of this opinion, we understand, the Prince sent a message to Lord Grenville and Lord Grey, at a late hour on Friday night, announcing to them his determination not to make any change of Ministers at this time. The message was conveyed by Mr. Adam and Lord Hutchinson, and was expressed in the most handsome terms of approbation of their conduct, and of thanks for the readiness with which they had yielded to his request to form an arrangement, if circumstances should make it proper for him to interpose his own judgment, as to the fit and wise system of measures to be pursued on the present alarming condition of our affairs; and concluding with a declaration of his unabated confidence in their wisdom and ability, to conduct the Administration upon principles the most advantageous to the Crown and People. This intimation will be received with real satisfaction by the friends of those noble Lords, who must all feel with them that nothing but a sense of imperious duty could have induced them to enter into office in the dilemma created by a temporary defect in the Royal Authority. Three months, the most important perhaps that have ever occurred in our history, have already passed under a total suspension of the functions of Government—and another month must necessarily have been added to the delay, if the Prince had yielded to the patriotic sentiment of his mind, and recurred all at once to the principles upon which he thinks the Administration would be most beneficially conducted. So much time would have been required for the re-election of those who must have vacated their seats, and for the re-establishment of the routine of office—a delay which certainly might be productive of more serious calamity than what can be conceived probable from the perseverance in the system, until the hopes held out by the physicians shall be realized; or until time shall have destroyed these hopes. It is a moment, too, when public business of the most urgent nature calls for instant prosecution—and we need not add that it is a moment when, whatever may have been the rashness or the folly of embarking in the career of the present system, it is too late to interrupt its march, or even to avert its issue—and above all, we are sure the whole nation will concur in respecting and applauding the filial and affectionate motives of reverence to his Royal Father, which have influenced his Royal Highness to take this step.—The noble Lords, we understand, received the intimation in a way corresponding with their high character and their just sense of the public interests. They had the honour of a long audience of the Prince at Carlton House yesterday, when he was graciously pleased personally to renew the assurances of his perfect esteem and confidence.

We have uniformly stated to our readers, that if circumstances should force his Royal Highness to call upon the noble Lords to take upon them the administration, they would not shrink from the duty, however arduous,—and that they would be prepared with an arrangement that would give equal satisfaction to his Royal Highness, and the people of the United Kingdom. All the stories in the Ministerial papers of cabals and differences about the adjustment of places are totally false. There was no contention whatever: indeed, the minds of men must be singularly composed, who, at such a period, should be ready to jostle for situations. In fact, however, it was an arrangement to be made of one united compact body of men, all holding the same principles, and all animated by the same views; there was no contrariety of sentiment whatever; and an Administration of more internal strength, by the ties of mutual friendship—of more public influence by talents, integrity, and stake in the country, never has been submitted to any Prince. We say so much from what we hear of the public functionaries; for we believe that the arrangement did not go lower, and that it was never formally presented to the Prince for his approbation.

The proceedings which remain to be pursued on the Regency Bill are few. The Resolution for putting the Great Seal to the Bill, though unwarranted by any precedent, or by any analogy in the books, will pass the two Houses this day; and the Regent may be sworn in before the Privy Council to-morrow. It will be then for Mr. Perceval and his friends to submit to his Royal Highness their further plan of proceedings; but whether they will propose to him a short prorogation, or only an adjournment for a day or two, we shall not, from obvious motives of delicacy, presume to anticipate.

It is certain that up to four o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday ministers had made preparations for their retreat, and with some of those preparations the public will in due time be made acquainted. Whether they will still retire, notwithstanding the determination of his Royal Highness to keep them, if they think proper, we shall probably learn in the course of this day or to-morrow.”

Reader, was there ever so miserable an attempt as this to disguise a defeat? The tale is perfectly piteous. It is lamentable. One almost feels compassion for the persons who could condescend to dictate or to pen it.

Let us, however, as being a tale of woe, as being the defence of the unfortunate, hear it with patience, and so far treat it with respect as to bestow on it a few short observations, though, in reality, it stands in need of none.

We are first told, that the Twin Lords received the commands of the Prince to form a ministry for him, and that they had done so; but, that, at the same time, they earnestly hoped, that the King’s speedy recovery would prevent the necessity of their coming into office.

Well, now suppose this last assertion to be true, in the face of all the earnest endeavours that have been used to inculcate the notion (and a very proper notion), that, even in case of a recovery, the King ought not to be called upon to resume the royal authority for some time; in the face of the charges against Lord Eldon; in the face of all that we have seen, supposing it to be true, that these two Lords earnestly hoped, that the King might be brought out again to business speedily; suppose this; still, it seems, they had got their new ministry ready, and had been commanded to get one ready, and, we shall see, by-and-by, how this squares with the rest of the tale.

An examination of the Physicians, by the advice of these Lords, took place. The result was, that there was no certainty when the recovery would take place; it might be two months, or three months, or longer; and, this being the case, the Prince resolved to keep in the present ministry, which was very wise, and was highly approved of by these Lords, because it would have taken a month to settle the new ministry, and it was better to let a bad system go on uninterrupted than suspend it for a short time, and because the keeping in of the King’s servants was a mark of filial affection in the Prince towards his father, which all the nation must approve of.

Aye, this is a very pretty story; but the worst of it is, it will not bear the test of dates; for, as to the result of the examination of the Physicians at Carlton House, as here stated, it is precisely the same as that of the Examination of them by the Lords’ Committee, which took place six weeks ago. How, then, could this examination have produced any change in the intention of the Prince as to the forming of a ministry? The Examination before the Lords’ Committee, as will be seen in the Report (See Part I, of Vol. 18, of the Parl. Debates, p. 202) amounts to precisely the same as the examination is said to have done at Carlton House. In both, the opinions of all the Physicians went to ultimate recovery; and, as to the time, they are no more precise in the latter case than they were in the former.

Now, then, let it be observed, that the Resolutions relative to the plan of a Regency were not presented to the Prince till long after the Examination before the Lords’ Committee, which took place on the 17th of December; and, of course, the Prince could not give his commands about a new ministry, until he had accepted of the Office of Regent; so, that, it follows, of course, that, when he gave his commands to form a ministry for him, he had just the same prospect before him us to his father’s recovery that he had on Friday last.

This at once knocks up all the miserable pretence about a change of views in the Prince proceeding from the examination of the Physicians at Carlton House. The examination upon oath before the Lords’ Committee represents the King as getting better, as improving, all the Physicians say, and swear, that they look confidently to ultimate recovery, but that the time required for it may be longer or shorter. And, is not the same result said to have appeared at Carlton House? Is there any thing new that has come out of that examination? And, who, then, can be so very stupid as to believe, that the change in the Prince’s intention as to his ministers has grown out of the examination at Carlton House?

These same facts, and precisely the same reasoning, apply to what is said by the Morning Chronicle with regard to the motive of “filial affection in the Prince towards his father.” If this motive has now induced him to keep in the present men, how came it to have no weight with him a fortnight or a month ago? The motive is childish. It might do well enough in common life, where a man has nothing but his family’s interest to set against any supposed predilection of his father; but, in the case of the Prince it is something a great deal worse than childish to suppose that it could have any operative effect; for, if he did, as we are here told he did, look upon Lords Grenville and Grey as the fittest persons to advise him in this “awful crisis of the country,” what are the people to think of his setting those Lords aside, and keeping in the present men, because the putting of them out would be likely to give offence to his father; especially after he himself, has, in so solemn a manner, declared, that all the powers and prerogatives of the crown are vested there for the benefit of the people, and in that light only are sacred? Oh, no! This will never do; and, therefore, this notion of the motive of “filial affection,” must be regarded as a mere invention for the purpose of accounting for the change in the Prince’s choice in a way the least humiliating to those, whom he has, at last, rejected, and whose chagrin it is the object of the Morning Chronicle to disguise, not considering, perhaps, that, in ascribing such motives of action to the Prince, inferences very injurious to him, as regards the people, are clearly conveyed.

But, if we were to admit, for argument sake, that such motives have produced this change in his choice, how unaccountable does his conduct then appear, seeing that the same motives ought to have operated, if at all, at every stage of the proceedings? If he is now induced to keep in the present men because the putting of them out would be offensive to his father, would give pain to his father, why did not this motive weigh with him before, and prevent him from giving his commands to the Twin Lords to form a ministry for him? The hopes and expectations of recovery were the same a month ago that they are now. They were sworn to before the commands to form a ministry could possibly have been given by the Prince. But, at any rate, what no one will attempt to deny is this: that, from first to last, all the Physicians, in all their examinations, have distinctly declared their confident opinion, that the King will ULTIMATELY recover. Now, this being the case, what becomes of the motive ascribed to the Prince by the Morning Chronicle? What becomes of this motive which the Chronicle says will be applauded by the whole country? At every stage, all the Physicians declared, in a manner the most decided, that they relied on ultimate recovery; therefore, as the Prince must be well aware, that the King’s feelings would be hurt, if hurt at all, by the dismission of his servants, and that this pain would take place whenever the recovery came, is it not most pitiful to pretend that the change of intention has arisen from the motive of “filial affection?” Just as if that motive would not have restrained him from giving his commands to form a new ministry, if it has now restrained him from putting out the King’s servants. What had time to do with the matter? What was the consequence whether he gave his father pain at the end of two months or at the end of six months? The nature and the quantity of the pain would have been exactly the same. What! will the Morning Chronicle accompany with praises of the Prince an assertion, that he would run the risk of giving, nay, that he would actually give, his father that pain at the end of a year which he would not give him at the end of a month?

No: this is too palpable. This pretence; this attempt to break the fall of the rejected party is too grossly absurd to be entertained for a moment.

With regard to the real motives, by which the Prince was, in all probability, actuated in the change of his intention, we will, by-and-by, offer an observation or two; but, we have not yet done with the Morning Chronicle.

The Prince, we are told, notified this change of intention to the two noble Lords, “in the handsomest manner.” Oh, aye, I’ll warrant him he has not lived forty-eight years in the Court of George the Third without knowing how to do such a thing handsomely. Earl Grey (then Lord Howick), when he announced his own dismission to the House of Commons, also spoke of the graciousness of the King to him personally. Aye; but the dismission took place. Words cost nothing. It is from acts that we ought to judge.

But, we are told by this writer, that the Prince has assured the two noble Lords, that he will, if the King’s illness should be of long duration, avail himself of their advice; that is to say, that he will have them for his ministers, and of course will turn off his father’s servants.

As to their ever being the ministers of the Prince we will inquire into the probability by-and-by; but as to his having assured them, that he will have them, in case of a lengthened duration of his father’s illness, the supposition, especially when taken into view along with the other statements in this article, is an outrage to common sense. What! “filial affection for his father” restrains him from turning out his servants at this moment; but, it does not restrain him from telling the world, and, of course, that same father, that he will do it, if he has a prospect of possessing the power of so doing for any length of time! And this, if the declaration were made, the father must know the moment he is restored to the use of his reason, and, perhaps, before he is so perfectly restored to it as not to be in imminent danger of a relapse. The father, that father towards whom the Prince, as we are here told, has so much of “filial affection,” is, upon his recovery to find, what? Not that his son has turned off his servants. No: he is to be spared that pain. He is not to find that. But, according to this writer, he is to find, that his son has declared, that he would have turned out these servants if he had had the power for any length of time; and, he is to find too, that his son would have taken in those whom his father lately turned out, because their principles are best calculated to rescue the country from the perils with which it is surrounded; aye, he is to find, clearly recorded by inference in a declaration of his son, that it would be good for the country if he had not recovered.

Was there ever any thing more monstrous than this? Was there ever anything more revolting to all just sense of feeling? Is it possible to place his Royal Highness in a worse light than he has here been placed by this writer? And for what? What have these pretended motives been conjured up for? For what but to palliate the humiliation of the party rejected. The real motives, of which we will speak by-and-by, would not answer this purpose. Others, therefore, were to be discovered; and I am persuaded the reader will agree, that, in the selection, it was almost impossible to show less regard for the character of the Prince.

Now, before we come to our observations upon the real cause of this alteration in the Prince’s intention as to a change of the ministry, let us put upon record the answer which the Courier gives to the article above quoted from the Morning Chronicle, which article it very properly styles the Manifesto of those, who have had the delicious cup of place and power and profit and patronage dashed from their lips. This article of the Courier is a stinger. The writer speaks in the voice of triumph; he laughs and scoffs at his opponent, and well he may. The victory is so clearly on his side. It is so complete; that if he did not exult, he would exhibit an instance of magnanimity by no means to be expected from him.