chapter  XII
16 Pages

POLITICAL AND OTHER OPPOSITION

CONTROVERSY was not, of course, confined to those actually engaged in the administration of the law. In Parliament and in the press the battle raged fiercely. The Whig ministry was responsible for the measure, but it had been warmly promoted by the most influential of the Radical party, by the Benthamites, by Mr. Grote, Mr. Hume, and by Francis Place, who had himself been ambitious of obtaining the appointment of Commissioner. This section of the Radical party addressed spirited appeals to their supporters, of which the following, from an article, "Fallacies on the Poor Law," in the London and Westminster Review, January 1837, the organ of the Benthamite Radicals, is a fair specimen :-

" Operatives of England, if any echo of our voice should reach you through these pages, spurn the degrading counsel of your present leaders. Be not tempted to look with longing eyes upon the spoil of the Egyptians-not even though it should appear, as by a righteous retribution, ready to be delivered into your hands. Touch it not; it is an accursed thing. . . . Now listen to the libels pronounced upon you by the very persons claiming to be your only real friends .... , You are the slaves of intemperance and improvidence;

and if so, you deserve to suffer.' . . . You are frequently plunged into distress through the pressure of unavoidable misfortunes. Let us take the latter case. Your leaders then tell the world that although there are among you trade societies capable of supporting thousands and tens of thousands out of work for months together during a strike, you are not capable of forming benefit societies for sickness and old age; that you have no corner at your fireside for a widowed mother-no half-loaf to divide with a brokendown shopmate-no shilling saved ready as a sub~ scription for his coffin-no sympathy for his orphan child. . . . And is it indeed so 1 Then away for ever with the delusion that you are fitted to enjoy the right of universal suffrage, or that for you it is necessary that the elective franchise of the Reform Bill should be extended. Be paupers if you will, but clamour not for the right of freedom. Liberty turns with contempt from those who eat the bread of dependence with delight, and hug the chains of their disgraceful bondage."