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No. 1, Vol. 8.] LONDON, Friday, July 11, 1823. [PRICE 6d.
TO THE REPUBLICANS OF THE ISLAND OF
Dorchester Gaol, June 30, Year 4,
A CONSTITUTION is not a thing in name only, but in fact;
There are two other mottoes, which I may as well copy at
Printed and Published by R. Carlile, 5, Water Lane, Fleet Street,
My reasons for noticing this publication are thus stated. Thomas Paine made the aforementioned challenge to Edmund Burke above thirty years ago. I was then an infant just born. Major Cartwright was a man of near the same age with Paine, and their study of politics, with their attempts to reform, commenced just at the same time. If I mistake not, the dispute between this Government and the American Colonies made politicians of both. Mr. Paine was wholly a Republican wholly a man of the people after he got to America the Major had some excellent notions as to what the English House of Commons ought to be, and honestly avowed them; but the more early part of his political life was spent in the hopeless task of reducing the aristocrats to democrats, and even now he holds the same ruling passion. I do not offer this as the smallest disparagement towards the political character of the Major; I believe the difference of situation in life was the first principle of the difference in their political characters. The Major always desirous of co-operating with men of titles; Mr. Paine with the people as a whole: the one had a fortune accumulated for him by his parents or friends before he was born; the other had to live by his pen. I am not aware that any kind of intimacy existed between them in England, nor does it occur to my recollection that Mr. Paine has, in any part of his writings, mentioned the name of Major Cartwright. The whole of this explanation is necessary to my purpose.
Thomas Paine died in 1809, just fourteen years ago, Major Cartwright has, as a politician, been more conspicuous since the conclusion of the war with Buonaparte, than he was before and during that war. He has been looked up to, and thought more of, by the people; in short, he has of late turned his attention to the untitled part of the people more than to the titled part, which is so far good.
In conjunction with, and by the aid of, Mr. Sherwin, I began to publish the writings of Mr. Paine in 1817: at least Mrs. Garlile was the vender, I was a prisoner in the King's Bench for the parodies. I was a stranger to Major Cartwright; a being who had done nothing to excite his notice; and it was no part of my disposition to intrude myself as an acquaintance, or a fellow labourer, upon every public man calling himself a Reformer; a piece of impropriety which is carried to a great height by some men. Mr. Wooler's trial occurred in June of that year, which brought him to an acquaintance with the Major. Whilst in that Prison,
at that time, the friend and partner of Mr. Wooler was one of the few friendly and disinterested visitors, I received; and I recollect well, that on mentioning the fears which the republication of Paine's works had excited, this person informed me, that Mr. Wooler expected no other than that it would put a stop to all the political writings of the day; that the publishers would be taken by the shoulders and put into a Gaol without ceremony and without a trial, upon the strength of the former verdicts! that Major Cartwright, in conversation with Mr. Wooler, had deprecated the republication of those works, as mischievous, as flying in the face of a jury! that when a jury had once declared those works to be libels, the very errors of that jury ought to be respected!
I believe the visit in question was made for the purpose of conveying to me the the authoritative opinion of the "Father of Reform" upon the subject: but what remains contrary to my idea of right has never any weight with me. I found that I was right in this instance; PERSEVERANCE proved that the works might be republished without molestation; and I durst venture to say, that the Radical Reform of the Government and condition of the people will be accelerated by years by that republication; though it brought me the character of a rash and hot-headed fellow! This I know was the opinion Mr. Bentham held of me 1818, when conversing with a person who had been able to mark my whole conduct from observation and political intimacy. There are many wiser heads than mine in England; but a more cool and deliberate head, I am sure there is not. Mrs. Carlile will say so much for me on this subject; for she will acknowledge, that nothing has provoked ber so much, as the difficulty of getting me into a passion, or even warm, when she has been inclined for a little nuptial quarrel!
As a corroboration of what is here attributed to Major Cartwright and Mr. Wooler, I refer the reader to the preface which I wrote in 1818 to the edition of the political works of Mr. Paine. He will find it in either of the editions that have been sold complete.
Having noticed this interference of, and these fears of the Major and Mr. Wooler, it may be well to state all the interference that the Government made. Mr Sherwin printed a small paper as an advertisement of the works, for the purpose of doing, what a publisher calls, ".billing of other publications." In this advertisement it was stated that the political principles of Mr. Paine were the only principles
worthy the notice of the people, or words to that effect. The Treasury agent came to the shop, to Mrs. Carlile, and asked the favour of receiving from her one of those little papers. She knew him as the informer or witness against me, and told him that his employers were welcome to a handful, which she gave him: nothing more was heard, after the fellow thanked her and went off smiling.
It is just possible that the accident of my being in prison for the parodies, baffled all the wishes of the ministers, to stop the republication. They hardly knew whether Mr. Sherwin was, or was not, a man of straw, as he was never seen in the act of publishing. By design, or by accident, I have been their greatest tormentor these six years; and though they have annoyed me much, I have that sweet kind of revenge to know, that I have, and still do, annoy them more! That publicly useful revenge!
The object of this statement is to shew an error in the Major's account for the origin of his book. Though he has been these thirty years talking and writing, day after day, about the Constitution of England, he now says, or the statement may be collected from his book, that he accepted Paine's challenge from the first; and that after this search of thirty years for the English Constitution, he has at length found, and produced, it! His statement embraces this contradiction: that he has been publicly preaching the Constitution of England throughout the thirty years that he has been seeking it! or that he has been seeking and possessed of it at the same time: like the man hunting the whole house for a small thing that be at last finds in the corner of his pocket! He knows what it is, and can talk about it, all through his search, but he cannot shew it to you until he finds it in his pocket! Bless me! here it is in my pocket all the while there, that is what I meant!
There is disguise in this boasted production of the English Constitution which must be stripped off, even though it wounds the man, whom of all living characters I would the least desire to wound. But honour before frindship and public good before partial satisfaction, is the maxim of the honest man! Country before family or friends is the patriot's sentiment.
The fact is, that the Major, instead of having answered the challenge of Paine, has, in the pretence to do it, advanced to an admission of the correctness of the political principles laid down by his pretended opponent! That is the fact, and every reader of the writings of both must acknowledge it.
My republication of Mr. Paine's works, and my subsequent defence of his principles, with the coming over of nearly the whole body of Reformers to a similar avowal and defence, have been the causes to drive the Major to write this book, and to give a sort of left-handed assent to that which a chieftain and aristocratical pride would not allow to be done openly! Disguise it how you like: such I will make appear to be the fact.
Had the Major found this English Constitution before the death of Mr. Paine, and published this book, the latter would most certainly have exposed the shallowness and deceptiveness of the expedient; but, as he is dead, the duty becomes imperative upon me, and with no other motive than public good, to the best of my ability, it shall be performed. It would be criminal in me to allow any respect for the general private character of the Major to forego this exposure; the great question of Reform, the defence of those principles which I advocate, and that line of conduct which I have pursued during my appearance before the public, make the duty to expose as important to the public, as it is imperative upon me as an individual. Major Cartwright is a great, a good, and a pure man; but as a politician, he is not so great, so good, and so pure as Thomas Paine.
The Major's book is dedicated to the Political Reformers of Great Britain and Ireland. Well, the reader may say, and what in that do you find to cavil with? You shall see.
A Reformer of any and of every kind is a politician. The word politician has its root in the word polity or policy, and every action that a man can perform relates to policy, as good or bad. Good policy is a species of action understood by the word morality: bad policy by the word immorality, and twist and turn the subject any way, it will be found that every thing centers in the good principle-morality; or in its antithesis, the bad principle-immorality. There ought, therefore, to be no distinction allied to the word reform, but as moral or immoral. Johnson, in his stupid bungling Dictionary, defines the word reform as a change from worse to better. That is true, as far as it goes; but that is not all! the definition would have been equally true if he had said, a change from better to worse. The right definition of the word reform is to change from one thing to another; whether it be from bad to good, or from good to bad; whether it be from morality to immorality; or from immorality to morality; it signifies to form again, backward and forward, to make anew. In its moral policy,