Author : Guy Aldred
Carlile spent the ﬁrst twelve to thirteen years of his life at home, receiving his early education at a local chapel school. Subsequently placed with a chemist and druggist at Exeter, he only remained in his situation four months, as he could not stand the tyranny of his employment. The next four months were spent at home, at a small shop which his uncle had presented to his mother in 1795, six months after the death of his father. Here he employed his time in painting pictures, which were sold to his mother's customers. Returning to Exeter, he was apprenticed for seven years to a tin-smith, the work proving exceedingly hard and the hours excessively long.
During this period the battle for the Free Press was becoming more and more a matter of critical importance to the workers. The Government was pursuing its mendacious campaign of suppression without receiving anything like a calculated opposition of deﬁance. Carlile's genius was not yet awake. But the factors were at work that were destined to awaken it.
In the year 1792 Paine was indicted for publishing the second part of his famous Rights of Man; the work had previously been denounced in a Royal proclamation. Erskine was retained for the defense. He immediately became the victim of a calumnious clamor. A conspiracy was formed by the Crown and the Government to deprive Paine of Counsel. Erskine was told in plain terms he must not defend Paine. He was threatened with removal from his office of Attorney-General if he did. He did defend Paine! He did lose his office!
‘Horne Tooke was indicted .for high treason because he appeared to be a friend of Paine, in opposition to the outrageous clamor roused by the interested but uninteresting defenders of property against him.
Everywhere, the Government encouraged informers and held out rewards to treachery. It sought to turn every man into a spy and every neighborhood into the seat of an inquisition. Its paid attorneys persistently referred to Paine as that wretched outcast. Its interested judges declared the conduct of all who read or circulated Paine to be peculiarly marked with the spirit of diabolical mischief.
Associations were formed in every part of the country for the purpose of suppressing all propaganda directed towards a reform of Parliament, and offering rewards for information leading -to the conviction of those who circulated Paine’s writings; Members of these Associations habitually served as jurors in all the cases that came before the Courts, where the prosecution had been proceeded with by the Government at the instance of the associations in question. In the event of objection being taken to the jury on this ground by the defense, the judges invariably decided that the objection was not valid because they (the judges) had also condemned the works of Paine.
This is what happened in the case of Thomas Muir, who was sentenced to transportation in August, 1798, for circulating Paine’s works. Muir was a man of unblemished moral character, but, because of his zeal for a very mild Parliamentary Reform, he was convicted on the evidence of men who had publicly declared that they would do their best to hang him.
Similar treatment was meted out to the Rev. F. T. Palmer, an Unitarian minister of Dundee, who was sentenced to seven years’ banishment at Perth, in September, 1793, for publishing a proclamation of A Society of the Friends of. Liberty, written by George Mealmaker, a weaver. There was not a word of violence in the whole address, which reached its extreme demand in a request for universal suffrage! In the event of Palmer returning before the end of seven years, the authorities were to publish an official certiﬁcation of his death. In a word, he was to be outlawed and anyone was entitled to murder him.
Muir and Palmer were subsequently conveyed on the same boat from their Scottish prisons to Woolwich, in order to be sent to different penal settlements on the other side of the world. They were loaded with irons and chained to men convicted of the worst moral offenses. They slept and worked with a gang of 300 convicts, damned to the ﬁlthiest occupations whilst on the way to Woolwich and during their sojourn there prior to transportation.
Muir and Palmer were but two of the many victims of that aristocratic arrogance and working-class ignorance which constituted the hemlock and night-shade the governing-class physicians pre- scribed for the health of the nation.
Pitt was the chief-prescriber of these remedies. He was in ofﬁce. His administration witnessed the establishment of a conﬁdential department unknown to the constitution, termed “the management of the House of Commons.” In the public accounts it was immersed under the head of “Secret Service Money.” It was usually given to the Secretary of State when that post was ﬁlled by a commoner. The business of the department was to distribute with art and policy among the members who had no ostensible places, sums of money for their support during the session. It was no uncommon circumstance, at the end of a session, for a gentleman to receive ﬁve hundred or a thousand pounds “ for his services” !
To express any disapprobation of this Parliamentary under- taking meant imprisonment in Newgate, transportation to a penal settlement, or banishment or outlawry. Even the prospect of being remanded in Newgate awaiting trial was sufficiently dismal to daunt the bravest hearts. The administration of what was termed “justice” was a somewhat slow process. This was to the advantage of the scum of society who acted as jailers. The fettering of prisoners, no matter whether they were convicted, awaiting trial, merely debtors, or “politicals,” was part of the business of exnortion practiced by these gentlemen. Manacles were clapped on all comers unless a ﬁnancial bargain had been struck before their arrival. These maacles were on both the hands and feet, and were heavily made. If it were known that the prisoner had control of money, they were kept on until “ easement ” had been bought.
In the year 1793, John Frost, an attorney, was indicted for saying at the Percy Street Coffee House, after dinner :--
“I am for equality. I see no reason why one man should not be upon a footing with another. It is every man's birthright. Yes. I am for equality and no king. I mean no king in England. The constitution of this country is a bad one in having a king.”
He was kept in Newgate some time awaiting trial, and was submitted to the treatment I have described. He was ﬁnally convicted on May 20th, 1793, and then kept in Newgate until June 20th, awaiting trial. He was then struck off the rolls, ordered to be imprisoned in Newgate another six months, and during this period to stand each day in and upon the pillory at Charing Cross for one hour between the hours of _ twelve and two--the busiest time of the day. He was also Ordered to ﬁnd security and sureties for his good behavior for ﬁve years in £700, and to stay in prison until it was forthcoming.
A few months before Frost's conviction and sentence, a young tallow chandler from Scotland, named Daniel Crichton, was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for saying in casual conversation during a visit to the town:—
"Damn your king! Damn your George Rex! We have no king in Scotland, and we will have no king in England I ”
Whilst on remand Crichton was conﬁned in the worst part of Clerkenwell Prison, loaded with irons, among those convicted of the worst offenses.
For circulating, selling, or even lending The Jockey Club, Paine’s Address to the Addressers, and The Rights of Man (Part II.), booksellers and private individuals all over the country were sentenced to a minimum of four years’ imprisonment, ordered to pay ﬁnes of , £260, and to ﬁnd sureties for good behavior in £1,000 for ﬁve years. It should be added, that these three books were often circulated together.
For posting up “An Address for the purpose of obtaining a reform in Parliament ” bill-stickers received a minimum sentence of six months’ imprisonment, and were then kept in prison until they gave security and found sureties for their good behavior in £200.
In December, 1793, Thomas Briellat, a Hackney pump maker’ was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, ordered to pay '£100 ﬁnes, and to ﬁnd security and sureties for his good behavior for ﬁve years in , £1,000, for publicly saying :——
"A reformation in this country cannot be effected without a revolution. We have no occasion for any king."
At Nottingham Assizes, Daniel Holt, the printer of the Newark Herald, was found guilty of selling Paine’s Address to the Addressers and of reprinting and publishing An Address to the Manufacturers, etc., of Unrepresented Towns, on a Parliamentary Reform. The latter was only a republication of a paper published by a Society in London for effecting a Parliamentary reform in the year 1783, of which Pitt and the Duke of Richmond were members. At that time in was printed in all the newspapers. The intervening decade had witnessed Pitt’s rise to power, and consequent total destruction of his former principles. For this Holt had to suffer. After being kept in prison for some months, awaiting sentence, he was damned to four years’ imprisonment, and ordered to ﬁnd security. and sureties for good behavior in £500.
Publicans were told by magistrates that if they allowed discussions on politics in their houses--in the event of anything being said displeasing to the Government—-they would lose their licenses. They were also asked what papers they took in and were told to take care there were no sedition in them, as they would be punished for distributing them to their customers.
Such was the state of affairs that Sheridan’s parliamentary eloquence, Erskine’s legal quibbling, Fox’s censures of Pitt, and Robert Hall's academic defenses of the Free Press were to leave unaltered. Such was the system of oppression Carlile’s deﬁance was to destroy so effectively.
From : Marxists.org & RevoltLib.com.
November 30, 1911 : Chapter 2 -- Publication.
September 14, 2021 : Chapter 2 -- Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.
HTML file generated from :