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[-67-] CHAPTER II.
Tories-Whigs-Radicals-Destructives-Proceedings at meetings of the Destructives—Scenes at their public dinners—General remarks.
IT may at first sight appear difficult, if not impossible, to
ascertain with any degree of accuracy the comparative numbers of Tories, Whigs
and Radicals, in a city containing so extensive a population as does the
metropolis of this country. It is undoubtedly true, that some years ago no
computation could have been made of the relative number of these different
parties, which could have been depended on as constituting an approximation to
the truth. The [-68-] case, however, is different now. The passing of
the Reform Bill, conferring the elective franchise on every householder in the metropolis who occupies premises of a ten-pound yearly rental,
has furnished us with data by which the state of
public opinion on political subjects in London
may be placed beyond all doubt As the metropolis is, for elective purposes, divided into the
city of London, the city of Westminster, and the
five burghs, we have only to examine the state of
the poll at these various places, when any disputed election has been brought to a close, to
ascertain the number of Tories and Whigs'; for
it is to be observed, that as there is scarcely a
single Tory or Whig among the lower classes,
those holding either set of opinions are almost
all householders. Taking, then, in the first
place, the aggregate number of persons who
have of late years polled in the Tory interest,
in the various districts into which the metropolis
is divided, I should estimate that number at
20,000; if to these be added 5,000 more, for
young men in respectable situations, who are only [-69-] lodgers, and have consequently no vote, it will
give a total of 25,000; and this, I am confident,
is above rather than below the number. The existing metropolitan Tories, however,
it is but
justice to observe, are morally strong if numerically weak. They are all Tories from principle; not from interest, or from fashion, as
used to be the case; and their decided attachment to their principles, and the
make for them, though hitherto unable to defeat the Liberal party in the contests which take
place for the representation of the metropolis,
have a great direct influence on the representation of the country, and on the legislation of the
senate. The city of London has its Conservative
club; Westminster has its Conservative club;
and the different boroughs, with the exception,
1 believe, of the Tower Hamlets, have severally
their Conservative clubs. Then there is the
Canton Club. The Tories are thus closely
banded together, and co-operate with each other,
with a cordiality unknown among the Liberal [-70-] party. In this way they not only set an example
of union and enterprise to the Tories throughout the kingdom, but their leaders in the
various districts of the metropolis meet together
whenever any emergency arises, and concert
measures for defeating the Liberal panty in all
parts of the country. No sooner does a vacancy
occur in the representation of any town or
county throughout the United Kingdom, than a
meeting takes place among the metropolitan
Tories, to consider the propriety of starting one
of their own party against the candidate in the
Liberal interest. If determined on, after mature
deliberation, that their cause is to be subserved
by putting up a Tory candidate, the thing is
done in an instant; and so complete is the machinery which they bring to bear on the contest,
that all of a sudden you see as much harmony
and zeal and activity on the part of the Tory
electors, as if the thing were the result of a long
premeditated and carefully concerted local plan.
The London Tories are unquestionably entitled [-71-] to the credit of being admirable tacticians; the
Liberals compared with them are mere novices
in the science of tactics.
The Whigs are not nearly so numerous in the metropolis as the Tories. Judging from the results of elections in which there have been Tory, Whig, and Radical candidates, I should estimate the number of genuine Whig householders, as not exceeding 15,000. In Marylebone and Finsbury, we have had Whig candidates along with those in the Tory and Radical interests, and the state of the poll as regards the Whigs on these occasions has been such as to justify me in not giving them credit for a higher number than that I have just mentioned. As nearly as I can compute, from a somewhat intimate knowledge of the opinions which prevail among lodgers, filling respectable situations, I should set down the number of Whigs of this class, as being about 5,000, making the entire number of genuine metropolitan Whigs 20,000. Of themselves, therefore, they are a helpless party. Inferior to the Tories in number, they are [-72-] immeasurably inferior to them in point of talent, tactics, and activity. But for the Radicals coming to their aid, not one of them could ever have the good fortune to cross the threshold of office, not even though it were only to be unceremoniously kicked out again. Few of them, indeed, without the assistance of their Radical allies, would find their way to St. Stephen's. In their hearts they thoroughly despise the Radicals, though to them they owe their existence as a party. Are the Radicals then to be blamed for supporting the Whigs? Certainly not; they only act in supporting them, as men of the world. They are only reducing to practice their favourite maxim of "half a dinner is better than no dinner. The Radicals, in supporting the Whigs, are perfectly aware of what they are about they see quite clearly the game they are playing. Nothing could exceed the contempt they entertain towards the Whigs in their hearts: they think the Tories a far more honourable and consistent class of politicians; but then they know that while from the Tories they can get [-73-] nothing they ask, they can, by the necessary quantum of kicking and bullying, get from the Whigs half the amount of their demand on account, and afterwards the other half when the process of kicking and bullying and abusing, has been carried on for a certain length of time. The Whigs, therefore, whether as representatives or as ministers, are, to all intents and purposes, under the government of the Radicals, and as the latter know that nothing is to be made of their Whiggish friends by persuasion or coaxing, they resort to the only other mode of government within their reach, namely, the government of the whip, which they lay on in true Radical style.
With the exception of those who have no political opinions at all, I would class the remainder of the male population of the metropolis under the comprehensive head of Radicals. Among those who have no political opinions whatever, are the great body of the labouring Irish. I should think there are at least 50,000 Irishmen in London not in the way of reading [-74-] newspapers; for this good reason-that they cannot The subject of politics is, therefore, to such persons, necessarily unknown and unthought of. There are, perhaps, 40,000 or 50,000 English labouring men, including cab- men, hackney-coachmen, draymen, and persons pursuing other such humble callings, who have never troubled their heads about politics; making altogether about 100,000 grown-up men in London who have no political opinions at all. But after this deduction has been made, in addition to the deductions for Tories and Whigs, the number of Radicals in the metropolis will be found sufficiently formidable. Making due allowances for women and children, who, of course, are always included in any statement of the supposed population of London, I should think the number of Radicals in the metropolis-of genuine intelligent Radicals-is not under 300,000; and I am confident that, if at a time of great political excitement the leaders of the party were to make it known to them, that the only test which could be admitted of [-75-] their devotion to their principles, would be their signing a certain Radical petition or other document, that number of signatures, with the requisite canvassing, would be admitted to it in the course of eight days. It is only a few years, since upwards of 100,000 individuals, journeymen only in particular trades, enrolled their names as members of a union, which, however it may have been attempted to be concealed, was, beyond all question, a political union. The number of Radicals, however, possessing the elective franchise, is but limited. It is in the aggregate less than that of either the Whigs or Tories, though in some districts, the Finsbury district for example, it is greater. Hence the Radicals are unable, with one or two exceptions, to return to Parliament men who will "go the whole hog. Were we, however, to have universal suffrage, or were the suffrage to be much more extended than it now is, the metropolitan representatives would be, to a man, thoroughgoing Radicals. Sin Samuel Whalley thinks he goes "far and fast enough; in the supposed [-76-] contingency he would find himself miserably mistaken. He and Mr. Bulwer would assuredly be displaced by Messrs. Murphy and Savage. In the other districts the present members would be also obliged to give way to regular levellers -men who would scatter the Constitution to the winds of heaven, and whose only law, as in the case of the French Revolution, would be their own capricious and despotic will. The usual process of making or administering the laws would be infinitely too slow for them; they would make and administer them with the rapidity of steam.
The Radicals are divided into various sections. There are the moderate Radicals, the ultra Radicals, and the Destructives. Among the first class there are a great many men of superior intelligence, great talent, and undoubted integrity of character, both in their public and private capacities. Among the ultra Radicals, there are also many honest men. The late Major Cartwright was one instance, and I look on the present Mr. Murphy as another. There [-77-] are also, perhaps, a few well-meaning, though mistaken, persons among the Destructives; but they are nearly as rare as black swans. How many of them, were they applying for situations requiring integrity and trustworthiness, could have, as the servants of all-work who advertise for places in "The Times, say, "an undeniable character, from any honest person who knows them! He must be a poor arithmetical who could not count the number. The loudest brawlers for reform at Destructive meetings, are precisely the men who stand in most need of reform themselves. They talk big about repairing the Constitution - let them look at home; their own characters stand fully as much in need of tinkering as the Constitution. When the Constitution is damaged to as great an extent, things will indeed have come to a pretty pass, and the sooner we pack up and quit the country the better. What are the leading Destructive declaimers in the metropolis? He who would write their biography faithfully, would be doing a service to his country of much [-78-] greater magnitude than many of those services which have procured for the persons performing them, a corner in St. Paul's. They are, almost to a man, individuals who have proved themselves the worst members of society. Ask their wives, or grown-up children, what they are; let their servants speak to their character; get the opinion of those who have had any dealings with them; or, best of all, hear, when they fall out among themselves, what they say of each other. "Set a thief, says the proverb, "to catch a thief. On the same principle, set a rogue to describe a rogue. "He best can paint it who has felt it most. I have had occasion to see many a split between the most noted rogues of the Destructive school. And what a picture on such occasions has the one drawn of the other! I had hoped too well of human nature to allow me to suppose there could be so much blackness and baseness in its composition, as they have ascribed to each other. In the borough of Marylebone, within a few yards of the house in which I then resided, two parties of Destructives [-79-] who chanced to have "a regular split, held a meeting on parish matters a short time since. There happened to be two public-houses directly opposite each other, and each party engaged one for the purpose of annoying the other. I sat at the window upwards of three hours enjoying the scene; and a richer one was never perhaps witnessed. The portraitures the leaders drew of each other, were taken partly by means of an oratorical pencil, and partly by means of a symbolical one. The parties made a distinction between each other, by the one adopting the name of the Yellows, and the other that of the Blues. Timothy Tagrag was the hero and leader of the Yellows, and Richard Ragamuffin* (*These were the names by which the opposing leaders called each other.) was the self- elected champion of the Blues. Timothy, amidst the cheers of his own party and the groans of the "adverse faction, as he called them, commenced the day's proceedings by the most virulent abuse of Ragamuffin. "Gentlemen, said Mr. Tagrag, looking at his own party, the Blues, [-80-] or the "crew" as they were designated by the Yellows, "Gentlemen, you see opposite you one of the most unprincipled of men. Ragamuffin is guilty of every crime under heaven. He is a tyrant to his wife; not content with allowing her and his children to starve while he Is indulging in his cups, and in something worse, he behaves like a brute to her on his return home, which is never before two or three o'clock in the morning. He is always drunk when he comes home, and his usual practice is, the moment he gets into his wife's bed-room, to beat her in the most furious manner. [Groans from Timothy's party, and " It's all a ----"from the other.] It was only last year he paid his creditors three farthings in the pound. No servant could ever remain longer than two days in the house with such a person. He is worse than a monster; he delights in the misery of his fellow-creatures. He would drink his glass of gin-and-water with peculiar zest, though he saw all London in a flame. [Renewed groans from the Yellows, mingled with exclamations of "You know, Dick, you're the [-81-] greatest ---- in Marylebone", from the Blues.] Gentlemen, he never had a friend on earth whom he did not betray. He would sell his country for a quartern of gin. [Laughter and cheers from the Yellows, with groans from the Blues.] I defy any one to name a vice of which this person is not guilty: if any of you can invent a new one, he will be the first to commit it. I would earnestly caution those who have wives and daughters never on any account to suffer him to cross their threshold. Were an action of damages to be brought. against him for all his crimes of a certain kind, every big wig in the metropolis would have a case for himself. The instances in which he has seduced innocent unsuspecting girls, are innumerable. Such, gentlemen is the character of the person who has the consummate effrontery to oppose us on this occasion; but the animal has no shame; if he had the smallest particle, he would never have the audacity, covered as he knows himself to be with crimes of the deepest dye, to hold up his face in society, much less aspire at the direc-[-82-]tion of the affairs of this parish. What the end of such a person will be, it needs not the gift of prophecy to foretell. Gentlemen, you see-[here a dead kitten, projected from the opposite side, interrupted the speaker by alighting on his mouth,]-Gentlemen, I was about to say, when thus rudely interrupted by one of the Ragamuffins over the way, that any one with half an eye may see this fellow's destiny written on his forehead. [Here one of Tagrag's party hoisted out at one of the windows a miniature gallows, with an effigy of Ragamuffin suspended from it.] Yes, gentlemen, continued Tagrag, "you are well aware.-[here the speaker looked earnestly at the effigy]-of what the end of this monster will be, without my telling you. * (* As this may appear to persons unacquainted with the parties to smack of caricature, it may be right to say that the Destructives in question actually used much coarser language towards each other, than I can with propriety transfer to my pages.) [Loud cheers from the Tagragians, and groans and hisses from the Ragamuffins]
It now became Ragamuffin's turn to address [-83-] the meeting. He was greeted on rising with rapturous applause by his own party, and assailed with tremendous hisses by the other.
"Gentlemen," said he -meaning his own party of course - "Gentlemen, this fellow, in the charges, the unfounded charges [Loud laughter and cries of Oh! Oh!' from the Tagragians] he has brought against me, has sketched his own character to a hair. He himself is the great original of his picture. His own conscience tells him he is guilty of everything of which he has accused me. Gentlemen, I beg your pardon for speaking of his conscience; the man never had a conscience. No man possessing anything in the shape of a conscience, could ever have contemplated, much less committed, the enormities of which the person who has dared to insult you by opening his polluted mouth in your presence is guilty. [Loud cheers from the Blues, with tremendous groans from the Yellows.] Will the man answer me this question? Did be not say, in Mr. Savage's taproom, one day last week, when he and Dr. Wade [-84-] were gulping a pot of heavy wet, that if he had the management of the poor, he would take the shine out of them by keeping them on starvation allowance? [The groans from the Ragamuffins were here deafening, and even the Tagragians looked unutterable things at each other, having themselves the prospect of the workhouse before them. It's all a ----, shouted Mr. Tagrag.] He says, gentlemen, it's all a ----. That's very easy said, and it's just such language as might be expected from him; but will anybody believe him? [Loud cries of No, no,' from the Ragamuffins] Gentlemen, you see before you, in the opposite window, the man who swindled poor Widow Brewer, and her five small children, out of the last six-pence they possessed. You see a man who, like the tyrant of old, in regard to the people of Rome, could wish that you had only one neck among you, that he might, by breaking that neck, extinguish you at once. There has been a manifest mistake with respect to the age and country which brought the fellow into existence. It is clear that Fate intended him to have [-85-] been a countryman, a contemporary, and companion of Robespierre, and the other bloodthirsty monsters of the French Revolution. [Loud cheers from the Ragamuffins, answered by vehement hisses from the Tagragians.] He has his good fortune, and not his merits, gentlemen, to thank, that he has not already stood on a certain eminence off Ludgate-hill, with a halter round his neck. Ask him, gentlemen, whether he knows any one who gave his wife a blue eye last week, and nearly broke his eldest daughter's leg with a chair, because she interposed to prevent her father striking her mother. [Loud cries of Shame, shame ! from the Ragamuffins, and a dead silence on the part of the Tagragians.] Why, will you believe it, gentlemen, this person has been through the Insolvent Debtor's Court five times within the last twelve years? Ask him what he has done with the short weights with which, until detected, he was in the habit of cheating his customers when purchasing his coals? [Mr. Tagrag was, at the period I refer to, though not now, a potato mer-[-86-]chant.] Ask him" -[Here a rotten potato from the opposite side hit the speaker such a hard whack on the forehead, as made the remainder of the sentence, like Macbeth's 'Amen,' stick in his throat.] After a short pause he resumed, -." That rotten potato, gentlemen, is an appropriate emblem of himself - his soul is rotten - his body is rotten - he is rotten all over, as those who now support him will discover ere long. [Cries from the Ragamuffins of That they will.'] I was about, when brutally interrupted by one of the blackguard gang on the opposite side, to request you to ask the man who has the reckless impudence to oppose us this day, what he did with the forty odd pounds, which he collected six months ago from the parishioners, under the pretext that it was to defray the expenses incurred in endeavouring to defeat a Tory stratagem, got up by that party against the interests of the rate-payers. Gentlemen, there is no use in mincing matters with a person whose soul is as black as the coals, or rather the slates, he sells. I therefore charge him before [-87-] you all, with pocketing every farthing of that sum. [Most Stentorian groans from the Ragamuffins.] It was no later than last Wednesday that this brazen-faced fellow was found, at one o'clock in the morning, rolling in the mud opposite the door of a well-known house, in a state of the most beastly intoxication, and presenting the appearance of a person who had been wallowing for hours in the dubs. Had he lain there one moment longer he would have been run over, and had his body smashed to pieces by one of the large carts of Whitbread & Co. [A voice from the Ragamuffin party, What a pity he escaped ! ] Why, certainly, gentlemen, the world would have been at no loss, though the brewer's cart had let his soul out of him, and this parish would have had eternal cause of rejoicing; but I should have been sorry, nevertheless, had the fellow made his exit in that way. I fancy I hear you ask me why? Why, for this good reason-that I hope to have the happiness of seeing a well-known public character close his career, by causing his donkey heels to dangle [-88-] in the air. [Thunders of applause from the Ragamuffins, with tremendous groans from the Tagragians.] Gentlemen, the character of this person is so bad, that no one ought to approach within a dozen yards of him; he is a libel on our species. Not only does he commit crimes which would make other men bury themselves in the earth, but he openly boasts of them. He glories, gentlemen, in the most frightful immoralities of which a human being can be guilty; immoralities, the mere mention of which would cause a thrill of horror in every bosom now present; and yet this person can have the surpassing effrontery to ascend the hustings at public meetings, and prate and brawl about virtue! Yes, gentlemen, will you believe it ?- about his virtue! Should he succeed in-[Here a loud shout of laughter from the Tagragians drowned the remainder of the sentence. It was caused by a large placard being exhibited at the moment from their window, with the words written on it, 'Four-pence in the pound, Rag,' which was the amount of the speaker's latest composition with [-89-] his creditors.] I was about to say, gentlemen' that if this man-[Here again the voice of the orator was completely lost, amidst a burst of laughter, mingled with three successive volleys of cheers, which proceeded from the opposite party. The cause of their merriment was the exhibition at the window of a board containing a quantity of cat's-meat, he being a butcher, and being often reproached with selling meat of so bad a quality, as to be little better than the cat's- meat which is called from door to door in the streets.] Gentlemen, what I was about to say is this-and with it I will close-that if this person and his creatures- [ Vy don't you say varmint at once?' shouted a sturdy Ragamuffin.] Well, then, varman be it. If, I say, they succeed in their object this day, that will be the greatest calamity that ever befel this parish; but I am sure we shall defeat them. [Immense applause from the Ragamuffins, and loud groans from the Tagragians.]
The majority of the Destructives who figure, to use one of their own favourite phrases, at [-90-] 'Tibbald's Road,' the Rotunda, &c., are, I do in sober seriousness think, the most reckless and unprincipled class of persons to be found in the metropolis. I could unfold tales, the truth of which I have no reason to doubt, respecting the conduct of some of them, which would startle anybody but their followers. With individuals, however, I have nothing to do. My observations apply to bodies of men. Let me not, even in speaking of the Destructive in the mass, employ an expression which would do any one, though it were but by implication, injustice. Those who mix much with the class of politicians of whom I am speaking, must, from the conduct of the great body of them, be forcibly reminded of Dr. Johnson's remark, "that the greatest rogues always seek refuge in patriotism.
My curiosity has often led me to attend Destructive meetings, where the leading demagogues were, on the Peachum and Lockit principle, agreed, at least ostensibly, among themselves. On such occasions, I have generally been amused with their lofty pretensions to [-91-] virtue. They talk of themselves as if they were deities, and engage that, if the government of the country were confided to them, they would at once make Great Britain the scene of a political and social millennium.
It is no less amusing to contrast their assumed importance at these meetings with their limited numbers and still more limited moral influence. The story of the three tailors of Tooley Street, who commenced their petition with "We the people of England, is known to every one. The same farce was exhibited every Tuesday evening in the winter of 1835, in a well-known political house in Marylebone. Some thirty or forty individuals weekly assembled there, to smoke a pipe, to drink their glass of gin-and- water, or pint of porter, and discuss the affairs of the state. They dignified themselves with the name of "The Great Radical Association of England, made their speeches, passed their resolutions, and, night after night, threatened to exterminate the House of Lords, and scatter the Commons in all directions, if they did not obey [-92-] their mandates, and pass those measures which they thought proper to recommend. Nothing could exceed the pompousness of their proceedings in so far as regarded the matter and manner of their speeches. Had a person been conducted blindfold into the "great hall where the "Great Radical Association of England was holding their meeting, and had no other means of information as to the real state of matters than what was afforded him through the medium of his ears, he would have thought there was something truly formidable in the composition and proceedings of such an assemblage. He would have heard them making and re-making Constitutions and ministries "in less than no time, as one of themselves once observed. Had he been suddenly restored to the privilege of sight, the illusion, to be sure, would have been at once dispelled. He would have seen, perhaps, in the chair, a journeyman carpenter, whose beard had been guiltless of any intercourse with a razor for eight days- whose wardrobe had more holes than whole cloth in it-and whose frontispiece presented the [-93-] appearance of that of a chimney-sweep after the first water on May-day. On the platform, on the right hand of the chairman, was invariably to be seen a little pot-bellied man, called Jim Rogers, smoking a pipe and cheering the speaker. This four-feet-six of patriotic mortality was altogether an unique character. He was never to be seen without his porter before him, a "swig of which he took at regular intervals of five minutes each, always preceding the draught by loud cries of "Hear, hear, hear !" The last sound, indeed, invariably died away in the utensil as he put it to his mouth; and as he withdrew it again to insert his pipe in its place, his countenance gleamed with a smile of so peculiar a nature that I am sure the most skilful physiognomist would be puzzled to know in what classification to place it. If I have succeeded in realising to myself the particular kind of smile which Milton had in his mind's eye when he spoke of the "ghastly smile" of his fallen angel, I should say that that of Jim Rogers' was not of the same genus. I incline rather to the opinion that it ap-[-94-]proximated nearer to the smile or grin, whichever you like to call it, of the celebrated cobbler mentioned by Addison in one of his Spectators.' It is worthy of remark that Jim never spoke himself; he was too much occupied with his pipe and porter, and the cheering of the other orators, to play the Demosthenes in his own person. You never missed our little patriot from his post; he was the first in the "great hall, and the last to leave it. As he used to say himself, no man should ever find him "a traatir" to his country. His compatriots were not so regular in their attendance. Sometimes you saw one set of orators on the platform, and at other times another. In the body of the room, the Destructive assemblage was of as motley a character as if all London had been polled for the purpose of making it so. Each person was a character by himself. There were, however, three features common to them all-they all smoked their pipes, drank their porter or their gin- and- water, and, with the exception of the aforesaid Jim Rogers, played the orator. They all, too, concurred in lamenting the degeneracy of the [-95-] times, bewailed the lack of patriots, as proved by their thin attendance; and were most liberal in abusing the Whigs and Tories. The proceedings usually occupied about three hours. Before one hour had elapsed the "great hall" was "choke full of smoke". The scene was one which would have done a poet's heart good. Nothing could be more poetical than the graceful way in which the volumes of smoke curled as they were whiffed, redolent of heavy wet, from each mouth, before losing themselves in the general mass,-especially in those cases in which two or three of the volumes affectionately entwined themselves in each other's embraces. A wag one night popped his head in at the door, and asked the patriot next to him what it was all about. The Destructive, in a gruff brutish tone, replied- "Vy it's jist about a-ending. "Then", said the other coughing loudly as if already half suffocated, "it looks as if it would all end in smoke." It is a fact which deserves to be mentioned to the credit of Jim Rogers, that none but himself seemed to pay the least attention to any speeches [-96-] but their own. To be sure, they liberally cheered the eloquence of their compatriots; but cheering a speech is quite compatible, in the case of the Destructives, with not hearing one word of it. Jim acted in this respect as a fugleman to the others, by giving, as I before stated, sundry hearty cheers immediately before burying his head in the pot of porter. The patriots in the body of the room were most exemplary in responding to the little hero's cheers; so that on the whole, no orator ever had any great reason to complain of the want of applause. The torrents of eloquence which each successive speaker poured out, never interrupted the business of the house. In fact, the "great hall on such occasions only presented the spectacle of a tap-room on an enlarged scale. Mr. S to "keep up the concarn", as a bricklayer's hod-man one night happily expressed himself, occasionally gave the "Great Radical Association of England five minutes of his seditious oratory; but at other times, he and a couple of pot- boys had their hands sufficiently full in executing [-97-] the orders for " baccy" and heavy wet. In giving these orders, the parties always spoke as loudly as did the demagogue for the time being. The effect was infinitely ludicrous. Take the following as an illustration. Dr. Wade was the orator :-" I say, gentlemen, that until the working classes are united among themselves they will never [" Boy, bring me a pint of porter with the chill taken off "] be able to do any thing [" I say, you little chap with the jacket, get me a pipe and baccy" ] to redress their grievances. It is now four years ["I say, Mr. S--, 1 von't stand that any longer any how. It's a good quarter o' an hour since I ordered a glass o' gin- and-water, and I'se not got it yet." - "You'll get it presently." ] It is now four years since the Reform Bill passed into a law, and none of you [" Bring me a match to light my pipe with-will you, boy ?"] have reaped the slightest benefit- [Mr. S -. "Did you pay for your porter, Jack Hogan ?" "Voy to be sure I did. This here Bob Martin, pointing to a son of St. Crispin who sat beside him, "saw me fork out the [-98-] hapnies. Didn't you, Bob ?" "Yes, I'll take my oath on't, Jack. "] Not one of you, I say, gentlemen, have yet derived the slightest benefit from the Reform Bill, and until [" Take a hearty swig of this heavy, Harry, my boy" ] associations of this kind are established in all parts of the country, you never can [" Boy, a pint of porter of the right sort; none of your swipes now "] raise yourself to that station in society which you are entitled to occupy. Gentlemen, we owe whatever liberty we possess to a body of men who roamed eight hundred years ago amidst the forests of Germany: let us only be [" I say, Ned, old chap, shall we have another go of gin-and-water," ] united and energetic, and we will complete what our German ancestors ["Mr. S -- -, have you got no spit-boxes ?"] so gloriously began. 1 am sure, gentlemen, I need not remind you, in pressing on you the advantages of union, of the well-known story of [" Bring me a pint of half-and-half, you boy with the apron round your middle" ] the man and the bundle of sticks. I am well aware of what [-99-] might be done by" - [Here the worthy Doctor was interrupted by Jim Rogers puffing a quantity of smoke down his throat while Jim was lighting his pipe afresh at a candle, which stood on a table just before the Doctor's face. The effect of the four-feet-six patriot interposing his head and shoulders between the reverend orator and the candle, was that of a temporary total eclipse of the jolly-looking cabbage-coloured physiognomy of the latter, and caused a burst of laughter from the Destructive assemblage. After the cessation of a violent fit of coughing, caused by the dense volume of smoke which Jim had injected into his mouth, the Doctor good-naturedly resumed]- I am well aware, I was going to say, gentlemen, of what might be done by physical force, but I, as a minister of the gospel of peace, cannot recommend you to have recourse to such extreme measures. I would say [" Mr. S -, bring me a crust of bread and cheese" ] exert yourselves peacefully but spiritedly ;" [" Another glass of brandy-and-water, Tom, my boy ;"] do this and [" I'm blowed if I don't [-100-] have another pint of porter. Fill this pot again, Mr. S---, and here's your blunt," ] do this, I say, and you are sure eventually to succeed. Allow me to say, gentlemen, before I sit down, that perhaps I have gone, in the first part of my speech, a little too far. [A gruff voice from a stranger looking in at the door, "I think you have a deuced deal, Doctor; so good night," followed by cries of "No, no !"] If, gentlemen, I have in the excitement of the moment -[Here the worthy divine wiped the perspiration off his brow, and gave two or three gentle coughs]-if I have said any thing unbecoming, I am sure you will ascribe it all to my zeal in your cause. The rev, gentleman sat down amidst tumultuous cheers, in which the stentorian lungs of "the people were ably aided by the application of Mr. S--'s pots to the forms on which the Destructives sat. In the midst of the uproarious applause, a recent importation from Tipperary, with his coat off and his breast open, just as if newly returned from paving the streets, advanced to the platform, with a pot in his hand, foaming [-101-] with Barclay and Perkins's entire, and looking the orator with an approving smile full in the face, sung out, Bravo, Docther; here's your jolly good health! Isn't it yourself, Docther, will be afther taking a drop of it to wet your throat with ?" So saying, the Emeralder handed "the pewter" and its contents to the Radical Divine, who took a hearty draught of the latter.
I may here be allowed to remark, that considered only as a man of the world, Mr. S--- deserves every credit for the tact he displayed in establishing, and managing to continue for six months, the "Great Radical Association of England ;" for under the pretext of discussing the affairs of the state, he decoyed men into the great hall of his house to quaff his porter and spirits. Members of the association were but another name for customers of Mr. S--, and very good customers they proved. The quantity of heavy wet, and gin and brandy mixed with water, to say nothing of the "baccv" which they consumed, was immense. Finding [-102-] the thing answer so admirably, he, with infinite tact, contrived to get up another concern, under the pretext of establishing a new religion on the Sunday forenoon,-Sunday being a leisure day. There was singular judgment, too, in the fixing of the hour, eleven o'clock; for he knew full well that at that early hour the working classes could not have got rid of their week's wages; whereas, had he appointed the evening for the meeting, the chances were that either the " disciples would have expended all their money in the course of the day, or have gone and got drunk elsewhere with the little that remained. The new religion affair was, however, soon put an end to by the magistrates of Marylebone. The new system was in religion what ultra Radicalism is in politics, namely, a levelling of all distinctions in morals, and everybody doing as they liked. It might with great propriety have been called a Radical religion. The grand test of discipleship was, the liberal consumption of Mr. S--'s heavy wet. To vituperate Christianity and talk ribaldry, were [-103-] additional recommendations. But this is a digression.
From all I have seen and known of the Destructive character, I should say decidedly that it never appears to half the advantage it does at a public dinner. I never miss an opportunity, if I can help it, of being present at Destructive feeds. The last one at which I was present was the Great Marylebone Festival- for so it was styled-of the 4th of August. It came off on a large cricket-ground at St. John's Wood. It was altogether a rich concern. About 4000 persons were present, 1500 of whom were ladies; at least, they were by courtesy so called. The feeders were all in- closed in a tent erected for the purpose, while a sort of gallery was constructed at the right hand side of the tent, for the accommodation of the ladies. On the left hand side was a small booth, which had been fitted up for the reception of the musicians; while immediately before them was a platform extending from one side of the tent to the other, for the speakers. Immediately [-104-] close to the fiddlers was planted a range of great guns,' the property of the " Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop, and which, in the spirit of genuine patriotism, had been "kindly lent for the occasion". The arrival of any noted Destructive was duly announced by a discharge of Lumber Troop artillery. The same mark of distinction greeted any thoroughly levelling toast; and constituted no unsuitable accompaniment to the uproarious applause with which such toasts were received. The dinner was advertised to take place at three o'clock; but as public dinners in the metropolis are understood not to commence for an hour after the time mentioned, many persons who, like myself, had gone from curiosity, did not reach the ground for half an hour after. The consequence was we were too late. The Destructives were all hard at work. The fact was, that as early as three o'clock some of the more knowing ones had taken care to inform themselves of the state of the supplies, and learning there was not enough for one fourth of those who had pur-[-105-]chased tickets, they determined to take care of themselves, and "ordered dinner to be laid on the table directly. This was done the more easily and expeditiously as the dinner was a cold one. I reached the ground in the very midst of the repast; and what a scene! It was a regular eating match against time. You would have staked your existence that the majority of the feeders had not had a dinner for the previous eight days. To many, a dinner was an epoch in their existence. The voracity of their appetites, and the capacity of their stomachs, were undeniable. I will venture to say, there were some of them who need not in these respects shrink from a competition with the giraffe in the adjoining Zoological Gardens. The various eatables, consisting of bacon, pork, mutton, beef, with about half-a-dozen fowls to 2500 persons, vanished in an incredible short time. Had they, indeed, by some necromantic process, quitted the table and darted off, on the skyrocket principle, up into the air, to appease the appetites of the parties who were then float-[-106-]ing a mile and a half in two balloons,* (two balloons, with four individuals in them, chanced at this time to make their appearance) above our heads, they could scarcely have disappeared more suddenly. One skin-and-bone looking little fellow, with a most unearthly visage, and his hair in a state of the most perfect uproar, swallowed half-a-dozen slices of ham, as if they had been so many Morison's pills. Dr. Wade sat directly opposite " stomaching a quantity of some suspicious looking article, which was dignified with the name of veal, at the rate of two ounces per every ten seconds. When done, he adjusted his circular shirt- collar, and emptied a pint of heavy wet at a draught. While thus devouring everything set before them with such voracity of appetite, I could not help thinking with myself, that in the true spirit of cannibalism they would have eaten each other, and smacked their lips after the repast, had they been regularly "served up. The whole affair was a trial, not only of the masticating capabilities of the parties, but a [-107-] trial of strength. For some of the solids there was a regular struggle. In the contest for one of the half dozen fowls, which took place between the rival editors of two of the then un-stamped papers, the poor animal was torn limb from limb, each carrying away his half in triumph. The principal contributor to the "Poet Man's Guardian waylaid one of the waiters before he got the length of the table, and seizing the piece of bacon he was carrying, sat down with his back to the table, and demolished the morsel with all due expedition. Mr. Douglas, the St. Pancras vestryman, who enjoys a joke as much as any man I know, snatched a large slice of mutton from before a little Marylebone Radical, called Ned Monaghan, and devoured it amidst the bitter imprecations of the latter. One of Sir Samuel Whalley's most zealous supporters, a stout pot-bellied little fellow, with a countenance indicative of infinite self self-complacency, caught hold of a fragment of a round of beef in its transit from Mr. Henry Wilson, a "Marylebone" vestryman, to Mr. Savage, and put-[-108-]ting it down on his knees beneath the table, dispatched it in excellent style. A muscular Irishman, who sat next to him, with a nose of so peculiar a conformation as to defy description, picked up a small pudding-dish the moment the waiter deposited it on the table, and appropriated its contents to his own use, before any of his starving companions had time to ask for a morsel of the rarity. Directly opposite sat another ultra of colossal proportions, and who I afterwards understood to be one of Mr. Attwood's "Brummagem men", leaning over another pudding dish, which he surrounded with his left arm, to keep the otherwise lncursive paws of friends at a distance; while with his right hand, partly assisted by a spoon, he raised the delicacy to his mouth and slobbered it, as he himself afterwards expressed it, "in a crack". A short-built Destructive just arrived from Manchester, whose appetite, judging from the efforts though they were in vain, which he made to lay his clutches on something, must have been made voracious by his journey, [-109-] observed, with a most rueful countenance, and in most pitiable accents, "Vy, I'll be blowed if this aint verse than the starwation allowance of the vorkus. His brother patriot, an Irishman, to whom the remark was addressed, assented. " By the powers," said he, "and that same's a true word that you have been after spaking: there's not even a prattie to be had for love or money-bad luck to them all !"
Never, indeed, did I see a more impressive exemplification of the principle, " Every one for himself. I wished with all my heart that Wordsworth the poet had been present. He would, in that case, have seen such a forcible illustration as I am sure he could never have expected to witness, of his own well known lines-
That they would take who have the power,
And they would keep who can.
Forks and knives were but scantily provided.
However, they were not much wanted. Mr.
Fergus O'Connor, Mr. H---, who threatens,
under certain circumstances, to break the backs [-110-] of the Marylebone Vestry reporters with a stick,
Mr. Murphy, and some forty or fifty of the
genteeler class of Radicals, used these implements; but there were scores whom it did not suit
to have anything to do with them: they would
only have proved impediments to expeditious
eating,-the great point to be gained. Others,
and these formed a very considerable portion of
those present, dispensed with knives and forks
for a reason which even a Destructive must
allow to be a valid one; they had no use for
them-they had nothing to eat. It is impossible
to describe the woe-begone countenances of those
who were in this predicament. Some of them
worked themselves into a furious passion. One
man, an undertaker, who seemed himself a very
fit subject for some of his trusty brethren of the
trade doing for him what he, like the grave-
digger in Hamlet, had done for thousands,
strongly remonstrated with the waiter.
"Vaiter, why don't you bring us something to eat?"
" It's all on the table, sir," said the waiter, [-111-] stretching out his arm to withdraw an empty pudding-dish.
" And it's all off the table, too," said the coffin-maker, indignantly.
"That s not my fault," observed John; and he scudded away with his arms full of empty dishes, to some unknown region where they were to be deposited.
"Why don't you complain to one of the stewards," said Dr. Wade, who, in the scramble had, as already mentioned, come off very suecessfully. The Rev. Gentleman winked at Mr. Murphy, in a way which evidently showed that he was enjoying a joke at the poor hungry undertaker's expense.
"Mr. Savage," said the latter-Mr. Savage was one of the stewards- "here's a pretty go of it; nothing to eat; no, not a morsel. Better be at home on Yarmouth bloaters than this."
"Whose fault's that ?" inquired Mr. Savage, with inimitable sang froid. Mr. Savage whispered across the table to Mr. Feigns O'Connor,
[-112-] "I hope the speeches to night will be of the right Radical sort."
" It's the vaiter's fault, I suppose," said the man of coffins. "Poor fellow, he knew no better!"
" Well then, observed Mr. Savage, " you have the remedy in your own hands; take his number."
" But he's gone."
"Then why don't you go after him?"
" I tell you what it is, Mr. Savage, I von't submit to be treated in this ere vay; I must have some grub, or my four shillings back again.
" I wish he may get either," whispered Dr. Wade into my ear, with a smile of that peculiar character which I never saw any one give but himself.
" What excellent music !" observed Mr. Murphy to the "performer" of funerals, trying to soothe him down a little.
"What's music to a hungry stomach ?" said [-113-] the other, lowering his brow. " Can I dine on music?"
"Never mind," said a sturdy unwashed personage, the very image of Thistlewood of Cato-street notoriety, his head half buried in his breast; "never mind, my friend, you are at no loss any how. I would not give a farden for the whole kit of vat vas on the table; it vas no better than -"
"It's all very veIl for you to say so, after you have had a belly full of the vitals,' interrupted the undertaker, his choler rising still higher and higher. " I say, Mr. Savage, he continued, "if I don't get something to eat, I'll be --"
The remainder of the sentence was lost amidst a tremendous volley fired by the Lumber Troop artillery, in honour of the arrival of Mr. Wakley, who, from his experience of the amount of the supplies at previous Destructive meetings, had wisely taken the precaution of taking an early dinner before leaving the Lancet office.
" Are you all charged ?" shouted the chairman, as soon as Mr. Wakley had seated himself. [-114-] The clatter of plates, the clinking of pots emptied of their heavy wet, and the Babel of tongues which, conjointly, had before drowned the music, and vied with the reports of the Lumber Troop cannon, ceased in a moment at the magic words. Every one's pewter utensil- that is, every one who had a groat in his pocket to procure the turbid liquid-was filled to the brim in an instant. " The People-the true source of all legitimate power, said the chairman, in a stentorian voice. (Drank with tremendous applause, which lasted a full minute, and all upstanding.) "The peepil," responded a vender of muddy coffee, price one penny per half pint. "The pee-", echoed the Mr. Jim Rogers already alluded to, withdrawing his head from a pot of "heavy" which he was gulping with remarkable energy; but the liquid still gurgling in his throat prevented his completing the sentence, and was within an ace of choking him, to the bargain. Mr. Buckingham for the only time during the evening, relaxed the rigidity of his features, and condescended to [-115-] smile, as the loud cheer with which the toast was drank, died away on the air. To be sure, true to his "tee-total", or temperance society principles, he filled his glass with toast and water out of a Large decanter, which lay the whole evening before him full of that very harmless beverage; but it was easy to perceive, without any superior skill in the science of Lavater, that he envied those who heartily partook of the foaming tankards of porter which he saw the waiters carrying in every direction around him. Mr. Roebuck rose amidst loud and general cries of Mount a chair, " Can't see you, to propose the unstamped press. "He trusted the time would soon come, when the whole of the London press would be what Hetherington's Dispatch now was; [Mr. Hetherington lifted his hat;] for so long as the odious red stamp deformed the broad sheet, our newspapers would be the same vile, servile, vulgar publications which they now were. [Thundering cheers, reechoed by the artillery of the Lumber Troop.] Mr. Lee, editor of "The Man", one of the [-116-] penny unstamped, leaped on the table, and, hat in hand, hurraed so vociferously, that it was apprehended he would alarm the wild beasts in the neighbouring Zoological Gardens. Sir Samuel Whalley proposed something, but from the uproarious state of the "gentlemen present, no one could hear what it was. The only detached sentence I could catch was, that he was delighted to see "such a fair phalanx of bright eyes" before him. Sir Samuel all the while kept his optics immovably fixed on the countenances of some really beautiful girls who sat directly opposite, and once or twice put his fore-fingers on his mouth, as if to prevent the meeting being annoyed by a slight cough. Dr. Bowring, who in the early part of the meeting appeared "lost in thought, possibly from endeavouring to resolve into general principles, some of the singularly diversified dialects he heard spoken, now became quite fidgetty, as if anxious to effect his escape from the infliction of sounds caused by everybody speaking and shouting at once. The noise, indeed, had by [-117-] this time become so intolerable, that Mr. Hume was obliged to give up an abstruse calculation as to the profits which the landlord who furnished the dinner would make by it. Here Mr. Douglas shouted out that some one had robbed him of his watch. " And some cove, said a dark looking, woolly-haired, unshaved patriot, sitting next to him, at the same time fumbling in his pocket, while the waiter was standing to receive the price of a pot of porter, " Some cove has taken all my browns. The consequence was, he was obliged to borrow a groat to pay for the beverage. Finding it worse than folly to make any further attempt at oratory that evening, Mr. Savage mounted the platform, and, waving the rod of office which, as one of the stewards, he had held in his hand all the evening,-he said, in a voice of a twenty trumpet power (* Mr. Savage's voice, even in common conversation, has a great deal of the shrillness of the trumpet in it.) that the ladies were now becoming impatient for the dance, and he was sure there was too much gallantry among the Radicals [-118-] of Marylebone to deny them, for one moment longer, that pleasure. The gentle hint was received with a round of applause, which threatened to tear in one moment the tent in tatters. The Radicals rose en masse, the forms and tables were removed instanter, and in a few seconds some dozens of both sexes were tripping the light fantastic toe. Mr. Hume and Mr. Buckingham then left the company without the formality of bidding any one, except Sir Samuel Whalley, good night. I thought I could not do better than follow their example.
Such is a fair specimen of a Destructive dinner. I have been present at others still more ludicrous; but I have preferred giving a sketch of the Marylebone one of August the 4th, both because it is the latest of any note, and because the principal performers are well- known "public characters."
Mungo Park mentions in his "Travels in the Interior of Africa, that the inhabitants are in the habit of referring back to the date of any particular circumstance, not by giving the [-119-] year of its occurrence, but by stating that it took place at or about the same time as some other well-known event. For example, he says, that circumstances which occurred in the course of his journey through the interior, will be afterwards referred to as having happened at the time of the White man's visit, without mentioning the year. It is precisely so with the Destructives. A dinner of any kind, or at any time, is, as before observed, an era in their lives: a public dinner is with them an epoch in the history of the country. Hence they always speak of other circumstances as having transpired in the year of some great Destructive dinner.
I have mentioned, in a previous part of this chapter, what I conceive to be the number of Radicals in the metropolis. it is right, to state, however, that their number apparently undergoes a great variation according to circumstances. Radicalism is in its most palmy state when trade is dull, and when the working classes have consequently to resist the rebellion of the belly. [-120-] When they are fully employed, neither "Tibbald's Road", nor the Rotunda, nor Mr. S--'s "Great Hall," has any attractions to them. The demagogues who find agitation to be like the air they breathe, then change the burden of their lamentation from the sins of the Whigs and Tories, to the supineness of the people. In theory, however, the working classes are as great Radicals as ever, and when "times turn slack again, will shout and brawl as vociferously, and make as great a fuss about universal suffrage, and the other principles which follow in its train, as before.
[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]