I cannot describe the horror and disgust which I felt at hearing Mr. Perceval call upon the then Ministry for measures of vigour in Ireland. If I lived at Hampstead upon stewed meats and claret; if I walked to church every Sunday before eleven young gentlemen of my own begetting, with their faces washed, and their hair pleasingly combed; if the Almighty had blessed me with every earthly comfort—how awfully would I pause before I sent forth the flame and the sword over the cabins of the poor, brave, generous, open-hearted peasants of Ireland! How easy it is to shed human blood; how easy it is to persuade ourselves that it is our duty to do so, and that the decision has cost us a severe struggle; how much in all ages have wounds and shrieks and tears been the cheap and vulgar resources of the rulers of mankind; how difficult and how noble it is to govern in kindness and to found an empire upon the everlasting basis of justice and affection! But what do men call vigour? To let loose hussars and to bring up artillery, to govern with lighted matches, and to cut, and push, and prime; I call this not vigour, but the sloth of cruelty and ignorance. The vigour I love consists in finding out wherein subjects are aggrieved, in relieving them, in studying the temper and genius of a people, in consulting their prejudices, in selecting proper persons to lead and manage them, in the laborious, watchful, and difficult task of increasing public happiness by allaying each particular discontent. In this way Hoche pacified La Vendee—and in this way only will Ireland ever be subdued. But this, in the eyes of Mr. Perceval, is imbecility and meanness. Houses are not broken open, women are not insulted, the people seem all to be happy; they are not rode over by horses, and cut by whips. Do you call this vigour? Is this government?
BY WILLIAM COBBETT
(Although Cobbett produced not a few political pamphlets in the strictest sense of the term, the infinitely greater part of his work is comprised during his earlier days in the volumes of Peter Porcupine’s Gazette_, during his later in those of the Weekly Register. This latter, however, he himself for a time actually entitled The Weekly Political Pamphlet, while he alluded to it under that name even at other times; and his whole work was imbued even more deeply than that of Defoe with the pamphlet character. I have selected two examples from the critical time when he was still exasperated by his imprisonment, and stung into fresh efforts by debt and the prospect of fresh difficulties. They exhibit in the most striking form all Cobbett’s pet hatreds—of the unreformed Parliament, of paper money, of political economy, of potatoes, and of many other things. The first is the Register of 2d November 1816, the first number of the cheapened form, which was sold at twopence, and so acquired the name of ‘Twopenny Trash,’ from a phrase of, as some say, Canning’s, others Castlereagh’s. The second is an early number of the papers written from America. They will, with the notes, explain themselves._)