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Letters to the Mob. Norton, Caroline Sheridan, 1808–1877.
page: 8


YOU have lately been called to these meetings on pretence of sympathising, in your several sections, with the people of France; of putting out addresses of congratulation to their Provincial Government; of “fraternizing” (that is the cant phrase) with the new Republic. The United, or rather Disunited, Irishmen (for with them fraternization does not, like charity, “begin at home”) have been foremost and loudest in their expressions of sympathy. With whom do you fraternize? On what grounds do you rest your con‐ page: 9 gratulations? The answer seems easy. We congratulate that noble people who have shaken off the yoke of tyranny; who have banished their false‐hearted King and his family; who behaved with so much moderation in the hour of victory, and with so pure a sense of disinterestedness, that they shot a man only for stealing a silver spoon in the Palace!

In Burke’s time, when another revolution called forth similar demonstrations from clubs and societies now forgotten, that great statesman and orator observed,—“I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they really have received one.” Let the congratulators and fraternizers of the present day consider the saying of one, to whose charge it can scarcely be laid that he was not a true lover of liberty. Let them also consider the present condition of Paris—of that Paris which is the heart of France. Much is said of the tranquillity which reigns there. That great pulse of the country stands still, and we are told to consider it a sign of health. Paris is calm! So is a vessel struck at sea, which trembles stationary on the waves before it is ascertained whether the shock she has received will sink her or permit her to make for the haven. Paris is calm;—its banks are broken, tradesmen ruined, the Savings’ Bank (that storehouse of poor capitalists) suspends its payments, or makes them in a compulsory paper currency. Employment is wanting, though forced through unnatural channels, by unnatural means. Men’s minds “fail them page: 10 for fear.” They stand in a gasping pause, waiting they know not what; watching their Government, watching those balloon‐statesmen who have risen to a height they cannot measure, to descend they know not where; prepared alike to witness the accident of their safety, or the catastrophe of their fall. What is there in all this to awaken a spurious and morbid sympathy, a spirit of emulation, with France? What is it that Englishmen and Irishmen consider it would be worthy and wise to imitate? Of the moderation shewn by the populace we will not speak; where no foe stood to confront them, there could be no opportunity for mercy. If the cold ferocity, which once made the world shudder at such savage antics as dressing the hair on the severed head of the Princess de Lamballe, is extinct in the breasts of the French people—of that people whose dreadful women (no longer “Poissardes”) appear in the new character of “Vesuviennes,” sworn to fire Paris with torches kept for the purpose—it is indeed a thing to thank God for, if not to congratulate them upon. May it prove so! May the infant Republic remain unbaptized in blood! Meanwhile, let us consider the sort of moderation shewn. There was, a few years since, in Paris, a prince, the heir‐apparent to the throne. He was brave, generous, noble, a good son, a tender brother. He was what any of you might most wish your sons to be, and his parents lost him early, as some of you have no doubt also lost sons. A frightful accident called him suddenly from this world’s uncertain pros‐ page: 11 pects of grandeur. He died beloved, lamented. In the tumult of the Revolution the chapel at Dreux was hushed and darkly calm. He lies there, ungrieved by the exile of those discrowned and aged parents, who shall weep no more by his tomb! When the widow and orphans of this prince presented themselves in the Senate of their country—in the Senate where laws are made to protect the feeble and punish the wrong‐doer—the people, whose moderation you applaud, whose success you would emulate, gave the telegraphic signal of exile and beggary, by pointing muskets and bayonets at that defenceless woman and her children. Their property is forfeit to the state: moderation granted them their lives. There was also in Paris, some few years since, a princess, sister to that prince. She was a lady of great genius as well as perfect disposition. She encouraged art, and was benevolent to the poor. She worked with her hands, as some of you workpeople do, and made a statue, casts of which many of you must see daily hawked about the streets of London—the statue of Joan of Arc, one of her country’s heroines. She, too, died young, and in her death‐hour the innocent hallucination of her religious mind was that she saw heaven open, and its angels beckoning her to approach. The people, whose justice you applaud, have seized the rents which were the property of her husband and her orphan son. They have seized the fortune of the Duchess of Nemours, which was unfortunately put into the French rentes. They have seized the Brazilian fortune which was the dower of Princess page: 12 Joinville; they have seized the Spanish dower of the Duchesse de Montpensier; the Condé property, left by the will to the Duc d’Aumale; the property of Madame Adelaide, bequeathed by that excellent princess to Madame de Montjoie, and other subjects. If moderation consists in not cutting the throats of women and children and unresisting foes, congratulate them on their moderation. They have created a deficit in the revenue, which they vainly attempt to fill by confiscations and sequestrations, forced gifts, black‐mail levied under the name of patriotic subscriptions. They have taught the working men to look for a sort of Utopia of labour, an imaginary system of independence of all mutual obligation between masters and men—which can never exist—and the expectation of which will entail the certain ruin of thousands, and the probable martyrdom of some on whom the French mob now rely. Paris was, beyond most cities, employed in what is termed industrie de luxe. By banishing their court, by degrading their aristocracy, by destroying the credit and fortune of their rich financiers, by expelling foreigners who spent their wealth in Paris, they have taken the bread out of the mouths of their own artizans. The rich man’s pleasures were the poor man’s earnings. The large salaries, the gilded vanities, the toys of pomp, are gone—but with them are gone the fuel for the poor man’s fire, the loaf for his children’s food. “A bas l’aristocratie!” “Vive l’égalité!” Good. But where now to find a market for those quaint devices of ornament, those fanciful traceries, those fili‐ page: 13 gree productions which formed the staple trade of thousands? Barren and withered as the trees of liberty they have transplanted, is the prospect of their new and unemployed condition. Even plunder cannot help them. The rising cry, “A bas les riches!” will not save them. The circulation of a few rich men may make the fortune of thousands; the division of the capital, even of many rich men, would give but a miserable fraction a‐piece to that amazed and starving mass. Is it on this state of things that you would congratulate France? Be warned in time. On the false translation of this cant word “Fraternization” may depend at this moment, in more countries than one, the adverse fate of millions. Ruined tradespeople, stagnated commerce, an impoverished, economizing, or absentee aristocracy, may teach thousands to ban, instead of bless, those who taught them to utter it. You cannot reverse the order of nature. You may stir a pond, so as to bring sticks, stones, and leaves, to the surface; they sink when it subsides. Do you believe that the French Government can continue to support the working classes? Do you believe that the credit of other classes can be supported for commercial purposes by a compulsory paper currency, which may be the fictitious representation of funds that do not exist? Friends, I could shew you the assignats of a former revolution. They were kept as curiosities, because they availed nothing as payment.

But you will say, “We struggle for our rights; we want equality of taxation; we want an extension page: 14 of suffrage; there is still much to do for the people of England.” I agree with you. I think there is still much to be done for the people of England, and I think there is much that will most certainly be done. I desire it, as you do, but I believe you are taking the wrong road. I believe that the men who have persuaded you that intimidation, and popular cries echoed from France, will help you to your ends, not only retard your march, but risk your ruin. You are at this moment, many of you, placing your lives, characters, and fortunes in the guidance of men to whom you would not trust the casting up of a ledger or the management of a farm. They would be incompetent, you think, for that; and yet you hold them fitter to legislate for you than the Government of your own country!

In the Commination—read at stated periods in our Church Service—there are these sentences:—“Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour’s land‐mark!” “Cursed is he that causeth the blind to go out of his way!” There are land‐marks of the mind—set there by education, custom, and religion: there is blindness of the mind—the ignorance which has not been instructed to see things justly. In my heart I should dread, if I were one of your leaders, the secret echo of that curse; if, from dishonest vanity or selfish fury, I removed those land‐marks, and availed myself of that blindness, to lead you to fruitless insurrection. I should shrink from the memory of those party cries which, when they page: 15 grow too loud, are only silenced by the filling in of obscure graves. Pause! there is yet time. Your best friends stand in the ranks of those you would approach as foes.