Page images

table to the extreme left, asked a blessing in the following terms :“O God, the father of all mankind, of thy bounty it is we partake of the nourishing fruits of the earth ; of thy goodness it is that we have all things richly to enjoy. We bow our hearts to thee with thankfulness for ourselves, and sympathy for those of our fellow-creatures for whom nothing is prepared. O God, when the Saviour of mankind was upon earth, he went about doing good. He blessed and multiplied a few loaves, so that the multitude did eat and were filled. Enable us, O father, with our feeble ability, to follow in his steps May we first invoke thy blessing, and acknowledge thee in all our ways; may we ask of thee with sincerity of heart, and with an understanding of what we ask, to “give us this day our daily bread,” and in that comprehensive prayer, may we include all our brethren. And, when we offer that petition, may we, in consistency therewith, use all fit and lawful means to accomplish its purpose. May we consider the call of the poor and needy ; may we regard the wants of the industrious, and take such steps as shall better their condition, so that the labourer may enjoy the fruits of his labour, and that the diligent man may eat his own bread. O God, may the sovereign of these realms, our beloved and gracious Queen, Victoria, may she reign long over us; may her reign be happy and prosperous; may peace and order revail in her day; may peace and plenty dwell within our §. ; may she rule in thy faith and fear; may she seek to promote thy honour and glory, and the wealth, peace, and godliness of all her people ! Bless, O Lord, the great council of the nation, now about to assemble in parliament, and direct their councils, may they rise to the dignity of their exalted station; may they sink all personal feelings and party animosities, and rise above all self-interest and all desire of worldly power and pre-eminence; and may they seek to do justly, to love mercy, and to govern the nation righteously, always remembering the strict and solemn account which they themselves must one day give before the judgment-seat of Christ. And at that awful day, may the curse pronounced upon those who withhold corn from the people, never be visited upon them. At that dread day may it never be said to any of our legislators, “Depart from me, ye accursed; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat." But may they take such steps, and adopt such measures, that the labourer may obtain nourishment suited to his labour. And now, O God, bless this assembly of men ga

tnered together to do a great work. Do thou work with them, for them, and by them. Do thou give success to their endeavours. Do thou hear the prayers of the millions whose eyes are directed to this vast assembly, and do thou, in thy good time, crown all their labours with most abundant success. And to thee shall be ascribed all the honour and glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” The silence which pervaded the vast pavilion during this supplication was immediately succeeded by the din of knives and forks, and the ringing of plates and glasses. Dinner being over, the Rev. William M'Kerrow, Minister of the Scotch Secession Church, Manchester, returned thanksgiving. The trumpeters, near the chairman, sounded the signal for silence ; and, about a quarter before seven, the intellectual proceedings of the evening commenced. The deputations present came from eighty towns, most of them consisting of several leading inhabitants. The name of the Mayor of Cambridge, and deputation, elicited great enthusiasm from the circumstance of the League lecturers, Mr. Sidney Smith, and Mr. Shearman, having been assailed in the theatre of that town, when lecturing, by a mob of University men. The speakers at the dinner were, Mr. Mark Philips, M. P. for Manchester, the Hon. C. P. Williers, Mr. T. Gisborne, M.P., Mr. Daniel O'Connell, M. P., Mr. Richard Cobden, (not then in parliament.) Mr. Edward Baines, jun, of Leeds, (his father, Mr. Edward Baines, M. P. for Leeds, being a §. at the chairman's table.) Rev. Mr. M'Dowall, Catholic riest, Birmingham, Dr. Bowring, Mr. Milner Gibson, (not then in parliament,) Mr. Sharman Crawford, Mr. George Thompson, (the celebrated anti-slavery lecturer, afterwards M. P. for Tower Hamlets, London,) Mr. Ebenezer Elliott, the Corn Law Rhymer, and Mr. Henry Warburton, M. P. It is not desirable to encumber these pages with the speeches of that night ; but from a spirited sketch written at the time we preserve the following descriptive passages, as this was the first great assembly which gave a character to popular agitation unknown before:— “The struggle for tickets was at last so eager that it was apparent the applicants contemplated their acquisition as an important event in their lives. Ten thousand special cases were urged to soften the inflexibility of the committee, and when, long before the day of meeting, it was peremptorily announced that no places were to be had, the great premium offered for tickets showed the height of expectation which had been raised. On Saturday, the deputies and other repealers began to pour into Manchester, and many were


the friendly greetings which were every where seen. All were high in hope, and bold in spirit. A common cause made all feel for each other a kindly favour, and acquaintanceship, scraped in the conveyances which brought them to the scene of action, seemed, by the common object of their coming, at once to be cemented. At every placard were hundreds of readers, and our enemies vented their unmanly spite in more unmanly advertisements. Every member of the Manchester Association seemed to have charged himself with the duties of hospitality. Large parties were every where formed, and long and grave councils of war were held with our most valued and distinguished friends and advisers. “On the day of the banquet, Manchester was in universal commotion. Special trains on all the railways were advertised to run for the guests, and the hours of coaches were altered. Mr. O'Connell was eagerly inquired for every where, and so vast was the pressure of the crowd when he arrived, that the railings in front of his host's house were literally pressed down by the crush. Deputies crowded to our office to report their arrival, to pay contingents to the League, and to receive instructions for local agitation. Mayors of towns were received by the Council, and members of parliament, and other distinguished persons appeared to consult with advice, inform us, or to look on and report accordingly as witnesses of our power. Three thousand visitors had attended the pavilion on Saturday, and during the whole of this day: from our office to Peter Street there was a continual current—ending in a vast crowd. The spirits of all were high ; in every face beamed satisfaction—hope—confidence. They said, by their countenance, it is impossible that this huge heave of the nation can be resisted. As each new subscription from branches to the parent League was announced, all eyes grew brighter; and when Glasgow's deputies quietly handed us £500 with a regret that it was not more, but that the same sum would be ready every year until monopoly was at an end, there was produced a very strong sensation of satisfaction that Scotland had so nobly done her duty, and a conviction that the days of monopoly were numbered. “Twenty years ago the Corn Laws raised bread to an enormous price—the people were starved, and, moved by a common calamity, they assembled in numbers to call upon the country for rélief. The famishing population of Manchester congregated in vast numbers in Peter's Field to petition parliament for a repeal of the Corn Laws; many were butchered by a brutal yeomanry, and the peaceable and unoffending popu

lace was compelled to take that place at the bar of the courts of justice which should have been reserved for their assailants, and were sentenced to fine and imprisonment. From that very act of persecution which was devised to put down agitation dates the rise of the struggle for repeal. How mysterious, inexorable, and , just is Providence : the very spot on which the people were massacred for assembling to protest against monopoly, is the site of the pavilion for the Anti-Corn-Law banquet ! But while we are moralizing, the place is being filled. Let us make haste to enter, or we shall be too late. “What crowds block up the streets . The guests can scarcely push their way. Every face is gazed on by the mob. Hundreds upon hundreds of coaches hurry up in long array, and each is scrutinized to see if it contains some distinguished person to be cheered. Let us enter. What a cene ! How august, how vast, how splendid, how sublime! Here is indeed a blaze of light, and a sea, yea, an ocean of faces. All England is surely here—all its manliness, and intelligence, and virtue, gazed upon and graced by elegance and beauty. That gallery is a galaxy— a long border of the rarest flowers—and below, what a sight ! There is the best of England, Ireland, and Scotland: there are congregated the noblest and ablest men of every town and hamlet—the most effective speakers, the firinest and most prudent friends of freedom ; the leaders of the people in all their provinces ! their free, unfettered choice— selected on the very ground of their superior wealth, power, ability, intelligence, and philanthropy. There is shrewd Scotland's shrewdest and most determined men—determined not to be behind in any good word or work. Their very look inspires hope ; it expresses defiance of oppression, confidence of result, and fixed and firm-set hatred of injustice. Their very face tells you these men have not come three hundred miles to go back again. Their blood's up, and nothing but satisfaction will put it down. There, too, is the wealth and intelligence of England, the movers of its business, the real arbiters of its policy. And the free choice of its thinking working men is there, operatives themselves, that for refinement, and intelligence of expression, are, to use O'Connell's language, like the gentlemen of other countries. There, too, is every religious sect, Catholic, Churchman, Dissenter, and Unitarian, among whom we recognize many members of the Society of Friends, come to hear that protest against white bondage which they had already urged against sable slavery. And, above all, there, men of every political denomination, bound together in

strong sympathy of purpose to save their country, and humble their oppressors. Such a display of noble heads never greeted the eye of the most experienced phrenologist. And then there are numbers. The Scripture term, “the multitude,” is the only one which conveys the impression of the magnitude of the assemblage, seen to the very end most distinctly by the blaze of gas ; and yet was this great aggregation of the people an extracted essence merely of the leaders of the British nation. “But, hark what cheering is that : The guests appear; and as each well known servant of the people approaches, the welcome swells louder. The band—a strong one—strikes up, but its loudest swell is lost in such a building. The chairman directs the trumpet to be sounded, and calls upon the Rev. Thomas Spencer to ask a blessing. Nothing could be more solemn or imposing than the silence of the vast assembly, and nothing surely in better taste than the benediction. Mr. Spencer's appearance, utterance, and language produced a very powerful impression. There was an earnest and primitive plainness about him which assured the spectator at once that this was a minister of Christ forced out of the privacy of his calling by an imperative sense of duty alone, and from a deep calling of his obligation to vindicate the rights of man and the laws of God. After the solemn prayer of such a man, we felt as if we had an additional assurance of the holiness of our cause. “And now there broke upon the ear immense acclamation from the outside, and presently the interior caught up the sound to welcome “the }. as he hurried to his place as a guest too late. The chairman then fairly began the work, and capitally did he manage it. He makes himself heard every where, and as he enumerates the list of towns and deputies there is at every new announcement a fresh cheer. As the Glasgow subscription was named the expression was something like what would be produced by the arrival of fresh troops to the assistance of a hard pressed army. The name of the Mayor of Cambridge drew cheers loud and long. The battle of freedom of speech in his city had not been forgotten. “Who comes forward now A prodigious favourite, surely, especially with the men of Manchester, for many blisters had their palms in welcoming him. “It is ous own Member, Mark Philips;’ and so it is, and off he sets in a capital thorough-going no surrender speech, to the great delight of his constituency. Little wonder he has no pretension or pride about him; he talks

« PreviousContinue »