Page images
PDF
EPUB

No. 5, Vol. 13.] LONDON, Friday, Feb. 3, 1826. [Price 6d.

CELEBRATION OF THE BIRTH-DAY OF THOMAS

PAINE, At the City of London Tavern, Bishopsgate-street, Jan. 30, 1826.

The birth-day of Thomas Paine, the 29th of January, falling on a Sunday, made it imperative, with regard to dining at a tavern, to put off the celebration to the Monday. On that day, seventyfive persons dined in the most public manner, at the City of London Tavern. The London friends of Thomas Paine's principles, who could have dined with a half-a-guinea ticket, are not to be computed from the number that assembled; for circumstances still exist, with respect to business and families, to make many secret and silent, who would prefer to be most open under other circumstances. The bulk of my most immediate friends, they who give me, in other shapes, every possible support, expressed their sorrow, that they could not be publicly present with me at the tavern. Under this view, the company which assembled at the tavern might be considered both numerous and respectable. Besides, this was not the only dinner for the occasion, for several years past, many private parties have dined privately at lesser taverns.

In 1818, but eight years ago, I first dined on the occasion, at an obscure tavern, where the matter was known only to a few that could be trusted, and private as we were, there were some apprehensions, that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act might admit us into and detain us all in a gaol. But what do we dow see? A company of seventy-five persons publicly commemorating the day in the first tavern of the metropolis, and treated by its proprietor and his servants with all the respect and attention that could have been paid to any other political class of per, sons. “The Representative" newspaper, probably rather alarmed at the manner in which it was noticed, has said, that the dinner and wine were both bad. It is false, and it is due to the respect able proprietor of the tavern to pronounce the falsehood in unmeasured terms. I heard a gentleman say, who has frequently dined at the same tavern with a guinea ticket, that he saw no difference, otherwise than in the quantity of wine allowed, in dining for the half-a-guinea, and the guinea. Every thing put on the tables, dinner, dessert, and wine, was good : and with the exception

Printed ånd Published by R. Carlile, 135, Fleet Street.

of the latter, limited by agreement as to the quantity brought for the ticket, every thing was abundant, and not a murmur beard. I am not otherwise dissatisfied with the report of “ The Representative." I excuse its jeers on the company, though, with the exception of its observations on the unpleasant Spencean, who most unwelcomely intruded bis ill-timed system on the ears of the company, those jeers were not founded in truth. To say, that there were seventy unwashed artizans present is false: there might have been artisans, and I should have been proud to see such men there ; but I doubt if there was ever a cleaner, better behaved, and better dressed company in the room. I can perceive in what an unpleasant predicament we placed the “ The Representative," and make due allowance for its fears; but it is the fact, that the political principles of " The Representative" have been so far the principles of Thomas Paine. Nor need the proprietors of, or assistants to, the paper, be alarmed at the comparison ; for the principles of Thomas Paine will put down all previously existing political principles, and spread triumphantly, the harbingers of peace and concord among mankind.

In the year 1817, I found the works of Thomas Paine, even his political works, so far suppressed, that particular persons and particular prices only could purchase them. I read them, found that they were good; that they were among the most useful of political and theological writings, and resolved, that, whatever the danger, they should no longer want a publisher. Was that resolve wise or unwise ? It was reprobated as a rash act by many who admired the writings; but I need not blush in saying, that this time and my present situation prove that the step was more wise than rash. In the struggle of the last seven years, I have met with some mental kicks and cuffs ; but they came to me as so many pleasures; for I rested on the assurance, that they were, as to time and circumstance, the ingredients to be accumulated for the production of a great public good. In 1817, the name of Thomas Paine was not heard in our streets, and but here and there in our houses, in our closets : but now, children lisp it, and old women are no longer frightened at it! Thomas Paine is now the idol, and justly and usefully the idol, of the multitude. We now see the government embracing and acting upon the principles of Thomas Paine! We see free discussion established, the right to assert any opinions tacitly acknowledged, and every thing done, that freemen, all circumstances considered, can have desired. I have, within the last week, given up all idea of a further dwelling in a gaol. The writings of Thomas Paine are in open and rapid sale : his theological works form the best selling standard book of the day, and his principles cannot, under this state of things, remain passive; they will become practical.

This is a brief but correct view of our retrospects and our, prospects, as assertors of the high worth of the principles of

Thomas Paine, of our struggle to establish them as a matter of public examination; and of the right of all to the most free and most fair discussion. I congratulate the readers of " The Republican" on the circumstance, that with regard to tavern and commemorating dinners, the principles and memory of Thomas Paine have no further progress to make.

A friend of mine, of some political judgment, and who has been well' acquainted with all the political movements in this country for the last forty years, observed, on the first hearing of the intended dinner at the City of London Tavern .-“ You will not dine numerously at that tavern for the first year, many will doubt its practicability ; but if you go on to dine annually for two or three years at such a tavern, you will accumulate a very large company.

Three of the morning newspapers have given a fair report of the proceedings at the dinner - The Morning Advertiser," ". The Morning Herald,” and “The British Press.” But the latter " liberal paper" has thrown in a paragraph in reprobation of the purpose of the dinner. I pity these Editors of newspapers, who are so circumstanced as to the property in their paper, to feel it necessary to belie their true sentiments, to gratify the politically malign dispositions of some of their readers. Many facts of the kind have been confidentially mentioned to me, and apologies made for them. The following is a correct account of what passed at

THE CITY OF LONDON TAVERN.

Mr. CARLILE, on the proposition of the Rev. Robert Taylor, was called to the Chair.

Mr. Henman, after the cloth had been removed, rose to propose a toast which it was thought would come better from him than from Mr. Carlile, considering how that individual had been and was circumstanced. He had to propose the memory of Thomas Paine, than whom there never had been a more useful and honourable member of society. He had done more good for his own times, and for future generations, than any

other

person. He then read the first toast from a printed list of sixteen, drawn up after the American fashion, and placed on every person's plate. “ Thomas Paine-we meet to respect his memory and to extend his principles.”

Mr. Hibbert proposed the next toast, feeling assured that it was one in which they would all join, that they would all rejoice in the presence of Richard Carlile, who had so ably and courageously supported the cause of free discussion.-(Applause.)--After such applause, it was unnecessary for him to expatiate further on the toast; it, indeed, anticipated much that he had intended to say. He would conclude with the words of the toast-“Richard Carlile. We thank him for his fortitude, and rejoice that his suffer

ings have established the right of free discussion;"—and that was a sentiment which he (Mr. H.) believed every man of honour and sentiment must feel. It was drunk with three times three.

Mr. Carlile, said, he faarəd he should disappoint many persons if they expected a speech from him. To succeed in public speaking required experience; and that was what, from the peculiar circumstances in which he had been placed, he had not had. He must therefore briefly but sincerely content himself with thanking them, and drinking all their good healths.

The third toast was" Mr. Carlile's fellow sufferers. We feel iadignant that any of them remain any longer in prison,” which was proposed by the Rev. Robert Taylor.

Mr. Hibbert said, he had to propose the health of a Society, and success to it, which had been of the greatest use in the extension of free discussion:-“ The Christian Evidence Society. Its extension, and thanks to its founder, the Rev. Robert Taylor."

The Rev. ROBERT TAYLOR rose and addressed himself to the company in the following language :

Gentlemen--For the pleasure you have given me, in proposing “ Success to the Christian Evidence Society," I return you my heartfelt thanks, A poor return, but that it is offered - in pledge and assurance of my continued exertions in the cause which you have espoused, and which must, still, in a great measure, depend on your zeal, as well as mine, for its furtherance and support. It is a cause which that great and good man, whom we this day commemorate, would have been proud to have supported. It is the cause of truth itself! And as I honour that, I honour him. The proper immortality of man is to live in the grateful remembrance of posterity, by the extension of his wise and benevolent designs; and by communicating to the bosoms of his descendants the just and noble sentiments that once animated his own. Thomas Paine, therefore, lives in our hearts this day, and shall live, I trust, in the hearts of thousands yet unborn; who shall, from the perusal of his writings, imbibe that love of truth, and of mankind, and those principles of manly fortitude, irrefragible integrity, and never-to-be-wearied benevolence, that marked his glorious character--a character “ on which every virtue seemed to set its seal to give the world assurance of a man;" for in him even Nature's failings were on the side, where Nature may fail, but cannot be reproached. There may have been minds as great as that of Thomas Paine; never was there one so wisely great; never shone such a galaxy of talents in such a heaven of virtues. If the definition which Pliny has given us of true glory be just ; that it, “ Consists in having done something worth the writinghaving written something worth the reading, and having made the world the better, and the happier for having lived in it.” This did Thomas Paine--and this to such effect, ihat the wisdom

and gratitude of ages to come will remember his glorious name and revere bis peaceful laurels. I say his peaceful laurels from the proud feeling of my heart at this moment, that we are not met to extol deeds which Nature should blush, and Pity weep to hear of, not to commemorate-the soldiek, and the man of blood, but one whose victory over vice and tyranny was achieved, by “ the armour of righteousness on the right hand, and on the left," by the refulgent weapons of truth and reason, unsullied with the tarnish of a single act in all his life, that could justly have made one virtuous man-bis foe. May the Christian Evidence Society, as it aims at the same objects, pursue them by the same means, and its final triumph, like that of the illustrious man whom we commemorate, shall be the triumph of truth only, and the ultimate conviction of those who hate us, that, we have never deserved to be hated. But let me, gentlemen, as far as words can do so, convey to your hearts the deepest impression of my own, and that is, my sense of obligation to the many ladies, “ the fairest of the fair,” whose constant attendance has consecrated, and whose peerless beauty has adorned our meetings. Their continued countenance is our best answer to the vituperations of our adversaries. Their presence-the guarantee of the innocence; the purity; the sanctity of our discussions, and the emancipation of their minds from the thraldom of superstition and priestcraft is a guerdon worth ambition : and the founder of the Christian Evidence Society shall not envy the glory of Him who slew the Python that desolated the earth, if it shall be his to have crushed the serpent that slept in beauty's bosom. The object of the Society is the dissemination of just sentiments, virtuous feelings, universal benevolence and truth among men. We must expect hostility, but we never can, we never will return it: our cause is that of truth, and truth has no passions; no interests to subserve; no consequences to fear. Her voice is the harmony of all rational minds, and happiness leans on the pillars of her throne.

Mr. CARLILE, in proposing the next, said, it had been the desire and intention of the stewards who drew up the toasts to propose, and if agreeable, that the company should abstain from all ceremonial cheering, and he had therefore been sorry to hear his friend (Mr. Henman) propose that bis (Mr. C.'s) health should be noticed with such ceremonial cheering. He had not expected it. To abstain from such notices would create less noise, and would add to the respectability of their proceedings.- It would then leave applause to be called forth by the excellence of sentiment. The toast he had to give was “ The Mechanics’ Institute and schools of science generally."

Mr. Henman noticed the great changes that these Institutions were calculated to effect, and that they had been introduced since they had their last meeting two years ago; he attributed the rise of such Institutions to the dissemination of Thomas Paine's writ

« PreviousContinue »