It is tragically evident to me, our first want, which includes all wants, is that of a new real Aristocracy of fact, instead of the extinct imaginary one of title, which the anarchic world is everywhere rebelling against: but if it is from Popular Suffrage that we are to look for such a blessing, is not this extraordinary populace of British Statues, which now dominates our market-places, one of the saddest omens that ever was? Suffrage announces to us, nothing doubting: "Here are your real demigods and heroic men, ye famous British People; here are Brazen and other Images worthy once more of some worship; this is the New Aristocracy I have chosen, and would choose, for you!" That is Suffrage's opinion. To me this populace of British Statues rises aloft over the Chaos of our affairs like the living symbol and consummate flower of said Chaos, and silently speaks the mournfullest prophecy. Perhaps as strange a Pantheon of brass gods as was ever got together in this world. They stand there, poor wretches, gradually rusting in the sooty rain; black and dismal, — when one thinks of them in some haggard mood of the imagination, — like a set of grisly undertakers come to bury the dead spiritualisms of mankind. There stand they, in all weathers, indicating to the British Population such a Heaven and such an Earth as probably no Population ever had before. In the social, political, religious, artistic, and other provinces of our affairs, they point towards depths of prostrate abasement which no man's thought has yet sounded. Let us timidly glance thitherward a little; gaze, for moments, into those abysses of spiritual death, — which, if we cannot one day sound them, and subdue them, will engulf us all! — And first as to this recipe of Popular Election.
Hudson the railway king, if Popular Election be the rule seems to me by far the most authentic king that has been "elected by the people" so as almost none other is or was. Hudson solicited no vote-- his votes were silent voluntary ones not liable to be false: he did a thing which men found, in their inarticulate hearts, to be worthy of paying money for; and they paid it. What the desire of every heart was, Hudson had or seemed to have produced: Scrip out of which profit could be made. They "voted" for him by purchasing his scrip with a profit to him. Every vote was the spontaneous product of those men's deepest insights and most practical convictions, about Hudson and themselves and this Universe: I say, it was not a spoken vote, but a silently acted one; a vote for once incapable of being insincere. What their appetites, intelligences, stupidities, and pruriences had taught these men, they authentically told you there. I beg you to mark that well. Not by all the ballot-boxes in Nature could you have hoped to get, with such exactness, from these men, what the deepest inarticulate voice of the gods and of the demons in them was, as by this their spontaneous purchase of scrip. It is the ultimate rectified quintessence of these men's "votes;" the distillation of their very souls; the sincerest sincerity that was in them. Without gratitude to Hudson, or even without thought of him, they raised Hudson to his bad eminence, not by their voice given once at some hustings under the influence of balderdash and beer, but by the thought of their heart, by the inarticulate, indisputable dictate of their whole being. Hudson inquired of England: "What precious thing can I do for you, O enlightened Countrymen; what may be the value to you, by popular election, of this stroke of work that lies in me?" Popular election, with universal, with household and other suffrage, free as air, deep as life and death, free and deep as spoken suffrage never was or could be, has answered: "Pound sterling to such and such amount; that is the apparent value of thy stroke of work to us, — blockheads as we are." Real value differs from apparent to a frightful extent in this world, try it by what suffrage you will!
Hudson's value as a demigod being what it was, his value as a maker of railways shall hardly concern us here. What Hudson's real worth to mankind the matter of railways might be, I cannot pretend to say. Fact knows it to the uttermost fraction, and will pay it him yet men differ widely in opinion, and in general do not in the least know. From my own private observation and conjecture, I should say, Trifling if any worth.
Much as we love railways, there is one thing undeniable: Railways are shifting all Towns of Britain into new places: no Town will stand where it did, and nobody can tell for a long while yet where it will stand. This is a unexpected and indeed most disastrous result. I perceive, railways have set all the Towns of Britain a-dancing. Reading is coming up to London, Basingstoke is going down to Gosport or Southampton, Dumfries to Liverpool and Glasgow; while at Crewe, and other points, I see new ganglions of human population establishing themselves, and the prophecy of metallurgic cities which were not heard of before. Reading, Basingstoke and the rest, the unfortunate Towns, subscribed money to get railways; and it proves to be for cutting their own throats. Their business has gone elsewhither; and they — cannot stay behind their business! They are set a-dancing, as I said; confusedly waltzing, in a state of progressive dissolution, towards the four winds; and know not where the end of the death-dance will be for them, in what point of space they will be allowed to rebuild themselves. That is their sad case.
And what an affair it is in each of the shops and houses of those Towns, thus silently bleeding to death, or what we call dancing away to other points of the British territory: how Joplin of Reading, who had anchored himself in that pheasant place, and fondly hoping to live by upholstery and paperhanging, had wedded, and made friends there, — awakens some morning, and finds that his trade has flitted away! Here it is not any longer; it is gone to London, to Bristol: whither has it gone? Joplin knows not whither; knows and sees only that gone it is; and that he by preternatural sagacity must scent it out again, follow it over the world, and catch it again, or else die. Sad news for Joplin: — indeed I fear, should his sagacity be too inconsiderable, he is not unlikely to break his heart, or take to drinking in these inextricable circumstances! And it is the history, more or less, in every town, house, shop and industrial dwelling place of the British Empire at this moment; — and the cipher of afflicted Joplins; and the amount of private distress, uncertainty, discontent; and withal of "revolutionary movement" created hereby, is tragical to think of. This is "revolutionary movement" with a witness; revolution brought home to everybody's hearth and moneysafe and heart and stomach. — Which miserable result, with so many others from the same source, what method was there of avoiding or indefinitely mitigating? This surely, as the beginning of all: That you had made your railways not in haste; that, at least, you had spread the huge process, sure to alter all men's mutual position and relations, over a reasonable breadth of time!
For all manner of reasons, how much could one have wished that the making of our British railways had gone on with deliberation; that these great works had made themselves not in five years but in fifty-and-five! Hudson's "worth" to railways, I think, will mainly resolve itself into this, That he carried them to completion within the former short limit of time; that he got them made, — in extremely improper direction I am told, and surely with endless confusion to the innumerable passive Joplins, and likewise to the numerous active scrip-holders, a wide-spread class, once rich, now coinless, — hastily in five years, not deliberately in fifty-five. His worth to railways? His worth, I take it, to English railways, much more to English men, will turn out to be extremely inconsiderable; to be incalculable damage rather! Foolish railway people gave him two millions, and thought it not enough without a Statue to boot-- But Fact thought, and is now audible saying, far otherwise! Rhadamanthnus, had you been able to consult him, would in nowise have given this man twenty-five thousand pounds for a Statue. What if Rhadamanthus doomed him rather, let us say, to ride in Express-trains, nowhither, for twenty-five aeons, or to hang in Heaven as a Locomotive Constellation, and be a sign forever!
Fact and Suffrage: what a discrepancy! Fact decided for some coalshaft such as we describe. Suffrage decides for such a column. Suffrage having money in its pocket, carries it hollow, for the moment. And so there is Rayless Majesty exalted far above the chimney-pots, with a potential Copper Likeness, twenty-five thousand pounds worth of copper over and above; and a King properly belonging only to this epoch. — That there are greedy blockheads in huge majority, in all epochs, is certain; but that any sane mortal should think of counting their heads to ascertain who or what is to be king, this is a little peculiar. All Democratic men, and members of the Suffrage Movement, it appears to me, are called upon to think seriously, with a seriousness approaching to despair, of these things.
Jefferson Brick, the American Editor, twitted me with the multifarious patented anomalies of overgrown worthless Dukes, Bishops of Durham, &c. which poor English Society at present labours under, and is made a solecism by. To which what answer could I make, except, that surely our patented anomalies were some of them extremely ugly, and yet, alas, that they were not the ugliest! I said:
Have not you also overgrown anomalous Dukes after a sort, appointed not by patent? Overgrown monsters of Wealth, namely; who have made money by dealing in cotton, dealing in bacon, jobbing scrip, digging metal in California; who are become glittering man-mountains filled with gold and preciosities; revered by the surrounding flunkeys; invested with the real powers of sovereignty; and placidly admitted by all men, as if Nature and Heaven had so appointed it, to be in a sense godlike, to be royal, and fit to shine in the firmament, though their real worth is — what? Brick, do you know where human creatures reach the supreme of ugliness in Idols? It were hard to know! We can say only, All Idols have to tumble, and the hugest of them with the heaviest fall: that is our chief comfort, in America as here.
The Idol of Somnauth, a mere mass of coarse crockery not worth five shillings of anybody's money, sat like a great staring god, with two diamonds for eyes; worshiped by the neighbouring black populations; a terror and divine mystery to all mortals, till its day came. Till at last, victorious in the name of Allah, the Commander of the Faithful, riding up with grim battle-axe and heart full of Moslem fire, took the liberty to smite once, with light force and rage, said ugly mass of idolatrous crockery; which thereupon shivered, with unmelodious crash and jingle, into a heap of ugly potsherds, yielding from its belly half a wagon-load of gold coins. You can read it in Gibbon, — probably, too, in Lord Ellenborough. The gold coins, the diamond eyes, and other valuable extrinsic parts were carefully picked up by the Faithful; confused jingle of intrinsic potsherds was left lying; — and the Idol of Somnauth once showing what it was, had suddenly come to a conclusion! Thus end all Idols, and intrinsically worthless man-mountains never so illuminated with diamonds, and filled with precious metals, and tremulously worshiped by the neighbouring flunkey populations black or white; — even thus, sooner or later, without fail; and are shot hastily, as a heap of potsherds, into the highway, to be crunched under wagon-wheels, and do Macadam a little service, being clearly abolished as gods, and hidden from man's recognition, in that or other capacities, forever and a day!
You do not sufficiently bethink you, my republican friend. Our ugliest anomalies are done by universal sufferage, not by patent. The express nonsense of old Feudalism, even now, in its dotage is as nothing to the involuntary nonsense of modern Anarchy called "Freedom, " "Republicanism," and other fine names, which expresses itself by supply and demand! Consider it a little.
The Bishop of our Diocese is to me an incredible man; and has, I will grant you, very much more money than you or I would now give him for his work. One does not even read those Charges of his; much preferring speech which is articulate. In fact, being intent on a quiet life, you generally keep on the other side of the hedge from him, and strictly leave him to his own fate. Not a credible man; — perhaps not quite a safe man to be concerned with? But what think you of the "Bobus of Houndsditch of our parts"? He, Sausage-maker on the great scale, knows the art of cutting fat bacon, and exposing it seasoned with gray pepper to advantage. Better than any other man he knows this art; and I take the liberty to say it is a poor one. Well, the Bishop has an income of five thousand pounds appointed him for his work; and Bobus, to such a length has he now pushed the trade in sausages, gains from the universal suffrage of men's souls and stomachs ten thousand a year by it.
A poor art, this of Bobus's, I say; and worth no such recompense. For it is not even good sausages he makes, but only extremely vendible ones; the cunning dog! Judges pronounce his sausages bad, and at the cheap price even dear; and finer palates, it is whispered, have detected alarming symptoms of horse-flesh, or worse, under this cunningly devised gray-pepper spice of his; so that for the world I would not eat one of his sausages, nor would you. You perceive he is not an excellent honest sausage-maker, but a dishonest cunning and scandalous sausage-maker; worth, if he could get his deserts, who shall say what? Probably certain shillings a week, say forty; possibly (one shudders to think) a long round in the treadmill, and stripes instead of shillings! And yet what he gets, I tell you, from universal suffrage and the unshackled ne-plus-ultra republican justice of mankind, is twice the income of that anomalous Bishop you were talking of!
The Bishop I for my part do much prefer to Bobus. The Bishop has human sense and breeding of various kinds; considerable knowledge of Greek, if you should ever want the like of that; knowledge of many things; and speaks the English language in a grammatical manner. He is bred to courtesy, to dignified composure, as to a second nature; a gentleman every fibre of him; which of itself is something very considerable. The Bishop does really diffuse round him an influence of decorum, courteous patience, solid adherence to what is settled; teaches practically the necessity of burning one's own smoke ; and does practically in his own case burn said smoke, making lambent flame and mild illumination out of it, for the good of men in several particulars. While Bobus, for twice the annual money, — brings sausages, possibly of horseflesh, cheaper to market than another! — Brick, if you will reflect, it is not "aristocratic England," it is the united Posterity of Adam who are grown, in some essential respects, stupider than barbers' blocks. Barbers' blocks would at least say nothing, and not elevate, by their universal suffrages, an unfortunate Bobus to that bad height!"
Alas, if such, not in their loose tongues, but in their hearts, is men's way of judging about social worth, what kind of new "Aristocracy" will the inconceivablest perfection of spoken Suffrage ever yield us? Suffrage, I perceive well, has quite other things in store for us; we need not torment poor Suffrage for this thing! Our Intermittent Friend says once:
Men do not seem to be aware that this their universal ousting of unjust, incapable and in fact imaginary Governors, is to issue in the attainment of Governors who have a right and a capacity to govern. Far different from that is the issue men contemplate in their present revolutionary operations. Their universal notion now is, that we shall henceforth do without Governors; that we have got to a new epoch in human progress, in which Governing is entirely a superfluity, and the attempt at doing it is an offence, think several. By that admirable invention of the constitutional Parliament, first struck out in England, and now at length hotly striven for and zealously imitated in all European countries, the task of Government, any task there may still be, is done to our hand. Perfect your Parliament, cry all men: apply the Ballot-box and Universal Suffrage! the admirablest method ever imagined of counting heads and gathering indubitable votes: you will thus gather the vote, vox or voice, of all the two-legged animals without feathers in your dominion; what they think is what the gods think, — is it not? — and this you shall go and do.
Whereby, beyond dispute, your Governor's task is immensely simplified; and indeed the chief thing you can now require of your Governor is that he carefully preserve his good humour, and do a handsome manner nothing, Or some pleasant fuglemotions only. Is not this a machine marking new epochs in the progress of discovery? Machine for doing Government too, as we now do all things by "machinery." Only keep your free-presses, ballot-boxes, upright-shafts and cogwork in an oiled unobstructed condition; motive-power of popular wind will do the rest. Here verily is a mill that beats Birmingham hollow; and marks "new epochs" with a witness. What a hopper this! Reap from all fields whatsoever you find standing, thistledowns, dockseed, hemlockseed, wheat, rye; tumble all into the hopper, — see, in soft blissful continuous stream, meal shall daily issue for you, and the bread of life to mankind be sure!--
The aim of all reformers parliamentary and other, is still defined by them as "just legislation," just laws with which definition who can quarrel! They will no have "class legislation," which is a dreadfully bad thing; but "all-classes legislation," I suppose, which is the right thing. Sure enough, just laws are an excellent attainment, the first condition of all prosperity for human creatures; but few reflect how extremely difficult such attainment is! Alas, could we once get laws which just, that is to say, which were the clear transcript of the Divine Laws of the Universe itself; so that each man were incessantly admonished, under strict penalties, by all men, to walk as the Eternal Maker had prescribed; and he alone received honour whom the Maker had made honourable, and whom the Maker had made disgraceful, disgrace: alas, were not here the very "Aristocracy" we seek? A new veritable, Hierarchy of Heaven, — approximately such in very truth --bringing Earth nearer and nearer to the blessed Law of Heaven. Heroic me, the Sent of Heaven, once more bore rule: and on the throne of kings there sat splendent, not King Hudson, or King Popinjay, but the Bravest of existing Men: and on the gibbet there swing as a tragic pendulum, admonitory to Earth in the name of Heaven, — not some insignificant, abject, necessitous outcast, who had violently, in his extreme misery and darkness, stolen a leg of mutton, — but veritably the Supreme Scoundrel of the Commonwealth, who in his insatiable greed and bottomless atrocity had long, hoodwinking the poor world, gone himself, and led multitudes to go, in the ways of gilded human baseness; seeking temporary profit (scrip, first-class claret, social honour, and the like small ware), where only eternal loss was possible; and who now, stripped of all his gildings and cunningly-devised speciosities, swung there an ignominious detected scoundrel; testifying aloud to all the earth: "Be not scoundrels, not even gilt scoundrels, any one of you; for God, and not the Devil, is verily king, and this is where it ends, if even this be the end of it!"
O Heaven, O Earth, what an "attainment" were here, could we but hope to see it! Reformed Parliament, People's League, Hume-Cobden agitation, tremendous cheers, new Battles of Naseby, French Revolution, and Horrors of French Revolution, — all things were cheap and light to the attainment of this. For this were in fact the millennium; and indeed nothing less than this can be it.
But I say it is dreadfully difficult to attain! And though "class legislation" is not it, yet, alas, neither is "all-class legislation" in the least certain to be it. All classes, if they happen not to be wise, heroic classes — how, by the cunningest jumbling of them tether, will you ever get a wisdom or heroism out of them? Once more let me remind you, it is impossible forever. Unwisdom, contradiction to the gods: how, from the mere vamping together of hostile voracities and opacities, never so dexterously or copiously combined, can or could you expect anything else? Can any man bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No man. Voracities and opacities, blended together in never such cunningly devised proportions, will not yield noblenesses and illuminations; they cannot do it. Parliamentary reform, extension of the suffrage? Good Heavens, how by the mere enlargement of your circle of ingredients, by the mere flinging-in of new opacities and voracities, will you have a better chance to distil a wisdom from that foul cauldron, which is merely bigger, not by hypothesis better? You will have a better chance to distil zero from it; evil elements from all sides, now more completely extinguishing one another, so that mutual destruction, like that of the Kilkenny cats, a Parliament which produces parliamentary eloquence only, and no social guidance, either bad or good, will be the issue, — as we now in these years sorrowfully see.
Universal suffrage: what a scheme to substitute for the revelation of God's eternal Law, the official declaration of the account of heads! It is as if men had abdicated their right to attempt holy resignation had agreed to give it up, and take temporary peace and good agreement as a substitute. In all departments of our affairs it is so, — literary, moral, political, social; and in all of them it is and remains eternally wrong. In every department, literary, moral, political, social, the man that pretends to have what is angrily called a choice of his own, which will mean at least some remnant of a feeling in him that Nature and Fact do still claim a choice of their own, and are like to make it good yet, — such man is felt as a kind of interloper and dissocial person, who obstructs the harmony of affairs, and is out of keeping with the universal-suffrage arrangement that has been entered upon. Why not decide it by dice? Universal suffrage for your oracle is equivalent to flat despair of answer. Set up such oracle, you proclaim to all men: "Friends, there is in Nature no answer to your question; and you don't believe in dice. Try to esteem this oracle a divine one, and be thankful that you can thereby keep the peace, and go with an answer from the shrine of chaotic Chance."
Peace is good; but woe to the cowardly caitiff of a man, or collection of cowardly caitiffs, styling themselves Nation, that will have "peace" on these terms! They will save their ignoble skin at the expense of their eternal loyalty to the highest God. Peace? Better war to the knife, war till we all die, than such a "peace." Reject it, my friend, I advise thee; silently swear by God above, that, on earth below, thou for thy part never wilt accept it. Be it forever far from us, my poor scattered friends. Let us fly to the rocks rather; and silently appealing to the Eternal Heaven, await an hour which is full surely coming, when we too shall have grown to a respectable "company of poor men," authorised to rally, and with celestial lightning, and with terrestrial steel and such good weupons as there may be, spend all our blood upon it! — —
After all, why was not the Hudson Testimonial completed? As Moses lifted up the Brazen Serpent in the wilderness, why was not Hudson's Statue lifted up? Once more I say, it might have done us good. Thither too, in a sense, poison-stricken mortals might have looked, and found some healing! For many reasons, this alarming populace of British Statues wanted to have its chief. The liveliest type of choice by Suffrage ever given. The consummate flower of universal Anarchy in the commonwealth, and in the hearts of men: was not this Statue such a flower; or do we look for one more perfect and consummate?
Last modified 25 September 2003