DIRECTOR   Donald Olmec


t was at this period that men who went among the working-classes of the great towns first began to speak of Chartism, Chartists, and the charter. Some in higher ranks now and then asked what the words meant; but too many in every station—especially, too many in the ranks of government—did not look closely into it, but dismissed the matter as a thing low and disagreeable, and sure to come to nothing, from its extreme foolishness. It is the year 1838 before we find the word ' Chartism' in the Annual Register; yet, long before that, Chartism had become the chief object in life to a not inconsiderable portion of the English nation. And when it came to be a word in the index of the Annual Register, government and .their friends regarded it as a ' topic of the day.' WTien the great national petition, bound with iron hoops, was carried, like a coffin, by four men from its wagon into the House of Commons, ministers and their friends looked upon the show as upon an incident of that vulgar excitement which poor Radicals like or need, as the tippler likes or needs his dram. Reckoning on the fickleness of the multitude, they pronounced that Chartism would soon be extinct; and then, that it was extinct. Their attorney-general, Sir John Campbell, in a sort of declaratory ministerial speech at a public breakfast at Edinburgh, declared Chartism to be ' extinct,' shortly before the Monmonth rebellion. The chief law-officer of the government gloried in the supremacy of loyalty, law, and order, immediately before the breaking out of a long-planned rebellion, of which every possible warning had been given, in the form of preceding riots! The newspapers agreed with the government, and government took its information from the newspapers; and thus, from year to year, was Chartism declared to be extinct, while we, in the present day, have the amplest evidence that it is as much alive as ever. And, as it is living so long after the announcement that it was dead, so was it living long before it was declared to be born. When government and London were at last obliged to take heed to it, they found that their tares were ready for harvest, and that long ago the enemy had been sowing them while they slept. While they slept, literally as well as metaphorically; for the gatherings and speechifyings had been by torchlight on the northern moors and the Welsh hillsides. There were stirrings certainly as early as the date before us—the years 1835-36. And what were these stirrings ? What was it all about ? The difficulty of understanding and telling the story is from its comprehending so vast a variety of things and persons. Those who have not looked into Chartism think that it means one thing—a revolution. Some who talk as if they assumed to understand it, explain that Chartism is of two kinds —physical-force Chartism, and moral-force Chartism —as if this were not merely an intimation of two ways of pursuing an object yet undescribed! Those who look deeper—who go out upon the moors by torchlight, who talk with a suffering brother under the hedge or beside the loom, who listen to the groups outside the union workhouse, or in the public-house among the Durham coal-pits, will long feel bewildered as to what Chartism is, and will conclude at last that it is another name for popular discontent—a comprehensive general term under which are included all protests against social suffering. And thus it was at the date before us, whether or not it be so now.