Front Page Titles (by Subject) 42.: THE BRUNSWICK CLUBS MORNING CHRONICLE, 30 OCT., 1828, P. 3 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I
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42.: THE BRUNSWICK CLUBS MORNING CHRONICLE, 30 OCT., 1828, P. 3 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE BRUNSWICK CLUBS
This letter is in response to the agitations promoted by the Brunswick Clubs in opposition to Catholic Emancipation (which was enacted, to the outrage of a large section of his party, by the Duke of Wellington in 1829, 10 George IV, c. 7). The Brunswick Clubs, founded in Ireland in 1827 as an offshoot of the Orange Society, and named for the German House of Brunswick, were spreading rapidly in England in the autumn of 1828 under the active patronage of the Duke of Cumberland (1771-1851), fifth son of George III. The agitation reached a head with a large meeting on Penenden Heath, Kent, on 24 Oct., 1828, at which the attendance was variously estimated between 25,000 and 60,000. The analogy with military “musters” is in “Brunswick Agitation in the Country of Kent,” Spectator, 16 Oct., p. 247. Mill’s signature, “Lamoignon,” probably refers to Nicolas de Lamoignon (1648-1724), Intendant of Montauban, whose administration was marked by vigorous measures against the Camisards, extreme Protestants who took up arms after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The letter is headed “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter signed Lamoignon in the Morning Chronicle of 30th October 1828 on the Brunswick Clubs” (MacMinn, p. 10). For nearly two years following this letter, Mill published nothing
(see No. 43).
The “Brunswick muster,” as it is aptly denominated by your contemporary, The Spectator, has at length taken place. The party not having, as they are well aware, any great strength to boast of on the score of heads, are at least determined to let the country see how great a number of hands they can put in requisition on an emergency. Their first exploit has given, it appears, great satisfaction to their own minds. They are as elate with their triumph, as if any part of it had been due to the force of their logic, or to the brilliancy of their oratory. They hug themselves on their majority, as if the number of their votes were a proof of any thing whatever but the number of their acres. Had the Freeholders of Kent been free agents, these personages could not have raised a greater din of self-gratulation. They talk as magnificently of public opinion as if every child did not know, that all the opinion in the matter is their own opinion reflected back from their tenantry. The boast of the moment is, that the nation is with them; and the nation is every thing that is excellent and respectable, till it suits their purpose that it should be directly the reverse.
This signal respect for popular opinion, considering from what quarter it comes, is at least new. We were not always accustomed to so much deference, in certain personages, for the will of the people. Expressions of popular feeling were not deemed worthy of so much obedience when the feeling expressed was a reluctance to be starved by a bread-tax for the benefit of rent, and buried in a gaol “on suspicion of being suspected” of an encroachment upon the landlord’s monopoly of game.1 It was not respect which was felt for the voice of the nation, when it complained that the life-blood of the nation was drained from it in exorbitant taxation, to be profligately expended in affording a patrimony to the younger branches of certain families.2 There was a time when public opinion was only named to be insulted; only interfered with to be bound down and gagged. I congratulate these Lords and Gentlemen on their conversion. It is somewhat tardy; but it still is welcome. Some slight shew of external respect towards a people whose bread so many of their relations eat, is at least decent. Pity that they did not see at a somewhat earlier period the error of their ways. The country might have been spared the recollection of more than one act, which will not redound to the honour of the British Aristocracy in future ages, nor perhaps of the nation, which an Aristocracy of such a stamp could so quietly rule.
What strange destiny! By what marvellous overturning and reversing of the established relations of things have English Borough Lords given in their adhesion to the “sovereignty of the people;” and the men who cheered the declaration of the Duke of Wellington, that county meetings were a farce,3 appealed from the Duke of Wellington to a county meeting? I am not one of those who profess a sort of instinctive horror of “new lights;”4 I think little of the wisdom, and not much of the sincerity, of such horrors. But the new lights which break in upon the professed enemies of new lights appear to me an object of very well-grounded distrust. I am suspicious of those, who then first discover the value of a nation’s support, when for some immediate and momentary purpose they happen to need it. A lesson so conveniently learned, may no doubt be as conveniently forgotten, when need requires. I shall give credit to these Lords and Gentlemen for their popular principles when I behold them calling forth the people to join with them in any exalted and generous scheme of philanthropy and benevolence. But, as one of the multitude, I give these Noble Personages no thanks that I am summoned to aid them, not in giving freedom to the oppressed, or relief to the afflicted, but in silencing groans with bayonets, and wading up to the knees in the blood of six millions of my countrymen. I complain that, by these new candidates for my favour, no appeal is ever made to any but the mere grovelling and brutish part of my natural Constitution. I am little flattered when I perceive that I am never thought capable of being used for any services but those to which a wild beast would be perfectly adequate—and that my voice is never deemed worthy to be listened to in affairs of State, but when it is hoped, that swelled into rage by savage and malignant passions, it will emit sounds of hatred and ferocity against those over whom, for purposes in which I have no concern, it has been resolved to tyrannize.
But there is one consolatory assurance which may be gathered from the appeal of the Brunswick faction to the British people. The support for which they condescend to stoop so low, they assuredly need. It is unquestionably from no common necessity that they fly for help to those for whom, in the days of their pride, they have so little made a secret of their utter aversion and contempt. Perhaps, like other scornful persons before them, they have learned by experience, that very high people may need that assistance which very low people can give. They have little hope of other support, when they will throw themselves upon ours. They feel their weakness, and they feel it with mortification and rage. The feeling is excusable. It is new and strange to them as yet to find any difficulty in keeping their foot on any neck upon which it has once been planted. The loss of power is not familiar to them; it is what they have not yet learned to bear. Every sentence of the famous letter of the Duke of Newcastle betrays a deep and painful sense of humiliation.5 Ill does he brook to renounce that tone of lofty authority so natural to the Lord of five Boroughs, and descend to the unaccustomed language of complaint and solicitation. His Grace does not easily use himself to the lachrymose tone. It does not sit gracefully upon him. His first efforts in the comédie larmoyante have all the inexperienced awkwardness of a beginner.—Amidst the most piteous of his complaints, it is easy to discern how much more to his taste the Aristocratic sic volo sic jubeo would be.6 He probably would not be flattered by being told that he excites the commiseration of others; but he evidently is perfectly sincere in pitying himself.
The Ultra faction7 are driven to their last resource. It was pleasanter, it was easier to govern the country by the strong arm of power, wielded by an obedient Ministry. For twenty years this scheme of Government had succeeded to their wish; and great was their surprise when they discovered, on a sudden, that it would endure no longer. They laid the blame of this disappointment at first upon those at the helm, who, they thought, having been formerly overpraised for being useful tools, had been puffed up by self-conceit to aspire above their station, and imagine that they might venture to be tools no longer. The new and unexpected difficulty which the Ultras found in governing the country being thus satisfactorily accounted for, they cast their eyes round the circle of the trading politicians of the day, and explored who among the hacks in office, or the hacks who wished to be in office, were the most narrow-minded and illiberal, the most ignorant and inept, and the most destitute of all moral dignity and decent self-respect. Having found that which they sought—having ascertained, as they conceived, which were the individuals who, in a field where such commodities abound, united in the greatest degree all these requisites; being satisfied with the result of their search, they resolved that of these individuals, thus pricked out, their next Ministry should be composed. Accident rather than their own strength gave them the Ministry of their choice; and if jobbing for them, and truckling to them, in any ordinary mode of truckling and jobbing, would have contented them, few Administrations ever did so much, in so short a time, to justify the selection. But no Ministry dares do all, which, at the present crisis, the interests of these men require, and their tongues do not scruple to demand. They wanted a Tory Ministry; they have had their wish, and they cannot find men who do not shrink from the responsibility of a bellum internecinum8 between the soldiers on one side, and one-third part of the people on the other. Men in conspicuous stations, exposed to the public eye, who know that the opinion of mankind at least will render them personally answerable for the evils which come upon their country through their means, are not hastily or easily brought to the perpetration of a great crime, to uphold a domination which to them is of no advantage, and satiate passions which they do not share. Since, then, the Ultras can find no other instruments to do their work, they hope at least to make instruments of the people. Their last desperate shift is to terrify their own Minister with that popular voice which they had themselves taught him to despise. What portion of the people fair or foul means will procure to back them in their unhallowed enterprise, a few weeks, or at farthest a few months, will disclose. But it is at least the duty of those who detest it as it deserves not to indulge a sleepy inactivity, nor flatter themselves with the idea that, when wicked men are preparing wicked deeds, it is enough for the good to sit still and silently disapprove. What, in all nations and in all ages, has caused the successes of interested villainy, is the indifference of the well-intentioned. The remark has been often repeated,9 but it is little attended to; why? apparently because it has not been repeated enough.
I shall, perhaps, continue to address to you a few occasional remarks, as this great drama unfolds itself.
July 1830 to July 1831
[1 ]The first reference is to the Corn Laws; the second is to the Game Laws, of which 22 & 23 Charles II, c. 25 (1671), 57 George III, c. 90 (1817), and 7 & 8 George IV, c. 27 (1827) were the most important prior to the passing, in July 1828, of 9 George IV, c. 69.
[2 ]Radical objections to the expenditures of the Civil List had been most prominently expressed by John Wade (1788-1875), author and periodical writer, in The Black Book; or, Corruption Unmasked!, 2 vols. (London: Fairburn, 1820, 1823), Vol. I, pp. 110-41, and Vol. II, pp. 9-40. The most outstanding younger branches were the ten acknowledged illegitimate children of the Duke of Clarence, soon to succeed his brother as King William IV.
[3 ]Wellesley, Speech on Petitions to the Crown (25 Jan., 1821), PD, n.s., Vol. 9, col. 108.
[4 ]A term that originated in the seventeenth century to describe those who claim special enlightenment, especially religious enthusiasts who reject the authority of “old lights”; see Thomas Hubbert, Pilula ad expurgandam hypocrisin (London: Lloyd and Cripps, 1650), p. 67.
[5 ]Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham Clinton (1785-1851), 4th Duke of Newcastle, A Letter to the Right Hon. Lord Kenyon from His Grace the Duke of Newcastle (London: Hatchard, 1828). He was “lord” of the five boroughs of Aldborough, Boroughbridge, East Retford, Newark, and Nottingham. His letter, dated 18 Sept., 1828, and published also in The Times, 23 Sept., expressed deep alarm at the threat of Catholic emancipation to the ancient Constitution; in his view the government’s “liberalizing” spirit was extremely dangerous at a time when sedition and treason were stalking abroad.
[6 ]Juvenal (ca. 60-140), Satires, VI, 223, in Juvenal and Persius (Latin and English), trans. G.G. Ramsay (London: Heinemann, 1950), p. 100.
[7 ]The extreme anti-Catholic faction, which had exerted strong influence in the previous Tory administrations, found less support in Wellington’s ministry.
[8 ]The phrase goes back to Cicero (106-43 ), Roman orator and statesman, “De domo sua ad pontifices oratio” (xxiii, 61), in Cicero. The Speeches: Pro archia poeta, Post reditum ad Quirites, De domo sua, De Haruspicum responsis, Pro Planico (Latin and English), trans. N.H. Watts (London: Heinemann, 1935), p. 206.
[9 ]See, e.g., Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents, in Works, Vol. I, p. 495. Cf. Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755), Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains, et de leur décadence (1734) (Edinburgh: Hamilton, et al., 1751), p. 24; and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), Du contrat social, ou Principes du droit politique (1762), in Oeuvres complètes, 2nd ed., 25 vols. (Paris: Dalibon, 1826), Vol. VI, p. 153 (Bk. III, Chap. xv).