Front Page Titles (by Subject) 222.: MARTINEAU'S A TALE OF THE TYNE EXAMINER, 27 OCT., 1833, PP. 677-8 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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222.: MARTINEAU’S A TALE OF THE TYNE EXAMINER, 27 OCT., 1833, PP. 677-8 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, 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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MARTINEAU’S A TALE OF THE TYNE
Writing to Carlyle on 25 Nov., 1833, a week after his return from Paris, Mill asks: “did you detect me in the Exr reviewing Miss Martineau, & Col. Napier?” (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 197). And, again to Carlyle on 12 Jan., 1834: “The paper on Miss Martineau was really a paper on Impressment” (ibid., p. 209). For earlier reference to her Illustrations, see No. 197. This review, in the “Literary Examiner,” is headed “Illustrations of Political Economy. No. 21. A Tale of the Tyne. By Harriet Martineau. [London:] C. Fox .” Described in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Miss Martineau’s ‘Tale of the Tyne’ in the Examiner of 27th October 1833” (MacMinn, p. 35), this article is listed in the Somerville College set of the Examiner as “Review of Miss Martineau’s ‘Tale of the Tyne’ ” and enclosed in square brackets. Mill quoted part of this article in his “Notes on the Newspapers” in the Monthly Repository for April 1834 (see CW, Vol. VI, pp. 178-9); in the variant notes “34” indicates Monthly Repository, 1834.
if, as we think must be admitted, some of the more recent tales of this series (though none are deficient in passages of great beauty and power) have not kept up to the high level of the earlier numbers, the illustration of impressment came in time to prove that the inferiority arises from no decline of the author’s talents, nor exhaustion of her vein, but from the more ungrateful nature of some of the topics on which she has recently been engaged. All the truths of her science do not equally admit of being illustrated by a succession of interesting incidents, and she has sometimes, instead of working the principle into the body of her tale, found herself thrown upon the last resource of foisting it in under cover of scientific conversations between her principal characters.
In the present instance, however, her subject was eminently susceptible of striking illustration and powerful enforcement through the medium of a fictitious history. The Tale of the Tyne is a story of impressment; and its appearance could not be better timed, than immediately after our reforming Ministers have not only refused to abolish the odious tyranny, against which the story is directed, but treated those who ventured to express disapprobation of it, as if they had done something vicious and deserving of opprobrium.
Miss Martineau should send a copy of this tale to each of his Majesty’s Ministers. We think it would have lowered the insulting tone of Sir James Graham’s memorable speech on Mr. Buckingham’s motion,1 if he had read, the evening before, in this little narrative, the meeting, after years of absence, between a pressed sailor who had deserted, and his sister. We quote all we can of this most affecting passage, and regret that our limits do not allow of more:
When Cuddie entered from the garden, his first act was to desire his sister to fasten the door at the foot of the stairs, and hang up blinds against both windows, he standing in the shadow till this was done. Effie timidly objected to blinding the front window which looked down upon the ferry; it was not yet too late for the possibility of passengers. This seemed to serve as a new reason; and she was obliged to hang up her shawl.
“If you want to know the reason,” whispered her brother, “I am a deserter. Hush! No noise! or you will be the death of me, as Adam was near being this morning.”
“Won’t you sit down?” said Effie,—as she might have spoken to an intruder from Bedlam.
“Effie, you always used to say what you felt, and all that you felt. Are you changed too? Come; tell me what you are thinking.”
“I think I am in a dream, and do not know whether you be Cuddie, or a fancy of my own. O, Cuddie, I have always loved you next to Walter, and looked upon you as the pride and hope of the family; and as often as I have started from sleep, these four years past, it has been with dreaming over again your being taken at dead of night, and especially your slipping down the cable. The worst moments I have had from the time you rowed away from this ferry, that bright evening, are those between sleeping and waking, when I saw you cold and altered before me, and I could not by any means make you smile. I never,—no I never believed this last would come true. And now,—and now,” she uttered between her sobs, “you know what I am thinking about.”
Cuddie cast himself on the ground, laid his head on her knee, as he had done in many a childish trouble, weeping so that he could not for long be persuaded to look up.
“You are not altogether altered, I see,” said Effie, striving to speak cheerfully. “You are not come back the round-faced, weather-brown seaman I always fancied you would be, but instead, far too much as if you had been famished. Yet your heart is the same.”
“O, yes. But you have known want lately, and you are discouraged. I much fear you have known want.”
“’Tis not that which has bowed my spirit. Effie, I am altogether heartbroken.”
“Do not dare to say that. We must bear whatever Providence—”
“But it is not Providence that has done it; it is my king and country,” cried Cuddie, starting up, the flush fading from his face, and leaving it of a deadly paleness. “If it had been the will of Providence, Effie, to take a limb from me, I would have made my way home on crutches, with a stout heart, and none of you should have heard a bitter word from me. If lightning from above had scorched out my eyes, I would have taken Tim for an example, and been thankful through the live-long day. If the fever had laid me low on shipboard, I would have been a man to the last, knowing that my corpse would make the plunge before midnight. But to have one’s king and country against one, is what is enough to break any man’s heart that has ever loved either of them.”
“To be sure it is. What have they been doing to you?”
“Things that I do not hold myself bound to bear, as if they were done according to the will of Providence, and not against it. They first turned my very heart within me with carrying me away, as if I had been a black slave; carrying me away from all I cared about, and the occupation I could most willingly follow. Then, when I had little spirit for my work, and many bitter thoughts to distract me in it, and hurt my temper, the next thing they must do is to flog me. What surprises you in that? Don’t you know that impressment brings flogging? Carry away a man as a slave, and next thing you must whip him as a thief, and that brings hanging like a dog. Yes, they flogged me, and my head grew down on my breast from the time that scornful eyes were for ever upon me. This morning I have been hunted by my countrymen,—by many an one that I knew when nobody dared look scornfully on me. It was my own brother’s doing that they were set on. My country has but one thing more to do with me; and that is to make away with me for desertion.”
“Then you do not mean to do it yourself, thank God!” cried Effie.
“No, Effie. I have been tempted many a time, from the night I slipped down the cable, as you mentioned, till this very afternoon, when I hid in an old coal-pit, and was but too near throwing myself below. I shall make a trial of what is to be done by going where there is no king, and where one may forget one’s country. There is not a saint in heaven that could make me forgive them; but there may be ways of forgetting them. I will make the trial in America.”
“Then we shall lose the best brother, and my mother the child she has looked to through every thing, and your king a servant that may ill be spared during this war.”
“Never mind the king. If he knows no better how to get his subjects to serve him—”
“Hush, Cuddie! You a seaman, and talk so of your king!”
“I am not a seaman now. However, say the country, if you will: if she knows no better how to get served than by first making slaves of her free-born men, let her do as well as she can when they leave her to turn against her. As soon as she takes a man’s birthright from him, his duty ceases. Mine was at an end when they carried me off, neck and heels, and turned me, in one hour, from a brave-hearted boy into a mean-souled man.”
“Yes, yes, I say; but though it was so, they had gained no right to disgrace me. That flogging might possibly have been thought justifiable by some people, if I had entered the service of my own free will: as I did not, they had no more right to flog me than the showman yonder has to goad the lion he enticed into his trap. If that lion should ever get out a paw to revenge himself, it would go hard with me to help the human brute.”
Effie was confounded. In casting about for an argument wherewith to stop this method of discourse, she could find none out of the Bible. Christian forgiveness of injuries was her plea.
“There is the difference, certainly, between the lion and me,” said Cuddie: “the Bible is out of the question in his case. It shall be minded in my own, so far as this:—I will not lift a hand against my country, and I will go where I may possibly learn to forgive her; but I cannot do it here Effie,—even if my life were safe, I could not do it here. My country loses a stout-bodied, willing-hearted member, and I lose all I have ever lived for; but there the mischief shall stop for me.”
“Aye, for you; but how many more are there lost in like manner? I think some devil, in the service of our country’s enemies, has come to blind our eyes, and harden our hearts, and make us a sad wonder for the times that are to come. Will men believe such a story as yours,—such an one as my father’s,—a hundred years hence?”
“Yes, they will easily believe, because they will look back to what the service now is, and how it is regarded, and contrast these things with what, I trust, will be the state of things in their day. They will look back and see that merchant seamen are now paid more than they need be, because naval seamen are paid so much less than they ought to be, and made subject to violence. If, as I hope, in those days, the one service will be as desirable as the other, (or the king’s, perhaps, the most so of the two,) it will be found that our colliers will man a navy at the first call; and then men will believe that when it was otherwise, there was some fearful cause of wrong that came in between the king and his seamen.”
“It does seem, indeed, as if there was no lack of loyalty among our people, when their minds are not turned from their king by some strange act; and we hear few complaints of the service from those who go willingly to it.”
“There is none that would be liked so well, if it had fair play. Besides the honour of keeping off the enemy, and the glory of helping to preserve one’s country, there is so much variety, and so many adventures, and so many hundred thousand eyes looking on, that a sea-life in his Majesty’s service has many charms. But honour is a mockery to one’s heart, unless it is won by the heart; and what are varieties of adventure to him whose body may be roving, but whose spirit sits, like a gloomy, unseen ghost, for ever by his own fire-side?”
“He who goes of his own will has most likely made provision for those he has left behind; and then the thought of them will come only when it can animate him, and never to discourage him.”
“Oh, you should see the difference between the volunteers and certain slaves like me!—how the one are impatient with the captain till he gets boldly out in search of the enemy; and how the other would fain have the vessel creep for ever along the shore, that he might have a chance of stealing out, and forgetting his present disgraces by daring a worse reproach still. You should see the difference of their patience on the watch, and of their courage before a battle.”
Can any one read this and not see that it is a true picture? that, of such causes, such are the natural consequences? The fictitious Cuthbert Eldred is but a type of the countless multitudes of real living men, who have been immolated, body and soul, like him, and died the living death which he so powerfully describes. aIt is not astonishing that in an age of barbarism men should commit barbarities. That Lord Chatham, one of a generation of statesmen among whom common humanity seems to have been almost as rare as common honesty, and in an age in which nothing was esteemed wickedness by which nobody suffered but the common people—that Lord Chatham should have seen no harm in impressment, can surprise no one; but it is equally unexpected and unwelcome to find Lord Chatham’s authority quoted for it now, as conclusive, by a Reform Minister.2 Necessity! so well described by Milton as “bthe tyrant’s pleab :”3 it is also Sir James Graham’s, and no one has yet, in our own day, or in any preceding, carried impudence so far as to pretend that there can be any other. It is difficult not to feel degraded by the very act of replying to so base a pretext. Necessity! yes; to borrow the apt expression of a vigorous writer, “it is exactly the sort of necessity which men are hanged for:” the convenience of taking the property of other people without paying for it; with the aggravation of its being their sole property, and the slight additional circumstance that the entire wealth of the nation is yours to purchase it withal, if you cmustc have it. If the whole matter were laid before a community of ignorant savages; if they could be made to conceive the clamour, the indignant uproar, which rises from all the benches of a certain assembly at the bare suggestion of laying a sacrilegious finger upon anything which borders upon a vested right, upon anything which by the utmost straining can be construed into property, and then could be shown the spectacle of the same men hallooing on their leaders to denounce and insult men for asserting the vested right of the labourer to his own bodily powers, and calling it injustice to knock him down and rob him, not of his purse, seeing that he has none, but of all the property he has,—his labour, in order to save to their own pockets a fractional part of the wages for which he would consent to sell it,—would not the assembly of savages deem the assembly of civilized Christians fit objects for a hurricane to sweep from the earth? What would they think if they were then told that this same assembly had just voted twenty millions for the redemption of negro slaves? These men are not fools, mere absolute fools they cannot be; they cannot think that kidnapping our own countrymen, and keeping them to forced labour for the whole or the better part of their lives, differs from negro slavery; why, every one of the incidents is the same, down to the very cart whip! call it, if you please, the cat. There is identity even in the wretched apologies which are set up; the captains or masters are an ill-used, calumniated race of men, and free labour, forsooth, would be vastly dearer!a We are obliged, therefore, when we find the same men, at the same time, actually crusading against everything which is called slavery in the remote parts of the globe, and battling for it at home as for the most precious of our institutions, to conclude that it is not the thing that they are averse to, but only the name; and that their quarrel with tyranny is not with the tyranny itself, but solely with its unpopularity.
[1 ]Graham, Speech on Impressment (15 Aug., 1833), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 20, cols. 676-84, in immediate reply to James Silk Buckingham, Speech on Impressment (15 Aug.), ibid., cols. 636-76. Buckingham (1786-1855), traveller, lecturer, and journalist, a social reformer and temperance advocate, was M.P. for Sheffield.
[a-a][quoted by Mill in 34]
[2 ]William Pitt, Lord Chatham, speech of 22 Nov., 1770, in John Almon, Anecdotes of the Life of the Right Hon. William Pitt, 3 vols. (London: Longman, et al., 1810), Vol. II, pp. 197-8, cited by Graham, speech of 15 Aug., col. 684.
[3 ]Milton, Paradise Lost, IV, 393-4; in Poetical Works, p. 97.
[c-c]34[not in italics]