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John Wade exposes the system of political corruption in England (1835)

The British Philosophic Radical John Wade (1788-1875) compiled detailed lists of all those who used the British state to get taxpayers money and legal privileges with the aim of so angering the British people that they would support the movement for reform:

The object of the Editor at first was, and now has been, to show the manifold abuses of an unjust and oppressive system; to show the dire calamities it has inflicted on the country, and by what ramifications of influence it has been supported.

Government has been a corporation, and had the same interests and the same principles of action as monopolists. It has been supported by other corporations; the Church has been one, the Agriculturists another; the Boroughs a third, the East-India Company a fourth, and the Bank of England a fifth: all these, and interests like these, constituted the citadel and out-works of its strength, and the first object of each has been to shun investigation. We have, however, rent the vail; those who before doubted may, if they please, come and see, and be convinced.

The Black Book is the Encyclopedia of English politics for the Georgian era, and will last as long as the abuses it exposes shall endure. It was, originally, brought out in periodical numbers twelve years ago, and laboured under the disadvantages incident to that mode of publication. Defective as the publication was, it excited unusual interest; though ill-arranged, rough in manner, and incorrect in matter, it contained a striking development of Oligarchical abuse, and thus fixed the attention of the public. It was oftentimes reprinted, and upwards of 14,000 copies were sold, almost without the expense of advertisement, or any of those helps from literary notices which are usually deemed essential to give celebrity to the productions of the press. In the edition of last year an endeavour was made to remedy the defects of the first undertaking; in this we flatter ourselves the task has been nearly completed.

The object of the Editor at first was, and now has been, to show the manifold abuses of an unjust and oppressive system; to show the dire calamities it has inflicted on the country, and by what ramifications of influence it has been supported.

Government has been a corporation, and had the same interests and the same principles of action as monopolists. It has been supported by other corporations; the Church has been one, the Agriculturists another; the Boroughs a third, the East-India Company a fourth, and the Bank of England a fifth: all these, and interests like these, constituted the citadel and out-works of its strength, and the first object of each has been to shun investigation. We have, however, rent the vail; those who before doubted may, if they please, come and see, and be convinced.

In lieu of the old system we are told a new one is in progress of being substituted; intelligence, not patronage, is to form the pivot of public authority: the idea is a grand one,—it is worthy of the age, and we wait in hope to see it practically realized.

In conclusion we must observe that many opinions have been introduced, from which, we doubt not, our readers will dissent; we regret this, but it is unavoidable. Our object has been Truth, not to compromise with error, nor knowingly pander to any prejudice, aristocratic or democratic. We have an aversion to war, foreign and domestic; nor do we love spoliation either on the part of the People or their Rulers. The land is full of miseries; we share them not, neither do we profit by them; but it is the impulse of our nature to wish to see them alleviated. In place of a bad government we wish a good one substituted; for it is not individuals, but the power of the State, directed by intelligence, which must administer to the maladies of a nation. And even wisdom and good intentions, without co-operation on the part of the community, would be unavailing. Public disorders of long standing and extremely complicated require deliberation as well as remedial applications. But while we crave indulgence for an Administration we believe patriotic, it must be an indulgence accompanied with constant watchfulness, and even suspicion, on the part of the People.

March 16th, 1832.

About this Quotation:

In the period between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the First Reform Act of 1832 radicals like John Wade attempted to expose the corruption at the heart of the British political system in order to arouse ordinary people to support the Reform movement. To do this, he documented in great detail the exact nature of “Oligarchical abuse” by the powerful vested interest groups which controlled the British state, namely the established Church, the big agriculturalists who benefited from protection, the rotten borough system which enabled a narrow group of men to secure seats in Parliament, the East-India Company, and the Bank of England. Beginning in 1820 “The Extraordinary Black Book, or Corruption Unmasked” went through many editions culminating in the edition of 1832 – the year the First Reform Act expanded the electorate to include middle class voters for the first time. The edition we have put online is a revised version of the 1832 edition which also contained a new Appendix which evaluated the activities of the new parliament which contained many reformers who had been elected in 1832. We don’t have a picture of Wade but we do have the frontispiece which shows the supporters of Reform in the new parliament: Lord Broughm, Landsdowne, Russell, Burdett, Althorpe, Grey, and the King in the centre. The caption which accompanied the engraving comes from a sonnet to liberty written by William Wordsworth, which states “We must be free or die, who speak the tongue That Shakspeare spake; the faith and morals hold Which Milton held. In everything we are sprung Of Earth’s first blood, have titles manifold.”

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