Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

RIGHTS OF MAN.

WILLIAM COBBETT, during his residence in the United States, appeared among us as the foe to civil liberty, and the most virulent opposer of republics. It will be recollected, however, by our readers, that this was in an epoch of the French revolution, and in a day, too, when its horrors were at their height; which were, in some instances, sufficient to disgust the most strenuous advocates of liberty and the

Instead of liberty, it carried with it the stamp of licentiousness; and under the toga of Roman eloquence, breathing virtue and self devotion, was a dagger concealed, yet warm with blood, and thirsting for further victims. At an era like this, many men who, before and since, have been the steadiest and most zealous friends of republicanism, were even staggered in their faith, and revolted at the bloody calendar which the tiinės displayed.

We do not by this intend to become the apologists of William Cobbett, or of his writings at that day, under the title of Porcupine ; they were too slanderous, too anti-republican, and too hostile to the interests of this nation, for

any

American vindicate : if any defence can be made, it is that he was devoted to thë čåůse of his own avowed country, England ; and that, feeling too strongly the enormities of France during the throes of her revolution, he carried America àrid all republican systems into the vortex of his enmity.

The continued devotion of his talents to politics, from that day until the present, and the prodigies which have eventuated within this period, have

pen to

ز

operated to cause a revolution in his sentiments, as regards states, kingdoms, and councils, almost as wonderful as the changes, chances, and disasters, which have astonished and distracted the world, by turns, for the last quarter century. From the friend of monarchy, the supporter of crowned heads, of legitimate sovereignty, of titles, clergy, and tythes, William Cobbett has become the champion of civil liberty, the defender of the rights of man, the opponent of clerical intolerance, and the advocate of the independence and integrity of nations : from the Porcupine, armed with his venomous quills to assail the republic of America and her institutions, he has become her friend and advocate, even amongst

her enemies; and in as much as he once attempted to wound her, has he endeavoured at reparation of injury by doing her service. Some of our readers may say all this has been produced by self interest ; that he was the hireling writer of England while in America ; the hireling writer of the ministry on his return; and that he now is the hireling writer of the opposition. Allowing all this to be true, of which we know nothing, are we to reject the writings of any one, because he was once employed to do us an injury, but who is now engaged in a better cause, and feels desirous to do us a service?

We believe that William Cobbett did receive remuneration for his writings while in America ; but we also believe him now to be independent, and so much

that he is placed far above receiving a stipend or salary from either one party or the other; and that

90,

1

1

he now is endeavouring to hold, at least, for the remainder of his life, a steady, unbiassed, and independent pen, fearless of frowns, and heedless of favours. His writings certainly bear no more analogy to the speeches of the members of the opposition, than to those of the ministerial bench, excepting that of the thorough contempt which he now bears for those privileged orders he once extolled, and those licentious exactions he once called necessary. The opposition never uttered, nor dared to utter, such sentiments as are expressed by Cobbett in these letters. They are completely unique, to come from the pen of an Englishman, and are as bold as unique, possessing within themselves a property, sui generis, which neither king, lords, nor commons could imitate, for they speak a language they are not wont to hearthe language of truth, exhibiting their errors, their injustice, and folly.

Instead of adverting to what William Cobbett has been, we therefore prefer to do justice to what he now is, and, presenting these letters as his index, we leave him to the better judgment of our readers.

*** It is not the novelty of these letters which induces our publication, but in order to preserve them for the American reader. Many of them have been published in our daily papers ; but the ephemeral fate of a nenspaper is such as would not warrant its being made a chronicle of reference ; besides, we are convinced that no one paper contains all these letters, and, in those that contain the most of them, they are so heterogeneously

mixed, that the reader is in pain while he resorts to them. With regard to our chronological arrangement of dates, &c. the reader must make an excuse for us in his own mind, by considering the detached and uncertain manner in which they reached us. We have, in some instances, preferred following the order of the subject than the date, for which, we should presume,

he would feel rather pleased than angry.

Conscious that we have exerted ourselves to gratify our patrons, we shall feel proud of their pleasure, and shall continue our compilations of William Cobbett's writings on America, should these be received with the public's approbation,

New-York, November, 1815.

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »