Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bevan Boggenpoel writes

Sinister Minister

They drive flashy cars -
Live in mansions
They don't pay -
Any attention

They eat buffet dinners -
Drink expensive wine
With exquisite dessert -
They wine and dine

They parade -
In expensive dress
With make-up and jewellery -
To impress

With extravagant hairstyles -
And designer shoes
The taxpayers' money -
They abuse

The dire state of this country -
They choose to ignore
Because their elegant lifestyle -
Is always paid for


Conspirators: Or, Delegates in Council -- George Cruikshank


  1. Cruikshank's 1817 engraving depicted cabinet ministers Henry Addington, Robert Stewart, and George Canning sitting at a table with three agents provocateurs John Castles, William Oliver, and Thomas Reynolds providing them with information to be used against Radicals who proposed government reform. A large bag with docketed papers protruding is on the table, while "John Bull," England's national personification created in 1712 by John Arbuthnot, looks through the window in horror at the proceedings. The ministers belonged to the cabinet of Robert Banks Jenkinson (2nd Earl of Liverpool, who governed the country from 1812 to 1827; his father, a former cabinet member and close advisor to George III, had been elevated to the earldom in 1796. Addington, who had been prime minister from 1801 to 1804 (sandwiched between the governments of William Pitt; the two had been childhood friends, since Addington's father had been the physician to Pitt's father, also a former prime minister) was home secretary from 1812-1822, the longest continuously serving holder of the office. An earldom was the usual retirement compensation for former prime ministers, and in 1804 George III wanted to make him earl of Banbury, but Addington declined in order to remain in the House of Commons; however, in 1805 he joined Pitt's government with the lesser title of viscount Sidmouth and held various cabinet offices. Robert Stewart acquired the courtesy title viscount Castlereagh in 1796 when his father (a former member of Parliament) was created earl (later marquess) of Londonderry. His mother was the daughter of the first marquess of Hertford, and his step-mothers were the daughters of the first earl of Camden (an ally of the younger Pitt) and of the 2nd earl of Buckinghamshire (whose grandfather had been the speaker of the Irish House of Commons in the early 18th century). After serving in Pitt's and Addington's governments, in 1812 he became foreign secretary and the leader of the House of Commons. George Canning, the son of an actress and a failed businessman and lawyer, had been in Pitt's first government and was then the duke of Portland's foreign secretary (1807-1809) until Stewart wounded him in a duel. He returned to the cabinet in 1816 and again became foreign secretary (and leader in Parliament) in 1822 after Stewart killed himself by slitting his throat. (Lord Byron honored his memory thus: "Posterity will ne'er survey / A nobler grave than this: / Here lie the bones of Castlereagh: / Stop, traveler, and piss.") When Jenkinson resigned in 1827 he was followed as prime minister by Canning, who died after 119 days in office, the shortest tenure of any British Prime Minister.

  2. After the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, England suffered from famine, economic difficulties, and demands for political reform. Under the direction of Reynolds, agents provocateurs were sent to dissident meetings, where they tried to arouse those present to commit acts of violence that would lead to their arrest, imprisonment, or transportation to Australia. The Manchester Patriotic Union held a mass meeting at St. Peter's Field, a 14,000 sq yd (11,700 sq m) croft (an open piece of land) along Mount Street which was being cleared to allow the construction of the last section of Peter Street, on 9 August 1819 "to take into consideration the most speedy and effectual mode of obtaining Radical reform in the Common House of Parliament" and "to consider the propriety of the 'Unrepresented Inhabitants of Manchester' electing a person to represent them in Parliament." (Manchester, Salford, Bolton, Blackburn, Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham, and Stockport had a combined population of almost one million but were represented by only four county MPs for Lancashire and Cheshire, while Old Sarum in Wiltshire, with only one voter, elected two MPs; more than half of the 515 MPs for England and Wales were chosen by the 154 owners of "rotten" or closed boroughs; 351 were returned by the patronage of 177 individuals and 16 by the direct patronage of the government; all 45 Scottish MPs owed their seats to patronage.) The country's first female reform societies were established in the textile areas in 1819, and women made up a sizable portion of the event. Because earlier meetings of workers had been derided for their disorder and appearance, instructions were given to the various committees forming the contingents that "Cleanliness, Sobriety, Order and Peace" and a "prohibition of all weapons of offence or defence" were to be observed throughout the demonstration, and each contingent was drilled and rehearsed in advance. The city's assistant surveyor of paving inspected St. Peter's Field at 7:00 am to remove anything that might be used as a weapon. At about 1:40 pm, shortly after the meeting began, local magistrates called on the military to disperse the crowd of 60,000-80,000, which was more than 1/2 of the population of the immediate area around Manchester. The 60-man Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, recruited from local shopkeepers and tradesmen, drunkenly charged into the crowd with sabers drawn, followed by 600 men of the 15th Hussars from the east and 400 men of the Cheshire Yeomanry from the south, while the 88th Regiment of Foot blocked the main exit route into Peter Street with bayonets fixed. Fifteen of the demonstrators were killed and 400-700 wounded, including at least 168 women, four of whom died. The attack was followed by a series of riots; peace was not restored in Manchester until the next morning, and not in Stockport and Macclesfield until the 17th. This was the first public meeting at which journalists from important, distant newspapers were present, and within a day or so of the event, accounts were published in London, Leeds, and Liverpool. The journalists called it the "Peterloo Massacre" in an ironic comparison to the battle of Waterloo which had ended Napoleon's career. Cruikshank immediately drew a caricature depicting the cavalry charge, with the text, "Down with 'em! Chop em down my brave boys: give them no quarter they want to take our Beef & Pudding from us! ---- & remember the more you kill the less poor rates you'll have to pay so go at it Lads show your courage & your Loyalty!"

  3. On 27 August, Addington conveyed to the magistrates the thanks of the Prince Regent for their action in the "preservation of the public peace;" James Wroe, the editor of the "Manchester Observer" who coined "Peterloo," was sentenced to 12 months in prison and fined £100; his newspaper was closed in February 1820. The main speaker was sentenced to 30 months in Ilchester Gaol, and the others on the stage were given a year each. By the end of 1820 every significant working-class radical reformer was in jail. By 30 December, Addington's "Six Acts" were passed: The Training Prevention Act made any person attending a meeting for the purpose of receiving training or drill in weapons liable to arrest and transportation; the Seizure of Arms Act gave local magistrates the power to search any private property for weapons, to seize them, and to arrest the owners; the Misdemeanors Act reduced the opportunities for bail and allowed for speedier court processing; the Seditious Meetings Prevention Act required the permission of a sheriff or magistrate to convene any public meeting of more than 50 people to discuss any "church or state" matter, and only inhabitants of the parish could attend; the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act increased the sentence to 14 years' transportation; and the Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act extended and increased taxes to cover those publications which had escaped the tax by publishing opinion rather than news and required publishers to post a bond for their behavior. George III's death on 29 January 1820 created a new governmental crisis. On 22 February police spy George Edwards, the number two leader of the Spencean Philanthropists, a group taking their name from the British radical speaker Thomas Spence, suggested that the group could exploit the situation by assassinating the prime minister and cabinet, seize key buildings, and establish a Committee of Public Safety to oversee a radical revolution; he even provided funds to arm the 27 conspirators. The next day the police raided their base of operations on Cato Street near Edgware Road in London, and on 28 April five of the conspirators were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason, though the sentence was commuted to hanging and beheading; they were hanged at Newgate Prison on 1 May 1820 in front of a crowd of thousands, some of whom had paid three guineas for a good vantage point from the windows of houses overlooking the scaffold. After the bodies had hung for half an hour, they were lowered one at a time and decapitated. The death sentences of five others were commuted to transportation for life.

  4. Percy Bysshe Shelley was in Italia and did not hear of Peterloo until 5 September. He wrote "The Mask of Anarchy: Written on the Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester," the first modern statement of the principle of nonviolent resistance, and sent it to the radical periodical "The Examiner," but Leigh Hunt withheld it from publication because he "thought that the public at large had not become sufficiently discerning to do justice to the sincerity and kind-heartedness of the spirit that walked in this flaming robe of verse." It did not appear in print until 1832, 10 years after Shelley's death; Hunt provided a preface, but it was published by Edward Moxon. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi often quoted the poem during his campaign for a free India.

    As I lay asleep in Italy
    There came a voice from over the Sea,
    And with great power it forth led me
    To walk in the visions of Poesy.

    I met Murder on the way--
    He had a mask like Castlereagh--
    Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
    Seven blood-hounds followed him:

    All were fat; and well they might
    Be in admirable plight,
    For one by one, and two by two,
    He tossed them human hearts to chew

    Which from his wide cloak he drew.
    Next came Fraud, and he had on,
    Like Eldon [lord chancellor], an ermined gown;
    His big tears, for he wept well,
    Turned to mill-stones as they fell.

    And the little children, who
    Round his feet played to and fro,
    Thinking every tear a gem,
    Had their brains knocked out by them.

    Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
    And the shadows of the night,
    Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
    On a crocodile rode by.

    And many more Destructions played
    In this ghastly masquerade,
    All disguised, even to the eyes,
    Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, or spies.

    Last came Anarchy: he rode
    On a white horse, splashed with blood;
    He was pale even to the lips,
    Like Death in the Apocalypse.

    And he wore a kingly crown;
    And in his grasp a sceptre shone;
    On his brow this mark I saw--

    With a pace stately and fast,
    Over English land he passed,
    Trampling to a mire of blood
    The adoring multitude.

    And a mighty troop around,
    With their trampling shook the ground,
    Waving each a bloody sword,
    For the service of their Lord.

    And with glorious triumph, they
    Rode through England proud and gay,
    Drunk as with intoxication
    Of the wine of desolation.

    O'er fields and towns, from sea to sea,
    Passed the Pageant swift and free,
    Tearing up, and trampling down;
    Till they came to London town.

    And each dweller, panic-stricken,
    Felt his heart with terror sicken
    Hearing the tempestuous cry
    Of the triumph of Anarchy.

    For with pomp to meet him came,
    Clothed in arms like blood and flame,
    The hired murderers, who did sing
    `Thou art God, and Law, and King.

    We have waited, weak and lone
    For thy coming, Mighty One!
    Our purses are empty, our swords are cold,
    Give us glory, and blood, and gold.'

    Lawyers and priests, a motley crowd,
    To the earth their pale brows bowed;
    Like a bad prayer not over loud,
    Whispering -- `Thou art Law and God.' --

    Then all cried with one accord,
    `Thou art King, and God, and Lord;
    Anarchy, to thee we bow,
    Be thy name made holy now!'

  5. And Anarchy, the Skeleton,
    Bowed and grinned to every one,
    As well as if his education
    Had cost ten millions to the nation.

    For he knew the Palaces
    Of our Kings were rightly his;
    His the sceptre, crown, and globe,
    And the gold-inwoven robe.

    So he sent his slaves before
    To seize upon the Bank and Tower,
    And was proceeding with intent
    To meet his pensioned Parliament

    When one fled past, a maniac maid,
    And her name was Hope, she said:
    But she looked more like Despair,
    And she cried out in the air:

    `My father Time is weak and gray
    With waiting for a better day;
    See how idiot-like he stands,
    Fumbling with his palsied hands!

    `He has had child after child,
    And the dust of death is piled
    Over every one but me--
    Misery, oh, Misery!'

    Then she lay down in the street,
    Right before the horses' feet,
    Expecting, with a patient eye,
    Murder, Fraud, and Anarchy.

    When between her and her foes
    A mist, a light, an image rose,
    Small at first, and weak, and frail
    Like the vapour of a vale:

    Till as clouds grow on the blast,
    Like tower-crowned giants striding fast,
    And glare with lightnings as they fly,
    And speak in thunder to the sky,

    It grew -- a Shape arrayed in mail
    Brighter than the viper's scale,
    And upborne on wings whose grain
    Was as the light of sunny rain.

    On its helm, seen far away,
    A planet, like the Morning's, lay;
    And those plumes its light rained through
    Like a shower of crimson dew.

    With step as soft as wind it passed
    O'er the heads of men -- so fast
    That they knew the presence there,
    And looked, -- but all was empty air.

    As flowers beneath May's footstep waken,
    As stars from Night's loose hair are shaken,
    As waves arise when loud winds call,
    Thoughts sprung where'er that step did fall.

    And the prostrate multitude
    Looked -- and ankle-deep in blood,
    Hope, that maiden most serene,
    Was walking with a quiet mien:

    And Anarchy, the ghastly birth,
    Lay dead earth upon the earth;
    The Horse of Death tameless as wind
    Fled, and with his hoofs did grind
    To dust the murderers thronged behind.

  6. A rushing light of clouds and splendour,
    A sense awakening and yet tender
    Was heard and felt -- and at its close
    These words of joy and fear arose

    As if their own indignant Earth
    Which gave the sons of England birth
    Had felt their blood upon her brow,
    And shuddering with a mother's throe

    Had turnèd every drop of blood
    By which her face had been bedewed
    To an accent unwithstood,--
    As if her heart had cried aloud:

    `Men of England, heirs of Glory,
    Heroes of unwritten story,
    Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
    Hopes of her, and one another;

    `Rise like Lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number,
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you --
    Ye are many -- they are few.

    `What is Freedom? -- ye can tell
    That which slavery is, too well --
    For its very name has grown
    To an echo of your own.

    `'Tis to work and have such pay
    As just keeps life from day to day
    In your limbs, as in a cell
    For the tyrants' use to dwell,

    `So that ye for them are made
    Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
    With or without your own will bent
    To their defence and nourishment.

    `'Tis to see your children weak
    With their mothers pine and peak,
    When the winter winds are bleak,--
    They are dying whilst I speak.

    `'Tis to hunger for such diet
    As the rich man in his riot
    Casts to the fat dogs that lie
    Surfeiting beneath his eye;

    `'Tis to let the Ghost of Gold
    Take from Toil a thousandfold
    More than e'er its substance could
    In the tyrannies of old.

    `Paper coin -- that forgery
    Of the title-deeds, which ye
    Hold to something of the worth
    Of the inheritance of Earth.

    `'Tis to be a slave in soul
    And to hold no strong control
    Over your own wills, but be
    All that others make of ye.

    `And at length when ye complain
    With a murmur weak and vain
    'Tis to see the Tyrant's crew
    Ride over your wives and you--
    Blood is on the grass like dew.

    `Then it is to feel revenge
    Fiercely thirsting to exchange
    Blood for blood -- and wrong for wrong --
    Do not thus when ye are strong.

    `Birds find rest, in narrow nest
    When weary of their wingèd quest;
    Beasts find fare, in woody lair
    When storm and snow are in the air

  7. [The following stanza is found in Mary Shelley's edition of 1839 but was not in the Hunt MS. or the 1832 edition:

    'Horses, oxen, have a home,
    When from daily toil they come;
    Household dogs, when the wind roars,
    Find a home within warm doors.']

    `Asses, swine, have litter spread
    And with fitting food are fed;
    All things have a home but one--
    Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none!

    `This is Slavery -- savage men,
    Or wild beasts within a den
    Would endure not as ye do--
    But such ills they never knew.

    `What art thou Freedom? O! could slaves
    Answer from their living graves
    This demand -- tyrants would flee
    Like a dream's dim imagery:

    `Thou art not, as impostors say,
    A shadow soon to pass away,
    A superstition, and a name
    Echoing from the cave of Fame.

    `For the labourer thou art bread,
    And a comely table spread
    From his daily labour come
    In a neat and happy home.

    `Thou art clothes, and fire, and food
    For the trampled multitude--
    No -- in countries that are free
    Such starvation cannot be
    As in England now we see.

    `To the rich thou art a check,
    When his foot is on the neck
    Of his victim, thou dost make
    That he treads upon a snake.

    `Thou art Justice -- ne'er for gold
    May thy righteous laws be sold
    As laws are in England -- thou
    Shield'st alike the high and low.

    `Thou art Wisdom -- Freemen never
    Dream that God will damn for ever
    All who think those things untrue
    Of which Priests make such ado.

    `Thou art Peace -- never by thee
    Would blood and treasure wasted be
    As tyrants wasted them, when all
    Leagued to quench thy flame in Gaul.

    `What if English toil and blood
    Was poured forth, even as a flood?
    It availed, Oh, Liberty,
    To dim, but not extinguish thee.

    `Thou art Love -- the rich have kissed
    Thy feet, and like him following Christ,
    Give their substance to the free
    And through the rough world follow thee,

    `Or turn their wealth to arms, and make
    War for thy belovèd sake
    On wealth, and war, and fraud--whence they
    Drew the power which is their prey.

    `Science, Poetry, and Thought
    Are thy lamps; they make the lot
    Of the dwellers in a cot
    So serene, they curse it not.

    `Spirit, Patience, Gentleness,
    All that can adorn and bless
    Art thou -- let deeds, not words, express
    Thine exceeding loveliness.

    `Let a great Assembly be
    Of the fearless and the free
    On some spot of English ground
    Where the plains stretch wide around.

    `Let the blue sky overhead,
    The green earth on which ye tread,
    All that must eternal be
    Witness the solemnity.

    `From the corners uttermost
    Of the bonds of English coast;
    From every hut, village, and town
    Where those who live and suffer moan
    For others' misery or their own.

  8. [The following cancelled stanza is in the Wise MS:

    'From the cities where from caves,
    Like the dead from putrid graves,
    Troops of starvelings gliding come,
    Living Tenants of a tomb.']

    `From the workhouse and the prison
    Where pale as corpses newly risen,
    Women, children, young and old
    Groan for pain, and weep for cold--

    `From the haunts of daily life
    Where is waged the daily strife
    With common wants and common cares
    Which sows the human heart with tares--

    `Lastly from the palaces
    Where the murmur of distress
    Echoes, like the distant sound
    Of a wind alive around

    `Those prison halls of wealth and fashion,
    Where some few feel such compassion
    For those who groan, and toil, and wail
    As must make their brethren pale--

    `Ye who suffer woes untold,
    Or to feel, or to behold
    Your lost country bought and sold
    With a price of blood and gold--

    `Let a vast assembly be,
    And with great solemnity
    Declare with measured words that ye
    Are, as God has made ye, free--

    `Be your strong and simple words
    Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
    And wide as targes let them be,
    With their shade to cover ye.

    `Let the tyrants pour around
    With a quick and startling sound,
    Like the loosening of a sea,
    Troops of armed emblazonry.

    `Let the charged artillery drive
    Till the dead air seems alive
    With the clash of clanging wheels,
    And the tramp of horses' heels.

    `Let the fixèd bayonet
    Gleam with sharp desire to wet
    Its bright point in English blood
    Looking keen as one for food.

    `Let the horsemen's scimitars
    Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
    Thirsting to eclipse their burning
    In a sea of death and mourning.

    `Stand ye calm and resolute,
    Like a forest close and mute,
    With folded arms and looks which are
    Weapons of unvanquished war,

    `And let Panic, who outspeeds
    The career of armèd steeds
    Pass, a disregarded shade
    Through your phalanx undismayed.

    `Let the laws of your own land,
    Good or ill, between ye stand
    Hand to hand, and foot to foot,
    Arbiters of the dispute,

    `The old laws of England -- they
    Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
    Children of a wiser day;
    And whose solemn voice must be
    Thine own echo -- Liberty!

    `On those who first should violate
    Such sacred heralds in their state
    Rest the blood that must ensue,
    And it will not rest on you.

    `And if then the tyrants dare
    Let them ride among you there,
    Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew,--
    What they like, that let them do.

    `With folded arms and steady eyes,
    And little fear, and less surprise,
    Look upon them as they slay
    Till their rage has died away.

    `Then they will return with shame
    To the place from which they came,
    And the blood thus shed will speak
    In hot blushes on their cheek.

    `Every woman in the land
    Will point at them as they stand--
    They will hardly dare to greet
    Their acquaintance in the street.

    `And the bold, true warriors
    Who have hugged Danger in wars
    Will turn to those who would be free,
    Ashamed of such base company.

    `And that slaughter to the Nation
    Shall steam up like inspiration,
    Eloquent, oracular;
    A volcano heard afar.

    `And these words shall then become
    Like Oppression's thundered doom
    Ringing through each heart and brain,
    Heard again -- again -- again--

    `Rise like Lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number--
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you--
    Ye are many -- they are few.'


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