Page:An address to the middle and working classes engaged in trade and manufactures throughout the empire on the necessity of union at the present crisis.djvu/11

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if a twentieth part of the labour which has been expended upon the subject of the Corn-Laws, were bestowed upon the enlightenment of the public mind on this subject, I am convinced that the prejudices with which our education and habits have invested it would speedily vanish; and it would appear, that in an age in which the tendency to universality is so apparent, and the means of information so procurable by all, the democratical principle was at once the most rational and the most safe. This at least is certain, that with reference to the great object of all government, viz: the greatest good of the greatest number, our present Constitution, venerable though it be, is a lamentable failure. There is at least a prima facie case made out for a change, and it is worse than foolish to close our eyes to the fact.

While then, on the one hand I do not expect, as I have already hinted, that the agitation in favour of free trade will be successful, until its advocates take up broader grounds; still, the lower classes ought not to forget that these discussions have done more to further their peculiar views, than any other circumstance whatever. If Complete Suffrage is ever to be obtained by peaceful means, it must be through the co-operation of the middle classes; and the light which has been thrown upon the practical bad working of Class Legislation is fast opening the eyes of the latter to the conviction of the radical defects in our present system of representation. Let, then, the working classes be prepared to receive, with cordiality, any overtures which may be made to them by their employers on this point, without recrimination as to the past, without even too nicely scrutinizing the motives which may have brought about this change of tactics. We must take men as we find them; and it is too much to expect that any class of men, as a class, will put themselves out of the way to confer political power on those beneath them, unless it is plainly their interest so to do—and that this is the interest of the middle classes at the present time, they are, I think, beginning to feel. But on no account must the paramount necessity of organic change be lost sight of; for, though I yield to no man in a conviction of the stupendous mischiefs which the Corn-Laws, &c., inflict upon us all, yet if those laws were repealed to-morrow, I should still maintain that an extension of political rights to all, is the only abiding security for Labour against the aggressions of Wealth and Privilege, in some form or other.

When I review these hasty remarks, put together on the spur of the moment, I feel still more acutely than when I commenced them, that I expose myself, by their publication, to the charge of pre-