Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

Postby admin » Sun May 06, 2018 6:12 am

Part 1 of 2


The year 1877 dawned, and in its early days began a struggle which, ending in victory all along the line, brought with it pain and anguish that I scarcely care to recall. An American physician, Dr. Charles Knowlton, convinced of the truth of the teaching of the Rev. Mr. Malthus, and seeing that that teaching had either no practical value or tended to the great increase of prostitution, unless married people were taught to limit their families within their means of livelihood—wrote a pamphlet on the voluntary limitation of the family. It was published somewhere in the Thirties—about 1835, I think—and was sold unchallenged in England as well as in America for some forty years. Philosophers of the Bentham school, like John Stuart Mill, endorsed its teachings, and the bearing of population on poverty was an axiom in economic literature. Dr. Knowlton's work was a physiological treatise, advocating conjugal prudence and parental responsibility; it argued in favour of early marriage, with a view to the purity of social life; but as early marriage between persons of small means generally implies a large family, leading either to pauperism or to lack of necessary food, clothing, education, and fair start in life for the children, Dr. Knowlton advocated the restriction of the number of the family within the means of subsistence, and stated the methods by which this restriction could be carried out. The book was never challenged till a disreputable Bristol bookseller put some copies on sale to which he added some improper pictures, and he was prosecuted and convicted. The publisher of the National Reformer and of Mr. Bradlaugh's and my books and pamphlets had taken over a stock of Knowlton's pamphlets among other literature he bought, and he was prosecuted and, to our great dismay, pleaded guilty. We at once removed our publishing from his hands, and after careful deliberation we decided to publish the incriminated pamphlet in order to test the right of discussion on the population question, when, with the advice to limit the family, information was given as to how that advice could be followed. We took a little shop, printed the pamphlet, and sent notice to the police that we would commence the sale at a certain day and hour, and ourselves sell the pamphlet, so that no one else might be endangered by our action. We resigned our offices in the National Secular Society that we might not injure the society, but the executive first, and then the Annual Conference, refused to accept the resignations. Our position as regarded the pamphlet was simple and definite; had it been brought to us for publication, we stated, we should not have published it, for it was not a treatise of high merit; but, prosecuted as immoral because it advised the limitation of the family, it at once embodied the right of publication. In a preface to the republished edition, we wrote:—

"We republish this pamphlet, honestly believing that on all questions affecting the happiness of the people, whether they be theological, political, or social, fullest right of free discussion ought to be maintained at all hazards. We do not personally endorse all that Dr. Knowlton says: his 'Philosophical Proem' seems to us full of philosophical mistakes, and—as we are neither of us doctors—we are not prepared to endorse his medical views; but since progress can only be made through discussion, and no discussion is possible where differing opinions are suppressed, we claim the right to publish all opinions, so that the public, enabled to see all sides of a question, may have the materials for forming a sound judgment."

We were not blind to the danger to which this defiance of the authorities exposed us, but it was not the danger of failure, with the prison as penalty, that gave us pause. It was the horrible misconceptions that we saw might arise; the odious imputations on honour and purity that would follow. Could we, the teachers of a lofty morality, venture to face a prosecution for publishing what would be technically described as an obscene book, and risk the ruin of our future, dependent as that was on our fair fame? To Mr. Bradlaugh it meant, as he felt, the almost certain destruction of his Parliamentary position, the forging by his own hands of a weapon that in the hands of his foes would be well-nigh fatal. To me it meant the loss of the pure reputation I prized, the good name I had guarded—scandal the most terrible a woman could face. But I had seen the misery of the poor, of my sister-women with children crying for bread; the wages of the workmen were often sufficient for four, but eight or ten they could not maintain. Should I set my own safety, my own good name, against the helping of these? Did it matter that my reputation should be ruined, if its ruin helped to bring remedy to this otherwise hopeless wretchedness of thousands? What was worth all my talk about self-sacrifice and self-surrender, if, brought to the test, I failed? So, with heart aching but steady, I came to my resolution; and though I know now that I was wrong intellectually, and blundered in the remedy, I was right morally in the will to sacrifice all to help the poor, and I can rejoice that I faced a storm of obloquy fiercer and harder to bear than any other which can ever touch me again. I learned a lesson of stern indifference to all judgments from without that were not endorsed by condemnation from within. The long suffering that followed was a splendid school for the teaching of endurance.

The day before the pamphlet was put on sale we ourselves delivered copies to the Chief Clerk of the Magistrates at Guildhall, to the officer in charge at the City Police Office in Old Jewry, and to the Solicitor for the City of London. With each pamphlet was a notice that we would attend and sell the book from 4 to 5 p.m. on the following day, Saturday, March 24th. This we accordingly did, and in order to save trouble we offered to attend daily at the shop from 10 to 11 a.m. to facilitate our arrest, should the authorities determine to prosecute. The offer was readily accepted, and after some little delay—during which a deputation from the Christian Evidence Society waited upon Mr. Cross to urge the Tory Government to prosecute us—warrants were issued against us and we were arrested on April 6th. Letters of approval and encouragement came from the most diverse quarters, including among their writers General Garibaldi, the well-known economist, Yves Guyot, the great French constitutional lawyer, Emile Acollas, together with letters literally by the hundred from poor men and women thanking and blessing us for the stand taken. Noticeable were the numbers of letters from clergymen's wives, and wives of ministers of all denominations.

After our arrest we were taken to the police-station in Bridewell Place, and thence to the Guildhall, where Alderman Figgins was sitting, before whom we duly appeared, while in the back of the court waited what an official described as "a regular waggon-load of bail." We were quickly released, the preliminary investigation being fixed for ten days later—April 17th. At the close of the day the magistrate released us on our own recognisances, without bail; and it was so fully seen on all sides that we were fighting for a principle that no bail was asked for during the various stages of the trial. Two days later we were committed for trial at the Central Criminal Court, but Mr. Bradlaugh moved for a writ of certiorari to remove the trial to the Court of Queen's Bench; Lord Chief Justice Cockburn said he would grant the writ if "upon looking at it (the book), we think its object is the legitimate one of promoting knowledge on a matter of human interest," but not if the science were only a cover for impurity, and he directed that copies of the book should be handed in for perusal by himself and Mr. Justice Mellor. Having read the book they granted the writ.

The trial commenced on June 18th before the Lord Chief Justice of England and a special jury, Sir Hardinge Giffard, the Solicitor-General of the Tory Government, leading against us, and we defending ourselves. The Lord Chief Justice "summed up strongly for an acquittal," as a morning paper said; he declared that "a more ill-advised and more injudicious proceeding in the way of a prosecution was probably never brought into a court of justice," and described us as "two enthusiasts who have been actuated by a desire to do good in a particular department of society." He then went on to a splendid statement of the law of population, and ended by praising our straightforwardness and asserting Knowlton's honesty of intention. Every one in court thought that we had won our case, but they had not taken into account the religious and political hatred against us and the presence on the jury of such men as Mr. Walter, of the Times. After an hour and thirty-five minutes of delay the verdict was a compromise: "We are unanimously of opinion that the book in question is calculated to deprave public morals, but at the same time we entirely exonerate the defendants from any corrupt motive in publishing it." The Lord Chief Justice looked troubled, and said that he should have to translate the verdict into one of guilty, and on that some of the jury turned to leave the box, it having been agreed—we heard later from one of them—that if the verdict were not accepted in that form they should retire again, as six of the jury were against convicting us; but the foreman, who was bitterly hostile, jumped at the chance of snatching a conviction, and none of those in our favour had the courage to contradict him on the spur of the moment, so the foreman's "Guilty" passed, and the judge set us free, on Mr. Bradlaugh's recognisances to come up for judgment that day week.

On that day we moved to quash the indictment and for a new trial, partly on a technical ground and partly on the ground that the verdict, having acquitted us of wrong motive, was in our favour, not against us. On this the Court did not agree with us, holding that the part of the indictment alleging corrupt motive was superfluous. Then came the question of sentence, and on this the Lord Chief Justice did his best to save us; we were acquitted of any intent to violate the law; would we submit to the verdict of the jury and promise not to sell the book? No, we would not; we claimed the right to sell, and meant to vindicate it. The judge pleaded, argued, finally got angry with us, and, at last, compelled to pass sentence, he stated that if we would have yielded he would have let us go free without penalty, but that as we would set ourselves against the law, break it and defy it—a sore offence from the judge's point of view—he could only pass a heavy sentence on each of six months' imprisonment, a fine of £200, and recognisances of £500 for two years, and this, as he again repeated, upon the assumption "that they do intend to set the law at defiance." Even despite this he made us first-class misdemeanants. Then, as Mr. Bradlaugh stated that we should move for a writ of error, he liberated us on Mr. Bradlaugh's recognisance for £100, the queerest comment on his view of the case and of our characters, since we were liable jointly to £1,400 under the sentence, to say nothing of the imprisonment. But prison and money penalties vanished into thin air, for the writ of error was granted, proved successful, and the verdict was quashed.

Then ensued a somewhat anxious time. We were resolute to continue selling; were our opponents equally resolved to prosecute us? We could not tell. I wrote a pamphlet entitled "The Law of Population," giving the arguments which had convinced me of its truth, the terrible distress and degradation entailed on families by overcrowding and the lack of the necessaries of life, pleading for early marriages that prostitution might be destroyed, and limitation of the family that pauperism might be avoided; finally, giving the information which rendered early marriage without these evils possible. This pamphlet was put in circulation as representing our view of the subject, and we again took up the sale of Knowlton's. Mr. Bradlaugh carried the war into the enemy's country, and commenced an action against the police for the recovery of some pamphlets they had seized; he carried the action to a successful issue, recovered the pamphlets, bore them off in triumph, and we sold them all with an inscription across them, "Recovered from the police." We continued the sale of Knowlton's tract for some time, until we received an intimation that no further prosecution would be attempted, and on this we at once dropped its publication, substituting for it my "Law of Population."

But the worst part of the fight, for me, was to come. Prosecution of the "Law of Population" was threatened, but never commenced; a worse weapon against me was in store. An attempt had been made in August, 1875, to deprive me of the custody of my little girl by hiding her away when she went on her annual visit of one month to her father, but I had promptly recovered her by threatening to issue a writ of habeas corpus. Now it was felt that the Knowlton trial might be added to the charges of blasphemy that could be urged against me, and that this double-barrelled gun might be discharged with effect. I received notice in January, 1878, that an application was to be made to the High Court of Chancery to deprive me of the child, but the petition was not filed till the following April. Mabel was dangerously ill with scarlet fever at the time, and though this fact was communicated to her father I received a copy of the petition while sitting at her bedside. The petition alleged that, "The said Annie Besant is, by addresses, lectures, and writings, endeavouring to propagate the principles of Atheism, and has published a book entitled 'The Gospel of Atheism.' She has also associated herself with an infidel lecturer and author named Charles Bradlaugh in giving lectures and in publishing books and pamphlets, whereby the truth of the Christian religion is impeached, and disbelief in all religion inculcated."

It further alleged against me the publication of the Knowlton pamphlet, and the writing of the "Law of Population." Unhappily, the petition came for hearing before the then Master of the Rolls, Sir George Jessel, a man animated by the old spirit of Hebrew bigotry, to which he had added the time-serving morality of a "man of the world," sceptical as to all sincerity, and contemptuous of all devotion to an unpopular cause. The treatment I received at his hands on my first appearance in court told me what I had to expect. I had already had some experience of English judges, the stately kindness and gentleness of the Lord Chief Justice, the perfect impartiality and dignified courtesy of the Lords Justices of Appeal. My astonishment, then, can be imagined when, in answer to a statement by Mr. Ince, Q.C., that I appeared in person, I heard a harsh, loud voice exclaim:

"Appear in person? A lady appear in person? Never heard of such a thing! Does the lady really appear in person?"

As the London papers had been full of my appearing in person in the other courts and had contained the high compliments of the Lord Chief Justice on my conduct of my own case, Sir George Jessel's pretended astonishment seemed a little overdone. After a variety of similar remarks delivered in the most grating tones and in the roughest manner, Sir George Jessel tried to obtain his object by browbeating me directly. "Is this the lady?"

"I am the respondent, my lord, Mrs. Besant."

"Then I advise you, Mrs. Besant, to employ counsel to represent you, if you can afford it; and I suppose you can."

"With all submission to your lordship, I am afraid I must claim my right of arguing my case in person."

"You will do so if you please, of course, but I think you had much better appear by counsel. I give you notice that, if you do not, you must not expect to be shown any consideration. You will not be heard by me at any greater length than the case requires, nor allowed to go into irrelevant matter, as persons who argue their own cases usually do."

"I trust I shall not do so, my lord; but in any case I shall be arguing under your lordship's complete control."

This encouraging beginning may be taken as a sample of the case—it was one long fight against clever counsel, aided by a counsel instead of a judge on the bench. Only once did judge and counsel fall out. Mr. Ince and Mr. Bardswell had been arguing that my Atheism and Malthusianism made me an unfit guardian for my child; Mr. Ince declared that Mabel, educated by me, would "be helpless for good in this world," and "hopeless for good hereafter, outcast in this life and damned in the next." Mr. Bardswell implored the judge to consider that my custody of her "would be detrimental to the future prospects of the child in society, to say nothing of her eternal prospects." Had not the matter been to me of such heart-breaking importance, I could have laughed at the mixture of Mrs. Grundy, marriage establishment, and hell, presented as an argument for robbing a mother of her child. But Mr. Bardswell carelessly forgot that Sir George Jessel was a Jew, and lifting eyes to heaven in horrified appeal, he gasped out:

"Your lordship, I think, will scarcely credit it, but Mrs. Besant says, in a later affidavit, that she took away the Testament from the child because it contained coarse passages unfit for a child to read."

The opportunity was too tempting for a Jew to refrain from striking at a book written by apostate Jews, and Sir George Jessel answered sharply:

"It is not true to say there are no passages unfit for a child's reading, because I think there are a great many."

"I do not know of any passages that could fairly be called coarse."

"I cannot quite assent to that."

Barring this little episode judge and counsel showed a charming unanimity. I distinctly said I was an Atheist, that I had withdrawn the child from religious instruction at the day-school she attended, that I had written various anti-Christian books, and so on; but I claimed the child's custody on the ground that the deed of separation distinctly gave it to me, and had been executed by her father after I had left the Christian Church, and that my opinions were not sufficient to invalidate it. It was admitted on the other side that the child was admirably cared for, and there was no attempt at attacking my personal character. The judge stated that I had taken the greatest possible care of the child, but decided that the mere fact of my refusing to give the child religious instruction was sufficient ground for depriving me of her custody. Secular education he regarded as "not only reprehensible, but detestable, and likely to work utter ruin to the child, and I certainly should upon this ground alone decide that this child ought not to remain another day under the care of her mother."

Sir George Jessel denounced also my Malthusian views in a fashion at once so brutal and so untruthful as to facts, that some years later another judge, the senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, declared in a judgment delivered in his own court that there was "no language used by Lord Cockburn which justified the Master of the Rolls in assuming that Lord Cockburn regarded the book as obscene," and that "little weight is to be attached to his opinion on a point not submitted for his decision"; he went on to administer a sharp rebuke for the way in which Sir George Jessel travelled outside the case, and remarked that "abuse, however, of an unpopular opinion, whether indulged in by judges or other people, is not argument, nor can the vituperation of opponents in opinion prove them to be immoral." However, Sir George Jessel was all-powerful in his own court, and he deprived me of my child, refusing to stay the order even until the hearing of my appeal against his decision. A messenger from the father came to my house, and the little child was carried away by main force, shrieking and struggling, still weak from the fever, and nearly frantic with fear and passionate resistance. No access to her was given me, and I gave notice that if access were denied me, I would sue for a restitution of conjugal rights, merely that I might see my children. But the strain had been too great, and I nearly went mad, spending hours pacing up and down the empty rooms, striving to weary myself to exhaustion that I might forget. The loneliness and silence of the house, of which my darling had always been the sunshine and the music, weighed on me like an evil dream; I listened for the patter of the dancing feet, and merry, thrilling laughter that rang through the garden, the sweet music of the childish voice; during my sleepless nights I missed in the darkness the soft breathing of the little child; each morning I longed in vain for the clinging arms and soft, sweet kisses. At last health broke down, and fever struck me, and mercifully gave me the rest of pain and delirium instead of the agony of conscious loss. Through that terrible illness, day after day, Mr. Bradlaugh came to me, and sat writing beside me, feeding me with ice and milk, refused from all others, and behaving more like a tender mother than a man friend; he saved my life, though it seemed to me for awhile of little value, till the first months of lonely pain were over. When recovered, I took steps to set aside an order obtained by Mr. Besant during my illness, forbidding me to bring any suit against him, and even the Master of the Rolls, on hearing that all access had been denied to me, and the money due to me stopped, uttered words of strong condemnation of the way in which I had been treated. Finally the deed of separation executed in 1873 was held to be good as protecting Mr. Besant from any suit brought by me, whether for divorce or for restitution of conjugal rights, while the clauses giving me the custody of the child were set aside. The Court of Appeal in April, 1879, upheld the decision, the absolute right of the father as against a married mother being upheld. This ignoring of all right to her children on the part of the married mother is a scandal and a wrong that has since been redressed by Parliament, and the husband has no longer in his grasp this instrument of torture, whose power to agonise depends on the tenderness and strength of the motherliness of the wife. In the days when the law took my child from me, it virtually said to all women: "Choose which of these two positions, as wife and mother, you will occupy. If you are legally your husband's wife, you can have no legal claim to your children; if legally you are your husband's mistress, your rights as mother are secure." That stigma on marriage is now removed.

One thing I gained in the Court of Appeal. The Court expressed a strong view as to my right of access, and directed me to apply to Sir George Jessel for it, adding that it could not doubt he would grant it. Under cover of this I applied to the Master of the Rolls, and obtained liberal access to the children; but I found that my visits kept Mabel in a continual state of longing and fretting for me, while the ingenious forms of petty insult that were devised against me and used in the children's presence would soon become palpable to them and cause continual pain. So, after a painful struggle with myself, I resolved to give up the right of seeing them, feeling that thus only could I save them from constantly recurring conflict, destructive of all happiness and of all respect for one or the other parent. Resolutely I turned my back on them that I might spare them trouble, and determined that, robbed of my own, I would be a mother to all helpless children I could aid, and cure the pain at my own heart by soothing the pain of others.

As far as regards this whole struggle over the Knowlton pamphlet, victory was finally won all along the line. Not only did we, as related, recover all our seized pamphlets, and continue the sale till all prosecution and threat of prosecution were definitely surrendered; but my own tract had an enormous sale, so that when I withdrew it from sale in June, 1891, I was offered a large sum for the copyright, an offer which I, of course, refused. Since that time not a copy has been sold with my knowledge or permission, but long ere that the pamphlet had received a very complete legal vindication. For while it circulated untouched in England, a prosecution was attempted against it in New South Wales, but was put an end to by an eloquent and luminous judgment by the senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Windmeyer, in December, 1888. This judge, the most respected in the great Australian colony, spoke out plainly and strongly on the morality of such teaching. "Take the case," he said, "of a woman married to a drunken husband, steadily ruining his constitution and hastening to the drunkard's doom, loss of employment for himself, semi-starvation for his family, and finally death, without a shilling to leave those whom he has brought into the world, but armed with the authority of the law to treat his wife as his slave, ever brutally insisting on the indulgence of his marital rights. Where is the immorality, if, already broken in health from unresting maternity, having already a larger family than she can support when the miserable breadwinner has drunk himself to death, the woman avails herself of the information given in this book, and so averts the consequences of yielding to her husband's brutal insistence on his marital rights? Already weighted with a family that she is unable to decently bring up, the immorality, it seems to me, would be in the reckless and criminal disregard of precautions which would prevent her bringing into the world daughters whose future outlook as a career would be prostitution, or sons whose inherited taint of alcoholism would soon drag them down with their sisters to herd with the seething mass of degenerate and criminal humanity that constitutes the dangerous classes of great cities. In all these cases the appeal is from thoughtless, unreasoning prejudice to conscience, and, if listened to, its voice will be heard unmistakably indicating where the path of duty lies."

The judge forcibly refused to be any party to the prohibition of such a pamphlet, regarding it as of high service to the community. He said: "So strong is the dread of the world's censure upon this topic that few have the courage openly to express their views upon it; and its nature is such that it is only amongst thinkers who discuss all subjects, or amongst intimate acquaintances, that community of thought upon the question is discovered. But let any one inquire amongst those who have sufficient education and ability to think for themselves, and who do not idly float, slaves to the current of conventional opinion, and he will discover that numbers of men and women of purest lives, of noblest aspirations, pious, cultivated, and refined, see no wrong in teaching the ignorant that it is wrong to bring into the world children to whom they cannot do justice, and who think it folly to stop short in telling them simply and plainly how to prevent it. A more robust view of morals teaches that it is puerile to ignore human passions and human physiology. A clearer perception of truth and the safety of trusting to it teaches that in law, as in religion, it is useless trying to limit the knowledge of mankind by any inquisitorial attempts to place upon a judicial Index Expurgatorius works written with an earnest purpose, and commending themselves to thinkers of well-balanced minds. I will be no party to any such attempt. I do not believe that it was ever meant that the Obscene Publication Act should apply to cases of this kind, but only to the publication of such matter as all good men would regard as lewd and filthy, to lewd and bawdy novels, pictures and exhibitions, evidently published and given for lucre's sake. It could never have been intended to stifle the expression of thought by the earnest-minded on a subject of transcendent national importance like the present, and I will not strain it for that purpose. As pointed out by Lord Cockburn in the case of the Queen v. Bradlaugh and Besant, all prosecutions of this kind should be regarded as mischievous, even by those who disapprove the opinions sought to be stifled, inasmuch as they only tend more widely to diffuse the teaching objected to. To those, on the other hand, who desire its promulgation, it must be a matter of congratulation that this, like all attempted persecutions of thinkers, will defeat its own object, and that truth, like a torch, 'the more it's shook it shines.'"

The argument of Mr. Justice Windmeyer for the Neo-Malthusian position was (as any one may see who reads the full text of the judgment) one of the most luminous and cogent I have ever read. The judgment was spoken of at the time in the English press as a "brilliant triumph for Mrs. Besant," and so I suppose it was; but no legal judgment could undo the harm wrought on the public mind in England by malignant and persistent misrepresentation. What that trial and its results cost me in pain no one but myself will ever know; on the other hand, there was the passionate gratitude evidenced by letters from thousands of poor married women—many from the wives of country clergymen and curates—thanking and blessing me for showing them how to escape from the veritable hell in which they lived. The "upper classes" of society know nothing about the way in which the poor live; how their overcrowding destroys all sense of personal dignity, of modesty, of outward decency, till human life, as Bishop Fraser justly said, is "degraded below the level of the swine." To such, and among such I went, and I could not grudge the price that then seemed to me as the ransom for their redemption. To me, indeed, it meant the losing of all that made life dear, but for them it seemed to be the gaining of all that gave hope of a better future. So how could I hesitate—I whose heart had been fired by devotion to an ideal Humanity, inspired by that Materialism that is of love and not of hate?
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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

Postby admin » Sun May 06, 2018 6:13 am

Part 2 of 2

And now, in August, 1893, we find the Christian World, the representative organ of orthodox Christian Protestantism, proclaiming the right and the duty of voluntary limitation of the family. In a leading article, after a number of letters had been inserted, it said:—

"The conditions are assuredly wrong which bring one member of the married partnership into a bondage so cruel. It is no less evident that the cause of the bondage in such cases lies in the too rapid multiplication of the family. There was a time when any idea of voluntary limitation was regarded by pious people as interfering with Providence. We are beyond that now, and have become capable of recognising that Providence works through the common sense of individual brains. We limit population just as much by deferring marriage from prudential motives as by any action that may be taken after it.... Apart from certain methods of limitation, the morality of which is gravely questioned by many, there are certain easily-understood physiological laws of the subject, the failure to know and to observe which is inexcusable on the part either of men or women in these circumstances. It is worth noting in this connection that Dr. Billings, in his article in this month's Forum, on the diminishing birth-rate of the United States, gives as one of the reasons the greater diffusion of intelligence, by means of popular and school treatises on physiology, than formerly prevailed."

Thus has opinion changed in sixteen years, and all the obloquy poured on us is seen to have been the outcome of ignorance and bigotry.

As for the children, what was gained by their separation from me? The moment they were old enough to free themselves, they came back to me, my little girl's too brief stay with me being ended by her happy marriage, and I fancy the fears expressed for her eternal future will prove as groundless as the fears for her temporal ruin have proved to be! Not only so, but both are treading in my steps as regards their views of the nature and destiny of man, and have joined in their bright youth the Theosophical Society to which, after so many struggles, I won my way.

The struggle on the right to discuss the prudential restraint of population did not, however, conclude without a martyr. Mr. Edward Truelove, alluded to above, was prosecuted for selling a treatise by Robert Dale Owen on "Moral Physiology," and a pamphlet entitled, "Individual, Family, and National Poverty." He was tried on February 1, 1878, before the Lord Chief Justice in the Court of Queen's Bench, and was most ably defended by Professor W.A. Hunter. The jury spent two hours in considering their verdict, and returned into court and stated that they were unable to agree. The majority of the jury were ready to convict, if they felt sure that Mr. Truelove would not be punished, but one of them boldly declared in court: "As to the book, it is written in plain language for plain people, and I think that many more persons ought to know what the contents of the book are." The jury was discharged, in consequence of this one man's courage, but Mr. Truelove's persecutors—the Vice Society—were determined not to let their victim free. They proceeded to trial a second time, and wisely endeavoured to secure a special jury, feeling that as prudential restraint would raise wages by limiting the supply of labour, they would be more likely to obtain a verdict from a jury of "gentlemen" than from one composed of workers. This attempt was circumvented by Mr. Truelove's legal advisers, who let a procedendo go which sent back the trial to the Old Bailey. The second trial was held on May 16th at the Central Criminal Court before Baron Pollock and a common jury, Professor Hunter and Mr. J.M. Davidson appearing for the defence. The jury convicted, and the brave old man, sixty-eight years of age, was condemned to four months' imprisonment and £50 fine for selling a pamphlet which had been sold unchallenged, during a period of forty-five years, by James Watson, George Jacob Holyoake, Austin Holyoake, and Charles Watts. Mr. Grain, the counsel employed by the Vice Society, most unfairly used against Mr. Truelove my "Law of Population," a pamphlet which contained, Baron Pollock said, "the head and front of the offence in the other [the Knowlton] case." I find an indignant protest against this odious unfairness in the National Reformer for May 19th: "My 'Law of Population' was used against Mr. Truelove as an aggravation of his offence, passing over the utter meanness—worthy only of Collette—of using against a prisoner a book whose author has never been attacked for writing it—does Mr. Collette, or do the authorities, imagine that the severity shown to Mr. Truelove will in any fashion deter me from continuing the Malthusian propaganda? Let me here assure them, one and all, that it will do nothing of the kind; I shall continue to sell the 'Law of Population' and to advocate scientific checks to population, just as though Mr. Collette and his Vice Society were all dead and buried. In commonest justice they are bound to prosecute me, and if they get, and keep, a verdict against me, and succeed in sending me to prison, they will only make people more anxious to read my book, and make me more personally powerful as a teacher of the views which they attack."

A persistent attempt was made to obtain a writ of error in Mr. Truelove's case, but the Tory Attorney-General, Sir John Holker, refused it, although the ground on which it was asked was one of the grounds on which a similar writ had been granted to Mr. Bradlaugh and myself. Mr. Truelove was therefore compelled to suffer his sentence, but memorials, signed by 11,000 persons, asking for his release, were sent to the Home Secretary from every part of the country, and a crowded meeting in St. James's Hall, London, demanded his liberation with only six dissentients. The whole agitation did not shorten Mr. Truelove's sentence by a single day, and he was not released from Coldbath Fields Prison until September 5th. On the 12th of the same month the Hall of Science was crowded with enthusiastic friends, who assembled to do him honour, and he was presented with a beautifully-illuminated address and a purse containing £177 (subsequent subscriptions raised the amount to £197 16s. 6d.).

It is scarcely necessary to say that one of the results of the prosecution was a great agitation throughout the country, and a wide popularisation of Malthusian views. Some huge demonstrations were held in favour of free discussion; on one occasion the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, was crowded to the doors; on another the Star Music Hall, Bradford, was crammed in every corner; on another the Town Hall, Birmingham, had not a seat or a bit of standing-room unoccupied. Wherever we went, separately or together, it was the same story, and not only were Malthusian lectures eagerly attended, and Malthusian literature eagerly bought, but curiosity brought many to listen to our Radical and Freethought lectures, and thousands heard for the first time what Secularism really meant. The Press, both London and provincial, agreed in branding the prosecution as foolish, and it was generally remarked that it resulted only in the wider circulation of the indicted book, and the increased popularity of those who had stood for the right of publication. The furious attacks since made upon us have been made chiefly by those who differ from us in theological creed, and who have found a misrepresentation of our prosecution served them as a convenient weapon of attack. During the last few years public opinion has been gradually coming round to our side, in consequence of the pressure of poverty resulting from widespread depression of trade, and during the sensation caused in 1884 by "The Bitter Cry of Outcast London," many writers in the Daily News—notably Mr. G.R. Sims—boldly alleged that the distress was to a great extent due to the large families of the poor, and mentioned that we had been prosecuted for giving the very knowledge which would bring salvation to the sufferers in our great cities.

Among the useful results of the prosecution was the establishment of the Malthusian League, "to agitate for the abolition of all penalties on the public discussion of the population question," and "to spread among the people, by all practicable means, a knowledge of the law of population, of its consequences, and of its bearing upon human conduct and morals." The first general meeting of the League was held at the Hall of Science on July 26, 1877, and a council of twenty persons was elected, and this council on August 2nd elected Dr. C.R. Drysdale, M.D., President; Mr. Swaagman, Treasurer; Mrs. Besant, Secretary; Mr. Shearer, Assistant-Secretary; and Mr. Hember, Financial Secretary. Since 1877 the League, under the same indefatigable president, has worked hard to carry out its objects; it has issued a large number of leaflets and tracts; it supports a monthly journal, the Malthusian; numerous lectures have been delivered under its auspices in all parts of the country; and it has now a medical branch, into which none but duly qualified medical men and women are admitted, with members in all European countries.

Another result of the prosecution was the accession of "D." to the staff of the National Reformer. This able and thoughtful writer came forward and joined our ranks as soon as he heard of the attack on us, and he further volunteered to conduct the journal during our expected imprisonment. From that time to this—a period of fifteen years—articles from his pen appeared in its columns week by week, and during all that time not one solitary difficulty arose between editors and contributor. In public a trustworthy colleague, in private a warm and sincere friend, "D." proved an unmixed benefit bestowed upon us by the prosecution.

Nor was "D." the only friend brought to us by our foes. I cannot ever think of that time without remembering that the prosecution brought me first into close intimacy with Mrs. Annie Parris—the wife of Mr. Touzeau Parris, the Secretary of the Defence Committee throughout all the fight—a lady who, during that long struggle, and during the, for me, far worse struggle that succeeded it, over the custody of my daughter, proved to me the most loving and sisterly of friends. One or two other friendships which will, I hope, last my life, date from that same time of strife and anxiety.

The amount of money subscribed by the public during the Knowlton and succeeding prosecutions gives some idea of the interest felt in the struggle. The Defence Fund Committee in March, 1878, presented a balance-sheet, showing subscriptions amounting to £1,292 5s. 4d., and total expenditure in the Queen v. Bradlaugh and Besant, the Queen v. Truelove, and the appeal against Mr. Vaughan's order (the last two up to date) of £1,274 10s. This account was then closed and the balance of £17 15s. 4d. passed on to a new fund for the defence of Mr. Truelove, the carrying on of the appeal against the destruction of the Knowlton pamphlet, and the bearing of the costs incident on the petition lodged against myself. In July this new fund had reached £196 16s. 7d., and after paying the remainder of the costs in Mr. Truelove's case, a balance of £26 15s. 2d. was carried on. This again rose to £247 15s. 2½d., and the fund bore the expenses of Mr. Bradlaugh's successful appeal on the Knowlton pamphlet, the petition and subsequent proceedings in which I was concerned in the Court of Chancery, and an appeal on Mr. Truelove's behalf, unfortunately unsuccessful, against an order for the destruction of the Dale Owen pamphlet. This last decision was given on February 21, 1880, and on this the Defence Fund was closed. On Mr. Truelove's release, as mentioned above, a testimonial to the amount of £197 16s. 6d. was presented to him, and after the close of the struggle some anonymous friend sent to me personally £200 as "thanks for the courage and ability shown." In addition to all this, the Malthusian League received no less than £455 11s. 9d. during the first year of its life, and started on its second year with a balance in hand of £77 5s. 8d.

A somewhat similar prosecution in America, in which the bookseller, Mr. D.M. Bennett, sold a book with which he did not agree, and was imprisoned, led to our giving him a warm welcome when, after his release, he visited England. We entertained him at the Hall of Science at a crowded gathering, and I was deputed as spokesman to present him with a testimonial. This I did in the following speech, quoted here in order to show the spirit then animating me:—

"Friends, Mr. Bradlaugh has spoken of the duty that calls us here to-night. It is pleasant to think that in our work that duty is one to which we are not unaccustomed. In our army there are more true soldiers than traitors, more that are faithful to the trust of keeping the truth than those who shrink when the hour of danger comes. And I would ask Mr. Bennett to-night not to measure English feeling towards him by the mere number of those present. They that are here are representatives of many thousands of our fellow-countrymen. Glance down this middle table, and you will see that it is not without some right that we claim to welcome you in the name of multitudes of the citizens of England. There are those who taunt us with want of loyalty, and with the name of infidels. In what church will they find men and women more loyal to truth and conscience? The name infidel is not for us so long as we are faithful to the truth we know. If I speak, as I have done, of national representation in this hall this evening, tell me, you who know those who sit here, who have watched some of them for years, others of them but for a brief time, do I not speak truth? Take them one by one. Your President but a little while ago in circumstances similar to those wherein our guest himself was placed, with the true lover's keenness that recognises the mistress under all disguise, beholding his mistress Liberty in danger, under circumstances that would have blinded less sure eyes, leapt to her rescue. He risked the ambition of his life rather than be disloyal to liberty. And next is seated a woman, who, student of a noble profession, thought that liberty had greater claim upon her than even her work. When we stood in worse peril than even loss of liberty, she risked her own good name for the truth's sake. One also is here who, eminent in his own profession, came with the weight of his position and his right to speak, and gave a kindred testimony. One step further, and you see one who, soldier to liberty, throughout a long and spotless life, when the task was far harder than it is to-day, when there were no greetings, no welcomes, when to serve was to peril name as well as liberty, never flinched from the first until now. He is crowned with the glory of the jail, that was his for no crime but for claiming the right to publish that wherein the noblest thought is uttered in the bravest words. And next to him is another who speaks for liberty, who has brought culture, university degree, position in men's sight, and many friends, and cast them all at her beloved feet. Sir, not alone the past and the present greet you to-night. The future also greets you with us. We have here also those who are training themselves to walk in the footsteps of the one most dear to them, who shall carry on, when we have passed away, the work which we shall have dropped from our hands. But he whom we delight to honour at this hour in truth honours us, in that he allows us to offer him the welcome that it is our glory and our pleasure to give. He has fought bravely. The Christian creed had in its beginning more traitors and less true hearts than the creed of to-day. We are happy to-day not only in the thought of what manner of men we have for leaders, but in the thought of what manner of men we have as soldiers in our army. Jesus had twelve apostles. One betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver; a second denied Him. They all forsook Him and fled. We can scarcely point to one who has thus deserted our sacred cause. The traditions of our party tell us of many who went to jail because they claimed for all that right of free speech which is the heritage of all. One of the most famous members of our body in England, Richard Carlile, turned bookseller to sell books that were prosecuted. This man became Free-thinker, driven thereto by the bigotry and wickedness of the Churches. He sold the books of Hone not because he agreed with them, but because Hone was prosecuted. He saw that the book in whose prosecution freedom was attacked was the book for the freeman to sell; and the story of our guest shows that in all this England and America are one. Those who gave Milton to the world can yet bring forth men of the same stamp in continents leagues asunder. Because our friend was loyal and true, prison had to him no dread. It was far, far less of dishonour to wear the garb of the convict than to wear that of the hypocrite. The society we represent, like his society in America, pleads for free thought, speaks for free speech, claims for every one, however antagonistic, the right to speak the thought he feels. It is better that this should be, even though the thought be wrong, for thus the sooner will its error be discovered—better if the thought be right, for then the sooner does the gladness of a new truth find place in the heart of man. As the mouthpiece, Sir, of our National Secular Society, and of its thousands of members, I speak to you now:—


"'We seek for Truth.'

"'To D.M. Bennett.

"'In asking you to accept at the hands of the National Secular Society of England this symbol of cordial sympathy and brotherly welcome, we are but putting into act the motto of our Society. "We seek for Truth" is our badge, and it is as Truthseeker that we do you homage to-night. Without free speech no search for Truth is possible; without free speech no discovery of Truth is useful; without free speech progress is checked, and the nations no longer march forward towards the nobler life which the future holds for man. Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day; the denial slays the life of the people and entombs the hope of the race.

"'In your own country you have pleaded for free speech, and when, under a wicked and an odious law, one of your fellow-citizens was imprisoned for the publication of his opinions, you, not sharing the opinions but faithful to liberty, sprang forward to defend in him the principle of free speech which you claimed for yourself, and sold his book while he lay in prison. For this act you were in turn arrested and sent to jail, and the country which won its freedom by the aid of Paine in the eighteenth century disgraced itself in the nineteenth by the imprisonment of a heretic. The Republic of the United States dishonoured herself, and not you, in Albany penitentiary. Two hundred thousand of your countrymen pleaded for your release, but bigotry was too strong. We sent you greeting in your captivity; we rejoiced when the time came for your release. We offer you to-night our thanks and our hope—thanks for the heroism which never flinched in the hour of battle, hope for a more peaceful future, in which the memory of a past pain may be a sacred heritage and not a regret.

"'Charles Bradlaugh, President.'

"Soldier of liberty, we give you this. Do in the future the same good service that you have done in the past, and your reward shall be in the love that true men shall bear to you."

That, however, which no force could compel me to do, which I refused to threats of fine and prison, to separation from my children, to social ostracism, and to insults and ignominy worse to bear than death, I surrendered freely when all the struggle was over, and a great part of society and of public opinion had adopted the view that cost Mr. Bradlaugh and myself so dear. I may as well complete the story here, so as not to have to refer to it again. I gave up Neo-Malthusianism in April, 1891, its renunciation being part of the outcome of two years' instruction from Mdme. H.P. Blavatsky, who showed me that however justifiable Neo-Malthusianism might be while man was regarded only as the most perfect outcome of physical evolution, it was wholly incompatible with the view of man as a spiritual being, whose material form and environment were the results of his own mental activity. Why and how I embraced Theosophy, and accepted H.P. Blavatsky as teacher, will soon be told in its proper place. Here I am concerned only with the why and how of my renunciation of the Neo-Malthusian teaching, for which I had fought so hard and suffered so much.

When I built my life on the basis of Materialism I judged all actions by their effect on human happiness in this world now and in future generations, regarding man as an organism that lived on earth and there perished, with activities confined to earth and limited by physical laws. The object of life was the ultimate building-up of a physically, mentally, morally perfect man by the cumulative effects of heredity—mental and moral tendencies being regarded as the outcome of material conditions, to be slowly but surely evolved by rational selection and the transmission to offspring of qualities carefully acquired by, and developed in, parents. The most characteristic note of this serious and lofty Materialism had been struck by Professor W. K. Clifford in his noble article on the "Ethics of Belief."

Taking this view of human duty in regard to the rational co-operation with nature in the evolution of the human race, it became of the first importance to rescue the control of the generation of offspring from mere blind brute passion, and to transfer it to the reason and to the intelligence; to impress on parents the sacredness of the parental office, the tremendous responsibility of the exercise of the creative function. And since, further, one of the most pressing problems for solution in the older countries is that of poverty, the horrible slums and dens into which are crowded and in which are festering families of eight and ten children, whose parents are earning an uncertain 10s., 12s., 15s., and 20s. a week; since an immediate palliative is wanted, if popular risings impelled by starvation are to be avoided; since the lives of men and women of the poorer classes, and of the worst paid professional classes, are one long, heart-breaking struggle "to make both ends meet and keep respectable"; since in the middle class marriage is often avoided, or delayed till late in life, from the dread of the large family, and late marriage is followed by its shadow, the prevalence of vice and the moral and social ruin of thousands of women; for these, and many other reasons, the teaching of the duty of limiting the family within the means of subsistence is the logical outcome of Materialism linked with the scientific view of evolution, and with a knowledge of the physical law, by which evolution is accelerated or retarded. Seeking to improve the physical type, scientific Materialism, it seemed to me, must forbid parentage to any but healthy married couples; it must restrict childbearing within the limits consistent with the thorough health and physical well-being of the mother; it must impose it as a duty never to bring children into the world unless the conditions for their fair nurture and development are present. Regarding it as hopeless, as well as mischievous, to preach asceticism, and looking on the conjunction of nominal celibacy with widespread prostitution as inevitable, from the constitution of human nature, scientific Materialism—quite rationally and logically—advises deliberate restriction of the production of offspring, while sanctioning the exercise of the sexual instinct within the limits imposed by temperance, the highest physical and mental efficiency, the good order and dignity of society, and the self-respect of the individual.

In all this there is nothing which for one moment implies approval of licentiousness, profligacy, unbridled self-indulgence. On the contrary, it is a well-considered and intellectually-defensible scheme of human evolution, regarding all natural instincts as matters for regulation, not for destruction, and seeking to develop the perfectly healthy and well-balanced physical body as the necessary basis for the healthy and well-balanced mind. If the premises of Materialism be true, there is no answer to the Neo-Malthusian conclusions; for even those Socialists who have bitterly opposed the promulgation of Neo-Malthusianism—regarding it as a "red herring intended to draw the attention of the proletariat away from the real cause of poverty, the monopoly of land and capital by a class"—admit that when society is built on the foundation of common property in all that is necessary for the production of wealth, the time will come for the consideration of the population question. Nor do I now see, any more than I saw then, how any Materialist can rationally avoid the Neo-Malthusian position. For if man be the outcome of purely physical causes, it is with these that we must deal in guiding his future evolution. If he be related but to terrestrial existence, he is but the loftiest organism of earth; and, failing to see his past and his future, how should my eyes not have been then blinded to the deep-lying causes of his present woe? I brought a material cure to a disease which appeared to me to be of material origin; but how when the evil came from a subtler source, and its causes lay not on the material plane? How if the remedy only set up new causes for a future evil, and, while immediately a palliative, strengthened the disease itself, and ensured its reappearance in the future? This was the view of the problem set before me by H.P. Blavatsky when she unrolled the story of man, told of his origin and his destiny, showed me the forces that went to the making of man, and the true relation between his past, his present, and his future.

For what is man in the light of Theosophy? He is a spiritual intelligence, eternal and uncreate, treading a vast cycle of human experience, born and reborn on earth millennium after millennium, evolving slowly into the ideal man. He is not the product of matter, but is encased in matter, and the forms of matter with which he clothes himself are of his own making. For the intelligence and will of man are creative forces—not creative ex nihilo, but creative as is the brain of the painter—and these forces are exercised by man in every act of thought. Thus he is ever creating round him thought-forms, moulding subtlest matter into shape by these energies, forms which persist as tangible realities when the body of the thinker has long gone back to earth and air and water. When the time for rebirth into this earth-life comes for the soul these thought-forms, its own progeny, help to form the tenuous model into which the molecules of physical matter are builded for the making of the body, and matter is thus moulded for the new body in which the soul is to dwell, on the lines laid down by the intelligent and volitional life of the previous, or of many previous, incarnations. So does each man create for himself in verity the form wherein he functions, and what he is in his present is the inevitable outcome of his own creative energies in his past. Applying this to the Neo-Malthusian theory, we see in sexual love not only a passion which man has in common with the brute, and which forms, at the present stage of evolution, a necessary part of human nature, but an animal passion that may be trained and purified into a human emotion, which may be used as one of the levers in human progress, one of the factors in human growth. But, instead of this, man in the past has made his intellect the servant of his passions; the abnormal development of the sexual instinct in man—in whom it is far greater and more continuous than in any brute—is due to the mingling with it of the intellectual element, all sexual thoughts, desires, and imaginations having created thought-forms, which have been wrought into the human race, giving rise to a continual demand, far beyond nature, and in marked contrast with the temperance of normal animal life. Hence it has become one of the most fruitful sources of human misery and human degradation, and the satisfaction of its imperious cravings in civilised countries lies at the root of our worst social evils. This excessive development has to be fought against, and the instinct reduced within natural limits, and this will certainly never be done by easy-going self-indulgence within the marital relation any more than by self-indulgence outside it. By none other road than that of self-control and self-denial can men and women now set going the causes which will build for them brains and bodies of a higher type for their future return to earth-life. They have to hold this instinct in complete control, to transmute it from passion into tender and self-denying affection, to develop the intellectual at the expense of the animal, and thus to raise the whole man to the human stage, in which every intellectual and physical capacity shall subserve the purposes of the soul. From all this it follows that Theosophists should sound the note of self-restraint within marriage, and the gradual—for with the mass it cannot be sudden—restriction of the sexual relation to the perpetuation of the race.

Such was the bearing of Theosophical teaching on Neo-Malthusianism, as laid before me by H.P. Blavatsky, and when I urged, out of my bitter knowledge of the miseries endured by the poor, that it surely might, for a time at least, be recommended as a palliative, as a defence in the hands of a woman against intolerable oppression and enforced suffering, she bade me look beyond the moment, and see how the suffering must come back and back with every generation, unless we sought to remove the roots of wrong. "I do not judge a woman," she said, "who has resort to such means of defence in the midst of circumstances so evil, and whose ignorance of the real causes of all this misery is her excuse for snatching at any relief. But it is not for you, an Occultist, to continue to teach a method which you now know must tend to the perpetuation of the sorrow." I felt that she was right, and though I shrank from the decision—for my heart somewhat failed me at withdrawing from the knowledge of the poor, so far as I could, a temporary palliative of evils which too often wreck their lives and bring many to an early grave, worn old before even middle age has touched them—yet the decision was made. I refused to reprint the "Law of Population," or to sell the copyright, giving pain, as I sadly knew, to all the brave and loyal friends who had so generously stood by me in that long and bitter struggle, and who saw the results of victory thrown away on grounds to them inadequate and mistaken! Will it always be, I wonder, in man's climbing upward, that every step must be set on his own heart and on the hearts of those he loves?
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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

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Coming back to my work after my long and dangerous illness, I took up again its thread, heartsick, but with courage unshaken, and I find myself in the National Reformer for September 15, 1878, saying in a brief note of thanks that "neither the illness nor the trouble which produced it has in any fashion lessened my determination to work for the cause." In truth, I plunged into work with added vigour, for only in that did I find any solace, but the pamphlets written at this time against Christianity were marked with considerable bitterness, for it was Christianity that had robbed me of my child, and I struck mercilessly at it in return. In the political struggles of that time, when the Beaconsfield Government was in full swing, with its policy of annexation and aggression, I played my part with tongue and pen, and my articles in defence of an honest and liberty-loving policy in India, against the invasion of Afghanistan and other outrages, laid in many an Indian heart a foundation of affection for me, and seem to me now as a preparation for the work among Indians to which much of my time and thought to-day are given. In November of this same year (1878) I wrote a little book on "England, India, and Afghanistan" that has brought me many a warm letter of thanks, and with this, the carrying on of the suit against Mr. Besant before alluded to, two and often three lectures every Sunday, to say nothing of the editorial work on the National Reformer, the secretarial work on the Malthusian League, and stray lectures during the week, my time was fairly well filled. But I found that in my reading I developed a tendency to let my thoughts wander from the subject in hand, and that they would drift after my lost little one, so I resolved to fill up the gaps in my scientific education, and to amuse myself by reading up for some examinations; I thought it would serve as an absorbing form of recreation from my other work, and would at the same time, by making my knowledge exact, render me more useful as a speaker on behalf of the causes to which my life was given.

At the opening of the new year (1879) I met for the first time a man to whom I subsequently owed much in this department of work—Edward B. Aveling, a D.Sc. of London University, and a marvellously able teacher of scientific subjects, the very ablest, in fact, that I have ever met. Clear and accurate in his knowledge, with a singular gift for lucid exposition, enthusiastic in his love of science, and taking vivid pleasure in imparting his knowledge to others, he was an ideal teacher. This young man, in January, 1879, began writing under initials for the National Reformer, and in February I became his pupil, with the view of matriculating in June at the London University, an object which was duly accomplished. And here let me say to any one in mental trouble, that they might find an immense relief in taking up some intellectual recreation of this kind; during that spring, in addition to my ordinary work of writing, lecturing, and editing—and the lecturing meant travelling from one end of England to the other—I translated a fair-sized French volume, and had the wear-and-tear of pleading my case for the custody of my daughter in the Court of Appeal, as well as the case before the Master of the Rolls; and I found it the very greatest relief to turn to algebra, geometry, and physics, and forget the harassing legal struggles in wrestling with formulae and problems. The full access I gained to my children marked a step in the long battle of Freethinkers against disabilities, for, as noted in the National Reformer by Mr. Bradlaugh, it was "won with a pleading unequalled in any case on record for the boldness of its affirmation of Freethought," a pleading of which he generously said that it deserved well of the party as "the most powerful pleading for freedom of opinion to which it has ever been our good fortune to listen."

In the London Daily News some powerful letters of protest appeared, one from Lord Harberton, in which he declared that "the Inquisition acted on no other principle" than that applied to me; and a second from Mr. Band, in which he sarcastically observed that "this Christian community has for some time had the pleasure of seeing her Majesty's courts repeatedly springing engines of torture upon a young mother—a clergyman's wife who dared to disagree with his creed—and her evident anguish, her long and expensive struggles to save her child, have proved that so far as heretical mothers are concerned modern defenders of the faith need not envy the past those persuasive instruments which so long secured the unity of the Church. In making Mrs. Besant an example, the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice James have been careful not to allow any of the effect to be lost by confusion of the main point—the intellectual heresy—with side questions. There was a Malthusian matter in the case, but the judges were very clear in stating that without any reference whatever to that, they would simply, on the ground of Mrs. Besant's 'religious, or anti-religious, opinions,' take her child from her." The great provincial papers took a similar tone, the Manchester Examiner going so far as to say of the ruling of the judges: "We do not say they have done so wrongly. We only say that the effect of their judgment is cruel, and it shows that the holding of unpopular opinions is, in the eye of the law, an offence which, despite all we had thought to the contrary, may be visited with the severest punishment a woman and a mother can be possibly called on to bear." The outcome of all this long struggle and of another case of sore injustice—in which Mrs. Agar-Ellis, a Roman Catholic, was separated from her children by a judicial decision obtained against her by her husband, a Protestant—was a change in the law which had vested all power over the children in the hands of the father, and from thenceforth the rights of the married mother were recognised to a limited extent. A small side-fight was with the National Sunday League, the president of which, Lord Thurlow, strongly objected to me as one of the vice-presidents. Mr. P.A. Taylor and others at once resigned their offices, and, on the calling of a general meeting, Lord Thurlow was rejected as president. Mr. P.A. Taylor was requested to assume the presidency, and the vice-presidents who had resigned were, with myself, re-elected. Little battles of this sort were a running accompaniment of graver struggles during all these battling years.

And through all the struggles the organised strength of the Freethought party grew, 650 new members being enrolled in the National Secular Society in the year 1878-79, and in July, 1879, the public adhesion of Dr. Edward B. Aveling brought into the ranks a pen of rare force and power, and gave a strong impulse to the educational side of our movement. I presided for him at his first lecture at the Hall of Science on August 10, 1879, and he soon paid the penalty of his boldness, finding himself, a few months later, dismissed from the Chair of Comparative Anatomy at the London Hospital, though the Board admitted that all his duties were discharged with punctuality and ability. One of the first results of his adhesion was the establishment of two classes under the Science and Art Department at South Kensington, and these grew year after year, attended by numbers of young men and women, till in 1883 we had thirteen classes in full swing, as well as Latin, and London University Matriculation classes; all these were taught by Dr. Aveling and pupils that he had trained. I took advanced certificates, one in honours, and so became qualified as a science teacher in eight different sciences, and Alice and Hypatia Bradlaugh followed a similar course, so that winter after winter we kept these classes going from September to the following May, from 1879 until the year 1888. In addition to these Miss Bradlaugh carried on a choral union.

Personally I found that this study and teaching together with attendance at classes held for teachers at South Kensington, the study for passing the First B.Sc. and Prel. Sc. Examinations at London University, and the study for the B.Sc. degree at London, at which I failed in practical chemistry three times—a thing that puzzled me not a little at the time, as I had passed a far more difficult practical chemical examination for teachers at South Kensington—all this gave me a knowledge of science that has stood me in good stead in my public work. But even here theological and social hatred pursued me.

When Miss Bradlaugh and myself applied for permission to attend the botany class at University College, we were refused, I for my sins, and she only for being her father's daughter; when I had qualified as teacher, I stood back from claiming recognition from the Department for a year in order not to prejudice the claims of Mr. Bradlaugh's daughters, and later, when I had been recognised, Sir Henry Tyler in the House of Commons attacked the Education Department for accepting me, and actually tried to prevent the Government grant being paid to the Hall of Science Schools because Dr. Aveling, the Misses Bradlaugh, and myself were unbelievers in Christianity. When I asked permission to go to the Botanical Gardens in Regent's Park the curator refused it, on the ground that his daughters studied there. On every side repulse and insult, hard to struggle against, bitter to bear. It was against difficulties of this kind on every side that we had to make our way, handicapped in every effort by our heresy. Let our work be as good as it might—and our Science School was exceptionally successful—the subtle fragrance of heresy was everywhere distinguishable, and when Mr. Bradlaugh and myself are blamed for bitterness in our anti-Christian advocacy, this constant gnawing annoyance and petty persecution should be taken into account. For him it was especially trying, for he saw his daughters—girls of ability and of high character, whose only crime was that they were his—insulted, sneered at, slandered, continually put at a disadvantage, because they were his children and loved and honoured him beyond all others.

It was in October, 1879, that I first met Herbert Burrows, though I did not become intimately acquainted with him till the Socialist troubles of the autumn of 1887 drew us into a common stream of work. He came as a delegate from the Tower Hamlets Radical Association to a preliminary conference, called by Mr. Bradlaugh, at the Hall of Science, on October 11th, to consider the advisability of holding a great London Convention on Land Law Reform, to be attended by delegates from all parts of the kingdom. He was appointed on the Executive Committee with Mr. Bradlaugh, Mr. Mottershead, Mr. Nieass, and others. The Convention was successfully held, and an advanced platform of Land Law Reform adopted, used later by Mr. Bradlaugh as a basis for some of the proposals he laid before Parliament.
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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

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And now dawned the year 1880, the memorable year in which commenced Mr. Bradlaugh's long Parliamentary battle. After a long and bitter struggle he was elected, with Mr. Labouchere, as member for Northampton, at the general election, and so the prize so long fought for was won. Shall I ever forget that election day, April 2, 1880? How at four o'clock Mr. Bradlaugh came into the room at the "George", where his daughters and I were sitting, flung himself into a chair with, "There's nothing more to do; our last man is polled." Then the waiting for the declaration through the long, weary hours of suspense, till as the time drew near we knelt by the window listening—listening to the hoarse murmur of the crowd, knowing that presently there would be a roar of triumph or a howl of anger when the numbers were read out from the steps of the Town Hall. And now silence sank, and we knew the moment had come, and we held our breath, and then—a roar, a wild roar of joy and exultation, cheer after cheer, ringing, throbbing, pealing, and then the mighty surge of the crowd bringing him back, their member at last, waving hats, handkerchiefs, a very madness of tumultuous delight, and the shrill strains of "Bradlaugh for Northampton!" with a ring of triumph in them they had never had before. And he, very grave, somewhat shaken by the outpour of love and exultation, very silent, feeling the weight of new responsibility more than the gladness of victory. And then the next morning, as he left the town, the mass of men and women, one sea of heads from hotel to station, every window crowded, his colours waving everywhere, men fighting to get near him, to touch him, women sobbing, the cries, "Our Charlie, our Charlie; we've got you and we'll keep you." How they loved him, how they joyed in the triumph won after twelve years of strife. Ah me! we thought the struggle over, and it was only beginning; we thought our hero victorious, and a fiercer, crueller fight lay in front. True, he was to win that fight, but his life was to be the price of the winning; victory for him was to be final, complete, but the laurel-wreath was to fall upon a grave.

From a photograph by T. Westley, 57, Vernon Street, Northampton.

The outburst of anger from the more bigoted of the Christian community was as savage as the outburst of delight had been exultant, but we recked little of it. Was he not member, duly elected, without possibility of assailment in his legal right? Parliament was to meet on April 29th, the swearing-in beginning on the following day, and Mr. Bradlaugh had taken counsel with some other Freethinking members as to the right of Freethinkers to affirm. He held that under the Act 29 and 30 Vict. c. 19, and the Evidence Amendment Acts 1869 and 1870, the right to substitute affirmation for oath was clear; he was willing to take the oath as a necessary form if obligatory, but, believing it to be optional, he preferred affirmation. On May 3rd he presented himself and, according to the evidence of Sir Erskine May, the Clerk of the House, given before the second Select Committee on his case, he "came to the table and delivered the following statement in writing to the Clerk: 'To the Right Honourable the Speaker of the House of Commons. I, the undersigned, Charles Bradlaugh, beg respectfully to claim to be allowed to affirm, as a person for the time being by law permitted to make a solemn affirmation or declaration, instead of taking an oath. (Signed) Charles Bradlaugh.' And being asked by the Clerk upon what grounds he claimed to make an affirmation, he answered: 'By virtue of the Evidence Amendment Acts, 1869 and 1870.' Whereupon the Clerk reported to Mr. Speaker" the claim, and Mr. Speaker told Mr. Bradlaugh that he might address the House on the matter. "Mr. Bradlaugh's observations were very short. He repeated that he relied upon the Evidence Further Amendment Act, 1869, and the Evidence Amendment Act, 1870, adding: 'I have repeatedly, for nine years past, made an affirmation in the highest courts of jurisdiction in this realm. I am ready to make such a declaration or affirmation.' Substantially those were the words which he addressed to the Speaker." This was the simple, quiet, and dignified scene which took place in the House. Mr. Bradlaugh was directed to withdraw, and he withdrew, and, after debate, a Select Committee was appointed to consider whether he could make affirmation; that Committee decided against the claim, and gave in its report on May 20th. On the following day Mr. Bradlaugh presented himself at the table of the House to take the oath in the form prescribed by the law, and on the objection of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, who submitted a motion that he should not be allowed to take the oath, another Committee was appointed.

Before this Committee Mr. Bradlaugh stated his case, and pointed out that the legal obligation lay on him to take the oath, adding: "Any form that I went through, any oath that I took, I should regard as binding upon my conscience in the fullest degree. I would go through no form, I would take no oath, unless I meant it to be so binding." He wrote in the same sense to the Times, saying that he should regard himself "as bound, not by the letter of its words, but by the spirit which the affirmation would have conveyed, had I been permitted to use it." The Committee reported against him, and on June 23rd he was heard at the Bar of the House, and made a speech so self-restrained, so noble, so dignified, that the House, in defiance of all its own rules, broke out over and over again into applause. In the debate that preceded his speech, members had lost sight of the ordinary rules of decency, and had used expressions against myself wholly gratuitous in such a quarrel; the grave rebuke to him who "was wanting in chivalry, because, while I can answer for myself and am able to answer for myself, nothing justified the introduction of any other name beside my own to make prejudice against me," brought irrepressible cheers. His appeal was wholly to the law. "I have not yet used—I trust no passion may tempt me into using—any words that would seem to savour of even a desire to enter into conflict with this House. I have always taught, preached, and believed the supremacy of Parliament, and it is not because for a moment the judgment of one Chamber of Parliament should be hostile to me that I am going to deny the ideas I have always held; but I submit that one Chamber of Parliament—even its grandest Chamber, as I have always held this to be—had no right to override the law. The law gives me the right to sign that roll, to take and subscribe the oath, and to take my seat there [with a gesture towards the benches]. I admit that the moment I am in the House, without any reason but your own good will, you can send me away. That is your right. You have full control over your members. But you cannot send me away until I have been heard in my place, not a suppliant as I am now, but with the rightful audience that each member has always had.... I am ready to admit, if you please, for the sake of argument, that every opinion I hold is wrong and deserves punishment. Let the law punish it. If you say the law cannot, then you admit that you have no right, and I appeal to public opinion against the iniquity of a decision which overrides the law and denies me justice. I beg your pardon, sir, and that of the House too, if in this warmth there seems to lack respect for its dignity. And as I shall have, if your decision be against me, to come to that table when your decision is given, I beg you, before the step is taken in which we may both lose our dignity—mine is not much, but yours is that of the Commons of England—I beg you, before the gauntlet is fatally thrown, I beg you, not in any sort of menace, not in any sort of boast, but as one man against six hundred, to give me that justice which on the other side of this hall the judges would give me, were I pleading there before them."

But no eloquence, no plea for justice, could stay the tide of Tory and religious bigotry, and the House voted that he should not be allowed to take the oath. Summoned to the table to hear the decision communicated by the Speaker, he answered that decision with the words firmly spoken: "I respectfully refuse to obey the order of the House, because that order was against the law." The Speaker appealed to the House for direction, and on a division—during which the Speaker and Charles Bradlaugh were left together in the chamber—the House ordered the enforcement of Mr. Bradlaugh's withdrawal. Once more the order is given, once more the refusal made, and then the Serjeant-at-Arms was bidden to remove him. Strange was the scene as little Captain Cosset walked up to the member of Herculean proportions, and men wondered how the order would be enforced; but Charles Bradlaugh was not the man to make a vulgar brawl, and the light touch on his shoulder was to him the touch of an authority he admitted and to which he bowed. So he gravely accompanied his small captor, and was lodged in the Clock Tower of the House as prisoner until the House should further consider what to do with him—the most awkward prisoner it had ever had, in that in his person it was imprisoning the law.

In a special issue of the National Reformer, giving an account of the Committee's work and of Mr. Bradlaugh's committal to the Clock Tower, I find the following from my own pen: "The Tory party, beaten at the polls by the nation, has thus, for the moment, triumphed in the House of Commons. The man chosen by the Radicals of Northampton has been committed to prison on the motion of the Tory ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, simply because he desires to discharge the duty laid upon him by his constituency and by the law of the land. As this paper goes to press, I go to Westminster to receive from him his directions as to the conduct of the struggle with the nation into which the House of Commons has so recklessly plunged." I found him busily writing, prepared for all events, ready for a long imprisonment. On the following day a leaflet from my pen, "Law Makers and Law Breakers," appealed to the people; after reciting what had happened, it concluded: "Let the people speak. Gladstone and Bright are for Liberty, and the help denied them within the House must come to them from without. No time must be lost. While we remain idle, a representative of the people is illegally held in prison. Northampton is insulted, and in this great constituency every constituency is threatened. On freedom of election depends our liberty; on freedom of conscience depends our progress. Tory squires and lordlings have defied the people and measured their strength against the masses. Let the masses speak." But there was no need to make appeals, for the outrage itself caused so swiftly a growl of anger that on the very next day the prisoner was set free, and there came protest upon protest against the high-handed action of the House. In Westminster Hall 4,000 people gathered to cheer Mr. Bradlaugh when he came to the House on the day after his liberation. In less than a week 200 meetings had thundered out their protest. Liberal associations, clubs, societies, sent up messages of anger and of demand for justice. In Trafalgar Square there gathered—so said the papers—the largest crowd ever seen there, and on the Thursday following—the meeting was held on Monday—the House of Commons rescinded its resolution, refusing to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to affirm, and admitted him on Friday, July 2nd, to take his seat after affirmation. "At last the bitter struggle is over," I wrote, "and law and right have triumphed. The House of Commons has, by rescinding the resolution passed by Tories and Ultramontanes, re-established its good name in the eyes of the world. The triumph is not one of Freethought over Christianity, nor is it over the House of Commons; it is the triumph of law, brought about by good men—of all shades of opinion, but of one faith in justice—over Tory contempt of law and Ultramontane bigotry. It is the reassertion of civil and religious liberty under the most difficult circumstances, the declaration that the House of Commons is the creation of the people, and not a club of the aristocracy with the right of blackballing in its own hands."

The battle between Charles Bradlaugh and his persecutors was now transferred to the law courts. As soon as he had taken his seat he was served with a writ for having voted without having taken the oath, and this began the wearisome proceedings by which his defeated enemies boasted that they would make him bankrupt, and so vacate the seat he had so hardly gained. Rich men like Mr. Newdegate sued him, putting forward a man of straw as nominal plaintiff; for many a weary month Mr. Bradlaugh kept all his enemies at bay, fighting each case himself; defeated time after time, he fought on, finally carrying the cases to the House of Lords, and there winning them triumphantly. But they were won at such heavy cost of physical strength and of money, that they undermined his strength and burdened him heavily with debt. For all this time he had not only to fight in the law courts and to attend scrupulously to his Parliamentary duties, but he had to earn his living by lecturing and writing, so that his nights away from the House were spent in travelling and his days in incessant labour. Many of his defeated foes turned their weapons against me, hoping thus to give him pain; thus Admiral Sir John Hay, at Wigton, used language of me so coarse that the Scotsman and Glasgow Herald refused to print it, and the editor of the Scotsman described it as "language so coarse that it could have hardly dropped from a yahoo." August 25th found me at Brussels, whither I went, with Miss Hypatia Bradlaugh, to represent the English Freethinkers at the International Freethought Conference. It was an interesting gathering, attended by men of world-wide reputation, including Dr. Ludwig Büchner, a man of noble and kindly nature. An International Federation of Freethinkers was there founded, which did something towards bringing together the Freethinkers of different countries, and held interesting congresses in the following years in London and Amsterdam; but beyond these meetings it did little, and lacked energy and vitality. In truth, the Freethought party in each country had so much to do in holding its own that little time and thought could be given to international organisation. For myself, my introduction to Dr. Büchner, led to much interesting correspondence, and I translated, with his approval, his "Mind in Animals," and the enlarged fourteenth edition of "Force and Matter," as well as one or two pamphlets. This autumn of 1880 found the so-called Liberal Government in full tilt against the Irish leaders, and I worked hard to raise English feeling in defence of Irish freedom even against attack by one so much honoured as was Mr. Gladstone. It was uphill work, for harsh language had been used against England and all things English, but I showed by definite figures—all up and down England—that life and property were far safer in Ireland than in England, that Ireland was singularly free from crime save in agrarian disputes, and I argued that these would disappear if the law should step in between landlord and tenant, and by stopping the crimes of rack-renting and most brutal eviction, put an end to the horrible retaliations that were born of despair and revenge. A striking point on these evictions I quoted from Mr. T.P. O'Connor, who, using Mr. Gladstone's words that a sentence of eviction was a sentence of starvation, told of 15,000 processes of eviction issued in that one year. The autumn's work was varied by the teaching of science classes, a debate with a clergyman of the Church of England, and an operation which kept me in bed for three weeks, but which, on the other hand, was useful, for I learned to write while lying on my back, and accomplished in this fashion a good part of the translation of "Mind in Animals."

And here let me point a moral about hard work. Hard work kills no one. I find a note in the National Reformer in 1880 from the pen of Mr. Bradlaugh: "It is, we fear, useless to add that, in the judgment of her best friends, Mrs. Besant has worked far too hard during the last two years." This is 1893, and the thirteen years' interval has been full of incessant work, and I am working harder than ever now, and in splendid health. Looking over the National Reformer for all these years, it seems to me that it did really fine educational work; Mr. Bradlaugh's strenuous utterances on political and theological matters; Dr. Aveling's luminous and beautiful scientific teachings; and to my share fell much of the educative work on questions of political and national morality in our dealings with weaker nations. We put all our hearts into our work, and the influence exercised was distinctly in favour of pure living and high thinking.

In the spring of 1881 the Court of Appeal decided against Mr. Bradlaugh's right to affirm as Member of Parliament, and his seat was declared vacant, but he was at once returned again by the borough of Northampton, despite the virulence of slander directed against him, so that he rightly described the election as "the most bitter I have ever fought." His work in the House had won him golden opinions in the country, and he was already recognised as a power there; so Tory fear was added to bigoted hatred, and the efforts to keep him out of the House were increased.

He was introduced to the House as a new member to take his seat by Mr. Labouchere and Mr. Burt, but Sir Stafford Northcote intervened, and after a lengthy debate, which included a speech from Mr. Bradlaugh at the Bar, a majority of thirty-three refused to allow him to take the oath. After a prolonged scene, during which Mr. Bradlaugh declined to withdraw and the House hesitated to use force, the House adjourned, and finally the Government promised to bring in an Affirmation Bill, and Mr. Bradlaugh promised, with the consent of his constituents, to await the decision of the House on this Bill. Meantime, a League for the Defence of Constitutional Rights was formed, and the agitation in the country grew: wherever Mr. Bradlaugh went to speak vast crowds awaited him, and he travelled from one end of the country to the other, the people answering his appeal for justice with no uncertain voice. On July 2nd, in consequence of Tory obstruction, Mr. Gladstone wrote to Mr. Bradlaugh that the Government were going to drop the Affirmation Bill, and Mr. Bradlaugh thereupon determined to present himself once more in the House, and fixed on August 3rd as the date of such action, so that the Irish Land Bill might get through the House ere any delay in business was caused by him. The House was then closely guarded with police; the great gates were closed, reserves of police were packed in the law courts, and all through July this state of siege continued. On August 2nd there was a large meeting in Trafalgar Square, at which delegates were present from all parts of England, and from as far north as Edinburgh, and on Wednesday, August 3rd, Mr. Bradlaugh went down to the House. His last words to me were: "The people know you better than they know any one, save myself; whatever happens, mind, whatever happens, let them do no violence; I trust to you to keep them quiet." He went to the House entrance with Dr. Aveling, and into the House alone. His daughters and I went together, and with some hundreds of others carrying petitions—ten only with each petition, and the ten rigidly counted and allowed to pass through the gate, sufficiently opened to let one through at a time—reached Westminster Hall, where we waited on the steps leading to the passage of the lobby.

An inspector ordered us off. I gently intimated that we were within our rights. Dramatic order: "Four officers this way." Up they marched and looked at us, and we looked at them. "I think you had better consult Inspector Denning before you use violence," I remarked placidly. They thought they had, and in a few moments up came the inspector, and seeing that we were standing in a place where we had a right to be, and were doing no harm, he rebuked his over-zealous subordinates, and they retired and left us in peace. A man of much tact and discretion was Inspector Denning. Indeed, all through this, the House of Commons police behaved admirably well. Even in the attack they were ordered to make on Mr. Bradlaugh, the police used as little violence as they could. It was Mr. Erskine, the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms, and his ushers, who showed the brutality; as Dr. Aveling wrote at the time: "The police disliked their work, and, as brave men, had a sympathy for a brave man. Their orders they obeyed rigidly. This done, they were kindness itself." Gradually the crowd of petitioners grew and grew; angry murmurs were heard, for no news came from the House, and they loved "Charlie," and were mostly north country men, sturdy and independent. They thought they had a right to go into the lobby, and suddenly, with the impulse that will sway a crowd to a single action there was a roar, "Petition, petition, justice, justice," and they surged up the steps, charging at the policemen who held the door. Flashed into my mind my chief's charge, his words, "I trust to you to keep them quiet," and as the police sprang forward to meet the crowd I threw myself between them, with all the advantage of the position of the top of the steps that I had chosen, so that every man in the charging crowd saw me, and as they checked themselves in surprise I bade them stop for his sake, and keep for him the peace which he had bade us should not be broken. I heard afterwards that as I sprang forward the police laughed—they must have thought me a fool to face the rush of the charging men; but I knew his friends would never trample me down, and as the crowd stopped the laugh died out, and they drew back and left me my own way.

Sullenly the men drew back, mastering themselves with effort, reining in their wrath, still for his sake. Ah! had I known what was going on inside, would I have kept his trust unbroken! and, as many a man said to me afterwards in northern towns, "Oh! if you had let us go we would have carried him into the House up to the Speaker's chair." We heard a crash inside, and listened, and there was sound of breaking glass and splintering wood, and in a few minutes a messenger came to me: "He is in Palace Yard." And we went thither and saw him standing, still and white, face set like marble, coat torn, motionless, as though carved in stone, facing the members' door. Now we know the whole shameful story: how as that one man stood alone, on his way to claim his right, alone so that he could do no violence, fourteen men, said the Central News, police and ushers, flung themselves upon him, pushed and pulled him down the stairs, smashing in their violence the glass and wood of the passage door; how he struck no blow, but used only his great strength in passive resistance—" Of all I have ever seen, I never saw one man struggle with ten like that," said one of the chiefs, angrily disdainful of the wrong he was forced to do—till they flung him out into Palace Yard. An eye-witness thus reported the scene in the Press: "The strong, broad, heavy, powerful frame of Mr. Bradlaugh was hard to move, with its every nerve and muscle strained to resist the coercion. Bending and straining against the overpowering numbers, he held every inch with surprising tenacity, and only surrendered it after almost superhuman exertions to retain it. The sight—little of it as was seen from the outside—soon became sickening. The overborne man appeared almost at his last gasp. The face, in spite of the warmth of the struggle, had an ominous pallor. The limbs barely sustained him.... The Trafalgar Square phrase that this man might be broken but not bent occurred to minds apprehensive at the present appearance of him."

They flung him out, and swift, short words were there interchanged. "I nearly did wrong at the door," he said afterwards, "I was very angry. I said to Inspector Denning, 'I shall come again with force enough to overcome it,' He said, 'When?' I said, 'Within a minute if I raise my hand.'" He stood in Palace Yard, and there outside the gate was a vast sea of heads, the men who had journeyed from all parts of England for love of him, and in defence of the great right he represented of a constituency to send to Parliament the man of its choice. Ah! he was never greater than in that moment of outrage and of triumphant wrong; with all the passion of a proud man surging within him, insulted by physical violence, injured by the cruel wrenching of all his muscles—so that for weeks his arms had to be swathed in bandages—he was never greater than when he conquered his own wrath, crushed down his own longing for battle, stirred to flame by the bodily struggle, and the bodily injury, and with thousands waiting within sound of his voice, longing to leap to his side, he gave the word to tell them to meet him that evening away from the scene of conflict, and meanwhile to disperse quietly, "no riot, no disorder." But how he suffered mentally no words of mine may tell, and none can understand how it wrung his heart who does not know how he reverenced the great Parliament of England, how he honoured law, how he believed in justice being done; it was the breaking down of his national ideals, of his pride in his country, of his belief that faith would be kept with a foe by English gentlemen, who with all their faults, he thought, held honour and chivalry dear. "No man will sleep in gaol for me to-night," he said to me that day; "no woman can blame me for her husband killed or wounded, but—" A wave of agony swept over his face, and from that fatal day Charles Bradlaugh was never the same man. Some hold their ideals lightly, but his heart-strings were twined round his; some care little for their country—he was an Englishman, law-abiding, liberty-loving, to his heart's core, of the type of the seventeenth-century patriot, holding England's honour dear. It was the treachery that broke his heart; he had gone alone, believing in the honour of his foes, ready to submit to expulsion, to imprisonment, and it was the latter that he expected; but he never dreamed that, going alone amongst his foes, they would use brutal and cowardly violence, and shame every Parliamentary tradition by personal outrage on a duly-elected member, outrage more worthy of a slum pot-house than of the great Commons House, the House of Hampden and of Vane, the House that had guarded its own from Royal violence, and had maintained its privileges in the teeth of kings.

These stormy scenes brought about a promise of Government aid; Mr. Bradlaugh failed to get any legal redress, as, indeed, he expected to fail, on the ground that the officials of the House were covered by the House's order, but the Government promised to support his claim to his seat during the next session, and thus prevented the campaign against them on which we had resolved. I had solely on my own responsibility organised a great band of people pledged to refrain from the use of all excisable articles after a certain date, and to withdraw all their moneys in the Savings Bank, thus seriously crippling the financial resources of the Government. The response from the workers to my appeal to "Stop the supplies" was great and touching. One man wrote that as he never drank nor smoked he would leave off tea; others that though tobacco was their one luxury, they would forego it; and so on. Somewhat reluctantly, I asked the people to lay aside this formidable weapon, as "we have no right to embarrass the Government financially save when they refuse to do the first duty of a Government to maintain law. They have now promised to do justice, and we must wait." Meanwhile the injuries inflicted on Mr. Bradlaugh, rupturing the sheaths of some of the muscles of the arm, laid him prostrate, and various small fights went on during the temporary truce in the great struggle. I turned up in the House two or three times, haled thither, though not in person, by the people who kept Mr. Bradlaugh out, and a speech of mine became the subject of a question by Mr. Ritchie, while Sir Henry Tyler waged war on the science classes. Another joy was added to life by the use of my name—which by all these struggles had gained a marketable value—as author of pamphlets I had never seen, and this forgery of my name by unscrupulous people in the colonies caused me a good deal of annoyance. In the strengthening of the constitutional agitation in the country, the holding of an International Congress of Freethinkers in London, the studying and teaching of science, the delivering of courses of scientific lectures in the Hall of Science, a sharp correspondence with the Bishop of Manchester, who had libelled Secularists, and which led to a fiery pamphlet, "God's Views on Marriage," as retort—in all these matters the autumn months sped rapidly away. One incident of that autumn I record with regret. I was misled by very partial knowledge of the nature of the experiments performed, and by my fear that if scientific men were forbidden to experiment on animals with drugs they would perforce experiment with them on the poor in hospitals, to write two articles, republished as a pamphlet, against Sir Eardley Wilmot's Bill for the "Total Suppression of Vivisection." I limited my approval to highly skilled men engaged in original investigations, and took the representations made of the character of the experiments without sufficient care to verify them. Hence the publication of the one thing I ever wrote for which I feel deep regret and shame, as against the whole trend and efforts of my life. I am thankful to say that Dr. Anna Kingsford answered my articles, and I readily inserted her replies in the paper in which mine had appeared—our National Reformer—and she touched that question of the moral sense to which my nature at once responded. Ultimately, I looked carefully into the subject, found that vivisection abroad was very different from vivisection in England, saw that it was in very truth the fiendishly cruel thing that its opponents alleged, and destroyed my partial defence of even its less brutal form.

1882 saw no cessation of the struggles in which Mr. Bradlaugh and those who stood by him were involved. On February 7th he was heard for the third time at the Bar of the House of Commons, and closed his speech with an offer that, accepted, would have closed the contest. "I am ready to stand aside, say for four or five weeks, without coming to that table, if the House within that time, or within such time as its great needs might demand, would discuss whether an Affirmation Bill should pass or not. I want to obey the law, and I tell you how I might meet the House still further, if the House will pardon me for seeming to advise it. Hon. members have said that would be a Bradlaugh Relief Bill. Bradlaugh is more proud than you are. Let the Bill pass without applying to elections that have taken place previously, and I will undertake not to claim my seat, and when the Bill has passed I will apply for the Chiltern Hundreds. I have no fear. If I am not fit for my constituents, they shall dismiss me, but you never shall. The grave alone shall make me yield." But the House would do nothing. He had asked for 100,000 signatures in favour of his constitutional right, and on February 8th, 9th, and 10th 1,008 petitions, bearing 241,970 signatures, were presented; the House treated them with contemptuous indifference. The House refused to declare his seat vacant, and also refused to allow him to fill it, thus half-disfranchising Northampton, while closing every avenue to legal redress. Mr. Labouchere—who did all a loyal colleague could do to assist his brother member—brought in an Affirmation Bill; it was blocked. Mr. Gladstone, appealed to support the law declared by his own Attorney-General, refused to do anything. An impasse was created, and all the enemies of freedom rejoiced. Out of this position of what the Globe called "quiet omnipotence" the House was shaken by an audacious defiance, for on February 21st the member it was trying to hold at arm's length took the oath in its startled face, went to his seat, and—waited events. The House then expelled him—and, indeed, it could scarcely do anything else after such defiance—and Mr. Labouchere moved for a new writ, declaring that Northampton was ready, its "candidate was Charles Bradlaugh, expelled this House." Northampton, ever steadfast, returned him for the third time—the vote in his favour showing an increase of 359 over the second bye-election—and the triumph was received in all the great towns of England with wild enthusiasm. By the small majority of fifteen in a House of 599 members—and this due to the vacillation of the Government—he was again refused the right to take his seat. But now the whole Liberal Press took up his quarrel; the oath question became a test question for every candidate for Parliament, and the Government was warned that it was alienating its best friends. The Pall Mall Gazette voiced the general feeling. "What is the evidence that an Oaths Bill would injure the Government in the country? Of one thing we may be sure, that if they shirk the Bill they will do no good to themselves at the elections. Nobody doubts that it will be made a test question, and any Liberal who declines to vote for such a Bill will certainly lose the support of the Northampton sort of Radicalism in every constituency. The Liberal Press throughout the country is absolutely unanimous. The political Non-conformists are for it. The local clubs are for it. All that is wanted is that the Government should pick up a little more moral courage, and recognise that even in practice honesty is the best policy." The Government did not think so, and they paid the penalty, for one of the causes that led to their defeat at the polls was the disgust felt at their vacillation and cowardice in regard to the rights of constituencies. Not untruly did I write, in May, 1882, that Charles Bradlaugh was a man "who by the infliction of a great wrong had become the incarnation of a great principle"; for the agitation in the country grew and grew, until, returned again to Parliament at the General Election, he took the oath and his seat, brought in and carried an Oaths Bill, not only giving Members of Parliament the right to affirm, but making Freethinkers competent as jurymen, and relieving witnesses from the insult hitherto put upon those who objected to swearing; he thus ended an unprecedented struggle by a complete victory, weaving his name for ever into the constitutional history of his country.

In the House of Lords, Lord Redesdale brought in a Bill disqualifying Atheists from sitting in Parliament, but in face of the feeling aroused in the country, the Lords, with many pathetic expressions of regret, declined to pass it. But, meanwhile, Sir Henry Tyler in the Commons was calling out for prosecutions for blasphemy to be brought against Mr. Bradlaugh and his friends, while he carried on his crusade against Mr. Bradlaugh's daughters, Dr. Aveling, and myself, as science teachers. I summed up the position in the spring of 1882 in the following somewhat strong language: "This short-lived 'Parliamentary Declaration Bill' is but one of the many clouds which presage a storm of prosecution. The reiterated attempts in the House of Commons to force the Government into prosecuting heretics for blasphemy; the petty and vicious attacks on the science classes at the Hall; the odious and wicked efforts of Mr. Newdegate to drive Mr. Bradlaugh into the Bankruptcy Court; all these are but signs that the heterogeneous army of pious and bigoted Christians are gathering together their forces for a furious attack on those who have silenced them in argument, but whom they hope to conquer by main force, by sheer brutality. Let them come. Free-thinkers were never so strong, never so united, never so well organised as they are to-day. Strong in the goodness of our cause, in our faith in the ultimate triumph of Truth, in our willingness to give up all save fidelity to the sacred cause of liberty of human thought and human speech, we await gravely and fearlessly the successors of the men who burned Bruno, who imprisoned Galileo, who tortured Vanini—the men who have in their hands the blood-red cross of Jesus of Nazareth, and in their hearts the love of God and the hate of man."
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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

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All this hot fighting on the religious field did not render me blind to the misery of the Irish land so dear to my heart, writhing in the cruel grip of Mr. Forster's Coercion Act. An article "Coercion in Ireland and its Results," exposing the wrongs done under the Act, was reprinted as a pamphlet and had a wide circulation.

I pleaded against eviction—7,020 persons had been evicted during the quarter ending in March—for the trial of those imprisoned on suspicion, for indemnity for those who before the Land Act had striven against wrongs the Land Act had been carried to prevent, and I urged that "no chance is given for the healing measures to cure the sore of Irish disaffection until not only are the prisoners in Ireland set at liberty, but until the brave, unfortunate Michael Davitt stands once more a free man on Irish soil." At last the Government reconsidered its policy and resolved on juster dealings; it sent Lord Frederick Cavendish over to Ireland, carrying with him the release of the "suspects," and scarcely had he landed ere the knife of assassination struck him—a foul and cowardly murder of an innocent messenger of peace. I was at Blackburn, to lecture on "The Irish Question," and as I was walking towards the platform, my heart full of joy for the dawning hope of peace, a telegram announcing the assassination was placed in my hands. Never shall I forget the shock, the incredulous horror, the wave of despair. "It is not only two men they have killed," I wrote, a day or two later; "they have stabbed the new-born hope of friendship between two countries, and have reopened the gulf of hatred that was just beginning to close." Alas! the crime succeeded in its object, and hurried the Government into new wrong. Hastily a new Coercion Bill was brought in, and rushed through its stages in Parliament, and, facing the storm of public excitement, I pleaded still, "Force no remedy," despite the hardship of the task. "There is excessive difficulty in dealing with the Irish difficulty at the present moment. Tories are howling for revenge on a whole nation as answer to the crime committed by a few; Whigs are swelling the outcry; many Radicals are swept away by the current, and feeling that 'something must be done,' they endorse the Government action, forgetting to ask whether the 'something' proposed is the wisest thing. A few stand firm, but they are very few—too few to prevent the new Coercion Bill from passing into law. But few though we be who lift up the voice of protest against the wrong which we are powerless to prevent, we may yet do much to make the new Act of brief duration, by so rousing public opinion as to bring about its early repeal. When the measure is understood by the public half the battle will be won; it is accepted at the moment from faith in the Government; it will be rejected when its true character is grasped. The murders which have given birth to this repressive measure came with a shock upon the country, which was the more terrible from the sudden change from gladness and hope to darkness and despair. The new policy was welcomed so joyfully; the messenger of the new policy was slain ere yet the pen was dry which had signed the orders of mercy and of liberty. Small wonder that cry of horror should be followed by measures of vengeance; but the murders were the work of a few criminals, while the measure of vengeance strikes the whole of the Irish people. I plead against the panic which confounds political agitation and political redressal of wrong with crime and its punishment; the Government measure gags every mouth in Ireland, and puts, as we shall see, all political effort at the mercy of the Lord-Lieutenant, the magistracy, and the police." I then sketched the misery of the peasants in the grip of absentee landlords, the turning out on the roadside to die of the mother with new-born babe at her breast, the loss of "all thought of the sanctity of human life when the lives of the dearest are reckoned as less worth than the shillings of overdue rack-rental." I analysed the new Act: "When this Act passes, trial by jury, right of public meeting, liberty of press, sanctity of house, will one and all be held at the will of the Lord-Lieutenant, the irresponsible autocrat of Ireland, while liberty of person will lie at the mercy of every constable. Such is England's way of governing Ireland in the year 1882. And this is supposed to be a Bill for the 'repression of crime.'" Bluntly, I put the bald truth: "The plain fact is that the murderers have succeeded. They saw in the new policy the reconciliation of England and Ireland; they knew that friendship would follow justice, and that the two countries, for the first time in history, would clasp hands. To prevent this they dug a new gulf, which they hoped the English nation would not span; they sent a river of blood across the road of friendship, and they flung two corpses to bar the newly-opened gate of reconciliation and peace. They have succeeded."

Into this whirl of political and social strife came the first whisper to me of the Theosophical Society, in the shape of a statement of its principles, which conveyed, I remarked, "no very definite idea of the requirements for membership, beyond a dreamy, emotional, scholarly interest in the religio-philosophic fancies of the past." Also a report of an address by Colonel Olcott, which led me to suppose that the society held to "some strange theory of 'apparitions' of the dead, and to some existence outside the physical and apart from it." These came to me from some Hindû Freethinkers, who asked my opinion as to Secularists joining the Theosophical Society, and Theosophists being admitted to the National Secular Society. I replied, judging from these reports, that "while Secularists would have no right to refuse to enrol Theosophists, if they desired it, among their members, there is a radical difference between the mysticism of Theosophy and the scientific materialism of Secularism. The exclusive devotion to this world implied in the profession of Secularism leaves no room for other-worldism; and consistent members of our body cannot join a society which professes belief therein." [27]

H.P. Blavatsky penned a brief article in the Theosophist for August, 1882, in which she commented on my paragraph, remarking, in her generous way, that it must have been written "while labouring under entirely misconceived notions about the real nature of our society. For one so highly intellectual and keen as that renowned writer to dogmatise and issue autocratic ukases, after she has herself suffered so cruelly and undeservedly at the hands of blind bigotry and social prejudice in her lifelong struggle for freedom of thought seems, to say the least, absurdly inconsistent." After quoting my paragraph she went on: "Until proofs to the contrary, we prefer to believe that the above lines were dictated to Mrs. Besant by some crafty misrepresentations from Madras, inspired by a mean personal revenge rather than a desire to remain consistent with the principles of 'the scientific materialism of Secularism.' We beg to assure the Radical editors of the National Reformer that they were both very strangely misled by false reports about the Radical editors of the Theosophist. The term 'supernaturalists' can no more apply to the latter than to Mrs. A. Besant and Mr. C. Bradlaugh."

H.P. Blavatsky, when she commented, as she occasionally did, on the struggles going on in England, took of them a singularly large-hearted and generous view. She referred with much admiration to Mr. Bradlaugh's work and to his Parliamentary struggle, and spoke warmly of the services he had rendered to liberty. Again, in pointing out that spiritualistic trance orations by no means transcended speeches that made no such claim, I find her first mention of myself: "Another lady orator, of deservedly great fame, both for eloquence and learning—the good Mrs. Annie Besant—without believing in controlling spirits, or for that matter in her own spirit, yet speaks and writes such sensible and wise things, that we might almost say that one of her speeches or chapters contains more matter to benefit humanity than would equip a modern trance-speaker for an entire oratorical career." [28] I have sometimes wondered of late years whether, had I met her then or seen any of her writings, I should have become her pupil. I fear not; I was still too much dazzled by the triumphs of Western Science, too self-assertive, too fond of combat, too much at the mercy of my own emotions, too sensitive to praise and blame. I needed to sound yet more deeply the depths of human misery, to hear yet more loudly the moaning of "the great Orphan," Humanity, to feel yet more keenly the lack of wider knowledge and of clearer light if I were to give effective help to man, ere I could bow my pride to crave admittance as pupil to the School of Occultism, ere I could put aside my prejudices and study the Science of the Soul.

The long-continued attempts of Sir Henry Tyler and his friends to stimulate persecutions for blasphemy at length took practical shape, and in July, 1882, Mr. Foote, the editor, Mr. Ramsey, the publisher, and Mr. Whittle, the printer of the Freethinker, were summoned for blasphemy by Sir Henry Tyler himself. An attempt was made to involve Mr. Bradlaugh in the proceedings, and the solicitors promised to drop the case against the editor and printer if Mr. Bradlaugh would himself sell them some copies of the paper. But however ready Mr. Bradlaugh had always shown himself to shield his subordinates by taking his sins on his own shoulders, he saw no reason why he should assume responsibility for a paper over which he had no control, and which was, he thought, by its caricatures, lowering the tone of Freethought advocacy and giving an unnecessary handle to its foes. He therefore answered that he would sell the solicitors any works published by himself or with his authority, and sent them a catalogue of the whole of such works. The object of this effort of Sir Henry Tyler's was obvious enough, and Mr. Bradlaugh commented: "The above letters make it pretty clear that Sir Henry W. Tyler having failed in his endeavour to get the science classes stopped at the Hall of Science, having also failed in his attempt to induce Sir W. Vernon Harcourt to prosecute myself and Mrs. Besant as editors and publishers of this journal, desires to make me personally and criminally responsible for the contents of a journal I neither edit nor publish, over which I have not a shadow of control, and in which I have not the smallest interest. Why does Sir H.W. Tyler so ardently desire to prosecute, me for blasphemy? Is it because two convictions will under the 9th and 10th Will. III. cap. 32, render me 'for ever' incapable of sitting in Parliament?" The Whitehall Review frankly put this forward as an object to be gained, and Mr. Bradlaugh was summoned to the Mansion House on a charge of publishing blasphemous libels in the Freethinker; meanwhile Sir Henry Tyler put a notice on the Order Book to deprive "the daughters of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh" of the grant they had earned as science teachers, and got an order which proved to be invalid, but which was acted on, to inspect Mr. Bradlaugh's and my own private banking accounts, I being no party to the case. Looking back, I marvel at the incredible meannesses to which Sir Henry Tyler and others stooped in defence of "religion"—Heaven save the mark! Let me add that his motion in the House of Commons was a complete failure, and it was emphasised by the publication at the same time of the successful work, both as teachers and as students, of the "daughters of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh," and of my being the only student in all England who had succeeded in taking honours in botany.

I must pause a moment to chronicle, in September, 1882, the death of Dr. Pusey, whom I had sought in the whirl of my early religious struggles. I wrote an article on him in the National Reformer, and ended by laying a tribute on his grave: "A strong man and a good man. Utterly out of harmony with the spirit of his own time, looking with sternly-rebuking eyes on all the eager research, the joyous love of nature, the earnest inquiry into a world doomed to be burnt up at the coming of its Judge. An ascetic, pure in life, stern in faith, harsh to unbelievers because sincere in his own cruel creed, generous and tender to all who accepted his doctrines and submitted to his Church. He never stooped to slander those with whom he disagreed. His hatred of heresy led him not to blacken the character of heretics, nor to descend to the vulgar abuse used by pettier priests. And therefore I, who honour courage and sincerity wherever I find them; I, who do homage to steadfastness wherever I find it; I, Atheist, lay my small tribute of respect on the bier of this noblest of the Anglo-Catholics, Edward Bouverie Pusey."

As a practical answer to the numberless attacks made on us, and as a result of the enormous increase of circulation given to our theological and political writings by these harassing persecutions, we moved our publishing business to 63, Fleet Street, at the end of September, 1882, a shop facing that at which Richard Carlile had carried on his publishing business for a great time, and so seemed still redolent with memories of his gallant struggles. Two of the first things sold here were a pamphlet of mine, a strong protest against our shameful Egyptian policy, and a critical volume on "Genesis" which Mr. Bradlaugh found time to write in the intervals of his busy life. Here I worked daily, save when out of London, until Mr. Bradlaugh's death in 1891, assisted in the conduct of the business by Mr. Bradlaugh's elder daughter—a woman of strong character with many noble qualities, who died rather suddenly in December, 1888, and in the work on the National Reformer, first by Dr. Aveling, and then by Mr. John Robertson, its present editor. Here, too, from 1884 onwards, worked with me Thornton Smith, one of Mr. Bradlaugh's most devoted disciples, who became one of the leading speakers of the National Secular Society; like her well-loved chief, she was ever a good friend and a good fighter, and to me the most loyal and loving of colleagues, one of the few—the very few—Freethinkers who were large-hearted and generous enough not to turn against me when I became a Theosophist. A second of these—alas! I could count them on my fingers—was the John Robertson above mentioned, a man of rare ability and wide culture, somewhat too scholarly for popular propagandism of the most generally effective order, but a man who is a strength to any movement, always on the side of noble living and high thinking, loyal-natured as the true Scot should be, incapable of meanness or treachery, and the most genial and generous of friends.

Among the new literary ventures that followed on our taking the large publishing premises in Fleet Street was a sixpenny magazine, edited by myself, and entitled Our Corner; its first number was dated January, 1883, and for six years it appeared regularly, and served me as a useful mouthpiece in my Socialist and Labour propagandist work. Among its contributors were Moncure D. Conway, Professor Ludwig Büchner, Yves Guyot, Professor Ernst Haeckel, G. Bernard Shaw, Constance Naden, Dr. Aveling, J.H. Levy, J.L. Joynes, Mrs. Edgren, John Robertson, and many another, Charles Bradlaugh and I writing regularly each month.

1883 broke stormily, fights on every hand, and a huge constitutional agitation going on in the country, which forced the Government into bringing in an Affirmation Bill; resolutions from Liberal Associations all over the land; preparations to oppose the re-election of disloyal members; no less than a thousand delegates sent up to London by clubs, Trade Unions, associations of every sort; a meeting that packed Trafalgar Square; an uneasy crowd in Westminster Hall; a request from Inspector Denning that Mr. Bradlaugh would go out to them—they feared for his safety inside; a word from him, "The Government have pledged themselves to bring in an Affirmation Bill at once;" roar after roar of cheering; a veritable people's victory on that 15th of February, 1883. It was the answer of the country to the appeal for justice, the rebuke of the electors to the House that had defied them.

Scarcely was this over when a second prosecution for blasphemy against Messrs. Foote, Ramsey, and Kemp began, and was hurried on in the Central Criminal Court, before Mr. Justice North, a bigot of the sternest type. The trial ended in a disagreement of the jury, Mr. Foote defending himself in a splendid speech. The judge acted very harshly throughout, interrupted Mr. Foote continuously, and even refused bail to the defendants during the interval between the first and second trial; they were, therefore, confined in Newgate from Thursday to Monday, and we were only allowed to see them through iron bars and lattice, as they exercised in the prison yard between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Brought up to trial again on Monday, they were convicted, and Mr. Foote was sentenced to a year's imprisonment, Mr. Ramsey to nine months, and Mr. Kemp to three months. Mr. Foote especially behaved with great dignity and courage in a most difficult position, and heard his cruel sentence without wincing, and with the calm words, "My Lord, I thank you; it is worthy your creed." A few of us at once stepped in, to preserve to Mr. Ramsey his shop, and to Mr. Foote his literary property; Dr. Aveling undertook the editing of the Freethinker and of Mr. Foote's magazine Progress; the immediate necessities of their families were seen to; Mr. and Mrs. Forder took charge of the shop, and within a few days all was in working order. Disapproving as many of us did of the policy of the paper, there was no time to think of that when a blasphemy prosecution had proved successful, and we all closed up in the support of men imprisoned for conscience' sake. I commenced a series of articles on "The Christian Creed; what it is blasphemy to deny," showing what Christians must believe under peril of prosecution. Everywhere a tremendous impulse was given to the Freethought movement, as men awakened to the knowledge that blasphemy laws were not obsolete.

From over the sea came a word of sympathy from the pen of H.P. Blavatsky in the Theosophist. "We prefer Mr. Foote's actual position to that of his severe judge. Aye, and were we in his guilty skin, we would feel more proud, even in the poor editor's present position, than we would under the wig of Mr. Justice North."

In April, 1883, the long legal struggles of Mr. Bradlaugh against Mr. Newdegate and his common informer, that had lasted from July 2, 1880, till April 9, 1883, ended in his complete victory by the judgment of the House of Lords in his favour. "Court after Court decided against me," he wrote; "and Whig and Tory journals alike mocked at me for my persistent resistance. Even some good friends thought that my fight was hopeless, and that the bigots held me fast in their toils. I have, however, at last shaken myself free of Mr. Newdegate and his common informer. The judgment of the House of Lords in my favour is final and conclusive, and the boasts of the Tories that I should be made bankrupt for the penalties, have now, for ever, come to naught. Yet but for the many poor folk who have stood by me with their help and sympathy, I should have long since been ruined. The days and weeks spent in the Law Courts, the harassing work connected with each stage of litigation, the watching daily when each hearing was imminent, the absolute hindrance of all provincial lecturing—it is hardly possible for any one to judge the terrible mental and pecuniary strain of all this long-drawn-out struggle." Aye! it killed him at last, twenty years before his time, sapping his splendid vitality, undermining his iron constitution.

The blasphemy trial of Mr. Bradlaugh, Mr. Foote, and Mr. Ramsey now came on, but this time in the Queen's Bench, before the Lord Chief Justice Coleridge. I had the honour of sitting between Mr. Bradlaugh and Mr. Foote, charged with the duty of having ready for the former all his references, and with a duplicate brief to mark off point after point as he dealt with it. Messrs. Foote and Ramsey were brought up in custody, but were brave and bright with courage unbroken. Mr. Bradlaugh applied to have his case taken separately, as he denied responsibility for the paper, and the judge granted the application; it was clearly proved that he and I—the "Freethought Publishing Company"—had never had anything to do with the production of the paper; that until November, 1881, we published it, and then refused to publish it any longer; that the reason for the refusal was the addition of comic Bible illustrations as a feature of the paper. I was called as witness and began with a difficulty; claiming to affirm, I was asked by the judge if the oath would not be binding on my conscience; I answered that any promise was binding on me whatever the form, and after some little argument the judge found a way out of the insulting form by asking whether the "invocation of the Deity added anything to it of a binding nature—added any sanction?" "None, my Lord," was the prompt reply, and I was allowed to affirm. Sir Hardinge Giffard subjected me to a very stringent cross-examination, doing his best to entangle me, but the perfect frankness of my answers broke all his weapons of finesse and inuendo.

Some of the incidents of the trial were curious; Sir Hardinge Giffard's opening speech was very able and very unscrupulous. All facts in Mr. Bradlaugh's favour were distorted or hidden; anything that could be used against him was tricked out in most seductive fashion. Among the many monstrous perversions of the truth made by this most pious counsel, was the statement that changes of publisher, and of registration of the Freethinker were made in consequence of a question as to prosecuting it put in the House of Commons. The change of publisher was admittedly made in November; the registration was made for the first time in November, and could not be changed, as there was no previous one. The House of Commons was not sitting in November; the question alluded to was asked in the following February. This one deliberate lie of the "defender of the faith" will do as well as quoting a score of others to show how wickedly and maliciously he endeavoured to secure an unjust verdict.

The speech over, a number of witnesses were called. Sir Hardinge did not call witnesses who knew the facts, such as Mr. Norrish, the shopman, or Mr. Whittle, the printer. These he carefully avoided, although he subpoenaed both, because he did not want the real facts to come out. But he put in two solicitor's clerks, who had been hanging about the premises, and buying endless National Reformers and Freethinkers, sheaves of them which were never used, but by which Sir Hardinge hoped to convey the impression of a mass of criminality. He put in a gentleman from the British Museum, who produced two large books, presumed to be National Reformers and Freethinkers; what they were brought for nobody understood, the counsel for the Crown as little as any one, and the judge, surveying them over his spectacles, treated them with supreme contempt, as utterly irrelevant. Then a man came to prove that Mr. Bradlaugh was rated for Stonecutter Street, a fact no one disputed. Two policemen came to say they had seen him go in. "You saw many people go in, I suppose?" queried the Lord Chief Justice. On the whole the most miserably weak and obviously malicious case that could be brought into a court of law.

One witness, however, must not be forgotten—Mr. Woodhams, bank manager. When he stated that Mr. Maloney, the junior counsel for the Crown, had inspected Mr. Bradlaugh's banking account, a murmur of surprise and indignation ran round the court. "Oh! Oh!" was heard from the crowd of barristers behind. The judge looked down incredulously, and for a moment the examination was stopped by the general movement. Unless Sir Hardinge Giffard is a splendid actor, he was not aware of the infamous proceeding, for he looked as startled as the rest of his legal brethren.

Another queer incident occurred, showing, perhaps more than aught else, Mr. Bradlaugh's swift perception of the situation and adaptation to the environment. He wanted to read the Mansion House deposition of Norrish, to show why he was not called; the judge objected, and declined to allow it to be read. A pause while you might count five; then; "Well, I think I may say the learned counsel did not call Norrish because ..." and then the whole substance of the deposition was given in supposititious form. The judge looked down a minute, and then went off into silent laughter impossible to control at the adroit change of means and persistent gaining of end; barristers all round broke into ripples of laughter unrestrained; a broad smile pervaded the jury box; the only unmoved person was the defendant who proceeded in his grave statement as to what Norrish "might" have been asked. The nature of the defence was very clearly stated by Mr. Bradlaugh: "I shall ask you to find that this prosecution is one of the steps in a vindictive attempt to oppress and to crush a political opponent—that it was a struggle that commenced on my return to Parliament in 1880. If the prosecutor had gone into the box I should have shown you that he was one of the first then in the House to use the suggestion of blasphemy against me there. Since then I have never had any peace until the Monday of this week. Writs for penalties have been served, and suits of all kinds have been taken against me. On Monday last the House of Lords cleared me from the whole of one set, and, gentlemen, I ask you to-day to clear me from another. Three times I have been re-elected by my constituents, and what Sir Henry Tyler asks you to do is to send me to them branded with the dishonour of a conviction, branded not with the conviction for publishing heresy, but branded with the conviction, dishonourable to me, of having lied in this matter. I have no desire to have a prison's walls closed on me, but I would sooner ten times that, than that my constituents should think that for one moment I lied to escape the penalties. I am not indicted for anything I have ever written or caused to be written. As my Lord at the very first stage this morning pointed out, it is no question with me, Are the matters indicted blasphemous, or are they not blasphemous? Are they defensible, or are they not defensible? That is not my duty here. On this I make no comment. I have no duty here of even discussing the policy of the blasphemy laws, although I cannot help thinking that, if I were here making my defence against them, I might say that they were bad laws unfairly revived, doing more mischief to those who revive them than to those whom they are revived against. But it is not for anything I have said myself; it is not for anything I have written myself; it is not for anything I have published myself. It is an endeavour to make me technically liable for a publication with which I have nothing whatever to do, and I will ask you to defeat that here. Every time I have succeeded I have been met with some new thing. When I first fought it was hoped to defeat my election. When I was re-elected it was sought to make me bankrupt by enormous penalties, and when I escaped the suit for enormous penalties they hope now to destroy me by this. I have no question here about defending my heresy, not because I am not ready to defend it when it is challenged in the right way, and it there be anything in it that the law can challenge. I have never gone back from anything I have ever said; I have never gone back from anything I have ever written; I have never gone back from anything I have ever done; and I ask you not to allow this Sir Henry Whatley Tyler, who dares not come here to-day, to use you as the assassin uses the dagger, to stab a man from behind whom he never dares to face."

The summing up by Lord Coleridge was perfect in eloquence, in thought, in feeling. Nothing more touching could be imagined than the conflict between the real religious feeling, abhorrent of heresy, and the determination to be just, despite all prejudice. The earnest effort lest the prejudice he felt as a Christian should weigh also in the minds of the jury, and should cause them to pervert justice. The absolute pleading to them to do what was right and not to admit against the unbeliever what they would not admit in ordinary cases. Then the protest against prosecution of opinions; the admission of the difficulties in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the pathetic fear lest by persecution "the sacred truths might be struck through the sides of those who are their enemies." For intellectual clearness and moral elevation this exquisite piece of eloquence, delivered in a voice of silvery beauty, would be hard to excel, and Lord Coleridge did this piece of service to the religion so dear to his heart, that he showed that a Christian judge could be just and righteous in dealing with a foe of his creed.

There was a time of terrible strain waiting for the verdict, and when at last it came, "Not Guilty," a sharp clap of applause hailed it, sternly and rightly reproved by the judge. It was echoed by the country, which almost unanimously condemned the prosecution as an iniquitous attempt on the part of Mr. Bradlaugh's political enemies to put a stop to his political career. Thus the Pall Mall Gazette wrote:—

"Whatever may be the personal or political or religious aversion which is excited by Mr. Bradlaugh, it is impossible for even his bitterest opponents to deny the brilliance of the series of victories which he has won in the law courts. His acquittal in the blasphemy prosecution of Saturday was but the latest of a number of encounters in which he has succeeded in turning the tables upon his opponents in the most decisive fashion. The policy of baiting Mr. Bradlaugh which has been persisted in so long, savours so strongly of a petty and malignant species of persecution that it is well that those who indulge in it should be made to smart for their pains. The wise and weighty words used by the Lord Chief Justice in summing up should be taken seriously to heart: 'Those persons are to be deprecated who would pervert the law, even with the best intentions, and "do evil that good may come, whose damnation" (says the apostle) "is just."' Without emulating the severity of the apostle, we may say that it is satisfactory that the promoters of all these prosecutions should be condemned in costs."

In the separate trial of Messrs. Foote and Ramsey, Mr. Foote again defended himself in a speech of marked ability, and spoken of by the judge as "very striking." Lord Coleridge made a noble charge to the jury, in which he strongly condemned prosecutions of unpopular opinions, pointing out that no prosecution short of extermination could be effective, and caustically remarking on the very easy form of virtue indulged in by persecutors. "As a general rule," he said, "persecution, unless far more extreme than in England in the nineteenth century is possible, is certain to be in vain. It is also true, and I cannot help assenting to it, that it is a very easy form of virtue. It is a more difficult form of virtue, quietly and unostentatiously to obey what we believe to be God's will in our own lives. It is not very easy to do it; and it makes much less noise in the world. It is very easy to turn upon somebody else who differs from us, and in the guise of zeal of God's honour to attack somebody of a difference of opinion, whose life may be more pleasing to God and more conducive to His honour than our own. And when it is done by persons whose own lives are not free from reproach and who take that particular form of zeal for God which consists in putting the criminal law in force against others, that, no doubt, does more to create a sympathy with the defendant than with the prosecutor. And if it should be done by those who enjoy the wit of Voltaire, and who do not turn away from the sneers of Gibbon, and rather relish the irony of Hume, our feelings do not go with the prosecutors, and we are rather disposed to sympathise with the defendant. It is still worse if the person who takes such a course takes it, not from a kind of notion that God wants his assistance, and that he can give it less on his own account than by prosecuting others—but it is mixed up with anything of partisan or political feeling, then nothing can be more foreign to what is high-minded, or religious, or noble, in men's conduct; and indeed, it seems to me that any one who will do that, not for the honour of God but for the purpose of the ban, deserves the most disdainful disapprobation."

The jury disagreed, and a nolle prosequi was entered. The net results of the trials were a large addition to the membership of the National Secular Society, an increase of circulation of Freethought literature, the raising of Mr. Foote for a time to a position of great influence and popularity, and the placing of his name in history as a brave martyr for liberty of speech. The offence against good taste will be forgotten; the loyalty to conviction and to courage will remain. History does not ask if men who suffered for heresy ever published a rough word; it asks, Were they brave in their steadfastness; were they faithful to the truth they saw? It may be well to place on record Mr. Foote's punishment for blasphemy: he spent twenty-two hours out of the twenty-four alone in his cell; his only seat was a stool without a back; his employment was picking matting; his bed was a plank with a thin mattress. During the latter part of his imprisonment he was allowed some books.



26. "The Christian Creed." 1884.

27. National Reformer, June 18, 1882

28. Theosophist, June, 1882.

29. I leave these words as they were written in 1889. I resigned my office in the N.S.S. in 1890, feeling that the N.S.S. was so identified with Materialism that it had no longer place for me.
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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

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The rest of 1883 passed in the usual way of hard work; the Affirmation Bill was rejected, and the agitation for Constitutional right grew steadily; the Liberal Press was won over, and Mr. Bradlaugh was beginning to earn golden opinions on all sides for his courage, his tenacity, and his self-control. A successful International Congress at Amsterdam took some of us over to the Northern Venice, where a most successful gathering was held. To me, personally, the year has a special interest, as being the one in which my attention was called, though only partially, to the Socialist movement. I had heard Louise Michelle lecture in the early spring; a brief controversy in the National Reformer had interested me, but I had not yet concerned myself with the economic basis of Socialism; I had realised that the land should be public property, but had not gone into the deeper economic causes of poverty, though the question was pressing with ever-increasing force on heart and brain. Of Socialist teaching I knew nothing, having studied only the older English Economists in my younger days. In 1884 a more definite call to consider 299 these teachings was to come, and I may perhaps open the record of 1884 with the words of greeting spoken by me to our readers in the first number of the Reformer for that year: "What tests 1884 may have for our courage, what strains on our endurance, what trials of our loyalty, none can tell. But this we know—that every test of courage successfully met, every strain of endurance steadily borne, every trial of loyalty nobly surmounted, leaves courage braver, endurance stronger, loyalty truer, than each was before. And therefore, for our own and for the world's sake, I will not wish you, friends, an 1884 in which there shall be no toil and no battling; but I will wish you, each and all, the hero's heart and the hero's patience, in the struggle for the world's raising that will endure through the coming year."

On February 3rd I came for the first time across a paper called Justice, in which Mr. Bradlaugh was attacked, and which gave an account of a meeting of the Democratic Federation—not yet the Social Democratic—in which a man had, apparently unrebuked, said that "all means were justifiable to attain" working-class ends. I protested strongly against the advocacy of criminal means, declaring that those who urged the use of such means were the worst foes of social progress. A few weeks later the Echo repeated a speech of Mr. Hyndman's in which a "bloodier revolution" than that of France was prophesied, and the extinction of "book-learning" seemed coupled with the success of Socialism, and this again I commented on. But I had the pleasure, a week later, of reprinting from Justice a sensible paragraph, condemning the advocacy of violence so long as free agitation was allowed.

The spring was marked by two events on which I have not time or space to dwell—the resignation by Mr. Bradlaugh of his seat, on the reiteration of the resolution of exclusion, and his triumphant return for the fourth time by an increased majority, a vote of 4,032, a higher poll than that of the general election; and the release of Mr. Foote, on February 25th, from Holloway, whence he was escorted by a procession a quarter of a mile in length. On the 12th of March he and his fellow-prisoners received a magnificent reception and were presented with valuable testimonials at the Hall of Science.

Taking up again the thread of Socialism, the great debate in St. James's Hall, London, between Mr. Bradlaugh and Mr. Hyndman on April 17th, roused me to a serious study of the questions raised. Socialism has in England no more devoted, no more self-sacrificing advocate than Henry Hyndman. A man of wide and deep reading, wielding most ably a singularly fascinating pen, with talents that would have made him wealthy in any career he adopted, he has sacrificed himself without a murmur to the people's cause. He has borne obloquy from without, suspicion and unkindness from those he served, and surrounded by temptations to betray the people, he has never swerved from his integrity. He has said rash things, has been stirred to passionate outbursts and reckless phrases, but love to the people and sympathy with suffering lay at the root of his wildest words, and they count but little as against his faithful service. Personally, my debt to him is of a mixed character; he kept me from Socialism for some time by his bitter and very unjust antagonism to Mr. Bradlaugh; but it was the debate at St. James's Hall that, while I angrily resented his injustice, made me feel that there was something more in practical Socialism than I had imagined, especially when I read it over afterwards, away from the magic of Mr. Bradlaugh's commanding eloquence and personal magnetism. It was a sore pity that English Socialists, from the outset of their movement, treated Mr. Bradlaugh so unfairly, so that his friends were set against Socialists ere they began to examine their arguments. I must confess that my deep attachment to him led me into injustice to his Socialist foes in those early days, and often made me ascribe to them calculated malignity instead of hasty and prejudiced assertion. Added to this, their uncurbed violence in discussion, their constant interruptions during the speeches of opponents, their reckless inaccuracy in matters of fact, were all bars standing in the way of the thoughtful. When I came to know them better, I found that the bulk of their speakers were very young men, overworked and underpaid, who spent their scanty leisure in efforts to learn, to educate themselves, to train themselves, and I learned to pardon faults which grew out of the bitter sense of injustice, and which were due largely to the terrible pressure of our system on characters not yet strong enough—how few are strong enough!—to bear grinding injustice without loss of balance and of impartiality. None save those who have worked with them know how much of real nobility, of heroic self-sacrifice, of constant self-denial, of brotherly affection, there is among the Social Democrats.

At this time also I met George Bernard Shaw, one of the most brilliant of Socialist writers and most provoking of men; a man with a perfect genius for "aggravating" the enthusiastically earnest, and with a passion for representing himself as a scoundrel. On my first experience of him on the platform at South Place Institute he described himself as a "loafer," and I gave an angry snarl at him in the Reformer, for a loafer was my detestation, and behold! I found that he was very poor, because he was a writer with principles and preferred starving his body to starving his conscience; that he gave time and earnest work to the spreading of Socialism, spending night after night in workmen's clubs; and that "a loafer" was only an amiable way of describing himself because he did not carry a hod. Of course I had to apologise for my sharp criticism as doing him a serious injustice, but privately felt somewhat injured at having been entrapped into such a blunder. Meanwhile I was more and more turning aside from politics and devoting myself to the social condition of the people I find myself, in June, protesting against Sir John Lubbock's Bill which fixed a twelve-hour day as the limit of a "young person's" toil. "A 'day' of twelve hours is brutal," I wrote; "if the law fixes twelve hours as a 'fair day' that law will largely govern custom. I declare that a 'legal day' should be eight hours on five days in the week and not more than five hours on the sixth. If the labour is of an exhausting character these hours are too long." On every side now the Socialist controversy grew, and I listened, read, and thought much, but said little. The inclusion of John Robertson in the staff of the Reformer brought a highly intellectual Socialist into closer touch with us, and slowly I found that the case for Socialism was intellectually complete and ethically beautiful. The trend of my thought was shown by urging the feeding of Board School children, breaking down under the combination of education and starvation, and I asked, "Why should people be pauperised by a rate-supported meal, and not pauperised by, state-supported police, drainage, road-mending, street-lighting, &c? "Socialism in its splendid ideal appealed to my heart, while the economic soundness of its basis convinced my head. All my life was turned towards the progress of the people, the helping of man, and it leaped forward to meet the stronger hope, the lofty ideal of social brotherhood, the rendering possible to all of freer life; so long had I been striving thitherward, and here there opened up a path to the yearned-for goal! How strong were the feelings surging in my heart may be seen in a brief extract from an article published second week of January, 1885: "Christian charity? We know its work. It gives a hundred-weight of coal and five pounds of beef once a year to a family whose head could earn a hundred such doles if Christian justice allowed him fair wage for the work he performs. It plunders the workers of the wealth they make, and then flings back at them a thousandth part of their own product as 'charity.' It builds hospitals for the poor whom it has poisoned in filthy courts and alleys, and workhouses for the worn-out creatures from whom it has wrung every energy, every hope, every joy. Miss Cobbe summons us to admire Christian civilisation, and we see idlers flaunting in the robes woven by the toilers, a glittering tinselled super-structure founded on the tears, the strugglings, the grey, hopeless misery of the poor."

This first month of January, 1885, brought on me the first attack for my Socialistic tendencies, from the pen of Mr. W.P. Ball, who wrote to the Reformer complaining of my paragraph, quoted above, in which I had advocated rate-supported meals for Board School children. A brief controversy thus arose, in which I supported my opinion, waiving the question as to my being "at heart a Socialist." In truth, I dreaded to make the plunge of publicly allying myself with the advocates of Socialism, because of the attitude of bitter hostility they had adopted towards Mr. Bradlaugh. On his strong, tenacious nature, nurtured on self-reliant individualism, the arguments of the younger generation made no impression. He could not change his methods because a new tendency was rising to the surface, and he did not see how different was the Socialism of our day to the Socialist dreams of the past—noble ideals of a future not immediately realisable in truth, but to be worked towards and rendered possible in the days to come. Could I take public action which might bring me into collision with the dearest of my friends, which might strain the strong and tender tie so long existing between us? My affection, my gratitude, all warred against the idea of working with those who wronged him so bitterly. But the cry of starving children was ever in my ears; the sobs of women poisoned in lead works, exhausted in nail works, driven to prostitution by starvation, made old and haggard by ceaseless work. I saw their misery was the result of an evil system, was inseparable from private ownership of the instruments of wealth production; that while the worker was himself but an instrument, selling his labour under the law of supply and demand, he must remain helpless in the grip of the employing classes, and that trade combinations could only mean increased warfare—necessary, indeed, for the time as weapons of defence—but meaning war, not brotherly co-operation of all for the good of all. A conflict which was stripped of all covering, a conflict between a personal tie and a call of duty could not last long, and with a heavy heart I made up my mind to profess Socialism openly and work for it with all my energy. Happily, Mr. Bradlaugh was as tolerant as he was strong, and our private friendship remained unbroken; but he never again felt the same confidence in my judgment as he felt before, nor did he any more consult me on his own policy, as he had done ever since we first clasped hands.

A series of articles in Our Corner on the "Redistribution of Political Power," on the "Evolution of Society," on "Modern Socialism," made my position clear. "Over against those who laud the present state of Society, with its unjustly rich and its unjustly poor, with its palaces and its slums, its millionaires and its paupers, be it ours to proclaim that there is a higher ideal in life than that of being first in the race for wealth, most successful in the scramble for gold. Be it ours to declare steadfastly that health, comfort, leisure, culture, plenty for every individual are far more desirable than breathless struggle for existence, furious trampling down of the weak by the strong, huge fortunes accumulated out of the toil of others, to be handed down to those who had done nothing to earn them. Be it ours to maintain that the greatness of a nation depends not on the number of its great proprietors, on the wealth of its great capitalists, or the splendour of its great nobles, but on the absence of poverty among its people, on the education and refinement of its masses, on the universality of enjoyment in life.... Enough for each of work, of leisure, of joy; too little for none, too much for none—such is the Social ideal. Better to strive after it worthily and fail, than to die without striving for it at all."

Then I differentiated the methods of the Socialist and the Radical Individualist, pleading for union among those who formed the wings of the army of Labour, and urging union of all workers against the idlers. For the weakness of the people has ever been in their divisions, in the readiness of each section to turn its weapons against other sections instead of against the common foe. All privileged classes, when they are attacked, sink their differences and present a serried front to their assailants; the people alone fight with each other, while the battle between themselves and the privileged is raging.

I strove, as so many others were striving, to sound in the ears of the thoughtless and the careless the cry of the sufferings of the poor, endeavouring to make articulate their misery. Thus in a description of Edinburgh slums came the following: "I saw in a 'house' which was made by boarding up part of a passage, which had no window, and in which it was necessary to burn an oil lamp all day, thus adding to the burden of the rent, a family of three—man, wife, and child—whose lot was hardly 'of their own making.' The man was tall and bronzed, but he was dying of heart disease; he could not do hard work, and he was too clumsy for light work; so he sat there, after two days' fruitless search, patiently nursing his miserable, scrofulous baby in his dim and narrow den. The cases of individual hopeless suffering are heartbreaking. In one room lay a dying child, dying of low fever brought on by want of food. 'It hae no faither,' sobbed the mother; and for a moment I did not catch the meaning that the father had left to the mother all the burden of a child unallowed by law. In another lay the corpse of a mother, with the children round her, and hard-featured, gentle-hearted women came in to take back to their overcrowded beds 'the mitherless bairns.' In yet another a woman, shrunken and yellow, crouched over a glimmer of fire; "I am dying of cancer of the womb," she said, with that pathetic resignation to the inevitable so common among the poor. I sat chatting for a few minutes. 'Come again, deary,' she said as I rose to go; 'it's gey dull sitting here the day through.'"

The article in which these, among other descriptions, occurred was closed with the following: "Passing out of the slums into the streets of the town, only a few steps separating the horror and the beauty, I felt, with a vividness more intense than ever, the fearful contrasts between the lots of men; and with more pressing urgency the question seemed to ring in my ears, 'Is there no remedy? Must there always be rich and poor?' Some say that it must be so; that the palace and the slum will for ever exist as the light and the shadow. Not so do I believe. I believe that the poverty is the result of ignorance and of bad social arrangements, and that therefore it may be eradicated by knowledge and by social change. I admit that for many of these adult dwellers in the slums there is no hope. Poor victims of a civilisation that hides its brutality beneath a veneer of culture and of grace, for them individually there is, alas! no salvation. But for their children, yes! Healthy surroundings, good food, mental and physical training, plenty of play, and carefully chosen work—these might save the young and prepare them for happy life. But they are being left to grow up as their parents were, and even when a few hours of school are given them the home half-neutralises what the education effects. The scanty aid given is generally begrudged, the education is to be but elementary, as little as possible is doled out. Yet these children have each one of them hopes and fears, possibilities of virtue and of crime, a life to be made or marred. We shower money on generals and on nobles, we keep high-born paupers living on the national charity, we squander wealth with both hands on army and navy, on churches and palaces; but we grudge every halfpenny that increases the education rate and howl down every proposal to build decent houses for the poor. We cover our heartlessness and indifference with fine phrases about sapping the independence of the poor and destroying their self-respect. With loathsome hypocrisy we repair a prince's palace for him, and let him live in it rent-free, without one word about the degradation involved in his thus living upon charity; while we refuse to 'pauperise' the toiler by erecting decent buildings in which he may live—not rent-free like the prince, but only paying a rent which shall cover the cost of erection and maintenance, instead of one which gives a yearly profit to a speculator. And so, year after year, the misery grows, and every great city has on its womb a cancer; sapping its vitality, poisoning its life-blood. Every great city is breeding in its slums a race which is reverting through the savage to the brute—a brute more dangerous in that degraded humanity has possibilities of evil in it beyond the reach of the mere wild beast. If not for Love's sake, then for fear; if not for justice or for human pity, then for sheer desire of self-preservation; I appeal to the wise and to the wealthy to set their hands to the cure of social evil, ere stolidity gives place to passion and dull patience vanishes before fury, and they

"'Learn at last, in some wild hour, how much the wretched dare.'"

Because it was less hotly antagonistic to the Radicals than the two other Socialist organisations, I joined the Fabian Society, and worked hard with it as a speaker and lecturer. Sidney Webb, G. Bernard Shaw, Hubert and Mrs. Bland, Graham Wallas—these were some of those who gave time, thought, incessant work to the popularising of Socialist thought, the spreading of sound economics, the effort to turn the workers' energy toward social rather than merely political reform. We lectured at workmen's clubs wherever we could gain a hearing, till we leavened London Radicalism with Socialist thought, and by treating the Radical as the unevolved Socialist rather than as the anti-Socialist, we gradually won him over to Socialist views. We circulated questions to be put to all candidates for parliamentary or other offices, stirred up interest in local elections, educated men and women into an understanding of the causes of their poverty, won recruits for the army of propagandists from the younger of the educated middle class. That the London working classes to-day are so largely Socialist is greatly due to the years of work done among them by members of the Fabian Society, as well to the splendid, if occasionally too militant, energy of the Social Democratic Federation, and to the devotion of that noble and generous genius, William Morris.

During this same year (1885) a movement was set on foot in England to draw attention to the terrible sufferings of the Russian political prisoners, and it was decided at a meeting held in my house to form a society of the friends of Russia, which should seek to spread accurate and careful information about the present condition of Russia. At that meeting were present Charles Bradlaugh, "Stepniak," and many others, E.R. Pease acting as honorary secretary. It is noteworthy that some of the most prominent Russian exiles—such as Kropotkin—take the view that the Tzar himself is not allowed to know what occurs, and is very largely the victim of the bureaucracy that surrounds him.

Another matter, that increased as the months went on, was the attempt of the police authorities to stop Socialist speaking in the open air. Christians, Freethinkers, Salvationists, agitators of all kinds were, for the most part, left alone, but there was a regular crusade against the Socialists. Liberal and Tory journals alike condemned the way in which in Dod Street, in September, the Socialists' meetings were attacked. Quiet persistence was shown by the promoters—members of the Social Democratic Federation—and they were well supported by other Socialists and by the Radical clubs. I volunteered to speak on October 4th (my first Sunday in London after the summoning and imprisoning of the speakers had commenced), but the attitude of the people was so determined on the preceding Sunday that all interference was withdrawn.

Herbert Burrows stood for the School Board for the Tower Hamlets in the November of this year, and I find a paragraph in the Reformer in which I heartily wished him success, especially as the first candidate who had put forward a demand for industrial education. In this, as in so many practical proposals, Socialists have led the way. He polled 4,232 votes, despite the furious opposition of the clergy to him as a Freethinker, of the publicans to him as a teetotaler, of the maintainers of the present social system to him as a Socialist. And his fight did much to make possible my own success in 1888.

With this autumn, too, began, in connection with the struggle for the right of meeting, the helping of the workmen to fair trial by providing of bail and legal defence. The first case that I bailed out was that of Lewis Lyons, sent to gaol for two months with hard labour by Mr. Saunders, of the Thames Police Court. Oh, the weary, sickening waiting in the court for "my prisoner," the sordid vice, the revolting details of human depravity to which my unwilling eyes and ears were witnesses. I carried Lyons off in triumph, and the Middlesex magistrates quashed the conviction, the evidence being pronounced by them to be "confusing, contradictory, and worthless." Yet but for the chance of one of us stepping forward to offer bail and to provide the means for an appeal (I acted on Mr. Bradlaugh's suggestion and advice, for he acted as counsellor to me all through the weary struggles that lasted till 1888, putting his great legal knowledge at my disposal, though he often disapproved my action, thinking me Quixotic)—but for this, Lewis Lyons would have had to suffer his heavy sentence.

The general election took place this autumn, and Northampton returned Mr. Bradlaugh for the fifth time, thus putting an end to the long struggle, for he took the oath and his seat in the following January, and at once gave notice of an Oaths Bill, to give to all who claimed it, under all circumstances, the right to affirm. He was returned with the largest vote ever polled for him—4,315—and he entered Parliament with all the prestige of his great struggle, and went to the front at once, one of the recognised forces in the House. The action of Mr. Speaker Peel promptly put an end to an attempted obstruction. Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Mr. Cecil Raikes, and Sir John Hennaway had written to the Speaker asking his interference, but the Speaker declared that he had no authority, no right to stand between a duly elected member and the duty of taking the oath prescribed by statute. Thus ended the constitutional struggle of six years, that left the victor well-nigh bankrupt in health and in purse, and sent him to a comparatively early grave. He lived long enough to justify his election, to prove his value to the House and to his country, but he did not live long enough to render to England all the services which his long training, his wide knowledge, his courage, and his honesty so eminently fitted him to yield.


Our Corner now served as a valuable aid in Socialist propaganda, and its monthly "Socialist Notes" became a record of Socialist progress in all lands. We were busy during the spring in organising a conference for the discussion of "The Present Commercial System, and the Better Utilisation of National Wealth for the Benefit of the Community," and this was successfully held at South Place Institute on June 9th, 10th, 11th, the three days being given respectively, to the "Utilisation of Land," the "Utilisation of Capital," and the "Democratic Policy." On the 9th Mr. Bradlaugh spoke on the utilisation of waste lands, arguing that in a thickly populated country no one had the right to keep cultivable land uncultivated, and that where land was so kept there should be compulsory expropriation, the state taking the land and letting it out to cultivating tenants. Among the other speakers were Edward Carpenter, William Morris, Sidney Webb, John Robertson, William Saunders, W. Donnisthorpe, Edward Aveling, Charlotte Wilson, Mrs. Fenwick Miller, Hubert Bland, Dr. Pankhurst, and myself—men and women of many views, met to compare methods, and so help on the cause of social regeneration.

Bitter attacks were made on me for my Socialist advocacy by some of the Radicals in the Freethought party, and looking back I find myself condemned as a "Saint Athanasius in petticoats," and as possessing a "mind like a milk-jug." This same courteous critic remarked, "I have heard Mrs. Besant described as being, like most women, at the mercy of her last male acquaintance for her views on economics." I was foolish enough to break a lance in self-defence with this assailant, not having then learned that self-defence was a waste of time that might be better employed in doing work for others. I certainly should not now take the trouble to write such a paragraph as the following: "The moment a man uses a woman's sex to discredit her arguments, the thoughtful reader knows that he is unable to answer the arguments themselves. But really these silly sneers at woman's ability have lost their force, and are best met with a laugh at the stupendous 'male self-conceit' of the writer. I may add that such shafts are specially pointless against myself. A woman who thought her way out of Christianity and Whiggism into Freethought and Radicalism absolutely alone; who gave up every old friend, male and female, rather than resign the beliefs she had struggled to in solitude; who, again, in embracing active Socialism, has run counter to the views of her nearest 'male friends'; such a woman may very likely go wrong, but I think she may venture, without conceit, to at least claim independence of judgment. I did not make the acquaintance of one of my present Socialist comrades, male or female, until I had embraced Socialism." A foolish paragraph, as are all self-defences, and a mischievous one, as all retort breeds fresh strife. But not yet had come the self-control that estimates the judgments of others at their true value, that recks not of praise and blame; not yet had I learned that evil should not be met with evil, wrath with wrath; not yet were the words of the Buddha the law to which I strove to render obedience: "Hatred ceases not by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by love." The year 1886 was a terrible one for labour, everywhere reductions of wages, everywhere increase of the numbers of the unemployed; turning over the pages of Our Corner, I see "Socialist Notes" filled, month after month, with a monotonous tale, "there is a reduction of wages at" such and such a place; so many "men have been discharged at —-, owing to the slackness of trade." Our hearts sank lower and lower as summer passed into autumn, and the coming winter threatened to add to starvation the bitter pains of cold. The agitation for the eight hours' day increased in strength as the unemployed grew more numerous week by week "We can't stand it," a sturdy, quiet fellow had said to me during the preceding winter; "flesh and blood can't stand it, and two months of this bitter cold, too." "We may as well starve idle as starve working," had said another, with a fierce laugh. And a spirit of sullen discontent was spreading everywhere, discontent that was wholly justified by facts. But ah! how patient they were for the most part, how sadly, pathetically patient, this crucified Christ, Humanity; wrongs that would set my heart and my tongue afire would be accepted as a matter of course. O blind and mighty people, how my heart went out to you; trampled on, abused, derided, asking so little and needing so much; so pathetically grateful for the pettiest services; so loving and so loyal to those who offered you but their poor services and helpless love. Deeper and deeper into my innermost nature ate the growing desire to succour, to suffer for, to save. I had long given up my social reputation, I now gave up with ever-increasing surrender ease, comfort, time; the passion of pity grew stronger and stronger, fed by each new sacrifice, and each sacrifice led me nearer and nearer to the threshold of that gateway beyond which stretched a path of renunciation I had never dreamed of, which those might tread who were ready wholly to strip off self for Man's sake, who for Love's sake would surrender Love's return from those they served, and would go out into the darkness for themselves that they might, with their own souls as fuel, feed the Light of the World.

As the suffering deepened with the darkening months, the meetings of the unemployed grew in number, and the murmurs of discontent became louder. The Social Democratic Federation carried on an outdoor agitation, not without making blunders, being composed of human beings, but with abundant courage and self-sacrifice. The policy of breaking up Socialist meetings went on while other meetings were winked at, and John Williams, a fiery speaker, but a man with a record of pathetic struggle and patient heroism, was imprisoned for two months for speaking in the open air, and so nearly starved in gaol that he came out with his health broken for life.

1887 dawned, the year that was to close so stormily, and Socialists everywhere were busying themselves on behalf of the unemployed, urging vestries to provide remunerative work for those applying for relief, assailing the Local Government Board with practicable proposals for utilising the productive energies of the unemployed, circulating suggestions to municipalities and other local representative bodies, urging remedial measures. A four days' oral debate with Mr. Foote, and a written debate with Mr. Bradlaugh, occupied some of my energies, and helped in the process of education to which public opinion was being subjected. Both these debates were largely circulated as pamphlets. A series of afternoon debates between representative speakers was organised at South Place Institute, and Mr. Corrie Grant and myself had a lively discussion, I affirming "That the existence of classes who live upon unearned incomes is detrimental to the welfare of the community, and ought to be put an end to by legislation." Another debate—in this very quarrelsome spring of 1887—was a written one in the National Reformer between the Rev. G.F. Handel Rowe and myself on the proposition, "Is Atheism logically tenable, and is there a satisfactory Atheistic System for the guidance of Human Conduct." And so the months went on, and the menace of misery grew louder and louder, till in September I find myself writing: "This one thing is clear—Society must deal with the unemployed, or the unemployed will deal with Society. Stormier and stormier becomes the social outlook, and they at least are not the worst enemies of Society who seek to find some way through the breakers by which the ship of the Commonwealth may pass into quiet waters."

Some amusement turned up in the shape of a Charing Cross Parliament, in which we debated with much vigour the "burning questions" of the day. We organised a compact Socialist party, defeated a Liberal Government, took the reins of office, and—after a Queen's Speech in which her Majesty addressed her loyal Commons with a plainness of speech never before (or since) heard from the throne—we brought in several Bills of a decidedly heroic character. G. Bernard Shaw, as President of the Local Government Board, and I, as Home Secretary, came in for a good deal of criticism in connection with various drastic measures. An International Freethought Congress, held in London, entailed fairly heavy work, and the science classes were ever with us. Another written debate came with October, this time on the "Teachings of Christianity," making the fifth of these set discussions held by me during the year. This same month brought a change, painful but just: I resigned my much-prized position as co-editor of the National Reformer, and the number for October 23rd bore Charles Bradlaugh's name alone. The change did not affect my work on the paper, but I became merely a subordinate, though remaining, of course, joint proprietor. The reason cannot be more accurately given than in the paragraph penned at the time: "For a considerable time past, and lately in increasing number, complaints have reached me from various quarters of the inconvenience and uncertainty that result from the divided editorial policy of this paper on the question of Socialism. Some months ago I proposed to avoid this difficulty by resigning my share in the editorship; but my colleague, with characteristic liberality, asked me to let the proposal stand over and see if matters would not adjust themselves. But the difficulty, instead of disappearing, has only become more pressing; and we both feel that our readers have a right to demand that it be solved.

"When I became co-editor of this paper I was not a Socialist; and, although I regard Socialism as the necessary and logical outcome of the Radicalism which for so many years the National Reformer has taught, still, as in avowing myself a Socialist I have taken a distinct step, the partial separation of my policy in labour questions from that of my colleague has been of my own making, and not of his, and it is, therefore, for me to go away. Over by far the greater part of our sphere of action we are still substantially agreed, and are likely to remain so. But since, as Socialism becomes more and more a question of practical politics, differences of theory tend to produce differences in conduct; and since a political paper must have a single editorial programme in practical politics, it would obviously be most inconvenient for me to retain my position as co-editor. I therefore resume my former position as contributor only, thus clearing the National Reformer of all responsibility for the views I hold."

To this Mr. Bradlaugh added the following:—

"I need hardly add to this how very deeply I regret the necessity for Mrs. Besant's resignation of the joint editorship of this Journal, and the real grief I feel in accepting this break in a position in which she has rendered such enormous service to the Freethought and Radical cause. As a most valued contributor I trust the National Reformer may never lose the efficient aid of her brain and pen. For thirteen years this paper has been richer for good by the measure of her never-ceasing and most useful work. I agree with her that a journal must have a distinct editorial policy; and I think this distinctness the more necessary when, as in the present case, every contributor has the greatest freedom of expression. I recognise in the fullest degree the spirit of self-sacrifice in which the lines, to which I add these words, have been penned by Mrs. Besant.


It was a wrench, this breaking of a tie for which a heavy price had been paid thirteen years before, but it was just. Any one who makes a change with which pain is connected is bound, in honour and duty, to take that pain as much as possible on himself; he must not put his sacrifice on others, nor pay his own ransom with their coin. There must be honour kept in the life that reaches towards the Ideal, for broken faith to that is the only real infidelity.

And there was another reason for the change that I dared not name to him, for his quick loyalty would then have made him stubbornly determined against change. I saw the swift turning of public opinion, the gradual approach to him among Liberals who had hitherto held aloof, and I knew that they looked upon me as a clog and a burden, and that were I less prominently with him his way would be the easier to tread. So I slipped more and more into the background, no longer went with him to his meetings; my use to him in public was over, for I had become hindrance instead of help. While he was outcast and hated I had the pride of standing at his side; when all the fair-weather friends came buzzing round him I served him best by self-effacement, and I never loved him better than when I stood aside. But I continued all the literary work unaltered, and no change of opinions touched his kindness to me, although when, a little later, I joined the Theosophical Society, he lost his trust in my reasoning powers and judgment.

In this same month of October the unemployed began walking in procession through the streets, and harshness on the part of the police led to some rioting. Sir Charles Warren thought it his duty to dragoon London meetings after the fashion of Continental prefects, with the inevitable result that an ill-feeling grew up between the people and the police.

At last we formed a Socialist Defence Association, in order to help poor workmen brought up and sentenced on police evidence only, without any chance being given them of proper legal defence, and I organised a band of well-to-do men and women, who promised to obey a telegraphic summons, night or day, and to bail out any prisoner arrested for exercising the ancient right of walking in procession and speaking. To take one instance: Mr. Burleigh, the well-known war correspondent, and Mr. Winks were arrested and "run in" with Mr. J. Knight, a workman, for seditious language. I went down to the police-station to offer bail for the latter: Chief-Constable Howard accepted bail for Messrs. Burleigh and Winks, but refused it for Mr. Knight. The next day, at the police-court, the preposterous bail of £400 was demanded for Mr. Knight and supplied by my faithful band, and on the next hearing Mr. Poland, solicitor to the Treasury, withdrew the charge against him for lack of evidence!

Then came the closing of Trafalgar Square, and the unexpected and high-handed order that cost some men their lives, many their liberty, and hundreds the most serious injuries. The Metropolitan Radical Federation had called a meeting for November 13th to protest against the imprisonment of Mr. O'Brien, and as Mr. Matthews, from his place in the House, had stated that there was no intention of interfering with bonâ fide political meetings, the Radical clubs did not expect police interference. On November 9th Sir Charles Warren had issued an order forbidding all meetings in the Square, but the clubs trusted the promise of the Home Secretary. On Saturday evening only, November 12th, when all arrangements were completed, did he issue a peremptory order, forbidding processions within a certain area. With this trap suddenly sprung upon them, the delegates from the clubs, the Fabian Society, the Social Democratic Federation, and the Socialist League, met on that same Saturday evening to see to any details that had been possibly left unsettled. It was finally decided to go to the Square as arranged, and, if challenged by the police, to protest formally against the illegal interference, then to break up the processions and leave the members to find their own way to the Square. It was also decided to go Sunday after Sunday to the Square, until the right of public meetings was vindicated.

The procession I was in started from Clerkenwell Green, and walked with its banner in front, and the chosen speakers, including myself, immediately behind the flag. As we were moving slowly and quietly along one of the narrow streets debouching on Trafalgar Square, wondering whether we should be challenged, there was a sudden charge, and without a word the police were upon us with uplifted truncheons; the banner was struck down, and men and women were falling under a hail of blows. There was no attempt at resistance, the people were too much astounded at the unprepared attack. They scattered, leaving some of their number on the ground too much injured to move, and then made their way in twos and threes to the Square. It was garrisoned by police, drawn up in serried rows, that could only have been broken by a deliberate charge. Our orders were to attempt no violence, and we attempted none. Mr. Cunninghame Graham and Mr. John Burns, arm-in-arm, tried to pass through the police, and were savagely cut about the head and arrested. Then ensued a scene to be remembered; the horse police charged in squadrons at a hand-gallop, rolling men and women over like ninepins, while the foot police struck recklessly with their truncheons, cutting a road through the crowd that closed immediately behind them. I got on a waggonette and tried to persuade the driver to pull his trap across one of the roads, and to get others in line, so as to break the charges of the mounted police; but he was afraid, and drove away to the Embankment, so I jumped out and went back to the Square. At last a rattle of cavalry, and up came the Life Guards, cleverly handled but hurting none, trotting their horses gently and shouldering the crowd apart; and then the Scots Guards with bayonets fixed marched through and occupied the north of the Square. Then the people retreated as we passed round the word, "Go home, go home." The soldiers were ready to fire, the people unarmed; it would have been but a massacre. Slowly the Square emptied and all was still. All other processions were treated as ours had been, and the injuries inflicted were terrible. Peaceable, law-abiding workmen, who had never dreamed of rioting, were left with broken legs, broken arms, wounds of every description. One man, Linnell, died almost immediately, others from the effect of their injuries. The next day a regular court-martial in Bow Street Police Court, witnesses kept out by the police, men dazed with their wounds, decent workmen of unblemished character who had never been charged in a police-court before, sentenced to imprisonment without chance of defence. But a gallant band rallied to their rescue. William T. Stead, most chivalrous of journalists, opened a Defence Fund, and money rained in; my pledged bail came up by the dozen, and we got the men out on appeal. By sheer audacity I got into the police-court, addressed the magistrate, too astounded by my profound courtesy and calm assurance to remember that I had no right there, and then produced bail after bail of the most undeniable character and respectability, which no magistrate could refuse. Breathing-time gained, a barrister, Mr. W.M. Thompson, worked day after day with hearty devotion, and took up the legal defence. Fines we paid, and here Mrs. Marx Aveling did eager service. A pretty regiment I led out of Millbank Prison, after paying their fines; bruised, clothes torn, hatless, we must have looked a disreputable lot. We stopped and bought hats, to throw an air of respectability over our cortège, and we kept together until I saw the men into train and omnibus, lest, with the bitter feelings now roused, conflict should again arise. We formed the Law and Liberty League to defend all unjustly assailed by the police, and thus rescued many a man from prison; and we gave poor Linnell, killed in Trafalgar Square, a public funeral. Sir Charles Warren forbade the passing of the hearse through any of the main thoroughfares west of Waterloo Bridge, so the processions waited there for it. W.T. Stead, R. Cunninghame Graham, Herbert Burrows, and myself walked on one side the coffin, William Morris, F. Smith, R. Dowling, and J. Seddon on the other; the Rev. Stewart D. Headlam, the officiating clergyman, walked in front; fifty stewards carrying long wands guarded the coffin. From Wellington Street to Bow Cemetery the road was one mass of human beings, who uncovered reverently as the slain man went by; at Aldgate the procession took three-quarters of an hour to pass one spot, and thus we bore Linnell to his grave, symbol of a cruel wrong, the vast orderly, silent crowd, bareheaded, making mute protest against the outrage wrought.

It is pleasant to put on record here Mr. Bradlaugh's grave approval of the heavy work done in the police-courts, and the following paragraph shows how generously he could praise one not acting on his own lines: "As I have on most serious matters of principle recently differed very widely from my brave and loyal co-worker, and as the difference has been regrettably emphasised by her resignation of her editorial functions on this Journal, it is the more necessary that I should say how thoroughly I approve, and how grateful I am to her for, her conduct in not only obtaining bail and providing legal assistance for the helpless unfortunates in the hands of the police, but also for her daily personal attendance and wise conduct at the police-stations and police-courts, where she has done so much to abate harsh treatment on the one hand and rash folly on the other. While I should not have marked out this as fitting woman's work, especially in the recent very inclement weather, I desire to record my view that it has been bravely done, well done, and most usefully done, and I wish to mark this the more emphatically as my views and those of Mrs. Besant seem wider apart than I could have deemed possible on many of the points of principle underlying what is every day growing into a most serious struggle." Ever did I find Charles Bradlaugh thus tolerant of difference of opinion, generously eager to approve what to him seemed right even in a policy he disapproved.

The indignation grew and grew; the police were silently boycotted, but the people were so persistent and so tactful that no excuse for violence was given, until the strain on the police force began to tell, and the Tory Government felt that London was being hopelessly alienated; so at last Sir Charles Warren fell, and a wiser hand was put at the helm.
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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

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Out of all this turmoil and stress rose a Brotherhood that had in it the promise of a fairer day. Mr. Stead and I had become close friends—he Christian, I Atheist, burning with one common love for man, one common hatred against oppression. And so in Our Corner for February, 1888, I wrote:—"Lately there has been dawning on the minds of men far apart in questions of theology, the idea of founding a new Brotherhood, in which service of Man should take the place erstwhile given to service of God—a brotherhood in which work should be worship and love should be baptism, in which none should be regarded as alien who was willing to work for human good. One day as I was walking towards Millbank Gaol with the Rev. S.D. Headlam, on the way to liberate a prisoner, I said to him: 'Mr. Headlam, we ought to have a new Church, which should include all who have the common ground of faith in and love for man.' And a little later I found that my friend Mr. W.T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, had long been brooding over a similar thought, and wondering whether men 'might not be persuaded to be as earnest about making this world happy as they are over saving their souls.' The teaching of social duty, the upholding of social righteousness, the building up of a true commonwealth—such would be among the aims of the Church of the future. Is the hope too fair for realisation? Is the winning of such beatific vision yet once more the dream of the enthusiast? But surely the one fact that persons so deeply differing in theological creeds as those who have been toiling for the last three months to aid and relieve the oppressed, can work in absolute harmony side by side for the one end—surely this proves that there is a bond which is stronger than our antagonisms, a unity which is deeper than the speculative theories which divide."

How unconsciously I was marching towards the Theosophy which was to become the glory of my life, groping blindly in the darkness for that very brotherhood, definitely formulated on these very lines by those Elder Brothers of our race, at whose feet I was so soon to throw myself. How deeply this longing for something loftier than I had yet found had wrought itself into my life, how strong the conviction was growing that there was something to be sought to which the service of man was the road, may be seen in the following passage from the same article:—

"It has been thought that in these days of factories and of tramways, of shoddy, and of adulteration, that all life must tread with even rhythm of measured footsteps, and that the glory of the ideal could no longer glow over the greyness of a modern horizon. But signs are not awanting that the breath of the older heroism is beginning to stir men's breasts, and that the passion for justice and for liberty, which thrilled through the veins of the world's greatest in the past, and woke our pulses to responsive throb, has not yet died wholly out of the hearts of men. Still the quest of the Holy Grail exercises its deathless fascination, but the seekers no longer raise eyes to heaven, nor search over land and sea, for they know that it waits them in the suffering at their doors, that the consecration of the holiest is on the agonising masses of the poor and the despairing, the cup is crimson with the blood of the

"'People, the grey-grown speechless Christ.'

... If there be a faith that can remove the mountains of ignorance and evil, it is surely that faith in the ultimate triumph of Right in the final enthronement of Justice, which alone makes life worth the living, and which gems the blackest cloud of depression with the rainbow-coloured arch of an immortal hope."

As a step towards bringing about some such union of those ready to work for man, Mr. Stead and I projected the Link, a halfpenny weekly, the spirit of which was described in its motto, taken from Victor Hugo: "The people are silence. I will be the advocate of this silence. I will speak for the dumb. I will speak of the small to the great and of the feeble to the strong.... I will speak for all the despairing silent ones. I will interpret this stammering; I will interpret the grumblings, the murmurs, the tumults of crowds, the complaints ill-pronounced, and all these cries of beasts that, through ignorance and through suffering, man is forced to utter ... I will be the Word of the People. I will be the bleeding mouth whence the gag is snatched out. I will say everything." It announced its object to be the "building up" of a "New Church, dedicated to the service of man," and "what we want to do is to establish in every village and in every street some man or woman who will sacrifice time and labour as systematically and as cheerfully in the temporal service of man as others do in what they believe to be the service of God." Week after week we issued our little paper, and it became a real light in the darkness. There the petty injustices inflicted on the poor found voice; there the starvation wages paid to women found exposure; there sweating was brought to public notice. A finisher of boots paid 2s. 6d. per dozen pairs and "find your own polish and thread"; women working for 10½ hours per day, making shirts—"fancy best"—at from 10d. to 3s. per dozen, finding their own cotton and needles, paying for gas, towel, and tea (compulsory), earning from 4s. to 10s. per week for the most part; a mantle finisher 2s. 2d. a week, out of which 6d. for materials; "respectable hard-working woman" tried for attempted suicide, "driven to rid herself of life from want." Another part of our work was defending people from unjust landlords, exposing workhouse scandals, enforcing the Employers' Liability Act, Charles Bradlaugh's Truck Act, forming "Vigilance Circles" whose members kept watch in their own district over cases of cruelty to children, extortion, insanitary workshops, sweating, &c., reporting each case to me. Into this work came Herbert Burrows, who had joined hands with me over the Trafalgar Square defence, and who wrote some noble articles in the Link. A man loving the people with passionate devotion, hating oppression and injustice with equal passion, working himself with remorseless energy, breaking his heart over wrongs he could not remedy. His whole character once came out in a sentence when he was lying delirious and thought himself dying: "Tell the people how I have loved them always."

In our crusade for the poor we worked for the dockers." To-morrow morning, in London alone 20,000 to 25,000 adult men," wrote Sidney Webb, "will fight like savages for permission to labour in the docks for 4d. an hour, and one-third of them will fight in vain, and be turned workless away." We worked for children's dinners. "If we insist on these children being educated, is it not necessary that they shall be fed? If not, we waste on them knowledge they cannot assimilate, and torture many of them to death. Poor waifs of humanity, we drive them into the school and bid them learn; and the pitiful, wistful eyes question us why we inflict this strange new suffering, and bring into their dim lives this new pang. 'Why not leave us alone? 'ask the pathetically patient little faces. Why not, indeed, since for these child martyrs of the slums, Society has only formulas, not food." We cried out against "cheap goods," that meant "sweated and therefore stolen goods." "The ethics of buying should surely be simply enough. We want a particular thing, and we do not desire to obtain it either by begging or by robbery; but if in becoming possessed of it, we neither beg it nor steal, we must give for it something equivalent in exchange; so much of our neighbour's labour has been put into the thing we desire; if we will not yield him fair equivalent for that labour, yet take his article, we defraud him, and if we are not willing to give that fair equivalent we have no right to become the owners of his product."

This branch of our work led to a big fight—a fight most happy in its results. At a meeting of the Fabian Society, Miss Clementina Black gave a capital lecture on Female Labour, and urged the formation of a Consumers' League, pledged only to buy from shops certificated "clean" from unfair wage. H.H. Champion, in the discussion that followed, drew attention to the wages paid by Bryant & May (Limited), while paying an enormous dividend to their shareholders, so that the value of the original £5 shares was quoted at £18 7s. 6d. Herbert Burrows and I interviewed some of the girls, got lists of wages, of fines, &c. "A typical case is that of a girl of sixteen, a piece-worker; she earns 4s. a week, and lives with a sister, employed by the same firm, who 'earns good money, as much as 8s. or 9s. a week.' Out of the earnings 2s. a week is paid for the rent of one room. The child lives only on bread and butter and tea, alike for breakfast and dinner, but related with dancing eyes that once a month she went to a meal where 'you get coffee and bread and butter, and jam and marmalade, and lots of it.'" We published the facts under the title of "White Slavery in London," and called for a boycott of Bryant & May's matches. "It is time some one came and helped us," said two pale-faced girls to me; and I asked: "Who will help? Plenty of people wish well to any good cause; but very few care to exert themselves to help it, and still fewer will risk anything in its support. 'Some one ought to do it, but why should I?' is the ever re-echoed phrase of weak-kneed amiability. 'Some one ought to do it, so why not I?' is the cry of some earnest servant of man, eagerly forward springing to face some perilous duty. Between those two sentences lie whole centuries of moral evolution."

I was promptly threatened with an action for libel, but nothing came of it; it was easier to strike at the girls, and a few days later Fleet Street was enlivened by the irruption of a crowd of match-girls, demanding Annie Besant. I couldn't speechify to match-girls in Fleet Street, so asked that a deputation should come and explain what they wanted. Up came three women and told their story: they had been asked to sign a paper certifying that they were well treated and contented, and that my statements were untrue; they refused. "You had spoke up for us," explained one, "and we weren't going back on you." A girl, pitched on as their leader, was threatened with dismissal; she stood firm; next day she was discharged for some trifle, and they all threw down their work, some 1,400 of them, and then a crowd of them started off to me to ask what to do next. If we ever worked in our lives, Herbert Burrows and I worked for the next fortnight. And a pretty hubbub we created; we asked for money, and it came pouring in; we registered the girls to receive strike pay, wrote articles, roused the clubs, held public meetings, got Mr. Bradlaugh to ask questions in Parliament, stirred up constituencies in which shareholders were members, till the whole country rang with the struggle. Mr. Frederick Charrington lent us a hall for registration, Mr. Sidney Webb and others moved the National Liberal Club to action; we led a procession of the girls to the House of Commons, and interviewed, with a deputation of them, Members of Parliament who cross-questioned them. The girls behaved splendidly, stuck together, kept brave and bright all through. Mr. Hobart of the Social Democratic Federation, Messrs. Shaw, Bland, and Oliver, and Headlam of the Fabian Society, Miss Clementina Black, and many another helped in the heavy work. The London Trades Council finally consented to act as arbitrators and a satisfactory settlement was arrived at; the girls went in to work, fines and deductions were abolished, better wages paid; the Match-makers' Union was established, still the strongest woman's Trades Union in England, and for years I acted as secretary, till, under press of other duties, I resigned, and my work was given by the girls to Mrs. Thornton Smith; Herbert Burrows became, and still is, the treasurer. For a time there was friction between the Company and the Union, but it gradually disappeared under the influence of common sense on both sides, and we have found the manager ready to consider any just grievance and to endeavour to remove it, while the Company have been liberal supporters of the Working Women's Club at Bow, founded by H.P. Blavatsky.


The worst suffering of all was among the box-makers, thrown out of work by the strike, and they were hard to reach. Twopence-farthing per gross of boxes, and buy your own string and paste, is not wealth, but when the work went more rapid starvation came. Oh, those trudges through the lanes and alleys round Bethnal Green Junction late at night, when our day's work was over; children lying about on shavings, rags, anything; famine looking out of baby faces, out of women's eyes, out of the tremulous hands of men. Heart grew sick and eyes dim, and ever louder sounded the question, "Where is the cure for sorrow, what the way of rescue for the world?"

In August I asked for a "match-girls' drawing-room." "It will want a piano, tables for papers, for games, for light literature; so that it may offer a bright, homelike refuge to these girls, who now have no real homes, no playground save the streets. It is not proposed to build an 'institution' with stern and rigid discipline and enforcement of prim behaviour, but to open a home, filled with the genial atmosphere of cordial comradeship, and self-respecting freedom—the atmosphere so familiar to all who have grown up in the blessed shelter of a happy home, so strange, alas! to too many of our East London girls." In the same month of August, two years later, H.P. Blavatsky opened such a home.

Then came a cry for help from South London, from tin-box makers, illegally fined, and in many cases grievously mutilated by the non-fencing of machinery; then aid to shop assistants, also illegally fined; legal defences by the score still continued; a vigorous agitation for a free meal for children, and for fair wages to be paid by all public bodies; work for the dockers and exposure of their wrongs; a visit to the Cradley Heath chain-makers, speeches to them, writing for them; a contest for the School Board for the Tower Hamlets division, and triumphant return at the head of the poll. Such were some of the ways in which the autumn days were spent, to say nothing of scores of lectures—Secularist, Labour, Socialist—and scores of articles written for the winning of daily bread. When the School Board work was added I felt that I had as much work as one woman's strength could do.

Thus was ushered in 1889, the to me never-to-be-forgotten year in which I found my way "Home," and had the priceless good fortune of meeting, and of becoming the pupil of, H.P. Blavatsky. Ever more and more had been growing on me the feeling that something more than I had was needed for the cure of social ills. The Socialist position sufficed on the economic side, but where to gain the inspiration, the motive, which should lead to the realisation of the Brotherhood of Man? Our efforts to really organise bands of unselfish workers had failed. Much indeed had been done, but there was not a real movement of self-sacrificing devotion, in which men worked for Love's sake only, and asked but to give, not to take. Where was the material for the nobler Social Order, where the hewn stones for the building of the Temple of Man? A great despair would oppress me as I sought for such a movement and found it not.


Not only so; but since 1886 there had been slowly growing up a conviction that my philosophy was not sufficient; that life and mind were other than, more than, I had dreamed. Psychology was advancing with rapid strides; hypnotic experiments were revealing unlooked-for complexities in human consciousness, strange riddles of multiplex personalities, and, most startling of all, vivid intensities of mental action when the brain, that should be the generator of thought, was reduced to a comatose state. Fact after fact came hurtling in upon me, demanding explanation I was incompetent to give. I studied the obscurer sides of consciousness, dreams, hallucinations, illusions, insanity. Into the darkness shot a ray of light—A.P. Sinnett's "Occult World," with its wonderfully suggestive letters, expounding not the supernatural but a nature under law, wider than I had dared to conceive. I added Spiritualism to my studies, experimenting privately, finding the phenomena indubitable, but the spiritualistic explanation of them incredible. The phenomena of clairvoyance, clairaudience, thought-reading, were found to be real. Under all the rush of the outer life, already sketched, these questions were working in my mind, their answers were being diligently sought. I read a variety of books, but could find little in them that satisfied me. I experimented in various ways suggested in them, and got some (to me) curious results. I finally convinced myself that there was some hidden thing, some hidden power, and resolved to seek until I found, and by the early spring of 1889 I had grown desperately determined to find at all hazards what I sought. At last, sitting alone in deep thought as I had become accustomed to do after the sun had set, filled with an intense but nearly hopeless longing to solve the riddle of life and mind, I heard a Voice that was later to become to me the holiest sound on earth, bidding me take courage for the light was near. A fortnight passed, and then Mr. Stead gave into my hands two large volumes. "Can you review these? My young men all fight shy of them, but you are quite mad enough on these subjects to make something of them." I took the books; they were the two volumes of "The Secret Doctrine," written by H.P. Blavatsky.

Home I carried my burden, and sat me down to read. As I turned over page after page the interest became absorbing; but how familiar it seemed; how my mind leapt forward to presage the conclusions, how natural it was, how coherent, how subtle, and yet how intelligible. I was dazzled, blinded by the light in which disjointed facts were seen as parts of a mighty whole, and all my puzzles, riddles, problems, seemed to disappear. The effect was partially illusory in one sense, in that they all had to be slowly unravelled later, the brain gradually assimilating that which the swift intuition had grasped as truth. But the light had been seen, and in that flash of illumination I knew that the weary search was over and the very Truth was found.

I wrote the review, and asked Mr. Stead for an introduction to the writer, and then sent a note asking to be allowed to call. I received the most cordial of notes, bidding me come, and in the soft spring evening Herbert Burrows and I—for his aspirations were as mine on this matter—walked from Netting Hill Station, wondering what we should meet, to the door of 17, Lansdowne Road. A pause, a swift passing through hall and outer room, through folding-doors thrown back, a figure in a large chair before a table, a voice, vibrant, compelling, "My dear Mrs. Besant, I have so long wished to see you," and I was standing with my hand in her firm grip, and looking for the first time in this life straight into the eyes of "H.P.B." I was conscious of a sudden leaping forth of my heart—was it recognition?—and then, I am ashamed to say, a fierce rebellion, a fierce withdrawal, as of some wild animal when it feels a mastering hand. I sat down, after some introductions that conveyed no ideas to me, and listened. She talked of travels, of various countries, easy brilliant talk, her eyes veiled, her exquisitely moulded fingers rolling cigarettes incessantly. Nothing special to record, no word of Occultism, nothing mysterious, a woman of the world chatting with her evening visitors. We rose to go, and for a moment the veil lifted, and two brilliant, piercing eyes met mine, and with a yearning throb in the voice: "Oh, my dear Mrs. Besant, if you would only come among us!" I felt a well-nigh uncontrollable desire to bend down and kiss her, under the compulsion of that yearning voice, those compelling eyes, but with a flash of the old unbending pride and an inward jeer at my own folly, I said a commonplace polite good-bye, and turned away with some inanely courteous and evasive remark. "Child," she said to me long afterwards, "your pride is terrible; you are as proud as Lucifer himself." But truly I think I never showed it to her again after that first evening, though it sprang up wrathfully in her defence many and many a time, until I learned the pettiness and the worthlessness of all criticism, and knew that the blind were objects of compassion not of scorn.

Once again I went, and asked about the Theosophical Society, wishful to join, but fighting against it. For I saw, distinct and clear—with painful distinctness, indeed—what that joining would mean. I had largely conquered public prejudice against me by my work on the London School Board, and a smoother road stretched before me, whereon effort to help should be praised not blamed. Was I to plunge into a new vortex of strife, and make myself a mark for ridicule—worse than hatred—and fight again the weary fight for an unpopular truth? Must I turn against Materialism, and face the shame of publicly confessing that I had been wrong, misled by intellect to ignore the Soul? Must I leave the army that had battled for me so bravely, the friends who through all brutality of social ostracism had held me dear and true? And he, the strongest and truest friend of all, whose confidence I had shaken by my Socialism—must he suffer the pang of seeing his co-worker, his co-fighter, of whom he had been so proud, to whom he had been so generous, go over to the opposing hosts, and leave the ranks of Materialism? What would be the look in Charles Bradlaugh's eyes when I told him that I had become a Theosophist? The struggle was sharp and keen, but with none of the anguish of old days in it, for the soldier had now fought many fights and was hardened by many wounds. And so it came to pass that I went again to Lansdowne Road to ask about the Theosophical Society. H.P. Blavatsky looked at me piercingly for a moment. "Have you read the report about me of the Society for Psychical Research?" "No; I never heard of it, so far as I know." "Go and read it, and if, after reading it, you come back—well." And nothing more would she say on the subject, but branched off to her experiences in many lands.

I borrowed a copy of the Report, read and re-read it. Quickly I saw how slender was the foundation on which the imposing structure was built. The continual assumptions on which conclusions were based; the incredible character of the allegations; and—most damning fact of all—the foul source from which the evidence was derived. Everything turned on the veracity of the Coulombs, and they were self-stamped as partners in the alleged frauds. Could I put such against the frank, fearless nature that I had caught a glimpse of, against the proud fiery truthfulness that shone at me from the clear, blue eyes, honest and fearless as those of a noble child? Was the writer of "The Secret Doctrine" this miserable impostor, this accomplice of tricksters, this foul and loathsome deceiver, this conjuror with trap-doors and sliding panels? I laughed aloud at the absurdity and flung the Report aside with the righteous scorn of an honest nature that knew its own kin when it met them, and shrank from the foulness and baseness of a lie. The next day saw me at the Theosophical Publishing Company's office at 7, Duke Street, Adelphi, where Countess Wachtmeister—one of the lealest of H.P.B.'s friends—was at work, and I signed an application to be admitted as fellow of the Theosophical Society.

On receiving my diploma I betook myself to Lansdowne Road, where I found H.P.B. alone. I went over to her, bent down and kissed her, but said no word. "You have joined the Society?" "Yes." "You have read the report?" "Yes." "Well?" I knelt down before her and clasped her hands in mine, looking straight into her eyes. "My answer is, will you accept me as your pupil, and give me the honour of proclaiming you my teacher in the face of the world?" Her stern, set face softened, the unwonted gleam of tears sprang to her eyes; then, with a dignity more than regal, she placed her hand upon my head. "You are a noble woman. May Master bless you."

From that day, the 10th of May, 1889, until now—two years three and half months after she left her body on May 8, 1891—my faith in her has never wavered, my trust in her has never been shaken. I gave her my faith on an imperious intuition, I proved her true day after day in closest intimacy living by her side; and I speak of her with the reverence due from a pupil to a teacher who never failed her, with the passionate gratitude which, in our School, is the natural meed of the one who opens the gateway and points out the path. "Folly! fanaticism!" scoffs the Englishman of the nineteenth century. Be it so. I have seen, and I can wait. I have been told that I plunged headlong into Theosophy and let my enthusiasm carry me away. I think the charge is true, in so far as the decision was swiftly taken; but it had been long led up to, and realised the dreams of childhood on the higher planes of intellectual womanhood. And let me here say that more than all I hoped for in that first plunge has been realised, and a certainty of knowledge has been gained on doctrines seen as true as that swift flash of illumination. I know, by personal experiment, that the Soul exists, and that my Soul, not my body, is myself; that it can leave the body at will; that it can, disembodied, reach and learn from living human teachers, and bring back and impress on the physical brain that which it has learned; that this process of transferring consciousness from one range of being, as it were, to another, is a very slow process, during which the body and brain are gradually correlated with the subtler form which is essentially that of the Soul, and that my own experience of it, still so imperfect, so fragmentary, when compared with the experience of the highly trained, is like the first struggles of a child learning to speak compared with the perfect oratory of the practised speaker; that consciousness, so far from being dependent on the brain, is more active when freed from the gross forms of matter than when encased within them; that the great Sages spoken of by H.P. Blavatsky exist; that they wield powers and possess knowledge before which our control of Nature and knowledge of her ways is but as child's play. All this, and much more, have I learned, and I am but a pupil of low grade, as it were in the infant class of the Occult School; so the first plunge has been successful, and the intuition has been justified. This same path of knowledge that I am treading is open to all others who will pay the toll demanded at the gateway—and that toll is willingness to renounce everything for the sake of spiritual truth, and willingness to give all the truth that is won to the service of man, keeping back no shred for self.

On June 23rd, in a review of "The Secret Doctrine" in the National Reformer, the following passages occur, and show how swiftly some of the main points of the teaching had been grasped. (There is a blunder in the statement that of the seven modifications of Matter Science knows only four, and till lately knew only three; these four are sub-states only, sub-divisions of the lowest plane.)

After saying that the nineteenth-century Englishman would be but too likely to be repelled if he only skimmed the book, I went on: "With telescope and with microscope, with scalpel and with battery, Western Science interrogates nature, adding fact to fact, storing experience after experience, but coming ever to gulfs unfathomable by its plummets, to heights unscalable by its ladders. Wide and masterful in its answers to the 'How?' the 'Why?' ever eludes it, and causes remain enwrapped in gloom. Eastern Science uses as its scientific instrument the penetrating faculties of the mind alone, and regarding the material plane as Maya—illusion—seeks in the mental and spiritual planes of being the causes of the material effects. There, too, is the only reality; there the true existence of which the visible universe is but the shadow.

"It is clear that from such investigations some further mental equipment is necessary than that normally afforded by the human body. And here comes the parting of the ways between East and West. For the study of the material universe, our five senses, aided by the instruments invented by Science, may suffice. For all we can hear and see, taste and handle, these accustomed servitors, though often blundering, are the best available guides to knowledge. But it lies in the nature of the case that they are useless when the investigation is to be into modes of existence which cannot impress themselves on our nerve-ends. For instance, what we know as colour is the vibration frequency of etheric waves striking on the retina of the eye, between certain definite limits—759 trillions of blows from the maximum, 436 trillions from the minimum—these waves give rise in us to the sensation which the brain translates into colour. (Why the 436 trillion blows at one end of a nerve become 'Red' at the other end we do not know; we chronicle the fact but cannot explain it.) But our capacity to respond to the vibration cannot limit the vibrational capacity of the ether; to us the higher and lower rates of vibration do not exist, but if our sense of vision were more sensitive we should see where now we are blind. Following this line of thought we realise that matter may exist in forms unknown to us, in modifications to which our senses are unable to respond. Now steps in the Eastern Sage and says: 'That which you say may be, is; we have developed and cultivated senses as much superior to yours as your eye is superior to that of the jelly-fish; we have evolved mental and spiritual faculties which enable us to investigate on the higher planes of being with as much certainty as you are investigating on the physical plane; there is nothing supernatural in the business, any more than your knowledge is supernatural, though much above that accessible to the fish; we do not speculate on these higher forms of existence; we know them by personal study, just as you know the fauna and flora of your world. The powers we possess are not supernatural, they are latent in every human being, and will be evolved as the race progresses. All that we have done is to evolve them more rapidly than our neighbours, by a procedure as open to you as it was to us. Matter is everywhere, but it exists in seven modifications of which you only know four, and until lately only knew three; in those higher forms reside the causes of which you see the effects in the lower, and to know these causes you must develop the capacity to take cognisance of the higher planes.'"

Then followed a brief outline of the cycle of evolution, and I went on: "What part does man play in this vast drama of a universe? Needless to say, he is not the only living form in a Cosmos, which for the most part is uninhabitable by him. As Science has shown living forms everywhere on the material plane, races in each drop of water, life throbbing in every leaf and blade, so the 'Secret Doctrine' points to living forms on higher planes of existence, each suited to its environment, till all space thrills with life, and nowhere is there death, but only change. Amid these myriads are some evolving towards humanity, some evolving away from humanity as we know it, divesting themselves of its grosser parts. For man is regarded as a sevenfold being, four of these parts belonging to the animal body, and perishing at, or soon after, death; while three form his higher self, his true individuality, and these persist and are immortal. These form the Ego, and it is this which passes through many incarnations, learning life's lesson as it goes, working out its own redemption within the limits of an inexorable law, sowing seeds of which it ever reaps the harvest, building its own fate with tireless fingers, and finding nowhere in the measureless time and space around it any that can lift for it one weight it has created, one burden it has gathered, unravel for it one tangle it has twisted, close for it one gulf it has digged."

Then after noting the approaches of Western Science to Eastern, came the final words: "it is of curious interest to note how some of the latest theories seem to catch glimpses of the occult Doctrines, as though Science were standing on the very threshold of knowledge which shall make all her past seem small. Already her hand is trembling towards the grasp of forces beside which all those now at her command are insignificant. How soon will her grip fasten on them? Let us hope not until social order has been transformed, lest they should only give more to those who have, and leave the wretched still wretcheder by force of contrast. Knowledge used by selfishness widens the gulf that divides man from man and race from race, and we may well shrink from the idea of new powers in Nature being yoked to the car of Greed. Hence the wisdom of those 'Masters,' in whose name Madame Blavatsky speaks, has ever denied the knowledge which is power until Love's lesson has been learned, and has given only into the hands of the selfless the control of those natural forces which, misused, would wreck society."

This review, and the public announcement, demanded by honesty, that I had joined the Theosophical Society, naturally raised somewhat of a storm of criticism, and the National Reformer of June 30th contained the following: "The review of Madame Blavatsky's book in the last National Reformer, and an announcement in the Star, have brought me several letters on the subject of Theosophy. I am asked for an explanation as to what Theosophy is, and as to my own opinion on Theosophy—the word 'theosoph' is old, and was used among the Neo-platonists. From the dictionary its new meaning appears to be, 'one who claims to have a knowledge of God, or of the laws of nature by means of internal illumination.' An Atheist certainly cannot be a Theosophist. A Deist might be a Theosophist. A Monist cannot be a Theosophist. Theosophy must at least involve Dualism. Modern Theosophy, according to Madame Blavatsky, as set out in last week's issue, asserts much that I do not believe, and alleges some things that, to me, are certainly not true. I have not had the opportunity of reading Madame Blavatsky's two volumes, but I have read during the past ten years many publications from the pen of herself, Colonel Olcott, and of other Theosophists. They appear to me to have sought to rehabilitate a kind of Spiritualism in Eastern phraseology. I think many of their allegations utterly erroneous, and their reasonings wholly unsound. I very deeply regret indeed that my colleague and co-worker has, with somewhat of suddenness, and without any interchange of ideas with myself, adopted as facts matters which seem to me to be as unreal as it is possible for any fiction to be. My regret is greater as I know Mrs. Besant's devotion to any course she believes to be true. I know that she will always be earnest in the advocacy of any views she undertakes to defend, and I look to possible developments of her Theosophic views with the very gravest misgiving. The editorial policy of this paper is unchanged, and is directly antagonistic to all forms of Theosophy. I would have preferred on this subject to have held my peace, for the public disagreeing with Mrs. Besant on her adoption of Socialism has caused pain to both; but on reading her article and taking the public announcement made of her having joined the Theosophical organisation, I owe it to those who look to me for guidance to say this with clearness. "CHARLES BRADLAUGH."

"It is not possible for me here to state fully my reasons for joining the Theosophical Society, the three objects of which are: To found a Universal Brotherhood without distinction of race or creed; to forward the study of Aryan literature and philosophy; to investigate unexplained laws of nature and the physical powers latent in man. On matters of religious opinion the members are absolutely free. The founders of the society deny a personal God, and a somewhat subtle form of Pantheism is taught as the Theosophic view of the universe, though even this is not forced on members of the society. I have no desire to hide the fact that this form of Pantheism appears to me to promise solution of some problems, especially problems in psychology, which Atheism leaves untouched.


Theosophy, as its students well know, so far from involving Dualism, is based on the One, which becomes Two on manifestation, just as Atheism posits one existence, only cognisable in the duality force and matter, and as philosophic—though not popular—Theism teaches one Deity whereof are spirit and matter. Mr. Bradlaugh's temperate disapproval was not copied in its temperance by some other Freethought leaders, and Mr. Foote especially distinguished himself by the bitterness of his attacks. In the midst of the whirl I was called away to Paris to attend, with Herbert Burrows, the great Labour Congress held there from July 15th to July 20th, and spent a day or two at Fontainebleau with H.P. Blavatsky, who had gone abroad for a few weeks' rest. There I found her translating the wonderful fragments from "The Book of the Golden Precepts," now so widely known under the name of "The Voice of the Silence." She wrote it swiftly, without any material copy before her, and in the evening made me read it aloud to see if the "English was decent." Herbert Burrows was there, and Mrs. Candler, a staunch American Theosophist, and we sat round H.P.B. while I read. The translation was in perfect and beautiful English, flowing and musical; only a word or two could we find to alter, and she looked at us like a startled child, wondering at our praises—praises that any one with the literary sense would endorse if they read that exquisite prose poem.

A little earlier in the same day I had asked her as to the agencies at work in producing the taps so constantly heard at Spiritualistic Séances. "You don't use spirits to produce taps," she said; "see here." She put her hand over my head, not touching it, and I heard and felt slight taps on the bone of my skull, each sending a little electric thrill down the spine. She then carefully explained how such taps were producible at any point desired by the operator, and how interplay of the currents to which they were due might be caused otherwise than by conscious human volition. It was in this fashion that she would illustrate her verbal teachings, proving by experiment the statements made as to the existence of subtle forces controllable by the trained mind. The phenomena all belonged to the scientific side of her teaching, and she never committed the folly of claiming authority for her philosophic doctrines on the ground that she was a wonder-worker. And constantly she would remind us that there was no such thing as "miracle"; that all the phenomena she had produced were worked by virtue of a knowledge of nature deeper than that of average people, and by the force of a well-trained mind and will; some of them were what she would describe as "psychological tricks," the creation of images by force of imagination, and in pressing them on others as a "collective hallucination"; others, such as the moving of solid articles, either by an astral hand projected to draw them towards her, or by using an Elemental; others by reading in the Astral Light, and so on. But the proof of the reality of her mission from those whom she spoke of as Masters lay not in these comparatively trivial physical and mental phenomena, but in the splendour of her heroic endurance, the depth of her knowledge, the selflessness of her character, the lofty spirituality of her teaching, the untiring passion of her devotion, the incessant ardour of her work for the enlightening of men. It was these, and not her phenomena, that won for her our faith and confidence—we who lived beside her, knowing her daily life—and we gratefully accepted her teaching not because she claimed any authority, but because it woke in us powers, the possibility of which in ourselves we had not dreamed of, energies of the Soul that demonstrated their own existence.

Returning to London from Paris, it became necessary to make a very clear and definite presentment of my change of views, and in the Reformer of August 4th I find the following: "Many statements are being made just now about me and my beliefs, some of which are absurdly, and some of which are maliciously, untrue. I must ask my friends not to give credence to them. It would not be fair to my friend Mr. Bradlaugh to ask him to open the columns of this Journal to an exposition of Theosophy from my pen, and so bring about a long controversy on a subject which would not interest the majority of the readers of the National Reformer. This being so I cannot here answer the attacks made on me. I feel, however, that the party with which I have worked for so long has a right to demand of me some explanation of the step I have taken, and I am therefore preparing a pamphlet dealing fully with the question. Further, I have arranged with Mr. R.O. Smith to take as subject of the lectures to be delivered by me at the Hall of Science on August 4th and 11th 'Why I became a Theosophist.' Meanwhile I think that my years of service in the ranks of the Freethought party give me the right to ask that I should not be condemned unheard, and I even venture to suggest, in view of the praises bestowed on me by Freethinkers in the past, that it is possible that there may be something to be said, from the intellectual standpoint, in favour of Theosophy. The caricatures of it which have appeared from some Freethinkers' pens represent it about as accurately as the Christian Evidence caricatures of Atheism represent that dignified philosophy of life; and, remembering how much they are themselves misrepresented, I ask them to wait before they judge."

The lectures were delivered, and were condensed into a pamphlet bearing the same title, which has had a very great circulation. It closed as follows:—

"There remains a great stumblingblock in the minds of many Freethinkers which is certain to prejudice them against Theosophy, and which offers to opponents a cheap subject for sarcasm—the assertion that there exist other living beings than the men and animals found on our own globe. It may be well for people who at once turn away when such an assertion is made to stop and ask themselves whether they really and seriously believe that throughout this mighty universe, in which our little planet is but as a tiny speck of sand in the Sahara, this one planet only is inhabited by living things? Is all the universe dumb save for our voices? eyeless save for our vision? dead save for our life? Such a preposterous belief was well enough in the days when Christianity regarded our world as the centre of the universe, the human race as the one for which the Creator had deigned to die. But now that we are placed in our proper position, one among countless myriads of worlds, what ground is there for the preposterous conceit which arrogates as ours all sentient existence? Earth, air, water, all are teeming with living things suited to their environment; our globe is overflowing with life. But the moment we pass in thought beyond our atmosphere everything is to be changed. Neither reason nor analogy support such a supposition. It was one of Bruno's crimes that he dared to teach that other worlds than ours were inhabited; but he was wiser than the monks who burned him. All the Theosophists aver is that each phase of matter has living things suited to it, and that all the universe is pulsing with life. 'Superstition!' shriek the bigoted. It is no more superstition than the belief in Bacteria, or in any other living thing invisible to the ordinary human eye. 'Spirit' is a misleading word, for, historically, it connotes immateriality and a supernatural kind of existence, and the Theosophist believes neither in the one nor the other. With him all living things act in and through a material basis, and 'matter' and 'spirit' are not found dissociated. But he alleges that matter exists in states other than those at present known to science. To deny this is to be about as sensible as was the Hindû prince who denied the existence of ice because water, in his experience, never became solid. Refusal to believe until proof is given is a rational position; denial of all outside of our own limited experience is absurd.

"One last word to my Secularist friends. If you say to me, 'Leave our ranks,' I will leave them; I force myself on no party, and the moment I feel myself unwelcome I will go.[29] It has cost me pain enough and to spare to admit that the Materialism from which I hoped all has failed me, and by such admission to bring on myself the disapproval of some of my nearest friends. But here, as at other times in my life, I dare not purchase peace with a lie. An imperious necessity forces me to speak the truth, as I see it, whether the speech please or displease, whether it bring praise or blame. That one loyalty to Truth I must keep stainless, whatever friendships fail me or human ties be broken. She may lead me into the wilderness, yet I must follow her; she may strip me of all love, yet I must pursue her; though she slay me, yet will I trust in her; and I ask no other epitaph on my tomb but


Meanwhile, with this new controversy on my hands, the School Board work went on, rendered possible, I ought to say, by the generous assistance of friends unknown to me, who sent me, £150 a year during the last year and a half. So also went on the vigorous Socialist work, and the continual championship of struggling labour movements, prominent here being the organisation of the South London fur-pullers into a union, and the aiding of the movement for shortening the hours of tram and 'bus men, the meetings for which had to be held after midnight. The feeding and clothing of children also occupied much time and attention, for the little ones in my district were, thousands of them, desperately poor. My studies I pursued as best I could, reading in railway carriages, tramcars, omnibuses, and stealing hours for listening to H.P.B. by shortening the nights.

In October, Mr. Bradlaugh's shaken strength received its death-blow, though he was to live yet another fifteen months. He collapsed suddenly under a most severe attack of congestion and lay in imminent peril, devotedly nursed by his only remaining child, Mrs. Bonner, his elder daughter having died the preceding autumn. Slowly he struggled back to life, after four weeks in bed, and, ordered by his physician to take rest and if possible a sea voyage, he sailed for India on November 28th, to attend the National Congress, where he was enthusiastically acclaimed as "Member for India."

In November I argued a libel suit, brought by me against the Rev. Mr. Hoskyns, vicar of Stepney, who had selected some vile passages from a book which was not mine and had circulated them as representing my views, during the School Board election of 1888. I had against me the Solicitor-General, Sir Edward Clarke, at the bar, and Baron Huddleston on the bench; both counsel and judge did their best to browbeat me and to use the coarsest language, endeavouring to prove that by advocating the limitation of the family I had condemned chastity as a crime. Five hours of brutal cross-examination left my denial of such teachings unshaken, and even the pleadings of the judge for the clergyman, defending his parishioners against an unbeliever and his laying down as law that the statement was privileged, did not avail to win a verdict. The jury disagreed, not, as one of them told me afterwards, on the question of the libel, but on some feeling that a clergyman ought not to be mulcted in damages for his over-zeal in defence of his faith against the ravening wolf of unbelief, while others, regarding the libel as a very cruel one, would not agree to a verdict that did not carry substantial damages. I did not carry the case to a new trial, feeling that it was not worth while to waste time over it further, my innocence of the charge itself having been fully proved.

Busily the months rolled on, and early in the year 1890 H.P.Blavatsky had given to her £1,000, to use in her discretion for human service, and if she thought well, in the service of women. After a good deal of discussion she fixed on the establishment of a club in East London for working girls, and with her approval Miss Laura Cooper and I hunted for a suitable place. Finally we fixed on a very large and old house, 193, Bow Road, and some months went in its complete renovation and the building of a hall attached to it. On August 15th it was opened by Madame Blavatsky, and dedicated by her to the brightening of the lot of hardworking and underpaid girls. It has nobly fulfilled its mission for the last three years. Very tender was H.P.B.'s heart to human suffering, especially to that of women and children. She was very poor towards the end of her earthly life, having spent all on her mission, and refusing to take time from her Theosophical work to write for the Russian papers which were ready to pay highly for her pen. But her slender purse was swiftly emptied when any human pain that money could relieve came in her way. One day I wrote a letter to a comrade that was shown to her, about some little children to whom I had carried a quantity of country flowers, and I had spoken of their faces pinched with want. The following characteristic note came to me:—

"MY DEAREST FRIEND,—I have just read your letter to — and my heart is sick for the poor little ones! Look here; I have but 30s. of my own money of which I can dispose (for as you know I am a pauper, and proud of it), but I want you to take them and not say a word. This may buy thirty dinners for thirty poor little starving wretches, and I may feel happier for thirty minutes at the thought. Now don't say a word, and do it; take them to those unfortunate babies who loved your flowers and felt happy. Forgive your old uncouth friend, useless in this world!

"Ever yours,


It was this tenderness of hers that led us, after she had gone, to found the "H.P.B. Home for little children," and one day we hope to fulfil her expressed desire that a large but homelike Refuge for outcast children should be opened under the auspices of the Theosophical Society.

The lease of 17, Lansdowne Road expiring in the early summer of 1890, it was decided that 19, Avenue Road should be turned into the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Europe. A hall was built for the meetings of the Blavatsky Lodge—the lodge founded by her—and various alterations made. In July her staff of workers was united under one roof; thither came Archibald and Bertram Keightley, who had devoted themselves to her service years before, and the Countess Wachtmeister, who had thrown aside all the luxuries of wealth and of high social rank to give all to the cause she served and the friend she loved with deep and faithful loyajty; and George Mead, her secretary and earnest disciple, a man of strong brain and strong character, a fine scholar and untiring worker; thither, too, Claude Wright, most lovable of Irishmen, with keen insight underlying a bright and sunny nature, careless on the surface, and Walter Old, dreamy and sensitive, a born psychic, and, like many such, easily swayed by those around him; Emily Kislingbury also, a studious and earnest woman; Isabel Cooper Oakley, intuitional and studious, a rare combination, and a most devoted pupil in Occult studies; James Pryse, an American, than whom none is more devoted, bringing practical knowledge to the help of the work, and making possible the large development of our printing department. These, with myself, were at first the resident staff, Miss Cooper and Herbert Burrows, who were also identified with the work, being prevented by other obligations from living always as part of the household.

The rules of the house were—and are—very simple, but H.P.B. insisted on great regularity of life; we breakfasted at 8 a.m., worked till lunch at 1, then again till dinner at 7. After dinner the outer work for the Society was put aside, and we gathered in H.P.B.'s room where we would sit talking over plans, receiving instructions, listening to her explanation of knotty points. By 12 midnight all the lights had to be extinguished. My public work took me away for many hours, unfortunately for myself, but such was the regular run of our busy lives. She herself wrote incessantly; always suffering, but of indomitable will, she drove her body through its tasks, merciless to its weaknesses and its pains. Her pupils she treated very variously, adapting herself with nicest accuracy to their differing natures; as a teacher she was marvellously patient, explaining a thing over and over again in different fashions, until sometimes after prolonged failure she would throw herself back in her chair: "My God!" (the easy "Mon Dieu" of the foreigner) "am I a fool that you can't understand? Here, So-and-so"—to some one on whose countenance a faint gleam of comprehension was discernible—"tell these flapdoodles of the ages what I mean." With vanity, conceit, pretence of knowledge, she was merciless, if the pupil were a promising one; keen shafts of irony would pierce the sham. With some she would get very angry, lashing them out of their lethargy with fiery scorn; and in truth she made herself a mere instrument for the training of her pupils, careless what they, or any one else thought of her, providing that the resulting benefit to them was secured. And we, who lived around her, who in closest intimacy watched her day after day, we bear witness to the unselfish beauty of her life, the nobility of her character, and we lay at her feet our most reverent gratitude for knowledge gained, lives purified, strength developed. O noble and heroic Soul, whom the outside purblind world misjudges, but whom your pupils partly saw, never through lives and deaths shall we repay the debt of gratitude we owe to you.

And thus I came through storm to peace, not to the peace of an untroubled sea of outer life, which no strong soul can crave, but to an inner peace that outer troubles may not avail to ruffle—a peace which belongs to the eternal not to the transitory, to the depths not to the shallows of life. It carried me scatheless through the terrible spring of 1891, when death struck down Charles Bradlaugh in the plenitude of his usefulness, and unlocked the gateway into rest for H. P. Blavatsky. Through anxieties and responsibilities heavy and numerous it has borne me; every strain makes it stronger; every trial makes it serener; every assault leaves it more radiant. Quiet confidence has taken the place of doubt; a strong security the place of anxious dread. In life, through death, to life, I am but the servant of the great Brotherhood, and those on whose heads but for a moment the touch of the Master has rested in blessing can never again look upon the world save through eyes made luminous with the radiance of the Eternal Peace.

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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

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"Autobiography," J.S. Mill, 184

"Christian Creed, The," 173

"Freethinkers' Text-book," 144

"Gospel of Atheism, The," 145, 152, 158, 168

"Gospels of Christianity and Freethought," 164

"Life, Death, and Immortality," 147, 149, 150

Link, The, 333

National Reformer, The, 79, 80, 280, 346-50, 354

Our Corner, 286, 329

Theosophist, The, 282, 288

"True Basis of Morality," 156

"Why I do Not Believe in God," 146

"World without God," 165, 169, 172
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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

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Affirmation Bill brought in, 287
rejected, 299
Atheist, position as an, 139
Authorship, first attempts at, 84.
Bennett, D.M., prosecution of, 232
Blasphemy prosecution, 283, 287, 289
Blavatsky, H.P., 189, 337
meeting with, 341
"Bloody Sunday," 324
Bradlaugh, Charles, first meeting with, 135
as friend, 137
in the Clock Tower, 258
and the scene in the House, 265
v. Newdegate; result, 289
prosecuted for blasphemy, 283, 289
Confirmation, 51
Daughter, application to remove, 213
denied access to, 219
Death of father, 21
of mother, 126
Doubt the first, 58
"Elements of Social Science," 196
Engagement, 69
Essay, first Freethought, 113
Fenians, the, 73
Freethinker prosecution, 283, 287, 296
Freethought Publishing Company, the, 285
Harrow, life at, 30
Hoskyns, Rev. E., libel action against, 359
Knowlton pamphlet, the, 205
prosecution, 208
trial, 210
"Law of Population, The," 212, 210
"Law and Liberty League," the, 326
Lecture, the first, 181
Linnell, the Trafalgar Square victim, 316
funeral of, 327
Link, founding of the, 331
Malthusian League formed, 229
Malthusianism and Theosophy, 240
Marriage, 70
tie broken, no
Match-girls' strike, 335
Union, established, 336
National Reformer, the, 134
first contribution to, 180
resignation of co-editorship, 320
National Secular Society joined, 135
elected vice-president of, 202
resignation of, 357
Northampton Election, 183
struggle, 253, 344
Oaths Bill, the, 314, 329
Our Corner, 286, 314
Political Opinions, 174
Pusey, Dr., 109, 284
Russian politics, 311
Scientific work, 249
School Board, election to, 338
Scott, Thomas, 112, 127
Socialism, 299
debate on, between Messrs. Bradlaugh and Hyndman, 301
Socialist debates, 318, 319
Socialists and open-air speaking, 312
Defence Association, 323
Stanley, Dean, 23, 122
Theosophical Society, the, 180
joined, 344
headquarters established, 361
Theosophy and Charles Bradlaugh, 350
the National Secular Society, 357
Trafalgar Square, closing of, to the public, 323
Truelove, Edward, trial of, 225
Voysey, Rev. Charles, 106
Working Women's Club, 337, 360
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Re: Annie Besant: An Autobiography, by Annie Besant

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List of Illustrations









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