Charles Dickens

I will not ask how it happens that bills which cramp and worry the people, and restrict their scant enjoyments, are so easily passed, and how it happens that measures for their real interests are so very difficult to be got through Parliament. I will not analyse the confined air of the lobby, or reduce to their primitive gases its deadening influences on the memory of that Honourable Member who was once a candidate for the honour of your--and my--independent vote and interest. I will not ask what is that Secretarian figure, full of blandishments, standing on the threshold, with its finger on its lips. I will not ask how it comes that those personal altercations, involving all the removes and definitions of Shakespeare's Touchstone--the retort courteous--the quip modest-- the reply churlish--the reproof valiant--the countercheck quarrelsome--the lie circumstantial and the lie direct--are of immeasurably greater interest in the House of Commons than the health, the taxation, and the education, of a whole people. I will not penetrate into the mysteries of that secret chamber in which the Bluebeard of Party keeps his strangled public questions, and with regard to which, when he gives the key to his wife, the new comer, he strictly charges her on no account to open the door. I will merely put it to the experience of everybody here, whether the House of Commons is not occasionally a little hard of hearing, a little dim of sight, a little slow of understanding, and whether, in short, it is not in a sufficiency invalided state to require close watching, and the occasional application of sharp stimulants; and whether it is not capable of considerable improvement? I believe that, in order to preserve it in a state of real usefulness and independence, the people must be very watchful and very jealous of it; and it must have its memory jogged; and be kept awake when it happens to have taken too much Ministerial narcotic; it must be trotted about, and must be bustled and pinched in a friendly way, as is the usage in such cases. I hold that no power can deprive us of the right to administer our functions as a body comprising electors from all parts of the country, associated together because their country is dearer to them than drowsy twaddle, unmeaning routine, or worn-out conventionalities.

This brings me to objection number two. It is stated that this Association sets class against class. Is this so? (Cries of "No.") No, it finds class set against class, and seeks to reconcile them. I wish to avoid placing in opposition those two words--Aristocracy and People. I am one who can believe in the virtues and uses of both, and would not on any account deprive either of a single just right belonging to it. I will use, instead of these words, the terms, the governors and the governed. These two bodies the Association finds with a gulf between them, in which are lying, newly-buried, thousands on thousands of the bravest and most devoted men that even England ever bred. It is to prevent the recurrence of innumerable smaller evils, of which, unchecked, that great calamity was the crowning height and the necessary consummation, and to bring together those two fronts looking now so strangely at each other, that this Association seeks to help to bridge over that abyss, with a structure founded on common justice and supported by common sense. Setting class against class! That is the very parrot prattle that we have so long heard. Try its justice by the following example:- A respectable gentleman had a large establishment, and a great number of servants, who were good for nothing, who, when he asked them to give his children bread, gave them stones; who, when they were told to give those children fish, gave them serpents. When they were ordered to send to the East, they sent to the West; when they ought to have been serving dinner in the North, they were consulting exploded cookery books in the South; who wasted, destroyed, tumbled over one another when required to do anything, and were bringing everything to ruin.