Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

VI
THE GOSPEL OF SILENCE, &c. (1849)

ONE of the reasons why The Nigger Question and the Latter-Day Pamphlets commanded attention was that Carlyle was known to be as serious as any practical man could be. His visit to the Model Prison in London, for example, described in the second pamphlet, was what everybody would expect before he wrote about it. His inspection about the end of this year, 1849, was as complete as that of a Royal Commission or paid Inspecting Officer would have been, and it was probably about the same time and at the Ashburtons' that he met the third Earl Grey, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, and was as downright as if speaking from the Front Opposition Bench in Parliament,1 and more sincere.

The topic was emigration. In Sartor Carlyle had mocked at Malthus, and ten years ago in Chartism shown in detail how easy it would be to organise emigration to Canada and Australia,--'with war-ships rotting idle, which might bridge all oceans. With trained men, Barristers, Clergy, Scholars, in passionate want of work;--with as many Half-pay Officers of both Services, wearing themselves down in wretched tedium, as might lead an emigrant host larger than Xerxes' was!' In Past and Present also he had demanded 'a free bridge for emigrants: we should then be on a par with America itself, the most favoured of all lands that have no government.' . . . Nothing had been done, because the Cabinet feared to offend the manufacturers, and the one thing sure about emigration was that it would tend to raise wages. Carlyle declared that "A fair day's wages for a fair day's work" was 'the everlasting right of man.' But the men of money who dominated the Government were not of that opinion, and in Press and Parliament

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1
Literary Recollections, by F. Espinasse, pp. 200-03.

-224-

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