Walter Cooper (1814 - ?),
from REYNOLD'S NEWS.
MY DEAR FRIEND,—You have lived the life of the Poor, you have wept our tears, despaired our despairs, hoped our hopes, brooded over our wrongs, and dreamed glorious dreams of a proud destiny in the future, for our sorrow-worn humanity. As the toiler-teacher you have won your diploma in the School of our suffering, and can well appreciate the difficulties which the self-educated working man has to encounter: and to you do I dedicate these first-fruits of my
awakenment in the dawn of Thought. No one know, better than myself how unworthy they are of our common cause; no one knows so well as myself how far I have fallen short of what I had thought to perform; but the builder can only erect his edifice according to his material, and I have not much book-lore. You know that from my infancy I have had to toil hard for the bread that perishes, at the cost of which I have often had to procure the unperishable; and that, until of late, I have been quite shut out from the great masters of the lyre and the mighty in the realms of thought. In my "Voices of Freedom" I have endeavoured to utter what is stirring in poor men's hearts. The thoughts may be unripe and the utterance crude, but what is written, is written in my own life's-blood: and you, at least, will not despise my earnest sincerity. I look around me now, and of all those with whom I have had to grapple and wrestle in the blind darkness of Poverty's hand-to-throat strife for the means of living, not one has arisen to tell the
tale—not one voice has rang out of their midst to be heard above the conquered years, bearing testimony to the suffering endurance and wasted bravery of the Toilers. Some still live on, their only tenure of life being to toil and suffer: that is their only part or lot
in this God's world, rich in all loveliness and over-brimming with plenteousness.
They must suffer and bear on. Some are in chains by the southern sea, and some
sell the sweet name of love for bread in the midnight streets and lanes. Many have been crusht out of existence in the parish bastille, and of the legal murder of others there is many a grave-yard could give horrible blazon.
All either suffer dumbly or have died and made no sign. No one has arisen to do battle with the wrong, and champion our order into the city of their Rights.
Surely, then, in this dearth of Toiler-Teachers there is work for me to do; for, truly, is the harvest great and the labourers few.
I shall be accused of sowing class hatred, and yet, my friend, I do not seek to fling firebrands among the combustibles of society.
I yearn to raise my brethren into loveable beings, and when I smite their hearts, I would rather they should gush with the healing waters of love than the fearful fires of hatred: but looking
on the wrongs which are daily done in the land, will sometimes make the blood
rush hot to the heart, and crimson to the brow. Who can see the masses
ruthlessly robbed of all the fruits of their industry, of all the sweet
pleasures of life, and of that nobleness which should crown human nature as with
a crown of glory, and not strive to arouse them to a sense of their degradation,
and urge them to end the bitter bondage and the murderous martyrdom of Toil? Not he who feels concentrated and crushing upon himself the slavery of millions.
The seer Emerson, who stands above the pinnacle of party spirit, has
written,—"With the lights at present gleaming in the eyes of all men,
residence in that country (England) becomes degradation to any one not employed
to revolutionize it;" and who shall say it nay? England is a cruel
strumpet of a mother to her children of Labour, wasting the price of their blood
in debauched dalliance with the heartless progeny of Capital, which she nurtures
to rank luxuriance in the magnificent mansions, and princely palaces, while she
drives the wealth producers empty away from the plenteous feast. Aye, it is
degradation to live in a country where religion is converted into a state
machine for the purpose of crushing the soul out of the People, where the
Christ-preached, and Christ-lived gospel of fraternity is only acknowledged, by
the trampled clutching their tramplers in the ghastly embrace of Cholera, and
vindicating that they are Brothers, and flesh of one flesh, by killing them with
the same disease—for all who are not employed in revolutionizing it.
But do not
think me a mere railer against the classes which oppress our own, I know too
well the evils that are self-inflicted, I know that our greatest curse is in
being our own Tyrants. Slavery and tyranny are twins, the slave is only a tyrant
in the grub, while a tyrant is nothing more than a developed slave, mounted on
the wings of power. It is the despotism we exercise over ourselves, which is the
dragon that hinders our entering the Hesperides of a better life, let him no
longer babble of holy liberty who is a slave in his own heart, and a tyrant in
his own house-hold. These divine ideas of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity must
be born in the souls of pure and earnest men-baptized in the sanctifying tears
of their sufferings and aspirations, and welded into the iron of their noble
lives. Ah! my friend, there is no teaching by voice or pen, like to the silent
eloquence of a noble life, and, after all, the unchronicled heroism, the unknown
greatness, and the unwritten poetry of the world, are its most glorious graces. Courage my brother, let us endeavour to live noble lives, it shall not be in
vain, sow the seed and the harvest will come even though it be garner'd above