2231. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [mid-March 1813]

2231. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [mid-March 1813] ⁠* 

My dear R.

You & I shall agree about general education. Ignorance is no preventative in these days, if indeed it ever were one which could be relied on. All who have ears can hear sedition, & the more ignorant they are the more easy is it to inflame them. My plan is (I know not whether Gifford has ventured to give it) to make transportation a punishment for seditious-libelling – This & this only would be an effectual cure. The existence of any Government & that a press in the state which ours is in, is incompatible with the security of any Government.

About the Manufacturing system as affecting the poor rates, doubtless you are best informed. My argument went to show that the system produced (xxx that xx when under certain circumstances of not unfrequent occurrence, manufactures occasioned a sudden increase of the craving mouths, – & that the whole previous discipline of these persons fitted them to become Luddites. [1]  It is most likely that there may be some ambiguity in this part of the article from the vague use of the word Poor, which ought to be distinguished from Pauper – a distinction I did never thought of making till your letter made me see the necessity for so doing. – Concerning the Poor-Laws I confess myself altogether incompetent to say anything. [2] 

You give me comfort about the Catholic<s> question & strengthen my doubts about the E. India Company question. [3]  I have written upon the former subject in the forth-coming Register, – very much to the purport of Mr Abbotts speech. [4]  What Mr Perceval should have done was to have given the Catholics what it is fit & proper that they should have, by a Bill originating with himself. What but ruin can be expected when a Government comes to capitulate with the factious part of the <its> subjects!

I am labouring hard that I may reach London by the beginning of May. At any rate I shall either come while before Mrs R. becomes invisible – or remain in the neighbourhood till that eclipse is over. You know I have a bed at the Doctors now, which I must occupy during a part of my stay.

Tell Little Anne [5]  that my foot is no bigger than it was when we measured last, but that hers I am sure must have grown a great deal larger.

Bedford will deliver you the most material reply which R. Lovell requires.

God bless you


Our best wishes to Mrs R.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: Fr. RS./ Mar. 1813
MS: Huntington Library, RS 203. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 28–29 [in part; dated March 1813].
Dating note: this letter is a reply to John Rickman to Southey, 12 March 1813 and 13 March 1813 and was probably written before Southey to John Rickman, [18 March 1813], Letter 2233. BACK

[1] The Luddites were a movement who smashed textile machinery which they saw as threatening employment. It was based in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire. BACK

[2] The first two paragraphs deal with issues covered in Southey’s review of Patrick Colquhoun (1745–1820; DNB), Propositions for Ameliorating the Condition of the Poor: and For Improving the Moral Habits, and Increasing the Comforts of the Labouring People (1812), in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. Rickman had had some input, probably supplying notes and ideas. Southey’s remarks about transportation were cut before publication. However, they re-emerged in a revised essay (originally 1816) published in 1832 as ‘On the State of Public Opinion and The Political Reformers’, Essays, Moral and Political, 2 vols (London, 1832), I, p. 422. BACK

[3] Catholic Emancipation was being debated in the form of the Catholic Relief Bill of 1813. The trade monopoly of the East India Company was broken in the new Charter Act of 1813. BACK

[4] Abbot had spoken against Catholic Emancipation in a House of Commons committee on 9 March 1813. Southey dealt with the issue in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 115–139. BACK

[5] Ann Rickman (b. 1808). BACK