To Our Censors
W. T. Stead (The Pall Mall Gazette, July 13, 1885)
The trumpet blast which we sounded over sea and land last week has roused the world. The conspiracy of silence has failed. All England is ringing with the echoes of our exposure. Nor is it England only. There is not a capital on the Continent in which public journals are not reproducing with mingled wonder and horror the frightful revelations which we have brought to light.
Nor is it only in the Old World that the shame of London has struck awe into the conscience of mankind. From beyond the Atlantic come to us welcome words of encouragement and support. The purest journals in the great American Republic have reproduced our revelations in full, and the perusal of our narrative has, we are told, silenced the adverse criticism based on imperfect information, and convinced the American public that no other method would have availed to rouse public attention to the vital necessity of remedying the existing abuse. The New York Sun declares that “the Pall Mall Gazette has wrung the heart and electrified the conscience” of the British nation. The revelations were a dernier ressort to which recourse was necessary. It was necessary to employ the weapons of publicity, before which thrones have ere now tottered.” In that the American journalist only expresses the universal conviction of all good men on this side of the water, so far as they have seen fit to make their voices audible to their countrymen.We appealed on Saturday to the verdict of the Churches. What has been the result? In thousands of places of worship throughout the metropolis, places which have no raison d’etre if they do not inculcate morality and defend virtue, pious men stood up to instruct and advise their fellows upon matters of morality and of religion. Among the number were Bishops and Deans and Archdeacons and Vicars, and all the sturdy Nonconformist preachers who represent the traditions of Puritan austerity and Puritan intolerance of vice. We appealed to them for their verdict, and what has been the result? We are simply overwhelmed this morning with reports from hundreds of churches and chapels, but, so far as we have been able to examine the correspondence, there has not been one single word raised in protest against our action. Against us are arrayed all the forces of wickedness in high places. We are accused of flooding London with filth and obscenity. Messrs. W. H. Smith and Son do their best to suppress our sale, the Prince of Wales stops his paper, and Mr. Cavendish Bentinck, posing in the name of outraged morality, plaintively clamours for our summary extinction. But upon our side there stand arrayed with hardly any exception all the best and purest and noblest men and women in London. Whether they are philanthropists, or moralists, or religious men, we are borne up and encouraged by the enthusiastic support of all that is sound, and pure, and healthy in society and in the nation. The response of the pulpits yesterday was magnificent. In another column we give some extracts from some of the sermons preached yesterday by our leading ministers of religion, from the Bishop of London downward. Of course all reference to this great outpouring of righteous indignation is ignored by the morning papers: that is the way in which they do their duty to their readers. But every one who glances at the extracts, meagre and fragmentary as they are, which we publish elsewhere, will see what a glad and enthusiastic response the good men of all sects have made to our trumpet peal. When Bishop Temple and Mr. Spurgeon, Dean Vaughan and the Salvation Army, the Bishop of Rochester and Mr. Stopford Brooke, the Bishop of Ripon and the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes, combine to lift up their voices in aid and support of our protest against the secret crimes of London, we need not concern ourselves very much about the censure of the clubs and the invectives of the vicious.
We indicate in another column the legal changes which in the opinion of the Chief of our Secret Commission should be made in order to cope with the crimes to which the Legislature is now directing its attention. It is a solid contribution, full of facts, and carefully drawn up after consultation with competent and experienceded legal advisers. No one who intends to take part in the discussion of the Bill in Committee can afford to overlook it, and we are not without hope that it may be of material assistance to the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General in redrafting the Bill. Yet we are as yet entirely in the dark as to whether Messrs. W. H. Smith and Son will not exercise their censorship once more, and endeavour to suppress this contribution to the intelligent discussion of a Bill that the Ministry, of which the head of their firm is a leading member, is endeavouring to carry through the House of Commons. Against this censorship no Liberal member of the House has yet been Liberal enough to raise his voice. Mr. Cavendish Bentinck, our greatest advertiser, intends to ask another question to-night in the House of Commons, for which service we owe him our hearty thanks. He is shocked at our reflections on the police; but some of the best members of that force have already confirmed the absolute accuracy of our statements—which, indeed, as in everything else, are under rather than over stated. Arrangements are being made for submitting the evidence on which our exposure is based to the impartial Committee suggested by Mr. Samual Morley, and we await their Report with the utmost composure. But neither before that Commission nor before any other authorities will we betray the confidence reposed in our Commissioners by those who enabled us to make our recent exposures. And in this connection it is due to ourselves to say one word. We did not undertake its inquiry in order to unearth the vices of the great. We have been most careful to avoid any exposure of the names of those across whose track our Commissioners ran in the course of their inquiry. To single out individuals as scapegoats would be to defeat our chief object, by diverting public indignation from the system to a mere scalping of a few of those who work it. It was not until the friends and accomplices of the evildoers began to threaten us with prosecution that, in the interest of free speech and a free press, we gave warning that the only effect of a prosecution would be to compel us to depart from the rule which we have hitherto observed, and from which, if the gaggers will leave us alone, we have no intention to depart. But if once we are actually driven to bay we shall be compelled by the very action of our assailants to speak out and spare not.