Of Good Cheer Indeed
W. T. Stead (The Pall Mall Gazette, July 10, 1885)
The storm which began to rage when we published the first of the series of articles which we conclude this afternoon is extending far beyond the limits within which at one time it was expected to spend itself. Every day we receive telegrams from the United States begging for telegraphic information as to the progress of the great exposure; and in France and Belgium the newspapers, ungagged by the absurd conspiracy of silence which is making our contemporaries so supremely ludicrous, are commenting freely, and on the whole favourably, upon the action which we have seen fit to take. In the meantime the demand for the authentic details of this terrible revelation continues unabated.
Yesterday, although the series was interrupted for a day, the demand was as great as ever–so great indeed that, owing to the lack of a body of police sufficiently strong to secure access to our premises, the publication of the paper was practically suppressed for three hours.
What will be the case to-day we do not know, although we have reason to hope that the action energetically taken yesterday at the eleventh hour by Colonel Pearson and Mr. Superintendent Thompson will be continued to-day, and thus we shall be able to issue the last of this momentous series without having our office taken by storm by those who yesterday were shot headlong through the windows with reckless disregard of the safety of life or limb.
We have now passed the worst of the abuse with which many hailed the unexpected and revolting picture of the actual facts which we have been compelled by a stern sense of duty to unfold before the British public. The British conscience has had time to assert itself, and, as usual, the common sense of the public has rallied to the side of truth and purity. Among our weekly contemporaries we have heartily to thank the British Medical Journal, which, speaking from a professional point of view, declares:–
Of one thing we feel certain, and that is that a great will be served by this exposure, undertaken,
as we feel assured it was, with intense sincerity, and with an overruling hatred and fierce anger of practices which have too long secretly prevailed in our midst, and have too long passed unscathed by public indignation. Desperate diseases need strong remedies. A cancer such as this, which is eating away the vital morality of whole classes of society, spreading widely, ravaging the unprotected classes, calls for the knife. It has been applied publicly, red-hot, and with an unsparing hand.
Among the religious papers the Tablet, the Church Review, the Methodist Times, the Christian, and others loyally declare themselves in favour of the crusade which has now been resolutely commenced. The Upper House of Convocation has unanimously expressed the strongest opinion in favour of prompt legislative action; and her Majesty the Queen, we have reason to know, has regarded with intense pain and sorrow the probability that the legal protection of minors might be postponed for another year, owing to the superior claims of party politics. That disaster has now, we rejoice to think, been decisively averted, and in the second reading of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill in the House of Commons last night her Majesty will see the earnest of the harvest of good that is certain to be reaped whenever the truth is spoken courageously in the cause of the helpless and oppressed. We do not propose to enter for one moment into the discussion of the details of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, but we rejoice to believe that from the Prime Minister of the Crown downwards there is a very general conviction that the clauses increasing the arbitrary power of the police over the unfortunate women must be abandoned. The Bill will have to be stiffened materially in one or two points, but not in the direction of a police des mæurs. The official licensing and inspection of the houses of ill fame is the absolute negation of the truth which the moral and religious part of the community is now rejoicing to affirm. When the Government undertakes to put its official seal upon houses of this character it is as if the nation in its organic form were to write over the whole of these ghastly and infernal horrors, in letters large enough to be read and understanded (sic) of all men: "This is the will of God." Against this Deification of evil the protest which is rising higher and higher every day in our land is the best and most effective antidote, as Mr. Hopwood might very well see. We may do many things in England which are bad and shameless and vile, but we have not yet sunk to such an abysmal depth of practical atheism.
We welcome very heartily the public offer of Mr. Samuel Morley to undertake with any other two of the gentlemen named in our first article an investigation into the truth of the statements which we have made. Cardinal Manning has already been kind enough to intimate his readiness to take part in such an inquiry. There now only remains the selection of the third party. The persons whom we named in addition to Cardinal Manning were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Shaftesbury, Lord Dalhousie, and Mr. Howard Vincent. As Mr. Morley made the proposition, perhaps he will be good enough, after consultation with Cardinal Manning, to decide who should be the third party. To the original list we are quite willing to add the name of the. Bishop of London or the Lord Mayor, if either would commend themselves to Mr. Morley and Cardinal Manning. Before this Committee of Three, when once it comes together, and the sooner it meets the better, we are ready to produce all the members of our Secret Commission, and, after receiving an assurance that the information which we shall produce will not be made use of either for criminal proceedings or personal exposure, we shall be prepared to substantiate every statement contained in our Report, and to lay before the Committee of Investigation all the material which we have accumulated in the course of this inquiry. We have not the slightest doubt of the result of the investigation. A journal like the Pall Mall Gazette is not given to make plunges of this description without knowing its facts. The truth about the "Maiden Tribute" will be substantiated as completely as was the "Truth about the Navy," and the sooner that opportunity is afforded us the better it will be for all concerned. And in the meantime, perhaps it would be as well for the City Solicitor, before he again makes calamitous statements in the police-court, which on personal application he refuses either to substantiate or to withdraw, to take, say, one-hundredth part of the trouble to make sure of his facts that we have already taken to verify the accuracy of our own.