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Nevertheless, the bill to exclude from Parliament persons holding places under the government passed in full."
What truth is there in this story?
Marat did not draw almost all his illustrations from English history. A mere count of the illustrations used proves that twothirds of them were from the history of other countries.
Marat's assertion that the newspapers' refused to print notices announcing the publication of his book, although he offered as much as ten guineas for such a notice, is untrue. The Chains of Slavery is announced in the London Magazine for April, 1774,' and in the Gentleman's Vagasine, the Public Advertiser, and the Scot's Magazine for May, 1774.5
Marat's story of the suppression of the book is also false. Becket may have withdrawn as one of the publishers, but the book was also on sale by Almon, by Payne, and by Richardson and Urquhart. None of these withdrew, or Marat would have told us so. The book must have been placed on sale, therefore. If so, how could Lord North suppress it? He might have done so by buying up the edition, but this he did not do. Or he might have attempted to stop the sale by judicial process, but there is no mention of any such attempt. I can think of no other method by which he could have succeeded in suppressing the book. Certainly Lord North's emissaries could not have gone to Almon's shop and prevented individuals from buying the work. Moreover, varat says that he sent “almost the entire edition" as presents to the patriotic societies of the north of England. Now, if he did anything of the sort, he gave the book a large circulation, and there could be no suppression of it when once in the hands of those societies. But Marat's memory must be faulty when he says that he did this because of
3“ Passa en plein". "Lettre de l'auteur au Président des États-Généraux ", April 23, 1789, in Les Chaines de l'Esclavage, pp. 327–328. Part of Marat's narrative is taken from this letter.
• Vol. XLIII., p. 200. Announced as on sale by Almon.
5 The Gentleman's Magasine, vol. XLIV., p. 229. Announced as on sale by Becket. Merivale, Historical Studies, “A Few Words on Junius and on Marat", p. 202, cites the notices in the Advertiser and the Scot's Magazine.
® Becket's name does not figure on the title-page of the British Museum copy, or on that of the Cornell University copy, though Becket is mentioned as publisher in several of the notices. It is possible, therefore, though not certain, that he did not remain on the list of publishers. Marat virtually says that the book was published: “ The haste which Mr. Becket, bookseller to the Prince of Wales, showed, when the book appeared, to have his name struck from the list of publishers, put me on the right track.” Merivale, noting this lack of consistency with the rest of the story, corrects Marat, saying " should appear, seemingly" (Merivale, Historical Studies, p. 200). But I have no doubt that Marat was right in putting the verb in the past tense.
his indignation at the successful suppression of his book, for he sent these copies of his book to the northern societies in the month of May," and the book was not published earlier than May. The time between publication and the sending of the copies north was entirely too short to permit the author to know that the edition was not going to sell. Finally, there is evidence that the book appeared probably in May, for it was reviewed in at least two of the monthly magazines for June. The Monthly Review contained a brief and very hostile notice, and the London Magazine lauded and quoted the book through two pages of small type in double columns. The book was published, then, and in plenty of time for the elections, since the Parliament sitting early in 1774 was not dissolved until September 30, and the elections took place not earlier than Novem
If the story of the suppression is false, it follows that the statement that Lord North spent forty thousand dollars for the suppression is also false. This is a detail, which probably Marat believed, but which only shows his incapacity to see things in their proper light when he was himself concerned. Supposing even that it had been possible for Lord North, by such an expenditure, to compass the suppression of the book, who can believe that he would have spent forty thousand dollars of the king's money on such an object? Forty thousand dollars would have been spent much more effectively for his purpose in the purchase of votes. The statement that he feared the influence of the book in determining the elections is absurd, for there is nothing in The Chains of Slavery which would justify such a fear. There are no personal attacks. The arguments are for the most part general in character and deal with abstract considerations, fulminating against tyranny, luxury, political corruption, and standing armies. No such diatribes could terrify an English politician of the eighteenth century. Not even the “Address to the Electors ”, which Wood fall is reported to have said might explain the suppression, contains anything which would excuse panic in the breast of Lord North.
The story about the spies is almost certainly false, unless the rest is true.
If the book was on sale, what could they be employed to do? Marat may have seemed to Lord North a dangerous foreigner who needed watching, but it hardly seems possible. Lord North may have interfered with Marat's correspondence, but it is difficult to believe that he would retain possession of it. As Marat says, the
failure to receive any letters naturally led him to suspect that his mail was seized, and put him on his guard. But then the minister would know that this would be the result, and if he hoped to discover anything of importance from Varat's correspondence, he would never have retained letters which had nothing to tell, and probably would have taken copies of those which were important, returning the originals to Marat.
What was Marat's motive in telling this story of ministerial persecution ? It is plain enough that such a story told to Frenchmen in 1793 would enhance the reputation of Marat in France. He gave another proof that, as he says, he had always been "the apostle, and sometimes the martyr, of liberty". Moreover, the account would seem both probable and reasonable to Frenchmen, because a book of the character of The Chains of Slavery, if published in France in 1774, would have caused a sensation and would have drawn upon the author the hostile attention of the government. Attempts would have been made to suppress it, and the author might well have been imprisoned for his pains.
The account of Marat's relations to the northern societies is part false, part true. Marat did send copies of his book to the northern societies. 10 He was unable to sell his book, because of Lord North's hostility, he tells us, and so he sent “almost the entire edition " to the societies of the north of England. It has been already shown that this could not be strictly true, because the presentation copies arrived in Newcastle in May. I now wish to point out that to the three societies in Newcastle, he sent exactly six copies. 11 There is no reason for supposing that he sent more than two copies each to the other societies, which could hardly be more important than the Newcastle ones. Consequently, either he did not send “almost the entire edition” or else the edition was an extremely limited one.
Marat's assertion that the northern societies sent him letters of affiliation in a golden box is not credible. Their copies of The Chains of Slavery came to them “from an unknown person in London”,12 and it would be very strange indeed if they were to
10 “ Yesterday (May 27] the Company of Bricklayers, the Company of Gold. smiths, and the Lumber Troop in this town, received each, by the fly, two large quarto volumes, from an unknown person in London, entitled The Chains of Slavery, with a prefatory address to the electors of Great Britain, to draw their timely attention to the choice of proper representatives in the next Parliament. The work is spirited, and appears through the whole a masterly execution." Newcastle Chronicle, May 28, 1774, quoted in the Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend for April, 1887, p. 50. 11 See note 10,
forward letters of affiliation without knowing whom they were affiliating. Even admitting, however, that they might send letters of affiliation in blank to an unknown person, still they would certainly hesitate before enclosing them in a golden box. Note, too, that they send these letters, without knowing the address of Marat, to his publisher. Lord North’s emissaries then secure the trophy from the publisher. How did they know that such an object had been sent to Marat? Was the box directed to the author of The Chains of Slavery? In that case it would have been stopped as it came through the mails, if Marat's assertions about the interference with his correspondence are true. The story of the golden box is a romance.
Marat was certainly in the north of England in 1775, and it is altogether probable that he spent some time at Newcastle. During that visit he might have made the acquaintance of the members of the Newcastle popular societies, but is it possible to believe that these societies discharged the costs of Marat's first edition and then paid the expenses of a second ? What is true in this story is that there was a reissue of The Chains of Slavery at Newcastle in October, 1775.13 Marat declares that this was a second edition, which scattered through the three kingdoms". It is impossible to disprove either assertion, but there are good reasons for doubting that the Newcastle "edition" was anything more than a reissue of the unsaleable copies of the London book. In the first place, we have Almon advertised as one of the publishers, and he would certainly never have taken up with a second edition if the history of the first had been what Marat declares it was; nor even if the first edition had been unsaleable, which is the only other alternative. Again, in the second edition of what was after all only a political pamphlet Marat would not have repeated the mistake of printing the book in a style far too expensive for such a work, yet here we have the price advertised as ios. 6d., which is only is. 6d. cheaper
13 “ Next week will be published, price ros. 6d., and sold by the booksellers in Newcastle, The Chains of Slavery, written by Dr. Marriot, a work well worthy the attention of the public.” Newcastle Chronicle, October 21, 1775. “This day is published, price 1os. 6d., and sold by J. Almon, in Piccadilly; T. Slack, W. Charnley and F. Humble, in Newcastle ; J. Graham, in Sunderland; J. Pickering, in Stockton; N. Thorn, in Durham ; E. Lee, in Hexham; and A. Graham, in Alnwick, The Chains of Slavery, A work in which the clandestine and villainous attempts of Princes to ruin Liberty are pointed out, and the dreadful scenes of Despotism disclosed, to which is prefixed an Address to the Electors of Great Britain, in order to draw timely attention to the choice of proper Representatives. By J. T. Marat, M.D. Vitam impendere vero." Newcastle Chronicle, October 28 and November 4, 1775. Quoted in Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend for April, 1887, p. 5i.
than the London publication. Then, too, the “ Address to the Electors of Great Britain ” was no longer timely, since the elections had taken place almost a year before. It does not seem likely that Marat would have reprinted this in 1775. But the most weighty reason for skepticism lies in the fact that no copy of this edition is known, whereas if it were spread broadcast throughout the three kingdoms, it should be fairly common. The much rarer London edition is known to exist in at least four copies. 14 Moreover, Marat himself, whenever he speaks of his book, always refers to his London edition.15 It would seem, then, that Varat sent his unsaleable London copies north to Newcastle, and there, after printing a new titlepage, attempted to sell off the rest of the edition. The date of publication itself is evidence of this. In a year's time he had got all the evidence needed of the unsaleability of his book in London. If he had not waited to be convinced of this, he would have issued his "second" edition earlier, when it would have been apropos.
Why was Marat's book unsaleable? The reason is evident in the book itself. It is a royal quarto, the type large and beautiful; the paper, linen of an excellent quality; the price 125. sewed. These facts known, it must be evident at once that the book was unsaleable, for after all it was nothing but a political pamphlet, and very few people would pay twelve shillings for an anonymous pamphlet dealing with matters necessarily of only momentary interest.
I pass now to Marat's assertions about the effects of the publication when it appeared in 1775. It set the public in a fermentation, he declares, and resulted in a place bill. It is impossible to prove
, that it did not set the public in a fermentation, though anyone reading it now will feel very dubious about its having had this effect, especially when it is remembered that the American war was absorbing almost all political attention in October, 1775. But however true the statement about the fermentation, it is certain that no place bill passed in 1775, or at any date immediately thereafter. This statement of Marat's is false, and consequently his assertion about the influence of his book in bringing about such a place bill is also false.
14 It is a very rare book. Chevremont says " Introuvable dans le commerce ". Marat Index du Bibliophile et de l'Amateur de Peintures-gravures, etc., p. 13. Merivale, who wrote about it, had never seen a copy. I know of only four, one in the British Museum, two in Newcastle, and one in the President White Library at Cornell. For the two at Newcastle, see Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend for April, 1887, p. 50. Neither of these is the "second" edition, nor has there ever been a second edition known there, which would be odd if Marat's story were true.
15 See, for example, his Les Chaines de l'Esclavage, pp. 325, 327.