QUOTES AND COMMENTS
JOHN COLLINS HEARD TO SAY
On the challenge of political reform | Collins at the Midland Demonstration. Birmingham 1838
"To retract, to retreat, is, at this time, absolutely impossible......"
On literature in general | From a speech Collins made in Scotland in 1840
In his younger days John Collins read a great deal, every book he could get his hands on. "Now, when he had studied the state of society himself, he found that the view it gave of men and manners in general was anything but correct." He said, "The reason for this was that the writers were of the dominant class, or rather that they chose to support the views and prejudices of that class, who were the buying portion of the community - and hence our literature, with few exceptions, was in the hands of the monied classes. No wonder then," said Collins, "we were called the riff-raff, the tag-rag-and-bobtail, the vicious lower classes ..."
On the decline of Chartism in Manchester | Collins before a cheering crowd
In response to a scathing newspaper comment that "Collins was again blowing the dying embers of Birmingham Chartism to a blaze," he retorted that if the display of support in Manchester was anything to go by: ".. .. it did not take much blowing on his part to blow Chartism in Manchester to a blaze!"
On America and slavery | In a speech
" ..... the existence of slavery was the only stain on America's character, but that it did not proceed from her own democratic institutions being a leftover of British rule."
To the middle class | Conference of the Complete Suffrage Union. Birmingham April 1842.
"And now, sir, you will allow me to observe that I think too much has been said against the class of which I have the honour to be one - I mean the working class - by those from whom better things might have been expected."
On his release from prison | In a speech to thousands at Gosta Green, Birmingham. August 1840.
"I was arrested and punished for the truth - and yet it is still the truth after all! I said then that it was a cruel, wanton and bloodthirsty attack [by the London police] on the people of Birmingham. I repeat it now."
On women and politics | John Collins in Scotland
He said it was not the Chartists who “drag women from their proper sphere” rather the “aristocracy …. who drag women to the factory”. He then went on to say that as politics has interfered with women, so women should interfere with politics.
On the State of Affairs in Scotland | A letter from John Collins to the Birmingham Political Union
"There is misery enough, and intelligence enough, and zeal enough, in Scotland alone, to accomplish all you or any other patriot could desire."
Elizabeth Pease | In a letter to John Collins
"I believe there are few persons whose natural feelings are so opposed to women appearing prominently before the public, as mine - but viewed in the light of principle I see, the prejudice - custom and other feelings which will not stand the test of truth, are at the bottom, and must be laid aside."
John Collins | In a letter to William Lovett
"Nevermind the fire of fools and knaves - hit them hard if you feel it necessary to hit them at all."
ADDRESSES TO AND FROM THE WORKING CLASS
Stockport Working Men | In an address honoring John Collins, 1841
"... .. You have, Sir, proved to this generation at least, that neither dungeons nor dragoons can reach the soul, nor subdue your irresistible ardour for the Charter; but that you have, since your liberation, manifested to the country and to the tyrants, that persecution, like oil upon the flames, only increases - it provokes, rather than subsides - the great principles of political devotion and zeal ... .. "
John Collins & Arthur O'Neill | An address to the Working Class of the United Kingdom, 1841
On the subject of unity and alliance with the middle class in order to gain reform, their motto was: "With you if we may, without you if we must."
Salford Radical Association | Addressing government cruelty and oppression of Chartist leaders
"You who have filled the dungeons of the nation with political victims - men who are ornaments to the class whence they sprung. Can you suppose, for a moment, that the people will forgive you for imprisoning such men as a Vincent, a Lovett, a Collins ... ... ... with the hundreds of virtuous patriots who are now suffering. Perish the idea."
REMARKS BY OTHERS
Benjamin Disraeli, Member of Parliament | On Politics
".... there is no honour in politics." Disraeli was one of the MP "Noes" who voted against the Chartist 1839 National Petition with its prayer for the working class vote.
John Duncan, Member of Parliament | At a dinner in Edinburgh in honour of John Collins, 1840
"It is now more than two yeas since John Collins in this very room first roused you to the present movement. Those men who then attended him, the Salt's and Muntz's have now seen proper to desert our cause, but not so John Collins. (Cheers) He is, as I have no doubt he ever will be, at his post, and for his honesty he has been made the victim of the plain law-leech** that disgraces our ancient city by having his name connected with it. Collins has thus been tried like refined gold; he has been weighed in the balances, but has not been found wanting. (Loud Cheers) I am sure I need say no more ..... " (Followed by deafening applause when Collins rose to speak.)
[** Law-leech refers to Sir John Campbell the Crown Prosecutor at Collins' trial.]
John Fielden, Member of Parliament| At a mass demonstration at Peep Green
"The (1832) Reform Act has proved a complete failure."
William Wordsworth | Criticism of violent agitation to Thomas Cooper, Chartist
"You were quite right: there is nothing unreasonable in your Charter: it is the foolish attempt at physical force, for which many of you have been blameable."