**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


John Bright
by [?]

“Thee better go into the next room and listen for the Voice, then do as it says,” answered the mother.

The boy went into the next room and soon returned, saying, “The Voice says I must study hard for half an hour and then I can go and wade in the brook.”

“Very well,” was the reply; “we must always obey the Voice.”

At this time there was a wave of Socialism sweeping over England, originated largely by Robert Owen, a Welshman, who at the age of nineteen became manager, by divine right, of a Manchester cotton-mill. He was a man of splendid initiative, noble resources, generous impulses.

Robert Owen caught it from Josiah Wedgwood, and set out to make his cotton-mill a school as well as a factory. Among the good men he discovered and hired to teach his people was John Tyndall, one of the world’s great scientists. Owen seized upon Fourier’s plan of the “phalanstery”–five hundred or a thousand people living in one great palace, built in the form of a hollow square. Each family was to have separate apartments, but there would be common dining-rooms and one great laundry; certain people would be set apart to care for the children; there would be art-galleries, libraries, swimming-pools; and all these working people would have the benefits and advantages that now accrue only to the fortunate few. It was a scheme of co-operation, but Owen’s people refused to co-operate–the world was not ready for it. Then Owen tried the plan in America, and founded the town of New Harmony, Indiana, which had the second public library in America, Benjamin Franklin having founded the first in Philadelphia.

Robert Owen thought he had failed, but he had not, for his ideas have enriched the world, and when we are worthy of Utopia it will be here.

John Bright’s father caught it from Robert Owen, just as Owen had been exposed to Josiah Wedgwood. Great hearts never fail, no matter what occurs; even though they die, they yet live again in minds made better.

Joseph Bright had an auditorium attached to his mill, and often invited speakers to come from Liverpool or Manchester and give lectures to his people on science, travel or literature. By the time John Bright was twenty-one he was usually chosen to preside at these lectures. This, because he had learned to speak in Quaker meetings by speaking. He was quiet, simple, forceful, direct. In size he was small, but what he lacked in inches he made up in brain.

The grandfather of John Bright’s mother was John Grattan, a Quaker preacher who spent five years in prison because he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the English Church. The life of Grattan descended as a precious legacy from mother to son, and all history was early made familiar to him through the teaching of this mother who passed away when the boy was eighteen. So she did not live to know the greatness of her son, but before her passing he had developed far enough so she prophesied that if ever a Friend were admitted to the Cabinet, John Bright would be that one. This prophecy, unlike so many born of the loving mother heart, came true, and this in spite of the fact that the Quakers up to this time had never had anything to do with politics.

Once John Bright was asked how he had been educated, and he replied, “By my mother, with the help of the Rochdale Literary Society.”

And it was a fact that this society, founded by Joseph and Martha Bright, that met weekly for more than thirty years, was almost a university, and served to set Rochdale apart as a city set upon a hill. This society discussed every topic of human interest, save politics and religion, boxing the compass of human knowledge. The wisdom, excellence, worth and benefit of such a society in a town is of an importance absolutely beyond compute. No religious institution can compare with it in beneficent results, carried on, as it was, by a businessman, his wife and their children, all quite incidentally! Were they not Friends, indeed?