Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

is a great prospective good, and a great present evil; the good permanent, the evil only for a season. And still farther to lessen the demand for labour, when sufficient employment could not be found for adults, children have been taken from their mother's side, from the spots which should have invigorated their bodies, and the schools which should have disciplined their mind and given then at least the rudiments of morality and religion, to be worked night and day amid the filth and stench

of manufactories, to the sacrifice of enjoyment, health, morals,--of all which distinguishes immortal man from brute animals, and all which renders life--mere animal life--desirable! These coinciding causes have thrown upon the public a vast number of persons, able and willing to work, but unable to obtain occupation, and this at a time when the landed interest on whom they are thrown are least able to support the burden.

Things were not in this state when M. Simond thought that the danger of political convulsion in this country was more apparent than real. Our agriculture was then in the highest degree flourishing, the revenue every year more productive than the last ; trade, though fluctuating in its different branches, pre-eminently prosperous on the whole : the proprietors of lands, in the observer's own words—'out of the vortex and safe at anchor; and the monied men eager to buy land, being a safe property and a permanent revenue, and because there was an inundation of wealth in the country.' Then also events of the utmost magnitude and inoment were passing upon the great political stage; every man was more or less in terested in the tremendous tragedy of war, and the columns of the factious journalists, our Brissots and Marats, Girondistes and Jacobines,-Whigs, Ultra-Whigs, and downright Anarchists, were in great part copied with the detail of passing events, so that, though they drugged every thing with poison, the venom itself was diluted, and there was less of it. Yet even then it was the first feeling of this judicious observer, that a spark might set the whole machine in a blaze; and when more knowledge of the country and of the people had lessened the force of his first impressions, and made him believe, as he hoped, that a state of things productive of such infinite good was in no danger of being subverted; he stilt perceived that no other government in Europe could long withstand the attacks to which this is constantly exposed; that the abuse. of the press is the curse of English liberty, and that the press has in it a decomposing as well as a vivifying principle :- let us beware how we suffer the decomposing one to predominate! It has al. ready been at work too successfully and too long. The outrages of the Luddites—in consequence of which the manufacturers are removing from Nottingham, and the next generation may perhaps see grass growing in the streets of that now populous city--were not occasioned by any grievances real or imaginary, nor by any ac

tual distress; they have proceeded from a spirit of insubordination, created, fostered, and inflamed by the periodical press. The agricultural riots were not occasioned by distress,-the unhappy culprits who suffered for them under the sentence of the law were men of substance. It was not · Poverty and his cousin Necessity who brought them to those doings,' and to that deplorable end; -- it was the spirit of factious discontent, excited for the purposes of revolution by demagogue orators, and demagogue journalists, who now do not even affect to conceal the object at which they aim. If one man instigates another to commit murder, the instigator, as well as the instrument, is punished: here the instruments alone have suffered, and the great criminals proceed with unabated or even increasing zeal in their endeavours to provoke fresh excesses, and hurry on fresh victims to destruction, without compunction for the past, and regardless by what means they may accomplish the consummation which they seek.

This temper has been unequivocally shown upon the present distress among the labouring and manufacturing classes. Such numerous bodies of men having been thrown out of employ, every good man perceived the necessity of affording them temporary relief, and the propriety of alleviating the poor rates by voluntary aid, till alterative measures of permanent policy could be devised and brought into action for gradually removing a burden that was becoming intolerable. It was as obviously expedient that this should be done, as that the surgeon should apply a turniquet to the shattered limb till he can amputate it. And to this course common humanity and common sense instantly pointed. British feeling and British generosity have never been appealed to in vain. But in what manner has this appeal been answered by the Ultra-Whigs and the Radical Reformers,—the knise and cautery men? It is the old story of the needy Knife-Grinder and the Friend of Humanity, in which the Rights of man are prescribed, and the Sixpence refused. What was there feigned in playful satire has been the exact course pursued by our demagogues, in the avowed hope that unrelieved distress may exasperate the people against the government, and with the deliberate intention of inflaming the ignorant multitude, and setting them on.

There was, according to our judgment, a great crror committed by the distinguished and excellent persons in whom the subscription originated. The names and the donations of the dignitaries of our church were all that was required from them; their personal appearance at a public meeting, and that meeting too in a tavern, was inconsistent with their profession and their rank. When it is necessary for them to recommend charity by precept as well as example, it should be by their pastoral charges in their professional character, not by exposing themselves as individuals

to a verbal contest with faction and vulgarity. These observations apply in part also to the Royal Personages who came forward upon the same occasion, with the same excellent motives, but, as it ap. pears to us, with similar imprudence. Parliament is the place where their opinions may be delivered with dignity and effect. Public meetings should be left to those whose brazen fronts and brazen voices qualify them for such theatres : and were they left wholly to the orators of Palace Yard and the Common Hall, the spokesmen would not long be able to impose upon their auditors, credulous as such auditors are; they would quarrel among themselves, each striving to be cock of the dunghill; the coarsest appea tite would at length be palled by the offal with which these men, diet it; and even if the public, growing weary of the same endless declamation, should not discover the folly of some, the proflicacy of others, and the misrepresentations and falsehoods of all, there would be no danger of their mistaking the character of such meetings, or imputing to them an undue importance. But when illiterate men, listening to their weekly allowance of politics, hear that Princes and Primates, the highest characters and the most sacred ones of the realm, have presented themselves at a tavern, to be contradicted, browbeaten, and hooted down by men, some of whose names they had never heard before,and others better known for their misconduct thanany good deserts; when this extraordinary account prejudicial enough in the simple truth, is rendered still more so by the malicious manner in which the whole proceedings are represented to the advantage of the demagogues, and by the revolutionary seasoning with which it is served up,-isit not likely that their respect for what ought most to be respected should be sensibly diminished, and that they should suppose the revolution which is to vender all ranks equal by pulling down the great, and elevating the low, has actually commenced ?

A provincial paper is now lying before us, in which it is affirmed, that a systematic revolution has been effected by the politics of Mr. Pitt. The liberties of the country baving been overturned, and the whole wealth of the nation absorbed by taxation, what the people are instigated by their sufferings to do afterwards, the incendiary says, “is not a Revolution ; it is the just and natural effort of men to recover the possession of prosperity for themselves and their posterity,—it is the uncontrolable exertion of a people striving to regain their rights, to exist as men, and to act as a community. The scheme of public subscription, he says, is a specious mode of delusion, which the honest and independent poor even in the midst of their want justly regard as an insult. The alleviation of their miseries can proceed only from the restoration of their rights as men: patient endurance can never be the fate of this realm,—we will not be still and die quietly while a drop of

VOL. XV. NO. XXX.

[ocr errors]

vitality remains. This is a chance specimen of the language which is at this time preached at public meetings, and has long been promulgated by the provincial as well as the London press. The orators and journalists of this active and noisy faction tell the poor that the subscription which would alleviate their immediate necessities is a mockery and an insult; and instead of giving them bread, or devising means for employing them in public works, they advise them to cry out for such measures and

pursue such conduct as lead immediately to popular revolution, -of all curses the greatest which the Almighty in his anger could inflict upon this nation. One orator exhorts the people to refuse payment of the taxes; another recommenils that the national debt should be extinguished by a vote of parliament,-parliament of course being previously reformed, so that it may consist of representatives who will not scruple at passing such a vote; a third advises that the tithes be sold and the produce funded; a fourth demands universal suffrage ;--and some of these united politicians engage never to cease their exertions till they shall have obtained what they call speedy, radical, and effectual reform;--patient enduranee, they tellus, shall not be their fate, they will not be still, their cry shall be too general to be mistaken and too powerful to be resisted. Were there any limits to human folly and human wickedness, it would be incredible that there should be men erroneous enough, and criminal enough with the example of France before their eyes (fresh and reeking as those horrors are !) to hold forth language like this, and exert themselves zealously and perseveringly to convince the mob that the physical force is in their hands, and that it is their own fault if they submit longer to be governed by the educated and intellectual part of their countrymen. Have these persons ever asked themselves what would be the consequence of the measures which they advise? if universal suffrage were established, whether it would afford universal employment for the quiet and industrious part of the people as surely as it would for the worthless, the turbulent,the mischievous, and the wicked ? if the church property were seized, whether the title deeds of the landholder would long be considered as giving him an indefeasible right to his estates ? if the national debt were extinguished, whether the public would be benefited by the ruin of the funded proprietors, that is, whether the body would derive, advantage from having one of the limbs paralysed, and whether national prosperity be the natural and necessary consequence of national bankruptcy, the breach of national faith and the loss of national character? finally, if the people, according to the advice of one of these popular representatives, were to refuse payment of the taxes- WHAT THEN? Let these men suppose themselves successful in their projects, and following in imagination the career of their ambition, ask themselves this question at every step-WHAT

THEN? If they should succeed in instigating the people to resistance, to rebellion, to civil war, to revolution, WHAT THEN? What might be the consequences to this great--this glorious—this venerable country, He only can tell without whose inscrutable will no calamity can befall us ; the consequences to themselves may be foretold with perfect certainty,-- guilt, insecurity, fear, misery, ruin, unavailing repentance, violent death, and infamy everlasting It was remarked by one of the numerous French demagogues who fell into the pit which they had digged, that Revolutions were like Saturn, and devoured their own children. Should there be a Revolution in the other world, said Danton to one of his friends, when they were on their way to the guillotine, -take

my advice and have nothing to do with it ! Danton asked pardon of God and man for having instituted the Revolutionary Tribunal : it was only on the first anniversary of its institution that he was carried before it to receive sentence himself,--so short is the reign of a Revolutionist!

Perhaps if M. Simond had seen England under its present aspect, he might have thought that the danger was real as well as apparent, But there is a vis conservatrix in the state, and the preventive means which exist are easy and effectual. It is only necessary to enforce the laws and to stop the progress of sedition by such punishment as shall prevent a repetition of the offence, -any other is absurdly inappropriate. Let the sheriffs and magistrates refuse to call such meetings as manifestly tend and certainly are intended to agitate the people. Let the civil power be strengthened wherever it is needful, by swearing as constables every man who is a known friend to good order, mobs would then be so speedily suppressed that the turbulent and misguided would not venture to in vade the property of their neighbours and disturb the peace of the country, Arm the sound part of the people then with the law, let them fully understand the power with which it invests them, and that if they will stand by the law, the law will stand by them. Let it but be made known that · England expects every man to do his duty, and the sense of duty will be found as strong in men who are thus armed and called upon, as it proved at Trafalgar and at Waterloo. It is needless to observe how desirable it is, on every account, that the civil power should be preferably employed wherever it is possible--and there are many cases where it may be effectually employed when military force is of no avail. In the counties where the Luddites continue their combinations, it is the custom that, before any frames are broken, one of the committee waits on the owner of the machinery, ordering him to desist from using it, and in case of refusal threatening him with the destruction of his property;-the men who carry this threat are suffered quietly to depart: the members of their committees are

« AnteriorContinuar »