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Indisputable facts demonstrate most clearly that the concentration of wealth has changed the relative strength of the different elements of power, leaving the grand body of the people without any other defence than the inevitable influence of a free internal spirit. In 1815 the properties of 250,000 families had, within the
space of forty years, been concentrated in the hands of 32,000 proprietors ; and so 218,000 families had in the above space of time lost their influence in the conduct of the state. aristocratic policy worthy of its progenitors—it was endured silently.
The land of France belongs to fifteen or twenty millions of peasants who cultivate it ; the soil of England is the exclusive property of thirty-two thousand aristocrats who hire men to cultivate it.
“If we would know the inmost thought, the passion of the peasant, it is very easy. Walk, any Sunday, into the country, and follow him. Look! there he is yonder before us! It is two o'clock ; his wife is at vespers ; and he is in his Sunday clothes. I warrant you he is going to see his mistress.
6. What mistress ?-His land.
“It is probable he will not work ; but what prevents him from plucking up a weed, or throwing aside a stone? And then that old stump looks ugly; but he has not his spade ; that must wait till to-morrow. Then he folds his arms, stops, looks serious and thoughtful ; he looks a long, long time, and seems to forget himself: at last, if he fancies himself overlooked, if he perceives anything passing, he moves slowly away ; after a few steps, he stops, turns round, and casts upon his land one last profound and melancholy look: but, to the keen-sighted, that look is full of passion, full of heart, full of devotion. If that be not love, by what token shall we know it in this world ? It is love !-do not laugh-the land will have it so, in order to produce; otherwise this
poor land of France, almost without cattle and pasture, would yield nothing ; it brings forth because it is loved."**
This picture is true to human nature. There is a love of independence implanted in the breast of every human being; the most hardened miscreant covets liberty. The knowledge that he is in the power—at the mercy of his master—debases the work
The workman, who owns not even the battered hut he lives
* Michelet's “ People.”
in, is, in point of fact, little better than a slave. He has his muscle—his industry; and these possessions are marketable. True. Still he is the mere tool of his employer; his master may send him adrift to-morrow. Labour certainly is wealth ; but labour cannot, like corn and coals, be bandied from land to land in search of its market; and herein lies the difference. The labourer has a wife and family ; he has lived in the parish of Dewdrop some twenty years; he offends his employer; he is dismissed. There is no other employment to be had in the neighbourhood. What alternative has he? He must fill the craving stomachs of his family. He removes to another neighbourhood ; to Summerly. He lives at Summerly during two years, when labour again failing, he trudges on elsewhere, a mere machine, whose muscle produces what its master chooses to pay for it. Does this man participate in the vaunted civilisation of England ?-and of how large a class of the British community is he a type ? Yet this man pays larger taxes in proportion than the landed proprietor who employs him. When property became concentrated in few hands, the larger number of the community became dependent upon the lesser number, and therefore powerless; and the landed proprietors, conscious of their power, and alive to their individual interests, have not scrupled to indulge their selfish and grasping propensities at the expense of dependent millions. It is the masses -the men who own not a rush in the land beyond their daily earnings-who support the boasted dignity and supremacy of this country, as they lie at the feet of the “landed gentry.” In 1792 it was resolved to effect the division of common lands, and accordingly a bill was passed, which enacted that they should be bestowed on the richest landlords, because such persons could, with the greatest facility, bring them into cultivation ! Mark well the spirit of this wicked enactment. It professed to operate for the general welfare of the state, while it gave the land belonging to the people at large to a few rich proprietors; it deprived the peasants of those free spots where they had gathered firewood and fed their pigs, &c.; in short, it completed the dependence of the poorer classes. Pitt's ministry saw the property of the kingdom-its wealth and power—-concentrated in some few hundred families, and the House of Commons no longer represented the people of England. The equality of power was destroyed. The proprietary class prospered, and the mass of the people were impoverished and uninfluential in the state. The taxes were wrung from the poorer classes, and land was untouched. The Corn Laws increased the rents of the landlords ; and, under the pretext of securing the nation against the evils of scarcity (but in reality to maintain the largeness of the rents), premiums, sometimes equal to an eighth part of the price, have been granted on the exportation of corn. The necessities of the poor are taxed, and the landed proprietors are untaxed. Thus the burden of the state falls upon the grand mass of the community, while the opulent class monopolise state power, without so much as contributing their fair share to the demands of the legislature.
The Reform Bill cannot, must not be a final measure. Blackstone tells us that the true excellence of the British government consists in this" that the people are a check upon the nobility, and the nobility a check upon the people, by the mutual privilege of rejecting what the other has resolved, while the king is a check upon both, which preserves the executive power from encroachment.” Herein we have a clear definition of the government this country professes to adhere to. But can it be said that the Commons, as at present constituted, are the representatives of the people, checking the interested motives of the upper House? Do we not know that the members of the lower House are for the most part men of large properties, commanding the votes of their dependent tenants ? Are they not as much the aristocracy as the peers of the realm ? Are they not the younger sons of rich peers, or the protégés of some “ noble house?”
There are brilliant exceptions in the House, and all honour be with them; but it is nevertheless a grievous fact, that the present constituency of England do not fairly represent the masses of the country.
It is most true that this country is a glorious beacon of intellectual light to other countries--a lighthouse amongst the nations, guiding them to harbours of noble workmanship ; but the simile holds good in other respects: her intellectual lights are built upon a dangerous--a yawning quicksand. H. Passy says well : “Wo be to those nations where the magnificence of the few displays itself at the expense of the greater number.” The democracy of this country consists of the injured classes. The democrat is the man who, being called upon to obey the laws of England, and to pay for the enforcement of those laws, is nevertheless without a vote. He is a democrat who recognises the equal rights of man ; who agrees, that all who are called upon to obey the laws and to contribute money for their enforcement, should have some voice in the creation of the statutes they are called upon to maintain. A nation is a large insurance company; the parliament, the board of directors. I will only ask, what would any reasonable or just man say, if he, being a member of the said company, though he held but the puniest share, were denied the privilege of voting for members of the board. The constitution of England in its integrity is a parallel case : it yet denies the member his vote. The aristocracy of this country have long made a good harvest : they have wrung the honey from the vast hive, leaving little for the working bees; but the bees are now wide awake, and the drones must beware. There is a spirit abroad that will not be hushed : it cries for justice to all classes; it demands universal suffrage ; it demands a tax on property ; it will no longer consent to bear the burden of the state alone ; it will have religious liberty.
Soon a new parliament will be assembled—a parliament, chosen it is said by the people of England. How many of these picked men owe their seats to their monetary influence or to aristocratic birth, we will not here determine ; but this we know, democracy is abroad : it is the active principle acknowledged throughout England ; it is making giant progress in France ; it is vital in the spirit of Germany ; in Italy the Pope acknowledges the sovereignty of the people. There is an unconquerable demand for radical reform ; the people have, in a measure, educated themselves; they now fully understand their position; they know right from wrong, and they will have right ;-in short, you should con this attentively, new members of parliament-the people of England will not be contented if you only cure their warts : you must root out the ulcers. There is a mighty spirit at work throughout the land, that calls for the destruction of the ulcers which disfigure the British constitution : give heed unto the just askings of this giant spirit, for it has right on its side and it will not be hushed.
CLUB-CROTCHETS AND CHEAP COMFORTS;
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WHITTINGTON FUND.
No. III.—THE ENTERTAINMENT. THE House arranged—the complement of Members filled up, with anxious hundreds waiting for admission (our Club not being quite as expansive as the tent of Pari-Banou)-the matter, thirdly, to be treated, is the Entertainment of the Guests. In my treatment of this, more than of any other clause of my homily, shall I be esteemed crotchetty ; since here have the infinite varieties of taste and humour to be provided for : and it is the luck (shall I call it?) of those who are tolerant in great matters, to be, sometimes, singularly hard to please, and full of conceit, when legislating for the small concerns of daily life and occupation.
Matters of entertainment comprehend food for the body-food for the mind-food for the fancy; and the consideration thereof will lead us from “ the basement story” upstairs, with a peep at the Library in passing—to the Drawing-room, which may by courtesy be called “ The Ladies' Chamber.” It is needless to reiterate, that the motto of a popular club must be “ Economy and Comfort. To attempt to control the kitchen by any dietary statutes, were indeed an impertinence, “which excels my power. -We may have desperate members rushing in and calling for oysters (as Mr. Weller assures us is the wont of such) at that very juncture of the year when “ the natives are coy, not to say inaccessible : and are said desperate members to perish by the formality of a statute? Forbid it, Social Citizenship! We may have jovial souls, resolved upon “a gaudy day,” when two puddings shall smoke upon the board—and is our Cook to be inaugurated with some medal, à la Mathew, which shall preclude such a spice, or so much more citron, on pain of loss of her place ? This were to make Cheapness and Pauperism synonymous—our Club, a sort of Whittington Union, where people were " allowanced,” and gentlemen rated according to their tastes and appetites. And exclusiveness, as I pointed out last month, whether dictated by