Table of Contents
|Editor/Translator:||Keen, Paul, fl. 2003|
|Editor/Translator Alternative Name:||Paul Keen|
|First Published Date:||1818|
|Genre:||Social and Political Writings|
SATURDAY, MARCH 21, 1818
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The Yellow Dwarf,
A WEEKLY MISCELLANY
"A stirring DWARF we do allowance give
Before a sleeping Lion."—SHAKSPEARE.
NUMBER 12. SATURDAY, MARCH 21, 1818. PRICE 4d.
POLITICS OF THE DAY.
BUILDING OF CHURCHES.—The House of Commons has voted one million of money to assist parishes in building Churches; and as no opposition has been made to the grant, it may be deemed by some, that the propriety of it is unquestionable. It will be well to enquire, therefore, whether any opposition could have been, made to this measure, and how it happens that this opposition was not made.
In many parishes it appears that there are not churches enough for the whole of the inhabitants, and probably not enough for those who wish to go to church; and it is therefore desirable that this deficiency should be supplied, and the question now comes, at whose expense this work shall be done. The first thing which we should have thought would have been first considered was, whether the sums set aside for the maintenance of the worship of God were sufficient to supply this new demand; and when they were found defective, and not till then, that new burthens should be laid on the people for that purpose. This would be the proper course at any time, but especially now, when the taxes not only press heavily upon the people,—when complaints after complaints are made against different taxes, and whim no defence can be set up for them, but that less oppressive ones cannot be found, and when a reduction of even 200,000l. of the present taxes could not be thought of without at the same time contemplating national bankruptcy, —at a time when the debt is so great, that any war, however just or necessary it may be, must be looked forward to with terror. At such a time as this it surely was the duty of the House of Commons to see that not a farthing was paid out of the Treasury for any object, however praiseworthy, which could be answered by any other means.
The Building of Churches, it will be said, is a very laudable object, and that it would be well if all the rest of the public money were so expended; and it would be better that the debt should have a million added to it than that the Churches should not be built. If a man contracted a debt to purchase bread, he might urge in like manner, that he had better subject himself to future difficulties than starve, and there would be some reason in the pretence. But if, at the same lime, this same man was spending the ready money which he should have expended on bread, in gambling or drinking, or any other species of extravagance, it would have been no argument in his favour, that his debt was contracted for the necessaries of life. We should therefore see what sums now less beneficially expended could be applied to the Building of Churches, before we should admit the justice of a claim for new taxes, or for contracting a new debt, which, if the creditors be not defrauded, must be discharged by an already overburthened people. This must be admitted, or it must be at the same time asserted, that no degree of misery, produced by taxation, should prevent the taxes from being increased at any time, and to any amount which may be convenient to the rulers of the nation.
When we consider that in this country one-tenth part of the produce, with few exceptions, is set apart for the religious instruction of the people,—when we consider the great and increasing value of this produce,—when we consider that, besides this, large fees are paid to the Clergymen for marriages, burials, and christenings, and that great tracts of land are in the possession of different Ecclesiastical Dignitaries and other Clergymen, —when we consider that the emoluments derived from all these sources, can be looked upon in no other way, than as money bestowed in trust for the teaching of religion to the people,—it is enough to make us stare at the very first proposition of a grant out of the taxes, as an addition to the enormous national debt, to supply the inadequacy of these vast revenues. "At the first establishment," says Justice Blackstone, "of parochial Clergy, the tithes of the parish were distributed in a fourfold division; one for the use of the Bishop, another for maintaining the fabric of the church, a third for the poor, and the fourth to provide for the incumbent." (Commentaries, Book I. Chap. 11.) Since that time, the Bishops have been richly endowed with, lands, the poor have been otherwise provided for, and the fabric of the church has been maintained by rates levied on the parishes; and even for the incumbents themselves, sums, for many years, were granted by Parliament to increase their revenues on small livings, while the incomes of the large ones have increased with the increase of tillage and the improvement of agriculture. With the exception of those parts of the tythes of some parishes which were originally appropriated, or afterwards alienated to Abbeys, and which have passed from them to the King or to private persons, the Clergy have divided amongst them the tenth part of the produce of the land, and of all human industry, enterprize, or wealth employed in any shape in the cultivation of it; and this for their sole support! And was it not the duty of a House of Commons, the (should-be) Advocates and Representatives of the People of England, to look to this immense revenue, to enquire whether in it they might not find ample means of supplying all the deficiency of churches?
But it is said the tythes are private property; or at least it would be unjust to deprive either the present clergymen of any portion of their income, or to lessen the income of those Clergymen whom private persons have the right of appointing hereafter. But if we allow all this, there remains a mass of property well worth enquiring about. In his speech of Monday last, the Chancellor of the Exchequer says, that of 27 parishes which he had alluded to, as requiring additional churches, "the patronage of four was in the Crown, two in the Archbishop of Canterbury, three in the Bishop of London, one in the Archdeacon of London, six in Collegiate Churches, two in Chapters or Corporations; in one the incumbent was elected by the parishioners, and eight belonged to private patrons. These 27 parishes would
[p. 310] | [Page Image]afford a tolerable specimen of every mode of ecclesiastical property." Now, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, out of 27 parishes, there are 15 of which the Crown directly or indirectly nominates the parsons; because the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops and the Archdeacons, the Members of Collocate Churches, not to speak of Chapters are nominated by the Crown; and if we suppose that the churches are filled up in the same proportion all over the kingdom, there is more than one half of the tythes which might, as the present incumbears die. be parcelled out in the manner most advantageous to the public. And all this besides the revenues of Prebendaries, and Deans, who do absolutely nothing for the money which they receive. There is a monument in Westminster Abbey, of a Dean of that Church, who was also Bishop of Rochester, on which it is inscribed as one of his good deeds, that he made a rule that each of the Prebendaries should reside in the good houses that are provided for them, one month in the year; the use of which regulation, anxious as we are that these gentlemen should do something useful for their money, we could never discover. The Bishops, too, have some of them enormous salaries. One or two of them have not more than 1000l.; one of them (the Bishop of Durham) has probably 30.000l. The Bishops of London, Ely, Winchester, the Archbishop, of Canterbury and York, have all of them great revenues, of different amounts, from 12 to 25,000l. a year. No accounts are ever produced of the value of these benefices so that we are left in the dark as to the exact sums which are derived from them; but we need no other evidence as to the vast mentality between them, than the regular promotion of Bishops from one See to another, nor of the great revenues of the highest, than the fact that the lowest are enabled to support the dignity of their stations. We should hold it to be a piece of injustice to deprive the present possessor of Livings, or Prebends or Deaneries or Bishoprics, of any considerable portion of their incomes, because we think there is no need for such a step, and because she mischief which would be created, by destroying the reasonable expectations of families, by obliging them to break contracts with their creditors, and by all the other evils which follow the suddenly and forcibly depriving a man of the income he has been in the habit of relying on, might, overbalance the good which we could calculate on from such a measure. But what reason is there to prevent the whole of the sinecures, and the surplus of the revenues of efficient but over-paid offices, being appropriated as they fall in, and applied to supply the defect of public instruction? What portion of suffering, however small, can be created: what reasonable expectation can be destroyed? The Church, some expectants—some of those who, for the advantage of Christianity, wish to have large incomes for doing nothing—will cry, thy Church will be injured! But what is the Church? Is it the ideal body of believers in the doctrines established by law, or the teachers of those doctrines, or the building in which they teach? To one of these two sets of men, or to the stones (and in some cases we are sorry to say, brick) and mortar, must the injury be done. What, then, is the amount of this injury?
The believers in the doctrines established by the Act of Uniformity, amounting to perhaps two thirds of the people of England, have pretty much the same interests and feelings as the rest of the population. They may wish to see their peculiar mode of belief extended; but there is no reason why they should wish to see persons paid large sums who do nothing for them, or to see others paid 20,000l. a year for that which might be done for 2000l., while a great part of the population have no churches to go to, and while they are taxed to build them. There is no reason why they should wish to see this, nor, in point of fact, do they. They have no wish to see a vast number of Church Sinecures at the disposal of the Crown, or the vast inequality of Bishopricks, which prevents any Churchman from sitting down quietly to perform the duties of his situation, but keeps him in restless anxiety for advancement, and which impresses on his mind the necessity of servility, as one of the surest means of obtaining the constant object of his wishes. They know that it is by no means in proportion to the wealth lavished on Clergymen. that the religion and morality of the people are promoted;—they know that great incomes afford Clergymen almost irresistible temptations to engage in scenes of pleasure remote from the sphere of their duty; and they know that in Scotland, where the salaries of the Clergymen are sufficient to enable them to live in good repute and comfort, but not more than sufficient, non-residence is unknown, and scarcely have any Dissenters been able to take root. If we mean, therefore, by the Church, the body of believers in its doctrines, they would have been benefited, and not injured by the appropriation of some of the sinecures and superfluities (as they fall in) to this necessary work.
If we mean, by the Church, the Clergymen who teach these same doctrines, we have no doubt that many of them would have objected to this plan. Many of them no doubt think they have a chance, sometime or other, of possessing some of the over-paid or sinecure Church offices. But there is no more reason for regarding their wishes in this case, than there would be for regarding the wishes of any other persons on the subject of other sinecures, into which, by dint of persevering servility, they hope to creep; or than there would be for creating twice as many Deaneries and Prebends, and giving them the power of levying a fifth of the produce of the land, instead of a tenth, if they should think fit to make such a proposal. Any other objections, from any other set of men, or even from the walls and roofs to which the name of Church is given, we cannot anticipate.
What then shall we say to this proposal, for it is not yet a law, by which a million of money is to be taken from the people of England, while we have shown, that without injury to any, and with advantage to all, other funds might be applied to this purpose? This million of money is so much more debt contracted. It will go on accumulating at compound interest. In fourteen years it will be two millions,—in twenty-eight years it will be four millions—and the interest of it will then swallow up the produce of that tax upon leather (200,000l.) which falls so heavy on the poor, and the repeal of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer opposes with might and main. The sum, it is true, is but one million—it will add but one eight-hundredth part to our debt; but it is a specimen of the manner in which the thing goes on. We know that it is not a subject on which the feelings of the people can be routed,—we know that it is a matter too small in its immediate consequences, gross as it is in principle, to induce the people, who have been described by those who traduce them, as too apt to complain,—as possessed with an ignorant impatience of taxation, to remonstrate or petition. But we would beg those honest men, who ask of what use a Parliamentary Reform would be, to look at this case, and calmly to consider how it happens, that such a grant as this passes without notice. It is of such grants as this that the debt is made up. They are small in their amount, they are nominally applied to a good purpose, though it is only by the misapplication of other funds that they are rendered necessary; and those will hypocritically say, that the voice of the people is listened to by the House of Commons when it is loudly expressed, know full well, that on subjects like this, which make up the details of Government, on every petty malversation of public money which is weekly or daily proposed, the voice of the people cannot by any possibility be raised. They complain at last of the heavy weight of taxation which presses on their shoulders,—but they are then insultingly told, that the debt has been contracted, and that the creditors must be paid.— According to the present system of virtual representation in the
[p. 311] | [Page Image]House of Commons, every class of persons is fully represented, except the great body of tax-payers; but the body which is most amply represented is the body of those who profit or hope to profit by the influence of the Crown. If we bear this in mind, this grant can easily be accounted for. The Borough Members think every part of the influence of the Crown a part of their own inheritance, of the profits of which, by virtue of timely ayes or noes, they shall in person, or by their relatives or dependents, reap their fair and timely proportion. Clergymen are, by virtue of their livings, freeholders in all the counties. In some counties there are 2 or 300 of them, who all have votes. The County Members think it best not to run the risk of offending so considerable a class of their Constituents, knowing also, that if they took on themselves this odium, the Minister would be still too strong for them. But whatever were the various motives which led to an acquiescence in this grant, we must leave it to our Readers to consider whether such a measure, not to speak of those yearly grants of 100,000l. a year for the increase of small livings would have been tolerated, if the great body of tax-payers had been really represented in Parliament, and if the people had the power of calling their Representatives to account at frequent new elections. It requires an extraordinary memory to be able, at the end of six or seven years, to call to mind all the measures which have taken place within that time, and all the reasons by which they have been condemned or justified, and the conduct of each member on every proposal that affected the general interest of the people. It is therefore essential to every thorough Reform, that Parliaments should be short, that every Member should constantly have in his mind what may be said of his conduct at the next election, and that, in considering whether a Member should be re-elected, we should have to look back one Session or two, and not to write a seven-years history. In these long Parliaments,—to bring the matter home to the case before us,— small bodies of men, bound together by some strong common interest, have a great advantage over the people. The Clergy, for instance, will remember well enough what course their County Member took in a cause which affected their body, at however remote a period of time; their memory is stronger, because their interest is more intense. The Members of the House of Commons know this; they know that at the end of their long term, their services to corporations, or to these particular interests, will be much more surely remembered than their service to the public at large. We are well aware, that without a great extension of the elective franchise, even Annual Parliaments would produce little effect. The frequency of elections would produce no improvement in rotten boroughs, and the overbearing number of Members which these places return produces a feeling of hopelessness in the electors of other places. Frequent elections, and a widely and uniformly extended right of voting, are equally necessary parts of a beneficial Reform.
We do not think that there can be a better place than this for introducing a passage from a speech of Mr. Canning's, on the 11th, in which he laboured to persuade the House of Commons that they were the perfection of representative bodies. He said, " Hatred to government as government, to rank as rank, had been industriously inculcated; and the starving artisan was told by his mischievous seducer, that all his distress arose from an imperfect Representation in Parliament. If this assertion meant any thing, it must be this—that Parliament, as at present constituted, encouraged unnecessary wars; that unnecessary wars produced extravagant expenditure; that extravagant expenditure produced exorbitant taxation; and that exorbitant taxation produced overwhelming misery. Now, what was the inference of the Parliamentary Reformers? Was it that Parliament, more popularized, more democratically constituted, would be less inclined to war? He would appeal to all history, ancient or modern, whether democratic states were not always the fondest of war. Look at Athens, look at Rome, look at the petty Republics of Italy. Was not the appetite for war in all those Governments perpetually excited and perpetually indulged?"
The grant which we have before commented upon, will be a pretty good answer to this. In the first place, it would have been fortunate for this country, however necessary its wars may have been, that we had bad no expenditure to support, but that which had been created by the necessary expenses of war. Mr. Canning should have recollected, that if Rome was frequently engaged in wars, her wars were never expensive to the people; and that, in fact, it was not the frequency, but the success of her wars, arising from the energy of an elective Government, for which she was remarkable; and that, till the Nobles interfered with the power of the people, and thus paved the way for their common subjugation to one arbitrary Monarch, the State was us tranquil and happy within, as it was formidable to its enemies. The Democracy of Athens, though turbulent and ill regulated, attained, in spite of the narrow and barren territory within which it was counted, a height of power, which has been a subject for the admiration of ages. We know that it amassed a treasure; but though it was warlike, it never contracted a debt. And even the "petty Republics of Italy," with all their ward and civil broils, earned their country to a degree of wealth and prosperity, which, under their present despots, we may seek in vain. Every thing should be measured by the standard of its age. Let Rome or Athens be compared with the Government of their own day,—let the United States of America be compared with the despots of the Continent, and neither the rhetoric nor the logic of Mr. Canning will persuade us, that an extension of the rights of the people to manage their own concerns, is condemned either by the reason or experience of mankind.
PRESENT STATE OF GERMANY.
(Concluded from our last.)
WITH the French Revolution commenced a new æera. Where was the corner throughout civilized Europe in Which that great event did not excite fears and alarms in one class of persons, and fond hopes and expectations in another? Germany, from the general diffusion of knowledge among the great body of the people, and from the defective nature of its own political institutions, was in a condition which peculiarly disposed it to sympathise with a revolution, that promised to break down all those barriers which virtue and knowledge were never allowed to pass, and which placed the great mass of the people at the uncontrouled disposal of those, who felt themselves dispensed from the necessity of proving their title to the distinction by the display of superior merit. We are not to wonder, then, that the French Revolution was hailed with joy by numbers in Germany. The favourite writers of the nation were warm champions. Schiller, a man who united to the possession of splendid talents and extensive knowledge, a virtuous and manly character, entered with zeal into a cause, from which he hoped the advancement of human happiness, of science, and of civilization. The German Republic on the Rhine followed close on the French Republic; and the leading character in the transactions which led to the latter Revolution was a Professor, highly esteemed among his countrymen for his talents and his virtues. When the army of Prussia crossed the Rhine, to enter the territories of France, that army was not less an object of abhorrence to the Germans than to the French. The unfortunate turn which the French Revolution afterwards took, was deeply felt by the liberal-minded of all countries, and by none more than by the Germans, who, in the passing horrors which disgraced the new Republic, were not perhaps sufficiently alive to the permanent
[p. 312] | [Page Image]good which the Revolution has done, not to France only, but to all Europe. The world in general is not yet sufficiently aware of the great improvement which the devolution has mode in the condition of the people of France. It has laid open to all classes of citizens every office in the State,—it has made all men equal before the tribunals,—it has freed property from a tax which strikes at production, namely, tythes; and it has destroyed the last vestiges of feudal servitude. This example will and must operate in other countries. The political discussions which the Revolution may be said to have first given rise to in Germany, have continued, with more or less keenness, to the present day. Journals and newspapers have multiplied in an extraordinary manner; and as, wherever they dare speak out, they have embraced the popular side, a strong wish has been excited throughout the cultivated part of Germany for a popular participation in the Government. The Germans flatter themselves, that should ever they be allowed to emerge from their present depression, they would make a better use of the means within their power than the French did. We are told by the biographer of Schiller, that when he considered the course which the French Revolution took, he used to say, that the Germans, in similar situations, would not merely have acted humanely, but in a truly elevated and great manner, and would have become the most cultivated, formidable, and powerful of nations. "The German," he often repealed, "has an honest, noble, and firm character—I am proud of being a German."— Nations, like individuals, are seldom deterred from any attempt by the failure of others in attempts of the same kind: and this confidence and favourable opinion, which induces us to presume on our own success, is not only allowable, but the grand source of all human improvement. It is probable, however, that under similar circumstances the Germans would really conduct them-selves better. Their superior knowledge would at least preserve them from the delusions to which die ignorance of the lower orders in France, at the breaking out of the Revolution, exposed that people, and which rendered them too often the victims of wicked and mischievous men.
To gratify this prevailing desire of the Germans, the rulers of the country, when the assistance of the people were required to drive out the French, promised that they should be politically free. The people, who had looked with indifference, if not with aversion, on all the former wars with France, now at last entered with warmth into a cause which they considered their own. An immense population flew to arms, and the French preponderancy was destroyed. Nothing more, however, was heard of these promises, till the return of Bonaparte from Elba suggested to the Sovereigns assembled at Vienna, for the purpose of dividing among them the spoils of Europe, that the assistance of the people might be again required; then the King of Prussia thought proper, on the 22d May, 1815, to issue a proclamation, in which he promised a Constitution to his subjects. An act of, federation was also hastily patched up, and signed at Vienna on the 8th June, 1815; the 13th article of which bears, "that in all the Federal States, a Representative Constitution shall be established." The words Standische verfassung, in the original, is still more vague than the English, Representative Constitution—it means literally a Constitution with States. States formerly existed in all Germany, and in most of the smaller dominions, up to the period of the dissolution of the empire. They still exist in several petty dutchies and principalities, and in Saxony; and they have been revived in Hanover, Hesse Cassel, and perhaps one or two of the larger Governments. But it is quite a, mistake to confound these bodies with any thing like a popular Representation. Their composition is feudal and aristocratical in the highest degree, and by no means commensurate with the wants of a civilized age. That Constitutions of a more liberal nature will be voluntarily given by the rulers of the federation to the people, is certainly highly questionable. They are themselves the judges of the concessions which they are to make, and it can hardly be doubted that they will take care not to concede too much. The only Prince who has yet, in obedience to the Federal Act, entered into a fair agreement with his people, and consented to a Constitution, securing to all classes the exercise of their just rights, is the Grand Duke of Saxe Weimar. The discussions on constitutional subjects, which long agitated the people of Wirtemberg, are well known. To satisfy his impatient subjects, the King of Prussia some time ago named a Commission for the purpose of preparing a Constitution, but none of the fruits of its labours have yet been given to the world. Petitions, numerously signed, were lately presented to the Diet from the Prussian provinces on the Rhino, claiming the fulfilment of the 13th Article of the Federal Act, not only towards themselves, but also towards all their German brethren. The people of Saxony have hitherto, from a regard, it is said, to their aged Sovereign, remained quiet under their old aristocratical Constitution; but they are now as impatient for change as any of their neighbours. The people of Holstein are also at this moment keenly engaged in the cause of Reform. From north to south, throughout the whole of the cultivated part of Germany, the people are every where anxiously claiming to be admitted to the enjoyment of political rights; but, with the solitary exception which we have mentioned above, the Sovereigns, as might have been expected, lend a deaf ear to the petitions and complaints of the people.
The Liberty of the Press, in Germany, has lately become an object of great dread to the European Sovereigns, and conferences between the more powerful of them have been held, for the purpose of placing it under restraint. This would be a more difficult task, were Germany divided into 300 different States; the task is less difficult, now that the 300 are reduced to 39.— The greater Powers of Austria and Prussia, backed by Russia, lately formed the project of intimidating the minor States into an acquiescence with their views. The fruits of their interference were soon witnessed. The Editor of the Bremen Journal received a serious admonition, which he will not perhaps dare to neglect, from the Senate of that town. By the Constitution of Weimar, a complete and unconditional freedom of the press was established in that State, and the writers were not backward in availing themselves of their privilege. The Prussian and Austrian Ambassadors have in consequence never left the Weimar Government one moment at ease. On the 5th of February, the States of Weimar were called together by the Count Von Einsiedel, their President, when they not only approved of all the measures adopted by the Government against the publishers of various journals, but they surrendered into the hands of their ruler that Article of the Constitution which relates to the freedom of the press, till a positive law on this subject be passed by the German Diet for all Germany. In the interim, a Censorship is again introduced. Professor Oken has been sentenced to six weeks imprisonment; Professor Luden was deprived of the promotion he was entitled to; Messieurs Bertuch and Froriep, the Editors of the opposition paper, were forbidden the Court; the Nemesis, and Friend of the People, were suppressed, and Dr. Wieland, their Editor, obliged to leave Jena. This news has been announced in the Bremen Journal, with the same marks of mourning which were seen in our newspapers on a late event; and certainly such a formal abolition of the Liberty of the Press, for this suspension can be viewed in no other light than an abolition, is an event from which the most alarming consequences may with justice be anticipated.
One of the first measures which the public are taught to expect from the German Diet at Frankfort, is a general measure for regulating the Press throughout Germany. In the 18th Article of the Federal Act, it is declared, that "the Diet will, on
[p. 313] | [Page Image]its first, assembly, occupy itself with the framing of uniform provisions for securing the Liberty of the Press, and the rights of authors and publishers, against piracy." The Germans owed their liberty of the Press to the multiplicity of their Governments, the neglect of some rulers, and the impotence of others. Now that the attention of the Government is so powerfully directed to this subject, from any general regulation nothing but the most serious consequences to liberty can be apprehended. The general regulations which these Sovereigns may think fit to adopt, even if liberal in their nature, a supposition which it would be folly to entertain, will henceforth deprive any writer of an asylum in any particular State. The Judges in Germany hold their commissions at the pleasure of the different Governments; and though we believe they are not charged with injustice in deciding between man and man, and hitherto there are few, if any, instances of their being turned out of their situations, it would be expecting too much from human nature to suppose, that in any dispute between a writer and the Government, the cause of the Government would not be favored. It was well remarked, by the Gentleman who lately headed the deputation from the Middle Rhine, winch conferred with the Prussian Chancellor, Prince Hardenberg, "that it was not easy to contrive a general law which should set bounds to so free and volatile activity as that of the mind, within which it might enjoy without interruption a due and becoming freedom, and beyond which every thing was to be considered criminal licentiousness, and abuse:—that, therefore, the decision of Juries on their oaths on each particular case, was the only means for securing the Government without endangering private liberty." Unfortunately, with the exception of Rhenish Prussia, which received Juries from France, that institution is unknown in the rest of Germany, and therefore the regulations will be as special as possible, and must always be interpreted in favour of the Government.
The prospect of Germany, with respect to liberty, is certainly therefore at present gloomy enough: it would be rash, however, to pronounce any positive opinion on the subject. When information is once generally diffused in a nation, and when the people are once filled with a strong desire for liberty, they may be kept down for a time, but they cannot always be kept down. It may not be in their power to resist openly the force of their respective Governments, bat a time of embarrassment may come, and there may be men at hand skilful enough properly to avail themselves of it. At all events, things cannot remain as they are: discussion must overturn arbitrary power, or arbitrary power must overturn discussion. But though the Press of the present day may be shackled, thank God it is not in the power of Princes to destroy the productions of a better time; and the ablest and most popular writers of every country have been generally the advocates of religious and political freedom. Fanatical Priests in Switzerland and the south of France may devote to the flames a few copies of Voltaire and Rosseau, but the universal diffusion of their best writings fortunately places them beyond the impotent rage of fatanical priests and politicians, and renders these attempts only ridiculous. In like manner in Germany, the Press has already been the means of diffusing works which will continue to live in defiance of Kings, Ministers, and Priests; and which, the productions of an enslaved Press will only endear the more to the people.
Notes on a Journey in America, from the Coast of Virginia to the Territory of Illinois. By Morris Birkbeck, Author of " Notes on a Tour in France."
THE Times newspaper, in 1814, under the guidance of the present Editor of the Day, or New Times, speaking of the American Government, with which we were then at war, declared, that the ill-organised association is on the eve of dissolution, and the world is speedily to be delivered of the mischievous example of the existence of a Government founded on democratic rebellion." The American Government, it was said in the same paper, in April of the same year, was, "in point of fact, as much a tyranny (though we are far from saying it is so horrible a one) as that of Bonaparte." On the 1st of June, 1814, Sir Joseph Yorke, one of the Lords of the Admiralty, also observed in the House of Commons, "that although there was one great enemy of this country, Bonaparte, who had been deposed, there was another Gentleman whose deposition was also necessary to our interest, he meant Mr. President Madison."— (Courier, June 2, 1814.)—But notwithstanding these threats and these prophecies,—notwithstanding the abundant good will with which those who have forced Louis the Eighteenth upon the people of France, would destroy the example of a Government founded on the choice of the people, or, in their own words, on democratic rebellion, America still exists and flourishes as an independent State; and perhaps for the very reason which draws on it the hatred of the persons whom we have quoted, attracts the eyes of all those who do not think that the human race is condemned by necessity to degradation and hopelessness: and Mr. Madison, too, after having ended the term of his Presidentship with honour, lives to rejoice in peace at the prosperity and progress of his country.
Mr. Birkbeck is a farmer, and the author of "Notes on a Tour in France in 1814," which, in contrast with Arthur Young's tour before the Revolution, showed plainly the advantages which that event had procured for the mass of the inhabitants of France;—for all those who were not interested in the maintenance of slavery and taxation,—of the laws for the protection of wild beasts, which overran the fences and gardens of the peasant, and for the punishment of the peasant who defended his property,—of tythes and gabelles,—of uncertainty, expensiveness, and delay in the administration of justice,—of the exclusive privileges of a Noblesse (we should mislead our readers if we called it a Nobility),—and. of Lettres de Cachet Mr. Birkbeck resolved to settle in America; and he thus states the motives which urged him to this new enterprize:—
" A nation, with half its population supported by alms, or poor-rates, and one fourth of its income derived from taxes, many of which are dried up in their sources, or speedily becoming so, must teem with emigrants from one end to the other: and, for such as myself, who have had "nothing to do with the laws but to obey them," it is quite reasonable and just to secure a timely retreat from the approaching crisis—either of anarchy or despotism.
" An English farmer, to which class I had the honour to belong, is in possession of the same rights and privileges with the villeins of old time, and exhibits, for the most part, a suitable political character. He has no voice in the appointment of the Legislature, unless he happen to possess a freehold of forty shillings a year; and he is then expected to vote in the interest of his landlord. He has no concern with public affairs, excepting as a tax-payer, a parish officer, or a militia-man. He has no right to appear at a county meeting, unless the word inhabitant should find its way into the Sheriff's invitation: in this case, he may shew his face among the nobility, clergy, and freeholders-;—a felicity which once occurred to myself, when the inhabitants of Surrey were invited to assist the gentry in crying down the Income Tax.
" Thus, having no elective franchise, an English farmer can scarcely be said to have a political existence: and political duties He has none, except such as, under existing circumstances, would inevitably consign him to the special guardianship of the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
" In exchanging the condition of an English farmer for that
[p. 314] | [Page Image]of an American proprietor, I expect to suffer many inconveniences: but I am willing to make a great sacrifice of present case, were it merely for the sake of obtaining, in the decline of life, an exemption from that wearisome solicitude about pecuniary affairs, from which even the affluent find no refuge in England; and for my children, a career of enterprize, and wholesome family connections, in a society whose institutions are favourable to virtue; and at last, the consolation of leaving them efficient members of a flourishing, public-spirited, energetic community; where the indolence of wealth, and the servility of pauperism, between which, in England, there is scarcely an interval remaining, are alike unknown."—p. 5.
He reached Norfolk, in Virginia, in May 3, 1817, and thence proceeded to Richmond, the capital of the State, and a flourishing commercial town, containing 13,000 inhabitants. From the rapid increase of the population in this place, beyond the means of accommodating them, provisions and house-rent and enormously dear. About 25,000 hogsheads of tobacco, and 200,000 barrels of flour, form the yearly export from this place. With all this activity, the system of negro slavery, winch prevails in the southern States of America, prevents it from exhibiting an agreeable picture. The slave-masters are aware of the mischiefs of this practice, which return on their own heads, but they dread the effects of liberating them. At an assemblage of the planters, which Mr. Birkbeck witnessed at Petersburg, in Virginia, "negro slavery was the prevailing topic—the beginning, the middle, and end,—an evil uppermost in every man's thoughts, which all deplored, many were anxious to fly, but for which no man can devise a remedy."—p. 12. The inhabitants dwell in constant terror of the carelessness, as well as revenge, of the negroes, through whose thoughtlessness fires constantly occur.
From Richmond Mr. B. proceeded to Washington, and thence across the Alleghany Mountains, as he had determined to settle in some of those parts beyond the mountains, in which the climate is temperate, and where slavery is not established, viz. the west of Pennsylvania, the States of Indiana, or Ohio, or the territory of the Illinois. He proceeded with his party across the Alleghany ridge, by the great turnpike from Philadelphia to Pittsburg. These mountains are of a schiston formation, and covered with wood. Mr. Birkbeck was struck on his journey with the number of emigrants, who, like his own family, were passing westward. In page 29, he says:—
" The condition of the people of America is so different from aught that we in Europe have an opportunity of observing, that it would be difficult to convey an adequate notion of their character.
" They are great travellers; and, in general, better acquainted with the vast expanse of country, spreading over their eighteen States (of which Virginia alone nearly equals Great Britain in extent), than the English with their little island.
" They are also a migrating people; and even when in prosporous circumstances, can contemplate a change of situation. which under our old establishments and fixed habits, none but the most enterprizing would venture upon, when urged by adversity.
" To give an idea of the internal movements of this vast hive, about 12,000 waggons passed between Baltimore and Philadelphia, in the last year, with from four to six horses, carrying from thirty-five to forty cwt. The cost of carriage is about seven dollars per cwt. from Philadelphia to Pittsburg, and the money paid for the conveyance of goods on this road, exceeds 300,000l. sterling. Add to these the numerous stages, loaded to the utmost, and the innumerable travellers on horseback, on foot, and in light waggons, and you have before you a scene of bustle and business, extending over a space of 300 miles, which is truly wonderful.
" When, on our voyage, we approached within twenty leagues of the American coast, we were cheered by the sight of ships in every direction. Up James River, vessels of all sorts and sizes, from 500 tons downwards, continually passing; and steam-boats crowded with passengers. The same on the Potowmack; and in the winter, when the navigation is interrupted by frost, stages, twelve or fourteen in a file, are seen posting along, to supply the want of that luxurious accommodation.
" But what is most at variance with English notions of the American people, is the urbanity and civilization that prevails in situations remote from large cities. In our journey from Norfolk, on the coast of Virginia, to this place, in the heart of the Alleghany Mountains, we have not for a moment lost sight of the manners of polished life. Refinement is unquestionably far more rare, than in our mature and highly cultivated state of society; but so is extreme vulgarity. In every department of common life, we here see employed persons superior in habits and education to the same class in England.
" We received the first impression of this superiorly from the character of the pilot, whom we welcomed on board off Cape Henry: he was a well-informed and agreeable man, as we should have said; much above his station; but in this we should have erred, for we found his comrades of a similar description. Next occurred the Custom-house officer, who was a gentlemanly youth, without a shade of the disagreeable character which prevails among his European brethren. He staid with us several days, and was succeeded by a second of the same respectable stamp. These officers of revenue are better paid here than with us; and are considered as respectable persons, employed in an honourable service, which they have no temptation to abuse. They receive about 250l. sterling per annum; and one, with a competent salary, performs with fidelity the part of three in England, who are employed as checks upon each other."
Pittsburg has been called the Birmingham of America, but this conveys an exaggerated idea of its importance; but it is an interesting place. Steam-engines are made here, and applied to various purposes, especially to the navigation of the long course of the Ohio and Missisippi, on which there are about 25 vessels, of from 50 to 400 tons burthen, worked by means of steam. There are also iron-foundries, glass-houses, nail-cutting factories, &c.; but some of them are under difficulties, from the influx of European goods. Journeymen in various branches, as shoemakers and tailors, can earn two dollars a day, and provisions are cheap. AH workmen who have careful habits soon rise above their situations. Mr. Birkbeck observes, "every service performed for one man by another, must be purchased at a high rate, much higher than in England; therefore, as long as he is obliged to purchase more than he sells of this service or labour, he is worse off than at home. But the moment he begins to perform his part as an American, the balance will turn in his favour, and he will earn, in the plainest occupation, double his subsistence.—I have this moment before me two Germans, widowers, with three young children each, whose case is very appropriate. They are mere labourers, and cannot speak English, and are therefore sufficiently destitute for the purpose of illustration. These two men were hired at Philadelphia, by a respectable man (with whom I have contracted an acquaintance, through a common friend), and they are now together, master and men, on their way to his farm, near Corydon, in the State of Indiana. These men are engaged for two years, at eighty dollars per annum each, with all necessaries, viz. house, food, and cloathing, for themselves and children. Thus, at the expiration of two years, they are possessed of thirty-six pounds sterling each, and their children growing up to be useful. With this they may pay the first deposit on farms of eighty or a hundred acres, build themselves cabins, and become freeholders and citizens. Mechanics, or artisans of the most
[p. 315] | [Page Image]simple kind, earn half as much more, and those of superior talents rise rapidly to wealth."
[To be continued.]
UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE AND ANNUAL
A REVIEW[note] OF THE OPINIONS AND CONDUCT OF CERTAIN PUBLIC MEN AND OTHERS, ON THE QUESTION OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.
SECT. I.—SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH, M.P.
OUR attention has just now been drawn to this viral subject by a conviction, derived from information from undoubted sources that it will be again brought before the public, with additional strength, and supported by men entitled to the first consideration for their talents, and their influence in society.
Every circumstance in the conduct of public men which has any relation thereto, is worth remarking; and those which contain expressions of approbation or disapprobation, of praise or of censure of the Reformers,—of argument for or against Reform in general, or of particular plans of Reform, should be carefully examined, clearly understood, and carefully treasured in our memories.
It is but too common a practice for the people to forget the tergiversations of public men, and to suffer themselves to be cajoled by the same promise-breakers, almost as often as they are willing to renew their promises,—to confide, again and again, in those who have injured them. It is this which holds out impunity for almost any measures which a pretended friend of the people may take against them—it is this which encourages profligates to proceed in a career, which is at the same time alike destructive of morality in those who command and those who obey. It would be doing great service to the cause of truth and good government, if means were adopted to expose the real character and conduct of every public man; and though we might be charged with attempting "to bring all public men into contempt," we should be well satisfied with the knowledge, that, like other writers, we should never be able (even if we were desirous, which we are not) to bring into contempt any public man whose conduct was not real y contemptible.
We shall commence by taking as a text part of a speech of Sir James Mackintosh, made in the Mouse of Commons on the debate respecting the Scotch Burghs, on the 13th of July last. We shall first insert the words as we find them in the Morning Chronicle newspaper, and then some extracts from a work written by Sir James, and published in the month of April, 1791, observing that the extracts are from the fourth edition, printed within about a year from the first appearance of the work before the public.
It is now twenty-five years since we read this work, and we are free to confess, that the delight we experienced at its reperusal was not less than at its first appearance; but of the work itself, and of its author, we shall speak more particularly hereafter.
On the debate before referred to, Sir James Mackintosh said, " That in England, although in SOME respects the system (of Representation in Parliament) might be improved,
1. " There was a variety of modes of Election, which had been FALSELY BLAMED, as producing an INADEQUATE REPRESENTATION;
2. "But which, on the whole, produced a REPRESENTATION MORE COMPLETE than any mode which should proceed on the basis of uniformity."
3. He contended, that " any uniform Representation was bad.
4. " UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE WAS INDEED THE WORST OF ALL,
5. " If not a MONSTROUS INCONSISTENCY with ALL FORMS OF HUMAN SOCIETY.
6. "It never had existed in this country; and if it had, he should have thought its abolition the best plan of Reform."
Sir James's book was a reply to the accusations of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, and is well known under the first line of its title page—" Vindicine Gallicœ."
In making extracts, we have attended more to the subject to which they relate, than to the order in which they stand in the volume; and we therefore insert, in the first place, those which contain, as we conceive, not only a triumphant answer to the speech, but a complete vindication of those proceedings of the people which the speech is intended to condemn. In page 213, Sir James says:—
7. "Political inequality is equally inconsistent with the principles of natural right and the objects of civil institution. Men retain a right to share in their own Governments, because the EXERCISE of the right by one man is not inconsistent with its possession by another, which is evidently the only case where the surrender of a natural right can be created by society.
" This doctrine is not more abstractedly evident than it is practically important. THE SLIGHTEST DEVIATION FROM IT LEGITIMATES EVERY TYRANNY."
8. "I most cordially agree with Mr. Burke, in reprobating the impotent and preposterous qualifications by which they (the National Assembly) have DISFRANCHISED every citizen who does not pay a direct contribution equivalent to the price of three days labour. NOTHING CAN BE MORE EVIDENT THAN ITS INEFFICIENCY FOR ANY PURPOSE BUT THE DISPLAY OF INCONSISTENCY, AND THE VIOLATION OF JUSTICE."—225. "Their views (certain Members of the National Assembly) were not sufficiently exalted to perceive, that the INVIOLABILITY OF PRINCIPLES is the palladium of virtue and of freedom. The Members of this description do not indeed form the majority of their party; but the aristocratic minority, anxious for whatever might dishonour or embarrass the Assembly, eagerly coalesced with them, and stained the infant Constitution with this ABSURD USURPATION."— p. 228.
9. " It is contended, that a PAUPER has a claim only to charity; and he who produces nothing, has no right to share in the regulation of what is produced by the industry of others. But whatever be the justice of disfranchising the unproductive poor, the argument is, in point of fact, totally misapplied.— DOMESTIC SERVANTS are excluded by the decree of the Assembly, though they subset as evidently on the produce of their own labour, as any oilier class of the society. But ii u the consolation of the consistent friends of freedom, that this abuse must be short lived. I have spoken of the USURPATION OF THE RIGHT OF SUFFRAGE, with the ardour of anxious affection, and the freedom of liberal admiration.
10. "It has been very justly remarked, that even on the idea of taxation, all men have equal rights of Election. For the man who is too poor to pay a direct contribution to the State, still pays a tax in the increased price of his food and clothes. It is besides to be observed, that LIFE AND LIBERTY ARE MORE SACRED THAN PROPERTY, and that the RIGHT OF SUFFRAGE is the only shield that can guard them."—p. 229.
11. "TERRITORIAL or FINANCIAL Representation, is a MONSTROUS relic of ancient prejudice. LAND or HONEY cannot be represented. MEN ALONE CAN BE REPRESENTED,—and POPULATION. ALONE ought to regulate the number of Representatives which any district delegates."—p. 237.
12. "The spirit of Corporation infallibly seizes every public body; and the creation of any new assembly creates a new, dextrous, and vigilant enemy to the general interest."
13. "A representative body itself can only be preserved from
[p. 316] | [Page Image]it by those frequent elections which break combinations, and infuse into it new portions of popular sentiment."—p. 268.
14. "The great proprietors (of England, &c.), titled and untitled, possess the whole force (power) of both Houses of Parliament, that is not immediately dependent on the Crown. The Peers have a great influence in the House of Commons. All political parties are formed by a CONFEDERACY of the Members of both Houses: the Court party, by the influence of the Crown, acting equally in both, supported by a part of the independent aristocracy; the Opposition, by the remainder of the aristocracy, Whether Commons or Lords. HENCE IS EVERY SYMPTOM OF COLLUSION—NO VESTIGE OF CONTROUL."—p. 269.
15. "Through a diversity of Members and interests (says Mr. Burke), GENERAL LIBERTY had as many securities as there were separate views in the several orders."—" And if by GENERAL LIBERTY be understood the power of the collective body of these orders, the position is undeniable; but if it means, what it ought to mean, the LIBERTY OF MANKIND, nothing can be more false. The higher class in society, whatever be their names, of Nobles, Bishops, Judges, or possessors of landed and commercial wealth, hove ever been united by a common view, far more powerful than those petty repugnancies of interest, to which this variety of description Way give rise. Whatever may be the little conflicts of ecclesiastic with secular, or commercial with landed opulence, they have one common interest to preserve—the elevated place to which the social order has raised them. There never was, and there never will be, but two grand interests in civilised society; that of the RICH, and that of the POOR. The differences of interests among the several classes of the rich, will ever be too slender to preclude their conspiracy against mankind.—271.
16. "But in truth, the force (power) and privileges of Parliament (the Commons) are almost indifferent to the people, for it is NOT the GUARDIAN of their RIGHT, nor the organ of their VOICE. We are said to be UNEQUALLY REPRESENTED. This is one of those contradictory phrases that forms the political jargon of half-unenlightened periods. UNEQUAL FREEDOM is a contradiction in terms: it aught not to be called freedom, but the POWER OF SOME, AND THE SLAVERY OF OTHERS,—the oppression of one portion of mankind by another. The law is the deliberate reason of ALL, guiding their occasional will. REPRESENTATION is an expedient for peaceably, SYSTEMATICALLY, and unequivocally collecting this UNIVERSAL VOICE. SO spoke the EDMUND BURKE OF BETTER TIMES,—so spoke the correspondent of Franklin, the champion of America, the enlightened advocate of humanity and freedom. If these principles be true, and they are so TRUE that it seems almost puerile to repeat them, who CAN, WITHOUT INDIGNATION, HEAR THE HOUSE OF COMMONS OF ENGLAND CALLED A POPULAR REPRESENTATIVE? A more insolent and preposterous abuse of language is not to be found in the vocabulary of tyrants. The criterion distinguishes LAWS from DICTATES, FREEDOM from SERVITUDE, rightful government from usurpation; THE LAW, BEING AN EXPRESSION OF THE PUBLIC WILL, IS WANTING. This is the grievance which the admirers of the Revolution of 1688 (the Revolution Society, not the Whigs) desire to remedy according to its principles;—this is that perennial source of corruption which has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. If the general interest is not the object of our Government, it is, it must be, because the GENERAL WILL DOES NOT GOVERN. We are boldly challenged to produce our proofs; our complaints are asserted to be chimerical, and the excellence of our Government is inferred from its beneficial effects. Most unfortunately for us, most unfortunately for our country, these proofs are too ready and too numerous. We find them in that ' monumental debt,' the bequest of wasteful and profligate wars, which already wrings from the peasant something of his hard-earned pittance,—which already has punished the useful and upright manufacturer, by robbing him of the asylum of his house, and the judgment of his Peers, to which the madness of political Quixotism adds a million for every farthing that the pomp of Ministerial empiricism pays, and which menaces our children with CONVULSIONS AND CALAMITIES, of which no age has seen the parallel. We find them in the black and bloody roll of persecuting statutes that are still suffered to stain our code,—a list so execrable, that were no monument to be preserved of what England was in the eighteenth century, but her Statute-book, she might be deemed still plunged in the deepest gloom of superstitious barbarism. We find them in the ignominious exclusion of great bodies of our fellow citizens from political trusts, —by tests which reward falsehood and punish probity, which profane the rites of the religion they pretend to guard, and usurp the dominion of the God they profess to revere. We find them in the growing corruption of those who administer the Government,—in the venality of the House of Commons, which has become only a cumbrous and expensive chamber for registering Ministerial edicts,—in the increase of a Nobility, arrived to a degradation by the profusion and prostitution of honours, which the most zealous partizan of democracy would have spared them. We find them, above all, in the rapid progress which has been made to silence the great organ of public opinion, the Press, which is the true controul on Ministers and Parliaments, who might else with impunity trample on the impotent formalities that form the pretended bulwark of freedom. The mutual controul, the well-poised balance of the several Members of our Legislature, are the visions of theoretical, or the pretexts of practical politicians. It is a Government, not of check, but of conspiracy,—a conspiracy which can only be repressed by the ENERGY of popular opinion."
17. "These are no visionary ills,—no chimerical apprehensions; they are the sad and sober reflections of as honest and enlightened men as any in the kingdom, nor are they alleviated by the torpid and listless security into which the people seem lulled. Summum otium forense non quiescentis sed senescenlis civitatis. It is in this fatal temper that men become sufficiently debased and embruted to sink into placid and polluted servitude: it is then that it may be truly said, that the mind of a country is slain. The admirers of Revolution principles naturally call on every aggrieved and enlightened citizen to consider the force of his oppression. If penal Statutes hang over our Catholic brethren,—if Test Acts outrage our Protestant fellow citizens,—if the remains of feudal tyranny are still suffered to exist in Scotland,—if the press is fettered,—if our right to trial by Jury is abridged,—if our manufactures are prescribed and hunted down by EXCISE, the reason of all these oppressions is the same—NO BRANCH OF THE LEGISLATURE REPRESENTS THE PEOPLE. Men are oppressed because they have no share in their Government.— Let all classes of oppressed citizens melt their local and practical grievances into one great mass,—let them cease to be supphcants for their rights, or to sue for them like mendicants, as a precarious boon from the arrogant pity of usurpers. Until the Legislature speaks their voice, it will oppress them. LET THEM UNITE TO PROCURE SUCH A REFORM IN THE REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE, AS WILL MAKE THE HOUSE OF COMMONS THEIR REPRESENTATIVES. If, dismissing all petty views of obtaining their own particular ends, they unite for this great object, they must succeed. The co-operating efforts of so many bodies of citizens must awaken the nation, and its voice will be spoken in a tone that virtuous Governors will obey, and tyrannical Governors must dread. It is impossible to suppose the existence of such insolent profligacy as would affect to despise the national voice, if it were unequivocally spoken."—p. 343.
[To be continued.]
Next week, Pulpit Oratory, No. IV., Dr. Herbert Marsh, Bishop of Landaff.