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, MAY 23, 1818
[p. 381] | [Page Image]
The Yellow Dwarf,
A WEEKLY MISCELLANY.
"A stirring DWARF we do allowance give
Before a sleeping Lion."—SHAKESPEARE.
NUMBER 21. SATURDAY, MAY 23, 1818. PRICE 4d.
POLITICS OF THE DAY.
SIR. R. HERON'S MOTION.—THE SEPTENNIAL ACT.—The motion for the repeal of the Septennial Act, which was brought forward by Sir R. Heron on Tuesday last, was met by not one argument from the Anti-Reformers. They suffered the question to go to a division, in the result of which they had good reason to be confident. This was a tacit manifestation of their will on the subject of Reform,—a declaration that they will not even discuss the necessity of the most moderate Reform.
We shall not here stop to enquire whether, if the earnestness of the advocates of Reform in the House of Commons corresponded with the numbers and power of the adherents of that cause throughout the country, the supporters of corruption would not be compelled to take a different course, or whether the silence of the Ministers was not a trick to throw the odium of opposing the motion upon the Grenville party, who have been seldom found backwards in taking this work upon themselves. The question of the expediency of repealing the Septennial Act may be considered as a substantive measure, or as a part of a plan of Reform. It is obvious that of any plan of Reform, the object of which is to increase the numbers and secure the incorruptibility of the Electors, some measure by which the members will be obliged more frequency to recur to their Constituents, will be an useful and necessary accompaniment. For to little purpose will the Electors themselves be pure, if those whom they elect, being for a long series of years removed from their controul, have the power to traffic in the liberty and property of the country, with those whom they are appointed to watch. And if ever those ends which all Reformers aim at.—peaceable elections, without the possibility of bribery being efficacious, and therefore without the chance of it's being attempted,—simultaneous district elections, which need not extend beyond one day, and which will therefore occasion no mischievous interruption of the industry of the country,—elections by ballot, which will effectually put an end to scenes of violence and not,—if these ends be attained, whether, the right of suffrage be exercised by the whole population or by householders only, frequent elections will have much to recommend them, and no objections to encounter.
But we confess, if the repeal of the Septennial Act be considered as a substantive measure, connected with no plan of Reform, and to be followed by none, its advantages assume a much more doubtful aspect. By many Reformers we know it is considered as a measure not worth discussing, as too trivial and paltry, whether good or evil, to merit the attention of the people. We are not of that opinion; for while encroachments of all sorts and all degrees of magnitude are made upon freedom, by those who hate liberty, so we, while we are as sensible as any inhere how much must be done before good Government can be established in this kingdom on a sure foundation, do not think it wise to contemn any measure which may be advantageous, however small its advantages.
The chief arguments against shortening the duration of Parliament are to be found in a speech of Burke's, on one of Mr. Sawbridge's motions on this subject.[note] This, as well as all the rest of his works, is worth reading,—worth reading with caution; and this perhaps needs more caution than any other, because he professes to plead against the measure on the ground that it will tend to increase the power of the Crown. It is necessary to take into account the whole of his political creed. He at all times abhorred popular rights,—he at all times loved the Kingly and the Aristocratical power: at the time when he made that speech, as well as in all the early part of his life, he wished to set the power of the Aristocracy above the power of the King, but taking good care not to concede a jot more of power to the people. To such a plan as this, frequent elections opposed an obstacle. The people of this country were then, as they always have been, attached to the constitutional rights of the Crown: and though they might wish to see the regal power limited for their own advantage, they never, would wish to see it depressed or degraded for the sake of any junto. He well knew that the nobility, and, great landholders and boroughholders, to whom he was attached, might, in favourable times, secure such a majority in the House of Commons, as to force themselves on the Crown as its Ministers; but he knew that any encroachment upon the Kingly rights, which would be necessary to secure them in their places, would always produce such a spirit of indignation in the body of voters in counties,, sufficient, in conjunction with the Tory party,, to destroy any newly compacted power. His wish, therefore, was to avoid those frequent appeals to the people, which were so hostile to the species of usurpation in which he delighted. The fate of that House of Commons which passed Fox's East India Bill[note] , may illustrate our remarks. That House" was, indeed, dissolved by the King; but it was only a Monarch of great personal firmness who would have thus contrived to free himself from the thraldom in which so powerful a set of Ministers endeavoured to keep him.
Mr. Burke therefore may be considered as a mala fide advocate on this question; but the range of his mind, and his acuteness, entitle him to attention. His arguments are these:—
"That the frequency of elections proposed by this Bill has a tendency to increase the power and consideration of the electors, not lessen corruptibility, I do most readily allow; so far it is desirable; this is what it has; I will tell you now what it has not:—1st. It has no sort of tendency to increase their integrity and public spirit, unless an increase of power has an operation upon voters in elections, that it has in no other situation in the world, and upon no other part of mankind. 2d. This Bill has no tendency to limit the quantity of influence in the Crown, to render its operation more difficult, or to counteract that operation, which it cannot prevent, in any way whatsoever.
[p. 382] | [Page Image]It has its full weight, its fall range, and its uncontrolled operation on the electors exactly as it had before. 3d. Nor, thirdly, does it abate the interest or inclination of Ministers to apply that influence to the electors: on the contrary, it renders it much more necessary to them, if they seek to have a majority in Parliament, to increase the means of that influence, and redouble their diligence, and to sharpen dexterity in the application. The whole effect of the Bill is therefore the removing the application of some part of the influence from the elected to the electors, and further to strengthen and extend a Court interest already great and powerful in boroughs; here to fix their magazines and places of arms, and thus to make "them the principal, not the secondary, theatre of their manoeuvres for securing a determined majority in Parliament.11—P. 78.
" I do not seriously think this Constitution, oven to the wrecks of it, could survive five triennial elections. If you are to fight the "battle, you must put on the armour of the Ministry; yon must call in the public, to the aid of private, money. The expense of the last election has 'been computed (and I am persuaded that it has not been, over-rated) at 1,500,000l.;—three shillings in the pound more in the Land-tax. About the close of the last Parliament, and the beginning of this, several agents for boroughs went about, and I remember well that it was in every one of their mouths—' Sir, your election will cost you three thousand pounds, if you are independent: hut if the Ministry supports you, it may be done for two, and perhaps for less; and indeed, the thing spoke itself. Where a living was to be got for one, a commission in the army for another, a lift in the navy for a third, and Custom-house offices scattered about without measure or number, who doubts but money may be saved? The Treasury may even add money, but indeed it is superfluous. A gentleman of two thousand a year, who meets another of the same fortune, fights with equal arms; but if to one of the candidates you add a thousand a year in places for himself, and a power of giving away as much among others, one must, or there is no truth in arithmetical demonstration, ruin his adversary, if he is to meet and fight with him every third year. It will be said, I do not allow 'for the operation of character; bat I do; and I know it will have its weight in most elections; perhaps it may be decisive in some. But there are few, in which it will prevent great expenses."—P. 82.
It is to be observed, that the second and third of these arguments in some measure contradict each other. The Bill, he says, has no tendency to counteract the operation of the influence of the Crown, This is his second proposition; but in his third he asserts, that if they seek to have a majority in Parliament, it renders it much more necessary to increase the means of that influence, and redouble their diligence and to sharpen dexterity in the application. So that, in the first place, he asserts that the influence will have the same, operation as at present; and he then acknowledges, that to have the same operation, viz. to secure a majority, it will be necessary that their, influence and the diligence with which it is applied be increased.
Now taking it for granted that the influence of the Crown is quite as great as it is possible for the Ministers to make it, we have here the confession of Burke, that by more frequent elections it will be made less efficacious. If under Septennial Parliaments the House of Commons is not so completely subservient as the Ministers would wish to make if, we must conclude that they use all their diligence in the increase and application of theirs patronage. It is not Jo the want of wishes, but to the want of power to increase it, that we trust; and even without the admission of Mr. Burke it is obvious, that in places where it has any thing like an independent spirit to contend with, a given quantity of influence must produce a greater effect where it is accumulated into large masses to be offered as bribes at the end of seven years. In the small boroughs, there is not a chance of a change for the better or for the worse,—every mode of corruption practisable upon them can be employed under a Septennial as well as under a Triennial Parliament. The Ministers might at present as effectually corrupt the Electors, did they not find it cheaper to buy the Members elected to their hands. They have a longer time to carry on their negociations,—to bestow favours on the Electors,—and they have a longer time to enjoy the fruits of their corruption. Every advantage, therefore, of the present system, must depend on the negligence or choice of the Minister; every evil to be apprehended from short Parliaments, must depend upon their procuring increased means of influence, and their display of more diligence in employing it.
Mr. Burke also says, that the frequent recurrence of these elections would, by being more expensive to independent than to ministerial men, ruin the fortunes of those who attempted to contend with the Crown. If they attempted to contend with the Crown, without proposing any advantage to the people, as Mr. Burke's party sometimes contrived to do, this conclusion might be correct. But we believe that in popular elections, the only ones of which it is worth while to take any account, the reverse is notoriously the case. But the question is, not whether the Crown shall have the power of renewing elections more frequently, but whether there shall be new elections at stated periods. The Crown has the power of bringing on a new election whenever it pleases. If those frequent elections would have increased the power of the Crown, those frequent elections would have taken place. Yet since the Septennial Act passed, there have been 17 Parliaments, of which no less that seven have sat nearly seven years, and even others nearly six years. The present Parliament is in its sixth year. The conduct of so many successive Ministries is a better indication of the best way of increasing Ministerial influence than Mr. Burke's speeches.
The Septennial Act is thus contrived to be a protection to the Ministry, and no security to the people. Out of seven years the Ministry can choose their time,—a moment of delusion,— a moment of transient prosperity,—a moment of alarm. After pursuing for years a mischievous course, they can dissolve the Parliament at a time of some popular proceedings, or more frequently when the people have fallen into apathy through despair. Who can doubt what the effects would have been, if the Parliament had been dissolved at the time when the just cry for the reduction of our enormous army was so loud? Yet at this time, though the justice of that demand has been made more manifest, the interest which is felt having lost alt the effect of novelty, the necessity and habit of acquiescence having produced indifference, and other objects having distracted the attention of the people, the Ministry may choose their time to renew their seven years lease in profusion. The people, therefore, have all the chances against them, and no chances in their favour; for it is difficult to conceive how (lie length of those Parliaments can be a protection to the people, which are as long as the Ministers wish them to be, and no longer.
UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE AND ANNUAL
SECT. VI.—THE REV. ROBERT FELLOWES, M. A. OXON, AND HIS
INVECTIVE AGAINST THE RADICAL REFOKMERS.
[FROM A CORRESPONDENT.]
CHAPTER II. is headed thus:—Universal Suffrage no Right— Definition of Right.
1. "No man, says our author, "can have RIGHTS which do, not arise out of the common good;—no man can have RIGHTS adverse to the well-being of, the society to which he belongs." To suppose any RIGHTS to exist in society which are incompatible
[p. 383] | [Page Image]with the public benefit, is to suppose that the principle of self-preservation, which nature has implanted in every individual, does not belong to political institutions.—P. 4.
2. "In all political institutions, A RIGHT is something which originates in the public benefit; and which, ceases to exist the moment it ceases to be co-extensive with that benefit."
3. "No man can have an indefeasible inherit right to the functions of a voter, independent of the public good."—P. 5.
These definitions of right are picked out from the verbose matter of which the chapter is composed: we are not disposed to, quarrel with the author, for making the principle of utility the foundation of what are called RIGHTS; but when he calls out against abstract notions of right, which we are as little disposed to countenance as he is, we would have him consider whether the paragraph which we have prefixed (No. 2) is not as abstract as any of the opinions he reprobates.
The title of the chapter led us to expect an elucidation of the assertion, that "Universal Suffrage MJOS not a rigid"—a RIGHT on the author's own definition; but not one word of definition has he given us—nothing but his own assertion in the contents of the chapter, and that amounts to no more than;—I say it is not a right, and you must take it on my word. Thus he makes the whole legislative, judiciary, and moral power, to depend upon his word, and calls upon all men to pay unqualified obedience to it. He says, to be sure, that "to separate the RIGHT of Suffrage from the question of general usefulness, and to make it an abstract indefeasible RIGHT, may be only ridiculously false in speculation, but it would be found woefully mischievous in practice." We agree with our author in the first part of the sentence; we are not for separating Suffrage from general usefulness—we advocate Suffrage as we do every other political function, simply on the principle of utility, and on no other principle whatsoever.
How an abstract RIGHT, or any other abstract, is to be practised, we are not wise enough to comprehend. This, however, we do comprehend, that such loose talk as our author here uses, neither proves nor elucidates the assertion which has called forth these remarks.
The author certainly has not clear ideas of this part of his subject; and notwithstanding what he says of utility, he lays himself open to the inference, that TOWER is RIGHT; and that those who possess it have only to say, "general usefulness" consists in our keeping it, and using it as we please, and you have no RIGHT either to complain or to inferfere, for that is " making an abstract indefeasible RIGHT which is ridiculously false in speculation, and would be woefully mischievous in practice." Whence, too, it follows, that the Government of the Grand Seignor at Constantinople, and of the Dey at Algiers, are rightful Governments; where any claim, or desire for change, would be immediately suppressed, by the murder of those who desired a reform: and this would be RIGHT, because discontent and desire of change are, "RIGHTS adverse to the well-being of the society to which he," the desirer of change, " belongs," and incompatible with "the principle of self-preservation, which nature has implanted in every individual."
This inference appears to us inevitably to follow from the principle laid down by Mr. Fellowes. If the people, in "every one of whom nature has implanted the principle of self-preservation," are not to be the judges of what will preserve them, those who hold power must and will judge for them, and will dispose of them, just as it may suit their convenience, or satisfy their inclination. No regard has ever been paid to "the wellbeing of society," when in the eyes of their rulers that wellbeing has been incompatible with some notion, no matter how absurd, of their own. The mighty, men of the earth have ever been the worst judges of "the well-being of society;" they, are apt to think, that if they, and those about them, are well, all is well; and; their perverse modes of thinking are evinced by their acts, which are alone restrained by the apprehension of danger to themselves; and that this, has not been able to restrain them, on very many occasions, all history proves, our own as much as any other; and if among us those modes of thinking and acting have been less violently exhibited than in some other nations, it is only because our rulers have been more restrained than others by fear of the people. But this fear, although; it may have to a considerable extent prevented domestic violence, has not prevented long and bloody wars—a miserable, waste of comfort and lives and property, for objects in which the people. had no interest; spine of which, at least, would probably never have been undertaken, had the people possessed the controul to the wholesome extent they ought to have possessed it.
Mr. Fellowes seems to suppose a compact has existed, but he does not define the nature of this compact. Sir James Mackintosh told us there was a compact among "the privileged classes," which he called "a conspiracy against the rights of mankind;" and it is to this compact Mr. Fellowes appeals—it is from this compact RIGHTS emanate. After all that has been said and written on the "Social Compact," the definition of it is neither difficult, nor does its description require many words; in plain English, it means an agreement among the people themselves. Now, when did we make, this agreement?—Never. And not only did we never make this agreement, but our opponents are actively employed in endeavouring to prevent us making it now.
If any thing which can be called a RIGHT does, really exist antecedent to the agreement of, the people among themselves, it must be the RIGHT of making that agreement; and when made, it must also be the duty of every individual to preserve it. But as opinions change in consequence of increase of knowledge, and as the habits of society change with them, so an agreement made a long time ago, however excellent at the time, may not only be very inadequate to the state of society now, but it may be excessively injurious "to the well-being of society." It is therefore necessary to that well-being, first, that such an agreement should be made; second, that it should be altered from time to time, to make it accord, with the advance of; knowledge; or rather that means should be taken to cause it to improve as knowledge advanced. Both these most desirable, we may say indispensable, requisites "to the well-being of society," will be obtained in this country by Annual Election and equal Suffrage in the choice of Members of the House of Commons.
"Nature (we are told) has implanted the desire of self-preservation in every individual." This general expression must be taken to include also the desire of happiness, and freedom from unnecessary vexation and oppression.
But how is the individual to preserve himself—how promote his own happiness—how escape from vexation and oppression, if laws are made to bind him, by persons in whose appointment to make these laws he has had no share,—if laws are made by persons who tell him he shall never have any controul over them and that if he dare attempt to obtain it, they will punish him to the utmost of their power;—is there no vexation, no oppression in this?
Every man not worth a certain sum of mosey is liable to be made a soldier, and sent to any part of the United Kingdom, away from his friends and family:—what becomes of the law of self-preservation here? He is, taken against his consent, in consequence of a law made by others, against whom that law cannot operate: is it for "the well-being of society" that, this law should be executed without the consent of the man, who is for the want of that consent made its victim?
Every man not a housekeeper, and in some cases even a housekeeper, is liable to be pressed; that is, stolen away,— robbed of himself,—and sent to fight in a floating prison; from which, unjustly, iniquitously as he is confined, he dare not attempt
[p. 384] | [Page Image]to escape, so dreadful are the punishments inflicted on what are called deserters. Is this respecting "the principle of self-preservation, which nature has implanted in every individual?"
"What to an enlightened mind can be more absurd, more barbarous, and more injurious to manufacturers, miners, farmers, and indeed to every man connected with trade, than, the trade laws themselves, which engender ill-will and hatred throughout these classes of society, abridge their capabilities, and injure their property? The laws respecting labourers and workmen in particular, are almost without exception oppressive, and in many instances cruel, compelling the workman to look upon both his employer and the Magistrate as his natural enemy, leagued together for the purpose of extortion and oppression. Has the workman, has the labourer, then, no interest in "the well-being of the society?" Mr. Bentham has said somewhere, "that it is not the happiness of quantities of earth, but of sensitive beings, that is to fee promoted; the interest of one individual constituting as large a portion of the universal interest, as the Interest of any other individual." Is not the labourer's interest then of as much consequence as the interest of any man whatever.?—and ought he not to participate, as far as his situation permits, in making those jaws which are to bind him,—of those laws which dispose of the labour of his hands and of his person?
The constitution of civilised society makes it necessary that some of its laws should operate wholly or principally among the labouring part of the community; and this is a very powerful reason for mating those laws as little oppressive, as little hurtful to the feelings, and as little injurious to the interests of individuals as possible: and since laws must be made whose operation will, be partial, an argument is furnished which can on no rational ground be refuted, for having the consent of those on whom they are thus partially to operate, in the choice of those who are to make the laws.
Notwithstanding the chapter on which we have commented is "Universal Suffrage no RIGHT," not one word has been said by the author to prove his assertion. In the next chapter, to be sure, he does promise a "demonstration that Universal Suffrage is no right;"—that demonstration is contained in the extract inserted in our last number, the absurdity of which, we think, was clearly proved.
[To be Continued.]
[From the Dundee Advertisor.[
"The excess of revenue above expenditure is the only real Sinking Fund by which public debt can be discharged. The increase of the revenue, and the diminution of expense, are the only means by which this Sinking Fund can be enlarged, and its operations rendered more effectual. Alt the schemes for discharging the national debt, by Sinking Funds operating by compound interest, or in any other manner, unless so far as they are founded upon this principle, are illusory."—Hamilton on the National Debt.
SIR,—Firmly convinced of the truth and importance of the maxim which I have now quoted from Dr. Hamilton's invaluable little book, I cannot help looking with great contempt upon the financial schemes of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; nor refrain from an expression of astonishment, that, in the fourth year of peace, a House of Commons, which could so properly resist the additional Allowances demanded for the Royal Dukes, should have sanctioned an establishment requiring for its support fourteen millions more than the revenue of the country. Can any man, who looks at the disjointed state of Europe, delude himself with the hope that the desolating Fiend of War will remain bound for: other six years? Who does not rather fear, that the ambition or the policy of a Western Republic, whetted by the imbecility of a Ferdinand, may, ere the sun have twice revolved in his annual circuit, cause the tocsin of alarm to be heard in our peaceful villages? Yet the rulers of Britain still slumber on, content with temporary expedients, which the confident "loyal" trumpet as the essence of wisdom, and the infatuated stockholder receives as the ne plus ultra of financial sagacity. And what are they, when narrated in plain language? Has not the Chancellor, by covenanting to pay 10s. annually for 111., borrowed money at 4l. 11s. per cent, which, without creating a new 3½ per cent, stock, might have been funded in the console or reduced, now at 80, at 3l. 15s. 6d. per cent.?— Has he not graciously given to the holders of two penny Exchequer bills, by funding them in the present prices of stock, an interest of 3l. 15s. 6d. per cent, instead of 3l. 10d., which they formerly bore? And yet this is the bargain which he desires the House of Commons to congratulate him upon, as evincing his attention to the best interests of the country, and as affording a proof of its unfailing resources?
Now, had it been my good fortune to have been Chancellor of the Exchequer (pardon the presumption of the supposition), I should have taken quite a different view of the subject, considering that the time was now arrived, when it was necessary, by one grand effort, to place the property of the country upon a secure basis. I should have recollected, that the country, after having fully sustained, was now beginning to recover from, the miseries occasioned by a "change from war to peace," and by an ever-issue of paper highly depreciated, but which had now nearly received its value; and that it was therefore now expedient to prevent a repetition of those evils which arose from an excessive expenditure, and which gave rise to a paper not convertible into the precious metals.
The first step, then, would have been, to reduce our expenditure within our income; and thus to render the thing called the Sinking Fund. (which itself has of late experienced a sad falling-off) really effective. The second, to ascertain whether the great fall which has taken place in the rate of interest, has arisen from the superabundance of capital in the country, or from the difficulty of employing that capital so as to render it productive. For, in times of difficulty, and when the value of every species of property is varying much, the wise are contented to lend their capital at a low rate of interest to sure people, rather than employ it in trade or in the purchase of property daily depreciating. But as this fact may not be taken upon my bare assertion, I shall confirm it by an extract from "Say's Political Economy;" which is not only conclusive as to this point, but furnishes much matter of useful reflection for the Statesman:—
"In a society, town, province, or nation, which produces much, and where the mass of products constantly augments, almost all kinds of commerce, manufacture, and industry, afford good profits; because that there the demands are considerable, and there is plenty of products to pay for new productive services. On the contrary, in every State when production advances with difficulty, and never replaces the quantity of value consumed, the demands constantly decline; there is always more merchandise offered for sale than can be sold; profits, salaries diminish; the employment of capital becomes hazardous; opulent families fall into mediocrity; those who were in easy circumstances become straitened: the indigent class receives low wages, cannot always find work, suffers, perishes: and if this: state continues, want and barbarity take the place of abundance and of happiness, to which every nation can attain when it has the desire of being so." Note on this passage—" France was enabled to form an idea of this painful situation in 1813. Industry was then in such a state of suffering—every kind of manufacturing undertaking was so dangerous, or so little lucrative, that capital could not find any employment with tolerable safety. Whenever this safety was found, it was lent at a very small interest; and the low interest of capital, which is generally a mark of prosperity, was then a sign of distress."[note]
[p. 385] | [Page Image]
Let us take, however, the most favourable supposition, namely, that the present low rate of interest arises from the superabundance of capital, and not from the difficulty of employing it pruductively,—the next measure should have been to have funded the whole of the floating debt. And this is practicable only if there be a superabundance of capital; for if the capitalists are only induced to hold Exchequer bills from their yielding them some interest while they cannot employ it lucratively in trade, then they will not be inclined to part with it for a perpetual annuity, which they do by funding; but will wait in the expectation that trade may revive, and afford them their usual profits.
At all events, therefore, it appears expedient that this measure be attempted. If successful, it will prove that the country is still possessed of great riches; if it fail, that we are declining, and that there is no effectual remedy but to make a compromise with the national creditor. For if the present low rate of interest arises from the superabundance of capital, I will be bold to assert, that it is practicable immediately to fund all the floating debt, pay the advances due by Government to the Bank of England, and thus enable the Bank to resume cash payments in July, and keep the relation of debtor and creditor between man and man perfectly steady; thus returning to the good old basis of public faith, and preventing the fortune of the industrious from becoming the sport and plaything of a dozen of Directors in Threadneedle-street.
Such, in my opinion, are the financial measures which ought to be pursued,—if, relying on the resources of our country, we may be allowed to hope that the low rate of interest is the criterion of its wealth, not the index of its suffering. But whichever it may be, our situation ought immediately to be probed to the bottom, lest greater evils than those which we have overcome may yet remain in store for us. If the first assumption should be established, how gratifying will it be to find, that the productive powers of our industry have kept pace with an expenditure unequalled since the beginning of time! If the latter, it will be our duty to meet the heavy calamity with that fortitude which becomes a nation that was once free; and whose institutions may, when freed from the defects of age, be rendered the envy and admiration of the world. By succeeding in the first-mentioned expedient, we should confirm the doubling, and remove one great cause of the present discontent. By a perseverance in the present system, if we be in the latter situation, we shall render the horrors of the revolution which must overtake us only the more dreadful. In every view, therefore, the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems inclined to follow, is not only weak, but excessively dangerous; and the attempts to render every person who may have five pounds to deposit in a saving-bank, a stockholder, is what will, if a failure in the finances should take place, deluge the country with blood. Depend upon it, that class of society will not tamely submit to the loss of earnings gained by their excessive toil. A Thornton may assert, in the House of Commons, that "they despise interest;" but it only proves that he has had little connection with them;— all who are conversant with the lower orders know, that no set of men have clearer notions of their own rights. It is the wealthy alone who should lend to a Government; and even they, only a part of their wealth. And from them only will the wise States-man borrow; because such persons will easily submit to that relative diminution of their riches which would ensue from a compromise with the national creditor; whereas, by taking away the small pittance which the poor man has been able to save from scanty earnings by the most penurious living, you reduce him to despair.
Of a similar tendency with the preceding, is the attempt to secure a monopoly of the paper circulation for the Bank of England. It is dictated by an illiberal spirit; and can hardly fail to multiply cases of forgery,—the extent of which has become a scandal to our country, and is tending, by the frequency and severity of its punishments, to alienate the affections of the wise and good.
This is an evil which the framers of the paper system did not contemplate; and it would best prevented by allowing Banking Companies to be formed in England upon the same principle as those in our own country, Allow the partners to be numerous, and thus you will increase the security to the public, while, by the comparatively limited circulation of the Country Banks, there is less inducement to imitate their notes, the forgery Being more easily detected.
Such measures would have denoted energy and wisdom;— would have proved that the present Cabinet were determined to overcome the evils arising from an excessive expenditure and a protracted war,—not to put off and to render more terrible the final day of reckoning. But the having recourse to the sorry expedient of funding twenty-seven millions of Exchequer bills, the half of which is required for their current expenses, confirms, to those who reflect deeply, the mediocrity of their talent, and the little regard they have for the true interests of the nation.—— Even were the supposed schemes to succeed to the utmost, the prospect for futurity is sufficiently dismal; as, during the six years of expected peace, the utmost of the debt which could be redeemed, would be a hundred millions—a sum that would not suffice for the increased expenditure of a three years war. And even this is founded upon the supposition, that the present enormous rate of taxation is continued; which can only be vindicated by that high sense of justice, which declares that faith Sought under all circumstances to be kept with the national creditor.
To sum up the whole, the interest of the national debt,—the index of the immense capital which has been spent, and of which not a vestige remains—is the millstone that hangs around our neck, and threatens to drown us; and is the cause of that petty legislate on which drives our Senators to introduce Acts of Parliament for the legislation of labourers and children in cotton-mills. Reduce taxation, and no child of tender years will be employed; for it is their necessities and not their wills that compel the parents thus early to make their children labour, instead of sending them to school, to acquire the elements of knowledge and sow the seeds of virtue. One of the earliest recollections of my youth, is the horror I felt on seeing "an old man pointed out who could not read: so uncommon at that period was the circumstance, which will now soon be common to thousands. The same cause—necessity, fills the workhouse and the poorhouse; and the same remedy—a diminution of national expenditure, and consequently of taxation—will do more to alleviate and reform these evils, than millions of acts of Parliament, "drawn up with the utmost of human sagacity.
The wealth of a country consists in the quantity of its productions; the power of a Government, in the proportion which it commands of these productions; and the happiness of a nation, in the distribution of them. In this country, the proportion seized by Government is much too large. The distribution, caused by our immense debt, is excessively unequal. And this it is which gives birth to so much misery in a nation richer than any that ever existed; for, even under the most fertile climes, no such limited population, possessing so limited a territory, ever raised such a quantity of varied productions, calculated to em bellish and render life delightful. ÆGONOMICUS.
Dundee, April 30, 1818.
THE LITTLE HUNCH-BACK.
NO. II.—ON THE OPERA.
THE Opera is a fine thing: the only question is, whether it is not too fine. It is the most fascinating, and at the same time
[p. 386] | [Page Image]the most tantalising of all places. It is not the too little, but the too much, that offends us. Every object is there collected, and displayed in ostentatious profusion, that can stride the senses or dazzle the imagination; music, dancing, painting, poetry, architecture, the blaze of beauty, "the glass of fashion, and the mould of form;" and yet we are not satisfied—because the multitude and variety of objects distracts the attention, and by flattering us with a vain shew of the highest gratification of every faculty and wish, leaves us at last in a state of listlessness, disappointment, and ennui. The powers of the mind are exhausted, without being invigorated; our expectations are excited, not satisfied; and we are at some loss to distinguish an excess of irritation from the height of enjoyment. To sit at the Opera for a whole evening, is like undergoing the process of animal magnetism for the same length of time. It is an illusion and a mockery, where the mind is made "the fool of the senses," and cheated of itself; where pleasure after pleasure courts us, as in a fairy palace; where the Graces and the Muses, waving in a gay, fantastic round with one another, still turn from 'our pursuit; where art, like an enchantress with a thousand faces, still allures our giddy admiration, shifts her mask, and again disappoints us. The Opera, in short, proceeds upon a false estimate of taste and morals; it supposes that the capacity for enjoyment may be multiplied with the objects calculated to afford it. It is a species of intellectual prostitution; for we can no more receive pleasure from all our faculties at once than we can be in love with a number of mistresses at the same time. Though we have different senses, we have but one heart; and if we attempt to force it into the, service of them all at once, it must grow restive or torpid, hardened or enervated. The spectator may say to the sister-arts of Painting, Poetry, and Music, as they advance to him in a Pas de Trois at the Opera, "How happy could I be with either, were t'other dear charmer away;" but while "they all tease him together," the heart gives a satisfactory answer to none of them;—is ashamed of its want of resources to supply the repeated calls upon its sensibility, seeks relief from the importunity of endless excitement in fastidious apathy or affected levity; and in the midst of luxury, pomp, vanity, indolence, and dissipation, feels only the hollow, aching void within, the irksome craving of unsatisfied desire, because more pleasures are placed within its reach than it is capable of enjoying, and the interference of one object with another ends in a double disappointment. Such is the best account we can give of the nature, of the Opera,—of the contradiction between our expectations of pleasure and our uneasiness there,—of our very jealousy of the nattering appeals which are made to our senses, our passions, and our vanity, on all sides,—of the little relish we acquire for it, and the distaste it gives us for other things, Any one of the sources of amusement to be found there would be enough to occupy and keep the attention alive; the tout ensemble fatigues and oppresses it. We may be stifled to death with roses. A head-ache may be produced by a profusion of sweet smells or of sweet sounds: but we do not like the headache the more on that account. Nor are we reconciled to it, even at the Opera.
What makes the difference between an opera of Mozart's, and the singing of a thrush confined in a wooden cage at the corner of the street in which we live? The one is nature, and the other is art: the one is paid for, and the other is not. Madame Fodor sings the air of Vedrai Carino in Dan Giovanni so divinely, because she is hired to sing it; she sings it to please. the audience, not herself, and does not always like to be encored in it; but the thrush that awakes at day-break with its song, does not sing because it is paid to sing, or to please others, or to be admired or criticised. It sings because it is happy: it pours the thrilling sounds from its throat, to relieve the overflowings of its own heart—the liquid notes come from, and go to the heart, dropping balm into it, as the gushing-spring revives the traveller's parched and fainting lips,. That stream of joy comes pure and fresh to the longing sense, free from art and affectation; the same, that rises over vernal groves, mingled with the breath of morning, and the perfumes of the wild hyacinth, that waits for no audience, that wants no rehearsing, that exhausts its. raptures, and is still—
"Hymns its good God, and carols sweet of love."
This is the great difference between nature and art, that the one is what the other; seems and gives-all the pleasure it expresses, because it feels it itself. Madame Fodor sings, as a musical instrument may be made to play a tune, and perhaps with no more real delight: but it is not so with the linnet or the thrush, that sings because God pleases, and pours out its little soul in pleasure. This is the reason why its singing is (so far) so much better than melody or harmony, than base or treble, than the Italian or the German school, than quavers or crotchets, or half-notes, or canzonets, or quartetts, or any thing in the world but truth and nature!
The Opera is the most artificial of all things. It is not only art, but ostentatious, unambiguous, exclusive art. It does not subsist as an imitation of nature, but in contempt of it; and instead of seconding, its object is to pervert and sophisticate all our natural impressions of things. When the Opera first made its appearance in this country, there were strong prejudices entertained against it, and it was ridiculed as a species of the mock-heroic. The prejudices have worn out with time, and the ridicule has ceased; but the grounds for both remain the same in the nature of the thing itself. At the theatre, we see and hear what has been said, thought, arid done by various people elsewhere; at the Opera, we see and hear what was never said, thought, or done any where but at the Opera. Not only is all communication with nature cut off, but every appeal to the imagination is sheathed and softened in the melting medium of Siren sounds. The ear is cloyed and glutted with warbled ecstacies or agonies; while every avenue to terror or pity is carefully stopped up and guarded by song and recitative. Music is not made the vehicle of poetry, but poetry of music: the very meaning of the words is lost Cr refined away in the effeminacy of a foreign language. A grand serious Opera is a tragedy wrapped up in soothing airs, to suit the tender feelings of the nurselings of fortune—where tortured victims swoon on beds of roses, and the pangs of despair sink in tremulous accents into downy repose. Just so much of human misery is given as to lull those who are exempted from it into a deeper sense of their own security: just enough of the picture of human life is shewn to relieve their languor, without disturbing their indifference;— not to excite their sympathy, but "with some sweet, oblivious antidote," to pamper their sleek and sordid apathy. In a word, the whole business of the Opera is to stifle emotion in its birth, and to intercept every feeling in its-progress to the heart; Every impression that; left to itself, might sink deep into the mind, and wake it to real sympathy, is overtaken and baffled by means of some other impression, plays round the surface of the imagination, trembles into airy sound, or expires in an empty pageant, In the grand carnival of the senses,
———"The cloister'd heart
Sits squat at home, like Pagod in a niche
The pulse of life is suspended, the link which binds us to humanity is broken; the soul is fretted by the sense of excessive softness into a feverish hectic dream; troth becomes a fable, food and evil matters of perfect indifference, except as they can e made subservient to our selfish gratification; and there is hardly a vice for which the mind on coming out of the Opera is not prepared, no virtue of which it is capable!
But what shall we say of the company at the Opera? Is it
[p. 387] | [Page Image]not grand, select, Splendid, and imposing? Do we not see there "the flower of Britain's Warriors, her statesmen, and her fair," her nobles and her diplomatic characters? First, we only know the diplomatic characters by their taking prodigious quantities of snuff. As to great warriors, some that we know had better not shew their faces—if there is any truth in physiognomy; and as to great men, we know of but one in modern times, and neither Europe nor the, Opera-house was big enough to hold him. With respect to Lords and Ladies, we see them as We do gilded butterflies in glass cases. We soon get tired of them, for they seem tired of themselves, and one another. They gape, stare, affect to whisper, laugh, or talk loud, to fill up the vacuities of thought and expression. They do not gratify our predilection for happy faces! But do we not feel the throb of pleasure from the blaze of beauty in the side-boxes? That blaze would be brighter, were it not quenched in the sparkling of diamonds. As for the rest, the grapes are sour. Beauty is a thing that is not made only to be seen. Who can behold it without a transient wish to be near it, to adore, to possess it? He must be a fool or a coxcomb, whom the sight of a beauty dazzles, but does not warm; whom a thousand glances shot from a thousand heavenly faces pierce without wounding; who can behold without a pang the bowers of Paradise opening to him by a thousand doors, and barred against him by magic spells!—Bright creatures, fairest of the fair(ye shine above our heads, bright as Ariadne's crown, fair as the dewy-star of evening: but ye are no more to us! There is no golden chain let down to us from you: we have sometimes seen you at a play, or caught a glimpse of your faces passing in a coronet-coach; but—As we are growing romantic, we shall take a turn into the crush-room, where, following the train of the great statesmen, the warriors, and the diplomatic characters, we shall meet with a nearly equal display of external elegance and accomplishment, without the pride of sex, rank, or virtue! If the women were all Junos before, here they are all Venuses, and no less Goddesses! Those who complained of inaccessible beauty before, may here find beauty more accessible, and take their revenge on the boxes in the lobbies!
In fine, though we do not agree with a contemporary critic, that the Opera is an entertainment that ought to be held in general estimation, yet we think the present a very proper time for its encouragement. It may serve to assist the euthanasia of the British character, of British liberty, and British morals,—by hardening the heart, while it softens the senses, and dissolving every manly and generous feeling in an atmosphere of voluptuous effeminacy. W. H.
DEFENCE OF MR. COBBETT.
TO THE EUITOH OF THE YELLOW DWARF.
London, May 14, 1818.
DEAR FRIEND,—For such I must call every independent supporter of Reform in Parliament, and such an one are you, or I mistake very much indeed, and I think your being such, entitles you to our (I mean the radical Reformer's) gratitude.
It is plain that your impartiality is great in the discussion of the subject; an instance of which is, your publicity of the correspondence of J., in the Yellow Dwarf of the 9th instant, one who has not declared himself a Reformer, Perhaps he wants to make himself appear a "moderate Reformer."—I dare say he may be a "fool" and a "rogue," according to Lord Somers, and of course no advocate for Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage, therefore no friend to equal Representation.
Was "J." aware of your being a radical Reformer, when he thought proper to address yon on the subject of calumniating one? Did he forget himself, or did he rely on your extreme good nature? Indeed, I much doubt if he is a Reformer at all: if he is, why endeavour to vilify a man who is a staunch one,— and one, too, who has done so much for the cause as our common friend Cobbett has? I do not think him a friend to us his letter is so full of ministerial spleen, that I think him an enemy. He has shewn the "cloven foot," hireling like, for he talks of Mr. Cobbett's change of opinion and argument. What! is Saul to be reprobated because he did not continue to persecute Christ"? Has not Mr. Cobbett, in a manly, open manner, declared his sorrow for the part he once took? He ("J.") says, Mr. Cobbett maintained on Monday what he opposed on Friday. I would ask this modern Terminus, "J.," what he would think of a man, who being convinced he was wrong in being a Deist, refused openly, or in any way, to recant, because that would be acknowledging himself to have been in the wrong? Or of a man in a boat on the open, tempestuous sea, who would refuse help from a ship that passed, merely because he might reach land?
Mr. Cobbett (says he) changed his opinion in a week as to "elective franchise," It was in much less time,—one "Meeting,"—and that in a few hours. Would he call a man a changling, in contempt, who turned from sin, the effect of one sermon? I should respect him for it. The pecuniary obligations he talks of, arc now too contemptible to answer in length. He calls Mr. Cobbett "a run-away in danger." Would he call a man a coward and run-away that stepped a-one-side to, let a shot pass him, when ha saw the gun pointed at him, and having so eluded the shot, again attack his enemy? Such an instance I have seen, and that man became the victor: and I hope to see, ere long, a victory as brilliant, and as decisive as that was; and I hope, and have no doubt of it, as honourable to Mr. Cobbett for the part he took in the straggle, as to that man for the part he took in the fight.—I am,
A TRUE PATRIOT.
P. S. Pray, Mr. Yellow Dwarf, have you heard any thing of a man having been deprived of holding the situation of Post-office Keeper, or "Receiver of Letters," in the neighbourhood of Chelsea, for being instrumental in having a Petition for Reform in Parliament drawn up, and, I believe, presented to the "House?"—if you have not, I will endeavour to let you know something of it soon, that the benevolent Clergyman who so humanely and candidly told the offender he would ruin him if possible, may receive from all bands what he so richly deserves.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE YELLOW DWARF.
SIR,—One of the best signs that things are going on in France as well as can be hoped for at present, is the great passion into which the New Times falls when speaking of that country.* It exclaims bitterly against the French Ministers as Jacobins and Bonapartists, who, at the same time that they undermine the throne of the good King, are cunning enough to keep him from seeing their wicked intentions. We think the New Times is not far from the mark, as to the intentions of the Ministers; but what can the King do now? The policy pursued since his restoration has brought him into this dilemma. The firm settlement of the Bourbon family was very doubtful, had the very best plans Keen followed. A great shock was given to the people by the interference of the foreigners, and the return of the emigrants, strengthened in their former bigotted notions, and eager to satisfy their long-restrained revenge. "Instead of lessening the violence of this shock, and harmonising everything as much as possible, the disorder was increased. The anger and avarice of the emigrants were gratified at the expence of the rest of the people, under the protection of the Allies. Instead of being induced by mild means to submit to the new Government, the indignation of the people was kept alive by the revival of old claims and abuses, by the imprisoning, exiting, and shooting, in spite of the Convention, those who had brought "Bonaparte from Elba.
[p. 388] | [Page Image]From this experience of their conduct, they now most likely wish more to drive out the Bombons than they before dreaded their coming in. It was soon found that these measures could only last while the allied army staid; the plan was therefore altered. Some popular men were joined with the royalists in the Ministry; and at last, after a good deal of pushing about, which made every body wonder what was going on a little time back, they seem now to have fairly overcome their opponents, and to have got the King into their hands. He either does not see through them, or, if he does, they are too strong for him.
But it may be said, that they are gone over to the royalists. It appears to me that-they could not do so from mere motives of interest, setting aside principle and consistency—qualities for ?which Ministers have never been particularly eminent. They know better than to give up popularity and the chance of future greatness for the sake of a little present power or gain. They know that without the people they would be nothing,—that their former conduct would, in the nature of things, prevent them from ever getting into favour with the legitimate, if their favour were worth any thing. Besides, look at what they are about—raising a great army in time of complete peace, insisting on the impossibility of maintaining the foreign troops any longer, and trying to get back Soult, who has been banished. What can they want with an army or with Soult, except to eject the Bourbons and fortify against the other European Legitimates? But these things, like the celebrated potatoes of last year, "speak for themselves." It is needless to say more. H. H.
CHARTERS AND CORPORATIONS[note] .
IT is a perversion of terms to say, that a Charter gives lights. It operates by a contrary effect, that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but Charters, by annulling those rights in the majority, leave the right by exclusion in the hands of a few. If Charters were constructed so as to express in direct terms, "that every inhabitant, who is not a member of a Corporation, shall not exercise the right of voting," such Charters would, in the face, be Charters, not of rights, but of exclusion. The effect is the same under the form they now stand; and the only persons on whom they operate, are the persons they exclude. Those whose rights are guaranteed, by not being taken away, exercise no other rights than, as members of the community, they are entitled to without a Charter; and therefore all Charters have no other effect than indirect negative operation. They do not give rights to A, but they make a difference in favour of A, by taking away the rights of B, and consequently are instruments of injustice.
But Charters and Corporations have a more extensive evil effect, than what relates merely to elections. They are sources of endless contentions in the places where they exist, and they lessen the common rights of national society. A native of England, under the operation of these Charters and Corporations, cannot be said to be an Englishman in the full sense of the word. He is not free in the nation, in the same manner that an American is free of America. His rights are circumscribed to the town, and in some cases to the parish of his birth; and all other parts, though in his native land, are to him as a foreign country. To acquire a residence in these, he must undergo a local naturalization by purchase, or he is forbidden or expelled the place. This species of feudality is kept up, to aggrandize the Corporations at the ruin of towns, and the effect is visible.
The generality of Corporation Towns are in a state of solitary decay, and prevented from further ruin only by some circumstance in their situation, such as a navigable river, or a plentiful surrounding country. As population is one of the chief sources of wealth (for without it land itself has ho value), everything which operates to prevent it, must lessen the value of property; and as Corporations have not only this tendency, but directly this effect, they cannot but be injurious. If any policy were to be followed, instead of that of general freedom to every person to settle where he chose (as in America) it would be more consistent to give encouragement to new corners, than to preclude their admission, by exacting premiums from them.
The persons most immediately interested in the abolition of Corporations, are the inhabitants of the towns where Corporations are established. The instances 'of Manchester, Birmingham, and Sheffield, shew, by contrast, the injury which those Gothic institutions are to property and commerce. A few examples may be found, such as that of London, whose natural and commercial advantage, owing to its situation on the Thames, is capable of bearing up against the political evils of a Corporation; but in almost all other cases, the fatality is too visible to be doubted or denied.
Though the whole nation is not so directly affected by the depression of poverty in Corporation Towns as the inhabitants themselves, it partakes of the consequence. By lessening the value of property, the quantity of national commerce is curtailed. Every man is a customer in proportion to his ability; and as all parts of a nation trade with each other, whatever affects any of the parts, must necessarily communicate to the whole.
As one of the Houses of Parliament is, in a great measure, made up of elections from these Corporations; and as it is unnatural that a pure stream should flow from a foul fountain, its vices are but a continuation of the vices of its origin. A man of moral honour and good political principle cannot submit to the mean drudgery and disgraceful arts by which such elections are carried. To be a successful candidate, he must be destitute of the qualities that constitute a just legislator; and being thus disciplined to corruption, by the mode of entering into Parliament, it is not to be expected that the Representative should be better than the man. T. P.
MANAGEMENT OF THE POOR.
THE last number of the Edinburgh Review contains a powerful dissuasive against the introduction of the English system of managing the affairs of the poor into the parishes of Scotland, and the following returns are given to show the comparative expenditure of what may be called the Scotch and English systems:—
Examples of the population and expenditure in Scottish parishes,— where there is no assessment:—
Of some of these parishes, it is reported, that the inhabitants are so connected as to provide for each other, or are assisted by private families; and that there are none absolutely poor.
Population and expenditure on the poor of some English parishes in Leicestershire:—
These sums are expended on the poor only, being separated from the general sum, which includes a church-rate, county-rate, and highways.