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JOURNEYMEN AND LABOURERS
ENGLAND, WALES, SCOTLAND, AND IRELAND,
On the Cause of their present Miseries ; on the Measures which have produced that
Cause ; on the Remedies which some foolish and some cruel and insolent Men have proposed; and on the line of Conduct which Journeymen and Labourers ought to pursue, in order to obtain effectual Relief, and to assist in promoting the Tranquillity and restoring the Happiness of their Country.
(Political Register, November, 1816.)
FRIENDS AND Fellow CountRYMEN,
Whatever the pride of rank, of riches, or of scholarship, may have induced some men to believe, or to affect to believe, the real strength and all the resources of a country, ever have sprung and ever must spring, from the labour of its people; and hence it is, that this nation, which is so small in numbers and so poor in climate and soil compared with many others, has, for many ages, been the most powerful nation in the world : it is the most industrious, the most laborious, and, therefore, the most powerful. Elegant dresses, superb furniture, stately buildings, fine roads and canals, fleet horses and carriages, numerous and stout ships, warehouses teeming with goods; all these, and many other objects that fall under our view, are so many marks of national wealth and resources. But all these spring from labour. Without the journeyman and the labourer none of them could exist; without the assistance of their hands, the country would be a wilderness, hardly worth the notice of an invader.
As it is the labour of those who toil which makes a country abound in resources, so it is the same class of men, who must, by their arms, secure its safety and uphold its fame. Titles and immense sums of money have been bestowed upon numerous Naval and Military Commanders. Without calling the justice of these in question, we may assert, that the victories were obtained by you and your fathers and brothers and sons, in co-operation with those Commanders, who, with
your aid, have done great and wonderful things; but, who, without that aid, would have been as impotent as children at the breast.
With this correct idea of your own worth in your minds, with what indignation must you hear yourselves called the populace, the Rabble, the Mob, the Swinish Multitude ; and with what greater indignation, if possible, must you hear the projects of those cool and cruel and insolent men, who, now that you have been, without any fault of yours, brought into a state of misery, propose to narrow the limits of parish relief, to prevent you from marrying in the days of your youth, or to thrust you out to seek your bread in foreign lands, never more to behold your parents or friends ? But suppress your indignation, until we return to this topic, after we have considered the cause of your present misery and the measures which have produced that cause.
The times in which we live are full of peril. The nation, as described by the very creatures of the Government, is fast advancing to that period when an important change must take place. It is the lot of mankind, that some shall labour with their limbs and others with their minds; and, on all occasions, more especially on an occasion like the present, it is the duty of the latter to come to the assistance of the former. We are all equally interested in the peace and bappiness of our common country. It is of the utmost importance, that in the seeking to obtain those objects, our endeavours should be uniform, and tend all to the same point. Such an uniformity cannot exist without an uniformity of sentiment as to public matters, and to produce this latter uniformity amongst you is the object of this address.
As to the cause of our present miseries, it is the enormous amount of the taxes, which the Government compels us to pay for the support of its army, its placemen, its pensioners, &c., and for the payment of the interest of its debt. That this is the real cause has been a thousand times proved ; and, it is now so acknowledged by the creatures of the Government themselves. Two hundred and five of the Correspondents of the Board of Agriculture ascribe the ruin of the country to taration. Numerous writers, formerly the friends of the Pitt System, now declare, that taxation has been the cause of our distress. Indeed, when we compare our present state to the state of the country previous to the wars against France, we must see that our present misery is owing to no other cause. The taxes then annually raised amounted to about 15 millions : they amounted last year to 70 millions. The nation was then happy; it is now miserable.
The writers and speakers, who labour in the cause of corruption, have taken great pains to make the labouring classes believe, that they are not taced; that the taxes which are paid by the landlords, farmers, and tradesmen, do not affect you, the journeymen and labourers ; and that the tax-makers bave been very lenient towards you. But, I hope, that you see to the bottom of these things now. You must be sensible, that, if all your employers were totally ruined in one day, you would be wholly without employnient and without bread; and, of course, in whatever degree your employers are deprived of their means, they must withhold means from you. In America the most awkward common labourer receives five shillings a day, while provisions are cheaper in that country than in this. Here, a carter, boarded in the house, receives about seven pounds a-year ; in America, he receives about thirty pounds a-year. What is it that makes this difference? Why, in America the whole of
the taxes do not amount to more than about ten shillings a-head upon the whole of the population ; while in England they amount to nearly six pounds a-head! There, a journeyman or labourer may support his family well, and save from thirty to sixty pounds a-year : here, he amongst you is a lucky man, who can provide his family with food and with decent clothes to cover them, without any hope of possessing a penny in the days of sickness, or of old age. There, the Chief Magistrate receives 6,000 pounds a-year ; here, the civil list surpasses a million of pounds in amount, and as much is allowed to each of the Princesses in one year, as the Chief Magistrate of America receives in two years, though that country is nearly equal to this in population,
A Mr. P«Eston, a lawyer of great eminence, and a great praiser of Pitt, has just published a pamphlet, in which is this remark: “ It should “ always be remembered, that the eighteen pounds a-year paid to any “placeman or pensioner, withdraws from the public the means of giving “ active employment to one individual as the head of a family; thus de. “priving five persons of the means of sustenance from the fruits of “ honest industry and active labour, and rendering them paupers." Thus this supporter of Pitt acknowledges the great truth, that the taxes are the cause of a people's poverty and misery and degradation. We did not stand in need of this acknowledgment; the fact has been clearly proved before ; but, it is good for us to see the friends and admirers of Pitt brought to make this confession.
It has been attempted to puzzle you with this sort of question : "If taxes “ be the cause of the people's misery, how comes it that they were not so “miserable before the taxes were reduced as they are now ?" Here is a fallacy, which you will be careful to detect. I know that the taxes have been reduced ; that is to say, nominally reduced, but not so in fact; on the contrary, they have, in reality, been greatly augmented. This has been done by the slight-of-hand of paper-money. Suppose, for instance, that four years ago, I had 100 pounds to pay in taxes, then 130 bushels of wheat would have paid my share. If I have now 75 pounds to pay in taxes, it will require 190 bushels of wheat to pay my share of taxes. Consequently, though my taxes are nominally reduced, they are, in reality, greatly augmented. This has been done by the legerdemain of paper-money. In 1812, the pound-note was worth only thirteen shillings in silver. It is now worth twenty shillings. Therefore, when we now pay a pound-note to the tax-gatherer, we really pay him twenty shillings where we before paid him thirteen shillings; and the fundholders who lent pound-notes worth thirteen shillings each, are now paid their interest in pounds worth twenty shillings each. And, the thing is come to what Sir Francis Burdett told the Parliament it would come to. He told them, in 1811, that if they ever attempted to pay the interest of their debt in gold and silver, or in papermoney equal in value to gold and silver, the farmers and tradesmen must be ruined, and the journeymen and labourers reduced to the last stage of misery.
Thus, then, it is clear, that it is the weight of the taxes, under which you are sinking, which has already pressed so many of you down into the state of paupers, and which now threatens to deprive many of you of your existence. We next come to consider, what have been the causes of this weight of taxes. Here we must go back a little in our history, and you will soon see, that this intolerable weight has all proceeded from the want of a Parliamentary Reform.
In the year 1764, soon after the present king came to the throne, the
annual interest of the debt amounted to about five millions, and the whole of the taxes to about nine millions. But, soon after this a war was entered on to compel the Americans to submit to be taxed by the parliament, without being represented in that Parliament. The Americans triumphed, and, after the war was over, ihe annual interest of the Debt amounted to about nine millions, and the whole of the taxes to about 15 millions. This was our situation, when the French people began their Revolution. The French people had so long been the slaves of a despotic government, that the friends of freedom in England rejoiced at their emancipation. The cause of Reform, which had never ceased to have supporters in England for a great many years, now acquired new life, and the Reformers urged the Parliament to grant reform, instead of going to war against the people of France. The Reformers said : “ Give the nation reform, and you need fear no revolution.” The Parliament, instead of listening to the Reformers, crushed them, and went to war against the people of France ; and the consequence of these wars is, that the annual interest of the Debt now amounts to 45 millions, and the whole of the taxes, during each of the last several years, to 70 millions. So that these wars have ADDED 36 millions a-year to the interest of the Debt, and 55 millions a-year to the amount of the whole of the taxes! This is the price that we have paid for having checked (for it is only checked) the progress of liberty in France'; for having forced upon that people the family of Bourbon, and for having enabled another branch of that same family to restore the bloody Inquisition, which Napoleon had put down.
Since the restoration of the Bourbons and of the old government of France has been, as far as possible, the grand result of the contest; since this has been the end of all our fightings and all our past sacrifices and present misery and degradation ; let us see (for the inquiry is now very full of interest,) what sort of Government that was, which the French people had just destroyed, when our Government began its wars against that people.
If, only 28 years ago, any man in England had said, that the Government of France was one that ought to be suffered to exist, he would have been hooted out of any company. It is notorious, that that Government was
acruel despotism ; and that we and our forefathers always called it such. This description of that Government is to be found in all our histories, in all our Parliamentary debates, in all our books on government and politics. It is n«torious, that the family of Bourbon has produced the most perfidious and bloody monsters that ever disgraced the human form. It is notorious, that millions of Frenchmen have been butchered, and burnt, and driven into exile by their commands. It is recorded, even in the history of France, that one of them said, that the putrid carcass of a Protestant smelt sweet to him. Even in these latter times, so late as the reign of Louis XIV., it is notorious, that hundreds of thousands of innocent people were put to the most cruel death. In some instances, they were burnt in their houses ; in others they were shut into lower rooms, while the incessant noise of kettle-drums over their heads, day and night, drove them to raving madness. To enumerate all the infernal means employed by this tyrant to torture and kill the people, would fill a volume. Erile was the lot of those who escaped the swords, the wheels, the axes, the gibbets, the torches of his hell-bounds. England was the place of refuge for many of these persecuted people. The grandfather of the present Earl of Radnor, and the father of the venerable Baron Maseres, were amongst them; and, it is well known that England owes no inconsiderable part of her manufacturing skill and