« AnteriorContinuar »
present high prices of corn and bread, that it cannot be any benefit at all to the farmer, and cannot at all tend to enable him to pay the enormous taxes that now press him out of existence.
Thus have I laid before you the real causes of your sufferings. You see, that they are deep-rooted, of steady growth, and that they never can end, but in consequence of some very material change in the mode of managing the nation's concerns. They have arisen from the taxes and loans ; those arose out of the wars; the wars arose out of a desire to keep down Reform; and a desire to keep down Reform arose out of the borough system, which excludes almost the whole of the people from voting at elections. It is a maxim of the English Constitution, that no man shall be tared without his own consent. Nothing can be more reasonable than this. But, as I have shown, we are all taxed; you pay away half your wages in taxes ; but, do you all vote for Members of Parliament ? If the Members of Parliament, for the last fifty years, had been chosen by the people at large, and chosen annually, agreeably to the old laws of the nation, do you believe that we should have expended one thousand millions in taxes raised during the wars, and another thousand millions, which is now existing in the shape of a Debt? This is not to be believed ; no man can believe it. And, therefore, as the want of such a Parliament is the real root of all our sufferings, the only effectual remedy is to obtain such a Parliament. A Parliament, annually chosen by all the people, seeing that they all pay taxes.
In 1780 the late Duke of Richmond brought a Bill into the House of Lords to restore the people to their right of having such a Parliament. Pitt co-operated in this work with the Duke of Richmond ; and Pitt expressly declared, in a speech in Parliament, that, until the Parliament was reformed, fit was “ impossible for English Ministers to be honest." Therefore, this is no new scheme; it is a measure long contended for and well-digested; it may be carried into effect with perfect safety to every rank in society; and it is my firm persuasion, that it is the only means of preserving order and peace. Indeed, I am of opinion, that it is the hope of seeing this measure adopted; that it is the expectation that it will be adopted, which now preserves that tranquillity in the country, which is so honourable to the understanding and the hearts of the people. God send that this expectation may not be disappointed !
In order that it may not, the people of every class should assemble and petition the Parliament for Reform. No matter how many, or how few; no matter whether in counties, cities, towns, villages or hamlets. We have all a right to petition; to perform that right is a sacred duty; and to obstruct it a heinous crime. But in these petitions, the only es. sential object should be a Reform ; for, though the want of it has produced numerous and great evils, still this is all that need be petitioned for, seeing that a Reform would cure all the evils at once. Trade, commerce, manufactures, agriculture, all would soon revive, and we should again see our country free and happy. But, without a Reform, it is im. possible for the nation to revive, and, I believe, it is also impossible to prevent utter confusion.
How vain, how stupid, then, are all the schemes of the writers on the side of corruption for making employment for the poor! And how base all their attempts to persuade the people, that their sufferings can be alleviated by what are called " charitable subscriptions,” which are, in
fact, only so many acts of insolence towards the numerous and unhappy sufferers, who are paying, in the shape of taxes, one-half of the little that they earn by their labour!
These corrupt writers, in order still to cajole and deceive the people, (who, thank God! are no longer to be deceived) recommended to the landlords and farmers to make employment for the poor, by causing commodious roads, footpaths, and causeways to be undertaken ; by causing shell-fish to gathered for manure ; by causing lime, chalk, marl, &c., to be gotten and prepared ; by causing land to be drained and embankments made! What folly, or what an impudent attempt to deceive ! Why, these are some of the very things that the poor would be employed in if the landlords and farmers had money to give in wages ; and, if they have not money to give in wages, how are they to have money to bestow in these works at all ?
As to the “charity subscriptions,” the people seem to understand the object of them perfectly well. LORD COCHRANE sent them forth to the nation, stripped of their mask, for which we are deeply indebted to him, and which debt of gratitude we are not so base as not to pay. The people of Glasgow led the way in their indignation against the soupshop and its kettle. At WIGAN, at Oldham, and several other places, where meetings of the subscription tribe have been held, the people have told them, that they want not soup and old bones and bullock's liver ; but they want their rights. Indeed, these attempts to bold pretended charitable meetings are full of insolence. Those who are enabled to work, or to find work, have a legal right to be supported out of taxes raised on the rich and on all houses and all lands. Why, then, are they to be held out as beggars ? Why are self-erected bodies to insult them with their pretended charity? It is not the poor, who have brought the nation into its present state. It is not they who have ruined so many farmers and tradesmen. The law says that they shall be relieved; and, why are they to look to any other relief than this, until the state of the nation can be amended ?
But, before I conclude, let me beg your attention to a very curious fact or two as to the employment of the taxes which you and all of us pay. In an Address to Journeymen and Labourers in general inserted at page 1 of these Selections), I noticed, that, in the account which was laid be. fore Parliament in the year 1815, there was a charge for money paid to suffering French and Dutch Emigrants, and also to the poor clergy of the Church of England. But, I observed, that I did not know whether any such charges were contained in the accounts laid before Parliament this year, 1816; I have that account before me now, and what will be your feelings, how will you feel towards the soup-kettle fraternities, when you are told, that there is, in this last account, a charge of seventyfive thousand pounds for the relief of French and Dutch Emigrants, and of one hundred thousand pounds for the poor clergy of the Church of England! This is, you will observe, quite a new thing. Never till the time of Perceval was any Minister bold enough to take money, or to get the Parliament to vote money out of the taxes, paid by the poor as well as the rich, to be given to the poor clergy of a church, whose dignitaries and beneficed people are bursting with wealth, and who receive in various ways, more than five millions a year! What! And have these subscription gentry the impudence to look you in the face while these things exist ? Have they the impudence to talk of their charily towards you,
while they say not a word against seeing you taxed to help to make up the immense sums thus given in charily to the French and Dutch Emigrants, and to the clergy of the Church of England ? Put these pithy questions to the insolent societies of the soup-kettle, and tell me what they can say in their defence. What! Are you to come crawling, like sneaking curs, to lick up alms to the amount of forty or fifty thousand pounds, round the brim of a soup-kettle, while you are taxed, with the rest of us, to the amount of one hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds, in order to give relief to French and Dutch Emigrants, and to the poor clergy of the Church of England! I do hope, that there are none of my countrymen who will be so base. I trust that they have yet English blood enough left in their veins to make them reject such alms with scorn and indignation.
If I had room, I would lay before you an account of some of the other articles of expense, to defray which you are taxed; but, as I intend, within three or four weeks, to show you how all the taxes are expended. I shall now conclude this long letter by expressing my hope, that it will be proved by your subsequent conduct not to have been written wholly in vain.
For past errors I make all possible allowance. We all fall into errors enough naturally; and, no wonder that you should have adopted erroneous notions, seeing that the corrupt press has, for so many years, been at work to deceive and mislead you. This base press, knowing what would be the inevitable consequence of your seeing the real causes of your calamities, has incessantly laboured to blind you, or to direct your eyes towards an imaginary cause. Machines, bakers, butchers, brewers, millers ; anything but the tares and the paper-money..
In all the acts of violence, to which you have been led by these vile hirelings, you have greatly favoured the cause of corruption, which is never so much delighted as at the sight of troops acting against the people. Let me, therefore, most earnestly beseech you to think seriously on these matters; to stay the hand of vengeance against your townsmen and countrymen, and to barbour that feeling to the latest hour of your lives against all that is corrupt and detestable. I have taken the liberty freely to offer you my advice, because I have full confidence in your good sense and your public spirit. The hirelings have endeavoured to exasperate you by their revilings and menaces; I, knowing that brave men are not to be abused or bullied into compliance, have endeavoured to gain you by an appeal to your sense of honour and of justice. The hirelings call aloud for sending forth penal statutes and troops to put you down; I send you the most persuasive arguments my mind can suggest, and all the kindest wishes of my heart. And, with these wishes, I hope I shall always remain,
LORD MAYOR OF LONDON.
On the divers Expedients, which have been brought forth, under the sanction of his
Lordship, for the Employing and Relieving of the Poor.--Also the late Disturbances, and on the Meeting of the Londoners in Spa-Fields.
(Political Register, December, 1816.)
MY LORD MAYOR,
When I call to your Lordship's recollection, for, perhaps, you may have forgotten them, the many acts of kindness which I have personally received at your hands, and especially when I lead you back to that interesting moment of my life, when, owing to your interposition, I was relieved from the intolerable pain of associating with those felons, amongst whom the Judges of the Court of King's Bench had doomed me to the chance of living for two years, because I had written and published a paragraph about the flogging of the Local Militia in the Isle of Ely; when I lead your Lordship’s mind back to that moment and make you again behold the tears of gratitude in the eyes of my wife and children, I am sure, you will be convinced, that nothing short of a sense of imperious duty to my country could urge me publicly to express even a difference of opinion with you upon any matter of public importance.
A little son of mine came to me one day, exclaiming : “Papa! I saw Mr. Wood in a golden coach! In a real golden coach! It was, indeed, it was !- It was a coach all made of gold !” “Yes,” said I, “ James, but you seem to have overlooked the best part of the thing.” was that?” “Why, it was the kind and honest and patriotic heart of Mr. Wood himself, which is much more worthy of admiration than all the golden coaches and gold chains in the world.” Thousands, I dare say, are the roofs, beneath which your benevolence has excited feelings of gratitude; but I am not afraid to assert, that in that feeling all who belong to me are exceeded by none of the thousands who entertain that feeling towards you.
Therefore, you will be well assured, that it is not without pain, that I publicly dissent from any well-known opinion of yours, notwithstanding I am too well assured of your sound sense and your candour, not to be confident that you will hear with patience, and without any mixture of anger, my reasons for such dissent.
When a miserable object presents himself before our eyes ; when hunger and nakedness show themselves before us: when the parting soul seems only to linger on the pale and quivering lip, it does not require a heart so benevolent as yours to send the hand of the beholder speedily to the purse or pantry in search of the means of instantaneous relief. But, my Lord Mayor, this is not a point upon which any human being can differ with you.
We are all now engaged in this sort of work. There VOL. V.
are none of my neighbours who do not share what they have with the innumerable beggars who now visit us. I used to be very scrupulous on this head : used to make very strict inquiries, and very seldom give relief to any but late soldiers and sailors and soldiers' and sailors' wives and children. This was my rule ; but the floods of misery have broken in upon us in such a way as to render it impossible to live in our houses and endure the sights we behold, without sharing our victuals and drink with every one who comes on the dismal errand of beggary. This is not the case with me in particular. It is the general practice of all my neighbours who have a morsel to spare ; and, it is, because it must, be the general practice in every part of the kingdom. Our very servants and labourers participate in this work of relieving. The wretchedness they behold overpowers every sense of their own conveniences and wants.
It is not, therefore, my Lord Mayor, the acts of real charity, which you are so zealously promoting, the wisdom of which I call in question ; for, if such acts are unwise, we are all guilty of folly. But, what I disapprove of is, the bringing forward and the adopting of public plans for relief, the tendency of which is to cause the people to imbibe wrong notions with regard to the real cause of their miseries ; and to lull the nation at large into the opinion, that the suffering is merely of a temporary nature. I know very well, that as far as you are concerned, there is no intention to deceive the people as to either of these points or as to any thing else ; but I am equally well satisfied, that the tendency of such measures is to give a wrong bias to the public mind, and to retard those great and general measures, which can alone restore the nation to happiness, and which, in my opinion, can alone prevent calamities such as I shudder but to think of.
Before, however, I say more on the subject of giving relief in the shape of alms, give me leave to notice a few of the schemes which have been proposed to you for the finding of employment for the poor.
The want of employment has arisen from the want of means in the former consumers and employers, and, therefore, unless those former means can be restored, it is a pursuit worse than the vanity of vanities to attempt to discover employment. The corrupt part of the press, either from ignorance or from a desire to deceive, has called upon the gentlemen and farmers in the country, to employ the poor in making new and better roads, foot-paths, embankments, cleaning out of water-courses, and enclosing waste lands. Now all these things were going on a few years ago, till the cracking of the bubble of paper-money smote them like a burst from a shell. If you were now to ride from Whitchurch to Winchester, a distance of only about thirteen miles, you would see more than two thousand acres of land, which was enclosed a few years back, flung up again, and, not to bear grass, as it did before, but all kinds of worthless weeds. The same dismal change is taking place in every part of the kingdom.-- And while this is going on; at the very moment when want of means is throwing immense tracts of land out of cultivation, the press of corruption is calling upon us to find employment for the poor in the enclosing of waste lands !
The same may be said, as to new or repaired highways, foot-paths, embankments, and water-courses. These are all improvements, and im. provements must come out of a redundance of means. There is one parish in Monmouthshire, I am told, where every payer of king's taxes, except one, was actually under distress for those taxes, a little while ago;