« AnteriorContinuar »
and we know that the magistrates of that county have declared the impossibility for the people to pay the taxes, then due and becoming due. Now, my Lord Mayor, is it not madness or fraud unparalled for any one to hold out the hope of such people being able to find employment for the poor on works of ornament, or on works of distant utility » .
It is the turning of men off from works of profit that has produced the misery amongst the labouring classes. How, then, can it be expected, that those who are unable to employ them on works of profit, will be able to employ them in any other works? The farmers of a particular parish, suppose them to be ten in number, have, we will suppose, turned off twenty of the men they formerly employed. Why have they done this? Because the weight of taxes, co-operating with the bubble of paper-money, have rendered each of them unable to pay so many men as they did before by two each. They used to employ these two men each in the works of draining, banking, grubbing hedge-rows, chalking, liming, marling, and in other works of improvement; but, they now cannot afford to employ them in this way. What, then, must we think of the proposition to call upon these same farmers to employ the same men in works of ornament, or in the making of public roads, or the cleansing of brooks and rivers ? What must we think of the proposition to induce a farmer to find five pounds to lay out upon public works, when he cannot get the five pounds to expend upon his own works? The idea is so absurd, that it can have originated only in a disordered mind, or in a desire to deceive the people, and to hide from them the real causes of the want of employment and of the consequent distress and beggary that now prevail.
You are not wholly unacquainted with country affairs yourself, and you have the advantage to know and hear persons of great experience and knowledge in such affairs; and, I am very certain, that their accounts of our situation will substantially accord with mine. They will also inform you, that the monstrous depreciation in the value of lean animals upon a farm, has produced a corresponding want of employment. A great mul. titude of labourers were employed in the works connected with the rearing of stock. One-half of this multitude are now unemployed, because the rearing of stock is now what farmers in general cannot afford to lay out money in. Their capitals are called away for the payment of taxes. To keep a heifer, a steer, a lamb, or a colt, until fit for use is out of the power of great numbers. And, thus, that vast source of individual and national wealth is undergoing a most alarming diminution. The amount of this diminution will, in a few years, if the present system continue, be discoverable in symptoms the most humiliating to us, and indeed, the most degrading to our character in the world. Instead of the farm-yard and its surrounding closes teeming with animal life ; filled with pigs, lambs, calves, and colts, with dams and young ones of all sorts and sizes, we shall see, and we already begin to see, docks and thistles and uncovered sheds, All seems to be going to waste and speedily converting itself into sterility. There is no species of wealth or power which does not spring from Agriculture; and, if that decline, all must decline; if that perish, all must perish. The persons employed in trade, commerce, navigation and manufactures often appear to think, that they have interests sepurate from those of the farmer. This must have been Mr. WAITHMAN's view of the matter, when, in opposing the Corn Bill, he stated, that agriculture had had its days of prosperity, and that the turn of trade and manufactures was now come. I opposed the Corn Bill too: but, upon very different grounds; and I then warned Mr. Waithman in print, that if the turn of agriculture to suffer was come, the ruin of trade and of manufacture must also come. How fatally true has Mr. Waithman found this to be!
Therefore, my Lord Mayor, expedients are useless in the first place, because they cannot remove so deep-rooted and wide-spreading an evil.
And in the second place, they are mischievous, because they divert the attention of the people from the real and only remedy, and thereby tend to prolong the evil, till it shall have become too monstrous and inveterate to admit of a peaceful cure.
Of the schemes, for finding employment, which have been submitted to you, my Lord Mayor, and which have gone forth under the sanction of your respected name, not one appears to me to have reason to recommend it. I dare say, that Mr. SALISBURY meant well in proposing to employ the poor in the collecting of the seeds of Cocks-foot grass, and that he really did pay 3s. 6d. to a man, who, in a few hours, collected some in Hyde Park. But, if Mr. Salisbury will purchase that seed of me at the same rate, I will engage that he shall, next fall, have as much sent to him in a day as shall be sold in all England in ten years. Besides, as there is only so much money to be laid out in grass seeds of all sorts every year, it must necessarily follow, that the labour employed in obtaining the other sorts would fall off in the exact proportion, in which the Cocks. foot labour would increase, and, that, therefore, on a general view of the matter, no good could possibly arise from this diversion of labour.
Mr. PETTIGREW meant well, I dare say. But is there not a sufficiency of field weeds and simples collected already ? If more hands be employed in the collection of simples, the wages of collection must be lowered; for (and I beg you bear this principle in mind) there are no means, other than those attendant on a return of general prosperity, that can possibly add to the aggregate sum expended upon simples. As to the making of cordage out of nettles, hop-binds, &c. the thought is very old. The thing has been frequently tried. No doubt of its practicability; and it is also practicable to dig potatoes with a golden spade ! But, what would be the good ? It would not add to the sum of money annually expended in cordage ? Less cordage would be made in all probability; or, if the alteration produced no harm, it could not possibly produce any good. The discovery of the pith of rushes being to be obtained in our boggy land, and being applicable to domestic purposes in lieu of candles, comes as a discovery rather late ; for I have not yet forgotten, that, more than forty years ago, my dear old grandmother Cobbett, used to light me to bed, and to mend my stockings, by one of these very rushes, which she used to dip in grease, and keep in a long piece of oak bark, suspended against her cottage wall, just by the side of her wooden salt box. But the notable wives of our labourers in Hampshire still do the same; and, I have lately heard, that they are obliged to leave a slip of the green rind of the rush not wholly covered by the grease, for fear of the Exciseman, one of whom recently told a labourer's wife upon visit. ing her manufactory, that if her rushes had another dip, they would have been seized as candles !
Ah! My Lord Mayor ! This and things like this, are worthy of your attention! Here we see the real cause of all our miseries; and not in the importation of flag or willow baskets ; for, your Lordship may be well assured, that, it is not money which is sent to Holland and
to France to purchase the baskets, of the importation of which the shallow, though probably humane Mr. SALISBURY, complained, but goods, made by the hands of our ingenious manufacturers, and made, for the greater part, out of the wool and flax grown on the surface, or out of the ore and the coals dug from the bowels of our soil. Mr. Salisbury would, apparently, push us back a little towards the rudeness of savage life. The converting of twigs and flag rushes into utensils is of the description of the manufactures, carried on by the Indians of North America. We barter with those rude people our products for theirs ; but a knife or a pair of scissars will purchase the fruit of half a year of their labours; and, probably, a few ounces of some of our works in steel are equal in value to, and will exchange for, a waggon load of the baskets which come from Holland or from France. What folly then, to imagine that any relief to our manufacturers can arise from our wearing none but English goods! Whatever is imported is exchanged for exported goods of some sort or other; and, therefore, in whatever degree we discourage the import of the goods of other nations, we discourage and prevent the export of our own. Foreign nations will naturally imitate our apparently selfish regulations ; but, whether they imitate the regulations or not, the effect will, in the long run, be the same ; and, it is truly pitiful to see a Court Order for the wearing of English manufactures at two birth-day balls, and to see the Prince's birth-day changed from August to March, with a view of relieving the sufferings of the nation! Good God! How much more likely to answer that purpose would be a great diminution of that Civil List, and of all those salaries, sinecures, allowances, and grants, which are paid out of the taxes, and which are received by those very persons who wear court. dresses ! But, more upon this subject by and by.
Your Lordship is reported, in the newspapers, to have brought forward, or patronised, a plan for furnishing the poor with fuel made of a composition, consisting of clay and cinders, or small-coals. This plan was to have a two-fold effect: the employing of thousands of poor, and the economizing of fuel. Now, my Lord Mayor, if you could by such a scheme reduce the quantity of coals used to one-half of the present quantity, what havoc would you make amongst the coal-miners and the seamen, which last are the most miserable class of this most miserable nation. In whatever degree this new manufacture of fuel found employment for the poor of London, it would destroy the employment of those employed in digging and conveying coals. “Rob Peter to pay Paul.” That is the maxim of all those who project any other means of relief than the reduction of taxes.
But, is cheapness of fuel the object ? My Lord Mayor, it is impossible to discover any thing so cheap as coals, even with all the taxes with which they are loaded. Whatever of the burning quality the new manufacture may contain must come from the coal-pit, after all. Clay may make the combustible matter more slow in its evaporation, but clay, thus used, will never add one particle of heat. Far cheaper would it be to bring turf or peat from Bagshot Heath, where only digging and drying is necessary to make a blazing fuel. But little trouble as it is to obtain peat, peat, even used on the spot, is not so cheap as coals brought from Newcastle and taxed into the bargain. From Bagshot Heath I, when a boy, used to assist in fetching excellent peat, which was the fuel of my father's house, at four miles distance. Through the very valley, whence
I used to fetch that peat, there now runs a canal from London to Basingstoke ; and, within 400 yards of the spot where we used to dig the peat, there are very fine cual-wharfs. Farewell the peat-digging! Though you may have the peat for the digging, no one digs any more! What a fine thing to behold! That Cumberland should send, and through a tax too, fuel into Surrey at so cheap a rate, that the people prefer buying it to the using of the product of their own country, though they can have it without buying! But, the fact is, my Lord Mayor, they di 1 buy their peat; that is to say, they had to pay for the digging and carting and housing, and they soon found, that it would cost them less to keep a fire of coals. At Botley it is cheaper to buy coals than to cart even good wood two or three miles, though you have it given to you. I purchase coals for the use of a large farm-house, where a great deal of steaming is also carried on: I fetch these coals more than two miles by land ; and this I do while I can have wood for the mere carting, and while I have thousands and hundred thousands of loads of peat at 200 yards from the spot. The coals are cheapest. A wood-fire, though in our woody-country, is an expensive luxury. In better times I used to burn my own wood: the hardness of the times has induced me to buy coals!
No, my Lord Mayor, these plans are all futile. If, indeed, you had proposed to the city to relinquish their tar upon coals, that would have been doing something, especially as I do not perceive very clearly, why the coals that enter the Thames should be taxed, any more than those which enter the mouth of any other river. However, even this would be doing so very little, that it would hardly be felt. It is the general weight of taxes and the paper-money bubble which have produced all the misery; and, until these be removed, there will be no regular and settled means of employment for those who now want employ.
As to the Soup Establishments, or any other means of rescuing poor, starving creatures from the jaws of death, no one can, in that light, disapprove of them, any more than he can disapprove of our giving vic. tuals at our doors. But, my Lord Mayor, all meetings, which are held for the considering of means to be adopted for the relief of the poor, are BLAMEABLE, if the real causes of the misery be passed over in silence, because, in that case, the people are deluded, as far as such meeting can delude them, into a false hope of permanent relief.
If you have done me the honour to read this work for some years past, you must have seen, that all which has now come to pass has been regu. larly foretold; and that effect after effect have followed cause after cause, the Register always keeping on about a year in advance of the events. That which we now see is nothing unnatural, nothing surprising : it is the inevitable result of the public measures that have been pursued ; and which measures no man has more decidedly disapproved of than yourself. Therefore, my Lord Mayor, you appear to me to be wanting in justice, not to any other persons, but to be wanting in bare justice to yourself, when you disclaim all political considerations, and seem to cast the blame of producing our miseries upon that non-descript thing called “ the times." The times! What mean the times? We have no new sort of time. Summer and Winter, Spring and Autumn, Day and Night, still continue to come in their turn as usual. It is, therefore, measures; it is a something, done somehow, by some body, which has produced all this misery, and I have a right, and so have you, to assert that this mi.
sery could have been prevented, because we, with many others, sought to prevent the causes of the misery.
I am, therefore, wholly at a loss, my Lord Mayor, to discover the grounds upon which you forego the advantage now offered you of assert. ing your claim to political foresight and rectitude. Your merits as a magistrate are, I dare say, very great; but it was not for those merits that you were re-elected. You were re-elected on account of your well-known political principles; and, had not that been the case, your re-election would have been a matter of no moment to the country. I know your political principles remain unaltered; but, why, in this dreadful moment, when the very peace of the kingdom hangs by a thread, should those excellent principles be allowed to sleep, especially as those of our enemies never sleep either day or night! Why is the effect of these principles to be suspended till the time when your power shall become less than it is now? Your Lordship has seen a great many Pittite Lord Mayors. Did any one of them ever let his principles sleep for the year? Besides, what cause is so great as the cause of our country? How is it possible that we can lay our principles on the shelf for a year, or for a day?
The point I aim at is this; that, at no meeting, held under your auspices, for the relief of the poor, ought the causes of their sufferings to pass unnoticed, ugmarked, unreprobated, by you above all men in the kingdom. What! have you, for so many years, been the forwardest of the most forward to remonstrate against the fatal system by which we have finally been plunged into ruin; have you, upon so many occasions, took the lead in telling the King and the Parliament, that national misery would be the result of the measures that were pursuing; and now, when this misery is actually arrived, shall you, having the best of means to make your voice heard, keep silence upon the subject of the causes of this misery? Nay, shall we see you sit quiet, while you hear details and discussions, calculated to make the people believe, that their miseries may be removed without that radical change in the system, for the absolute necessity of which you have so long been most gallantly con. tending ?
My Lord Mayor, I beg you to be well assured, that, in a case like yours, there is no neutrality. I know you will not abandon your priniciples ; I know you will not change; I know that your attachment to the liberties of your country will always remain unshaken. But in a case like yours, there can be no neutrality; no suspension of exertion, without great injury to your country. A man like me might retire when he pleased. I owe the people nothing, while, if they have derived any knowledge from my exertions, they owe me something. They have never given me their votes, nor do I stand pledged to them, any more than any one of them stands pledged to me. But the case is different with you. Very different indeed ; for you are now placed aloft by the voice of the people; and, that which was before a mere matter of choice, now becomes a matter of duty, or, at least, very nearly approaching a duty. · It must be very evident to your Lordship, that there can be no end to the people's sufferings, until some great change with regard to tatation shall take place. At the opening of the last session of Parliament, the speech described the country as in a state of prosperity, and the first business of the House of Commons was to vote vast sums of money to erect monuments to commemorate the glories of that war, which had ended in the restoration of the Bourbons and the inquisition, and in