Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VII.: LOYALTY PREVENTIVES. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 7
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Chapter VII.: LOYALTY PREVENTIVES. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 7 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 7.
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Next day, there appeared a sufficient reason for Mrs. Eldred's there great desire that Tim should attend the opening of the Deep Cut. She was not found at her old place when Walter went to restore his charge. The cottage was shut up, and a friendly neighbour came out to deliver to Walter the message with which she had been entrusted for him. Mrs. Eldred had for some time found it difficult for her to live and maintain her blind son, and finding that she and her family, except her daughter, had been impoverished by interference with their industry in one form or another, she had brought herself to do that which if free, she would have despised. She had sued for a place in an almshouse, supported by the vaunted charity of a corporation which caused infinitely more want than it relieved. She had carefully kept this secret from Walter and his wife, knowing what efforts they would make to preserve a proud spirit like hers from the degradation of accepting charity. But she declared that she felt it, though a misery, no degradation. If the trade of the collieries was injured by a corporation in London, so as to deprive her of work, and if her eldest son was hindered by a corporation nearer home from carrying his labour to the best market, she felt that a maintenance was due from corporative funds, and she should receive it without any acknowledgment of obligation till the labour of the family was once more placed at the disposal of the family. The reproach of the pauper dress which she and Tim must henceforth wear must rest with those who had prevented her earning more honourable apparel; and she hoped her son and daughter would not take the matter too much to heart. It appeared that Mrs. Eldred had made these, her explanations, very fully and not very coolly to Mr. Milford, the surgeon, who had argued the matter with her: not attempting to deny that her connexions had been interfered with, but pleading that the interference had been more for good than for evil. But Mr. Milford liked corporations. An idle brother of his, who had been a great burden upon him, had been suddenly provided for by a corporation living; and he himself was still in possession of the Trinity House appointment for which he had canvassed Mr. Vivian some years before. He contended that government had, it appeared, (contrary to his expectation,) done a fine thing in authorizing the company to open the Deep Cut. Everybody knew how much rope was being manufactured there, and how much more was wanted; and when told of the impediments was to the removal of Adam's labour thither, he lauded the arrangements by which Adam could be maintained as a pauper in his native town, instead maintained of being left to casual charity. He insisted much on Christopher's prosperity; on the benevolence and usefulness of the interference of government in securing to him the rewards of his ingenuity, and thus enabling him to assist his connexions materially, if he would. Mrs. Eldred did not impute it to the government that Christopher did not seem more inclined to part with his worldly wealth than if he had openly valued as much, as he professed to despise it: but it was not the less true that Christopher's constant plea for economy was his expectation that his patent would be invaded, and that he should cease to gain by his invention, even if he were not involved in law proceedings to defend it. the principle of the patent law Mr. Milford might praise unopposed; and the practical arrangements might be improved in time; but Mrs. Eldred could not allow it to be right that Adam should first be made idle by an absurdly long apprenticeship, and then kept idle by corporation restraints; and she would not acknowledge herself half so grateful for almshouse bounties as the surgeon thought her in duty bound to be. Many thanks for their charity, indeed! Mrs. Eldred said. Many thousands in a year might they well give away, considering how they prevented the earning of many more thousands; but the newspapers might as well be silent about their great generosity: for it behoved bodies of men, as well as individual men, to be just before they were generous; and there was little justice in tying a man's hands, however liberally they might put food into his mouth.
Fain would Walter and his wife have taken home the little lad, who seemed to have small relish for the almshouse, in anticipation or in reality. Adam, also, from time to time during the two years which passed before the peace, offered to take the boy home as often as a supply of work afforded him a home. But Mrs. Eldred could not part with Tim; nor could Mr. Severn, still her steady and kind friend, urge upon her a sacrifice which would have caused her restless mind too dangerous a leisure. When peace came, there were many symptoms of a revived querulousness. From the day of the general rejoicings, which offered no charms to her, she dropped expressions which gave as little pleasure to everybody as to herself, about Eldred's being in no hurry to return home. It was a folly in her to have ever expected it. Had he sent her a farthing of money, from the day he went away? It was known that he had changed his ship; had he come in the interval to visit her and his children? No no. She had heard much of the charms of a roving life, and of naval glory; and, doubtless, no such pleasures could be offered by a melancholy, distressed family as he could find in the service; and if he was looking after glory, he would hardly return to the dull duty of taking care of his own—a duty which his dullest neighbours had been discharging while he was away. She vehemently silenced poor Tim's suggestion that his father might not be still living. She would listen to no excuses on Eldred's behalf from Effie or Adam, till the latter had recourse to his old practice of taking his hat, and walking away; and Effie, with her usual ingenuousness, declared her uneasiness at hearing her father so spoken of. The readiest way to bring her mother round was to appear to agree with her ; but Effie could not pay the price of such disguise, even for the pleasure of hearing her mother speak the tenderness which lay at her heart.
The rebuke which attends upon querulousness more closely and constantly than upon almost any other fault, presently arrived. Effie had just left her in grave compassion, mixed with displeasure ; Tim was silently occupying himself in his new art of netting; and Mrs. Eldred was stalking about the little room, making a great bustle to carry off her own excitement, when a few stray words from the court=yard came in at the open window, and made Tim quit his seat.
“Take care, lad; you will stumble over the chair in the middle of the room. Why cannot you ask me for what you want?”
Tim steered cautiously round the chair, and gained the lattice.
“There's one below asking for us, mother,” said he.
“That is impossible. You cannot tell what they are saying below, in all the noise I am making. There is nobody but Adam that can be wanting us,” she continued. “I wish Adam would choose better times for coming: he is always sure to show himself when I am particularly busy, and there is nothing comfortable about us.”
Tim thought to himself that this was rather strange, so much complaint as he was accustomed to hear of Adam's coming so very seldom, and so often as it happened that his mother was particularly busy, and had nothing comfortable about her. He made no answer, however, being convinced that the inquirer below was not Adam. He presently went on,
“Mother, can you spare a minute, just to look out of the window at this person in the court?”
There was a something in Tim's manner that struck her. Instead of throwing down her brush impatiently, as he expected, she came silently, and laid her hand on his, as trembling it grasped the sill. She sank down on a seat after one glance, whispering,—
“My boy, it is your father!”
If Tim could have seen, he would not have known his father. Instead of the black-skinned, closely-cropped, and somewhat awful-looking person that he remembered his father, Eldred was now a weather-browned, blue-jacketed sailor, with a ringlet hanging duly down either cheek, and a little hat, which set off very favourably his broad, round face, now a little shaded by anxiety, but evidently meant to express a true sailor's joviality. Few eyes but a wife's would have recognised him at a first glance. A feeling of pride in him arose as she saw him stand in the doorway; and it tempered the bitter mortification which, in spite of all her professions and self-deception, she felt at being found by him in this place.
When her passion of joy and surprise was over, and her spirits began to dance in girlish lightness, her feelings of mortification found vent in a few slight hints of wonder and discontent. Eldred, with his wife beside him, Tim seated at his feet, and in momentary expectation of Effie's arrival, was disposed to take such hints kindly, though not perhaps with the fidgetty submission which he might have shown in old times. He had not sailed so much about the world for nothing ; nor fought so hard against the enemy to be drilled at home, as formerly. It was easy to be a great man to-day, his companions being more disposed to adore his greatness than to find any flaw in it.
“Send you money !” said he. “Why, you know very well that if I had had any you would have had it all, as soon as I could send it.”
“You do not mean that you have been working all these years for nothing?”
“I have got my wages at last; but, besides the hardship of the wages being so much lower than I had been accustomed to on our river, during the war, there was the worse hardship of our not being able to get our dues.”
“There would be few seamen in our colliers if such was the practice there.”
“And they must go on impressing for the navy as long as it is the practice in any part of it. Poor Cuddie! How I have been turning it in nay mind whether he would chance to be at! home, or whether he would be gone to London I never fancied his being so far out of reach.”
“Father! were you ever flogged? Did you ever try to desert?” inquired Tim.
“I flogged! I try to desert!” exclaimed Eldred, amidst a painful consciousness that his indignation at the words conveyed a reproach to his dear, absent son. “No, Tim, I had a good ship, and a good captain, and”
“And went into the service with more heart than Cuddie,” interrupted Mrs. Eldred; “and would not give it up till the last minute, and then were sorry to leave it for home and a dull keel on the Tyne.”
“You are out there, my woman. The time in my life when I had the most mind to drown myself was when I was stopped in my way to you, a year and a half ago You would not have said much of my liking for a sea-life, if you had seen me,—how I raved for the land as they forced me back from it, just when I thought five minutes more would have set me ashore.”
“What do you mean? and when?”
“A year and a half ago. as I tell you, when I was impressed a second time. I never cursed a Frenchman as I cursed the boat with the infernal gang in it that met us point blank, as we were turning into harbour, and boarded us. Some of the poor fellows with me let themselves out about home. I did not, because I knew it would be of no use ; but, to be sure, one or two of them had served as much as twelve years without seeing their families, and my case was not so bad. But
should have knocked the gang overboard with my bundle with right good-will. I hated my bundle as much as I hated them at the moment, because of having to take it back and unpack it, when I had put it up for home. So you never knew I had been pressed a second time, love?”
“Knew it, no! If I had, I believe the law would have been altered by this day. I would have got all the women, injured like myself, to go up on our knees to the king's own presence, and we would not have left him till we had melted his heart, and got his promise to do away the law.”
“The best of it is that the law of the land is against impressment; it is against violence being offered to an innocent man in any way.”
“Then I suppose there is a particular law to allow impressment.”
“No; no further than that there is a list of those who may be legally exempted, seamen on special service, or protected by the proper authorities, and so on. The marking out in this way who is to go free, looks like countenancing the practice ; but, beyond this, the law is against the practice. I used to insist on this, at favourable times, but, as you may suppose, to no purpose, owing, perhaps, in part to my endeavour to reconcile myself to my lot. The people at home are they that must make a stir about it. If we pressed men manage to make ourselves tolerably happy, we are sure to be asked, ‘Where is the hardship?’ And if we are dull and indolent, (as I fear poor Cuddie was, and with too much reason,) they despise us and flog us, and ask what the testimony of a flogged man is worth. So, for the remedy, we must look to the people at home; and they have, too many of them, some grievances of their own to complain of I am sorry indeed to find poor Adam in such an uncertain state, now high and now low. Is it the danger from the overseer that keeps him from settling at the Cut?”
“Yes, and reason enough. He has no notion of putting himself at the mercy of any overseer or churchwarden who might choose to send him home to his parish on the mere prospect of work falling off. The thought of it chafes me as much as seeing Mr. Severn still no more than 0tley's poor curate, when I know that if each had their deserts, if the people were allowed to interest themselves in choosing the pastor that would do his duty best, Mr. Severn would be one of the first in honour and in place, and Otley (if he had not been anywhere but in the church) would have had to wait for a flock till he grew as wise as the children that are now under him, and as sober as our Adam,—and that is not supposing much.”
“And what does Mr. Severn himself say?”
“Nothing about Otley; but he speaks up for some things that I should like to see done away. I detest the very name of a corporation, or of any kind of meddling, after all we have suffered.”
“I think you are wrong there. A corporation may do many fine things, as long as it keeps to its proper business, which is not to meddle with industry in any way, religious or other. But when it is desirable that a thousand persons should speak with one voice, and that that voice should be authority, and should go down to the next age,—and when it is wanted to give a single responsibility (that shall not be always changing) to a party whose members must change. I think a corporation is the best way of making many into one. I mean where learning has to be taken care of, as in the universities, or inferior governments, like those of our great towns. But when corporations take upon them to favour some, and exclude others, and to fetter all that belong to them, I will go as far as you in complaints of them. Walter seems the most prosperous of you all.”
“Yes: now his garden is not smoked. It was a glad day for him and Effie when leave was got to sell coal in London by weight. It put an end to screening and burning. It fell out ill for me, as everything does. But things will prosper better now,” she continued, after a glance at her husband's countenance.
“It seems to me as if Effie was long in coming,” observed Eldred. “How long will it take you to move out of this place, when she is once here?”
“Move! O, not half an hour.”
“Well, you don't suppose I mean you to stay another hour here. Make ready to be a keel-man's wife again, and leave this room for some poor creature”
“That will be more thankful for it than I have ever pretended to be. But—suppose the pressgang”
“We are safe till the next war; and by that time, perhaps, there may have gone up such a cry from the whole empire as will make our rulers man our navy with men instead of slaves. It cannot be done in a day; but neither, I hope, shall we go to war in a day; and if we set about training our willing youth in time, we may have a navy manned against the day of need as no navy has ever yet been manned. When I was last in the channel Bless her dear soul, here is Effie! And Walter behind her! And his father too! That is what I did not expect. Now, if we had Adam ”
He stopped short, and during the silence, many a tender thought was sent after Cuddie.
Tim was the first to lead the way out of the alms-house; and no inmate ever left it followed by so few regrets as his mother. For her part, having shown no gratitude while in it, she never afterwards forgave the indignity of having been its inhabitant, though the immediate act of becoming so was her own.
As for the rest of the family, their interests were so far from being injured by the growing prosperity of the Deep Cut, that they all benefited by the impetus given to trade, and the new capital and enterprise, unfettered by legislative interference, which it put in motion in their neighbourhood. Their worst grievance henceforth was when rumours of wars brought tribulation among them. Then schemes of flight an hiding were whispered abroad, and discussed by the fire-side, and Tim was regarded half-enviously not only as usual for his virtuous cheerfulness but for his security from the perils and woes of impressment. There has never since been a war, however ; and it is happily yet possible that before the day of strife shall arrive, if arrive it must, Great Britain will have incalculably improved her resources by rendering the service of her sons voluntary, and their labour wholly free.