Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE THREE AGES. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 8
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THE THREE AGES. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 8 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 8.
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THE THREE AGES.
One fine summer day, about three hundred and ten years ago, all Whitehall was astir with the throngs who were hastening to see my Lord Cardinal set forth from the episcopal palace for the Parliament House. The attendants of the great man had been collected for some time,— if bearers of the silver crosses, of the glittering pillars, and of the gilt mace, those who shouldered the pole=axes, the running footmen, and the grooms who held the well-clothed mules. The servants of the palace stood round, and there came among them a troop of gentlemen in foreign costume, whose country could not be divined from their complexions, since each wore a mask, rarely painted wherever left uncovered by a beard made of gold or silver wire. When my Lord Cardinal came forth, glowing in scarlet damask, and towering above everybody else by the height of the pillion and black velvet noble which he carried on his head, these strangers hastened to range themselves round the mule, (little less disguised than they,) and to offer a homage which savoured of mockery nearly as strongly as that of casual passengers, who had good reason for beholding with impatience the ostentatious triumphs of the “butcher's dog,” as an angry man had been heard to call my Lord Cardinal. “Wolsey made a sudden halt, and his goodly shoe, blazing with gems, met the ground less tenderly than was its wont, as its wearer stopped to cast a keen glance upon the strangers. He removed from beneath his nose the orange peel filled with confections which might defy the taint of the common people, and handed it to a page, with a motion which signified that he perceived how an atmosphere awaited him which he need not fear to breathe. There was then a general pause.
“Pleaseth it your Grace,” said one of the strangers, “there are certain in Blackfriars that await your Grace's passage and arrival, to prosper a light affair, in which your Grace's countenance will be comfortable to them. Will it please you to spare them further perplexity of delay?”
The Cardinal bowed low to the speaker, mounted his mule in all solemnity, and in a low voice asked for the honour of the stranger's latest commands to his obedient parliament.
“Commend us heartily to them, and see that they be readily obedient. We commend them to your Grace's tuition and governance. We will be advertised of their answer at a certain fair house at Chelsea, where we shall divert ourselves till sunset. Pray heaven your Grace may meet as good diversion in Blackfriars!”
The strangers renewed their obeisances, and drew back to allow the Cardinal's stately retinue to form and proceed. The crowd of gazers moved on with the procession, and left but few to observe the motions of the strangers when the last scarlet drapery had fluttered, and the last gold mace had gleamed on the sight. He who seemed the leader of the foreigners then turned from the gate of the episcopal palace, followed by his companions. All mounted mules which awaited them at some distance, and proceeded in the direction of Chelsea.
They saw many things on the way with which they might make merry. Pale, half-naked men were employed along the whole length of road in heaping up wood for bonfires, as the people had been told that it pleased the King's Highness that they should rejoice for a mighty success over the French. There was something very diverting, it was found, in the economy of one who reserved a clean bit of board to be sawn into dust to eke out the substance of his children's bread; and nothing could be more amusing than the coolness with which another pulled up the fence of his little field, that the wood might go to the bonfire, and the scanty produce of the soil to any wandering beggar who chose to take it, the owner having spent his all in supporting this war, and being now about to become a wandering beggar himself. He was complimented on his good cheer, when he said that the king's asses were welcome to the thistles of his field, and the king's pages to adorn themselves with the roses of his garden, since the king himself had levied as tribute the corn of the one and the fruits of the other. There was also much jesting with a damsel who seemed nothing loth to part with her child, when they offered playfully to steal it to be brought up for the wars. She thought the boy might thus perchance find his father, since he owed his birth to one who had promised the woman to get her father released from the prison where he pined because he was unable to pay his share of the Benevolence by which the King's wars were to be carried on. She would give her son in exchange for her father, in hopes of forgetting her anger and her shame. The child was cast back into her arms with the assurance that when he was strong enough to wield his weapon, the King's Highness would call for him. The next diverting passage was the meeting with a company of nuns, on their way from their despoiled convent to find a hiding-place in London. There was some exercise of wit in divining, while the maidens kept their veils before their faces, which of them were under four-and-twenty, and might therefore be toyed with, according to the royal proclamation, that all below that age were released from their vows. When the veils were pulled aside, there was loud laughter at the trembling of some of the women, and the useless rage of others, and at the solemn gravity of the youngest and prettiest of them all, who was reproved by her superior for putting on a bold, undismayed face when so many older and wiser sisters were brought to their wits' end. Nothing could be made of her, and she was therefore the first to be forgotten when new matter of sport appeared. A friar, fatter than he seemed likely to be in future, was seen toiling along the road under a loaded basket, which the frolickers were certain must contain something good, from its being in the custody of a man of God. They got round him, so enclosing him with their beasts that he could not escape, and requested to be favoured with the sight and scent of the savoury matters which his basket doubtless contained, and for which they hungered and thirsted, since they had seen none but meagre fare in the houses they had passed:—little better than coarse bread had met their eyes since their own morning meal. The friar was not unwilling to display his treasures, (although unsavoury.) in the hope of a parting gift: so the eyes of the stranger were regaled with the parings of St. Edmund's toes,—the most fastidious of saints in respect of his feet, to judge from the quantity of such parings as one and another of the present company had seen since there had been a stir among the monasteries. There were two of the coals which had roasted St. Lawrence—now cool enough to be safely handled. A head of St. Ursula,—very like a whale,—but undoubtedly a head of St. Ursula, because it was a perfect preventive of weeds in corn. The friar was recommended to bestow it upon the poor man who had been seen pulling up the fence of his barren field; but the leader of the party could not spare the friar at present. The holy man did not know his own age, for certain. He must,—all the party would take their oath of it,—be under four-and-twenty, and his merriment would match admirably with the gravity of the young nun who had just passed. Two of the revellers were sent back to catch, and bring her with all speed to Chelsea, where she should be married to the friar before the day was over; the King's Highness being pleased to give her a dower. The friar affected to enjoy this as a jest, and sent a message to the damsel while inwardly planning how to escape from the party before they should reach Chelsea.
His planning was in vain. He was ordered to ride behind one of the revellers, and his precious burden of relics was committed to the charge of another, and some of the mocking eyes of the party were for ever fixed on the holy man, insomuch that he did not dare to slip down and attempt to escape; and far too soon for him appeared the low, rambling house, its expanse of roof alive with pert pigeons, its garden alleys stretching down to the Thames, and its porch and gates guarded with rare, grim-looking stuffed quadrupeds placed in attitudes,—very unlike the living animals which might be seen moving at their pleasure in the meadow beyond.
On the approach of the party, one female face after another appeared at the porch, vanished and reappeared, till an elderly lady came forth, laden with fruit, from a close alley, and served as a centre, round which rallied three or four comely young women, a middle-aged gentleman who was the husband of one of them, and not a few children. The elder dame smoothed a blow which was evidently too apt to be ruffled, put into her manner such little courtesy as she could attain, and having seen that servants enough were in attendance to relieve her guests of their mules, offered the King's Majesty the choice of the garden or the cooler house, while a humble repast was in course of preparation.
The attendant gentlemen liked the look of the garden, and the thought of straying through its green walks, or sitting by the water's edge in company with the graceful and lively daughters of Sir Thomas More; but Henry chose to rest in the house, and it was necessary for some of his followers to remain beside him. While some, therefore, made their escape, and amused themselves with finding simihtudes for one young lady in the swan which floated in a square pond, and in sprinkling another with drops from the fountain which rained coolness over the circular grass-plat, others were called upon to follow the King from the vestibule, which looked like the antechamber to Noah's ark, and the gallery where the promising young artist, Holbein, had hung two or three portraits, to the study,—the large and airy study,—strewed with fresh rushes and ornamented with books, manuscripts, maps, viols, virginals, and other musical instruments, and sundry specimens of ladies' works.
“Marry,” said the King, looking round him, “there are no needs here of the lackery of my Lord Cardinal's and other palaces. These maps and perspectives are as goodly as any cloth of gold at Hampton, or any cloth of bodkin at York House. Right fair ladies, this holy friar shall discourse to us, if you are so minded, of the things here figured forth.”
The ladies had been accustomed to hear a holy man (though not a friar) discourse of things which were, not dreamed of in every one's philosophy; but they respectfully waited for further light from the friar, who now stepped forward to explain how no map could be made complete, because the end of the land and sea, where there was a precipice at its edge, overhanging hell, was shrouded with a dark mist. He found, with astonishing readiness, the country of the infidels, ant the very place of the sepulchre, and the land where recent travellers had met with the breed of asses derived from the beast which carried Christ into Jerusalem. These were known from the common ass from having, not only Christ's common mark,—the cross,—but the marks of his stripes; and from the race suffering no one to ride them but a stray saint whom they might meet wayfaring. Many more such treasures of natural science did he lay open to his hearers with much fluency, as long as uninterrupted; but when the young ladies, as was their wont when discoursing on matters of science with their father or their tutor, made their inquiries in the Latin tongue, the friar lost his eloquence, and speedily substituted topics of theology; the only matter of which he could treat in Latin. This was not much to Henry's taste. He could at any time hear all the theology he chose treated of by the first masters in his kingdom; but it was not every day that graceful young creatures, as witty as they were wise were at hand to amuse his leisure with true tales,—not “of men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders,” but of things quite as unknown to his experience, and far more beautiful to his fancy. It was a pity that Mr. Roper, the husband of the eldest of these young ladies, was present, as it prevented the guests putting all the perplexing questions which might otherwise have occurred to them.
By the time the house had resounded with music, and the King had found his way up to the roof of the house,—where he had more than once amused himself with star=gazing, in the company of his trusty and well-beloved, the honourable Speaker, his host,—dinner was announced.
The dame had bustled about to so much purpose, that the service of pewter made a grand display, the board was amply spread, and the King's Highness was not called upon to content himself with the homely fare of a farm-house, as he had been assured he must. There was a pudding which marvellously pleased the royal palate; and Henry would know whose ingenuity had devised the rare mixture of ingredients.
“If it like your Grace,” replied the lady, “the honour must be parted between me and Margaret, now sitting at your Grace's right hand. The matter was put in a good train by me, in every material point; but as touching the more cunning and delicate—”
“Mine own good mistress Margaret,” interrupted Henry, “we are minded to distinguish the great pain and discretion that you have towardly exercised on this matter; and for a recompense, we appoint you the monies of the next monastery that we shall require to surrender. The only grace we ask is that we may appoint the marriage of the monks who shall owe their liberty to us. Please it you, holy father, to advertise us of a sumptuous monastery that may be most easily discharged?”
“I beseech your Grace to remember that what the regal power may overthrow, the papal power will rectify. Any damageable proceedings may bring on the head of your Highness's servants a grievous punishment.”
“From Servus Servorum?” said the King, laughing. “Let him come to the succour of the monks of Beggam, when they ring their abbey bell, and carry away the sums in their treasury from the hands of Mistress Margaret, to whom we appoint them. Nay, Mistress Margaret, I desire you as lovingly to take this largesse as I do mean it; and ensure yourself that was ill-gotten which is now well-bestowed.”
The friar probably wished to be dismissed from the King's presence before his destined bride should arrive; for he muttered that dogs and base poisoners, who have their chiefest hope in this world, were ever ready to speak unfitting and slanderous words against those whom the holy Trinity held fast in his preservation. The naughty friar received, not an order to go about his business for supposing that Henry was deceived, but a box on the ear from the dignified hands of the monarch, and a promise that he should try the Little Ease in the Tower, if he did not constrain his contumacious tongue in the King's presence. A dead silence followed this rebuff,—partly caused by dismay at the King's levity about popish matters, and partly by sorrow that he should wantonly increase the enmity which was known to be borne to him by the monks and friars in his dominions. The only way of restoring the banished mirth was to call in one who stood without,—the facetious natural who was wont to season Henry's repasts with his jests.
As the jester entered, a royal messenger was seen standing outside, as if anxious to deliver the letter he had in charge; and, unfitting as seemed the time, it was presently in the hands of Henry. Its contents seemed to leave him in no humour for feast or jest; and he had given no further signal for mirth when his entirely beloved counsellor, the Cardinal, and his trusty and honourable Speaker arrived,—the one to glow and glitter in his costly apparel, and feast off “plump fesaunts,” and the other to resume the homely guise he loved best, and refresh himself with fruits and water.
“Marry, my Lords,” cried the King, when they were seated, one on each side of him, “if the Lower House be not mindful of our needs, our sister of Scotland may satisfy herself for her jewels as she may. She is ashamed therewith; and would God there had never been word of the legacy, as the jewels are worth less to her than our estimation.”
“Says the Queen of Scotland so much?” inquired the Cardinal.
“Satisfy yourself how much more,” replied the King, handing to Wolsey the angry letter in which Margaret of Scotland expressed her contempt for the withholding of her father's legacy of jewels.
“Please your Highness, there are matters of other necessity than a perplexed woman's letter,” observed the Cardinal, with a freedom of speech which was not now displeasing to his master.
“Another wager lost by the Princess's governante in her Highness' name? Let us divert ourself with the inventory, my Lord Cardinal, while you refresh yourself in a more hearty wise than our trusty host.”
Wolsey was impatient to consult upon the measures necessary to be taken to follow up the extorted resolution of the House to furnish supplies to the King's needs: but Henry was in a mood for trifling, and he would examine for himself the list of requests from the steward of the Princess's household; a list regularly addressed to the Cardinal, who chose to superintend the details of all the management that he could get into his own hands. Passing his arm round More's neck, the King jested upon the items in the letter,—the ship of silver for the alms dish, the spice plates, the disguisings for an interlude at a banquet, the trumpets for the minstrels, and a bow and quiver for his lady's Grace. There was an earnest beseeching for a Lord of Misrule for the honourable household, and for a rebeck to be added to the band. A fair steel glass from Venice was desired, and a pair of hose wrought in silk and gold from Flanders. There was an account of a little money paid for “Mr. John poticary” coming to see my lady sick, and a great deal for a pound and a half of gold for embroidering a night-gown. Something was paid for a frontlet lost in a wager with my little lady Jane; and something more for the shaving of her Grace's fool's head; and, again, for binding prentice the son of a servant, and for Christopher, the surgeon, letting her lady's Grace blood; and again for a wrought carnation satin for the favoured lady's maid.
“I marvel, my Lord Cardinal,” said the King, “that your Grace can take advice of the ordering of the Princess's spice plates, and leave your master to be sorely perplexed with the grooms and the yeomen and pages, and those that bring complaints from the buttery, and the wardrobe of beds, and the chaundery, and the stables, till my very life is worn with tales of the mighty wants and debts of the household.”
“If it like your Grace, my most curious inquisition hath of late been into the particulars of the royal household; and my latest enemies are divers grooms, yeomen, and pages, whom I have compelled to perform their bounden service to your Majesty, or to surrender it.”
The Speaker conceived that the charge of his own household would be enough for the Cardinal, if he were made as other men; but as the King's was added, that of the Princess might reasonably devolve upon some less occupied——
“Upon yourself?” inquired the King. “Marry, if you were to appoint your spare diet of fruit for the Princess, Mistress Margaret should add to it such a pudding as I have to-day tasted. What say you, Mistress Margaret?” he continued, calling back the ladies who were modestly retiring, on finding the conversation turning upon matters of state.
“My Margaret has no frontlets to lose in betting,” observed Sir Thomas More. “But your Grace knows that there are many who have more leisure for ordering the Princess's household than your poor councillor. There are divers in your good city of London who can tell whether the silver ship for the alms-dish will not carry away the alms; and we have passed some by the wayside to-day who would see somewhat miraculous in these Venetian mirrors, not knowing their own faces therein.”
“These are not mirrors whose quality it is to make faces seem long, or, certes, we ourself would use one,” said the King.
“Long faces might sometimes be seen without glasses,” Sir Thomas More quietly replied.
“As for shaven fools' heads,” observed the King, looking at the friar, “there is no need to go to the Princess's household to divert ourselves with that spectacle. We will beseech our released monks, who must needs lack occupation, to watch over their brethren of our household in this particular.”
Sir Thomas More requested the friar to pronounce the thanksgiving over the board, (as the Cardinal had at length finished his meal,) and to instruct the women in certain holy matters, while the King's Highness should receive account of the passages of the morning.
Henry looked from the one to the other to know what had been their success in raising money from his faithful Commons. The Cardinal opened to him his plans for securing assent to the levy of an enormous benevolence. Wolsey himself had never been more apt, more subtle, more busy, than in his devices on this occasion, He had found errands in remote parts for most whose obstinacy was to be feared. He had ordered down to the House all the King's servants who had a vote there : had discharged easily of their sins many who were wavering in the matter of the subsidy; and had made as imposing an appearance as possible on going to Blackfriars to “reason” with the members who believed that the people could not pay the money. And what was the result?
“Please it your Grace to understand that there hath been the greatest and sorest hold in the House that ever was seen, I think, in any Parliament. There was such a hold that the House was like to be dissevered, but that the Speaker did mediate graciously between your Highness and the greedy Jews that bearded me.”
“Mediate, I trow! And why not command, as beseems the Speaker?” cried the King, glancing angrily on More.
“In his bearing the Speaker is meek,” observed Wolsey, with some malice in his tone. “His words were dutiful, and the lowness of his obeisance an ensample to the whole Parliament.”
“And what were his acts?”
“He informed me that the Commons are not wont to be reasoned with by strangers, and that the splendour of my poor countenance must needs bewilder their deliberations.”
“So be it. We have deliberated too long and too deeply for our royal satisfaction on the matter of filling our coffers. We expect our Commons to fill them without deliberation. Wherefore this repining and delay?” asked Henry of More.
“Because your Grace's true servants would that this vast sum should be well and peaceably levied, without grudge——”
“We trouble not ourself about the grudge, if it be surely paid,” interrupted Henry.
“We would that your Grace should not lose the true hearts of your subjects, which we reckon a greater treasure than gold and silver,” replied the Speaker.
“And why lose their hearts? Do they think that no man is to fare well, and be well clothed but themselves?”
“That is the question they have this morning asked of the Lord Cardinal,” replied More, “when my Lord discoursed to them of the wealth of the nation, as if it were a reason why they should make such a grant as your Majesty's ancestors never heard of. One said that my lord had seen something of the wealth of the nation, in the form of a beautiful welcoming of your Majesty; but of the nation's poverty, it is like the Lord Cardinal has seen less than he may see, if the benevolence is finally extorted.”
“And who is this one that beards my Lord Cardinal?”
“The one who spoke of the nation's poverty is one who hath but too much cause to do so from what his own eyes have seen within his own household. He is one Richard Read, an honourable alderman of London, once wealthy, but now, as I said, entitled, through his service to your Majesty, to discourse of poverty.”
“Marry, I would that he would discourse of our poverty as soothly as of his own. Has he been bearded by France? Is he looking for an invasion from Scotland? Has he relations with his Holiness, and enterprizes of war to conduct?”
“Such were the questions of my Lord Cardinal. He seems to be fully possessed of your Grace's mind.”
“And what was the answer?”
“That neither had the late King left to him in legacy nearly two millions of pounds. Neither had he levied a benevolence last year, nor borrowed twenty thousand pounds of the city of London. If he had, there might not now perhaps have been occasion for alleging such high necessity on the King's part, nor for such high poverty expressed, not only by the commoners, citizens, and burgesses, but by knights, esquires, and gentlemen of every quarter.”
“And the Lord Cardinal did not allow such argument of poverty. How did he rebuke the traitor for his foul sayings?”
“If it like your Grace, this Richard Read was once this day ordered to be committed to prison, but he is still abroad. He regards himself and his family as despoiled by never having rest from payments; and he cares not greatly what he does. This is also the condition of so many that it would not be safe to offer vengeance till the cuckoo time and hot weather (at which time mad brains are most wont to be busy) shall be overpassed.”
The King rose in great disturbance, and demanded of Wolsey why he had not sent to a distance all who were likely to dispute the subsidy he desired. Wolsey coolly assured him that this was an easier thing to speak of than to do, as there were but too large a number who desired that no more conquests should be sought in France, urging that the winning thereof would be more chargeful than profitable, and the keeping more chargeful than the winning. Audacious dogs were these, the Cardinal declared; but it must be wary whipping till some could be prevented from flying at the throat, while another was under the lash. But the day should come when those who ought to think themselves only too much honoured in being allowed to supply the King's needs, should leave off impertinently speculating on the infinite sums which they said had been already expended in the invading of France, out of which nothing had prevailed in comparison with the costs. If his Majesty would but turn over his vengeance to his poor councillor, the pernicious knaves should be made to repent.
“Of the salt tears they have shed, only for doubt how to find money to content the King's Highness?” inquired More.
“Their tears shall hiss hot upon their cheeks in the fire of my vengeance,” cried the King. “Send this traitor Read to prison, that he may answer for his words. If he keeps his head, he shall come out with such a hole in his tongue as shall make him for ever glad to keep it within his teeth.”
The Cardinal endeavoured to divert the King's rage. He was as willing as his royal master that this honest alderman Read should suffer for his opposition to the exactions of the Government; but he knew that to send one murmurer to prison at this crisis would be to urge on to rebellion thousands of the higher orders, to head the insurrections which were already beginning in the eastern counties. He now hastened to assure Henry that there had not been wanting some few men besides himself to rebuke the stupidity of those who complained of the impoverishment of the nation, and to explain that which was given to the King for his needs was returned by the King in the very supplying of those needs.
“After there had been much discourse,” said he, “of what straits the nation would be in if every man had to pay away his money, and how the whole frame and intercourse of things would be altered if tenants paid their landlords in corn and cattle, so that the landlords would have but little coin left for traffic, so that the nation itself, for want of money, must grow in a sort barbarous and ignoble, it was answered that the money was only transferred into the hands of others of the same nation, as in a vast market where, though the coin never lies still, all are accommodated.”
“I will use despatch,” observed More, “to write this comforting news to a cousin-german of mine, who is in sore distress because some rogues have despoiled him of a store of angels that he had kept for his daughter's dower. I will assure him that there can be no impoverishment in his case.”
Wolsey had not finished his speech. He had something still to say about how much more precious was the wealth which descended from the throne in streams of royal bounty and custom than when it went up from the rude hands of his unworthy subjects. His Majesty only accepted for a time, in order to return what he had received, embalmed with his grace, and rendered meet to be handled with reverential ecstacy.
“Further good tidings for my cousin-german,” observed More. “If the money which has been taken from him be spent in purchasing his corn and cattle, he has nothing to complain of. His injury is repaired, and his daughters are dowered. O rare reparation,—when the gentleman is no worse, and the rogues are the better by the corn and cattle!”
“At this rate, O rare philosopher!” said Henry, “the way to make men rich is to rob them; and to tax a people is to give them wealth. We have wit, friend, to spy out jest from earnest. But who reports of these salt tears?”
“Does not every report from the eastern counties savour of them?” inquired More. “And in the west a like pernicious rheum distils in the cold wind of poverty. And so it is in the north and south, though this be the cuckoo time, and the season of hot weather.”
“It is the Parliament, your Grace may be assured,” interrupted the Cardinal,—“it is your right trusty Lower House that devises sad tales of salt tears to move such pitiful hearts as that of the Honourable Speaker. If your Grace had seen how enviously they looked upon my poor train, as we entered Blackfriars, and how they stood peevishly mute in the House, each one like your Highness's natural under disfavour, your Grace would marvel that the tales are not of tears of blood.”
“Patience!” said More. “The next east wind will bring such rumours as you speak of. They are already abroad.”
“The Parliament shall not puff them in our face,” cried Henry. “On our conscience, we have borne with our faithless Commons too long. They shall have another seven years to spy out the poverty that is above them, while we will not listen to their impertinent tales of that which is below. My Lord Cardinal, let them be dispersed for seven years.”
“And then,” observed More, “they will have time to learn what your Majesty's wisdom already discerns,—how much more fatal is poverty in high places than in low. The contemptible handicraftsman can, while consuming his scanty food of to-day, produce the scanty food of to-morrow; while the gallants of your Grate's court,—right noble gentlemen as they are,— must beg of the low artizan to repair to-morrow that. which they magnificently consume to-day.”
“My nobles are not beggars,” cried the King. “They pay for their pomp.”
“Most true. And their gold is right carefully cleansed from the rust of salt tears, which else might blister their delicate fingers. But were it not better for them to take their largess from the people in corn and meat and wine at once,—since the coin which they handle hath been already touched by the owner of land who has taken it as rent, or, worse still, by the merchant as his gains, or, worst of all, by the labourer as his hire?”
Wolsey assured the Speaker that his suggestion would soon be acted upon. The people were so shy of making payments from their rent, their profits, and their wages, that it would be necessary to take for the King's service the field of the landowner, the stock of the merchant, and——
“And what next? For then there will be left no hire for the labourer.”
The Cardinal grew suddenly oracular about the vicissitudes of human affairs, and the presumption of looking into futurity. The Speaker bowed low under the holy man's discourse, and the King was reassured.
“I marvel that your wit does not devise some pastimes that may disperse the ill-blood of the people,” said Henry. “Dull homes cloud men's minds with vapours: and your Grace is full strict with them in respect of shows and outward apparel. My gallants have not ceased their jests on the aged man from whom your Grace's own hands stripped the crimson jacket decked with gauds. And there is talk of many pillories being wanted for men who have worn shirts of a finer texture than suits your Grace's pleasure.”
“Is there not amusement enough for the people.” asked More, “in gazing at the Lord Cardinal's train? For my part, I know not elsewhere of so fine a pageant. If they must have more, the legate is coming, and who has measured the scarlet cloth which is sent over to Calais to clothe Campeggio's train? This will set to people agape for many days,—if they can so spy out my Lord Cardinal's will about their apparel as to dare to come forth into the highway.”
The King thought the pleasure of beholding a pageant did not last long enough effectually to quiet the popular discontents. He wished that fields could be opened for the sports of the young men, and that companies of strolling mummers could be supported at the royal expense. His miraculous bounty and benignity were extolled so that it was a pity the people themselves were not by to say Amen; but it was feared the said people must take the will for the deed, as, in the present condition of the exchequer, it was impossible to afford the appropriation of the ground, the outlay upon it to render it fit for the proposed objects, or the annual expense of keeping it up. The people must remain subject to blue devils, and liable to rebellion, till the Scots were beaten off, and the French vanquished; till the Pope had done with Henry, and the court had been gratified with a rare new masque, for which an extraordinary quantity of cloth of gold, and cloth of silver, and cloth of taffety, and cloth of bodkin, would be necessary; to say nothing of the forty-four varieties of jewelled copes of the richest materials which had been ordered for the chaplains and cunning singing-men of the royal chapel. The king's dignity must be maintained;—a truth in which More fully agreed. What kingly dignity is, he was wont to settle while pacing one of the pleached alleys of his garden as the sun was going down in state, presenting daily a gorgeous spectacle which neither Wolsey nor Campeggio could rival, and which would have been better worth the admiration of the populace if their eyes had not been dimmed by hunger, and their spirits jarred by tyranny into a dissonance with nature. More was wont to ridicule himself as a puppet when decked out with his official trappings; and he was apt to fancy that such holy men as the future Defender of the Faith and the anointed Cardinal must have somewhat of the same notions of dignity as himself.—There were also seasons when he remembered that there were other purposes of public expenditure besides the maintenance of the outward state of the sovereign. His daughters and he had strengthened one another in the notion that the public money ought to be laid out in the purchase of some public benefit; and that it would not be un-pardonable in the nation to look even beyond the Defence of their territory, and ask for an ample administration of Justice, a liberal provision for Public Works, and perhaps, in some wiser age, an extensive apparatus of National Education. He was wont to look cheerfully to the good Providence of God in matters where he could do nothing; but he was far from satisfied that the enormous sums squandered in damaging the French availed anything for the defence of the English : or that those who most needed justice were the most likely to obtain it, as long as it must be sought with a present in the hand which was not likely to be out-bid; or that the itinerant justice-mongers of his day were of much advantage to the people, as long as their profits and their credit in high quarters depended on the amount they delivered in as amercements of the guilty. He was not at all sure that the peasant who had done his best to satisfy the tax-gatherer was the more secure against the loss of what remained of his property, whenever a strong oppressor should choose to wrest it from him. He could see nothing done in the way of public works by which the bulk of the tax-payers might be benefited. Indeed, public possessions of this kind were deteriorating even faster, if possible, than private property; and the few rich commoners, here and there, who dreaded competition in their sales of produce, might lay aside their fears for the present. Competition was effectually checked, not only by the diminution of capital, but by the decay of roads and bridges which there were no funds to repair. As for education, the only chance was that the people might gain somewhat by the insults offered to the Church. The unroofed monks might carry some slight scent of the odour of learning from the dismantled shrines; but otherwise it seemed designed that the people's acquaintance with polite learning should be confined to two points which were indeed very strenuously taught,—the King's supremacy and the Cardinal's infallibility.
More was not much given to reverie. While others were discoursing, his ready wit seldom failed to interpose to illustrate and vivify what was said. His low, distinct utterance made itself heard amidst the laughter or the angry voices which would have drowned the words of almost any one else; and the aptness of his speech made him as eagerly sought in the royal circle as sighed for by his own family, when he was not at hand to direct and enlighten their studies in their modest book-chamber. He was much given to thought in his little journeys to and from town, and in his leisure hours of river-gazing, and star-exploring; but he seldom indulged his meditations in company. Now, however, while Henry and Wolsey laid their scheme for swearing every man of the King's subjects to his property, and taxing him accordingly,—not only without the assistance of Parliament, but while the Commons were dispersed for seven years,—More was speculating within himself on the subject of kingly dignity.
“One sort of dignity,” thought he, “consists with the purposes of him who regards his people as his servants, and another with the wishes of him who regards himself as the servant of his people. As for the monarchs who live in times when the struggle is which party shall be a slave, God's mercy be on them and their people! Their throne moves, like an idol's car, over the bones of those who have worshipped or defied their state; and they have fiends to act as mummers in their pageants, and defiled armour for their masques, and much dolorous howling in the place of a hand of minstrels. In such days the people pay no tax, because the monarch has only to stretch forth his hand and take. It is a better age when the mummers are really merry, and minstrels make music that gladdens the heart like wine; and gaudy shows make man's face to shine like the oil of the Hebrews: but it would be better if this gladdening of some made no heart heavy; and this partial heaviness must needs he where childish sports take place; and the gawds of a court like ours are but baby sports after all. When my little ones made a pageant in the meadow, there were ever some sulking, sooner or later, under the hedge or within the arbour, while there was unreasonable mirth among their fellows in the open sunshine,— however all might be of one accord in the study and at the board. And so is it ever with those who follow childish plays, be they august kings, or be they silly infants. But it is no April grief that clouds the faces of the people while their King is playing the master in order afterwards to enact the buffoon. They have spent more upon him than the handful of meadow-flowers that children fling into the lap to help the show; and they would do worse in their moods than pull these gay flowers to pieces, after the manner of a freakish babe. Remembering that it is the wont of honest masters to pay their servants, they are ill content to pay the very roofs from off their houses, and the seed from out of their furrows, to be lorded over, and for the greatest favour, laid at the gate to see Dives pass in and out in his purple and fine linen. It is ill sport for Dives to whistle up his dogs to lick the poor man's sores when so black a gulf is opening yonder to swallow up his pomp. May be, his brethren that shall come after him shall be wiser; as all are apt to become as time rolls on. The matin hour decks itself gorgeously with long bright trains, and flaunts before men's winking eyes, as if all this grandeur were not made of tears caught up for a little space into a bright region, but in their very nature made to dissolve and fall in gloom. But then there is an end of the folly, and out of the gloom step forth other hours, growing clearer, and more apt to man's steady uses; so that when noon is come, there is no more pranking and shifting of purple and crimson clouds, but the sun is content to light men perfectly to their business, without being worshipped as he was when gayer but less glorious. Perhaps a true sun-like king may come some day, when men have grown eagle-eyed to hail such an one; and he will not be for calling people from their business to be dazzled with him; nor for sucking up all that the earth will yield, so that there may be drought around and gloom overhead. Rather will he call out bubbling springs from the warm hill-side, and cast a glister over every useful stream, to draw men's eyes to it; and would rather thirst himself than that they should. Such an one will be content to leave it to God's hand to fill him with glory, and would rather kiss the sweat from off the poor man's brow, than that the labourer should waste the precious time in falling on his knees to him to mock him with idolatry. Though he be high enough above the husbandman's head, he is not the lord of the husbandman, but in some sort his servant; though it be a service of more glory than any domination.—If he should chance vainly to forget that there sitteth One above the firmament, he may find that the same Maker who once stayed the sun for the sake of one oppressed people may, at the prayer of another, wheel the golden throne hurriedly from its place, and call out constellations of lesser lights, under whose rule men may go to and fro, and refresh themselves in peace. The state of a king that domineers is one thing; and the dignity of a king that serves and blesses is another; and this last is so noble, that if any shall arise who shall not be content with the office's simplicity, but must needs deck it with trappings and beguile it with toys, let him be assured that he is as much less than man as he is more than ape; and it were wiser in him to rummage out a big nut to crack, and set himself to switch his own tail, than seek to handle the orb and stretch out the sceptre of kings.”
It was a day of disappointments to Henry. Not only were his Commons anything but benevolently disposed towards furnishing the benevolence required, but the young nun would not come to be married to the friar. The gallants who had been sent for her now appeared before the King with fear and trembling, bearing sad tidings of the sturdiness of female self-will. They had traced the maiden to the house of her father, one Richard Read, and had endeavoured to force her away with them, notwithstanding her own resistance, and her mother's and sister's prayers and tears. In the midst of the dispute, her father had returned from Blackfriars, surrounded by the friends who had joined him in declining the tribute which they were really unable to pay. Heated by the insolent words which had been thrown at them by the Cardinal, and now exasperated by the treatment his daughter had met with, Read had dropped a few words,—wonderfully fierce to be uttered in the presence of courtiers in those days,—which were now repeated in the form of a message to the King :—Read had given his daughter to be the spouse of Christ, and had dowered her accordingly; and it did not now suit his paternal ambition that she should be made the spouse of a houseless friar for the bribe of a dowry from the King; this dowry being actually taken from her father under the name of a benevolence to aid the King's necessities. He would neither sell his daughter nor buy the King's favour.
Henry was of course enraged, and ordered the arrest of the entire household of Richard Read; a proceeding which the Cardinal and the Speaker agreed in disliking as impolitic in the present crisis. Wolsey represented to the King that there could be no failure of the subsidy if every recusant were reasoned with apart, instead of being placed in a position where his malicious frowardness would pervert all the rest of the waverers. If good words and amiable behaviour did not avail to induce men to contribute, the obstinate might be brought before the privy council; or, better still, be favoured with a taste of military service. Henry seized upon the suggestion, knowing that such service as that of the Border war was not the pleasantest occupation in the world for a London alderman, at the very time when his impoverished and helpless family especially needed his protection. He lost sight, for the time, as Wolsey intended that he should, of the daughter, while planning fresh tyranny towards her father. The church would be spared the scandal of such a jesting marriage as had been proposed, if, as the Cardinal hoped, the damsel should so withdraw herself as not to be found in the morning. The religious More had aspirations to the same effect.
“It is a turning of nature from its course,” said he, “to make night-birds of these tender young swallows; but they are answerable who seared them from beneath their broad eaves when they were nestled and looked for no storm. Pray the Lord of Hosts that he may open a corner in some one of his altars for this ruffled fledgeling!”
Little did the gentle daughters of More suspect for what message they were summoned to produce writing materials, and desired to command the attendance of a king's messenger. Their father was not required to be aiding and abetting in this exercise of royal tyranny. Perceiving that his presence was not wished for, he stepped into his orchard, to refresh himself with speculations on his harvest of pippins, and to hear what his family had to say on his position with respect to the mighty personages within.
“I marvel,” said his wife to him, “that you should be so wedded to your own small fancies as to do more things that may mislike his Grace than prove your own honest breeding. What with your undue haste to stretch your limbs in your bedesman's apparel, and your simple desire to mere fruit and well-water, his Highness may right easily content himself that his bounty can add nothing to your state.”
“And so shall he best content me, dame. Worldly honour is the thing of which I have resigned the desire; and as for worldly profit, I trust experience proveth, and shall daily prove, that I never was very greedy therein.”
Mr. Roper saw no reason for the lady's rebuke or apprehensions. When did the King's Highness ever more lovingly pass his arm round any subject's neck than this day, when he caressed the honourable Speaker of his faithful Commons?
“There is full narrow space, Mr. Roper, between my shoulders and my head to serve as a long resting-place for a king's caress. Trust me, it he had been a Samson, and if it had suited the pleasure of his Grace, he would at that moment have plucked my head from my shoulders before you all. It may be well for plain men that a king's finger and thumb are not stronger than those of any other man.”
Henry and his poor councillor now appeared from beneath the porch, the one not the less gay, the other not the less complacent, for their having together made provision for the utter ruin of a family whose only fault was their poverty. A letter had been written to the general commanding on the Scotch border, to desire that Richard Read, now sent down to serve as a soldier at his own charge, should be made as miserable as possible, should be sent out on the most perilous duty in the field, and subjected to the most severe privations in garrison, and used in all things according to the sharp military discipline of the northern wars, in retribution for his refusing to pay money which he did not possess. The snare being thus fixed, the train of events laid by which the unhappy wife and daughters were to be compelled first to surrender their only guardian, then to give their all for his ransom from the enemy, and, lastly, to mourn him slain in the field,—this hellish work being carefully set on foot, the devisers thereof came forth boldly into God's day-light, to amuse themselves with innocence and flatter the ear of beauty till the sun went down, and then to mock the oppressed citizens of London with the tumult of their pomp and revelry. Perhaps some who turned from the false glare to look up into the pure sky might ask why the heavens were clear,—where slept the thunderbolt?
It was not Sunday morning, yet the bells of every steeple in London had been tolling since sunrise; the shops were all shut; and there was such an entire absence of singers and jugglers, of dancing bears and frolicking monkeys in the streets, that it might seem as if the late Protector had risen from his grave, and stalked abroad to frown over the kingdom once more. Nothing this morning betokened the reign of a merry monarch. No savour of meats issued from any house; no echo of music was heard; the streets were as yet empty, the hour of meeting for worship not having arrived, and there being no other cause for coming abroad. There was more than a sabbath purity in the summer sky, unstained by smoke as it could never be but on the day of a general fast in summer. The few boats on the river which brought worshippers from a distance to observe the solemn ordinance in the city, glided along without noise or display. There was no exhibition of flags; no shouting to rival barks; no matching against time. The shipping itself seemed to have a mournful and penitential air, crowded together in silence and stillness. The present had been an untoward season, as regarded the nation's prosperity, in many respects; and when the court and the people were heartily tired of the festivities which had followed the King's marriage, they bethought themselves of taking the advice of many of their divines, and deprecating the wrath of Heaven in a solemn day of entreaty for rain, and for vengeance on their enemies.
The deepest gloom was not where, perhaps, it would have been looked for by the light-minded who regarded such observances as very whole-some for the common people, but extremely tire-some for themselves. Dr. Reede, a young Presbyterian clergyman, the beloved pastor of a large congregation hi London, came forth from his study an hour before the time of service, with a countenance anything but gloomy, though its mild seriousness befitted the occasion. Having fully prepared himself for the pulpit, he sought his wife. He found her with her two little children, the elder of whom was standing at a chair, turning over the gilt leaves of a new book; while the younger, a tender infant, nestled on its mother's bosom as she walked, in a rather hurried manner, from end to end of the apartment.
“What hath fallen out, Esther? Is the babe ill-disposed?” asked the husband, stooping to look into the tiny face that peeped over Esther's shoulder.
“The child is well, my love; and the greater is my sin in being disturbed. I will be so no more,” she continued, returning to the seat where the child was playing with the book; “I will fret myself no more on account of evildoers, as the word of God gives commandment.”
“Is it this which hath troubled you?” asked her husband, taking up the volume,—the new Book of Common Prayer,—of which every clergyman must shortly swear that he believed the whole, or lose his living. “We knew, Esther, what must be in this book. We knew that it must contain that which would make it to us as the false gospel of the infidels; and, thus knowing, there is no danger in the book.”
And he took it up, and turned over its pages, presently observing, with a smile,—
“Truly, it is a small instrument wherewith to be turned out of so large a living. I could lay my finger over the parts which make a gulf between my church and me which I may not pass. The leaven is but little; but since there it must lie, it leavens the whole lump.”
“Do you think?” inquired Esther, hesitatingly; “is it supposed that many will——that your brethren regard the matter as you do?”
“It will be seen in God's own time how many make a conscience of the oaths they take in his presence. For me it is enough that I believe not all that is in this book. If it had been a question whether the King would or would not compel the oath, I could have humbled myself under his feet to beseech him to spare the consciences which no King can bind; but as it is now too late for this, we must cheerfully descend to a low estate among men, that we may look up before God.”
“Without doubt; I mean nought else; but when, and where shall we go?”
“In a few days, unless it should please God to touch the hearts that he hath hardened,—in a few days we must gird ourselves to go forth.”
“With these little ones! And where?”
“Where there may be some unseen to bid us God speed! Whether the path shall open to the right hand or to the left, what matters it?”
“True: if a path be indeed opened. But these little ones——”
“God hath sent food into the heart of wildernesses whence there was no path; and the Scripture hath a word of the young ravens which cry.”
“It hath. I will never again, by God's grace, look back to the estate which my father lost for this very King. But, without reckoning up that score with him, it moves the irreligious themselves to see how he guides himself in these awful times,—toying in his palace-walks this very morning, while he himself puts sackcloth on the whole nation. Edmund is just come in from seeing the King standing on the green walk in the palace-garden, and jesting with the Jezebel who ever contrives to be at that high, back window as he passes by. I would the people knew of it, that they might avoid the scandal of interceding for a jester whom they suppose to be worshipping with them, while he is thinking of nothing so little all the time as worshipping any but his own wantons.”
“If Edmund can thus testify, it is time that I were enlarging my prayer for the King. If for the godly we intercede seven times, should it not for the ungodly be seventy-times seven?”
Mrs. Reede's brother Edmund could confirm the account. In virtue of an office which he held, he had liberty to pass through the palace-garden. The sound of mirth, contrasting strangely with the distant toll of bells, had drawn him into the shade; and he had seen Charles throwing pebbles up to a window above, where a lady was leaning out, and pelting him with sweetmeats in return. It was hoped that the queen, newly married, and a stranger in the country, was in some far-distant corner of the palace, and that she did not yet understand the tongue in which Charles's excesses were wont to be openly spoken of. The Corporations of London had not yet done feasting and congratulating this most unhappy lady; but all supposed matter of congratulation was already over. The clergy of the kingdom prayed for her as much from compassion as duty; and her fate served them as an unspoken text for their discourses on the vanity of worldly greatness. The mothers of England dropped tears at the thought of the lonely and insulted stranger; and their daughters sighed their pity for the neglected bride.
Edmund now came into the room, and his appearance cost Dr. Reede more sighs than his own impending anxieties. Though Edmund held a place of honour and trust at the Admiralty, he had been in possession of it too short a time to justify such a display as he had of late appeared disposed to make. On this day of solemn fast, he seemed to have no thought of sackcloth, but showed himself in a summer black bombazin suit, trimmed very nobly with scarlet ribbon; a camlet cloak, lined with scarlet; a prodigious periwig, and a new beaver.
“What news do you bring from the navy-yards?” inquired Dr. Reede. “Is there hope of the ill spirit being allayed, and the defence of the country cared for?”
“In truth, but little,” replied Edmund, “unless it become the custom to pay people their dues. What with the quickness of the enemy, and the slowness of the people to work without their wages, and the chief men running after the shows and pastimes of the court, and others keeping their hands by their sides through want of the most necessary materials, and the waste that comes of wanton idleness,—it is said by certain wise persons that it will be no wonder if our enemies come to our very shores to defy us, and burn our shipping in our own river.”
“How is it that you obtain your dues, Edmund? This neat suit would be hardly paid for out of your private fortune.”
“It is time for me to go like myself,” said Edmund, conceitedly, “liable as I am to stand before the King or the Duke. I might complain, like the rest, that but little money is to be seen; but, with such as I have, I must do honour to the King's Majesty, whom I am like to see today.”
Mrs. Reede had so strong an apprehension that Edmund would soon be compelled, like others, to forego his salary, that she saw little that was safe and honourable in spending his money on dress as fast as it came in. But that the servants of government were infected with the vanities of the government, they would prepare for the evil days which were evidently coming on, instead of letting their luxury and their poverty grow together.
“So is it ever, whether the vices of government be austere or pleasant,” observed Dr. Reede. “The people must needs look and speak sourly when Oliver grew grave; and now, they have suddenly turned, as it were, into a vast troop of masqueraders, because the court is merry. But there is a difference in the two examples which it behoves discerning men to perceive. In respect of religious gravity, all men stand on the same ground; it is a matter between themselves and their God. But the government has another responsibility, in regard to its extravagance : it is answerable to men; for government does not earn the wealth it spends; and each act of waste is an injury to those who have furnished the means, and an insult to every man who toils hard for scanty bread.”
Government could not be expected to look too closely into these matters, Edmund thought. All governments were more or less extravagant; and he supposed they always would be.
“Because they live by the toil of others? If so, there is a remedy in making the government itself toil.”
“I would fain see it,” cried Mrs. Reede. “I would fain see the King unravelling his perplexed accounts; and the Duke bestirring himself among the ships and in the army, instead of taking the credit of what better men do; and the court ladies ordering their houses discreetly, while their husbands made ready to show what service they had done the nation. Then, my dear, you would preach to a modest, and sober, and thankful people, who, with one heart, would be ready, to listen.”
“It is but too far otherwise now,” replied Dr. Reede. “Of my hearers, some harden their hearts in unchristian contempt of all that is not as sad as their own spirits; and others look to see that the cloak hangs from the shoulder in a comely fashion as they stand. At the same time, there is more need of the word the more men's minds are divided. This is the age when virtue is oppressed, and the selfish make mirth. Of those that pray for the King's Majesty, how many have given him their children's bread, and mourn and pine, while the gay whom they feed have no thought for their misery! Edmund himself allows that the shipwrights go home without their wages, while he who works scarce at all disports himself with his bombazin suit and scarlet ribbons. Can I preach to them as effectually as if they were content, and he——”
“What?” inquired Edmund.
“In truth, Edmund, I could less find in my heart to admonish these defrauded men for stealing bread from the navy-stores for their hungry children, than you for drawing their envious eyes upon you. The large money that pays your small service, whose is it but theirs,—earned hardly, paid willingly to the King, to be spent in periwigs and silk hose? Shall men who thus injure and feel injury in their worldly labour, listen with one heart and mind to the Sabbath word? Too well I know that, from end to end of this kingdom, there is one tumult of bad passions which set the Scriptures at nought. The lion devours the lamb; the innocent know too well the sting of the asp; and as often as a fleece appears, men spy for the wolf beneath it. What chance hath the word when it falls upon ground so encumbered?”
Edmund pleaded that, though he had done little yet to merit his public salary, he meant to do a great deal. This very day, the King had appointed some confidential person to confer with him on an affair in which his exertions would be required. Things had come to such a pass now in the management of the army and navy, that something must be done to satisfy the people; and Edmund hoped, that if he put on the appearance of a rising young man, he might soon prove to be so, and gain honour in proportion to the profit he was already taking by anticipation.
It must be something very pressing that was wanted of Edmund, if no day would serve but that of this solemn fast. It did not occur to the Reedes that it must be a day of ennui to Charles and his court, at any rate, and that there would be an economy of mirth in transacting at such a time business which must be done.
There was a something in Edmund's countenance and gait as he went to worship this morning which made his sister fear that, during the service, he must be thinking more of the expected interview at the palace than of her husband's eloquent exposition of how the sins of the government were the sins of the nation, and how both merited the chastisement which it was the object of this day's penitence to avert. The sermon was a bold one; but the nation was growing bold under a sense of injury, and of the inconsistency of the government. The time was past when plain speakers could be sent off to the wars, for the purpose of being impoverished, made captive, or slain. Dr. Reede knew, and bore in mind, the fate of a certain ancestor of his, and returned thanks in his heart for such an advance in the recognition of social rights as allowed him to be as honest as his forefathers, with greater impunity. He resolved now to do a bolder thing than he had ever yet meditated,—to take advantage of Edmund's going to the palace to endeavour to obtain an interview with the King, and intercede for the Presbyterian clergy, who must, in a few days, vacate their livings, or violate their con-sciences, unless Charles should be pleased to remember, before it was too late, that he had passed his royal word in their favour. Charles was not difficult of access, particularly on a fast-day; the experiment was worth trying.
The streets were dull and empty as the brothers proceeded to the river-side to take boat for the palace. There was a little more bustle by the stairs whence they meant to embark, the watermen having had abundance of time this day to drink and quarrel. The contention for the present God-send of passengers would have run high, if Edmund had not known how to put on the manner of a personage of great importance; a manner which be sincerely thought himself entitled to assume, it being a mighty pleasure, as he declared to his companion, to feel himself a greater man in the world than he could once have expected for himself, or any of his friends for him. He felt as if he was lord of the Thames, while, with his arms folded in his cloak, and his beaver nicely poised, he looked abroad, and saw not another vessel in motion on the surface of the broad river.
This solitude did not last very long. Dr. Reede had not finished contemplating the distant church of St. Paul's, which Wren, the artist, had been engaged to repair. He was speculating on the probable effect of a cupola (a strange form described, but not yet witnessed, in England); he was wondering what induced Oliver to take the choir for horse-barracks, when so many other buildings in the neighbourhood might have served the purpose better; he was inwardly congratulating his accomplished young friend on his noble task of restoring,—not only to beauty, that which was dilapidated,—but to sanctity that which was desecrated. Dr. Reede was thinking of these things, rather than listening to the watermen's account of a singular new vessel, called a yacht, which the Dutch East India Company had presented to the King, when a barge was perceived to be coming up the river with so much haste as to excite Edmund's attention and stop the boatman's description.
“It is Palmer, bringing news, I am sure,— what mighty haste!” observed Edmund, turning to order the boatmen to make for the barge. “News from sea,—mighty good or bad, I am certain. We will catch them on their way.”
“Palmer, the King's messenger! He will not tell his news to us, Edmund.”
“He will, knowing me, and finding where I am going.”
Palmer did tell his news. His Majesty had sustained a signal defeat abroad. The doubt was where to find the King or the Duke, there being a rumour that they were somewhere on the river. Palmer had witnessed a sailing-match between two royal boats, some way below Greenwich, but he could not make out that any royal personages were on board.
“Here they are, if they be on the river!” exclaimed Edmund, inquiring of the watermen if the extraordinary vessel just coming in sight was not the yacht they had described. It was, and the King must be on board, as no one else would dream of taking pleasure on the river this day.
Edmund managed so well to put himself in the way of being observed while Palmer made his inquiries, that both were summoned on board the yacht. The clergyman looked so unlike anybody that the lords and gentlemen within had commonly to do with, that he was not allowed to remain behind. They seemed to have some curiosity to see whether a presbyterian parson could eat like other men, for they pressed him to sit down to table with them,—a table steaming with the good meats which had been furnished from the kitchen-boat which always followed in the rear of the yacht. Dr. Reede simply observed that it was a fast day; and could not be made to perceive that being on the water and in high company absolved him from the observances of the day. Every body else seemed of a different opinion; for, not content with the usual regale of fine music which attended the royal excursions, the lords and gentlemen present had made the fiddlers drunk, and set them in that state to sing all the foul songs with which their professional memories could furnish them. Abundance of punch was preparing, and there was some Canary of incomparable goodness which had been carried to and from the Indies. Two of the company were too deeply interested in what they were about to care for either music or Canary at the moment. Charles and the Duke of Ormond were rattling the dice-box, having staked 1000/. on the cast. It as of some consequence to the King to win it, was he had, since morning, lost 23,000/. in bets with the Duke of York and others about the sailing match which they had carried on while the rest of the nation were at church, deprecating God's judgments.
Having lost his 1000l., he turned gaily to the strangers, as if expecting some new amusement from them. He made a sign to Edmund (whom he knew in virtue of his office), that he would hold discourse with him presently in private, and then asked Dr. Reede what the clergy had discovered of the reasons for the heavy judgment with which the kingdom was afflicted.
Dr. Reede believed the clergy were more anxious to obtain God's mercy than to account for his judgments.
“You are deceived, friend. Our reverend dean of Windsor has been preaching that it is our supineness in leaving the heads of the regicides on their shoulders that has brought these visitations on our people. He discoursed largely of the matter of the Gibeonites, and exhorted us to quick vengeance.”
Dr. Reede could not remember any text which taught that wreaking vengeance on man was the way to propitiate God. He could not suppose that this disastrous defeat abroad would have been averted by butchering the regicides in celebration of the King's marriage, as had been proposed.
The King had not yet had time to comprehend the news of this defeat. On hearing of it, he seemed in a transient state of consternation; marvelled, as his subjects were wont to do, what was to become of the kingdom at this rate; and signified his wish to be left with the messenger, the Duke of York alone remaining to help him to collect all the particulars. The company accordingly withdrew to curse the enemy, wonder who was killed and who wounded, and straightway amuse themselves, the ladies with the dice-box, the gentlemen with betting on their play, and all with the feats of a juggler of rare accomplishments, who was at present under the patronage of one of the King's favourites.
When Palmer had told his story and was dismissed, Edmund was called in, and at his own request, was attended by his brother-in-law,—the discreet gentleman of excellent learning, who might aid the project to be now discoursed of. The King did, at length, look grave. He supposed Edmund knew the purpose for which his presence was required.
“To receive his Highness the Duke's pleasure respecting the navy accounts that are to be laid before Parliament.”
“That is my brother's affair,” replied the King. “I desire from you,—your parts having been well commended to me,—some discreet composure which shall bring our government into less disfavour with our people than it hath been of late.”
Edmund did not doubt that this could easily be done.
“It must be done; for in our present straits we cannot altogether so do without the people as for our ease we could desire. But as for the ease,—there is but little of it where the people are so changeable. They have forgot the flatteries with which they hailed us, some short while since, aud give us only murmurs instead. It is much to be wished that they should be satisfied in respect of their duty to us, without which we cannot satisfy them in the carrying on of the war.”
The Duke of York thought that his Majesty troubled himself needlessly about the way in which supplies were to be obtained from the people. Money must be had, and speedily, or defeat would follow defeat; for never were the army and navy in a more wretched condition than now. But if his Majesty would only exert his prerogative, and levy supplies for his occasions as his ancestors had done, all might yet be retrieved without the trouble of propitiating the nation. The King persisted however in his design of making his government popular by means of a pamphlet which should flatter the people with the notion that they kept their affairs in their own hands. It was the shortest way to begin by satisfying the people's minds.
And how was this to be done? Dr. Reede presumed to inquire. Charles, thoroughly discomposed by the news he had just heard, in addition to a variety of private perplexities, declared that nothing could be easier than to set forth a true account of the royal poverty. No poor gentleman of all the train to whom he was in debt could be more completely at his wit's end for money than he. His wardrobeman had this morning lamented that the King had no handkerchiefs, and only three bands to his neck; and how to take up a yard of linen for his Majety's service was more than any one knew.
Edmund glanced at his own periwig in the opposite mirror, and observed that it would be very easy to urge this plea, if such was his Majesty's pleasure.
“Od's fish! man, you would not tell this beggarly tale in all its particulars! You would not set the loyal housewives in London to offer me their patronage of shirts and neckbands!”
“Besides,” said the Duke, “though it might be very easy to tell the tale of our poverty, it might not be so easy to make men believe it.”
Dr. Reede here giving an involuntary sign of assent, the King would know what was in his mind. Dr. Reede, as usual, spoke his thoughts. The people, being aware what sums had within a few months fallen into the royal treasury, would be slow to suppose that their king was in want of necessary clothing.
“What! the present to the Queen from the Lord Mayor and Aldermen? That was but a paltry thousand pounds.”
Dr. Reede could not let it be supposed that any one expected the King to benefit by gifts to his Queen.
Charles looked up hastily to see if this was intended as a reproach, for he had indeed appropriated every thing that he could lay his hands on of what his dutiful subjects had offered to his Queen, as a compliment on her marriage. The clergyman looked innocent, and the King went on,—
“And as for her portion,—twenty such portions would not furnish forth one war, as the people ought to know. And there is my sister's portion to the Prince of Orleans soon to be paid. If the people did but take the view we would have them take of our affairs at home and abroad, we should not have to borrow of France, and want courage to tell our faithful subjects that we had done so.”
Edmund would do his best to give them the desired opinions. Dr. Reede thought it a pity they could not be by the King's side,—aye, now on board this very boat, to understand and share the King's views, and thus justify the government. As a burst of admiration at some of the juggler's tricks made itself heard in the cabin at the very moment this was said, the King again looked up to see whether satire was intended.
Edmund supposed that one object of his projected pamphlet was to communicate gently the fact of a secret loan of 200,000 crowns from France, designed for the support of the war in Portugal, but so immediately swallowed up at home that it appeared to have answered no more purpose than a loan of so many pebbles, while it had subjected the nation to a degradation which the people would not have voluntarily incurred. This communication was indeed to be a part of Edmund's task; but there was a more important one still to be made. It could not now long remain a secret that Dunkirk was in the hands of the French——
“Dunkirk taken by the French!” exclaimed Dr. Reede, not crediting what he heard. “We are lost indeed, if the French make aggressions like this.”
“Patience, brother!” whispered Edmund. “There is no aggression in the case. The matter is arranged by mutual agreement.”
Dr. Reede looked perplexed, till the Duke carelessly told him that Dunkirk had been sold to the French King. It was a pity the nation must know the fact. They would not like it.
“Like it! Dunkirk sold! Whose property was Dunkirk?” asked Dr. Reede, reverting to the time when Oliver's acquisition of Dunkirk was celebrated as a national triumph.
“We must conduct the bargains of the nation, you know,” replied the Duke. “In old times, the people desired no better managers of their affairs than their kings.”
“'Tis a marvel then that they troubled themselves to have Parliaments. Pray God the people may be content with what they shall receive for a conquest which they prized! Some other goodly town, I trust, is secured us; or some profitable fishing coast; or some fastness which shall give us advantage over the enemy, and spare the blood of our soldiers.”
“It were as well to have retained Dunkirk as taken any of these in exchange,” said the King;— a proposition which Dr. Reede was far from disputing. “Our necessities required another fashion of payment.”
“In money!—and then the taxes will be somewhat lightened. This will be a welcome relief to the people, although their leave was not asked. There is at least the good of a lifting up of a little portion of their burdens.”
“Not so. We cannot at present spare our subjects. This 400,000l. come from Dunkirk is all too little for the occasions of our dignity. Our house at Hampton Court is not yet suitably arranged. The tapestries are such that the world can show nothing nobler, yet the ceilings, however finely fretted, art not yet gilt, The canal is not perfected, and the Banqueting House in the Paradise is yet hart.”
“The extraordinary wild fowl in St. James's Park did not fly over without cost,” observed the Duke.
“Some did. The melancholy water-fowl from Astracan was bestowed by the Russian Ambassador; and certain merchants who came for justice brought us the cranes and the milk-white raven. But the animals that it was needful to put in to make the place answerable to its design, —the antelopes, and the Guinea goats, and the Arabian sheep, and others,—cost nearly their weight of gold. Kings cannot make fair bargains.”
“For aught but necessaries,” interposed the divine.
“Or for necessaries. Windsor is exceedingly ragged and ruinous. It will occupy the cost of Dunkirk to restore it——”
“According to the taste of the ladies of the court,” interrupted the Duke. “They will have the gallery of horns furnished with beams of the rarest elks and antelopes that there be in the world. Then the hall and stairs must be bright with furniture of arms, in festoons, trophy-like : while the chambers have curious and effeminate pictures, giving a contrast of softness to that which presented only war and horror.”
“Then there is the demolishing of the palace at Greenwich, in order to building a new one. Besides the coast of rearing, we are advised so to make a cut as to let in the Thames like a square bay, which will be chargeable.”
“And this is to be ordered by Parliament? or are the people to be told that a foreign possession of theirs is gone to pay for water-fowl and effeminate pictures?”
“Then there is the army,” continued the King. “I have daily news of a lack of hospitals, so that our maimed soldiers die of the injuries of the air. And this very defeat, with which the city will presently be ringing, was caused by the failure of ammunition. And not unknowingly, for this young clerk had the audacity to forewarn us.”
“Better have sold the troops and their general alive into the hands of the enemy, than send them into the field without a sufficiency of defence,” cried Dr. Reede.
“So his Majesty thinks,” observed the Duke; “and has therefore done wisely in taking a goodly sum from the Dutch to delay the sailing of the fleet for the east till the season is too far gone for action. Nay! is it not a benefit for the King to have the money he so much needs, and for the lives to be saved which must be otherwise lost for want of the due ammunition?”
Dr. Reede was too much affected at this gross bartering away of the national honour to trust himself to speak; Edmund observed that he should insist, in his pamphlet, on the exceeding expensiveness of war in these days, in comparison of the times when men went out, each with his bow and arrow, or his battle-axe, and his provision of food furnished at his own charge. Since gunpowder had been used, and engines of curious workmanship,—since war had become a science, it had grown mightily expensive, and the people must pay accordingly, as he should speedily set forth.
“Setting forth also how the people should therefore be the more consulted, before a strife is entered upon,” said the clergyman.
“Nay,” said the Duke, “I am for making the matter short and easy. An expensive army we must have; and a troublesome Parliament to boot is too much. I am for getting up the army into an honourable condition, and letting down the Parliament, His Majesty will be persuaded thereto in time, when he has had another taste of the discontents of his changeable people.”
Dr. Reede imagined that such an innovation might not be the last change, if the nation should have more liking to be represented by a Parliament than ruled by an army. But the Duke did not conceal his contempt for the new fashion of regarding the people and their representatives. There was no telling what pass things might come to when monarchs were reduced to shifts to get money, and the people fancied that they had a right to sit in judgment on the use that was made of it. He seemed to forget that he had had a father, and what had become of him, while he set up as an example worthy of all imitation the spirited old king, bluff Harry, that put out his hand and took what he pleased, and amused himself with sending grumblers to seek adventures north, south, east, or west. If the King would take his advice, he would show the nation an example of the first duty of a king,— to protect his people from violence,—in such a fashion as should leave the Parliament little to say, even if allowed to meet. Let his Majesty bestow all his paternal care on cherishing his army.
“It is true,” said Dr. Reede, “that a ruler's first duty is to give security to his people; and in the lowest state in which men herd together, the danger is looked for from without; and the people who at home gather food, each for himself, go out to war, each with his own weapon. Their ruler does no more than call them out, and point the way, and lead them home. Afterwards, when men are settled on lands, and made the property of the rich and strong, they go out to war at the charge of their lords, and the King has still nothing to do but to command them. Every man is or may be a warrior; and it is for those who furnish forth his blood and sinews, his weapons and his food, to decide about the conduct of the war. But, at a later time, when men intermingle and divide their labour at will, and the time of slavery is over, every man is no longer a warrior, but some fight for hire, while those who hire them stay at their business at home.”
“Or at their pleasures,” observed the Duke, glancing at his brother.
“Under favour, no,” replied Dr. Reede. “It is not. I conceive, the King that hires the army to do his pleasure, but the people who hire it for their defence, the King having the conduct of the enterprises. If the will of the nation be not taken as to their defence,—if they should perchance think they need no armed defence, and lose their passion for conquest, whence must come the hire of their servants,—the soldiery?”
“They must help themselves with it,” replied the Duke. carelessly.
“And if they find a giant at every man's door, —a lion in the path to every one's field?” said the divine.
“Thy learning hath perplexed thee, man. These are not the days of enchantment, of wild beasts, and overtopping men.”
“Pardon me; there are no days when men may not be metamorphosed, if the evil influence be but strong enough. There are no days when a man's household gods will not make a giant of him for the defence of their shrine. There are no days when there are not such roarings in the path of violence as to sink the heart of the spoiler within him.”
“Let but the art of war improve like other arts,” said the Duke, “and our cannon will easily out-roar all your lions, and beat down the giants you speak of.”
“Rather the reverse, I conceive,” said the plain-spoken clergyman. “The expense of improved war is aggravated, not only in the outfit, but in the destruction occasioned. The soldier is a destructive labourer, and, as such, will not be overlong tolerated by an impoverished nation, whose consent to strife is the more necessary the more chargeable such strife becomes to them. Furthermore, men even now look upon blood as something more precious than water, and upon human souls as somewhat of a higher nature than the fiery bubbles that our newly-wise chemists send up into the ether, to wander whither no eye can follow them. Our cannon now knock down a file where before a battle-axe could cleave but a single skull. Men begin already to tremble over their child's play of human life; and if the day comes when some mighty engine shall be prepared to blow to atoms half an army, there may be found a multitude of stout hearts to face it; but where is he who will be brave enough to fire the touch-hole, even for the sure glory of being God's arch enemy?”
“Is this brother of thine seeking a patent for some new device of war-engines?” inquired Charles of the divine. “Methinks your discourse seems like a preface to such a proposal. Would it were so! for patents aid the exchequer.”
“Would it were so!” said the Duke, “for a king might follow his own will with such an engine in his hand.”
“Would it were so!” said Dr. Reede, “for then would the last days of war be come, and Satan would find much of his occupation gone. Edmund, if thou wilt invent such an engine as may mow down a host at a blow, I will promise thee a triumph on that battle-field, and the intercession of every church in Christendom. Such a deed shall one day be done. War shall one day be ended; but not by you, Edmund. Men must enact the wild beast yet a few centuries longer, to furnish forth a barbarous show to their rulers, till men shall call instead for a long age of fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.”
“Meantime,” said Edmund, “they call impertinently for certain accounts of the charges of our wars which his Majesty is over gracious in permitting them to demand.”
“Do they think so?”
“They cannot but see,” said the Duke. “by the way his Majesty gave his speech to the Parliament, that he desires no meddling from them.”
“And how did I speak?” asked the King. “Did I not assure the Commons that I would not have asked for their subsidies if I had not had need: and that through no extravagance of my own, but the disorder of the times! And is not that much to say when I am daily told by my gentlemen of the palace, and others who know better still, that my will is above all privilege of Parliament or city, and that I have no need to account to any at all? How did I speak?”
“Only as if your wits were with your queen, or some other lady, while the words of your speech lay under your eye. Some words your Commons must needs remember, from the many times they were said over; but further—”
“Pshaw!” cried the King, vexed at the description he had himself asked for. “This learned divine knows not what our Parliament is made of. There are but two seamen and about twenty merchants, and the rest have no scruple in coming drunk to the house, and making a mockery of the country people when they are sober. How matters it how I give my speech to them?”
“They are indeed not the people,” observed Reede; “and I forewarn your Majesty that their consent is not the consent of the people; and that however they may clap the hands at your Majesty's enterprises and private sales, the people will not be the less employed in looking back upon Oliver——”
“And forward to me?” inquired the Duke, laughing.
“And forward to the time when the proud father shall not be liable to see his only son return barefoot and tattered from a war where he has spilled his blood; or a daughter made the victim, first of violence, and then of mockery, through the example of the King's court; and no justice to be had but by him who brings the heaviest bribe:—forward to the time when drunken cavaliers shall be thought unfitting representatives of a hungering people; and when the money which is raised by the toils of the nation shall be spent for the benefit of the nation; when men shall inquire how Rome fell, and why France is falling; and shall find that decay ensues when that which is a trust is still pertinaciously used as prerogative, and when the profusion in high places is answerable to the destitution below!”
“Nay; I am sure there is destitution in high places,” cried the King, “and luxury in the lower. I see not a few ladies outshining my Queen in gallantry of jewels; and if you like to look in at certain low houses that I could tell you of, you will see what vast heaps of gold are squandered in deep and most prodigious gaming.”
“True; and therein is found the excuse of the court; that whenever the nation is over-given to luxury, the court is prodigious in its extravagance.”
“Hold, man!” cried the King. “Wouldst thou be pilloried for a libel?”
“Such is too common a sight to draw due regard,” coolly replied the divine. “Libels are in some sort the primers of the ignorant multitude, scornfully despised for their ignorance. There are not means wherewith to give the people letters in an orderly way; so that they gape after libels first, and then they gape to see them burned by the hangman; and learn one sort of hardness by flinging stones at a pilloried wretch, and another sort of hardness by watching the faces of traitors who pray confidently on the scaffold, and look cheerfully about them on the hangman's hellish instruments; and all this hardness, which may chance to peril your Majesty, is not always mollified by such soft things as they may witness at the theatres which profanely give and take from the licentious times. If the people would become wise, such is the instruction that awaits them.”
“Methinks you will provoke us to let the people see how cheerfully you would look on certain things that honest gazers round a scaffold shrink from beholding. It were better for you to pray for me from your pulpit, like a true subject of Christ and your King.”
“Hitherto I have done so; but it pleases your Majesty that from my pulpit I should pray no longer. Alas!” cried he, casting a glance through the window as he perceived that the vessel drew to land, “alas! what a raging fire! And another! And a third!”
“The bonfires for the victory,” quietly observed Edmund.
Dr. Reede was forbidden to throw any doubts abroad on the English having gained a splendid victory. The King had ordered these bonfires at the close of the fast day. They were righted, it appeared, somewhat prematurely, as the sun yet glittered along the Thames; but this only showed the impatient joy of the people. The church bells were evidently preparing to ring merry peals as soon as the last hour of humiliation should have expired. The King's word had gone forth. It suited his purposes to gain a victory just now; and a victory he was determined it should be, to the last moment. When the people should discover the cheat, the favours occasioned by it would be past recall. They could only do that they had done before,—go home and be angry.
This was all that now remained for Dr. Reede, the King's landing being waited for by a throng of persons whose converse had little affinity with wise counsel. Certain courtiers, deplorably ennuyés by the king's absence, sauntered about the gardens, and looked abroad upon the river, in hopes of his approach. An importation of French coxcombs from Dunkirk, in fantastical habits, was already here to offend the eyes of the insulted English people. It was not till Edmund (who was not dismissed with Dr. Reede) began to exhibit at home the confidence with which he had been treated, that Dr. Reede and his lady became aware how much these accomplished cadets could teach Charles on the part of their own extravagant master. Louis the Fourteenth knew of more ways of raising money than even Charles. He had taken to creating offices for sale, for which the court ladies amused themselves in making names. The pastime of divining their object and utility was left to the people who paid for them. They read, or were told,—and it made a very funny riddle,—that the inspector of fresh-butter had kissed bands on his appointment; that the ordainer of faggots had had the honour of dining with his Majesty; and that some mighty and wealthy personage had been honoured with the office of licenser of barber-wig-makers.
The example of Louis in this and other matters was too good not to be followed by one in circumstances of equal necessity. Edmund was not by any means to delay the “discreet composure” by which the minds of the people were to be propitiated and satisfied. He was to laud to the utmost the Duke's conduct of naval affairs, —(whose credit rested on the ability of his complaisant Clerk of the Acts.) He was to falsify the navy accounts as much as could be ventured, exaggerating the expenses and extenuating the receipts, while he made the very best of the results. He was to take for granted the willingness of a grateful people to support the dignity of the sovereign, while he insinuated threats of the establishment of a civil list,—(a thing at that time unknown.) All this was to be done not the less for room being required for eloquence about the sale of Dunkirk, and the loan from France, and the bribe from Holland; —monuments of kingly wisdom all, and of paternal solicitude to spare the pockets of the people. All this was to be done not the less for the bright idea which had occurred to some courtier's mind that the making of a few new ambassadors might bring money to his Majesty's hands. There was more than one man about the court who was very willing to accept of the dignity of such an office, and to pay to the power that appointed him a certain fair proportion of the salary which the people must provide. One gentleman was accordingly sent to Spain, to amuse himself in reading Calderon, and another to some eastern place where he might sit on cushions, and smoke at the expense of the people of England, and to the private profit of their monarch. Amidst all these clever arrangements, nothing was done for the security or the advancement of the community. No new measures of defence; no better administration of justice; no advantageous public work, no apparatus of education, were originated; and, as for the dignity of the sovereign, that was a matter past hope. But by means of the treacherous sale of the nation's property and of public offices, by bribes, by falsification of the public accounts, breaches of royal credit were for the present stopped, and the day of reckoning deferred. If the Duke of York could have foreseen from whom and at what time this reckoning would be demanded, he might have been less acute in his suggestions, and less bold in his advice; and both he and the King might have employed to less infamous purpose this day of solemn fast and deprecation of God's judgments. But, however true might be Dr. Reede's doctrine that the sins of government are the sins of the nation, it happened in this case, as in a multitude of others, that the accessaries to the crime offered the atonement, while the principals made sport of both crime and atonement.
The false report about the late engagement had gained ground sufficiently to answer the temporary purposes of those who spread it. As Dr. Reede took his way homewards, bonfires gleamed reflected in the waters of the river, and exhibited to advantage the picturesque fronts of the wooden houses in the narrow streets, and sent trains of sparks up into the darkening sky, and illuminated the steeples that in a few more seasons were to fall into the surging mass of a more awful conflagration. On reaching the comfortable dwelling which he expected to be soon compelled to quit, he gave himself up, first to humiliation on account of the guilt against which he had in vain remonstrated, and then to addressing to the King a strong written appeal on behalf of the conscientious presbyterian clergy, who had, on the faith of the royal word, believed themselves safe from such temptations to violate their consciences as they were now suffering under.
On a certain Saturday of the same month might be seen the most magnificent triumph that ever floated on the Thames. It far exceeded the Venetian pageantry on occasion of espousing the Adriatic. The city of London was entertaining the King and Queen: and the King was not at all sorry that the people were at the same time entertained, while he was making up his mind whether, on dissolving the Parliament, he should call another which would obligingly give him the dean and chapter lands, or whether he should let it be seen, according to the opinion of his brother, that there was no need of any more parliaments. As he sat beside his Queen, in an antique-shaped vessel, under a canopy of cloth of gold, supported by Corinthian pillars, wreathed with flowers, festoons, and garlands, he meditated on the comfort that would accrue, on the one hand, from all his debts being paid out of these church lands, and, on the other, from such an entire freedom from responsibility as he should enjoy when there should be no more speeches to make to his Commons, and no more remonstrances to hear from them, grounded on dismal tales of the distresses of his people which be had rather not bear. The thrones and triumphal arches might do for the corporation of London to amuse itself with, and for the little boys and girls on either side of the river to stare at and admire: but it was in somewhat too infantine a taste to please the majority of the gazers otherwise than as a revival of antique amusements. The most idly luxurious about the court preferred entertainments which had a little more meaning in them, —dramatic spectacles, pictures, music, and fine buildings and gardens. War is also a favourite excitement in the middle age of refinement; and the best part of this day's entertainments, next to the music, was the peals of ordnance both from the vessels and the shore, which might prettily remind the gallants, amidst their mirth and their soft flirtations, of the cannonading that was going on over the sea. Within a small section of the city of London, many degrees of mirth might be found this day.
In the royal barge, the Queen east her “languishing and excellent eyes” over the pageant before her, and returned the salutations of the citizens who made obeisances in passing, and now and then exchanged a few words with her Portuguese maids of honour, the King being too thoughtful to attend to her;—altogether not very merry.
In the barge immediately following, certain of the King's favourites made sport of the Queen's foretop,—turned aside very strangely,—of the monstrous fardingales and olivada complexions and unagreeable voices of her Portuguese ladies, —and of the old knight, her friend, whose bald pate was covered by a huge lock of hair, bound on by a thread, very oddly. The King's gravity also made a good joke: and there was an amusing incident of a boat being upset, which furnished laughter for a full half hour. A family of Presbyterians, turned out of a living because the King had broken his word, were removing their chattels to some poor place on the other side of the river, and had unawares got their boat entangled in the procession, and were run down by a royal barge. It was truly laughable to see first the divine, and then his pretty daughters, with their dripping long hair, picked up from the water, while all their little wealth went to the bottom: and yet more so to witness how, when the King, of his bounty, threw gold to the sufferers, the clergyman tossed it back so vehemently that it would have struck the Duke of York on the temple, if he had not dexterously contrived to receive it on the crown of his periwig. It was a charming adventure to the King's favourites;—very merry.
In the mansions by the river side, certain gentlemen from the country were settling themselves, in preparation for taking office under the government. They and their fathers had been out of habits of business for fourscore years, and were wholly incapable of it, and knew themselves to be so; the best having given themselves to rural employments, and others to debauchery; but, as all men were now declared incapable of employment who had served against the King, and as these cavaliers knew that their chief business was to humour his Majesty, they made themselves easy about their responsibilities, looked after their tapestries, plate, and pictures, talked of the toils and cares of office, and were—very merry.
In the narrow streets in their neighbourhood might be hourly seen certain of the King's soldiers, belted and armed, cursing, swearing, and stealing; running into public-houses to drink, and into private ones to carry off whatever they had a mind to; leaving the injured proprietors disposed to reflect upon Oliver, and to commend him,—what brave things he did, and how safe a place a man's own house was in his time, and how he made the neighbour princes fear him; while now, a prince that came in with all the love, and prayers, and good-liking of his people, who had given greater signs of loyalty and willingness to serve him with their estates than ever was done by any people, could get nothing but contempt abroad, and discontent at home; and had indeed lost all so soon, that it was a miracle how any one could devise to lose so much in so little time. These housekeepers, made sage by circumstance, looked and spoke with something very little like mirth. Those who had given occasion to such thoughts were, meantime,—very merry.
It was not to these merry men, wise people thought, that the King must look for help in the day of war, but to the soldiers of the republican army, who had been declared by act of parliament for evermore incapable of serving the kingdom. But where were these men to be found, if wanted? Not one could be met with begging in the streets to tell how his comrades might be reached. One captain in the old parliament army was turned shoemaker, and another a baker. This lieutenant was now a haberdasher; that a brewer. Of the common soldiers, some were porters, and others mechanics in their aprons, and husbandmen in their frocks, and all as quiet and laborious as if war had never been their occupation. The spirits of these men bad been trained in contentment with God's providences; and though, as they sat at the loom and the last, they had many discontented thoughts of man's providences, it was clear to observers among the King's own servants that he was a thousand times safer from any evil meant by them than from his own unsatisfied and insatiable cavaliers. While the staid artizans who had served under Cromwell looked out upon the river as the procession passed, they dropped a few words in their families about the snares of the Evil One, and were—not very merry.
Within hearing of the ordnance in which the young gallants of the court delighted was an hospital, meagrely supplied with the comforts which its inmates required, where languished, in a crowded space, many of the soldiers and sailors who had been set up to be fired at while it was known in high quarters that there was such a deficiency of ammunition as must deprive the poor fellows of the power of effectual self-defence. This fact had become known, and it had sunk deep into the souls of the brave fellows who, maimed, feverish, and heart-sore,—in pain for want of the proper means of cure, and half suffocated from the number of their fellow-sufferers, listened with many a low-breathed curse to the peals of ordnance that shook their crazy place of refuge, and forswore mirta and allegiance together.
Within hearing of the shouts aud ot a faint occasional breath of music from the- royal band, were certain of the two thousand clergy, who were to resign their livings the next morning, and whose families. were taking advantage of the neighbourhood being deserted for the day to remove their furniture, and betake themselves to whatever place they might have found wherein the righteous could lay his head. Dr Reede was one of these. He had been toiling all day with his wife, demolishing the tout ensemble of comfort which had been formed under her management. He was now. while she was engaged with her infants, sitting alone in his study lot the last time. He was doing nothing; for his business in this place was closed. He let his eye be amused by the quick flickering in the breeze of the short, shining grass of his little court, which stretched up to his window. The dark formal shrubs, planted within the paling by his own hand, seemed to nod to him as the wind passed over their heads. The summer flowers in the. lozenge-.shaped parterres which answered to each other, danced and kissed unblamed beneath the Rev. Doctor's gaze. All looked as it Nature's heart were merry however sad might be those of her thoughtful children. The Doctor stepped out upon the grass There was yet more for him to do there. He had, with his own hands, mowed the plat, and clipped the borders and the little hands of the elder of his two children had helped to pluck out the very few weeds that had sprung up. But the weather had been warm and dry, and, in order to leave the place. in the beauty desired by its departing tenant, it was necessary to water the flower-court, It was not a very inspiriting thing to glance at doors and windows standing wide, displaying the nakedness of an empty dwelling within: so the Doctor hastened to the well to fill his bucket. Mrs. Reede heard the jingle of the chain, and showed herself at an upper window, while the child that could walk made her way down stairs with all speed to help papa, and wonder at her own round little face in the full bucket. Mrs. Reede was glad that her husband had turned out of his study, though she could not bring herself to sympathize in his anxiety to leave all in a state of the greatest practicable beauty. If a gale had torn up the shrubs, or the hot sun of this summer day had parched the grass and withered the flowers, she did not think she could have been sorry. But it was very well that her husband had left his study open for the further operations necessary there. This room had remained the very last in its entireness. The time was now come when she must have asked her husband to quit his chair and desk, and let his books be dislodged. She would make haste to complete the work of spoliation, and she hoped he would make a long task of watering the flower-court.
He was not likely to do that when he had once perceived that she and one of her damsels were lifting heavy loads of books, while another was taking care of the baby. He hastened to give their final draught to his favourite carnations, placed a chair for Esther on the grass just outside the window, where she might sit with the infant, and, while resting herself, talk to him as he finished her laborious task.
Mrs. Reede did not remember to have ever started so incessantly at the sound of guns; and the air-music of the window-harp that she had seen in the pavilions of great men's gardens had never come sou mournfully over her spirit as the snatches of harmony that the wind now brought from the river to make her infant hold up his tiny finger while his sister said “hark!” She was, for once, nervous. It might be seen in her flushed face and her startled movements; and the poor baby felt it in the absence of the usual ease with which he was held and played with. A sharp sudden cry from him called the attention of the doctor from his talk. In a moment, mamma's grief was more tumultuous than the infant's.
“O, my child! my child! I have hurt my child! my own little baby!” cried she, weeping bitterly, and of course redoubling the panic of the little one.
“My dear love,” said her husband, trying to prove to her that the baby had only been frightened by a jerk; “my dear love, you alarm yourself much more than the child. See!” and he held up in the evening sunlight the brass plate on which his study lamp stood. Its glittering at once arrested the infant's terrors: but not so soon could the tears of the mother be stopped.
“My love, there must be some deeper cause than this trifling accident,” said he, sitting down on the low window sill beside her chair, “Is it that you have pent up your grief all day, and that it will have way?”
Mrs. Reede had a long train of sad thoughts to disclose, in the intervals of her efforts to compose herself. The children, she said, amused themselves as if nothing was the matter; while who could tell what they might think hereafter of being thus removed from a fair and honourable home, and carried where— O, there was no telling what lot might await them! If everybody had thought the sacrifice a right one, she could have gone through it without any regret: but some of her husband's oldest friends thought him wrong——
“Towards God, or towards you, my love?”
“O, towards these children, I suppose. They dare not think that you would do anything wrong towards me. I am sure I only think of you first, and then of the children. How you have preached here, with the souls of your people in your hand, to mould them as you would! and now, you must go where your gift and your office will be nothing; and you will be only like any other man. And, as for the children, we do not know——”
“When the bird leads forth her brood from their warm nest, because springes are set round about them, does she know what shall befall them? There may be hawks abroad, or a sharp wind that may be too strong for their scarce-plumed wings. Or they may gather boldness from their early flight, and wave in the sunshine on a high bough, and pour out there a grateful morn and even song from season to season. The parent bird knows not but she must needs take them from among the springes, however soft may be the nest, and cool the mossy tree. We know more than this parent bird; even that no sparrow falleth unheeded to the ground.”
Mrs. Reede's tears began to flow again as another faint breath of music reached her.
“Is it that you will be more composed when the sounds of mirth, to us unseasonable, have passed away?” asked Dr. Reede, smiling.
“It does seem hard that our spoilers should be making merry while we are going forth we know not whither,” said the wife.
“How would it advantage the mother bird that the fowlers should he close while she plumes her pinions to be gone? Will she stoop in her flight for all their mirth? As for us, music may be to us a rare treat henceforth. Let our ears be pleased with it, whencesoever it may come.”
And he made the children hearken, till they clapped their little hands, and their mother once more smiled. Her husband then said to her,
“If this mirth be ungodly, there is no reason why we should be more scandalized at it than on any other day, only because we ourselves are not merry. If it be innocent, we should thank God that others are happier than ourselves. Yet I am not otherwise than happy in the inward spirit. I shall never repent this day.”
“They say you will, when——But it is not as if we stood alone. It is said that there will be a large number of the separated.”
“Thank God! not for the companionship to ourselves, so much as for the profit to his righteousness. It will be much to meet here and there eves that tell back one's own story, and to clasp hands that are undefiled by the world's lucre. But it is more to know that God's truth is so hymned by some thousand tongues this night, that the echo shall last till weak voices like ours shall be wanted no more.”
“Let us go,” cried Mrs. Reede, dispersing her last tears, and lifting up one child while the other remained in her husband's arms. He took advantage of her season of strength, and resolved to convey her at once to the humble lodging which was to be their present abode, and to return himself to see that, all was done. He detained her only to join him in a brief thanksgiving for the happiness they had enjoyed there since their marriage day, and to beseech a blessing on him who was to succeed to the dwelling and to the pastoral office, Courageous as was Mrs. Reede's present mood, she was still at the mercy of trifles. The little girl's kitten would not bear them company. It had been removed twice, and had returned, and now was not to be found. It had hidden itself in some corner whence it would come out when they were gone; and the child departed in a very unchristian state of distress. Her mamma found that both she and her child had yet to learn Dr. Reede's method of not fretting because of evil-doers.
Though he could not trouble himself with personal resentments, no mall could more strenuously rebuke and expose guilt,—especially guilt in high places, which is so much worse than other guilt, in as far as it desolates a wider region of human happiness. In his farewell discourse, the next day, he urged some considerations on behalf of society far more eagerly than he ever asked anything for himself.
“It is no new thing,” said he, “for men to be required to set their hand to that which they believe not, or to affirm that they believe that which they understand no more in the expression them in the essence. It is no new thing for a mistake to be made as to such protestation, so that if a man say he believes that a sown field will bear corn, though he knows not the manner of its sprouting nor the order of its ripening, he shall be also required to believe a proposition in an unknown tongue, whereof he knows not even what it is that should be proposed. It is no new thing that men should start at such a requisition, as a sound-witted man would start from the shows and babble of the magician; or as a modest wise man would shrink from appointing the way to a wandering comet, lest he should unawares bring the orderly heavens to a mighty wreek. It is no new thing for the searchers of God's ways to respect his everlasting laws more than man's presumptuous bidding: or for Him whom they serve so to change the face of things to them as to make his extremest yoke easy, and his heaviest burden light:—to cast a shade over what must be foregone,—whether it be life itself, or only the goodly things in which maybe too much of our life hath been found,—or to beam a light from his own highest heaven on the wilderness-path, which may seem horrid to those who are not to tread it, but passable enough to such as must needs take this way to their everlasting home. These things being not new, are a sign to us recusants of this day not to be in anywise astonished or dismayed, and also not to allow a dwelling upon the part we have taken, as if it were any mighty mcrit to trust to God's providence, which waits only to be trusted, or required any marvellous faith to commit ourselves to Christ's word, which, if it be Christ's, must stand when the heavens themselves shall be dissolved. It behoves us rather to took to things less clear than these, and more important than the putting forth of a few of Christ's meanest shepherds from their folds;—for whom the chief Shepherd may perhaps find other occasions; and, if not, they may be well content to lie down among the sheep, remembering that he once had not where to lay his head. The true occasion of this day is not to break one another's hearts with griefs and tears, (which may but puff out or quench the acceptable fire of the altar;) but so to fan the new-kindled flame as that it may seize and consume whatsoever of foul and desecrating shows most hideous in its light. Is it not plain that powers whose use is ushered in with prayers, and allernated with the response of God's most holy name,—the powers of government,—are used to ensnare those who open their doors to whatsoever cometh in that name? It is well that governments should be thus sanctified to the cars and eyes of the governed; for, if there be a commission more certamly given straight from the hand of God than another it is that of a ruler of men. Who but he opens the eyes of the blind, and unstops the ears of the deaf, and sets the lame on his feet, and strengthens together the drooping heart and the feeble knees,—by setting before the one the radiant frame of society in all its fitness, and waking up for another the voices of human companionship, and compacting the powers of the weak with those of the strong, and cheering all by warding off injury from without, and making restraint easy where perchance it may gall any of those who are within? Sacred is the power of the ruler as a trust; but if it be used as a property, where is its sanctity? If the steward puts out the eyes that follow him too closely, and ties the tongue that importunes, and breaks the hmbs of the strong man in sport, so as to leave him an impotent beggar in the porch of the mansion,—do we not know from the Scripture what shall be the fate of that steward? As it is with a single ruler, so shall it be with a company of rulers,— with a government which regards the people only as the something on which itself must stand; which takes bread from the children to give it to dogs; which sells God's gifts to them that are without, at the risk of such utter blindness that they shall weary themselves to find the door out of their perplexities and terrors. What governments there be that commit the double sin of lording it over consciences, (which are God's heritage,) and of ruling for their own low pleasures instead of the right living and moving of the people, judge ye. If there be any which mismanage its defence, and deny or pervert justice, and refuse public works, and make the church a scandal, and the court a spectacle for angels to weep over and devils to resort to, and, instead of speeding the people's freedom with the wings of know-ledge, shut them into the little cells of ancient men's wits, it is time that such should know why God hath made them stewards, and should be alarmed for the coming of their Master. It is not for the men and maid-servants to wrest his staff from his hands, or to refuse his reasonable bidding, or to forsake, the one his plough, and the other his mill, and the maidens to spread the table: but it is for any one to give loud warning that the Master of the house will surely demand an account of the welfare of his servants. Such a warning do I give; and such is the warning spoken by the many mourners of this day, who, because they honour the kingly office as the holiest place of the fair temple of society, and kingly agents as the appointed priesthood, can the less bear to see the nation outraged as if there were no avenging angel of Jehovah flying abroad; and comfortless in their miseries, as if Jehovah himself were not in the midst of them.”
It was well that Dr. Reede felt that he could bear the pillory. He was pilloried.
History is silent as to the methods by which men were enabled to endure the tedium of journeys by the heavy coaches of the olden time. The absence of all notion of travelling faster might, indeed, be no inconsiderable aid,—an aid of which travellers are at present, for the most part, deprived; since the mail-coach passenger, the envy of the poor tenant of the carrier's cart, feels envy, in his turn, of the privileged beings who shoot along the northern rail-road; while they, perhaps, are sighing for the time when they shall be able to breakfast at one extremity of the kingdom, and dine at the other. When once the idea of not going fast enough enters a traveller's mind, ennui is pretty sure to follow; and it may be to this circumstance that the patience of our forefathers, under their long incarceration on the road, was owing—if patience they had. Now, a traveller who is too much used to journeying to be amused, as a child is, by the mere process of travelling, is dismayed alike if there be a full number of passengers, and if there be none but himself. In the first case, there is danger of delay from the variety of deposits of persons and goods; and in the second, there is an equal danger of delay from the coachman having all his own way, and the certainty, besides, of the absence of all opportunity of shaking off the dulness of his own society.
Mr. Reid, a sociable young barrister, who had never found himself at a loss on a journey, was left desolate one day last summer when he least expected it. He had taken his wife and child down to the south, in order to establish them by the sea-side for a few weeks; and he was now travelling up to town by the stage-coach, in very amusing company, as he thought, for the first stage, but presently in solitude. Supposing that his companions were going all the way, he took his time about making the most of them, and lost the opportunity. There was a sensible farmer, who pointed right and left to the sheep on the downs—green downs—retiring in long sweeps from the road; and he had much to relate of the methods of cultivation which had been pursued here, there, and everywhere,—with the Barn Field, and Rick Mead, and Pond.side Field, and Brook Hollow, and many other pretty places that he indicated. He had also stores of information on the farmer's favourite subject of complaiut—the state of the poor. He could give the history of all the well-meant attempts of my lord this, and my lady that, and colonel the other, to make employment, and institute prizes of almshouses, and induce their neighbours to lay out more on patches of land than less helpless folks would think it worth while to bestow. Meantime, a smart young lady in the opposite corner was telling her widowed chaperon why she could not abide the country, and would not be tempted to leave dear London any more,— namely, that the country was chalky, and whitened the hems of all her petticoats. The widow, in return, assured the unbelievmg girl that the country was not chalky all over the world, and that she had actually seen, with her own eyes, the junction of a white, a red, and a black road, —very convenient, as one might choose one's walk by the colour of one's gown. The widow at the same time let fall her wish to have the charge—merely for the sake of pleasant occupation—of the household of a widower, to whose daughters he could teach everything desirable; especially if they were intended to look after dairy and poulty-yard, and such things.
“Thank'ee, ma'am,” said the farmer, as she looked full at him; “my daughters are some of them grown up; and they have got on without much teaching since their mother died.”
Mr. Reid promised himself to gain more information about the widow's estimate of her own capabilities; but she and her charge were not yet going to “dear London.” They got out at the first country town, just after the farmer had thrust himself half out of the window to stop the coach, flung himself on the stout horse that was waiting for him at the entrance of a green lane, and trotted off, with a prodigious exertion of knee, elbow, and coat-flap.
Mr. Reid had soon done thinking of the widow, and of the damsel who had displayed so intimate a knowledge of rural life. Pauperism lasted longer; but this was only another version of a dismal story with which he was already too well acquainted. He was glad to think of something else. He found that he got most sun by riding backward, and most wind by riding forward, and made his election in favour of the latter. He discovered, after a momentary doubt, that his umbrella was safe, and that there was no occasion to trouble his knees any longer with his great-coat. He perceived that the coach had been new-lined, and he thought the lace suited the lining uncommonly well. He wondered whether the people would be as confoundedly long in changing horses at every stage as they had been at the first. It would be very provoking to arrive in town too late for dinner at G——'s. Ah! the women by the road-side found it a fine day for drying the linen they had washed. How it blew about, flapping, with a noise like mill-sails; big-sleeved pinafores and dancing stockings! This was a pretty country to live in: the gentlemen's houses were sufficiently sheltered, and the cotrages had neat orchards behind them; and one would think pains bad been taken with the green lanes—just in the medium as they were between rankness and bareness. What an advantage roads among little hills have in the clear stream under the hedge,—a stream like this, dimpling and oozing, now over pebbles, and now among weeds! That hedge would make a delicious foreground for a picture,—the earth being washed away from the twisted roots, and they covered with brown moss, with still a cowslip here and there nodding to itself in the water as the wind passed by. By the way, that bit of foreground might be kept in mind for his next paper for the “New Monthly.” It would be easy to give his subject a turn that would allow that hedge and its cowslip to be brought in. What had not Victor Hugo made of a yellow flower, in a scene to which nobody who had read it would need a second reference! But this well, to the left, was even better than the hedge: it must have been described already; for it looked as if put there for the purpose. What a damp nook in the hedge it stood in, with three old yews above it, and tufts of long grass to fringe the place! What a well-used chain and ladle, and what merry, mischievous children, pushing one another into the muddy pool where the drippings fell, and splashing each other, under pretence of drinking! He was afraid of losing the impression of this place, so much dusty road as he had to pass through, and so many new objects to meet before he could sit down to write; unless, indeed, he did it now. Why should not he write his paper now? It was a good idea—a capital thought!
Three backs of letters and a pencil were presently found, and a flat parcel in one of the window-poekets, which served as a desk, when the feet were properly planted on the opposite seat. The lines were none of the straightest, at first; and the dots and stops wandered far out of their right places; while the long words looked somewhat hieroglyphical. But the coach stopped; and Mr. Reid forgot to observe how much longer it took than before to change horses while he was the only passenger. He looked up only once, and then saw so charming an old granny, with her little Tommy, carrying a toad-in-a-hole to the baker's, that he was rewarded for his momentary idleness, and resolved to find a place for them too, near the well and the mossy hedge.
He was now as sorry to be off again as before to stop. The horses were spirited, and the road was rough. His pencil slipped and jerked, this way and that. Presently his eyes ached: his ideas were jostled away. It was impossible to compose while the manual act was so troublesome; it was nonsense to attempt it. Nothing but idleness would do in travelling; so the blunted pencil was put by, and the eye was refreshed once more with green,
But now a new sort of country was opening. The hedges were gone, and a prodigious stretch of fallow on either hand looked breezy and pleasant enough at first; and the lark sprang from the furrow so blithely, that Reid longed to stop the coach, that he might hear its trilling. But the lark could not be heard, and was soon out of sight; and the perspective of furrows became as wearying as making pothooks had been. Reid betook himself to examining the window-pockets. There were two or three tidy parcels for solicitors, of course; and a little one, probably for a maid-servant, as there were seven lines of direction upon it. The scent of strawberries came from a litte basket, coolly lined with leaves, and addressed to Master Jones, at a school in a town to be presently passed through. Reid hoped, for the boy's sake, that there was a letter too; and he found an interstice, through which he couild slip half-a-dozen burnt almonds, which had remained in his pocket after treating his own child. What speculations there could be, next holiday time, about how the almonds got in! Two or three other little parceis were disregarded; for among them lay one of more importance to Reid than all the rest,—three newspapers, tied round once with a bit of red tape, and directed, in pencil, to be left at the Blue Lion till called for. Reid took the liberty of untying the tape, and amusing himself with the precious pieces of type that had fallen in his way. There was little political intelligence in these papers, and that was of old date; but a little goes a great way with a solitary traveller; and when the better parts of a newspaper are disposed of, enough remains in the drier parts to employ the intellect that courts suggestion. That which is the case with all objects on which the attention is occupied, is eminently the case with a newspaper—that whatever the mind happens to be full of there receives addition, and that the mood in which it is approached there meets with confirmation. Reid had heard much from the farmer of the hardships which individuals suffer from a wasteful public expenditure; and his eye seemed to catch something which related to this matter, to whatever corner of the papers it wandered.
“Strike at ∗∗∗∗∗ Palace.—All the wrorkmen at precent employed on this extensive structure ceased work on the appearance of the contractor yesterday morning. Their demand for higher wages being decidedly refused by him, the men quitted the spot, and the works hare since remanned deserted. A considerable crowd gathered round, and appeared disposed to take part with the workmen, who, it is said, hare. for some time past been arranging a combination to secure a rise of wages. The contractor declares his intention to concede no part of the demand.”
The crowd taking part with the workmen! Then the crowd knows less than the workmen what it is about. These wages are paid by that very crowd; and it is because they issue from the public purse that the workmen think they may demand higher wages than they would from a nobleman or private gentleman. The contractor is but a medium, as they see, between the tax-payers and themselves; and the terms of the contract must depend much on the rate of wages of those employed. I hope the contractor will indeed concede nothing; for it is the people that must overpay eventually; and it has been too long taken for granted that the public must pay higher for everything than individuals. I should not wonder if these men have got it into their heads, like an acquaintance of mine in the same line, that, as they are taxed for these public buildings, they have a right to get as much of. their money back as they can, forgetting that if every taxed person did the same, there would be no palace built;—not but that we could spare two or three extremely well;—or might, at least, postpone some of the interminable alterations and embellishments, with an account of which the nation is treated, year after year, in return for its complaisance in furnishing the cash. Let their Majesties be nobly lodged, by all means; and, moreover, gratified in the exercise of tastes which are a thousand times more dignified than those of our kings in the days of cloth of gold, and more refined than those of monarchs who could make themselves exceedingly merry at the expense of their people. The test, after all, is— What is necessary for the support of the administrating body, and what upholds mere pomp? These are no days for public pomp. In one sense, the time for it is gone by; in another sense, it is not come;—that is, we ought now to be men enough to put away such childish things; and, we cannot yet afford them. Two or three noble royal palaces, let alone when once completed, are, in my mind, a proper support to the dignity of the sovereign. As for half-a-dozen, if they do not make up a display of disgraceful pomp, the barbaric princes of the East are greater philosophers than I take them for. Yes, yes; let the sovereign be nobly lodged; but let it be remembered that noble lodgings are quite as much wanted for other parties.
“Mr. —— 's motion was lost without a division.”
Aye: just so. The concentrated essence of the people, as the House of Commons pretends to be, must put up with a sordid lodging, however many royal palaces England may boast. They are not anything so precious as they pretend to be, or they would not so meanly exclude themselves from their right. They might just as faithfully consult the dignity of the empire by making the King and Queen live in a cottage of three rooms, as by squeezing themselves into a house where there is neither proper accommodation for their sittings, nor for the transaction of their business in Committees, nor for witnessing, nor for reporting their proceedings. I thought my wife quite right in saying that she would never again undergo the insult of being referred to the ventilators; and I have determined twenty times myself that I would despise the gallery so utterly that I would never set foot in it again : yet to the gallery I still go; and I should not wonder if my wife puts away, for once or twice, her disgust at inhaling smoke and steam, and her indignation at being permitted to watch the course of legislation only through a pigeon-hole and a grating. The presence of women there, in spite of such insults, is a proof that they are worthy of being treated less like nuns anal more like rational beings; and the greater the rush and consequent confusion in the gallery, the more certain is It that there are people who want, and who eventually will have the means of witnessing the proceedings of their legislators. But all this is nothing to the importance of better accommodation to the members. Of all extraordinary occasions of being economical, that is the most strange which impairs the exertions of the grand deliberative assembly of the nation,—the most majestic body, if it understood its own majesty,—within the bounds of the empire. Why,—every nobleman should be content with one house, and every private gentleman be ashamed of his stables and kennels, rather than that the House of Commons should not have a perfect place of assemblage. I verily believe that many a poor man would willingly give his every third potato towards thus aiding the true representation of his interests. It would be good economy in him so to do, if there was nothing of less consequence to be sacrificed first. But King, Lords, and Commons are not the only personages who have a claim on the public to be well housed, for purposes of social support, not pomp.
“Yesterday morning, Andrew Wilson underwent the sentence of the law, &c. &c. Though only twenty years of age, he was old in guilt, hating been committed for his first offence,—throwing stones at the police, when he was in his thirteenth year. He is supposed to have been for some time connected with a gang of desperate offenders; but nothing could be extracted from him relative to his former associates, though the reverend chaplain of the jail deroted the most unremitting attention to the spiritual concerns of the unhappy man.”
So this is the way we tend the sick children of the great social family, because, forsooth, with all our palaces, we cannot afford a proper infirmary! As soon as symptoms of sickness appear, we thrust all our patients together, to make one another as much worse as possible, and when any one is past hope, we take credit for our humanity in stuffing him with remedies which come too late. To look at our prisons, one would think that we must be out in our Christian chronology. That among the many mansions of the social edifice, room cannot be found for those who have the strongest claim of all on our pitying love and watchful care,—what a scandal this is may be most fully comprehended by those who have passed from the loathsome confusion of the greater number of our prisons to the silence and rigid order of the very few in which a better system has been tried. There are persons to press the argument that while many of our honest poor, in London and in the factory districts, are crowded together, six or seven families in the same apartment, it cannot be expected that the guilty should be better accommodated. But these same honest poor,—trebly honest if they can remain so under such a mode of living,— may well be as glad as other people that the prisoner should be doomed to the solitude which their poverty denies to them. These same honest poor are taxed to pay for the transportation of multitudes of the guilty, and for the idleness of all: while the incessant regeneration of crime through our prison methods affords but a melancholy prospect of augmented burdens on their children's children for similar purposes. In this point of view alone, how dearly has the public paid for the destruction of this Andrew Wilson, and for the offences of the gang he belongs to! Committed in his childhood for the childish fault of throwing stones, kept in a state of expensive idleness for want of an apparatus of labour, thrown into an atmosphere of corruption for want of room to insulate him, issuing forth as a vagabond to spread the infection of idleness and vice, and being brought back to be tried and hanged at the nation's expense, after he had successfully qualified others for claiming from the public the expense of transportation,—would not the injured wretch have been more profitably maintained through a long life at the public expense! Would it not have answered better to the public purse to give him an establishment, on condition of his remaining harmless? If no Christian considerations are strong enough to rouse us to build new jails, or to transmute the spare palaces of the educated and the honoured into I nitentiaries for the ignorant and forlorn there may be calculable truths,——facts of pounds, shillings, and pence,—which may plead on behalf of the guilty against the system of mingled parsimony and extravagance by which guilt is aggravated at home, and diffused abroad, and the innocent have to pay dear for that present quiet which insures a future further invasion of their security. Every complainant who commits a young offender to certain of our jails knows, or may know, that he thereby burdens the public with a malefactor for life, and with all who will become criminals by his means. What wonder that the growing chances of impunity become a growing inducement to crime? There is no occasion to “provide criminals with port wine and Turkey-carpets;” but there would be more sense and better economy in this extreme,—if insulation were secured,—than in the system which remains a reproach to the head and heart of the community. Ah! here are a few hints as to one of the methods by which we contrive to have so many young offenders upon our hands.
“John Ford, a publican, was fined for having music in his house, &c. &c.”
“Two labourers brothers, named White, were charged with creating a disturbance in the neighbourhood of the residence of Sir L. M. N. O., who has lately enforced his right of shutting up the foot-path, &c. &c.”
“The number of boats which passed under Putney Bridge from noon to sunset on a Sunday in summer, was computed by the informant of the right reverend bishop to exceed, &c. &c.”
“The witness stated that he saw the two prisoners that morning in the Albany Road, Regent's Park, selling the unstamped publications which were now produced. He purchased a copy from each of them, and took the rendors into custody. The magistrates committed the prisoners to the House of Correction for one month each, and thrust the forfeited papers into the fire. The prisoners were then removed from the bar, laughing.”
“On the discussion, last night, relative to the throwing open of the Museum, we have to observe, &c. &c.”
“The prisoner related that his dog having, on a former occasion, brought a hare to him in a similar manner, the gamekeeper had ordered the animal to be shot. The prisoner's son had then contrired to secrete it; but he could assure the magistrates that the animal should be immediately sacrified if he might be spared the ruin of being sent to prison.”
Considering that one of the great objects of government is the security, and another the advancement, of the people, it seems as if one of the expenses of government should be providing useful and innocent amusement for the people. All must have something to do in the intervals of their toils; and as the educated can find recreations for themselves, it behoves the guardians of the public to be especially careful in furnishing innocent amusements to those who are less fitted to choose their pleasures well. But where are the public grounds in which the poor of our large towns may take the air, and exercise themselves in games? Where are the theatres, the museums, the news-rooms, to which the poor may resort without an expense unsuited to their means? What has become of the principle of Christian equality, when a Christian prelate murmurs at the poor man's efforts to enjoy, at rare intervals, the green pastures and still waters to which a loving shepherd would fain lead forth all his flock; and if any more tenderly than others, it would be such as are but too little left at large? Our administrators are careful enough to guard the recreations of those who, if deprived of them, are in the least danger of being driven to guilty excitements. The rich who can have music and dancing, theatres, picture-galleries and museums, riding in the parks, and walking in the fields any day of the week, hunting and boating, journeying and study, must also have one more, at whatever expense of vice and misery to their less favoured neighbours, and at whatever cost to society at large. Yes; their game must be protected, though the poor man must not listen in the public-house to the music which he cannot hire, nor read at home almost the only literature that he can buy. He must destroy his cherished dog, if it happens to follow a hare; and must take his evening walk in the dusty road if a powerful neighbour forbids him the quiet, green footway. Thus we drive him to try if there is no being merry at the beer-shop, and if he cannot amuse himself with his dog in the woods at night, since he must not in the day. Thus we tempt him to worse places than a cheap theatre would be. Thus we preach to him about loving and cherishing God's works, while we shut out some of them from his sight, and wrest others from his grasp; and, by making happiness and heaven an abstraction which we deny him the intellect to comprehend, we impel him to make trial of misery and hell, and by our acts do our best to speed him on his way, while our weak words of warning are dispersed by the whirlwind of temptation which we ourselves have raised. If the administration of penal justice be a grievous burden upon the people, it must be lightened by a practical respect to that higher justice which commands that the interests of all, the noble and the mean, the educated and the ignorant, be of equal importance in the regards of the administration; so that government shall as earnestly protest against the slaughter of the poor man's dog for the sake of the rich man's sport, as the prophet of God against the sacrifice of the poor man's ewe-lamb for the rich man's feast. If bible-read prelates preached from their hearts upon this text, we should never have another little boy supposing that he was to be a clergyman, because he went out shooting with his father. Would that such could be persuaded to leave their partridges and pheasants, and go east and west, to bring down and send home the winged creatures of other climes, wherewith to delight the eyes of the ignorant, and to enlarge his knowledge of God's works! Meantime, the well-dressed only can enter the Zoological Gardens; and the footman (who cannot be otherwise than well-dressed) must pull off his cockade before he may look at that which may open to him some of the glory of the 104th Psalm. We are lavish of God's word to the people, but grudging of his works. We offer them the dead letter, withholding the spirit which gives life. Yet something is done in the way of genuine homage. See here!—
“Yesterday being the occasion of the annual assemblage of, schools in St. paul's ∗ ∗ under the dome ∗ ∗children sang a hymn ∗ ∗ crowded to excess ∗ ∗ presence of her Majesty, &c. &c.”
And here follows an account of certain university prize-givings. We are not without public education,—badged,—the one to denote charity, the other endowments.
If education were what it ought to be,—the breath of the life of the community,—there would be an end of this childish and degrading badging. At present, this prodigious display of white tippets and coloured cockades under the dome of St. Paul's tells only that, because the whole of society is not educated at all, a small portion is educated wrong. There is less to he proud than ashamed of in such an exhibition; and though the stranger from a comparatively barbarous country may feel his heart swell as that mighty infant voice chaunts its hymn of praise, the thoughts of the meditative patriot will wander from these few elect to the multitudes that are left in the outer darkness. Till the state can show how every parent may afford his children a good education, the state is bound to provide the means for it; and to enforce the use of those means by making a certain degree of intellectual competency a condition of the enjoyment of the benefits of society. Till the state can appoint to every member a sufficiency of leisure from the single manual act which, under an extensive division of labour, constitutes the business of many, it is bound to provide the only effectual antidote to the contracting and benumbing influences of such servile toil.
Till knowledge ceases to be at least as necessary to the happiness of the state as military skill was to the defence of the Greek Republics, the state is bound to require of every individual a certain amount of intellectual ability, as Greece required of her citizens a specified degree of military skill. Till all these extraordinary things happen, no pleas of poverty, no mournful reference to the debt, no just murmurs against the pension list, can absolve us from the obligation of framing and setting in motion a system of instruction which shall include every child that shall not be better educated elsewhere, Not that this would be any very tremendous expense. There is an enormous waste of educational resources already, from the absence of system and co-operation. Lords and ladies, squires and dames, farmers' wives, merchants' daughters, and clergymen's sisters, have their schools, benevolently set on foot, and indefatigably kept up, in defiance of the evils of insulation anti diversity of plan. Let all these be put under the workings of a well-planned system, and there will be a prodigious saving of effort and of cost. The private benevolence now operating in this direction would go very far towards the fulfilment of a national scheme. What a saving in teachers, in buildings, in apparatus and materials, and, finally, in badges! There will be no uniform of white caps and tippets when there is no particular glory to be got by this species of charity; when none can be found who must put up with the humiliation for the sake of the overbalancing good. When the whole people is so well off that none come to receive alms at the sound of the trumpet, the trumpet will cease to sound. The day may even arrive when blue gowns and yellow stockings shall excite pity in the beholders no more, and no widowed parent be compelled to struggle with her maternal shame at subjecting her comely lad to the mortifications which the young spirit has not learned to brave. This last grievance, however, lies not at the nation's door. It is chargeable on the short-sightedness of an individual, which may serve as a warning to us whenever we set to work on our system of national education. It may teach us, by exhibiting the folly of certain methods of endowment, to examine others; to avoid the absurdity of bestowing vast sums in teaching plain things in a perplexed manner, or supposed sciences which have long ceased to be regarded as such, or other accomplishments which the circumstances of the time do not render either necessary or convenient. It may lead our attention from the endowed school to the endowed university, and show us that what we want, from our gentlemen as well as our poor, is an awakening of the intellect to objects of immediate and general concern, and not a compulsion to mental toil which shall leave a man, after years of exemplary application, ignorant of whatever may make him most useful in society, and may be best employed and improved amidst the intercourses of the world. Let there remain a tribe of book worms still; and Heaven forbid that the classics should fall into contempt! But let scholastic honours be bestowed according to the sympathies of the many; the many being meantime so cultivated as that they may arrive at a sympathy with intellectual toil. “With the progress of science, the diffusion of science becomes necessary. The greater the power of the people to injure or rebel, the more necessary it is to teach them to be above injuring and rebelling, The ancient tyrant who hung up his laws written in so small a character that his people could not read them, and then punished offenders under pretence that his laws were exhibited, was no more unjust than we are while we transport and bang our neighbours for deeds of folly and malice, while we still withhold from them the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Bring public education to the test, and it will bo found that badgery is pomp, while universal instruction is essential to the support of the state.
A pretty new church that! But I should scarcely have supposed it wanted while there is a new Methodist meeting-house on one side the way, and the large old Independent chapel on the other. The little church that the lady is sketching before it comes down, might have served a while longer, I fancy, if the necessity had been estimated by the number of church-goers, and not of souls, in the parish. Whatever may be thought of the obligation to provide a national scheme of worship after the manner in which a national scheme of education is certainly a duty,—-however the essential circumstance of distinction is overlooked, that every member of the state has, without its assistance, opportunities of worship, while such is not the case with instruction,— whatever may be thought of the general question of an ecclesiastical establishment,—It is not pretended by any that its purposes are answered by the application of is funds to the augmentation of private fortunes instead of the religious instruction of the people. Time was when he who presented to a benefice was supposed to confer a benefit on the people connected with it. Now we have the public barter of such presentations for gold; and whether most regard be always paid to the qualifications of the candidate or to the gold he brings, let the face of the country declare. Meeting-houses springing up in every village, intelligent artizans going off to one class or another of Dissenters, while the stolid race of agricultural labourers lounge to church,—-what does this tell but that the religious wants of the people are better met by the privately-paid than the publicly-paid church? The people are not religiously instructed by the clergy, as a body. Look into our agricultural districts, and see what the mere opening of churches does for the population,—for the dolts who snore round the fire in the farm-kitchen during the long winter evenings, and the poor wretches that creep, match in hand, between the doomed stacks, or that walk firmly to the gibbet under the delusion that their lifelong disease of grovelling vice is cured and sent to oblivion by a few priestly prayers and three days of spiritual excitement! Look into our thronged towns, and search in its cellars and garrets, its alleys and its wider streets, how many dwellers there see the face of their clergyman, and have learned from his lips the reason of the hope that is ia them,—if such hope there indeed be! They hear that he who holds the benefice, i.e. is appointed their benefactor, is living in London, or travelling abroad, on the funds which are derived from the people, and that a curate, found by accident or advertisement, is coming to do the duty. He may be a religious instructor, in the real sense of the term, or he may not. If he be, no thanks to his superior, no thanks to the state, no thanks to the university that bred him! For aught they know or trouble themselves about, he may be more ignorant than many a mechanic in his flock, and more indolent than the finest lady who carries her salts to her cushioned pew. He might have the same virtues that he has now if he were a dissenting minister; and nobody disputes that nowhere does virtue more eminently fail of its earthly recompense than in the church. Nowhere do luxury and indolence more shamelessly absorb the gains of hardship and of toil. The sum of the whole matter is, that in the present state of the church, the people pay largely for religious instruction, which it is a chance whether they obtain. If the same payment were made by the people direct,—without the intervention of the state,—they would be sure to demand and receive an equivalent for their sacrifices. If the people be supposed incapable of thus providing fur their own spiritual wants, it behoves the stale to see that those wants are actually provided for, so that more than half the nation may not be compelled, through failure of duty in the establishment, to support a double ministry. No power in earth or heaven can absolve the state from the obligation, either to leave to its members the management of their own funds for religious worship and instruction, or to furnish to every individual the means of learning the Gospel and worshipping his Maker. The first is a plan which has been elsewhere found to answer full as well as any we have yet tried. The last can never be attained by merely opening a sufficiency of churches, and leaving to men's cupidity the chance whether the pulpit shall be occupied by an ape or an apostle.
Have the people got a notion already of such an alternative?
“Tithes.—Parish op C.—On Monday, the Rev. J. B. H. commenced distraining. for tithes due, &c. &c. On that day there were impounded above forty cows. The parishioners offered security for the cattle, which was refused, and they have resolved to let the law, take its course. In the mean time, a large military and police force is stationed in the relieved of the pound. Sentinels are regularly posted and relieved, and the place presents more the appearance of a warlike district than a country village.”
Ah! this Rev. J. B. H. takes for his text, perhaps, “I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword. “The people, it seems, think his claim, 1476., on a valued property of 9000l. a year, excessive. But his advocate declares that no man, acquainted with first principles, can deny that the Rev. J. B. H. has a legal right to demand and take his tithes. Be it so! But first principles tell just as plainly that it is high time the law was altered:—first principles of humanity to the clergy themselves, to judge by what comes next.
“The subscription for the relief of the families of clergymen in Ireland proceeds but slowly, though the necessity for it increases with every passing day. Ladies who hare been educated with a new to filling a highly-respectable station in society may now, be seen engaged in the most laborious domestic offices; while their children are thankful to accept a meal of potatoes from some of the lowest of their father's. flock.”
“The widow of an Irish clergyman, middle-aged, is eager to obtain a situation to superintend the management of the nursery in the family of a widower, or as useful companion to a lady, or as housekeeper in a nobleman's mansion, or as matron in an extensive charitable institution. She would be willing to make herself useful in any situation not menial, her circumstances being of an urgent nature.—References to a lady of rank.”
“A master of arts, in full orders is desirous of a curacy. He feels himself equal to a loborious charge; and a speedy settlement is of more importance, than the amount of salary, especially if there be an opening for tuition.”
Alas! what a disclosure of misery is here! among a body which the United Kingdom is taxed to maintain. Poor as the Dissenting clergy may be, as a body, we bear of no such conflicts in their lot. The poor spirit-broken clergyman bearing, undeserved by him, the opprobrium belonging to his church, seeing his gentle wife washing his floor, or striving to patch up once more the girl's frock and the boy's coat; while they, poor children, peep in at the door of the labourer's smoky cabin, and rush in at the first invitation to take a sup of milk or a potatoe! Scraps of the classics, descriptive of poverty, will run in his head, instead of gospel consolations of poverty; for the good reason that he was taught that his classics, and not his choice of poverty, were his title to preach the gospel. He could find in his heart to inquire further of any heretical sect, which takes for its rule to employ every one according to his capacity, and reward him according to his works. However difficult it might be to fix upon any authority which all men would agree to be a fitting judge of their capacities and their works, none would affirm that an educated clergyman is employed according to his capacities in wandering about helpless amidst the contempt or indifference of his flock, or that his works are properly rewarded by the starvation of his family. Then there is the widow of a brother in the same fruitless ministry! “Any situation not menial!” “Her circumstances of an urgent nature!” One poor relation, perhaps, taking charge of one child, and another of a second; and the third, perhaps, sent to wear the badge of this lady of rank at a charity-school, that the widow may be made childless—may advertise herself as “without incumbrance,”to undertake any situation not menial! Then comes the curate, eager to undertake more than man can do for as little as man can live for;—to use his intellectual tools, framed with care, and polished with long toil, and needing, in their application, all the power of a philosopher with all the zeal of a saint,—for less than is given to the artizan who spends his life in the performance of one manual act, or the clerk, whose whole soul has in one process of computation! This poor curate, heart-sick through long waiting, may find employment according to his capacities, and above them; but, if he be fit for his work, he will not be rewarded according to it, till those for whom he and his brethren toil have, directly or indirectly, the distribution of the recompense. Bring the church, in its turn, to the test. It is certain that it is made up of pomp and penury; and no power on earth can prove that it at present yields any support to the state.
Since the people have no benefit from a state education, and but a questionable benefit from a state church, how much is spent on their behalf? Here are tables which look as if they would tell something, though it requires more wit than mortal man has to make out accurately how the public accounts really stand. Among all the accommodations provided for the transaction of public business, one would think a pay-office might be fixed upon where all public claims should be discharged, in certain allotted departments; and, among all the servants of government, working men or sinccurists, one would think some might be employed in preparing such a document as has never yet been seen among us—an account of the actual annual expenditure of the public money. But one may make some approach to the truth in the gross:—
“The expenditure for the last year may be calculated, in round numbers, at upwards of fifty millions.”
Upon my word, we are a gay nation! If we acted upon the belief held by some very wise persons, that the business of government might be conducted at a charge of one per cent. on the aggregate of individual revenue, this sum total would show us to be rich enough to buy Europe, and perhaps America to boot. This would give us a national wealth which it would be beyond Crœsus himself to form a notion of. But we are far enough from having ourselves governed so cheaply. Let us see how these fifty millions go:—
Here are thirty-four millions and a half devoted to “non-effective”expenditure. This is a pretty triumph of Pomp versus Support.—Yes, —pomp: for few will now dare to affirm that our prodigious wars were necessary to the national defence. They were wars of pomp which undermined our supports: and, as for the glory thus gained, our descendants will be ashamed of it long before they have done paying for it.—As for the other items of non-effective expenditure,—.the smaller they appear by the side of the enormous debt charge, the more necessity there is for their reduction; since the disproportion proves,—not their smallness, but its bigness. Though they cannot be abolished, —though their Majesties must have a household, —though the other branches of the royal family must be supported,—though retired soldiers and sailors must be taken care of on their quitting a service from which it is not easy to turn to any other,—no man will now affirm that reduction is for ever impossible; though the like affirmation was made before the present government proved its falsehood. That their Majesties must have a household on a liberal scale is true; but that there are no sinecures in the royal households remains to be proved. And if such sinecures there must be, it also remains to he proved that they would not be equally well filled if they were merely honorary offices. That the members of the royal family, precluded as they are by their position from being independent, must submit to be maintained by a pitying people, is also true. It is a lot so full of mortification, that a Christian nation will soften the necessity to them to the utmost; cheerfully paying as much as will support them in decent splendour, but not so much more as will expose them to the taunts of their supporters. This regard to their feelings is their due, till their day of emancipation arrives,—till the customs of society shall allow them the natural rights of men and women,—the power of social exertion, and the enjoyment of social independence. Their case, however, is peculiar in its hardships. No other class in society is precluded from either enjoying ancestral property or accumulating property for themselves; and it is too much to expect the nation to approve or to pay for the infliction of a similar humiliation on any who have not, in their own persons or in those of their very nearest connexions, served the people for an otherwise insufficient reward. Let the soldier and sailor who have sacrificed health or member in the public defence be provided for by a grateful people; but there is no reason why the descendants of civil officers, or diplomatists retired from already overpaid services, should receive among them far more than is afforded to naval and military pensions together. As for the proportion of these naval and military pensions to the expenditure for effective defence, it is to be hoped that a long abstinence from war will rectify,—if they must not be otherwise rectified, — such enormous abuses as that of the number of retired soldiers far exceeding that of the employed, and of the expenses of the non-effective service being considerably greater than the maintenance of the actual army. Monstrous absurdities! that the factitiously helpless class should cost the nation more than those who advance some plea, —more or less substantial,—of civil services, rendered by themselves or their connexions! that these last should cost the nation more than the whole body of its maimed, and wounded, and worn-out defenders! and that these again should cost the nation more than its actual defenders! What wonder that they from whose toils all these expenses must be paid talk of a national militia,—of arming themselves, and dispensing with a standing army? It is no wonder: but when we let them be as wise as they desire to be, they will perceive that their best weapons at present are the tongues of their representatives. It has not yet been tried whether these tongues may not utter a spell powerful enough to loosen this enormous Dead-Weight from the neck of the nation.
But how goes the 15,000,000l. for actual service?
“Of the 15,000,000 l, required for active service, three and a half are expended on the collection of the revenue. Eight and a quarter ondefence. Law and justice swallow up three-quarters of a million. Another million is required for and government, and the expenses of legislation. Diplomacy and the colonial coil service as discharged by half a million. About half a million is spent on public works. The remaining odd half million out of the fifteen, is expended on the management of the debt, and for miscellaneous services,”&c.
So we, a most Christian nation, with abundance of Christian prelates, and a church which is to watch over the state with apostolic care,— we, strenuous professors of a religion of peace and enlightenment,—spend eight millions and a quarter on Defence, and——how much on popular Education? I suppose the latter forms some little item in one of the smaller accounts, for I can nowhere see it. Eight millions and a quarter on Defence, and three quarters on Law and Justice! Eight and a quarter on Defence, and one on Government and Legislation! Eight millions and a quarter on Defence, and half a million on Public Works! O, monstrous!—too monstrous a sin to be charged on any ruler, or body of rulers, or succession of bodies of rulers! The broad shoulders of the whole civilized world must bear this tremendous reproach:—the world which has had Christianity in it these eighteen hundred years, and whose most Christian empire yet lays out more than half its serviceable expenditure in providing the means of bloodshed, or of repelling bloodshed! The proportion would be enormous, even if all the other items were of righteous signification,—if the proper proportion of the three and a half millions for Collection went to Education; if Law were simple, and Justice cheap; if the real servants of Government were liberally paid, and all idle hangers-on shaken off; if there were no vicious diplomatic and colonial patronage; and no jobbing in the matter of Public Works. If all else were as it should be, this item might well make us doubt what age of the world we are living in, and for what purpose it is that Providence is pleased to humble us by leaving such a painful thorn of barbarism in the side of our majestic civilization. Long must it be before it can grow out. Meantime, let us not boast as if the whole body were sound; or as if we were not performing as humbling and factitious a duty in paying our defence-taxes as the bondman of old in following the banner of the cross to the eastern slaughter-field. The one was the bondman's duty then; and the other is the citizen's duty now; but the one duty is destined to become as obsolete as the other.—What glory in that day, to reverse the order of expenditure! Education, Public Works, Government and Legislation, Law and Justice. Diplomacy, Defence, Dignity of the Sovereign. When this time shall come, no one can conjecture; but that we shall not always have to pay eight millions a year for our defence is certain; if the voice of a wise man,—(which is always the voice of an awakening multitude,)— say true. “Human intelligence will not stand still: the same impulse that has hitherto borne it onwards, will continue to advance it yet further. The very circumstance of the vast increase of expense attending national warfare has made it impossible for governments henceforth to engage in it, without the public assent, expressed or implied; and that assent will be obtained with the more difficulty, in proportion as the public shall become more generally acquainted with their real interest. The national military establishment will be reduced to what is barely sufficient to repel external attack; for which purpose, little more is necessary than a small body of such kinds of troops as cannot be had without long training and exercise; as of cavalry and artillery. For the rest, nations will rely on their militia, and on the excellence of their internal polity; for it is next to impossible to conquer a people, unanimous in their attachment to their national institutions.”Nor will any desire to conquer them while our example of the results of conquest is before the eyes of nations. Then the newspapers will not have to give up space to notices of military reviews; and gentry whose names have no chance of otherwise appearing in print will not have the trouble of looking for themselves in the list of army promotions. The pomp of defence will be done away, while the support will remain in the hearts and hands of the people.
What a blessed thing it is that as soon as the people do not choose to pay for pomp, pomp will be done away! What a blessed thing that they cannot be put out of the question, as Henry VIII.'s people were, by sending their representatives to the wars as often as they disliked paying for the King's gold and silver beards, or the Lady Mary's fool's cap and bells! What a blessing that they can be no longer feared and yet defied, as when Charles II. did without a parliament because he was afraid to tell them of the bribes he had taken, and the loans he had asked, and the cheats he had committed, and the mad extravagance of his tastes and habits! Here, I see. we are content to pay for
“Robes, collars, badges, &c., for Knight: of the several orders.
“Repairing the King's crown, maces, badges,” Plate to the Secretary of State.
Plate to the Secretary of State.
“Plate and various equipage money to the Lord Lieutenant and Lord Chancellor of Ireland.”
This is the people's own doing. No grown man can be supposed to care for crowns and gold sticks, and robes and collars, in themselves. It is the people who choose to preserve them as antiquarian curiosities. So be it, as long as their taste for antiquities takes this turn, and they can find grown men good-natured enough to dress up to make a show for their gratification. But, in another reign or two, it will be necessary to have dolls made to save busy and grave legislators the toil and absurdity of figuring in such an exhibition; or perhaps cheap theatres will by that time be allowed, where those who now act pantomimes, will not be above exhibiting these other mummeries on Christmas nights. Mean-time, if the people choose to have their functionaries surrounded with pomp and parade, they must pay the purchase money with thanks. Whenever they shall become disposed to dispense with guards, trappings, and pageantry, to respect simplicity, and obey the laws for the sake of something more venerable than maces and wigs, they have only to say so, and doubtless the King will feel much relieved, and his ministers very thankful. The laws will work quite as well for the judges looking like other people; in the same manner as it is found that physicians' prescriptions are worth full as much as formerly, though the learned gentlemen now wear their own hair. We tried this method of simplicity in our own North American Colonies, less than a century ago. Their total expenditure was under 65,000l. per annum. We shall not have held those colonies for nothing if we learn from our own doings there how cheap a thing government may be made, when removed from under the eyes and the hands of a born aristocracy.
What a rich, stirring, happy-looking country this is before my eyes, where the people hold up their heads and smile, —very differently, I fancy, from what they did when the proud Cardinal made a progress through it, or when whispers of the sale of Dunkirk circulated in advance or in the rear of the sovereign who bartered away his people's honour! How times are changed, when, instead of complaining that the King and his Ministers sacrifice the nation to their own pomps and vanities, the people only murmur at an insufficiency of courage and despatch in relieving them of the burdens imposed by the mal-administration of a former age! What a change, from being king-ridden, courtier-ridden, priest-ridden minister-ridden, to being,—not king-ridden, less courtier-ridden, priest-ridden only while it is our pleasure to be so, and ruled by a ministry, every tittle of whose power hangs upon the breath of the people! One may bear even the debt, for a short space, with patience, while blessed with the sober certainty that the true instrument of rectification,—the responsibility of rulers to the ruled, is at length actually in our hands. One might almost wish long life to the sinecure pensioners, and be courteous about the three millions and a half consumed in tax collecting, if one rested in a comparison of the present with the past. But there is enough before one's eyes to remind one how much remains to be done before the nation shall receive full justice at the hands of its guardians. By small savings in many quarters, or by one of the several decided retrenchments which are yet possible and imperative, some entire tax, with its cost of collection, might ere this have been spared, and many an individual and many a family who wanted but this one additional weight to crush them, might now have been standing erect in their independence. What a list of advertisements is here! Petitions for relief, —how piteous! Offers of lodging, of service, literary, commercial, and personal, how eager! What tribes of little governesses, professing to teach more than their young powers can possibly have achieved! What trains of servants, vehemently upholding their own honesty and accomplishments,—the married boasting of having got rid of their children to recommend themselves to their employers,—ay, even the mother advertising for sale the nourishment which God created for her first-born! There is no saying how much of all this is attributable to the weight of public burdens, or to the mode of their pressure: but it is enough that this craving for support co-exists with unnecessary public burdens. It is enough, were the craving aggravated a thousand-fold, and the needless burden extenuated to the smallest that could be estimated,—it is enough to prove that no worthless pensioner,—worthless to the nation at large,—should fill his snuff-box at the public charge, while a single tax-payer is distressed. For my part, I have no doubt that many of the cases in this long list of urgent appeals owe their sorrow to this cause. I have no doubt that many a young girl's first grief is the seeing a deeper and a deeper gloom on her father's brow, as he fails more and more to bear up against his share of the public burden, and finds that he must at length bring himself to the point, and surrender the child he has tenderly nurtured, and dismiss her to seek a laborious and precarious subsistence for herself. I have no doubt that many of these boasting servants would have reserved their own merits to bless their own circle, but for the difficulty that parents, husbands and brothers find in living on taxed articles. While these things co-exist with the needless expenditure of a single farthing, I, for one, shall feel that, however thankful we may and ought to be for our prodigious advance in freedom and moral dignity, we have still to pray, day and night, that the cry of the poor and the mirth of the parasite do not rise up together against us. Too fearful a retribution must await us, if we suffer any more honest hearts to be crushed under the chariot wheels of any 'gay, licentious proud'— who must have walked barefoot in the mud, if their condition had been determined by their deserts.
What place is this? I was not aware that these pretty villas, and evergreen gardens, and trim causeways stretched to so great a distance on any London road. Bless me! where can we be? I know that old oak. I must have been dreaming if we have passed through Croydon without my perceiving it. I shall be early at G.'s after all. No! not I! It is some two hours later than I thought. Travelling alone is the best pastime, after all. I must tie up these newspapers. It is a wonder they have not been claimed for the Blue Lion yet.
My wife would say this is just the light for the Abbey; but she has said so of every light, from the broadest noon sunshine to the glimmer of the slenderest crescent at midnight. Long may the Abbey stand, quiet amidst the bustle of moving life, a monitor speaking eloquently of the past, and breathing low prophecies of the future! It is a far nobler depository of records than the Tower: for here are brought into immediate contrast the two tribes of kings,—the sovereigns by physical force, and the sovereigns by moral force,—the royal Henries, and the thrice royal Shakspeare and Locke and Wilberforce;—and there remains also space for some one who perchance may unite the attributes of all;—who, by doing the highest work of a ruler in making the people happy, may discharge the commission of a seraph in leading them on to be wise. Let not the towers totter, nor the walls crumble, till such an one is there sung to his rest by the requiem of a virtuous people! But the noblest place of records can never be within four walls, shut in from the stars. There is one, as ancient, may be, as the Abbey; and perhaps destined to witness its aisles laid open to the sunrise, and its monuments to the shifting moonlight,—the old oak that we passed just now. My wife pities it, standing exposed in its old age to the glare and the dust, when it was perhaps, in its youth, the centre of a cool, green thicket. But it is worth living through all things to witness what that oak has seen. If no prophetic eye were given to men, I think I would accept the elixir vitœ for a chance of beholding the like. As soon as that oak had a shade to offer, who came to court it? The pilgrim on his painful way to the southern shrine,—turning aside to pray that the helpless might not be ravaged by the spoiler in his absence? The nun who mourned within her cell, and trembled in God's sunshine, and passed her blighted life in this sad alternation? The child who slept on the turf,—safely,— with the adder in the neighbouring grass, and the robber looking down from the tree in envy of its innocence; innocence which, after all, was poisoned by a worse fang than the adder's, and despoiled by the hand of a ruder bandit,— tyranny?—Who came in a later age?—The soldier reeking from the battle, and in search of some nook in which to pray for his little ones and die? The maiden, fleeing from royal lust, and her father outlawed by royal vengeance? What tales were brought when the neighbouring stems mouldered away, and left space for the winds to enter with their tidings from afar? Rumours of heaped battle-fields across the sea, and of the murmurings of the oppressed in the comfortless homes, and the indiguant remonstrance of captives silenced in their proclamation of the truth? And then, did weary sailors come up from the sea, and, while they rested, talk of peace? And merchants of prosperity? And labourers of better days?—And now that the old oak yields but a scanty shade,—children come to pick up its acorns, and to make a ladder of its mouldering sides; and even these infant tongues can tell of what the people feel, and what the people intend, and what the King desires for the people, and what the ministers propose for the people. The old oak has lived to see the people's day.—O! may the breath of heaven stir it lightly;— may the spring rains fall softly as the wintry snow;—may the thunderbolt spare it, and the flash not dare to crisp its lightest leaf, that it may endure to witness something of that which is yet to come!—of the wisdom which shall issue sternly from the abyss of poverty, smoothing its rugged brow as it mounts to a milder and brighter region; and of pleasure descending from her painted cloud, sobering her mien as she visits rank below rank, till she takes up her abode with the lowliest in the form of content. If every stone of yonder Abbey can be made to murmur like the sea-shell to the awakened ear, disclosing echoes of the requiems of ages, yet more may this oak whisper from every leaf its records of individual sorrows, of mutual hopes, and now of common rejoicing;—a rejoicing which yet has more in it of hope than of fulfilment. The day of the people is come. The old oak survives to complete its annals,—the Abbey has place for a record—whether the people are wise to use their day for the promotion of the great objects of national association,—public order and social improvement.
It was too late to dine at G.'s; so Reid turned into the Abbey, and staid there till his own footfall was the only sound that entertained the bodily ear.
Summary of Principles illustrated in this volume.
It is necessary to the security and advancement of a community that there should be an expenditure of a portion of its wealth for purposes of defence, of public order, and of social improvement.
As public expenditure, though necessary, is unproductive, it must be limited. And, as the means of such expenditure are furnished by the people for defined objects, its limit is easily ascertained.
That expenditure alone which is necessary to defence, public order, and social improvement, is justifiable.
Such a direction of the public expenditure can be secured only by the public functionaries who expend being made fully responsible to the party in whose behalf they expend.
For want of this responsibility, the public expenditure of an early age,—determined to pageantry, war, and favouritism,—was excessive, and perpetrated by the few in defiance of the many.
For want of a due degree of this responsibility, the public expenditure of an after age,—determined to luxury, war, and patronage,— was excessive, and perpetrated by the few in fear of the many, by deceiving and defrauding them.
For want of a due degree of this responsibility, the public expenditure of the present age, —determined chiefly to the sustaining of burdens imposed by a preceding age,—perpetuates many abuses: and, though much ameliorated by the less unequal distribution of power, the public expenditure is yet as far from being regulated to the greatest advantage of the many, as the many are from exacting due responsibility and service from the few.
When this service and responsibility shall be duly exacted, there will be—
Necessary offices only, whose duties will be clearly defined, fully accounted for, and liberally rewarded:
Little patronage, and that little at the disposal of the people:
No pomp,—at the expense of those who can barely obtain support: but
Liberal provisions for the advancement of national industry and intelligence.