Front Page Titles (by Subject) THIRD AGE. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 8
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THIRD AGE. - 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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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.