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CHAPTER XXIII. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. VI 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. VI.
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In undertaking to write the history of England in the eighteenth century I had proposed to allot a considerable space to the history of manners and morals, to industrial developments, prevailing opinions, theories, and tendencies. One chapter in an earlier volume has accordingly been exclusively devoted to the social characteristics of that portion of the century which preceded the accession of George III., and another to religious tendencies and changes, and in describing the course of legislation and of parliamentary controversy I have seldom failed to enlarge upon those portions which throw some light upon the moral, material, or intellectual condition of the people. In the last chapters, however, these topics have been somewhat neglected. Foreign policy has occupied the foremost place, and the necessity of following in detail long courses of diplomatic correspondence has given a different character to my work. I propose in the present chapter to repair the omission, and, turning away in a great measure from the proceedings of statesmen and parliaments, to bring before my readers a number of scattered facts, illustrating from different points of view the habits, manners, conditions, and opinions of the different classes of the English people.
Glancing first of all at the upper orders, we shall be at once struck with the immense change which has passed over male attire since the eighteenth century. The contrast of colour between male and female dress which is now so conspicuous then hardly existed; and rank, wealth, and pretension, were still distinctly marked by costly and elaborate attire. Nor was this simply true of the ‘bucks,’ ‘beaux,’ ‘fribbles,’ ‘macaronis,’ and ‘dandies,’ who represented in successive periods the extremes or the eccentricities of fashion. The neutral dress scarcely differing in shape or colour which now assimilates all classes from the peer to the shopkeeper was still unknown, and a mode of attire was in frequent use which survives only in Court dress, in the powdered footmen of a few wealthy houses, in City pageants, in the red coats of the hunting field, and in the gay colouring of military uniforms. The pictures of Reynolds and Gainsborough have made the fashionable attire of their period too familiar to need a detailed description, and it may be abundantly illustrated from contemporary literature. Thus, when Lord Derwentwater mounted the scaffold, he was dressed in scarlet, faced with black velvet and trimmed with gold, a gold-laced waistcoat, and a white feather in his hat. Dr. Cameron went to execution in a light-coloured coat, red waistcoat and breeches, and a new bag wig. One of Selwyn's correspondents describes a well-known highwayman who affected the airs of fashion as going to Tyburn dressed in a blue and gold frock, and wearing a white cockade as an emblem of innocence. Dr. Johnson's usual attire was a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted hair buttons of the same colour, black worsted stockings, a large bushy, greyish wig, and silver buckles; but on the night when his play of ‘Irene’ was first acted he thought it right to appear in the theatre in a scarlet waistcoat with rich gold lace, and a gold-laced hat. Goldsmith went out as a physician in purple silk small-clothes, and with a scarlet roquelaure, a sword, and a gold-headed cane; and he had other suits which were equally conspicuous. Wilkes wrote to his daughter in Paris, in 1770, asking her to beg Baron Holbach to purchase for him scarlet cloth of the finest sort and colour to make a complete suit of clothes, and the most fashionable gold buttons for the whole. He is described, by one of his friends, walking to town from a house which he had taken at Kensington, usually attired either in a scarlet or green suit edged with gold.1
In Parliament the variety of colouring easily lent itself to party designation. In the latter years of the Irish Parliament the brilliant uniforms of the Volunteers were conspicuous. In England Fox and his followers wore the buff and blue which had been the uniform of Washington. On the other side the House the dress of the Constitutional Club established in 1789 consisted of a dark blue frock with a broad orange velvet cape, large yellow buttons, and waistcoat and breeches of white kerseymere.1 The ministers wore their stars and ribands, and North was habitually described in debate as ‘the noble Lord with the blue riband.’ The general use of Court dress and swords in Parliament died out before the end of the American War,2 but they were still sometimes worn by a few old members,3 and by the ministers on great occasions. Wraxall has given a graphic description of the sudden change that took place in the appearance of the House upon the downfall of Lord North's ministry in 1782. ‘The Treasury bench as well as the places behind it had been for so many years occupied by Lord North and his friends that it became difficult to recognise them again in their new seats, dispersed over the Opposition benches in greatcoats, frocks, and boots. Mr. Ellis himself appeared for the first time in his life in undress. The ministers, their successors, emerged from their obscure lodgings or from Brooks's, having thrown off their blue and buff uniforms; now ornamented with the appendages of dress, or returning from Court decorated with swords, lace and hair-powder, excited still more astonishment.’ Lord Nugent having lately been robbed, among other articles, of a number of laced ruffles, pretended that he saw them on the Treasury bench, and the appearance of Fox and Burke in full Court dress gave a point to the witticism.4 At one period party spirit ran so high that it was carried even into the ordinary dress of private society. A scarlet waistcoat with gold buttons was well known to indicate an admirer of Pitt, and a buff waistcoat a follower of Fox, and enthusiastic Whig ladies delighted in appearing with foxes' tails as a head-dress.5
The professions were clearly marked by distinctions of dress. ‘The medical character,’ wrote Sir John Hawkins, speaking of a period a little before the middle of the century, ‘whatever it is now, was heretofore a grave one. … The candidates for practice, though ever so young, found it necessary to add to their endeavours a grave and solemn deportment, even to affectation. The physicians in Hogarth's prints are not caricatures. The full dress with a sword and a great tie wig and the hat under the arm, and the doctors in consultation each smelling to a gold-headed cane shaped like a parish beadle's staff, are pictures of real life in his time; and I myself have seen a young physician thus equipped walk the streets of London without attracting the eyes of passengers.’1 ‘A physician,’ said a character in Fielding's ‘Mock Doctor,’ which was published in 1732, ‘can no more practise without a full wig than without a fee.’
In the early half of the century clergymen usually wore their gowns when walking in the streets of London. In the country the distinction was less marked. There were clergymen like the Buck Parson in ‘Belinda,’ or the squire-in-orders described by Colman in the ‘Connoisseur,’ or the workhouse chaplain in Crabbe's ‘Village,’ who almost wholly sank the character of a clergyman in that of a sportsman, and in general the distinction in tastes, habits, and occupations between the country clergyman and the small country gentleman was much less than at present. But, even in the country, till the last quarter of the century, a clergyman rarely appeared abroad without his cassock,2 and long after wigs had fallen into general disuse they were habitually worn by the leaders of the Law and of the Church. Lord Eldon mentions that, at his wife's request, he applied to the King to be allowed to dispense with his wig when not engaged in official functions, but the King refused the permission, saying he would have no innovations in his time;3 and a Bishop of London is said to have been refused admission to the royal closet because he had laid it aside. As late as 1850, King Ernest of Hanover wrote to one of his friends some curious and characteristic recollections of his boyhood, when he lived in England as Duke of Cumberland. ‘I maintain,’ he said, ‘that the first change and shock in the ecclesiastical habits was the bishops being allowed to lay aside their wigs, their purple coats, short cassocks and stockings, and cocked hats, when appearing in public, for I can remember when Bishop Hurd of Worcester, Courtenay of Exeter, and Markham, Archbishop of York, resided in Kew and its vicinity, that as a boy I met them frequently, walking about dressed as I now tell you, in the fields and walks of the neighbourhood, and their male servants appeared equally all dressed in purple, which was the custom. The present Bishop of Oxford was the first who persuaded George IV. to be allowed to lay aside his wig, because his wife found him better looking without it.’ ‘Formerly,’ writes the same old Tory King, ‘all peers when a summons was issued never attended the House but dressed like gentlemen and peers, and not as they do now, like shopkeepers, horse-dealers, and tradesmen, with coloured neckcloths and boots. I remember when no minister came down to the House; having announced a motion, without being full-dressed, with his sword by his side.’1
A love of pageantry, greatly in excess of what now prevails, was shown in many other forms. George III. indeed, though extremely tenacious of the royal dignity, was by taste simple and domestic even to a fault; he scarcely ever received at his own table,2 and the dinner in public at Hampton Court, which had been customary under his predecessors, was no longer held; but it was still the rule for every one to kneel to the King on entering his chamber.3 A nobleman or a bishop rarely visited a country town except in a carriage drawn by four horses. Travelling, being chiefly by private carriages, was, except in its humblest and most incommodious forms, almost a monopoly of the rich; and at a time when the roads were still infested by highwaymen the many retainers who accompanied a great man on his journey were deemed necessary for his security as well as for his dignity. In this respect the moral and political influence of railways in levelling social distinctions has been very great. The pomp and extravagance of English funerals in all ranks had long been a subject of complaint, and in the case of men of high rank and sometimes even of rich tradesmen the custom of lying in state was still retained. Horace Walpole describes how 10,000 people pressed round the coffin of Lady Coventry, how Lady Milton and Lady Betty Germain stood waiting in the mob in St. James's Square till they could see Lord Macclesfield lie in state.1
The position of the aristocracy was a more exceptional one than it now is, though their real power had sensibly diminished since the accession of George III. The war which the King had successfully carried on against the ascendency of the great families that had existed under his two predecessors, the great growth of the popular or democratic element in the Constitution, the lavish creations of North and Pitt, which nearly doubled the peerage without importing into it any proportionate accession of ability, and, finally, the rapid multiplication of commercial fortunes and of fortunes acquired in India, were all in their different ways abridging aristocratic influence. Still, that influence, though almost wholly unsupported by the invidious class privileges which prevailed on the Continent, was enormously great. The peers were the natural heads of that landed interest which it was one of the main objects of English law to make the predominant power in the country. They were the centre of a traditional popular reverence, unmistakable in its power and sincerity. They were a class who devoted themselves from early manhood and with extraordinary advantages to public life, and they not only constituted one House of the Legislature, but largely influenced by their borough patronage the decisions of the other. With the exception of a few eminent lawyers, who were readily welcomed into their ranks, almost all the higher posts of administration were in the hands of noblemen or of men of noble family. The two strongest ministries of the reign of George III. were the ministry of North, which lasted for twelve years, and the ministry of Pitt, which lasted for twenty. In the Cabinet of 1770 North himself and Sir Edward Hawke were the only members who were not in the House of Lords, while Pitt was at first the only commoner in the Cabinet of 1783.2 The power of the nobility was supported by great wealth of the kind which carries with it most social influence, and by a superiority of education and manners which distinguished them far more than at present from the average country gentleman. It is not surprising, therefore, that the separation between the titled and untitled gentry should have been more marked than in our generation. In ‘Humphrey Clinker’ the nobleman refuses the satisfaction of a gentleman to the squire on account of the inequality of their ranks, and an attentive reader of the light literature of the time will, I think, be struck with the degree in which the distinction between peer and commoner is accentuated. Wilberforce gives as one of his reasons for not desiring a peerage that it would exclude his children from intimacy with ‘private gentlemen of moderate fortunes, and clergmen, and still more, mercantile men.’2
In one important respect a certain retrograde movement may be traced. The connection between the English nobility and the trading or commercial classes, which I have already had occasion more than once to notice, seemed to have disappeared. Notwithstanding the great prominence which commercial interests held in the policy of Pitt, and notwithstanding the immense number of the peerages which he created, the dignity of a British peerage was in his ministry scarcely ever conferred on any man whose fortune was made in commercial pursuits. In questions of peerages the royal influence is always extremely great, and ‘through his whole reign,’ it has been said, ‘George the Third adopted as a fixed principle that no individual engaged in trade, however ample might be his nominal fortune, should be created a British peer.’2 ‘At no period in the history of England,’ wrote Burke in 1791, ‘had so few peers been taken out of trade or from families newly created by commerce. In no period had so small a number of noble families entered into the counting-houses. I can call to mind but one in all England, and his is of near fifty years' standing.’1
The space of two long lives is sufficient to bridge the chasm that separates us from a society which would appear as strange to our eyes as the figures of a fancy ball. With the many purely capricious changes or fluctuations of fashion we need not concern ourselves here. The contraction or dilation of the hoops of ladies' dresses; their long trains; the passion for tight-lacing, which was carried so far that Lady Crewe on her return from Ranelagh once rushed up to her bedroom, calling her maid instantly to cut the laces or she would faint; the pyramids of false hair, which rose so high that Rogers recollected driving to Ranelagh with a lady who was compelled to sit on a stool placed on the floor of the carriage; the taste for ornaments made of straw, which, under the patronage of the Duchess of Rutland and a few other great ladies, became general about 1783; the muffs that were carried, and the high heels that were worn by men of fashion; the large gold or amber headed canes of the physician; the many forms of wigs; and the many changes in the shape, size, and trimmings of hats, have been abundantly described by the chroniclers of fashion. There were some changes, however, which fall properly within the province of this book as indicating important revolutions in the habits or relations of classes. Sir John Hawkins, in some interesting notes on those which took place in the forty years that elapsed between the writings of Addison and the appearance of the ‘Rambler,’ in 1750, mentions especially that during that time the outward distinctions of trades and professions had been steadily fading. The clergyman dressed more like a layman. ‘The apron, the badge of mechanic occupations in all its varieties of stuff, was laid aside.’ Physicians discarded their great wigs, and assumed what Boswell called the ‘levity of bag wigs.’ Lawyers ceased to wear black except in the actual exercise of their profession.2 In the thirty years that followed, wigs passed out of general use except in the professional classes. In 1765 the peruke-makers presented a curious petition to the King, complaining bitterly of the growing custom of gentlemen wearing their own hair, employing foreigners to dress it, and when they employed natives obliging them to work on the Lord's Day;1 and they begged the King to discountenance these usages by his example. Some of the peruke-makers who presented this petition had themselves conformed to the custom they reprobated, which so excited the indignation of the mob that they seized them and cut off their hair.2 About 1780, as I have already had occasion to notice, the custom of wearing swords at social gatherings and in places of public resort began to go out of fashion, and about the same time a very important addition was made to the comfort of life, and especially to that of the less opulent classes, by the general use of the umbrella.
Its history is not without interest. In Queen Anne's time it is mentioned both by Swift and Gay as employed by women,3 but up to the middle of the eighteenth century it appears never to have been used in England by men, though Wolfe, the future conqueror of Quebec, wrote from Paris in 1752 describing it as in general use in that city, and wondering that so convenient a practice had not yet penetrated to England. Hanway, the famous traveller and philanthropist, who returned to England in 1750, is said to have been the first Englishman who carried an umbrella; and a Scotch footman, named John MacDonald, who had travelled with his master in France and Spain, mentions in his curious autobiography that he brought one to London in 1778 and persisted in carrying it in wet weather, though a jeering crowd followed him, crying, ‘Frenchman, why don't you get a coach?’ In about three months, he says, the annoyance almost ceased, and gradually a few foreigners and then some Englishmen followed his example. Defoe had described an umbrella as one of the contrivances of Robinson Crusoe, and umbrellas were in consequence at one time called ‘Robinsons.’ They were long looked on as a sign of extreme effeminacy, and they multiplied very slowly. Dr. Jamieson in 1782 is said to have been the first person who used one at Glasgow, and Southey's mother, who was born in 1752, was accustomed to say that she remembered the time when anyone would have been hooted who carried one in the streets of Bristol. A single coarse cotton one was often kept in a coffee-house to be lent out to customers, or in a private house to be taken out with the carriage and held over the heads of ladies as they got in or out; but for many years those who used umbrellas in the streets were exposed to the insults of the mob, and to the persistent and very natural animosity of the hackney coachmen, who bespattered them with mud and lashed them furiously with their whips. But the manifest convenience of the new fashion secured its ultimate triumph, and before the close of the century umbrellas had passed into general use.1
In the last years of the century the inventions of Arkwright and Crompton were effecting a complete transformation in female dress, and greatly modifying the dress of men.2 The costly silks which had hitherto been so prominent in the ordinary attire of the upper classes almost disappeared; woollens greatly diminished, and the cottons, muslins, and calicoes which were now produced in such cheapness, and with such endless and graceful variety, came into general use. And while these great inventions were changing and simplifying English dress and almost obliterating the external distinction of classes, a great wave of fashion in France was moving in the direction of a republican simplicity. It had its origin chiefly in the admiration for the Americans and in the influence of Rousseau, and we may soon trace its imitation or its counterpart in England. Wraxall, who was a keen observer of such matters, attributes it largely to the example of Fox. In early life this statesman had been a typical man of fashion, and there is a curious description of him in an old magazine as he appeared as a young man, with ‘his chapeau bras, his red-heeled shoes, and his blue hair-powder;’ but during the American War he gave another turn to the prevailing fashion. ‘Mr. Fox,’ says Wraxall, ‘and his friends, who might be said to dictate to the town, affecting a style of neglect about their persons, and manifesting a contempt for all the usages hitherto established, first threw a sort of discredit on dress. From the House of Commons and the clubs in St. James's Street it spread through the private assemblies of London. But though gradually undermined and insensibly perishing of an atrophy, dress never totally fell till the era of Jacobinism and of Equality in 1793 and 1794.’1 This period indeed marks a complete revolution in English dress. It was then that the picturesque cocked hat went out of fashion and was replaced by the tall hat, limp indeed, and coloured, but of the same ungraceful shape as that which now prevails.2 Then, too, the silver buckle was exchanged for the ordinary shoe tie. Muslin cravats, pantaloons, and Hessian boots came into fashion, and the mode of dressing the hair was wholly changed. Like the Roundheads of the seventeenth century the democrats of the eighteenth century adopted the fashion of cutting the hair short, and they also discarded as inconsistent with republican simplicity that hair-powder which, since the abolition of wigs, had been invariably worn by the upper classes. It is interesting to notice that, among the young students at Oxford who were foremost in taking this step, were Southey and Savage Landor.3 But the new fashion would hardly have prevailed so quickly had it not been supported by other influences. Pitt's tax upon hair-powder, which was imposed in 1795, had a considerable effect. It contained, indeed, a long and curious list of exemptions, which shows how completely the use of hair-powder was then looked upon as a social necessity. In addition to the royal family and their servants, clergymen not possessing 100l. a year, subalterns in the army, and officers in the navy under the rank of masters and commanders were exempted, and in private families all daughters except the two eldest.1
The tax was a guinea a head, and it was expected to produce 210,000l. a year, but it was soon very generally evaded. Many, through the pressure of economy, gave up the use of powder. A few great Whig families, and among them the House of Russell, discarded it as a protest against the French War, which the tax contributed to support;2 and when corn rose shortly after the outbreak of the war almost to famine price, most men deemed it a matter of charity and patriotism to prevent a large and useless expenditure of flour. Hair-powder was abandoned at court, and in a short time it totally disappeared from fashionable attire.3
From this time English male dress assumed substantially its modern aspect, though the love of bright and contrasted colours was not immediately replaced by the Puritan sobriety which now prevails.4 Like all great changes of fashion, this was not effected without producing some severe temporary distress,5 and if it has added considerably to the simplicity and inexpensiveness of life, if it has diminished or destroyed a great sphere of vanity and weakness, it will hardly, I suppose, be denied that the world has lost something by the total banishment of all ideas of beauty and grace from one great department of human things. Wraxall, in a book which was published in 1815, declared that the two preceding centuries had scarcely produced a greater alteration in respect to dress, etiquette, and form, than the last forty years, and that a costume which, at the end of that period, was confined to the Levee and Drawing-room, was in the beginning of it worn ‘by persons of condition, with few exceptions, every where and every day.’1
The growing simplicity of English dress must not, however, be regarded as any index of the decline of luxury. Wealth had been increasing with great rapidity to the eve of the American War, and though English prosperity was then for a time severely checked, a rapid revival took place during the Administration of Pitt. The political importance which the Indian Nabobs obtained may have perhaps produced some exaggeration of their social weight, but it is impossible not to be struck with the great and baneful influence which was constantly ascribed to them. I have already quoted the eloquent sentences in which Chatham deplored the sudden influx of Asiatic wealth, which not being ‘the regular natural produce of labour and industry’ was bringing in its train Asiatic luxury as well as Asiatic principles of government. Burke looked upon the invasion with at least equal alarm. Voltaire, in a letter to Chesterfield written about 1772, expressed his belief that Indian wealth had so corrupted England that she had now entered upon her period of decadence,2 and Horne Tooke, as we are told by his biographer, ‘observed of English manners that they had not changed by degrees, but all of a sudden; and he attributed it chiefly to our connection with India that luxury and corruption had flowed in, not as in Greece like a gentle rivulet, but after the manner of a torrent.’3
The prevailing types of amusement had not very materially changed since the first half of the century. Ranelagh and Vauxhall still retained their popularity, but not their position, for formidable rivals were drawing away the upper classes. Almack's Rooms were opened in 1765, a subscription of ten guineas entitling the members to a weekly ball and supper for twelve weeks, but their real attraction was the deep play, of which they soon became the special centre.1 Nearly at the same time, Madame Cornelys, a foreign singer,2 who was described by Walpole as the ‘Heidegger of her age,’ opened a social club called ‘The Society,’ at Carlisle House in Soho Square; and her assemblies, her subscription balls, her ‘harmomc concerts,’ and above all, her masquerades, for a few years attained the wildest popularity. Masquerades were constantly spoken of as one of the chief demoralising influences of the time, and Horace Walpole mentions one which so emptied the House of Commons as to produce an adjournment. The taste, however, like many others, fell as suddenly as it had arisen, and the brilliant manager, who had for some years chiefly provided the fashionable amusements in London, ended her days in the Fleet Prison. The Pantheon, a splendid assembly room intended as a winter Ranelagh, was opened in Oxford Street in 1770. It was the first great work of James Wyatt, and it for a time enjoyed much popularity. Gibbon mentions a subscription masquerade there which cost the subscribers no less than 5,000l., but a few years later the taste diminished, and the Pantheon was converted into an ordinary concert room and theatre.3
In 1764, by the King's order, the immemorial custom of playing hazard on Twelfth Night at Court was discontinued, and the King afterwards issued strict orders that no gaming was to be allowed in the royal palaces.4 But, in spite of royal precept and example, and in spite also of a number of laws which had in the preceding reign been enacted against gaming,5 there was as yet little or no diminution of this passion. Charles Fox once said that the highest play he had ever known was between 1772 and the outbreak of the American War,6 and the statement seems to be corroborated by Horace Walpole.7 About 1780 faro superseded loo as the popular game, and, although it was one of those which a law of George II. had distinctly specified as illegal, it was notoriously carried on at the houses of several ladies of the first position in society. In 1796 Chief Justice Kenyon delivered a charge in which he dwelt on this scandal and threatened to send even the first ladies of the land to the pillory if they were convicted before him, and Gillray caricatured three of the most conspicuous of the offenders as ‘Faro's daughters’ standing in the pillory. In the following year Lady Buckinghamshire and two other ladies of position were, in fact, condemned, not, indeed, to the pillory, but to pay fifty pounds each for illegal gambling. It was proved that they had gaming parties by rotation in each other's houses, and sat gambling till three or four in the morning.1 Private lotteries had been already condemned by law, but public lotteries were still annually instituted by authority of Parliament. They gave rise to a multitude of frauds and abuses, and to a great additional system of gambling in the form of an insurance of undrawn tickets, and the Corporation of London in 1773 presented a petition to the House of Commons praying for their suppression. Such a measure found little or no support, but a law was passed in 1778 which put an end to some of their abuses, and reduced the number of dealers in lottery tickets in England to fifty-one. In the previous year there had been more than four hundred lottery offices in London and its neighbourhood alone.2
The growing lateness of the hours, which we have noticed during the first sixty years of the century, still continued. In the country, it is true, the fox-hunter was already in his saddle at break of day, and at the universities it was not until the last quarter of the century that the old dinner hour of twelve was abandoned;3 but the House of Commons during the reign of George III., and especially during the American debates, sat later than it had ever done before,4 and Horace Walpole, when an old man, complained bitterly of the difficulty he found in adapting his habits to the increased lateness of London hours. ‘Everything,’ he wrote in 1777, ‘is changed. … I do not like dining at nearly six, nor beginning the evening at ten at night. If one does not conform one must live alone.’ ‘The present folly is late hours. Everybody tries to be particular by being too late. … It is the fashion now to go to Ranelagh two hours after it is over. You may not believe it, but it is literal. The music ends at ten; the company go at twelve. Lord Derby's cook lately gave him warning. The man owned he liked his place, but said he should be killed by dressing suppers at three in the morning.’1 Among the minor social habits which may be noticed was the introduction from France about 1770 of the custom of visiting not in person, but by cards;2 and a great increase of lounging rides on horseback. Burke noticed the latter as a serious check to economy among the gentry. ‘Few beside elder brothers,’ he added, ‘ever thought of riding in the middle of the day, except on particular occasions, till within the last thirty years. … Men who could have no other object but that of sauntering made more use of their limbs.’3
Hard drinking among the upper orders, though it had diminished, was still very common, almost imposed by the social code, practised by men who conducted the affairs of the nation, and countenanced to an extreme degree by the example of the heir to the throne.4 There were hackney coachmen who derived their chief gains from cruising at late hours through certain quarters of the town for the purpose of picking up drunken gentlemen. They conveyed them to their homes if they were capable of giving their address; and, if not, to certain taverns where it was the custom to secure their property and to put them to bed. In the morning the coachman called to take them home, and was in general handsomely rewarded.5 Horace Walpole describes a violent quarrel at the Opera, which was due to Lord Cornwallis and Lord Allan having come in drunk and insulted Mr. Rigby in the pit. The memoirs, the correspondence, and the novels of the time are full of illustrations of the prevalence of the vice, and they show also the coarseness and the violence of manners it brought with it, the oaths which were constantly on the lips of men of fashion, the persecutions with which young ladies of beauty and distinction were often pursued in public places, the coarse and stupid practical jokes which were the fashion, and which were especially directed against foreigners.1 At the same time it is certain that in these respects a great improvement had been already effected, and the decline of drinking in the upper orders both in England and Ireland, though perhaps not in Scotland,2 is universally admitted. Dr. Johnson, who boasted that he had himself drunk when at college as much as three bottles of port at a sitting without being the worse for it, and who afterwards gave up all wine-drinking on the ground that he found it impossible to drink it in moderation, was accustomed to say that he remembered the time ‘when all the decent people of Lich-field got drunk every night and were not the worse thought of;’ and he ascribed the change chiefly to the general substitution among the smaller gentry of wine for ale.3 Lord Shelburne could remember when in some country districts ‘several of the best gentlemen, members for the county, drank nothing but beer.’4 The change to a more expensive beverage naturally diminished drunkenness, but much must also be ascribed to a growing and general refinement. It was noticed that smoking had also decreased in England during the latter half of the eighteenth century, though it speedily revived during the great French War.5 With the decline of drinking, and also with the increased comfort of home life, taverns had in a great degree lost the place which they had held in the Elizabethan period, and especially at the time of the Restoration, as the centres of social gatherings; but they were still employed much more than in the present day for the transaction of business, and in the middle of the century more than twenty of them were clustered round the Royal Exchange.1
The public fencing-matches with swords, which had grown up in England after the Parliamentary wars, which had been extremely popular under Anne and under George I., and which seldom ended without some effusion of blood, had now almost passed away. The most famous were held in the beargarden of Hockley in the Hole, but ‘assaults of arms’ were also common entertainments in taverns and coffee-houses. Figg, who was one of the last great fencing-masters of the eighteenth century, is remembered by a sketch of Hogarth, and the Italian Domenico Angelo as a lover of Peg Woffington, a friend of Sheridan and Garrick, the founder of a school of fencing which has continued to the present day, and the father of a writer who has left not only a classical work on his own art, but also some curious reminiscences of his time.2 With the decline of fencing the love of boxing increased, and the brutalities of the prize-ring were never more popular than in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Bull-baiting, however, was now but little attended, except by the mob, and it was attacked in Parliament, and very frequently from the pulpit. The bull-running at Tutbury, which is said to have been practised from the days of John of Gaunt, was finally suppressed in 1778 by the Duke of Devonshire in virtue of his office as Steward of Tutbury.3 The cockpit was patronised chiefly for its association with gambling; but the stream of public sentiment in the centres of fashion was manifestly running against it, though many members of the aristocracy were attached to it, and though it probably flourished as much as ever in country villages and towns. When the King of Denmark visited England in 1768 he was taken to a fox-chase and a cock-fight as typical English amusements.4 One of the figures in Hogarth's picture of a cock-fight commemorates the curious fact that Lord Albemarle Bertie, who was totally blind, was among the most assiduous and enthusiastic devotees of the sport.1
Horse-racing was steadily increasing. It was naturally favoured by the improved means of communication, which made it more easy to attend the chief centres, and it does not appear to have been seriously affected by the tax which Pitt imposed in 1784 on every horse that was entered for a race, and on every plate that was won. It was mentioned during the discussion of these taxes that about five hundred plates were annually run for in England.2 The first three Hanoverian sovereigns did not patronise the race-course as warmly as the Stuarts, but several members of the royal family gambled greatly at Newmarket. The Derby, the Oaks, and the St. Leger were all founded in the latter half of the eighteenth century, and to this period also belong James Layman and George Stubbs, the first considerable English painters of racehorses. Coursing, also, which had long been popular as a form of hunting, appears then, for the first time, to have been treated on a considerable scale as a form of racing or gambling, and the earliest coursing clubs in England seem to have been established in the last thirty years of the eighteenth century,3 Fox-hunting, which as a separate sport is almost a creation of the eighteenth century, was steadily advancing in its prominence among English field-sports, though the strict preservation of foxes was not yet common.4 The new passion for sea-side watering-places produced a new form of amusement in the regatta which was first introduced from Venice in 1775.1
The latter half of the eighteenth century may be regarded as the golden age of the English theatre. It saw Garrick, Macklin, and Barry in their prime; it witnessed the splendid rise of John Kemble and Mrs. Siddons, as well as the lighter graces of Miss Farren, Mrs. Jordan, and Mrs. Abingdon, and at a time when the great Shakspearian revival was at its height, it also produced the plays of Goldsmith, Sheridan, Foote, and Home. There was an incontestable improvement in the moral tendency, and still more in the refinement of the theatre, and it was noticed that a coarseness which excited no reprobation under George I. was no longer tolerated on the stage.2 The revolt of popular feeling against the legislative discouragement of the theatre had now become very marked. A statute of Anne had placed all actors in the category of ‘rogues and vagabonds,’3 but the Licensing Act of 1737 had restricted this stigma to those who acted without authority by patent from the King, or license from the Lord Chamberlain.4 The same Act, besides imposing a censorship on plays, had provided that neither the Crown nor the Lord Chamberlain should have any power to authorise theatrical performances for money in any part of Great Britain, except in the city of Westminster and in places where the King was residing, and there only during the period of his residence. But this grave encroachment on the liberties of the people ran violently counter to public opinion, and this part of the law appears to have been almost wholly inoperative. In the very curious memoirs of Tare Wilkinson, who was one of the most active provincial managers and actors of his time, we have abundant evidence that the old theatres in provincial towns were not suppressed, that new theatres were opened, and that in the last days of George II. and the early years of George III. there was scarcely a second-rate town in England in which dramatic entertainments were not publicly performed, sometimes by local actors, sometimes by actors from London or Dublin. There was a company at Portsmouth, which performed also regularly at Plymouth and Exeter. There was the Bath Company, which sometimes visited Winchester and the Isle of Wight. There was the Yorkshire Company, which made its rounds through the northern towns;1 and even Edinburgh, in spite of the violence of Scotch Presbyterianism, had a considerable place in theatrical history. Plays were for many years acted there by itinerant companies in the Tailors' Hall in the Cowgate, and in 1746 a theatre was opened in the Canongate, though, as the historian of the Scotch theatre truly says, without the sanction of the law, and in defiance of an Act of Parliament. Foote acted at Edinburgh in 1759, and three years earlier, Home, though himself a Presbyterian minister, had scandalised his brethren by bringing out his ‘Douglas’ on the boards of the Canongate theatre.2
Soon the policy was adopted of passing special Acts of Parliament enabling the Crown to authorise Theatres Royal in provincial towns. A theatre was thus patented at Edinburgh in 1767, at Bath and at Norwich in 1768, at York and at Hull in 1769, at Liverpool in 1771, at Manchester in 1775, at Chester in 1777, at Bristol in 1778. A Bill for licensing a theatre at Birmingham was thrown out in 1777, after a debate which supplies some curious illustrations of the open manner in which the prohibitory clause of the Act of 1737 was disregarded. The petition came from the manager of a theatre already existing in the town, and it was urged in opposition to it that it had no considerable popular support; that, with the exception of one period of three years, during which, on account of some grave abuses, actors had been banished, there had been for many years an abundance of theatrical representations in Birmingham; that two unlicensed theatres had been very recently opened, and that a pernicious system existed in the town of obliging workmen to take tickets for the theatre instead of wages. Under these circumstances, the House thought that no licensed theatre was required, and it does not appear to have been much moved by the incontestable truth of the remark of Wilkes, that during all the many years in which the Birmingham magistrates had permitted unlicensed players to perform, they had been of their own authority suspending the law of the land—the very offence for which James II. had been driven from the throne.1
In 1788 a new system was introduced, by an Act authorising magistrates under certain restrictions to license theatrical performances.2 London actors had already begun to make annual tours through the provinces. At first the badness of the roads, the jealousy of the provincial companies, and the notion of their own dignity had deterred them, and Tate Wilkinson claims to have been the first actor from London who had explored the country playhouses. When, however, he published his memoirs in 1790, he noticed that ‘almost every theatrical star now deigned to shine in all the principal theatres of the three kingdoms,’ and that Mrs. Siddons, Mrs. Jordan, and other leading actors made their true golden harvest in their summer excursions out of the metropolis.3 He has also noticed the remarkable fact that in matters of decency and morals the London actors found their audiences in the provinces much more severe or fastidious than those in the metropolis.4 In the meantime great improvements were taking place in the London theatres in the widening of the stage, in the beauty of the dresses, in the variety and appropriateness of the scenery. One play, it was said, in 1790 cost as much to put on the stage as three plays fifty years before.5 The opera retained its full popularity, and this period is especially remarkable in the history of domestic music for the introduction of the pianoforte. This instrument—the source of much pleasure and of much annoyance—grew out of the harpsichord; it appears according to the best accounts to have been invented by Cristofoli of Padua about 1711; but it advanced slowly into note and no pianoforte seems to have existed in England till the middle of the century. It first became generally known by being brought on the stage at Covent Garden in 1767; in the last twenty years of the century it became common in the orchestras of the English theatres, and it gradually crept into most of the houses of the upper classes.1
In the history of English painting the latter half of the eighteenth century is also a period of capital importance. The complete absence of institutions for the instruction of art students, and the utter indifference shown both by the Court and the aristocracy towards native art, had made the preceding half-century one of the most dreary periods of English art history, and native artists would have often found it scarcely possible to subsist if they had not found a wide, though very humble, field of employment in the innumerable signboards which still distinguished the London shops.2 Towards the close of this period, it is true, the great genius of Hogarth succeeded in winning him a competence, but this was mainly due to the popularity of his prints. The prices given for his greatest pictures are a significant illustration of the prevailing taste. In 1745 he sold no less than nineteen of the most celebrated, including ‘The Harlot's Progress,’ ‘The Rake's Progress,’ ‘The Strolling Players,’ and ‘The Four Times of Day,’ for four hundred and twenty-seven guineas and seven shillings. Five years later he sold the six great pictures of ‘Mariage à la Mode’ for one hundred and twenty guineas, though the frames had cost him more than a fifth of that sum. The ‘March to Finchley’ was disposed of by a raffle. The four election pictures he endeavoured to dispose of in the same way, but the subscriptions proved miserably insufficient, and Garrick showed a real generosity in giving two hundred guineas for these pictures, which were resold in 1823 for sixteen hundred and fifty.3
There were soon, however, some faint signs that the long night was breaking, and that a real interest in art, and even in native art, was arising. Rouquet, an enamel painter, who had lived in London for thirty years, published in 1755 an account of the state of art in England, and while deploring its miserable condition, and the almost exclusive and undiscriminating patronage of foreign works, he added that during the preceding twenty or thirty years auction rooms for pictures had been greatly multiplying, and the interest in art sales increasing. The Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures, which was established in 1754, distributed considerable sums in prizes to native artists, and under its auspices annual exhibitions of pictures began in 1760. This society was chiefly founded by the exertions of a private gentleman named Shipley, after the model of the similar society which had been established in Dublin by Dr. Madden; and with the exception of a grant of 500l. from the corporation of London it was entirely supported by private subscriptions. Something was done for English artists by the Dilettante Society; by the liberal patronage of Drummond, Archbishop of York, and especially by the Duke of Richmond, who opened a school and gallery for art instruction in his own house, and placed the Florentine painter, Cipriani, at the head of it. A ‘Society of Artists of Great Britain’ was established in 1761, and was incorporated by royal charter in 1765; and Reynolds, Gainsborough, Wilson, and West had already emerged into notice. The first great artist, who had returned from Italy in 1752, rose in a few years to wealth and fame. He had not, indeed, the power, the imagination, or the perfect knowledge of the human frame that characterised the greatest masters on the Continent; his occasionl excursions into historical and sacred art produced little of enduring value, and even in his own lifetime the fugitive character of his exquisite but too superficial colouring was plainly seen; but his children had scarcely been surpassed in art since Raphael and Correggio, and no portrait painter since Vandyke had delineated the nobler and more refined types of adult beauty with a more perfect dignity and grace. The foundation of the Royal Academy under his presidency in 1768 is as important an event in the history of British art as the foundation of the Royal Society a century earlier had been in the history of British science. The portraits of Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Romney; the landscapes of Gainsborough, Wilson, and Barrett, and the historical pictures of West, Barry, and Copley at once gave England a high place in the art history of the eighteenth century, while the lectures of Reynolds and the annual exhibitions of the Academy immensely widened the area of art interest.
The progress of art owed very little to the patronage of the Court. It was noticed that in the first eight years of his reign, though the King saw a succession of the finest pictures of Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Wilson at the autumn exhibitions, he did not give a single commission to any one of them.1 He disliked Reynolds, who was on intimate terms with the leading Whigs, and in 1764, when the office of Court painter became vacant by the death of Hogarth, Reynolds was passed over and the post was given to Ramsay. Gainsborough, it is true, was afterwards on several occasions commissioned to paint the King or members of his family, but the painter who was the special object of royal patronage was West. Between 1769 and 1801 he received no less than 34,187l. for pictures painted for the King,2 and Court favour gave him for a time a position among English artists wholly different from that which he holds in the eyes of posterity. The great school of English landscape grew up in spite of extreme neglect. Wilson lived and died in poverty, and though the portraits of Gainsborough were eagerly sought for, his exquisite landscapes were unsold and unappreciated. But the new school of portraiture in England soon drove all foreign rivalry from the field, though the prices given to its greatest representatives would appear strangely moderate if measured by the standard of our own age. Reynolds at first charged ten guineas for his three-quarter-length portraits, twenty guineas for his half-lengths, and forty guineas for his whole-lengths, and these prices were raised in successive periods to fifteen, thirty, and sixty; to twenty-five, fifty, and one hundred; and finally to fifty, one hundred, and two hundred guineas. Gainsborough painted portraits at first at five, and soon after at eight guineas for a head, and he finally settled at forty guineas for a half-length and a hundred guineas for a whole-length portrait. Romney, who was for a time looked upon as a formidable rival to Reynolds, is said to have made in his most prosperous days about 4,000l. a year from his portraits.1
In other forms of art the progress was less marked. In architecture little was done which has elicited the admiration of posterity, though Sir William Chambers, the Brothers Adam, Wyatt, and Robert Taylor had all a great reputation in their generation. Somerset House, which was designed by Chambers, is probably the most imposing work of English architecture in the latter half of the eighteenth century, and this period is distinguished for the number and magnificence of the great country houses that were erected,2 and also for the first feeble signs of that revival of Gothic architecture which in the nineteenth century became so conspicuous.3 In European sculpture the star of Canova shone supreme; but England possessed in Bacon, Banks, Nollekens, and above all Flaxman, native artists of incontestable merit. Wedgwood was at the same time producing his beautiful pottery works; Boydell gave a world-wide reputation to British engraving,4 and there was in all forms a rapid diffusion of artistic taste. It was noticed that before the great popularity of Hogarth's prints, and the Act of 1735 establishing copyright in engravings, there were but two print shops in the whole of London; but after this Act they soon appeared in the most various quarters of the town.5 Horace Walpole, who was himself an old and intelligent collector, has preserved some curious particulars of the change which had in his own lifetime passed over English taste. ‘We have at present,’ he wrote in 1770, ‘three exhibitions. One West, who paints history in the taste of Poussin, gets 300l. for a piece not too large to hang over a chimney. … The rage to see these exhibitions is so great that sometimes one cannot pass through the streets where they are. It is incredible what sums are raised by mere exhibitions of anything; a new fashion and to enter at which you pay a shilling or half-a-crown. Another rage is for prints of English portraits. I have been collecting them for about thirty years, and originally never gave for a mezzotinto above one or two shillings. The lowest are now a crown; most from half-a-guinea to a guinea. … Scarce heads in books not worth threepence will sell for five guineas. Then we have Etruscan vases made of earthenware in Staffordshire, from two to five guineas, and ormolu, never made here before, which succeeds so well that a tea-kettle, which the inventor offered for one hundred guineas, sold by auction for one hundred and thirty.’1 The pictures of the old foreign masters had risen in equal proportion. Two thousand pounds were given for a picture of Guido, and the price of old paintings had tripled or quadrupled in a single lifetime.2
While the great artistic development was giving a new ply to popular taste in England and attracting to the pursuit of art a rapidly increasing and often an excessive stream of students,3 there was a corresponding movement in the spheres of literature and science. Whatever controversy there might be about the comparative value of the additions made to human knowledge in the eighteenth and in preceding centuries, there could be no question of the fact that the eighteenth century was preeminently the century of the diffusion of knowledge. The great discovery of the lightning conductor by Franklin, as well as his admirable history of electricity, gave an immense popularity to this branch of science,4 and the marvellous discoveries of the French chemists, the impulse which Buffon had given to the study of natural history, and the example of the scientific enthusiasm which ran so high in the world of fashion at Paris had all their influence in England. ‘Natural history,’ Horace Walpole wrote in 1770, ‘is in fashion.’1 Goldsmith, with the smallest possible knowledge of the subject, found it profitable to place his graceful pen at its service, and his ‘Animated Nature’ had probably some considerable influence in extending the taste. Dr. Hill, who had been appointed by George III. gardener at Kensington, was one of the first persons who put scientific knowledge in a popular shape by the system of publishing in numbers. Walpole says he made fifteen guineas a week by working for wholesale dealers, and that he was employed at the same time on six voluminous works on botany, husbandry, &c., which were published weekly.2 The many popular scientific works of Priestley greatly assisted the movement. A taste for public lectures now sprang up, and a great literature of compilations arose. The ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ which was completed in 1797, though far inferior in genius and influence to the corresponding work in Paris, was incomparably superior to any similar work which had appeared in England, and numerous systematic works were written on particular sciences, alphabetically arranged in the form of dictionaries.3
There was still a great want in London of really public libraries accessible to all students. The library belonging to the Chapter of Westminster, the library of Sion College, and the library of Archbishop Tenison,4 it is true, already existed, and in the course of the century a considerable library was accumulated by the Royal Society; but the British Museum, though rich in manuscripts, was still miserably poor in printed books, and Gibbon complained bitterly that an English writer who undertook to treat any large historical subject was reduced to the necessity of purchasing the books which must form the basis of his work, and that ‘the greatest city of the world was still destitute of a public library.’5 Circulating libraries, however, which have had a great importance in the diffusion of literary tastes, belong especially to the latter half of the eighteenth century. The exact date of their origin is disputed, but they certainly existed a few years before the middle of the century, and in its last thirty years they multiplied rapidly, not only in London, but in the provincial towns. In 1800 it is stated that there were not less than a thousand circulating libraries in Great Britain.1 Book clubs and societies were at the same time formed. All important controversies became in their style and method more popular, and a vast literature of novels sprang into existence, at once producing and representing a greatly increased love of reading.
Much attention was also paid to children's literature. Very few books in any age or country have exercised so great an empire over the tastes and sympathies of many successive generations of boys as ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ which was published in 1719, or as ‘Sandford and Merton,’ Which was published in instalments between 1783 and 1789, and it was in the eighteenth century that the fairy visions of the ‘Arabian Nights’ were first thrown open to the English imagination. Nor should we forget the many books for little children which were published shortly after the middle of the century by Newberry, Griffith Jones and his brother. ‘Goody Two Shoes,’ ‘Giles Gingerbread,’ ‘Tommy Trip,’ and a crowd of other little masterpieces, combining in different degrees amusement and instruction, replaced the rude chapbooks which had formerly been hawked about and were the forerunners and the models of a vast literature which is not one of the least characteristic and important products of the nineteenth century.2
The blue-stocking clubs, which were so popular about 1781, were signs of the desire of ladies of fashion to give a more serious and literary character to female society, and the admirable letters of Lady Mary Montagu, Mrs. Montagu; and Mrs. Delany show the high level of intelligence to which they sometimes attained. The unprecedented multiplication of female authors was a significant feature of the time. It reflected that steady improvement of female education which had been in progress through the century, and it had a great influence in banishing coarseness from English literature, in stimulating those branches of it which are most in harmony with female aptitudes and tastes, and in destroying the foolish prejudice which had long treated serious studies as unbecoming in a woman. Of the female literature of the eighteenth century, it is true, very little remains. The history of Mrs. Macaulay, which Walpole classed with the histories of Robertson, and which Madame Roland pronounced to be hardly inferior to Tacitus, has long since sunk into a darkness as black as that which covers the equally famous ‘Botanic Garden’ of Darwin, and the still more popular ‘Meditations’ of Hervey. Few modern readers turn the pages of Hannah More, Charlotte Smith, Mrs. Radcliffe, Miss Seward, Mrs Chapone, Mrs. Trimmer, or the learned Mrs. Carter; and the beautiful lines of Mrs. Barbauld, which still linger in the memory of thousands, were written in extreme old age and long after the century had closed. Some of these writers played a useful, though subordinate and ephemeral, part in the great religious and educational movements of their time. Others were in their day deservedly popular novelists; but they have been displaced by changing tastes and by the ever increasing throng of their successors. The ‘Rights of Woman’ of Mary Wollstonecroft, however, still retains some historic interest as perhaps the first English example of a class of literature and speculation which has since become very prominent. The ‘Evelina’ of Miss Burney will long be read as the most faithful picture of the fashionable amusements of its generation; and in Maria Edgeworth the last years of the century produced a novelist who may be justly placed in the same high rank as Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and George Eliot.
The manners of the gentry all over the country were steadily and rapidly assimilating. The distinction between the nobility and the other gentry, and the immense distinction between town and country were both diminishing. In the middle of the eighteenth century there were still thousands of country gentlemen who had scarcely ever been farther from their homes than their county town, while among the poor the habits of life had been for generations almost unchanged. Among them at least there was as yet no religious scepticism, no political agitation, no class antagonism, scarcely any curiosity about the outer world, and, until sixty or seventy years of the century had passed, singularly little social or economical change. The standard of material well-being was on the whole high and steady, and life glided on smoothly and uneventfully amid the same landmarks. It was common in country districts for a Sunday suit to descend from father to son. It was put on when the church bell rang and carefully put aside when the service had concluded, and in this way dresses of far bygone generations were still in actual use. Many years after the middle of the eighteenth century, it was stated that beaver hats made in the reign of Charles II. might be often seen in the village churches.1 The reprobation, half prejudice, half duty, with which all prolonged visits of a country gentleman to the metropolis were regarded had once been one of the strongest of English feelings. It may be seen in the laws against the increase of London; in the early opposition to stage coaches; in the apprehensions which no less a man than Swift expressed of the social evils that would result from annual meetings of Parliament. But with the improvement of roads and public conveyances the whole type of country life was rapidly changing. The weekly stage coach now brought down the latest London fashions to the remote country village. An annual visit to London or to a seaside watering-place became the ambition of every county family. London actors appeared in the neighbouring county town. Provincial circulating libraries brought down London books, and the provincial press was year by year rising in importance. Before the close of the eighteenth century there were already more than seventy provincial newspapers in England.2
We have already seen the signs of this change in the first half of the century, and as early as 1761 a writer has given a vivid picture of its progress. ‘It is scarce half a century ago,’ he says, ‘since the inhabitants of the distant counties were regarded as a species almost as different from those of the metropolis as the natives of the Cape of Good Hope. Their manners as well as dialect were entirely provincial, and their dress no more resembled the habit of the town than the Turkish or Chinese. … A journey into the country was then considered almost as great an undertaking as a voyage to the Indies. The old family coach was sure to be stowed, according to Vanbrugh's admirable description of it, with all sorts of luggage and provisions, and perhaps in the course of the journey a whole village, together with their teams, were called in aid to dig the heavy vehicle out of the clay. … But now the amendments of the roads with the many other improvements of travelling have opened a new communication between the several parts of our island. … Stage coaches, machines, flys, and post-chaises are ready to transport passengers to and fro between the metropolis and the most distant parts of the kingdom. … The manners, fashions, amusements, vices and follies of the metropolis now make their way to the remotest corners of the land; … the notions of splendour, luxury, and amusement that prevail in town are eagerly adopted; the various changes of the fashions exactly copied, and the whole manner of life studiously imitated. … We are no longer encountered with hearty slaps on the back, or pressed to make a breakfast on cold meat and strong beer, and in the course of a tour of Great Britain you will not meet either a high-crowned hat or a pair of red stockings. … The country ladies are as much devoted to the card-table as are the rest of the sex in London. … They have their balls and concerts by subscription, their theatres, their Mall, and sometimes their rural Ranelagh and Vauxhall. The reading female hires her novels from some country circulating library, which consists of about one hundred volumes. The merchant or opulent hardware man has his villa three or four miles distant from the great town where he carries on his business. … French cooks are employed, the same wines are drunk, the same gaming practised, the same hours kept, and the same course of life pursued in the country as in town. … Every male and female wishes to think and speak, to eat and drink, and dress and live after the manner of people of quality in London.’1
The spread of refined and intellectual tastes, and the great diminution among the country gentry of ignorance, coarseness, drunkenness, and prejudice might at first sight be regarded as an unmixed good, but it must not be forgotten that these things were purchased by the almost absolute disappearance of a class of men who, with some vices and with many weaknesses, have played a useful and memorable part in English life and history. An excellent observer, who wrote about 1792, has noticed that the preceding forty or fifty years had witnessed the total destruction in England of the once common type of the small country squire.
He was an ‘independent gentleman of three hundred per annum, who commonly appeared in a plain drab or plush coat, large silver buttons, a jockey cap, and rarely without boots. His travels never exceeded the distance of the county town, and that only at assize and session time or to attend an election. Once a week he commonly dined at the next market town with the attorneys and justices. He went to church regularly, read the weekly journal, settled the parochial disputes between the parish officers at the vestry, and afterwards adjourned to the neighbouring alehouse, where he usually got drunk for the good of his country. He never played at cards but at Christmas, when a family pack was produced from the mantelpiece. He was commonly followed by a couple of greyhounds and a pointer, and announced his arrival at a neighbour's house by smacking his whip and giving a view-halloo. His drink was generally ale, except on Christmas, the 5th of November, or some other gala-day; when he would make a bowl of strong brandy punch, garnished with a toast and nutmeg. A journey to London was by one of these men reckoned as great an undertaking as is at present a voyage to the East Indies, and undertaken with scarce less precaution and preparation. The mansion of one of these squires was of plaster, striped with timber, not unaptly called callimanco work, or of red-brick; large casemented bow-windows; a porch with seats in it and over it a study; the eaves of the house well inhabited by swallows, and the court set round with hollyhocks; near the gate a horse-block for the conveniency of mounting. The hall was furnished with flitches of bacon and the mantel-piece with guns and fishing-rods of different dimensions, accompanied by the broadsword partisan and dagger borne by his ancestor in the civil wars. The vacant spaces were occupied by stags' horns. Against the wall was posted King Charles's Golden Rules, Vincent Wing's Almanac, and a portrait of the Duke of Marlborough; in his window lay Baker's “Chronicle,” Foxe's “Book of Martyrs,” Glanvil on “Apparitions,” Quincey's “Dispensatory,” “The Complete Justice,” and a book of Farriery. In a corner by the fireside stood a large wooden two-armed chair, with a cushion, and within the chimney-corner were a couple of seats. Here at Christmas he entertained his tenants, assembled round a glowing fire made of the roots of trees; and told and heard the traditionary tales of the village, respecting ghosts and witches, while a jorum of ale went round. The best parlour, which was never open but on particular occasions, was furnished with Turk-worked chairs, and hung with portraits of his ancestors; the men in the character of shepherds, with their crooks, dressed in full suits and huge full-bottomed perukes; others, in complete armour, or buff coats, playing on the baseviol or lute. The females likewise, as shepherdesses, with the lamb and crook, all habited in high heads and flowing robes.’1
‘These men and their houses,’ continues the author from whom I am citing, ‘are no more.’ Everything, indeed, seemed against them. New modes of farming had arisen which the little country gentleman did not understand, and which required a capital he did not possess; and the pressure of taxation grew continually more heavy. ‘Lord North's American War,’ wrote Bishop Watson, doubtless with some exaggeration, ‘rendered it difficult for a man of 500l. a year to support the station of a gentleman; and Mr. Pitt's French War has rendered it impossible.’2 But, above all, the change of manners made his position untenable, and, clinging with great tenacity to his dignity as a gentleman, he found himself exposed to a social competition which he was wholly unable to support. The substitution of wine for beer, the annual visit to London or the seaside, the sudden introduction of town fashions soon plunged him into debt, while the high price he could obtain for his little estate from the large neighbouring landowner became irresistible. A very few, no doubt, of the more enterprising or fortunate of the small country gentlemen succeeded in enlarging their estates. A few others found new paths to wealth in the plains of India, and possibly even in some of the opening fields of manufacturing industry. Others became dependants of great men and obtained places under the Government; but the great majority either sank into tenant farmers or passed into the army, which was soon to draw away an ever-increasing portion of the manhood of England, and for which their hardy country habits made them peculiarly fit.
Of the history of the small proprietors who were simply yeomen, and who farmed their lands without making any pretension to the position of gentlemen, it is difficult to speak with confidence, for the evidence we possess is curiously scanty. Growing extravagance in this class also was tending to their obliteration, and economical causes were acting in the same direction. In the early years of the nineteenth century, however, freehold or copyhold farms might be still found scattered through every county. In parts of Wales, in Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Yorkshire, in Shropshire, Essex, and Kent, and in parts of Sussex, Derbyshire, and Gloucestershire they were still very numerous, and there is reason to believe that the immense profits of farming produce during the great French War for a time not only maintained, but in some parts of England considerably increased their number.1 But the sudden fall of prices at the peace ruined multitudes of small proprietors, many of whom had bought their land at the extravagantly high rate which war prices had produced, and from this time the decay of the class was rapid and almost complete.
English law and custom favouring the agglomeration of land have, no doubt, had some influence, but the main causes may, I think, be found elsewhere. On the one side there is the desire of the large landowner to buy. The social consequence which the possession of a great estate produces; the ‘land hunger’ which becomes with some men a passion scarcely less strong than the passion for drink, and the excessive and wholly extravagant preservation of game which has grown up within the present century have all contributed to it; and the increased luxury of country life makes men desire to surround their country places with an increased area of productive land. The innumerable fortunes made in commerce and manufactures have multiplied small country places held for enjoyment, but they have tended powerfully to the extinction both of yeomen and of gentlemen farmers, for they have brought into the market a new class of purchasers who care little for money and much for social position, and who seek to attain the latter by purchasing large quantities of land. The natural tendency also of a very wealthy class is towards investments which offer perfect security and a prospect of improvement, even at the cost of abnormally small present returns; and when the great man of the county wishes to buy, he commonly finds few competitors. It is very doubtful, however, whether the pressure of those who wish to buy has been a stronger influence than the pressure of those who wish to sell. In a great commercial and manufacturing country the owner of a small freehold can almost always increase his income by selling. If he is improvident and falls into difficulties, this is his natural way of extricating himself, and when a provident owner sees his children growing up and knows that he can only provide for one of them on his land, while he can start all of them in life by the proceeds of its sale, he will probably press the great landowner in his neighbourhood to buy, and to allow him to continue in occupation as a tenant. This is, I believe, the experience of most wealthy landlords; and it is to this economical process much more than to any feudal laws that the concentration of land in a few hands has in modern times been due.
The main governing influence of the transformation of manners which has been described in the preceding pages, is to be found in the improvement of roads and of means of locomotion, a subject that meets us at every turn when examining the industrial and social, and even the moral, political, and intellectual history of the eighteenth century. The legislation in England relating to roads has passed through two or three distinct phases. Originally by common law every parish was obliged to keep the roads that intersected it in good condition, but the first general law on the subject appears to have been that of Philip and Mary, which provided that every parish should annually elect two surveyors and that all the inhabitants should be obliged, under their direction, to provide labourers, carriages, and tools for four days in each year to work upon the roads.1 With the increase of wealth, however, and consequently of locomotion, this system proved insufficient; and among the many great reforms that were adopted under Charles II. the introduction of turnpikes is not the least memorable. It followed quickly on an important change in the means of locomotion. In the early part of the seventeenth century travelling in England had been mainly on horseback. Horses might be hired on the chief roads at stations about ten miles apart, generally at the charge of from 2 1/2d. to 3d. a mile; but in some counties it was possible to hire a horse for 3d. a day and its food. There were also long covered waggons, very slow and tedious, which were employed chiefly by women and by those who were too poor to possess or hire horses, and too weak to travel on foot. About 1640 stage coaches came into use, and they so far superseded the old ways of travelling that a writer in 1672, who was bitterly opposed to them, complained that at that date the saddle-horses bred or kept in England were not a fourth part as numerous as before the new vehicles had begun. He mentions that there were already many stage coaches running in the neighbourhood of London, and that they also connected the metropolis with York, Exeter, Chester, Northampton, Salisbury, Bristol, and Bath.2
The improvement in travelling advanced very slowly. The new turnpike roads were extremely unpopular, and fierce mobs—sometimes taking for their rallying cry the words of the prophet, ‘Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths'—frequently attacked and destroyed the turnpikes.3 A law of George II. made this offence a felony, but it is stated that in the middle of the century a traveller seldom saw a turnpike for two hundred miles after leaving the vicinity of London.1 It was acknowledged that English roads were still greatly inferior to the roads of France and of some other continental countries,2 and the well-known description which Macaulay has given of their condition in the last years of the seventeenth century might be still applied with little change. The coach from London now arrived at Oxford or at Portsmouth in two days, at York or Exeter in four, at Edinburgh sometimes in three weeks, sometimes in as little as ten days.3 In winter the journey was much longer than in summer, and in many districts the roads were for long periods impassable. On some of the Sussex roads it was necessary in winter to attach oxen to the carriages. Defoe met a lady near Lewes driven to church in her coach by six oxen, along a road so stiff and deep that no horse could go in it, and he mentions that there were roads in this county of such a character that after heavy winter rains, a whole summer was insufficient to make them passable. Horace Walpole speaks of roads in a similar condition in the immediate neighbourhood of Tunbridge Wells. The antiquary Pennant has left a vivid description of his journey from Chester to London. Six long days were consumed, and sometimes as many as eight horses were required to drag the coach from the slough. Beyond Chester the traveller encountered a far more terrible obstacle in the great crag of Penmaenmaur, which crossed the way to Holy-head, rising more than fifteen hundred feet precipitously from the sea, and it was not till 1772 that Parliament consented to improvements which deprived this part of the main road to Ireland of serious danger.4 But the last forty years of the eighteenth century produced a great and general revolution in English roads. After the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle many Bills were passed for the formation of turnpike roads, and after the Peace of Paris in 1763 the work was taken up with renewed energy. In the first fourteen sessions of the reign of George III. not fewer than 452 Acts were passed for repairing the highways in different districts.1
The improvements, though very great, were for many years only partial. Arthur Young, in his journeys through England, kept a minute record of the state of the roads, and it shows us that though much had been already done, many even of the turnpike roads were in 1768 and 1770 in the most disgraceful state. On the great road from Wigan to Preston, which was one of the most important in the north, he measured ruts which were four feet deep, and ‘floating with mud only from a wet summer,’ and in a drive of eighteen miles he passed no less than three carts which they had shattered. The turnpike road to Warrington seemed, he said, as if it were made ‘with a view to immediate destruction, for the breadth is only sufficient for one carriage, consequently it is cut at once into ruts, and you will easily conceive what a breakdown, dislocating road ruts cut through a pavement must be.’ The turnpike to Altringham was ‘if possible worse than that to Preston. It is a heavy sand which cuts into such prodigious ruts that a carriage moves with great danger. These sands turn to floods of mud in any season the least wet.’ The road to Manchester was ‘so narrow that only one carriage can move at a time, and that consequently in a line of ruts.’ The turnpike road to Newcastle, he writes, ‘is a paved causeway as narrow as can be conceived, and cut into perpetual holes, some of them two feet deep measured on the level. A more dreadful road cannot be imagined, and wherever the country is the least sandy the pavement is discontinued and the ruts and the holes most execrable. I was forced to hire two men at one place to support my chaise from overthrowing in turning out for a cart of goods overthrown and almost buried. Let me persuade all travellers to avoid this terrible country, which must either dislocate their bones with broken pavements or bury them in muddy sand.’ Beyond Newcastle to the north lay a country in which no wise men would travel except through absolute necessity. ‘I would advise all travellers to consider this country as sea, and as soon think of driving into the ocean as venturing into such detestable roads.’ ‘I am told,’ he continues, ‘the Derby way to Manchester is good, but further it is not penetrable.’ In Essex he describes a road to Tilbury as ‘for near twelve miles so narrow that a mouse cannot pass by any carriage;’ overshadowed except in a few places by trees that were totally impervious to the sun, and so bad that twenty or thirty horses were sometimes employed to drag the chalk waggons one by one out of the ruts.1
In the last quarter of the century these evils were for the most part remedied, and English roads became equal, if not superior, to those of any continental country. The fatigue of travelling in stage-coaches on such roads as have been described may be easily conceived, especially when it is remembered that for many years after the middle of the century stage-coaches had no springs.2 But the last years of the century produced great improvements in vehicles, the most important being the establishment of the mail-coaches of Palmer in 1784. Previous to this time the post had been sent by the old conveyances, though other and much more rapid ones were running. Thus the diligence to Bath performed the journey from London in seventeen hours, but the post in forty hours, and on other roads there was an equal difference. But the new mail-coaches surpassed all that had preceded them in speed and in comfort, and in 1797 Palmer was able to state before a parliamentary committee that three hundred and eighty towns which had previously had but three posts a week, and forty which had no posts at all, had now daily posts, and that on many roads letters were conveyed in a third or even a fourth of the time which had previously been taken.3
Almost every step in the improvement of locomotion in England was taken in the face of considerable opposition. In the beginning of the reign of Charles I. there were not more than twenty hackney-coaches in London, and those who desired them were obliged to send for them to the stables; but in 1635 a proclamation of the King and Council complained that they had so multiplied as to disturb the streets and raise the price of hay and provender, and ordered that no hackney-coach should be suffered in London or Westminster unless it was to travel at least three miles beyond it.1 The stage-coaches of the Restoration were vehemently assailed as discouraging horsemanship and the breed of horses in England, as drawing the country gentry from their duties to the dissipations of London, and as injuring great numbers of particular industries. The riots against turnpikes almost assumed the dimension of local insurrections; and when the faster stage-coaches were introduced, the old waggoners endeavoured to defeat the competition by systematically driving their broad and heavy waggons-wheels through the ruts made by the stage-coaches so as to make the roads impossible for fast travelling.2 In 1785 an Act was passed exempting mail-coaches from tolls,3 but heavy duties both on post-horses and on all public as well as private conveyances hampered communications, and the evil was aggravated by the adoption of the wasteful and almost discredited system of farming-out the duty on post-horses to publicans.4 But, in spite of all obstacles, the latter years of the eighteenth century witnessed a revolution in the internal communications of England which has only been surpassed by the enormous changes effected in our own century by the agency of steam.
Its effects were incalculably great. Confining ourselves for the present to the tastes, habits, and sentiments of the more educated classes, its first result was an immense impulse given to the love of travelling both in England and in foreign countries. The extreme insularity of English life was disappearing. I have already quoted passages showing the great increase in the number of foreigners who visited England and in the intellectual communication between England and France. The employment of foreign servants in England had become a characteristic feature of the time, and excited much discontent. We have seen the petition of the peruke-makers to the King in 1765. In 1795 a petition, signed by more than ten thousand livery servants, against the employment of foreigners in that capacity was presented to the House of Commons, but as it was not seconded it was not received.1 Two years earlier a similar petition had been presented by Grattan to the Irish House of Commons.2 In families of wealth and rank a foreign tour had long been the usual termination of as education, and in the early years of the century a certain number of English and Scotch students might have been found in several of the foreign universities. The great Lord Chatham was once a student at Utrecht.3 Charles Townshend and Wilkes were partly educated at Leyden.4 In Scotland, during the greater part of the eighteenth century, education in a Dutch or French university was generally considered the best preparation for the professions both of law and of medicine.5 But in the latter half of the century the movement towards the Continent was much more general, and foreign travel became the predominating passion of a large portion of the English people. ‘Where one Englishman travelled,’ wrote an acute observer in 1772, ‘in the reigns of the first two Georges, ten now go on a grand tour. Indeed, to such a pitch is the spirit of travelling come in the kingdom, that there is scarce a citizen of large fortune but takes a flying view of France, Italy, and Germany in a summer's excursion.’6 Gibbon wrote from Lausanne describing the crowd of English who were already thronging the beautiful shores of Lake Leman, and he mentions that he was told—though it seemed to him incredible—that in the summer of 1785 more than 40,000 English—masters and servants—were upon the Continent.7 The same love of travelling and the same taste for natural scenery were shown at home, and Wilberforce complained bitterly that the solitude and quiet of Westmoreland were gone, and that ‘the tour to the Lakes had become so fashionable that the banks of the Thames were scarcely more public than those of Windermere.’1
The closer contact between town and country life, the revelation to a cultivated and intellectual town-world of the majestic scenes of natural beauty, and the infusion of a new refinement, perception of beauty, and intellectual activity into country life, contributed largely to a memorable change which was passing over the English intellect. The empire which the great writers of the age of Anne, and especially Pope, had so long exercised was now disappearing. The fortunes and reputation of Pope form as curious and important a page in English literary history as the fortunes of Aristotle in the history of European thought. No poet was ever more clearly the outcome and the representative of the tendencies of his time. His path had been prepared by the French taste which came to England at the Restoration, turning the minds of men from the higher and wilder forms of imagination, producing a contempt for everything that was archaic, unsymmetrical, and inartistic, and making measure, and refinement, and exact and highly polished art the supreme ideals of taste. Shakespeare, as we have seen, was driven as a barbarian from the stage; Milton had few admirers and no influence, while Dryden and Cowley were in their zenith. Addison was a fine critic, and in his admiration for Milton he was before his age; but his poem ‘On the Greatest English Poets,’ which was written in 1694—when Pope was but six years old—illustrates with a curious fidelity the tendencies of English criticism. Chaucer's ‘unpolished strain’ he described as hopelessly rusted and obscured by time. Spenser's mystic tale amused a barbarous and uncultivated, but could have no charm for ‘an understanding age.’ Shakespeare is not even mentioned. Of Milton, it is true, he speaks in terms of high and worthy eulogy, but it was in Dryden that English poetry had culminated, though he seemed likely to have a worthy continuator in Congreve. And the grounds of this supreme admiration of Dryden were very characteristic. His were ‘the sweetest numbers and the fittest words.’ From his muse ‘no harsh, unartful numbers fell.’
Such requirements Pope exactly fulfilled. Probably no other poet had ever so perfectly realised the poetic ideal of his educated contemporaries, and for the long space of three-quarters of a century so absolutely formed, fixed, and satisfied their standard of taste. Then at length a new school of poetry sprang up, governed by other canons and aiming at other ideals. A generation arose who were much more sensible of his limitations than of his merits, and it became the literary fashion to describe him as not even a poet, or at best as only a poet of the lowest and most mechanical order.
Pope's poetry, indeed, bears to the poetry of the seventeenth century much the same relation as a Greek temple to a Gothic cathedral, and the limitations of his genius are very evident. He was essentially the poet of a town, the poet of a cultivated and artificial society. Though he wrote pastorals, few poets have had less genuine sense of natural beauty and less power of accurately describing it. Though much of his poetry consists of descriptions of character, he seldom contemplated human nature except as refined and tempered by civilisation, and his judgments of men show no real subtlety or depth. Noble and beautiful as are the last hundred lines of his ‘Eloisa’ and the concluding passage of his ‘Dunciad,’ no sound critic would place him among the great poets either of passion or of imagination, and the form of the heroic verse which he adopted gave little scope for variety or delicacy of harmony. The crystalline perfection of his diction has, indeed, in its own form, never been surpassed. No instrument has ever been framed more admirably adapted to express vividly and accurately noble thoughts, to point by epigram the shaft of wit or to impress itself indelibly on the memories of men. Except Shakespeare, probably no English poet has left so many lines which have passed into the daily usage of his countrymen; and a rich and beautiful fancy, a noble sense of intellectual and moral beauty streams through his verse like the sunshine through a pellucid pane. In my own judgment, the exquisitely delicate fancy of the ‘Rape of the Lock,’ and the restrained and dignified pathos of the ‘Lines to an Unfortunate Lady,’ are among the choicest products of English poetry. The fashion of literature has changed, but many modern readers, fatigued with obscurity, and affectation, and paradox, and exaggeration, will gladly turn to a poet who never wrote a careless or an unmeaning line, who embodied in transparent verse so many noble thoughts and images and characters, and whose language, if it has not the Rembrandtlike depth of colouring of some of his successors, has at least all the severe and polished beauty of Greek sculpture. But the charm of his versification is more the charm of supremely perfect rhetoric than of music; and, like the century he represented, poetic sensibility and imagination are in his poetry unduly subordinated to the reasoning power.
The balance between these elements has rarely been attained, and the ages and nations in which the imagination reigns most absolutely are not, I think, those which produce the truest poets. There is a state of mind, which is often seen in Celtic and in Oriental nations, where all the outlines of the real seem to fade away; where all thought is of the nature of dreaming; where strong, vague, poetic emotions form the staple of the feelings, and where the mind, habitually living in an atmosphere of the fantastic and unreal, loses all sense of the probabilities and hard realities of life. Such a soil commonly produces a rich efflorescence of legends, but it rarely produces poetry of the highest order. As gold cannot be worked without a certain admixture of alloy, so imagination is rarely converted into great poetry except by minds which have a large admixture of the elements of prose, a firm grasp of the realities of things, a strong sense of the practical and the human. Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe all possessed it most eminently. Their minds were essentially sane. Their measure of probability was sound, and they could write with a judgment and a precision, a distinctness and accuracy of outline, which no prose writer could have surpassed.
This perfect balance of the purely imaginative and the rational elements is only found in the greatest poets; and while Shelley has been the most illustrious modern example of the excessive predominance of the first, Pope and his school are examples of the equally excessive predominance of the second. But many years before the eighteenth century had terminated there were signs of a new tendency in poetry. It was plainly visible in the ‘Seasons’ of Thomson and in the ‘Elegy’ of Gray; it may be traced in some degree in Goldsmith's ‘Deserted Village’ and in Crabbe's admirable pictures of rural life; and the whole of the poetry of Cowper was a revolt against the dominant school and an aspiration towards a wholly different ideal. A love of scenery, and especially of its grander forms, was evidently growing. There was an increasing appreciation of simple nature, of untutored emotions, of older, freer, and more artless poetry. The publication of the ‘Reliques of Ancient Poetry’ by Bishop Percy in 1765 profoundly affected English taste, and the revived sense of the beauties of ancient poetry was stimulated by ‘Warton's History’ and reflected in the forgeries of Chatterton and Macpherson. In spite of a few popular collections,1 the wealth of poetry which lay entombed in the songs and ballads of Scotland was unknown to the English world till a Scotch peasant, formed by them and by the school of nature, became the greatest lyrical poet of his age. By a few strokes of genius Burns gave many of them an immortal form, and, as has been truly said, he did for the old songs of Scotland what Shakespeare had done for the English drama that preceded him.2
The eighteenth-century movement, of which Burns and Cowper were the most illustrious representatives, and which just before the close of the century produced the ‘Lyrical Ballads,’ advanced in spite of the influence of the great critic of the day. Johnson had no sense of natural beauty, which, indeed, he was too blind to see; he could discover little or nothing to admire in the ancient ballads, and his canons of taste and criticism were still essentially those of the age of Anne.3 The Shakespearian revival, however, assisted the change, and it was part of a movement which was much more than English. Herder collected the popular German songs. Lessing led a revolt against the classical standards of the age of Lewis XIV., and founded in Germany a school of criticism very like that which was afterwards founded in England by Coleridge. Under the influence of Roussean and his disciple, Bernardin de St.-Pierre, what French writers call the sentiment of nature' acquired a new prominence in French literature. The descriptions of Swiss scenery in the ‘Nouvelle Héloise’ gave an extraordinary impulse to the taste for natural beauty, and it is curiously illustrated by the fact that more than sixty accounts of travels in Switzerland were published between 1750 and 1795.1 The literary influence of the French Revolution was in the same direction. Not only old governments and societies, but even the old dies in which European thought had been moulded, seemed broken. The empire of the artificial and the conventional was relaxed, and a new strain of passion was introduced into human affairs.
These remarks seem to have led us far from the social history of England in the eighteenth century; but habits of life and habits of thought are in truth indissolubly connected, and new facilities of travelling and an increased contact between town and country had, I believe, a real and a considerable part in the literary movement I have described. The increase of luxury and refinement which was so conspicuous among the country gentlemen was still more manifest in the industrial classes; but while in the upper classes the tendency was towards a greater assimilation of manners, in the middle classes it was rather to define and distinguish a variety of grades. There was already a rich merchant aristocracy who vied in splendour with the first nobility. Among tradesmen, the custom of apprentices living in the houses, mixing with the families, and serving at the tables of their masters now began to pass away.2 It was a change which was not without grave social and moral evils, and it corresponded to that greater division between the farmer and his labourer which has taken place in the present century. The migration of the rich shopkeeper from his shop, which we have seen in he first half of the century, had become more general. In the earlier years of George II. a thriving London tradesman not only lived in his shop, but rarely ventured more than once or twice in the summer beyond the sound of Bow bells, and then only to Edmonton or Hornsey. There was but one dish of meat upon his table. French or Spanish wines were never seen there except at Christmas. If he entertained a friend it was with older or raisin wine made by his wife, and with a tankard of strong ale; his single maidservant and his apprentice served, and when he at last retired from business it was usually to a small villa at Turnham Green, or Hackney, or Clapham Common. In the country towns the habits wore even more frugal. ‘Formerly,’ said Dr. Johnson in 1773, ‘a good tradesman had no fire but in the kitchen; none in the parlour except on the Sunday. My father, who was a magistrate of Lichfield, lived thus. They never began to have a fire in the parlour but on leaving off business, or on some great revolution of their life.’ But George III. had not been many years on the throne before these habits were totally changed. A successful tradesman had two houses. He left his shop as much as possible to his apprentices and his journeymen. He spent two or three months of every summer at Margate or Brighton. His wife and daughters infitated the dress, tastes, and pleasures of the gentry. A footman stood behind his table. He entertained his friends with Madeira and claret. Bloomsbury, Queen, and Bedford Squares, in the close neighbourhood of the still aristocratic quarter of Soho, were now filled with rich tradesmen, and shortly after the middle of the century it was noticed as a new and characteristic fact that private carriages belonging to tradesmen were becoming common.1
The same strain of ostentation ran through the humbler ranks of industry. Fielding attributed the great increase of robberies in his time largely to increased extravagance of dress, and there were loud complaints that apprentices and clerks were attempting to imitate all the fashions of the Maccaronies.1
These complaints of growing extravagance in the industrial classes were too common in the latter half of the eighteenth century not to rest on some real foundation. It was said that the old English frugality had departed, that a spirit of speculation had taken the place of the spirit of patient and prolonged industry, that the standard of commercial integrity and the high quality of English work were seriously lowered. Birmingham, about the middle of the century, had set up a manufacture of cheap guns, and it is stated that more than one hundred and fifty thousand were sent annually to the coast of Africa, where they were sold for five and sixpence apiece, and where at least half of them burst in the hand that fired them.2 The assize of bread, fixing its price, was met by systematic adulteration. There were complaints of a similar adulteration of beer, brandy, and wine, and an especial Act of Parliament mentions and condemns the practice of selling sloe-leaves and ash-leaves for tea. Other Acts under George III. condemned frauds in the coal trade and in the manufacture of cordage for ships, and the frequent use of short measures in the textile manufactures. But perhaps the loudest complaints were of the exceeding badness of the new buildings. The rapid extension of London had so greatly raised the price of bricks that the makers had begun to mix with the brick, clay, ashes, and the slop of the streets; and the material of the bricks was so bad that London, it was said, without the intervention of an earthquake, was threatened with the fate of Lisbon. There were constant instances of half-built houses falling before they could be finished, and it was related that the master of a ship which carried several thousand bricks to Nova Scotia found on his arrival that more than half of them had crumbled into dust during the voyage.3
These evils were undoubtedly real, though they were certainly not peculiar to the latter half of the eighteenth century. They were evils such as always spring out of increased competition, increased industrial activity, increased facilities of rapidly acquiring wealth. In spite of a few calamities, the eighteenth century, till within eight years of its close, had been in England a period of singular and almost uninterrupted prosperity. In the reign of George II. the exports had almost doubled.1 In the fourteen years between the accession of George III and the beginning of the American troubles they again rose from 14,693,270l. to 17,128,029l.2 Then came a great check, and as America had been the chief market for English goods, there were loud predictions of approaching industrial ruin. But within a year of the signature of peace the English exports to independent America exceeded those of the last years of the colonial period; and the first ten years of the Administration of Pitt were among the most prosperous England had ever known. In spite of increased debt and increased taxation, the exports rose to 24,900,000l. The tonnage of English vessels at least doubled.3 The revenue in nearly all its branches proved elastic, and all the great manufacturing and commercial towns advanced with startling rapidity. The great and general rise of prices under George III. at once indicated and stimulated industrial prosperity, and the chief benefit naturally fell to the productive classes. Hume has left the interesting remark that, in the twenty-eight years that elapsed between the writing of the sixth volume of his ‘History’ and the publication of the edition of 1786, prices in England had perhaps risen more than in the preceding 150 years.4 In a pamphlet published in 1779 it was noticed as a characteristic feature of the time, that the papers were now full of accounts of tallow-chandlers, grocers, and other tradesmen leaving fortunes of 20,000l. or 30,000l.5 The same energy which showed itself in reckless and distempered speculation showed itself also in commercial enterprise; the discoveries of Captain Cook extended the horizon of the world, and in New Zealand and Australia he founded colonies which already contain a far greater English population than the American colonies at the time of their separation, and which seem likely to play a great and most beneficent part in the history of mankind.
In agriculture the period we are considering was marked by improvements which added largely to the productiveness of the soil, but they were improvements which for the most part were not favourable to the small farmer, for they required an amount of capital and skill which he did not possess. The system of drill husbandry and a greatly improved system of rotation of crops were introduced by Jethro Tull in the first half of the century, and though like many other eminent benefactors of mankind he died half ruined and unappreciated, the methods which he taught spread widely after his death. The cultivation of field turnips, though not absolutely new, was immensely extended, chiefly through the efforts of Lord Townshend, the old colleague and rival of Walpole, whose great farming experiments in Norfolk shortly after the middle of the century contributed very materially to the advance of British agriculture. Several other kinds of field cultivation were about the same time introduced or extended. The use of lime in preparing the ground became common. A number of ingenious agricultural instruments were invented, and a new and improved system of drainage was introduced by Elkington. But great as were the improvements in arable farming, they were surpassed by those which were effected in the improvement of sheep and cattle. It was about 1755 that Bakewell began his experiments with this object. He travelled over much of the Continent for the purpose of studying the different breeds, and he soon perceived that by judicious crossing it was possible to raise the breeds in England to a perfection hitherto unknown. Several great landlords and farmers in England and Sootland perceived at once the value of the discovery, and in the last half of the century the breed of animals in England was probably more improved than in all the recorded centuries that preceded it. Merino sheep were about the same time introduced, apparently by the King himself.
There is a remarkable passage in Arthur Young's ‘Tour in France’ which shows clearly the relation of the discoveries I have enumerated to the consolidation of farms. He is speaking of the smallness of French farms as compared with English ones, of the great inferiority of French farm cultivation, and of the manifest connection between these two facts. ‘Where,’ he asks, ‘is the little farmer to be found who will cover his whole farm with marl at the rate of 100 to 150 tons per acre? who will drain all his land at the expense of 2l. or 3l. per acre? … who to improve the breed of his sheep will give 1,000 guineas for the use of a single ram for a single season? … who will send across the kingdom to distant provinces for new implements and for men to use them? who will employ and pay men for residing in provinces where practices are found which they want to introduce into their farms? At the very mention of such exertions common in England, what mind can be so perversely framed as to imagine for a single moment that such things are to be effected by little farmers? Deduct from agriculture all the practices that have made it flourishing in this island, and you have precisely the management of small farms.’
It is impossible, indeed, to consider the history of English agriculture in the last century without arriving at the conclusion that its peculiar excellence and type sprang mainly from the fact that the ownership and control of land were chiefly in the hands of a wealthy and not of a needy class; and a large number of great gentlemen farmers led the way in all the paths of progress that have been described. Another influence, however, of a much less beneficial character, which was tending to the extinction of small farms, grew out of the sudden extension of manufactures. The domestic manufactures, which had hitherto formed an important element in the life and resources of a small farmer, suddenly ceased. Before this time not only the implements of culture and articles of dress required in a farmer's house were made at home, but also in many parts of England the wives and daughters of small farmers were habitually employed in spinning, weaving, and manufacturing a great variety of articles for the London market. In its moral effects such a system of manufacture was immensely preferable to that of the crowded manufactory, while economically it had the great advantage of enabling a farming class to exist in comfort on farms which could never support them by agricultural produce alone. It had the advantage also of furnishing employment for the periods of the year when agricultural labour is very slack, for the infirm members of the family, for delicate women, for old men who were too weak to labour in the fields. But the inventions of Arkwright, Hargreaves, and Crompton destroyed this resource. Manufactures were concentrated in great centres, and the articles which had once been produced by manual dexterity were now produced in such quantities and with such cheapness by machinery that all other modes of producing them ceased. This was, I believe, one of the most serious of the many serious evils that have accompanied and qualified the great benefits which manufacturing progress has produced.
In this manner, by irresistible economical causes which were independent of, and stronger than, any legislation, the small farmers were gradually turned into wage-earning labourers. The improvements in husbandry and the improvements in manufactures were alike incompatible with the old system, and the balance of profits was now clearly on the side of large farms. Arthur Young calculated in 1768 that the average size over the greater part of England was then slightly under 300 acres,1 and the tendency was undoubtedly in the direction of still further consolidation. He did not in any way regret it. The nett produce of the soil was largely increased. He contended with great force that through the increased demand for labour enlarged farms supported a greater population than small ones;2 that in every district where agriculture and manufactures were combined, the quality of husbandry was below the average; and that the position of the English agricultural labourer was incontestably superior to that of the small tenant on the Continent. Yet, when all this is admitted, the sudden destruction of one of the chief means of livelihood of countless families could not have been effected without much suffering, and there could have been no immediate increase of wages sufficient to compensate for it. A vast displacement of industries took place, and a change of conditions, which uprooted a great part of the agricultural population from the soil, brought with it grave moral evils and created divisions and antagonisms of interest which may prove very dangerous in the future. A long series of unusually bad harvests, shortly after the middle of the century, aggravated the transition, and it was soon found that restraints on marriage act much less powerfully on simple labourers than on occupiers of the soil.1
Another important feature in the agricultural condition of England in the latter half of the century was that it ceased to be a wheat-exporting country. The English corn laws had already passed through several phases. The older policy of the country was to prohibit absolutely the exportation of corn, but with the increased production of agriculture and the increased power of the agricultural interest, this policy was abandoned at the end of the fourteenth century; and after more than one violent fluctuation a law of Charles II. established a system which was in force at the Revolution. Under this law free exportation was permitted as long as the home price did not exceed fifty-three shillings and fourpence a quarter; while importation was restrained by prohibitory duties until that price was attained in the home market, and by a heavy duty of eight shillings in the quarter when the home price ranged between fifty-three shillings and fourpence and eighty shillings. At the Revolution, however, a new policy was adopted. The duties on importation were unchanged, while exportation was not only permitted but encouraged by a bounty of five shillings in the quarter as long as the home price did not exceed forty-eight shillings. It was the firm conviction of the statesmen of this period that, husbandry being the necessary and main industry of the greater part of the English people, and the foundation on which the whole system of political power in England is based, its encouragement should be a capital object of legislation, and that it was also a matter of the utmost political moment that the island should be self-supporting, independent of all other nations for the necessaries of life. The new subsidy to the landed interest, it was urged, would inevitably give a great impulse to tillage, and by making it possible to cultivate with profit a larger area of land would make the home price of wheat both steadier and lower. When the farmer cultivated only for the home market he was naturally tempted to understock his farm through fear that his produce might be left on his hands, and if the harvest fell but a little below the average there was an immediate scarcity. But with the prospect of a large and profitable foreign market more corn would be produced and fluctuations in price would be less rapid. In periods of great scarcity, however, temporary Acts were passed prohibiting for a short time the exportation, and suspending the duties on imported corn.
This legislation has been the subject of one of those great revolutions of opinion which must always impress upon a judicious student a deep sense of the fallibility of political reasonings. During the greater part of the eighteenth century its wisdom appears to have been perfectly unquestioned, and it was accepted and maintained by statesmen of every party. Arthur Young has devoted a considerable space to the subject of the corn laws, and he considers the English law one of the highest examples of political wisdom. The system of an absolutely free corn trade, which prevailed in Holland, would, be maintained, be ruinous in a country which depended mainly on its agriculture. The system of forbidding all exportation of corn, which prevailed in Spain, Portugal, and many parts of Italy, and during the greater part of the century in France, was altogether incompatible with a flourishing corn husbandry. Prices would be too fluctuating—in some years so low that the farmers would be ruined, in others so high that the people would be starved. It had been ‘the singular felicity’ of this country to have devised a plan which accomplished the strange paradox of at once lowering the price of corn and encouraging agriculture. ‘This was one of the most remarkable strokes of policy, and the most contrary to the general ideas of all Europe, of any that ever were carried into execution;’ and ‘it cannot be doubted,’ he said, ‘that this system of exporting with a bounty has been of infinite national importance.’1 Burke declared that experience, the most unerring of guides, had amply proved the value of the corn bounty as a means of supplying the English people with cheap bread;2 and Malthus defended it against the strictures of Adam Smith, and maintained that it had proved an inestimable benefit to the labouring poor.3 Modern economists, on the other hand, are accustomed entirely to condemn it. They describe it as one of the worst instances of a class employing their legislative power to subsidise themselves at the expense of the community, and they have altogether refused to attribute to the corn bounties the remarkable and undoubted fact that in spite of the increase of population the price of corn was from fifteen to twenty per cent. cheaper during the seventy years that followed the law of 1689 than it had been during the forty years that preceded it.4 I have quoted in a former volume several statistics about the price of wheat. It will here be sufficient to repeat that its average during the first sixty years of the eighteenth century was but a fraction above forty shillings a quarter, and that during the forty years which preceded 1750 it sank as low as one pound sixteen shillings without being accompanied by any corresponding fall in wages.5
Shortly after the Peace of 1763, however, there were evident signs that population was beginning to press upon the means of subsistence. The export of corn diminished; the price rose, and several temporary Acts were passed to relieve the scarcity. Something, no doubt, was due to a succession of bad harvests, and something to the spread of pasture in consequence of the discoveries of Bakewell; but the main cause appears to have been the rapid growth of the population in the manufacturing centres. In the decade from 1770 to 1780 the imports and exports of wheat for the first time almost balanced each other, and after 1790 England ceased to be an exporting country.6
The changing conditions of English agriculture were met by the Act of 1773—an Act which has been described as the most liberal English corn law before 1846. It admitted foreign wheat at the almost nominal duty of sixpence a quarter as soon as the home price had risen to forty-eight shillings a quarter, and rye, peas, beans, barley, and oats on terms which were equally easy. It maintained the old bounty of five shillings a quarter on exported wheat, but it made both that bounty and the liberty of exportation cease when the home price was forty-four shillings. The system of bounties on exportation was extended to oats, peas, and beans; but, as in the case of barley and wheat, the exportation was forbidden after the home price had risen to a defined and moderate level. The object of the Legislature was to prevent those violent fluctuations of price which had been frequent before the Act of 1689; and it was believed that, in consequence of these measures, wheat would not fluctuate greatly beyond the limits of forty-four and forty-eight shillings a quarter, and that the price of other grain would be equally steady.1
Great efforts were at the same time made to bring a larger part of England under cultivation, and enclosure bills multiplied with a wonderful rapidity. An immense proportion of England at this time was still waste, or was held in common and very slightly cultivated. By the law of England the soil of common land belonged usually to the lord of the manor, but the surrounding freeholders had certain defined rights upon it. They were of different kinds—rights of pasture, which were often let out at a penny an acre,2 rights of cutting wood and turf, and also rights of cultivation. In England, wrote in 1723 an author who was very conversant with agricultural matters, ‘every parish has three large common fields for corn belonging to it (besides the common for pasture), wherein every freeholder has his share—one six acres, another four, another eight or ten, according to his substance—not lying contiguous in each field, but perhaps in two or three places, according to the quality of the land. Two of these fields are continually under corn—namely, one for the winter corn and the other for the summer.’3 When the crop was on the ground it belonged exclusively to the person to whom it had been granted, but when the crop was secured the land reverted to commonage among all the persons who had grants of land in such common fields.1
The cultivation of these lands appears to have been the worst, the most wasteful, and the most exhausting in England. The pasture land was usually of a wretched description, and often enormously overstocked. Nothing was done for it in the way of draining or manure, and the greater part of common land appears to have been perfectly uncultivated and almost wholly unproductive. It has been estimated, probably without any exaggeration, that the enclosure and separate cultivation of the common lands must have increased their produce at least fivefold.2 It is not true that these lands were public property. The rights that have been described belonged to the surrounding freeholders in defined and recognised proportions, or were conveyed to tenants in the leases of their farms. There were claims, however, of an uncertain and vague character, resting on long prescription; there were numerous squatters who had settled on these great wastes without any legal rights, and who obtained from them a scanty and precarious livelihood, and a large vagrant population of gipsies, tramps, poachers, smugglers, and nomadic mendicants found them an important element in their existence.
There were some Acts of Parliament under George II. for enabling the lord of the manor, with the assent of the majority of the commoners, to enclose portions of waste land for the purpose of planting for the benefit of the commoners; and in 1773 a general Act was passed ‘for the better cultivation, improvement, and regulation of the common arable fields, wastes, and commons of pasture in this kingdom.’ It provided that, with the assent of three-fourths of the commoners, tillage and arable lands lying in open and common fields might be fenced in and managed in concert under the direction of a field master or field reeve, and that any lord of the manor might, with the consent of three-fourths of the commoners, lease for a time not exceeding four years, a twelfth part of the common, applying the rent to draining and fencing the remainder. The rights of all cottagers were scrupulously protected, and in cases where they were affected by the provisions of the law, full compensation was to be granted.1
The transformation of common land into private property was, however, as yet effected only by private Acts of Parliament, and these Acts multiplied in the latter half of the century with extraordinary rapidity. Under Anne there had been only two Acts of Enclosure, comprising 1,439 acres; under George I. there were sixteen, comprising 17,660 acres; under George II. there were 226, comprising 318,778 acres; but from the accession of George III. to the end of the year 1796 no less than 1,532 Enclosure Acts were passed, including 2,804,197 acres. In the Report of a Committee of the House of Commons in 1797 it was estimated that there were still 7,800,000 acres of waste land or common fields. The whole subject was considered by Committees of the House of Commons in 1795, 1797, and 1800, and on each occasion Sir John Sinclair drew up a valuable report, which, together with much evidence about the existing condition of these lands, clearly indicates the disposition and intentions of the Legislature. It was contended that it was of the utmost importance that this vast neglected portion of the English soil should be brought into speedy cultivation, and added to the national resources. It was a great evil that England should rely for her supply of corn on foreign importation. Since she had been compelled to do so, its price had become much higher, and had been subject to much greater fluctuations, and a serious element of uncertainty had thus been introduced into the relations between landlords and tenants. The enclosures, it was urged, were of the utmost value to the poor. They were for their benefit, for they contributed to furnish a cheap and abundant supply of corn; and they were also for their benefit because, by adding enormously to the demand for agricultural labour, they raised the rate of wages. There were also many minor and subsidiary advantages. The enclosures made the country much more defensible in the event of an invasion. They improved the climate and health of the inhabitants, which suffered severely from the vast tracts of undrained land. They mitigated the burden of the tithes, as in the Enclosure Acts the lay and spiritual owners of tithes generally acquiesced in receiving a portion of land instead of their right to tithes.1 They added greatly to the good order and security of the community by enclosing wastes which were the especial resorts and refuges of highwaymen and footpads, and of all the idlest and most disorderly elements of society.
The change was an inevitable one. With the famine prices of the great French War it advanced with gigantic strides, and it is impossible reasonably to question that it was a vast benefit to the community. ‘Without enclosures,’ Arthur Young emphatically said, ‘there can be no good husbandry;’ and he has shown how, under their influence, great tracts which had once been inhabited only by a wretched and thinly scattered population sunk in poverty, idleness, and crime, had become the fertile and prosperous home of thriving industry.2 Young was before all things a farmer, and he may be suspected of some bias towards the landed interest; but such a bias will hardly be attributed to Bentham. But the patriarch of the philosophical Radicals is at least equally enthusiastic. He describes the division of common lands as ‘one of the greatest and best understood improvements’ of the age. ‘When we pass over the lands which have undergone this happy change,’ he writes, ‘we are enchanted as with the appearance of a new colony. Harvests, flocks, and smiling habitations have succeeded to the sadness and sterility of the desert. Happy conquests of peaceful industry! noble aggrandisements, which inspire no alarms and provoke no enemies!’ The enclosures he emphatically declared to be alike favourable to the interests of rich and poor. They augmented the wealth of the former, but they at the same time with equal certainty raised the wages of labour in the very quarter where those wages had hitherto been most miserably inadequate.1
It was impossible, however, that such a change could have been accomplished without producing some opposition and without inflicting some serious suffering. Among the eccentricities of opinion of Dr. Price was a conviction that the population of England had been declining since the Revolution, and he denounced enclosures as one great cause of depopulation. Multitudes of poor men who, without any legal right, had found a home upon the common land were driven away homeless and without compensation. Except by occasional riots they had no means of striking the attention of the world, and their sufferings would probably have found no expression in literature had not a poet of exquisite and tender genius described them in one of the most admirable poems of the eighteenth century.2 The position of the many small freeholders and leaseholders who had legal rights in the common land was different. The Enclosure Bills carefully provided that every legal right should be ascertained and compensated, and there is, I believe, no reason to doubt that in general the commissioners honestly endeavoured to carry this purpose into effect. The compensations were sometimes made in the form of money and sometimes by the allotment to each commoner of a portion of the divided land. The expense, however, of a private Act of Parliament, even when it was absolutely uncontested, commonly amounted to sums ranging from 180l. to 300l., and sometimes to much larger sums. Much the larger part of the lands fell to the lord of the manor. In the case of small enclosures, rapacious country attorneys, surveyors, and Parliamentary fees often swallowed up all, or nearly all, the proportion of compensation which the poor man should have received for the loss of his common rights. The interests of future generations of labourers were almost wholly neglected: There were complaints of the absolute power, and sometimes of the partiality, of the commissioners; and it was said—no doubt with much truth—that where doubtful, intricate, and conflicting interests were in presence, where the terms of leases had to be altered and new adjustments of rent to be made, the poor man who could not fee counsel or convey witnesses contended at a most unfair disadvantage with his wealthy neighbour.1
The excessive legal expense of the enclosures, which was a serious and undoubted evil, was partly remedied by the Enclosure Acts of 1801 and 1845; though no change in landed property which passes through the hands of English lawyers has ever yet been cheaply effected. The example of Frederick the Great, who for twenty years before 1783 is said to have expended out of his very moderate revenue not less than 300,000l. a year in encouraging, by premiums and in other ways, the reclamation and cultivation of land in Prussia, was held up as an example;2 and the permanent advantages to all classes of Englishmen of the great enclosures of the latter half of the eighteenth century and of the early years of the nineteenth century have been very great. The movement, however, contributed powerfully to that consolidation of farms and that conversion of small tenants into agricultural labourers which the introduction of more expensive farming, and the extinction of domestic industries had already begun. Some small farms were at once turned into large ones by enclosing considerable tracts of common land, and numerous little farmers, who had been just able to subsist with the assistance of free pasture, now found their position untenable. Money compensation was soon spent or divided; the little farm was thrown up and absorbed into its larger neighbour, and the farmer himself became an agricultural labourer.
In a country like England, where farming is carried on upon scientific principles, with a large expenditure of capital and with proportionally large returns, this transformation appears to me to have been absolutely inevitable. From the time when the domestic manufactures were destroyed by the factory system, and when the commons were for the most part enclosed, the economical causes became irresistible. At the same time the change is not one to be looked upon with enthusiasm. In comparing the lot of a day-labourer in a prosperous country with that of a small farmer or peasant proprietor it will usually be found that the annual earnings of the former are larger than those of the latter; that his food is better and more abundant; that his daily labour is less excessive; that he is free from the burden of debt which weighs so heavily on the peasant proprietors of the Continent; that he possesses, since the law of settlement has been relaxed, a much larger amount of real independence. On the other hand, in some of the most important moral respects his condition is far inferior. The possession of land, or the hope of gradually attaining it, is found by experience to be one of the strongest of all incentives to providence, industry, and self-restraint; and in the poorest classes these qualities hold an especially prominent place among the springs of character and in the hierarchy of virtues. Probably no other class in English life can hope for so little from their exercise as the agricultural labourer. Probably no other class lead a life so purely animal, look forward so little to the future, are so completely dissociated from national interests, or yield so readily to the temptations of the public-house. The possession of a little garden brings with it a whole train of tastes and habits to which the modern labourer is a stranger.1 Gross ignorance, reckless multiplication, and a deplorably low standard of comfort and decency long characterised very generally the agricultural labourers of England. The improvidence created by parish relief, the extreme imperfection of country education, and the overcrowding of dwellings, created partly by the difficulty of obtaining cottages and partly by their own miserable standard of comfort, aggravated the situation, and the detailed inquiries that were made into the condition of agricultural labourers between 1840 and 1850 revealed a social condition which was disgraceful to civilisation.2 Much has since been done to improve it, and in some parts of England it has been very materially changed; but the condition of the agricultural labourer is still a phase of English life on which no patriot can look with pleasure, and the sharp contrasts of interest or sentiment which divide the farmer from the labourer may constitute a grave political danger to the Empire.
The increase of population in England in the latter half of the eighteenth century appears to have been very rapid. According to the most careful computation the population of England and Wales in 1700 was about 5,134,561;in 1750,6,039,684; in 1801, 9,172,980.1 The immense acceleration of the rate of progress in the second half of the century was mainly in the towns, and was due to the growth of manufactures and commerce, and it was the leading cause of the multiplication of enclosures. The English poor law, compelling every parish to support its paupers, did undoubtedly encourage reckless and improvident marriages, but it had on the other hand a strong repressive influence on the agricultural population by making it the plain interest of every landlord to discourage cottages or small farms which might shelter families likely some day to fall upon the rates. The law of Elizabeth requiring every cottage to be connected with four acres of land appears to have become obsolete for a considerable time before its repeal in 1775; and it is probable that the appalling condition of overcrowding, indecency, and sanitary neglect in the labourers' cottages which was disclosed by the Parliamentary Commission of 1842 existed to a large extent before the close of the eighteenth century. Unmarried labourers, it is true, still lived very generally with the farmers, but there were already loud complaints of the extreme difficulty which the poor found in procuring habitations. Labourers, it was said, who wished to migrate from their parents were sometimes refused permission from the lord of the manor to build a cottage on the common. They could neither obtain tenements, nor small plots to build upon, and they sometimes availed themselves of a long winter night to raise a hovel on the roadside or on the common.1 The difficulty was naturally aggravated when the commons were enclosed; but whether on the whole the direct and immediate effect of enclosures was to diminish the agricultural population has been a matter of much controversy. The most probable opinion seems to be that, by increasing employment and production, they on the whole rather stimulated it.2 But great displacements occurred. Districts once covered with small arable farms were turned into immense pastures, and there were complaints that a single man monopolised a tract which had formerly supported twelve or fourteen industrious families.3 Whole villages which had depended on free pasture land and fuel, dwindled and perished, and a stream of emigrants passed to America. Macaulay, in an essay which is by no means among the most valuable of his productions, has censured Goldsmith's ‘Deserted Village’ as wholly unnatural and incongruous. The village, he says, in its happy state could only have existed in England; the village in its deserted state could only have existed in Ireland. But there are contemporary pictures of the effects of enclosures in England which go far to refute the criticism.4
The increase of corn produced by the enclosures for a time checked the importations, but there were many deficient harvests; prices were on an average considerably higher than in the first half of the century;1 there was much fluctuation in the corn trade, and several temporary measures were taken. The Corn Law of 1791 was adjusted to the higher level of prices, and was somewhat less liberal than that of 1773. The importation of wheat was prevented by prohibitory duties till the home price was fifty shillings. It was only subject to a duty of sixpence a quarter when the home price was fifty-four shillings. It was subject to a duty of two shillings and sixpence when the home price ranged between these two figures. Exportation was absolutely forbidden when the home price was higher than forty-six shillings, and encouraged by a bounty up to forty-four shillings, and corresponding measures were taken to regulate the trade in other grain. But, in spite of the enclosures, the home supply soon became inadequate to the wants of the country, and the last years of the century were among the worst England had ever known. The distress produced by increasing pressure of population on means of subsistence, and by great displacements and revolutions of industry, was aggravated by a terrible period of commercial crisis and depression, a succession of extremely bad harvests and a great French war. The price of the necessaries of life rose out of all proportion to the rate of wages2 and fluctuated with a violence that was extremely disastrous to the labouring poor. At the close of the summer of 1795 wheat was sold at the enormous price of six guineas a quarter. In 1796 it was at one time one hundred and twenty-two shillings—at another fifty-six shillings, and in the last year of the century it again rose to ninety-two shillings and seven pence a quarter.3 The poor rate, which at the beginning of the century was probably less than a million a year, was about two millions at the close of the American War, but rose to four millions before the end of the century.1
All the evidence we possess concurs in showing that during the first three-quarters of the century the position of the poorer agricultural classes in England was singularly favourable. The price of wheat was both low and steady. Wages, if they advanced slowly, appear to have commanded an increased proportion of the necessaries of life, and there were all the signs of growing material well-being. It was noticed that wheat bread, and that made of the finest flour, which at the beginning of the period had been confined to the upper and middle classes, had become before the close of it over the greater part of England the universal food, and that the consumption of cheese and butter in proportion to the population in many districts almost trebled. The use of tea had immensely extended, and potatoes, turnips, carrots, and cabbages, which in the early years of the century had been only raised by the spade, were now commonly raised by the plough, and entered largely into the habitual food of the working classes. Beef and mutton were eaten almost daily in villages where their use had before been hardly known, or where at most they had been eaten only once a week, and the immense consumption of animal food by the mass of the population was one of the features that most distinguished England from the Continent.2
During the next few years it is probable that the increase of wages was on the whole not equivalent to the increased price of the chief articles of first necessity.1 The question, however, is extremely obscure and difficult, and it should be treated with great diffidence. Tolerably complete statistics of prices have been collected; but it is, I believe, impossible to determine with real accuracy the rate of wages. In addition to the great variations in different districts, and in winter, summer, and harvest time, it would be necessary to know what proportion of his time the labourer was unemployed; and a new and serious element of difficulty is introduced by the fact that the custom of working by the piece had become recently very general in most parts of England.2 But whatever doubt there may be about the relative prosperity of the labourers between the American War and the War of the French Revolution, there can be no doubt that about 1792 their condition began most seriously to deteriorate. The resources derived from domestic manufactures and from commons had greatly diminished, and the enormous rise of prices had begun. Cries of distress were loud and poignant. There were several parliamentary inquiries into the causes of the high price of food and the increasing destitution of large sections of the people, and many remedies were suggested. One proposal, which received the approbation of Dr. Price and which bears a strong resemblance to a scheme of the great German statesman of our own day, was a gigantic system of State insurance, to which the whole population were to be obliged to subscribe in different proportions.3 Friendly societies, to which labourers subscribed a certain portion of their earnings and which secured them subsistence in sickness, and independence in old age, multiplied greatly over most parts of England. They were encouraged by the Legislature, but especially by agricultural societies, which often assisted them with premiums. Schools of industry were established. There were agreements among members of Parliament and other wealthy persons to diminish the consumption of wheat bread in their households. Great changes were introduced into the workhouse system. An Act was passed to relieve the families of men serving in the militia. Another Act, preventing the removal of poor persons until they had become actually chargeable upon the rates, abolished a mischievous and oppressive portion of the law of settlement which prevented the labourers from moving freely in search of employment; and relaxations were introduced into the poor law system which proved ultimately extremely disastrous. The system of regulating the rate of wages in each district by justices was very ancient, but it was in the last quarter of the century that the system of paying certain portions of those wages out of the rates came into use. The Act of 1723, which restricted parish relief to occupants of workhouses, was modified; outdoor relief was in some cases permitted; and, with the warm approbation of Pitt,1 parochial relief was made proportionate to the number of children in a family, and a direct premium was thus offered to improvident marriages. As early as 1803, it appears from official returns that, out of a population of about 8,870,000 in England and Wales, not less than 1,234,000 persons, or nearly a seventh part, were partakers of parochial relief.2 It was probably not till at least forty years of the nineteenth century had passed that the condition of English agricultural labourers began again seriously to improve.
The history of agriculture in the eighteenth century is on the whole a history of great progress, but the changes which were effected in this sphere were inconsiderable when compared with the enormous revolution that in the course of a few years made the cotton manufacture the greatest of English industries. At the end of the seventeenth century great quantities of cheap and graceful Indian calicoes, muslins, and chintzes were imported into England, and they found such favour that the woollen and silk manufacturers were seriously alarmed. Acts of Parliament were accordingly passed in 1700 and in 1721 absolutely prohibiting, with a very few specified exceptions, the employment of printed or dyed calicoes in England, either in dress or in furniture, and the use of any printed or dyed goods of which cotton formed any part.3 A taste, however, had sprung up which it was found impossible to arrest, and a native manufacture began, though of more than doubtful legality. Manchester became its chief centre, and it was at last recognised, though with some restrictions, by an Act of 1736.1 But the so-called cotton products were not entirely cotton. Only the weft, or transverse threads, were cotton. It was provided by the Act of 1736 that the warp, or longitudinal threads, must consist wholly of linen yarn; and the manufacture though a growing one, long held a very subordinate place in British industries. The historian of the cotton manufacture has observed that at the opening of the eighteenth century, while the average export of woollen goods amounted to 2,000,000l., or more than a fourth part of the total export trade of the kingdom, the export of cotton but little exceeded 23,000l., and that this small sum was above the average of the next forty years. After that period there was a slight improvement, and the exports of cotton in 1750 had risen to 45,000l. The same writer has added that in the year 1833, while the woollen exports had increased to 6,539,731l. the cotton exports had risen to not less than 18,486,400l.2
I do not propose to describe in any detail the succession of closely connected inventions by which this great change was effected, still less to enter into the difficult questions that have been raised regarding the priority of conception among the inventors. It will be sufficient to say that towards the middle of the century the current of taste and fashion had begun to move in the direction of cotton goods, and within a few years, and as a consequence of the increased demand, a number of premature, abortive, or partially successful attempts were made to economise the labour and accelerate the rate of their production. During the first half of the century all cotton yarn was spun in single threads by the hand, and although the industry was pursued in countless farmhouses over England the supply of cotton yarn continued below the demand, and much below the quantity which it was in the power of the weavers to manufacture. The invention of the fly-shuttle by Kay of Bury, in 1738, aggravated the difficulty, for it about doubled the rapidity of the process of weaving. About 1764, however, Hargreaves invented the spinning-jenny, by which, through the instrumentality of a wheel, a number of spindles could be simultaneously worked. When the machine was first framed, it was enabled to work simultaneously eight spindles, and it was soon so improved that a single spinner could spin at once more than a hundred threads of cotton.1
Another enormous improvement was effected almost at the same time by the method of spinning by rollers, which were moved at first by the hand, but soon after by water. The first conception of this process has been attributed both to John Wyatt and Lewis Paul.2 A few years later, unsuccessful attempts were made by Thomas Highs to introduce it into use, but it was reserved for Arkwright to perfect the machine and to make it for the first time the great instrument in the cotton manufacture. His patent was taken out in 1769. In 1774 an Act of Parliament was passed authorising the new manufacture of goods made entirely of cotton, but imposing a duty of threepence per square yard upon them when they were printed, painted, or stained with colours.3
Many subsidiary but most wonderful inventions, accomplished within the last quarter of the eighteenth century, completed the transformation. The carding cylinder made it possible to perform by machinery an indispensable portion of the manufacture which had hitherto been performed by hand; the mule of Crompton, so called from its combining the principles of the rolling-machine and the spinning-jenny, immensely improved and accelerated the process of spinning, and it was carried by a succession of inventions to an almost miraculous perfection; the application by the French chemist Berthollet of the newly invented acid chlorine to the purpose of bleaching cotton cloth shortened that work from many weeks to a few hours; the invention of cylinder-printing in 1785 multiplied about a hundredfold the rapidity with which calico-printing could be accomplished; the power-loom which Cartwright invented in the same year, and which subsequent inventors greatly improved, gave a new impulse to weaving as decisive as that which Hargreaves and Crompton had given to spinning; and finally in 1789 and 1790 water-power was discarded and the whole manufacture passed under the mighty empire of steam. The bewildering magnitude of the change that was effected is sufficiently shown by the fact that through successive improvements in machinery not less than 2,200 spindles of cotton have been managed by a single spinner.1
These are but the most conspicuous of a long series of mechanical inventions which in a few years made the cotton manufacture of Great Britain the greatest in the world. Most of them passed through more than one phase, and were at first but partially successful; most of them were the work of poor and almost uneducated men, and it is melancholy to observe how many of the inventors, to whom the pre-eminence of English wealth is mainly due, lived and died in poverty, or were exposed to fierce storms of opposition. It is not surprising that it should have been so, for the inventions that have been described being mainly inventions for economising human labour and replacing it by machinery, their immediate effect was necessarily to restrict employment. Kay, the inventor of the flying shuttle, was so persecuted that he left England and established himself in Paris. Hargreaves' house at Blackburn was broken open by the mob. His machines were shattered; he was obliged to fly from his native town, and he took refuge in Nottingham. In 1779, during a period of temporary distress, cotton spinning was almost annihilated in the district of Blackburn by the madness of the mob, who traversed many miles of country, destroying all spinning-jennies with more than twenty spindles, all carding-engines, all water-frames, every machine turned by horses or water. The spinning and calico-printing machinery of Peel, the grandfather of the statesman, was thrown into the river at Altham, and the great manufacturer, finding even his life insecure, retired to Burton, where he built another cotton-mill on the banks of the Trent. A large mill built by Arkwright near Chorley was destroyed by the mob in spite of the presence of a powerful body of police and military.1
Yet it is certain that very few inventions have in their ultimate effects so largely increased the amount of employment. The number of persons engaged in England in the cotton manufacture was estimated at the beginning of the reign of George III. at about 40,000. In 1785 Pitt reckoned it at 80,000. After this time it increased far more rapidly, and in 1831 it had risen, according to the estimate of M'Culloch, to 833,000.2 In the first fifty years of the eighteenth century the quantity of cotton imported into England a little more than doubled, and the value of the cotton exports did not quite double. In the last twenty years of the century the former multiplied by eight, and the latter by fifteen and a half.3
The prominence Manchester had attained before the great inventions I have described, as a centre of manufacture, enabled it to reap the chief advantages of this most marvellous progress. Other centres, indeed, of the new industry were established in Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire, as well as in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire in Scotland. But Lancashire was from the first the pre-eminent home of the cotton manufacture, and its astonishing development is one of the most important facts in the English history of the eighteenth century. Water-power, coal, accumulated capital, and manufacturing enterprise, the great seaport of Liverpool, and an easy access to the iron fields of the neighbouring counties were the chief elements of its progress. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the whole population of this great county was computed at only 166,200, less than a third part of the present population of Liverpool. At the end of the century it had risen to 672,000.4 In the census of 1881 it is reckoned at 3,454,441.
The immense extension of the cotton manufacture, though the most remarkable, is but one of the events which make the latter half of the eighteenth century the most memorable period in the industrial history of England. To this period also belongs the great English manufacture of earthenware. The Chelsea china, which attained its perfection in the first half of the century, was chiefly due to the skill of French refugees, and two brothers from Holland named Elers established during the same period a small manufacture of earthenware in Staffordshire. They met with much opposition, and at last left the country; but the potteries continued, though they produced only the coarsest ware. In all other kinds French and Dutch earthenwares, by virtue of their indisputable superiority, completely dominated in England until Josiah Wedgwood turned the scale. This great man, like so many of the inventors of the eighteenth century, sprang from the humblest position. He was the youngest of thirteen children in a family which had been long employed in the potteries. His work in the trade was at first of the lowest kind; but he gradually rose into partnership with other workmen; began business on his own account in 1759, and soon after invented a new kind of earthenware which, by its superior durability and texture, almost drove foreign competitors from England and made its way to the most distant quarters of the globe. Before the close of the century it was stated that five-sixths of the quantity made was exported. The cameos, intaglios, busts, bas-reliefs, medallions, and other similar works produced in the Wedgwood factories formed a new branch of English art, and exhibited a designing power of almost the highest kind. Some of them were designed by Flaxman. Some were imitated from the Etruscan vases which Sir William Hamilton had just brought under English notice; but the new industry in all its parts was mainly due to the extraordinary genius of a single man. Of its industrial importance it is sufficient to say that in 1785 Wedgwood stated before a committee of the House of Commons that there were already from 15,000 to 20,000 persons employed directly in the potteries, while a far larger number were engaged in digging coal for them and in raising, preparing, and transporting from distant parts of the kingdom the clay and flints which they required.1
Staffordshire now ranks fifth in population among the countries of England. It owes its peculiar density partly to its potteries, but still more to its great mines and manufactures of iron. In the beginning of the eighteenth century its manufacture of nails and utensils of iron was already noted;1 but the great development of this industry belongs to a much later period. In spite of the enormous quantity of iron which lies beneath the British soil, the manufacture during the first half of the century was small and languid. As long as the process of smelting iron could only be accomplished by wood fuel, it was almost confined to thickly wooded counties, and ironworks proved so fatal to the English woods that the Legislature more than once interposed to restrain them. It is a curious fact that the process of smelting iron by pit coal had been discovered as early as the reign of James I. by a natural son of Lord Dudley, who took out a patent for it in his father's name. He met, however, with fierce opposition from rival manufacturers; his works were destroyed by rioters; a long series of private calamities and the confusion of the civil wars soon followed, and the newly discovered art, which was destined to be of such transcendent importance, took no root and appears to have been entirely lost. It was revived about 1735 by Darby of Colebrook, and from that time it rapidly spread. The works which had formerly been chiefly carried on in Sussex passed to districts in the neighbourhood of coal, and a new impulse was given to the manufacture by Cort of Gosport, who in 1783 and 1784 introduced the process of puddling and rolling iron. The great period of the English iron manufacture was still to come; but even in the eighteenth century the progress was only less than in the cotton manufacture. In 1740 the quantity of pig-iron made in England and Wales was estimated at but 17,000 tons; in 1796 it was 125,000 tons; in 1806 it was 250,000 tons.2 Birmingham, Sheffield, and a crowd of other towns in which the manufacture was pursued advanced with gigantic strides in population and influence.
This progress would have been impossible if there had not been greatly increased facilities for the transport of coal. The growth of manufactures both implied and stimulated the improvement of roads, and it also produced those vast works of inland navigation which distinguished the last forty years of the century. Canals with locks had long been common on the Continent. Italy and Holland in this respect led the way, and several other countries had followed in their steps; Peter the Great in Russia, and Charles XII. in Sweden, began great works of inland navigation which were continued by their successors. In France a canal uniting the Seine and the Loire was begun under Henry IV. and completed under Lewis XIII., and the great Languedoc Canal, connecting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic was regarded as one of the supreme achievements of the reign of Lewis XIV. England, however, lagged strangely behind, till the intelligent munificence of the Duke of Bridgewater and the genius of the great engineer Brindley began the network of canals which in a few years intersected the whole of her manufacturing districts. The canal, seven miles long, opened in 1761 between Manchester and the coal-mines at Worsley, was constructed at the sole expense of the Duke of Bridgewater, and the aqueduct by which Brindley conducted it at a height of thirty-nine feet over the river Irwell was regarded as one of the most stupendous feats of engineering ever performed in England. The immediate effect of this first canal was to diminish the price of coal in Manchester by one half, and its extension to the Mersey at Runcorn placed Manchester and Liverpool in easy communication, and enormously stimulated the prosperity of both.
Brindley died in 1772, at the early age of fifty-six, but he had designed much more than he lived to accomplish, and the impulse which he had given continued. It is true that, like all other great improvements in locomotion, canals found their sceptics and their opponents. The proposed aqueduct over the Irwell was ridiculed by engineers as a mere ‘castle in the air;’ and when the feasibility of the schemes of Brindley was proved there were not wanting those who denounced them as mischievous. Canals, it was predicted, would diminish or ruin the noble English breed of draught-horses; would injure the coasting trade and therefore the navy of England; would sink vast sums in unprofitable enterprises; would destroy great quantities of land which might be better employed in producing corn. But the manufacturers clearly saw the capital importance of the new waterways; and, by furnishing an easy mode of transporting manure, canals became one of the great means of the improvement of agriculture.
The eighteenth-century movement for the construction of canals has now receded into the background, eclipsed by the more gigantic and astonishing enterprise which has made it possible to traverse on the wings of steam almost every district in the island. The earlier enterprise, however, was unlike anything that had been before seen in England, and it excited a wonder and enthusiasm which even railways have scarcely surpassed. Miss Aiken described in graceful verse the new charm which was added to the English landscape by the silver line of placid water which relieved and brightened the barren and gloomy moor, while white sails might be seen gleaming through the dusky trees, or moving like swans in their flight, far above the traveller's head. In 1790 a vast design of Brindley was accomplished by the completion of the chain of works which connected the four great ports of London, Bristol, Liverpool, and Hull; and in the same year, after the labour of twenty-two years, the canal was opened which connected the Forth with the Clyde. It was pronounced to be superior to every other work of the kind in Europe, and it raised vessels capable of navigating the ocean to the height of 156 feet above the level of the sea, and, in one of the aqueducts, sixty-five feet above the natural river. About the time when the great war began, speculations in canals had assumed dimensions which almost foreshadowed the railway mania of the nineteenth century. In the four years which ended in 1794 it was noticed that not less than eighty-one Acts of Parliament were passed for navigable canals and improvements in inland navigation, and it was computed that before the rise of railways not less than 2,600 miles of navigable canal had been constructed in England, as well as 276 in Ireland and 225 in Scotland, and that about 50,000,000l. had been invested in their construction.1
But the greatest of all the industrial inventions of the eighteenth century, when measured by its future consequence, was the improvement of the steam-engine by Watt. The expansive power of steam had indeed been long noticed. A rotatory machine moved by steam is mentioned by Hero of Alexandria 120 years before the Christian era, and after a long interval the possibility of applying the force of steam to practical purposes appears to have struck several independent thinkers of the seventeenth century. A French engineer named De Caus, an Italian philosopher named Branca, the celebrated Marquis of Worcester, and the great French mathematician, Denis Papin, had all contributed something to the discovery; and just before the close of the seventeenth century the model of a steam engine for raising water from mines was presented to the Royal Society by an English engineer named Savery. In 1705, however, the machine of Savery was superseded by another which was more efficient and economical, invented by a blacksmith named Newcomen; and from this time the use of the steam-engine in collieries appears to have been habitual. In 1761 a patent was granted to Jonathan Greenal of Parr, in the county of Lancaster, for a newly invented fire-engine for draining mines, coal-pits, and lands from water;1 and two years later an engine was cast in Colebrookdale which was said to be the largest ever produced, and which was expected to raise at a stroke 307 cwt. of water.2
James Watt, to whom the complete transformation of the steam-engine is due, was born at Greenock in 1736. His father was a carpenter and shipwright in very modest circumstances, and he himself for several years showed little promise of greatness. He was a slow, shy, plodding, self-concentrated boy, with weak health and low spirits, entirely without brilliancy and fire, but with an evident natural turn for mechanics. When he was nineteen he was sent to London to learn the trade of making mathematical instruments, and about two years later he settled in Glasgow, where the great qualities of his genius speedily developed. Among his warmest and most faithful friends was the philosopher Black, whose recent and splendid discovery of latent heat largely assisted Watt in his experiments. It was in 1763, when repairing for the University of Glasgow a defective model of Newcomen's engine, that Watt first steadily directed his mind to the improvement of the steam-engine, and he introduced a succession of changes which soon altered its whole character. By the device of a separate condenser he saved an enormous waste of heat, and therefore of fuel, which had hitherto done much to make the engine unprofitable, and he at the same time vastly increased its force by making steam instead of atmospheric pressure the motive power of the downward movement of the piston. In the earlier engines steam had been employed only for the purpose of creating by its condensation a vacuum, and thus producing the pressure of air upon the piston by which the working power of the machine was directly effected.
I cannot undertake to describe the succession of mechanical improvements introduced by Watt. His first patent for his engine was obtained in 1769, and, in spite of considerable opposition, it was extended in 1775 for twenty-five years. His career, though at last crowned with splendid success and a large fortune, was full of difficulty and opposition, and it was darkened by weak health and extreme constitutional despondency. For many years his works were unremunerative; the burden of debt hung heavily upon him, and when success arrived he was exposed to much opposition from rival inventors, to shameful attempts to defraud him of his dues, and to at least seven years of harassing litigation. It was his good fortune, however, to be early supported by Dr. John Roebuck, a man of singular enterprise and ability, who carried on large ironworks on the Carron, in Stirlingshire, and afterwards, when Roebuck had been ruined, to be taken into partnership by Matthew Boulton, the head of the great ironworks at Soho, near Birmingham.
Assisted by the capital and labour at the disposal of a great manufacturer, the most splendid inventive genius of the eighteenth century had full scope to display itself. For many years, however, after the first invention of Watt, the steam-engine seemed likely to hold only a very subsidiary place among the inventions of the eighteenth century. It was an instrument of admirable power and efficiency, but its only motion was vertical, and its utility was almost confined to the single purpose of pumping up water. Sometimes, no doubt, the water thus pumped up was employed to turn a wheel, and steam thus occasionally came into use in manufactures when a natural current could not be obtained, but in general it was employed only in mining and drainage. The idea, however, was evidently spreading among inventors that new motions, and therefore new applications, might be given to the machine; and there were several independent inventors, though it was reserved for Watt most fully and most completely to succeed. After many years of patient labour he succeeded in giving to the steam-engine a rotatory motion and a parallel motion, and, by the regulating centrifugal force of the governor, in placing the machine in all its various and combined motions under the complete control of the mechanic. A power of enormous force was thus called into being, which could be applied with the utmost facility and the most absolute certainty in the most various directions. Steam locomotion, though it was more than once suggested, projected, attempted, and even in some small degree accomplished in the eighteenth century, was not fully achieved till a few years later; but from the time of the later inventions of Watt it had become a certainty. Gradually, during the last twenty years of the century, the new engines came into use as the motive power in manufactures, performing with enormously increased strength and efficiency what had formerly been done by the human muscles, by animals, by wind, or by water. No other invention since the discovery of printing has affected so widely, so variously, and so powerfully the interests of mankind.1
Such were the chief inventions that transformed England from a country which was essentially agricultural into a country which was essentially manufacturing, and produced in a few generations those vast accumulations of wealth and those vast agglomerations of population on which so great a part of its modern character depends. It is a superficial and erroneous view which seeks the consequences of such changes only in industrial and political spheres. The conditions under which men live affect the whole type of their characters, and inventions that are purely mechanical ultimately influence profoundly both opinions and morals. To trace with any completeness the vast and multifarious consequences of the manufacturing development of England would require in itself a long book; and all that can here be done is to sketch a meagre outline.
The first and most obvious fact is that the triumphant issue of the great French War was largely, if not mainly, due to the cotton-mill and the steam-engine. England might well place the statues of Watt and Arkwright by the side of those of Wellington and Nelson, for had it not been for the wealth which they created she could never have supported an expenditure which, during the last ten years of the war, averaged more than eighty-four millions a year, and rose in 1814 to one hundred and six millions, nor could she have endured without bankruptey a national debt which had risen in 1816 to eight hundred and eighty-five millions.1
The magnitude of the resources which she discovered in the time of her deepest need is sufficiently shown by the fact that the cotton exports alone during the period of the war, from 1793 to 1815, amounted in value to 250,000,000l.2 There was hardly a branch of manufacture in which production and profits were not suddenly and enormously increased by the application of steam, and under the influence of the inventions of the eighteenth century the coal-fields and iron-beds of England gave her a new and mighty element of power and ascendency in the world.
The gains in the first stage of the progress were naturally the most gigantic. It has been noticed that when Pitt established the legacy duty he thought it absurd to provide for a legacy duty on properties above a million; but in half a century the scale of fortunes had so changed that scarcely a year passed in which such properties were not bequeathed.3 The few great bankers, the few rich merchants of the eighteenth century formed a wholly insignificant counterpoise to the vast balance of wealth which was then in the hands of the landed interest. The small place given to them in the estimate of Gregory King at the end of the seventeenth century shows conclusively how little importance the class had as yet acquired. But the manufacturing aristocracy produced by cotton and by iron soon became an important political element in the country, possessing as great employers of labour a natural influence hardly less than that of the largest owners of the soil.
The effects of manufactures on the happiness and prosperity of the masses of the English people have been more various, more chequered, and more contested. It is idle, however, to dispute the advantages of inventions which have incalculably increased both production and employment, and have at the same time replaced by machinery the most burdensome forms of human toil. Millions of men and women are now living in England who could not possibly have subsisted there but for the great inventions that have been described; and in spite of many fluctuations, the wages of this vastly increased population have usually been higher, not merely absolutely but also in their purchasing power, than those which were earned before these inventions had arisen. The multiplication and the diversity of possible employments have been of incalculable advantage to the poor, and manufactures more than any other single influence have enabled poor men of energy and skill to rise above the positions in which they were born. Examples of such a rise were, of course, most numerous in the earlier days of the great manufactures; but in the skilled artisans the manufacturing system still produces a large class whose general well-being is probably unequalled by any corresponding class on the Continent, and who in intelligence and energy form one of the most valuable elements of English life. Tracts of England which had formerly been almost waste and barbarous have been made prosperous and wealthy. Agriculture has started into a new perfection, in response to the vast demand for agricultural products which the great manufacturing centres have made. The high rate of wages in manufacturing towns has reacted upon the condition of the agricultural labourers and raised the standard of wages in the surrounding country. Capital, skill, and energy acquired in manufacturing enterprise have ultimately passed largely into country life; and the genius of Watt and Stephenson has brought distant markets almost to the doors of the farmer. Cheap clothing of calico and cotton, cheap tools, cheap means of transporting himself and the products which he wishes either to buy or to sell, cheap methods of communicating with his absent friends, and a cheap press to instruct and to amuse, are among the many blessings which machinery has bestowed upon the agricultural poor, while great centres of intelligence and energy have multiplied over the land and diffused their intellectual and moral influence through the remotest districts.
Human progress, however, rarely means more than a surplus of advantages over evils, and the evils that accompanied the sudden growth of manufactures were very great. We have already seen its powerful effects in the destruction of small farms. Partly by ruining the domestic manufactures and compelling the enclosure of the commons, which alone enabled in many districts the poor farmer to subsist; partly by the temptation of higher wages, which has been steadily drawing the poorer population of the country to the great towns—manufactures have contributed most powerfully to give English country life its present type. In spite of the extraordinary rapidity with which the inventions in manufactures succeeded one another, it was some years before the factory system obtained a complete ascendency, and each stage of its triumphant march was marked by the ruin of industrious men. Not only the manufactures pursued in the farmhouse, but also those on a somewhat larger scale pursued in the towns, were destroyed. The woollen manufacture in the eighteenth century was carried on by great numbers of small masters in their own homes. They usually employed about ten journeymen and apprentices, who were bound to them by long contracts, who boarded in the master's house, and who worked together with him and under his immediate superintendence. In Leeds and its neighbourhood in 1806, there were no less than 3,500 of these establishments. But the gigantic factory, with its vast capital, its costly machinery, and its extreme subdivision of labour, soon swept them away.1 Handloom-weaving—once a flourishing trade—long maintained a desperate competition against the factories, and as late as 1830 a very competent observer described the multitude of weavers, who were living in the great cities, in houses utterly unfit for human habitation, working fourteen hours a day and upwards, and earning only from five to eight shillings a week.1
The sanitary neglect, the demoralisation, the sordid poverty, the acute and agonising want prevailing among great sections of the population of our manufacturing towns during the fifty or sixty years that followed the inventions of Arkwright and Crompton can hardly be exaggerated. Human nature has seldom shown itself in a more unlovely form than in those crowded and pestilential alleys, in that dark and sulphurous atmosphere. The transition from one form of industry to another, the violent fluctuations of wages and of work, the sudden disruption of old ties and habits and associations, the transfer of thousands of female spinners from their country homes to the crowded factory, the vast masses of ignorance and pauperism that were attracted to the towns by vague prospects of employment, have all led to a misery and demoralisation of an extreme character. The transitions of industry are always painful, but very few transitions have been so much so as that in the closing years of the eighteenth century. No system of national education had prepared the people for the change. The settled conditions of labour, which had formerly produced much of the effect of education upon character, were destroyed, and the increase of the great towns under the stimulus of the new inventions was so portentously rapid that it utterly outstripped the efforts of religious and philanthropical organisation. Two very unfortunate influences also concurred to aggravate the situation. The enormous rise in the price of corn accompanying the great French War rendered the period of transition peculiarly trying, and the great increase of population in Ireland produced a large Irish immigration, which not only lowered the wages of the English labourer, but also most seriously and permanently depressed his standard of comfort.2
It was evident, indeed, that the new conditions of labour were in some important respects much less favourable to moral purity and development than those which preceded them, and also that they were calculated to produce serious social and political danger. The system, which is rapidly spreading through all industry, of vast undertakings supported by small profits on an immense sale, inevitably tends to wider divisions of classes and greater contrasts of wealth and poverty. Whenever an industry passes from the restraint of strong custom and regulating laws into a condition of highly stimulated and unshackled competition, production is increased, prices are lowered, general well-being is augmented, but the relative strength and weakness of individuals, and the relative positions of different classes, are more distinctly separated. Economical and material progress is not always accompanied with a corresponding social and moral improvement, and there is reason to believe that in the early days of the manufacturing system the disparity between them was unusually great. A very intelligent observer named Francis Place, who rose himself from the position of a working man, and who devoted much research to the changes of manners and morals that had occurred during the first great period of manufacturing development, has described in a pamphlet written in 1829, and in evidence before a Parliamentary Committee in 1835, the changes which had taken place within his recollection. The most important was the great difference in manners and morals that had arisen between different classes of workmen. When he wrote, he said, the difference in these respects between the skilled workman of London and the common labourer was as great as the difference between the workman and his employer. Drunkenness had diminished. The best-paid workmen were as a rule the least dissolute, and as the old members of the class dropped off, the improvement became more marked. But this difference had been almost wholly created within a single lifetime. He could remember when there was no appreciable distinction of morals and manners between the different sorts of London workmen. Few could write. Very few ever looked into a book. Mechanics' institutes, book clubs, and a crowd ofinstitutions which produce educated tastes among the working classes, were as yet unborn. The amusements of all grades of workmen in London were of the same type—drinking and gambling in the public-house, where they held their clubs and played a game of chance or skill for a pot of beer or a quartern of gin; songs and ballads of revolting indecency; a few tea-gardens usually thronged with prostitutes and thieves; duck hunts in the great ponds to the east of Tottenham Court Road; occasional badger-baiting, dog-fighting, or bull-baiting. In general, he observed, the most skilful workmen, as they had most money to spend, were the most dissolute.1
These remarks referred to the workmen of London, but there can be little doubt that the picture was equally applicable to those of the great manufacturing towns at the period of which I am writing. Under the excellent management and discipline of the great factories, a standard of comfort and well-being has now been attained which is beyond all praise, and high wages, combined with many opportunities of improvement and saving, have raised the level of civilisation in the operative class far above that of the eighteenth century. But the many factory laws which it was found necessary to enact after careful Parliamentary inquiries, and at the very time when public feeling in England was running most strongly in the direction of unrestricted industry and trade, show clearly how serious and how incontestable were the evils originally connected with the system. The most serious was the constant employment of very young children, in work so severe and prolonged that it must have almost inevitably ruined them for life. Some foreign writers have attributed this evil to Pitt. They say that he once received a deputation of manufacturers who complained of the depression of their trade, and that he dismissed them with the terrible advice, ‘Take the children.’2 The story is, I beleive, without authority, and the system of employing children in great numbers had sprung up before any recorded speech of Pitt upon the subject. It was an inevitable consequence of the introduction of machinery, which, needing no physical force, made cheap child-labour available. It is, however, true that Pitt left the enormous abuse of child-labour which grew up in his time entirely unrestricted by law, while he strongly urged the propriety of turning the industry of children to profit. In a speech on the depressed condition of the labouring classes he observed: ‘Experience has already shown how much could be done by the industry of children, and the advantages of early employing them in such branches of manufactures as they are capable to execute. The extension of schools of industry is also an object of material importance. If anyone would take the trouble to compute the amount of all the earnings of the children who are already educated in this manner, he would be surprised when he came to consider the weight which their support by their own labours took off the country, and the addition which, by the fruits of their toil and the habits to which they were formed, was made to its internal opulence.’1
Within carefully guarded limits, child-labour is no more to be objected to in manufactures than in agriculture, but in the early days of the factory system these limits were utterly discarded. In the very infancy of the system it became the custom of the master manufacturers to contract with the managers of workhouses throughout England and of the charities of Scotland, to send their young children to the factories of the great towns. Many thousands of children between the ages of six and ten were thus sent, absolutely uncared for and unprotected, and left at the complete disposal of masters who often had not a single thought except speedily to amass a fortune, and who knew that if the first supply of infant-labour was used up there was still much more to be obtained. Thousands of children at this early age might be found working in the factories of England and Scotland, usually from twelve to fourteen, sometimes even fifteen or sixteen, hours a day, not unfrequently during the greater part of the night. Destitute or drunken or unnatural parents made it a regular system to raise money by hiring out their children from six, sometimes from five, years old, by written contracts and for long periods. In one case brought before Parliament, a gang of these children was put up for sale among a bankrupt's effects, and publicly advertised as part of the property. In another, an agreement was disclosed between a London parish and a Lancashire manufacturer in which it was stipulated that with every twenty sound children one idiot should be taken. Instances of direct and aggravated crnelty to particular children were probably rare, and there appears a general agreement of evidence that they were confined to the small factories. But labour prolonged for periods that were utterly inconsistent with the health of children was general. In forty-two out of forty-three factories at Manchester, it was stated before the Parliamentary Committee in 1816 that the actual hours of daily work ranged from twelve to fourteen, and in one case they were fourteen and a half. Even as late as 1840, when the most important manufactures had been regulated by law, Lord Ashley was able to show that boys employed in the carpet manufacture at Kidderminster were called up at three and four in the morning, and kept working sixteen or eighteen hours; that children of five years old were engaged in the unhealthy trade of pin-making, and were kept at work from six in the morning to eight at night.1
It was one of the effects of the immense development of the cotton manufacture, that negro slavery in America, which at the time of Washington seemed likely to be extinguished by an easy and natural process, at once assumed gigantic dimensions. It was hardly more horrible, however, than the white slavery which, for some years after the establishment of the factory system, prevailed both in England and on the Continent. Some of the great manufacturers were fully sensible of the evil. To the first Sir Robert Peel, who was among the greatest of them, is chiefly due the first Factory Act, which was carried in 1802; and the Ashtons, the Ashworths, and the Gregs were early noted for the conspicuous and enlightened humanity which they displayed in the management of their factories. But the struggle for the Factory Acts was on the whole carried on in the teeth of fierce class opposition, as well as strong intellectual and political tendencies, and the success of those Acts will furnish one of the most curious and instructive pages in the history of the nineteenth century.
In some most essential respects the growth of the great manufacturing towns was altering the character of England. For many generations after the Revolution, the county members formed especially the independent, and also the mobile element in the House of Commons; and in the Reform plans of both Pitts an increase of county representation was put forward as the most efficacious means of infusing into it health, purity, and energy. The movement of progress and of change in all its forms was very languid, and the feeling of the country was essentially conservative. The English Constitution, as it appears in the writings of Burke, and as it in fact existed for many generations after the Revolution of 1688, was a thing which owed its excellence quite as much to the singular union in the English character of self-reliance, practical good sense, love of compromise, and dislike to theoretical, experimental, or organic change, as to any law that can be found in the Statute-book. The patient acquiescence in all kinds of theoretical irregularities and anomalies provided they worked well; the reverence for habit, precedent, and tradition; the dislike to pushing principles to their extreme logical consequences, and the essential moderation which the English people have almost always shown even in the periods of their greatest excitement, have been main causes of the longevity and the reality of their freedom. It is a memorable fact that there are few periods in English history in which so many important laws were made for the protection of religious, political, and individual liberty as during the great Royalist reaction of the Restoration;1 while, as Burke has abundantly shown, the prescriptive, hereditary, and conservative character of the English monarchy was never more carefully and elaborately asserted than by the statesmen who made the Revolution of 1688. The sound practical judgment and the systematic moderation of the Governments which carried England safely through the long period of a foreign dynasty and of a disputed succession, have been abundantly shown in the present work. Nor were these qualities confined to the eighteenth century. The intelligent middle classes, who were the true centre of political power in that golden period of the Constitution between the Reform Bill of 1832 and the Reform Bill of 1867, eminently possessed them. The conduct of the Whig Ministers in the years that immediately followed their great Reform Bill is well deserving of the study of all political thinkers. Sir Robert Peel, who led the Opposition, possessed an administrative skill which none of his contemporaries and scarcely any of his predecessors could rival, and, with a sagacity that he did not always show, he at once accepted the Reform Bill he had so strenuously opposed, and raised the banner of administrative reform. There were not wanting those behind the Whig Ministers who urged them passionately, to meet this policy by the obvious party device of a further movement for organic change, and availing themselves of a tide of public feeling, which had almost risen to the height of revolution, to attack the House of Lords and to effect a complete transformation of the Constitution. Nothing, in my opinion, in the whole course of English parliamentary history is more deserving of admiration, nothing is more characteristic of the best traditions of English public life, than the firmness and the patriotism with which the Whig leaders resisted the temptation, repressed the revolutionary tendency among their followers, applied themselves to calming passions which were becoming dangerous to the historic framework of English government, and risked all their popularity by effecting one of the most needed but most unpopular of administrative changes, the reform of the old poor law.
How far the spirit which produced such a course of policy continues may well be doubted. The old elements of the English character remain, but their proportions are differently mixed. The habits and mental tendencies of a people who are essentially agricultural will always differ from those of a people where the predominant political power rests mainly in great towns, and this, through the astonishing growth of manufactures, has now become pre-eminently the character of England. It has been noticed that of towns of more than forty thousand inhabitants there are now fifty-five in Great Britain and Ireland, twenty-eight in France, twenty-four in Italy, twenty-one in Prussia, fourteen in Russia, and six in Austria.1 In France revolutionary movements in the great towns have often reversed by violence the conservative tendencies in the country. In England the growing influence of great towns is shown in a gradual modification of the type and habits of political thought. When opinions are formed and discussed by great masses of men, and especially by men of the artisan class, when they are constantly made the subjects of debate before large and popular audiences and in a spirit of fierce controversy, the empire of habit, tradition, and reverence will naturally diminish; anomalies and irregularities of all kinds will be keenly felt; institutions will be judged only by their superficial aspects and by their immediate and most obvious consequences; remote and indirect consequences, however real and grave, will have little influence on opinion; nothing that is complex or subtle in its character and nothing that is not susceptible of an immediate popular and plausible treatment is regarded; and the appetite for experiment, for change, for the excitement of political agitation, steadily grows. The alteration of mental habits partly due to the great increase of town life, and partly also to other causes, may, I think, be clearly traced, stealing over the English character. The political pulse beats more quickly. A touch of fever has passed into the body politic, and the Constitution is moving more rapidly through its successive phases of transformation and of decay.
The most serious political questions that have agitated England in the nineteenth century have all been very largely affected by the great industrial inventions of the eighteenth century. It was these inventions that gave parliamentary reform its supreme and pressing importance. The anomaly of rising and flourishing towns without representatives while decayed and deserted villages sent one or two members to Parliament was indeed not new, but it was the vast and sudden transfer of population and wealth to the northern half of England and the immense multiplication and aggrandisement of manufacturing towns which made a plan of representation, that had been scarcely altered for two centuries and a half, completely inadequate for some of the chief purposes of representative government. Unfortunately, too, this great alteration in the disposition of population and power took place at a time when that indiscriminate dread of all change, which the French Revolution had produced, was at its height, and all proposals to mitigate the disparity by transferring a few seats from disfranchised boroughs to the large towns were rejected. Great masses of unrepresented opinion grew up in the island, and the consequence was that mighty wave of popular feeling which carried the Reform Bill of 1832.
To the mechanical inventions, also, of the eighteenth century the Corn Law question was mainly due. It was only when England had taken her gigantic strides in the direction of manufacturing ascendency, that the pressure of population on subsistence became seriously felt, and the manufacturers gradually assumed the attitude of the champions of free trade. No transformation could have been more astonishing or more complete. Scarcely a form of manufacturing industry had ever been practised in England that had not been fortified by restrictions or subsidised by bounties. The extreme narrowness and selfishness of that manufacturing influence which became dominant at the Revolution had alienated America, had ruined the rising industries of Ireland, had crushed the calico manufactures of India, had imposed on the consumer at home, monopoly prices for almost every article he required. As Adam Smith conclusively shows, the merchants and manufacturers of England had for generations steadily and successfully aimed at two great objects—to secure for themselves by restrictive laws an absolute monopoly of the home market, and to stimulate their foreign trade by bounties paid by the whole community. The language of the great founder of English political economy illustrates with curious vividness how entirely modern is the notion that the manufacturing interest has the smallest natural bias towards free trade. ‘Country gentlemen and farmers,’ he wrote, ‘are, to their great honour, of all people the least subject to the wretched spirit of monopoly. The undertaker of a great manufactory is sometimes alarmed if another work of the same kind is established within twenty miles of him. … Farmers and country gentlemen, on the contrary, are generally disposed rather to promote than to obstruct the cultivation and improvement of their neighbours’ farms and estates. … Merchants and manufacturers being collected into towns and accustomed to that exclusive corporation spirit which prevails in them, naturally endeavour to obtain against all their countrymen the same exclusive privileges which they generally possess against the inhabitants of their respective towns. They accordingly seem to have been the original inventors of those restraints upon the importation of foreign goods which secure to them the monopoly of the home market. It was probably in imitation of them, and to put themselves upon a level with those who, they found, were disposed to oppress them, that the country gentlemen and farmers of Great Britain so far forgot the generosity which is natural to their station as to demand the exclusive privilege of supplying their countrymen with corn and butcher's meat. They did not perhaps take time to consider how much less their interest could be affected by the freedom of trade than that of the people whose example they followed.’1
Such was the relative attitude of the two classes towards the close of the century. But during the French War a great change took place. On the one hand, the necessity of supplying England with food when almost all Europe was combined against her brought into costly cultivation vast portions of land, both in England and Ireland, which were little adapted for corn culture, and on which it could only subsist under the encouragement of extravagant prices. On the other hand, the growth of the manufacturing towns produced an extreme pressure of population on subsistence, and a great reduction of the corn duties became absolutely inevitable. Under these circumstances the manufacturing leaders strenuously supported the agitation for their total repeal. As great employers of labour it was to them a class interest of the most direct and important character; and, by a singular felicity, while they were certain to obtain an enormous share of the benefits of the change, the whole risk and loss would fall upon others. The movement was easily turned into a war of classes; and the great, wealthy, and intelligent class which directed and paid for it, conducted it so skilfully, that multitudes of Englishmen even now look on it as a brilliant exhibition of disinterested patriotism, and applaud the orators who delight in contrasting the enlightened and liberal spirit of English manufacturers with the besotted selfishness of English landlords.
Another effect of the growth of manufactures was to influence very considerably the prevailing opinions about the legitimate sphere of Government interference. ‘It is one of the finest problems of legislation,’ Burke truly wrote, ‘what the State ought to take upon itself and to direct by the public wisdom, and what it ought to leave with as little interference as possible to individual discretion.’1 It may be added that there are few questions upon which more various and conflicting answers have been given in different ages and countries. In classical antiquity the sphere of government and the sphere of morals were regarded as almost co-extensive. The State undertook to discharge authoritatively moral functions which in modern societies are left chiefly to religions. It set before itself a distinct moral ideal, and it was held to be its supreme end to make wise, virtuous, and capable citizens. It is the task of governors, according to Plato, to ‘draw from what Homer calls the divine form and likeness subsisting among men; effacing one thing and putting in another, till they have, as far as possible, made human morals pleasing to the gods.’2 In that great mediæval and feudal system of law which grew up under the influence of Catholicism, and which after the Reformation still survived in its most essential parts in the laws of the Tudors, the sphere of government was equally extended. Religious belief and religious worship were rigidly prescribed by law and enforced by the severest penalties. Sumptuary laws regulated in minute detail private manners and expenses. Wages and prices were both determined, not by free competition, but by law. Industry in all its departments moved under the restraints and supports of the guilds. Landed property was held, subject to many rigid conditions, and special laws determined how much land must be ploughed, and how much might be left in pasture; how much land must surround a labourer's cottage; how many sheep should be supported on a farm. It was, in a word, within the accepted duty of the Government to regulate the social condition of the nation in all its details, with a view to promote the physical and moral well-being of all classes and the strength of the nation as a whole.
This theory of government gradually wore itself away, although the brief period of Puritan ascendency in England, and in the American colonies, exhibited authoritative interference with private manners carried almost to the highest point. Several causes, however, into which it is not now necessary to enter, had produced in England from a very early period a spirit of independence and self-assertion much greater than on the Continent, and the empire of Government over the individual was never so absolute. After the Restoration a new and purely secular theory of government began to dominate, though many fragments of the old feudal laws remained, blending, often very successfully, with more modern legislation. After the Revolution the restriction of the sphere of Government interference proceeded more rapidly. There was a disputed succession, and a Government which did not really represent the sentiments of the majority of the nation, and the Revolution settlement was only kept in existence by a studied moderation, by holding the reins very loosely, by avoiding as much as possible all occasions of friction or collision. At the same time, the most powerful intellectual movements tended to withdraw great departments of human affairs from Government coercion and control. Complete religious toleration and perfect liberty in the expression of political opinion were both substantially achieved. Attempts to regulate manners by sumptuary laws came to an end, though Blackstone notices that when he wrote there was still in the Statute-book an obsolete law of Edward III. ordaining that no one should be served at dinner and supper with more than two courses, except on some great holidays, when he might have three.1 The regulation of morals, except as far as the well-being of society was directly affected, though not formally abandoned, was no longer seriously undertaken. A law of 1746 punishing profane swearing by fines proportioned to the rank of the culprit,1 and a few laws against gambling, were the most conspicuous exceptions, though, as we have already seen, the Evangelical movement produced some tendency among private persons to attempt prosecutions under obsolete laws enforcing the strict observance of Sunday, or punishing different kinds of immorality.
In general, however, legislation was now confined to the protection of life and property and the regulation of industry, and the opinion that in the latter sphere most Government interference was mischievous was steadily gaining ground. During the whole of the eighteenth century the famous law of Elizabeth determining the conditions of industry was in force.2 It provided that no one could lawfully exercise any art, mystery, or manual occupation without having served in it at least seven years as an apprentice; that no one should be bound as an apprentice who was not under twenty-one years, and whose parents did not possess a certain fortune; that every master who had three apprentices must keep one journeyman, and for every other apprentice above three, one other journeyman; that no one should be engaged as a servant or journeyman for less than a year; that the hours of work should be twelve in summer, and from dawn to night in winter, and finally that wages should be assessed for the year by the justices of the peace or town magistrates, who were also directed to settle all disputes between masters and apprentices. Another law which was passed under James I.3 extended the power of the justices and town magistrates to fix the wages of all kinds of labourers and workmen.
These Acts, however, soon fell into desuetude, and it is remarkable that it was especially the workmen who appear to have clung to them. The Act of Elizabeth was confined to market towns, and to forms of industry which had existed before it was passed. In country villages a person might exercise trades without having served a seven years' apprenticeship, and in recent trades the whole system of regulation was abandoned.4 The great woollen manufacture, in addition to the Act of Elizabeth, was minutely regulated by earlier statutes, but towards the middle of the eighteenth century there were bitter complaints among the workmen that the justices refused to fix the rate of wages as the law required, and after some strikes and riots an Act was passed in 1756 again ordering the justices to settle yearly the rate of wages in this manufacture.1 There were other trades which were carried on in corporations under byelaws very imperfectly observed, and there were complaints that some masters had overstocked their trades with multitudes of parish apprentices; that wages were not fixed by law and by the year, but fluctuated and sank with competition. Many petitions were presented by workmen imploring Parliament to regulate them, and several laws for this purpose were passed during the eighteenth century.
As far as can now be judged, the restrictive system, regulating the number of apprentices and settling for long periods the rate of wages, appears to have been popular with the workmen; but the masters in general opposed or evaded the restrictions, and the great developments, changes, and fluctuations of industry towards the close of the century produced new conditions to which the old regulations were inapplicable. There was a period of great industrial anarchy. The custom of assessing wages by the justices of the peace or by the Lord Mayor appears to have become very generally obsolete. In the silk manufacture, however, in consequence of great prevailing distress, three laws called ‘The Spitalfields Acts’ were passed, providing minutely for the regulation of wages by the Lord Mayor or justices of the peace. Employers giving more or less than the assessed wages to their workmen or evading the Acts, as well as journeymen entering into combinations to raise wages, were condemned to fines, which were to be applied to the relief of needy weavers and their families.2 In the last years of the century new and very stringent laws were made forbidding combinations of workmen to raise wages.3 Laws of this kind had already frequently appeared in the Statute-book, and as long as all the conditions of trade were legally regulated they were natural and justifiable. When, however, the law ceased to regulate wages, and the masters were at full liberty to concert to depress them, the combination laws against workmen became a glaring injustice. It is probable that they may be partially explained by the extreme dread of popular associations that might assume a political and Jacobinical form which the French Revolution had produced.1
The number of restrictions falling upon industry, and the number of taxes, partly indeed for the purpose of revenue, but partly also for the purpose of regulation, that rested upon its products, were very great. Even before the many taxes that grew out of the war of the American Revolution a foreign observer noticed that an Englishman was taxed when he got up, for his soap; at nine o'clock, for his coffee, tea, and sugar; at noon, for the starch with which he powdered his hair; at dinner, for his salt; in the evening, for his porter; all day long, for his light; and at night, for his candles.2 A glance over the Statute-book, or at the police reports of the eighteenth century, illustrates curiously the great difference between its industrial system and our own. Thus a law of George I., passed in the interest of the silk manufacturers, prohibited anyone from wearing buttons and button-holes made of cloth or other stuff, and as late as 1796 a law was passed at the request of the makers of metal buttons prescribing the proportion of gilt, double gilt, and triple gilt buttons, and prohibiting the mixture of buttons of different qualities.3 I have already cited the law which long made it penal for any woman to wear a dress made of Indian calico. In 1766 a lady was fined 200l. at the Guild Hall because it was proved that her handkerchief was of French cambric.4 In the same year an attorney named Brecknock, who had been sent to prison by the House of Lords for publishing a book called the ‘Droit du Roi,’ avenged himself upon Lord Camden by laying an information before Judge Fielding, that the Chief Justice and three other judges wore cambric bands in court, contrary to the Act of Parliament.5 The laws against usury were frequently enforced, and they forbade the exaction of any interest higher than five per cent. All contracts for taking higher interest were not only void, but were punished by the lender forfeiting treble the amount borrowed.1 The offence of ‘owling,’ or transporting English wool or sheep to foreign countries, was treated with especial severity, as it was supposed to assist the rival woollen manufactures of the Continent, and the penalties against this offence rose to seven years' transportation. Penalties but little less severe were enacted against those who exported machines employed in the chief English industries, or who induced artificers to emigrate; and any skilled workman who carried his industry to a foreign market, if he did not return within six months, after being warned by the English ambassador, was declared an alien, forfeited all his goods, and became incapable of receiving any legacy or gift. General warrants, without specifying names, were especially employed as a means of detaining such workmen when they were preparing to emigrate, and there were complaints that the condemnation of these warrants during the Wilkes case, by facilitating the emigration, had a prejudicial influence on English industry.2 At home the law of settlement effectually prevented the labourer from carrying his labour to the most profitable market. The poor law secured him an ultimate support in the parish in which he was settled, but it also gave the parochial authorities an almost unlimited power of preventing a new labourer from establishing himself in the parish and of forcibly removing poor men if they seemed likely to become chargeable on the rates.
This last power, as we have seen, was modified towards the close of the century, and the system of regulation, though still in our eyes extravagantly excessive, had greatly diminished. Though particular Acts still regulated wages in particular trades or places, the old system of determining all wages either by general laws or by particular orders of the justices of the peace in each county, had fallen into complete desuetude. The regulation of profits, by fixing the price of provisions and other goods, was now only retained in the case of bread, the assize of which continued till 1815, when it was abolished in London and appears to have become obsolete in other parts of the kingdom.1 Among the ancient restrictions on free trade in provisions, were a crowd of laws which were still sometimes put in force against ‘Badgers,’ ‘Engrossers,’ ‘Forestallers,’ and ‘Regrators,’ terms which denoted different classes of speculators, who, foreseeing a coming dearness, and desiring to regulate prices or monopolise the market, bought up large quantities of provisions before they came to market, or at an early period of the market, in order to sell them again at an enhanced price. Most of these laws were repealed in 1772,2 and Burke appears to have taken the leading part in their abolition.3 The provisions of the statute of Elizabeth relating to apprentices and journeymen were suffered to fall into general neglect; special Acts were passed in 1777 relieving particular trades from similar restrictions,4 and under the commercial treaties, which were so frequent during the eighteenth century, some steps were taken in the direction of free trade. The transition of industry from small establishments to vast factories, the wholly new conditions on which its success depended, and the magnitude and power which the different industrial classes assumed, made the regulations of Elizabeth and of the Stuarts altogether impracticable, and they at last led to the great measures of 1814 and 1824, which repealed the Apprentice Act and a number of other old laws, preventing workmen from combining or from emigrating, regulating the rate of wages, the hours of work, and the manner of conducting any business or manufacture. Nearly at the same time the most important of the great exclusive commercial companies were abolished or thrown open.5
It is worthy of notice that this vast and rapid emancipation of industry from the restrictions which mediæval and Tudor legislation had imposed upon it was effected by a Tory Government, and at a time when Toryism was completely in the ascendant in Parliament. It was partly due to the force of the new circumstances which industrial inventions had produced, and partly also to the general intellectual influences of the time. The first form that political economy assumed was a conviction that all Government interference with industry was an evil. ‘Laisser faire, laisser passer,’ was the favourite maxim of Quesnay and his school, and, as we have seen, they combined the most unflinching advocacy of commercial freedom with a strong political leaning towards despotism. Fénelon in his ‘Telemachus’ had already advocated complete liberty of commerce;1 but what with him was a passing intuition of genius, with the economists was an essential part of a great and well-reasoned system. The English economists adopted the same view, and it was adopted also for other reasons by the more advanced Democrats. The restriction of government within the narrowest limits was in their eyes the condition and indeed the very definition of liberty, and in this respect they were totally opposed to the authoritative democracy of Rousseau and of his later followers. ‘All government,’ wrote Price, ‘even within a State, becomes tyrannical as far as it is a needless and wanton exercise of power, or is carried further than is absolutely necessary to preserve the peace or to secure the safety of the State. This is what an excellent writer calls “governing too much.”’2 ‘Government,’ wrote Godwin, ‘can have no more than two legitimate purposes, the suppression of injustice against individuals within the community, and defence against external invasion.’3
Among those who did not belong to the Radical school a great distrust of Government interference with industry was also shown. It appears in the writings of Hume and Tucker, both of whom were decided Tories. ‘Our policy,’ wrote Arthur Young, ‘is weak beyond all doubt, because it consists of prohibiting the natural course of things. All restrictive, forcible measures in domestic policy are bad.’4 Burke, as we have seen, by no means sympathised with the prevailing Whig doctrine that Government should exercise little or no coercive influence in the sphere of religion, but in industrial matters his leaning was consistently on the side of liberty. In that great speech on American taxation which he made in the earlier phase of his career he complained that ‘Mr. Grenville thought better of the wisdom and power of human legislation than in truth it deserves. He conceived, and many conceived along with him, that the flourishing trade of this country was greatly owing to law and institution, and not quite so much to liberty,’ and, in one of the last tracts he ever wrote, Burke pointed out that the leading vice of the French monarchy had been a ‘restless desire of governing too much. The hand of authority was seen in everything and in every place.’ ‘My opinion,’ he concluded, ‘is against an overdoing of any sort of administration, and more especially against this most momentous of all meddling on the part of authority, the meddling with the subsistence of the people.’1
But by far the most powerful intellectual influence in this direction was that of Adam Smith, whose views on commercial matters soon acquired a paramount authority over the best English minds. It is one of the signal proofs of his genius that, though some of his doctrines have not stood the test of time, his great work in its method and its spirit is more akin to nineteenth century thought than the most eminent of its successors. Unlike Ricardo, and unlike the great school of economists that followed Ricardo, Adam Smith did not treat political economy as a chain of absolute and almost mathematical reasoning, to be evolved à priori, and with little or no relation to the fluctuating and diversified conditions of societies. His work is perhaps the best example in literature of the union of history with philosophy, and he showed the true judgment of a statesman in recognising exceptions and limitations to his most cherished principles. Thus, while no previous writer had written so powerfully in favour of the restriction of the sphere of government, he at the same time contended that the education of the people was a task which it was the duty of Government to undertake; that a school should be established in every parish, where children may be taught at so moderate a cost that even a common labourer may afford it; that it should be partly but not wholly paid by the public, and that the Government may in this way encourage and even impose upon almost the whole body of the people the necessity of acquiring the most essential parts of education. In spite of his strong sense of the value of machinery in industry, he has pointed out with the greatest fullness, and even with some exaggeration, the tendency of the excessive division of labour it produces, to narrow both the intellect and the character. In the same way his central doctrine of free trade is largely qualified. He warmly eulogised the navigation laws on the ground of political expediency, and he justified protective laws in favour of native industry as measures of retaliation against foreign nations which impose restrictions on our imports; as measures of self-preservation, securing to a nation a constant supply of everything that is necessary for the national defence, and as measures of equalisation when the products of foreigners are burdened with lower taxes than our own.
But in spite of these exceptions, his book is essentially one long indictment against Government interference with industry either in the form of restriction or in the form of encouragement. As Dugald Stewart has truly said, it was its main object ‘to demonstrate that the most effectual plan for advancing a people to greatness is to maintain that order of things which Nature has pointed out; by allowing every man, as long as he observes the rules of justice, to pursue his own interest in his own way, and to bring both his industry and his capital into the freest competition with those of his fellow-citizens.’ Restrictive duties, prohibitions and bounties, by which Legislatures have endeavoured to force industries into particular channels, are alike condemned, as well as all attempts to regulate private expenses by sumptuary laws. The natural effort of each man to improve his own position, when exerted with freedom and security, is represented as the mainspring of national progress. Every nation and individual, in the judgment of Adam Smith, is directly interested in the prosperity of others; their jealousies spring mainly from ignorance; and whatever lowers the cost of the products which a nation requires is equivalent to an increase in the national wealth. The corollary from these propositions is that the largest possible latitude should be given to industry and competition. The legitimate functions of Government, Smith maintains, may all be summed up under three heads: (1) to protect the society from the attacks of other nations, (2) to secure each member of the society from the injustice or ill-will of other members, (3) to erect and maintain certain establishments of public utility which are of such a nature that it would never be the particular interest of an individual, or the interest of a small number of persons, to construct them.
Such was the order of ideas which for more than a generation presided over and mainly formed the character of English Liberalism. It was a robust, healthy, and self-reliant type, extremely jealous of all extensions of Government interference, extremely tenacious of individual liberty, and habitually preferring spontaneous activity, even when wasteful and ill-regulated, to the disciplined action of a controlling power. Many circumstances, however, have contributed gradually to change it, and it is certain that the problem of the legitimate sphere of Government action is a much more complex and difficult one than it appeared to the writers of the eighteenth century. All political rules are dependent on the special circumstances, conditions, and character of the people for whom they are intended. The political art is essentially an art of adaptation; it admits of very few general terms, and the course which is suited for one stage of society is wholly unsuited for another. There are societies of scattered farmers like the Boers in South Africa for whom scarcely any government is needed. In crowded and highly organised societies the work that must be accomplished by the community is far larger, but there is an enormous difference in different nations in the amount of spontaneous energy which they produce. Let anyone compare from this point of view the great communities of North America with those of South America; or European with Asiatic nations; or Great Britain with Ireland and with most of the nations of the Continent; and he can hardly fail to be struck with the absurdity of supposing that the sphere of Government initiative and control can be defined for all of them by the same rules. Much of this difference has its root in the deep and obscure field of national character, and much also is due to particular circumstances and especially to the distribution of wealth. When there is a large, intelligent, and energetic middle class; when the spirit of specnlation is strongly developed; when there is a high standard of public spirit; and when wealth is so agglomerated that there are many persons who possess either habitually or occasionally incomes much larger than their wants, a crowd of enterprises will be undertaken which are of the highest value to the community, but which only offer to the investor the prospect of doubtful, small, or postponed returns. In countries where these conditions do not exist such works will never be undertaken without the initiative and support of the Government.
In England the great development of manufactures broke the trammels of the mediæval system of industry, and led the way to the triumph of free trade, but it also prepared the way for a new reaction in the direction of Government interference. Adam Smith judged correctly in connecting the question of national education with that of manufactures. The experience of the nineteenth century has abundantly shown that no nation can hold its own in the great competition of the world without a high standard of education, and that such a standard cannot possibly be attained without a large measure of Government direction and assistance. Hence this vast field of activity, which was formerly left to individual initiative or to ecclesiastical organisations, has become one of the chief preoccupations of statesmen, and over the greater part of Europe immense sums are compulsorily raised in order to establish efficient education under the direct control and superintendence of the State. The Factory Laws marked a second great step in the extension of Government influence—important in itself, but still more important as a precedent. It was found that simple competition occasioned the employment of women and children in a manner that ruined their health; that the overcrowded factory might become a seedplot of immorality; that a permanent lowering of the physical as well as moral standard of a vast section of the population was to be feared, and that great political dangers might grow out of moral evils. Hence sprang a long series of legislative interferences with industry, wholly repugnant to the laisser faire philosophy. The progress of medicine, again, showed that some deadly and contagious diseases could be successfully combated by the universal imposition of certain practices or rules. Hence compulsory vaccination, and the growing sense of the extreme importance of extensive Government measures of sanitary inspection and reform, and experience has conclusively established the enormous saving of human life which can by these means be effected. In a smaller circle the invention of railways had a similar effect, for it was found absolutely necessary to regulate this form of locomotion to a much greater extent than the older forms.
In this manner department after department of human affairs has been gradually drawn to an increased extent into the sphere of Government superintendence and control. But many other and very various influences have been tending in the same direction. The greatly increased sensitiveness of philanthropy which characterises our century, and the immense extension of the newspaper press, have together brought into clear and vivid relief vast numbers of miseries, wants, and possibilities of improvement, which in former years had been unknown or unrealised, and it becomes the natural impulse of multitudes to seek an immediate remedy in Government interference. The impulse is especially natural, and also especially dangerous, because, in the balance of advantages and disadvantages resulting from such a course, the former appeal very powerfully, and the latter most inadequately, to the imagination. Men realise vividly the magnitude of the evil to be combated. They realise vividly the improvement when that evil seems to have suddenly ceased; but they do not realise the impossibility of effecting permanent improvements without changing the characters and desires of men; the danger of weakening by successive acts of interference the spirit of responsibility and self-reliance; the danger of premature and ill-considered reforms producing other evils more grave than those which are remedied; the pressure of the increased taxation, which increased Government superintendence imposes over a wide area of struggling and productive industry; the fatal tendency of every act of interference to become a precedent, and to reproduce itself in further encroachments on individual action. With the great transfer of power to uninstructed democracies the impulse towards Government interference has naturally increased. Plausible and superficial advantages, which are susceptible of a popular treatment, weigh much more on the minds of such men than remote, indirect, and possibly obscure dangers, and, as Aristotle long since pointed out, the demagogue finds his easiest path to power in incitements to class warfare, and promises of class benefits through the compulsory action of Government. It must be added, too, that when once the empire of habit and tradition is broken, and that of popular discussion is extended, the reproductive character of a precedent or a principle is greatly increased. In earlier periods of English history measures of a socialistic tendency, like the English Poor Law, might exist for generations as isolated and perhaps beneficial anomalies. In active democracies the desire to unify and assimilate the type of legislation is much stronger; principles are quickly pushed to their extreme consequences, and one measure of State interference is tolerably sure to become a point of departure, and the basis of many others.
In all these ways the tendency to enlarge the sphere of Government acquires an accelerated force. On the Continent that great augmentation of standing armies which has been so conspicuous a feature of the present century has strengthened the bias in favour of strongly organised and disciplined government; and the laws of equal succession, which have been so generally adopted, are not only themselves a signal instance of legislative interference with the social type, but also, by their tendency to level fortunes, make Government initiative more necessary. In England the notion has greatly extended of regarding Government as a machine for securing co-operative effort, for unifying, organising, and concentrating the action of the community for many different purposes, and the large number of public men who have been formed and influenced by the experience of Indian life has had a similar effect.
Under all these influences, the tendency which prevailed in the latter half of the eighteenth century has been not only checked but reversed. The old jealousy of Government interference, and of encroachments on individual liberty, and the old disposition to rely on individual action rather than Government assistance, have both manifestly diminished, and the pendulum of opinion sways once more in the direction of authority. Compulsory regulations have, within the last twenty or thirty years, multiplied to a startling degree in the Statute-book. The immense increase of the burden of taxation is largely due to the many additional functions which Government has assumed. The modern system of placing the credit of the State, in the form of large loans at low interest, at the service of particular classes, seems likely to have a very wide extension, and much of the Irish legislation of the last few years has been as irreconcilable with the principles of Adam Smith, with modern notions of private property, and with the respect for contracts, as any part of the legislation of the Tudors.
I do not here undertake to judge these measures. What I have written is intended merely to point out the change of tendency, since the closing years of the eighteenth century. There was then much less desire for Government interference and compulsion. There was also much less sensitiveness to the great evils of the time. Of this latter fact the almost unchanged condition of the penal code is a sufficient proof.
I have devoted several pages, in a former volume, to the penal system of the eighteenth century, and the barbarities and absurdities which were there described were not seriously diminished before its close. The fact will appear supremely shameful when we remember that the reform of penal codes had on the Continent been one of the special themes of writers upon politics, and one of the capital achievements of the great generation of reforming monarchs and statesmen that preceded the French Revolution. The atrocity and almost grotesque absurdity of the English penal code grew out of certain inveterate traditions of English legislation. Penal laws, enacted often in a remote antiquity and under circumstances that have wholly vanished, have been constantly allowed to remain unrepealed, though they have become obsolete and nearly forgotten, and later generations, without revoking them, have made new laws against the same crimes. Nothing is more common than to find, in consequence, that the same crimes may be prosecuted under totally different penalties. At last a generation arises who consider acts that had once been deemed heinously criminal either innocent or venial, and a law is passed repealing a great mass of ancient legislation that condemned them. The historian will naturally assume that they had become legal; but he will constantly find, on more careful examination, that an act which had been formally freed from a crowd of penalties, still remains an offence by common law, or by some ancient statute which had not been included in the list of those which were repealed; and occasionally, and at long intervals, penal laws which had been regarded as wholly obsolete were put in force. This utter want of method and symmetry in English legislation, this extravagant multiplication of statutes bearing upon the same act, this difference between the theory and the practice of the law, constitutes one of the chief difficulties of an English historian, and we have had many examples of it in the present work. Another class of laws had acquired a great additional severity by the lapse of time. Legislators had endeavoured to protect property by punishing with death those who stole a sum of money which in their time was considerable, and the penalty was retained when the change in the value of money had made that sum insignificant. In this way, as an old lawyer forcibly complained, ‘While everything else had risen in its nominal value and become dearer, the life of man had continually grown cheaper.’ It was also the constant practice of Parliament in the eighteenth century, when new offences arose or when old offences assumed a new prominence, to pass special Acts making them capital. Hence an enormous and undigested multiplication of capital offences, which soon made the criminal code a mere sanguinary chaos. Previous to the Revolution the number in the Statute-book is said not to have exceeded fifty. During the reign of George II. sixty-three new ones were added. In 1770 the number was estimated in Parliament at one hundred and fifty-four,1 but by Blackstone at one hundred and sixty; and Romilly, in a pamphlet which he wrote in 1786, observed that in the sixteen years since the appearance of Blackstone's Commentaries it had considerably increased.
A few illustrations will sufficiently show the extravagant absurdity of the code. Thus, to steal a sheep or a horse; to snatch a man's property out of his hands and run away with it; to steal to the amount of forty shillings in a dwelling-house, or to the amount of five shillings ‘privately’ in a shop; to pick a man's pocket of any greater sum than twelve pence; to steal linen from a bleaching ground, and woollen cloth from a tenter ground; to cut down trees in a garden or in an orchard; to break the border of a fishpond so that the fish may escape, were all crimes punishable with death. On the other hand, it was not a capital offence for a man to attempt the life of his father; to commit premeditated perjury, even when the result was the execution of an innocent man; to stab a man, however severely, provided the victim did not die from the wound; to burn a house in which the incendiary had a lease, even though it was so situated as to endanger the lives of hundreds. It was a capital offence to steal goods to the amount of forty shillings from a vessel on a navigable river, but not from a vessel on a canal. To steal fruit ready gathered was a felony. To gather it and steal it was only a trespass. To break a pane of glass at five in the afternoon for the purpose of stealing something that lay in the window was a capital offence. To break open a house with every circumstance of violence in summer, at four o'clock in the morning, was only a misdemeanour. To steal goods from a shop, if the thief happened to be seen to take them, was punishable by transportation. To steal the same goods ‘privately,’ that is to say when the criminal was not seen, was punishable with death. In one case a servant was put on his trial who had attempted to murder his master, and had given him fifteen wounds with a hatchet. He was executed, not as an attempted murderer, but as a burglar, because he had been obliged to lift up the latch of his master's door in order to enter his chamber. In another case a man of notoriously bad character, after going through a course of burglary and larceny with impunity, was at last convicted and executed for cutting down young trees.1 The only difference in punishment by which the law of England distinguished the most atrocious murder from the theft of five shillings, was that in the first case, under a law of George II., the execution of the criminal was to take place within forty-eight hours of his conviction, and his body was to be anatomised.
A natural result of such laws was the constant perjury of juries. Unwilling to convict culprits for small offences which were made punishable by death, they frequently acquitted in the face of the clearest evidence; and, as witnesses in these cases were also very reluctant to appear, criminals—among whom the gambling spirit is strongly developed—generally preferred to be tried for a capital offence rather than for misdemeanour. Often, too, juries, when unwilling to acquit, reduced the offence by the most barefaced perjury to the rank of a misdemeanour. Thus, several cases are recorded, in which prisoners, indieted for stealing from dwelling-houses, were convicted only of larceny, by the jury finding that the value of what they had stolen was less than forty shillings, even when several guineas in gold, or bank notes to a considerable amount, were among the booty that was taken.1 The proportion of arrested men who were either discharged on account of prosecutors and witnesses failing to appear against them, or acquitted on account of the reluctance of juries to condemn, or of the legal rule that the smallest technical flaw invalidated an indictment, was enormously great. Thus, in the four years before 1795 no less than 5,592 persons who had been committed for trial were discharged by proclamation and gaol deliveries, and 2,962 others were acquitted.2 In one year from April 1793 to March 1794, 1,060 persons were tried at the Old Bailey, and of these only 493 were punished.3
The executions, though scandalously numerous, bore but a small proportion to the convictions, but the statistics that are preserved on the subject are too fragmentary for a complete statement. Sir Stephen Janssen, who was Chamberlain for London, preserved a full list of the capital convictions at the Old Bailey during the twenty-three years from 1749 to 1772. The number of persons condemned to death in those years was 1,121. The number of executions was 678. In the Norfolk and Midland circuits between 1750 and 1772, 952 persons were sentenced to death, but the proportion of executions was much smaller than in London, for only 233 persons were executed. Four hundred and sixty-seven persons were executed in London and Middlesex alone in the twelve years from December 1771 to December 1783.1 In 1785 not less than 96 persons were hanged at the Old Bailey.2 In Scotland capital punishments seem to have been much more sparingly administered. Between January 1768 and May 1782, only 76 persons were condemned and 54 executed.3 In the Dutch Republic, where the standard of order and good government was at least as high as in any part of Europe, Howard found an instructive contrast to the English system. In all the seven provinces together there were seldom more executions in a year than from four to six. In the great city of Amsterdam, which was about a third of the size of London, and contained 250,000 inhabitants, he found that in the eight years before his arrival only five persons had been executed.4
There is nothing more scandalous in the history of England in the eighteenth century than the neglect by legislators and statesmen of these abuses. Burke was indeed in this, as in many other respects, an exception to the spirit of his time. He strongly urged the necessity of revising the penal code. He described it, certainly without exaggeration, as ‘radically defective’ and ‘abominable,’ and he seems to have made it his practice to oppose steadily the multiplication of capital offences.5 But in general English statesmen paid no attention to such matters, and when the great task of softening the penal code was undertaken in the early years of the nineteenth century, the leading lawyers bitterly opposed it. In Parliament the enactment of new capital offences appears to have been left almost exclusively to a few lawyers. There were no debates which excited less interest, which were less attended or worse reported. Burke used to relate that being stopped one night when leaving the House of Commons, and requested by the Clerk at the table to stay to make a house, he asked what was the business in question, and was answered, ‘Oh, sir, it is only a new capital felony!’1 Outside Parliament, Paley, in a well-known passage of his ‘Moral Philosophy,’ justified the English system on the ground that it swept into the net every crime which under any possible circumstances could deserve death, leaving it to the executive to single out for condign punishment such cases as presented particular features of danger or aggravation.
But although in the latter years of the century only a very small proportion of capital sentences for the lighter offences were carried into effect, the English penal code in its actual enforcement was probably the most sanguinary in Europe, while it was totally wanting in that element of certainty, which, as Beccaria truly said, is the most essential in a penal code. The profuse distribution of the penalty of death not only multiplied enormously chances of acquittal, but also deprived secondary punishments for capital offences of most of their deterrent power, for the imaginations of men were naturally much more impressed by the escape of a criminal from the gallows than by the fate which subsequently awaited him. In London and Middlesex, criminals after sentence were all remitted to the gaol, where they remained in suspense about their fate till the Recorder had made his report to the King in Council, when, perhaps, a third part were removed for execution. In the other parts of England the judges directly, and of their own authority, reprieved the criminals, and their sentences were then invariably commuted.2 Different judges, as might be expected, differed considerably in their severity, and much depended on the general character of the criminal, and even on his demeanour in the dock. One writer, near the close of the century, mentions that he was present when a girl of twenty-two was hanged for receiving a piece of check from an accomplice who had stolen it. Such crimes were at this time scarcely ever capitally punished, but the poor girl had unfortunately drunk too freely before the trial, and was insolent in the dock. The prosecutor, a simple, honest man, who had no idea that such a punishment would be inflicted, was driven almost distracted by remorse, and did not long survive the shock.
The improvements in the penal system during the last half of the century were few and slight. I have already mentioned the repeal of the laws condemning prisoners who refused to plead to be pressed to death, and all gipsies to be hanged, and the substitution in 1790 of the gallows for the stake, in the capital punishment of women. I have noticed also the disgusting scene of ribaldry and profanity which habitually took place when the criminal was carried, for more than two miles, through the most crowded thoroughfares in London, from Newgate to Tyburn. So brutal and brutalising a spectacle could be seen in no other capital in Europe, nor could any be conceived more fitted to harden a dying criminal, to make him, if reckless and unrepentant, the hero of the mob, and to deprive his execution of every element of solemnity. It is a curious illustration of the caprice of national sentiment, that English opinion in the eighteenth century allowed the execution of criminals to be treated as a popular amusement, but at the same time revolted against the Continental custom of compelling chained prisoners to work in public, as utterly inconsistent with English liberty. The scandal of English executions was not wholly removed till our own day, but it was one of the few good measures of the Coalition Ministry of 1783 that it abolished the procession to Tyburn, and criminals were from that date executed in front of the gaol.1 A serious improvement was at the same time made in the manner of execution by the introduction of the drop. Previous to this time the punishment by hanging was a very unequal one, and the death in some cases very lingering. The French traveller Misson mentions the horrible fact that the relations and friends of a criminal often themselves laid hold on his legs when he was hanging, in order to put him out of his agony. The drop is said to have been first used at the execution of Lord Ferrers in 1760, but it does not appear to have come into general use till 1783, when the London executions were removed from Tyburn to Newgate.1
The senseless and savage rule which deprived prisoners accused of any capital offence, except treason, of the assistance of counsel, unless some question of law arose which it was necessary to discuss, had been slightly relaxed. Even Black-stone, who regarded the criminal law of his country with the characteristic complacency of an English lawyer, acknowledged that there was no plausible reason why the same assistance should not be granted to a poor, ignorant, and terror-stricken prisoner, in cases affecting his life, as in cases of petty trespass; and he ventured timidly to hint that this ‘seems to be not all of a piece with the rest of the humane treatment of prisoners by the English law.’2 By the permission of the judges, however, in trials for felony a counsel now usually stood beside the prisoner, instructed him what questions to ask, and even himself cross-examined the witnesses, though he might not address the judge or jury unless a legal question had arisen.3
It appears still to have been the rule that criminal trials should be compressed into a single day. Whether this haste was due to a consideration for the juries, or to the professional interest of the lawyers, may be a matter of dispute. In the more lucrative branches of the profession no such hurry was shown. Civil suits, and especially suits in Chancery, were often protracted for years, and sometimes even for generations, by merciless legal subtleties, and in this way countless fortunes were engulfed, and countless hearts were broken. But in those less lucrative cases in which only a human life was pending, evidence was often hurried through with indecent haste, or sittings were so prolonged that neither judges nor jurymen can have been fit to discharge their duty. The impartiality and the dignity of English judges have been rarely questioned since the Revolution, but an English criminal trial was probably far from being as decorous a thing in the eighteenth century as in our own day. A writer in 1785, whose leanings were all on the side of severity towards criminals, has left us the following picture: ‘A cause of much evil,’ he says, ‘is the trying prisoners after dinner, when from the morning's adjournment all parties have retired to a hearty meal, which at assize time is commonly attended, among the middling and lower ranks of people at least, with a good deal of drink. … Drunkenness is too frequently apparent where it ought of all things to be avoided. I mean in jurymen and witnesses. The heat of the court, joined to the fumes of the liquor, has laid many an honest juryman into a calm and profound sleep, and sometimes it has been no small trouble for his fellows to jog him into the verdict, even where a wretch's life has depended on the event. This I myself have seen—as also witnesses by no means in a proper situation to give their evidence.’1
The American War put an end to the old system of disposing of criminals by selling them for the term of their sentence to American planters. This system began in 1718, continued for fifty-six years, and appears to have been remarkably successful. Healthy agricultural labour, pursued during many years under rigid discipline and amid totally new associations, proved a great school of reformation, and many convicts, after their term had expired, became farmers and planters on their own account, and rose to respectability, and sometimes to wealth. Skilful thieves, who formed a large proportion of them, had generally good natural abilities, and their labour proved so useful in Maryland, where they were chiefly sent, that, for some years before the beginning of the American War, contracts were made to convey them without any expense to Government, which had formerly allowed 5l. a head. For some time after the outbreak of the war, there was great difficulty in disposing of convicts. The gaols were soon overcrowded. A project was formed for transporting convicts to an island in the Gambia, but it was soon abandoned, and in 1776 an Act was passed for establishing convict galleys. In the space of nineteen years, about eight thousand convicts were divided between an old ship named the ‘Justicia,’ which was moored at Woolwich, and two others in Langston and Portsmouth Harbours.1 Howard says that out of 632 prisoners on board the ‘Justicia,’ 116 died within nineteen months.2 The discoveries of Captain Cook, and the glowing description which his companion Sir Joseph Banks gave of New South Wales, made the English Ministers, after a time, resolve to revive the system of transportation, and to make New South Wales the receptacle of their criminals. An Act was passed in 1784 authorising transportation, in the old method, assigning the convicts as servants to the contractor who undertook it. In 1786 and 1787, however, a new system was adopted, and a great penal settlement was established at Botany Bay, under the governorship of Captain Phillip. At a much later period, the Australian colonies naturally and properly resented the introduction into their population of English criminals. But at the time when the settlement was founded, Australia was almost a desert country. Its splendid future was as yet unrealised; convict labour was of no small use in opening its resources; and there is no reason to believe that either in Australia or America the criminal element in the early population has left behind it any permanent moral trace.3
There were great abuses in the early convict system in Australia, and especially in the treatment of the female convicts; but on the whole, transportation to this distant and unknown country was probably a more deterrent punishment than imprisonment at home, and the fate of transported convicts was in most respects superior. The English gaols, in spite of the strong light which had been thrown on their condition by the Parliamentary inquiry of 1729, continued in a state which shows forcibly the extreme corruption that might still exist in departments of English administration, to which public opinion was not turned. The latter half of the century, however, witnessed the labours of John Howard, the greatest of prison reformers, and his untiring efforts, seconded by the Legislature and supported by that great wave of philanthropic enthusiasm which proceeded from the Evangelical movement, gradually effected a complete renovation.
The attention of Howard was first called to the condition of prisoners, in 1756, when on a voyage to Lisbon he was captured by a French privateer and imprisoned at Brest and at Morlaix; but his active mission dates from 1773, when he was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, and was in that capacity charged with the superintendence of the county gaols. From this time till his death at Cherson in January 1790, his whole life was devoted to a single object, and the researches he made into the condition of prisons in every part of the United Kingdom as well as in all the principal countries on the Continent, revealed to the world a mass of maladministration and atrocious cruelty which made a deep and lasting impression.
The abuses he discovered were of many kinds. The food in nearly all English prisons was utterly insufficient. The pennyworth or at most two pennyworths of bread, daily allowed each prisoner had been originally fixed at a time when corn was nearly twice as cheap as when Howard wrote, and being very frequently farmed out by the gaolers the amount was constantly diminished. In nearly half the county gaols the debtors, and in several bridewells all prisoners, were left without any regular allowance of food and subsisted on charity. There were often no sewers, no infirmaries, no means of warming the prisons during the winter. In one gaol Howard found but three pints of water a day allowed to each prisoner for both drinking and washing. Prisoners were crowded to excess, for fourteen or fifteen hours of the day, in dark, damp, subterranean dungeons reeking with pestilential effluvia. In many gaols and most bridewells there was no allowance for bedding, or for straw for prisoners to sleep on, and if by any means they procured any, it was not changed for months. Almost all ventilation was stopped in order to escape the window tax. The1
In this respect the history of the sacramental test has a very melancholy interest. Nor is it less remarkable when we consider its origin. The Corporation Act, indeed, was directed against Protestant Dissenters, but the Test Act, as is well known, was aimed exclusively against Catholics. It was enacted in 1673, at a time when the dread of Popery had almost reached its height. The King was gravely suspected. The heir to the throne had recently proclaimed himself a Catholic. The heir to the throne had recently proclaimed himself a Cathlic. The Government had combined with Lewis XIV. in war with Holland, the chief Protestant Power of the Continent. Charles II., by a bold and unconstitutional exercise of authority, had issued a declaration of indulgence suspending all penal laws against Nonconformists and against recusants, and it was clearly understood that the declaration was intended not only to enlarge the sphere of the royal prerogative, but also, and even more signally, to protect the Catholics. This disposition of the sovereign and of the heir to the throne, combined with the aggressive attitude of Catholicism on the Continent, and with several attempts that had been made to tamper with or overawe the constitutional guardians at home, had excited the keenest alarm, and the Test Act was introduced, in order to maintain the exclusion of Catho-lics from office by imposing a test which they would never take. That this was the object appears not only form the debate, but also from the very title of the Bill, which was described as ‘an Act for preventing Dangers which may happen from Popish Recusants.’ The Dissenters who sat in Parliament exhibited on this occasion a rare and magnanimous disinterestedness. It was observed that the Act would operate against them as well as against the Catholics; but Alderman Love, who was one of their leading representatives, begged the House not to hesitate, through any considerations of this kind, to pass a measure which he believed to be essential to the maintenance of English liberty; and, trusting that special legislation would speedily relieve them from their disabilities, all the Dissenters in the House of Commons voted for the Bill.1 The patriotism of the course which they pursued was then fully recognised, and some attempts were made at the time to relieve them from a part of the burdens to which they were liable, but they were frustrated by the lateness of the session and by certain difficulties which had arisen in the House of Lords.
Such were the circumstances under which the Test Act was carried. That such a law, carried in such a manner, should have continued when the Revolution was firmly established, that it should have survived a period of forty-five years of unbroken Whig ascendancy, that it should have outlived the elder and have been defended by the younger Pitt, and that it should have been reserved for Lord John Russell to procure its repeal, is surely one of the most striking instances of national ingratitude in history. William, in whose reign, as Swift bitterly complained, the maxim had come into fashion ‘that no man ought to be denied the liberty of serving his country upon account of a different belief in matters of speculative opinion,’ had done everything in his power to procure the abolition of the test, but great majorities in Parliament defeated his intention. Stanhope had entertained the same desire, and such a measure actually formed part of a Bill which was carried through its second reading in 1718, but the opposition was so strong that the clauses referring to the Test and Corporation Acts were struck out in Committee; and the premature death of Stanhope prevented their speedy revival. The Dissenters were now organising rapidly with a view to obtaining relief; and Hoadly, Kennett, and several others of the more liberal Anglicans, seconded them; but Walpole, though he was personally favourable to the measure, and though the Dissenters had steadily supported him, shrank to the last from provoking a new ebullition of Church fanaticism. They at last lost patience, and had a measure for the repeal brought forward in 1736; but Walpole, in a very moderate and conciliatory speech, while expressing much sympathy for the Dissenters, pronounced the motion ill-timed, and, through the opposition of the Whig Government, it was thrown out by 251 to 123. The measure was again brought forward in 1739, at a time which seemed peculiarly favourable, for the Tory party had lately seceded from Parliament, leaving the conduct of affairs wholly in the hands of the Whigs. But the Government was still inflexible, and the institutions, and administrative measures by which different nations have endeavoured to solve the same problems, to cure or to diminish the same evils. Of this comparative method the writings of Howard form one of the earliest and best examples. They illustrate vividly one side of the moral history of Europe, and they at the same time furnish painful proofs of the fragmentary and unequal character of European civilisation. There were no doubt prisons in Germany and Italy, in the bishopric of Liége and in Russia, which were even more horrible than any in England. Though torture had been in general abolished or disused throughout Europe, Howard still found it regularly employed at Osnabrück, Hanover, Munich, Hamburg and Liége, and in Austrian Flanders, and he found recent traces of it in some other quarters. Death by breaking on the wheel was not unusual. An executioner in Russia acknowledged to him that slow death by the knout was often in that country deliberately inflicted. But on the whole, England, which stood so high among the nations of the world in political, industrial, and intellectual eminence, ranked in most matters relating to the treatment of criminals shamefully below the average of the Continent. Nowhere else were the executions so numerous. Nowhere else were they conducted with such revolting indecency, and in scarcely any other country were the abuses in prisons so gross, so general, and so demoralising.
Prison reform had already attracted some attention on the Continent. It had formed part of the great series of reforms which had been carried out by Leopold in Tuscany. In Austrian Flanders, Houses of Correction had lately been erected which filled Howard with admiration, and Count Vilain XIV. had done much to anticipate his work. Imprisonment for debt had been abolished in Portugal in 1774, and in many other countries it was carefully limited and regulated. In the Dutch Republic, institutions, both for the correction and reformation of prisoners, had been brought to almost the highest perfection; nearly every important prison reform of the nineteenth century appears to have been anticipated, and Howard found in the Dutch prisons and Rasphouses not only a model of all he desired, but also a conclusive proof of the efficacy of such methods in diminishing crime. In Switzerland a physician, much concerned in prison management, assured him that the gaol fever which was so inveterate in English gaols was absolutely unknown, and he added that he believed it to exist no where but in England. Howard acknowledged that he found no trace of it on the Continent, not even in Russia and Italy, where there were some of the worst prisons in Europe. There had been, it is true, a terrible outbreak of scurvy in the Paris prisons, but improved regulations had completely checked it, and although prisons in the French provinces were very bad, those in Paris were now admirably managed.
The special evils of English prisons were evils of administration, largely due to the position of the gaolers. There was an old law of Charles II. ordering the separation of debtors from felons.1 An Act of George II. had forbidden under stringent penalties the introduction of spirituous liquor into workhouses or gaols, and another Act, which was called the ‘Lords' Act’ because it originated in the House of Lords, and which became the basis of much subsequent legislation, among many other provisions obliged the creditors of imprisoned debtors to provide four pence a day for their support.2 These Acts, however, were systematically violated. In 1773, the year in which Howard began his mission, a member of Parliament named Popham brought forward the abuses relating to gaolers' fees, and tried unsuccessfully to carry a Bill throwing them on the county rates, and in the same year a beneficent Act was passed appointing for the first time regular chaplains for the county gaols of England.3 In the following year Howard gave evidence, before a parliamentary committee, about the condition of some fifty prisons which he had visited, and received the thanks of the House, and in that year two very important Acts were passed. One of them provided in much detail for the cleanliness and ventilation of prisons, and the other condemned the frequent practice of detaining in prison, on account of fees due to sheriffs, gaolers, and keepers of prisons, men against whom no indictment had been brought, or who had been acquitted, and enacted that in such cases fees should no longer be demanded, but that an equivalent sum should be paid out of the county rates.4 Howard at his own expense sent printed copies of these Acts to every keeper of a county prison in England. Some other measures of slight importance were afterwards taken regulating fees and improving the condition of insolvent debtors; and Grey supported by Burke made an effort in 1794 to abolish imprisonment for debt.
The treatment of debtors in England was indeed one of the most astonishing instances of the astonishing corruption of English law. ‘If a debt exceeds 40s.,’ wrote a most competent authority in 1795, ‘the action may be brought in a superior court, where if contested or defended the expense at the lowest computation must be upwards of 50l. … at present the rule is to allow the same costs for 40s. as for 10,000l. It depends only on the length of the pleading, and not on the value of the action.’ ‘In the county of Middlesex alone,’ says the same writer, ‘in the year 1793, the number of bailable writs and executions for debts from 10l. to 20l. amounted to no less than 5,719, and the aggregate amount of the debts sued for was 81,791l. It will scarcely be credited, although it is most unquestionably true, that the mere costs of these actions although made up, and not defended at all, would amount to 68,728l.—and if defended, the aggregate expense to recover 81,791l. must be (strange and incredible as it may appear) no less than 285,950l., being considerably more than three times the amount of the debts sued for.’ More than one million of money, in debts of 100l. and upwards, was recovered at considerably less than half the expense of 81,791l. in debts of from 10l. to 20l. It is a horrible fact that between six thousand and seven thousand persons were arrested every year on mesne process in Middlesex alone, one-half of whom were for debts under 20l. In the kingdom at large the number annually arrested for trifling debts was estimated at not less than forty thousand.1 It was such men who were exposed during long periods of imprisonment to the intolerable evils of English gaols, and their long imprisonment was usually due much less to their original debts than to the legal expenses that had been heaped upon them. Can it be deemed surprising that many foreigners who valued good administration, public order, and cheap justice more than representative institutions and political liberty, should have preferred their own system of that of England?
Howard, though he was deeply imbued with the very emotional Evangelical piety which was then rising to prominence, was far from being a sentimental reformer. He dwelt strongly on the evils of public executions, and desired capital punishments to be restricted to three or four offences, but he was no advocate for a complete abolition of the punishment of death, and while pointing out the enormous abuses in English gaols, he did not forget—as his successors have sometimes done—that the diet and treatment of prisoners should always be such as to make imprisonment a deterrent punishment to the most needy, and that hard labour is an essential element in every sound prison system. The task which he and his generation of reformers set before them was chiefly to remedy great positive abuses, but the success with which the reformation of criminals was pursued in Holland gave rise to an Act for the erection of penitentiaries in England,1 which was carried in 1779, chiefly by the influence of Blackstone. There was, however, much delay in carrying it out, although Pitt clearly saw and stated the importance of discriminating between the different kinds and degrees of criminal character, and averting the contagion of vice produced by the existing prison system.2 It was not until some years after the death of Howard, that English philanthropy made the reclamation of criminals one of its great objects. In the last years of the eighteenth century, if this end was ever attained, it was probably in most cases through the army and navy. Every year of war many convicts were pardoned on condition of enlisting, and the press gang and the recruiting sergeant brought great numbers of discharged criminals under the stringent and healthy regimen of naval or military discipline.
All attempts to estimate the amount and the fluctuation of crime in the eighteenth century must be extremely vague and unsatisfactory. Accurate statistics on these matters date only from the nineteenth century, and the scandalous imperfection of the police system, and the extravagant severity of the criminal code, secured the escape of a great proportion of criminals. In the first half of the present century, concerning which we have full information, the proportion of convictions to acquittals largely augmented, and the increase in the number of committals was far greater than can be accounted for by the increase of population.1 Much, however, of this apparent deterioration may no doubt be ascribed to the greater efficiency of the police force, and to a somewhat mitigated and simplified criminal code. On the whole it appears probable that, in the eighteenth century, crimes against the person, and especially murder, diminished, but that large classes of crimes against property increased. I have already collected evidence showing the terrible and long-continued outbreak of crime in London from 1767 to 1771;2 and the distress which was then very widely prevalent, spread similar disorders over the country.3 Prosecutions under the Game Laws are said to have much multiplied with the growth of enclosures. By the law of England, no one at this time, with a few strictly specified exceptions, was permitted to shoot or fish even on his own grounds, unless he possessed a freehold estate of at least 100l. a year, or a leasehold of at least 150l.; the sale of game was absolutely prohibited, and although the penalties of poaching were not so severe as they became under George IV., it was still possible for young men to be publicly whipped for having killed a hare.4
Many other forms of crime were naturally increased in the closing years of the century by the great rise in the price of food, and by the great changes and fluctuations of industry. The full and detailed account which Colquhoun has given of the state of crime in London about 1795 shows that large classes of offences against property had attained a terribl magnitude. This able and experienced magistrate speaks of it as an incontestable fact that there was much more crime in proportion to population, and especially much more crime against property, in England than in France, Flanders, Holland, and some other Northern countries,1 and he ascribes it very largely to the immense proportion of criminals who were either not arrested, or were acquitted though guilty, or were returned to the population, after a short period of imprisonment, totally corrupted and with an almost absolute impossibility of finding any honest means of livelihood. In seven years before a reform in the police establishment, which took place in 1792, no less than 4,262 prisoners, who had been put on their trial at the Old Bailey by the grand juries, were acquitted. Between April 1793 and March 1794 inclusive, 1,060 persons were committed for trial at the Old Bailey, and of these 567 were acquitted and discharged. ‘The acquittals,’ adds Colquhoun, ‘will generally be found to attach mostly to small offences which are punishable with death. Where juries do not consider the crime deserving so severe a punishment, the delinquent receives no punishment at all.’2
Colquhoun gives at the same time a very vivid picture of the extreme inefficiency of the watchmen and of the whole police administration. The crimes which he describes as having of late years especially increased were coining, petty forgery, robberies from ships on the Thames, and other offences against property. He states that there were believed to be more than three thousand receivers of stolen goods in London, and an equal proportion all over the country.3 Public-houses were, next to the prisons, the great schools of crime, and there were no less than 5,204 licensed within the bills of mortality. The complaints of excessive drunkenness do not appear to have been as great as in the earlier half of the century, but Colquhoun has made one remark about public-houses which appears to me of much significance. ‘The period,’ he says, ‘is not too remote to be recollected, when it was thought a disgrace for a woman (excepting on holiday occasions) to be seen in the taproom of a public-house; but of late years the obloquy has lost its effect, and the public taprooms of many alehouses are filled with men, women, and children, on all occasions.’4
Probably the most important measure for the suppression of crime during the period we are considering, was an Act which was passed in 1773 making it possible for felons and other malefactors who escaped from England to Scotland or from Scotland to England to be arrested in either country and sent back to the place where their offences were committed.1 This measure, which had been so long and so strangely delayed, completed the union between the two countries, diminished greatly the chances of the escape of criminals, and was especially useful in improving the condition of the border, which had been for generations a great centre of violent crime.
The roads were still scandalously insecure, and the English highwayman was a striking and conspicuous figure through the whole of the eighteenth century. William IV. was accustomed to relate how his great-grandfather George II., when walking alone in Kensington Gardens, was robbed by a single highwayman who climbed over the wall, and pleading his great distress, and with a manner of much deference, deprived the King of his purse, his watch, and his buckles.2 Even in the most central parts of London, highway robberies were not unfrequent. Thus, George IV., when Prince of Wales, and the Duke of York were robbed on Hay Hill near Berkeley Square. Two daughters of Admiral Holborn were driving across St. James's Square on their return from the opera, when a single footpad stopped their carriage and carried off their watches and jewels. The Neapolitan Ambassador, though two footmen stood behind his carriage, was stopped in Grosvenor Square and robbed of his watch and money, and Walpole describes a similar robbery in Piccadilly within fifty yards of his own house. On the mail coaches arms were constantly carried for protection, and there are numerous accounts of men who were shot when attacking them. The roads in the immediate neighbourhood of London were infested with highwaymen, and solitary and unarmed travellers rarely ventured after nightfall to traverse Hounslow Heath, or Blackheath, or Clapham or Finchley Common. At Kensington, as late as the beginning of the present century, it was customary on Sunday evenings to ring a bell at intervals, in order that the pleasure seekers from London might assemble in sufficient numbers to return in safety. The Angel Inn at Islington was a favourite resting place of timid travellers to London who arrived towards the evening, while the braver assembled near the end of John Street, where, when a sufficient number had collected, an armed patrol was appointed to escort them across the dangerous space that separated them from the great City. Men of business settled at Norwood and at Dulwich, when they returned from London after business hours, used to appoint a place of rendezvous from which they proceeded in a body for mutual protection, and it was found necessary to protect the roads leading to the public gardens by patrols of horse.1
The English highwaymen were an altogether different class, from the savage and half-famished brigands who found a refuge in the forests of Germany and among the mountains of Italy and Spain. They were in general singularly free from ferocity, and a considerable proportion of them were not habitual criminals. Broken tradesmen and even young men of position, who had ruined themselves by dissipation, not unfrequently went upon the road, and if they escaped detection returned again to respectable life. On one occasion a London print cutter, on the road to Enfield, was stopped by a single highwayman whom he recognised as a tradesman in the City. He addressed him by his name, and the detected robber at once blew out his own brains. Favourite actors and other popular heroes, when stopped by highwaymen, were sometimes allowed to pass unmolested as soon as they were recognised; and if the robbed person asked for sufficient money to continue his journey, the request was generally granted. Few things in English life appeared more strange and more scandalous to foreigners than the extraordinary insecurity of the roads around the English capital, although there were neither mountains nor great woods to give shelter to robbers. They ascribed it to the want of that mounted police called the ‘Maréchaussée’ which protected the French roads; to the forms of English freedom which made it difficult or impossible to arrest men on suspicion and to demand their papers, and especially to the extreme severity of the penal code which discouraged informers and induced juries to avail themselves of any pretext to acquit criminals.1
Another prevalent form of violence, which in the eyes of the law was a crime of the deepest turpitude, was duelling. Few facts in the moral history of Europe are more curious than the stringency with which the practice was enforced by public opinion, in Catholic countries and in ages when faith was almost unchallenged and when all heterodoxy was suppressed by law, although the Church had pronounced it to be a sin of that ‘mortal’ kind which excludes from heaven. In England, if the Church did not profess to speak in as authoritative language as Catholicism, the law at least recognised no distinction between the killing of a man in a duel and premeditated murder, and the seconds as well as the principals were involved in the guilt. The Star Chamber had made special efforts to suppress duelling, and Bacon was conspicuously opposed to it, but in general judges and juries seem to have combined to shield the culprits, and there was as yet little or no sign of a turn of opinion. In France, it is true, both Voltaire and Rousseau wrote strongly against duelling, and the downfall of feudalism at the Revolution probably accelerated its fall. In England, Paley, and also the Evangelical leaders, strongly condemned it, but the practice, in some cases, was so stringently enforced by opinion that the most serious moralists hesitated. Dr. Johnson maintained that in the existing state of opinion a man who fought a duel to avoid a stigma on his honour, was only exercising his legitimate right of self defence.2 Bentham used very similar language, though he pointed out with great force the evils and absurdities of duels, and ascribed their prevalence to the deficiency of legislation, which had provided no adequate means for the protection of honour.3 Wilberforce himself, was on one occasion challenged by a West Indian captain, and he mentions that Stephen, who was one of the ablest men in the early Evangelical party, confessed to him that his ‘strongest temptations were to duelling.’4 On the occasion of Pitt's duel with Tierney in 1798, Wilberforce desired to bring the subject before the House of Commons in the form of a resolution, but he found that he could not count upon more than five or six members to support him, and accordingly relinquished his intention.1 The immense number of conspicuous men, and especially of conspicuous statesmen, who fought duels during the eighteenth century is very striking. We have already had occasion to notice as considerable political events the duels of Lord Mohun with the Duke of Hamilton; of Wilkes with Martin; of the Duke of York with Colonel Lennox, and of Whateley with Governor Temple. Among the Prime Ministers of George III., Shelburne fought with Colonel Fullerton, Pitt with Tierney, and Fox with Adam; and at a later period, Canning fought with Castlereagh, the Duke of Wellington fought with Lord Winchilsea, and Peel twice challenged political opponents. These are but a few out of many examples that might be given. No revolution of public sentiment has been more remarkable than that which in the space of little more than a generation has banished from England, and in a great measure from Europe, this evil custom which had so long defied the condemnation both of the Church and of the Law.
It is impossible, I think, to trace the history of crime, of the treatment of criminals, of the treatment of debtors, and of the maintenance of order, without acknowledging the enormous improvement which has in these fields, at least, been effected in England, as in most other countries, since the eighteenth century. The tone of life and manners has become indisputably gentler and more humane, and men recoil with a new energy of repulsion from brutality, violence, and wrong. It is difficult to measure the change that must have passed over the public mind since the days when the lunatics in Bedlam were constantly spoken of as one of the sights of London; when the maintenance of the African slave trade was a foremost object of English commercial policy; when men and even women were publicly whipped through the streets; when skulls lined the top of Temple Bar, and rotting corpses hung on gibbets along the Edgware Road; when prisoners exposed in the pillory not unfrequently died through the ill usage of the mob, and when the procession every six weeks of condemned criminals to Tyburn was one of the great festivals of London. A similar change is shown in the abolition of the old modes of recruiting for the army and navy; in the character of public amusements; in the treatment of boys at school; in the attention that is paid in the houses of the rich to the comfort and health of their servants. Improved roads, improved police and improved legislation have altogether extirpated some forms of crime and greatly diminished others. The wholesale cattle stealing of the Highlands, highway robbery, piracy and kidnapping, are now things of the past. Smuggling, which once educated hundreds, if not thousands, into systematic lawlessness, has sunk into insignificant dimensions. Riots have become comparatively rare and inconsiderable. If theological fanaticism burns in some quarters more fiercely than in the eighteenth century, intolerance at least finds no longer any sanction in English law, and the circle of permissible discussion recognised by public opinion has been immensely enlarged. In the upper classes duelling has disappeared; drunkenness has become very rare; gambling, though it has probably greatly increased in the form of reckless and dishonest speculation, has in other respects declined, and the canons of good society have diminished coarseness, and banished profane swearing from conversation.
All these signs of improvement are incontestable, but in nearly all these respects the latter part of the century was greatly superior to the beginning. In other forms of morals the comparison is more dubious. Towards the close of the century especially, there were loud complaints of growing vice in high quarters. The many conspicuous scandals in the royal family; the public relations of the Duke of Grafton, when Prime Minister, with Nancy Parsons; the passion at one period for masquerades and at another period for ballet dancing, and above all the growing number of divorces, were cited as illustrations. Bills for preventing the intermarriage of the offending parties were carried through the House of Lords in 1771 and in 1779, but on both occasions rejected by the Commons.1 A Bishop of Durham in 1798 gravely assured the House of Lords that the French, despairing of overthrowing England by arms, had formed a deliberate and subtle design to corrupt her morals, and had for that purpose sent over a number of ballet dancers.1 Lord Auckland noticed in 1800, that in the space of 130 years there had been 132 divorces by Act of Parliament. Of these only eight had taken place in the first forty-five years, fifty in the next sixty years, and seventy-four in the last twenty-five years. In the four years immediately preceding the Session in which he spoke, twenty-five divorce bills had been carried and five others rejected.2
Evidence, however, of this kind appears to me to be of very little value. Each generation has its censors who pronounce it to be altogether extraordinary in its depravity, and these denunciations are sometimes even a sign of progress, for they merely show that men are more conscious of the evils around them; have raised their standard of excellence, and have learned to lay an increased stress upon moral improvement. This was very eminently the case at the close of the last century when the Methodist and Evangelical movements were at their height. In the ‘Practical Piety’ of Wilberforce; in two short treatises of Hannah More, and in some of the essays of Vicesimus Knox we have the views of leading Evangelicals on the morals of the upper classes; and while they sufficiently show that those classes were far from conforming to the Evangelical standard, they do not furnish any real proof of deterioration. The mere coincidence of a few great scandals is often purely fortuitous, and the number of divorces is certainly no sure index of the morals of society. It is a notorious fact that the lowest standard of domestic morality in Europe may often be found in countries, and in periods, in which divorce was absolutely forbidden, or in classes in which it never takes place; nor is there, I believe, any real reason to think that the standard of domestic morals in England has been lowered by the great multiplication of divorces which has followed the Divorce Law of 1857. In this case the multiplication has been the obvious consequence of a law which made a process, which before was extremely difficult and extremely expensive, both easy and cheap. But where no change in the law has been effected, it would be very rash to infer that a public opinion which acquiesces placidly in conjugal infidelity, or which condemns the victims of unhappy marriages to lifelong misery and sin, is of a higher order than a public opinion which in such cases permits and encourages divorce. In the eighteenth century the practice in England relating to it was incredibly absurd. All matrimonial cases were placed under the Ecclesiastical Courts, and the law of England, following the doctrine of Catholicism and the canon law, pronounced that while separation ‘a mensâ et thoro’ might in some cases be permitted, an absolute dissolution of a valid and duly accomplished marriage, was in all cases a sin against God. And from this position the singular inference was drawn, that it should only be permitted by special Act of Parliament, and at the cost of several thousand pounds. The fact that the small class of persons who were able and willing to resort to this remedy had increased is surely no considerable index of growing depravity, and it may be much more than balanced by the immense improvement in the marriage relation which was effected by the Act of Lord Hardwicke, suppressing or diminishing the enormous abuses of clandestine marriages.
At the same time, it is certain, that in this field of morals there has been no improvement at all commensurate with that which has taken place in the field of philanthropy, and it is probable that the tendency has been in the opposite direction. This class of vices naturally increases with the increased luxury of a wealthy society, with the larger place which town life holds in the existence of the wealthy, and especially with the increasingly cosmopolitan character which European society has assumed. It is possible also, that it may have been more largely affected than other departments of morals, by that decline of theological beliefs which was so manifest in the closing years of the eighteenth century, and which is certainly not less apparent in our own day.
The distinctive virtues of the eighteenth century were not those which spring from passionate or definite religious convictions. For these we must look rather to the two centuries that preceded it. In its closing years, it is true, the Methodist and Evangelical movements, and the strong conflicting passions aroused by the French Revolution, somewhat altered its character; but in general it was an unimpassioned and unheroic age, singularly devoid of both religious and political enthusiasm, and much more remarkable for intellectual than for high moral achievements. It was pre-eminently a century of good sense; of sobriety of thought and action; of growing toleration and humanity; of declining superstition; of rapidly extending knowledge; of great hopefulness about the future. In England, we must add to these characteristics a steady national progress; a free and temperate government; a constantly increasing respect for law; a remarkable absence of class warfare, and of great political and religious convulsions.
The reforming spirit was, however, much weaker than at present, and that extreme activity of the philanthropic spirit, which is so characteristic of modern English life, had but just begun. This spirit has been largely stimulated by the Evangelical revival; by the great development of the press, which has brought into vivid relief innumerable forms of long unnoticed suffering, and also, perhaps, by the democratic movement which has forced the wants of the humbler classes into attention. In comparing, however, from this point of view, the England of the last century with that of our own day, it is necessary to remember that during the greater part of the eighteenth century, society was so organised that the demand for charitable and philanthropic exertions was considerably less than it now is. Before the existing industrial system had grown up, and before the vast agglomerations of population in the great towns, industry in all its branches was much less fluctuating than at present, and the permanent relation between classes was closer and more stable. The country gentleman lived nearly the whole year among his people. A great proportion of the agricultural labourers lived in the houses of the farmers. The common land and the plot of ground, which, in the early years of the century, still surrounded the married labourer's cottage, preserved him from the extremes of want. The poor law system was lavishly administered, and the obstacles which the law of settlement put in the way of the migration of the agricultural poor, stereotyped the features of English country life. The price of corn till near the close of the century was low and steady. Extreme want was rare, and the standard of comfort was low. Manufacturing industry was, to a large extent, a mere adjunct of agriculture, carried on in cottages scattered through the agricultural districts. In the towns, the apprentice system; the long contracts between the master and his journeymen; the habit of apprentices, and often journeymen, living under the roof of their master, and the settlement of wages by law, which was not yet extinct, mitigated the fluctuations of industry. The population was also comparatively small, and English industry was much less closely connected than at present with the vast and complex vicissitudes of foreign markets.
Legislation concerned itself much less than in our day with social abuses. The prevention of crime, and the regulation of commercial interests, were sedulously, if not always wisely, attended to; but there were few attempts during the Hanoverian period to deal with special evils and forms of suffering among the poor, and in spite of occasional laws relating to gaming, lotteries, disorderly houses, and the observance of Sunday, there was in general little disposition to regulate habits, and restrain private vices, by law. The greater portion of the legislation directly bearing on the condition of the poor consisted of extensions, restrictions, and modifications of the poor law. Numerous measures were passed during this period, defining the nature and conditions of relief; the circumstances by which a parish settlement might be lost or gained; the power of churchwardens and overseers to hire out, with the assent of two justices of the peace, pauper children, till they were twenty-one, as ‘parish apprentices.’1 A disclosure of the appalling mortality among young children in the London workhouses was met by a merciful Act, which appears to have been principally due to Hanway, establishing separate nurseries in the country for these children.2 Some great evils, which had been discovered in private madhouses, and some striking instances of persons improperly confined, produced much scandal, a parliamentary inquiry, and some careful legislation,1 and another law endeavoured to put an end to horrible abuses which had grown up in the treatment of children who were employed to sweep chimneys.2 I have spoken already of the laws for regulating wages and hours of work; for improving the condition of prisons, and for alleviating the state of debtors; and there are a few instances of new forms of charity being assisted by moderate and temporary parliamentary grants.
But on the whole this class of subjects occupies a very small place in the legislation of the eighteenth century, though a great amount of private benevolence was devoted to it. The London charities were large and excellent, and an intelligent French traveller, who carefully investigated them in the early years of the present century, was especially struck with their complete independence of the Government, and with the very large proportion of them which had grown up during the latter half of the eighteenth century.3 A detailed examination would, I believe, show that London already ranked very high, in its charitable institutions, among the cities of the world.4 Two important, though by no means uncontested, forms of charity, which had already existed on the Continent, appear to have arisen in England for the first time in the eighteenth century. The first foundling hospital in England was established through the exertions of Captain Coram in 1739, and the first Magdalen Asylum in 1769. In addition to the foundling hospitals and orphanages which already existed, some attempts were made in the latter half of the century to purify the sources of crime by asylums for deserted girls, young delinquents, and children of criminal parents, and by a society, founded by Hanway, for collecting destitute boys from the street in order to educate them as sailors. A society for the relief of persons confined for small debts was founded in 1772, and in the work of improving the condition of prisoners, its treasurer, James Neild, deserves to rank only second to Howard.1 There were numerous instances of large subscriptions raised for special purposes of benevolence, such as providing comforts for prisoners of war, or for soldiers and their families, and these subscriptions had sometimes a very cosmopolitan character. Large sums were raised from private sources in England to assist the Corsicans in their struggle with the French, and the Poles in their struggle with the Russians.2 There was a subscription for the destitute Portuguese after the earthquake at Lisbon, and in the beginning of the French Revolution more than seventy thousand pounds were subscribed for the assistance of French refugees.
Charities of this description do not appear to me to have been to any considerable extent due to the religious revival at the close of the century. There had always been much unobtrusive charity in England, and causes in a great degree independent of religion had contributed to stimulate it. There are fashions of feeling as well as fashions of thought, and with the softening manners of the closing years of the century, benevolence and philanthropy had undoubtedly acquired a higher place in the category of virtues. It was the complaint of a hostile critic, that Fielding had set the fashion of reducing all virtue to good affections in contradiction to moral obligation and a sense of duty, and of representing goodness of heart as a sufficient substitute for moral virtues.3 The ideal of excellence which was taught by Shaftesbury in England, and by Voltaire in France, and the strain of sentiment which was at once sustained and reflected by the writings of Rousseau, was very apparent in English life; and Evangelical writers, so far from denying the strong spirit of benevolence outside their sect, were inclined to reproach their contemporaries with the exclusive and excessive stress they laid upon that virtue.1 There was, however, a large class of institutions which were distinctly traceable to the religious revival. The Evangelical party, though it as yet only included a minority of the clergy, had already drawn to itself the strongest religious enthusiasm in the nation, and had become the pre-eminent source of religious activity. In the older religious societies it had little weight, but nearly all the popular religious literature of the time, nearly every fresh departure, nearly every new organisation which grew up in the English religious world, was mainly due to it. The largest of them were of a purely religious character, with which we have no concern here. Thus the London Missionary Society, which was established in 1795; the Church Missionary Society, which was established in 1799; the Religious Tract Society, which was established in the same year, and which followed in the steps of a tract society that had been founded by Wesley seventeen years before; the British and Foreign Bible Society, which was established in 1802, and all, or nearly all, the Nonconformist religious societies which arose about this period, were distinctly Evangelical. The Society for the Reformation of Manners, imitated from the society of the same name which had existed at the close of the seventeenth century, was not indeed an Evangelical society, but it owed its origin to Wilberforce; and the Association for Securing a Better Observance of Sunday consisted chiefly of Evangelical members. But in almost all forms of purely secular charity, a new impulse was also given; and a characteristic feature of English life in the closing years of the century, was the increasing number of persons—especially unmarried women—who were making works of charity the main business of their lives. ‘There is no class of persons,’ Wilberforce once said, ‘whose condition has been more improved within my recollection than that of unmarried women. Formerly there seemed to be nothing useful in which they could be naturally busy, but now they may always find an object in attending to the poor.’1
The services of the rising party to religious education were also very considerable. It is a remarkable fact that during the whole of the eighteenth century the task of educating the English poor, as far as it was undertaken at all, was left to the different religious denominations, and to the benevolence of individuals and voluntary associations without the smallest assistance from the Government. The old law which forbade the opening of any school without the licence of a bishop, though still in force, had become obsolete; but if the Government did not impede, it at least did nothing whatever to support education. There were still many endowed schools dating from an earlier period, which gave free education to many children, and there had been, as we have seen, a great and beneficent movement for the erection of parochial charity schools under Anne. It was warmly patronised by the Queen, but it was the work of private charity, entirely unassisted by Parliament; and for more than sixty years after the death of Anne, the history of education in England is almost a blank. Scotland, indeed, and the New England colonies had long enjoyed excellent systems of popular education, and even in Ireland there were the Charter Schools endowed by the Irish Parliament; but in England it was the prevailing doctrine that the education of the people was entirely foreign to the duties of Government, and it was a very common belief that education would only unfit the poor for the life that was allotted to them. New charity schools were no doubt occasionally erected. Private enterprise multiplied cheap schools; landlords occasionally founded schools on their estates, and the apprentice system in some small measure discharged the functions of a system of education; but unless we except the circulating schools in Wales,1 there is, I believe, during this long period, no evidence of any considerable attempt to instruct the poor.
The fact is especially remarkable when we remember how eminently the eighteenth century was a century of extending knowledge, and how large a place education held in the thoughts of legislators on the Continent. As early as 1717, Frederick William I. had issued an edict making education compulsory in Prussia, and not less than seventeen hundred schools for the poor are said to have been established in Prussia during his reign. Frederick the Great energetically pursued the same policy, and some years before the outbreak of the French Revolution, there were laws in almost every little German State, obliging parents to send their children to schools which had been established under the direction of ecclesiastics. Even the Catholic States of Germany, though in general considerably behind the Protestant ones, had thrown themselves ardently into the same career. Maria Theresa through her whole reign made the education of her people one of the great objects of her policy, and Joseph II. though with feebler steps followed her example. The writings of Rousseau, and in the last years of the century, the example and system of Pestalozzi had given an immense impulse to the cause of education throughout the Continent. But in England this movement appears for a long time to have been entirely unfelt, and the first traces of a revived interest in education seem to be due to the religious movement. A sermon preached at Cambridge by Bishop Porteus in 1768, on the subject of religious education at the Universities, induced a Norfolk gentleman named Norris to found at Cambridge a professorship for giving lectures on the doctrines of revealed religion;2 while among the poor an important step was taken by the establishment of Sunday schools. Raikes of Gloucester, whose first schools were set up in 1781, is generally spoken of as their originator, but it is certain that there were a few isolated Sunday schools at an earlier date. To Raikes, however, far more than to any other man, the Sunday-school system owes its real importance. Some of the clergy, and among others Bishop Horsley, looked on it with suspicion and dislike, but it spread rapidly, and was especially favorued by the Evangelical party. The Sunday School Society was established in 1785, and two years later, not less than two hundred thousand children are said to have been receiving instruction in Sunday schools.1 Wesley strongly advocated them; Hannah More greatly assisted the movement both by her influence and by her pen, and Rowland Hill is said to have been the first to introduce Sunday schools into London.2
The establishment of any real system of secular national education in England belongs altogether to the nineteenth century, for although the systems of Bell and Lancaster were brought before the English public in 1797 and 1798, nothing was yet done to put them into action. About the same time, Malthus, following in the steps of Adam Smith, urged in impressive language the extreme national importance of a general system of popular instruction; the scandal and the danger of leaving the education of the lower classes to a few Sunday schools, directed and supported by private individuals.3 For a long time, however, these warnings were little attended to. The deep and honourable distrust of all encroachments of Government, which was characteristic of Englishmen in the eighteenth century, has produced many advantages, but often at a heavy price. Part of that price has been that England until very lately had no system of national education at all comparable with that of many continental nations, or at all worthy of her own place among civilised Powers.
In England, as in the chief nations on the Continent, the closing years of the century were marked by a great widening of the national sympathies, which were no longer confined by the lines of country, race, or creed. The increased sense of wrongs done to savage and pagan races was very evident. The ill-treatment, by the English, of the Caribbees in the island of St. Vincent, was the subject of a parliamentary inquiry and of much discussion in 1773;4 and the impeachment of Warren Hastings has a great significance in English moral history, as representing the awakening of the national conscience to its responsibility towards subject races. But the most conspicuous illustration of this kind is to be found in that great movement for the abolition of the slave trade, which became, in the last years of the century, one of the chief forms of English philanthropy.
The more important facts in the early history of slavery and of the British slave trade have been already related,1 and they are in themselves sufficient to show the vast revolution which has been effected in English public sentiment. A few voices had indeed been heard from a very early period protesting against the trade. Even in the seventeenth century, George Fox, the founder of Quakerism; Richard Baxter; Morgan Godwyn, a clergyman of the established Church; and one or two other writers had denounced it; and Aphra Behn, who had herself witnessed slavery in the West Indies, had brought the wrongs of the negroes before the public in a novel called ‘Oronooko,’ which was afterwards turned into a play by Southern. In the following century, many English writers had dwelt on the barbarity of the slave trade before any serious effort had been made to restrain it. Defoe condemned it in some powerful lines in his poem on ‘The Reformation of Manners,’ which appeared in 1702, and he afterwards urged a more humane treatment of negroes in his ‘Life of Colonel Jacque.’ Thomson, Savage, and Shenstone among poets; Heylin, War burton, and Paley among divines; Hutcheson, Adam Smith, and Beattie among philosophers, may all be cited as early enemies of the slave trade, and a few books of travels had already described its horrors. But in the sphere of politics no such reprobation was shown, and the generation that applauded the conquests of Chatham, as well as the generation that made the Peace of Utrecht, considered the extension of the slave trade a capital object of English commercial policy. The Assiento Treaty, as we have seen, had given England the monopoly of the slave trade to the Spanish colonies, and it was a boast of Chatham, that his conquests in Africa had placed almost the whole slave trade in English hands.2
An Act of 1750 had already elaborately regulated the trade. Its preamble described it as very advantageous to Great Britain, and as necessary to her colonies, but it is a remarkable fact that it contained a clause expressly providing for the security of the natives. ‘No master of a ship,’ it said, ‘shall, by fraud, force, or violence, or by any other indirect practice whatsoever, take on board or carry away from the coast of Africa any negro or native of that country, or commit, or suffer to be committed, any violence on the natives to the prejudice of the said trade; and every person so offending shall, for every such offence, forfeit 100l.’1 As might have been expected, and as subsequent inquiries abundantly proved, these words proved a mockery and a dead letter, but they show that although the slave trade was uniformly conducted with the most barefaced violence and fraud, the existence of some duty to the natives was at least recognised by the legislators. In 1768, a few years after the war of Chatham, it was estimated that not less than 97,000 negroes were taken from Africa in a single year.2
The signs, however, of a growing awakening to the evils of the trade were rapidly multiplied, and in a few years before the outbreak of the American War some important facts had occurred. A controversy which had long been pending, relating to the legality of the state of servitude in England, was at this time finally decided. Numerous slaves had been, in the course of the century, brought to England, held in servitude in England, stopped by force when they left their masters, and even publicly advertised for sale. York and Talbot, the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General in 1729, had given it as their opinion that a slave, by being brought from the West Indies into Great Britain, was not emancipated, but might be legally compelled to return to the plantations. This doctrine, however, had been frequently disputed, and especially by Granville Sharp, one of the earliest and most illustrious of that long line of philanthropists who have devoted their lives to the defence of the negroes. At last, in 1772, the case of an African slave named Somerset, who had been brought to England, had left his master, and had afterwards been forcibly seized for the purpose of being carried out of the kingdom and sold in Jamaica, was brought before Lord Mansfield, and that great judge, after long deliberation, decided that Somerset must be discharged, and that every slave, as soon as he touched English ground, acquired his freedom.
Two other facts of great moment speedily followed. John Wesley, who had come in personal contact with American slaves as early as 1736,1 published, in 1774, his ‘Thoughts on Slavery,’ strongly denouncing the system; and two years later David Hartley, the son of the metaphysician, for the first time brought the question before Parliament, by moving a resolution ‘that the slave trade was contrary to the laws of God and the rights of man.’ The motion was seconded by Sir George Savile, but it was easily defeated, and appears to have excited but little attention.
Up to this time the steadiest and most persistent opponents of the slave trade had been the Quakers. They had passed resolutions condemning it in 1727 and in 1758. In 1761 they excluded from membership, any Quaker who was concerned in the trade, and in 1763 they branded as criminal all who in any way encouraged or abetted it. In America, however, the Quakers were less inflexible in their opposition, and they appear to have in general kept slaves like their fellow-colonists, though they were remarkable for the humanity with which they treated them and the frequency with which they emancipated them. They in general distinguished between the possession and the importation of slaves, but there were always some among them who considered the whole system of slavery criminal, and a strong movement in favour of abolition sprang up a few years before the revolutionary contest with England, chiefly in the Quaker province of Pennsylvania.2 In 1754, in 1755, in 1774 and in 1776, the subject was brought forward at their yearly meetings, and in general the American Quakers seem to have made it their rule to abstain from importing or purchasing slaves, though they did not absolutely condemn the keeping of slaves.3 About 1770 a few Quakers began to form associations in the middle provinces of North America to discourage the introduction of slaves into their neighbourhood and to encourage manumission, and it was noticed that several persons of different creeds began to liberate their slaves, and to co-operate for the purpose of ameliorating their lot.1 Benjamin Franklin, among others, warmly supported the movement.
As I have already observed, conditions of climate, and therefore of cultivation, ultimately determined the course of negro slavery in America, and while in the Northern States and in Pennsylvanis slaves were few, manumission frequent, and the laws relating to negroes comparatively mild, the slave codes of Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas were of extreme ferocity,2 and instances of glaring and extraordinary inhumanity to negroes were very numerous in the Southern colonies, and the English West Indies.3 The grotesque absurdity of slave owners signing a ‘Declaration of Independence’ which asserted the inalienable right of every man to liberty and equality was not unfelt, but the original draft of the Declaration of Independence as drawn up by Jefferson contained a passage strongly censuring the slave trade, and blaming the King of England for having forced it upon America. By the desire of some of the Southern representatives, this passage was expunged.
Dean Tucker, in a pamphlet published in 1785, has devoted some remarkable pages to the English slave trade. No man living, he says, could sincerely approve of the slave trade as it is actually conducted, and he declares that ‘the murders committed in the course of it, reckoning from the beginning of it to the present hour, almost exceed the power of numbers to ascertain. Yet,’ he continues, ‘reason and humanity recoil in vain. For the trade in human blood is still carried on not only with impunity but also with the consent, approbation, and even assistance of the British Legislature,’ and it is never likely to be suppressed, till it is proved that slavery is economically wasteful, and that sugar can be produced more cheaply by free labour. Referring to the state of the slaves, he asserts that it is a notorious and incontrovertible fact ‘that the English planters in general (doubtless there are exceptions) treat their slaves, or suffer them to be treated, with a greater degree of inhumanity than the planters of any other European nation.’ He ascribes this ‘excess of barbarity’ partly to the fact that the English planters have more slaves than those of any other nation, and therefore think it necessary to protect themselves by a greater severity from combinations or revolts, but partly also to the large amount of self-government the English colonies enjoy. ‘The English planters are more their own masters, their own lawgivers in their assemblies; also the interpreters, the judges (as jurymen) and the executioners of their laws, than those of any other nation. The very form of the English constitution, originally calculated for the preservation of liberty, tends in this instance to destroy it. Consequently the English planters can indulge themselves in a greater degree of passion and revenge than would be permitted under the absolute governments of France, Spain, Portugal, or Denmark.’ In proof of this assertion Tucker refers to the Code Noir of France, and he adds: ‘The regulations of the Spanish Government respecting negro slaves are still more humane, laying a foundation for the sober and industrious among them, by allowing them the profits of two days’ labour in each week, to purchase their own liberty in the course of a few years. And it may be observed in general, that though absolute governments are tyrannical in themselves, yet they are a great check on the tyranny of their intermediate subjects, being ready to protect the helpless from being oppressed by any but themselves. This is remarkably verified in the case of those slaves who live under the Russian, Prussian, and Austrian Governments, compared with the hard fate of others who still groan under the bondage of the nobles of Poland.’ In addition to these reasons, he observes that an unusual proportion of English planters lived habitually in England and consigned the care of their property to bailiffs and overseers, who had a manifest interest in stifling all complaints, and keeping their principals as much as possible in the dark about the management of their estates.1
I have already mentioned the attempts that had been made by some American provincial Legislatures, during the colonial period, to discourage the excessive importation of slaves. They appear to have been due mainly or solely to commercial and political reasons, and, as we have seen, were overruled by the British Government. In 1776, however, the Continental Congress passed a memorable resolution, ‘that no slaves be imported into any of the thirteen United Colonies.’ During the war, the British cruisers very effectually prevented such importation, but, on the attainment of independence, the question was decided independently by the different Legislatures. In the great majority of the States the slave trade was forbidden; but, in spite of the State laws, it was carried on to a considerable extent by New England vessels, and in some of the Southern States it was fully legal. When the Constitution of 1787 was established, there was a long dispute on the subject, and it was finally decided that Georgia and the Carolinas should retain their right of carrying on the slave trade for twenty more years. At this date slavery, as distinguished from the slave trade, had not been actually abolished in any State except Massachusetts; but a measure for its gradual abolition had been adopted in Pennsylvania, and imitated by many Northern States, and there were already active organisations for hastening its abolition, and for alleviating the condition of the slaves.2
The British slave trade had been greatly crippled by the war of the American Revolution, and the independence of America cut off permanently one of its great markets. It also very seriously, though indirectly, affected the lot of the negroes in the British West India Islands. The active and profitable commerce which had long subsisted between those islands and the American colonies had been necessarily interrupted by the war, but it was hoped that it might revive on the establishment of peace. The Shelburne Ministry was especially distinguished for its enlightened commercial views, and in March 1783 Pitt, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, brought before Parliament a singularly liberal Bill repealing all the measures prohibiting American ships from trading with the British dominions, and establishing provisionally, and for a limited time, perfect free trade between the United States and the British Empire. The change of Ministry that immediately followed, prevented this measure from being carried; and the Coalition Government which succeeded, contented itself with repealing the prohibitory laws which had existed during the war, and passing a measure, vesting in the Crown for a limited period authority to regulate the commerce with America.1
It soon appeared that while the West Indian planters were extremely anxious to reopen free trade with America, a strong opposition to such a policy had grown up. It was desired to confine the trade to these islands to British ships and to the British dominions, and it was contended that by such restrictions the prosperity of Canada, Nova Scotia, and the island of St. John, might be greatly stimulated. Pitt, on returning to power, yielded to the clamour, abandoned the liberal policy of the provisional Bill, consented to refer the whole matter to the Committee of the Privy Council for the Board of Trade, and at last, on the recommendation of that body, and in spite of the protests and warnings of the planters, he agreed to confine the intercourse between the British West India Islands and America to British ships. The result was a destitution, lasting for many years, and falling especially on the negro population. One or two bad seasons and one or two devastating hurricanes aggravated the calamity, and its magnitude is shown in a ghastly report drawn up by a committee of the Assembly of Jamaica. They express their firm conviction that in seven years, and in consequence of the prohibition of foreign supplies, not less than fifteen thousand negroes had perished. ‘This number,’ they say, ‘we firmly believe to have perished of famine, or of diseases contracted by scanty and unwholesome diet, between the latter end of 1780 and the beginning of 1787.’1
The slave trade revived rapidly after the Peace of 1783, and Liverpool became its special source. It has been computed that between 1783 and 1793 not less than 74,000 negroes were annually transported from Africa to the West Indies. Of these it was estimated that Great Britain imported 38,000, Holland 4,000, Portugal 10,000, Denmark 2,000, and France 20,000. It has also been estimated that of the immense number of 814,000 negroes who were carried from Africa to the West Indies in eleven years, not less than 407,000 were carried in Liverpool ships, and that the town derived from this unholy trade an annual profit of about 298,462l.2
There were, however, increasing signs that the conscience of England was beginning to awaken to the enormity of the trade. Granville Sharp with an admirable perseverance continued his efforts, and a peculiarly horrible case that occurred in 1783 contributed largely to arrest the attention of the public. The master of a slave ship, called the ‘Zong,’ finding sickness raging among his negroes, deliberately ordered 132 of them to be flung into the sea. The pretext alleged was that the supply of water had become insufficient, but this pretext was completely disproved. The real motive was a desire to save the owners, who would bear the cost if the negroes died of sickness, while, if they were thrown overboard for the preservation of the ship, it would fall upon the underwriters. There were two trials with conflicting verdicts, but it was clearly laid down in them that the only question at issue was a question of property or cost; that there was nothing in the transaction of the nature of a murderous act, and that the case was legally of exactly the same kind as if it had been homes and not human beings that had been thrown into the sea.3
About this time a small Quaker society was formed for the purpose of influencing public opinion in favour of the abolition of the trade, which it did by disseminating tracts, and through the medium of the provincial press; and in 1783, when a Bill for introducing some regulations into the trade was before Parliament, a Quaker petition for its abolition was presented by Sir Cecil Wray. Lord North in a few words expressed his warm admiration for the Quaker body and his sympathy with the object of their petition, but declared that the trade had become ‘in some measure necessary to almost every nation in Europe,’ and that ‘it would be next to an impossibility to induce them to give it up and renounce it for ever.’ A similar petition was presented to Parliament from the town of Bridge-water in 1785, and nearly at the same time some of the most powerful champions of abolition appeared in the field. A clergyman named Ramsay, who had lived for many years in the West India Islands, published in 1784 a work on the treatment of the enslaved negroes which attracted much attention and gave rise to a long and acrimonious controversy. In 1786 Thomas Clarkson began his lifelong labours in behalf of the negroes by the publication of his essay on negro slavery. In 1787 Wilberforce agreed to bring the subject before Parliament, and in the same year the ‘Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade’ was formed in London under the presidency of Granville Sharp.
This society consisted in its origin of only twelve members, most of them being London merchants and the great majority Quakers. Its first business was to define its scope, and the members wisely decided that they would not attempt a crusade against slavery, but would aim only at the abolition of the slave trade and the mitigation of the condition of the negroes.
By adopting this course they greatly diminished the amount of opposition. They avoided the delicate constitutional questions that might be raised if the English Parliament were asked to interfere with the institutions of colonies which had their own Legislatures, and they at the same time took a course which was excellently fitted to mitigate the abuses of slavery. The slave trade was in itself a more horrible thing than the simple maintenance of slavery; and by furnishing the plantations with an unlimited supply of cheap and fresh negro labour, it gave slavery its worst features of atrocity. It took away the one serious restraint of self-interest which prevented the extreme ill-treatment of slaves, and it inevitably produced an enormous disproportion between the sexes, a total destruction of family life, extreme and general dissoluteness.
It was the opinion of Pitt and of a large number of the opponents of the slave trade, that if this trade were abolished colonial slavery would lose its worst characteristics and that it might at the same time become self-supporting. In North America and also in the Bermudas this had been already achieved, and the result of some measures regulating the condition of negroes in Jamaica appeared to show that if slaves were only compelled to work in moderation, and if family life were duly maintained, the simple increase of population would make the slave trade wholly unnecessary.1
The first great work of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, was to collect evidence. Clarkson devoted himself to this task, and the facts collected by him in long and laborious inquiries at Bristol and Liverpool, and after-wards brought before Parliament, revealed a series of horrors which made a deep and lasting impression on the mind and conscience of England. The pretence that the negroes exported from Africa were simply or mainly criminals, was easily dispelled; and the horrible system of kidnapping, and of desolating native wars by which the trade was sustained, was abundautly shown.
Not less appalling were the horrors of the Middle Passage, and the terrible mortality that attended it. Though the negroes taken from Africa were chiefly strong men, Wilberforce was able to state before Parliament, that of every hundred carried from Africa, seventeen on an average died in about nine weeks, and not more than fifty lived to become effective labourers in our islands.2 Many in despair tried to starve themselves to death, and an instrument employed by surgeons in cases of lockjaw was in habitual use to defeat their attempts. Others, in spite of all precautions, succeeded in plunging into the sea, and they had been seen flinging up their arms in exultation, and shouting with the triumph of recovered liberty, as they sank beneath the waves. Nor were the abuses of the slave trade confined to the treatment of negroes. The trade had fallen chiefly into the worst hands; and while it was alleged by its defenders that it was the nursery of British seamen, it was proved beyond all doubt that in no other department of the British Navy was the mortality so great.
While the Committee were engaged in collecting such evidence, the management of the cause of abolition in Parliament was taken up by William Wilberforce, who conducted it to its final triumph, and whose fame has somewhat eclipsed the memory of the minor agents in the movement. A considerable social position, very eminent social gifts, a large fortune, the weight attaching to the representation of the first county in England, and the still greater weight derived from a most intimate friendship with Pitt, at once made the adhesion of Wilberforce to the cause a matter of great moment. He could not be compared in intellectual power with Pitt, Fox, Burke, or Sheridan, but he stood high in the second line of parliamentary debaters. He was quite capable of mastering in its details a vast and complicated subject, and though he seemed the frailest and feeblest of mortals, he could sway great multitudes of excited men by a clear and popular eloquence, and by the exquisite beauty of his voice and his elocution. He had passed completely under the influence of the Evangelical revival, and he showed something of its weakness and narrowness, as well as of its earnestness and strength. The enormity of drilling militiamen on Sunday afternoons in a time of great public danger, or meeting on that day for recreation or secular instruction, appears to have been in his eyes hardly less than the enormities of the slave trade; and the journals in which he recorded his daily emotions, seem to me to show much of that morbid, exaggerated, and somewhat effeminate self-consciousness, which is the frequent, and indeed the natural, accompaniment, of a constant habit of religious introspection and self-analysis. It would be difficult to speak too highly of the purity and beauty of his career, but something too much has been said of its self-sacrifice. A public man who leads and represents the great religious party of his time, and identifies himself with a small number of conspicuous philanthropic causes, must no doubt sacrifice some of the great prizes of political ambition, but even from a worldly point of view his career is by no means without charm. Of politicians of the same intellectual calibre, very few exercised so wide an influence as Wilberforce. Few, if any, enjoyed so large an amount of contemporary admiration, and not one has been so canonised by posterity. He encountered, it is true, in his career, some measure of obloquy and disappointment, but probably much less than he would have encountered had he taken an equally prominent part in party warfare. His character, however, if it was not exactly of the heroic type, was at least singularly pure, attractive, and unselfish. It was, perhaps, as free from all taint of sordid and unworthy motives, from all envy, jealousy, and bitterness, as any in modern history, and though a very devoted follower of Pitt, he showed on a few occasions in his political conduct a considerable independence of judgment.
The prospects of the cause in 1788 were exceedingly encouraging. Public opinion was strongly and widely moved, and no less than a hundred and three petitions praying for the abolition of the trade were presented to Parliament. The number may not appear great according to the measure of our time, but it appears to have been at least double of the number that had ever before, even in periods of greatest popular excitement, been presented to Parliament. Among them were petitions from the Corporation of London, and from most of the other leading Corporations in England and Scotland. Bristol, though only second to Liverpool as a centre of the slave trade, sent up a petition for its abolition; and there was a petition from the Chamber of Commerce in Dublin, expressing their satisfaction that Ireland had been unpolluted by the traffic, and promising that if it were abolished in England, they would do the utmost in their power to prevent it from finding any asylum in the ports of Ireland.1
Very important measures were in this year taken to diminish or ameliorate the trade. In February, an Order of Council was issued, directing a Committee of the Privy Council to make a thorough inquiry into its condition and abuses; and as Wilberforce was incapacitated by illness, Pitt himself in May introduced and carried a resolution, pledging the House early in the next session of Parliament to take into consideration the petitions that had been presented. Whether the trade should be abolished, or simply regulated, Pitt said, was a question on which he could give no opinion, pending the inquiry which was going on before the Privy Council. Although there was some objection to the tribunal by which the inquiry was to be conducted, and some doubt about the necessity of postponing legislation, there was very little difference of opinion about the great evils of the existing trade. Fox at once, and in the most explicit terms, declared that his opinion on the subject was fully determined: that he was convinced that the slave trade ought not to be regulated, but absolutely destroyed. Burke was little less emphatic. His attention had been already for some time directed to the trade, and in 1780 he had even drawn up a code for its mitigation and ultimate abolition, but had abandoned it through a conviction that it would be impossible to carry it.1 He now spoke strongly to the effect that the trade was one which ought to be totally abolished, but if this was not now possible, it ought to be regulated at once. All delay in such a matter was criminal.2
There was no serious opposition. The resolution pledging the House was unanimously passed, and a few weeks later Sir William Dolben introduced a temporary measure to mitigate the horrors of the middle passage, of which abundant evidence had been already disclosed. Its chief object was to limit the number of negroes who might be carried in slave ships, by establishing a fixed proportion between the cargo and the tonnage, and a few additional regulations were afterwards introduced into the Bill before it became law. The measure was warmly supported by Pitt, who urged, among other arguments, that there was reason to fear that the prospect of a speedy abolition of the trade might for a time aggravate it, by inducing the slave traders to carry as many slaves as possible to the West Indies before Parliament came to a definite decision on the subject. The Bill was violently and persistently opposed in the Commons by the members for Liverpool, and in the Lords by the Chancellor, Lord Thurlow, but it ultimately became law, and it was the first step taken towards the mitigation of the trade.
A cause which was supported by one of the most powerful prime ministers ever known in England, which was equally favoured by the leaders of the Opposition, and which had already excited a strong outburst of popular enthusiasm, seemed not far from its triumph, but 1789 and 1790 passed without any further measure in Parliament than a renewal of Dolben's Act. The report of the Privy Council had indeed now been drawn up, and Wilberforce introduced the subject in a long, eloquent, and comprehensive speech, and moved that the House should go into committee upon it; but although Pitt, Fox, and Burke strongly supported him, the signs of opposition were more considerable. The enormous amount of capital directly invested in the trade, or closely connected with it, told powerfully on Parliament. Much use was made of some regulating enactments which had lately been carried through the colonial Legislatures. Fears were expressed lest the sudden abolition of the trade would ruin the West Indian Isles, produce dangerous insurrectionary movements among the negroes, perhaps throw a great and lucrative branch of English commerce wholly into the hands of France. There was a demand for further inquiry, and the question was twice adjourned. In the country, however, the popular agitation on the subject showed little or no signs of abatement. A print of the plan and section of a slave ship, which was at this time very widely diffused, had a great influence on the popular imagination.1 The rising Methodist and Evangelical party had taken up the question very warmly, and most of its prominent leaders were identified with the struggle.
The movement was at the same time strongly supported on the Continent, though by very different men. In France, Montesquieu, and Raynal, and also Necker, who was now at the head of French affairs, had written strongly on the iniquity of the trade, and the cause of abolition was vehemently advocated, on the grounds of the rights of men, by a large proportion of the rising revolutionary party. Lafayette, Mirabeau, Brissot, Claviere, and Condorcet had fully adopted it, and it was soon brought before the National Assembly. In France, however, as in England, there were fears that if one nation abolished the trade, its rival would rapidly monopolise it, and the growing distrust and alienation between the two countries was very unfavourable to the cause. Mirabeau told Clarkson that out of the twelve hundred members of the National Assembly, about three hundred would probably vote unconditionally for the suppression of the trade, but that about five hundred more would vote for it, if they had an unequivocal proof that it was the intention of England to abolish it.1 At present all that could be promised was the suppression of the bounties by which the trade was encouraged.2
The fear of the French Revolution and its principles now exercised a great influence on English public opinion. The abolition of the slave trade, being supported by Jacobins, began to wear, in the eyes of many, a Jacobinical aspect, and the horrors of the negro insurrection at St. Domingo, followed by serious negro disturbances in the British colony of Dominica, greatly strengthened the reaction. It was noticed as an incontestable fact, that the opinion of the House of Commons in 1791 had turned decidedly against the abolitionists. In April Wilberforce moved for leave to bring in a Bill to prevent the further importation of slaves into the British West Indies, but after a long and interesting debate, and in spite of the support of Pitt, Fox, and Burke, the motion was defeated by 163 to 88. It was remarked, however, that nearly all the eminent men in the House of Commons were in the minority.3
It was about this time that the Sierra Leone colony obtained its charter of incorporation. This colony had been established a few years before, largely through the efforts of Granville Sharp. It was intended to be an asylum for freed negroes, and at the same time a great trading centre for the civilisation of Africa and the development of its resources; and it was especially specified in the charter of incorporation, that the company was on no account to deal in slaves or keep any persons in slavery. It became the refuge of many negroes who had obtained their freedom during the war of the American Revolution, and for some years it excited the sanguine hopes of philanthropists. These hopes were, however, not fulfilled. Mismanagement and various misfortunes retarded the development of the colony, and it suffered very seriously from French devastations during the great French war.
In 1792 the struggle passed through some new phases. The earnestness of the popular movement against the slave trade was shown by the multitude who, in all parts of England, agreed to leave off the use of sugar, as being a product of slave labour; by associations established in numerous provincial towns, corresponding with the central Abolition Society in London; by numerous public meetings to protest against the trade, and by the remarkable fact that in this year no less than 519 petitions were presented to Parliament for the abolition of the trade, while there were only four against the abolition, and one in favour of regulation.1 On the other hand, both the opposition of interest and the opposition of panic had manifestly increased. The horrors of the St. Domingo revolt had sunk deeply in the minds of men. The King and Royal Family were extremely hostile. The public meetings and petitions, which seemed now becoming for the first time an important normal instrument in political struggles, were looked upon by leading politicians with much aversion, as tending to overthrow the independence of political judgment in Parliament and convert the representatives into mere delegates, and the dislike to such proceedings was much intensified by what was happening in France. Pitt himself appears for a time to have been shaken and dubious,2 but when Wilberforce in April introduced a motion for immediate abolition, he cast off his hesitation and electrified the House by a speech which Fox, Windham, and Grey concurred in pronouncing to be one of the most extraordinary displays of eloquence they had ever heard. The debate had extended till past six in the morning, when in a superb peroration, which Wilberforee said seemed literally inspired, Pitt predicted how, the slave trade being abolished, the tardy justice of Europe would at last atone for the long agonies of Africa by bringing to that benighted continent the light of civilisation and knowledge; and as he spoke the rays of the rising sun streamed suddenly through the windows of the House, and the orator by a happy quotation at once applied the incident as an image and an omen of the future.1 He concluded by declaring with grest emphasis that he would oppose any proposition which tended to postpone even for an hour the abolition of the slave trade.
The House, however, thought otherwise. The policy of gradual abolition was now proposed by Dundas, and it was carried by 193 votes to 125. It was a policy which was also adopted in Denmark, where the King had lately issued an ordinance that after the year 1803 the trade should be no longer tolerated in any of his colonies. Such a policy was evidently acceptable to the majority in the House of Commons, and at last, after much dispute, they agreed on the year 1796 as that in which the trade should cease. When, however, the Bill was sent up to the Lords, a demand for more evidence was raised and carried, and the question was again adjourned.
Next year the French War broke out, and reforms of all kinds became unpopular. It was in vain that Wilberforce proposed a committee to consider the slave trade; a Bill for regulating and limiting the importation of negroes into our own colonies; a Bill for prohibiting the supply of slaves by British merchants to foreign colonies. In the country and in both Houses the cause was now associated with Jacobinism, and the association was strengthened when the French Convention in 1794 proclaimed the abolition of slavery in the French colonies, and when Danton openly declared that a great object of the measure was to produce a revolt among the negroes in the English and Spanish colonies. The conditions of the question were indeed profoundly altered, and Dundas urged the extreme danger of taking any step which might be offensive to colonial Legislatures at a time when the war was raging. Wilberforce, however, succeeded in 1794 in carrying his Bill for the abolition of the slave trade with foreigners, through the Commons; but in the Lords, Grenville, who had hitherto been one of his most faithful supporters, refused to defend it. The Duke of Clarence, Lord Abingdon, and Lord Thurlow led the opposition, and the Bill was easily defeated. In the two following years his motions were defeated in the Commons, and in 1796 the interest on the subject was so languid that Dolben's annual Bill was dropped, for want of a sufficient attendance of members.
It was revived, however, in the following year, and though Wilberforce was again beaten on a motion asking leave to bring in a Bill to discontinue the trade within a limited time, measures were introduced, principally by his opponents, for regulating the conditions both of the slave trade and of slavery, with a view to depriving them of some of their worst characteristies. A parliamentary address was carried to the governors of the colonies, calling on them to take means to promote the welfare of the negroes, so that the trade should ultimately become unnecessary, and some measures in this direction were, shortly after, taken by the Legislatures of the Leeward Isles. An Act of George II. which authorised the sale of slaves at the suit of their master's creditors was repealed, and an Act was passed securing a greater height between the decks of slave ships. The strong feeling of the hour, however, was that the darkest period of a colossal war was no time for abolishing a lucrative trade, at the cost of irritating the colonial Legislatures and immediately after the acquisition of many new slave colonies. The majorities against Wilberforce were not large, but the abstentions were very numerous, and in 1798 and 1799 his motion was again defeated. Thornton at this time introduced a measure prohibiting the purchase of negroes on the northern coast of Africa, on the ground that it frustrated the good that was expected from the Sierra Leone Colony. It was postponed in 1798. In 1799 it passed the Commons, but was defeated in the Lords.
The century thus terminated with the temporary defeat of a cause which twelve years before seemed on the eve of triumph. I have noticed in a former chapter the sequel of the struggle,1 and it is not necessary to recur to it. I will here only observe how different a complexion the eighteenth century would have presented to the historian if, in addition to the great Methodist and Evangelical revival of religion, it had been distinguished, as once appeared so probable, by the supreme philanthropic achievement of the abolition of the slave trade. While admitting that the eighteenth century in England was not rich in conspicuous social and political reforms, it should not be forgotten how many great causes had been almost conquered in opinion in the early years of the Ministry of Pitt, and would in all human probability have been speedily carried into effect, if the fatal influence of the French Revolution and of the war which it produced had not checked, blighted, and distorted the natural progress. But for this influence, the closing years of the century would probably have seen the abolition of the English slave trade; a reform of Parliament; the removal of the Test and Corporation Acts from the Statute-book, and an immense reduction both of debt and of taxation. The great industrial transition which has been described might have been accomplished with comparatively little suffering, if it had not occurred when the French War had raised corn to a famine price and absorbed all the attention of the legislators; and it was the introduction from France of the revolutionary spirit into Ireland that for the first time made the Irish problem almost insoluble.
But in spite of the sudden and most disastrous blight which thus fell on so many promising causes, the eighteenth century deserves, I think, a more honourable place than has usually been assigned to it in the history of England. A century was certainly not without the elements of greatness, which witnessed the victories of Marlborough; the statesmanship of Chatham and his son; the political philosophy of Burke and Adam Smith; the religious movement of Wesley and Whitefield; the conquest of India; the discovery of Australia; the confirmation of the naval, and the establishment of the manufacturing, supremacy of England. In this century religious persecution practically ceased, and the form of the Constitution was thoroughly established. Whatever may be said against the English statesmen which it produced, it is at least certain that they carried England safely through the long period of a disputed succession; maintained free institutions when they were extinguished in almost every country in Europe; transformed Scotland from a scene of utter anarchy into a highly civilised country; kept the name of England for many successive generations very high among the nations of the world, and preserved her in the closing years of the century from the most dangerous revolutionary epidemic of modern times. The period from the Restoration to the accession of the House of Hanover was a period of great selfishness and corruption in the higher spheres of Government, but from the accession of George II. the standard appears to have almost steadily risen. Factious, reckless, and corrupt statesmen often appeared conspicuously on the scene; but it is remarkable how very rarely such men have succeeded, for any considerable time, in acquiring a really controlling and dominant influence in English politics. No one, I think, who follows with care the confidential correspondence of English statesmen and diplomatists during the latter half of the century, can fail to be struck with the essential honesty with which English policy appears to have been conducted, and with the fidelity with which, in the broad lines of their policy, successive Governments represented and followed the opinion of the country.
The standard of duty, however, in the professions was undoubtedly lower than at present. The spirit of reform was less active. Many abuses, which would not now be tolerated for a day, were almot unquestioned. There was much more hardness and indifference to human suffering, and in the sphere of politics there were grave and scandalous evils. The King himself, during the administration of Lord North, was accustomed to devote many thousands of pounds to the purchase of borough seats.1 Corruption at elections was constant and flagrant, and numerous sinecures and a lavish patronage were maintained and employed for political purposes.
Yet even in these respects the picture has been often overcharged. Some of the small borough seats were either purchased by public men who wished to secure their independence, or were disposed of in a manner that was very conducive to the interests of the country, and eminently honourable to their patrons. Some, at least, of the sinecures were usefully employed in rewarding merit, or served the purpose of retiring pensions to offices to which such pensions are now attached. If the public revenue was not administered quite as scrupulously as at present, it is at least true that there was little absolute malversation, and the taxation was in general moderate and equitable, and singularly free from those unjust exemptions and privileges which were so general on the Continent.
The question, indeed, whether the standard of patriotism, of public duty, and of public honour has risen in England since the eighteenth century, is one which it appears to me far from easy to answer. It by no means follows that, because a nation has advanced in intelligence and even in morality, there must be necessarily a corresponding improvement in its governing and political class, for the improvement in the nation may be more than counterbalanced by the degradation of the suffrage. In one respect, the superiority of the English Parliaments of the eighteenth century will scarcely be disputed. With the doubtful exception of the small and short-lived Jacobite party, those Parliaments contained no party which was not in harmony with the general interests of the Empire, and did not sincerely desire its greatness and its prosperity. Corruption was very widely spread and very undisguised, but political corruption takes many forms, and each age has its characteristic vices. A democratic age, in which power is chiefly won by appeals to the great masses of the population, is likely to be an age of high moral profession, and it will be free from many of the prevalent evils of an aristocratic Government. The avowed cynicism; the disregard in foreign politics for the rights of nations; the open subordination of political interests to personal and family pretensions; the many forms of petty corruption which so often meet us in the eighteenth century, have wholly disappeared or greatly diminished; but another and a not less dangerous family of vices has much tendency to increase. Cant and hypocrisy; the combination of mean action and supersaintly profession; the habitual use of language that does not represent the real sentiments and motives of the speaker; the habit of disguising party and personal motives under lofty and high-sounding professions; the sacrifice of the most enduring interests of the nation, for the purpose of raising a popular cry or winning immediate applause; the systematic subordination of genuine conviction to popular favour—these are some of the characteristic vices of a democratic age. In such an age the demagogue takes the place of the old sycophan. Bribery is applied not to individuals, but to classes. Dexterous appeals to ignorance, passion, and prejudice become supreme forms of party management. Questions of vast and dangerous import are unscrupulously raised for the purpose of uniting a party or displacing a Government; and a desire to trim the bark to every gust of popular favour produces apostasies, transformations, and alliances compared with which the coalition of Fox and North will appear very venial. No modern statesman would attemtp to bribe individuals, or purchase boroughs like Walpole, or like North; but we have ourselves seen a minister going to the country on the promise that, if he was returned to office he would abolish the principal direct tax paid by the class which was then predominant in the constituencies. Irish politics have long since ceased to be conducted by ennobling borough owners and pensioning members of Parliament, but the very impulse and essence of their most powerful popular movement has been an undisguised appeal to the cupidity and the dishonesty of the chief body in the electorate. Lofty maxims and sacred names are invoked in Parliament much more frequently than of old; but he who will observe how questions of the most vital importance to the Constitution of England and the well-being of the Empire have in our generation been bandied to and fro in the party game; how cynically the principles of one year have sometimes been abandoned in the next; how recklessly prominent politicians have sought to gain their ends by setting the poor against the rich, and planting in the nation deadly seeds of class animosities and cupidities, may well learn to look with tolerance and with modesty upon the England of the past.
See Angelo's Reminiscences, i. 55; Wilkes's Correspondence (by Atmon); Boswell's Johnson (Croker's edition), pp. 61, 203, 269; Jesse's Life of Selnyn, i. 354, 355; and several illu-trations collected by Mr Forsyth in his Nocels of the Eighteenth Century, pp. 58, 59.
Bland Burges Papers, p. 126.
Townsend's History of the House of Commons, ii. 422.
Wraxall give the following description of Rigby as he appeared in 1781: ‘As if he had meant to show that he acted independently of ministers, he never sat on the Government side of the House. … When in his place he was invariably habited in a full-dressed suit of clothes, commonly of a purple or dark colour, without lace or embroidery, close buttoned, with his sword thrust through the pocket.’ (Wraxall's Memoirs, i. 539, 540.)
Ibid. ii. 167, 168.
The Lounger, No. 10 (1785).
Hawkings' Life of Johuson, p 288.
Many particulars about clerical dress in the eighteenth century will be found in Abbeu and Orerton's English Church in the Eighteenth Century, ii. 469–471.
Twiss's Life of Eldon, pp. 339, 340.
Fonblanque's Lives of the Lords Strangford, pp. 183, 185.
See Greville's Journal of the Reign of Queen Victoria, i. 77.
Jesse, Gecrge III. ii. 279.
Walpole to Mann, Nov. 1, 1760; Walpole to Hertford, March 27, 1764. See too Andrews' Eighteenth Century, p. 49.
See on this subject, Sir C. Lewis's Administrations of Great Britain, pp. 92, 93.
Wilberforce's Life, i. 392.
Wraxall, Posthumous Mems. i. 66. Smith the banker, Who was made Lord Carrington, was, Wraxall says, the sole exception. On the old connection between trade and the peerage, see Sir Bernard Burke's Re-miniscences, Ancestral and Historic, pp 82–84, 95, 98, 99. See, however, on the other hand, a curious letter of Lord Aberdeen in the Croker Correspondence. He says: ‘Mr. Pitt has often been reproached for having been too prodigal of peerages, and Lord Carrington's has often been referred to especially, as introducing into the House of Lords a new description of person. I never heard Mr. Pitt speak on this subject himself, but I have heard the late Lord Melville say that Mr. Pitt always defended this creation on principle, and that he maintained the time was come when for the sake of the House of Lords it was desirable that it should not be closed against commercial eminence any more than other well-founded pretensions.’ (Croker's Correspondence, ii. 302.)
‘Thoughts on French Affairs,’ Works, vii. 24.
Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 261.
This was also a complaint of Hannah More See her Thoughts on the Manners of the Great.
Annual Register, 1765, p. 64.
‘The tucked-up sempstress walks with hasty strides
Sangster on Umbrellas; Roberts's Social History of the Southern Countiss, p. 560; Southey's Commonplace Book, i. 574; Pugh's Life of Hannay, p. 221; John MacDonald's Life and Travels (1790), pp. 282, 283. Several particulars about the use of umbrellas will be found in the valuable collections relating to public manners made by Francis Place. (British Museum, Add. MSS. 27, 827.)
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iv. 81.
Wraxall's Memoirs, i. 135.
Fairholt's History of Costume, 398; Ashton's Old Times, p. 56. The shape, however, had more than once been worn in much earlier periods. It may be seen, among other pictures, in Rembrandt's Night Watch.
Forster's Life of Savage Landon, i. 47, 48.
Ann. Reg. 1795, p. 179.
See Ashton's Old Times, p 61.
Full particulars about the abandonment of hair-powder will be found in Fairholt's History of Costume; Ashton's Old Times; Pictorial History, vii. 760, 761.
See the interesting remarks of Mr. Mozeley, Reminiscences of Towns and Villages, i. 414.
Thus a pamphleteer in 1798 writes: ‘The whole tribe of staymakers must now be in extreme distress because the female sex have thought proper to throw off their bodice. The silk and stuff weavers must be equally wretched from the universal wear of linen and muslin; the buckle-makers can be little less embarrassed from the general adoption of leather shoe-strings, and the unfortunate corps of hair-dressers are consigned to misery and despair by the new generation of round-heads.’—Essay on the Political Circumstances of Ireland under Lord Camden, pp. 89, 90.
Wraxall's Menu. i. 135. Some curious particulars of the way in which the ordinary dresses of fashionable life in one generation were utilised for the theatre in the next will be found in Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs (1790), iv. 86–88. He says: ‘Thirty years ago not a Templar or decent dressed young man but wore a rich gold-laced hat and scarlet waistcoat with a broad gold lace … also laced frocks for morning dress,’ and he mentions that his actors still occasionally wore, ‘for old characters of wealth, a suit of purple cloth with gold vellum holes that I frequently wore when a young man as a fashionable dress.’—Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs, iv. 87, 88.
Annual Register, 1773, p. 217.
Stephens's Life of Horne Tooke, ii. 488.
Jesse's Life of Selwyn, i. 360, 366.
She is called so by Walpole. She is said, however, in Edwards's Anecdotes of Painting, p. 69, to have been by birth an Irishwoman.
Walpole to Mann, ii. 82–84, 96, 97, 133, 134, 149; Ann. Reg. 1771, pp. 139, 140; see too Miss Burney's Evelina; Ashton's Old Times, pp. 217–224; Angelo's Reminiscences, i, 88–97.
Jesse's George III. i. 245. Correspondence of George III. and Lord North, i. 237, 238.
For a summary of the many laws against gaming, see Blackstone, book iv. chap. 13, § 8.
See a note to Croker's Bosmell p. 501.
Letters to Mann ii. 283.
See Ashton's Old Times, pp. 166–182.
18 George III. c. 22; Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 620; Adolphus, iv, 211–213.
Bishop Watson's Anecdotes of his Life, i. 35; Gilbert Wakefield's Life, i. 153.
Townsend's Hist, of the House of Commons, ii. 380, 382–389; Correspondence of George III. and Lord North, i. 281.
Letter to Mann, iii. 7, 30, 112. See too, on the hours of the eighteenth century; Gomme's Gentleman's Magazine Library, Manners and Customs, pp. 16, 17.
Walpole's Last Journals, ii. 12.
This was noticed by Burke in one of his conversations with Mrs. Crewe.
Some curious particulars about the excessive drinking of the Prince of Wales will be found in the recently published reminiscences of Wraxall.
Walker, The Original, p. 41.
Many particulars on this subject will be found collected in Mr. Forsyth's admirable little book on The Nocelists of the Eighteenth Century, a book which has helped me much in the present chapter.
On the great drunkenness in Scotland during the latter half of the eighteenth century, see Chambers's Traditions of Edinburgh.
Boswell (Crokers ed.), pp. 282, 578.
Shelburne's Life, i. 51.
Boswell's Johnson, p. 282.
See an interesting sketch of the history of taverns in Hawkins's Life of Joknson, pp. 87, 88.
An admirably complete account of these fencing-matches and of all the other matters relating to that art in England will be found in Mr. Egerton Castle's valuable work on Schools and Masters of Fence (1885). Angelo, who was a very graceful horseman, sat as a model for the equestrian statue of William III. in Merrion Square, Dublin. A number of extracts from old newspapers relating to the different kinds of prizefights will be found in the works of Andrews and of Mr. Ashton.
Compare Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, pp. 279, 280. Blaine's Encyclopadia of Rural Sports, p. 129.
Jesse's Life of Selwyn, ii. 328.
Nicholl's Memoirs of Hogarth, p. 368. ‘The following instance,’ writes Blanco White, ‘will show you to what degree the passion for bull fights can grow. A gentleman of my acquaintance had some years ago the misfortune to lose his sight. It might be supposed that a blind man would avoid the scene of his former enjoyment, a scene where everything is addressed to the eye. This gentleman, however, is a constant attendant at the amphitheatre. … Upon the appearance of every bull he greedily listens to the description of the animal and of all that takes place in the fight. His mental conception of the exhibition, aided by the well-known cries of the multitude, is so vivid that when a burst of applause allows his attendant just to hint at the event that drew it from the speetators, the unfortunate man's face gleams with pleasure, and he echoes the last clappings of the circus.’—Doblado's Letters from Spain, pp. 158, 159.
See the curious debate on the subject, Parl Hist. xxiv. 1251, 1252
See Blaine's Encyclopadia o Rural Sports, pp. 584–586. Lord Wilton's English Sports, in their Relation to English Character, pp. 165–175.
Thus Campbell in a book published in 1774 wrote: ‘The fox … is not only pursued by dogs for sport, but destroyed everywhere and by every method that can be devised.’—Political Survey of Great Britain, ii. 208. Arthur Young complains that hares were some imes so numerous as to be very injurious to husbandry in England, otherwise he makes no complaint of excessive game preservation.—Political Arithmetic, p. 205.
Ann. Register, 1775, p. 216.
See Wraxall's Post. Mems. iii. 49.
12 Anne, stat. 2, c. 23.
10 Geo. II. c. 28.
Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs, i. 210, 221, ii. 227. See too the same writer's Wandering Patentees, or History of the Yorkshire Theatres; Warner's History of Bath, p 364.
Jackson's History of the Soottish Stage, p. 25; Wilkinson's Memoirs, ii. 73, 74; Chambers's Traditions of Edinburgh, pp. 322–324. In 1764 Wilkinson was asked to act at a new theatre which had just been finished at Glasgow, Memoirs, iii. 223.
Parl. Hist. xix. 198–205. Another curious discussion on the state of theatres will be found in Parl. Hist, xviii. 632–643.
28 Georqe III. c. 30.
Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs, ii. 164, iv. 94, 95.
A farce, if it possesses true humour, in London will be greatly relished and applauded; in the country, very possibly, the same (even decently acted) will be termed vile. low, vulgar, and indelicate. The Love for Love of Congreve, the Trip to Scarborough, the Way of the World, the Confederacy, and others, are in London attended to as plays of wit and merit (witness their constant repetition), but in the country not permitted, or if permitted to appear, not upon any account fashionable, which is just as bad.’—Wilkinson's Mems. iii. 119.
See numerous particulars of the changes in the London theatres in The Mirror, a treatise appended to the fourth volume of Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs.
Rimbault's Hist, of the Pianoforte, pp. 133, 139.
See vol. i. pp. 526, 527. See too, on the number of good artists who painted sign-boards, Annual Register, 1770, pp. 181–186; Smith's Nollekens and his Times, i. 25–27.
Nicholl's Life of Hogarth, pp. 44, 279–281; Pye's Patronage of British Art, 149–151.
Pye's Patronage of British Art, p. 140.
Ibid. p. 230.
Edwards' Anecdotes of British Painting; Taylor and Northcote's Life of Reynolds; Brock-Arnold's Gainsborough; Redgrave's Century of Painters; Pilkington's Dictwnary of Painters. Sir G. Elliot wrote in 1789: ‘Gainsborough's pictures are selling for 200l. to 500l. a piece’ (Life of Sir George Elliot, i. 308). Kneller, who after the death of Lely had a more undivided ascendency than any artist under George III, and who was notorious for his love of money, charged for his portraits fifteen guineas for a head, twenty if with one hand, thirty for a half, and sixty for a whole length (Annual Register, 1764, p. 53). Some particulars about the prices of pictures under Queen Anne will be found in Ashton's Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, pp. 279–282.
Mr. Ferguson reckons that at least two hundred great ‘manorial mansions’ were erected in England and Scotland during the eighteenth century (History of Modern Architecture, p. 328). Many particulars relating to them will be found in Dallaway's Progress of the Arts.
These beginnings are minutely traced in Sir C. Eastlake's Revival of Gothic Architecture.
See Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iv. 183–185.
Pye, pp. 42, 43.
Walpole's Letters to Mann, ii. 97.
Ibid. ii. 235, 273.
‘The swarm of young artists who have been students in the Royal Academy, has overstocked the capital and country so much that I am told many of them are at present in the utmost indigence.’—Twining's Country Clergyman in the Eighteenth Century, p. 127.
Moritz, a Prussian traveller who visited England in 1782, was much struck with this. See Pinkerton, ii. 518.
Walpole to Mann, ii. 96.
Walpole to Zouche, Jan. 3, 1761.
See an interesting review of this branch of literature in Miller's Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, iii. 109–116.
Ashton's Queen Anne, p. 294.
Edwards' History of Libraries, i. 774. See too a speech of Wilkes on the state of libraries in England, Parl. Hist. xix. 188–192.
See Miller's Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, iii. 304; Buckle's History of Owilisation, i. 392, 393; Forsyth's Novels of the Eighteenth Century, p. 156; Annual Register, 1761, p. 207.
Much information relating to Newberry and his publications has lately been collected by Mr. Charles Welsh in his Bookseller of the Last Century.
Annual Register, 1769, p. 142.
Andrews' History of British Journalism, i. 274.
Annual Register, 1761, pp. 205–208.
Grose's Olio, pp. 41–44.
Watson's Aneodotes of His Own Life, ii. 253.
Arthur Young noticed in 1807 that this was especially the case in Essex. Thirty-six years before he had found it divided into enormous farms, but during the war it became profitable to divide them and sell them in small lots. The fullest account I have seen of the evidence about the yeomen at the end of the eighteenth century is in an article by Mr. John Rae in the Contemporary Review, October 1883. See too the remarks on this subject in that powerful, but one-sided and exaggerated work, Kay's Social Conditions and Education of the People, i. 364–367.
2 and 3 Philip and Mary, c. 8. Compare the article on Roads in McCulloch's Account of the British Empire, and Chalmers' Estimate, pp. 30, 31. Chalmers mentions an Act of Edward I. for enlarging the breadth of highways from one market town to another, but it was intended rather to prevent robberies than to facilitate locomotion. Some particular roads were also amended by Acts of Parliament under Henry VIII.
See a curious tract called ‘The Grand Concern of England Explained,’ Harleian Miscellany, viii. 561–571.
Gentleman's Magazine, 1749, pp. 376, 377.
Chalmers' Estimate, p 110.
Ibid. p. 128; Gentleman's Magazine, 1749, pp. 218, 219; 1752, pp. 517–520, 552–554.
A number of particulars about the rate of travelling at this time will be found in Southey's Common-place Book, iii. 76, 77, 86, 87; Thrupp's History of Coaches, pp. 105, 106; Miller's Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, iii. 320; Andrews' Eighteenth Century; Ashton's Social Life under Queen Anne; Roberts' Social History of the Southern Counties. The most extraordinary instance of rapid communication from the north (doubtless on horseback) is said to have been in 1772, when a great bankruptey in Edinburgh was known in London forty-three hours after (Annual Register, 1772, p. 109).
See Evans' Beauties of North Wales, pp. 463–465; Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs, i. 152, 153.
Chalmers' Estimate, p. 128.
Young's Northern Tour, iv. 423–436. Young's Tour through the south of England and Wales, pp. 88, 318–320. See, also, on the state of the roads, Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs, iii. 142, 143.
Tate Wilkinson's Memoirs, iii. 136, 137. See, too, the amusing description of the German traveller Moritz, Pinkerton, ii. 566, 567.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iv. 53, 54; Pictorial History, vii. 668; Annual Register, 1775, p. 191.
Bushworth's Historical Collections, ii. 316, 317.
Gentleman's Magazine, 1752, pp. 517–520, 552 554.
25 George III. c. 57.
Ibid. c. 51. 27 George III. c. 26. Sinclair on the Revenue, ii. 383–385.
Ashton's Old Times, p. 316.
Irish Parliamentary Debates, xiii. 395–397.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 107.
See, on the number of British students at Leyden, the Autobiography of Dr. Alexander Carlyle.
Dugald Stewart's Dissertation, pp. 550, 551.
Letters concerning the present State of England, p. 240.
Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works, ii. 383.
Wilberforce's Life, i. 183.
See on these collections Shairp's Aspects of Poetry, pp. 203, 206, 207.
I owe this remark to one who is not only a great poet, but also a most admirable critic—Alfred Tennyson.
In that singularly interesting book—Twining's Country Clergyman of the Eighteenth Century—there is a criticism of Johnson's Lives of the Poets, written in 1784, which shows clearly that the critical age of Coleridge was drawing near. ‘His poetry,’ writes Twining—‘I mean what he esteems such—is only good sense put in good metre. He sees no promise of Milton's genius in his juvenile poems. He feels no beauties in Mr' Gray's Odes. Did you ever see a more sohoolboyish criticism than his upon Gray? What he says about blank verse I abominate. … In general, I find my palate in matters of poetry continually at variance with Dr. Johnson's. I don't mean this alone as any proof that he is wrong. But the general taste and feelings of the most poetical people, of the best poets, are against him. … He is a man of sense, and has an ear—that is all.’ (P. 120.)
Babeau, Les Voyageurs en France, p. 316.
See Wilberforce's Life, ii. 164.
Grose's Olio, pp. 24–29, 73. Boswell's Life of Joknson (Croker's ed.) p. 283. See, too, some curious papers on the changes in the habits of tradesmen, Ann Regis. 1766, pp. 205–207; 1767, p. 168; 1768, pp. 202, 203 Letters on the present State of England (1772), pp. 227, 228. There is a clever and amusing paper on tradesmen's villas, at the time when the fashion had just begun, and when a great simplicity of manners still survived, in the Connoisseur, No. 33 (1754).
The majority of clerks, ‘said a writer in 1789,’ have not more than 50l. to find their board; shopmen 30l. and their board. Some few may have more, but when you see a servant with his hair elegantly dressed every day, silk or nankeen breeches, dressed, white silk stockings, change of buckles with every fashion, out every evening at playhouses;… when a master sees such an extravagance he can have no difficulty in drawing a just conclusion. ‘Wales’ My Grandfather's Pocket-book from 1701–1796, 171.
Shelburne's Life, i. 404.
The London Chronicle, June 2–5, Aug. The 2–4, Letters Chronicle, June 1764; Letters on the present State of England, pp. 240, 241; Pike's Hist, of Crime, ii. 397.
Craik's History of Commerce, ii. 202.
Ibid. ii. 202; iii. 67.
Chalmers' Estimate, p. 147;Craik. iii. 83–85.
Hume's History, vi. 177.
Comparative Burdens of Great Britain and Ireland, p. 23.
Northern Tour, iv. 192–202.
‘The single circumstance,’ he says, ‘of much of the labour of small farms being servants unmarried, and nine-tenths of that of great ones labourers married, makes a great difference;’ and the large farmers, he adds, almost invariably expend more labour than the small ones, in proportion to their acres. Young's Political Arithmetic, pp. 294, 295.
See a striking passage on the difference in Young's Northern Tour, iv. 248. See, too, Kay's Social Condition of the People, i. 360.
Arthur Young's Political Arithmetic, pp. 27–34, 193, 276. It is remarkable that in this book, which was published in 1774, Young dwells upon the great probability of American corn being brought over to England at a price with which it would be impossible for the English farmers to compete. See pp. 279–281.
Parl. Hist. xvii. 480.
On Population, bk. iii. c 10.
Craik's Hist. of Commerce, ii. 145–147.
See the tables in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, bk. i. ii.; Malthus, bk. iii. c. 10; and also a great many facts on the subject in Young's Political Arithmetic.
See Porter's Progress of the Nation, p. 147.
Wealth of Nations, bk. iv. c. 5.
Report of the Committee on Waste Lands in 1795.
Considerations for Promoting Agriculture, by R.L.V.N. (Lord Molesworth), p. 19. The fullest account I have seen of the manner in which common fields were managed is in a pamphlet called Suggestions for Rendering the Enclosure of Common Fields a Source of Population and Riches, by Thomas Stone, land surveyor (1787). There is a curious description of the way in which these fields were allotted, in the evidence of Mr. Blamire, in the Report of the Committee on Commons Enclosure in 1844, p. 27.
See Sir J. Sinclair's Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Waste Lands in 1795.
McCulloch's Account of the British Empire, i. 580.
29 George II. c. 36; 31 ibid. c. 41; 13 George III. c. 81.
See Bishop Watson's Anecdotes of His Own Life, ii. 60.
There are many passages relating to enclosures scattered through Young's Tours, but he has treated the subject most fully and elaborately in his Political Arithmetic. In this treatise he answers at length Price's arguments against enclosures.
Bentham's Works, i.342; viii. 449.
‘Where then, ah! where, shall poverty reside.
Much information on these subjects will be found in the Reports of the Parliamentary Committees in 1795, 1797, 1800, and 1844; in the Debates upon the Commons Act of 1845; in a work called Six Essays on Commons Preservation (1867); and in the recent book of Mr. Cunningham, Politics and Economics, pp. 208–216.
Sinclair, Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, 1797.
This fact was not unrecognised in the eighteenth century. Eden noticed that in parts of Leicestershire ‘most of the poor have little gardens, in which they chiefly cultivate potatoes. Gardens are found to be great incitements to industry, and accordingly in some parishes the poor have four or five acres each, assigned them for a garden at a very moderate rent. This supplies them with cheese, butter, and milk at an easy rate.’ Eden's History of the Poor, i. 569.
A terrible array of facts illustrating this truth will be found in Kay's Social Condition of the People, i. 472–579. See, too, England as It is, by William Johnston, c. xxx. (1851), a book which appears to me to contain a great deal of valuable, though very unpalatable, truth. See, too, an essay on ‘The Domestic Economy of the Labouring Classes,’ in Walker's The Original, pp. 199–218.
This was the calculation made by Mr. Finlayson. McCulloch's Account of the British Empire, art. ‘Population.’ The census of 1801 (the first made) reckoned the population of England and Wales at 8,872,980, exclusive of the soldiers and sailors; these amounted to 470,598 for the United Kingdom.
Eden's History of the Poor, i. 361. ‘Cottages,’ says Arthur Young, ‘are in general the habitations of labourers, who all swarm with children; many have double, treble, and even quadruple families.’ Northern Tour, iv. 415. On the powerful influence of the poor law in inducing both landlords and farmers to forbid the erection of labourers' cottages, see Young's Political Arithmetic, pp. 93–95.
This subject is especially treated in an able pamphlet by the Rev. J. Howlett (1786), who examined in detail the fluctuations of population in many different parishes. There is a curious collection of contemporary pamphlets on enclosures, written from different points of view, in the British Museum, bound up with those of Mr. Howlett; I have derived much assistance from them. Arthur Young considered enclosures one of the best means of promoting population, ‘Provide new employment,’ he said, ‘and new hands will inevitably follow; an Act of Parliament to raise money for the improvement of a million of waste acres would increase population more than twenty score of naturalisation bills.’ Northern Tour, iv. 414.
Parl. Hist. xxxii. 237.
Thus, in a pamphlet published in 1786 the writer complains that ‘the landowner converts twenty small farms into about four large ones, and at the same time the tenants of those large farms are tied down in their leases not to plough any of the premises so let to farm, by which means [of] several hundred villages that forty years ago contained between 400 and 500 inhabitants, very few will now be found to exceed eighty and some not half that number; nay, some contain only one poor, old, decrepit man or woman hired by the occupiers of the land. … The young and healthy have dispersed themselves; those that could pay their passage, having transported themselves to America.’ Cursory Remarks on Enolosures by a Country Farmer, pp 2–5.
See a table of the exports and imports for several years after 1771. Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 674–676. See, too, Malthus On Population, c. 10.
Several valuable statistics illustrating the relation between wages and the price of food at this time, will be found in Eden's History of the Poor, i. 383–386.
Porter's Progress of the nation, p. 452. There is some discrepancy about the accounts of the average. Compare Eden's History of the Poor, app. lxxviii. Broderick's English Land and landlords, app. v. Theobald Rogers's Six Centuries of Wages and Prices. According to Mr. Nicholls, the average price of a quarter of wheat between 1785 and 1794 was about forty-nine shillings and ninepence, and between 1795 and 1801 eighty-seven shillings.
Broderick, p. 218. Nicholls's History of the Poor Law, i. 406.
Dr. Price even maintained that ‘it is the superior price of flesh that hurts the poor, as it forces them to consume bread only, consequently they could live better when wheat was high than they can now while it is comparatively low.’ Young dissents from this opinion; but he says, ‘In France, where bread, I apprehend, forms nineteen parts in twenty of the food of the people, corn, and especially wheat, is the only great object of cultivation, vines answering to our barley. In England, on the contrary, the quantity of meat, butter, and cheese consumed by all ranks of the people is immense—to a much greater value, I should suppose, than that of wheat, hence cattle to our farmers is an object as important as corn.’ Young's Political Arithmetic, pp. 133, 158. See, too, the emphatic testimony of Sir J. Stewart, Enquiry into the Principles of Political Economy (1767), bk. i. c. 18, to the extent to which the English people lived on pork, beef, and mutton; the remarks of Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, bk. i. c. 8; the review of the condition of the working classes in a pamphlet by the Rev. J. Howlett, called Enclosures a Cause of Improved Agriculture (1787), p. 98; the detailed comparison in Arthur Young's Tour in France between the conditions of the English and French labourers; and the conclusion arrived at by a recent Parliamentary inquiry, quoted by Mr. Broderick, English Land and English Landlords, p. 215. See, too, the evidence I have myself collected, vol. i. 558–564.
This was the opinion of the commissioner who reported on the employment of women and children in 1868 (first report). See, too, Kebbel, The Agricultural Labourer, pp. 40,41. Eden's History of the Poor, i. 383–385.
Eden's History of the Poor, i. 604. See also, on the great difficulty of ascertaining wages, p. 385.
See the details of his scheme, which was proposed by a Mr. Acland. Eden, i. 373, 374.
See Pitt's remarkable speech in 1796. Parl. Hist. xxxii. 705–712.
Wade's History of the Niddle and Working Classes, p. 99.
11 & 12 William III. c. 10. 7 George I. c. 7.
Baines's History of the Cotton Manufacture, pp. 166,167. McCulloch's Account of British Empire, i. 673.
Ibid. p. 112. In 1882 the total export of woollen and worsted manufacture was 22,167,279l.; that of cotton, 75,796,205l. See Martin's Statesman's Year Book.
Baines's History of the Cotton Manufacture, pp. 155–159.
The claims of Wyatt will be found stated at length in Baines's History of the Cotton Manufacture, and those of Paul in French's Life and Times of Crompton. Guest, in his history of the cotton trade, has mentioned the claims of Highs.
14 George III. c. 72.
Baines, p. 202.
Baines's History of the Cotton Manufacture, pp. 117, 151, 159, 160.
Ibid. pp. 218, 219, 360.
Ibid. p. 216.
Ibid. p. 360.
Macpherson iii. 380–383. Meteyard's Life of Wedgwood.
Chamberlayne's Present State of Great Britain, 1710, p. 19.
M'Culloch's Account of the British Empire, i. 606, 607. Fair-bairn's Iron Manufacture.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iv. 203, 257, 282, 283, 300. Philips's History of Inland Navigation. Smiles' Lives of the Engineers: Life of Brindley. There is a good chapter in Philips on the history of Continental canals, and I have also derived some information on this subject from Andreossy, Hist. du Canal du Midi. (an. viii.)
Annual Register, 1761, p. 73.
Ibid. 1763, p. 66. See, too, the description of another great steam-engine, ibid. 1768, p. 62.
See Lardner on the Steam-Engine. The Lives of Watt by Muirhead and by Smiles. Beckmann's History of Inventions. Eneyolopadia Britt. art. ‘Steam-Engines.’
Porter's Progress of the Nation, pp. 480, 482.
Baines's History of the Cotton Manufacture. p. 504.
See England as It is, by William Johnston, c. xii.
See Howell's Conflicts of Capital and Labour, pp. 84–88.
Kay's Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes, p. 44. Wade's History of the Middle and Working Classes, p. 571. Ure's Philosophy of Manufacture, pp. 334–336.
See a powerful statement of the effects of Irish emigration on the English working classes in Kay's Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes (1832).
Place On the Improvement of the Working People. There is an abstract of his evidence before the Parliamentary Committee, in Porter's Progress of the Nation, pp. 683–685. See, too, the curious collection of documents relating to the history of manners, made by Place, and now in the British Museum, Add. MSS. 27, 825.
This statement is made by Michelet, La Femme, and repeated by Jules Simon, L'Ouvriere. See the very emphatic contradiction of it in Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iv. 405, 406.
Parl. Hist. xxxii. 710.
The facts relating to the factory system will be found in the reports of several parhamentary committees on the subject, and in the debates on the different factory laws. See too Alfred's History of the Factory Movement; the correspondence between Senior and Horner ‘on the Factory Act’ (1837); the published speeches of Lord Ashley; Kay's Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes; Bulwer's England and the English, book ii. ch. v.; and the skilful analysis of the evidence taken before the Factory Commissioners, drawn up in the interests of the manufacturers in 1834. On the foreign factories see a report of Ch. Dupin on the labour of children, laid before the French House of Peers in 1840 and 1841, and Gillet, Sur l'Emploi des Enfants (1840).
See a very remarkable enumeration of these measures in Buckle's Hist, of Civilisation, i. 350–353.
Cunningham's Conditions of Social Well-being (1878).
Wealth of Nations, book iv. chap ii.
Burke's Thoughts on Scarcity.
Republic, vi. c. 13.
Blackstone, bk. iv. ch. xiii.
Blackstone, bk. iv. ch. iv.
5 Eliz. c. 4.
1 James L. c. 6.
Wealth of Nations, bk. i. ch. x. part 2. Blackstone, bk. i. ch. xiv.
29 George II. c. 33.
13 George III. c. 68; 32 George III. c. 44; 51 George III. c. 7.
See a full enumeration of these Acts in 5 George IV. c. 95, the law that repealed them.
The details of this struggle will be found in Brentano On Guilds, and in Howell's Conflicts of Labour and Capital, pp. 81–110. See too some excellent remarks of Mr. Cunningham, Politics and Economics.
Ann Register, 1769, p. 86.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 118, iv. 373.
Annual Register, 1766, p. 53.
See on this curious case the Bedford Correspondence, iii. 339. Walpole's George III. i. 383, 384. Breaknock was afterwards hanged in Ireland as an accessory to the murder for which fighting Fitzgerald was condemned.
Blackstone, book iv. ch. xii. In the Annual Register for 1772, p. 116, there is a case of a usurer punished for exacting only 10 p.c. A man in Surrey was fined 1,500l. for lending to two young ladies at 20 p.c, Gentleman's Magazine, 1773, p. 194.
Hawkins's Life of Johnson, pp. 508–511.
See Wealth of Nations, book i. ch. x. Wade's Hist of the Working and Middle Classes, p. 101.
12 Geo. III. c. 71. Blackstone, book iv. ch. xii. Blackstone says, however, that some of these Acts were still offences by common law. According to Sir J. Stephen, forestalling and regrating were still punishable under laws older than Ed. VI. which were only repealed in 1844. Hist. of the Criminal Law, iii. 201.
Parl. Hist. xxvi. 1169.
Macpherson, iii. 607, 608.
See Cunningham's Politics and Economics, pp 80, 81.
Price On Civil Liberty, p. 72.
Political Justice, ii. 190.
Political Arithmetic, p. 95.
Thoughts on Scarcity.
Cavendish Delates, ii. 12.
I have taken these illustrations chiefly from a valuable tract of Romilly, called Observations on, a late publication entitled ‘Thoughts on Exeoutive Justice’ (London, 1786). The work commented on was by Madan, a well-known leader in the Evange-lical movement. See, too. a speech of Mackintosh, Parl. Debates, New Series, i. 232. Lord Russell On the Constitution, ch. xxiv. A Treatise on the Police, by a Magistrate for the Counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, and Essen (Colquhoun), pp. 284–286. Disparities of punishment almost equally great may be found in cases which were not capital. Thus (to give but a single example) two persons were whipped round Covent Garden in 1772, pursuant of sentence, the one for stealing a bunch of radishes, the other for debauching and pollu-ting his own niece. (Annual Registes, 1772, p. 116.)
See some curious cases of this kind cited in Romilly's Observations on the Criminal Law of England (1810), pp. 65–67; Grose's Olio, pp. 259, 261; and Lord Russell On the Constitution.
Colquhoun on the Police of the Metropolis (3rd ed.), pp. 90, 91. See, too, the proportion of discharges to offenders, pp. 225–231. This writer, who was an active London magistrate, states that, owing to the conscientious scruples of multitudes, to prosecute delinquents for inconsiderable thefts which were liable to capital punishment, ‘it is believed that not one depredation in a hundred of those actually committed, comes to the knowledge of magistrates’ (p. 260).
Ibid. pp. 292–294.
Howard on Prisons, pp. 479–485.
Annual Register, 1785, p. 247.
Howard, p. 485.
Howard, pp. 45, 56.
See Parl. Hist, xxviii. 146.
Lord Russell On the Constitution, ch, xxiv. Romilly's Obserations on a late Publication entitled ‘Thoughts on, Executive Justice,’ p. 45.
Thoughts on Executive Justice (Madan), pp. 98–101. Colquhoun, in 1785, said: ‘According to the present system, out of about 100 who are upon an average every year doomed to suffer the punishment of death, four-fifths or more are generally pardoned, either on condition of being transported, or of going into his Majesty's service, and not seldom without any condition at all’ (Police of the Metropolis, p. 294). From August 1792 to June 1794,1,002 pardons, absolute or conditional, were granted (p. 296).
Johnson expressed his great indignation at this change, declaring that the age ‘was running mad after innovation,’ and that even Tyburn was not safe from it See Boswell's Johnson (Croker's ed.), p. 720.
See an interesting letter on the history of the drop in the Croker Correspondence, iii. 15, 16. Annual Register, 1760, p. 45.
See the whole of the curious passage, book iv. ch. xxvii.
Ibid. Compare Sir J. Stephen's History of the Criminal Law, i. 424.
Thoughts on Exeoutive Justice, pp. 144, 145. The reader will remembet Pope's line, ‘And wretches hang that urymen may dine.’ See, too. Sir J. Stephen's History of Criminal Law, i. 422.
Walpole's Last Journals, ii. 38. Adolphus, iv. 231. The Police of the Metropolis, pp. 299–309.
Howard On Prisons, p. 465.
Many partioulars about the early convict life in Australia will be found in the singularly interesting little book of Mr. Bonwick, First Twenty Years of Australia.
Death of Queen, Anne to the Death of George II., p. 257. It is not surorising that the Speaker Onslow should have written, ‘The sacramental test is made a sad and profane use of by others and many more, I fear, than the Dissenters. It is become a great scandal’ (Note to Burnet, ii. 364).
Burnet's Own Times, i. 347–348.
23 Charles II. c. 20.
24 Geo. II. c. 40. 32 Geo. II. c. 28.
Geo. III. c. 58.
14 Geo. III. c. 20, 59.
Colquhoun, Police of the Metroplis, pp. 390–393.
19 Geo. III. c. 74
Part. Hist. xxviii. 1224.
Porter's Progress of the Nation, pp. 645, 653.
Vol. iii. pp. 131–138. See, too, Parl. Hist. xvi. 929–942.
See much evidence of this in Phillimore, Hist. of Geo. III. pp. 410, 411.
See an instance of this at Reading, Gent.'s Magazine, 1773, p. 98.
The Police of the Metropolis, pp. 88, 353.
Ibid. pp. 23, 24, 91, 92, 293.
Ibid. pp. 11, 12.
Ibid. pp. 34, 35.
13 Geo. III. c. 31.
Greville's Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Victoria, ii. 215.
For many particulars about the highwaymen of the eighteenth century, see Andrews' Eighteenth Century, pp. 228–246. Walker's The Original, pp. 40, 41. Porter's Progress of the Nation, p. 641. See, too, the numerous cases referred to in the index of the Annual Register, under the head ‘Robbery.’
See an interesting chapter on this subject in L'Angleterre au Commencement du XIXe siécle, par le Duc de Levis, ch. iii.
Croker's Boswell, pp. 239, 240, 254, 728.
Traité de Législation, ii. 342–351.
Wilberforce's Life, i. 356, ii. 93.
Wilberforce's Life, i. 280–284.
Parl. Hist. xxxv. 227.
Parl. Hist. xxxiii. 1307.
Ibid. xxxv. 244.
The laws relating to the poor have been collected in two volumes by Cunningham Glen. On the parish apprentices, see especially 18 George III. c. 47, 20 George III. c. 36, 32 George III. c. 57.
7 George III. c. 39. Pugh's Life of Hanway, p. 190.
Parl Hist. xv. 1283–1291. Walpole's George III. i. 244. 14 George III. c. 49. 26 George III. c. 91. Gentleman's Magazine, 1772, pp 195, 196, 340, 341, 589, 590; 1773, p. 99.
28 George III. c. 48.
De Levis, L'Angleterre au Commencement du dix-neuvième sièole, ch. viii.
See Seymour's Survey of London, and a full catalogue of the London charitable institutions with the dates of their foundation in Colquhoun's Police of the Metropolis, pp. 374–380. Colquhoun, in 1795, estimates the poor rates for the metropolis (including an adjoining district of Middle sex and Surrey) at 245,000l. a year. In addition to this, he estimates the annual expense of
Nichols's Illustrations of the Eighteenth' Century, ii. 689–706.
See a speech of Fox, Parl. Hist. xxv. 171.
Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 215. See, too, a remarkable essay ‘On Novel Reading,’ by Vicesimus Knox, Essays, i. No. xiv.
Thus Hannah More says that the age in which she wrote was preeminently ‘the age of benevolence.’ ‘Liberality flows with a full tide through a thousand channels. There is scarcely a newspaper but records some meeting of men of fortune for the most salutary purposes. The noble and numberless structures for the relief of distress which are the ornament and glory of our metropolis, proclaim a species of munificence unknown to former ages. Subscriptions, not only to hospitals, but to various other valuable institutions, are obtained almost as soon as solicited.’ But she at the same time asks ‘whether it be not the fashion rather to consider benevolence as a substitute for Christianity, than as an evidence of it?’ And she adds, ‘It seems to be one of the reigning errors among the better sort to reduce all religion into benevolence, and all benevolence into almsgiving.’ On the Religion of the Fashionable World, Works, xi. 87–91. She has, also, some good remarks upon the way in which the restriction of ‘That broad shade of protection, patronage, and maintenance, which the wide-spread bounty of their forefathers stretched out over whole villages,’ and the ‘general alteration of habits and manners,’ had recently increased the necessities for charity.
Wilberforce's Life, i. 238.
See vol. ii. p. 604.
Hodgson's Life of Porteus, pp. 18, 19.
Tyerman's Life of Wesley, iii. 500.
Sidney's life of Rowland Hill, ch. xx.
On Population, book iv. ch. viii.
Walpole's Last Journals, i. 176–183.
Vol. ii. pp. 11–17.
Walpole's George III. i. 227, 228.
23 George II. c. 31.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 484.
His brother, Charles Wesley, had during this journey formed a very strong opinion of the extreme babarities inflicted on slaves in the Carolinas. See a striking passage from his journal in Grahame's History of the United States, iii. 422.
Grahame's History of the United States, iii. 404. Clarkson's History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, i. 112–116, 132–180. Kalm's Travels in North America, Pinkerton, xvii. 501.
See Clarkson, i. 143–145.
Clarkson, i. pp. 185–192.
An excellent summary of the laws on slavery in the different colonies will be found in Mr. H. C. Lodge's Short History of the English Colonies in America (1882).
Many instances of the atrocious barbarities practised on slaves in the American colonies and in the English West India Islands, will be found in Benezet's Historical Account of Guinea and of the Slave Trade. Grahame's History of the United States, iii. 422, 423. ‘The negroes in our colonies,’ said Burke, ‘endure a slavery more complete, and attended with far worse circumstances, than what any people in their condition suffer in any other part of the world, or have suffered in any other period of time. Proofs of this are not wanting.’ An Account of the European Settlements in America, ii. 124. See, too, the whole chapter. Paley says, ‘From all that can be learned by the accounts of the people upon the spot, the inordinate authority which the plantation laws confer upon the slaveholder is exercised by the English slaveholder exercised by the English slaveholder especially, with rigour and brutality.’ Moral Philosophy, book iii. ch. iii.
Tucker's Reflections on the present Matters in dispute betveen Great Britain and Ireland, pp 10–12. At the end of the sixteenth century, Bodin had noticed the good treatment of slaves by the Spaniards, La Republique, liv. i. ch. v.
See Hildreth's History of the United States, iii. 509–520, iv. 174, 175.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iv. 17–20. 23 George III. c. 39.
Bryan Edwards, History of the West Indies, book vi. ch. iv.
Baines' History of Liverpool, p. 719.
Stuart's Memoir of Granville Sharp, pp. 29–31. Clarkson's History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, i. 95–97.
See Macpherson, iv. 150.
Clarkson, ii. 52.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iv. 141, 154. Clarkson, i. 491, 496. May's Const. Hist. i. 447, 448.
Wilberforce's Life, i. 152, 153.
Part Hist, xxvii. 495–506.
See Clarkson, ii. 110–112.
Clarkson, History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, ii. 163.
Ibid. ii. 148.
See an interesting letter of Bomilly on this division, Life of Romilly i. 425, 426. Clarkson, ii. 212–3
Clarkson, ii. 352–355.
Wilberforce's Life, i. 341–344.
‘Nos … primus equis Oriens affavit anhelis, Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper.’ See Stanhope's Life of Pitt, ii. 145, 146.
Vol. v. pp. 65–68.
Some decisive evidence of this has lately been published by Mr. Maxwell Lyte in his report on the MSS. of the Marquis of Abergavenny.