Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter I.: A PHENOMENON. - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
Return to Title Page for Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Chapter I.: A PHENOMENON. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) 
Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) (London: Charles Fox, 1834).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The moral sense of some people is shocked by the sentiment that it is pleasant to stand in safety on the shore to watch the effects of a storm at sea; but perhaps none were ever found to dispute the pleasantness of standing idle on the heights above a shore to watch the proceedings of busy people at sea. There are parts of the coast of Jersey where this luxury may be enjoyed in absolute perfection; where not only the features of nature are full of beauty, but where the spectator is unmolested by the presence of any less happy than himself, and where the industry which he witnesses is sure of its due reward.
Such a station is the height of Anne Ville, which overlooks the thriving village of Gorey in Jersey. It is luxury to sit on the remains of the Druidical temple there, and think of nothing less animating than the congregation of objects near; the bay of St. Catherine behind, where green lanes lead from the very brink of the tide, each to its own snug farm-house and blossoming orchard on the hill-side, and the solitary tower of Archirondel, surrounded on its rocky station by the blue waters of the bay: close at hand, Geoffry’s rock, from which, instead of criminals being cast into the sea, as it is said they once were, white sea-birds take their flight, scared by the laughter of children near their haunts: the noble castle of Mont Orgueil overhanging the waters, and casting upon them the shadow of its ruined battlements, while its mantle of ivy waves in the evening breeze:—the fishing village below, sending out and receiving back the oyster boats which throng about the pier in the season;—the villages on the distant coast of France, when the western sun lights them up into brilliant contrast with the intervening expanse of dark blue; and far beyond these, on the extreme horizon, the dim cathedral of Coutances. To spend a May evening in the centre of this scene is a luxury to a stranger whose heart is not, like that of a native, in one of the farmhouses in the interior, or among the oysters on the beach below. A stranger is pretty secure, however, of having this Druidical seat to himself on a May evening. So many repairs are wanted for the boats, so much sail-cloth and cordage is called for, and so large a portion of supplies is required for the little market of Gorey, towards the close of the oyster season, that the men are more likely to be guiding their creaking carts through the bowery lanes, and the maidens carrying down the hills the produce of their far-famed cows, than to be looking abroad from the heights of Anne Ville.
On such an evening, however, a few seasons ago, some one might be seen keeping a look-out from the poquelaye, (as the Jersey people call a Druidical remain like that at Anne Ville,) whom no one could doubt to be a native. He was a young man of about twenty, whose sallow face bore testimony to his diet being that of a Jersey farmhouse, while his knitted garments pointed him out as the son of one of the thrifty dames of the island who look suspiciously on all manufactures which threaten to supersede the work of their own hands. Aaron le Brocq looked indolent enough as he leaned with his elbows upon the great stone, and his dull eye wandered over the ocean, never once lighting up when a sail caught the yellow ray which slanted from the west: but Aaron came hither on business. Never was cordage so much wanted as now; and Aaron’s stock of hemp was exhausted; and day by day he came hither to watch for the arrival of some one of the friendly vessels which must be on the way to supply his need. There were barks innumerable within sight; but even Aaron’s dull eye could perceive, almost at a glance, that none of those near were what he wanted. Besides the native-built boats, there were many English vessels sailing hither and thither. Several which had been accustomed to navigate the broad, smooth Medway, were now tossing and turning in the currents and eddies caused by the ridges of low rocks which nearly surround the island, and have proved its surest defence during the wars of the two countries between whose grasp it seems to lie. French homeward-bound vessels were gliding between the shores; and a few of other countries, bringing supplies as much needed as hemp, were crossing Grouville Bay on their way to St. Heliers. Aaron would go to St. Heliers too, in the morning, if he saw no vessel before dark which might be supposed to come from the Baltic. He would go and learn what other people thought of this scarcity of hemp.
It is to be supposed that Aaron fell into a reverie about this projected trip to the port, and that he was thinking more of the market-place or custom-house of St. Heliers than of anything within ken on sea or land; for he started as if at the touch of the conjuring rod that he was taught to fear in his childhood, when his friend, Charles Malet, laid one hand on his shoulder, while with the other he pointed southwest, saying,
“There will be no time for growing drowsy at the poquelaye after sunset to-morrow, if yonder vessel be from Riga, as they say she is. She will be in port as soon as we can get there, and perhaps we may find her cargo all gone in the scramble.”
Aaron was on his feet in a moment, wondering how his thoughts could have wandered away so far from the Baltic as to let a sail from that quarter cross the wide bay, and almost disappear behind La Roque Point unperceived by him. But there were many things besides hemp which this ship might be bringing to Jersey; tallow for the candles, or oil for the soap which some of the islanders were enabled to manufacture for a far larger market than their own; or corn for home consumption, while they sent their own to England. This may seem to some an ingenious project, designed to benefit the shipping interest. To permit ships from Russia to sail by the coasts of England, and land their corn in Jersey and Guernsey, from whence an equal supply has at last to be brought to England, seems like a benevolent scheme to give employment to some who would otherwise be paupers. It looks like an approach towards the fulfilment of the aspirations of the ship-owner, that every merchant-vessel should be permitted to sail three times round the island of Great Britain before landing its cargo. But, for whomsoever the plan was first devised,—whether for the ship or land owners of Britain,—its effect is to enrich the inhabitants of Jersey and Guernsey at the expense of the bread-eaters of England. These islands are exempt from the bread-tax, as from all the bad taxes of Great Britain, except tithes. Their inhabitants, being allowed to buy wheat, without restriction, wherever they please, can purchase it at 45s. per quarter, while that which their fields produce is bought by the English labourer at some price between 60s. and 70s. The benefit which accrues to the Jerseyman is the difference between the price he pays, and that which he receives when the amount of duty is deducted;—a benefit marked enough to induce him to call for supplies from a distant shore, and to retain the merchants of his own port in his service. No wonder that any foreign vessel which passed within sight of the heights above Gorey might be supposed to be bringing corn to the port of St. Heliers. No wonder that Aaron was bewildered in a manner which would have stamped him a half-idiot in England, when a perfectly new incident presently occurred.
As soon as the sea became dusky in the twilight, the two friends turned their backs upon it, in order to pursue their way to the dwelling of Aaron’s father,—a small farmhouse in the valley on the other side the first ridge of hills which stretched north and south. They had not proceeded far over the down when they were accosted by a person whose appearance excited their wonder, while his business surprised them yet more. Scarcely half-dressed, and unattended, though he was blind, he was a mystery to Aaron.
“What sort of charity do you wish me to show you?” he asked, in answer to the beggar’s petition.
“What you please, sir,” replied the beggar: “but I have not had a morsel to-day, and I have no place to lay my head in to-night.”
“How happens that? I’m afraid you have displeased Mr. De la Mare?”
“Mr. who, please, sir?”
“Mr. De la Mare, the hospital governor. You don’t know who he is? How came you here, then?”
Malet had seen more of the world than Aaron. He suggested that the beggar might have come over in some of the oyster vessels from Kent,—perhaps even from London; and that he might never have set foot in St. Heliers.
Would he get into the hospital among the blind? Aaron would take him to St. Heliers the next morning, and try to procure him admission. Stephen did not exactly wish this. He could find his way about, and did not like being shut up. If the gentleman would only bestow a little charity, that was all he asked;—by charity, he meant a little money for present use.
“But what will you do when it is gone?” asked Aaron. “You cannot work, I suppose, without the use of your sight.”
Stephen (for so the beggar called himself) had not been able to do a stroke of work these ten years. He trusted to the charitable and humane to take care of him.
“But you will not take their charity. You refuse the hospital! I don’t see what you would have.”
“He would live by begging, I dare say,” observed Malet, by way of elucidation.
“What! by asking every day for bread! I never heard of such a thing.”
Charles Malet had once been told that this was a very common thing in England. Besides the number of poor who were admitted into charitable houses, like those at St. Heliers, there were many who did not know, any morning of the year, where they should rest at night. Aaron thought this a miserable lot; but Stephen the beggar seemed wonderfully cheerful under it. He did not look ashamed, as a native would have done, of his being only half-clothed;—perhaps the not seeing his tatters had something to do with this. He had certainly been humming a tune, as he ambled along, when the young men were approaching him; and even now, though he spoke of hunger, he seemed ready to break out into singing or joking in the intervals of the piteous looks he assumed. Aaron, as a matter of course, took him home, but felt rather uncomfortable in doing so. He was afraid that his father might be displeased if it should turn out that the beggar was playing off a hoax; and that his mother might be alarmed if Stephen should prove a half-wit, or to be under a spell; and Aaron could scarcely doubt the one or the other to be the case. He took Stephen by the hand, however, and led him on; not failing to remark how marvellously his charge happened to escape hurting his ill-shod feet against the large sharp stones which lay in the road.
An opportunity occurred of introducing the stranger to a part of the family before reaching the farmhouse; an opportunity which Malet was the first to discern. Jersey is a land of trotting brooks. As every dwelling has hills somewhere near it, every dwelling has a stream within reach. There was one at the bottom of Le Brocq’s orchard; and there were the women of the family assembled this evening, when the young men crossed the ridge and descended into the valley—assembled on an occasion of great importance. It was the first day of washing week; and as washing week came but twice a year, it was sure to be a busy time. The profusion of snow-white caps spread on the grass formed the chief light in the landscape, for the grey stone farmhouse, roofed with dark thatch, nestled dimly among the trees; so that even if all had not been alike mantled with ivy, the dwelling would scarcely have been discernible. The brook was more heard than seen, and the high ferns on the opposite side presented the appearance of a smooth green carpet. But few blossoms remained in the orchard to distinguish it from the oak copse which sheltered it towards the east. Little could be distinctly seen but the heaps of linen on the bank, and the moving figures beside it. They were the two daughters of Le Brocq, and a damsel, the servant at the farmhouse. They were finishing their work for the night; and when Malet ran down to them with a lover’s speed, he found Louise rising from her knees beside the little pool which had been her station all day, and declaring that she could see no longer, and that it was time to go home to supper. Anna was meanwhile spreading more linen on the ferns, where it might be bleached by the morning sun; and Victorine, the maid, put the materials of their next day’s work in an appointed place, among the roots of an old oak. The brook, meanwhile, rippled and splashed, carrying down the defilements of soap which had offended it all day, and washing out the pools in which the work had been performed. Stephen made bold to ask his conductor what all this was about, and to declare what shameful waste it would be thought in England to wash linen in a running stream, where as much soap would be lost as would buy much of the linen. Stephen was right; but this was a consideration which the Jersey people had little occasion to regard. Their soap was not taxed either in its materials or its manufacture; and few articles can be obtained with more ease or less cost than soap, when this is the case. Any person in Jersey was at liberty to buy oil or tallow direct from the Baltic ships in the ports, without asking the leave of any custom-house officer. If he chose to buy the cheap potash furnished by the interminable Russian forests, he had no duty to pay. If he found sea-weed enough on the nearest shore to supply this as well as other purposes, he was subjected to no other interference than the injunction to cut it at the right season. He might make his soap when and where, and in whatever quantities he pleased; and the cost of it was next to nothing. No one there was obliged to sigh either at his children’s dirt, or at the cost of keeping them clean. The amount of soap used was little more thought of than that of the water which ran past his own door.
Stephen seemed much disposed to join the group beside the brook,—another proof to Aaron that he was not aware of the state of his costume. He was not allowed to descend, as he wished; but must submit to be led across a back field, and through the orchard, that he might reach the house, and be clothed before he was presented to the family. Aaron could not think of showing him in a state of such degradation as that in which he had found him.
“Who is this?” inquired Le Brocq, who was drawing cider from the cask which was niched near the door. “How can De la Mare let any one come to such a pass?” Then, as Stephen came within hearing, the farmer told him he should be welcome to supper and shelter for the night, and that he might depend on being forwarded to St. Heliers the next morning. In an aside, he desired his wife to fetch an old garment of his, wherewith to clothe Stephen, instead of using any of Aaron’s good clothes for the purpose.
Mrs. Le Brocq wanted to know when the girls were coming. It was too dark for them to see what they were about; and the soup was ready; and she was sure Louise would be over-tired if she staid at her work so long. She was comforted with the news that they would presently come in, and that Malet was with Louise, to take care of her.
By the time that Stephen was dressed, and seated somewhat nearer than he liked to the great fire of vraic (a sea-weed which is used, first for fuel and then for manure, in Jersey), the young washerwomen appeared. Mrs. Le Brocq and Anna took charge of the supper table, while Louise, who was, or was fancied to be, rather delicate, was tended by her lover, and Victorine was at every one’s call, besides having to lay down a bed for Stephen, as the hour of rest approached.
Stephen seemed less disposed for mirth at the supper table than when he was first met in his destitute condition. Hungry as he was, he could not eat the soup, made of lard and cabbage, which the rest of the party seemed to relish as if it had been made of gravy meat, and peas. After many attempts, he gave it up; and was so nauseated that he had little relish left for the bread, cheese, and cider with which Mrs. Le Brocq compassionately supplied him. He was sensible of the incessant motion of knitting needles all around him, in every interval of eating. All the four women were indeed knitting when doing nothing else; and Stephen felt rather awkward in the midst of so much industry. Nobody was very merry; there seemed to be some cause of discontent among the party, though Aaron showed that he was well pleased at the prospect of obtaining on the morrow the materials which would enable him to supply his customers with ropes.
“I am glad some luck has befallen you,” observed the mother, “since Charles is never to have any. I wonder whether there be another lad in the island so shiftless as he; to have courted my Louise, and not have a home to take her to.”
Le Brocq shook his head and muttered; Charles looked abashed, and Anna said, hesitatingly, and only loud enough for her sister and Charles to hear, that such ill-fortune could not, she trusted, last long. Such a thing had never happened before, she believed, as a sober man being disappointed of a settlement three times over. She hoped it would please God that the hand of the diligent should make riches, and that Charles would not lose heart.
Charles had lost heart many times lately; and now he left his supper unfinished, and sat pondering the charms of the various cottages of which he had missed the acquisition. He was not in poverty, being employed with Aaron in ropemaking, but the parents of Louise would not let him have her till he could take her to a home as comfortable as that which she must leave. He began sometimes to fear that he should be sent about his business, as being no proper match for Louise. Stephen made such advances of sympathy as the little conversation enabled him to do. He took up his glass of cider, and turning to Malet, begged to drink to the young man “finding something to set his hand to,” and to his “carrying the day with his lass, at any rate,” and he should be pleased to be at the wedding.
Malet thanked him kindly; and Stephen went on to suggest that it was a thousand pities to lose heart and let the time go by. Charles should do as people in England did, marry when the young lady was in the mind, and see what would come of trusting.
“And what comes of it in England?” inquired Malet, lending an attentive ear.
Stephen made rather a lame story of the happy consequences of this sort of trust, except on the point that he was quite sure of,—that there was always the parish to depend on at last. He helped out his explanation with a song about love and banishing care, which Malet would have ventured to praise very highly, but that Mrs. Le Brocq began to look angry. She muttered something about seeing Charles, some day or other, borrowing another man’s coat and craving another man’s supper, and then singing songs about not caring.
Charles showed by a gesture that there was the main difference between Stephen and himself, that the one was blind and the other not. Le Brocq was offended by his wife’s gross breach of hospitality; Louise was crying; and all went wrong. Stephen took the liberty of beginning another song by which he hoped to make every body laugh and grow good-humoured; but before it had had time to operate, he was obliged to break off by the entrance of some person whose horse he had heard stop before the door.
“If you are come to supper, Mr. Janvrin,” observed Le Brocq, “I am afraid you will not enjoy yourself as we could wish. If you had come half-an-hour earlier—”
“I am come on business; and when, I tell you that I was at St. John’s this morning, and am now come from St. Martin’s, you will guess what I am here for.”
“Well; out with it! What is in hand now?”
“Why, you know very well. You heard of the rate laid upon you and your neighbours, for the help of the government in the new improvements.”
“But I offered horse and cart and man for a week. That is enough for my share, surely.”
“For the new road. Yes. But the States call for money, too, as you must be aware: and here is what you must pay,” showing his list.
Le Brocq said something about the many calls on people for money in these days,—what with daughters marrying, and governments making new roads. Nevertheless, he sent Aaron for his money-bag, and counted out the sum, while the tax-gatherer refreshed himself with the remains of the supper. When Stephen heard the clink of the coin, he observed that the people in his country would never submit to pay taxes in this manner. It would be as much as the tax-gatherer’s life would be worth to ride about the country, taking money out of people’s pockets like a footpad. Janvrin wondered what the gentleman could mean; and Aaron inquired whether the English paid no taxes.
“Pay taxes! to be sure they do. How should such a fine country get on without taxes? But, bless your soul, paying taxes there is the easiest thing in the world. There’s no trouble whatever in it. The government takes all the trouble, and the people don’t so much as know when they are paying taxes.”
The family all thought this must be charming; and Aaron whispered to Malet that, after all, it might be better for him to go to England: for taxes were a consideration to a man who was going to marry. But Malet wished to hear a little more first. How was it that taxation was such an easy matter in England?
“O, I only know I never paid a tax in my life. I have not paid a tax these ten years. Why, yes: some people pay them; but it is only by giving a trifle more,—nothing worth speaking of,—for things that they buy.”
“Like our duty on spirits,” observed the collector, nodding to Malet, who was all ear.
“That is a very good plan,” observed Le Brocq. “I always liked that plan of laying a tax on spirits.”
“Well you may,” observed the collector, laughing: “for I believe you have never had a gallon of spirits in your house since its roof was on.”
“O, it’s a wise tax,” replied the farmer. “So the government in England is kept up by a tax on spirits.”
“They must drink a deal of spirits,” said Malet, “or there must be other dues;—harbour fees, like ours, or the like.”
Stephen did not deny that the spirit-tax was not the only one: but whatever the others might be, it was only laying a farthing or two here and there which nobody minded paying; and which, indeed, none knew that they paid. What were the taxed articles? Malet inquired.—O, there were several. Lace and silk stockings, he had heard: and a gentleman in Kent was saying that hops paid some sort of charge. Malet and Louise looked at each other. This would suit them exactly. They had never seen silk stockings or lace, except in the shop-windows at St. Heliers; and they drank cider.—Well: anything else? Any common articles? Mr. Janvrin asked. Bread or sugar, timber or linen, soap or tobacco? Any of these? Why, some of them: but the merest trifle! and it was uncommonly pleasant to live in a free sort of way, without any tax-gatherer to come to the cottage-door, and ask for so many shillings out of the poor man’s earnings.
“Uncommonly pleasant,” repeated Le Brocq, with a sigh, as Janvrin pocketed the money on the table, and made an entry in his book. “I think I shall ask one of the Constables to speak to the Bailly, and try whether we can’t get the States to think of taxing us as easily as the English. An uncommonly pleasant way it must be, to be sure.”
“Uncommonly pleasant,” observed Janvrin, “if the poor man does not pay pounds without knowing it, instead of shillings when he is asked. Your guest said something about footpads: but I had rather be robbed by a footpad than by a pickpocket.”
The girls asked their mother what was a footpad, and what was a pickpocket. She frowned, and whispered to them not to ask: it was something very bad indeed. They blushed, and could only hope that nobody had heard their question.
Upon Stephen’s half-smiling and saying, with a turn of the head towards Janvrin, that every man was in honour bound to defend his own occupation, but that he was proud to say, the English had no relish for getting out their moneybags when the government bade them, and preferred paying their little matter of tax their own way, the good-will of the family towards Janvrin was visibly overclouded. Nobody pressed him to stay; and when, on his departure, he once more mentioned that Le Brocq’s cart and horse would be expected to appear on the new road the next Monday morning, the farmer looked very grave in giving his assent.
Stephen was abundantly questioned about England before he was allowed to go to rest: and when, at length, Aaron led him to the corner where he was to sleep, and promised to leave no stone unturned to get him into the hospital, Malet was mourning with Louise that he had wasted so much time in seeking an establishment in Jersey; and the farmer determined that he would not close his eyes till he had calculated how much money he had paid over to the States since he began housekeeping, without reckoning the use the island had had of his horse and cart, as often as improvements had been carried on in his parish.