Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter I.: A BUSY MAN AT LEISURE. - 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)
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Chapter I.: A BUSY MAN AT LEISURE. - 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).
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A BUSY MAN AT LEISURE.
There are but too many people in London who look upon a prison very much as they look upon any other building: but of such people few are from Jersey, or from any place where, as in Jersey, the inhabitants are prosperous, and the temptations to crime are therefore few. The family of Le Brocq had not been accustomed to see a sentence of death lightly received as implying nothing worse than a gratuitous removal to a country where, whatever other hardships there may be, there is no difficulty in procuring food and spirits. They had not been accustomed to the language of penal justice in England, where “transportation” may mean nothing more than removal to Woolwich, to sleep in a stationary vessel at night, and rest upon a broom in the dock-yard during the day, in the intervals of being watched. They had not been accustomed to see convicts adjusting their leg chain in the presence of strangers, as if it had been a boot or a gaiter; nor to hear the merriment of the disgraced; nor to witness calculations as to the economy of living in a prison for a while. To have seen an offender after conviction was to them a rare circumstance; and when such a chance had befallen, there had been a conflict of feeling between their extreme curiosity to see any one in circumstances so peculiar and interesting, and their fear of insulting the fallen.
Durell, though a Jerseyman, had lost some of this feeling through the familiarity with jails which was induced by his office. The idea of depriving a man of his natural liberty, of using force upon him in any way, was as repugnant to him as it will be to everybody a few ages hence; but, the outrage being an actual fact, the attendant circumstances had lost some of their power. If it had not been so, he would not have pronounced that Aaron might go home for the night of his arrest, as his peril was not such as could induce him to abscond. He was wrong. Aaron’s peril for working on unentered premises was of being taken before two magistrates, and sentenced to three months’ hard labour in prison. Whether three months, or three years, or three hours of hard labour, it would have been much the same to Aaron, if within the walls of a prison. Before daylight he was on the cold, foggy Thames, hastening he knew not well whither, and cared little, so long as he was out of reach of the arm of the law.
His father did not abscond, because he had a wife and daughter; but never was any man more perplexed how to choose between two dreadful evils than Le Brocq. Equal to a Jerseyman’s horror of a prison is his repugnance to pay money. Having at home but little money and an abundance of all that he really wants, he will make any shifts with his materials rather than buy. He will first impoverish his live stock rather than go to market to purchase proper food for them; and then, his live stock failing, he will impoverish his land rather than pay for manure. Thus, Le Brocq’s grand inducement to come to England having been the supposed exemption from paying taxes in money, he could not endure the idea of laying down a heavy sum as a fine, while any alternative remained. He persuaded himself, and declared to the court, that he could not raise the money; and went to prison. This was against Durell’s judgment, and in the firm persuasion that Aaron would appear in a day or two, to conduct the business and take care of the women. It seemed to him so utterly ridiculous to consider Aaron’s accident of working on unentered premises as a punishable offence, that there could be no danger of the young man’s being inquired after when he had been found “not at home” for twenty-four hours.
He also was wrong. Anna was alone when she drew near the prison to visit her father, after a few days’ confinement. She had never been out on so painful an errand. She walked past, two or three times, in hopes that the disagreeable-looking people about the gate would have gone away and left a clear path for her: but they stood a long while, leaning against the wall with folded arms, some chatting and laughing, and others abusing the powers within for keeping them waiting. Before they had disappeared, more came; and Anna saw that the time during which she might obtain admittance would pass away if she waited to go in alone. Nobody seemed to mind her, after all, and the turnkey was civil enough; so civil, that she found courage, after a moment’s struggle, to do what she considered justice to her father, and assure the turnkey, as he showed her the way, that it was for no crime that her father was there, but only for a mistake about a tax. The man seemed to think this no business of his; and indeed there was nothing in his manner to any of his charge to indicate that such a distinction signified at all.
It was a great disappointment to Anna to find that she could not see her father alone. Two persons were in the same apartment with him,—a dingy, close room, where it must be extremely irksome for three people to pass the day without employment. Anna saw at a glance how irksome it really was. Nothing but the extreme of ennui could have placed her father in the position in which she found him,—trying to play at cards with his companions. Such cards! such companions! and he, ignorant as he was known by Anna to be of modern card-playing! He had borne his part in a single ancient game of cards (though he preferred dominoes) on the gay nights of Christmas or New Year in his Jersey home, when the punch-bowl was steaming and cakes were heaped on the hospitable board round which he had gathered his family and neighbours; but his game and his card-playing notions were little suited to his present place and companionship. It was a dismal amusement here, in this cheerless room, with sordid accompaniments of every kind, and two of the players impatient at the incompetency of the third. Their voices were none of the most harmonious when first heard on the opening of the door; and when it appeared that Anna came to interrupt, Le Brocq’s partner threw down his cards in a pet. Le Brocq cast away his, exclaiming—
“My dear, what are you here for?”
“Only to see you, father. But I am in the way, I’m afraid,”—looking at the peevish man opposite.
“Never mind him,” replied her father. “We have time enough and too much for that sort of thing. Why did not you send Aaron, instead of coming yourself into such a place? You know I do not like—”
“I knew you would be vexed with me for coming; but my mother was so unhappy about nobody seeing you. When Aaron comes home—But, father, we have not seen him yet.”
“Not yet! Do you mean that he has never come back at all?”
“Nor written? What can the lad mean? Whenever he does come back, he shall learn—I will teach him what he may expect by playing such pranks.”
He saw by Anna’s downcast eyes that she thought such threats, if they could be overheard, were not the most likely means of bringing her brother back again. They put her too much in mind of the scolding mother’s address to her offending child, which she had overheard in the street,—“Come here, you little wretch, and let me flay you alive.” Le Brocq added more gently.
“You are not afraid of any harm having happened? Have you asked anybody?”
“Mr. Durell says—”
“Durell! That you should go and disgrace our family before that man, of all people! What has Durell to do with us, beyond getting us into mischief?”
“My mother asked him, because we thought he knew most about what people do when they get into trouble with the Excise.”
“Not he. He thought I should pay the fine rather than come here. That shows how much he knows. But what does he say?”
“He does not think Aaron will come back,” said Anna, with a faltering voice.
“He has enticed him away somewhere, then. What should make the lad stay away?”
“When they run away, they get disgusted with the law, Mr. Durell says, and set themselves against it. Too many, he says, turn to secret distilling, or to braving the law in some other way. And that is what we fear for Aaron.”
“Nonsense: he is safe enough with Malet by this time, I have no doubt. He has been rope-making there this fortnight, depend upon it.”
“He was not there four days ago, as we learn by a letter from Louise this morning. We were so glad to see the letter! But there is nothing about Aaron, except their supposing that he must be managing the business while—”
“I don’t think I need read the letter,” observed Le Brocq, pushing it away from him. He was afraid of the pain of seeing what his daughter might say about his being in prison. “Your mother is happy for to-day, I suppose, now she has heard from Louise?”
“Not very,” answered Anna, with a tear or two. “Father, she is always crying out for Louise to come. She seems as if she thought everything would be right if Louise was here. But I am sure I dare not think of it. It is something to think that one of us is safe; and why should Louise be more safe than anybody else, if she came? There are other snares yet, Mr. Durell says; and where no stranger can do anything hardly without falling into a snare, is not it much better that Louise should stay away? Is not it, father?”
“To be sure. It was mistake enough for us to come.”
“Then, you will let us go away again? May I tell Louise so?”
“O, yes. Tell her that, as soon as you hear of my being buried, you shall see if you can raise money enough to get back to Jersey; and that I charge her—”
“Yes. I am very ill, and it is my belief that I shall die here. So your mother is very unhappy?”
“Yes: but you don’t mean that you are really going to die? I am sure something might be done to persuade the king to take some of your stone-ware, if you have not the money. I am sure they would let you out in that way. And my mother is so miserable! Every footstep that I am apt to take for Aaron’s, she thinks must somehow be Louise; and then she thinks of how proud it would make her to see Louise’s husband setting all right, and—”
“Poor child! She taunts you with having no lover here! No wonder you look for Aaron back! She finds fault with you again for sending away poor François, who would indeed have been a great help to us now. But no wonder you look for Aaron back!”
“It was such a disappointment last night, father! There was a soft tap at the door, just before we went to bed; and we never doubted its being Aaron. I told him through the key-hole that I would open the door in a minute; and when I did, it was Mr. Studley. And now he will have it, from what I said, that Aaron is with us sometimes; and he would stay—”
“Your mother would not let him in, to be sure? She would not let the rascal in?”
“She could not lawfully prevent his coming in; but she would not allow him to stay there. I never saw such a spirit in her before. But we heard him outside for three hours after. If I could have persuaded my mother to go into the back room, so that he could not have heard her cry, I should not have minded it so much.”
“What! has the fellow overheard our lamentation? I thought your mother had—That should never have happened if I had been at home.”
“Then I wish you would come home, father. Never mind the loss. Never mind the ruin, if it must be ruin.”
Le Brocq answered doggedly, as he had always done before, that he had not the money. If any body had told him, when he took the business, that, independently of his scrape with the Excise Court, he should now be without money, he would not have believed it, after all that had been held out to him about the quantity of money he should make. It was not from spending. He had pinched and toiled more than he had ever done in Jersey; and all to plunge himself deeper. If he had been out of business, dressing his wife in velvet, and feasting on foreign fruits and claret, he would have paid less to the state than he had done as an employer of workmen, denying himself and his family, meantime, anything beyond the commonest comforts of life. It was the paying several times over that was enough to ruin any man. The workmen could not pay the taxes upon everything that they ate, and drank, and wore. Their wages were raised in proportion; so that their masters paid. No man should judge of his fortune by his returns till he knew what he had to pay in wages. O, yes; he charged these wages in the price of his bottles, so that the bottle consumers paid in their turn: but he, as a consumer of other things, paid in his turn, in like manner; till, among so many outgoings, he had no money left. And all for what? To contribute his share towards the expenses of government, which he might have paid, if he had been properly asked, at half the cost, and a hundredth part of the pain and trouble!
“But you did not like that way of paying when you were in Jersey, father.”
“Because I was told there was a better, and was fool enough to believe it. It is the most shameful hoax, the making me pay as I have paid since I came here! You need not look so frightened, as if I was talking treason,” he continued, seeing that Anna was uneasy at his being overheard complaining of being hoaxed in state matters. “I am saying no harm of the king; for he loses more than I. If I am hoaxed, he is double-hoaxed, as I could easily prove.”
“Could you? Then perhaps,” said Anna, timidly, “perhaps, if you told him so—”
“Ay; I could set the case plainly enough before him, if I could see him; but there’s the difficulty.”
“I will ask Mr. Durell, and he will ask the Board, I dare say,” exclaimed Anna. “We could say that you would not detain his majesty very long,—not more than half an hour, perhaps.”
“Not so much; but I am afraid that would not do. If you consider how many hundreds of people are in prison, or otherwise ruined by the Excise, it seems hardly likely that the king should give half-an-hour to each.”
One of the inmates of the apartment, who was keeping himself awake with playing Patience with the dirty cards, while the other dozed, here put in his word.
“If his majesty gave his time to every body that is injured by the Excise, there would be no time left for any other business; and you are simple people if you do not know that.”
“There is another thing,” observed Le Brocq. “If the king was on our side, there are his ministers to convince. Now, it seems to me that his majesty might not exactly carry in his head all I might say, to repeat to them; and it would be as well that he should have it in black and white.”
“O, a letter to him!” cried Anna, brightening. “Let me write down to your speaking, father; now, while I am here; and I can put it into the post-office as I go home. They say letters are most sure to reach people when they go through the post-office.”
Anna laid aside her bonnet, put her hair back from her face, and looked round for something wherewith to dust the shabby, rickety table. The card-player picked the pocket of the sleeper of his handkerchief, and handed it to Anna, who used it without scruple, rather than that the king should have to open a dirty letter. But where was the paper? If she went out to buy a sheet, perhaps they would not let her come in again; and her father had none. The card-player again offered to be their resource. He proposed to let them have a sheet of paper, and the use of his ink, pen, and penknife for a shilling.
“Money again!” exclaimed Le Brocq. “The English go on ruining one another, even in jail, with asking for money, money, for ever. I shall pay away no more money, I assure you, sir.”
“Well, then, money’s worth will do as well. That young lady has brought something for you in her basket, I believe?”
“I have, sir. I have brought something for my father, as you say; and for no one else. When we lived in Jersey, it was a pleasure to make and bake for those that wanted it, and to give it even before they asked for it. But what I have brought is for my father’s eating, and not to pay away for a sheet of paper, when it happens to be his need to write a letter. Father, I like this place less and less for you. I did not think there had been a place, even a prison, where people who sit at the same table would so take advantage of one another’s wants.”
“Even a prison!” said the man, smiling; “why, ma’am, I hope you don’t think the worst people are found in prisons? Let me tell you that those whom you would call the worst have the sense to keep out of prison. If you had lived in London as long as I have, you would see how a prison has lost its bad name; as it ought to do, if it is to be judged by the people it holds.”
“I should be afraid it would give a bad name to the people it holds, instead of getting a good one to itself,” observed Anna, sighing.
“No, no. You Jersey people know nothing about our English prisons. In your island, a man must be a really bad man, or have done some one very bad deed, to get himself shut up. But here, what do you see? Almost all the prisoners are in for debt, or for crimes against property, or for revenue offences. The first and last are not reckoned crimes in a country where it is so difficult to a great number to keep clear of money entanglements and of tax-gatherers; and under the other head come those who would not have done worse than their neighbours, but for such want as you do not see in Jersey. In our prisons, you meet more of the poor and the ignorant than of the guilty; and, this being seen, prisons are losing their bad name, as I said, among the people. You will hardly speak ill of them, from this time forward, your father having been in one, and hundreds more as good as he.”
Anna saw that there must be something very wrong about all this. It perplexed all her notions about guilt and punishment. She had till now looked upon her father as an injured man, and regarded him as an innocent person, detained by mistake in a horrible place, and among vile companions; and now to be told that the only mistake was in her notion of a prison, and that her father was no more than an ordinary inmate, dismayed her so that she desired to hear no more. She spread out Louise’s letter, and proposed to write on it in pencil what her father had to say to the king; and to copy it out fair at home. The card-player found it to no purpose to reduce his terms. His first overcharge had deprived him of a customer for his dingy paper and dusty ink. The letter was as follows:—
“I, John Le Brocq, have something to say to your majesty which may prove of equal consequence to us both, and to many more. I am sure your majesty cannot be aware how much harm is done by the way in which your majesty’s taxes are collected. I really think that if any one had set himself to work to devise a way for taking as much as possible from us people, and giving as little as possible of it to you the king, and hindering manufactures and trade at the same time, he could not have hit upon a cleverer scheme than that of the excise system of taxation. As for myself, I have only to say, that I would rather have paid twice over as much as your majesty has received of my money, than have been deluded and cheated as I have been; of which, however, I beg to add, I believe your majesty entirely innocent. The fault is in the system, sir; and I believe you did not make it. But here I am in prison. My son is gone away, we do not know where; and my daughter is under prosecution, having (as I will say, though she holds the pen) never had an evil thought of your majesty in her life. All this is from our having fallen into mistakes about taxes which I am sure we never made any difficulty about paying. Not having been told what a large capital I should require for advancing the tax on the stone-bottles I make, and for paying the high wages my men must have to buy taxed articles, I should have found it difficult to get on, even if I had not been fined for breaking laws which I defy any man to learn in a day; and which, I must say, do not tell much to the credit of those who made them. And how much of this goes into your majesty’s pocket, after all? for that is the chief point. I, for one, know of a crowd of fellows that have to be paid out of the money in question for spying and meddling about our premises in a way that hinders our work terribly. One in ten or twenty,—ay, one in fifty of these men would be enough to collect what we should have to contribute, if we each knew our own share, and might pay and have done with it. And these men are not all that profit by the plan. It affords a good excuse for making people give higher prices than the tax of itself would oblige them to give. Your majesty may have heard what the tavern-keepers did when a tax equal to twopence a bottle was laid on port wine? They clapped on sixpence a bottle directly; something in the same way that we put a higher price on our stone pots, which are not taxed, to make them more nearly equal with the bottles which are taxed. This saves us in part from the spite of the glass-bottle makers, who, I fancy, were the parties that got our article taxed; but it has the effect of stinting the use of them. Your glass-bottle duty brings you in a very little more than 100,000l., and that on stone-bottles little more than 3000l. a-year; while, if there were no such duties, there would be so much traffic in foreign mineral waters, and other liquids that people cannot get on account of the duty, as would much improve the affairs of the shipping, and the wealth of your majesty’s subjects, who would then easily make you welcome to more than the sums named above, if you could not do without them. Then the army of excisemen (who can hardly be a sort of persons much to your majesty’s taste) might be employed in helping instead of hindering others’ business. Then again, please to think of the injury to thousands of men from trade being cramped and put out of its natural order. To make soap and glass and my particular article, there is much coal wanted; and for paper-making, iron machinery; and for all, houses, and furnaces or coppers. Now, if the trade in each were not cramped by the dearness of the article, there would be more work for the woodcutter and the carpenter, for the miner and coal hewer, for the brickmaker and the shipmaster, and a great number more. O, your majesty may depend upon it, however much may be said about the riches and glory of this kingdom, it might be richer and more glorious, and far happier, if your people were allowed to pay to the state in a less wasteful and pernicious way; while you would find your advantage in it before the year was over. If you should please to consult your ministers about this, and to order them to let me out, I think I could engage to show them the difference, as far as my own share is concerned: though the experiment is by no means a fair one when tried on only one article. If your majesty thinks of travelling, perhaps you may manage to take Jersey in your way; and there I think you will own that the advantage of steady natural prices and a free trade are very evident in the comfortable condition of the people.”
“Had not we better stop here?” asked Anna. “I am afraid if we make it longer he will not read it.”
Le Brocq was sorry to leave off just when he was about to describe his own country; but he acknowledged the propriety of doing so. Anna just slipped in a postscript of her own.
“Perhaps your majesty will consider the mischief of a man like my father being shut up and treated like a criminal, in such a place as a prison, where he can only play cards to pass the day, (and that with disagreeable people,) instead of being industrious in his family, as he would wish. Perhaps this may lead you to take pity on my mother, who, for all her Bible can say, is worn down with grief; and on my brother, who is a wanderer from fear of a prison; and on me, who am in the like danger. Next to Him who bindeth and looseth, your majesty is our only hope,—not only for present pardon, but for altering the laws, that we may not fall into the like trouble again.—Your obedient servant,
“Anna Le Brocq.”
“How much of that letter do you fancy the king will ever read, if he gets it?” asked the card-player, smiling.
“It is hardly long enough to tire him much, if it is nicely copied; and ours is very good ink,” replied Anna.
“But I mean, do you think he will find it worth attending to?”
“They say he used to write frequent letters to his father and mother when he was young; and so he must know that when people write a letter, they like to have it attended to.”
“Then, if I write to you, ma’am, I shall expect an answer.”
“You can have nothing to say to me which you cannot say now to my face—an opportunity which we have not with the king,” replied Anna, quietly. She then turned to her father, and offered to bring him dominoes, which she thought he would like better than those cards. She also hoped she could borrow a book or two from the Durells. Permission was given to try; but she was warned that her request might be refused if it was really Durell’s doing that the family were persecuted and distressed. She knew that this was so far from being the case, that Durell himself was under extreme vexation from an imputation of Studley’s, that he had allowed himself to be bribed in his office by the Le Brocqs; but there was no hope of persuading her father yet that Durell was not an enemy. She succeeded better in another direction. She got leave to consult with her mother, and see whether the fine could not be raised. Le Brocq really looked and felt very unwell; and the unlimited prospect of confinement, dust, disagreeable companionship and dominoes, was far from cheering.
The sun now shot its level rays upon an opposite roof which glittered back into the apartment.
“This is just the weather and the time for seeing Coutances Cathedral,” observed the prisoner, as Anna was about to leave the room. She also was just thinking of Jersey, its wide views and pure atmosphere; but she had said nothing to tantalize him who was confined in a space of twenty square feet.
“You may leave me Louise’s letter, after all,” said he, forgetting what was written on the back. He was chafed at the circumstance, but would not read the epistle before witnesses. He would wait till Anna’s next visit; but, as soon as she was gone, he gave away the supper she had brought him, and rejected all amusement in his pining for news of his blossoming orchard, and of the fruitful pastures of his native island. While he settled within himself that Anna was an unexceptionable daughter, his mind’s eye was occupied with Louise, hailing her graceful kine, or pacing on her pack-horse through the deepest of the lanes. When he looked round him, he wished that it was dark, that he might fancy himself there.